Today's the first day of 2009 and right about now everyone is sitting with a cup of coffee in one hand and a pen in the other diligently writing out all the resolutions that they aren't going to follow through on during the year.
You know the ones; I resolve to lose weight, get back into shape, be nicer to the doorman, kiss my dog and not beat my spouse and pet my kids more often (huh? Wait a second, I got that backwards!) ..... oh bother! .... never mind!
So of course what else would you expect Sensei to do other than to encourage everyone to make that resolution to go to class and spend more time on the mat?????
I recently was sent an email by one of my black belts who, as part of his resolution (actually made back before Christmas ..... it WAS Christmas by the way and not some arcane "Holiday Season") has pledged to me that he will learn "X" Kata (several actually) and hone them until they shine all in preparation for doing a mid-level Yudansha promotional demo by the end ot 2009.
We'll see. I know that he has all the right intentions but I've been in this game of professional level martial arts long enough to understand just what a big wad of double-bubble he's bit off especially when dealing with me. My performance expectations are reasonable but high so if he, or any other of my Yudansha, want to chew that cud, then I'll work with them but I'll most certainly expect them to commit to the process or the next time they come to me wanting what could turn out to be several hundred hours of personal attention I might give them a Sphinx/Zen-Like smile and quote a little Yoda to them, and nothing more.
For me personally, making resolutions and annual commitments has become a more-than-serious ritual, one that has both enhanced my life and frustrated me immensely. My problem is getting diverted from watching the ball so lets look at this for one (maybe two) seconds and while you are reading this think about how many areas in your life it can apply to and how the concept (and not the specifics) can prevent you from falling into the trap that I have committed to not make "one more time" this year.
A business associate who shall go unnamed and who won't read this anyway is completely undisciplined and it shows; in his desk condition, in his professional income and in his personal life. He forever makes commitments that he fails to keep because some problem always comes up that takes his attention away and he is always getting "hammered" by someone because of it (bill collectors, the tax man, his wife, his partner). So, in an effort to "prop him up" every time he walks into my office expressing too much un-male emotion over "one more issue" my response is a cross between friendly understanding and support, and brutal tough love "a-hole style".
The result of this is that with my focus taken off-line I failed to make the sales production goal that I had set for myself last New Year's. Waaaahhhh! ..... but you know, it is ENTIRELY MY FAULT! .... and I have absolutely no one to blame but myself.
That fact that he can't focus past the wart on the end of his nose should not divert me from my goals as long as those goals I have set for myself are reasonable AND as long as I have met the commitments to others that are on line.
Ayn Rand wrote a short book (compared to Atlas Shrugged everything she wrote was short) titled The Virtue of Selfishness. The title alone puts some people off but once read and understood, it makes perfect sense and is a great guide to live your life by. In a nut shell.................
There is no such thing as altruistic behavior because no one does something for no reason and not expecting something in return. If you do a favor for someone it's because you view it as the right thing to do but you expect either monetary compensation or job promotion or a "thank you for your help" or at the very, very least one or two "atta boy's".
Bur sometimes what is called "altruism" really isn't and it can be guilt driven and that altruistic/guilt-driven behavior can divert you from what really matters.
eg: Why give your last dollar bill to charity if you can't feed your family just because your minister told you to? Why exhaust yourself emotionally, spiritually, and health wise taking care of someone who is fully capable of helping themselves unless you expect some kind of recognition (like I was doing with my business associate)? Why give of yourself, if you have nothing left to give just because societal "norms".
Why divert yourself from your resolutions if you know they are right for you, good for you, will help you grow and over time will make you a better, more mature person/parent/spouse/sibling/teacher/student/Aikido player just because ..... someone told you too or "suggested" you to or ...... whatever way they make you take your "eye off the ball".
So the entire thrust of her writing was be selfish (when appropriate), be self centered (when appropriate) and don't allow others to "guilt" you into NOT doing what you know is right for you in the long run.
So whether your resolution is to come to class more often or lose weight or quit smoking, etc., etc., be careful to NOT allow others to divert your pledge to yourself ......... be true to yourself and follow thru for a change.
For me ........... my business associate was told several times over the last 30 days after an abysmal year of sales production that it's time to poo or get off the training potty. My goals are set and regardless of what he can or is unable to do, I'm moving forward both for my mental view of myself as being a successful businessman but also for the good of my family who will benefit once I make my goals.
Lead ..... follow .... or get the HELL out of my way! But this wagon is moving forward, the same advice I'm giving that Yudansha who wants to demo, and the same advice that you should give yourself when you look in the mirror this morning and shine your pearly whites'.
See you on the mat/health club/Weight Watchers Group/religious study group/gourmet cooking class ....................... whatever your resolution this year may be.
L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
New Year's Day, 2009