It Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum

This last December, my sons and I completed the final push to earn black belts in karate. After years of training up through the ranks we went through a specific black belt preparation which comprised 6 months. We experienced challenges that would prepare us for the ultimate black belt test … when we would demonstrate 50 self-defense techniques on a partner, tired, and under scrutiny.

Our black belt test was six long hours in the midst of running laps, doing pushups, sit ups, jumping jacks and other calisthenics, to ensure we tested tired. Finishing the test – pass or fail – is no small feat, especially with minimal if any breaks for water or rest. We encouraged each other and we met the challenge head on.

Even when my 10-year-old son cut his foot on a jump rope, he wouldn’t stop. It was just a little cut. He pushed through and rose to the occasion.

Motivating my kids to reach our goal, and keeping myself energized, was hard. But we did it together. My older son and I earned our senior black belts; my middle son earned his junior black belt.

For me, a black belt signifies honesty, hard work, and being undaunted by challenges. All my life, I’ve been overcoming obstacles.

As a child I was told I had a learning disability, and couldn’t learn; however, I learned how to learn. After being told I couldn’t, I went to college, and graduated. After being told it was impossible, I became a licensed practicing architect. Today I have my own firm. Was it hard? Sure. But I like solving problems and facing adversity.

It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Training with my sons was a big motivator; my professors and role models helped as I pursued my vocation. Collaboration is key. On what do you seek to collaborate? How can I help?

— Michael J. Roosevelt

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