(Thanks for the inspiration AK and K)

When I joined my first real dojo I was only 14.

I had been picked on at school relentlessly for 8 years already, teased, pushed around and beaten up nearly every day. It got to the point that my Mom would drop me off in the morning directly in front of the school main gate where a teacher would escort me to class. At the end of the day, I was let go 15 minutes early so I could have a head start and get almost home before the other kids could catch me en-route. During recess or at lunch I always sat in view of a teacher. Still, the kids that really wanted to hurt me found opportunities.

On the first day at the dojo, my teacher asked me “What do you want from the training?” I replied “I want to get back at the kids who hurt me”. He looked at me gravely and said “That’s not what you want. What do you REALLY want?”

This dialog continued one way or another for the next 5 years. From time to time, without warning, my teacher would ask me the same question. He would say “John, you can get anything you want from the training, but you have to know what you want. What do you want?” Each time I would come up with a different answer to try to satisfy him. Sometimes I wanted to be tough, sometimes I wanted to master a new technique or weapon. Sometimes I wanted to be “the best”. Each time he would give the same reply “That’s not what you want. What do you REALLY want?”.

The last time I remember this conversation he had asked me again, surprising me because he hadn’t asked for a long time. Caught off-guard I think I answered that I wanted a girlfriend (I was 19). He said, as usual, “that’s not what you want. What do you REALLY want?” I paused, looked at him and said “I want never to be afraid.”

He smiled. After a moment he nodded his head and said “we can do that.”

This year I will be 51. I realized that he helped me get what I really wanted; what really mattered to me.

I have traveled all over the world, done exciting work, met and married a wonderful partner, raised two exceptional boys and made countless friends. Throughout this journey I was not afraid. I was not afraid to ask difficult questions, not just of others but of myself. I was not afraid to take risks and challenge my goals. I was not afraid to speak my opinion and defend what I believe in. I was not afraid to open my heart to others or to be vulnerable. I was not afraid to laugh and cry and sing and dance. I was not afraid to fail. I was not afraid of what other people might think. I was not afraid to step forward and become who I was meant to become. I was not afraid to leave the past behind.

Fear is not just fear of dying. It can also be fear of living.
Fear is not just fear of failure, it can be fear of success.

Thank you, my teacher, wherever you are, for helping me get what I really wanted. This has made all the difference and brought me a life filled with gratitude.

What do YOU really want??