Libraries obsolete? No way, say Millennials. – CSMonitor.com

I love libraries for many reasons, first and foremost they are are piece of history. For Western civilization, they stand as the icon of learning dating back to ancient Greece.

Libraries serve as the ultimate example of higher learning, available to anyone regardless of social or economic standing.

Libraries are a place of quiet contemplation

Today’s libraries with internet, wifi, computer and video resources provide information and resources to the public unlike any time in human history.

Then there are the books, rows and rows of books.

Now if libraries would offer fresh coffee, I’d never have another meeting in a coffee house of any kind!

There are also many examples of people who have found and sustained excellence because of the public library. Most notably is Mark Twain. With the death of his father at age eleven, he was forced to go to work and his formal education came to an end. He would go on to self-educate solely in public libraries and be awarded two honorary doctorate degrees.

Mark Twain earned an honorary Doctorate from Oxford.

Source: Libraries obsolete? No way, say Millennials. – CSMonitor.com

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Not Mr Miyagi, but Master Yamashita

“All karate is same same, you be the best!”

-Tadashi Yamashita

It can be argued that success is a relative term. How wealthy, famous or educated does one have to be in order to be successful? How many accomplishments, awards or titles must be accumulated? The answer will of course depend upon whom you ask. For some, success is measured purely in financial terms while others view success as contributions and lasting impact.

Excellence on the other hand is something different; it involves action at a high level, above the median and much more objective in nature. There are many examples of people, past and present, who have achieved and sustained excellence throughout their lives yet have had modest wealth or limited notoriety.

One example is Tadashi Yamashita. Google the name, the image and for the general public his face might be vaguely familiar but the name even less so. For the martial arts community, however, Master Yamashita is stuff of legend. He is the martial artist that young kids watch and dream of emulating.

Having had the honor of training with Tadashi Yamashita, the quote above is as fresh in my mind as it was almost thirty years ago. It summarizes his commitment to excellence in martial arts and remains a metaphor that can be carried over to any aspect of life.

Grand Master Tadashi Yamashita

Simon Sinek and Sustaining Excellence

Author and marketer, Simon Sinek, has risen to popularity from his 2009 TED Talk called, “Start With Why – How great leaders inspire action”. Listed as one of the third most viewed TED Talks of all time, it only validates what I’ve called 5 Rings of Sustaining Excellence and how it can apply to all things. To illustrate how the two strategies parallel and can be applied universally, consider this;

Most people want to live healthier, have more energy and feel good about their day, this begins with the Circle of Mental Excellence and “Starting with Why”.

Circle of Mental Excellence = Why

Why is it important to exercise regularly?

  • To control weight
  • To have more energy
  • To relieve stress

Circle of Physical Excellence = How

How to create the habit of regular exercise?

  • Wake up an hour earlier each day
  • Hike every Tuesday & Thursday
  • Drink more water

Circle of Skills Excellence = What

What new skills can or should be developed to perpetuate this? 

  • Learn Cross Fit
  • Train for a Spartan Race
  • Study Yoga

Now consider how often people within your various groups (friends, family, coworkers, etc) have inspired you or others to action by “I’ve lost 40 lbs. and I feel better than ever!” This can spark “group think” or the Circle of Team Excellence and has led to developments like the popular Spartan Races. Often it will also grow within an organization, become institutionalized and evolves into corporate wellness programs. At the outermost ring, this can be called the Circle of Organizational Excellence.

It all begins with one person, looking in the mirror and asking…Why?

Source:www.lynnecazaly.com

Mental Excellence in the Digital Age

Sustaining excellence in your personal and professional life requires energy, lots of energy. Science and medicine continues to provide evidence that maintaining a proper balance of good diet, rest, exercise and stress reduction can help maximize your energy levels. But how do we get to that balance and maintain it?

At the core of it all are the attitudes, decisions and perspectives that we focus on each and every day. Deciding to eat right or exercise regularly are decisions we make and those are a result of the regular communication that we have with ourselves. I call that, The Circle of Mental Excellence.

I’ve spent the last ten years researching people of note, throughout history, from Roman emperors like Hadrian to Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs. The common denominator in each one is that they all have a set of principles or guiding mantra to keep mentally aligned on a day-to-day basis. Much like the Samurai of Japan or Knights Templar, they have what I call a Personal Code.

Theodore Roosevelt for example was very vocal about his “Doctrine of a strenuous life”. He truly believed that physical and mental adversity not only tests ones character but is essential to building it. Benjamin Franklin had is principles of frugality and initiative. Steve Jobs believed in creating things that were both artful and useful. These people were not perfect, in fact these principles likely rose from each of them to offset significant internal conflicts. Those personal codes, however, became an internal compass that allowed them to find their True North under the toughest conditions.

 

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Mental health, if not addressed, can have debilitating side effects — some of which may be detrimental to your business.

Source: Managing Your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur

“Perceive and understand that which is not visible from the outside.”
-Miyamoto Musashi

13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

 

The fundamental idea behind ENMEI is that there are five essential cycles or ‘rings’ that drive long-term excellence. I suggest that there is a specific order in which these cycles must be repeatedly revisited. Like the planets in our solar system, the orbit and movement of each planet is critical to maintaining a balance for the whole.

