Monday, April 20, 2009

Mark Walsh ( of Brighton, UK, has just posted on his blog ( an impressive series of responses from teachers around the world regarding how aikido is informing and can be used to inform business, life and relationships. I'm very pleased, and humbled, to have been included in the mix of respondents. Others included were: Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD (my teacher and an Allied Ronin Associate), Paul Linden, PhD (Founder & Past President of Aiki Extensions), Quentin Cooke (UK), Pawel Olesiak (Poland - another Allied Ronin Associate), Christian Zandt (the Netherlands) and others.

I appreciate Mark's efforts to include me. This helps spread the word about Allied Ronin's global impact. I will be traveling to the UK mid-October to deliver the Samurai Game® ( in Brighton. Mark will be one of the many attending. I'm also headed to Honolulu, Mexico City, Queensland Australia and other places with the Game. Call me if you're interested!!

April 20th, 2009

Not wanting to overdo two points I keep hammering on, but …

You can thank my daughter, Caroline, and her husband, Sean, for this. At they Christmas gave me a copy Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, whose other books include The Tipping Point and Blink, and said, “You have to have to read this!” I’m usually jumping between three books at any one time, and over the past weekend Outliers finally entered by cycle. Gladwell’s purpose in writing the book is to bring an understanding of success that is outside of the box – especially the box that we’re so used to here in the U.S.

No long entry here, but have to report in on what it’s revealed thus far.

Point #1.

Gladwell opens with a story of an Italian village, Roseto Valfortore, whose inhabitants have surprisingly low rates (almost non-existent) of heart disease. Not only that, those who immigrated from that town to the U.S. and established their own little community in eastern Pennsylvania, reflected the same phenomena.

This led to investigative research – with hopes of uncovering what exactly was going on through the generations. Was it diet, quality of air, amount of exercise, genetics? Alas, the research showed that it wasn’t their diet (they eat meat, fat, etc.). It wasn’t that they are non-smokers (they’re not). It wasn’t that don’t imbibe in achohol (they do). It wasn’t that they have the best 24-Hour Fitness-like facility (they don’t), and it wasn’t their genes (no better than anyone else’s), nor the climate (other towns nearby were comparatively off the charts). The answer was … It was the people of Roseto themselves.

The researchers “looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town’s social structure. The saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and ho much respect grandparents commended. – They counted twenty-two separate civic organization in a town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure the failures.”

The research found, in short, that the reason for long life and good health in Roseto pointed in one direction – community.

I am struck by this and how much it mirrors the work of Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey in their Slowing Down to the Speed of Life.

Point #2

Chapter Two of Gladwell’s work is “The 10,000-Hour Rule”. Here he discusses the profound fact that research shows a major determining factor in high rate of performance in any field is … PRACTICE. Whether it’s soccer, ice hockey, being a violinist, chess, computer programming – those people whose environments supported their putting in the time rose to the top. Not necessarily because they were any better … but because they practiced, practiced, practiced more than anyone else. No matter what … the thing that separates the poor from the mediocre performers is PRACTICE. What separate mediocre performers from good ones is PRACTICE. What separates the good from the great is PRACTICE. Over and over the research shows that at about 10,000 hours of practice a human being enters the realm of mastery.

In short. The truly great performers at anything are those who practice.

I am struck by this and how much it mirrors the work of George Leonard in his Mastery and by Miyamoto Musashi in his Book of Five Rings.

Get the book, Outliers. It’s a good read. You’ll enjoy. But don’t just read. Do something!!!

More later. But right now I have to slow down. This evening I’ll return to the mindful community that I’ve been part of for the past ten years and with them I’ll continue my practice!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

I just received a request from Mark Walsh INTEGRATION TRAINING (+44) (0) 7762 541 855, Business Website: , and blog: . Mark lives in Brighton, UK. We met when two years ago when he was in the U.S. studying aikido at the dojo where I train He's been very involved internationally with Aiki Extensions and has extensively served in Brazil and Cyprus and elsewhere.

