I’ve had the good honor to know some great people.
Like my friend, Ryan.
Enter the Terminator
He was an instructor of Muay Thai when I was a student. Before I was his boss. But things didn’t change. Before or after.
He was a fighter. Branded a Terminator. That was his name. Thus, that’s the way he fought: Always forward, always on offense. Unfeeling. A machine. One mission. Chopping leg kicks, demoralizing body kicks, knees, elbows, smash.
One of the hardest things for the guy was finding fights. Not a lot of opponents wanted to face him, a common problem for the guys who are great but not yet at the major league level.
He was like Inigo Montoya, except without the singular goal of vengeance, just the itching boredom and existential crisis of not making it, of not taking it, higher.
He patiently watched as the UFC and Strikeforce exploded onto the mainstream, quietly wondering why an exciting striking art like Muay Thai was still such a fringe sport.
Eventually, he came to a crossroads.
Retire or evolve.
He decided to get to work.
While he was a world-class striker, he was a novice in the ground game, a necessary component in today’s mixed martial arts. A strong clincher from a decade of practicing Thailand’s national sport, his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game was almost non-existent. BJJ allows a person the unique ability to be dangerous while lying on their back, traditionally a very vulnerable position. BJJ allows a much smaller person to be quite formidable in defending themselves, often being able to counterintuitively use their opponent’s bigger size as an asset and not as a liability.
I couldn’t get into it. I respect the heck out of it, and know a few things, but at the end of the day, getting strangled by people ain’t my bag. I understood, I got, liver kicks, not blood chokes.
But anyway, I’d see Ryan, working with the BJJ team. Getting tapped out. Getting choked out. Night after night.
It was humbling to watch the master striker turn into the novice grappler. But I could see he was hungry. And his ego, while bruised, was stronger than most, stronger than mine, and could handle it.
And therein was the value of his personal brand.
Recognizing the reality that we sometimes bring a knife to a gunfight and that the only way out is to learn how to shoot (or run), stat!
The Importance of Being Earnest
That’s the important takeaway for me. For you. That you can be the best-in-the-world at something, anything, but it doesn’t always translate to the next thing. The other thing. Which is okay.
Embrace the beginner mindset.
It’s okay to get your arm pulled in ways God did not intend. There’s a valuable lesson, there. Namely, don’t let that happen again!
That’s what having a personal brand, a leading brand, is all about. Continuously testing your merits. The downside of leadership is you can get complacent, lazy, and blind. Weighed down by the spare tire around their waist called knowing-it-all.
Remember the adage in all martial arts: Always keep your head up. Keep your hands up. Alert. Otherwise, Pokemon Go get knocked out.
The way to defeat the sloth of having “made it” is to be eternally curious. To be young again. To begin, again, always. It’ll keep you from acting your age, which is a good thing, the older we get.
Whatever it is you’re going after, whatever that is, it’s going to take your getting put on your rumpus, over and over again, to achieve it.
You may as well embrace it. Have a smile on your face. Have some fun.
We’re good at this as kids. As beginners. We are supposed to fail. To laugh during the process. Why does it have to change when we master something. Shouldn’t the desire to improve, to grow, increase once you get a taste of mastery?
Because, as all people, black belts and novices alike, learn, that chase, this goal you seek, is what your personal brand, what your life, will be all about.
Here’s a secret: When you learn it all, you learn you know nothing at all.
YOUR CROSS TO BEAR
And it’s time to go again.
Once more around the world.
That’s the mark we wear. Our personal brand constantly torched, burning and turning to ash, and rising once again, a different yet familiar animal.
Relish being at level one. All the fun starts here. That’s your personal brand to bear.
What is something you know you have to do but haven’t because you will have to start at the beginning?
Go do it. It will lead to something amazing, I promise. But it’ll come with bruises, it always does. But you will wear them with the honor that comes with the earnest progression towards a dream.