Posts Tagged ‘Confidence’

Balancing Ego: Sometimes you must build it up, sometimes you must push aside. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

As this series has been on martial arts and ego perhaps its time to define “ego” as per the dictionary:

e·go – /ˈēɡō/ noun

  1. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. “A boost to my ego”

Similar definitions:

  • PSYCHOANALYSIS: Ego – the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
  • PHILOSOPHY: Ego – (in metaphysics) a conscious thinking subject.

In layman’s terms it basically means “how we see ourselves, how we think of ourselves, and how we value our self-worth relative in the world.” Ego can help or hinder you. A healthy ego can give you confidence which will allow you to accomplish the tasks that you wish to do without the inner dialogue, that is often negative, to hold you back. If people perceive you as confident than they may be more willing to help you or follow you. On the other hand, an unhealthy ego may also help you achieve your goals, but will also hinder you socially as those around you may simply consider you arrogant and unworthy of listening to or following.

One thing that seems to be consistent with regards to ego, healthy or unhealthy, is that you must build a healthy view of yourself that is positive while trying your best not to push your ego onto others. There is a reason people like modesty or other comparable personality traits; because if your ego is too much, for one reason or another, especially if someone has a negative view of themselves, they will perceive this as an attack on their ego.

In short, people are hard. Yet, we are innately social creatures that need to be around others. Yes, it’s very complicated.

So with that definition (somewhat loosely) established in an super-overly simplistic context let’s talk about how this relates to martial arts.

The Instructor

Being a martial arts instructor is a challenging job. Depending on how you approach the activity it can be very rewarding, a long struggle, a hobby, or an enjoyable lifestyle. I would say that if 4 out of 5 businesses fail, 4.99 out of 5 martial arts or fitness business fail. It is naturally a hard business to get into. When you start you think, “I want to take my hobby into a lifestyle that can make a living.” It should be no surprise however that most martial artist who do it more seriously actually don’t make very much money. For those who do make money it is usually due to a difficult journey, both physically and mentally, that simply through consistency and hard work eventually paid off.

It’s this fact, that until you reach business stability it is quite common for the grind to affect the ego of the instructor, as their self worth is tied into their hobby and now livelihood. (After all, marrying a martial artist is often frowned upon as they are no doctor, lawyer, or something traditionally more prestigious.) During this period of stabilization it is often quite common for the instructors ego to feel unappreciated as students (at least in modern times) make all sorts of demands on the instructor, some reasonable and some not. Often the demand is to progress them faster or make things easier or “do things differently.” For a martial arts instructor this can be quite tough on the ego. A question is often asked; “Do I do what they want to keep business alive, or maintain my integrity and stick to my guns with the proper way to do things?” The latter can be quite difficult, as it often means less business and ultimately a view of yourself and your position in life that may include a lessoning self worth.  

It is assumed that all martial artists, through discipline and “spiritually grounded mind, body, and soul,” have a good, strong ego that is not too much or too little; so they, of course, are expected to have a positive self worth at all the times. This is simply false, because, like all persons, the martial arts instructor is human, with an ego.

For those who do well, their self worth and ego are boosted and they see themselves as a valuable member of society, contributing to the physical and mental growth of others; which includes the shaping of healthy egos in their students. Either from making students realize they aren’t as good as they thought, bringing their egos down to a more reality-based plane. Or by helping them build their ego through confidence, by achieving goals and making progress as they rise through the ranks.

A martial arts instructor with an over-inflated ego and self worth, with a little charisma, can very quickly become a cult leader, teaching nothing more than bushido for the sake of boosting their ego. Beware the McDojo!

A martial arts instructor with an under-inflated ego (a.k.a. a low self worth), no matter how good their skills are, may have a difficult time inspiring others to develop themselves and stick too the difficult path that is the martial artist.

The instructor must remember to manage their ego while also managing the skills and development of others, and remind themselves it isn’t always about them but about developing others.  The method in which this will be achieved varies, as there are many paths, but some paths will attract fewer students and others will attract more.

The important thing for the instructor though is to always keep in mind; why they are doing it and what about it makes them happy?

Some instructors may be totally happy with a modest living, so long as they can practice and teach their arts. Others may only be happy with thousands of students and will achieve this at all costs.

The balance is a tricky one.

What is too much ego, or the right balance of ego, confidence, and self worth really depends on the person.

But the martial arts instructor who fails to understand that ego is part of not only being human but is ingrained in the martial arts for practical, philosophical, and historical reasons, may find themselves in the worst of all worlds.

For how is any student to learn properly if the instructor loses the most important battle of all, the eternal one that isn’t with the opponent but the ego and the internal dialogue?

The Student

The student wants to learn martial arts for ego, self worth, and more. Just like the instructor, they too have an eye on being something more, something better. Though for them the journey with the ego is different.

