In How To Choose a Bad Martial Arts Instructor, I provided a quick and easy guide to finding an inappropriate school. John W. McKenna’s recent call for thoughts on leadership reminded me to follow up on that guide, with more helpful advice.
John asked, does most leadership suck? My answer: none of your business. You don’t need to follow every leader; one qualified sensei is enough. A more useful question is, how do you find that sensei?
Some seekers believe they should begin their search for a great sensei by flying to the Far East. I consider that approach to be unwise, because even after you spend thousands of dollars and travel halfway around the world, you will still end up with the sensei you deserve, or the sensei you paid for. For explanation, we can consult the teachings of both Eastern and Western traditions.
Karmic Law is the Indian name for the universal principle of cause and effect. It recognizes that they are inseparable, and transcend both life and time. When cause and effect manifest in intricate patterns, Karmic Law reminds us that there is a difference between complexity and chance.
For the sake of comprehensibility, karma is often reduced to terms of merit and demerit. Positive actions accumulate merit or good karma, which is redeemed with pleasant outcomes. Negative actions result in bad karma, leading to unfortunate results.
According to Karmic Law, the quality of your sensei is unavoidably influenced by your destiny. As you have sown yesterday, so must you reap today.
The Efficient Market Hypothesis
The theory of the efficient market stipulates that it is impossible to outsmart the investing public at large and earn superior financial returns through an active trading strategy. The stock prices in an efficient market reflect all available information; even if individual investors misjudge a stock’s intrinsic value, the total error will average out to a fair market price for that stock.
There is no way to beat a perfectly efficient securities market. To earn the same profit as everyone else, you must accept the same risks. This “no free lunch” principle can be applied to any market, and the relationship between a sensei and their disciples is, among other things, a value exchange.
Some senseis want large cash payments in return for their valuable guidance and expert opinion. Others demand to be paid with punctuality, dedication, or adherence to a particular code of conduct. Personal values differ, but every sensei has a standard that defines a student as more or less worthy of instruction. Those teachers in the highest demand command a high price—in the currency of their choosing—and the market of eager students will provide it.
Neither the stock market, nor the market for martial arts instruction is perfectly efficient. Stocks periodically go on sale, and good dojos admit stingy students. Unlike a stock certificate, though, membership in the training hall can be revoked at will. Thus, students who do not learn to pay the required dues should expect to be formally ejected, or informally neglected.
Step One: Deserve Better
Whether you subscribe to the tenets of ancient spiritual science, or the dismal science of modern economics, the solution to the problem is the same. The first step in seeking a true master should be to increase your merit and value as a student. If you become the kind of person every sensei hopes to teach, then you will never want for expert leadership or instruction.