18th century French philosopher, Voltaire coined the phrase, ‘Good is the enemy of great’. In his book ‘Good To Great’, author Jim Collins discusses this philosophy.
He writes “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the reasons that we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, precisely because it is easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great precisely because they become quite good. – and that is their main problem”.
This very principle applies equally to karate-ka. So few become great because so many become good. Thomas J Watson, president of IBM for over four decades wrote, “Whenever an individual or a business decides that success has been attained, progress stops”. For many, a black belt symbolises success. For others, it’s symbolised by being the most dominant sparrer in the dojo or knowing higher grade kata. And others again, arriving at success may mean they are of sound general health, of healthy weight etc. At some point we feel we have become good and therefore lose the desire to continue pushing beyond our comfort zones and aiming for something even better.
Letting go of good involves crossing two bridges; the bridge of complacency, and the bridge of discovery.
Very often we convince ourselves we are giving something our all and getting the most we can out of ourselves. This applies to our work, school, relationships, karate etc. We feel we are putting in full effort and focus and we feel we cannot possibly expect any more (in terms of results) from ourselves.
Part of breaking free of our comfort zones is coming to the realisation that we can be better. If you donʼt look at things from a realistic point of view and admit that things are not as good as they can be, they wonʼt get better. It requires the courage toface the brutal facts about yourself. Never hide from reality.Chances are you will find that:
- You can hold your stances longer.
- You can push longer in kumite.
- You can maintain intensity during kata despite being tired.
- You can apply more self-awareness when trying to perfect your techniques.
When you let go of the concept that your are good, when you face the reality that you can be much better, you are well on your way to becoming better.
Realising we are complacent is just one bridge that we must cross. What we also require is an exciting future to work towards. Any great discovery requires one to first set their sights enthusiastically high. To cross the bridge of discovery we must first develop an internal image of what we can be and who we can be. Having a visual image of our potential serves to inspire us to break free of our comfort zones. It also serves to help us identify that we still have much to work on. Once we can see how much further we have to go in our journey our expectations of what it is to be good rises.