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Lessons I Learned From The Karate Kid

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The Karate Kid LessonsPHOTO: ASSET1.NET

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the theatrical release of The Karate Kid, a movie that impacted me greatly during my childhood. When I was told to clean windows as a kid, I’d always use the “wax on, wax off” motion. To this day, I’ll occasionally even crane kick a door open if nobody’s looking. And I clearly wasn’t alone in feeling inspired by the movie, as it was ranked 29th on IMDB’s list of the most popular movies of the 80’s. So why did this movie touch the lives of so many kids from my generation?

Well, let’s see. Daniel-san, in all his glory, was pretty much a skinny-fat dork. At some point in many of our lives, we’ve all been skinny-fat dorks. But instead of accepting his fate, Daniel-san gets into shape with Mr. Miyagi, takes down the town bully and gets the girl. Basically, he lives out every dork’s dream. What’s not to like?

In honor of The Karate Kid’s 32nd anniversary, I’d like to offer 32 takeaways from the movie that can serve as inspirational fuel for you in your quest for better health. Just kidding, I’ll offer five – but they’re good ones.

1. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. When Mr. Miyagi asked Daniel if he was prepared to learn Karate, the response that he got was “I guess so.” Mr. Miyagi then provided Daniel with the analogy of walking down a road – you can walk on the left side or the right side, but if you stay in the middle without picking a side, you’ll eventually get run over. The moral of the story is, there’s no such as thing as “you’ll try.” If you decide that something means enough to you, you DO it. If you don’t do it, then it just doesn’t mean enough to you. But if you do choose to do it, don’t half-ass it. Pursue goals with passion and with a vengeance, not with lukewarm effort or confidence. You’re not “trying to stick to your diet,” you’ve adopted a health game plan that you WILL stick to. You’re not “aiming to run one mile today,” you’ve set a goal for yourself of running one mile today and you WILL achieve it.”

2. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Daniel wanted to learn the crane kick after only a couple of lessons with Mr. Miyagi, but the old man wouldn’t go there. Instead he worked Daniel up toward learning the big move by showing him balancing techniques, blocks and progressively more difficult strikes. By the time Daniel learned the crane kick, he was ready. The same goes for your health. If you want to lose fifty pounds, you don’t sign up for a marathon – you start by cleaning up your diet. Then you go for walks. Eventually you start jogging. Then you start running and lifting light weights. Then you might lift heavier weights. You get the idea. Pay attention to how your body is reacting to the work you’re putting in and embrace the moments where you feel ready to take that next step forward.

3. Your biggest competition is looking at you in the mirror. When Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi what belt he had, the reply that he got was an obnoxious but profound one – “Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?” The point here is that you don’t need to worry about what the next person is doing. Thanks to this crazy social media world that we live in, it’s easy for you to follow people’s “lives” online and feel like everyone else is happy while you struggle mightily. Everyone’s problems are different and many of them are invisible to the naked eye. If you can master the art of not trying to keep up, much less paying attention to The Joneses, you’re already well on your way to a higher level of happiness.

4. Balance is key. Mr. Miyagi learned two things from his father while growing up – fishing and karate. And he became a master at both thanks to his ability to find balance. Compartmentalizing your health struggles can be tough, but your life can’t be defined by them. In order to find happiness and inner peace, you owe it to yourself to MAKE time for family, friends, hobbies, etc. A great life isn’t about training for joyous moments, it’s about EXPERIENCING them.

5. Stop using the excuse that you don’t have enough time. Daniel would never have succeeded in defeating the town bully had he not invested the necessary time to excel at Karate. He CHOSE to devote his time toward something that he wanted very badly. I know that working a job, taking care of kids and finding a few moments to use the bathroom can make up the majority of your day. But there’s always a way to allocate time for things that matter to you. Instead of detouring toward the fast-food joint on your way home, batch-purchase your groceries on a Sunday and prepare simple, healthy meals at home throughout the week. Instead of checking your Facebook 12-15 times a day, allocate those combined 20 minutes toward a morning meditation. Perhaps not a simple transition, but again, anything you want badly enough is worth the effort.

I encourage you to really reflect on these takeaways from this cult-classic movie, as I know they could benefit you greatly. Although you may not believe this quite yet, you’ve got all the tools to change your life already within your grasp. Put one foot in front of the other and don’t give up on yourself. You’ve got this…

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