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Achieving success


Everyone wants to succeed in everything he or she attempts; however, this is not reality. No one succeeds at everything in life. This does not necessarily mean failure. It just means that the level of accomplishment deemed as being a success has yet to be achieved. There are many obstacles to success, some within us, some without. To succeed, we identify these obstacles and learn how to overcome or circumvent them. To be successful, first you must know what success is, so you will know when you achieve it.

What is success?

If you believe in God, then a definition of success might be "following the path laid before you by God and doing so in a Godly manner." Even if you are not a believer in God, most people believe their lives have a higher purpose. For them, success may be defined as achieving this higher purpose.

This higher purpose does not necessarily mean achieving great wealth, great power, or high status. Success may be just becoming a person who is respected by society as being a "good" person who always tries to do the "right" thing. Therefore, success may be defined as "the ability to achieve, or the achievement of, the important life goals you set for yourself, while being true to your nature, inner character, and spiritual beliefs."

There are so many external obstacles to success, such as happenstance, other people, culture, religion, geographic location, etc. that it is impossible to list and explain how to deal with each one. Each person must overcome his or own external obstacles, and possibly even use the obstacles as stepping stones toward achieving success.

Internal obstacles

Internal obstacles to success are easier to identify and deal with. These internal obstacles include:
  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Excuses
  • Procrastination
  • Greed
  • Violating Your Conscious
  • Laziness
These obstacles occur within all people at some point in their lives. For some, they are a barrier that prevents their ever achieving success, but for most people, they are merely temporary obstacles that may be overcome or circumvented.

Just because an obstacle is overcome once does not mean it will not occur again. Sometimes life is a constant battle to overcome these obstacles. Sometimes it may require considerable energy to overcome an obstacle, especially if it has been with you for most of your life. Many times, it will take several tries before you overcome an obstacle. Just because you fail at your first or subsequent attempts does not mean you are a failure. It only means you have experienced a failure. There is a difference between experiencing a failure and being a failure.

We all have experienced and will experience failures during our lifetimes. Failure is the elimination of a route on while on the trip to success. There are many routes available to reach success. Failure helps us appreciate success even more. Failure is a learning experience that will only deter your goal of achieving success if you allow it to deter you.


Fear is the main reason most people are unable to achieve success. Fear is a feeling of inadequacy that is often accompanied by a feeling of being threatened. It may be so devastating as to paralyze a person. Fear establishes a perspective of failure and causes a person to visualize failure rather than success. Fear tends to reinforce itself to the point a person simply gives up trying. To defeat fear, we must first ask ourselves what we are afraid of:
  • Are you afraid of failure? Everyone has failed at something at some time in their life. Just remember, it is one thing to fail and another thing to be a failure.
  • Are you afraid of criticism? Only people of low character will criticize someone for failing, so their criticism should mean nothing to you. These are people who have accepted a low standard in their own lives and criticize others so that they may ease their own feelings of failure. Pay them no attention.
  • Are you afraid of rejection? Rejection by whom? Those who matter the most to you will continue to have faith in you whether you fail or succeed. The rest don’t really matter.
  • Are you afraid to lose? Remember that losing a battle does not mean you will lose the war. Each loss gives you more experience and insight so that you may succeed on your next try.
If you are afraid of failure, you will avoid competing in tournaments. The fear of losing will deny you the thrill of ever winning.


Doubt is an uncertain feeling or lack of self-assurance. We are often our own worst enemies and set up our own failure by doubting our own abilities. Doubt causes us to be unsure in the face of our challenges, the exact time when we need self-assurance. Doubt can arise for several reasons.
  • Past failures. As stated before, everyone has failed and will fail at different points in their lives.
  • Insecurity. You feel incapable and are overly hard on yourself.
  • Negative influences. These may come from your environment or from the people with which you interact. You must change your environment and circle of friends.
  • Poor self-image. We are the way we think we are. If you have a poor self-image, you need to start believing in yourself and realize that you are ultimately responsible for your own self-image.
Many delay testing for rank advancement because they doubt their ability, even when reassured by their instructors. Remember, if you have done a technique correctly once, you can do it again.

Making excuses

When you are looking for an excuse, any excuse will do. Some people are experts at making excuses. They have a different excuse for everything that goes wrong. Unfortunately, excuses build into your character the qualities that will ultimately lead to your defeat. You must change your attitude, stop wasting time and energy on excuses, and channel that energy into achieving success.

Ask a non-trophy winner how the tournament was and you will hear a million things wrong with the tournament. If you ask a trophy winner about the same tournament, you will hear about how great it was. No one wants to hear excuses.


Procrastination is putting off until tomorrow what you should do today or that which is uncomfortable for you to do today. Procrastination can also come in the form of perfectionism. A perfectionist may be so bogged down by worry that he or she will be unable to achieve a high level of perfection that he or she will delay ever starting.

Our goal in the martial arts is to reach the perfection of technique; however, we know that perfection is unattainable, so not attaining it is not considered a failure. Failure is merely a bump on the road to success, so stop worrying about being perfect, relax, and get moving.


Greed has nothing to do with circumstance; greedy people may be rich or poor, old or young. When you are constantly trying to get something, you prevent yourself from giving. When you are constantly thinking about what you are trying to get, you limit or prevent yourself from giving. You only receive by giving, and the more you give, the more you get.

As a martial arts instructor, you may be helping a student become a better competitor, only to have that student defeat you in the next competition. Is this a loss for you, or is it actually a gain?

Violating your conscious

We all have a conscious. We instinctively know what is right and wrong. Our conscious kicks in when we are faced with moral dilemmas or dangers, so how may we be a success if we violate our conscious. When you do violate your conscious, you immediately know you did something wrong because of feelings of discomfort. You cannot succeed you are in conflict with your spirit.

If you accept a trophy when you know a mistake was made in the scoring and you have a conscious, you will regret it for the rest of your life. If you do not regret it, then you will never succeed in life.


Laziness is only doing that which is just enough to get you by in life. Many people are lazy because they think they will not be rewarded for their hard work. You cannot be a success in your life by being lazy, idle, or slothful. To defeat laziness, you need a plan or a goal and you must make progress toward the goal every day.

Students say they want to become stronger fighters, but then they slack off when the class is performing pushups. When I held a Navy’s physical readiness testing on my men, some asked me what the minimum of pushups required to pass the test. I told them not to worry about the minimum, just do as many as they can possible do. I wanted people who did their best, not just the minimum needed.

Not successful?

If you think you are not a successful person, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does fear stop me from achieving my life goals?
  • Is one of my problems doubt?
  • Am I always making excuses?
  • Am I a procrastinator?
  • Am I greedy in any way?
  • Do I sometimes violate my conscious?
  • Am I lazy, or diligent, in my work?
Use your answers to these questions to change your behavior and start becoming successful.

  • Henderson, J. (1997). The Blockers to Success.

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