Jiu Jitsu and Persistence

Updated: Oct 14


While discussing my athletic career, my mom reminds me, proudly, “You always won the Mom Awards.” I never won most valuable player, I was most improved. Never most outstanding, but hardest working.

As a young boy with a simple philosophy, I did not value these awards. I valued objective success, not the effort which made such success possible.

Work ethic is a skill set which transcends disciplines and the phases of our lives. The strength with which I face the blank page today was forged during boyhood athletics. The value of sports comes in the manifestation of one’s will in the face of resistance, the forging of one’s character through worthwhile struggle, not the sport itself or the trophies collected.

This is why each of us, whether age four or forty, can benefit from the environment Jiu Jitsu provides.

We are constantly put in comprising positions, forcing us to respond with intelligently-directed effort in the face of resistance. This persistence we cultivate during a difficult training session is a virtue we bring with us into the rest of our lives: the classroom, the boardroom, and the kitchen table with our loved ones.

And this is a skill which most seem unwilling to cultivate. The majority of humanity, simply by the nature of distribution, stays in the middle of the bell curve. The outliers on the periphery are those who take advantage of opportunities and doggedly work toward the realization of an ideal.

Effort can trump ability . . . because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor coordination.- Malcolm Gladwell

Virtues, like muscles, must be trained in order to grow. And though we are not in competition with one another for joy, happiness, and life’s meaning, we are in competition for resources: jobs, education, and life partners. Broad spectrum equality does not exist in nature; it certainly does not exist in humanity.

We exist in a meritocracy. We are rewarded for our effectiveness.

Jiu Jitsu teaches us to invest in struggle and worked toward a desired end, giving us the persistence to become effective over time. Whether a child working toward their first promotion, or an adult trying to pass the guard during live training, Jiu Jitsu teaches us to push through, and even pursue, adversity.

Now I see with fresh eyes what I couldn’t in my youth: the Mom Awards are the trophies most indicative of future success, and these are the character traits which Jiu Jitsu most trains. Calvin Coolidge was right,

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

I find great solace in knowing that the greatest determinant of our success happens to be that over which we have most control.

Press on, friend.

Post Script:

If you want to read Chris’s latest book on personal development, check it out here.

If you would like to be coached by Chris personally, click here.

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