February 4, 2019, Los Angeles, USA
In martial arts we use the belt system, adopted from the Japanese, as a way of recognizing the growth and progress in a student's development. Every student is excited to receive/earn his yellow belt, then orange belt etc. Motivation and recognition are powerful motivating tools.
What if we used the same concept in dating?
You meet a young woman, you ask her out. The first date goes great. You are excited but not sure how she feels. How does she view the "progress"? Are we moving forward or standing still? Perhaps each partner should award belts to the other. When people ask, how is it going?, you can reply. Great, last night she awarded me my orange belt, I guess I am doing something right.
But life is not like that. No, most of the time we will work a long time without receiving any recognition of progress or improvement, nor will the universe give us any sort of confirmation. Most of the time we will feel like we are treading water, standing still. It may seem hopeless and frustrating.
We should look to nature for inspiration. We plant a seed and we wait. We water it, we fertilize it, but we shall not see anything for a long time. Eventually we may see a small stem or some tiny leaves, and then the process will be dormant for a while. What we do not realize is that in fact great growth is taking place, but it is under the surface, invisible to the naked eye.
While we are watering and fertilizing it and getting frustrated with a lack of results, the plant is saying, let me take my time, this is a natural process, do not pressure me or you will kill me. Growth is taking place but it is silent and invisible.
I have been through a great deal in my life, I have seen and experienced much. I am still struggling in many ways and trying to understand the universe. The periods in life where it seemed like nothing of value was happening, the periods which seemed unproductive, the periods where frustration was high, in fact turned out to be the periods of the greatest growth, periods that I wish I could go back to and spend more time there for I realize now, years later, what was actually happening then. Those are the times and the experiences that I draw on now.
Those periods are my "Library" of resources, I draw on them for stories and anecdotes, lessons and inspiration. That is why I wish to go back to them, to the years of climbing up the latter, the years of struggle.
I think of the daily grind of going to work at the bank, of the endless endurance and frustration, I draw on that now.
I think of my years of Yeshiva, Rabbinical academy, where I felt I was going nowhere, I draw on those lessons and stories now and wish I had again that time to sit and argue all day over a passage in the Talmud.
I think back to the days of cleaning toilets in schools and catering halls, to clearing building debris and washing floors, and I know that those were great periods of growth. Deep seeds were planted then.
I think back to my university days, studying history, economics, political theory, and wondering what all this would give me, and now I know that it enriched me in ways I could never have imagined, I use those lessons to teach Krav Maga in a more effective way. The days of studying math and science, the days of debating with Hegel and Marx, Engels and Von Clausewitz, have given me tools to explain Krav Maga strategy and thought.
But during all those years I did not realize that growth was taking place. I did not realize those years were shaping me for my role in the future.
Sometimes it is those years where all appears dark, when it feels like we are moving nowhere and making no progress, that our greatest growth is taking place, for these are our greatest challenges.
Nothing is as it appears, nothing.
We live in a world where companies are judged by quarterly reports rather than by real growth, this leads to false prices, false economic values and false market analysis. This need for tangible growth is an economic mistake. It is the same with our lives.
We need not see the growth. We need not hide the years of struggle. We need to embrace and accept them as part of life.
We are used to report cards, belts, awards, but life does not offer these. We need wise guides in life to help us understand this, to accept the growth periods and not to fight them.
I recall my days training with Itay Gil. I recall the period between brown belt and black. I watched my brown belt become more and more worn out and losing its color. I received very little praise or encouragement, only "your day of glory will come".
Most students dropped out. My greatest skill? Endurance, stay the path, don't quit, don't give in to weakness. There is no turning back.
Those years were some of the greatest years of training, the skills and qualities I gained during those "Years of Struggle" are still with me.
There are people who for one reason or another spent years in prison. Often those years were the greatest growth years: years of deep thought, pain and contemplation.
That is how winning is done.
Not every struggle is awarded with a diploma or rank. The greatest victories are invisible. We need to understand that we do not need to measure our lives by trophies, or "accomplishments". We are growing from our struggles, we are becoming better people and in the long run we will have more to offer the universe. Let us not mourn these periods. Remember under the surface a deep root is growing.
We accept the dark years as the years of growth. Even now, I accept the dark days, and there are many, but now I accept them with love, understanding and ...patience.