I’m involved in a partnership venture called SEO Ann Arbor. My business partner is Don Prior, who owns Network Services Group, LLC, just about the greatest computer services business on the planet. If you want a computer network that actually does what it’s supposed to do (a radical notion!), and experts who actually communicate in English, get hold of Don. He’s also the guy to talk to if you want to learn how to lose 60 pounds in 6 months or if you simply want to meet a bad mutha … shut your mouth! Just talkin’ bout my man Don. And you can dig it.
But the reason I brought Don up is that we were talking about some of the things that go into building a business, and that led us to a conversation about how to get good at martial arts (we’re both fairly highly ranked in Japanese martial arts). Don summed up the core of the conversation by saying, “Let’s face it, everything worth doing takes time and effort. There’s no way around it.”
Does Everything Good Come from Fighting?
The next day, Ian Gray, author the blog DissociatedPress.com, responded to something I wrote in an email by saying that, “it’s an interesting reflection on the human race that one of it’s earliest personal development systems is martial in origin.”
Buncha Lazy Humans
So it occurs to me that, a lot of time, humans don’t do the hard work needed to really excel at something unless they’re forced to. When another clan of Samurai warriors is raiding your village every few months, that kind of forces you to figure out how to protect yourself. If a whole country is composed of groups of warriors who go around fighting with one another for a few hundred years, there’s going to be a pretty high sense of urgency to develop good weapons, good tactics, and good attitudes about how to live in an atmosphere of war.
That’s how the Japanese came to develop such fantastic personal development systems. They probably would have loved to sit around eating sushi and playing Pachinko, but everybody would have been kicking their ass all the time. And if you happened to be a Japanese hippie who wanted to flash everybody peace signs and wear tie-dye, you were definitely going to end up working for a guy who learned how take over villages really well.
Don’t You Wish Somebody Was Trying to Take Over YOUR Village?
Unfortunately, nobody is running around trying to hack up our villages anymore (actually, they are, but most of ‘em are way over in the Middle East, so most of us can conveniently ignore them). So what’s a guy or gal who wants to get really, really good at something supposed to do? With even a moderate amount of sense, most of us lucky enough to be Americans can easily earn enough to own a car and drink Starbucks every day. Kinda takes away the urgent need to become incredibly good at something, doesn’t it?
So sometimes you have to make your own urgency. There’s a really fun way to do it, and you can make a lot of friends at the same time. What you can do is choose a field or a craft and begin to work at it. Which one you choose is up to you, but the fact is, most of us have an activity or two that really gets us excited. Figure out what that is – that’s the one to choose.
What the Heck Does “Internecine” Mean?
Now, here’s how you create your own little internecine conflict that will help keep you motivated and move you toward mastery. Get involved in a group of people who are doing the thing. Get very involved.
But there’s a trick. To get the most out of this, you’ll want to arrange your psychological approach in a way that best suits you. If you work best as part of a group and like lots of support, join a faction of the group, and do your best to develop skills that align with the views and methods of that group. If you’re an instigator, start poking holes in the methodology of all or part of the group, and look for any good sense that comes out of the response. If you’re a lone warrior like the well-known Miyamoto Musashi, study the group’s methods from afar, but steadfastly develop your own methods, and take steps to ensure that yours are better than those of the group. If there are competitions, compete, alone or as part of your faction.
You Ain’t Bored. Go Outside and Play!
And watch out for “boredom.” If you picked an activity that truly moved you at the outset, boredom is rarely an accurate emotion. In my fifty years of working toward mastery of a wide variety of activities, I’ve noticed that what we experience as boredom is almost always the result of a defense mechanism against one of two events: (1) when we run into a problem that we don’t know how to solve or don’t think we have the resources to solve; or (2) when something about the activity scares us, maybe an encounter with somebody who is significantly better than we are or a realization that the path we’re on will take us someplace uncomfortable.
Get Busy Fighting, You Darn Hippies!
Getting through those barriers is a topic for another column. To sum up the point of this one, there’s no question that everything truly worth doing takes time and effort. Because we are inherently energy-preserving creatures, we won’t automatically devote the time an effort needed to become really extraordinary at something. But you can help yourself become extraordinary by putting yourself in the midst of a culture that motivates you to work at your craft. And to get the most out of that culture, tailor your involvement in such a way that it works best with your personality. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.