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Photos from the 2015 US Championships

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2015, here I come!

Wow. What a year 2014 has been. I started off my comeback from an ankle injury with a solid showing in Junior Men at the US Championships, which qualified me for my first international competition. Over the summer, I trained intensively with Olympic coaches in LA, preparing two brand new programs--a passionate tango piece to Astor Piazzolla's "Invierno porteño" and a powerful free skate set to the Thor: The Dark World and Kingdom of Heaven soundtracks--for the 2014-15 season and an increased technical content. 

In September, I competed at my first JGP event--the 2014 ISU JGP Nagoya Cup, in Aichi, Japan. To say the least, I had an amazing time performing to a supportive audience, bonding with my fellow teammates, and brushing up on my rusty conversational Japanese skills. I capped off 2014 with my first Sectional title in Spokane, WA with two solid performances in the short and long program. 

Here I am now in 2015 ready for the 2015 US Championships. Once again, I will be competing in Greensboro, NC, host of the 2011 US Championships. I have fond memories of my first US Championships nearly four years ago, and the welcoming Southern Hospitality. I look forward to improving on my performances of this past year and reaching new heights in 2015. 

Finally, I send a big thank you to all of you out there supporting and cheering me on. Happy New Year!

Spending the first days of 2015 relaxing in Newport Beach




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#unselfie #GivingTuesday #USFigureSkating

I volunteer for the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club's Special Skaters program because I want to share my passion for the sport with everyone. All kids should have something new to learn, and have fun doing it! Join me on this #GivingTuesday to donate your time, love or money to those in need! 

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[Photojournal] 2014 JGP Nagoya Cup

Big thank you to Japan, everyone involved with the competition, and the spectators. I had an amazing time competing in your country! I look forward to coming back and competing here again sometime in the near future. 

With my coach, Justin Dillon, in the kiss and cry after my short program

Pic with my fantastic teammates!

Pic with my fantastic teammates!

Team USA with the JSF official

Team USA with the JSF official

The adorable Nagoya Cup mascot 

The adorable Nagoya Cup mascot 

My short program

My free skate

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Summer update (2014)

Taken pre-summer 2014, so kinda cheating here. But its the Golden Gate so that's okay, right?

Summer is over--well, meaning school-wise. To think that this is my last summer as a high schooler is unbelievable. Just. One. More. Year. 

Even got a chance to get a pic with Michelle Kwan when she visited!

Anyways, just wanted to give you guys a quick update on my skating. In the past two months, I have been training in supersunny Los Angeles, and while I was down in SoCal, I skated my newly-choreographed programs at two summer competitions. Training has been tough--no surprises here--but my skating has improved tremendously since I first arrived. My first JGP assignment is coming up in less than a month! *Insert superwide grin here.*

Since school is starting again, I have no other option but to return back to the not-so-sunny-but-still-amazing NorCal and to sacrifice my precious training time for completing dreadful homework assignments (I'm scheduled to take 4 APs!) and preparing my college apps for the fall. Fun stuff, indeed. 

I'll try my best to keep you all updated, especially as the 2015 skating season commences in a few weeks!

- Kevin

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Season in review (2014)

My respective long and short costumes. 

The 2013-2014 season has finally come to an end. 

This season marked my return to the competitive scene after a year-and-a-half hiatus due to a nagging ankle injury. I returned back onto the ice in the late summer of '13, gradually readjusting to the feeling of blades on ice.  As I regained most of my strength in my right ankle, I slowly taught myself to jump again--starting with single jumps and on to doubles, and eventually, triples. 

I got new programs--"Clocks" by 2CELLO for my short and music from The Lone Ranger for the free skate--choreographed in late-July/early August, passed my Junior free skate test, and competed in a few local competitions in the fall. I received a bye to the 2014 Pacific Coast Sectional Championships in November and finished in 3rd place, which qualified me for Nationals in early January.  Concurrently, junior year was gearing up in full swing, and I was juggling a full schedule with four weighted classes along with the demands of training for Nationals. 

