Business insights from the martial arts
Earlier this summer I was on the fence about starting tae kwan do. My son wanted lessons, but I would have to drive him. We knew people who took lessons and loved it. But the lessons seemed expensive. Our days were already full with work, school, and existing activities. Then again, we needed more exercise. All of us – including me, needed a bit of an incentive to prioritize our physical health.
Then in a kismet moment, I saw a discounted tae kwan do membership available on the school fundraising site. Every family has a suggested annual donation. The family donations pay for small class sizes, art, physical ed, and many other services. By buying membership I would help satisfy my family’s school contribution and jump-start our tae kwan do journey. So I bought the membership.
I thought the physical training would be good. The studio is named Gold Medal because the founder won the 1992 olympic gold medal for tae kwan do. He now owns four successful tae kwan do studios. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a mayor!
The lessons are awesome. With our membership we have an hour-long family workout twice a week. To say tae kwan do is just exercise though is to miss a big part of the value.
Each month Gold Medal has a life theme. These themes help students see the bigger picture. Here are the life lessons we have learned so far.
Tae kwan do teaches you to focus. Students need to focus on their instructor to understand the huge array of kicks, punches, and blocks. At first glance many kicks seem the same. By focusing on the details you learn how to successfully spar in a multitude of situations. The instructors say that in any crowded room you should know which kids study tae kwan do. The other kids might be running around. By contrast, kids who study tae kwan do will be paying attention to their surroundings. Focus in business is often very difficult. Email, meetings, internet, and other distractions constantly threaten our focus. By learning to come back to a place of focus quickly [after distraction] can mean all the difference in achieving results.
At the beginning of each lesson and at the end, students take a moment to pay respect. They acknowledge their teaches for the lessons imparted. They acknowledge their parents for taking them to and from the studio. They acknowledge their peers for the community that has been built. Think about the teams you have worked with? Which are your favorite? I bet they are the teams that show respect. They acknowledge each other’s contributions to the team goals.
In addition to the ongoing themes of focus and respect, Gold Medal has monthly lessons. Our first month was responsibility. At the end of every class in August, the instructors would ask about responsibility. What does it mean to be responsible? Why is being responsible important? How does responsibility grow as you get older? What are the consequences of not being responsible?
The kids learn that their responsibilities are rather narrow. They need to take care of themselves. But as they grow older, their responsibilities grow in both scope and importance. They learn that un-responsible adults might not be able to support their families. Tae kwan do students learn that responsibility grows with mastery. Once they can take care of themselves they can start to grow their responsibilities. As adults, they will be chosen for leadership positions only if they prove responsible with smaller roles first.
This month, Gold Medal is focusing on courage. The instructors asked the class if they know people who are always courageous or people who are always scared. Then they gave a powerful life lesson. Practice give you confidence. Confidence gives you courage. Think about the applications of this for a moment. Public speaking. Coding. Leading a project. Trying something new.
In tae kwan do you earn different belts based on your experience. Students start as a white belt and they can eventually test for a yellow belt. They earn the yellow belt by mastering a traditional form, which is a routine of kicks, punches and turns often used in sparring. The instructors point out how every white belt starts off as unsure of the yellow belt form. Through practice though students gain confidence. Once confident students can have the courage to take the belt test.
We’re getting close to the end of 2016. Pretty soon many of us will be making plans for the next year. Think about the skills you’d like to practice. Maybe you’d like to practice leading projects. Or you’d like to practice digitally engaging your customers via social selling. Maybe you want to gain the confidence to transform how work is done at your company.
My advice is to set goals. Practice them. Gain the confidence to achieve the next level of success. And, of course, leave some time to exercise.