A more enlightened approach to using pain and setbacks as valuable learning experiences.
Dwell not on the perceived pain, but on the improvements you will make as a result of them.
Excerpted from the book on conscious entrepreneurship and business management, Business Black Belt
“A practitioner must learn to perform at top speed all the time,
not to coast with the idea that he can ‘open up’ when the time comes.
The real competitor is the one who gives all he has, all the time.
The result is that he works close to his capacity at all times and, in doing so,
forms an attitude of giving all he has. In order to create such an attitude,
the practitioner must be driven longer, harder and faster than would normally be required.”
~ Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do
You learn to improve yourself when something painful happens. You learn fast from your mistakes when you’ve just been thrown on the ground. Instead of getting angry about it, take the pain as a lesson and appreciate that the lesson wasn’t any more damaging. Likewise, embrace your problems because they are there for your development and growth.
I think to myself, “Hmm… what am I going to learn from this?” Anger produces nothing except something else I might regret. I now waste very little energy becoming angry. I find that the time and energy spent on anger would better be channeled toward solving the problem. Whatever it was that happened, I can do nothing else about, except to set about fixing it and learning something so I don’t make that mistake again.
Once during line drills in karate class, our fourth degree black belt instructor started screaming at us, “Hit him in the head, wake him up!” (The drill worked like this: One line of students was supposed to throw punches and the others were supposed to block and counterattack.)
This was a practice session, so we weren’t very serious. We were rather mechanically throwing easy punches. When the instructor yelled for us to really punch, he woke us up. Then, when one of us got tagged pretty well in the head, we learned pretty quickly that we needed to block better. It was more humiliating than painful since we were wearing helmets and gloves, but it made us learn to be quick and accurate. I thank that instructor because if I’m ever in a fight, I can block fast and that might just save me some severe pain.
I didn’t dwell on the fact that I got hit in the head at practice. My attitude was “Hey, I’m glad I learned that here and not on the street.” It was a painful lesson, but not nearly as painful as it could have been in a real-life situation.
The sooner you get the message, the less it hurts.
Learning doesn’t have to be so painful if you’re sensitive to what the lessons can teach you. As I write this, my car is in the shop. One of the sensors on the engine went bad so the engine stopped. Rather than swearing at my car for the inconvenience and cost, what if I were to consider that everything is connected in Nature—there are no accidents; this is not merely a coincidence. Is this a quiet message representative of something else possibly to come? Looking at my car metaphorically, I might interpret that I’m being insensitive to something going on or someone around me. If I continue being insensitive too long, my “machine” will quit. Besides my car, this “machine” could be my business and I can’t have that quit. If I hadn’t realized that my car’s broken sensor might be a clue / parallel to my own insensitivity, I might be in for a more painful lesson if something or someone else quits as a result of my own failure to sense a problem.
This may seem like a quirky example, but take a look at where it can lead. While my car is in the shop, I’m making sure I’m more sensitive to the people I work with. I got the message that I’ve been driving along, building my company, and probably becoming insensitive to my staff. I appreciate this situation because it’s a cheap message (especially since my car is still under warranty).
Looking further, I realized that my employees have actually been asking me for assistance and deeper listening for a while and I’ve ignored it. Nature finally came along and said, in a slightly louder manner, “You’re not getting it, Burke. Let’s give you a breakdown so you must stop.” It’s up to me to recognize and interpret the message. It’s actually very simple; just think literally. What does a sensor failure mean? If whatever it was that failed were a representation of me doing my life, what would it mean? Usually, the breakdowns have a pattern—many problems can be traced back to a common cause. In other words, if the ‘engine sensor’ message wasn’t obvious, other similar breakdowns (home thermostat, water level floats, people telling you that you’re not listening, repeated songs that I hear on the radio, etc.) would occur indicating that I was out of touch. I wasn’t sensing.
The stronger the messages get, the more expensive, time-consuming, and painful they become. If I hadn’t acted on that message, what would Nature need to do next in order for me to understand?
Naturally, we want to avoid pain, but in our haste to do this we end up missing many of the messages coming in. We don’t learn the lessons. If we attempt to dissipate our pain by blaming others or “circumstances” how can we learn how to improve ourselves? If we want to get on with it is soon as possible, put the painful experience behind us, and forget about it before looking deeply into our contribution to the situation, we are doomed to have Nature give us another chance to experience the pain at a higher [more expensive, painful] level.
I could go on here with similar situations and their corresponding messages, but you’ll see how they play out in future chapters. Without going crazy with analysis, you can use these messages as subtle guides for action that is important to take for ‘things’ to go more smoothly in your life. You will also feel less offended and that the world is out to get you. It’s actually out to teach you. Learning (acting upon your knowledge) will indeed pay off.
The trick is to get the lesson when Nature whispers.
Before it bangs you on the head.
Nature is a ruthless teacher
Competition also teaches us about improvement. It’s painful to hear a customer say, “Your competitor is killing you with [x].” But you need to know so you can take the appropriate action to improve your product or service.
So, when a competitor lands one on your head, say “Thank you.” You’ll get better because you learned by responding to the message rather than getting angry at the messenger.
In martial arts, it’s very clear when you get hurt and when you don’t get hurt. When your opponent punches you, it hurts. If you block the punch, it doesn’t hurt. Responding to the pain makes you better.
Some people think others are out to get them. If you think about it, no one really has the time to be out to get you. They’re too busy being out for themselves. Maybe you just got in the way. The world is just out to be. Your job is to pay attention and learn.
Trade your pain for gain
One of the early techniques we learned in karate sparring—especially when you’re first starting out or working against a superior opponent—was to always make them pay for attacking you. My opponent may get inside and score a point against me (a back-fist to the head… whatever), but rather than back off, telling myself I’ll score next time, I would punch or kick them immediately. The lesson was: You may get me, but it will always cost you. The next time they attacked, a portion of their focus would be spent on defending my counterattack. Therefore, their offense would be weakened. You also see this in football. The receiver catches the ball only to be hit extra hard by a defensive player. The idea is to A) punish him for making a gain and B) distract his attention on future plays with the expectation of pain.
Similarly, in negotiations, you can ask for something in return every time someone requests a concession from you. They ask for % off and you agree if they’ll take [y] units. If they ask for delivery in  days, you ask for immediate payment in [y] days. Always get something in return for everything they ask for. As a result, you’ll end up with a better deal or they’ll stop asking, because they’ll learn that every request costs them something.
Business Black Belt Notes
• Pain can be your gain when you consider the lesson it teaches.
• Be thankful that the experience wasn’t any worse.
• Listen carefully to Nature’s messages (literally) while they’re still whispers and act accordingly.
• Shift your overall attitude to a learning mode rather than launching into anger or fear.
• Limit the advantage others take by making counteroffers in return.
7 Dawson, Roger. The Secrets of Power Negotiating. Hawthorne, New Jersey, Career Press, 1995.