Tag Archives: art

From Disaster to Master



Have you ever noticed that some people have a knack for making amazingly difficult feats look easy?  Maybe it’s the dancer that seems to merge so completely with the music that it seems to actually come through her.  Perhaps it’s the chef that chops and sautés and gently folds ingredients together in such a way that they become an impressive creation of mouth watering art.  Maybe it’s the speaker that gets up in front of hundreds or even thousands of people and uses a combination of words and emotion that transcend language and reach right into the hearts of everyone present, leaving each person somehow transformed.

Wouldn’t you love to reach that level of mastery in your own life?  I would.  I once heard someone say, “Every master was once a disaster.”  Over the four plus years that I’ve been learning karate with my kids, I have certainly had my share of embodying the disaster part of that expression.  I can also tell you that those who truly pursue mastery — and seem to the rest of us as though they have already arrived — rarely (if ever) use the word “master” to describe themselves.

This week’s video post features a lesson I learned through my experience in the karate dojo that gave me insight into the pursuit of this thing called mastery – that can be applied to everything we do.

Here’s what I said in the video:

[The first part of the above video] was just a small part of a martial arts sequence called Kata.  The first time I saw black belts doing that three or four years ago, I thought “there is no way I will ever be able to do anything like that”, but gradually I learned.  And I wasn’t able to learn it all at once.  I had to start out by learning what a U-block was and how you punch, and how do you do a center knife-hand (which I still need to work on). And then I was taught the sequence — what comes after what.

The first time I did the sequence it did not look like a dance.  It did not look like a kata.  It looked like a choppy series of techniques that I hadn’t quite mastered yet. I had to think about every single thing I was doing and what came next and whether or not I was doing it right.  And I was completely in my head.

Only when I did it enough times, over and over and over again was I able to forget about thinking and trust that my body knew what to do, to lose myself in the drama — and really that’s what the Kata is — a simulated fight against attackers.  That is when it really came together for me.

It is so similar to what happens with us whenever we learn something new.  We always start off looking a little silly, a little foolish and feeling a little stiff and certainly not smooth or fluid or graceful — and maybe think we’re never going to master it. But over time, the more we practice, the more we build confidence, the more we’re able to trust that we really do know what to do.

Then we’re able to get out of our heads and come from our heart. And that is when our work becomes our art.


For more on mastery:


The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to BePinocchioPrinciple

Paths to Proficiency

Taking Your Leap, Part II

In Search of Greatness: Finding Your Zone

Dancer photo by Alexander Yakovlev from BigstockPhoto.com.

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