Kungfu Attitude

I IMG_3555missed my usual blogging goal this last couple weeks because I was very excited to have my first ever visitor from home. I was trying to be a good host and put myself in the frame of mind of a newcomer, thinking back to when I first came to China and when I first came to my master’s school. I realized how much my own attitude has changed in the years since my arrival, how it has become a kungfu attitude.

When I first arrived in China, there were a number of things I had accepted as facts about myself. I knew my stomach had problems: I knew I would get seasick before my friends or a stomach ache if I got nervous. I knew that I got colds a few times a year. I knew that I got angry about the things I encountered in China pretty often. These and other observations were a minor appendage to my self-identity. I ascribed them to genetics, or just “that’s how I am.”

Somewhere along the line in the years since my thinking has changed. Part of it is the belief that it’s not just a matter of, “that’s how I am,” but that these are weaknesses that I can improve if I set out to do so. It’s a combination of accepting responsibility and raising awareness. I know that if I am wise about my dress, diet, and exercise, I need not get sick and my stomach is happy. I know that through meditation and attention, I can avoid the anger I used to feel. These things are in my control if I take control of them.

I am reminded of this time when I was a young teenager. I was walking out of a science museum in North Carolina with my Aunt, and I obliviously let the door slam in her face behind me. She yelled at me — gave me a really hard time for being rude and inconsiderate. I thought at the time, “How can you possibly expect me to keep track of who is behind me when I go through a door? That’s like trying to see the back of my own head!” But her admonishment helped me to realize that a higher level of responsibility and care were both possible and expected. That is a kind of kungfu attitude.

The kungfu attitude is summed up, to me, in a quote I heard from another student here at the school. “Chinese medicine does not ask why you are sick, it asks why you aren’t well.” A person has the potential to be perfectly happy and healthy, and any obstacle keeping us from that well-being is able to be improved upon by long-term effort. When I grasp this completely, I believe I will really understand kungfu.


Ready, Set, Get Tough!

In 13 (short) weeks, I will be competing — and I use that term loosely — with a team in the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder Event. To give an overview of the obstacles I am committed to overcoming, I will submerge and swim through an ice tank, crawl through narrow, sloping pipes leading into frigid mud, slither under low-hanging live wires waiting to electrocute, leap over 4-foot high hurdles of kerosene flames, and so, so much more across the distance of 12 miles!


Why go through with this? Besides wanting to challenge myself and test my physical limits, the Tough Mudder raises awareness and funds for theWounded Warrior Project. This project is focused on reintegrating injured soldiers into society, and active lifestyles, with their programs.

If you are interested and able, please support me in the Tough Mudder event, on September 8th, by donating online here. The proceeds raised will assist many individuals and families struggling to deal with the injuries received in the line of duty. You contribution is greatly appreciated!


Attitude: Your most important asset in relationships

In the course that some of our students are taking this fall, Excellence in Leadership, one of the drills that we do is list all the qualities that a leader should have.  In fact we explore what we would like to see in a number of different relationships.  All of them are marked as either being a Skill or an Attitude.

Consistently when I do this drill the Attitudes dominate the list, no matter if the relationship is with your parents, teacher, sibling, friend, workmate… it just doesn’t matter, Attitude dominates.  In a poll done of the 100 largest businesses in America of the single biggest reason individuals are fired, reasons that would be noted as attitude again dominate the list.

While 30 percent are fired due to incompetence (skill)  all of the rest of the highest rated reasons were attitude related including lack of motivation, negative attitude, dishonesty, inability to get along, failure to follow instructions. Our attitude determines what we see and how we handle our actions and feelings.   Our attitude is something that we can change at the snap of our fingers if we chose to do so, while a skill is something that we need to be trained in or study to learn how to do.

This asset of Attitude is responsible for our success in every relationship that we have 85% of the time, while actual skills training is responsible only 15% of the time according to The Carnegie Institute.   When things are not going the way that we would like to see them go, we may want to stop and think about our attitude and how that may help the situation or relationship.

Patience: with each other

Recently I was at a meeting with a variety of individuals with the goal of working on the bullying that takes place in schools today.  Many of the individuals there are motivated and real “rainmakers” when it comes to projects.  We would call them leaders.

