Search This Blog

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Don't you know who I am??"

"None of our men are "experts." We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the "expert" state of mind a great number of things become impossible." ~Henry Ford, Sr.

We've all met self-proclaimed "experts" in martial arts or other activities at one time or another. Have you noticed that some of these "experts" might look down their noses at you because you're not quite at their lofty level? Sure, as "experts" they gain success in whatever they do, but many times some end up having their staff do the things that make things happen, while taking the credit of the accomplishments.

Now, I'm not against anyone requiring assistants to move forward in their fact, I think it is necessary to delegate tasks to those willing to assist. However, when we get to a point where we proclaim ourselves as "experts" or "masters", there comes a risk of forgetting all there is left to learn.

"Well, my students call me 'master'", you might say. "Should I ask that they NOT call me by the title?" That's fine. Their willingness to address you as "Master" is their expression of acknowledgment of your time and experience in (insert martial art or activity here). If you've been formally promoted to the title, you've earned it....much like a Doctorate degree (and the title "Doctor" is fitting in that case). However, if you proclaim yourself as a Master, and carry yourself as if you were royalty, saying "What, you don't know who I am??", then your Ego is going to trip you up someday.

What I find amusing, is when people introduce themselves as "Master so-and-so", regardless if it is at a martial arts function or not. What I find doubly amusing, is when people introduce themselves as "Master so-and-so" when meeting a well known and widely recognized Master. "Title-dropping", I call it. Many bona-fide experts do not call themselves "Master", nor do they consider themselves such. The individuals that always strive for learning and growing (regardless of time and experience in the field), are the ones that students are lucky to study under.

Keep the Egos in check. When others give you the honor of choosing to call you "Master", I believe one should acknowledge the honor and move on....knowing then that you've still got a long road ahead.
Train hard, be well! Gassho.


Matt Stone said...

It's always been my understanding that if a person was deserving of the title, they'd be the last ones to endorse using the title. There's a certain expectation of humility, I think, in anyone deserving of more than passing respect, which would cause them to refuse being referred to by overly presumptuous titles.

In Japan, from what I was told/taught when I lived there, it is considered exceptionally rude to call one's self "sensei." Further, other titles like "renshi," "hanshi," etc., are titles used *solely* in written correspondence. That is, you don't actually call someone "renshi" or "hanshi;" you'd call them "sensei" like any other martial teacher, and refer to them by the other titles only in writing (like not calling someone "PhD Smith," or "JD Smith," or "MD Smith," etc., and only calling them "Dr. Smith").

When I've taught, and my students asked what they should call me, I said "Matt will do nicely."

Matt A said...

Love that quote from Henry Ford! It's amazing how great thinking can cross boundaries.