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Flow…continuedI came away from my martial arts session this afternoon, somewhat amazed at how simple and easy things can truly be. In the study of Hapkido, which utilizes many joint and pressure point locks combined with kicking, hand striking and judo throws; a key tenet is the simple use of leverage against an opponent, as in the physical kind of “lever”
Leverage when truly obtained and utilized against an opponent is effortless. Even having practiced for over two decades, I continue to struggle and be amazed with this concept. When a technique is properly executed, as my Sensei would declare, “YOU FEEL NOTHING” no struggle, no heavy weight or energy exertion needed, no rolling a ball up a hill. But rather the expression of simplicity and ease.
This reality for me reflects to the rest of life and business. As a startup entrepreneur, I have seen a similar pattern, when the business model works it really works, and when it doesn’t, it is often slow growing, painful and an uphill battle to get clients. My conclusion and I know this is not true for all cases, pivot till you strike the true vein, vs. having to create the market. Both are possible but the first is much easier.
Understanding the natural flow of things, of people and of life and being able to adjust accordingly to adapt and utilize that to our advantage is the challenge at hand. For me I have started to realize that emptying my mind and being real in the moment, being able to listen and observe what is truly in front of me is the first part of the key.
I believe that flow is always evident, it is often a process of just letting go of my anxieties, fears, intellectual pre assumptions and simply just embracing what is there.
When something enters the circleMy Grand Master told me a story once about 3 monks walking down a road.
The first monk was younger and early in his training, and as he was walking down the road, all of the sudden heard a loud screeching noise from above, he looked up and saw a basketball size mass failing quickly towards his body. He immediately ran off the road and hid behind a large tree.
The second monk was well into his training, a physically skilled warrior, and when he was walking down the dirt road and heard the screeching noise from above, immediately readied himself as he saw the object coming towards him, destroyed it with a single blow.
The third monk was an old master, walking down the dirt road, and as he heard the screeching from above, looked up curiously and as the object approached him, held out his hands and caught it carefully using his body to absorb and displace the energy as he gently put the object on the side of the road.
The mother Hawk circling from high above, screeched a thank you, as she came down to inspect the fallen birds nest.
I have thought often about this story as it applies to my own life, and how important it is to not just react to a situation but to be able to be in a state of mind that can truly see what is happening as it enters my sphere.
Execution - A Key to Success
Posted from: 20442 Fortuna Del Sur, Escondido, CA 92029, USAExecution - a key to success. We are often reminded as entrepreneurs and leaders to focus focus focus.
Understanding what to focus on can take some time, but listening closely to clients, ones own gut, team members, and board members can often provide a good frame work for what is actually important to focus on.
But focus solves only 30 percent of the equation for success. Execution provides the rest. Execution is what really separates the amateurs from the professionals.
Great execution involves having a detailed understanding of the tactical methodology needed to achieve success.
It’s one thing to point a gun in a general direction and pull the trigger, it’s a whole different level of know how, to line up the sights to the way your eyes work, adjust the positioning of the weapon, maintain a proper grip and trigger pull coordinated with your body to launch a bullet to hit a target accurately, even a slight movement or hesitation can cause you to miss the target completely.
Technique aka “practiced knowledge” is the key to achieving this execution. Experience provides for a true scalable and repeatable capability vs. one hit wonders. As often referenced in the books Outliers and the Talent Code; correctly learned and practiced repetition is what really counts. Coaches and advisors can be of great assistance in helping you learn the proper techniques to use, bit nothing will replace actual experience. You can’t learn how to play golf or spar in a martial arts ring by just watching videos or reading books. You must actually practice on the course or the ring.
Skilled martial arts practitioners combine both focus on the target and great execution of technique. This is best exemplified by the simple understanding that great force applied to the right area of an opponent can be very disabling. Knowing the human bodies vulnerabilities is important, it tells us where to strike, but striking accurately with real force is an art.
Great execution in martial arts often involves using the whole body as a whip when making strikes to the opponent. The cracking sound of a whip being snapped represents a leverage of over 30x return on speed, hence breaking the speed of sound when we hear the mini sonic boom. The handle of a whip moves about 20 mph, but the end of a whip will exceed 760 mph, thus creating incredible force.