I placed a respectable 6th at the 2014 U.S. National Championships held in Boston with two clean performances--and triple-triples in both programs as well! I had very little expectations coming into Boston, as I was still re-familiarizing myself with the sport--training, jumping, and especially, competing--after taking such a long break. 

A few weeks later, I received news that I would be representing the USA at my first international competition, Challenge Cup, in The Hague, Netherlands. I was beyond ecstatic that I was selected onto Team USA, especially after receiving the coveted and my long-awaited Team USA jacket and other related team gear. And traveling to this competition would mark my first time setting foot on European soil--another added plus!

For the next month, I trained intensively. I was in better shape than I ever had been, both pre- and post-injury, and had increased the difficulty of both my programs with the addition of a 3Lz3T combination in both and a 3F in my free skate. However, two weeks before my departure date, my skates started breaking down. I frantically switched to a new pair of boots, which broke down in less than four days, and ultimately switched to a new brand (I'm now in Graf's). Throughout the process of having to break into new skates, I not only lost a week-and-a-half of precious training time but confidence in my jumps as well. Nonetheless, in the days leading up to my departure, I had regained most, if not all, of my confidence, and most importantly, my boots were in prime operative mode and everything seemed to be falling back into place at just the right time. 

I arrived in the Netherlands with hope and optimism that all would work out for the better. I ended up in 5th overall, after placing 3rd in the short and 6th in the long program. In the short program, I fell on the easiest jump, a 2A, near the end of my program. My free skate, in contrast, was a entirely different story. I slipped on the entrance flying sit spin early in the program and suffered a hard fall (and bruise) to my entire left side. I made several more mistakes after that, missing both 2A's, and unfortunately, I couldn't make it up point-wise to maintain a podium finish. Afterwards, despite the my strokes of bad luck leading up to this event, I was quite disappointed with not showing what I was capable of. I took this entire competition, however, as yet another learning experience that I could build off of in the future. On a brighter note, I did meet some amazing people throughout the competition, not only my teammates, but other competitors from various nations as well. 

With the end of the 2014 season marks the beginning of the upcoming 2014-2015 season. In the meantime, I'll be here at home in California continuing both my studies and training. I look forward to yet another exciting year in skating and hope to continue the momentum from the past season in the coming year. I'll keep you all updated!

- Kevin

 

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Kevin to make his international debut at the 2014 Challenge Cup

Big news! I have been assigned to compete at the 2014 Challenge Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, which will be held from March 6 to March 9. Words cannot express how greatly honored and excited I am to be making my international debut in a few weeks. Be sure to check out my blog in the coming weeks as I will be posting blog updates and photos throughout the competition.

Until then, see you soon in the Netherlands!

Sporting my new Team USA apparel

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Looking back on 2013

Celebrating Kevin Shum Day on the eve of 2014 in front of Oakland's City Hall

Looking back on 2013 as a whole, it's been one extremely tough journey—full of ups and downs, successes and disappointments, achievements and obstacles–and yet, I've remarkably managed to get to where I am right now, right here, stronger than ever. In retrospect, I’ve definitely matured and learned a great deal more about myself throughout the course of the year.

One of my biggest ‘developments’ or obstacles that I've faced this past year was returning back onto the ice and getting back into my pre-injured shape. It's been less than five months since I successfully returned to the competitive scene, and with the 2014 U.S. National Championships less than a week away, it’s almost felt too surreal that I will be skating among the best of the best and it's the Olympic year. Despite all the struggles I've faced--and continue to face--I feel so fortunate, grateful, and blessed to have been able to end the year on such a strong note. I have so much to be thankful for, especially for all the support I've received from my coaches, my close buddies, and my mom every step of the way. 

So here's to 2014: the start of a new year, the promise of new opportunities, new endeavors, and new experiences that hopefully will enrich our lives for the better. Hoping for an even greater, more exciting year ahead--2014, here I come!

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My skating story, so far

I was six years old when I laced on a pair of skates and took my first steps on the ice. I have vague memories of that day. All I do remember was that I clung onto the boards, all the while watching my brother in the corner of my eye effortlessly skating across the ice--one time around, then two times around, again and again. But I was still only meters away from the rink doors, cautiously taking small steps along the perimeter of the rink.

