" I cannot do everything, but I can still do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do!" - Helen Keller
President Jimmy Carter
President Jimmy Carter in his autobiography, Why Not the Best, he tells about his interview with Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy, who served on active duty until he was 83 years old. Admiral Rickover personally interviewed every prospective nuclear officer and he made the interviews tough on the novice officers.
When President Carter had his interview, the Admiral asked him what his standing was in his graduating class at the Naval Academy. President Carter said "I swelled my chest with pride and answered, sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!" and then I sat back to wait for the congratulations.
Instead of congratulations, the Admiral asked, "Did you do your best?" President Carter said he started to answer, "Yes sir," but he thought about who he was talking to, gulped, and admitted, "No sir, I didn’t always do my best." President Carter said the Admiral just looked at him for the longest time and then asked only one more question, which the President said he has never been able to forget, and which he was never able to answer—the Admiral asked, "Why not?"
If you are not the best, it does not mean you are a failure. If you are not the best you can be, it does not mean you are a failure. You are only a failure when—you do not try to be the best you can be. If you are not willing to do your best while training in Taekwondo, then do not waste your time. If Taekwondo is to have a real meaning in your life, you must dedicate yourself to trying to do your best every time you train or compete. As the Army slogan said, "Be the best you can be."
President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States in the early 1900's, was a true warrior. He recruited his own U.S. Army regiment, the famous Rough Riders, to fight in the Spanish American War of 1898. During his charge up San Juan Hill during the war, he cried out "I’m going to take that hill! Who’s coming with me?" His credo is an inspiration to Taekwondo students seeking to be the best.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or now the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and dust and blood; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in worthy causes; who at the best, knows in the end of the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
President Calvin Coolidge
To be the best requires perseverance. The following quote is attributed to Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States in the 1920s.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Thoughts on perseverance are also found in a poem found in Chicken Soup For The Kids Soul by Jereme Durkin.
Don’t be a coward, fearful and weak Be the last one to quit, and the first one to speak Don’t hide your face from the light of day Be courageous in life and stay that way No need to run from your trials, troubles, and problems Have confidence in your step as you reflect how to solve them Yet, if you happen to fall, don’t lie there and die Get up without thought, and hold your head up high Be wise, courageous, bold and brave And life will be worth living from your birth to your grave.
Julia C. White
While striving to be the best, beware of pride. The following is adapted from Animal Walk, Julia C. White, 1996.
Legend has it that the peacock was born pure white. In the bird kingdom, he felt out-of-place amidst the glorious plumage all around him.
Great Spirit gave the peacock a mission: to travel the earth seeking out evil and negativity and to absorb that contrary energy into his own body so that it would not spread. Peacock was told that he would be rewarded.
So peacock set out upon his mission. As he performed his duties, he began to notice that his feathers began to take on beautiful colors. He spread his tail for a better look and sure enough, he was turning into a magnificent, colorful bird. Delighted, he really went about his work with gusto.
The harder peacock worked, the more beautiful he became. Then one day he looked down at his feet and squawked in horror. He had the ugliest feet in the bird kingdom!
So, when you see the glorious peacock, remember the mission he was given and the work he did to earn those colors. The perfectly formed circles, or "eyes", on each feather are to watch for still more negativity. When you hear that horrific squawk, you will know he just looked down and saw his feet. The feet were Spirit's way of telling peacock not to get prideful and let ego stand in the way of his true work.
Personality traits of the best
A 1978 study by Duthie, Hope, and Barker, Selected personality traits of martial artists as measured by the Adjective Checklist, found a number of personality traits that differentiate between superior martial artists and average martial artists.
Superior martial artists scored higher on:
They were scored lower on:
- Willingness to give aid
- Counseling readiness
The authors concluded that the differences between superior and average martial artists imply that martial arts training changed personal characteristics rather than the martial artists choosing to change.
Beliefs and performance
The cognitions, or thought processes, in which an athlete engages may be critical to performance. A 1996 study by Williams and Leffingwell, Cognitive strategies in sport and exercise psychology, found several assumptions underlie the use of cognitive-behavioral inventions:
- Cognitions can affect athletic performance.