Some come in thinking they are tougher than they are, others not as tough as they are. In both cases there is often an underestimation of the time it will take to achieve their goals. When this is realized it is often the first ego beating that a student has. Fear, doubt, or just life gets in the way and although they may tell themselves they will train they do not follow through with their original plan of becoming “the ultimate warrior.” These students lose the battle with the ego with questions like; “What if I can’t do this?” “What if I am not good enough?” “What if I can’t train enough?” Before they even really start to try, their ego and confidence says “it’s easier to quit now then to keep going,” because it will, of course, be easier than the path to the goal they originally had.

Another battle with ego students sometimes experience is with the school itself, the instructor(s), and their training partners. Though martial arts is ultimately a solo activity, rather than a team activity, it can often make students forget that there are other people to consider; the instructor, the school, and other students. The student makes it about themselves and only about themselves. They care nothing for the struggles of the instructor or the school, or how they may help benefit their fellow students. It is a battle between the ego’s demand for the primacy of the self and the social demand for others. It can be far too easy for the ego to take over and make the journey only about the self. This will ultimately lead to less desirable results, as the instructor may simply gloss over the difficult student, or other students may not want to train with them. The ego must not win this battle if the student expects to have the best journey, to the best version of themselves, to achieve their martial arts goal. The ego will say this is an “individual journey,” but without the instructor, the schools, or the fellow students, your progress will simply be hindered and it is a battle that must constantly be fought, remembered, and managed.

Of course, there is the student that is a physical specimen and let their ego run wild, for they are the destroyer of worlds. This is, of course, what the ego says. No one challenges you and you are the best. While it may be true in your world, your gym, you may simply be a big fish in a small pond. This student also fails to realize, through the blindness of ego, that being the best physically is not the main goal in martial arts, just part of it. In Krav, at least, it’s to walk in peace.

Running around with an over-inflated ego will only ever cause conflict, both internally and externally. If this student let’s his ego win, eventually he won’t just fail, but the internal story that the ego has weaved will come crumbling down and the once high view of self importance will collapse into the pit of the question, “who am I without my physical prowess?” Some rebuild and some do not. It is an ego trap easily avoided by developing the other areas that one can gain by training martial arts.

The opposite student to this is the one with no developed ego at all and almost no self worth. Perhaps there are no physical skills present. Often these students rely far too much on the opinions of their instructor or others, and not enough confidence comes from within. Accepting their starting point, and the difficult journey ahead, is often far too difficult a challenge to face and will only be another metaphorical blow to their already poor self worth. A student like this must realize the importance of developing their ego and realizing that much of the martial arts journey is actually solo. If you quit to early, you will never grow; but that is, of course, easier. If they put their ego aside and simply do, rather than resist they will find positive growth not only in the ego and self worth, but in the other physical-oriented aspects that is martial arts.

Final Thoughts on Ego

There are, of course, many other ego traps or challenges that students or instructors may face. The only way to find out which ego battles you might struggle with is to start your martial arts journey and never stop, even if it only means casual training. A battle never stopped is a battle never won or lost, but rather a journey. Which is how you probably should view the hardest battle of all, a journey with ups and downs and loop-de-loops but one that only ever should have progress and nothing more. This battle is not with your instructor, your students, or the world around you, but rather the battle within, the one with your ego, the one with yourself, the one that matters the most.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

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You may only have a few precious seconds in which to prevent a violent explosion(source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

So… you were unable to avoid that threat you identified. At least you were able to see it coming and have not been taken by surprise. Congratulations, but there is now some fast work to do. Welcome to Stage 2, De-escalation!

I am neither a psychologist nor a hostage negotiator, but, over my 42 years, I have figured out a few tricks for talking to people and getting oneself out of ugly situations. The two tactics I have employed most often throughout my life are “Tactical Empathy” and “Reframing” (though I didn’t know the names for what I was doing at the time):

Tactical Empathy – In his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, ex-hostage negotiator Chris Voss describes tactical empathy as “understanding the feelings and mindset of another in
the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase
your influence in all the moments that follow.” Figure out what is motivating the other person, then leverage that information to shape the encounter by expressing common understanding.

Reframing – A “frame” is someone’s point of view and expectations of what is normal in a given interaction, based on their beliefs and emotional state. If you walk up to someone shouting angrily, you expect them to react with either fear or their own anger. Reframing involves changing the narrative and redefining what normal is for the interaction. If the person you are shouting at reacts with a smile or a friendly laugh, your brain’s plan for a heated exchange has been derailed; your frame has been “broken” and now you have to stop and reconsider the rules of engagement in that encounter.

Of course, both of these methods require an understanding of people, a willingness to engage people verbally, a bit of creativity, and a whole lot of confidence, but, as with any skill, they can be improved through practice.

Developing these skills can be handy in all sorts of non-threatening situations as well. I’ve leveraged tactical empathy and reframing to get into bars for free, skip lines, dodge fees, etc., though in mundane contexts it is less about “tactics” and more about finding common ground and being friendly.

