By Guest Columnist Martin Stellar
The young monk was sweating profusely. He was hurting and out of breath. He was spent.
In front of him stood a barrel full of kidney beans.
Beyond that was the cliff, and in the distance the rice paddies.
His master sat a little ways away to his side, meditating in the shade of a bamboo cove.
He could hear the shouts of ÂKatsu!Â drift up across the rice fields. And the cracking sounds too, each time one of the older and more advanced monks broke bamboo in two with their fists or their shins.
He looked at the beans and he loathed them.
For the last three hours, heÂd been jabbing his outstretched hands into them, as hard and as fast as he could.
A bucket full, 50 liters of dry kidney beans.
In. Out. Down. Up. Left. Right. Left. Right.
At first itÂs not so bad: The beans are smooth and slide to make space.
But after ten minutes it starts to hurt.
After 30 minutes, you want to stop.
After 45 minutes, you want to cry.
After an hour, your hand feels like a building fell on it, and everything from your fingertips to your neck feels like Dr. Frankenstein just stitched it together last night.
He looked at the beans, then at the fields. He looked at his master, placidly meditating, his eyes closed.
He hurt. He wanted to cry, to topple the barrel and throw it off the cliff. In fact, he wanted to go home, or jump off the cliff, or perhaps throw his master off instead. He wanted to quit, any which way he could.
ÂKatsu!Â it sounded across the valley. ÂCrack!Â
He looked at the beans again, and breathed slow deep breaths. He still hurt, but not as much, not if he concentrated on his breath.
He raised his hand, paused, and jammed his fingers into the beans again. Left. Right. Left. Right.
His master opened an eye, and quietly smiled to himself.
This kiddo was going to turn out very strong indeed.
I always wondered how people manage to get so strong that they can break stone or wood with their hands. You see the videos of Shao-lin monks, and you wonder if that stuff is real.
Kick a thin tree in two with your shin? HowÂ
Turns out, each time they ram their hand into the beans, or practice-kick against a sapling, they create micro-fractures, hairline splits, in the bone.
When that heals, just like any scar tissue, the new bone material is stronger than the actual bone.
Do that for a decade, and your bones do indeed become as hard as rock. ItÂs simple biology.
Now, I donÂt expect youÂre on the path to becoming a Kung-fu master.
But if youÂre in business in any way – if youÂre in life, actually – you are only ever going to get results, of any kind, if you can muster the guts just like the monk in my story did.
Saying Âa quitter never winsÂ is a nice quip, but itÂs not very useful.
ItÂs not about quitting – you canÂt quit. ThereÂs no quitting life.
You can quit one activity, get rid of one burden, or avoid one challenge – but the moment you turn your back, life will present you with exactly the same challenge you avoided, just in a different way.
LifeÂs a bitch in that sense. Or, you could say life is a blessing, in that it never fails to show you what you need to learn or overcome next.
ÂDoes this hurt, is it difficult, does it make you want to scream? AhÂ That means, my friend, that you can push through, find the key, and make that difficult thing a stepping stone, something you can use to grow and get stronger.Â
And then life simply asks you to choose: Slam the beans again – or walk away?
IÂve never trained for Kung-fu. My bones arenÂt rock-hard. My best punch involves fruit, wine and liquor.
But IÂve had my own path, training, setbacks and hard knocks.
And over the years, IÂve learned that Âgiving upÂ isnÂt an issue.
ItÂs not about quitting or giving up: itÂs to do with the battles you choose.
And sometimes, itÂs good practice to step back – not to quit, but to say ÂIÂm not fighting this battle today – IÂm going to train first and get stronger first. THEN IÂll show you”.
Just like that little monk, who realised that the real battle wasnÂt against the beans, but against his own mind.
You have more strength in you than you can possibly imagine.
The only reason youÂre not living your strength fully, bringing it all out onto the playing field, is that it takes time and persistence to get strong.
Breathe. Relax. Life is very, VERY playful – naughty and a bit mean too, sometimes. But life is always there to help you, to show you ways to grow and get stronger.
Life and the world arenÂt out to hurt you – itÂs only there to teach you.
Punch the beans.
If it starts to hurt too much: put ice on it.
ThereÂs no shame in losing a battle so you can regroup and recover your strength.
The beans will be there waiting for you tomorrow.
If you keep it up long enough, youÂll be stronger than beans, bamboo, wood, stone.
If you allow life to teach you, youÂll become stronger than life.
Now if youÂll excuse me, IÂve got some of my own bean-punching to do.
Ravinder Tulsiani says
fascinating article. I love the bruce lee analogy.
Ravinder Tulsiani, Author of ‘Your Leadership EDGE’
Stellar, Martin, as always! Love it through and through. Nice to see you here on Liz’s blog.
Thank you for this inspiring piece – right now, you know I’m punching those kidney beans!
Ravinder, Amanda – Thanks!