(Photo above courtesy of Josef Gaudiesus)
For Josef Gaudiesus, winning means living with joy throughout the process of challenging all our struggles.
At the beginning of 2018, I decided that I would take steps to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher and athletic coach.
Just three years earlier, I was in a much different place. I had no sense of responsibility and worked on weekends just to buy alcohol and weed.
During my first month of college, I was arrested for three misdemeanors. When I was picked up by the police, the first thing that came to mind was “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”
With encouragement from my mother and grandmother, I had received the Gohonzon before leaving for college. Yet, until that point, I wasn’t chanting. When I got arrested, it was a wake-up call for me, and I decided to reevaluate my life choices. That’s when I reached out to SGI members in San Antonio and immersed myself in activities.
Throughout college, I took on leadership to support other young men in their Buddhist practice and even established a Buddhist campus club at my school. I developed myself through consistently chanting and sharing Buddhism, and in May 2018, I became the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I felt elated with my victory, like I could do anything.
I moved to Dallas last year, ready to focus on my dream. I needed one more certification to start teaching and coaching.
In July 2018, I took the certification exam with little to no preparation, and I failed drastically. I took the exam again in November—this time with slightly more preparation. I did not pass again.
Mistakenly, I treated my Buddhist practice like a good luck charm that would help me accomplish my personal goals, even if I failed to wisely manage my time and take proper action.
Trying to make the best of the situation, I told myself it was OK. I thought, Maybe I wasn’t meant to pass the exam because it’s my destiny to pursue something else. Little by little, I started to compromise and lose hope in my ability to accomplish my dream.
I wanted to be a role model for young men in the same way so many had been for me.
As the end of 2018 was nearing, I felt I was letting many people down, including myself. I wanted to be a role model for young men in the same way so many had been for me. I had grown up with sports coaches who were like father figures to me when mine was absent.
With encouragement from my fellow Buddhists, I returned to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, determined not to give up. Going into 2019, I would bring the same level of seriousness that I approached my Buddhist practice with to every aspect of my life, starting with the exam.
Three months into 2019, though, my determination had slipped again. A Buddhist friend reminded me that my personal victory was what would inspire others to create their own victories. For the first time in my life, I resolved to take action out of my desire to encourage other people.
Although the 31 days leading up to the exam were very challenging, these words from Daisaku Ikeda reminded me that I had to win. He says:
The realm of Soka does not need losers ... Stand up with energy and joy, proudly waving your own individual banners! Advance victoriously, filled with exuberance and courage! Live each day of your youth fully, without regrets!
June 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 19
I chanted more than ever before. I decided to give myself no excuses. And despite working overtime, I still made sure to win every morning in front of the Gohonzon, and every evening in the library.
Since I put enormous effort into each moment, I had an indescribable feeling after taking my exam for the third time on April 17. While chanting that night, I realized this was the supreme confidence that I could experience when fighting fully, without regrets.
During my 31-day campaign, I experienced many breakthroughs.
During my 31-day campaign, I experienced many breakthroughs. I passed my exam, ranked in the top 5 percent of performers at work and received a bonus.
I have just started my new job at a local public high school, teaching chemistry and coaching varsity football.
Most importantly, I have learned that while tangible victories are important, winning means living with joy throughout the process of challenging our struggles and never giving up on our dreams.