Kung Fu Lessons for Business

I have been a student of Wing Chun Kung Fu for about four years. The beauty of the art is in its simplicity; only a few guiding principles, but able to be applied to any combat situation in any number of combinations. What has surprised me the most, however, is how I have adopted these principles in my professional life.

Wing Chun strips away all the fancy Hollywood moves and finds the most direct and effective route to land strikes. For example, we never kick above the waist; kicking someone in the head makes as much sense as punching someone in the foot. Our punches are always targeted to the spot on the opponent closest to us, delivered in a straight line (which is shorter than the arc a hook takes), often to the head where maximum damage is inflicted with minimal wasted energy.

Wing Chun Kung FuIn life, we are so polluted with distractions and excess, sometimes the work day seems to go by with a lot of busyness but nothing to show for. By attacking problems head-on and ignoring the fancy forms or high kicks, we can effectively find the shortest way to get things done with maximum effect and minimal effort; that is Wing Chun efficiency at its finest.

For example, email constantly puts us under attack with its constant striking. I have learned to strike back immediately and never twice. I make it a practice to handle email with one motion, which is read-consider-decide. I try never to read an email twice or leave it lingering in my inbox, to be considered over and over again.  The biggest upside is that I attack my email at times when it is efficient for me to handle it in one move. If I honestly cannot solve the task in that moment, I strike back by moving it into a ‘pending task’ folder.  I attack this folder usually once a day. The result is that I parry the continuous attacks that come in my inbox all day. I am never overwhelmed and rarely feel unproductive as a result.

The guiding principles above work together to culminate in one of Wing Chun’s highest levels of mastery: simultaneously blocking and striking in one movement. I remember learning this in combat several years ago, then going home and applying the same concept to my Excel spreadsheets. I Googled how to create a simple macro to take care of three steps in copying, selecting, and pasting each new row with existing data from several spreadsheets; this one step saved me several hundred in the long run.

In combat, no opponent is the same, and Wing Chun teaches you how to adapt using guiding principles instead of memorized forms. Living out these concepts in combat and in life allows for the mind, body, and spirit to act as one, always finding the most effective ways to be efficient.

What have you used from your martial arts training that you can apply and teach others in the combat of daily business? What other leadership lessons have you gleaned from unexpected places?


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