Define Your Greater Than, Not Others’

In my 25 years of Aikido training with Sensei Dan, he’d say, “Just train.” “Jon, you don’t have to do it (technique) like I do. Make it work for you…”

Really, Sensei was great through my lens. Yet, he didn’t want me to be ‘great’ like him, be his imitation. No. Sensei inspired me to invent ‘my great’: He wanted me to be my own greater than version. Whatever, that may be.

Others will say, “I want you to do your best.” Often what they really mean: “Do your best, like I do my best.” Really?

With Sensei it was never all about him, being great like him. He wanted all his students, like me, to define what being our best would look like. So doing my best wasn’t about doing Sensei’s best or some other dude’s best. Doing my best was mine, something I owned, something that was meaningful and inspiring to me.

Consequently, to this day I work defining my own greater than style for my greater than version. Like Sensei might have reminded me: “It’s not about getting anywhere.” Again, just train. Just be true to myself. I define my relevant standard that constantly evolves. Yet, I don’t impose my standard upon others. They must define their own greater than style, for themselves.

I love and admire future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. Kobe said “Greatness is as much about fear as it is about love.” As one of the All-Time Greats Kobe would know. In his Oscar Winning Animated Short Film “Dear Basketball”, Kobe poignantly and authentically expressed his love and reverence for the game. Kobe dedicated his body, heart and soul to the game. He got his life from basketball, his first love.

That was the older, wiser Kobe getting his mortality after his 20 year career completed. I think during his youth, Kobe was not as inspired nor so patient. My dear friend John is also a big Kobe fan. He said that he admired Kobe, because he demanded that everyone he played with be as committed and dedicated as him. Well, Kobe was the amazingly gifted athlete, laser focused, and much like Lebron James now, the basketball savant.

Dude, nobody was going to be ‘like Kobe’. Much like nobody was going to ‘be like Mike (Jordan)’ back in the day. Consequently, in some of the NBA Championship runs and particularly when the Los Angeles Lakers were irrelevant Kobe’s imposed best as everyone’s ‘best’ was probably not well received. Just saying.

Again, I believe that Kobe today, is the greater man for that experience, that imperfection. God knows, I’ve got my own imperfections to accept and evolve. I’ve got mad love for Kobe as the Greater Player, and the Greater Man.

So do ‘your’ best. Not ‘my’ best. Your best. Define your own greater than version. I believe that our greater than version emerges out of our communities. For me that’s Sensei, Bobby, Mom, John, Cheryl, and a few others. I take what gifted contributions that are useful. I discard what’s not. Really, I’ve got to make life work for me. Hopefully, not the other way around. Again, just saying. I’m creating my Art, my life.

So here’s the deal about Art: Art doesn’t impose upon anyone. Art is intended to be looked at, appreciated, and perhaps even to inspire. Art in its purest, inspires others to create their own Art, their own life. Like what Sensei Dan did for me.

Define your best. Define your greater than version. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Because, it’s not supposed to. Pay no mind to the talking heads of the world, those “not in the Arena”. Be inspired. Just train. Do your best.

A version of this post was previously published on and is republished here with permission from the author.


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