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From The Way of the Ronin
by Dr. Beverly Potter
Pity the guy who, after creeping slowly up the corporate ladder, discovers one morning that the firm he'd served so loyally is now a division of a subsidiary of an affiliate of a international conglomerate. He hunts and pecks at the keyboard all day, tied electronically to branch offices all over the globe. While his kids thrive on the internet, rapid change leaves him feeling overwhelmed. What is he to do?
A ronin is a person who is self-directed, self-managing; who views work and career as an adventure, not as toil, not as a negative thing. Of course adventure implies risk; it also implies stimulation and learning. Ronin turn problems to challenges. Their career paths are nonlinear, different from the traditional strategy of climbing a corporate or professional ladder. And they have developed many saleable skills which enables them to be adaptable.
Adaptability is key
To survive in a time of change, you must constantly change yourself. Make the most of each turn of events. Change roadblocks into opportunities. Move not up, but sideways. Avoid job categories and instead define yourself by your abilities. You can use your work to develop skills that open doors to more interesting work. Always remember, there is a range of possibilities between "either" and "or".
The term "ronin" comes from medieval Japan and translates "wave man" ("ro" is wave; "nin", like ninja, is person). Samurai warriors released from the service of their feudal masters were said to be "doing ronin," making it on their own without the protectionÑor the structuresÑof normal social institutions. It was tough, and it was lonely, but as centuries passed and their numbers grew into the hundreds of thousands, the adaptive, free-thinking ronin led Japan into the industrial era. Mitsubishi's founder was a ronin; so was the author of the BOOK OF FIVE RINGS, that well-known guide to samurai warfare and corporate strategy.
A Corporate Renaissance
We are now emerging from the dark ages of work. Our workplace has been a feudal society. We're emerging into a corporate renaissance. You may wonder, "Oh gee, that's very exciting. What do I do? What do I do right nowÑthis minuteÑvis-a-vis my work, my job? What do I do right now to become more innovative, more self-directed? How do I participate in this renaissance?
Start by recognizing that you're an individual, not a cog in the corporate machine. Identify your skills, your needs, and your temperament, then make the most of them. Work is a place where you can develop your potential. Set goals that serve yourselfÑalong with your company's needs; then go after them. Think of yourself as an independent agent within your organizationÑan "intrapreneur".
Ronin have brought the "human potential movement" of the 1960s into the executive suite. People who were in their teens and twenties in the 1960s and early 1070s, the so-called hippie movement, are now taking over the controls. A lot of them feel like they've sold out, but they haven't. Wearing a suit and going to work is not selling out. That stuff doesn't matter. They can implement the vision! That's the power.
There's also technology. With a PC on everybody's desk, connected to a local area network and the internet, it's no longer necessary to pass information through the chain of command from the top down through the layers. With it being physically possible for each person to communicate directly each with other person in the organization combined with the reach of the internet, the emergence of totally new structures is increasingly possible.
Can the office be a natural place for personal growth? Can personal growth be the natural path to corporate profits? It all sounds too good to be true, but it IS true. Work is where you develop your potentialÑnot during some weekend retreat. We are entering another renaissance. Don't miss it! Your work is your trip ticket to a great adventureÑleap!
Copyright 1999: Beverly Potter. Based upon The Way of the Ronin: Riding the Waves of Change, docpotter.com.
This article may be downloaded for personal use. Any other reproduction requires written permission from Dr. Beverly Potter. PO Box 3008, Oakland CA 94609, fax 510/420-3672, firstname.lastname@example.org
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