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.
Your thoughts create reality. Sure, you say. This is not a new concept. Obviously, we are affected by the constant barrage of internal and external influences we endure on a daily basis. Marketing companies alone spend hours each day figuring out how to expose us to thoughts that drive us to purchasing their products.
If thoughts didn’t matter, these ads and their advertisers wouldn’t exist.
That’s why we all need to understand how truly powerful this idea is: Whatever we think about consciously and subconsciously manifests in our daily life.
In other words, what we focus on grows bigger in our daily lives, and what we ignore grows smaller.
This concept applies to everything, including all the negative, self-limiting, and doubting thoughts that hold us back, as well as the confident, determined, supportive thoughts that propel us into positive action.
While you may give thought to what you eat on a daily basis, making sure it’s healthy and good f or you, do you do the same with your thoughts?
Remember, it takes vigilance to examine and if necessary, to remove the thoughts that run through our minds. And yet, how successful could anyone be with an inner dialogue that repeats “you can’t do it.” Ask any successful person and they’ll tell you the same thing: while they may have had that voice in their head, they chose not to listen to it.
Next time you are standing in front of a mirror, take a few minutes to look at yourself. I mean really look at yourself. While you’re there, quiet your mind and listen to the thoughts that come next. Don’t be discouraged if you hear nothing, or have trouble quieting your mind. You may even find that you have a hard time looking at yourself. This is a form of meditation and it takes practice and patience.
The topic of Love encompasses many areas of our intricate lives. Love is more than loving another person; it includes loving ourselves, accepting faults, practicing gratitude and loving through difficult situations, among many other things.
Did you celebrate Mother’s Day or Father's Day recently? Like we do on that special holiday, it’s important to express gratitude for our mothers, fathers and parental figures in our lives, every day! Even if you weren’t close to your mom or dad, chances are there was some adult whose opinion of you mattered.
Why do we often wait to only once a year to tell someone how much they are appreciated or how much they’ve helped us?
Try some spontaneous kindness and see how it makes the recipient feel, and pay attention to the wonderful feelings that you’ll also participate in. Think of gratitude and kindness as like any other skill that you want to master in life – it just takes practice!
While you’re spreading some thoughtfulness to others, don’t forget about you! We can be our own worse critics, but there’s a lot we do really well. Determine each day to get to know yourself a little better and get to know what’s true for you – and have fun doing it!
Remember my question from the beginning of Seven Steps to Inner Power?
Asking this and seeking the answer is absolutely essential if you wish to express your fullest potential in life. Loving yourself is an important part of the answer.
While you’re reading through this, try to think about times when you may have felt critical of others or yourself. Did holding those feelings help the situation or did they make it worse?
As you become more aware of the energy and emotions you want to purge from your environment, try your best not to get caught up in criticizing yourself for the attribute you want to be rid of. Please don’t be too hard on yourself for having apprehension or being restless or annoyed. The fact that you’re taking notice of these tendencies means that you’re doing something – you’re starting taking first steps to take control of your life. As I mentioned earlier, try to analyze these shortcomings with a very close eye.
When you’re driving down an old road on a hot day and your car gets covered in dust, you wouldn’t think of it as right or wrong. You understand that this is something that just happens, and you make a mental note to get the car washed the next time you’re in town. Let’s pretend you’re in a car and it begins to rain, naturally your front window begins to get wetter and wetter so you turn on the windshield wipers to see better. You’re not going to blame the rain for messing with you and say, “Why is this stupid water getting on my windshield and all over my car, and on a Monday of all days!?”
It doesn’t really matter how you feel about the rain, partially because the rain doesn’t care about you either. Maybe you have been experiencing a major drought where you live and you welcome the downpour with open arms, or maybe you’ve had drenching floods lately and you don’t want to see another drop of rain for the rest of your life. Regardless of how you feel, you have to deal with what’s happening in the moment. Getting worked up and allowing emotions to negatively influence you won’t help. In order to move forward, you have to establish a balance, be positive, and take appropriate measures.
Life is like sailing across an ocean, and in the same way that you experience rough and turbulent weather at times, so too will you experience fear or doubt or jealousy and you’ll want to have your umbrella with you. That’s perfectly natural. Observe these attitudes for what they really are and, becauseyou’re being consciously aware just know that they’re holding you back, set your sights on removing them and replacing them with belief in yourself as your own unique person, gratitude for what you already have, and excitement to be alive with a new day of opportunity ripe for the takinIf you connect with what you’ve read here you might enjoy the book I wrote SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I talk about other life experiences and what I’ve learned in the process.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER. As you read through this, think about times when you've held on to items from your past - did that help or hinder you?
