The minutes ticked on as I sat outside of the principal’s office, waiting for someone to ask me why I was there. I was prepared for the question; I had, in fact, placed a bookmark into my worn Korean-English dictionary and marked the page where I’d written my answer in careful letters.
Hello, my name is Tae Yun Kim. I want to teach your students martial arts.
But no one had asked. Every afternoon for the last several weeks, I had taken a seat and waited for an invitation to speak, to no avail. At just over twenty, I was tiny and thin — at a glance, I almost looked like one of the students walking through the schools’ halls. But aside from a few odd glances, no one spoke to me. Yet, day in and out, I returned with my dictionary in hand, preparing for the day that someone would invite me inside.
It took a month. Finally, a curious administrator asked me what I was doing, and I finally had a chance to explain.
The principal was skeptical, at first. He told me that the school couldn’t pay me, that they didn’t want students to hurt themselves, that there was no martial arts course in place.
“That’s okay,” I told him, “I’ll volunteer, and martial arts will teach your students discipline.”
After some time, he agreed.
Persistence, I’ve learned, is often the key to success. After the first few days of waiting, some might have given up or assumed the answer was no — but because I committed myself, I was able to achieve both acceptance and opportunities beyond measure.
Having the chance to teach brought me joy, because all I wanted to do was share my skills in martial arts. Back then, I was barely into my twenties and had just made the journey from my village in rural Korea to Vermont. Teaching was my dream — and I had struggled for years to study martial arts, facing abuse in a profoundly repressive patriarchal culture. I’d become Korea’s very first female grandmaster but was rejected as a teacher because of my gender. I wanted to teach, as I had been taught, and help others break free of their fears and circumstances — I just needed the chance.
That day, in that office, was my chance. It’s been decades since that day, but I still remember it. Since then, I’ve moved on to establish my own school, hundreds of miles away. I’ve taught thousands of students, built a tech company, and risen far above where my elders thought I would — all because of persistence.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.
If You Don’t Ask, You Guarantee Rejection
Many people abide by unnecessarily strict rules, so boxed in by their fears of seeming impolite or overly forward that they wall themselves off from opportunities. Another person might have been intimidated or embarrassed by the idea of sitting outside of a principal’s office for a month — but taking a risk on that embarrassment helped me make an enormous step forward in my career. I don’t regret it, and I wouldn’t even if the answer was a firm rejection.
You are only ever guaranteed to fail if you refuse to try in the first place. The worst that someone can say when you pursue an opportunity is “no” — and even then, you may be able to make connections or find information that will help you achieve your goals another way.
Don’t let fear keep you from pursuing your dreams.
Rejection Isn’t Always Permanent — Or Even Negative.
When I landed in Vermont, I had just $300 to my name and was living in a trailer park. There, it didn’t matter what I’d given to become a martial arts Grandmaster, or even that I was one. My only career option was to clean toilets for money. Some might have seen those circumstances as a low point, or become discouraged.
I’ll be honest — there were times that it was terrible. Some nights, I had little but bone broth to eat. But I viewed each hard night as a stepping stone for something greater. I was being paid to scrub toilets, which constituted a significant step up from doing it for free for family members. It was honorable work, and I knew that it would give me the financial platform I needed to move onto my next success.
Persistence doesn’t always mean reaching for your furthest goal after a few days — or even months — of effort. Instead, it means being thankful for small steps and maintaining a determined spirit against adversity.
Harsh Words Should Motivate, Not Deter, You
It wasn’t always easy being a Korean woman in 1960s America. Back in my village, I had been reviled for being female and uninterested in gender norms. In America, I was rejected for the color of my skin, my broken English, my poverty, and my gender. It was hard; I was constantly demeaned, faced slurs, and even risked physical abuse. When I finally scraped together the money to rent studio space for a martial arts school, arsonists burned it to the ground.
Each setback was demoralizing and frustrating; however, I knew that I had to reset my perspective. So, after someone demeaned me or my dreams, I would respond — “Okay, I see you. You motivate me. I will prove you wrong.”
And I did.
There are always going to be people who step on your dreams. You’ll hear it from your competitors, enemies, friends, family. Even well-meant advice can be hurtful. You can be put down, made to think that you won’t accomplish anything — but you need to bear through it. Let criticism inform and motivate your efforts, not crush them.
Persistence is key.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER. As you read through this, think about times when you had an intuition and didn't act on it. Did the intuition turn out to be correct?
I said earlier that your Silent Master knows when a yin or yang action is called for to create balance. Yet, how often do we find ourselves making the wrong move, increasing discord rather than eliminating it? You may even have had moments when you said, "If only I had listened to myself, I wouldn't have done that." You were probably right. You may not be aware of it, but your Silent Master speaks to you very quietly at times through the faculty we call intuition.
When you have an intuition, it feels like an impulse to say or do something that suddenly pops into your conscious mind. Generally, an intuition will feel like a right choice and will bring you a sense of serenity or peaceful resolution (even if you may not have wanted to do it.) It may feel vague, as if it's not really your own thought, but it is.
