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.
When you set the right goal for yourself – a program of one year or three years or five years – and then you work toward your goal with discipline and commitment, I guarantee that you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Few people, however, know how to put together the desire to get somewhere with the means to make it happen.
Want is not enough. For example, many people want to be rich. Yet, are you willing do put in the work to make it happen? Be ready to commit to your goal when you set it, and you will not be disappointed.
Next, set a timeline to motivate yourself on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis towards that goal. Make a plan with steps to be accomplished, and dates by which to accomplish them. If there is an end in sight, with a map on how to get there, you’re far more likely to work towards that result.
In setting a calendar with specific challenges and tasks to be accomplished by a certain time, remember, that success often doesn’t come in the order in which we plan it. That’s okay. As long as you’re making progress towards your end result, you’re doing more than 99% of those around you. And you’re likely to get to your goal.
Remember, a delay does not mean you have to abandon your goal. After all, you may need to adjust plans along the way as new information comes to us. As long as you start with a firm concept of what you want to accomplish and by when, you will be in motion and moving toward the finish line.
Professional athletes, for example, dedicate themselves to practicing, training and striving to meet specific markers along the way to their end goal. Just like that, we need to be specific and consistent.
Keep in mind that none of us know when the sun will go down in our lives. All we have is today, to work our hardest, to move forward doing the very best we can with the tools and circumstances in front of us. If you live each day in service to your goals and values, working towards making them happen, I guarantee you will find satisfaction and success!
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER. As you read through this, think about what it means to let go of dangerous attitudes and activities that cause us pain and suffering.
Now let's look at another dimension of sacrifice - letting go of attitudes that block our progress. Letting go of attitudes is just as essential as letting go of unhealthy activities or saying goodbye to people who hinder our progress. In fact, unless you let go of certain attitudes, your physical letting go won't last very long. This concept is related to the inner power step of purity. When you let go of an attitude that is sabotaging who you want to be, you are also purifying your world of a habit pattern that has kept you hostage to limited thinking and limited living.
It's a common misconception that most of our attachments center on objects or people. The truth is that our attitudes and feelings about objects are more binding than the objects themselves. For example, we may become attached to an object, person, or situation (even if we complain about it) because we like feeling comfortable, we fear change, and we don't have the courage to take initiative on our own. Maybe we stay with a domineering boyfriend, girlfriend, or employer, even though doing so is keeping us stuck in a rut. In cases like these, fear is the real attachment, not the person.
If suddenly those people are removed from our lives but we still have not let go of our fundamental fears and have not developed the strength to stand up for ourselves, we'll just become attached to the next domineering boyfriend or girlfriend or employer that comes along - and continue to complain about them. That's because the thoughts we keep in our mind rule over us as long as we allow them to stay there, and they continue to produce the same results.
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, where I discuss being true to your own dreams:
When you hear the word loyalty, you may think of it as a vague, faraway quality. It's not. Loyalty as a step to inner power involves taking specific actions toward your personal goals, your purpose, your target. So many of us make new year's resolutions - "I want to eat better and lose weight," " I want to exercise," "I want to look for a better job," "I want to meditate every day." How often does our resolve usually last? A few days or maybe a couple of weeks?
Why is it that we give up so easily even though these resolutions represent key stepping-stones to our well-being or to accomplishing our cherished dreams? One reason is that the actions we need to take can feel uncomfortable. It's easier to continue in our old, comfortable way of doing things that to exert the effort to create significant change. Another reason it's easy to give up is that loyalty requires consistent self-discipline - the discipline that allows you to remain committed to two things: yourself and your journey.
You will find that when you start living as one with your Silent Master and commit to worthy goals, all kinds of distractions and new challenges will arise to test your commitment. In fact, the greater your achievement, the greater the tests that come. Only if you love yourself enough to remain totally disciplined and loyal to yourself can you triumph over these obstacles and challenges.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I discuss the creative power of your words:
When you have let go of negative emotions during your shower meditation and are making your first impressions on the new day, be sure to use positive affirmations. Let your inner and outer dialogue with yourself be filled with positive declarations about your true self. Instead of saying, "I am not sad," be sure to affirm positives such as "I am full of the confidence and natural joy of my real self."
It's always important to consider the way we communicate and the words we use, whether in daily life, in our meditations or in our inner dialogue One of the most powerful avenues of expression your mind uses is your words. Consider for a moment how you think. Don't you generally "hear" yourself think? You express your ideas in words, words that either play in your mind or words you speak out loud.
Words have great creative power. Your words can tear someone down or inspire them to be a hero. Your words can spur someone to greater achievements or get them fired. Since words are the creative carriers of your mental energy, treat them with great respect and choose them carefully with all your heart. Be conscious of what you are saying. If you have to, pause before you speak. Careful means "full of care." I encourage you to send your words out with extreme care because with those words you can start World War III in your relationships. We've all had the experience of saying something we didn't mean and finding that the words, once released, go right ahead and have an effect, maybe one we didn't intend.
It's not so much the word itself that has an effect but the energy and vibration the word carries as you say it - your intent. The energy and intent you put behind your words makes all the difference. So when you're speaking to others as well as to yourself, examine what energy you are letting your words carry. Are you building up your ego in a selfish way that hurts others are are you boosting another's self-image? If a woman keeps telling her husband how stupid he is, he can start to believe that and decide that "if I can't do anything right, why bother trying at all?" In your dialogue with others and in your own inner dialogue, constantly reflect on whether you are paralyzing yourself and others or whether you are elevating yourself and others.
Here is an excerpt from my book, SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I discuss DISTRACTIONS:
Engaging your body and mind to act as one takes determination and concentration. For instance, say you have set a goal of winning a marathon race. Your mind says, “This is an important priority. I want to win. I want to use all my spare time building up my speed and endurance every day.” If you nevertheless insist on eating improperly, partying all night long, skipping workouts “just this one time,” accepting invitations to do things that distract you and exhaust your time and energy, and on and on, is your body at one with your mind? How likely are you to succeed under those circumstances? Clearly, if winning a marathon race is a high priority for you, if you truly want to win, you will have to take control of your body and make all your physical activity conform to your goal. Your body and mind must be working together as one.
Say you are in college and have met someone you’re interested in dating. Just thinking of her makes your heart beat faster. You say, “I can’t wait to take this girl out.” Meanwhile, you have an exam coming up and you need to study. You sit down, you look at your books, and you read over your notes for hours. Yet all this time your mind is thinking, “I can’t wait to convince her to let me take her out. We’ll have such a great time…” Your mind is somewhere else.
The next day, you take your exam and are surprised that you performed so poorly. “Wow,” you say to yourself. “I studied so hard, but I didn’t know the answers. What happened?” What happened is that you didn’t bring your body and mind together ot act as one. Your mind and your actions were on two different tracks. Your mind wasn’t supporting your goals and wasn’t aligned with your physical actions.
Here’s another example. Say you are the best salesperson at your company. You understand your product, the market, and your potential customers thoroughly and you know your presentation inside and out. But what happens when your fiancé tells you that he or she wants to break off your engagement and want to be with your best friend instead? Your mind becomes blurred, you can’t remember important details, and your performance drops to your lowest levels ever. Why? You are divided. Your body and mind are not working together as one. Of course, it’s natural to be upset when something like that happens, but if you don’t get a handle on it and keep your obsessive mind from fixating on this for months on end, that huge distraction will drag down every other part of your life.
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