I started teaching martial arts when I was 15 years old. I knew when I started that job that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I loved the energy, the people, and all the life lessons that I learned.
My instructor always told his staff, “Don’t focus on where a student starts, focus on what they can become with time and training.”
What he was saying was don’t focus on all the challenges a student has. There may be many. They may be overweight, uncoordinated, terribly shy, fearful, and more.
Where they start is not really important. What is important is what they can become with coaching, encouragement, and training. It doesn’t matter what limitations they have, challenges they have to overcome, or any other issue.
When we focus on what they are capable of, when we focus on their potential, it totally shifts your mindset. You start focusing on all their good attributes. You start to be a good-finder, and you see all their strengths and positive qualities that you can build upon.
This mindset has helped us see so many transformations in our students. There have been hundred over the years.
I remember a student who enrolled in about 2006, just a few years after we had opened. His father brought him in to become more confident, stronger, and more athletic. This young man was about 12 or 13 years old.
His first class was rough! He was like a fish out of water. He had a hard time learning because he lacked coordination and was incredibly unconfident. His dad asked me point blank, “Do you think he will be able to do this?”
I gave hm the same advice that my instructor gave me. Never focus on where they start, focus on what they can become. I assured his dad that it wasn’t going to happen in a day – that it would happen day by day with lots of training, encouragement, reminders, and repetition.
The best thing about this kid was he wanted to be good. He showed up to the dojo 3 days per week with a great attitude. Little by little we saw his skill level improve, his confidence inched up month by month, and he was having fun.
Five years later, this young man earned his Black Belt, and his parents were ecstatic! Their once shy, uncoordinated son became a Black Belt Champion with confidence that he could achieve any goal he set for himself.
Years later, he is now a Police Officer with the Broward County Sherriff’s office, he is married, and has two kids.
It’s easy to focus on people’s shortcoming and negative qualities. It’s easy to write people off in the beginning, however when you focus on what positive qualities you can build on, progress starts to happen.
Year ago, the gold miners were searching for gold. They weren’t looking for dirt. That was easy. They stayed focused on finding the gold, and eventually they did.
Sensei James Hons is a full-time instructor at Elite Force Martial Arts. He is currently in training for his 4th degree Black Belt, and in 2015 he became the US Open Grand Champion. It was his first time competing.
When he started training with us, he was a shy, unconfident kid who would not look me in the eyes. He starred at the floor when talking to me. His dad was a very militant, hard-nosed person, and he wanted his son to introduce himself to others with confidence.
I shared this philosophy with his dad, and now more than 13 years later, he could not be prouder of his son.
Are you a parent? Employer? Boss? Leader? Coach? If so, you have the unique privilege to coach and influence people under you. You may have the next superstar in your organization. That person may not know it yet, but if you look closely enough, you will be able to see tons of untapped potential waiting to come out.
I have always loved the book, “The Little Engine That Could”. That book is not just a kids’ book. It is a philosophy for life! Teach the people under you to think like that, encourage them, praise progress, gently correct errors, and you will be amazed with the results!