“A black belt is just a white belt that never quit.”

- Renzo Gracie


What does it take to be a black belt?

There are many characteristics, metaphors, and challenges with “becoming” a black belt.
How one carries themselves in life, one’s character, in leadership, ethics, and even in business. How a person conducts his/herself in their every day life, I believe, has a lot to do with being a black belt.

I’ll start with a personal challenge I’ve had along my journey to becoming a black belt.

The irony with my situation is that for a long time, I felt that not having my black belt held me back in life—in the decisions I chose not to make. I felt that because I trained so hard and for so long, that if I didn’t get promoted, that I wouldn’t be happy with myself. This led me down a spiral of incompletions and self doubt in virtually every avenue of my life. For those of you who have struggled with a similar feeling which lacks self worth, then you can relate.

It wasn’t until I discovered the love for the journey rather than the expectation of destination, that things started to change.



A metaphor for almost everything in life, this statement is well applied to this particular situation. The average person who trains in Jiu Jitsu 3x per week takes about 10 years to become black belt. I did it in about 8 years, with the time I took off from training altogether, but that’s beside the point.
The important factor that must not be overlooked here is that NOTHING worthy in life happens overnight. The few things that do never happen often enough to ever predicate your results on, much less expectations.

I’ve often struggled (and still do) with wanting to get things done quickly, completely and perfectly. But what does that ultimately do to when unsuccessful? It creates anxiety and sets us up for massive disappointment.

Knowing that success is not achieved overnight provides a proper solid foundation toward taking the necessary preparations for optimal success, and if we allow it, gives us a general understanding how things work in the universe. Overnight successes are non-existent. Sure, we all want it to, but what are the chances? The chances are very slim and unrealistic.

Would I have learned how to defend a choke if I had not been strangled hundreds of times? No.
Would someone become a master salesperson having only made 10 phone calls? No.

Having a black belt mentality means to understand that hard work and dedication must be put forth to attain the desired outcome in any instance, situation, or journey. It takes WORK.



It’s quite easy to lose ourselves at times. We often fall into the pretense that things should be working out faster than they are, yet most of us aren’t ever doing enough of the work to make it so. How often do we stop to ask ourselves, “Why isn’t this happening fast enough?”

It is my belief that the universe has its way of doing things and we have no way to change it. We do, however, have the control over the future outcome. This is to say that in order for us to see the results we want to see, we have to make the necessary changes and commitments, and put forth the hard work and dedication that it takes to achieve the excellence we desire. This means having a vision, mapping, planning/preparing, visualizing, feeling into those visualizations, and taking massive action.

Excellence does not come knocking on anyone’s door, but it is available for the taking to those who are willing to put forth massive action.


Along the this journey, I’ve been strangled hundreds of times, had my joints torqued on thousands of times, had my shoulder dislocated a twice, neck injured plenty, thousands of bumps and bruises, and have put forth more than the usual “blood, sweat, and tears.” My body will forever be sore, and I’m OK with that.

Being put in situations like this where you constantly have to struggle to literally fight for your life forces you to solve problems during high pressure and high risk situations. It forces you to think quickly and react even quicker. If an opponent has their hands wrapped tightly around your neck, cutting off the blood supply to your brain, your window of problem-solving narrows by the second. Consequently, you are forced to react with speed and precision, and without any shadow of a doubt that you will overcome this predicament.

Just as in life, it is important to note that we will all encounter these struggles and adversity as we pedal forth. It’s going to happen, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Being well prepared for it is our DUTY. As we cruise through life, we tend to develop a filter to that which we do and don’t need/want. It’s our character forming. Although lots of this happens subconsciously and at times unconsciously, we must be ever present and aware of what is taking place within our minds and our own universe. Experience can shape us, but our choices define us.



It’s been proven that setting and attaining little challenges along the way toward any goal is crucial to development and appreciation. Little bits of positive reinforcement can do a great deal to our character and provide the necessary nudge or up-lift to better one’s situation.

Similarly, putting yourself through rigorous challenges, pain, and struggle, will often force you to grow out of your shell where you may not have even realized you’ve been stuck in. The transformation that occurs is revolutionary.

I firmly believe that without struggle, there is little to no room for growth, and there certainly would be no room for appreciation. Knowing that I did what it took to get to black belt—going through all of the hell on those mats, competing in front of thousands of people at tournaments all over the world—gives me the strength I need to push myself further every day.

With that strength comes peace of mind and a great deal of fulfillment.



One of the biggest bonuses I found when reaching my end goal was that it is no longer about me. Once I accomplished my main goal of earning my black belt, my mindset suddenly shifted from trying to be the best on the mats, to trying to share the most of my knowledge with my friends and fellow teammates.

This occurs regularly in life as those who often succeed and reach their maximum potential often seem to then take a detour and focus their efforts on serving others. What a peculiar change in direction.

In BJJ, black belts often travel and host seminars around the world, or open up a school or become instructors. In the business world, entrepreneurs often do things very similar. Business moguls will often host seminars or conferences, they expand their businesses by either franchising or licensing their services, or they write books and share their knowledge and experience of how they landed where they are.

As such, in business, we can grow our community by offering our services for the greater good of all concerned. When applied to personal life, this creates a sense of commune, similar to growing a family.

However we choose to look at it, what I hope we can all agree on is that doing something selfless offers is a newfound purpose [in life]. Serving others is hands down the most fulfilling feeling anyone can feel. There is nothing in life I can think of that equates to the feeling one gets after making someone else feel good.


Earning my black belt has given me the release I longed for. For years I’ve dreamt of what it would be like, how I would act like, how it would change me, and where it would take me after I achieved my goal. What I realized during this growth is how it allowed me to break on free to the other side and release all fears and considerations I may have had toward taking that extra step in life.

It has taught me a lot about struggle, overcoming adversity, solving problems, and being the best version of myself I can possibly be at any given moment. It is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life, and I wear it proudly (figuratively speaking of course) with me everywhere I go.

I urge any of you, all of you to get out there and find something that you love. Find something that pushes you. Something to look forward to. Something that you will grow tremendously from. Go out there and get after it, get GREAT at it, then share it with the world.

What are your thoughts?

Are you challenging yourself enough?

Have you struggled with anything in the past, present, or future?

Do you have a favorite hobby, passion, or martial arts?

Have you experienced any similar situations that have helped you out in other avenues of your life?

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