I remember sitting in a science classroom when the theory of evolution was first presented to me. We learned about Charles Darwin’s around-the-world journey on the HMS Beagle, especially his observations of species’ variations in South America and the Galapagos Islands. I remember being fascinated by the realization that in the face of certain challenges a species can adapt and evolve into something more suited to handle those difficulties.

Fast-forward several years, and I am once again intrigued by the human species ability to grow and adapt to adverse situations. If the last several years have taught us anything it should be that we are strong, resourceful, and resilient creatures. We possess an unquenching desire for growth and improvement. When faced with challenges we can adapt and overcome. The COVID pandemic gave us a multitude of examples of these truths both as individuals and as businesses.

Over the last couple years I have also spent a lot of time thinking about the evolution of the martial arts industry. When I first began training we trained on hardwood floors, or if you were lucky, commercial grade carpet. We spent weeks learning 30-60 technique forms just so we could hone our skills. Instructors pulled their hair out attempting to teach these same forms to children. We sparred with little to no safety equipment. We required students to travel halfway across the country on their own dime just to volunteer their time working at a tournament or testing. We made our instructors teach classes for little or no pay. The crazy thing is that martial artists didn’t see a problem with any of this because it was the status quo. They simply didn’t know better.

Now? We have cushioned foam floors and impact tested safety equipment. We teach forms that only have 10-20 techniques so students may spend less time memorizing and more time developing skills. We only participate in tournaments for fun and skill development, and they are never required. And what I am most proud of is that our instructors make a competitive wage with full benefits as they should. We have evolved not only to survive but to thrive.

Unfortunately, when I was sitting in that same science class I was equally fascinated by the fact that many species did not adapt to changes quickly enough and eventually died out and became extinct. Sadly, this happens to us also. Why? The reasons vary from case to case but there are some more common than others. Some didn’t see the problem until it was too late. Some saw the problem but refused to accept it. Still others accepted the reality of the challenge but simply stuck to the familiar and comfortable.

My challenge to you is simple; be the species that evolves for future success. It is true that change is difficult. It is true that new adaptations create fear and anxiety. It is also true that if you refuse to evolve you will be left behind. Make a plan and take the steps necessary to advance that plan. Grow. Evolve.