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Business Martial Arts Lesson – It Will Take You Twenty Times to Learn This Move

Expect failure as a necessity for long term mastery

This is Lesson No. 6 of a Continuing Series on How Martial Arts Skills can be Applied to Business

It will take you twenty times to learn this move – New students come into class and see all of the Hapkido techniques on sheets on the wall. The list is intimidating to say the least. Korean terminology, foundational moves, nuanced techniques and sometimes small notes written in pen on top of the typed sheets. White belts get very impatient because they want to be as fast as the higher belts. What they can't embrace is that we were all white belts once and if you want to be fast, you have to allow yourself to become masters of the foundation which is going to take more time than you thought.

One technique for teaching that I have used is to tell students, “it will take you twenty times to learn this move”. You should see how the stress in their faces goes away. I have given them permission to fail early and often. By doing this, the fear of failure is no longer getting in the way of learning and many times they learn much earlier than their twentieth effort. The open mind can now get back in the driver’s seat while the fearful ego can get out of the way.

The business lesson- Companies and employees can be really bad at focusing. We live in a culture that expects us to be able to multi-task and the truth is humans were not built to multi-task. We were built to focus on one thing at a time. It's the way our mind works. What does this have to do with failure? When a company expects some failure and can stay focused, employees start to master techniques. Staying focused on targeted markets, positioning, messaging and techniques that work can give marketing and sales teams a foundation for excellence. Give employees a chance to fail, test things, learn and document. When you think about it, the techniques for any form of martial arts is the result of many man years of documenting what works.

Sometimes it can feel expensive to fail, but what is the hidden expense of creating a culture of remorse over the things we didn't get completely right the first time? If compensation drives behavior, what kind of behavior does a culture of the critical voice drive? Isn't praise or criticism a form of compensation? The simple truth is a person of even average intelligence and ambition will get more right than they will get wrong over a period of time in the midst of a learning organization. The alternative is a soul-crushing experience that drives out the most intelligent and the most capable. Build a culture of people who are eager to learn and a management team that promotes progress, not a constant critical voice. It's just going to get in the way of mastery, speed and yes - revenue performance.

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More Stories By John Ryan

John is an experienced leader with a strong background of defining and executing company strategies. He is especially skilled in channel management, market analysis, brand marketing and selling technology products and services. He has successfully served in a number of executive positions and has been in management for 20 years. John is currently writing a book on increasing revenue generation. He has been a co-author of a comprehensive marketing methodology for high tech companies and has helped venture capitalists and private equity firms gauge their technology investments. In 2004, John served as Vice President of Marketing for the NA arm of the $6B IT Services division of Siemens, AG. John served on the board of directors at WebTrends, purchased by NetIQ (NTIQ) for $1 billion in 2001. WebTrends was highly successful dominating the web site analysis and reporting space. Prior to WebTrends, John was the Vice President of Marketing for Tivoli Systems. John has worked as a contracted consultant for established companies, start ups and top analyst firms. John can be reached at john@johnwryan.com or you can follow him on Twitter @buyersteps