Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Judo Done Right Can Teach You About Business

Oddly, I found myself having the exact same discussion twice. The first time was with a group of people who had flown in for training and we were discussing effective vocational rehabilitation (the program that puts people with disabilities back to work).

I said,

As an employer, I don't care if you broke up with your boyfriend, your child got the chickenpox, you were up all night studying for exams. I just don't care. This business largely runs on fixed deadlines - the bid is due  February 24th, close of business, Eastern Standard Time -  and if you get it in one minute late, they won't accept it. So, if you don't show up to work when it's crunch time, someone has to cover for you. You do that three times without a DAMN good reason and you're fired. I can guarantee you that my idea of a damn good reason is probably a lot stricter than yours - it better involve somebody's death, or, at the very least, blood, bones sticking out or a trip to the emergency room. Your kid is sick? Guess what, I started this business with three kids and had a fourth one while I was building it up. (Not, as Justin Flores always contends, giving birth on the floor of my office nor on the judo mat while simultaneously strangling my opponent with the umbilical cord - he exaggerates.)

The point is this, a very valuable trait to employers is that you can get your shit together enough to show up every day. Find a babysitter for your kids, schedule your studying and take some Nyquil, whatever you need to do, but when the push is on - get your ass in here. As Dr. Jacob Flores often said about coaching,

I can't put in what God left out.

Meaning, he could teach skills but if the person did not have the innate talent or motivation, there was nothing he could do about that. The same is true about business. I can teach someone SAS or how to interpret a Kaplan-Meier curve. Not knowing how to do something is no big deal, you can learn. Being unreliable, though, is the kiss of death as far as making it in business with me is concerned. One of the main points I emphasized in training was developing "soft skills" in employees - showing up when expected, not being on Facebook for hours at work - that sort of thing.

The very next day, I was talking to Jim Pedro, Sr. and we got into a discussion on coaching. He brought up a couple of times when Ronda was injured - she landed on her head and thought she might have a concussion, another time, she had dislocated her elbow in a match, won the match, fought a few more rounds in the tournament and then practiced at a training camp for several days. At the time, she hated him and thought he was the meanest person on earth, but now she knows she can fight through anything. He said,

I tell these players - no one cares if you have cancer, no one cares if you're injured, if your mother died - if you lose, that is all anyone remembers. Athletes are always looking for an excuse to lose and you have to not give it to them. They need to know that there is never an excuse to lose. There is no excuse. You can fight through anything. Obviously, if they are going to aggravate that injury so much it is going to become career-ending, you don't have them to do it. In 90% of the cases, though, if it just hurts, they're sick, it's some personal problem - get out there and fight. I make them do it because I am trying to help them, whether they realize it or not. What do you think, on the day of the Olympics, the world title fight, it's going to be guaranteed everything is going great for you? So you make them fight even when they don't feel like it so that when that day comes, they know that no matter what the conditions they can fight and they can win. 
There is an assumption that judo, karate and other martial arts teach people discipline and that they develop all sorts of useful skills and attitudes that translate to other areas of life. That is only partially true. Martial arts (and sports in general) *can* develop those traits, but they often don't, because too often people take the same attitude in their sport that they later adopt in business - "It's too hard, you're just mean to make me do it."

So, you can learn a lot about success in business from judo, but that doesn't mean that everyone will.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dr.
This is some GOOD stuff. Really good stuff. I hope lot of youngies learn from here.

Tony said...

I agree with you and love the quote, "I can't put in what God left out". That is awesome! I think a lot of instructors forget about this. They are so scared that the student will quit coming to class and paying their memberships so they don't instill this tough love discipline. Great read.

Daniel said...

A) OFF TOPIC: Congrats to Ronda (and family)!

B) If my employer ever gave me you're speech, I'd quit immediately.

Obviously we see things very differently, but from my experience, you should only hire people whose (professional) goals aline with yours. If it is equally important to your employees not to miss the deadline as it is to you, you won't find yourself in that situation. I don't want to educate my employees, I'd much rather they teach me, and those are the people I look to hire.