A lot has changed in ten years. 

No longer do I need to cling onto the boards. But getting to this point has not been easy. Saying that I've been through a lot is an understatement at best--it's been one hell of a journey. 

The beginnings

My early days of skating were marked by tagging along with my older brother. He started skating first, but not long after my first time on the ice, my mom signed us up for skating lessons at the local ice rink. I was enrolled in the lowest level, Snowball, while my brother was enrolled two levels above me in Beginner 2. While we both gradually moved up in the skating school achievement ladder, skating still was just a fun after-school activity we both did--hardly dreaming to become a competitive skater one day. 

We only went to the rink for the classes twice a week and 'practiced' during the given thirty minutes of ice time after our lessons. It was not until my brother was noticed by his group teacher, who noted his potential and how he could quickly improve with some private lessons. My parents reluctantly agreed, and we began to skate more often. Instead of wandering off or practicing on my own during my brother's lessons, I would stay in close proximity to him, close enough to see what he was up to and to hear what his coach was telling him to do. And then, I would attempt to imitate whatever my brother was doing. This continued on for some time, until the coach noticed my "yearning to skate" and my parents again reluctantly agreed to have private coaching for both of their sons.  

Thanks to the private coaching we received outside of group classes, we quickly began to ascend through the skating school, adding another ribbon and certificate into our ever-growing collection as we passed each level. I also began testing in the USFSA category, starting at pre-preliminary 1, and then got my first program (to Puttin' on the Ritz), and began competing at small, local competitions. Along the way, my brother's interest in figure skating began to diminish, and he eventually quit altogether. But I stuck with the sport, and it was something I looked forward to daily. I then spent more and more time at the rink, especially during the summer when I would basically "live" at the rink. My mom would drop me off in the morning, and I would stay until late-afternoon, skating up to six hours a day. I put more and more time and effort into skating, working harder, taking more lessons. 

But many sacrifices had to be made. All the free time I had, I would spend it at the rink. Playdates, sleepovers, family vacations--I had very few of them. Financially, it hasn't been easy for my family either. Skating is an expensive sport--coaching fees, competition fees, traveling fees, costume fees, ice time fees, and new skates add up to thousands and thousands of dollars a year at the expense of my parents' paychecks--but my family has been supportive the whole way through, which I can't thank them enough for. 

Junior nationals, 2008

I qualified to my first national championships in the Juvenile level after placing 2nd at Regionals. I didn't know what to expect when I arrived in Salt Lake City, but I had trained hard and was well prepared. I was still only ten years old, and I was in awe watching others effortlessly land double axels and triples. Then came the day for the qualifying round, and I surprised myself by placing first in one of the two groups. I dismissed my early victory as a stroke of good luck: I had skated my best when others faltered. 

Final round came two days later. I had to once again perform at my personal best in order to place in the top ten. The final result came by surprise--I ended up in first place. I had absolutely no expectations coming in to this competition, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would end up standing at the top of the podium during the awards ceremony. Initially, I didn't even believe I ended up in first. There must have been one other skater who did better than me, I thought. I even asked my coach to get my protocol and the printed final results to confirm my victory. I looked up to the very top of the list, and there my name was right next to the number one. I still couldn't believe it; I was in utter shock. 

The awards ceremony came right after my event. After receiving flowers, my medal, and a glass trophy, I remember thinking, This must be how all those Olympic champions on TV feel like when they receive their gold medal and a bouquet of flowers and wave to the audience and the millions of people watching from around the world. That was the moment that my dreams of becoming an Olympian began. I dreamed of the day that the American national anthem would be playing, and an Olympic gold would be hanging around my neck.

My (more than) fair share of double axels

After I came back home, I was instantly back into training. I was really motivated after the event to improve my skills and expand my jumping arsenal. First off, I was determined to get a double axel. But days, months, and even a year passed by with no luck. By the time the Junior National Championships in 2009 came, I still had yet to land a clean one. One whole year and still no double axel. I ended up in seventh that year in the Intermediate level--disappointing to say the least. 

