The Beauty of Dissatisfaction?
In my non-stop travels the first half of this year, I was teaching a private lesson to a To-Shin Do green belt student. We were talking about the pace of progress towards brown and then black belt. My friend commented, “It’s frustrating to look at my progress and think how much faster I would be advancing if I could study with you every day instead of only a few times each year.”
I could empathize. Except for my early days of karate training in the 1960s, I have always spent more time training on my own than under the watchful eye of my teacher. Even when living in Japan, I spent more nights practicing and drilling and exploring with my fellow students than I did taking lessons from the head teacher. I reminded my green belt friend of that reality.
To grow as a martial artist, we need to explore and digest and come to an understanding. Then we need to come to internalize any technique as our own. To do all that we need space and time away from the pressure of more new material. One friend calls that “putting in the dirt time”. It might feel like running across a plateau more often than climbing towards a peak.
We need time on those plateaus to build our bank of experiences in order to be truly ready for the next cliff-climb of new concepts and movements to take us higher in our skill. I know that’s the truth, but my green belt friend still felt such sentiments were easier accepted by one like me who had already earned all the belts.
I replied that each of us must make the best of whatever our situation is in a life of training. “Keep pushing your boundaries and do your best every day of training,” I offered. “You have all the DVDs for your rank, plus some. You are re-reading all the books. You are a committed subscriber to our online ninja training courses. You do regular Skype lessons with the teachers in my personal dojo. Every time I am in your town you book a private lesson with me. You are way ahead of where I was back in the 1970s, though I can sense you do not believe it. You are doing your absolute best to advance, and should be proud of your determination to succeed.” Yes but… I knew my friend was still feeling itchy.
Secretly, I love it when people doing a great job are restlessly dissatisfied with their progress. That is so much better than one who tiptoes in and nibbles at the training but expects to be honored with belts and praises of his or her expertise. “I could be doing more!” sounds so much more noble than, “You should be giving me more.” Don’t you think so too?