If there was a ‘official slogan’ to best describe the new-age throw-away culture that seems to pervade the world we live in – perhaps it would be ‘The Next Best Thing’. Most people spend a considerable amount of their time pondering on the next best thing … the latest mobile phone – the latest song to come out – the latest pair of jeans – the latest car – the latest move on the mat, etc.

For many of us, this provides a certain kind of motivation – in wanting the next best thing, we become energized to move forward and achieve … but quite often, the satisfaction we feel, is only temporary – as we suddenly realise we aren’t all that satisfied, and we begin our search for the next, next best thing - after all, the un-chewed grass always looks a little greener - at first.

Sometimes, the search for the next best thing can be a fairly harmless exercise – perhaps it’s just another mobile phone, or camera. Sometimes though, it is harmful, in that we walk away from much more important things, like family, a good marriage, good friends, from people who have counselled us or mentored us faithfully, to search for the next best girlfriend/wife, group of friends or salesman who cheerily promises us the world, and more.

Now I am all for everyone trying to improve their position, but it’s important to draw a careful distinction between ‘improving our position’ and ‘seeking out the next best thing’ just for the sake of experiencing a ‘change of scenery’. Some changes are important, indeed, necessary for our growth as human beings - but change just for change sake can often lead to regret or the beginning of an endless cycle of searching.

On the mat, especially with our addiction to all things Youtube – it’s easy to be hypnotized by the next best move. It’s nice to be aware of it, even take some level of ownership and understanding of it – but consider carefully before dropping your whole game for the sake of trying out this ever-more-tantalizing next best move. The never-ending search for the next best thing can also be contagious. Many people do not want to shift from where they are without the support of their friends – so they try hard to convince others of the benefits of the next best thing, in the hope that their choice will be made by others and therefore, ratified or justified to some degree. We decide to head out and buy an I-phone, and so we try to convince everyone else to do the same.

This happens in martial arts schools all the time. For whatever reason, a student decides to join another school, and in an effort to convince him or herself that he or she has made a good decision, he or she talks his decision up to others and tries to have them make the move as well. This has happened to nearly every good instructor I know, including Jean Jacques Machado, Rigan Machado, Benny the Jet Urquidez, Tino Ceberano, myself and countless others. It is often heartbreaking for the instructor, who may have put in years or even decades of effort into training their student; but it is simply the way of the world in which we live – people are always looking for the next best thing and probably, they always will.
On the flip side of course, the next best thing might be something very positive; like deciding to learn another language or bettering our situation for our families – we should just be mindful of living congruently and making decisions carefully, before we head out in pursuit of the next best thing.

Live well everyone, make decisions which are best for you and your loved ones; but remember, one of the great secrets to real and lasting happiness is to learn to find deep enjoyment and contentment right where you are, right now – with the friends, family, stuff (and techniques) you already have.


Anonymous said…
Hi John, Interesting post. I think you hit it on the head in the last paragraph: be here now. I think that "the search for the next best thing can be a fairly harmless exercise" is true on a superficial level, as you pointed out, but I feel that it is very damaging in the larger context. It is that pervasive wanting. For me, it links with the idea of impermanence; I may want and desire things, experiences, people, but that is just ego, the 'I want' in all of us. It's a natural thing, and as you also mentioned, pushes us to improve. But there is so much to be gained from trying to let go of this, however infrequently and minimally I succeed. Being mindful and aiming to be content with 'enough'. Haha, it's late, I'm feeling all zen...
Ben said…
Great Post John. I'm always amazed by how you come up with these new observations on a weekly basis. I think though that seeking the "next best thing" can more often than not be a good thing. It causes paradigm shifts, and in the martial arts evolutions in thinking. What if you hadn't followed your instincts and learned BJJ and stuck to traditional styles... We might all all be learning Smith-Machado BJJ today, or even worse... Nothing. I think it is the responsibility of a good instructor to evolve with the art and teach with the times. Students may leave but in time they will return if you're the real deal. Just my two cents.
Pete ROGERS said…
I've got an older, slower computer. Usually I sit at it with my guitar & noodle around while I wait for things to load. Sure, I've looked at other guitars in the last 18 or so years, I've had the one got but I also end up thinking " I need to learn to play this one first ". While I read your post, I was revisiting an old folk song. It was number 1 in the UK in 1981 - Romeo and Juliet. A song that I played in a band back in '93!
Matt Klein said…
I know what you are talking about John. Years ago I had an instructor not only leave me, but try to poach my top instructor at the time as well. He opened schools in the same areas where I had locations, and undercut me in price. This was after I spent seven years teaching him everything I knew. It was like a kick in the gut. He is not a great martial artist, but just the same it hurt. This was all due to his greed. I cannot fathom ever doing this to my Sensei. The biggest problem nowadays is lack of loyalty. All I can say is, what comes around goes around.
joyesmith said…
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JBW said…
these things happen. No big deal in the larger picture though. It just makes way for new students to come through - and allows us to focus our attention on them. besides - how much of your life is ALL about one student? Not much - our lives are a tapestry of so many things, family, many people, hobbies, pets, work, etc. When one student just doesnt get or appreciate the role you have played in his life - does it really matter? Not much. By leaving you - they have de-selected themselves from the evolutionary process that is your life. All the better.

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