Originally published as feature article in February 2015 issue of student newsletter at my dojo, University Karate Center. Then published on CUInsight.com
Training in martial arts isn’t easy. Same with any other sport or activity. Beginners think, “wow, everyone is so far ahead of me…how could I ever do that?”
As a reader of this blog, you gain valuable insight into my secret life…a martial arts student and instructor. I’ve trained for, let’s just say, a while.
Progress in Life & Training
During my time at the karate school, many students have come through the dojo. Some still train today. Others moved on to different phases (and places) in their life. Most thrilling is welcoming past students back after extended absences due to school, work, or family.
In all of these scenarios, there is a continual challenge of improvement. What do I mean? Well, when you’re doing a thing for a while, you are immersed in it. You gain skills at a nice rate. It feels good.
But then you stop for a long period. “No problem,” you think. “I’ll just get back in the swing of things; I know this stuff!” Except, we all know it’s harder than that.
What you remember as simple isn’t quite so anymore. But you’re committed! You train hard and help regain your previous skills, perhaps even with a deeper understanding. Good for you!
Sure, these are the seeds of a longer discussion, but today I want to focus on what I call the moving benchmark.
As You Improve, So Do Others
The benchmark challenge emerges for individuals both new and long-term.
One recent karateka, as students of martial arts are referred, asked a great question a few months into their training:
“Sensei, how can I become as skilled as the high ranking instructors here? Every time I gain a new insight, they show me another way in which I’m just a beginner.”
Sound familiar? Hint: This isn’t solely about karate.
As you get better, at anything, and you are (really!), those with more experience are as well. You are working towards a moving benchmark. While you train and learn, your teachers get better, too.
Avid readers know what happens now. It’s time to relate to credit unions!
Improvements & Your Credit Union
That’s a mighty fine marketing strategy you’ve got there. As is your website; the team should be proud. And your member referral program is stellar!
Of course, yours is not the only credit union working on making each area better. Another looks to the same improvements, yet has an additional 25 years upon which to build.
As we tell our students at our dojo:
“It’s not about how long it took to finally start training. You started. And you’re here now. That’s what matters.”
Emulate the Experts
Even Olympic champions look up to someone. It’s how we all work together to improve.
Don’t be discouraged if the expert looks like an expert. That’s literally the point!
Embrace our karate school ideals of continuous growth and replicate what works.
We also encourage learning from those both junior and senior to you. Just because they’re a white belt doesn’t mean a Black Belt can’t learn from them!
For you, that means looking to your competition, whether that’s a fellow credit union or regional/national banks. Then remember you’re not competing with credit unions! You can all learn together!
In the martial arts, we use the opponent’s strength to our own advantage.
While sweeping your competition onto the mat may be an untenable act, observe their “movements” (actions, strategies, etc.) and discuss internally how a similar approach might work within your own institution.
The road to Black Belt is a long and challenging one. Also, it never ends. Who says it’s any different for credit union success?