I’ll illustrate these tactics using two examples from my past in which I talked my way out of potentially disastrous situations:

The International (Football) Incident

In 2014 myself and a friend traveled to São Paulo, Brazil to attend the 20th FIFA World Cup tournament. We had done our research ahead of time; we were advised to avoid wearing flashy clothes and jewelry (so you don’t look affluent), carry a “drop wallet” (a secondary one, with some fake cards or small bills, that you can toss down to distract muggers in order to flee), and stay out of the favelas. Also, we learned that Brazil has two major religions, Catholicism and Football, so you have to be careful what neighbourhoods you go into when wearing a specific team’s kit (they were a bit forgiving during the World Cup)

The sixth game we attended was a Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland. The emotions were already tense in the crowd as we slowly mobbed into the packed stadium; this is the knockout round, whoever loses this game goes home. This is further fueled by a longstanding rivalry between the national teams of Argentina and Brazil (Argentina would love a chance to defeat the host country)

We arrived in our section, and suddenly realized we’d made huge mistake. Not wanting to sport a Brazil jersey in a rival crowd, and not having a vested interest in either team’s success, we chose to wear our Canadian (Women’s) National Team jerseys to the game… not for a moment considering the fact that they are red and white… the same colour as the Switzerland kit.

Our seats happened to be right in the middle of a sea of rowdy, drunken, Argentina supporters (borderline hooligans); there are white and blue striped shirts EVERYWHERE, and only two “security guards” in sight. The beer-fueled shouts of “hijo de puta” started flying at us! As we walked up the steps all I could think was, “great, we are going to be responsible for the 2014 World Cup riot.” We reached our seats and the guys all around us started sarcastically chanting “Up, SWISS!”

I had to defuse the rising tension, fast, or this was going to be a less-than-enjoyable experience. If Argentina loses (or even gets scored on), it could turn deadly. I face the guy doing the most taunting in English, and say, in a friendly manner, “It looks like you boys are pretty excited about this match.” He chuckled at my comment. I had him!

I extend my hand “I’m Corey, this is Homan, we’re in from Canada.” He shook it and introduced himself and a few of his friends. But there were still a few on either side, behind him, and behind us, who looked unimpressed. Looking at them specifically, I ask “Are you all from Argentina?” One guy offered up that he was from a town on the border with Paraguay and it took 20hrs to drive here. I replied, “Buddy, that’s hardcore, we had to save for four years to make this trip!” I then stated something to the effect of “this is do or die time, eh?” Which was met with a chorus of passionate tales of Argentina’s highs and lows in the recent past. We then talked about our jerseys and I went on to make a few jokes about how what little Spanish I knew was mostly swearing and talking about women.

By the end of the match they were buying us beers, we were sharing pictures of our kids, and, fortunately, were celebrating Argentina’s victory with them. (Argentina narrowly made it to the final but was defeated by a stellar German squad.)

How did we go from targets of hatred and derision to friends?

As we entered that section of the stadium, I was in mental colour code Orange, as the rowdy Argentina fans’ presence was a potential threat (we’d done our research!) In this scenario the threat could not be avoided; we had ticketed seats, there was no standing area, and I was not about to walk away from a World Cup match that I traveled to another country to see. Their behaviour essentially put me into mental colour code Red, as, even without our participation, we were in a verbal conflict. I had to de-escalate, and I had to do so immediately, before mob mentality kicked in and one of our harassers is inspired to move from verbal to physical.

The source of the conflict came from the assumption on the Argentinian’s part that we were going to return the same aggression they had shown us. My goals became; 1) Reduce or eliminate their aggression, 2) Remove their desire to harm us, and 3) Bond with them to solidify the “peace.” As a bonus 3.5) Make them see us as worthy of protection from other aggressors.

My path toward those goals was as follows:

  1. I started by immediately “breaking their frame.” They expected we would either return their vitriolic team pride with our own, or cower and be a source of amusement all game. By engaging them with humour, rather than anger or meekness, I disrupted their angry passion narrative. (similar to physically disrupting and off-balancing an aggressor with your own action). If you can get someone to laugh, it tends to shift their opinion of you toward the positive.
  2. In that moment of disruption I replaced their “hooligan” frame with the groundwork of my “comradery” frame: I named us and offered a handshake (thus humanizing us instead of remaining generic “rival fans.”)
  3. I then spotted the doubtful ones and kept them engaged with a trivially simple question that invited them to exert their pride, while at the same time (hopefully) opening up about themselves: “Are you all from Argentina?” This led to a more personal connection, as they have confirmed a part of their identity to me. It also created an opportunity for establishing common ground.
  4. “…we had to save for four years to make this trip!” Not specifically true, but it establishes three points in common: A shared passion for football, we aren’t locals, and we are regular, working class lads (what I call “economic camouflage.”)
  5. The above statement also satisfies their egos a bit by indicating that A) I’m impressed by their commitment, and B) we aren’t wealthy North American jet-setters.
  6. Bringing up their team’s “do or die” potential, again affords them an opportunity to exert their pride, passion, and identity, in a positive way. It also incorporates Dale Carnegie’s advice, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.”

