The Convergence Of Growth And Service

We must be careful not to grow beyond our ability to connect with those we aim to serve.

Paraphrasing the great Bob Dylan, whether in our personal, occupational, or spiritual lives, we all have to serve somebody. We also need to work on ourselves and work towards our goals because, referencing Dylan again, if we are not busy being born, we are busy dying. The trick is finding the balance point, the sweet spot if you will, where our personal growth and our service to others overlaps in a way that is both satisfying and sustainable.

If we have any kind of ambition or drive to be more successful or more influential in our lives, in whatever way we define those terms for ourselves, we must be capable of serving others in a way that they find useful and beneficial. Usually, this means that we have to have some unique ability, insight, or experience that is worth sharing. This typically begins by investing in ourselves in some way, whether through specialized education, training, or experiential learning, but very few of us are simply born with the talent, skill, or intelligence necessary to effect any kind of major change in our lives or the world around us without leveling up in some way.

There is a danger of losing sight of the forest for the trees as we embark on our journey of growth and self-improvement, however, because it is easy to become distracted by personal development, education, and accomplishment as ends in and of themselves. Growth can become almost addictive, drawing us in and telling us that fulfillment and satisfaction are just one more course, book, seminar, or promotion away. The truth is that if we want to find joy and meaning in our lives, we must not look at growth and service as divergent or even parallel paths, but as a closed circuit, an infinite loop wherein each leads us back to the other.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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