Let's end this thought with two real-life examples of how the overall concept of self-awareness/evaluation can work to improve your life; should you choose to pursue it.
First Example: On a personal level, my formal training was pretty dogmatic. I've written about a little of my personal background and how severe it was in many regards. Not many know that I've never NOT had a job; my first at age 10 making $7.50 per month as a janitor in a machine/wood shop sweeping up metal tailings from the lathes and and sawdust from the saws. My college was also pretty specific since I majored in finance and economics after which I became a bank regulator working for the government. I participated in closing banks, putting people in jail for defalcations and firing bank presidents for incompetance. (Pretty black and white huh?).
I was so "fixed" in place that my Aikido Sensei told me that I was a "book person" meaning that I categorized everything and lived life by a rule book. At the time of course I didn't understand viscerally and the intellectual comprehension didn't do a thing for me. I was clueless.
Time marches on (sounds like an old WW II newsreel doesn't it?) and as my career advanced and I moved up the corporate ladder I eventually found myself working for the RTC in asset liquidation and recovery (that's a wonderful "weasel phrase" for "You owe the bank/RTC money so pay up or I'll litigate your pants off)". Still pretty black and white huh?
One day I woke up.
The "great awakening" occurred during two events that basically changed my entire view of the universe. My father died and I filed for divorce from my ex-wife. During the internal crisis these events created in me, I suddenly realized just how negative my attitude had become. Twenty years of very rigid self-discipline and formalized training; twenty years of being a government regulator and of working with the FBI and other authorities to put people away, years of litigation and liquidation had created within me a very reserved, very dictatorial, very negative person.
Long story short; when I realized this I spent a long time looking inside myself with the end result being a second marriage to a woman totally unlike my ex, my mother or anybody else. She was/is unique and her own woman and a great "Positive" in my life. I quit my job because it was lucrative and highly professional but negative in nature and in attitude, allowing no positive outlook, no creativity and no individuality. Go to work, follow the rule-book, don't deviate, be a drone. I became self-employed and chose my work and who I will take as a client.
I simply became a whole new person because I took advantage of a personal crisis to do what I had advised others to do but had never actually done myself; look inward and evaluate who I was and what I held as my core values. Because I did this, resulting in major changes in my life, my job and my family status, I became a much better Aikido player than I ever could have without the critical self-study. In fact I believe that I couldn't run a dojo today if I hadn't changed; the "book person" being unable to work with people, much less carry a positive attitude to work/dojo/home every day.
Second example (or opportunity for whomever might fit this one): An acquaintance is an attorney and works as a public defender, having decided at some point in the career that they'd rather do some public good in defense of the downtrodden instead of finding work at the Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam and Howe (I know some of those too but that has to be a different blog-thought.
To examine this one lets' look very quickly at a comparison. A corporate attorney deals with serious business people who are productive executives, forward looking, making money and likely employing lots of people. The attorney is consulted on contract law, maybe a few patent cases, the occassional lawsuit and if they become involved in large cases like asbestos/tobacco/silicosis then they truly are helping the downtrodden find justice.
A PD (pubic defender) deals with the other end of the spectrum; crooks, drug dealers, crack addicts, child molesters and the like (take your pick, they likely didn't graduate cum laude as "Most Likely To Succeed"). So the PD chooses to work this end of the spectrum to make a difference. OK. I guess I can see that but as the hard core guy that I am my general thought is usually lock'm up, throw away the key and let them have a few years of taking a sledge hammer and making little rocks out of big rocks, Cool Hand Luke style.
Here's the rub. We go to work on Monday at 8 and leave on Friday at 5. During the course of that week we sit through 6 interrogations, 15 confessions, 3 attempted suicides, 5 examinations of tainted evidence, 4 taser demonstrations, 8 court/bail/arraignment hearings and 2 actual trials during which the best we can accomplish is to keep our client off death row while the judge blows a gasket and almost makes us and our client roommates at "Club Fed" becuase we didn't get that brief filed on time for the career criminal/crack dealer/capital offense case.
