A buddy of mine went deep on Brazilian jiu-jitsu and started training with some bona fide fighters and legitimate black belts.
My friend asked which belt level was the hardest to earn.
The answer was surprising and amazingly applicable to life.
First, it’s essential to understand that BJJ is among the most conservative in belt promotional standards. In fact, a purple belt in BJJ is thought to be the equivalent of a black belt in other forms of martial arts.
It can take years to make even small degrees of progress.
This also explains the impetus for my friend’s question. Each belt level has its requirements and specific challenges. One might assume that the belts get harder to earn as you climb higher in the ranks and that certain thresholds are the most difficult.
So, what was his answer? White belt.
To quote Ritchie Yip (@InFighting on X), “The white belt is the most difficult stage during the BJJ journey. You’ll spend most of your time on the bottom […] You’ll feel like you’re drowning as everything you do will feel like it’s working against you.”
Getting started is the most challenging part of any process.
It’s so freaking hard to allow yourself to be the newbie, look stupid, and get knocked down. We’re engineered to avoid that kind of pain.
It’s that engineering we need to overcome if we’re ever going to succeed.
The key isn’t trying to get through the white belt as fast as possible. That only exacerbates the pain and delays your progress. The key is to own your status as a white belt and be proud that you’re capable of not letting constantly “losing” stop you from moving forward.
They call the white belt “the belt of survival.” What an excellent paradigm! Your job isn’t to win; it’s not even to attack or maneuver; it’s simply to survive. Keep playing defense and put yourself in a position to return and survive another day.
As you do, you grow.
Entrepreneurship is precisely like this. In the beginning, you’re a prey animal.
You’re just getting pounded, constantly, by everything and everyone. You must learn many lessons and rules you’re unaware of. Every day, it can feel like you wake up just to get beat up again.
Interestingly (and appropriately), it never gets easier—but you do get stronger.
And as you get stronger, you realize you never wanted “easier” in the first place. This is what you signed up for. The fight, the struggle, and the ability to grow, earn, and achieve. “Easy” can’t give you that.
So, if you’re new to this game and feeling discouraged, good!
That’s what you’re supposed to feel. That’s the feeling you’re supposed to learn to overcome. Not to fight but to survive. And, as you learn to survive it, you grow stronger. But, like the white belt, it’s the most challenging stage.
“The white belt is a rite of passage that all BJJ practitioners go through. No one is above the process. Every person with a color belt in BJJ was first the nail before they became the hammer.” ～Ritchie Yip
For those who have graduated beyond the white belt on your entrepreneurial journey, how did you do it?
What were the things that helped you overcome that grueling process and not give up?
You never know who will read your comment and use it as fuel to keep going.