5 Martial Arts Tenets for the Workplace

What martial arts teach us about professional life

Courtesy.  Integrity.  Perseverance.  Self-control.  Indomitable spirit.

I’m a second degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and am a student of Ms. Julee Peck, Master and 7th Degree Black Belt, since 2011.  Every single one of the roughly 500 classes that I’ve attended over the past 5 years has started by reciting those five tenets.

Courtesy.  Integrity.  Perseverance.  Self-control.  Indomitable spirit.

They are burned into my brain and, more importantly, into my character.  In the context of Taekwondo specifically, and in my life in general, I think I live by them fairly well.

I’m also the CEO of a rapidly growing software and services company and I think these tenets can provide tremendous value for us as a company as well.  They can guide us in our daily interactions within the virtual walls of our company, with our clients and with our partners.

I think this could apply to your company as well.

Let me show you what I mean.

Courtesy – “Courtesy is the one coin you can never have too much of or be stingy with.”  John Wanamaker.

  • If you’re going to a meeting, be on time and be present.  No Facebook, no email.  Be present.
  • Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.  If you make a promise, keep it.  Period.  Don’t make people chase you down to keep your promises.  Give them a heads up if you’re going to be late.
  • Keep a list of your promises.  Take them seriously.  Your reputation is at stake and at the end of the day, that’s all you’ve got.
  • Don’t throw anyone under the bus.  Own up to your mistakes.  Apologize when you’re wrong.
  • Provide and receive criticism constructively.  No one is perfect.  We’re all here to learn and get better.  If you’re not, than maybe you shouldn’t be here.
  • Consider the impact of your decisions on others.  Give people a heads up if what you’re doing, or not doing, can impact them.
  • It’s hard to over-communicate.  We all have jobs to do and much of what we do is interconnected.  Be polite and share as much information as possible…within reason.
  • Have patience.  We’re not all as smart as you.  It might take some of us a little more time to understand what you’re saying than others.
  • Don’t use up the toilet paper without replacing it.

Integrity – “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody is going to know whether you did it or not”. Oprah Winfrey.

  • Do the right thing for the client and worry about the personal consequences later.
  • Do the right thing for your team and worry about the personal consequences later.
  • Do the right thing for the company and worry about the personal consequences later.
  • Do the right thing for your family and worry about the personal consequences later.
  • Do the right thing for yourself only and be prepared to suffer the personal consequences.

Perseverance – ““It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  Nelson Mandela.

  • Perseverance is what fueled Corevist’s founders through our first year without any revenue and no salaries.
  • Perseverance is what helped us endure the three years it took us to become profitable and get to the point where we could share in the wealth with all of our employees.
  • Perseverance is at the heart of signing every contract with a new client.  That’s a journey that has proven to take anywhere from months to years.
  • Perseverance is what enabled us to sign our first Fortune 50 Manufacturer.
  • Perseverance is behind every single one of our 40+ Golives.
  • Without perseverance we would never have been able to reengineer our entire development platform, processes and tools, and engineering resources over the past year and a half.
  • Every new feature developed, and every new version of our product launched, is a testament to our corporate resolve and perseverance.
  • We’ve experienced 50% turnover of our client sponsors over the years.  We’ve experience a 0% cancellation rate of our service.  That’s perseverance in the face of adversity.
  • We may plan our projects around sprints, but they really are marathons.  Be prepared to persevere.
  • Isn’t it fascinating that you don’t need to call on perseverance to tackle the problems you enjoy working on.  Maybe if you start by enjoying your work you won’t have to persevere as much.

Self-control – “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”  Lao-Tsu.

  • Don’t go negative.  When you find yourself frustrated by a person, tool, process or decision, refrain from going negative.  Exercise self-control, become more self-aware, and rather than casting aspersions, ask questions.  Ask questions of yourself.  Why do I feel this way?  What can I do about it?

“Negativity and Hulkamania – 2 things that don’t go together.”  Hulk Hogan.

  • Don’t go passive-aggressive.  You don’t like something, confront it.  Try and understand it.  You may not like the decision, but once we all agree to a course of action, it’s your responsibility to support it.
  • Don’t get distracted.  Fend off your distractions and increase your attention span…squirrel!  Did you ever find yourself at the tail end of a series of google searches and wonder how you got there?  Stop it!
  • Don’t over-engineer.  Don’t spend more time on a task than it deserves.  Keep a list of things that you’d like to get back to some day.  Perfection is the enemy of the good!
  • Don’t unilaterally set your own priorities.  Corevist is a team sport.  Either we all win or we all lose.  There are no ways to win as individuals by ourselves.  Every decision you make about how you spend your time impacts the team.  Don’t squander time…it’s the most precious asset we have and is a non-renewable resource.  We can always get more money and people, we can’t manufacture time.
  • Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.  Be known for over-delivering. (I know this is a repeat.  It’s worth repeating.)
  • Don’t get frustrated at our clients.  If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here.  Remember that.  It’s very important.
  • Don’t let our clients abuse us.  If it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t be successful.  Make sure they know that.  It’s very important.

Indomitable spirit – “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”  Mahatma Gandhi.

It takes indomitable spirit to:

  • Build a profitable, and growing company (30+% per year) with zero outside investments.
  • Win deals from competitors who are 10x-1000x our size.
  • Convince $20M – $35B industrial companies to entrust their B2B eCommerce revenue (almost $1B dollars of it) to a small team of elite digital gurus.
  • Work the extra hours required to get through the “crunch time” of a gnarly production support issue or an upcoming deadline of a Focus Group or GoLive event.
  • To continue to provide immense value to SAP’s clients in spite of the fact that we’re either totally ignored by them at best, or treated like competitors and Pariahs at worst.

Courtesy.  Integrity.  Perseverance.  Self-control.  Indomitable spirit.

Five tenets that are well worth living by in the martial arts, and as I hope you will agree, at work.

What do you think?  Like any of these?  Did I miss any?  Should we start each day by reciting them? 🙂

Sam

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About Author

Sam Bayer

Sam Bayer is the Founder & CEO of Corevist. His mission is to capitalize on the convergence of the growing popularity of Cloud delivered services and the consumerization of B2B ecommerce to build a company that delivers real value to his clients and a great place to work for his team.