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Going Through the Motions

Black Belt Leadership
Published by John Terry - The Black Belt Leader in Leadership · 6 August 2020
Going Through the Motions
John L. Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader

One of the most challenging elements of martial arts training is kata. A kata is a series of stylized movements, blocking, punching, and kicking, also called a pattern or form in some Arts. Each rank advancement in traditional martial arts typically requires a student to demonstrate one or more kata as a prerequisite for promotion.

What is often NOT taught is that kata is also stylized fighting. Each of the movements in kata is performed in a specific sequence, in response to a confrontation or attack. By learning kata and the bunkai (real-life application), a martial arts student is engaging in predictable response training, building muscle memory to automatically respond to an attack with an appropriate defense or counter-attack.

To simply learn kata, without the corresponding bunkai, is like learning dance. It can look pretty, flowing, powerful, subtle, or amazing - but in reality, it is simply going through the motions. It might earn you an orange, green, or purple belt at the end of a rank advancement test, but it won't save your life if you are attacked.

To truly study kata is to be intentional. It requires you are deliberate in your learning both the movements and the corresponding applications. Further, it requires you to look deeper into the movements themselves in order to adapt them to fit various defensive situations you may find yourself facing in the future. To truly study and apply kata in a real-life setting is an ongoing pursuit of excellence. It is a commitment to a lifetime of learning.

Learning to lead ourselves, and ultimately lead others is much the same way. When we are given the opportunity to go to work for an organization, you are taken through an onboarding process where you "learn the ropes" of working and executing your duties and responsibilities. Nearly anyone can learn the basics of a job or position, and that's where most folks stop learning. They gain some level of competency, and then stop learning.

Far too many people simply go through the motions without looking deeper to discover what else may be learned, improved upon, or applied to achieve a better outcome.

Excellence by definition is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. It is a quality that distinguishes you from everyone else around you. Excellence is a pursuit, not a destination. It is a daily commitment to become a better version of yourself by daily doing what you do better than the day before.

The pursuit of excellence takes you beyond simply mastering the basics, but looking deeper into the job or position you hold to see if there may be a better, more efficient way to accomplish the task put before you. It is being satisfied that you did your best today, but not saying this is the best I will ever be able to do.

My mentor, John Maxwell, says, "Leaders develop daily, not in a day." He's right. When you get to the point in your job or position that you're simply going through the motions, you're no longer growing, getting better, or making a real contribution to the Team. You've become a cog in a machine, and a cog can be easily replaced.

Today's workplace, and our society as a whole, has become full of people who are content to be cogs. Simply monotonously going through the motions, content with a status-quo existence, and watching their lifelong hopes and dreams die a slow and tragic death. Passion is replaced by indifference, an attitude of uncaring about making a difference in the world.

Far too many people are living mundane lives, content to be average, mediocre, ordinary, or common when they are capable of so much more. Going through the motions is easy, anyone can do that. But simply going through the motions will never lead to a successful, meaningful life of significance.

Within every mundane task you do, there are opportunities to improve upon it, make it better, more efficient, more effective, more economical, or more productive. It is within your power to find those improvements, implement them, refine them, and teach them to others. That only happens when you refuse to settle for the status quo and choose instead to pursue excellence as a lifestyle - becoming a better version of who you are every single day.

So what about you? Are you OK with just being OK, or is there something burning within you wanting more out of life? Do you want to see more success? Enjoy living a life of significance? Making a difference in the lives of others?

If you want more out of life, you have to pursue it. If you want to see more success, you have to daily do what successful people do. If you want to enjoy living a life of significance, then you have to live a significant life of serving others, adding value to them, and finding a need and meeting it. Making a difference in the lives of others starts with you being intentional about living life on purpose, for a purpose, every single day.

That won't happen if you're content to go through the motions. Remember, excellence by definition is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. It is a quality that distinguishes you from everyone else around you. Excellence is a pursuit, not a destination. It is a daily commitment to become a better version of yourself by daily doing what you do better than the day before.

The pursuit of excellence takes you beyond simply mastering the basics, but looking deeper into the job or position you hold to see if there may be a better, more efficient way to accomplish the task put before you. It is being satisfied that you did your best today, but not saying this is the best I will ever be able to do.

Leaders develop daily, not in a day. So start developing, and don't start.

My book, Black Belt Leadership 101, is a great place to start learning to develop yourself.




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