Skip to main content


What it Takes

Striving in faith, I forge a winning heart and mind.

Victory—Brandon Poythress in Dallas, October 2022. Photo by Albert Ybarra.

by Brandon Poythress

I pulled into the lot of the Dallas Buddhist Center a little after 7 a.m., next to a lone, empty-looking sedan. Tucking a change of clothes underarm—white shirt, black pants, red tie, the uniform of the Gajokai—I clambered out, knocked on the car’s driver side window and waited for my friend’s sleepy face to appear there. He’d been reclined in the seat, asleep, still in work clothes from the graveyard shift he’d got off from less than an hour before.

An hour from now, people would come to the center, and he’d be there, greeting them, keeping the center safe. Because of him, people could gather here, study Buddhism at ease and rejuvenate their lives.

“Your spirit, man…” I said, searching for the right words, “Your spirit is just awesome! You made it—thank you!” I handed over the clothes. “We keep making causes like this, and no doubt, something’s gonna give.”

This last bit I said for my sake as much as his; the two of us were in the same boat, more or less, stuck with jobs we weren’t happy with, striving in faith to summon the courage, wisdom and practical ability to land better ones. 

Just two weeks earlier, in March 2022, I’d been a data engineer, a position I’d worked hard to get, under a boss who challenged me to grow. While I was technically unqualified, this boss had nonetheless promoted me the year before. I’d earned his trust with my Gakkai spirit. Every project he threw my way, big or small, I responded: “Yes, I’ll do it!” Often, I wasn’t sure that I could, but the training I’d received supporting SGI activities had taught me to respond to every challenge with a resounding “Yes!” trusting myself and my comrades to come up with a solution. 

Unfortunately, the company ran aground. Now, I was back in an entry-level position. Coming home frustrated my first day, I’d written on the whiteboard beside my altar: DATA ENGINEER BY MID-JULY and the salary I wanted. To the right of this I’d written a column of names—the young men in my region whom I was supporting in faith. 

I’d set my sights on mid-July because it was when my region would commemorate the founding of the young men’s division. I prayed that, toward this meeting, each guy, including me, would be victorious. 

At my new job, however, there wasn’t a promotion opportunity in sight. As the days wore on, my apathy grew. 

One day, as I watched passively a co-worker set up a workstation, he stopped and said, “If you think this work is beneath you, Brandon, you probably shouldn’t work here anymore.” 

Shaken, I chanted that night, reflecting. Instinctively, I reached for Discussions on Youth and opened it to the section titled “Finding Happiness in Your Work.” In it, Ikeda Sensei urges youth to become first-class individuals at their jobs.

Renewing my determination, I regained the trust of my colleagues and in May was ranked No. 1 on the team. I kept my sights on mid-July, studying data engineering daily, determined to create opportunities. 

I really did need a better job. In June, an old debt’s deferral period ended, and the payments put me on a financial diet. Leaving my car at home, I bussed and biked in 100-degree weather, a three-hour round-trip commute. Home by 8 p.m., I was back on the road, in my car by 9. Finances what they were, I now drove exclusively to visit the young men in my region. 

Brandon (center) completes his Gajokai shift, Dallas, July 2022.

Leaving my comrade, the night watchman, after a visit ahead of his night shift, I asked him how he was feeling. 

“Good,” he said, “hopeful.” His prayer was to get a regular 9-to-5 job that would support a steady daily Buddhist practice and free him to support more shifts at the center. By mid-June, he’d secured just such a job. He was leading by example. 

Even as my finances dwindled, I felt joyful, confident that the causes I was making would bear fruit. 

On July 7, less than a week before the young men’s meeting, they did. My former boss who’d promoted me called to ask if I was interested in a job to lead data analytics for his friend’s company. There must be a misunderstanding, I thought. Aloud, I said, “Yes!” 

His friend, the company’s CEO, later told me he was looking for an IT director to pioneer the company’s data infrastructure and asked if I could learn.

Why was I recommended for this—something I have no experience in? 

“Yes!” I said. 

He said he’d circle back after the weekend, the same weekend as the young men’s meeting, which was an absolute success. 

On Monday I went in for an interview, nerves trembling. The CEO reiterated all the skills I lacked and again asked if I could learn them. 

“Whatever it takes, I’ll learn.” This was the breakthrough victory I’d been fighting for.

On Friday, July 15, the CEO offered me the job at the exact salary I’d written on my whiteboard three months prior. Even better, many of the young men who fought toward July’s meeting had breakthroughs of their own. After supporting this month’s kosen-rufu gongyo meeting, this time in his own uniform, my comrade, the former night watchman, received a call from a company willing to pay him to learn software development. Like me, he lacked the experience required for the job. What he did have, and what impressed them, was the Gakkai spirit to welcome new challenges.

With deep appreciation to the SGI, which made me who I am today, I’ve increased my monthly Sustaining Contribution. My prayer is that many more SGI centers will be built as training grounds where youth can develop the conviction that when they strive in faith, they’ll win in life.

Instead of moaning that a job differs from what you’d like to be doing … become a first-class individual at that job. This will open the path leading to your next phase in life.

Ikeda Sensei, Discussions on Youth, p. 77

Be Champions of Wisdom, Diligently Training in Practice and Study!

Education For All