At the core of the ENMEI solar system are the circles of mental/physical excellence. Part of the cyclical process often involves the shedding of toxic mental & physical elements. Or in the words of Miyamoto Musashi,

Below is a good post from LinkedIn.com about shedding useless acts.

”Somebody once told me the definition of hell: “On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” —

Source: 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

Musashi’s “9”in the Digital Age

In The Book of Five Rings, legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi uses the martial arts and swordsmanship as metaphors to illustrate how the larger concept of strategy can be applied to everyday life. He was a swordsman, a samurai and combat was his profession since childhood. The sword was intertwined with his life, it’s what he knew best and it would be only natural for him to write from such a perspective.

Throughout the book Musashi eludes to the idea that this paradigm he called ‘Strategy’ has a much broader application than combat or military purpose alone. Further, it was rare for samurai to write their philosophy or teachings so his work, by default, has become a cultural icon in Japan. It’s influence can been still seen today in economics, politics, education and more.

For many in the West, however, it can be difficult to find practical value in Eastern writing like The Book of Five Rings. For some, it comes across as esoteric poetry. Still others assess it as the ravings of a senile and violent madman. Ideas also get lost in translation as Japanese, like many Eastern languages, is complex. Separating the principles from the context can significantly alter their meaning, potentially diluting their value. In this case, the writing is three & a half centuries old and written in the context of feudal Japan. How is it possibly relevant in 21st Century Western society? In addition, both martial artists and non-martial artists often see his work as a mere text on combat or sword fighting and miss the depth of the Strategy.

 It’s impossible to know what Miyamoto Musashi was thinking when he wrote The Book of Five Rings. It’s also impossible to know what he would say about the world today, had he been here. What follows, however, is at least a plausible interpretation of Musashi’s Nine Rules as they apply to the Digital Age.

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Musashi’s Nine Rules

“Think of that which does not deviate from the way”

Translation = Cultivate an everyday mindset through self-discipline and focus

 This refers to developing an everyday mindset of strategy and applying it universally, to everything you do. It is the very act of mapping out your career path, for example; the, “where would you like to be in five years” question. Subsequently keeping your mind focused on the daily actions that move you forward toward those ends.

“Train in the way”

Translation = Develop the skillsets necessary to move you forward in accordance to the strategy, practice daily with purpose.

 This refers to developing the skillsets required to move forward on that map. It’s the daily disciplines, the incremental improvements repeated over and over. It’s the 10,000 hours spent practicing a new skill that makes the difference. True skill and knowledge cannot be learned in “10 Easy Lessons”.

 Weight loss is a good example to illustrate this. People spend tons of money, go on expensive diets for 30-60days, lose some weight and by the end of the year are right back where they started. Or, they make new years resolutions to ‘get in shape’, work out like crazy the first few months, then are burnt out by mid-year. No one gets ‘out of shape’ in 30-60 days and no one gets ‘in shape’ that way either. Only through incremental discipline does lasting impact take shape.

“Take an interest in all the arts”

Translation = Step outside of your comfort zone, engage in creative learning

 The digital age has brought so much focus on what can be called Left Brain activities; CORE curriculum education, Big Data and analytics in business, a ‘quantified self’ in professional development, efficiencies, process improvement, robots and other technological obsessions. There is of course nothing wrong with all of these, except when it becomes too much of a good thing. Right brain, creative activities including simple play allows for free thinking, new ideas and imaginative exploration. Without the balance of liberal arts and education, innovation suffers. As the saying goes, “All work and no play, makes one dull”.

“Know the way of all professions”

Translation = Learn the value of transferable skills and other career paths.

 If you take time to study other professions, you might make two potentially life changing discoveries; First, you may discover a latent interest that may result in you wanting to make a significant career course adjustment (Example: An associate of mine spent over twenty years with a successful career in the military. At some point, his travels brought him to Egypt where he was exposed to archeology. It sparked such an interest in him that at age 42, he went on to earn his PhD and become a full-time archeologist).

Second, you will discover a set of professional skills that are, at some level, transferable to every profession. It’s always amusing to hear professionals say, “I’m just not a sales person”. I then ask them what they do. Subsequently diving into the particulars of their job, there’s always a sales related component. After all, as author Daniel Pink states in his book, “To Sell Is Human”.

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“Know how to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of each thing”

Translation = Moderation, temperance and balance. Too much of a good thing can be bad.

 The technology of the digital age provides a great example of this. People across the globe, are connected in ways never imagined a century ago. At the same time, people have become more disconnected than ever. Regardless of generation, people now struggle to have face-to-face conversations with friends, family and professional colleagues without pausing to look at the latest update on their cell phone. Walk through any airport, on any given day, you will see the majority of people buried in some type of screen. Understanding the limits of tools and technologies, knowing when to ‘say when’ or step away from the phone, the tablet, the PC. It can have a balancing effect and be very advantageous.

