Last night, at my Brazilian JiuJitsu class, I rolled (sparred) with blue, purple, and brown belts…i.e. people significantly better than my white belt ass.
What strikes me each class is how humble those who are skillful are. In BJJ, humility and skill seem to be positively correlated. I mentioned this to one of the brown belts (second highest belt) after he got done manhandling me. His response was simple and inspiring:
”It’s because I’m not better than you [man],” he said. “I’ve just been doing this 1000 times longer than you have. If you continue, you’ll be the same as me…maybe better.”
It’s arrogant to expect to receive fulfillment and quality from something you’ve just started. Professional comedians didn’t begin their careers with Netflix hour-specials. They spent years and years grinding it out in clubs with four audience members…bombing until they crawled their way to opportunities.
No one should do what they hate. But things we want from our lives and careers (e.g. creativity, impact, and control)…we must earn these things. And we earn them by showing up everyday and putting in the work. That’s how he got his brown belt.
For more on this type of philosophy, check out Cal Newport’s incredible and mildly controversial book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. In chapter two he shares a quote from Ira Glass, the producer and host of This American Life:
““All of us who do creative work…you get into this thing, and there’s like a ‘gap.’ What you’re making isn’t so good, okay?…It’s trying to be good but…it’s just not that ‘great.’ The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.”