I don’t believe that I am owed anything in life because of some gift by design. It’s not that I’m overly tough or that I lack empathy for others, it’s just that I believe that everything someone is or becomes has to be earned. People aren’t born special, it is the effort they put into living that makes them special.
I do believe that we are all different and I think that this is what I see as ‘special’. I recall one day when two friends of mine were in the car with me and I experienced this moment of ‘different’ and ‘special’ all at once. Jeff was driving, I was in the passenger seat and Todd was in the back seat behind me. For whatever reason, we were looking at a large sign that was looming up on our right side.
Todd and I start laughing, because it was instinctively amusing to us, but we couldn’t quite read the full text. Jeff glanced over at the sign as he drove and started laughing too. Knowing how quick of a reader he was, we asked what it said. He explained, and then it dawned on me. How the hell did he read that while going 70 MPH with a single glance?
The text was at least 3 lines long on a large billboard and it wasn’t something simple like ‘Eat At Denny’s’. So I asked him, ‘Jeff, how could you read that in it’s exact detail after we passed the sign?’ His response was, ‘I took a picture.’ Mind. Blown.
When he explained how he saw his world, it was like I could read the code in the movie ‘The Matrix’. His mind is beautiful and it has changed how I’ve seen everyone else’s mind since that day.
What you don’t know is that at that point, I had known Jeff for over a decade, and I had never known how his mind worked until that day. It explained his brilliance in college and on Wall St. as well as how he was capable of helping everyone with anything they ever asked of him (he also had a huge heart to go with that big brain of his).
On the other side of the spectrum is one of my black belts’ sons who started class at the age of six. Having known Michael since he was born, it was nice to see him join my class, and I enjoyed watching his excitement for karate blossom.
His father, Sam, is a hard working successful businessman and really puts his full effort into everything, but his martial training did not come any easier to him than anyone else’s. Michael, however, was exceptional.
After Michael was tested for yellow belt, he received a booklet with a still set of pictures that showed a form that he would have to learn. There were only twelve movements of the form shown. The actual form was closer to 30 movements, but the movement of the footwork and handwork could not be seen, just the ‘stills’ that indicated the ‘endpoint’. Having received the booklet on a Thursday night, Michael was proficient at the whole movement set by the end of the weekend, without his father knowing. He had filled in the gaps.
So he’s diligent and hard working, right, no big deal; you’re bound to find someone like that along your teaching career. Well, I’ve got more to share. Typically, kids take a few months to learn this particular form and develop competence in it.  Michael learned that form in 3 days and could outperform anyone in the class regardless of rank and age. But then something even more amazing occurred.
Sam showed up to his weekly private lesson with me one day with a smirk on his face and said, ‘I have to tell you a story about Michael.’ He proceeded to tell me that Michael had found his black belt DVD, a video performance of all of Sam’s forms, sparring, etc. Michael had secretly learned a 70+ movement form all from watching his father’s DVD over the week. Michael had an amazing mind and body connection.
When a new student steps into the dojo (‘way place’ in Japanese, colloquially known as a school), I see an amazing opportunity to get to know another beautiful mind and kinetic body and help teach them how to work together. A mind and body that can do anything they put their collective effort into. Now that’s something special. I’m game if you are.

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