“We’ll have to keep our learning caps on,” my boss said during a morning team meeting, trying to allay the fears of a teammate over a new program we’re designing. We had been down this road several times, and more often than not it ended in politely veiled crankiness. There’s been some frustration on both sides around this task, and sometimes it feels like when we take 2 steps forward we take a fall down a chute and get deported from Candyland while the Monopoly man laughs and blows cigar smoke in our faces.

We’re supposed to know what we’re doing and our clients are supposed to be able to trust that we know what we’re doing, right? At least that’s the assumption our little band of high achievers holds. We can’t seem to relax and “trust the process” or more so our own creativity and innovation. We’re annoyed that everything hasn’t already fallen into place. Aren’t we supposed to know everything and be perfect on the very first try?

No, I didn’t think so either.

There’s a misconception about taekwondo that the black belt is the pinnacle of your training. When you have it you’re the expert and cannot learn any more. It’s even caught some flak for the speed at which students can attain a black belt, unlike arts such as Brazilian jiu jitsu, which may require 10 or more years of training before even considered for promotion to black belt.

Many people, especially kids, quit TKD once they get the black belt. I’m keeping an eye on my classmates who tested for first dan last month. Will they stick with it without the quick high of a color belt promotion every few months? (Will I, for that matter?) Will they “get” that the black belt simply signifies that the student has completed basic training and NOW the heavy duty learning begins? There’s a play on words with the term for first dan black belt: “jo kyo neem.” After all that work and your mom making you go to practice and explaining weird bruises to coworkers you’re first dan black belt, and guess what? Now you’re back at the beginning again, and the “joke” is on you. You better check your ego at the door and open your mind, Grasshopper.
A black belt embraces humility rather than ego. A black belt accepts learning opportunities from unexpected sources. A black belt embraces patience.
A black belt slows down and trusts the process.

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