By the time I’m asking them to regale me with the history of Lionel Messi and La Albiceleste, I’ve accomplished goals 1 and 2, and I am deeply into goal 3! While there were still hostiles in the area, whom we kept an eye on, the way the boys in our immediate vicinity were interacting with us deterred aggression. As the bonus 3.5 goal was not assured, we beat a hasty retreat to the exit the second the match ended!

Ego-Driven vs Predatory

In the above example, the threat was a bunch of drunken football fans looking for a hit of dopamine by way of national pride, they sought it through intimidation and I gave it to them, instead, through jovial comradery. (Dare I say that I might have chiseled away at their preconceived notions a bit?)

When considering your tactics, be aware that what at works for ego-driven threats won’t necessarily work for predatory threats.  The former can be manipulated by either feeding the ego or reframing it. By “feeding”, I mean that de-escalation could be a simple as saying “I don’t want to fight, you’d kick my ass!” or “yeah, I was looking at your hot wife, but she’d never take me over you, buddy.” For reframing, re-read the above! (In discussing “Fight or Flight,” the Hard2Hurt crew notes “submit” as a possible alternative.)

As always, be aware of variables such as culture, context, and the demeanour of the threat. Looking weak or submissive may actually escalate the situation in some regions or contexts, whereas in others meeting a challenge head on is an act of de-escalation (as counterintuitive as that may seem). Whatever option you choose, do it with confidence!

However, a predatory threat is more complicated, as the assailant may be dead set on harming you for reasons you may not be able to account for (eg. they are high, mentally/emotionally unstable, desperate, a habitual offender, etc.). It may be that your attempt at verbal de-escalation is really a distraction to buy you time or set you up to strike first.

Gun(Bar)fight at the Not-so-OK Corral

I have an eclectic taste in music, but I over the years I’ve tended toward the numerous varieties of Metal, Punk, and Industrial. Spending (or misspending) most of my youth in Alberta, these genres were sometimes hard to find, and one inevitably ended up at Country bars more often than not. But that’s okay, because I can three-step and line dance with the best of them (raised in Alberta!).

Let’s break this one down as we go along:

On one such evening I found myself with a group of friends in Southern Alberta, at a popular bar called the Corral (there were many with that name over the years). Everything was going well, the music was as good as it could be considering the genre and the drinks were flowing like water. Going well, that is, until one innocuous trip to the bathroom.

I turned from the urinal to find that I’d been followed in by five “cowboys” (I come from a farming/ranching heritage, and these boys didn’t look like the real thing). Regardless, we are alone, it is five on one.

At this point it bears mentioning that in my teens and twenties I had hair down to the middle of my back and generally dressed in band shirts with torn jeans or fatigue pants. In this case I knew I was going into a potentially unwelcoming place and had not adapted to the local customs (because I didn’t give a fuck.)

The defacto leader spoke first; “we don’t appreciate f*gs in here.” (It is Southern Alberta after all, the nexus of the farm belt and bible belt.) Under the surface, this threat is clearly ego-driven, they are insecure men, but their actions are predatory, ie. they stalked me and intend me harm for a specific reason. I need to stall long enough to either get to the door or be lucky enough that someone else comes in as a distraction.

I play dumb, “If I see any I’ll let you know” and start moving to the door. Unsurprisingly, they blocked me. “Why do you look like that?” he asked. It becomes clear that they don’t want to just kick my ass, they want to intimidate me first in order to “send a message” (or, perhaps more likely, they are cowards and no one wants to “start it.”)

My next gamble was to keep them talking while edging toward the door and keeping calm, making it clear I’m not weak or intimidated (I didn’t know the trick of “humanizing” back then.) I this situation, with these people and in the given context, being submissive would have encouraged them. I keep my hands up in a semi-passive position and I asked, “What about what about this looks gay?” One of the guys shouted “Your f*ggy hair!”

I saw an opportunity to defuse/reframe with humour. I replied, “I’ve heard that criticism before, I’ll consider it. Surely one of you boys can think of something more original?” It got a stifled laugh from one guy, but not enough to indicate that I had shifted the mindset of the group. Fortunately, another one shouted said “and it’s ugly!” I tried again with, “This guy cares what I look like? Now who’s gay?”

Bad move. There are effective ways to turn insults into reframing tools, but shaming or prodding the already emotionally unstable ego is NOT how to do it! But I was young and stupid.

They have an even more heated reaction; swearing and gesturing, one guy even started wrapping his belt around his knuckles. My final chance to reach the door involved a risky reframe; I said, “Woah, I’ve got piss on my hands, mind if I wash them first?”

THEY LET ME!!

At the sink I had a clear path to the door, but, tragically, it opened inward. I also noted that I had created a secondary (thought terrible) option by getting close enough to a stall that I could bail into it and at least bottleneck and align my attackers if escape proved impossible. Again, buying time!

