When was the last time you heard a sincere thank you, or as we Asians sometimes do, bow in respect to business associates and elders?
I was not a particularly strong kid, having escaped death when I was born. Yet, I loved sports, and took part in 100-meter sprinting, and learned Karate (Goju-Ryu Karate-do, or 剛柔流空手道).
When I was learning Karate, I was not interested in sparring, but loved the Kata (form, or 形), which were choreographed movements almost like dance, but deeply meditative and beautiful.
These are some of the basic Kata I learned as a young kid, shown by these beautiful kids:
And some other Kata shown by the masters of Karate, the Hanshi (teachers of teachers, or 範士):
And even more memorable was the etiquette that was deeply rooted in Karate, congruent with gentry and the Asian culture. We bowed to our sensei (teacher). We bowed to our seniors. We bowed to each other. There was courtesy and respect when we entered the dojo (place of the way, or 道場), as it was seen as sacred in martial arts. We had to keep our karate gi (training clothes, or 空手衣) nicely bleached white and clean, and some of us even starched our karate gi. All of these, and much more, were not mere formality, but a matter of mutual and self-respect, and a demonstration of how we valued discipline.
In martial arts, etiquette is prized more than winning, as martial arts is not brutality, but is meant for the gentry. Those who would win at all costs, deserve no place in the sacred dojo.
Likewise, a business relationship is strengthened and endeared by etiquette, friendship, and mutual respect.
When we work with peers, partners, and customers, respect is bilateral. When a colleague or a senior helps us solve a technical problem for a customer we both serve, a “thank you” is in order. When a business partner helps us close a deal with a new prospective customer, we show our gratitude with at least a sincere “thank you”. Likewise, a customer who honors the business relationship equitably, deserve our “thank you” as well.
There are those who believe doing business is to trample on your competition at all costs. There are those who believe to success in their careers is to roughshod others.
However, the truth is that to achieve business or career longevity, a bare minimum “thank you” for any scenario deserving of one, and better yet, sincere gratitude for such scenarios, will propel one farther and longer in the timeline of business or career journeys. And so, thank you for indulging me, and to share with me this meandering journey.