T H O U G H T   F O R   T H E   W E E K

"Mastery"

By David Baker, Denshi/Shihan,
Midtown Karate Dojo

karate~2.jpg (11499 bytes)There are few people who are universally accepted as masters in their respective fields.

Obvious examples are:
Michael Jordan in basketball
Albert Einstein in theoretical physics
Thomas Edison in electrical inventions

Yet, each of these masters initially failed. Jordan failed to make his high school basketball team until his junior year because he was too short. Einstein didn't talk until he was three and then failed high school mathematics. Edison's inventions each repeatedly failed before they ever succeeded.

However, each one reacted to his setbacks in the same manner.  Jordan became an inveterate gym rat. Einstein, on his own at 16, holed himself in a turret to study the physics that he loved. Edison struggled with each project, eventually patenting over 1000 inventions.

What we can learn from these examples about mastery is that  more than natural talent, more than goal-setting, more than anything, is the importance of perseverance through adversity and always pushing oneself to improve.

"Michael Jordan first made his mark upon the national sports scene when, as a freshman at the University of North Carolina in 1982, he scored the...deciding basket against Georgetown, finishing with a 17-foot two-pointer that clinched the NCAA championship for UNC. From then on, the 6'6" guard demonstrated a steady refinement typified by tenacity, competitiveness and a complete focus that only sharpened under pressure. His determination led UNC Coach Dean Smith to remark, 'I had never seen a player listen so closely to what the coaches said and then go and do it."

From http://www.insiders.com/wilmington/sb-sports.htm, the web site of Jordan's high school

Another obvious example of perseverance through adversity is Master Ueshiro's struggle after the Battle of Okinawa. Despite becoming injured, he transformed himself as the Okinawan equivalent of a gym rat ("dedicated deshi"), winning the All Okinawa Karate Tournament four consecutive years. Then, moving to the most expensive city in the world, he forged a life for himself, having no financial resources and knowing almost no one nor our language.

"I was surprised to discover that it wasn't necessarily the most talented who would persevere on the long road to black belt and beyond. I began to realize that although different people might take different paths to mastery, all of the paths led in the same general direction -- one that could be clearly mapped...

We call this journey mastery, and tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities. But mastery isn't reserved for the supertalented or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It's available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it -- regardless of age, sex, or previous experience."

From "Mastery," by George Leonard.

Please enjoy the discussions at your dojo or club and feel free to contact me with your comments.

Arigato,
David Baker
Denshi/Shihan,
Midtown Karate Dojo

P.S. If you would like to receive more excerpts from the Leonard book, please let me know so I can email them to you.

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