I wouldn’t call myself a “flag waver” but I am patriotic. Grateful to live in a great country with tremendous opportunity and much more fairness than it is generally afforded. One of the reasons I write this blog is to “give back” through a digital form of teaching. My karate master, a Canadian, appreciated the opportunity being a US citizen provided to him and impressed that on all of his students, along with the importance of teaching others. That caused me to reflect on what it means to be free on a personal level as we celebrate July 4th in the United States. It’s interesting how we take certain rights for granted – liberty, free speech, the right to assemble. It’s easy to forget the trappings of a free society when freedom is everywhere.
The Independence of Personal Freedom
But many people also take other liberties for granted, and I mean this on a personal level. Often we find ourselves not succeeding, or being where we want to be in life, or simply wishing we were further along than we are. All of these issues boil down to one thing. You are free to succeed if you want to as you are the only one that ultimately stands in the way of where you are and where you want to go. Sure there are obstacles all around us. Our own fears. The motivations and/or agendas of other people. The natural course of circumstance and timing. But we can control the outcome of personal success by focusing on the fact that we have personal freedom to do as we wish. So, what are those freedoms? Here are some of the important ones worth focusing on:
Quite literally, opportunity is everywhere. Especially in Western society, and notably in the United States. Even in harsh economic times there is opportunity for success, you just have to work a little harder to get it, or look at a particular situation differently to see it. I had a conversation the other day with the CEO of company who I have worked with previously. He shared a new business model he and his team discovered. Originally the business he entered, while profitable, wasn’t poised to grow signficantly. A lot of competition, a global credit crisis making it difficult to expand, and pricing pressures that indicated his business was becoming commoditized were all issues he was contending with. He shared with me that he was personally down for a while about the situation but knew it fell to him to find a way forward. He stepped away from his business and his fears about it and looked at the situation differently, turning the business model on it’s head. By doing this he discovered a new market and grew his business 10 fold in 2 years, a remarkable feat.
- Just because something isn’t going your way doesn’t mean you can’t change the conditions that you face;
- Step away from a situation and try to look at it from different and unexpected angles as you may see new opportunities;
- If you don’t give up, opportunities will present themselves.
The Right To Succeed
This isn’t an inalienable right but it should be. Because most of the obstaces we face aren’t serious. They may be difficult but not serious. I have very deep interest in Central Asian cultures and have followed the war in Afghanistan closely. So this is a timely discussion given that is it Independence Day in the United States. Everyday life in this part of the world is not pleasant. War is all around. Corruption is rampant leading to an “unlevel playing field” and culturally, woman are subservient. Those are difficult conditions just to survive, much less thrive in. But we are already granted the right to succeed.
I had a phone conversation the other day with a friend that has hit a rough patch in his life. His personal situation, while not easy, wasn’t “Afghanistan” bad. He was out of a job, had fallen behind due to the recession, and the prospects for getting work didn’t look good on the surface. He had been knocked down a few times. I am a good friend to this person but I would not let them off the hook as I sensed this was a pity conversation. I let him talk and then told him that our literal freedom is directly tied to our personal freedom. We are not living in Afghanistan just trying to survive. No matter how bad our personal situation is we have the right to succeed. We just need to remember that success can be there and we need to act on it as I have written about here.
- Keep your perspective when looking at your own personal situation;
- We often have more power to change our paths than we think we do.
Make A Stand for What’s Important
Over long periods of training and teaching in the martial arts it became very clear as to who would succeed in getting to a black belt level and who wouldn’t. Accomplishment came because those that wanted to get to a particular place decided they wanted specific success. They made a mental decision and took a personal stand to accomplish their specific goal. That sounds counter-intuitive but it really isn’t because they accepted what they would have to do in order to reach that success. And most people don’t do this, and rarely does it happen on any personal development level. You have have to this little battle with yourself and internalize it in order for it to work on your behalf. I see this both in and out of a training dojo all the time and all the people I know and work with that are successful by conventional standards or make it to black belt can be summed by two principles:
- They did not accept anything less than the goal(s) they knew they wanted to achieve, and
- They worked relentlessly to get to those goals.
I know this sounds obvious but it’s true. Was luck thrown in the mix? Perhaps in some cases. But “having luck” is not enough (or a good plan). You have the freedom to determine for yourself that you will be successful. This is not happy motivational talk, it’s a true self development trait requiring a mental shift in thinking. Make a stand.
On this holiday that celebrates independence and freedom, regardless of the country you live in, remember that you always have personal freedom to do whatever what you want to. Many people sacrificed their lives in order for us to live to our maximum potential. Regardless of your personal circumstances, or the country you live in, please honor that for those that have gone before. Happy 4th of July.
Thanks for training with me.