600 to 1 Odds

After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel. Judges 3:31

October 1, 2010 marked the fourteenth anniversary for Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness.

After writing that, I had to stop a moment and let the weight of those words settle in. It’s not just the success of TKFF that humbles me. It’s what the success parallels with that completely blows me away.

In June ‘96, my life was a total mess. Due to ignoramus and arrogant choices, I’d lost my job, my house, my car, and worst— my wife and son. Wallowing in self-pity, on the afternoon of the last day in my house, I sat on the kitchen counter wedged between stacks of dishes ready to be boxed. The house was incredibly quiet. Beneath my dangling feet were piles of swept-up trash and packing paper. Boxes stuffed with memories of better times outlined the kitchen. My couch was sitting upside down halfway out the back door waiting to be loaded into the borrowed truck. I had no idea what I was going to do from here.

I stared through the small kitchen window above the sink. As if to mock my black mood, the sun was bright and the blue sky faultless. A light breeze came in through the opened back door carrying the scent of a water sprinkler raining on freshly cut grass from the neighbor’s next door. Across the street a father and son were playing catch. I buried my face in my hands.

Embarrassed, I wouldn’t even pray. Why would God help me? I deserved every bit of this.

Then the phone rang—twice.

I jumped. I thought it’d already been disconnected.

The first call was from a friend and former boss, said he had a job for me. The second call was from Sifu Fogg. He told me the wheels were already in motion for a kung fu school to be opened in Tyler, Texas. He wanted me to do it.

I hung up with Sifu and hopped off the cabinet, the house still deathly quiet. Me, teach kung fu for a living? I shook my head. Only in dreams. I scanned the kitchen. Evidence of my mistakes surrounded me. I didn’t want to make any more bad decisions. I finally told God I just wanted my family back, make a new life. As clear as the sky was on that June day, I heard Him say, “Then do what you know to do. I’ll be with you.”

Though only four months later and TKFF opened its doors, it was the longest four months of my life. Working full-time for my friend and living with my brother-in-law seventy-five miles from Tyler, I began preparing to open a kung fu school.

Respected business people advised me to have eighteen thousand dollars in capital. I didn’t have eighteen dollars. I lost count of the number of bankers, friends, and family members who said no to a loan. That was the frustrating part—a total 600-to-one odds feeling. I knew in my heart of hearts that TKFF could be successful. I just needed a chance. In August, with six-thousand borrowed from my dad, I hit the Rose City’s streets to find a location. With the help of Godsend real estate agent Jo Dobbs, we found a place (another miracle itself) and opened for business on October 1.

For the next two years, I worked for Brookshires Grocery Company as a night stocker and then as a sacker during the day while running the school in between. I was so tired that I could actually fall asleep while sitting in horse stance. On so many late nights driving home from the school only to be at Brookshires in a few short hours, I’d ask myself why was I doing this. Shouldn’t I just get a real job and stop pursuing a silly dream.

The only answer I had, the answer that kept driving me, was that I had to do this. It wasn’t just about the school. It was about me not giving up, not quitting. Not quitting on Sifu, who believed in me before I did, not quitting on my dad, and not quitting on the students I already had. Mostly, however, it was about not quitting on my family and trusting God to restore that relationship.

Motivational author Napoleon Hill said, “Successful people usually find that great success lies just beyond the point when they’re convinced that their idea is not going to work.”

Perseverance was—is the only answer!

That was fourteen years ago.

Over those years, I’ve studied some amazing people who overcame 600-to-one odds. Because they didn’t give up, life is better for it. No matter their obstacles or their age, the one characteristic they all shared was perseverance.

One is a man named Shamgar. Though only mentioned twice in the Bible, this man with no military training, no commander, no sword and shield, and no combat experience other than acquired survival skills from hunting and living off the land, single-handedly killed six hundred trained Philistines with an ox goad, and freed Israel.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a professor tell him that if he continued using such lofty and flamboyant language he’d never be an effective public speaker. Right. Any one ever heard, “I have a dream . . .

Sir Winston Churchill was sixty-five when he became prime minister of England, and in the face of his own country calling him crazy, saying, Hitler was nothing to worry about, he took on the Nazis.

Ronald Reagan was sixty-nine when he took office, and despite naysayers, he vowed to, and succeeded, in overthrowing communism and reviving America’s economy.

At sixty-six, Michelangelo completed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; at eighty-eight, he painted the frescoes in the Pauline Chapel.

Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal lens at age seventy-eight and signed the U.S. Constitution at eighty-one.

It took Tom Monahan twelve years to see his dream come to fruition, to take a mom-and-pop pizza place and turn it into Domino’s Pizza. He didn’t quit.

Texas Ranger Baseball player Josh Hamilton, who disappeared from baseball due to an alcohol problem, faced true 600-to-0ne odds. The media, the fans, other players, all said he was through. Yet a few short years later, he reentered the game a new man, humbled by receiving the MVP during the final playoff game against the Yankees. Josh didn’t quit. He preserved.

And consider the way legendary boxer “Gentleman Jim” Corbett said it after going twenty-one rounds and then knocking out John L. Sullivan:

Fight one more round when your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the center of the ring—fight one more round.

When your arms are so tired you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard—fight one more round.

When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired you wish your opponent would crack you on the jaw and put you to sleep—fight one more round.

Remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.

That pretty much sums it up.

Never give up on your dreams.


The Three Success Secrets of Shamgar

Pat Williams & Jay Strack

5 Replies to “600 to 1 Odds”

  1. Great as always Sifu, thank you for sharing and writing this. I really needed to hear it. Nothing else to say about it Sifu, great, great post!

  2. So good to see your Blogs! I remember that time in your life as I remember having a LONG conversation with you also! I always believed in you….Look at your parents, espically your Dad! School and work for YRS! Your Moms like you and I, she can sell dirt Lol
    Doing the *Happy Dance* Congrats Cuz may you have Many Many more years of success (: Much Luv Roxs

  3. Sifu,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You and TKFF has impacted my life more than you will ever know.

  4. That same determination has seen me through the toughest of times and has been a huge factor in my successes. Thank You for sharing another wonderful post!!

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