// But Did You Earn It? //

Author: Taylor Haney

A few weeks ago, my eldest son was up for promotion at his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school.  For those of you who aren’t in the know, promotions in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) take a long time.  Quick example: it took both of my sons about 9 months to earn their first stripe on their while belts.  In some programs, they’d be a few months from a black belt.  Before promotions started, our professor came up to me and told me that Jackson had asked to be demoted.  We both agreed he shouldn’t be demoted, but maybe we should hold back his promotion.  This didn’t go over well with Jackson.  More on that later.

My son had been consistently attending class, but something was missing.  Effort. Drive.  You see, he would do the drills and laugh with his friends, but he’d often space out.  BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitu) is very difficult.  The techniques can be complicated.  When he would roll (meaning grapple) with his teammates at the end of class, he’d often get beat by kids with significantly less experience.  This wasn’t because they were better.  The truth is, he’d literally just lay there and let it happen, putting up very little resistance and effort.  It was frustrating to watch.  I knew he was better. He knew he was better.

I had several discussions with him about it.  He currently holds a yellow belt with a white stripe down the middle.  As far as time commitment, that’s about right.  However, his current skill level did not reflect the time he had put in.  I knew he possessed the skill and the knowledge.  He just wasn’t applying it.  As a parent, it can be hard having these discussions with your children.  I don’t want to push my kids too hard, but I want to motivate them and give them every opportunity to succeed.  My wife and I both excelled at sports.  From an early age, we both had that “killer instinct”.  Did Jackson not have this?  I asked him if he liked training and if he wanted to continue.  He answered “yes” to both.  I asked if he felt like he was his rank and represented it well.  He answered “no” to both.

Back to promotions: as promotions started and ended, Jackson neither received a promotion or demotion.  He was visibly upset.  After promotions, he came over to me, holding his belt and said, “I didn’t get a stripe”.  To which I replied, “Did you not ask to be demoted?”  He answered “yes”, but informed me that professor said he wouldn’t be demoted.  Jackson thought if he wasn’t getting demoted, then he should be promoted.  Logic of a child, right?  “But did you earn it?” I asked.  “No” he replied. As a side note: Professor Braga pulled Jackson aside and gave him one of the most inspirational talks I’ve ever heard.

This isn’t a sad story.  Jackson and I agreed we’d train in the evenings with his younger brother, Davis.  He has worked so hard the last few weeks.  He has been awesome in class!  Nailing techniques.  Submitting teammates.  He is still getting beat by the older kids, but it’s not so lopsided and he is constantly improving. I am so proud of him.  His professor and I agree that if he continues – for another few weeks – he’ll get the promotion he has earned.

I tell you this story because it’s relevant for our lives today.  I manage money and craft financial plans.  I am often asked about gifting money to relatives, paying for grandkids’ college expenses, buying a child a nice car, etc… My point is this: it’s OK to be generous and to help others, but sometimes helping hurts.  That which is earned is worth far more than what is not.  It’s important to talk through how you will bless your family.  But, it’s more important to realize the long-term impact.  I encourage you to talk through these things with your advisor. We are here to help you sort through these life issues.  We may not have all the answers, but we can listen.  Make your investments and gifts worthwhile.  Consider the implications.  Does it make sense to incentivize? Can paying for a child’s school actually help them learn better if they know the reward is no debt?  Let’s bless those around us, but let’s teach life lessons and what hard work means.