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Where I inspect humility

by John on November 3rd, 2015

I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of you that I take Tang Soo Do with both of my children. As an adult, I stand in a strange place in class — I’m certainly a student, I don’t know everything I need to know, but I’m an adult, and a parent at that, and I stand in the area between “student” and “instructor” most days. This causes fairly significant issues when we need an instructor to judge a sparring competition, and one of my children happen to be one of the sparring participants. I *like* to think that I remain impartial . . . but, well, I fear that I’m too hesitant to ever award a point to one of my children, in an effort to not appear biased, which isn’t quite fair to my own children. Though, honestly, they could stand to learn “life isn’t always fair” lesson.

At the end of class, all kids receive a sticker, if warranted, as a point toward one of the seven tenets of Tang Soo Do (Integrity, Concentration, Perseverance, Respect & Obedience, Self-Control, Humility, Indomitable Spirit). If a child collects five stickers for a particular tenet, they get a colored stripe on their belt. When they collect all seven stripes, they get a badge to attach to their uniform — it’s a great system for motivating children to “keep their brain in class” all class. Of all of the tenets, however, humility is the one I, myself, perhaps have the hardest time with.

Within the world of my kids and karate class, humility means “I understand I didn’t do this thing as well as I could, didn’t argue when someone who knows more than me offered suggestions, and then tried to incorporate said suggestions the next time I attempted that thing.”

But, within my world, well, I’ve been questioning my own humility from time to time.

It probably isn’t surprise to any of you that I’m not super happy with my job situation as of late. I mean, it’s a paycheck, and it’s not the worst job situation I’ve ever faced . . . but I have a hard time picturing me doing what I’m doing for the next few years. And that has me thinking of what I might be happier doing. Maybe this is just the start of a mid-life crisis, or maybe this is just a long bout of insomnia eroding my brain into radical ideas of “making things better” but I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I enjoy doing more than I’m doing now.

I think I’m good enough on the bass, and perhaps even on the piano, to call myself a “musician.”

I think I’m fairly adept at making readers feel the emotion I’m attempting to portray, and I think I’m pretty good at getting a story into words . . . so maybe I can call myself a “writer.”

When I sit at the piano, I can develop the notes into patterns and then add harmonies . . . lyrics, well, they’re a bit harder for me, but when you take the previous two, I think I can call myself a “songwriter.”

I’ve put a *lot* of work into my body. For as busy as I am, I think I am uniquely qualified to assist parents who are looking to make themselves more fit — to the point where I could call myself a “trainer.”

There is something that keeps me from doing all of that, though . . . and it’s the whole “need to sell myself” when I’ve actually moved to that reality. If I want to be a musician? I need to go out & get myself opportunities to play. If I want to call myself a writer or a songwriter, I need to actually have *complete works* and then I need to find people who want to publish said works. If I want to call myself a trainer, well, I need to finalize plans & then go out & find clients who are willing to pay me to work with them.

And, well, doing that is the antonym of “humble.”

Now, you’ll have to excuse me as I go off on a tangent — I recently changed my 401k investment strategy. After hearing a series of stories on management fees of mutual funds, looking over what investment options I have available to me, and wanting to follow an “invest in what I use” strategy, I’ve ditched my mutual funds and invested, heavily, in boxes of cheap red wine companies with which I’m familiar, I understand, and frequent. It just so happens that most of these companies offer a quarterly dividend . . . and there is a very real part of me that says “I should build up enough wealth to arrange for monthly dividend checks from companies Alpha through Omega, and live a life of leisure.”

Yeah, I know, it’s that “build up enough wealth” that’s the tricky part there.

The thing is — if I were living a life of leisure, what would I be doing?

I would be a musician. I’d be playing in the pit for whatever community theatre or high school musical would have me. I’d be writing songs. I’d be writing & telling stories. I’d be working out even more than I am now. I’d be helping friends with their diet & exercise programs. I’d be cooking more. I’d spend more time gardening. Heck, maybe I’d even be sleeping!

And I think I’d be exceptionally good at all of those things. Well, maybe not sleeping.

All this is to say, I think I need to redefine “humble” to myself . . . one can still be humble if one believes in one’s abilities. It just means that I’m willing to hear that what I’m doing could be better, and then work to make it so.

Over the next few months, I think I’m going to try to carve out more time for my creative pursuits, somehow, and see if there might be any way to go from wanting something different to attaining something different.

4 Comments
  1. Kim permalink

    What keeps me from pursuing creative or other activities where I need to “sell myself”?

    Feeding my son and keeping a roof over his head – because in the need to sell myself is the very big risk that no one will be willing to buy what I am selling… which will jeopardise my ability to feed my son and keep a roof over his head.

    So creative or enjoyable pursuits become past times, hobbies, things upon which I don’t need to rely in order to be able to (say it with me) feed my son and keep a roof over his head. 🙂

    • That’s the thing — I’m not about to dive “head first” into something . . . but, I think I can find time, here & there, to work on stuff which could generate income if I take the effort to sell myself for it.

      In theory, and yes, this is a LOT of theory, the time I take, now, to polish the stuff that I’d be completing prior to selling myself, would transition into the time to sell myself for those creative exploits. Then, in time, I’d be able to transition from “what I’m doing” to “what I want to be doing” without ever jeopardizing the roof over our heads & food in our bellies.

      Does that make sense?

  2. My kids trained in Tang Soo Do for more than eight years and supporting them in their journeys to (and through) their black belts was the best thing I think I have done for them as a parent. (Does that sound humble? Ha!)

    I know this isn’t the point of your post, but I can’t help feeling thrilled at another TSD family. So many kids around here train in martial arts disciplines that reward them with a black belt within a relatively short period of time. (I won’t list any specifics here but some kids around here can be second degree black belts and higher while they’re still under 10.

    Anyway. The strength of mind, body, and spirit require to succeed in Tang Soo Do is incredible and I have no doubt that you (and your kids) will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to. The humility can come in your gratitude for the opportunity, in your respect for your masters, and in giving back to others in your sphere.

    Do that and the sky’s the limit!

    • You know, I knew there had to be something awesome about you — you know, besides your writing and running and wine appreciation and general kick-assery.

      It’s funny — I have zero problem learning new forms/skills, committing them to memory, and performing them. It’s, simply, what I do — I’m quite adept at it. But, CJ, at all of six years old, has issues learning all of the steps and ensuring they’re all done together, in the proper order. And that’s to be expected. So, when it comes to belt testing time, the discussion is, commonly “well, you can test, Mr. Batzer, but we might want CJ to wait until he’s a bit more comfortable with everything he’s supposed to know for the next belt.”

      I always decline to test, in these circumstances — I kind of like that CJ is the “senior student” to me. But, the first few times I spoke about “not testing” with the instructor, I kind of went to thinking about “it’s going to take FOREVER for him to progress at this pace.” But, then, I would stop & think & realize “it’s not a race — he’s developing at his pace. If anything, having to wait will make him want to work for it all the more.”

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