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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Remaining Determined

Defend your mind with steadfast positive attitude, awareness and sharpen it with ever-growing knowledge and experiences. Be determined and maintain your indomitable will and unbreakable spirit towards your goals for victories. - Bushido Code

This last Sunday, I was recording an episode of Write Pack Radio and was asked what advice I would give to other writers when they don’t feel successful. My answer was the answer I give to anyone who is trying to overcome the obstacles that come their way. It is the same advice I gave myself every time I was told that I couldn’t do something. “Drop out of middle school,” teachers and principals would sagely advice, “forget about high school and college. You won’t make it.” Or as many of the teachers and some guidance counselors advised, “You won’t make it, drop out of high school. It’s no shame.  And college isn’t for everyone.” Or one of my favorites, “My son thinks he’s a writer.”

The advice I gave saw me through those times and many more. It wasn’t something someone said to me. It wasn’t some sage advice given in a speech. What was it? It was something written on a plaque that was hung up above my parent’s bar that they rarely used. (By rarely, I think they used it less than five (5) times as I was growing up). It was a plaque that I stole and put by my old manual typewriter and later my computer where I did my homework and writing. It was a plaque that my step-grandmother had given my father, but I would not learn that information until I was in my thirties.

The plaque had two sentences on it. Just two sentences, stamped between an embossed tree and an acorn. Those two sentences kept me going—in school, in my marital arts, and in my writing—is the same advice I gave to scouts when I was a scoutmaster, or to the kids I got to teach when I was earning my teaching degree, and to countless others. It is simply this: “Don’t worry if you work hard and your rewards are few. Remember, the might oak was once a nut like you.”
This advice often causes laughter and hides a singular grain of truth. Maybe that truth would have been lost on the young child I was when I first read it, if it had not been for the pictures of the tree and acorn. Maybe it wouldn’t have been. The images just burned home the fact that every tree—strong, towering, and lifegiving—started off as a single seed. A nut.

We are surrounded by naysayers. We are surrounded by people who are negative about the world, about themselves, or about you. Some are disappointed. Some feel that dreams are for losers. Some are afraid of others becoming more than they are. Whatever their reason, you have a choice and a duty, especially if you follow the warrior’s path—that is to protect your mind, your soul, and your heart from the negativity. (Or as a friend of mine once wrote, protect your heart from all the daggers others want to stab it with.)

We must remain determined to reach our goals, even if there is nothing else that propels us forward than our own will power. My fellow Black Belts, as am I, are always asked how long does it take a normal person to achieve Black Belt. The answer is that normal people never reach that goal. In the case of writing or any art form, normal people don’t achieve success. So, why let normal people who are negative stop you from reaching your goal—your dream?

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