I think, therefore I am.
Our early experiences shape our character and the way our lives unfold. A poor start might, of course, be a major obstacle that spoils and ruins a person's prospects forever. That is why many Asian parents, tried all their might to get their kids to the best schools, hoping them to have the best start at the starting line. But is that a poor start determines a person's progression or his potential to be great?
In fact, some of the greatest people in history had childhoods that were utterly poor and wrecked: with a dreadful, absent, or dead father, for example. Yet those are the people who has made a profound impact to the society, human history and utterly the world: Conan Doyle, Confucius, Augustus Caesar, and, Leonardo Da Vinci. They were all victims of whom the world would call 'kids coming from broken families'.
So what do they have that allow us to leave such a profound impact to human race and history? Despite upbringing, of course, they have luck (cannot argue that), but most importantly, they share a few common traits: they have an unsatisfying hunger for knowledge and wisdom towards the world, which gives rise to outstanding awareness around the surroundings, leading to very acute observation of the world around them. On top of that, despite the common norm, they are mentally strong in their won ways, allowing them to be able to choose the path they want and live the life they want, not necessarily rich and powerful (like Confucius, though i do not like his teachings). This, to me, is the definition of being an alpha male. And these, are the important qualities, to succeed in our martial arts training, and everything in life that we hold dear for.
Since his death 500 years ago, Leonardo Da Vinci is a figure of solitary genius and an absolute rock star till this day. We know he was illegitimate, we know his father was a wealthy notary called Piero, and his mother was a peasant girl/Arabian slave named Caterina. No matter what, Piero didn't really see Leonardo as his son, and Caterina later was married to hot tempered local, and went on to have more kids of her own. So his own parents did not treat him as their child - on top of that, because he was a bastard son, he did not ever receive proper education.
'The human mind is the greatest weapon ever.' said my sensei Robert Campbell. And Leonardo's personal response to his 'poor start', was to educate himself through observation, an undying urge of curiosity to seek the truth. The key to understanding his genius aint from his paintings - but in his 13000+ pages of notebook. He literally studied the world around him to see how it worked. Even though it was a sin and normal people will not do it, it was said he personally dissected 30 corpses in his life, just to study and deepening his understanding of how human body works. His curiosity and ideas were relentless, and this notebook, happened to be the most complete written record of the inner workings of a brilliant human mind at work in history. Some of his inventions recorded, though he never quite finish them, include a
prototype of parachute, first mixer tap for a bath..........all the state of the art and only can be deciphered centuries later. He was also the first person, among his many deeds, to notice how counting tree rings gave the age of the tree.
So based on the above, my personal view towards the limitation of one's achievement, is only whether you are willing to open up your mind. In my opinion, the most toxic thing to the mind is called Ego. Your ego will stop you from even making an honest assessment of oneself - if one cannot even be honest with yourself, how can he/she even see things at its purest form, or seek truths? To protect his/her ego, one could be blinded by it and did a lot of silly things, just to balance his own heart and feelings. How would he/she continue to seek better answers, and then more?
With a bad start, many people tend to blame on a lot of misfortunes and others - never will they blame themselves - we are responsible for our own actions. Despite the environment or the odds, the mind is something we are truly capable in mastering and control. Your self confidence, your state of mind, are not things you can fake. They have to be earned.
To do so, one has to be open-minded. Being 'open minded', is an attitude. I think Bruce Lee did say the below:
“In order to taste my cup of water, you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all of your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.”
Thus, despite the odds, everything depends on how willing you want to open up your mind, and learn. Admit failure. Admit you are weak. Admit we ain't all smart and we are dumb. And we don't know certain things. It's ok. It is OK to fail. Stay curious. Never settle with one's comfort zone. Then exercise awareness and observation, and experiment things/ideas. It is ok to be wrong. Do not stop trying.
In Martial arts, be a scientist and a learner, always. We will never be the strongest, because the good news is, we can always be stronger.
It depends on whether you are willing, or not.