- These thought processes can be changed.
- This change can influence behavioral change, and therefore, improve performance.
They identified several areas of irrational beliefs that may affect an athlete’s performance. In particular, they indicated that perfectionist demands may cause a poor self-concept or feelings of inadequacy, which increase the likelihood of failure. However, they distinguish between perfectionist demands and perfectionist desires indicating that a perfectionist desire, which is achievable and not judgmental, may increase the likelihood of success. Other irrational beliefs include:
- Considering failure a catastrophe
- Basing self-worth on achievement
- Focusing on fairness in competition
- Generalizing from a single performance to overall competence
Goals and performance
A 1997 study by King and Williams, Goal orientation and performance in martial arts, looked at goal orientation and performance in novice martial art students by having them complete the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire to rate their satisfaction and performance, and then having their instructors rated their performance in basic skills, effort, persistence, and consistency.
Task orientation is a mastery approach that focuses on hard work, learning goals, improving skills, and gaining understanding. Performance orientation is focused on ego, competition success, gaining recognition, establishing superiority over others, and a belief in natural ability rather than hard work.
Generally, traditional martial arts focus on mastering self-defense and perfecting techniques, which is consistent with a task orientation approach, whereas, sport oriented martial arts focus on tournament preparation and are consistent with a performance orientation. The researchers found that a task orientation predicted performance and was positively correlated with enjoyment.
How to be the best you can be
- Set goals. Set attainable goals. As you reach one, set a higher one. Keep your goals firmly in mind to maintain motivation.
- Keep an open-mind. Stay receptive to everything, not just things in which you are interested.
- Stay committed. Being the best you can be requires hard work and commitment.
- Practice. Practice at every opportunity and make opportunities to practice more.
- Stick to the basics. Basic techniques are the foundations of Taekwondo. Even a master is judged on how well he or she performs basic techniques.
- Listen and observe. You can learn a lot from others; be they masters, beginners, or just ordinary people.
- Self-discipline. Keep focused on your training and learning. Stay focused on your goals and persevere through pain, injury, losses, depression, and discouragement.
- Comprehend. Question and analyze all movements and techniques until you understand when, where, and how to use each one.
- Stay fit. Build strength, power, flexibility, stamina, speed, control, and coordination.
- Fight boredom. Vary your training routine. Do not become too dependent on a particular method. Cross-train in complementary sports.
- Feel the energy. Be aware of and be one with your internal energy as you train.
- Adapt. When barriers to your training occur, find ways around them.
- Learn from your mistakes. Do not dwell on mistakes, fix what caused the mistake, learn from the experience, and continue.
- Be patient. Achieving excellence takes time. As long as you are progressing, you are getting closer to your goal.
- Limitations. Accept your limitations. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Do not try to keep up with others, work within your capabilities
- Self-confidence. Believe in yourself and do not let others deter you from your goals.
- Seek guidance. Never think you have all the answers. Seek guidance from others to learn more.
- Other styles. Do not be style specific. Taekwondo is your primary art but other martial arts have much to offer. Maintain your Taekwondo foundation but use what works for you even if it comes from another art.
- Concentrate on specifics. Break down a technique into its individual components and concentrate on each specific movement.
- Think positive. Keep a positive mental attitude. Do not let anything stop you from reaching you goals.
When your best is not enough
You have a brain tumor that surrounds your optic nerve; the tumor must be removed or you will die. However, removing the tumor may cause you to be permanently blind. You consult three surgeons:
Surgeon 1 says he will try his best to remove the entire tumor and not harm your sight. (Trying is not a virtue. If he does not succeed, you will either be dead or blind.)
Surgeon 2 says she will do her best to remove the entire tumor and not harm your sight. (What if her best is not enough and you die or are blind.)
Surgeon 3 says she will remove the entire tumor and not harm your sight. (Even if she does not try her best or even do her best, if she can get the job done, she is the best choice.)
Which surgeon would your choose?