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On Comprehension, Persistence, and the Rear Naked Choke

I’m fascinated by people who persevere.

And it really shakes my rattle when I hear a person openly deny and dismiss her ability to pursue the something that, were it not for a range of presumptions, circumstances, or past decisions, she would love to be doing. I recognize the connotation of achievement and careers with my use of the words ‘something’ and ‘doing’ in this context, but I’m thinking about this universally, such as learning how to Bachata, remembering how to love someone, or building a sweet cabin at the inspiration of Cabin Porn.

John Nunemaker wrote a great post, I Have No Talent, that you can read in less than 5-minutes, but will need to digest in more.

“I used to think that I wasn’t smart enough. I was jealous of those that did crazy code stuff that I couldn’t even comprehend. Then, one day, I ran into something I did not understand and instead of giving up, I pushed through.”

I think this is when most people give up - when it sucks. When I first began Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2004, I showed up to a random gym in White Plains, New York in mesh shorts that were one (maybe two) sizes too small and a tee-shirt that, apparently, was not rip proof (there is a reason for the gis after all). I rolled with the instructor, Sean Alvarez, who applied a rear naked choke so firmly that four the next four days I would have sworng I had come down with strep throat (had I not been able to so vividly remember being choked).

Sean Alvarez

That sucked. I got whooped, regularly, for the better of 10 months. Practice and progress were camouflaged as pain. When things turned around, when I was able to first submit an opponent, the challenges - my opponents - felt surmountable. Matches felt more like a chess match, less like a mad scramble to survive; they slowed down. Once I knew the science, it became more art, less torture.

The kind of practice where all of a sudden I realize that it is 2am and I’m exhausted physically so I should go to bed, but mentally I feel on fire so I let the code have me another hour or two.

A perfect summation of both the cause of my insomnia and the reason I do not fight it.

Ever since then, I have attacked each thing that I do not understand until I understand it.
Comprehension is critical to doing anything meaningful. In my experience, I cannot attribute meaning to a pursuit if I do not understand why exactly I am doing it - and how could I?

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