Once you dedicate yourself to achieving goals that go beyond your present concept of yourself, you may also find that you have to work hard at letting go of your past. You have to sacrifice the old story to make room for the new vision of yourself. Doing that may require forgiveness on your part because forgiveness is the way we release the past. You cannot change a situation if you keep holding on to it with negative emotion.
Even though we've all heard that forgiveness is a key to growth, it can be hard to sacrifice a feeling of injustice and let go of past hurts and wounds. Start by reminding yourself that forgiveness does not mean you absolve anyone from wrongdoing. The wrong that was done is still wrong and will always be wrong. Rather, forgiveness helps you release the pattern so it will not repeat itself in your life. You don't want to be terrorized by the memory and the burden of a past incident, do you? Then let it go.
When we keep thinking about and regretting something that happened in the past, we continually re-create it in our minds. We literally change those memories and patterns with the energy they need to stay alive. We saw this in the story I shared of the woman who had been raped three times. She had to learn to stop revolving in her mind pictures of herself as a victim in order to stop magnetizing people into her life who wanted to complete that picture and victimize her.
I understand the dynamic of letting go of past hurts very well. It was an important part of my early training under my martial arts master. My childhood circumstances - being resented by my mother, beaten by my father, shunned by my entire village, and laughed at for aspiring to be a martial artist - would have overwhelmed me with self-pity had my teacher not taught me to take charge of my own life and refuse to be a victim.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER. As you read through this, think about what it means to truly be patient.
True patience means you keep the power turned on as you knowingly wait for what you've been working toward to appear at its appointed time. Patience is knowing the truth and expecting the truth to manifest. This knowing and expecting is part of the process of being your Silent Master. Thus, when you express true patience, you think as your Silent Master thinks.
Say you've been trying to get pregnant for a long time and are ecstatic that it has finally happened. You have a little morning sickness and at last you get over that. After three months, do you say, "Where is my baby? I'm ready to get this over with. Let's go." At five months, at six months, at eight months and beyond, you have to be patient until the baby's development is complete.
Let's take a totally different situation. Say your home was destroyed in a flood and has to be rebuilt. After the builders have started working on it for a couple of weeks, is it realistic to ask the builder, "Where is my home? Where's the finished living room? Where's the kitchen? When can I move in?" You don't do that because you know how much time it takes to build a new home. You've done your planning, you've sacrificed to make it happen and stayed loyal to your goal, and now you are patiently awaiting the conclusion of the project. When you are manufacturing a new product, you know you have to move through stages one, two, and three before you can move on to stages four, five, and six. In order to avoid a lot of frustration and anxiety about the project and instill patience, you carefully chart where you are in the process.
Your life is also a work in progress. It takes time for you to grow and mature. Everything requires a certain time frame for its completion. Although we may not be aware of the timing of the processes in our life, those stages still exist and we are moving through them. This may be a much more far-reaching view of patience than you are used to. You may think of patience as what you need when you have to wait for an hour at the doctor's office or when you have to wait in a long line at the grocery store. What I'm talking about is a whole different level of patience. Sometimes you have to be patient for years to achieve certain life goals. When you are in the middle of that process, you can't allow yourself to get easily disappointed with every delay and use that as an excuse to give up.
On October 20th, the 2018 National Cultural Festival for Peaceful Reunification of Korea event was held in the Quinlan Community Center in Cupertino, CA. I had the honor to be one of the recipients of the Korea Unification Contribution Award. Recipients were given a medal and award, and were honored by a wonderful ceremony.
The award read:
"Your contribution to the promotion of peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula has been chosen as the recipient of the 2018 Korea Unification Contribution Award. In honor of that achievement, we will present the medal and plaque of peace on the Korean Peninsula, which is made by melting the DMZ barbed wire and the shell used in the Korean War, symbolizing the division of the Korean peninsula, with the appreciation and respect of all Koreans."
Mr. Chung Ui Wha, the Chairman of the 19th National Assembly of Korea, presented the awards and plaques:
I was honored to have the opportunity to present medals to our Veterans who served in the Korean War. This was especially moving for me, as any one of those soldiers may have helped save my life when I was a young girl running from the bombs in the Korean War!
I had the opportunity to share a few thoughts after receiving my medal.
My main message was to share with everyone that as we strive to generate peace in the Korean Peninsula, it is most important that we recognize that peace comes from within us. So, let us have peace in our heart, and may it continue to grow, so we can share peace with the whole world.
Always remember: He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!
Copyright © 2020 Tae Yun Kim by Inbound AV . All rights reserved