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Path of the Warrior

By July 24, 2008 5 Comments

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or a curse.

Carlos Casteneda

You must have all seen “The Karate Kid” by now. Think about Daniel-san. Mr. Miyagi made him do ridiculous things like wax his cars when he was supposed to be teaching him Karate (remember: “wax on, wax off!”) It seemed totally unrelated to the task at hand and downright unfair, but Daniel-san obliged. Finally it was revealed to him that these tasks were part of his training.

I was reading a book about Navy SEALs and the author described an incident where he had spent the night mopping the floor in preparation for an inspection. The commanding officer came into his room and threw some dirt on the floor and then screamed at the young trainee that he was worthless and a disgrace and that the floor was filthy. He then made him do pushups, run to the shore and get into the freezing water (it was the middle of the night and the trainee had already been up since 0400) roll around the sand and run back to the room where there were more pushups and more mopping waiting for him. The trainee obliged without hesitation and without feeling sorry for himself for the absurdly unfair treatment.

When I was an attorney I was miserable. I would work long hours all week and then on a typical Friday afternoon around 4pm my boss would call me in to her office and give me a contract that I had to review and fax back out to the other party’s attorney by the close of the day. To add insult to injury a quick look at the cover sheet would show that my boss had received this contract by fax on the previous Monday. It just sat on her desk until Friday at 4pm when she finally drops it on me. I used numerous events just like this to justify letting the quality of my work deteriorate. After a year, it finally resulted in my getting let go. Still I did not think this was my fault. The two attorneys that had held my job before me had only lasted a year so the problem was clearly the supervising attorney. Right? Wrong.

The lesson here is that there is always a reason to quit. The path we choose to follow will constantly be fraught with obstacles but we can view them as challenges and overcome them or choose them as curses and let them take us down. The path that I have often taken was that these obstacles were curses and because I viewed them as unfair, I felt sorry for myself and eventually quit or gave up or stopped trying. Here is what I only recently learned: There is always going to be a reason to quit and if you want to fail you can always find an excuse to justify it. However, success is about not letting anything stand in your way.

The military probably understands this better than anybody. A soldier going to war is going to have lots of reasons to give up and quit. However, a soldier that would do that is of no use to this country or to his comrades. The training process with the PT and the mopping and the scrubbing of toilets and the sometimes absurd orders and the abuse and the hazing all work toward a single goal: weeding out the quitters. We would prefer you quit now rather than wait until you are under fire and a whole squadron of soldiers is depending on you.

Civilian life does not put that kind of pressure on people but nonetheless there is still pressure and lots of it. Life will dish up lots of reasons for you to not achieve your goals. Whatever you are doing life will throw you a curve ball. Get used to it. Do not cry that it is unfair. Nobody is listening. Get over it. Find a way to turn the problem into a challenge, a fun test of your abilities.

It is probably good that I did not go into the military. And it is probably good that I did not continue to practice law. However, it is a great thing that I have started to recognize when I am just making excuses and passing the blame on others for my shortcomings. I have been able to realize more and more goals since I started taking more responsibility for my actions and stopped making excuses.

Think about where you draw the line. What are you willing to do to achieve your goals? I have found that people will often say they want something but when it gets down to it they find that some of the obstacles are too much to overcome. Listen carefully for your excuses and when you hear yourself making some excuses try to reframe the problem and come up with some solutions. Please post some of your best tips for getting past your excuses to the comments.

Good Sam

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