How to Be an Underdog and Win

Today I’m going to tell you the story of the famous “kung fu underdog” and show you what the true meaning of kung fu really is. So let’s get to the very essence of kung fu, and how it can help you conquer your financial battles.

In the words of Bruce Lee,

Kung fu is a philosophy; it’s an integral part of the philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism, the ideals of giving with adversity, to bend slightly and then spring up stronger than before, to have patience in all things, to profit by one’s mistakes and lessons in life. These are the many-sided aspects of the art of kung fu; it teaches the way to live, as well as the way to protect oneself.” – Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts

At its core, kung fu can be summed up in one word: perseverance.
Perseverance, as we all know, simply means (in the words of my friend and mentor, the great Craig Ballantyne): To never, ever, ever, EVER give up.

All great kung fu movies have one important element in common: each features a poor, downtrodden underdog who must overcome multiple hardships and persevere against all odds before finally arising victorious in the end.

Famous Kung Fu Underdogs

Ralph Macchio (“Daniel”) was thoroughly beaten up, picked on, and bullied by Johnny and his vicious gang of Cobra Kai students before studying and practicing martial arts and finally overcoming the ruthless gang at the final karate tournament. Despite an illegal and vicious kick to his knee right before the final round, intended to physically disable him and render him unable to fight, Daniel persevered against all odds and arose victorious, even earning the respect of his former adversary.

Bruce Lee overcame racism, reverse-racism, illegal strikes to his back that severely injured him for years, and double-crossing “friends”, to finally arise triumphant. He opened a successful and famous martial arts school, achieved his Hollywood dreams, and earned the respect of the Chinese who had formerly derided him.

These underdog stories are not just limited to martial arts…

Meet Arthur Boorman

Take a look at this inspiring video of Mr. Arthur Boorman, a wounded and disabled Gulf War paratrooper veteran who, thanks to a botched surgery, thought he could never walk unassisted again. For 15 years, Arthur believed the words of his doctors who told him time and time again, “You will never walk on your own again”.

But in the words of Arthur himself, “Just because I can’t do it today, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it one day.”

What About You?

We all have these stories about our own lives, whether physical ailments we must overcome, mental and emotional abuse from people we thought were “on our side”, or in our finances. Who among us hasn’t been affected in some way by an epic bubble bursting?

My financial bubble burst in 2000-2002, when the Nasdaq Composite lost 78% of its value and took the vast majority of my money along with it.

What about you? Were you affected by the NASDAQ collapse? How about the sub-prime crisis that tanked all markets, even precious metals and so-called “non-correlated” assets? Or the associated real estate / housing collapse?

Perhaps you lost your job, or had to take on an unexpected side job in your retirement because of sub par earnings.

Each of us have these defining, underdog moments in our lives. What’s important, of course, is what you choose to do with them.
Do you give up and quit? Or do you buckle down, even more determined than before, and fight the demons that want to get the best of you?

How to Fight and Persevere

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, so while I hope you are inspired by these many kung fu underdog stories, I want to make sure I give you the skills and weapons you need for the perspiration, too. (e.g. exactly HOW to fight!)

I’ve boiled perseverance down to my top five strategies for you:

1. Find your real supporters.

It is critical that you find out quickly whom you can count on when the going gets tough, and who is only looking out for their own self-interest. Learn the difference between the two, protect yourself accordingly, and flank yourself with your true supporters, those who firmly believe in you and in your quest for financial independence.

2. Know your end goal.

Use your White Belt Vision and make sure you have a crystal clear understanding of your end goal and your “why”. Maintain a relentless focus on it and do not let yourself be swayed by upset along the way. There are many paths you can take to your final destination.

3. Keep on keeping on.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, one “baby step” at a time. Use the power of inertia in your favor: an object in motion tends to stay in motion. If you continue to take small steps toward your goal, each and every day, before you know it, your obstacle will be a thing of the past.

4. As quickly as you are able, move to a useful emotional state.

Sitting around moping works for a day or two, but then you need to channel that anger into ACTION!

5. Develop your inner killer instinct.

For whatever reason, women in particular typically have a more difficult time with this. But when Ben Bernanke announces QE3 to infinity, or you peek at your latest brokerage statement and see only red/negative, you need to come up with something a little deeper and more grisly than “oh well!”

I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite saying of all time:

The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, but if we get on the treadmill together, right, there’s two things: either you’re gettin’ off first, or I’m gonna die. It’s really that simple.” – Will Smith, Kung Fu Master

So what do you think? Have you got some game now? Are you going to go get on that treadmill and kick some serious kung fu finance butt?

I certainly hope so.

[Ed. Note.  Susan Fujii won the I Dare You leadership award back in high school and though the monetary award was tiny, the impact on her life has been huge. To this day she recommends William H. Danforth’s book, “I Dare You!” You can learn more about Susan and receive her personal finance wisdom for free at]