“Growth comes from discomfort and diving into deep water.” The growth that comes from self-induced discomfort is astounding. Like deciding to learn jiu-jitsu at 37 with a 15-week goal to compete in the world championships. It also comes from accepting that you will have nay-sayers and detractors. That it will be painful, uncomfortable and at times a hit to your ego. This is healthy growth. It is powerful. The current societal emphasis on the pursuit of a comfortable lifestyle ignores the reality that we need discomfort and challenges to truly grow.

Being a person who wants and needs to be the best, this 15-week goal was more than just the competition. My goal was to win. Many would describe this as lofty, and many would describe this as arrogant. I saw it as a likelihood. I competed and excelled in collegiate wrestling and was an All-American a couple times over. Jiu-jitsu was a logical step and champion was the only way. Through training, I suffered an injury that had me questioning whether I could continue. After a brief break from training and a hunting trip with my father, I was reminded that I do not shy away from a challenge.

Resuming my training, my resolve was as strong as it had ever been. The tournament arrived. The Jiu-jitsu World Championships in Las Vegas. 15 weeks, a separated rib, a brief hesitation, and renewed sense of purpose all met in the city of sin. The tournament went quickly and reminded me of the youthful college wrestling days. I won my first three matches without having a point scored on me despite being ranked second to bottom of the field. The third match I defeated the first seed. Without much time to recover (10 minutes) I was pushed into the semi-finals. Winded and admittedly a bit injured, a missed throw was all it took to put me on my back foot. On my back and the seconds ticked away, I was forced to give in.

I didn’t meet the goal of winning the tournament, but I defeated the best and found myself on the winner’s podium in third place. Hard fought, hard finish.

We are all trees in a thick forest. A tree does not start basking in the sun until it grows above the thicket into the fresh air. It is a long, uncomfortable journey of battling earth and elements to breach the dense den of trees. This is a fight for survival to reach new heights and to achieve the beauty of a spectacular powerful tree. The tree that struggles the most is the strongest. Finding new ways to challenge yourself through discomfort and struggle is the ideal way to grow into the person you are meant to be.

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