Life Lessons from Fencing

I began learning to fence in January.While I've never been a member of an organized sport, I have always prided myself on nurturing obscure interests, and so, if for no other reason than the pure nerdiness of it, I decided a while ago that learning to swing around a épée seemed fairly natural.

What I've found really interesting reflecting on the past four months or so is how appropriately the lessons I've learned from other parts of my life pop up while fencing:

1. You will fail. A lot. But don't be afraid. Failure is the first step to success. Only through failure can we learn from our mistakes. What separates those who are successful from those who aren't are that they learned to cross the moat of failure and didn't turn back.

2. Strategize. Plan quickly but carefully. But when the moment strikes, jump, and deal with what happens as it happens. Too often, we spend our lives fretting about every possible situation. On a fencing strip, the action moves too quickly to plan for every contingency. When there's an opening, you learn to trust your gut and lunge forward for the point. But training your gut takes time and experience. Your gut will lie to you. It will put you in horrible situations. Trust it anyway. It's a muscle that develops with failure.

3. Don't hate on yourself. There will always things you need to improve. When you notice bad habits, correct them as quickly as possible, but be prepared to fall back in to them again. If you berate yourself over your bad behaviors you'll only exaggerate them and feel depressed that you weren't able to meet your own goals.

4. Time is long. Moments are infinite. If you focus too much on the "big picture," you'll find yourself missing the guy charging at you with a giant metal rod.

5. Life hurts. Get over it. You will get poked hard. It will suck. Have the courage to keep moving forward, bruises and all. Because if you don’t try to advance, you’ll end up hurting yourself a lot more.

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