Author: Shihan Graeme

If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavours to lead a life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. [By: Henry David Thoreau]

Read any management text, attend all the management and sales courses you like. Enrol in a self development course. Listen to advice from the experts. They all tell you that the key to success is determining and then working towards objectives, or having clearly defined and achievable goals or targets. They should be achievable, clear, realistic, concise, and preferably, in writing.

So you set yourself some goals, or your employer does it for you. They come sneakily dressed sometimes and may call themselves budgets (what we have to achieve). Work hard, keep focussed, and achieve your goals. Then what? Well, set some more, but raise the bar higher. Do it all again and then what? Raise the bar higher. Do this in every part of your life. Business, hobbies, sport, leisure, relationships, martial arts. At the end of the day what have you got? Success? The world is full of people who live by setting and working towards goals, and at the end of their life are very unfulfilled. Perhaps great success at business, terrible family life. Be very clear about this. Objectives are devices ordinary people put into place to keep themselves pointing in the right direction. A company or organisation without clear objectives is looking for trouble.

But there is an alternative to this objectives business. I know all about objectives. I used to teach managers how to work within an objectives framework. I even wrote a book about objectives. But, although I had to teach the subject, I felt somewhat strange because I never set objectives for myself, and only ever set business objectives because the business demanded it. Even then I was not captive to the process and encouraged my people to think and work where possible, within a different concept.

Ever since I was young I had a different paradigm, a different way of thinking. Instead of setting objectives, I determined what sort of life I wanted, and worked tirelessly at improvement. I said this is the direction I want to go, let’s see where it leads.

I worked for many years with an eminent psychiatrist named Doctor Imre Zador who had a prodigious background, including being a personal student of Freud. We worked together at improving the human resources at Ansett Transport Industries. At the time the company had over 11,000 employees. One day we were interviewing young employees at Melbourne Airport whom we thought had a good potential for growth within the company. Dr Zador asked each of them, "What is your career ambition?" (He could equally have asked, "What are your career goals or objectives"). The answers were staggering. They were all precise, limited in vision and virtually impossible to achieve.

One said to be General Manager, another, a supervisor. One said he wanted to work in another department. One even had the short sightedness to reply "I want his job", indicating the Airport Manager. Well, you could see him squirming! I was pretty disappointed at the responses, because they all showed total lack of foresight, imagination and reality. To me, none of them had the qualities we were looking for. Then one young man answered "Well, I don’t have any really firm views, but I would like to develop my career through study and experience. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I would like to achieve a position whereby I can be in charge, with good people to work with, and to contribute at the highest possible level to the success of the company." He didn’t have a particular objective, he had identified a direction.

This young fellow sounded like me! Dr Zador was greatly impressed and told me later that this was the answer of an extraordinary person.

One of the problems with objectives is the potential human result should the objectives not be reached. We fail. We are failures. Fail enough times and the human condition can become very fragile. But I can keep your morale high by giving you easily achievable objectives, and that won’t do either.

Another problem is the single mindedness some people and organisations employ in going after their targets. Sometimes people do the wrong thing because the objective is all consuming. Even if they regret their actions, they are captive to the idea that the end justifies the means. Gaols are full of people who put the objective ahead of the process.

That’s not even looking at the concept of having bad, frivolous, immoral, unethical, unsustainable or illegal objectives in the first place.

Life is a journey, not an objective.

Mind you, there are worse things. I have met many people who have sought career guidance counselling, and to the question "What sort of things would you like to do with your career", have answered, "I’ll do anything. Anything that the company wants me to do. I’ll go anywhere and do whatever it takes to get on." That is abdicating your human responsibility for yourself.

Recently my senior students and I attended a Gasaku in Sydney, conducted by my teacher, Shihan Watanabe. During one of the sessions, Shihan asked the students (most of whom were black belts), what are your objectives? He then talked about the value of objectives, and indicated some objectives he wanted the group to achieve. Later, in private conversation I said to him, that I felt awkward with the whole concept of objectives, and that instead I preferred to work within the concept of travelling a pathway and taking my chances with whatever came along.

If you set objectives, you may miss all the wonderful opportunities that lie scattered around. Because of your close focus on a predetermined result you may lose better opportunities. When I was at Ansett, I held eleven different jobs during my 28 year employment. I started sticking destination labels on airfreight consignments, and ended up as the company’s senior training executive. After the first job, not one of the next ten positions I held (every one was a promotion), even existed at the time of the previous appointment. How could I have set objectives for that? I set myself a direction and worked assiduously towards the unknown. Along the way I tripped, sometimes I stalled momentarily. Sometimes I rested briefly, sometimes there were great victories. I could see what lay ahead of me a little way, but I also saw the dangers and opportunities that lay to the side of the pathway.. Needless to say I took full advantage of the opportunities, even if at times it seemed a strange way to go. I have "knocked back" at least three sensational job offers because they weren’t right for me.

