Parable of the Black Belt
Picture a martial artist kneeling before the master sensei in a ceremony to receive a hard-earned black belt. After years of relentless training, the student has finally reached a pinnacle of achievement in the discipline.
“Before granting the belt, you pass one more test,” says the sensei.
“I am ready,” responds the student, expecting perhaps one final round of sparing.
“You must answer the essential question: What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
“The end of my journey,” says the student. “A well-deserved reward for all my hard work.”
The sensei wait for more. Clearly, he is not satisfied. Finally, the sensei speaks. “You are not ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
A year later, the student kneels again in front of the sensei.
“What is the true meaning of the black belt?” ask the sensei.
“A symbol of distinction and the highest achievement in our art,” says the student.
The sensei says nothing for many minutes, waiting. Clearly, he is not satisfied. Finally, he speaks. “You are still not ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
A year later, the student kneels once again in front of the sensei. And the sensei asks: “What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
“The black belt represents the beginning – the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, work, and the pursuit of an ever-higher standard,” says the student.
“Yes. You are now ready to receive the black belt and begin your work.”