Life is hard. I think everyone agrees on this. Those who think that life is an easy pass are either extremely lucky in having things go their way too many times or they have extraordinarily low standards and are too easily satisfied with the outcomes of their pursuits. For most people, life offers more disappointments than gratification, and for this reason, living through life requires a huge amount of mental strength which is needed to propel us through the many rough corners and dark periods of our lives. Yet it is clearly impossible to be motivated all the time, since even the most powerful engines stall from time to time, and the human body is not to be treated like a piece of machinery. There are many pieces of motivational advice offered by professional psychologists and motivational speakers. I am no professional in this field and can only glean from what other people have to say. That said, I can mention something that has often worked for me in terms of dusting myself off and getting myself going.
Comfort zone has been widely cited as an impediment to personal growth and development, since while it is tempting to stay in one’s zone of familiarity and security, it is usually where one feels uncomfortable and insecure that one is forced to seek improvement, learn new skills and expand one’s horizons (another paradox of life). The way I think about this is that I usually visualise myself on the football field (for I am a football fan), and although my favourite position is defender, I often try to put myself in the shoes of one of my favourite characters in Takahashi Yoichi’s (高橋洋一) classic Captain Tsubasa, Wakashimazu Ken (若島津健, aka 健威 in Hong Kong). Wakashimazu has often come under the shadow of another legendary Japanese goalkeeper, Wakabayashi Genzo (若林源三), though he does have many moments of glory throughout the series, most lately where he has been deployed as an attacker to showcase his versatility and attacking skills (which is why he is often dubbed as an attacking goalkeeper which is a contrast to Wakabayashi’s more defensive style). One of the most epic matches in the whole of the Captain Tsubasa series is the National Junior Competition Final between Toho (東邦) and Nangatsu (南葛), which is also the culmination of the rivalry between the main character, Tsubasa (大空翼, aka 戴志偉), and his childhood archrival, Hyuga Kojiro (日向小次郎, aka 小志強). It is a gruesome battle between Tsubasa who enters the final match of his footballing career in Japan with numerous horrific injuries and Hyuga who is determined to defeat his biggest rival for the first time ever. It is also a wonderful display of their footballing skills, as they have mastered two new techniques, namely Drive Shot (衝力射球) and Tiger Shot (猛虎射球) respectively. Hyuga’s Tiger Shot is simply unstoppable for Nangatsu’s defense who struggle throughout the match to stop him from scoring, while Tsubasa’s Drive Shot presents the perfect challenge for Wakashimazu, goalkeeper of Toho and the then indisputable number one goalkeeper in Japan in Wakabayashi’s absence as he is on leave in Germany. Tsubasa’s Drive Shot is a form of curved banana shot which is formidable and unparalleled at Junior level (12-15 years old), and throughout the match Wakabayashi makes some very intelligent moves in trying to stop it. In the first attempt he tries to synchronise with the speed and curvature of the shot and narrowly misses it (though to be fair Tsubasa’s Drive Shot hits the post which ends up bursting the ball), and his second attempt sees him actually catching the ball only to be pushed back by its tremendous force which results in a goal as well as injury to his left shoulder. He then makes more and better attempts in reacting to the trajectory and power of the shot until finally he manages to save it with his own Karate technique, even if he gets repelled by its huge force and hits the post himself which further exacerbates his shoulder injury. He eventually masters the various steps in stopping Tsubasa’s Drive Shot which he also uses in halting Argentina’s Diaz’ identical technique in the International Junior Competition. For the rest of the story, Drive Shot (or Hyuga’s Tiger Shot) poses no challenge for Wakashimazu as he regularly saves it in training and in matches and he ends up learning a new and valuable skill.
This is what I think about whenever I am facing big challenges in my professional life, as I gain inspiration from Wakashimazu’s various attempts in stopping the Drive Shot. It is a daunting and uphill challenge for any goalkeeper, yet Wakashimazu, already tremendously talented and atheltic due to his traditional training in Karate, faces the challenge head-on and makes incremental progress through repeated and successive attempts. He does not flinch from the challenge or crouch in fear as the ball comes curving into his goal. Rather, he uses his athleticism to reach for the great heights of the Drive Shot and tries to counter its rotating force with all the power that he has. This is a fantastic motivational story, and one which has continually inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and get stretched by all the new challenges in the world. Throughout the franchise we see Wakashimazu being challenged by all kinds of different shots by all the best players in the world. He is a bit hit-and-miss, like when he gets injured by Germany’s Schneider’s Fire Shot (火焰射球) or when he gets scored past five times by Uruguay and Hino Ryuma’s (火野龍馬) Hurricane Shot (龍捲風射球) in the Junior World Cup Final, but his determination and resilience certainly get him an A for effort. I would not like to face all the bullet shots that he faces but I do want to get going with my own work. Time to rise to the challenges and face up to them!