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Tag Archives: Kareem Abdul Jabbar

It’s Not What You Have

What makes somebody extraordinary at what they do? What are extraordinary fighters made of? How do entrepreneurs, who seem to start out with so little resources, excel and create multi-million dollar organizations? There are many factors that contribute to the success of people in all walks of life.

One of those common traits that successful people have, from martial artists to millionaires, is the ability to use the resources, tools, and techniques that they have at the time, and to use them effectively. They constantly strive to get the absolute maximum result possible from their efforts.

Photo by Zack Lynch

I have an 81 inch reach. That is a considerable “advantage” when it comes to combat sports. I can hit you, you can’t hit me. The only reason that this is an advantage is because I make it one. I could have all the reach in the world and it would get me nowhere if I didn’t use it effectively.

Sometimes students will say to me “if I had your reach I’d be able to …” and I have to stop them. Saying “you just have the reach” is an excuse for you not performing at your best. It’s an excuse for not using your tools and techniques effectively. The problem with this type of “excusitus” is that it robs you of the opportunity to improve, because you’re not measuring your performance you’re making an excuse for it.

Many years ago, during a sparring session, I got whacked around by someone who had much less experience than I did. After the sparring session I was extremely frustrated. Why did this person have their way with me? I had no excuses. I was younger, quicker, I had the reach, and had been training almost as long as this person. I had also been in the ring a couple of times compared to zero for the other guy. So what was it? What was the “secret”? As I pondered over this question for several weeks I finally realized that there was no secret. That person had just used their tools better than I used mine, period. It was a simple, yet powerful realization. This lesson helped stop me from developing my own “excusitis” and made me a better Martial Artist and business person.  You see, your abilities are not based on what other people do or have but what you do with what you have.

Bruce Lee kicking Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the face.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of Bruce Lee’s most famous students, definitely had the reach advantage on Bruce Lee. I’d be willing to bet that Kareem never had the opportunity to say “Well, Bruce couldn’t hit me because I had the reach on him.” This is because Bruce Lee is famous for using what he had to get the maximum result. His footwork was phenomenal and even though he was small he could generate tremendous power from a very short distance. He maximized his tools, techniques, and resources.

Think about it, what makes a technique, a tool, etc. valuable? It’s your ability to use that tool or technique effectively. And the more effectively you use your tools and techniques the more valuable they are, in martial arts, in life, and in business.

In the nineteenth century, before the invention of the internal combustion engine, crude oil was a problem for land owners. If you were “unfortunate” enough to have crude oil discovered on your property the value of that land actually went down. We had no use for crude oil, it was a nuisance.

The Beverly Hillbillies' Jed Clampett

Then came the internal combustion engine, and the automobile, and the petroleum business. Suddenly, there was a huge market for crude oil because somebody made it useful. Now instead of it being a problem it was an opportunity and if you were “fortunate” enough to have crude oil on your land you were a, soon to be, very rich person. My point is that in order for something, anything to be effective or valuable, you have to know how to use, use it, and use it at the right time.

Knowing what to do with your tools is as important as having the tools themselves. Don’t get caught in the approach of making excuses for why your tools are not working and why someone else’s are. It’s the hardest way to learn and develop.

This way of thinking reminds me of people who are always trying to get “enough”. It never works because enough is never enough. You have to know what to do with “enough”. In fact, when you know what to do with what you have, you’ll discover that you already have enough. It’s a very powerful concept. It frees you from the dead end approach of making excuses and takes you to the next level of producing results.

So focus on ways to use your abilities and tools better and more effectively. Focus on improvement. Focus on growth. Focus on refining your skills and tools to the point of where you are getting the absolute maximum results from your efforts. It’s the best way to grow and learn, and since learning is internal only you can choose to do it.

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