Mark's note today read: "I'm writing an article about aikido and business. Specifically I'm asking aikidoka who are business owners/directors to answer five questions and will collate these. The finished article will appear on my blog which gets around 15,000 visits per year and probably AJ (which gets many more hits) so is a nice piece of publicity for anyone who takes part.If you would fw this onto any other aikidoka business owners you know I'd appreciate it. The questions are below if you'd like to take part. All the best, Mark"

Here then are his questions and my responses - worth making available here at my blog site as well:

What is your business?
My business is Allied Ronin Leadership Training & Consulting, doing business worldwide and serving the public, organizations, government agencies and universities (e.g. the UN Secretariat, AIESEC International, Texas A&M University, Verizon Wireless, Nokia, Societe Generale' Corporate Banking, Organizational Behavior Teacher Society, etc.) with highly experiential leadership and team effectiveness programs - and most known for internationally as the sole facilitator training and certification representative for The Samurai Game®, a creation of George Leonard Sensei My blog site is

What is your aikido grade and affiliation?
I hold shodan rank and study aikido under Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei at Two Rock Aikido dojo The affiliation is California Aikido Association

How has training in aikido influenced your business?
Aikido directly influences my work -blending, listening, somatics, embodiment of constructive principles, maintaining integrity. These are relevant to everyday life - private, public, business, organizational behavior. In a world otherwise dedicated intellectually to learning sound leadership and management practices, this approach (i.e. using aikido movement and translating into everyday language and business terms) really sticks with people. They open to a whole new world of appreciating themselves, their partners, their families and who they have previously considered their adversaries and competition.

What do you think the wider business community could learn from aikido?
Most importantly: (1) the profound need to become present to what is happening around you (be here now); (2)20to remain in contact with self and others; (3) be mindful in all your actions and behaviors; (4) daily strive to serve others, no matter what; (5) every day is an opportunity to increase one's capacity to relax under pressure; and (6) each and every day presents THE opportunity to practice - practice - practice what is important in life. These are crucial elements and particularly relevant during these times of global economic and political stress (on the macro scale) and family life or being a good student (on the micro scale).

Anything else you'd like to share about aikido and business?
Aikido became a platform for the transformation of my work when I first met George Leonard Sensei and Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei in the late 1980's. But I didn't give myself permission to step on the mat until 2000, and then only after suffering a major accident - severely breaking my hip. I figured if I didn't at least give it an honest effort I would forever be saying, "Maybe I could have and I wish I would have." Since then the art:(a) has provided me a foundation for gracefully handling the pressures and stresses of being in business for myself in a highly dynamic and changing world;(b) has become a most effective way to communicate basics that are important fundamentals to business and personal relationships - fundamentals that need reinforcement every day off the mat no matter how successful one is or becomes;(c) provides dynamic and undeniable evidence for individual and group understanding (or lack thereof) of what it takes to be effective in the world - as single person, a person in relationship, a dad, a mom, a teammate, a manager, an executive, etc.; and(d) provides a way (even if only infrequently practiced) to increase constructive capacities regardless of one's career path.
signed - Lance M. Giroux 707-769-0328

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Some Things Need Repeated Attention

"I don't know why it is. Why the next generation can't learn
from the one before until they get knocked in the head by experience.
I'll tell you one thing for sure. The only things worth learning are
the things you learn after you know it all.
Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States
(p. 153, Plain Speaking by Merle Miller)

Before we get started I need to say that this month's article is not about the physical act of breathing, though breathing is a good metaphor to use as we begin. Remember this as we transition about half way through.

In the mid-1970's Miyamoto Musashi and his Book of Five Rings caught the attention of American businesses; a significant feat for someone born in 1584. One of Japan's most revered samurai, Musashi was considered invincible as a swordsman. By the time he was 30 he had defeated more than 60 opponents, all contests to the death. His philosophy focused on practice as the Way for those who want to learn strategy.

Martial art masters remind students that mindful practice and deep breath are foundational for performance and progress. For Musashi these two were embodied realities. He advised others to daily attend to them, especially under the calmest of conditions when no conflict was at hand. In this way, these ideals would become second nature, available and useful at a moment's notice, without having to think about them. With this approach these principles were generally useful for everyday living, and particularly useful during stressful conditions when death was imminent.

