There is a mental disorder spreading through our society which could
destroy your Aikido and your life. It's the "lottery mentality": The
desire for unearned success. We read about it every day -- a man wins
the lottery and is set for life, or a woman wins a lawsuit and never
has to work again. The mere thought of unearned success brings a
smile to our faces -- the new American Dream!
You're thinking, "So what's wrong with winning the lottery, and what
does it have to do with my Aikido?" There may be nothing wrong with
winning the lottery; however, the pursuit of unearned success which it
represents can be a danger to all aspects of your life, including your
Aikido. If someone offered you the chance to buy a lottery ticket
with the opportunity to "win" the secret to mastering the art of
Aikido, you would laugh and walk away. Or would you?
We have all heard students ask Sensei to advise them how to improve
their technique, only to receive an invitation to practice. At a
recent clinic, Clark Sensei offered to reveal his key ("ki") to
improving your Aikido. Everyone turned on their mental recorders to
digitize this shortcut to success. He proceeded to suggest that each
of us perform the walking, releases, and weapons kata fifteen times a
week for two years. You could hear the collective disappointment. He
was telling us the key to improvement was commitment to our practice.
Heck, we already knew that! Anybody can succeed if they are committed
to hard work and practice. But we want the secret to unearned
success. We want to win the lottery.
I witnessed an example of the lottery mentality during a recent
exchange between an amateur golfer and a professional. The pro was
hitting practice balls when the amateur walked up and began to watch.
The pro was known to have hit a thousand balls a day in his youth, and
is still considered one of the most dedicated professionals on the
tour. The amateur finally approached the pro, introduced himself, and
began to explain how much he enjoyed golf, but was unable to improve
his game. Then he asked the pro to give him a tip that would help
improve his score. The pro looked up from his practice, and advised
the man that he should hit at least five hundred balls a day. The man
stood in stunned silence while the pro returned to his practice.
After a few minutes, the man regained his composure and interrupted
the pro to tell him that he didn't have time to hit that many balls,
and all he wanted was a tip that would help him beat his buddies on
the weekend. The pro stopped, took a step toward the man, and told
him in no uncertain terms that golf is a difficult skill to master,
and he didn't have time to give tips to anyone who didn't have time to
practice. The man walked away in embarrassment, and hasn't been seen
at the practice range since.
We understand the difference between an amateur and a professional.
However, our tendency is to excuse the amateur's lack of commitment,
and by implication, approve of his desire for unearned success. It's
OK for someone to hit a thousand balls a day is they want to be a
professional golfer, or do a thousand bokken cuts a day if they want
to become a Sensei, but the rest of us should be satisfied with our
chances of winning the lottery. The "lottery mentality" practiced in
one part of our life will soon spread to other aspects of our life
like a cancer. Without recognition of this disorder, we will soon be
wasting away our energy chasing "lottery tickets" rather than
committing to our everyday practice.
Reprinted with permission from Jiyushinkai's "Budo News" Newsletter, April 1996 (Issue 11).