Even Masters Sweep the Floor

I arrived at the dojo early, so I picked up one of those dust push-brooms and began to go back and forth across the floor.  A few minutes later, a student came in and asked, “Why are you sweeping the floor when you’re a black belt?  You’re the instructor.” 

I said, “Because I was here and the dirt was there.” 

It’s an honor, not a chore. A dojo, our home, car, place of business, whatever. The respect we give them is a reflection of our character. It is respect for those who enter. “Sweeping the floor” is literal as well as a metaphor for general cleanliness, tidiness, upkeep, maintenance, and improvement. It is humility, discipline, self-respect, strength, and in real time … Zen.

One day, we had a major thunderstorm and the floor was all wet.  Some students and I grabbed mops, brooms, and a few rolls of brown paper towels to dry things up.  As we were making progress, a higher ranking instructor came in and said, “Look at this s**t.  This is ridiculous.  I should just go home.” 

Our master instructor heard this, came out of his office, and discretely told him that he should go home and not return.  And that was that. I’ll never forget it. 

I recently saw a Gary Vaynerchuck Q&A session, where someone asked how he could get his employees to work as hard as he does.  Gary V responded, “you don’t”.  They don’t have the same equity or buy-in as you.  You pay them $10/hour.  You can’t expect them to have the same level of care or work as hard as you. 

True. However, those who recognize it, understand it, honor it, and treat it with respect, transcend rank, position, titles, earnings, and in some cases skill.  As a leader, it is not just my responsibility to recognize them, it’s in our collective best interest.  It is they whom should ascend into leadership and perpetuate this level of character.

It is an unfortunate reality that this isn’t always the way it works.  Too many whom are just in it for themselves, and get by doing very little, seem to advance.  Ladder-climbers, butt kissers, gossipers, do-nothings, and back stabbers. Meanwhile, good character is overlooked. It happens and it’s quite discouraging.  In cases like these, I look at the leadership who are rewarding them and from that, I make decisions about my own direction. 

Sweeping the floor; doing it from within, without resentment nor for recognition, simply because the dirt is there, and to do it with honor is Zen.  It is being the way.

Masters sweep the floor.

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