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Shu Ha Ri
The Teacher will Appear When the Student is Ready...But Will They Listen? An Ikigai Story
Nearly 13 years ago, I started running, becoming an avid, if not fast, runner.
There are many parallels between learning to run and the personal transformation involved in learning to live our Ikigai.
audio narration by David Marlow
While I often use my running as an example, the lessons are universal and can be applied to any area of life.
You don’t have to run to use the lessons here nor does running have to be part of your Ikigai.
Photo by David E. Marlow
I recall training for my first half marathon with my running coach, who happened to be my daughter Helaina.
Helaina (pictured below) was an All-State Cross-Country runner in high school, good enough to have run in college though she chose to focus solely on her academics.
While Helaina is very knowledgeable herself, to be an even better coach, she draws on the experience of others, teaming with several respected running coaches she knows.
She developed a training plan for me to use that would get me from a 5k runner to a half marathoner.
While I was training for that first half marathon, I tried completing a long run on an empty stomach instead of with the energy gel Helaina wanted me to use.
It was something I'd never done before, and the run was horrible. I told her I read an article that said this and that about teaching your body to burn fat on runs for energy.
I hadn't talked to her about it at all.
She said, “Well why would you do what your experienced coach said since you read an article and everything?”
Ouch! 😉 I got the message.
I should have run it by her. She might have even incorporated it into my training. Instead, I wasted a good training run because I wanted to try something I’d ‘read’ in a runner’s magazine.
The lesson here is while we are learning and growing in our personal transformation journey, we need to work with our coaches and mentors.
To draw on their expertise and to team with them. Talk with them about what we are trying to accomplish and share ideas. Even ideas from articles we’ve read.
There is a principle of learning progression often used in personal transformation, though it originated in the martial arts.
Shu Ha Ri
Note: Shu Ha Ri is a method for learning that works at any level and in any circumstance.
Shu: Under the master/teacher
Ha: Build on teaching, incorporate other learning, and begin to ‘break’ the rules
Ri: Literally transcend. Transcend by blending the original teaching with new learning and your own experience to create your own completely new understanding
The Shu phase is you as a student under a master teacher. You do only what they say. Learning from them the foundational way to do things.
As you grow in your learning you move into the Ha phase, where you begin to learn from other sources and incorporate new learning into your own, teaming with your master teacher.
Ri, which is way down the road and certainly not before your first half marathon, is when the student begins to transcend the teaching. Transcend by taking all of the learning in Shu, adding in the Ha, and developing your own understanding and learning.
Pablo Picasso is purported to have said, ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.'
Too often, we like to skip that ‘learn the rules’ Shu phase and go straight to the artistic Ri. Somehow we think that without even knowing how to hold the brush, we are ready to paint a masterpiece.
As for my jump to Ri with running, I quickly moved back to the Shu stage, following my coach’s instructions.
While following her coaching, we talked about new ideas and options like fat-burning training. My questions forced Helaina to dig deeper into her own coaching capability to research and think about how best to coach me toward achieving my goals.
We both advanced in our learning and ability.
I have since completed many half marathons as well as full marathons. By the way, in each one, I’ve used the energy gels as my coach taught me.
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While Picasso is often credited with saying this, there is a significant dispute as to whether or not he did. Nonetheless, the principle holds true, and it is more fun to say Picasso said it.