Kung Fu Hustle or Mastery? How Your Mindset Changes Business Outcomes for Better or Worse
By Jared Hrabak, Cybersecurity Engineer, cStor
I’m a big fan of Kung Fu movies, they’re always inventively entertaining and a blend of true artistry and movie magic. As a member of the military, however, I’m also intrigued by the powerful discipline of martial arts to conquer both mind and body into one powerful practice. The art of Shaolin Kung Fu is believed to be the oldest style of Kung Fu, originated and developed in the Buddhist Shaolin temple in Songshan mountain, Henan province, China, and the foundation from which all other martial arts were eventually created or inspired.
What’s so fascinating about this ancient art, even more so than its place in history, is the applicability of its core principles into modern life, and specifically into how humans learn, grow, collaborate and adapt. After my early studies of this practice, I’m convinced that if people in the world of IT put even a few of them into everyday practice, it would have a dramatically positive impact on the best business outcomes we’re all striving for… not only in cybersecurity but in the world of technology at large.
Seven Zen Sutras of Shaolin Kung Fu
So, here are the seven core principles, referred to as Zen sutras, that are devoted to forging mind and body, and my thoughts on how I truly believe they could be transformative in IT cultures.
1. Never Give Up
If your heart is strong, you can accomplish anything. Once you have decided on your Shaolin goal, cut off any road of retreat. Advance like an arrow from a bow. Burn your boats. Give yourself no choice.
This one comes down to strength of character and belief. When clients and co-workers do the real work to think differently and recognize that the best solution is not always one that’s already been done before, a new conviction arises in them. There’s a boldness to their mission, and then if they can champion their position with strength and a modicum of fearlessness, great things can happen.
2. Always Practice
Shaolin Martial Arts is like boiling water, if you do not keep the flame high with continued training, your skill turns tepid. Standing, sleeping, awake or asleep, the Shaolin Warrior always practices. Never separate yourself from the way of the warrior.
Military life is akin to this tenant: continual training means you’re sharpening your skills around the clock. There is no “off” mode. In the world of IT, that doesn’t mean you don’t get your weekends, vacations and personal time. It just means that you’re always on the lookout for a better way… not at the risk or expense of trying every fad, but in the mindset of ‘continual learning.’
3. Integrate Yin And Yang
You are not learning techniques, you are learning nature. The integration of Yin (Qigong) and Yang (Kung Fu) training is the essence of Shaolin. Every time you do your Shaolin Workout the positive energy of heaven and earth is inhaled.
While this one might be a little ‘deep’ for Western culture to process, in my opinion, it’s really about being able to see all sides of the picture, and if you can’t do that, finding trusted people around you who can. We all know there is never just one way, and one way only to get the job done. Open your mind to the realm of other possibilities and opinions. Leave your ego at the door regularly. If you can’t do that, at least give it a try a few days a week. That’s when the best solutions will come.
4. Turn Yourself Into Zero
When we enter the temple, we prostrate 3 times, this is a symbol of letting go of our body, speech and mind. Let go and entrust everything that comes up in your life – anxiety, illness, stress – to your Shaolin Practice.
As with the prior sutra, this one is often hard for Westerners to comprehend. My best interpretation is this: you’re not the center of the universe. None of us are. We are designed to be social, collaborative beings, but many times we’re stuck in old patterns of belief and our need to be ‘right.’ When you let go of all of that and can see that you’re an important contributing force – and that we all are – your need to be right vanishes. And that, my friend, is honestly a very beautiful thing.
5. Nurture Your Body
Your body is a treasured gift from heaven and earth. Using medicine is a last resort. If you take care of yourself, eat well, do Shaolin Qigong, you will not become ill. Don’t neglect your body’s basic health.
I equate this sutra to “your body is a temple;” without a healthy body, your mind, logic, reasoning, interpersonal skills and much more are not at their best either. Shaolin Qigong is an ancient practice created to optimize the energy within our bodies to perform at the peak of our power. Think of the last time you didn’t feel well. How did you treat the people around you? How was the clarity of thinking? I could elaborate on the importance of health, but I suspect you get it. Take care of your health so you have a strong foundation from which you operate day-to-day.
6. Apply Great Effort
If you put a lot of effort into your Shaolin Martial Arts and don’t become very skillful at it, you have still excelled yourself. Because whether you’re good or bad at your training, the result is the same: it’s one of the most positive things you can do for your mind and body.
This sutra may seem difficult to apply, but trust me, it isn’t. Eastern cultures believe we’re all connected and part of a larger universal ‘system,’ with each person having unique gifts, skills and talents that are no more or no less important than the next. If you apply that perspective to the world of IT, then it doesn’t matter what you’re good at or not, it’s your effort for the contribution that is most meaningful. Stop comparing yourself to other people and find where you are the happiest contributing value that feels like your authentic self. From there, everything flows much easier.
7. Cut Off Desire
People’s minds get tangled up in objects and this fragments their energy and hinders their practice. Only have what you really need rather than what you really want. Happiness comes from our internal world, not from the external.
Well, this one may have the most controversy yet! Let me offer some perspective here too. It’s easy, especially in today’s rather materialistic world and certainly in the world of IT, to get distracted by the latest ‘shiny object,’ and always think there’s something better out there. The truth is there may be, but continually hunting for the next ‘cool thing’ just to feed your ego isn’t always the best solution. You can easily get on a ‘rat wheel’ of new things and never get to any real results. So, collaborate with your team and experts around you to prepare a solid, well-thought plan, and then execute to the desired outcome. Then, test, measure and adjust from there. Trust your plans and team as the ‘internal world’ and let results and data be your guide.
So back to my title: are you muddling along in IT trying to strong-arm your co-workers and the technology world to bend to your ego? That’s the Kung Fu Hustle. Or… are you working towards a more productive, efficient and effective way of working in the world: Kung Fu Mastery…? You decide.
I’d love to hear your interpretation of the Zen sutras and how they fit (or not) in your world. Drop me a line on anything IT, or if you’d just like to compare favorite Kung Fu movies someday. I’m IN!