There’s a movie, The Razor’s Edge that boils down to, essentially the statement living a good life is as hard as walking a razor’s edge. Also, it shows Bill Murray in a different type of role. Think Meatballs but with philosophy and World War 1.
It’s a great film, and I only ever saw it once a long time ago. But it sure did resonate. And there are random moments where something will suddenly creep up and poke me in the side of the head. Not quite rudely, not quite politely, and remind me of that delicate balance.
When I was younger, I had the realization that there were many things I was merely good at, and if I wanted to be truly great, I would have to work hard. Like, really hard. For a really, obnoxiously long time, and then, I would for sure be less not-good than I was before. Probably.
It was also around this time I dryly realized if I was a superhero I would be the one who basically works really hard with a mediocre power and has a few moments of glory. Sort of like Squirrel Girl. Never heard of her? Yeah, neither have most people. It was a sobering thought when I was under four feet tall.
Luckily, one of the things that has been instilled in me since my pre-four feet days is a work ethic and willingness to sacrifice my very soul in pursuit of whatever my random goal is for the day. Be it eating ice cream, picking up stupidly heavy objects, or driving to the moon on 3 hours of sleep. I WILL do the thing.
This doesn’t always end well, as one could well imagine. But it sure does take me on some interesting trips.
Six years ago I was leaning on a railing with a Tibetan Monk in a monastery nestled in the Himalayas (it was an interesting trip). We talked of sacrifice. Of working for something greater than ourselves. He mentioned everything has a price, and it will be taken, physically, spiritually, or emotionally and that is exactly as it should be. Looking back on it, I don’t think he was just talking about karate. Lek-She, wherever you are, my friend. I believe you’re a wiser man than I.
The end result of that trip didn’t come to fruition until many months, and a few countries later. And there was sacrifice, and it took it’s price, oh yes. But it also made me a wiser man. And that’s something I would pay any price for (looking at you Odin…get it? Looking, because…his eye…wisdom…never mind).
There’s few days I don’t reflect on that conversation in some way. Yesterday I was thinking about change. About impact. When I was younger I announced loudly and proudly that I was going to change the world. I was just a little hazy on the specifics. Now, there are days I despair on the challenges of changing my oil and even those specifics are hazier than I would like to admit. But change happens in the most significant, and quietest ways possible it seems.
Ten years ago I was sitting in a (much different) karate school in Milwaukee, WI. I had thoughts of Team USA and the Olympics and a rapidly growing realization that the world is full of so many incredibly talented people who are all REALLY GOOD. And I was looking at the perceived gap between them, and myself, and wasn’t quite able to connect those dots. So, instead of maybe asking around and considering alternate life paths I did what I’m really good at. I Put my head down and worked. And worked. And worked. And continue to work. A decade later, I’m still working. But, there are days I feel those dots are quite a bit closer.
Four years ago I stood in a forever moment, putting dishes away in a friend’s apartment, heart in my throat and words dancing on my tongue as I told a beautiful woman I loved her (spoiler, I married her). Rewinding just a little more, Sixteen years ago I was sitting in a car driving to some random place in WI talking with Sensei Harris about everything and nothing. But always touching on work. On passion. On belief. On becoming something greater. In the last four years WE have achieved more than either of us would have ever thought possible, and we’re just getting warmed up. You think I can work hard, you should meet my wife, she makes me look like I’m standing still.
Becoming has been a preoccupation of mine as of always. In every moment I think of what brought me here, and where I’m going. I’m always looking forward, pushing for the next thing, next idea, next event and hoping that it will be better. Than what, I have no idea. I want the school to become something more than it is. I want myself to become something more. I want everything to change for the better.
Until I hit the days where the thought of putting shoes on is enough to make me take a seat. The days where my hands won’t stop shaking and the nights I hallucinate shapes and people in the shadows along I-94. These are the days I wonder if I made the right choice, if I’m in the right line of work, if I’m doing anything at all right.
Then, at the oddest moments, I’ll get validation. At 8:00 AM when a student comes in early on accident. An offhanded comment during a training, or even a day where, for a wonderful afternoon, everything goes exactly right. Then I know, unequivocally and completely that I’m doing the right thing.
But those moments, are fleeting and strange and never when I expect. Each instance I listed above changed my life somehow. Sometimes in huge ways, sometimes in unbelievably small and important ways. But the only thread that connects them all is that search for something more.
It’s a constant, ever evolving, changing, whirlwind out there. But we’re all on it together. Remember, we sacrifice for that which we believe, and reassurance will come from the most unlikely of places.