The Student, the Master, and the Drunk

Monish SubherwalResolving ConflictLeave a Comment

A story on how to win EVERY fight at work:

An aikido student once traveled on a train with his Master and one drunk muscular huge guy was attacking and being aggressive to people on the train.

And the student said to his teacher; “Now I will show you what I’ve learned.” And prepared for fight. And the teacher calmly said back; “No, now you will learn again, watch me.”

And he stood up, went to the drunk guy and asked, “Hey! What did you drink? It was probably good!” And the drunk guy, who was noticeably confused, replied; “Sake!” And the teacher said with a calm voice, “Oh Sake (rice wine)! I love Sake! Why don’t we go off the train and I will buy you some sake, we can drink together?”

And the drunk guy calmed down and suddenly started to cry, saying, “I’m really sorry, my wife left me, I don’t know why I am like this, I’m really drunk…”.  And the aikido teacher hugged him, said that it’s all ok, and everyone was fine.

And then the teacher said to the student, “See, this is how you really use aikido!”

Are your the Student, the Master, or the Drunk?

In the workplace, how do you deal with conflicts?  Are you aggressive like the drunk?  Prideful like the student?  Or artful like the Master?

I think, the story is a great one.  It teaches the idea of mental, behavioral, and verbal flexibility directed at resolution.  Indeed, it is tough to be like the Master.  Even the aikido student wanted to show off his skills and “fight” to resolve the problem.  Instead, a solution was discovered in a clever way avoiding any conflict or potential conflict.  Pure genius.

The core lesson, I think, is this:

“You win every fight that you don’t start.”

Peace & Aikido

I’ll be honest.  I know little about aikido.  But from what I’ve googled about it, it is a martial arts that advocates utilizing an opponent’s resistance to direct that energy towards something more positive.

One of the core principles of aikido is “A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible.” A wonderful quote by founder, Morihei Ueshiba:

“Regardless of how fast or slow my attacker advances, I will not be taken off guard nor defeated. This is not because my technique is faster than that of my opponent. Fast and slow are of no consequence. The contest has already been decided from the beginning, merely by having the intention to fight with one who embodies the universe, my attacker has fixed his mind on violating the harmony of nature itself. In other words, the moment my attacker fixes his attention on fighting with me, he has already lost.”

To me, this is the essence of teamwork in the workplace.  Conflict will arise, but winning involves creating harmony.  Any company that wants to win, must have teams that work together and play nice.

Side Discussion:  The Power of Stories

A coach of mine once said,

“Your mind is like a garden.  Some people allow weeds to grow in it (negative thoughts) and it destroys the garden and its beauty.  Over time, nothing is left only the weeds (negativity, antagonism, cynicism).  You must work hard to pull out of the weeds so that you can enjoy the garden.”

Metaphors like this are very powerful.  It’s very easy to grow weeds in your mind’s garden.  Under stress, our beliefs and thoughts can easily become negative towards:

  • our co-workers
  • our company
  • ourselves
  • our managers
  • our future
  • our skills
  • etc.

Stories, like “the Student, the Master, and the Drunk” share powerful lessons that help pull “weeds” out of our mind’s garden.  Yet we forget this.  When we were little, we used to read fables and stories.  These were powerful because they shaped us and taught us valuable life lessons.  As we grew older, most of us stopped hearing such insightful stories.  But I believe they are important and that they can change us and make us better individuals and team players.

I’ll be sharing more stories as I find them, because I believe in their power.  If you have any good ones that you feel have helped shaped you, please share them below.

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