I’ve experienced my greatest advancements as a result of living through times of significant pain. To be honest, most of the time I didn’t actually ask for this growth, I knew I needed it, but for the most part I was kinda happy for things to just “happen”, at least when I was younger. Underneath everything though, I am highly competitive… in pretty much every area. As I became aware of the progress of others, I realised that needed to be able to see develop also!
I will suggest a parallel… in my life, in my earlier career, I was constantly learning…same same when I was competing. Things were changing all the time, new experiences and environments had to be traversed and summited. In so many ways I miss those times.
Towards the end of University I was lost as to what I wanted to do, I had all these qualifications and no clue as to where to apply them. I applied for every HR role I could see and only managed to create a mountain of rejection letters. Yes, this was back in the time when companies felt the need to reply to applications via actual printed and posted letters. So of course I ended up doing the most bizarre interviews, I was a graduate, I was going to attend each and every interview.
So of course I ended up in the wrong roles in my early career. Like the mobile phone shop that I started in, now I honestly am not a fan of the general public. Let me put that a bit clearer. When I was a student I had no choice but to work in pubs and nightclubs as well as in retail…so to find myself back in what was basically a retail setting post Uni, well I wasn’t exactly living the dream.
It was the same in Karate to some degree. The choice to go down the competition route was one that my Sensei at the time endorsed, however he also stressed that this was an addendum to my training and my attendance at squad training was based on the continuation of my training in the general classes. I was also at one point caught up in the need to wait till a specific age before I could think about taking another grading, so basically for a fair few years if I had only chosen to train in the traditional side of things, well it would have been hard to see progress. Competition gave me the chance to constantly see improvement. Each time on the tatami was a huge learning experience, specifically if I lost. Those were in fact the most painful of experiences but the times when I grew the most quickly. Sometimes the learnings were swift, like the time that I ended up in the same competition as Ann Rose. We were at opposite ends of our competition career, she was a champion and consummate competitor, I didn’t know who she was but I knew she looked ferocious. I lost very quickly that day but I learned perhaps one of the most important lessons… actually a few things. This was one of the last times that Sensei Steve Cattle was in Ireland and he was one of the judges for kata. I am not a kata person, never have been and I decided that I was going to do Tekki Shodan… because I was going to do Bassai-Dai in the following round. The arrogance that I would make it to the second round 🙂
It became very clear to me that day that Kata wasn’t for me. I held my own for about the first 30 seconds of my kumite match and yes I drew Ann Rose in the first round. Then she clearly decided that this fight needed to end and I was dispatched quickly. I could say that the learnings were around moment and blocking etc but that day two things happened. First of all Steve Cattle came up to me afterwards and talked about training. He talked to me about the kata that would fit my body and in actual fact how few people could make any of the Tekki katas look good. He encouraged me to work with my Sensei to find a kata that suited me and not to stop trying. I don’t know what it was but he made me want to go and start training that second.
The second thing that happened that day was in the changing room after the competition. Ann Rose had won the kumite hands down. She almost had no competition, I was blown away, here was this strong and able woman who exuded confidence and ability. Me, I was broken hearted. I have always had a strong competitive streak…even when the odds are well stacked against me and to be honest I was ashamed of my performance. As we left, Ann Rose came up to me and thanked me for coming to the competition, she again told me to keep training and keep my focus. That was two people in quick succession who had said the same thing… more or less.
I know now that the focus on competition brought some amazing experiences to me, the speed of learning and development was palpable. When I finally found the route that I knew was right for me in my career the same was very true. I remember some of my first HR cases… even the conversations… I was so green. A long time back, a member of one of the companies I worked in came to me to “chat”. She told me that she was pregnant and so I did what most people would do… I congratulated her. This is turns out was not the right thing to do as she was very much less than happy to be pregnant. It was cases like this that helped me to grow quickly in my early career. It’s these experiences that make my life easier now but slightly bitter sweetly, it means I’ve also got enough of these experiences to rely upon to manage the majority of situations that come along. It does however mean that I am not learning as much as I have done in my earlier career.
All this means that I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep a focus on personal development, in all aspects of my life. Never easy… more planning required!