Mizu no kokoro – managers mind like water

You would imagine martial arts masters to look dangerous. Somehow we expect a fierce and grave personality. Maybe we have seen too many martial arts movies. Maybe we don’t understand Mizu no kokoro.

Fact is: most of the masters I met are not like this. When I met Fritz Nöpel, 10th degree black belt and Germanys most important master of Goju-Ryu Karate, he looked like a friendly old man, balding and with a round belly. Olaf Knothe, my master (and I dare say friend) until his untimely death was on the skinny side. Both had a good humour.

If anything these masters seem to be more relaxed, more centered than the usual guy. And they seem like that even when threatened – right until the moment they see an opening. Then there is a brief explosion of energy and blindingly fast movement out of nowhere – and everything is over.

Mizu no kokoro

For the mental state described here the Japanese have a term: Mizo no kokoro. Literally translated it means mind/heart like water. It is a complex concept of which I can only hope to scratch the surface here. It is ancient but was made famous by Bruce Lee and David Allen.

In its natural state water is undisturbed and absolutely still. This is considered the ideal attitude to face the challenges of life: calm and untroubled.

When the water surface is disturbed it will react immediately and create ripples. These ripples will be just enough to deal with the disturbance. Water does not over- nor underreact.

When the disturbance is over, water will quickly return to its calm natural state.

So Mizu no kokoro teaches us to a) stay calm as long as it is not time to react, b) act without under- or overreacting and c) return to calm quickly after. I think, these ideals are not bad for a manager either.

My break

You might have noticed that I have not been posting here for almost half a year. The reason was my very own Mizu no kokoro moment: in the months before my last post I had found it increasingly difficult to act out the values I have laid out at this site. This made it necessary for me to act decisively. Hence I moved to the other end of Germany together with my family and took a new job. Values can be a burden like that…

The ripples are subsiding now. Hope to post again more often!

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