Monday, September 29, 2008

Mastery, Part Two

I wrote earlier about one aspect of my exposure to masters over this past year. Another way I've studied Mastery has been by taking in the works of masters.

My other hobby is writing. I write fiction, tech writing, ad copy and nonfiction. I've been published a few times. Even paid now and again. As I transition my life, I'm finding more time to write and to take this hobby more seriously.

So recently I've been reading fiction the way all of us watch a boxing match. Sure, it's entertaining. But it's also educational. We learn from our analysis of the match, we enjoy it on another level because of a professional understanding.

I won't bore you with the insights on how to write a detective novel or a young adult fantasy. Suffice to say, looking at the work of masters through the lens of mastery has aided my writing.

And, since I've got you, some fiction to check out when you have some time:

  • Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)
  • Love That Dog (Sharon Creech)
  • Looking for Rachel Wallace (Robert B. Parker)
Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mastery, Part One

I'll take full responsibility for never really connecting with a master. Sure, there were a dozen unanswered letters and a couple missed connections. Seems the folks I wanted to chat with didn't want to chat back. Still and all, maybe one more phone call or letter or candygram might have gotten some attention.

Instead, I've spent some time thinking about the masters I've had the privilege of working with. Some are master martial artists and master teachers, like Sokei McNeil, O Sensei Phil Porter, Professor Cacoy Canete and Master Lee Sprague. Others are masters of their own profession or avocation, like my grandmother the gardener or Tom's coaching skills.

Through watching and listening, and then thinking about what I heard and saw, here is what I've learned about mastery from my time with these folks.

Unconscious Competence. Masters own what they know. They own it so well that they do amazing things without apparent effort. What's more, they own it so well that when some dumb rookie challenges their opinions, they aren't threatened. They simply answer the question as if it actually made sense to ask.

Humility. Masters spend time in the presence of other masters. They spend time contemplating their subject, which is always bigger, older and more significant than they are. This breeds humility. And humility breeds kindness and patience.

Love and Enthusiasm. Simply put, a Master loves what they study. They would have to in order to stick with it long enough to become a master. This love and enthusiasm are infectious, energizing those around them and inspiring us to learn more.

Comfort with Self. Truly owning a skill breeds confidence. This confidence becomes a part of somebody until that somebody is truly comfortable with who he/she is. This comfort is visible in how a Master treats others, accepts challenges and views the world.

I'm certain there are more, and I hope to become a Master in my own right so as to experience them all some day. But meanwhile, that's what I've perceived from the outside looking in.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, this is different...

Suddenly I'm a stay at home dad.

As I've mentioned, I sold a portion of my school to another local dojo. Moved my operation to part time and put out applications with local law enforcement. Well, my move-out date was 9/1. My applications are still in process (this takes months).

So here I sit with a 10 hour work week after a whole summer pushing 80. This is what it feels like not to be exhausted.

I have to say, I could get used to this. I have time to see to those little nagging house projects. I get to cook more often. I play with my son daily, for hours. I have a chance to write more.

In a few weeks, I'll be out there serving and protecting. In a little less than a month, I'll be busting a gut in Seattle.

But for right now, halftime sure is nice.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Did McCain Read Our Website?

There's been a lot of bad drama surrounding the Republican National Convention this year. Come to think, there's been a lot of bad drama surrounding Republicans in general lately. But, I have to hand it to John McCain on this point.

When Gustav hit, he turned the whole Convention for a day into a PBLT event. He did like coach Tom is telling us to do:

  • Find a need in your community.
  • Create a way to help fill that need.
  • Cash in shamelessly on the resulting publicity.

It doesn't change my opinion on the behavior of our current administration. It won't even get me to seriously reconsider who I'll vote for come November.

But for this one thing, good on you Mr. McCain. Way to lead by example.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goin' Camping

Just finished what's probably my favorite week of the whole year.

Every summer, I take as many of my students as want to go out camping at the Oregon Coast. We've had as few as 7 and as many a 60 takers over the years, with this year coming in at about 25.

I always love watching the kids spend endless hours just digging in the sand, jumping waves, exploring the dunes, finding sand fleas and jellyfish and starfish. This year, through the lense of having recently read Last Child in the Woods it was particularly interesting and powerful.

We really don't let kids spent enough time out doors.

Come evening, it was campfire time. Most of the kids took turns to tell campfire stories. Ghosts and farts, mostly, while we ate our s'mores. Then came my turn to tell one, which I'll share here. This is the true tale of Sifu Jason and the Japanese Gangsters.

While living in Japan, I would often stop at an all-night noodle place on the way home from whatever adventures I had that day. This particular night (my birthday), at 1 or so I stopped in. Waiting on a bench were three men in nice suits, clearly liquored up and having a great time. I smiled and placed my order.

In walks a very attractive (and distinctly mammalian) young woman. The three men glom onto her, surround her. They're talking to her suggestively, touching her. She walks away from them. When they follow, I step in between. Not looking at the men, but looking at the menu on the wall.

One guy puts his finger on my shoulder, sort of pushing me. I don't move. He starts talking to me. "Yakuza des!" He hollers, basically telling me he's Yakuza, or a member of the Japanese mafia. I have no idea to this day if he was telling the truth.

Me, I grab his hand and shake it. With a big smile, I say "Hajimemashte, Yakuza san. Jason des!" ("Good to meet you, Mr. Yakuza. I'm Jason".)

What followed was five or ten minutes (give or take an eon) where this guy threatened and insulted me. Every time he said anything to me, I answered in Japanese as though he had asked me some inncuous tourist question:

"Oh, I've been here a little more than a year."

"Yes, I love Japan. It's a little hot in the summer, though."

"I'm staying over by the Suwa Temple."

"I work at the English School."

Stuff like this, with a big dumb tourist smile on my face. Finally, this gangbanger grabbed my finger (my ring finger, not my pinky) and threatened to have some people cut it off. To which I responed "O-keikon genai" (No, I'm not married.

At this, he threw his hands in the air, shouted "Bakagaijin" (Dumbass foreigner) and stormed out of the restaraunt, his friends in tow.

I tell that story when it seems appropriate. I'm pretty proud of how I handled that. Nobody got hurt. I protected the lass. I didn't get killed by Japanese gangsters. And all it cost was a little verbal abuse.

Thanks for listening.