At one point a new person walked in that did not fit the appearance of the rest of the group, and I noticed that many of the others simply did not recognize the person coming in and one of the leaders of the group – rolled their eyes.  I am thinking to myself,  Here we are talking about bullying and the leader of the group is in fact practicing a form of bullying.  It was but 3 weeks later that this person announced that they did not want to continue to be a part of this project.

Having patience when others are different than us is a key part of leadership.   Continue reading “Patience: with each other”

Leadership: skills & 3 types of leaders

One of the most important skills that a leader needs is one of communication.  Communication is made up of two parts both of which are very important, but the first one is vital to the second.  That first skill is listening.  The focus and attitude for listening can really make the difference in a leader that is respected by others or not.  

How do we teach our children about listening.  There are several ways of showing that we are listening to others including, looking at them in the eyes, nodding from time to time, being able to repeat what they say back to them, keeping our bodies still and not fidgeting, and not being distracted by electronics, noises, others, or even worst – our own thoughts.

When I was talking to our students about this subject, I told some of them that sometimes I find my eye wandering to see who is next in line to speak to me.  Have you ever done that?  Well I have and I am working on practicing keeping my eyes, attention and thoughts on the person and the message they are delivering to me. 

Being a good communicator also includes being able to speak well.  For many of our students it may start with speaking loud enough for others to hear them.  Now when we get the volume up we have to think about the attitude of the voice and person.  Which of the following 3 types of leaders are they;  passive, aggressive, or assertive?

A passive leader is one that seldom does the work and finds it difficult to make decisions.  They may even agree with everyone but not want to be responsible for making a call or decision.  The aggressive leader is full of opinions, generally their own, and are more than happy to push them on everyone around them.  They seldom are good listeners. 

Then there is the assertive leader.  This person is a good listener, willing to hear out all opinions and ideas before drawing a conclusion and making an advised decision.  This assertive leader would ask others to help them in a kind way and would always be willing to say thank you.  They would recognize to others the work of his group and be willing to share the rewards.  This is the kind of leader most of us would like to work for, this is the kind of leader we all want to be. 

How we think:  When we have a situation come up that is daunting, how many of us get to feeling that “we cannot do this”, or “oh this is a terrible situation”, or “this is too hard for me to do”.  When we start thinking like that we can very easily come up with all sorts of reasons why we cannot do the task.  That is how our brain works.  It looks through all of its files for proof for what we are thinking or feeling. 

Once we find one or more reasons that this task cannot be done by me, our body and mind shuts down and we make a decision not to do it or a decision not to even try.  We have convinced ourselves of these ‘facts’. 

The example I use with the students is riding a bicycle.  I am sure that all of us had our spills as we began to learn to ride a bike.  We would fall and someone would pick us up and we would try again.  Over and over we would do this till one day it happened for us.  We were riding, no one was holding the bike and we were controlling the whole experience. 

What if though when we had fallen off the bike at the beginning for the second or third time someone said to us, “You stink at bike riding!”, “you are never going to get it”, you always fall off”.  How would you have felt?  It would have been very discouraging and the next time you climbed up on the bike it may not have been with the same enthusiasm and belief that this was going to be the time that you would do it all by yourself.  You had placed in your mind negative thoughts and ideas and now your attitude had become negative too.

That would not have been a very good friend that was speaking to us in that manner.  In fact when I talk to the kids about this they tell me that they would never talk to a friend that way.  So I ask them what would you say to your friend that is falling off of their bike? 

They tell me that they would use encouraging words like, “you can do it’, “you almost did it that time”, “I had the same experience and I finally got it – you will too”, Keep trying, you will get it”.  Yes they had all kinds of ideas of encouraging things to say.  If we had a friend like that, we would learn to ride the bike pretty quickly because of all the positive energy around us.  Our thoughts and feeling would be positive and of course our actions would become positive results.

Now here is the question. If you would not talk to a friend with those kind of negative thoughts, why would you ever talk to yourself that way?  Our self talk is many times so mean and we will say things to ourselves that we would never say to a friend.  So I encourage you to talk to yourself in a way that creates a positive feeling rather than a negative one.  Ask yourself when you hear the negative way of thinking coming out if you would talk to a friend that way.  If what you are saying to yourself you would not say to a friend, then choose not to say it to yourself.  Treat yourself the way you would treat others.  You deserve it. 

This is not an idea of making everything positive all the time and living in La La Land. No you are your own best friend, so treat yourself that way.  Talk to yourself in a positive way and you will find that you will have a positive attitude and will accomplish more with the skills that you have.