Saturday, September 11, 2010

Money, power, respect

En route to the nation’s capital, I’ve been lucky enough to find my way into a rather comfortable living arrangement, fairly close to the train line, and quite literally across the street from a Safeway that could easily take up six square blocks in the Bronx. Constructions of that size regularly unsettle me, as they are primarily so far from my normal experience that I feel an unarmed adventurer in a wild, untamed land. However, my excellent friends that live in the area are very accomodating, and have made the transition, if anything, exceedingly comfortable for me.

Last Friday, I tested the route in from my home station, and found that from there to my mentorship site takes approximately 45 minutes. Not at all bad, and around the same amount of time that it would take should I still be in the Bronx, and working around Baruch. This morning’s ride was very smooth, and I was grateful for that, though the DC train system is quite different from NYC’s; there is carpet on the train, the seats are cushioned, none of the people on the morning commute are busy endeavoring to consume five course meals in between stations, no dance performers, no ear-splitting, high-pitched squeals from the train wheels on the tracks, no half-possessed citizen preachers hurling lines about repentance, no street magicians… it is, in short, the antithesis of what I understand as a train.

Walking into the office on the first day was a unique experience; I managed to be coming out of the train at almost precisely the same time as two other classmates that work in the same agency, just in different departments. Amusingly, when I beta-tested the ride in the Friday before, I had also similarly encountered them as I was walked back towards the train station from the building. We strolled in together, happy to be embarking on a new adventure, and as the day wore on, we all began to get different flavors of just how the work of the year was going to unfold. My specific projects are going to have to do with an Municipal Regulation Amendment and a workflow management system implementation. Those are going to be fairly hefty endeavors, I guess it’s a good idea that they acquired someone who likes to lift weights!;) During the week I’ve met the agency’s head, as well as the actual Department Head, and both of these have been fairly interesting encounters.

During the week, there was a reception at a local restaurant where our program director, the alumni communications specialist, and a host of alumni who are also residents of the District of Columbia and the surrounding DVM area (DC, Virginia, Maryland; also sometimes seen as DMV – not to be confused with the Dpt of Motor Vehicles) came together. A major networking opportunity was had and many cards were exchanged.

Today, however, is an auspicious event: the anniversary of September 11, the Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Millenial’s version of the ‘Day that shall live in infamy’ (I’m paraphrasing from a report I’d seen earlier today, but the words are as poignant.) I’m not entirely certain however, that the verity of that fragment would be as significant to the whole of the generations mentioned. Yet, as we go forward, with remembrances, and even as I reposted the article that I had written in preparation for this day last year – having not seen as many answers to the questions I posted as I would have liked, there are yet some clearly defined concepts for leadership that I believe have not been focused on with as much fervor as I might have liked, though these come directly from my training in the dojo:

Hassuji: ‘target’, ‘objective’, or ‘angle’. Hit what you’re aiming at, essentially. What you’re aiming at might very well be world peace, or whirled peas, whichever is more crucial at the moment. This applies to both swordsmanship, as well as leading a nation.

Ma’ai: ‘distance’ – which is never static. The space you have to travel to an objective (this can be a beneficial one as well as a deleterious one. A win-win situation ideally,) target, enemy, or the distance along which you have to follow an angle to arrive at one of these, is in constant flux. Knowing how far you have to go in order to achieve what you’re after is essential. How far do we have to go until the economy rights itself? How far is left to go until the Middle East peace process is finalized (if it can be… or is it allowed to continue unresolved in perpetuity for a reason?) How far is left to go until there would no longer be a need for a War on Terror? Or a War on Drugs? Etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Choshi/Hyoshi: ‘rhythm’, ‘pace’, ‘cadence’ – on the mat, as well as in any type of encounter: personal, private, business, martial, or otherwise, if one partner is moving at an entirely different pace than the other, or if they are not steadily advancing towards the same goal at a similar pace, the technique, relationship, economic stimulus plan, withdrawal strategy, any and all of it is destined for failure.

Kurai: ‘spiritual/emotional readiness’ – are you truly ready to commit to a relationship, program of study, new position, conflict, etc. Many times, the answer is no, and if we’re not personally at a stage in our emotional development where we could conceivably engender the change we’d like to see, why then, would we expect someone else to be responsible for it?

Through the operation of all of these principles, two other overarching themes are in place:

Intent – are your actions having the consequence you’d originally wanted them to have? Did you achieve what you were originally intending to achieve? Have you corrected a problem? Or did you create far too many new ones during your operation for it to be considered a success?

Humility – not a trait for which leaders in our country are generally known, but one that is central to the proper attitude for leadership in the new century. If anything is clear, a new vision of what leadership means is in order. The face of America has changed, and our concepts of ‘leadership’ must change with it.