We are always practicing something. But most people are practicing things without awareness of their practice or the consequences. They repeat thoughts and actions that become their practices. They don't realize this or where it's taking them. If they did, they might change course. Some practices are healthy. Others, lead an individual into destructive and unsustainable territory.

Normal quiet breathing is both active (inspiration - in breath) and passive (expiration - out breath). In deeper or more rapid breathing the out breath may also be active. Deep breathing can become an object of practice. Through this practice one can develop an ability to bring the body into states of relaxation and awareness, and increase a capacity for flexible action (quick or deliberate) under intense conditions. When faced with surprise, stress, tension, conflict and fear the body automatically moves into rapid states of breathing. With practice, the ability to deeply breath can become second nature, sustaining a person through periods of stress, attack and fear. Establishing a breathing practice is something you can begin and work with on an average day, under any condition, and for as long as you want.

We live within certain boundaries. Breathing is something that you cannot escape. Like gravity, you are subject to and bounded by it. You can't negotiate with it. You can't permanently quit it and remain conscious or alive. You have to do it, or you will pass out or die.

But within boundaries you can learn actions that create many, perhaps infinite, options. Play with deep breathing and you might notice certain positive things occurring for your awareness, sensitivity, attitude and your capacity for effective action under increasing levels of pressure. Surprisingly (or not), you may find your practice creates options and actions, also constructive, for those around you.

This can sound simplistic or foreign. Some may say, "This is way too esoteric." My response: (1) In a courtroom, all other things being equal, an attorney who practices breath control has the advantage over an attorney who hasn't. (2) In an airplane, a pilot who has practiced breath control and who is now facing an emergency, will have an advantage over a pilot who hasn't. (3) A salesman who practices breath control has an advantage over one who doesn't. (4) A soldier who has embodied a controlled breathing practice, shoots more accurately than one who doesn't. The stuff about breathing isn't theory. It's not esoteric or New Age. Lower the voice of your expectations and preconceived notions. - expectations and preconceived notions that become addictions and practiced ways of living in a society used to quick-fixes, instant results, fast food, throw away relationships, drugs for every ailment, ready cash at the ATM, the lottery, and TV reality shows.

Try this. Give breath control, as a practice, an honest daily effort for two weeks. Consciously extend the depth and rhythm of your breath as often as possible throughout each and every day. Set up reminders to keep yourself on track. Notice what begins to happen for you. Pay attention to those you come into contact with, because you might see something constructive happening with them as well. What have you got to lose? Try it. Check the results for yourself.

This month's article is not about physical act of breathing, though breathing is a good metaphor to use as we move forward.

We're always practicing something. Repeated thoughts and actions become practices. Practices that are not constructive and sustainable move groups, organizations and nations into dangerous, destructive and unsustainable territory.

Two hundred ninety-two years after Musashi walked his path, Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich, was published. The year was 1937. It, too, caught the attention of American businesses. Today, Think and Grow Rich is one of the most read books of all time.

Hill, a reporter, was sent on an assignment in 1907, to interview Andrew Carnegie. Originally set for two hours, the interview evolved into a twenty-year research project. Carnegie captivated Hill's imagination and suggested he embark on having one-on-one discussions with the world's five hundred most successful people. The interviews were conducted around the globe, during prosperous times and hard times, during World War I and during the Roaring 20's, and ended around 1927. The results proposed some amazing discoveries and possibilities. But Hill's work was not immediately accepted by publishers. Why? It sounded too esoteric.

It took Hill another ten years to find a receptive publisher. During these ten years he and the rest of the world lived through the Great Depression. Hill's text suggested the existence of an important universal secret. This secret, he said, was woven like thread throughout the entire book. He offered that the secret could be revealed on every page, if one diligently looked for it - in other words made a practice of seeking the secret. Today, Think and Grow Rich is arguably the foundation for a widely marketed video, The Secret, and its accompanying book by the same title, which put forth an old and respected idea, The Law of Attraction, placed inside an up-to-date cover. Alas, I doubt that Hill has received, or will receive, proper credit for the influence he had on this most recent iteration.

