“If you cannot do these things it is because you have thus far not made the necessary effort. Now is the time to make the effort. The result will be exactly in proportion to the effort expended.” -Haanel
I love studying language. I find it so interesting to hear a different language spoken, to learn different words and to even learn little idiosyncrasies about different languages. For example, did you know that a Cantonese-speaker and a Mandarin-speaker cannot speak to each other because the words are pronounced differently but they can write notes to each other because the languages are written the same? Like I said… Interesting.
One of the things I love about language is when I find a word in a language that has no equivalent in another language. You end up with a concept that has earned it’s place in one dialect and culture while others have no easy way of expressing the same concept. One of my favorite examples of this comes from Chinese and it is the concept of “gong fu”.
No… That wasn’t a type-o. I meant to write “gong fu”, not “kung fu”. Gong fu is a Chinese word given to a very powerful concept and is composed of two characters. The first, “gong”, means “work”, “merit” or “achievement”. The second character is treated as “man”.
Without going into all of the subtleties, the story that the characters tell is, “supreme skill achieved over time through hard work and patience”. It was only in the late 20th century, through poorly translated action movies brought to the West, that the term started to be used for martial arts. In truth, while gong fu could be applied to a martial artist, it could actually be applied to any skill.
We’ve all witnessed gong fu before. You know gong fu when you see it… That supreme level of skill that undoubtedly took countless hours of effort and dedication to develop. Perhaps it is an artist who uses color and composition so masterfully that they can unlock emotions in others. Perhaps it is an athlete who has so tuned their mind and body that they move with almost primal instinct. Perhaps it is a builder or a musician or a teacher. Whatever the venue one thing is for sure… the years of dedicated effort that it takes to manifest gong fu do not go unnoticed as the skill comes across as almost magical.
But what about less tangible skills? What about mindset? What about the skill of being in control of one’s mindset. To have mastered the development of faith, courage and self-confidence. To be able to control, according to Haanel, “fate, fortune and destiny as readily as a captain controls his ship, or an engineer, his train.” To truly understand and manifest the thought “I can be what I will to be.” What would that gong fu look like? Perhaps more importantly, where does one start in order to be able to develop such a level of skill.
The first place to start is desire. Speak to anybody who has developed gong fu, whatever the discipline, and they will tell you a story of desire. Desire so strong that that it prompted endless hours of practice. They will speak of hard work. They will tell of the spilling of blood, sweat and tears. They will speak of desire that lead to sacrifices, some of which cost them dearly. They will speak of a desire so strong that it compelled them to commit all that they had and all that they were to attaining this supreme level of skill. A desire that compelled them to be all in.
Without this desire there is starting but there is no enduring. There is skill but there is no mastery. There is hope for improvement but there is no gong fu. I can think of no skill more deserving of this desire or effort than self-mastery. Gong fu is truly a possibility but only for those who are committed and willing to pay the price.
If it sounds like I’m challenging you then I commend you for reading between the lines. I am challenging you as I am also challenging myself. We each stand at the door to our own greatness and it’s time for a gut check. What do you say, Grasshopper? Do you want gong fu?