“Her right hook. You think she sprained her wrist doing her nails?”
Ah, the Karate Kid. How I love this movie. It came out when I was ten years old, and I made my mom take me to see it thirteen times when it was first in the theaters. Mom was patient with me about it. By about the fifth time, she bought two tickets only so that she could walk me into the theater and get me settled. Then she would leave and turn back up as it was ending.
I loved watching this movie. It was fantastic every single time.
More than twenty five years later, it’s still fantastic. Ralph Macchio still strikes me as perhaps the most handsome man on the planet. Mr. Miyagi still makes me want to chase my dreams. Daniel LaRusso still makes me believe that I can practice my way to anything I want. And the movie as a whole still gives me hope.
“You’re the best around. Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down.”
I think this story especially spoke to me because Daniel didn’t want to compete. He wasn’t trying to be a winner. One thing after another pushed him into this situation of fighting for a trophy and his pride. But he didn’t choose it. He just wanted to live his life.
I’ve never been a competitive person. I’ve competed. I’ve felt the need to compete. But my natural state is not one that thrives on competition. When put in situations where there has to be a winner and a loser, I want to win. But I’ve never been one to choose those situations. I much prefer to challenge myself in community. I much prefer to progress with people by my side. My heart has never been in competition. It’s just not who I am.
“Daniel LaRusso’s gonna fight?”
Sure, Daniel wanted to win. But more than that, he wanted confidence in himself. I think that’s why I loved the movie so much. It was about confidence. As a kid, I craved confidence.
“You’re alright, LaRusso. You’re alright.”
As an adult, I still do.
I really liked this post – very moving. I, too, was and still am a big fan of the Karate Kid. I wonder if you saw the recent remake? It was great. I was worried that they would try to redo the original. Instead, they kept the same theme of developing self-confidence without either undermining or replicating the original. Jaden Smith is terrific as a young boy trying to gain confidence in himself in a new country as an outsider. He has confidence when he gets there, but it is a brash confidence that is very different from the quiet confidence you're referring to. Jackie Chan plays his reluctant mentor, and he teaches the boy how to be quietly confident and self-assured rather than being cocky or brash.Speaking of being cocky or brash, oftentimes I find that competitive people possess this kind of confidence in particular. Here's why I think your view on competition and competitiveness is the better one: it occurred to me a few years ago that, when it comes to competition and trying to be the best in something, almost all accomplishments or victories are temporary. There is always going to be someone stronger, faster, better looking, wealthier, more knowledgeable, or any other material quality I can come up with to compare myself to others. This is not to undermine anyone's achievement in the spirit of fair competition. It deserves recognition and it's important to try your best when you're thrust into a competitive situation. We should all try to win while obeying the rules of sportsmanship and being honorable in the context of competition.The quintessential example of the fleeting nature of all competitive pursuits is sports. There's the saying that records are meant to be broken. No matter what the record, no matter how unassailable it seems to us, it WILL be broken one day. It happens in baseball, it happens in tennis, football, basketball, and every other competitive sport. Again, that's not to say the achievement is hollow or doesn't deserve recognition, just that it is a temporary condition, almost by definition.In contrast, there are certain things that all of us can pursue, the achievement of which doesn't diminish others' enjoyment of the same pursuits. I'm talking about love, joyfulness, kindness, and compassion for example. Our achievement of these states doesn't diminish others' experience of the same things. I believe this is exactly what you're talking about in the context of competing within a community or achieving things with people by your side. And I think it is the more mature approach to competitiveness.One final comment – I think each and every one of us is looking for confidence in ourselves. I read a wonderful book a few years ago called "Wild at Heart." It was about how all fathers, despite their very best intentions, inflict serious wounds on their sons' psyches, to the extent that we men are constantly searching for affirmation and reinforcement throughout our whole lives. We have an identity crisis of self-confidence. Men wound their sons. I suspect women wound their daughters, too. We're all wounded, and consequently we're all searching for confidence.Thanks again for such a profound post, and for the opportunity to comment at length on it.