The Invisible Role Model

When I train in aikido, I rarely get a chance to be with my peers. This is the downside of being an instructor; you spend more of your time teaching than you do training. Compounding my role is the fact that there are only a handful of dojos that study my style of aikido. To study with my peers, I often have to travel outside of the state.

Without having Sensei in the immediate vicinity, or even a more senior instructor close by, I’ve tried to come up with a few approaches to help ensure that I still have some focus on improving my technique, as opposed to simply sustaining it. One method that has worked well I refer to as my invisible role model. This is my take on the “What Would <insert someone’s name here> Do?” mentality. The difference is, I deliberately don’t think of any one person in particular. Instead, I hold in my mind’s eye a picture of the ideal aikido student, and I try to emulate what I think this individual might do in a given situation. Doing this, I have found, helps me set my ego aside and look at a challenge or issue objectively. It certainly doesn’t always give me answers, but it helps me think about the questions.

Over the past few weeks, I have been on leave to spend time with my newborn son. This week is my last week; come Monday, I will be back in the office. I must admit that I have some anxiety over my return. Part of this anxiety stems from my concerns of what happened while I was gone. Did I leave something undone that I should have taken care of? Did I miss something that resulted in causing other people more work? Another part stems from some of the people I work with. I am part of a great team, but there are some folks that are more challenging for me to deal with than others. How am I going to deal with these people when I return? What can I do to build stronger working relationships with these people, or affect change if that’s necessary?

As I’ve thought about these questions, and as I have tried to deal with some of this anxiety, I had a thought. Why have I not tried to apply my invisible role model to my work life? Let’s put an image of the “star” employee in my head. What would this employee do to handle some of these situations? It’s odd, but while I may not know what I would do, I sometimes can figure out what someone else should do. For example, take the question of how I might deal with some of the people I have to work with. With my ego in the equation, it is difficult for me to see how I should handle the situation. With my ego removed (or, let’s be honest, most of my ego removed), the path is much clearer to follow.

As my return to office life looms before me, I can give myself some measure of peace. I may not know exactly what’s in store when I get to my desk on Monday, but I at least have a methodology to help me figure out the right course of action for what might come my way.

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Changes

As I alluded in my last post, I’ve been thinking a great deal about this blog and what I would like to do with it. My original intention was to have a means of articulating some of my thoughts regarding aikido. My hope was that, by writing these thoughts down, I would spend less time talking on the mat. Those that train at my dojo can say with utmost certainty that the blog has failed in this regard. Still, I enjoy writing about aikido. Writing has always been one of the primary means through which I process ideas. I can honestly say that I have learned a lot about my own aikido practice simply by trying to write about it.

Now that I’m nearly 150 posts into the blog, I am finding that writing solely about aikido practice is more limiting than I’d like. In my post, No reprieve, I mention that the only way to practice aikido is to never stop practicing aikido. I have lost count of the number of ways in which aikido influences how I think and act, both on the mat and off. Consequently, I’ve decided to expand the blog to include three categories:

  • aikido. This is the default, of course. Posts in these categories will, as always, look at how we train and study the art of aikido. Sometimes, these entries will be specific to Kokikai Aikido, the style I choose to study. In general, though, I hope to write these posts in ways that are applicable to any style of aikido.
  • business. More and more, I find that I am very interested in how aikido principles could affect situations in a business environment. The obvious, of course, is redirecting the anger of an irate co-worker or boss. But there are aspects of aikido principles that I employ when I’m managing a project and leading a team. I also find, when reading the news about a particular company or other, that I try to discern if the decisions or actions by the company follow aikido principles or not, and how that affects the outcome. Do aikido principles lead to good business strategies and practices? I don’t know, but I’m interested in researching it.
  • daily life. Posts in this category have more to do with my family and my community. I should note that I’m taking a step I’ve rarely taken, and that is to include my thoughts on my faith in this category. I’m not saying I’ll write a lot about being a Jewish aikido instructor, but the idea might pop up on occasion. If it does, this is the category it will be in.

In addition to these categories, I’m going to start a new initiative. This Saturday marks my return to the mat after an over two-week absence. I took this time off because of my third child. My wife is still recovering from the operation, and can’t lift things heavier than, say, a newborn. (Needless to say, this has made our 18-month old son more than a little upset.)  When I return, I am starting a project called 100 Days on the Mat. As the name implies, I plan to write a blog post for the next 100 days I’m on the mat. I thought it would be interesting to see what sort of recurring themes or trends show up when I write at such a granular level. I’ve created a specific category just for these posts, should anyone be interested.

One last thing: I’ve heard from a few folks that they enjoy my blog. I recently learned that I could publish my blog so that it could be read on the Amazon Kindle and it’s associated applications. Apparently, you can subscribe to blogs for something like $1 a month, a portion of which would go to me. As I’m always looking at ways to support the dojo, I thought this might be worth looking into. If anyone has any thoughts on this (whether the Kindle or other publication means), please feel free to share them with me.

I look forward to writing more, reading more, and training more! I hope you do too.