I used to hate books. I scoffed at reading. Books were for squares. I used to say “Who has time to read? That takes too long” as my nimble fingers pushed the buttons and triggers on my controller; my eyes slowly frying in front of my TV screen. That terrible habit developed in my childhood and continued into my mid-twenties. It took me almost a decade for me to realize I should be picking up books instead of the next best game.
During my teenage years, I was hungry. I was hungry to make the U.S. Junior National Taekwondo team and I was eager to learn from anyone who could and would teach me. My cousin and father suggested I start attending Troy Garr’s in San Jose. I went with my cousin the first couple of times. In a recent scrimmage he had not done so well against the current National Team Member and he was getting back into shape. He had been juggling coaching, a new job and training and it was a lot to carry. I was coming along just to improve the finer details of my game.
We make a left turn into a small in a plaza and see the small hole in the wall gym. My stomach turns and the butterflies go haywire. This always happened when I came here.
On the outside it doesn’t look impressive. It looks like your average martial arts gym, mats, heavybags, kicking paddles, shields, etc…
On the inside is a coach that demands perfection in every drill. On the inside is a level of intensity that’s almost visible like a morning fog. On the inside you’re in a pressure cooker, the way Gordon Ramsey puts his chef’s in a pressure cooker. Gordon Ramsey means business the way Troy Garr means business.
This coach was was responsible for putting multiple people on the Junior, Collegiate and U.S. Senior National Team. Perfection in the preparation, a.k.a. training, was demanded.
Practice starts and my ears are open. We start with a jog around the room as his assistant throws balls at us to catch. I hear coach Garr talking to Gilbert about his recent performance. Gilbert explains that he should have been training more. Coach Garr responds “Well you already know what I’m going to tell you. You can’t expect much. If you only train 3x a week, you’ve got to expect 3x a week results. That man has been training 3x a day for Pan Ams.” Gilbert nodded and kept jogging. He knew, they both knew. The words churned in my head and reminded me of what my father had told me; “In order to have what you have never had, you must do what you have never done.” Or in this case,
In order to have what the successful have, you must do what the successful do.
I’ve used this motto in training for over a decade now. I usually copy other successful training strategies, figure out what I like and then put the rest into storage. It’s not very original, but it’s effective. It’s not special. It’s simple. If you want what others have, you must do what they do. Just copy and paste.
Now, while I don’t lack on the side of fitness or physical health, I do feel an imbalance in other areas of my life. One of the major areas being financial and quite frankly, who doesn’t?
I was scared of growing up and even in my mid-twenties, that fear never went away. I was scared I would never reach the level of success my dad had. I was scared to start working because everyone says “work sucks, college is the best time of your life.” I was scared because I thought success in business was for a chosen few and I might not have been chosen. It wasn’t till a few years ago that all of that disappeared.
After winning the SEA Games in 2013 I flew home to the U.S. and went to visit my former coach and mentor, Tshomlee Go. He and his wife had both recently purchased BMW’s and I wanted to see what they were up to, so, you know, maybe I could buy one too…
We drove to a seminar all the way down in San Diego and Coach Go explained to me that any area in life is just like Taekwondo. If you work hard, are willing to learn and are willing to do what it takes, eventually the results will come.
We arrive and walk into the hotel’s grand ballroom. There’s already a couple hundred people there. Everyone has notebooks, is sharply dressed and they’re chatting excitedly. Just as we find out seats, the M.C. gets on stage, settles everyone down and introduces the first speaker. He talks about how much this money this guy making, how he’s a great leader and is a life long friend. I’m looking around to see which sharply dressed guy is about to walk out on stage. I pull my own notebook out and am ready to learn. Suddenly, this guy wearing a hat, jeans and a t-shirt emerges from back stage with a big smile on his face and holds out his hand for the mic. I think to myself, “Something must be wrong with the microphone” and he needs to adjust something.
Turns out this guy is the successful entrepreneur the M.C. was talking about.
My mind couldn’t accept it. I put my notebook down. There was no way this guy was making that much money. There was just no way. I thought only Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg could get away without wearing a suit and making a difference. I look around in disbelief, but everyone had their eyes glued to this guy. I wanted to go use the bathroom as an excuse to get out, but I was in the middle of the row. I sigh, lean back, put a slanted smile on my face and listened.
I watch this thirty year old entrepreneur talk passionately about his story. How he used to work at In-N-Out Burger, how got kicked out of his apartment for not paying rent, how he hit a little bit of success and then how everything in his life collapsed. As he continued I listened in awe over the things he had to overcome. Like how he held his fiance as she died in his arms, how he spiraled into a depression and how his friend pulled him out of it. As he continued through his life story, I saw my taekwondo struggles in his life struggles.
