by Dave Kovar
In my travels, I get the chance to meet and work with school owners and martial arts professionals from all over the world. I love working with martial artists! Most of the people with whom I interact tend to be optimistic, intelligent and open-minded. However, every now and then I meet someone who makes me pause and say to myself, “Really?” A while back, I met just such a guy.
I was teaching an Instructor College in a large metropolitan area with an extremely diverse group of instructors. Some had large schools, while others had small schools. Some were master teachers, and others were just starting out. There were representatives from a variety of styles and systems, and all were there to learn and grow — except for this one guy.
You know the type. He sat there all morning, arms crossed, clearly disinterested in anything I or anyone else had to say. I thought that perhaps I was reading him wrong, so during the first break, I approached him and asked him a few questions about his school and his background. He gave me a brief history and then said, “I’m not sure why I came today. I was hoping to learn something different, but I already know all this stuff you are talking about.”
Of course, this threw me off my game a bit. I don’t experience such bluntness very often. I told him that I’d be happy to refund his tuition if he’d like to leave. He responded by telling me that he was going to stick around and see how it went from there. Although he was a bit better after our conversation, he never fully engaged in the seminar.
When it came time for the Q&A at the seminar’s end, my new friend shot down every bit of advice I had for anyone. “I tried that, and it won’t work in my town,” he’d say. Or “That will never work where I live; people here are different.” He wanted to dominate the floor and talk about himself.
Someone finally blurted out, “You seem to know everything — how many students do you have?”
You probably can guess his answer: not many. Yet he boasted that he’d taught for nearly two decades and had 45 students. He assured us that all his students were extremely good because he taught “old-school.” He wasn’t a sellout. Honestly, at this point, I almost lost it. It was all I could do to keep myself from jumping up and kicking him in the side of his old-school head.
I let him get to me. I was angry for quite a while before I started to calm down. Then my logic kicked in, and I decided to learn from it. I asked myself if I had a bit of the that-won’t-work-for-me attitude when faced with a new idea or concept that might be hard to embrace. Yes, I might not be quite as obvious or abrasive as my friend, but I can be just as much of a knucklehead as he was sometimes.
The ability to keep an open mind when exposed to new ideas or concepts is more important now in 2021 than ever before. We can no longer just rely on our experience because a lot of it doesn’t apply to the current environment. To survive and thrive, we need to practice having shoshin, a beginner’s mind.
Easy to do? No. Worth it? Absolutely.
So I’m going to do my best be open to others’ opinions and viewpoints and to be receptive to new ideas. I know that I’ll be better for it. Care to join me?
To contact Dave Kovar, send an email to [email protected]
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