Start Achieving Your jiujitsu Goals

jiujitsu guard passing

If you’ve seen the movie City Slickers, you know where this is headed. Billy Crystal plays a man struggling with life’s challenges.

In an effort to figure things out, he and his friends sign up for a cattle drive.

During the drive, Crystal is talking with the rough and rugged Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly asks if Crystal knows what the secret to life is, and then holds up one finger.

Crystal responds, “Your finger?” Curly goes on to explain that the secret to life is just one thing.

Jiujitsu Goal Setting: Where to start

When it comes to achieving your jiujitsu goals, narrowing down the options to just one is key to success.

Often, we have so many things that we would like to do, learn, change, or be that we get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

Limiting our aspirations to just one goal at a time increases our chances of achieving that goal. It doesn’t mean that we pick that one thing and then write off the rest.

Rather, pick one at a time and work toward achieving it.

What Research Tells Us about Goal Setting

Narrowing down to that one thing can be challenging.

A recently published book by University of Pennsylvania researcher Angela Lee Duckworth offers insight into not only selecting that one thing, but also how to achieve it.

Duckworth’s research revolved around children who were successful in different pursuits.

What her research revealed was the central role passion and perseverance

play in achieving a goal.

Talent vs Skill vs Grit

Duckworth’s idea of passion and perseverance being central to success is the main theme of her book, Grit.

Her argument is that the greatest determiner of success isn’t talent, but grit. What is grit? “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals,” stated Duckworth in a TED talk.

“Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future—day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, and not a sprint.”

One group of people Duckworth researched was West Point cadets. During their time at West Point, cadets are subjected to “Beast Barracks”—an intense seven-week training program.

You might suppose that those cadets with greater athletic ability or higher intelligence were more likely to make it through Beast Barracks.

According to Duckworth’s research that wasn’t always the case. What did hold true, however, was that those cadets who scored higher on the “grit scale” (determined by responses to statements like “I don’t give up easily” and “I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge”) were more likely to stick it out.[2]

But what does that have to do with achieving your jiujitsu goals? While talent and natural ability play a role in making it easier to do certain things, what really matters is sticking with it. Perseverance really is the key to achieving your goals.


Duckworth lines out two equations that help illustrate this point:

Talent X Effort = Skill

Skill X Effort = Achievement


Notice that both equations include the important component of effort.

Even if you have great talent, but put in zero effort, you’ll still end up with zero skill.

You could have all the skills in the world, but without effort, you’ll have no achievement.

You might be tempted to say that you have zero talent, but, as Duckworth explains, that’s really just an excuse for laziness.

“If I say that Einstein’s a genius and Mozart’s a genius and nobody can run as fast as Usain Bolt or swim as fast as Michael Phelps, then you don’t have to compete with those people because they’re just not in your category.

When you say, ‘You know what?

A lot of that success comes from dedicated hours of practice and thought,’ then you are a little bit responsible to see how well you can do.”

Along the same lines is the 10,000 hour rule, espoused by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Gladwell claimed that world class performers reached that stage after 10,000 hours of practice, which appeared to be the amount of time it took to truly master something.

How do you reach that 10,000 hour threshold? Perseverance.

Perseverance is the one attribute that appears to have the greatest effect on whether you achieve your goals or not.

Too often, we get into a goal about a week and if we haven’t lost 50 pounds, earned that black belt, or mastered a given technique, then the goal is a failure and we give up on it.

What really needs to happen is that we need to recognize that we are in this for the long haul. We need to invest those 10,000 hours.

We need to have the necessary grit to stick with it. Seeing a goal through to the end is the only way to achieve that goal. This especially holds true in jiujitsu.

Perseverance is a result of passion. If we don’t honestly care about a goal, then we won’t be willing to invest all of our heart and effort into it.

Remember, effort is the key to success—more so than skill and talent. Sometimes we do pick something and get into it only to find out that our heart and interests lie elsewhere.

If that’s the case, then we may need to move on. Regardless, we need to be working toward something.

The Big Take-Away

Curly was right—the key to success is one thing, so go out there and find that one thing you can sink your heart and soul into, the one thing you’re truly passionate about and that you’ll stick to.

When you do, you’ll find that achieving your goals is easy.