This inner "voice" is actually your inner knowing. It is your Silent Master's knowing attempting to penetrate your consciousness with its truth. It does not necessarily speak softly; it only appears to do so because your surface thoughts and emotions noisily clamor for so much attention. Clearly, if you could consistently be aware of these leadings from your Silent Master, you could make the right moves at the right time.
How can you develop greater awareness of this supremely intelligent, quiet voice? Ideally, your awareness should be like a pool of still water. Light travels easily into still water, enabling you to see right into the water. However, when the wind blows and the water is agitated or when the water is polluted, you can't see clearly what's in it. The same is true of our minds. You can make your mind like a pool of still, clean water, undisturbed by turbulent surface thoughts, free from polluting feelings and emotions, so that the light of your Silent Master can travel easily into your awareness.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER. As you read through this, think about times when you may have felt critical of others or yourself. Did holding those feelings help the situation?
As you become aware of the energy and emotions you want to cleanse from your world, take care not to get caught up criticizing yourself for the trait you want to eliminate. Please don't get down on yourself for having doubts or being impatient or angry. The fact that you are noticing these tendencies means that you are doing something - you are engaged in your life. As I said earlier, look at these weaknesses clinically.
When you are driving down a dusty road on a hot day and your car becomes coated in dust, you don't label it as right or wrong. You accept that this is something that just happens, and you make a mental note to get the car washed the next time you are in town. When you're in a car and it starts raining, you notice that your windshield is getting wet and then you turn on your windshield wipers so you can drive safely. You don't curse the rain and say, "Why is this stupid water getting on my windshield and all over my car?"
It doesn't really matter how you feel about the rain. Maybe you have been experiencing a severe drought where you live and so you welcome the downpour, or maybe you've had drenching floods lately and you don't want to see another drop of rain. Regardless of how you feel, you have to deal with what's happening at the moment. Getting frustrated and bringing in emotions doesn't help. In order to move forward, you have to stay in balance, be positive, and take appropriate action.
Life is a journey, and in the same way that you experience rough weather at times, so you'll experience fear or doubt or jealousy. That's okay. See these attitudes for what they are and, because you know they are holding you back, set about replacing them with confidence in yourself, gratitude for what you have, and excitement to be alive with a new day of opportunity before you.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER. As you read through this, think about times when you may have felt your Silent Master.
Waiting quietly within you is a presence, a force, a state of consciousness that gives you the power to harmonize and change discordant situations, the power to create and to achieve goals. It gives you the power to experience peace and joy regardless of the circumstances around you - the power to be who you really are. In Jung SuWon, we refer to this presence within as the Silent Master or Silent Master Consciousness.
When you tap into the consciousness of the Silent Master within, you begin to take control of your life. You may have been drifting through life before; now you are driving through life and toward your goals. You experience a new sense of freedom, creativity, purpose, and peace of mind. You find yourself glad to be alive every day for the sheer pleasure of experiencing life - of experiencing yourself.
The keys from the art of Jung SuWon that you'll explore here will help you awaken to this powerful presence within and empower you to recognize and express the qualities of your Silent Master in your daily life. As you open to your true potential in this way, you'll discover more of your beauty, your strength, and your courage.
At the core of the philosophy I teach are six truths about your Silent Master. I call them "Silent Master images" and you'll understand why when you read the section on visualization, or, as I call it, "future memory." In essence, these images describe who you truly are and the awesome power you have within you now to shape your life. As you move through this book, you'll learn much more about these foundational concepts and how to put them into action in your life. Here I'll simply touch on these truths to give you a brief introduction to them. For now, think of each one as a seed-thought designed to blossom into a practical understanding of your true being and power as you contemplate "Who am I?" Give yourself complete freedom and permission to fall in love with who you are and you are becoming.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I discuss the real you waiting to be unleashed:
Moving from a limited sense of self to tapping into the power of your unlimited self does require a change, and change can be frightening. If you want to live up to your full power and potential, however, you will have to change. When we've been sleeping in the dark, our eyes are used to the darkness. So when someone suddenly draws back the curtain and the daylight comes flooding in, don't we pull the covers over our head and moan, "Close that curtain! You're hurting my eyes!" The bright light causes discomfort at first, even pain, but that feeling eventually goes away. In the same way, your limited self may be accustomed to living in comfortable darkness. If you are willing to experience the initial discomfort that the light brings, you will soon grow accustomed to the brightness and see a whole new world illumined by the light.
As you open to a new way of seeing and being, new opportunities will come. Yes, challenges will come your way too - challenges within and without. That is part of life's journey. Yet, as we learn in the martial arts and as you'll see examples of in this book, you can use a force coming your way to your benefit. You can learn to ride the wave of those challenges to create greater growth, mastery, and overcoming. In fact, it is in facing those challenges that you will learn the most about yourself.
