Clarity is not a thing. It is a process.
What is a process? A process is a procedure for producing a result. For example, a process for making steel is a recipe for producing steel. You can build factories based on a process and it will return a reliable product hour after hour, day after day.
The alternative to a process is a practice. This is what is common in the martial arts or performance fields. There are no recipes here. A true master teacher has the ability to see what his students need and give it to them but he has no recipe. Followers of the master tend to attempt to develop recipes but their recipes are focused on the day to day teaching. They rarely ask, “If I teach a student my system where will he be in 1 year?” They substitute belts and badges for clear skills. There is no clear desired outcome for students. (This is especially true in the current climate where martial arts schools cater to children. The goal is to extract as much money as possible for the average 3 years before the students move on).
It may seem like I am saying practices are inferior to processes. It depends who is driving the practice and the desired outcome. If it is a master teacher who has the ability to see and understand his students’ needs, then the practice can be superior to a process driven system. If you have a clear desired outcome then the process method can be superior.
An example of this is the great lineage master of Tai Ji, Xing Ye and Ba Qua who was a general in the Chinese army. He had an untrained army that needed to be trained to a standard that they could function and perform well together. He developed a method called 64 Hands that works admirably to do this. Trying to train thousands of recruits using the methods of practice would have been impossible.
Let’s look at a practice side example. The greatest swordsman of all time was Miyamoto Musashi. Before he died he wrote a treatise called ‘A Book of Five Rings’. This book has been quoted and studied for centuries in Japan. There have been commentaries and seminars on how to use the book in many avenues of endeavor including business. Musashi says many times in the book that he can’t tell you how to become a great strategist. Here is a typical quotation from the beginning of the Water book. “If you merely read this book you will not reach the Way of strategy. Absorb the things written in this book. Do not just read, memorize or imitate, but so that you realize the principle from within your own heart study hard to absorb these things into your body.”
In the Ground book Musashi says, “The Way for men who want to learn my strategy:
- Do not think dishonestly.
- The Way is in training.
- Become acquainted with every art.
- Know the Ways of all professions.
- Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
- Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
- Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
- Pay attention even to trifles.
- Do nothing which is of no use. “
How do you use these kinds of statements for development? And what are you developing? Musashi himself says that he had over 60 duels he didn’t lose between the ages of 13 and 29. At the age of 30 he looked back and realized he had no strategic development. He spent the next 20 years studying until he understood what strategy was. So what is the art he developed? Clearly he was an unparalleled swordsman. No one could touch him. He founded a method and school of two swords but no man since has been able to develop his ability with two swords. So what is the art of strategy and what is the end result once obtained? That is the perils of a practice.
Don’t think that because I speak about the difficulty of Musashi’s work that I am critical of him or his book. I have been a student of him for more than 35 years and still study and think about this practice. I am pointing out the clear difference between practices and processes. One is concerned with perfection. The other is concerned with clarity and desired outcome.
I will discuss this next blog with another field, namely the field of coaching.