When I got back home, I was even more determined to get that jump. Fall after fall, mistake after mistake, miss after miss, I felt devastated and frustrated and angry at myself. I knew and believed that I was fully capable of doing it, but attempt after attempt, my will was slowly diminishing. Even others--my coach, my parents--began losing faith in me. If I don't get this jump by the end of this season, I will quit, I swore to myself. But deep down, I knew I would never be able to give up this sport. I've lived and breathed skating for almost half my life, and I knew I could not give up that easily. I am stronger than that, I forced myself to believe. 

All that only pushed me to work harder and gave me even more motivation to prove them wrong. Then, on a summer afternoon, I landed my first double axel. 

Triples, triples, triples and 'big boy' nationals

After finally getting a double axel, triples were much, much easier to master. Within less than a year, I had a consistent triple salchow, toe and loop. Then came time for my first sectional championships in the Novice division, the 2011 Pacific Coasts. 

A week before the even, I caught a cold, and was feeling ill-prepared to compete. I had lost some precious training time and my stamina was running low. I managed to get through a short program with two triples, but popped a double axel at the end of my program and was in fourth place going into the free skate. Only the top four make it to Nationals, and I was cutting it close. Then came the day for the long program. Feeling uneasy that day, I made numerous mistakes throughout the program and ended up finishing fifth overall. That meant I did not qualify for nationals. I was devastated. I had came to Sectionals, only to end up as the first alternate. 

A week and a half before 2011 Nationals began, I got a phone call from USFSA saying that a skater, who ended up in the top four at sectionals, was injured and withdrew. Since I was first alternate, that meant I was going to compete in his spot; I would be going to my first 'big boy' nationals. My mom frantically booked hotel and flight reservations while I was training my programs once again. I had little time to prepare, but I came to nationals excited and nervous. 

The moment I stepped into the main arena, I was immediately wowed by how enormous the rink and arena looked. I would be skating on the same ice as the elite senior skaters, the same ice that is broadcasted on TV every year. Skating on arena ice was completely new to me: the lights were brighter, the ceilings were much higher, and there were seats surrounding the entire rink, up to the very, very top. This was all very exciting--I couldn't believe I actually belonged here as a competitor. I was in awe, and it was an honor to compete at the 'real' nationals. I had little expectations coming in--I was ill-prepared, and my main goal was to learn from this experience as much as possible. 

In the short, I botched a triple loop attempt and ended up in ninth. In the free skate, I landed three triples, but fell twice. Overall, I ended up in ninth place. The results to me didn't matter. I did my best under the conditions I was in, and since my job was done, I had a whole week to relax and enjoy watching the juniors and seniors compete for the national titles. 

I watched Ryan Bradley win his national title, and Alissa Czisny win hers. Watching the competitors warm up, get on the ice, the rare standing ovations, experiencing the vibe in the arena live, in person--it was all a magical experience. Next year, I hoped, I would rightfully earn a spot at nationals, for real this time. I was more motivated than ever before. 

San Jose, here I come

2012 Nationals would be in San Jose, California--a mere hour drive from my hometown and training town--and I knew I had to work harder than I ever had if I wanted to qualify and skate my best at the championships. 

By the time sectionals came, this time I was well-prepared. After the short program, I was in second place. However, the next day, I dropped down to third. Why? I had attempted a triple-triple combination, and someone realized that it was an 'illegal' element in the Novice Men short program. I had lost nine or so points, but luckily, I was still in qualifying position. With no time or energy to be weighed down with this 'controversy' as to whether or not the scores could be changed after they were posted officially, I went into the free skate knowing as long as I did my job, I would have no trouble making it to nationals. 

I landed six triples and ended up in second place overall. Nationals was just two months away. 

I worked harder than ever before, so that when the most important time came I vowed to have absolutely no regrets. I trained six days a week, mornings and afternoons--and I was exhausted by the end of the week, but I pushed on. I wanted to be on the podium this time so badly, and for this season, I had more expectations and pressure to skate well than ever before. Nationals was just outside my hometown, my training town. My parents would be watching, my family would be watching, my friends would be watching, my school and my community would be watching. The pressure was slowly building up.

