Two of our greatest teachers are failure and criticism, and improvement requires that we be open to both.
None of us is truly objective with regards to ourselves.
We cannot see everything about who we are, how we behave, and what affect we have on the world around us.
This is especially true when things seem to be going well, when they appear to be working, and when we feel as if we are succeeding.
Success and momentum tend to hide our mistakes, flaws, and shortcomings.
When things are going smoothly we find ourselves blind to much of the truth.
As long as we are moving, we often tell ourselves, there is no reason to change.
We only see forward.
We miss the little things that we could have done better.
This is why we need some amount of friction in our lives.
Friction grabs our attention.
It forces us to focus on the present, on what is happening now, and on what aspects of ourselves and our lives can use improvement.
Failure and criticism, as long as we see them for what they are, which is friction, exist for us to see what we could not on our own.
They exist to give us perspective.
They exist to help us to improve in ways that we would otherwise be unable to.
Failure and criticism exist for us, not to avoid them, resist them, or fight them, but to benefit from them.
With this perspective in mind, when we find ourselves failing at or being criticized for some thing, we should not be vexed.
Instead, we should smile and be grateful.
This is an opportunity we may have otherwise missed to be better than we were yesterday.
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 Kogen Dojo Self Defense Academy where he teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.
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