I could pick and choose what I went with, because I was not locked in, physically, mentally or emotionally. I had accidentally discovered a different way to live my life. I am not an objectives person, I am a pathway person. I also know that the "pathway" is not three dimensional, it is four dimensional, therefore to successfully negotiate the pathway, one needs some special insight, or what is sometimes called "spatial vision".

Shihan responded to me by saying that objectives are for ordinary people. Most people need the focus that the self discipline of objectives brings. People who live the pathway are extraordinary people and have no particular need of objectives.

This reminded me of Dr Imre Zador’s comments many years before. Through working closely together he knew that I was a pathway person, as was he.

The martial arts brought my life into sharp focus. I saw that the "Do" or "Tao", is not just some empty, high sounding concept. How do you know if you’re on the right path? What is to stop you from going around in circles?

I didn’t know it when I was young, but I know now that I was travelling the Eightfold Path. Perhaps this is why karate means so much to me. It has explained my life, and helped me in my travels along the path.

Can you travel the path? Of course. However, you must understand the Eightfold Path because it will keep you on the right track. If you have good kama you will also have the support and guidance of a true Master, such as I have received from my own Master, Shihan Watanabe.

My son, Lincoln is a real estate sales consultant. One day his Sales Manager said to him, "Lincoln what are your objectives?" Lincoln answered "I don’t have any. I am a pathway person. I know that if I keep pointed in the right direction, work hard, do all the right things and always do my best, I will exceed not only your expectations of me, but my own expectations of myself". Well the discussion apparently ended right there, with a very surprised Sales Manager finding no voice to answer.

I have seen too many aimless people with no objectives. I have seen too many unfulfilled people with objectives. However, make no mistake. Saying you are a "pathway person" is no excuse for lack of performance, because we are all accountable.

Many companies and organisations have "Mission Statements" hanging in the reception area. Some even have "Customer Charters". What are these documents? They are pathway statements. Only problem is, the organisation then sets objectives so ordinary people stay focussed on the company’s mission. No wonder that for most organisations the Mission Statement is empty words written on parchment and nicely framed, hanging in the front office where only the visitors can see it. The company, if it were serious, should tattoo the pathway statement on every employee’s forehead.

I have students who say to me I want a Brown Belt, or I want a Black Belt. I always reply, don’t look for it or you will never find it. When the time is right, the Black Belt will find you. Remember also that although there are plenty of people out there who have a Black Belt, there are not many who actually are a Black Belt (whatever that is). I have said for a long time that there are many people who practice Martial Arts, but there are very few Martial Artists. There are few real warriors. It’s too hard for ordinary people. And I don’t mean just hard training.

I am reminded that I read somewhere about a student who asked his teacher "How long will it take for me to get my Black Belt if I train three times a week?" The Master’s answer was "Ten years." "Then how long if I train five days a week for four hours a day?" The answer: "Twenty years". "Then how long if I give up every thing and train all day, seven days a week?" The answer, "Longer than your whole life."

When I started studying karate, a Black Belt was the furthest thing from my mind. I just keep on going to class, kept on trying, kept on suffering, just kept on. Now I am a Yondan, and I’m sure that I would never in my wildest dreams ever set that as an objective for myself. Not even on the day of my grading.

By the way, what are gradings? Certainly, within the kyu grade system they are an objectives mechanism to keep beginners, (ordinary people) focussed and motivated.

Where does the "pathway" fit into your study of the Martial Arts? Well, to find the answer, we need to look at the Japanese words "Bushido" and "Bujutsu". "Bu" means "Martial Arts", and "Shi" means "an Officer", or "Director". In English this translates to "not an ordinary person", or "an extraordinary person". Therefore the title "Bushi" means "warrior", or in terms of feudal Japan, "top class". "Do" means "The Way", or "The Path". What is not widely recognised in the West is that "Do" is synonymous with, and means the same as "Zen".

Therefore if you study true "Bushido", you are endeavouring to become an extraordinary person by studying Zen through the Martial Arts.

By comparison, the meaning of "Bujutsu" breaks down as, "Bu", "Martial Arts", and "Jutsu", "Technique". If you are studying only martial arts techniques; that is, the application of the technical and practical side of fighting, bunkai, kata and so on, you are not studying bushido, karatedo, aikido, kendo, judo, or any other sort of "Do". You will not find "The Way" at that school.

"Do Chu", the title of this article means "In the Way", or "Taking the right Path".

Study Zen, and understand the importance of NOW. Here it is all, NOW. Live NOW. Give today your absolute best. No would’ve, or could’ve or should’ve, in your life, EVER.

Saying you’re a Pathway person isn’t enough. You have to actually live your life that way. You have to walk it, not talk it. I can see if a person is on the pathway whether they say they are or not.

Using the Pathway as your blueprint for life is not for everybody. The purpose of this article is to touch those people who are already on the pathway, to give you encouragement. It is also for those seeking a better way to live their lives, and who will find here a true alternative. Please however understand that you must live your life according to the Eightfold Path:

1. Right views. 5. Right effort
2. Right thought 6. Right mindfulness
3. Right speech. 7. Right meditation.
4. Right conduct. 8. Right life.

Think on these. Happy travelling.