“Learn to judge the quality of each thing”

Translation = Develop reasoning, critical thinking and sound judgement skills

 Today, we joke by saying, “it must be true because I read it on Facebook”. Generations before the Internet, a similar saying stated; “Don’t believe everything you read and only half of what you see.” The Internet is a marvelous tool that has brought information, learning and connection across the globe like never before.

Technological advances, however, can be easily manipulated for less than noble purpose. Information, “Big Data”, advertising, your cell phone, etc. can all be used as tools to sway public and your personal opinions. Very little replaces objective, logical reasoning skills and the ability to question validity. Unfortunately, today there is more hype than substance and the ability to separate the two is becoming an increasingly valued commodity.

“Perceive and understand that which is not visible from the outside”

 Translation = Cultivating awareness, fine tuning the senses and the power of introspection.

 We live in an age of workplace violence, one in four car crashes involving distracted drivers, obsession with multi-tasking and life in sound bites of two minutes or less. Now more than ever, the ability to pick up on details and subtleties of situations is an invaluable skill. What is often referred to as, “reading between the lines” and “thinking two steps ahead”. Very little time is spent today on developing the senses in concert with what can be called a ‘sixth sense’, meaning the ability to utilize intuition. Science has begun to establish significant evidence that multi-tasking actually dulls the senses and makes one really good at doing a bunch of things poorly.

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“Be attentive even to minimal things”

Translation = Pay attention to the details

Can you shut out all the noise and pick up on details? Do you listen for understanding or simply to respond? Picking up on details is a skill that anyone can develop, but it takes time and practice. The ability to listen for understanding is not taught in school, we must develop it on our own. Few invest the time and effort to get good at it, that’s what makes it a rare and valuable skill.

“Do not perform useless acts”

Translation = Time Management

 It has been estimated that by some counts, people in developed countries now spend on average, up to seven hours per day on digital media of some sort. This includes email as well as social media, gaming, video, etc. That’s almost an entire workday! The ability to cut all of that off and refocus has become a major challenge of the digital age. The idea here is that there will always be distractions willing to lead you away from the personal and professional course you’ve charted. Part of Strategy is in developing that daily discipline and focus to avoid getting sucked in.

The graces of the experts, for a small fee…

 

 

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Somewhere between 29-19BCE, the Greek poet and philosopher Virgil is said to have written his finest work the Aeneid. In it comes the first reference to the famous cautionary phrase based upon the Trojan War described in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad;

“Beware of the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.”

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Then, during the second half of the 1st century CE (though historical estimates range from around 33AD – up past 150AD) the Apostle Matthew is said to have written the Gospel According to Matthew. In chapter 15, he expands upon this theme with verse 7 where he warns that one should be weary of anyone too eager to give you the right answers or lead you down the path to excellence. Well ok, it was actually the path of spirituality but I think you know where I’m going with this.

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, for inside they are hungry wolves.”

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Much later in the early 1500’s, the use of the phrase, “Caveat Emptor” (Latin for; “Buyer Beware”) began to be used in the formation of common law and would continue to this day. Webster’s Dictionary defines the phrase as;

“A principle of commerce; that in the absence of warranty the buyer assumes the risk of purchase. The buyer is responsible for making sure that the goods and services are legitimate and of good quality.”

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A little over a century later (around 1645AD) in feudal Japan, legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi suggested that you don’t need gurus to guide you or the latest gadgets to help you find excellence. He wrote that the formula for mastery of any kind, whether specific skills or total self-mastery was intrinsic, not extrinsic.

So in today’s search for the formula for sustaining excellence, there is certainly no shortage of; prophets of professional success willing to guide you, gurus of self-help willing to lead you, products and gadgets willing to tell you what to eat and when to exercise, academic institutions willing to ‘certify’ your knowledge and experience as legitimate. All you need do is provide them with your credit card number…

But do you really need any of that? Do you really believe that excellence, of any kind, is something that you can buy or complete in ’10 easy lessons’? Do you really believe that you can lose 30lbs. in 30 days and keep it off for the next 3 years? Do you really believe that real education is found in a piece of paper you buy for $60k from your local university, because they tell you it is?

  • There is nothing wrong with finding inspiration in the work of others
  • Mastering new skills, does in fact, often require the instruction of a master teacher
  • New tools and technology can be great assets when used properly
  • Time and relentless action, with purpose, will in fact yield results
  • There is true benefit in periodic reminders of time-tested wisdom
  • Higher education certainly does open up whole new worlds of opportunity

The good news is that the map for sustaining excellence does not end, but begins in the mirror. You need only look, decide, act, repeat.

“Excellence is not an act but a habit” – Aristotle | LinkedIn

One of the first principles of ENMEI is that sustaining excellence for the long haul begins at only one place, the mirror. All the external systems, strategies, inspiration and coaching in the world will only go so far and last for so long. History has given us many examples of people who come from unremarkable beginnings that go on to do remarkable things, in many fields; Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Chuck Yeager, Steve Jobs and Miyamoto Musashi to name a few.  All of these people understood that motivation was intrinsic, that sustained excellence was a product of introspection and consistent dialogue with the person in the mirror.

Here is a recent example, a post from James Caan, the CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw.

“Excellence is not an act but a habit” – Aristotle | LinkedIn.

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