Someone asked me recently how I became a “business therapist,” a playful term I sometimes use to describe my role. It’s not a path I ever would have imagined for myself when I started on it, but looking back I can see the clear progression that got me here. As I relayed the story again recently, I had a revelation of sorts—you know the kind where it suddenly becomes clear you’ve been wrong all along?
Beginning in my late teens, I became mildly obsessed with martial arts. In college, my freshman year hallmate introduced me into Jujitsu, and I was pretty much instantly hooked. We got our black belts together our senior year, but I was still searching for an art that went deeper (y’know, like the Jedi).
Later, my housemate gave me an article written by an Aikido teacher in California—it turned out there was a group of cutting-edge teachers in the Bay Area. I knew I would find my Yoda there! But in typical college kid fashion, after graduating, I spent another lazy summer lifeguarding.
Labor Day came, the pool closed, and I was left unemployed but still living at home in Massachusetts, without a clue what to do with myself. I still remember sheer dread at hunting for jobs in the newspaper, though I was well-armed with my liberal arts degree, water-sports skills, and the black belt that meant more to me than it would any employer.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to hunt for long when a high school friend who’d just graduated from Stanford rescued me. He’d found an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District and needed a roommate. He told me I could substitute teach and he’d show me how to get started. I was sold, and two weeks later I packed up my Nissan Sentra and drove across the country.
I studied with some of the greatest teachers in the world and I was on the mat nearly every day. A couple of those teachers had a management consulting business where they used Aikido as a leadership model. Sometimes I got to go to their consulting gigs and get thrown around, and I absolutely loved it. We blew the minds of corporate executives with the most simple movements, and they would use what they learned to change the business worlds they led.
And at twenty-three, fresh out of college, with very little work experience, I decided I wanted to be a management consultant. Imagine my predicament. Fortunately, I was naive enough to think it was possible.
I met someone at an event in San Francisco just a few months later. “What do you do for work?” I asked, as you often do.
“I’m a business coach,” she said.
“Really? I want to do that! Are they hiring?” It turns out they were, and about a month later I had a job at EMyth. They looked for someone passionate who didn’t have any pre-existing business conditioning. They wanted to teach someone everything they needed to learn, from scratch.
The rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve thought about this course of events many times. What began as a simple passion for martial arts led me places I never imagined and delivered to me beauty, bounty, and meaning I didn’t think possible. I’ve steered myself into the ditch many times as well, of course, but I’ve learned at a rapid pace and it’s never been boring.
I’ve always held that I somehow manifested this path, but remember a few paragraphs ago where I mentioned I had a revelation? Yeah, I realized I was wrong.
I didn’t really do anything. All I did was follow my passion. It was more like walking through a series of open doors. Look again:
- My hallmate took me to my first dojo
- My housemate gave me the article on Aikido
- My high school friend invited me to San Francisco
- My teachers brought me to their gigs
- The stranger I met invited me to apply for the coaching job
It was almost as if it were all laid out for me. Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve earned plenty through hard work. The sensei don’t just take anyone on their gigs, and I managed to get hired by one of the companies that pioneered coaching through a grueling set of seven interviews.
The point I’m making is how much of the story seemed to have nothing to do with me: arising circumstances, dumb luck, serendipity? Whatever you want to call it, it’s not something I can take direct credit for. I just showed up in life with my commitment to what mattered most to me—the values of the ancient Bushido (warrior) code.
Being relentlessly committed to your values creates results that are unpredictable and magical. (Click to tweet)
It’s a being thing. As a society, we know a lot about doing, but it only gets you so far. Take a look at your own life, as I have my own here. Isn’t it true that many opportunities just opened up to you because of who you were being, not what you did?
Now ask the question: Based on what you want in the future, what is Life waiting for you to be, in order to earn those doors opening for you?
It could be you’re not doing the right things, sure. But what if the answer is in how you’re showing up? If you need help figuring out the difference, maybe the Dojo is the place for you. Clear and Open Members get direct reflections from me and their peers on both sides of the equation.