"[B]efore you begin the first chapter," wrote Hill in his introduction, "may I offer one brief suggestion which may provide a clue by which the Carnegie secret may be recognized? It is this - all achievement, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea!" Then he continued, "If you are ready for the secret, you already possess one half of it; therefore, you will readily recognize the other half the moment it reaches your mind."

Like the martial arts, the business arts have foundational principles, too. Practice is one of them. And as with martial artists, artisans of business or career must attend to and have the courage to uncover the true intentions of what their practices are. In business, money is blood, blood that must flow freely throughout the entire business body, and blood that must be enriched and refreshed by some kind of breath.

What is the breath of a business, without which - or if shortened, or not attended to, or left unstudied, or reduced to slogan status - the blood becomes stale? And without which a business - no matter how well structured - will shrivel or die? Perhaps this breath is SERVICE.

The world is full of smart people, and with every increase in technology we think we're getting smarter. Many people behave as though our technologies and smarts are more important than principles. Some suggest that principles don't matter in a postmodern world. Yet, today's news suggests that corner cutting and sloppiness may be the norm when it comes to the fundamental attitudes of being a SERVANT.

Enron, what brought it down in 2001? Why? (Interesting, the word "why" was once Enron's trademark question.)

Arrogance. Intolerance. Greed. Somewhere along the line that company's pivotal organizational interrogatives became: "Who is our target? What can we get? How fast can we get it? When can we dump the target once we've used it/them up? Where can we hide the truth of our actions?" These questions drowned out a series of more wholesome and principled interrogatives: "What can we honorably provide? Who can we provide it to? On what time schedules can we realistically provide it? Where and how can we do this in sustainable ways such that good occurs for all involved? How can we ensure that trust is built - trust that will carry us and others through tough times when they inevitably come?" And so, a corporate consciousness went adrift without a compass, without a rudder, without conscience, without common sense. It may not have started that way, but over time s-t happens. Lost or less heard were: Whom do I serve? What do I offer? What am I doing? Why am I really serving people and making these offers? Where are we going, honestly? If we keep doing this, where will it lead? What are the long-term consequences of our attitudes and actions?

This month's article is not about Enron, though Enron is a grounding point to use as we move forward.

Most of the people who worked at Enron were good and well intentioned. Enron didn't invent greed. Enron reflected and turned up the volume on it. Enron wasn't a disease. Enron was a symptom of something to be recognize and learned from. But did we learn? Once the ills were exposed, a barrage of bandages, words, slogans, structures, promises and proposed statues treated the issues that Enron revealed. And then what? The hearings were conducted, the committees spoke, the laws were passed, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. We had our morning caffe' latte', our afternoon martini or beer, went bass fishing, attended the symphony or rock concert, kicked the can down the street --- and we quietly got back to the same attitudes and embodied actions that had become habits created by misguided long-term practices. But, we had relief: new jargon, new structures, new systems, new promises and new laws. Whew! We wiped our collective brow and the problem was solved. Yes? No.

The man who for eight years was one of my mentors (1975 - 1983) authored a book. In it he quoted Napoleon Hill, "It would be no great overstatement of the truth if we said that mental attitude is EVERYTHING." Like Hill, he believed in the Law of Attraction. In meetings, in classrooms, in private talks this mentor hammered on the topic of SERVICE as being the foundation upon which Hill's philosophy was based. His opinion was that SERVICE was a major part of the secret. He surmised that those who fail to attend to people and to their needs and to the quality of service rendered, will eventually undermine their own best conceived plans. No one is immune from the ups and downs of business and market cycles. During the period I worked for him we had good and bad days, months, and years. We went through a miserable recession. But, regardless of the ups and downs of our times, we were instructed repeatedly to pay attention: (1) to people, (2) to what they needed and (3) what we were thinking about all of that.

"Service," he used to say, " means - find a need and fill it."
Never did he say, "Service means - create a need and fill it."

