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He Just Kept Showing Up

Jun 09, 2024

“Success is not final.  Failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.”

                                                                                  - Winston Churchill


In my over five decades of teaching and training in the martial arts, I have witnessed some incredible examples of students overcoming obstacles in their training and in their lives.  Injuries and illness, personal relationship challenges and financial difficulties are just a few of the difficulties I have seen my students be confronted with and overcome. 


While these instances are generally not experiences, we would intentionally ask for in our lives, they invariably are gifts as they help us to become better, stronger and more expanded than when we began our journey to confront them. 


One of my favorite stories to illustrate this comes from a student I had the honor of teaching for many years named Nabeel.


Nabeel came to our martial arts school when he was around 8 years old.  He and his mother and sister had recently moved from Southern California where he had studied Taekwondo in the past. 


To say that Nabeel was a natural at the martial arts would not be accurate, but he had a love for training, a huge heart and his mother, who was a single parent at the time, wanted him to be around the positive and supportive atmosphere that our school provided.


Not being a natural athlete, martial arts training was never easy for Nabeel, but he just kept showing up and steadily moved through the belt ranks and eventually, after several years of training, tested for and was awarded his 1st Degree Junior Black Belt. 


He was an amazing example of our school’s mantra, 


“A Black Belt is a White Belt that NEVER Quit."




 Nabeel did not stop there.  He continued his training and eventually earned his 2nd Degree Black Belt. 


Soon afterwards, he joined our Leadership Team and began assisting in teaching classes.  After two failed auditioning attempts, he was eventually was accepted as a member of our world class martial arts demonstration team.  Despite the obstacles, Nabeel just kept showing up.


Fast forward a few more years, Nabeel was now a senior in high school and is one of our lead instructors.  His teaching ability had made him a favorite among our students and his attention to detail, charisma and maturity led parents to believe that he was years older than his 17 years on earth (the moms absolutely loved him, by the way). 


This being in his senior year, Nabeel had his sights set on college; however, not just any college.  He had chosen to attend the prestigious Colorado School of Mines, one of the top engineering and applied sciences colleges in the western United States. 


During our many discussions, Nabeel would share with me his desire to attend Mines.  When he spoke, a smile would come across his face and his eyes would sparkle.  He was clear in his intention and was committed to do all he could do the make his educational dream a reality.  He was determined to just keep showing up.


One afternoon, I came into the martial arts school and Nabeel was waiting for me at the front desk. 


Unlike his usual cheery demeanor, he appeared sad and dejected.  Asking to talk to me privately in the office, he proceeded to tell me that he had received some devastating news. 


He not been accepted into the School of Mines.  A “C” in Chemistry his sophomore year of high school had been the determining factor in him not receiving admittance. 


After empathizing with him about the unfortunate news, I asked him what his plan going forward was.  True to his character, he had already thought this through. He emphatically stated that he was going to attend Colorado State University for his freshman year and then reapply to Mines in the next school year.  He was determined to one day show up as a student at the Colorado School of Mines.


Several weeks passed and I again entered the martial arts studio to begin an evening of teaching classes.  Like he had weeks before, Nabeel was once again waiting for me at the front desk.  However, this time, a big smile adorned his face. 


Again, we went into the office to chat.  Upon taking our seats, he began to tell me how he had taken the initiative to call and set up a meeting with the Dean of Admissions at the School of Mines.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss his plan for reapplying the next school year and gaining guidance for what classes would be best for him to take during his freshman year at another school. 


During the meeting with the admissions dean, he spoke with passion about his vision of attending Mines; he was confident, he was enthusiastic, and he was respectful.  In a few words, he simply showed up as Nabeel.


To his surprise, after several minutes of hearing his story, the dean simply raised his hand and asked him to stop talking.  Thinking he had angered or insulted the dean, Nabeel sat motionless in his chair.  Then, with a smile on his face, the admissions director proclaimed,


“Congratulations, Nabeel, I’m accepting you into the Colorado School of Mines.  Don’t you ever get a “C” in Chemistry again.”


Two months later, I stood with my arm around Nabeel’s shoulder, telling his story of conviction, perseverance and powerfully showing up to several hundred enthusiastic spectators of our annual Black Belt Testing, where he had just successfully tested for his 3rd Degree Black Belt.  Once again, he had shown up.


It has been a while since I have seen Nabeel.  Last I heard, he had graduated from the Mines and was working in the petroleum industry. 


To this day, still feel a warmth in my heart when I think of his story of tenacity and courage.  I have no doubt he is continuing to experience success and achieve his dreams, because Nabeel knows how to show up.


While I oftentimes share this story when speaking to high school students about the power of perseverance, I also realize that its message relates to us as adults, as well. 


Every day, each one of us is offered opportunities to powerfully show up in our own lives, many times when it is uncomfortable and not the easy thing to do. 


When the challenges of life present themselves – and they will, I challenge each one of us to show up in the best way we know how. 


We may be afraid.  We may be less than graceful than we had hoped.  We may make mistakes which require us to show our vulnerability.  But when we show up as the best we can in the moment, despite our fears and insecurities, there is magic on the other side.  This, I promise you.


Are you ready to show up?



Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching


PS:  I you are looking to learn the principles that can keep you going in times of challenge, go to my new website, www.ChrisNatzke.com and download my FREE REPORT, The Top Ten Big Ideas to Create Breakthroughs.


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