Nintai – Perseverance (pt. 1)

“80% of winning is showing up”

– Woody Allen

Showing up, coming to practise, training. It’s actually not that hard.

Just go.

Still, some people hardly ever show up. Except when it’s time for shinsa (grading). And sometimes they complain too: “We never did this on training, we never did that on training”

Well, if you had shown up, we would have done it!

Woody Allen thinks 80% of winning is about showing up (see the quote). I think it’s more like 100%. And I mean it. That’s all you have to do.

Show up. Be there. And the rest will take care of itself.

Have you ever noticed that people at the top of their respective fields are often the most productive? Do you think this is by accident? Shakespeare is at the top, right? He wrote quite a bit of crap, too. But in all that crap, some was good enough to make him the best. He just wrote, wrote and wrote.

Michael Jordan practiced basketball like a madman — we shouldn’t insult him by saying he was the best because of something else. He was even below average height for an NBA player. But he didn’t care. He showed up for practise anyway. And became the best.

Let me put it this way — if you worked as hard as an NBA player… for as long as an NBA player… you would be an NBA player too. It’s nothing strange with that. But only if you worked as hard.

As another example, there is a small native tribe somewhere in the Philippines that have perfect sight under water! Cool, huh? But they weren’t born like that, no way. They trained their sight. Because in order to get food, they have to dive. They are so called water nomads, living in and around water. And because they dive all the time, their eyes have adapted.

They never thought “Now I have to practise, so my eyes will be stronger and I will see clearer under water!”

They just did it. “Showed up”.

Now, despite this, some people say that they can never be great, because they don’t have the right basic conditions to start with. But I don’t believe that. I do not believe that any person holds a significant advantage over you. Of course I do not deny the possibility that some people may have an advantage over you, but I absolutely reject the idea that that advantage is significant.

It’s all about showing up.

I think people invented the idea of magical natural talent and super-human genetic skill in order to excuse themselves because they are too lazy to even bother to show up. It’s simply much easier on everyone’s egos to say “I cannot do a perfect high mawashi-geri like Mr. Semi-magical genetic superpower over there” than to say “I cannot do that perfect high mawashi geri because I haven’t worked as hard on it like Mr. Semi-magical genetic superpower over there.”

This can be the reason to why religion, which started off as a personal development movement, transformed into a world wide worship movement. Why be like Buddha or Jesus, when you can just sit back and worship them? Why work on your basketball-jumps, when you can watch the fruits of Michael Jordan’s work?

Using this kind of thinking, we can go about being mediocre for the rest of our lives.

Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali… these people worked harder at their sports than you and I did. These were not superhumans. These were normal humans who made themselves super. Now, you can argue that they started working earlier than you, (though not all did) but this doesn’t make them superhuman or magical.

This just makes them people who started earlier.

Nothing more.

A big problem with many adults is that they have this competence fetish – they cling desperately to their dignity like a little boy to his toys. Some adults want to be good at everything they do, and they think everyone expects them to be good at their first try. Adults are somehow meant to be dignified and able, they aren’t allowed to show ignorance or confusion.

I say forget that. Let go of your pride: you will suck at anything you are new at and little kids will be better than you. It’s okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be — those kids used to suck, too. But they think it’s fun, so they do it all the time. Over and over. And that’s why they have gotten better than you.

Sucking is simply the beginning of the path to greatness.

So, stop whining, and start doing. Whatever it is. Karate, playing piano, swimming or basketball.

Do it.

And keep doing it.

As long as you keep moving, you’re always getting closer to your goal.

Just show up.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

This was apparently said by Bruce Lee. Just show up to training. Practise your kick, and eventually it will reach 10,000 without you noticing!

And that’s when even Bruce Lee will fear you.


  • Cory
    "Sometimes you'll want to give up the guitar, you'll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded." That is a quote supposedly from Jimi Hendrix. You can replace "guitar" in that quote with anything you do, I think.
  • zaw
    very good article. Thanks

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