There was a time in my life where I had forgotten a worthy lesson, and it would take a lengthy conversation from a man far wiser than I to remind me of a lost core value. Upon my return to martial arts—after a lengthy lapse in attendance—I was naturally in a hurry to return to the rank from which I had left off. While fiction and romanticized ideals inspired my youthful self, it was the late Sensei Stuart Quan who reminded me that life is not about the destination: it is about the journey.
I can hardly believe that I had the gumption to protest my name not being on the list of students to test for the next belt rank. While my reasoning was not so much for advancing in rank for the sake of rank—I wanted the privilege of attending more advanced classes that the higher rank would allow, more or less—Sensei Quan said to me, “I’m happy to give this belt to you, but know that you’ve yet to earn it.” Clearly, I remember him stopping all of his business affairs to speak with me at length on this subject, yet he had me completely convinced with one sentence. I did not want that belt until I had earned it, and I would have been ashamed to wear it under any other circumstance.
Today I see many who are concerned only with their goals; so much are they, that they sadly overlook the road upon which they travel to meet their goals. The prize at the end of the road is meaningless unless one possesses more than a superficial experience of their travels.
A wise man has a tempered thirst for knowledge and experience, for it is the combination of knowledge and experience that leads to wisdom. These are the things that conversations can teach; and just as Sensei Quan guided me down a path that values the journey, my highest ambition is to share that guidance to anyone who cares to read my words. On your travels, do not simply hear. Listen.