I’ve had the opportunity, for the last two days, to spend time with leaders from other businesses in an amazing leadership training. It’s been insightful and I always enjoy the stimulating conversation and insights that come from these kinds of things. My preferred operating style is that of “Generally, I’m just me”. I say what I think needs to be said and I try to do my best to tie things together and offer the “Aha!” moments and share them.
Often, we take for granted the things we do or say. As a martial arts instructor, I explain things that, to me, seem routine or standard. At the office, I’m not always as aware of things I’m saying as necessarily impactful or substantive. In settings like a classroom or group setting, I don’t necessarily think people are paying attention to what I have to say. After all, who am I, right?
I had an older gentleman today, after the group had happy hour and dinner, one who has said very little throughout the sessions tell me how he’s observed me for the last two days and how inspired and impressed he was. I was really taken aback with the kind words he had, and the insight he shared with me over the course of a couple hours. He let me know how much it’s meant to him to hear what I had to share. Over drinks, we shared several personal stories, exchanged thoughts on philosophy, leadership, life, and learning. I can’t even explain the depth of conversation that we were able to delve into. Here was a scene: an old man – the CEO of a company – asking to understand and learn from me. What a humbling experience!
Among the dozen or so lessons I’ve captured thus far in this experience (here in the middle of nowhere in Massachusetts) – this one reminds me that being yourself, with honesty, and not holding back is always worth it, as is always asking the right questions to seek the answer, and having a good attitude embracing a mindset of learning, openness, and seeking meaning, because even though you may sometimes think it’s just for you, you never know who’s listening…you never know who will hang onto and take some unintentional lesson to heart.
In the business world and any space where people talk about success, they say that in order to be successful or be worth anything, “You have to be able to move mountains.”
Snowboarding is a difficult sport to learn, but once you have it, it’s fairly easy to master. Confidence and trust is huge when flying down a mountainside. Control is important in snowboarding just as it is in anything. However, it has to be the right amount of control. Not too little, not too much.
When doing forms in martial arts, it’s completely possible that one can perform his form too tensely and thereby, fail to flow. So is it with snowboarding. The moment you start tensing up and distrusting your abilities and lose confidence in your movement is the moment you will freeze up and fall.
So often, we are pressed with the need to have complete control and disallow ourselves to flow. I mention it before in another post, “Keep Calm and Mushin On…”, this idea of “no mind”. Snowboarding down a mountain is about moving with the mountain, not against it. Letting the snow move you and trusting yourself to flow with it is how it’s done. The moment you try to move the mountain to you is when you begin to become uncertain of your movements, tense up, then fall.
Same is the case sometimes with life. Every now and then, instead of trying to move the mountain, move with it. Bruce Lee once said, “Be like water, my friend.” Instead of always striving for strength and force, seek flow.
Some martial artists develop this ability to perceive attacks and react to them in the most natural way. It’s as the birds of the sky fly with the changing wind or the fish of the sea swim with the moving current. It’s a sense beyond that of sight, touch, hearing or any other.
It’s an automatic reaction and rebalancing that happens in response to one’s environment or situation.
Today’s battleground is not, for many of the civilian world, one of swords or combat, but of words, perceptions, social interactions, and politics. This is especially true in the workplace. The challenge is not to respond with fear, anger, or haste, but with a calmness and evenness to react appropriately.
Like the martial artist, the average person must seek to become more aware of the self, others, and surrounding circumstances. The awareness, at some point, has to be something that happens without trying. The goal is to develop this sixth sense that allows one to act with a sort of paradoxical “instinctive intention”.
This piece is the keystone for other traits, both in martial arts and in life and work.
Technique and skill alone is not enough.
Strength is also inadequate.
Knowledge, too, by itself is nothing.
Sense must be mastered if any of the rest is to be useful.