“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.” – Bruce Lee
If martial arts is about fighting then what. does the quote above from the greatest martial artist of the last century – some might say all time – have to do with relationships?
Bruce Lee’s observation had to do with more than punching and kicking. It had to do with mastering whatever you set out to do. If you observe children they’re free in almost everything they do. They don’t think, they just do. Now, they may punch or kick poorly, or play the piano poorly, or swing a golf club the wrong way, but they’re uninhibited when they do so.
Then they begin to learn the right way, the proper techniques, and all of a sudden there’s more to a powerful punch or kick than they realized. As they concentrate, trying hard to perform correctly, what was so free and easy actually becomes quite difficult. However, with time, patience and enough practice it gets easier and easier. Eventually they perform very well without even thinking. The punch and kick have once again become just a punch and kick.
If you’ve taken up golf, played an instrument or tried anything else that required skill then I’m sure you can relate to this. It’s hard to do something when you’re thinking about all the steps you need to go through to perform the task. The mechanics of a golf swing are a great example. The pros make it look easy but a good golf swing is an intricate process.
Relationships can be quite similar. A while ago Abigail and I spent a day together and she talked about someone she liked, someone she’d known for many years. When they were just friends she said it was easy to talk but as the relationship began to change it wasn’t so easy. Going from friend to something more requires better communication skills and the transition can be hard.
Jane and I have been married for 25 years and right now things are really good and pretty easy. We went through our phases where that wasn’t the case. The honeymoon was easy. Life got tougher as the novelty wore off and we began to “do life.” We started to really get to know each other and some of the things that were cute at first became irritating. Eventually we turned a corner and began to realize those sometimes cute, sometimes irritating things are part of what makes each of us unique. All of a sudden we went from cute to irritating to appreciation.
You could say we’ve learned the art of navigating our relationship. No longer do we look for hidden meaning behind the words and wrestle with things like we used to. We pretty much accept each other for who we are, how we appear and what we say. If we think there’s more to the communication we just ask each other what’s meant by the statement. It’s amazing how often that stymies negative thoughts and stops a bad period before it even starts.
No one takes up martial arts and expects to perform like a black belt right away any more than a new golfer expects to play like a PGA pro. And the same is true of relationships. You can’t just jump into a relationship and expect to land where it takes others decades to reach.
But here’s the good news – you can make strides much faster if you dedicate yourself to the process and have people who can coach you. In the taekwondo studio, Abigail and I learned from the more senior black belts and the studio owner Grandmaster Black. When Jane golfs she dedicates time to practice regularly and works with a pro. For each of us practice, patience and coaching paid off.
When it comes to mastering the art of human relationships, having good friends who can speak into your life with brutal honesty is like a coach offering correction to an athlete. If your friends are wise and you’re coachable you can enjoy more fulfilling relationships much, much sooner. After all, learning from other’s mistakes and successes can help you avoid the mistakes and enjoy success much, much sooner.
So let me end with a couple of questions.
- Do you have a business coach or mentor you turn to consistently? If not, you should seriously consider seeking out someone because it could make a big difference in your performance.
- Do you have a life coach or accountability partner, someone you check in with regularly who can speak freely into your life? Again, something you should give thought to.
There’s no better time to implement a great change than moving into the New Year.
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.