A Black Belt In Leadership?
John L. Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader
At the age of 13, my parents relocated from a big city to a small town. I thought I would have the opportunity to go from being a BIG CITY NOBODY to a SMALL TOWN SOMEBODY! Sure enough, it happened. I became the target of every bully in school.
After a few weeks, my dad enrolled me in martial arts classes. I was initially excited. I'd watched The Green Hornet on TV (and Batman, too). When I arrived, I learned I was the only teenager in the karate school. My only saving grace, so I thought, was a 24-year-old girl who was my workout partner. Only she was one of the toughest fighters in the school.
So I went from being beaten up at school (for free) to having my dad paying for me to be beaten up by adults, including a girl, to teach me how to defend myself. But over time, I learned to defend myself and the bullying stopped...and without having to fight. As I learned how to fight, I began to walk with quiet confidence and also learned how to de-escalate situations that had previously led to bullying.
I fell in love with martial arts, and years later I have black belts in multiple disciplines and have been inducted into 2 martial arts Halls of Fame for my advocacy roles in teaching predator awareness, anti-bullying, and rape & assault prevention. I've been privileged to train with some of the "Who's Who" in the martial arts world, and have taught not only here in the United States, but in Guatemala, Zambia, Cameroon, and the Caribbean.
Did you know that only 2% of Americans will ever enroll in a martial arts class in America? And out of all of those who do enroll, only a handful will see the process all the way through to earning their 1st-degree black belt. Even fewer will go beyond earning an advanced black belt ranking. The number earning a 5th-degree ranking or higher is even more minuscule.
Most students do not realize the Black Belt is not the end of the journey. It is only the beginning. In traditional martial arts, the black belt was a symbol of a student who had earned the Senior Instructor's trust. The black belt was representative of the Senior Instructor recognizing the individual as a SERIOUS STUDENT who could now be trusted to truly learn the advanced lessons of martial arts training.
But along the way, I learned something even more valuable. Character traits such as honesty, integrity, self-discipline, self-control, compassion, dignity, humility, and respect. I learned to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. My instructors taught me more than just punching and kicking, they taught me how to lead myself well, make good choices, and to embrace leadership as a lifestyle.
As I have reflected on this over the years, I've come to the realization that not everyone can (or will) earn a black belt in the martial arts. But I believe that EVERYONE has the capacity to become a Black Belt Leader in Life. Anyone who is willing can learn the same character qualities and lifestyle traits required to earn a black belt in the martial arts and learn to live their lives with Black Belt Excellence.
In my subsequent conversations with Martial arts school owners and instructors, I have reminded them that while they put out some great students who can perform at a very high level in the areas of self-defense and competition if they fail to also teach their students to lead themselves well, make good choices, and learn how to effectively lead others, have they just trained them to be a Black Belt and not a Black Belt Leader in Life?
In my more recent conversations with corporate America, I point out there is a growing leadership deficit in society, as leadership is not taught in schools, nor in today's homes. Employees are entering the workplace, being put in positions of supervision or authority, and lack the basic knowledge of knowing how to lead themselves well, effectively communicate, or to build teams of high-performance, non-leader-dependent teams that are motivated and successful.
Everyone is leading someone, somewhere, right now. The question everyone has to answer about their leadership is two-fold. How well are they leading themselves, and how well are they leading others. The answer to the first part of the question answers the second.
It's not just martial arts schools that need Black Belt Leaders, it's families, businesses, churches & synagogues, schools, non-profit organizations. Black Belt Leaders are individuals who are committed to becoming a better version of themselves every single day so they, in turn, can do a better job of lead themselves and those who are following. They are committed to personal growth and development, as they understand it's only a serious student (the black belt) that gets to learn the more advanced aspects of leadership.
Just like earning a Black Belt is only a new beginning, so Black Belt Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It's a commitment to a lifetime of learning, growing, and getting better at who you are, so you can become better at what you do (and how you do it).
So, if everyone is leading someone, somewhere, right now, why just be a leader when you can be a Black Belt Leader, and live life with Black Belt Excellence?
Leadership is in short supply in America. In this time of crisis, we need men and women who will rise to the occasion, equip themselves, start leading and challenge others to do likewise.
Leaders live life on purpose, for a purpose. Most people live life by default, accepting whatever life brings their way. That's not living, that's existing. That's excellence giving way to mediocrity...and mediocrity will never experience real success in life.
Carly Fiornia says, "The status quo has great power. Leaders challenge the status quo to change things for the better." Don't let a status quo mindset hold you back.
What about you? I believe ANYONE can be a Black Belt Leader in Life! Everyone has within them a Black Belt Leader waiting to be discovered, developed, and deployed to make a positive difference in the world.
Yes, you can learn to lead yourself (and others well) as you learn to live life with Black Belt Excellence.
Ready to start your own Black Belt Leadership training? Pick up a copy of my new book, Black Belt Leadership 101 to learn the 10 essential qualities of a Black Belt Leader. or visit my website and sign up for my digital course, Black Belt Leadership - The Master Class where I teach these 10 leadership qualities in an interactive environment through audio, video, and downloadable worksheets.
My book includes a discussion guide allowing you to go through an interactive, reflective journey either alone, or as part of a small group book study.
Interested in personal coaching, or group training for your staff or employees? Contact our office today. If not me, hire someone who can help you develop yourself as a leader.
2X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee, John Terry (The Black Belt Leader) is passionate about helping others become Black Belt Leaders in Life. He is a motivational speaker, leadership, sales & communication coach and trainer.
Jessie Terry, John's daughter, is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and is actively involved in the JMT Global Youth Initiative. She is also a Real-Life Management trained coach and a certified Women-Safe Self-Defense Instructor.
For more information, schedule John (or Jessie) to speak to your organization or to book a personal, group or corporate coaching session, visit our website at www.beablackbeltleader.com.
If you are a faith-based organization, learn more about John and Jessie's outreach to churches, para-church organizations or faith-based volunteer groups by visiting www.DunamisFactor.com.
John is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team and is passionate about helping others pursue excellence as they become "Leaders in Life". He is also a Master Coach & Trainer with Real Life Management, a human behavioral training organization helping people learn how to live "Real Life" and make better choices when it comes to relationships, money, health, and wellness. John is also a certified DISC Human Behavior Consultant.
John's newest book, Black Belt Leadership 101, released as a #1 New Seller on Amazon Kindle. Also available in paperback, this book highlights the 10 essential character traits necessary to live life as a Black Belt Leader in Life.
Why just be a leader, when you can be a Black Belt Leader?
This book includes a Discussion Guide for either your own personal growth and development or to facilitate a group discussion with your Team. Get your copy today.