Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Humility, Speed, and Personal Responsibility

I can't remember what female public figure did what to fall from grace a few years ago, but I do remember that I was listening to the radio to an image consultant talking about how best that woman should deal with her situation. The consultant said that the American public responds best to a person's errors when the guilty party responds with humility, speed, and personal responsibility...

Those words shocked my spine straight and brought goosebumps up on my skin.

Whether in social settings, business relationships, or on the training floor, those 3 qualities are absolutely essential for progress. Let's define them 1-by-1...

Humility - According to Webster's, this is the state or quality of being "not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive; reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission"..... But we're proud Americans and we submit to no one!!.... And when we're wrong about something, that attitude is exactly what gets us in deeper and deeper feces.

People who can't admit fault or learn how to deferentially bow their heads are liars. They're lying to themselves and to you about their ability to understand their limitations, to comprehend reality, and to conduct themselves in a meaningful way when the chips are down.

How does this translate into something tangible for you on the training floor? My mentor, Pavel Tsatsouline, uses these words all the time when confronted with a situation that is beyond his comprehension: "I don't know."

Simply admitting that you're not certain about something and that the listener would be better served by seeking answers from higher authorities instead of listening to your speculative gibberish is a sign of well-practiced humility. As a physician, as a martial arts teacher, and as a strength & performance trainer, I am bound to being a professional student. As a human being, it is no different.

Speed - We don't really need to look in Webster's for this one, I hope. But the essential idea here is for folks to immediately and committedly do something to right a wrong that they've done. Instead of hemming and hawwing and waiting to see if the wronged party will notice whether or not you screwed up or whether or not they'll call you on it, take matters into your own hands and make amends promptly. That ties into the third and final attribute of successful interaction.

Personal Responsibility - I'm constantly amazed at the number of adults who are all too quick to deny responsibility. Even on the auto insurance paperwork that comes from AAA, one of the points of advice is "Do not admit responsibility for or discuss to circumstances of the accident with anyone other than the police or an authorized Auto Club claims employee."


I got into a fender bender maybe 10 years ago where I was clearly at fault for following too closely... thereby feeding stereotypes. I got out of the car and immediately apologized profusely to the other driver for the damage, inconvenience, and any injury that might have been caused.

The gentleman and his wife told me that they were shocked that someone in L.A. would so promptly and politely admit fault. I offered them my contact information and my insurance information, asking them to contact me if there was anything I could do handle any inconveniences or problems I'd caused. Surprisingly, I got a call a few days later. The gentleman did not report the collision to his insurer as his damage was relatively minor and he was calling to make sure that I was OK!!!

On the training floor that means that if you put an armbar on too strongly, you apologize convincingly and make amends for it immediately, making every effort to alleviate any pain or injury you caused - whether that means helping put an ACE bandage on or paying for any medical treatment that your victim had to receive.

If you were training people and they injured themselves due to your lack of awareness - e.g., because you let them do too many swings with too heavy of a weight and without making sure that their spines were in full extension at the bottom of the swing - then you have to say, "I'm sorry that your back is bothering you. I should have been more strict about making sure you kept proper form during each repetition. Let's ease back a bit on the weight and the repetitions until we can make sure that you can do each and every repetition without placing yourself at risk. Did you have to seek treatment for your back? If not, let's begin with some more cobra stretches to put the lumbar muscles in a position of ease and open up the anterior of the spine. This time, we'll do it right, and I apologize for any discomfort you felt last time. I'll make sure that we don't skip any steps this time."

The time's over for us to act like bratty, irresponsible little kids. In every facet of our lives, let's do what we can to take on responsibility with the kind of poise, power, and courage that proves real leadership and real respect! Whether that means apologizing to our spouses for starting a confrontation with a foul tone of voice, making sure our round kicks land squarely on the center of the Thai pads instead of bashing the tops into our trainer's face, or pushing the oil barons to put their fortunes into fixing global warming, we ALL need to toe the line!


Franz Snideman said...

FAANTASTIC post Mark! Especially about taking personal responsibility!

You going up to San Jose in February?

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

Thank you, Brother Franz.

I AM going to San Jose. You're going too, I hope!

Much love to you & the family!

Franz Snideman said...

Yes. We will see you there!!!!

Joe Sarti said...