When I stepped onto the arena ice for the first time, I instantly knew what I had to do: to go out there and to skate like I have been skating in practice. That's it. I hoped that my hard work was going to pay off. And it did, sort of. I skated a clean short, the best I've skated the program all year, and was in second place. By the time the free skate came, I was a nervous wreak and broke down from the pressure I felt. I popped the first three triples, but went on to land three other ones. It was barely enough to hang on to the podium--I ended up in fourth place overall. Backstage, I cried. I was devastated once again. How could I have missed three jumps in a row? I knew I could have done better, much better. I just wanted to go back out on the ice and erase what had just happened, but I couldn't. 

Injury and hiatus

One month after nationals, I started working on triple axels. And then, I sprained my right ankle on an attempt. I thought I would quickly recover from the sprain, but the pain never went away. 

A few months later, I got it checked by a doctor and was put into a cast and crutches. A whole summer went by, and all I could do was sit at home. It was a tough period to get through. I watched others skate, but I myself couldn't. I wanted to get back onto the ice, but I was stuck at home all day long. I didn't know what to make of it. Then, after I got the cast removed, the pain still lingered. 

I gave up skating altogether after I tried getting back onto the ice, with little success. I tried to remove myself from everything skating as much as I could and distracted myself with school and other stuff. I tried hard not to think that I would never be able to jump and skate again. I went to several doctors but there was no treatment for my injury available, except surgery. And that was it. I was at a loss, not knowing what to do next. My whole life since I was five, for nine years, was surrounded by this sport. Every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year my mind was thinking about skating, skating, skating. 

I tried my best not to think about it.

Recovery (kind of) and comeback

I went back to Hong Kong for more than a month this summer to get traditional Chinese treatment, like acupuncture, cupping and tui-na. My ankle felt better after the treatment, but it still was not 100% pain-free.

I slowly started getting back onto the ice, and though I still felt some pain, I started jumping and gradually got my strength back. I started doing triples again. My muscle memory, surprisingly, was still intact. Most importantly, my self-confidence, self-belief, slowly started building up again--I was back on the ice once again. 

Moving forward

I'm planning to return to the competitive scene, after a year hiatus. It's been one exhausting and extensive journey to one day be able to realize my Olympic dreams. But dreams, essentially, are still just dreams. I'm not sure how it's going to turn out, but nonetheless, I'm optimistic and hopeful as new challenges and a new season await. Hopefully, this is just the introduction, the start, and the beginning of my skating story. 

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Fall update

I started my junior year last week.  Unfortunately due to the combination of my training schedule, school, and SAT prep, I will only be able to blog occasionally until I adjust to this my hectic and busy schedule. 

So far, in the past month, skating-wise:

  • I passed my Junior free skate test and will be competing in Junior Men this year.

Me next to the competition arena

  • I competed for the first time in more than one-and-a-half years at a small, local competition. Since I was the only competitor, it felt more like I "performed," not competed. It was nice to get out there and skate in front of judges for the first time since my injury.

Also, don't forget to subscribe to my RSS feed (link is on the right) and get notified when new posts are published! 

 - Kevin

 

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A call to action: Stop comparing yourself to others

Look, she’s skinnier than me. She looks so pretty.

Her dress is so much nicer than mine.

She’s nine and she already has a double axel?! That’s not fair…

If you want to be content with your own self or your skating, just stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be others who you perceive as better than you--prettier, more popular, has better jumps or spins… But that's the problem. What you perceive does not equal reality. Maybe that other person who you have been obsessing about is just as self-conscious as you are, but she might be darn good at faking it. None of that comparing and jealousy will do you any good. 

You have to learn to embrace your strengths and differences, and use them to your own advantage. Maybe she does have better jumps than you--they're bigger, higher and is always the topic of conversation--but maybe you thrive under pressure when others crumble. Don’t just fixate on your weaknesses. Acknowledge them, and work on improving them. But, more importantly, use your strengths to your advantage. Pick music that you like, refine your choreography to suit your style, and make sure you express your strengths in your programs.

If all you care about is how another competitor acts, looks or performs like, remind yourself and reevaluate why you are in this sport. Is it to beat another competitor, or are you skating just for the joy of it?