I didn’t know how to fight at this point in my life, but my instincts regarding herd mentality were to square myself to the “leader” and try to drop him first in hopes of scattering a few of the others. (However, now I know that in group fight scenarios you go for whomever is CLOSEST). I kept edging toward the door but made sure they were still all in front of me.

At that point, the door opened. A bouncer was doing his rounds. He looked at them, looked at me, saw our positioning and body language… “All of you, get the fuck out!”

I head straight back to my friends and introduce the idea that it is time to go home.

Overt Predatory Threats

Fortunately (unfortunately for this post), I have never had to de-escalate a “overtly predatory threat.” That is, situations in which the attacker is deeply committed to the threat and is in your face so fast that you are starting at a disadvantage (eg. being mugged at knife point, getting jumped without warning, etc.). I’ve either managed to avoid them, albeit narrowly in a few cases, or talked them down before they made their intensions clear. Though, in my travels I have picked up a few pieces of advice that apply in most predatory scenarios, and in many ego-driven encounters as well:

  1. Don’t Argue – Do you really want to aggravate someone who is already in the middle of a poor decision? If someone demands your wallet, are you willing to get stabbed over a few bills and some replaceable cards? Again, submission MAY be the safest de-escalation, but you have to know your context. Otherwise, if you see a chance to reframe or employ tactical empathy, do it.
  2. Don’t Go to a Second Location – Allowing a predatory threat to take you somewhere else greatly increases the chances that things are going from bad to worse (sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, etc.). Yes, this conflicts with #1, but it is more important.
  3. Don’t Demand – When someone is angry, insisting that they “calm down” NEVER WORKS! If someone is trying to exert power over you, meeting force with force is unlikely to have positive results. Speak calmly and with confidence, “Please leave me alone” rather than “Fuck off!”
  4. Do Get Trained in Self-defence!
Further Considerations

Whether you managed it by roguish charm or clear and confident statements, just because you talked yourself out of a bad situation doesn’t mean that the threat has been stopped. The threatening party may change their mind if you look weak as you leave, or if you present them with an irresistible opportunity for a sucker-punch (you prevented the situation by being alert, don’t squander that now!).  When you remove yourself from the situation, assess once again; are you now on “good terms” with the potential threat, does their body language indicate that they are barely holding back, are their friends looking at them expectantly or chastising their inaction? 

Either way, now that you have the chance to get away, do so confidently (not arrogantly), and keep your eyes on the threat, directly or indirectly. Depending on the situation you may need to walk backward, cautiously, maintaining awareness of the threat and your surroundings, with your hands up in a semi-passive stance, until you are clear to escape. It may be that you simply need to keep an eye on the threat in the reflection from a store window, or take a quick look over your shoulder as you cross the road (which you should be doing to immediately create space!).

Understand that, until you are completely clear of the threatening person or situation, you MUST still be thinking and acting in mental colour code Orange. Situational awareness, as always, remains important; are they about to regroup and chase you, has frustration led them to pull out a weapon?

Be prepared, at any time, to move immediately to stage 3…

Written by Corey

Yes, it’s another Pokémon related post. (It’s not likely to be the last.)

Pikachu’s electrifying personality (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

I have always had an unusually rational and explainable confidence (though it’s origin remains unknown): Just DO things. Now, I am not saying it came from Pokémon, but, I am not saying it did’t come from Pokémon. One thing is for sure; I have always stood out as someone a little different. Maybe it’s a bad case of cognitive dissonance or maybe it was my love for Pokémon. Who knows?!

One thing for sure though, having confidence in oneself, who you are and your abilities, can go a long way in life. It’s not for the benefit of other people, it’s for ourselves, and how we view ourselves internally.

In Pokémon, protaginist “Ash Ketchum” has an unusual characteristic; he never forces, or even encourages, his pokémon to evolve into their higher forms. In the most famous example, his pikachu was offered the chance to evolve into a Raichu early on, using an item called a “Thunder Stone.” Most trainers would jump at the chance, because isn’t the more evolved form stronger and, therefore, better? Well, Ash and, more importantly, Pikachu did not think so. (It should be considered, though, that this may have been a marketing-based plot decision, as Raichu isn’t as “cute” as Pikachu and might have hurt the series’ brand, considering Pikachu was, and still is, the face of the series.)

For whatever reason, Pikachu decided he did not want to change for the sake of others; he was comfortable with who he was. Later in the series it was the same case for Ash’s Bulbasaur. It was captured by other Bulbasaurs and taken to the secretive “evolution ceremony.” Ash’s Bulbasaur decided, despite all his peers evolving, not to evolve again; he, like Pikachu, was comfortable with who he was. As it turns out, they both developed into stronger versions of themselves internally, becoming strong leaders in their own rights, despite not evolving into more powerful creatures.

