In Brazilian Jiujitsu, you work your way up the belt system: white, blue, purple, brown, and black.
The difference in skill levels between the belts are noticeable and tangible.
But I’ve noticed that even for less tangible skills—things like communication, parenting, or humor—it can be helpful to see things through the lens of which belt you have for it.
Within the past year, I have become obsessed with chess. When I began to take it seriously last summer, I would get overly frustrated when I would play and get destroyed. It was like people who were better than I was were fluent in a language I couldn’t speak.
Then I thought about the jiujitsu comparison. That’s when it hit me:
Oh, these folks just have higher belts than I do.
I’m a white belt and I’m playing blue and purple belts.
Now I do that with everything.
When I blunder a sales pitch, I remind myself that I’m a white belt in negotiation.
When I timidly reach out to prospective clients, I remind myself that I’m a white belt in running my own business.
As my confidence and aptitude in chess increases, I remind myself that I am now a blue belt. Now, I look to purple belts in chess to challenge me and I’ve started helping my white belt friends improve their game.
The only way to get to the next belt is to show up every day, make a ton of mistakes, and hone your craft.
In jiujitsu, you start to fail when you compare yourself to others. As a white belt, it doesn’t make sense to compare myself to a blue belt. She’s been practicing for longer than I have. The only way to bridge the gap is to roll (spar) a ton, get put in terrible positions, and learn how to get out of them as I get choked out along the way.
The next time you find yourself struggling or comparing yourself to others, ask yourself…
Which belt am I?