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5 questions with Kevin

1. How did you start skating?

I started skating at the age of six when my mom decided that it would be a good idea to sign me up for some ice skating lessons at the local rink. I was spellbound by what the higher-level skaters could do--the spins, the jumps, the fast skating--and have been at it ever since. 

2. What part of skating do you like the best?

To me, figure skating is such a unique and interesting sport in that not only does the sport values both athleticism and artistry, but there’s always some aspect of my skating to improve on—always. Jumps, spins, choreography, skating skills, posture, carriage, interpretation, more jumps, more spins…and the list goes on. Most importantly, though, you have to make it look aesthetically pleasing and effortless. That’s the challenge that I strive to work towards every day.

Also, skating has given me the opportunity for me to travel to new places that I would not have otherwise been able to go to. I’ve traveled across the nation, from Salt Lake City to Houston, from Lake Placid to Greensboro, and across the world, from Hong Kong to Tokyo. Thanks to becoming a competitive figure skater, I’ve been to places that I would have never dreamed of going to.

3. Who is your role model?

I look up to many skaters, like Brian Boitano, Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi, Evan Lysacek, and Michelle Kwan. But if I had to choose just one, it would be Kim Yuna. Yuna’s jumps are textbook, her choreography sophisticated, her mind of steel. She has endured so much throughout her career, and yet, despite her successes, she has always maintained composure and humility.   I will always remember that she skated over to autograph my program after the ladies' free skate at the 2009 World Championships—thank you! 

4. Your best skating moment? 

Standing on the podium at 2012 US Nationals. I still remember that moment so vividly; it's still so fresh in my memory. Although I had a rough free skate, I was so lucky to have gotten a medal--a memento and something to acknowledge all the hard work I put in to training leading up to that event. 

5. Worst skating moment? Or most embarrassing? 

When I competed at a local competition in the Intermediate level, I remember throwing up at the end of my short program. I have since learned not to eat lunch right before I compete. 

 

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What I learned from the double axel

The double axel. The only forward-takeoff, two-and-a-half revolution jump. The most difficult jump I have mastered in my eight-year skating career. 

For some skaters from my experience, it takes on average at most a year or so to get this jump. For others, maybe ten months, six months, three months, or even two weeks. My friend landed it on her first day.

It took more than two years for me to get a double axel. Two years of tears, frustration, and despair. Fall after fall, it seemed as if I'd never be able to master it. That jump was a concrete wall ten miles wide that I could never seem to be able to break through. At times, I just wanted to quit. But I never gave up. Hundreds upon hundreds of fall per week never hampered my goal of mastering the jump, even as others around me--coaches, skaters, and my parents--lost faith not only in me, but in my skating. It was time to call it quits, they suggested. Without this jump, I wasn't going to get very far in my skating career. I was just wasting my coaches' time and my parents' money. Although it was tempting to give into my self doubts, I never let them control me or my will in mastering the jump. I remained optimistic through it all. Because I loved the sport. One jump wasn't going to change that.  

One afternoon, more than two years after my first attempt, after some five thousand failed attempts, I finally landed it. Finally.

Throughout the process, I learned to persevere though adversity, work towards reaching a goal, and find self-belief and confidence within myself, even when it seemed as if no one had faith in me. I knew that I was capable of landing this jump—I had mastered every double jump except for the axel—but the double axel proved to be one of the biggest struggles of my skating career. Knowing I was capable of the jump was one thing, but pushing through when you have every reason not to was what made the difference. I could have easily quit the sport then and there, but I didn’t.

As long as you never lose faith in your own abilities and potential, trust yourself, and never give up, it will happen.

Start from the basics, and continue from there. Think creatively. Work effectively and efficiently. Maybe you need to move to a different spot on that wall--change your surrounding environment. Or maybe you lack the right tools to succeed--get the fundamental tools, the support, and the necessary coaching. Perhaps you just need to slowly, but surely, chip away at that concrete wall of yours, chunk by chunk, piece by piece. Yes, it may take time, but honestly, nothing in life comes easy. 

If this helps, I'm still facing many other concrete walls to this day. 

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