While at the time I did not think much of it, hindsight often allows us to see where we might have learned lessons that were not directly taught to us. In today’s world there is increased pressure to conform to the narrative of society or our peers. Similarly, society told Ash to evolve Pikachu and peers told Bulbasaur to evolve. In both cases they were confident and comfortable with who they were, which afforded them the self-assured mindset to become the best versions of themselves whether or not they later choose to evolve.

While you should always be the best version of yourself, that does not always mean the version other people want you to be. This DOES NOT mean you don’t ever have to change! It just means that how you view yourself is one of the most important aspects of personal happiness (or personal destruction): it will inform your confidence (or contribute to a lack thereof) and inspire (or deter) your ability to be comfortable with yourself, and therefore your ability to experience strong growth.

So long as who you choose to be, and how you see yourself, is not destructive, dangerous, or extremely disruptive to the health, safety, and well-being of others, then you should be who you want to be and you should let yourself be happy with it.

Of course, if you are not happy with what you see in the mirror, or in your thoughts and actions, then you always have the power to change into what you want. In other words, you can choose to “evolve,” as is common when most pokémon are ready to change; either because they want to for personal reasons, because they have decided it would be in the best interest of their team’s success. Regardless of the motivation, the change is a choice to take action.

So, whether you want to be something else, or you want to be what you are, if you view yourself in a positive light you will have a much fuller, happier life.

What are you waiting for? Channel the confidence of Pikachu today, and be the best version of yourself that you can; so that you too can electrify the world around you.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

The lengthiness of this article is to be expected. Success rarely has any shortcuts, unless you are the exception to the rule. Read the whole thing!

I am a martial arts teacher and school owner. I don’t like being put on a pedestal, but whether I like it or not, a leadership role is placed on my head. Sometimes, my conversations with students are not always just about Krav Maga and martial arts. Sometimes, students ask about life advice, personal demons, and other problems. People who know me well know that I am a frank and blunt person. Krav Maga teaches us that reality is not always as nice and kind as we would like to pretend it to be. Likewise, while my approach to advice giving is not always the kindest most empathetic or sympathetic, sometimes (or a lot of times nowadays) people need a hard dose of reality.

The students who are more receptive to help, advice or encouragement are often reassured by my words. Others who do not like to be challenged, or are not receptive to my advice, often just get annoyed with me. Whatever my advice is, I am really just acting as a guide. From that point on, it is up to the individual to sort out his or her problems.

Often, students who come to UTKM aren’t here just to learn self-defense. For whatever reason, people come to us from all over the place and all walks of life to better themselves. Some of them have an insane amount of talent but lack the confidence to use it. Some of them have too much confidence, but lack competence to back it up. Some of them have had very difficult lives and are just trying to make it by. The thing is, we need to remember that we are simply all the same species with the same general goal of surviving, being prosperous, and being happy.

For some, this comes with ease. For others, it is a struggle. Of course, there are so many variables in life, and many are against us. Through my personal battle with depression, I have learned that the only one who can make it better inside and out is yourself. Others can only guide you.

What does it take to be successful?

Just so you know, banking on being the next Bill Gates is less likely than winning the lottery. Winning the lottery just requires luck, but being Bill Gates takes more than that. You can still be successful even if you are not the next Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or Richard Branson. These people are the exception to the rule and, as much as we don’t like it, not everyone can be the best. We need to stop lying to ourselves. We can only strive to be the best version of ourselves. Then, you will find all the success you will ever need.

I have broken down the concept of success into a simple model. Again, my advice may not be the softest and kindest, but again, like Krav Maga, it faces the scrutiny of reality.

success

Skillset & Confidence & Problem Solving + Opportunity & Luck = Success

 

As you can see, I have broken it up into two major categories: on the left are things you either inherently have or can acquire and have direct control over, and on the right are things that you can have but cannot control entirely. You can lack some internal factors and still succeed, as some things can compensate for others. However, you cannot lack the external factors, as they are necessary for success. (This is the unfortunate truth.) Of course, if you are lacking in all areas, then you may need to face reality, re-evaluate aspects of yourself and life, and find another path.

Internal Factors

#1 Skillset. This is a very important one. In order to succeed, you need to know your strengths. What are you good at doing? However, more importantly, you need to know your weaknesses. What are you not good at doing? Too many people put emphasis on the positives when it comes to skillset, and don’t consider the negatives. Sometimes (or a lot of times), not knowing what you are bad at and still attempting it can become a disaster. Fortunately, skills can be learned. Some come naturally and some are more difficult. Still, everything has its limitations. You can’t learn everything. Inevitably, there must be something you are bad at doing, and that means you must know when you need help and who you can turn to when specialization is required.

In school, they might convince you not to be a jack of all trades, that you need to specialize. If you’re good at many things, life will be a little easier since you may not have to work as hard. The problem is that If you are not good at everything, then you might want to consider specializing in something. If you try to be good at everything when you’re not, then your life will be an uphill battle.

