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PARI, Punch & Move Forward

In my reading this morning I came across two great ideas I was thinking about writing about and was trying to decide which one. Then I saw a meme on instagram, and then another, with two great quotes, and then I realized that in the collision of all of these was the lesson I wanted to share today. The first idea was from Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Thou Shall Prosper, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to do better with money, business or both. In it he made the point today that “One can easily fall into the trap of suggesting simple aphorisms to solve all of life’s complex problems” and then spent a couple of paragraphs giving examples of some great aphorisms and their equally popular and pithy counters that seem to advise the very opposite of the first. In a world of social media meme’s and other fortune cookie wisdom, it’s pretty good advice not to use these as tools for guiding our lives. It’s also pretty ironic that two facebook memes I later saw ultimately fed into the meditation leading to this blog post.

The second idea from actual reading this morning was from Ryan Hall’s Run The Mile You’re In. Ryan is the uber athlete who holds records in half and full marathons and has a great story and great ability to derive life lessons from his running experience, much as we do with martial arts at KMMA. The principal he shared that got me thinking was that “achieving our fullest potential in any endeavor requires focus, which is made possible only through sacrifice, because focusing completely on one thing requires that we take our eyes of something else”. Wow, I thought, that’s great advice and I remembered times I had to leave something good to keep my eyes on my ultimate purpose of empowering lives through martial arts, and towards my vivid vision for KMMA and all the students, instructors and families we will serve through it.

Then I saw the two meme’s. The Maya Angelou one shared on Zig Ziglar’s Instagram said, “when you know better you do better”, and the other shared by my friend Jay Homewood said “your future needs you- your past doesn’t”.  Now an interesting and I think even relevant point is that any one of these four ideas, and even the one I actually want to share today could stand alone and be a worthy blog discussion. But for the purpose of showing the usefulness of the technique I want to share today, I included them all because I think that, without the introduction of the PARI technique, these are each wise but only partially useful.

I absolutely love the Angelou quote that those that know better do better; but almost as a nod to the Rabbi’s point that we can not reply on simple aphorisms to make important life decisions, we are reminded the counter from Aristotle that knowledge without action is useless. I love Ryan’s teaching that achieving our fullest potential requires focus and sacrifice, because to truly focus on one thing we have to sacrifice others. This is so true. This is also so hard. How does one decide what to focus on and what not.

I absolutely agree that our future needs us and our past does not. Most of our attention should be on creating our future, and we must also know how to learn from our past. We must know how to take the mistakes we made, when we focused on the wrong thing. We need to know better to do better and we have to have actually do better- we must become masters of taking action to move us froward in the direction of our goals and dreams. We have to be thoughtful, as Rabbi said, not trying to manage the complexities our our lives with oversimplified advice, and we need to know better to do better as Maya suggests. We need to be focused to be great as Ryan suggests, and we also need to be leading into the future, never wallowing in the past as Jay reminds.

In an attempt to manage all of these we use a technique called PARI. I learned a similar concept from a mentor named Orin Woodward years ago called PDCA, by the way, and I like to give credit where credit is due. I modified the acronym to PARI to work better in my martial arts community.

The P stands for Plan. We need to have long term plans that tell us who we want to be when we grow up, and what we want our life to be remembered for. We need to begin with the end in mind to make sure that we will really be working for something that will in the end matter to us. We also need mid-range goals, like our 3 year Vivid Visions, and short term goals, as in this year, this month, this week and even this day. The planning is the part where we budget our time, energy, money and other resources towards the accomplishment of our specific goals.

The A stands for Act. Action really is one of the most important ingredients to success at anything. Rather our martial arts training, relationships, school, business, sports, or whatever else may be important to you, we must act for anything to happen- or at least to have a say in what it is that happens. We either act or are acted upon. We can’t even learn until we act. Until action is applied, all knowledge is only theory; action is the catalyst for change, for growth, for learning and ultimately for the realization of our dreams.

The R stands for Review. This is where the learning comes in. Without measuring and analyzing, we may just be wandering. I was listening to a podcast yesterday where someone was talking about how often someone will get lost in a forest and wander around and around in the same circle, sometimes with dire result. A compass is just one obvious way that the unfortunate camper could have reviewed his situation and adjusted course. I also have done circles in my personal and professional life at times. These days I deliberately review my plans and actions regularly, and train my team and students to do the same. This step in the PARI process allows us to determine if our plans are working and where we are going off course. We ultimately want to make sure that all of our aggressive action is actually moving us closer to our goals.

Finally, the I stands for improve. The goal of all action is always to get better. In the case of PARI, this may mean adjustments that get me back on path to my desired goal if I and/or my team are drifting, but it can also mean getting better even when our plan is working, and that doesn’t mean we change the plan. I have found, on the contrary, that when the plan is working well, it’s even more important to keep the focus on getting better. If not, we run the risk of falling into the trap of being bored. With our students in martial arts we “disguise repetition”. We know that it takes thousands of repetitions for the students to become great blackbelts, but just doing a front kick over and over that many times can be boring. So we challenge them one month on speed, another on power, on focus, intensity, accuracy and so forth. In this way we disguise the repetition on the techniques performed, and also show them many ways to specifically improve the technique- even after they “know” it, there are so many ways to make it better. I try to do the same in my personal and professional life.

After we pari, we punch and keep moving forward. While the process is useful it, like the kick, mist be performed again and again. When we become still, we lose momentum. If we are not careful, our present becomes our past and we don’t even realize it happened and, if we really take our focus off the one thing we wanted to be great at too long, we can even find ourself looking back instead of forward. Keep planning, keep acting, keep reviewing and keep improving to move forward. Our future needs our best today.