Thursday, December 13, 2012


Would you rather barely pass?  Or barely fail?

Earlier this week I was leaving my karate class and one of our newer students asked, “didn’t you test for black belt recently?”  I told him I did and what happened (read here if you haven’t already.)  I also told him that from what I heard, I was somewhat borderline...although the line might have been on the thicker side, lol.

To barely fail means you almost made it.  There was enough from you that the judges considered passing you.  Maybe you lacked a basic fundamental or had  too many inconsistencies, but you may very well have given them enough “good” that it merited a discussion.

To barely pass means you almost didn’t make it.  You did enough to make the requirements, but there were red flags or serious issues that worried the judges.  Maybe you were only able to improve marginally on the comments you got, or maybe you weren’t able to improve on those but made progress elsewhere.

There are a lot of situations where you’re going to want to pass, regardless of how slim a margin it was.  Anything that’s competitive, like interviewing for a job or where there’s a medal for 1st place – of course you’ll be happy barely passing!  Also, you’d definitely want to pass (even barely) anything that cost a lot of money or where there’s financial risk.

The situations where it’s not so clear are more the artistic and/or developmental ones.  Think about testing for a belt.  Do you want to wow the judges?  Or “meh” them?  Is it worth waiting a little longer to make sure you can do more than “meh?”  Think about putting on a show.  Do you want the audience to be blown away by the performance or forget about it in a day?  Is it worth putting in more effort (and time, if possible) to make sure you can really deliver something powerful?

I see a lot of people that are perfectly happy with barely passing.  It also keeps them from things like breakthroughs and triumphs, rewards that I couldn’t think about living without.  When you get used to barely passing things, you coast.  You do the minimum amount required.  You set your sights no higher than mediocre, and you get comfortable doing it.

Barely passing may be a relief, but it’s a trap that doesn’t encourage growth.  Barely failing can still suck, don’t get me wrong.   But it often means you tried and it gives you a reason to keep trying!

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