To specialize or not to specialize? That is the question…

Some skillsets, however, are out of your control, such as your overall intelligence or physical limitations. Some people have to work harder than others to get to the same place. That is simply reality. The important thing is to accept what you are good and not good at doing. The other important thing is to know what you can learn and what you can’t, whether it’s due to your inherent ability, or time, or money. When you know the difference between when you can do, what you cannot, what you can learn, and what you cannot, then you will be able to formulate a plan to compensate for what you lack. If you cannot do something, and cannot learn it either, and you continue trying to do it, then you have or will have a problem. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do something. It simply means your success lies in partnering with those who complement the skills you do not have.

We are a social species. Humans live in groups because we need each other. Whether or not you have skill is less important than knowing yourself, being aware of and accepting what your strengths and weaknesses, and appropriately creating meaningful relationships so you can fill in the gaps. Stop trying to do everything yourself if you don’t have the skills, and stop trying to prove you do everything (because you just can’t, it’s a human limitation). Acceptance is the first step on the path to success.

#2 Confidence. Confidence can be a double edge sword. If you have confidence without skills, then you are just crazy or delusional, especially if you never see results. If you have confidence and skills but lack social skills, then you may be awkward or arrogant. If you have confidence and skills and social skills, then you might just be well adjusted.

Having confidence goes a long way. Also, believe it or not, confidence is a learned skill. You learn it from life, doing things, trial and error, and your historical precedence. If you succeed 9/10 times, you should have confidence. If you fail 9/10 times, you probably shouldn’t have confidence in that. (Yes, many motivational things regarding failure and relentlessness and perseverance and not giving up say that failure is important. Thomas Edison himself said that failure is just finding out what doesn’t work 999 out of 1000 times. Again, however, he is not an average person. Also, he stole a lot of his ideas from Nikola Tesla anyway, so you can’t really follow his example.) If you are consistently failing at something, you can fix it by either acquiring the skills, or accepting that you’re just not good at it (as I said above), or finding another solution through problem-solving (as I will explain below). If you’re consistently failing at something and still think you are great at it, that is disbelief (or arrogance). Arrogance will hinder you from success. As I said, confidence comes with trial and error, then practice. When you can back up your claims with real ability, then your confidence is justified. Confidence will propel you to success.

When I was younger, just like most young guys, I wasn’t very good with women. Options are limited when you’re in high school, and I wasn’t very social outside of school, and then considering I wasn’t the most popular kid in school made mating endeavors hard. But the thing is… If you don’t try, you will never succeed. It wasn’t until my adult life that I forced myself to get out there, even though I still struggled socially, and learn about women and be better at interacting with them. However, I would never have learned and improved if I hadn’t exposed myself to new environments and new people, and increased my chances of successful female encounters.

As a teenager, any confidence I had about women would have been false. As I grew older and gained more experience, confidence that I have becomes more rightful, and people (including women) are more receptive to me now. Of course, I’m not some Brad Pitt or supermodel type, but this is a fact I have accepted and I’m still confident with who I am.

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Obviously, my ingredients for success are not just relevant to human mating strategies, but it’s a relatable example. Generally speaking, if you are good at something, then you should be confident even if you are not the best because you are probably still better than most. I know so many people who are extremely talented but doubt themselves simply because they are not the top of their industry and thus have a hard time utilizing their skills to find success. As I mentioned earlier, we can’t all be the best since that is simply not possible. Honestly, if your skillset is such that you are better than, say, 80% of the population, then you should be brimming with confidence.

Accepting the reality that your ability is good and better than others, regardless of whether or not you’re the best, will be another step toward success. Success isn’t about being at the top. You may never be at the top, but you can find success nonetheless. All you have to do is recognize that you are good at _______. Repeat after me, “Yes, I am good at dance,” and “Yes, I am good at art,” and “Yes, I am a good teacher…” or mechanic, or manager. You get the idea.confidence

Recognizing and accepting that you are good at a given skillset should naturally give you the confidence to keep moving forward. Unless you have tried and tried and tried and still can’t do well, then have some belief in yourself! If the evidence is there that your ability is good, then confidence you should have!

 

#3 Problem Solving. Problem-solving is extremely important and often overlooked. Problem-solving skills are the skills to pay the bills. If you’re not great at an inherent talent, but you’re great at problem-solving, then you’re a quick study. If you can solve problems effectively, you can move forward quickly and still find success.

By the way, problem-solving and critical thinking are key aspects of Krav Maga, which most people overlook because they are not physical attributes. It is often more important to learn how to think than to learn the actual techniques. This is because life will inevitably throw curveballs at you at any random moment, and instead of jumping to the default fight or flight or freeze reaction, you must learn to adapt and solve your problems so that you can move forward positively. Mistakes can be made, bruises can happen, but you must learn to move forward.

