The title of this post is a direct quote from an inspirational CEO for whom I used to work. While, in the office, I don’t think we were able to meet the goals set forth in this statement, that doesn’t invalidate it as a solid doctrine.
I bring this quote up because every dojo, just like any other club, has needs. We have to keep the dojo clean. We have to make sure that we train regularly and vigorously. We have to work on getting new students. Some needs are major: dojo cleanliness. Some needs are fun: getting t-shirts made. But no matter how you cut it, needs exist.
The question then becomes: how do we fulfill these needs? In our case, many of the needs are handled by the YMCA. Our space, utilities, insurance, even my “salary” (such as it is!) are covered by the Y, relieving us of a lot of work. Other needs can only be handled by the instructor. For example, at the moment I’m the only one qualified to set our curriculum. But what about all the others, such as getting new members and such?
That is where the title quote comes in. I am learning that we all have things that we do best. For some, it is marketing. For others, it is project management. Still others are voices of reason. In many cases, we are proficient in multiple skills, but we really only enjoy or “are best at” one or two. Whatever it is, we all have one thing that we “do best.” And, oddly enough, what we “do best” often is something that we enjoy, something that doesn’t feel like work.
I’m starting to realize how important that is. The dojo will always need more than just students who attend class. We need people who contribute in some way, shape, or form to the overall community. I could ask for certain things to get done, and I’m sure someone would be willing to help. But I run the risk of asking people to do things they aren’t good at, or don’t enjoy. The result: people start associating their training with things that are unpleasant. That does not create a long-term training environment.
The best choice, I think, is to discover what everyone does best, and match the needs of the dojo to those skills. This is not to exploit anyone’s abilities, but rather to ensure that any task associated with the dojo is as enjoyable and pleasant as possible. It is my role, as sensei, to then see what tasks fall outside the “does best” category. Those tasks, if they need doing, are my responsibility. It is, in my opinion, part of the job.
So, if you are one of my students, or a supporter of Aikido Kokikai Silver Firs, please feel free to let me know what you think you do best and, if you’re willing, how that might prove beneficial to the dojo. I’d much rather ask for help in areas that you do well, than ask for help in areas you dislike.