How do you define “success”?

15 Apr

Seems I am getting a lot of interview requests lately. Among the things I’ve been asked about is my “success” in running a school. The questions prompted me to consider what is “success”? I think it’s a definition that varies based upon the person, it has to be personal.


For me, success isn’t just about money. I certainly have bills to pay and want to live a certain lifestyle, but I could also make more money by changing some of the things I do with my school. Some of the decisions I made and things I do with my school I do DESPITE their money aspect. That may sound weird to a lot of people, but to me success also has a lot to do with happiness. I do what I love and I love what I do. I am happy every single day I am on the mat and teaching. In fact, there have been some horrible days where I have lifted myself up by getting on the mat.


People define success in different terms. For some, it is passing on their tradition. I’ve never been particularly interested in that. I’ve had no need for “tradition.” Others define success in terms of the champions and fighters they’ve produced. I’m guilty of that one! Though over the years I am less and less interested in that. For me, it’s more that I proved what I do, and no longer have the need to prove it over and over again. I think my “success” is my achievement in helping my students achieve what they want to achieve. That can be getting their technique right, feeling better about themselves, getting in better shape, gaining confidence, etc.

So I’d say “success” has three elements to it; financial, achievement and happiness. Rate them in order as you please.


When it comes to practical matter of how to be successful running a martial arts school, again I think there are three elements. First, there is the class you teach. I think the industry identified this a long time ago and became obsessed with it, but I think they largely failed. The typical industry answer is to throw something new into your classes all the time, you “get your DVD in the mail monthly and learn the new stuff” approach. Personally, I find this concept not impractical, absurd and also dishonest. Do not teach something that you don’t really know. That’s just dishonest. But more importantly, you don’t inspire students with that crap! You inspire your students with the things that you dedicated your life to and mastered.


The other two keys to success in the martial arts industry are virtually ignored by the industry. I know, that sounds ridiculous. It is even more ridiculous when you learn that these two keys are responsible for the real success stories in martial arts! Those two other keys are marketing and customer service. I think I’ll leave those to another blog 🙂


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