Ever wonder why sociopaths are often successful? Sociopaths are often very functional, very intelligent, and very good at problem-solving. Yes, they have over inflated egos, but because they are confident and are great at problem-solving, they can overcome a lack of underlying skills. As they say, fake it till you make it. Of course, that means you can’t fake it forever. You also need to make it. This is why people like Jordan Belfort from Wolf of Wall Street (2013) often come crashing down eventually. (Also, because most of the time they’re doing illegal and douchey things.)

But this just proves that if you have confidence and good problem-solving skills, then you can overcome a lack of skillset by simply learning and acquiring as you go, or finding the right people you need to work with to compensate. Although, problem-solving tends to be an innate skill or something learned and built up from a young age. Sure, there are games and brain booster apps out there, but you have an inherent limit. If problem-solving is not your strength, you may have to lean on skills and confidence areas to help lead you to success.

Of course, you will have a problem if you lack skills, lack problem-solving, and rely on confidence alone. Confidence without the justification is just fantasy, and people will not take you seriously until you acquire what you need to back up your claims. Again, it doesn’t mean you cannot be successful. Don’t despair! Your solution is finding the right person or people to rely on to help fill in the gaps and build a successful working team. A team supports each other by making up for each others’ weaknesses. But struggle to recognize your own limitations, and your team may come to resent you over time.

On the other hand, if you lack overall skillset and are not that great at problem-solving, but still have confidence, chances are your gift is connecting people. Then, boy are you in luck because you can learn to recognize opportunity, and thus find your success by being a middle-man of deals. Which brings us to the next section.

External Factors

Opportunity & Luck. Opportunities are not a dime a dozen. You’re out of luck if you miss a big one that might just have been it. On the other hand, many little opportunities can still add up to potential success.

Okay, so I lied before. Sometimes, opportunity can be in your hands. I touched on this a bit in the previous section. When it comes to opportunity, it is about putting yourself out there. It could be simply a matter of going out some place and having the right conversation with the right person at the right time. That fact that it happened at the right moment is luck, but the fact that you put yourself in the situation in the first place is opportunity.

There is a reason they say the majority of business is done on the golf course (or for other cultures it may be at the post-work restaurant/bar). Sometimes, the best opportunities come up in casual environments. When you’re in the office, meetings, or traditional settings, people are usually constrained by the roles they are expected to play, and also may be cautious of reprisal should something be rejected. Luckily, this means that opportunity is everywhere.

I once went to a fairly high-end company party (not my company) where there were an open bar and lots of food. Someone asked me, “Does anything ever come out of these? Because most of the time half the people are just drunk until fairly later on.” The answer is… Yes! Casual and probably drunken conversations are often the reason for good, fairly substantially large deals.

However, this is the reason why I mentioned at the beginning that both internal and external factors need to work together. I said that Step 1 is putting yourself out there. Well, the pre-Step 1 is confidence! If you aren’t confident, you wouldn’t put yourself out there. Step 2 is… to go out without any real expectations. Sounds sad, but that the thing about opportunity and luck. You never know when it will happen. The more important part is to put yourself out there and be yourself and wait for the opportunity to happen. Then… this part is the big one. It is recognizing potential opportunities when they are right in front of you.

Having confidence can get someone interested in you, having the ability to prove your worth after the initial will make the opportunity a reality, and having the problem-solving skills to close the deal will lead on your path to success. However, if you don’t grab onto the opportunity, and don’t follow through with it, then it won’t matter that it happens and you’ll have to wait for the next opportunity (if it will come at all). Opportunities don’t happen in one instance. Sometimes, the opportunity leads to an introduction of partners or sponsors, and then further planning is needed. That’s how you seize the opportunity. Ideas and conversations are great, but if there is no follow-through and meaningful work was done, then it’s pointless.

Sometimes success is not what you thought it might be. Maybe, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, learning to be better, and accepting yourself is the kind of success you need to lead you to far greater happiness.

There is more than one path to success

I hope you are starting to see now that there is actually not one set of ingredients for success. Success is achieved through a matter of knowing what you are good at, what you are not, and filling in the blanks appropriately. Success is sucking up your ego and pride to do things that you might not like, or partnering with people you may not like, even if temporarily, in order to move forward to your goals. No one said financial and emotional success was going to be easy, and there will be times when you take two steps forward and one step back. This is when you need to step outside of yourself and see the bigger picture. One step backward is still progress when you’ve taken two steps forward, and thus… success!

They say “never give up” because you just never know. Sometimes, simply being consistent at what you like to do is what will make you successful because one day that opportunity and luck you’ve been waiting for will come along. Internal and external success comes from figuring out what you need to find the path toward success. You need to know yourself at this moment, know what you want to become, and decide if you are willing to put in the effort required to be a better you. I say decide because putting in the work to become better is a choice, and if you want to be successful without having to do what’s required to be better, then you have a problem. Krav Maga teaches you that sometimes reality is not at all what we would like to be. It is not common for everything to fit together and dreams to come true just like that. Once you figure yourself out, though, the pieces will come together slowly. All it takes is self-awareness, honesty, and hard work.