The way of the warrior on the path to inner power is to realize who you are in truth and to demonstrate it, a process of evolution that continues throughout your life. The work of the warrior is joyous and every encounter is an adventure. As a warrior, you know that the obstacles and limitations you confront are destined to fall because they were never a part of your real self.
No matter what challenges arise, you are never alone. Your inner strength is waiting for you right now. Your courage and creativity are waiting for you Your excitement and dedication and discipline are waiting for you. All these qualities and more are part of your support team, waiting to be unleashed. I know you may not be used to feeling that these qualities are a part of you, and you might have some fear about what your life will be like when you step out of your comfort zone. But I promise you that you will love the sense of freedom, peace, and purpose that comes when you meet who you really are. Are you ready to experience the real you?
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I discuss the topic of Mistakes.
Mistakes Are Your Feedback System
The second principle of mental conduct is to learn from your mistakes. In the preceding section, I talked about how we are constantly evaluating ourselves as if we are onstage and how we tend to hide our weaknesses to put ourselves in a better light, thereby hoping to give ourselves a higher performance rating. For the same reason, we tend to hide our mistakes. Just as we think a good performer shouldn't be weak, we think a good performer shouldn't make mistakes. So when we do make a mistake, we believe that the more quickly we get it out of sight and move on, the better. Think about it for a moment. When we have made a mistake, one of the things we immediately do is try to cover it up, make excuses for it, or justify it. We’ll do almost anything to get away from it rather than look long and hard at it.
What we don't realize is that mistakes are part of a natural feedback system when we are learning a task or accomplishing a goal. That’s all.
Imagine a gymnastics student learning to do a back flip for the first time. As he strives to imitate the movement as best he can, the teacher tells him two things: what he did correctly, and what he did incorrectly. That is called positive and negative feedback. The positive feedback describes his right action, and the negative feedback describes his mistakes. Can you see how knowledge of mistakes is as important in the learning process as knowledge of right actions? When you know what is not correct, you can then consciously strive to avoid the mistake and duplicate the right action. Precise knowledge of correct and incorrect, then, forms the basis of our conscious choices and actions, and that speeds up the learning process.
Now imagine a person striving to get promoted in her workplace. Perhaps she calls attention to herself by bragging and showing off. To make herself look better, she calls attention to deficiencies in coworkers. After a while, she is fired instead of promoted. Did she make a mistake? Absolutely. She must now regard that mistake as feedback on what not to do to get a promotion. She still has to learn what she needs to do, of course, and may make more mistakes in the process of finding the right action to take.
The key is to keep going. She must not let her mistakes be excuses for giving up or allow her self-condemnation to paralyze her future actions. If her goal is worth achieving, she must be willing to persist through every form of failure, always regarding it as a learning experience, as feedback, until she hits upon the right action for success.
Here is an excerpt from my book, The Silent Master: Awakening the Power Within:
Here is an excerpt from my book, The Silent Master: Awakening the Power Within:
You may say, "Of course, I'm willing to change. I want a new life. I want to become who I really am." You may feel highly motivated.It's good that you say these words, but putting these words into action requires letting go of old Self-Concepts that may be bound tightly to your personality. This is why I stress the inner power step of sacrifice as you get ready for Self Discovery. Your willingness to change must be accompanied by a strong motivation to sacrifice certain aspects of yourself that are not truly you.
In my book, Seven Steps to Inner Power:
When you have a goal that is a priority, and when you commit your total loyalty to this cause, you will undoubtedly make decisions about competing priorities in your life.
Remember the example of preparing to train for a marathon race? Attending every party in town could not be an equal priority to working out every day. One or the other must be chosen, the other sacrificed.
When your Silent Master gives you a desire, It will never ask you to sacrifice something you need. That is contrary to Its nature of love. When you find yourself at a crossroads and you must make a choice, look closely to see if the so called sacrifice is really a loss. Usually, the things we give up to achieve a goal are no longer needed or are unworthy of keeping. If you give up laziness to keep your workout schedule, is that a loss? If you give up fear while learning something new, is that a loss? If you give up smoking to train for the race, is that a loss?
When we discussed increase and decrease with the yin-yang symbol, we said that every decrease (the black yin area) carries with it the seed of some new increase (the white dot in the black). Decrease is destined to turn into increase. So, even a real sacrifice is not ever really a loss. It is preparation for a new condition.
Many times it appears we are forced into a crossroads situation and we have to make a choice, a sacrifice. Sometimes, however, we can freely and willingly sacrifice certain states of mind to make room for the new.
The word “sacrifice” is derived from the Latin words sacer, meaning holy, and facer, meaning “to make.” Sacrifice means “to make holy.” So, when you sacrifice your weaknesses, fears, and limitations, you’re actually loving yourself, making yourself holy by expressing your truth and purity This is a joyful, expanding process, no matter how painful it may appear on the surface.
Sacrifice leads to patience."
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