To hack or not to hack, that is the question. Is it more noble to learn to through life hacks or through hard work and dedication?
As much as I love the idea of hacks to make our lives easier, what’s the deal with taking shortcuts? Have we become a “hacker society?”
Are we missing a vital skill of problem solving, creative thinking and innovation when we constantly look for the easiest way in any situation? Do we search for a shortcut when the long way around will prove to be invaluable eventually?
I might have missed the most important lessons in my life if I’d taken shortcuts.
I’m a college grad with post graduate work, and all those tough college years proved incredibly valuable. It took me six years to graduate with my B.A. undergrad in Communication, and concentrations in psychology, social work, and business/marketing. (When you read the list, you understand why.)
I created my own curriculum based on the disciplines that appealed to me. During my years in college I also worked with the student government as the Assistant Director of Finance — and also worked on, then eventually trained and ran a crisis and information hotline.
When I find something that fascinates me, I research it. I study it. I learn about it. If I can take courses or get certified or accredited in it, I do it. The skills I learned to develop and apply in college are things I continue to do until this day.
I’m also a 4th degree Black Belt Master Instructor with almost 20 years of training; and many years of teaching along with training several hours each day at the studio I own. There are no hacks to becoming a Master, it’s something you earn over many years of time with a lot of training and heart. Think of Malcom Gladwell’s work on Outliers and what it takes to master a skill: over ten thousand hours. Luckily by the time I was testing as a Master I had raked in well over twenty-five thousand hours training and teaching.
“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
There are no hacks to earning a black belt either, and there shouldn’t be. It’s earned through sweat equity, heart, inspiration, living a particular code, and the continual practice of techniques and motions that eventually become unconsciously competent.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
Through training you learn the value of perseverance, control, respect, humility, and indomitable spirit. It took me over five years to earn my First Degree Black Belt and along the way I developed power I never knew I had. Had I “hacked” my way through the belts, I may not have received some of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned.
One big lesson was discipline. How do the same things over and over until something completely new could emerge. You start to become the techniques, you stop “doing” them, and you stop using force to push out the techniques. You can transcend that place of a movement being somehow separate from you; it becomes you. Yes, I know it sounds like something Yoda would say. But Yoda is one cool little furry dude.
Another big lesson I learned was how to become an inspirational teacher and leader. I had no idea that was my goal, it was something that found it’s way through me because I was open to it. There were no courses on becoming an inspiring teacher, there were plenty of programs on what and how to teach. But the other part was all heart.
I have teach kids as young as three years of age martial arts and it’s not something for the faint at heart. You have to learn how to view each child as something special and listen to them. I hadn’t trained in child development when I started teaching, I had only learned the technical aspects. After I started teaching, then I was fascinated and a new love of development and how people learn and how their brains work was born.
To teach well at this tender age, I believe you must do these things:
- See how they process information
- Understand how their are brains wired
- Find out what inspires them
- Understand what are their unique struggles
- Figure out how they are different or similar to kids their age/development
You can offer them challenges as they are ready, and allow them to feel the success in things they’ve accomplished. You teach them how to celebrate their success, and you acknowledge them for effort and hard work. You acknowledge them for learning, which includes making missed steps along the way.
Children at young ages do not trust automatically. You must earn their trust, respect and dedication and to do this you have to be aligned. There are no hacks to show an instructor how to be aligned; it’s “being who you say you are”, with the actions that match. The “nicey-nice routine” I’ve seen comes off like something too sweet and fake to a child. You never lie to them, you honor them with the truth.
Respect is earned because you show them respect, and you do not use your positional power to force them into something. There is no hack to earn respect.
You cannot use fear as a motivator, it will eventually backfire. You can use discipline and boundaries, but even those you must use with respect. Never from a place of anger or personalizing it.
I’ve created this into a special way in a system of martial arts teaching called “Leading Through Love”.
That may never have happened had I taken hacks in my teaching or leading.
How do I know this works? Because many of those three and four year olds have become amazing human beings setting out to make a huge difference in the world.
One wants to change the educational system to create an open learning style. One is studying to be a neuroscientist to help others in brain functioning. One raises money for the elephants at the zoo. One helps to reach kids in homeless shelters by teaching them martial arts lessons twice a month.
Several have continued their martial arts training for 10-15 years and become leaders in whatever environment they’re a part of.
And had I taken any hacks along the way, those kids may not be who they are today and I wouldn’t be who I am today. I would’ve missed out on the beauty and meaning I found in my life because I took the long way but followed my heart at every single step.
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Photos of the author courtesy of Paul Minne Photography