“Martial arts is not about fighting; it’s about building character.”  Bo Bennett

After multiple ceremonial strikes on his shoulders, the Master bows and hands him his new belt, representing a new category of accomplishment. The audience includes family and friends of members who have achieved new levels in Taekwondo.  My grandson, Chase, receives his first black belt. Wow! Great accomplishment. I have seen him in action, and it is apparent that he is good in this form of martial arts.

After receiving the approval of his grandfather, Chase now has to endure the 30-minute (or longer)  ‘question routine,’ which is my normal mode of operation for special events like this. (Something in my DNA propels me to figure out how all this works). I have more questions than there are answers, and the  endurance of others to answer them: ‘How long did it take to achieve this belt classification? What is the next feat? When? What is required? How does this work?’ On . . . and on. Finally, my grandson responds with an answer that catches my attention.  In an interesting statement, Chase remarks that he must wear the belt with one color band on top until he has proven himself. “Why,” I ask?  “Because, Chase continues, I am on probation.”  What?!  My mind is racing ahead. Is this right? “I am on probation until I have shown myself worthy of this belt classification.”  Now deep into this conversation, with peaking curiosity, I have even more questions. Poor Chase . . .

Probation. The most common usage of this word, with which we are familiar, references  someone who has been in trouble within the judicial system. Right? The activities and behavior of probationers and parolees are monitored for a certain period of time when they must stay out of trouble in order to end probation. Typically, our society  is somewhat judgmental in such cases, unfavorably labeling this sector of civilization.  We are wary of associating with someone who has been exiled from freedom. Fair or not, there is a negative connotation.

Chase’s characterization, on the other hand, is a label of achievement.  Somewhat different usages of the same word. Hmm.

One definition of probation is “the process or period of testing or observing the character or abilities of a person in a certain role, for example, a new employee.” Origins of the word include Old French as ‘probacion’ and Latin as ‘probatio.’  It denotes testing and investigation.

Whether used as a reference in legal terminology, or to a person who is embarking on new achievements, the word is applicable to those who are challenged and encouraged to perform at a higher level.

I recall the significant roles I have encountered throughout my life journey.  Husband, father, business owner, board member, CLDA Hall of Famer and author of the Mondays are Great Newsletter  are some of the most important for me. The categories abound for all of us..  What is on your list?

Perception and feelings will vary with everyone.   Excitement, humility, passion, uncertainty, and appreciation represent possible descriptions of our experience.   What were your thoughts and perceptions at the very first moment of the most important roles in your life? Do you remember?

Tucked under all these feelings are numerous questions:  ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Do I deserve the new classification?’  ‘Can I handle it?’  All of these are normal internal debates. And, in a sense, all  are important for positive insight. We are being measured by others, including the court of public opinion. Organizations, supervisors, customers, and parents are deciding if we have achieved the ‘next level.’ As such, we put forth our best efforts at times when the questions are the loudest and most challenging. We are put on the spot, so to speak. We want to shine.

If we do our best work when we are on probation, then perhaps probation is one of the best inventions of our time. A positive approach to always being the best.  A few sayings come to mind. ‘What is measured is what gets done.’  ‘Inspect what you expect.’   ‘Probation – a powerful period of time with the potential of a positive product.’

But what about the probation of fatherhood, business owner, parent or friend? I do not want to be measured for these. I want to believe I have already arrived. But, if this newsletter is about being the best that we are meant to be, then perhaps success is partly about being on probation. It is not about arrival, if that is even possible. It is about the journey. It is about becoming more and more of who I am meant to be in life.

Success is being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be. To be successful, I need to always put forth my best effort.

Chase is on probation for his new belt. He will get off probation—sooner rather than later—because he will make the effort to do just that. He has some assurance – he did the same with other belt classifications. He has traveled this road before. We have too, have we not?

Today, I am on probation.

I will make by best effort.