There is a big difference between finding and creating when it comes to the needs of human beings.

It is one thing to uncover a need through honorable investigation, reveal this need to someone such that his or her life benefits, and then take action to assist the person so that his or her life benefits. It's quite a different thing to concoct a story (system, scam, ideology, method) in an effort to convince a person (or group) he has a need (manufactured, but in reality nonexistent) and then go about getting that person to buy into the invented story such that the storyteller benefits while the person to be served loses. Sadly, I'm not the only one who has been in a boardroom or backroom and heard a manager or boss or executive or teammate demand: "Our job is to make sure we get as much money as possible out of these people. Promise them whatever, but leave nothing on the table. Our function is to get the cash, understand? Now, how much money do you think we can get out of these people?"

Where's the common sense for the long haul?

One who spends time creating and filling needs, may gain in the short run, only to eventually lose over the rhythms of a lifetime. People can be mistreated and fooled for a while, but they are not stupid. The human brain (everyone has one) is a growing, evolving, life-sustaining thing. Eventually most people wake up and wise up. Over the long haul, a focus of creating needs, leads to unhealthy scheming, and enhances a capacity for developing dead-end relationships. Such a practice builds: (1) a short-term, self-absorbed, me-focused perspectives, and (2) long-term reputations of disgust and distrust.

One who spends time in the practice of finding and filling needs, places him or herself in accord with other people. Such a person understands that all things have rhythms; they rise and fall. There are no guarantees of success. They know that there are great forces that can stop a business that has even the best intent at heart, and takes all the best action. But over the long haul, one whose focus is on finding needs, builds a capacity for respect for self and for others, and a capacity to return on a new day, even after defeat, no matter how bad things get. This practice of finding and filling need, builds: (1) an observant other-focused mind, and (2) healthy sustainable reputations. Those involved with an honorable SERVANT, experience him or her as refreshing, attractive and valuable, particularly during times of stress. Like breathing, finding and filling needs can be practiced anytime, all the time, anywhere, and for as little or as much as one asks in return, or pro-bono. All that it takes is attitude and a willingness to look.

To paraphrase my old mentor and Napoleon Hill, it would be no great overstatement of the truth that SERVICE (find a need and fill it) is everything.

Service ought be practiced as though it is an art form. It should be daily studied when times were good. Not as a six-hour management course at a company's annual meeting or as a part time undertaking, but with recurring commitment and mindfulness. It's easy and painless to do. Service should be studied and practiced when times are bad. Not out of necessity, or to patch up a mistake, or for the sake of a slogan or slick corporate mission statement. Rather, because it's the healthy thing to do. Generally speaking, people are looking for others that they can trust. Service breeds trust. During good times those with needs can get lazy, become short sighted, and they can tolerate untrustworthy folks and shoddy attitudes. In bad times, however, untrustworthiness breeds contempt; and contempt can be dangerous, if not catastrophic.

It is most important to take time every day to practice the art of SERVING other people, and sometimes just for the sake of sustaining a keen ability to SERVE. I'm not saying that SERVICE by itself will dig us out of the mess we're in. But without SERVICE becoming and remaining a core issue, we'll just keep on kicking the can down the street.

In 1645, Miyamoto Musashi wrote:
"There is timing in everything. Timing in strategy cannot be mastered without a great deal of practice. Timing is important in dancing and pipe or string music, for they are in rhythm only if timing is good. Timing and rhythm are also involved in the military arts, shooting bows and guns, and riding horses. In all skills and abilities there is timing. There is also timing in the Void. This is the Way for (those) who want to learn my strategy:

· Do not think dishonestly.
· The Way is in training.
· Become acquainted with ever 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."

Musashi penned this in his Go Rin No Sho (A Book of Five Rings), a few weeks before he died. These words apply to service in the business arts just as they do to good swordsmanship and breathing in the martial arts. His purpose in writing this had nothing to do with making a momentary heap of cash at the expense of someone else. He wrote in SERVICE to others who would walk their path long after he was gone. He wrote so that they could thrive and survive even the worst of times.

©Lance Giroux, 2009