A few weeks ago I celebrated my 50th birthday! As a lifelong martial artist, I am still in excellent health and have managed to improve my strength, flexibility and speed over the years. Sure, there have been some physical changes, but in general I have always thought of myself as being a 30-something. I’ve never really felt “old,” or at least I never THOUGHT of myself as old.
Thankfully, I am definitely more skillful and MUCH wiser than I was in my 30’s. Since then I’ve learned, progressed, and mastered my chosen art; developing an appreciable level of skill which is commensurate for someone at my stage. I’m happy with that, yet always excited to make even greater gains.
That being said, in line with The Empty Cup mindset, I have set about planning some new goals for my life, career and training. Being fairly optimistic, I’ve been considering the next 25 years that lie ahead and what I would like to achieve in that time.
Then it suddenly dawned on me that most of my teachers, mentors and even my own parents are around 25 years older than I am right now. Where were they career-wise when they were 50? What was going on in their lives? What changes have I seen them go through in the past 25 years? What challenges did they encounter, and how did they overcome them?
I met my former teacher, Grandmaster Leung Ting, when he was just 39 years old – eleven years younger than I am now. I met my mentor, kungfu brother, and friend, Grandmaster Keith Kernspecht when he was 47; only a few years younger than my current age. Then you have the great Bruce Lee, who died when he was only 33 years old, and I’ve lived 27 years longer than that. Plus I’ve practiced Wing Chun kungfu for two years longer than Bruce Lee was even alive..!
Wow. Suddenly, turning 50 began to “feel” older psychologically than it did physically. I have to admit that cognitively, there has been a shift in my own perceptions of myself.
So where do I go from here?
Well, as I now look at those teachers and mentors who have shaped my life, I can see that each has continued to excel and succeed because they continued to embody The Empty Cup mindset.
Each has continued to improve their own knowledge, skills, and teaching ability over the years. All of them have continued to set even bigger goals, achieved them, and repeated the process. On top of that, each has contributed more to the development of their martial art in that past 25 years than they did when they were under the age of 50.
That’s inspiring to consider and it is a path I too choose to follow. While I now perceive myself differently than I did just a few months ago, it has given me greater motivation to pursue my new goals in earnest. What’s 50? It’s just a number…a big number…but just a number. 8^)
Wishing you continued success,
Sifu Jeff Webb