Remember Bruce Lee’s famous one inch punch. Tremendous leverage can be obtained whether striking in a ring or executing on a business model.
Reflection - the key to seeing
Posted from: 21224-21252 Questhaven Road, Escondido, CA 92029, USAA still pool of water sees what is around it with a perfect lens. The reflection is true and unbiased. But an agitated pool with ripples does not see the whole picture, but only parts of the image at different moments in time assuming the image is still.
Only when my mind is at rest can I see what is around me in a truly objective way. It is thru a stillness that the truth is revealed.
For example if when I am sparring with someone on the mat, it is difficult to focus my attention on the other person, if my mind is restless with thoughts of what kick, block or punch I should be using, or worrying about other anxieties or fears; all of this will make me more unfocused and less effective in seeing what is really happening at the moment. My best engagements take place when there is a natural flow, like dancing effortlessly, it’s a wonderful oneness that occurs within the moment.
Likewise when I am in a room presenting our company, it is hard to listen and read the true body language of people if my mind is not at rest. It is important that my own internal agenda and anxieties do not dilute the reflection of what is truly happening in the meeting. I believe that success with business partners comes from understanding the natural “flow” that exists between the parties. For me this ability to truly connect with the environment and others is key to being able to achieve the right results.
Sometimes another individual can be a great personal mirror. Someone that can look you in the eyes with no fear and “tell it like it is.”. Often these observations have come from my family, close friends and coaches in moments of perfect trust or fearless love. Their feedback has been invaluable for me to fine tune my own mirror in life.
Steve Jobs will be known as one of the great heroes of our generation. He has been a great inspiration to me as an entrepreneur, and will be solely missed. Steve understood the importance of user interface vs. feature based complexity. Steve led the way for raising the bar for all products and services; that they now must create a customer experience that truly delights us as human beings. Steve, I salute you for living your life and changing the lives of so many in this world!
Don’t Screw Your Investors!
A few weeks ago, I was having an interesting conversation with a fellow start up CEO friend of mine about investors and the dynamics of working with the board. I listened in detail as my friend talked about how “they” didn’t really understand the business and quite frankly were constantly making the wrong recommendations and or decisions about product, management and sales. Fairly quickly the conversation turned into an “us versus them” mentality, and about tactics of how to get rid of certain investors and or board members or how to ignore and marginalize there effective influence on the business.
Starting any business is just hard! The average success rates for any small business in the United States or globally for that matter are simply low to begin with. Rates of success vary by industry and business model, but generally it’s less than 50 percent, and closer to 30 percent in most cases. ( www.bitrebels.com/lifestyle/global-entrepreneurial-costs-success-rates-infogr… , , www.paulgraham.com/notnot.html )
I hear this tale quite often, about how we are getting screwed by the investors. Let’s remember that the average success rates of traditional venture backed companies still are even lower, given that it usually involves the creation of a completely new business model and technology that has never even been seen before!
One in ten investments may be out of the park, two of ten “might” break even and SEVEN of those investments will probably crash and burn. This is just the pure reality of it, even with the best ideas, management teams, technology, and investor/board members; that won’t make up for a market opportunity whose time has not yet come.
My advice to anyone raising money is to treat your investors as if they are also a founder, be transparent, and leverage their experiences and contacts as best you can! They put their trust in me and our company, and I consider them part of the team.
As such, I often need to spend an extra effort to keep my investors and board members updated on the business, this usually requires much more overhead than I initially anticipated; more communication than just the board meetings. I try to spend real time with each board member on a monthly basis in addition to the board meetings sharing ideas and getting their feedback.
I know that fundamentally, their goals are the same as mine, to build an incredibly successful business. I have found this process can sometimes be more tedious with certain folks, but at the end of the day, we are a team. Early on I learned that a cohesive board does not ensure success, but a divisive board almost certainly guarantees failure.
As a serial start up entrepreneur, I recognize that it’s truly a small world, and it’s always in our best interests to to take the high road, so my advice is to work with your investors not against them.
Embracing FearFor me fear has taken many shapes and forms over the years. It has comprised physical, mental and emotional realms often revolving around family and business.
