Tuesday 5 February 2019

Reflections on Carpentry, Musashi and Becoming an Old Fogey

I used to laugh watching my instructor Rick 'fussbudget' around restoring old furniture.  Often on work lunch breaks I would wander over to his shop in Queen Street to say - Hi.  Then find myself standing round in his basement as he worked away on some old piece of furniture sanding and gluing,  Fixing broken bits and slowly rebuilding salvaged furniture. 

When I was young I thought it was pretty funny. It was such an 'old fogeish' thing to do.

Now, I am doing it.

And the interesting thing is that I am starting to see why Rick liked it.

Woodworking is a great analogy for the martial arts. Creating a a beautiful form in this craft also takes time and repetitive practice paired with a long-term vision of what 'could be'.

You must learn as you go and,  like the martial arts, experience teaches best. Sometimes you stuff up and have to figure out how to fix what you have broken, resisting the urge to give up or walk away. 

And like the martial arts there's often pain. When you skin your knuckles, jam you fingers or cut yourself on an old nail, it hurts and again you are faced with that urge to give up and walk away.

Slowly, with long effort the true beauty of the object being built or restored takes shape. Bit like in martial arts.

Its no surprise then that the classic samurai text on strategy Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings explains the principles of strategy using a carpenter's work as a metaphor for strategic leadership.  Musashi describes how a carpenter needs to know their apprentices, material and tools and bring them together to maximize economy and efficiency and produce a fine product. 

A lot like coaching.