What you can, when you can, while you can

It was Winston Churchill who said “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”. That may seem contradictory to Kung Fu, since we are all striving for perfection, as we should be on our entire journey through life, but what I myself take from the saying is that we must do what we can, when we can, while we can. The perfect opportunity or the perfect conditions for our development will never arise.

Many people fail to work on their own self cultivation because they are waiting for something, and often something beyond their control. They say, “Once I get in shape, I’ll start learning Kung Fu”, or “once I have the free time”. Some of us do this in smaller ways but they can still be detrimental to our overall progress. For example, “my uniform isn’t clean so I’ll skip class”, or “I’m already 10 minutes late so I’ll just go another night”. The worst one I hear, which to me is one of the most cringe-worthy is “I already missed 2 weeks of this cycle so I’ll just start classes up next cycle”. Something will usually come up before the next “later” that we’re waiting for.

Another example of this is people who wait for the next “thing” to buy; shake weight, ab cruncher, gazelle, or whatever is trending at the moment, thinking once they buy the next trinket then they’ll start exercising enough to get in better shape. The sad truth is, if you’re not doing the best you can now with what you have, you probably won’t do the best you can when you have “the thing”, or at best you’ll try for a little until the zeal of owning the thing wears off.

What’s important is that we do what we can, when we can, while we can, because there may come a day when we can’t and we might regret not taking action when we had the chance. Doing what we can, when we can, while we can will, if nothing else, build up momentum and make it easier to get to the next lesson, whereas waiting for later will make it harder to get moving again, and give other types a resistance or obstacles a better chance of getting between us and our goals.

The best students I have ever come across are not the most physically gifted, youngest, or fittest. They are the ones who do what they can, when they can, while they can. When they have a sore knee, they sit and do whatever they can with just their hands. When they have a sore shoulder, they relax their hands and just move their feet and work on their footwork, but they don’t stop unless absolutely necessary. That is good Kung Fu. I’m not advocating ignoring injuries and exacerbating them further; astute practitioners use common sense and listen to their bodies, but they also don’t hold off entirely and wait for the perfect conditions, because they will never come.

Another habit that makes a great practitioner is not waiting for the right chunk of time. Some people say they don’t have time to practice, because they don’t have a solid free hour during the day without distractions. This of course, is not an exception, that’s life; No one I know has a solid uninterrupted hour daily. What effective practitioners do is train what they can, when they can, while they can. They find little pockets of time to work on their Kung Fu. Crane stances while they brush their teeth, push-ups while they’re waiting for the kettle to boil, bow stances while they mop the floor, or line training down the hallway. They know that these little pockets of time add up and make a difference.

It comes down to time; seconds and minutes will eventually add up to 10,000 hours, when mastery is typically achieved. Too many people use those seconds or minutes waiting for bigger chunks that don’t come often enough. Good black sashes use them toward their 10,000 hours and know they don’t have to wait for their class, they don’t have to even be at the school, they don’t have to move the furniture out of the room, and if they’re just running through spots lightly, they don’t even have to warm up. When their solid hour of free time does come up, they make the absolute most of it because they have momentum. The Kung Fu Practitioner who understands this concept and internalizes it uses it for success in all aspects of their lives: When opportunity arises, they take whatever action they can, when they can, while they can, while others may miss the same opportunity entirely because they are waiting for the perfect conditions that may never come.