I was once taught Kendo by a British champion.
He was a powerfully built Londoner with a manner that was part teacher, part security detail. An inspiring man and a great kendo teacher. The best in Britain at a point in time
But he was only too happy to tell the story when he was beaten by 78 year old man.
It happened in Japan. He was visiting with a delegation from Britain, undertaking a series of semi competitive bouts against Japanese school teams.
The bouts came thick and fast and, as a gaijin (a non-Japanese person), he acquitted himself well. There are many British Champions in Japan, if you get what I mean.
Then it came time to fight the sensei (teacher).
The Japanese delegation bowed deeply as an old man, bent double and walking with the aid of cane, stepped onto the stage.
But then something incredible happened.
As the little old man was helped to put his armour on, he disappeared.
In his place, face hidden behind a metal grill and body shrouded beneath the flowing black robe, the little old man became a warrior. Upright and as straight as a knight.
My teacher couldn’t get his opponent. He would thrust at the figure before him but, as he did, the cloaked man would disappear with a feint or spin of almost negligible movement, re-appearing behind him to win the point with an almost-playful tap of his sword.
I often think about that little old Japanese man around this time of year.
For me the festive period is about recharging. It’s the opportunity to remove the “armour” of the year, all the stresses and worries, challenges and successes, worn for the twelve months of the year as the battle raged, and to become a slower version of myself.
To spend time with the family.
To read fiction.
To sit on the beach, not answer a single email and think of nothing to do with work.
Maybe it’s the same for you?
Sometimes as part of that process, ideas pop up. I try to resist the temptation to work on them, instead committing them to a notebook. I’ll be honest. I don’t always succeed.
But then comes the time after the break. Early January. The restart. Now.
It’s time to get back into it. To make this year better than the last. To fix the things that need fixing in my business, repeat the things that don’t and do some new things that will up our game.
But I find myself struggling to get into gear.
The little old man wants to stay.
I know though if I don’t find a way to get back into gear, it could be a while until we find out Flow.
This is why the story of the little Japanese man means so much to me this time of year.
When the old man puts on the kendo suit, the feeling of the robe, the hilt of the sword and the sight of the grill across his face triggers something known. His mind and body connects with the sensation of being the Warrior.
Suddenly, the years of training, of learning the martial art instinctively, to act without thinking, it takes over.
The Warrior shows up. Instantly and automatically.
There are triggers within each of us that put you at your best. Some people aren’t aware of them at all, whereas some (such as my guest on this months Insight webinar, Ben Elliot) actively cultivate them.
My trigger is when I start writing again.
A friend swears by a four-day restart habit, beginning by spending three hours in the office, then adding one more hour each day until he’s at full swing.
Another spends a week reading the five best business books from the previous year and phoning her favourite clients.
If you have a restart habit, then awesome. You’ll find it easy to go from Holiday Mode to Go Mode, which means the planning stuff I’d like to share in the next few weeks is going to come at exactly the right time.
If you don’t, I’d love to help you find it.
These simple questions may help.
- Remember a time last year that you were at your best. How did it feel? How do you sit or stand when you think of it? Can you capture it in your mind if you close your eyes?
- What about your environment? In what space did you do your best work?
- How about clothes? Is there a uniform that feels best when you’re doing what you’re doing?
- What’s the one project you were most excited about at the end of the year? Why did it excite you so much? Was it something you read, a conversation you had or someone you were looking forward to working with?
- Finally, and possibly most importantly, which clients did you most enjoy working with last year? Which partners? Which advice areas were you best in? Can you start the year by speaking with them, or doing some work in that area?
Right now your year is mostly a blank slate. That means an opportunity to do great things and make it your best ever.
Strategies to find more awesome leads.
Great ways to improve your service offer.
New technology to grab and integrate.
Team members to develop and hand over key projects to.
Time to invest resetting your 3-year vision, and deciding what your 12-month targets might be.
However, it can also seem overwhelming when it’s all in front of you.
Park all that though. For now, just start with you.
Because when you’re ready, and you feel it, you’ll be able to engineer the most perfect restart of all.
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