Sometimes during my training, when I can use a bit of extra motivation for those last series of push-ups, I stimulate myself by particular thoughts. “These ones are for you, mom/dad/Mystha (that’s my little sister)”, and then I can push my exercise to the limit. Or “One more round for you, Grandmaster Kang/Master Bob” and I can suddenly kick as if I were Bruce Lee. Or I dedicate one poomsae to all my lovely sponsors out there or to that one cute girl I trained with in Korea, for that matter. But most of the times, I think “Watch this, o Malcolm Gladwell.
During my first month in Korea, my buddy Stephane Kaas was reading this book by Malcolm Gladwell, called Outliers: the story of success. It constantly gave him the giggles when he was reading it besides me in the subways, so after a while I asked him to borrow me the book. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail, I understood what Kaas’ laughter was all about; Mr. Gladwell does write some fine anecdotes indeed. But as I dug deeper into the content of the book, it was Gladwell’s view on success that startled me. It’s the complete opposite of mine. He argues that people are chiefly dependent on good fortune and trivial circumstances when it comes to their chances at success. “It’s not what successful people are like, but where they are from. (p.19)” He defends his case with examples of very successful people like Bill Gates by pointing out at which moments in their lives they got offered lucky opportunities. At some point he sums up at least seven events in a row that Bill couldn’t have done without to get where he is now. ‘And then Bill got into this school where they had a million computers and his best friend’s mom was the principal, so he could ask for more time in the computer room’ etc. etc. And the only thing I could think of was “Yeah hello, if that hadn’t happened Bill would have found another opportunity.” See, I think success isn’t dependent on luck and circumstances, but on willpower and dedication. Bill was simply the only kid on the planet who was willing to spend hours and hours dreadfully programming new codes. And if his friend’s mom wasn’t the principal he would have broken into the bloody computer room to continue his dream.
To prove that you’re wrong, Mr. Gladwell, I will keep fighting until I’m the first European to be the best of the world in taekwondo poomsae. Without having the genetic advantage of flexible muscles, without having the cultural background of always following orders and being more easily focused and without the perfect martial arts looks. In a sport everybody says I’m not made for. To give you a heads-up, my parents didn’t have heaps of money to allow me to go to Korea like that. Well that was an unfortunate circumstance, wasn’t it? Bye story of success? No, I found my way through crowdfunding. I won’t be the world champion because of luck, but because of willpower and dedication. Not because of where I’m from, but because of what I’m like.