Take Care of the Days

Take care of the days, and the years will take care of themselves.”

This quote I heard almost a decade ago from Kyoshi Dave Kovar, one of the most experienced martial artists on the planet.  It always stuck with me.  Not because it was an epiphany-inducing shot of wisdom, but because Kyoshi Kovar was in his late 40’s and still ripped and training like a madman, traveling all over the world teaching seminars, and running a very successful association of martial arts schools.  The guy is impressive.  And I wanted to be impressive when I grew up.

Recently, the quote has been in the forefront of my thoughts.  As certain goals I’ve set for myself are starting to materialize, I’m beginning to truly understand what he meant.  And of course, just like I do with every other thing that runs through my mind, I equate it to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

It’s only natural to pick out the most successful people around us and decide to emulate them.  Whether it be in our professional careers, or with our physiques in the gym, or the world champion black belt at the academy, it’s exciting to see someone at the top and imagine yourself there.  But the excitement is oftentimes replaced with the sobering realization of the vast gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Its easy to be overwhelmed by your long term goals.  Years ago, the thought of being a Martial Arts school owner seemed like such a far-fetched idea.  I believed that I’d eventually get there, but the how and when was elusive.  My mistake was that I didn’t approach becoming a school owner the way I approached becoming a Jiu Jitsu black belt.  In training, I understood that it was a marathon and not a sprint, that Rome wasn’t built in a day, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and any other cliche you’d like to add.

I never doubted for a second I’d be a black belt.  But when I thought about the day I’d venture off to create my own academy, I was extremely intimidated.  It wasn’t until I changed my mindset, spoke with successful school owners I look up to, and broke the process down into step by step actions that the idea seemed possible.

It’s daunting when you view the climb to the top as one giant leap.

Life, like Jiu Jitsu, is made up of a series of small decisions. We’ve got several ways we can respond to everything that comes along.  Little offshoots that lead us down different paths.  It’s the accumulation of these smaller decisions over time that create our present circumstance.  Your bank account, your physique, your de la Riva guard, all of these things are exactly how they are because of countless small decisions you’ve made in the past.

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is different.” -C.S. Lewis

The trick is to do what you can today, to put yourself in a better position tomorrow.  Take small steps each day to better yourself.  Stay present minded, razor-sharp focused on the smaller tasks at hand. Stephen Covey would say to “put first things first.”

Luckily, most of the time it’s quite obvious what the right decision is.  When your guard gets passed, don’t turn your back and make things worse. When your wife has cookie night with her cousins for Christmas, don’t get a gallon of milk and eat 50 cookies while watching “Santa Clause 2.”  Don’t buy the newest Shoyoroll gi that you won’t even wear in class anyway.  These are obvious.  But sometimes it’s hard to act on the right decision in the face of distraction, temptation and impulsivity.

Decision making, much like a muscle, needs to be exercised consistently to perform optimally.  And you need to start with realistic and attainable goals.  You wouldn’t try to deadlift 600lbs if you’ve never lifted before, just like I don’t teach reverse de la Riva back-takes to my white belts.  Start with smaller, easier goals that are aligned with your long term vision, things like taking one extra BJJ class in a week, or putting away an extra 3% of each paycheck.  When you look back after three years, you’ll see how the compounding of good decisions makes any goal attainable.

author: Peter McHugh

Professor Pete McHugh is the owner and Lead Instructor of McHugh BJJ in Mt. laurel NJ. He is a black belt under BJJ & MMA legend Ricardo Almeida.


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