He talked about how he became the man we saw before us. Book by book, obstacle after obstacle, trial after trial. I really was reluctant to believe at first, but he had pictures of most of his story. I thought back to my Taekwondo journey and it was similar to what this man had experienced financially. My jaw was on the floor by the time he was done telling his story. Successful person after another, I watched these people talk about their stories, of their trials and failures and how they never gave up. I thought about my taekwondo journey and how I never gave up. I watched speaker after speaker talk about how their lives were transformed through challenges and thought about how I was transformed through challenges. Even if it was all fake and they were all pulling a fast one on me, I was convinced I could make it. Just like when I was 12 years old and I was convinced I was going to make it in my sport. From that point forward that I believed I had a shot at being successful too; I simply had to do what they did.
On the way home, I was mentally digesting everything I had heard. Everything the speakers said made sense. It was as coach Go told me, it was almost the same journey athletes have in sports. A few key things replayed in my mind the during long car ride.
“If you’re doing average Joe activities, you will get average Joe results.”
“If you’re willing to do what the successful do, you will have what the successful have.”
“You must learn from someone who’s an expert in their field. You wouldn’t take baseball tips from Michael Jordan would you? He’s an expert at basketball. So you should ask him about basketball tips, not baseball ones. Think now though: are you asking your broke friends for money advice? They may be an expert friend, but perhaps not an expert with money.” I laughed at myself because I’d done this countless time before.
The biggest key point for me was something the first speaker said when he was explaining how we needed mentors. “If you don’t have a mentor, that’s okay. Most of my mentors have never met me, but I met them, in their books.” He rattled off the classics: Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”, George Clayson’s “Richest Man in Babylon”, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and many others. Since that day I’ve made it a point to try and read daily. If you do what a successful person does, you will have what a successful person has.
Also, if reading isn’t your thing, then listen to audio books. There’s always a way.
[Special add for people who influence children]
In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, they performed a study between the study habits of students who make it into “Top Tier” universities and those who don’t. The one of the major differences was this:
The children who make it into the top universities read during the summer and those who don’t make it in, don’t.
It’s not just one summer. The children read books every summer. Even if a child only reads two books a summer, they are being tested against children who read no books during the summer. That means one child has 24 more experiences, anecdotes and references to call upon than the other.
It’s like you’re at a desk doing a research paper and the person next to you has 24 more books on their desk that they can reference but you can’t. Who do you think will have the better paper? It’s obvious.
Reading broadens the vocabulary so children can better express themselves. It takes children through all ranges of emotions and lets them experience loss, hardship and difficulty in a fraction of the time; giving them a better grip on it when it occurs in the real world. Now I don’t think we can experience life by sitting in a recliner chair and reading about it, but I do think that it helps to have a road map before you set out on a long journey, and life is indeed a long journey.
Remember too that it’s never too late, you can start the kids on something so they have one or two references going into their exams. Do it for the kids.
[End of Insert]
The question most people ask after learning this is: “Where should I start?”
I watched a TEDx talk recently with a 28 year old, who, in 3 years, became a millionaire. He too said reading was important, but what you read is just as important. He says
“There are books to solve every problem in the world, but you don’t have every problem in the world. You do have your problems. So read books that solve your problems.”
It’s really that simple. Just like in sports, you identify a problem area you want to fix, you educate yourself on how to fix it and then you apply it. Darren Hardy, CEO of Success Magazine, reads 5 books, listens to two audio books and attends at least one seminar every quarter, all aimed at a single skill he wants to develop. I’m currently reading one book this month and listening to one audio seminar. I think we can all identify why there’s such a difference in our incomes.
No voodoo magic, no special ritual, just simple advice. Succeeding at any area of life is just like sports. Identify your problem area, educate yourself on how to fix it, and apply.
I used to think reading took too much time until I learned what it would do for my life. The late business guru, the Jim Rohn used to say “Wouldn’t it be an advantage to you if someone spent 5 years trying to figure out a problem and then they wrote a book about it; and you could read that book in 5 days? It is an advantage yes, if you read the book.” I’m a big fan of saving time and I’m sure you are too.
We all kind of pity the person who runs into the same problems over and over again, year after year. What about in your own life though? Are the mistakes and hardships you’re experiencing this year the same as you experienced last year? If you’re interested in changing that, my suggestion is to simply copy and paste what the successful do.
Read a book. Change your life. Read a book. Change a friend’s life. Read a book. Change the world with your own greatness.
To have what the successful have, you must do what the successful do. Identify, learn, and apply.