Many of these fears derive themselves from manifestations of deep rooted anxieties that I have had; some since early childhood, of the bully down the street to that of not being perfect enough for those around me.
A tool that I often use to deal with fear is to simply just embrace it. I reference an image that a friend and life coach of mine once gave me, which is to imagine the physical manifestation of fear standing right in front of me and then for me to stand face to face with it, leaving my arms at their sides with my palms open, and letting it wash over me or perhaps even moving toward it and embracing it with my arms and hands.
I think it’s important to have acknowledgement and respect for my fears, but at the end of the day, what is really the worst thing that will happen; most often it’s some potential embarrassment or inconvenience.
In almost all cases the statistics of surviving a physical adventure, or an uncomfortable moment are on my side.
The greatest times of growth, have often been marked by my willingness to embrace the fear that exists within me, to live outside my comfort zone, and to continuously search for the truth in my life.
It was eight years ago, that my family suffered the unexpected loss of my first child.
I had to embrace the most important law of physics in my life, that the notion of control is really an illusion.
Control at it’s best to me is defined by how well I have navigated my life along the natural flow of people and things around me.
The reason I think of control as an illusion is that I know it could all change in a single unexpected quantum moment in time. Yes change.
Life is both wonderfully and tragically unpredictable. One day you find out you have won the lottery, the next day a flat tire.
It is from these moments that I am reminded about life’s delicate impermanence. Hence the cliche about trying to fully embrace life as it unfolds.
I have found an incredible power, a power derived from the absolute clarity that comes from being truly focused on a single moment, especially if I can be detached from all my fears and anxieties of both the past and the future. I believe that we all have access to this power of focus.
Being mindful is something that I try to do as much as I can, but it is a constant daily imperfect practice.
On White Ashes
(excerpts from translation by Rennyo Shonin, 1410-1499)
In silently contemplating the transient nature of human existence, nothing is more fragile and fleeting in this world than the life of man. Life passes swiftly.
Whether I go before others, or others go before me, whether it be today or tomorrow, who is to know? Though in the morning we may have radiant health, in the evening we may return to white ashes. When the winds of impermanence blow, our eyes are closed forever.
The fragile nature of human existence underlies both the young and the old. Therefore, in by understanding the meaning of death, we come to appreciate the meaning of this life, which is to be treasured because it is unrepeatable. By nature of true compassion, let us realize the unexcelled value of this existence, and let us live together with gratitude in our hearts.
The Art of War
I have always been fascinated with the ancient tenants of Chinese philosophy. Seeking the parables that have deep meanings and messages that have lasted thru the tests of time and are in fact simple and reflective truths about life in general.
Over the years I have reviewed several translations of The Art of War. It is my understanding from an Army Captain graduate, a required reading text at West Point Academy and probably a number of other military schools. Curiously today, there still exists some discrepancy on the actual origin of the authorship, whether or not it was really a famous leader in combat; like Sun Tzu or a lesser known civilian that had made the observations.
I have looked for meaning from the texts that I can apply to my life both personally and in business and I have distilled a central theme for over coming obstacles or opponents in battle.
Three simple truths, know yourself, know your opponent, know the terrain.
The first tenant about knowing yourself, is quite simple and deep. For me this is both a physical knowing, an intellectual knowing and a psychological knowing. It is from a third party objective point of view an un biased assessment of what my true skills and experience are and how they can be applied in the tests of life.
The second truth about knowing my opponent, for me I have found this to be easier in some sense, since I am more removed and can make more objective assessments. This involves homework, gathering information, studying the person, people or thing that I will need to overcome.
The third truth, knowing the terrain, is perhaps the easiest and most difficult for me. Clearly in a sparring match on the dojo floor, this is well defined, a specific footing, space, general rules of engagement and time. But in the world of business, truly understanding the terrain may be quite difficult, if one is launching a new business model, is it the right time? Will the current ecosystem allow it to flourish and grow? What resources for sales and marketing will be needed?
Hence in any battle, I have learned it is the oldest person in the room that is truly the most dangerous. Experience is often the true advantage on the battlefield of life.
As quoted from one of the translations of the Art of War
Be extremely subtle
Even to the point of formlessness
Be extremely mysterious
Even to the point of soundlessness Thereby you can be the director
Of an opponents fate