All-in-all not near as positive or fun a week as the corporate attorney at Dewey, Cheatam and Howe has had, plus, as a PD our clients don't take us to lunch at Morton's or Ruth Cris and we dont' get any good cigars at Christmas either.
So Public Defender, how many years of this can you take before you become as negative, dogmatic and pedantic as I became after 20 years as a government regulator & litigation expert, investigating defalcations, helping indict white-collar criminals and living in court rooms as an expert witness while suing to execute on personal guaranty agreements and taking everything that the borrower has or can ever hope to have, forcing them into personal bankruptcy?
How many years of daily contact with the failures and dregs of society can a PD take; the attitudes ("The Man had it in for me"), the lame excuses ("I was framed."), the lies ("I promise to be better") before seeing the same guy for the 4th time except different charges (possession instead of dealing). How much can any sane/non-sociopath take before they begin to identify with their "dreg's client?
Worse yet, how many times does the PD have to defend someone really bad, like a murderer of an entire family of strangers, or the beating and maiming of a parent or sibling, or the sexual abuse of a child and then meet the client for the first time only to have them confess, look at you as their PD and then tell directly tell you, "Yeh, I did it and now it's your job to get me off!" How much can you take?
OK. So where is (your) moral outrage, or have you done this so long that you no longer remember what that means?
It's one thing to defend someone who has done something relatively minor for the first time and deserves a second chance and it's another entirely to knowingly defend and attempt to get off a repeat "client"/confessed child molester/murderer and go into court knowing the truth. How does one do that and then go home to the wife and daughter and tell them that you, "Had a good day today".
How do you do that with a straight face and then look in the mirror day after day, month after month, year after year and not have it change you?
The time I spent in bank regulation and asset recovery was valuable but as it turned out, it was only time to understand the full picture and get my resume punched. My life didn't change for the better until I looked up and saw how much negativity had crept into my life and I took steps to mitigate it. I had to make that change before I became someone that I wouldn't like and that today knowing what I now know, I wouldn't even let in the door of my dojo because of the negative energies they exuded.
Same for the Public Defender; how negative does the PD's life have to get before making the change to anything that has a more positive life force attached to it?
None of this is easy and granted, the examples I've laid out are more extreme than what most people face in their daily lives simply because the comparisons are so clear. This really can apply not only to regulators and public defenders but to many areas; the mortgage broker lending to people who wont' be able to afford it when the ARM triples the monthly payment, the attorney in family practice who always takes the "sympathetic" side and ensures that the other spouse gets hosed even if they really are the good guy, the insurance agent who sells incomplete coverage because they want the commission, the restaurant owner who sells tainted food, the day care operator who hires sexual predators, and the list goes on and on and .........
How long can you cheat someone before you become the cheat?
How do you separate your "professional" persona from your "personal" persona? How long can you try before they bleed over into each other?
Anytime we KNOWINGLY do something that we know is morally and ethically wrong, that we would spank our kids for doing, and then rationalize it away with such tripe as, "I'm doing the public good" or "He/she needs my help" or "If I don't do this then the next person will and they may not be as nice as I am" we are running the risk of changing who we are to the point that someday we'll look in the mirror and not only be unable to stand naked and count backwards from 100, but we won't even know who we are and we'll stand there looking at a burned out stranger and wonder what happened to that nice person we knew back in college who had so many dreams for the future.
Looking inside to see who we are and why we react the way we do and why we carry the attitudes and beliefs that we do and then understanding that our work, our family, our environment can create who we are without our realizing the impact is key to making positive life changes and being more open and receptive to the lessons of ethics, morality and Budo.
How Long Will It Take? ...... for you to transcend your old paradigm and shift to a new one?
How Long Will It Take? ...... before your vision broadens and your open eyes begin to see what is, instead of your closed eyes seeing what isn't?
How Long Will It Take? ...... to understand who you are and why you make the decisions that you do?
How Long Will It Take? ......for you to see whether or not your life and career are positive or negative and whether or not it has had any negative effects on your character?
How Long Will It Take? ...... for you to make the change to a positive paradigm so that people like being around you?
L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX