A kick to the head

I’ve been “doing” karate since I was a teenager, and I keep going despite the fact that I’ve only recently achieved my black belt, and have just the one trophy to my name. Observers may wonder why I’ve failed to do more than that in nigh on 17 years. I ask the same sometimes. Grades and competition are vital parts of karate to keep it living and breathing, but not the be-all and end-all.

Thinking lately about what value it might be bringing me beyond, say, fitness, brought me to this: we claim all the credit for a success, and none for a failure. We could be talking about your business, or the university department you work in, or a karate club: someone wins an award, beats off the competition, and the club is happy to present it as the result of their input, the special combination of their particular style and their drive.

And then someone doesn’t do as well as expected: well, they didn’t put enough effort in, maybe they don’t have the right potential (or the judge was biased). The idea that this perceived failure is also a result of what the business/club/faculty did – or chose not to do – is never entertained.

Repeat this, wax on wax off, time and time again and soon enough your best talent go elsewhere – often to work for themselves so that credit and responsibility all goes to the end of the same line. So you go out to hire more talent (hire another expert, hire another expert) and on it goes, wax on wax off…

In karate, this isn’t always so bad – I’ve found that the best people are the ones who are prepared to stick at it, and if they do the outcome is always expertise, regardless of percieved talent. Other areas of endeavour  can be far less forgiving.

(Oh yeah, here’s my club.)


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