I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not shrink to a grain of sand. -Og Mandino
My teacher once told me a story of an old martial arts master who was looking for a student to train in his art. There were three young men who wanted to train with him so one day he met with the three young men and told them, “This is your first lesson.” With that, he stood in a stance and demonstrated a straight punch. After demonstrating the technique several times the teacher simply said, “I will return in one year.” and with that he left.
One year later the teacher returned and met with the young men. The first man was asked to demonstrate the technique. It was obvious that he had not spent time practicing because his technique was no better than the day the teacher demonstrated it.
Next, the second man came forward. He took a stance and performed the punch exactly as the teacher had demonstrated. Such was his power and skill that the teacher was impressed with his effort.
Finally the third student came forward. He took his stance and also performed the technique with supreme skill. Again the teacher was impressed. The teacher started to consider which of the two students he would train but then the third student spoke up, “But teacher, I found that you can also do the punch while stepping forward. And you can also do the punch while stepping backward or to the side. You can use it to strike high or you can use it to strike low. You can even use it to defend against an attack.” As the young man spoke he demonstrated the different variations of the one simple technique. Upon seeing this the teacher’s decision was simple. The first two students were dismissed and the third was trained.
I have always liked that story. I guess the reason why is that it has nothing to do with the punch. It has to do with expectation. It has to do with the standards that we set for ourselves. Each student had a standard that he held himself to regarding the work that he had been given.
The first student demanded only a minimal effort of himself. This can take many forms and usually comes with an array of justifications, excuses and blame. At the end of the day, though, we each have to face that guy or gal in the glass and we know the truth…
The second student rose to the standard that the teacher seemed to expect. He did what he was told and he did it well. This seemed very reasonable. The third student, however, surpassed what was expected of him because what he demanded of himself was higher than anybody’s expectations of him. Plain and simply… he was unreasonable.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post based on the movie “Rudy”. The post discussed perseverance and how belief, faith and hope are really at its core. If you don’t know the story of Rudy or if you missed the post I invite you to check it out here. One of my favorite elements in the movie was an ideal that Rudy seemed consumed with. “Have I done all that I can?”, he would ask himself. Rudy’s expectation of himself was very simple… Do absolutely everything he could possibly do. It was an expectation that seemed, to everybody else, totally unreasonable and yet he held himself to it… even though nobody else would.
So I ask the question, which of the students do you identify with as you study how to be the best version of yourself? Are you trying to just ‘get by’? Be careful… This one costs a great price in terms of integrity and self-image. Are you meeting the minimum…? Meeting the expectation that others have of you? Or are you reaching for your maximum potential? Are you earnestly asking, “Have I done all that I can?”
Study. Readings. Time in meditation. Providing service to others. Being a conduit for kindness. Supporting other class members. Freeing yourself from opinions. Linking. Staying true to the mental diet. Working your plan of action. Being the observer. “Have I done all that I can?” Your behavior will ultimately rise or sink to the expectation that you have of yourself. The standard you hold yourself to.
Every day, it’s time… It’s time to ask if you you have done all that you can. Every day it’s time to remember that you are nature’s greatest miracle. And finally, every day it’s time to strain your potential until it cries for mercy. Now go… and be amazing.