Transcript of How to Apply the Principles of Aikido to Entrepreneurship
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Michael Veltri. He is a keynote speaker, serial entrepreneurial, leadership expert, and author of the book “The Mushin Way to Peak Performance: The Path to Productivity, Balance, and Success.” I might also add because it may come up in conversation, he is a professional athlete, two time cancer survivor, and US Marine veteran. How do you get all of that in one bio, Michael?
Michael Veltri: Yes. Well, it can be a bit long, John, but focus on what the audience wants to hear. Thanks for doing a great introduction of me.
John Jantsch: The Mushin Way is built on the principles of Aikido. I think it probably makes some sense to get your definition of what Aikido is.
Michael Veltri: Sure. It’s a Japanese grappling martial arts. There’s no kicks on punches. It is basically a form of self-defense versus self-offense. In discussing marketing ideas for standing out amongst the crowd of deal to business books, we came up with the idea of introducing 10 elegant Aikido principles and how they can apply to business and life. It’s a Japanese grappling martial art based on blending and leverage versus raw strength to just muscle your way through any type of situation.
John Jantsch: Well, and like many martial arts, it’s not all fighting. In some ways it’s a life practice, right?
Michael Veltri: Absolutely. One of the concepts we talked about in the book is and that many of your listeners might be familiar with is cold Kaizen. It’s a Japanese principle of constant improvement. With that, also in the art of Aikido, is that you’re not trying to defeat anyone. If anything, the biggest challenge is with … I didn’t want to say defeat. It’s finding a balance with your own ego because our ego is what gets in the way of telling us we can’t do something or we have to do it this way or I’m going to give up doing something or things like that. Throughout the book I focus on that and it’s a lot of work that people can do on themselves to impact their business and their personal life.
John Jantsch: How did you personally come to Aikido?
Michael Veltri: I’ve been a lifelong martial artist growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania.
John Jantsch: A hotbed.
Michael Veltri: Yeah, exactly. Not the cultural mecca of the world. I had fallen in love with all things Japanese, including the culture, the art, the martial arts, the language. I enlisted in the Marine Corps at the tender age of 17 and got stationed in California. When I was California, I went to continue … I was doing karate at the time. It’s a classical kick and punch art that you can find anywhere in the country. When I got stationed out in California, which obviously has the larger Asian population, I stumbled across my first Aikido class in May of 1988. I still remember it to this day. I was fascinated, John, by what I was seeing.
I didn’t know what I was seeing and watching, but I knew I wanted to do some of that. That started my journey. Two years later I was in Japan with the Marine Corps and was able to train with some really high level masters and ended up staying there for 10 years as a business consultant to feed my addiction to the martial arts.
John Jantsch: I think I read somewhere you actually opened a studio of your own.
Michael Veltri: Yeah, absolutely. I still do. I run one of the largest Aikido academies on the East Coast in Washington D.C. That’s sort of how I transitioned into the keynote speaking space is teaching many of Washington D.C.’s movers and shakers from politicians to business titans, to foreign diplomats. There’s a direct analogy between what I teach people in the martial arts academy and to what they apply in their life. I was invited to speak to companies and organizations, and I’ve got some cool stories about being invited to speak and teach at the Central Intelligence Agency and some other cool places that I talk about in the book and use them for teaching and laying the foundation for many of the principals that I apply and teach in the book.
John Jantsch: I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time. One of the things I love probably the most about being is no two days are the same, but that’s also one of the most challenging things. I think we can get really caught up in all these things coming at us day in, day out, the stress of it. I think a lot of entrepreneurs kind of commit almost a bit of self-sabotage by not having this kind of foundational practice to lean on. Would you say that that’s been your experience?
Michael Veltri: Yeah. The phrase I coin in the book and when I talk to successful entrepreneurs is we become successfully miserable, John. Be careful what you wish for. What may have started out as a passion or for whatever reason that you built the business around becomes a huge burden. I know that’s what happened to me. I had become successfully miserable. I’ve been caught in what I call a success trap. This business I built was just burdening me. It was actually because of that it led me to writing the book and doing what is a better use of my time and energy. I think what happens with a lot of entrepreneurs especially if they’ve been doing it for a while is they fail to grow and evolve. As human beings, we grow and evolve.
What might have interested us five, 10 years ago might not anymore. If we don’t take specific actions to grow and evolve too, your business is going to suffer mildly because your clients, customers will sniff it out if your heart’s no longer in the business. They’ll know if you’re not passionate. Again in the book I really push people to take a close look and I give them really simple relevant exercises that can move them forwards on a big decision they’ve been putting off making, whether it’s selling their company, hiring their own replacements, starting another business, or anything like that. I agree 100%. You have to have what I call support structures sufficient for success.
What I mean by that is as hardworking successful entrepreneurs, we’re great at kick and abuse, John. We can hang on in there until we’re ready to thrown in the towel and walk away. We don’t want it to get to that point. Hopefully setting up support structures where people can grow and evolve with their businesses and have a lot of fun along the way.
John Jantsch: Let’s dive into a couple of the principles. To me as I read kind of even just your overview of the principles, I mean the application to everyday business life or everyday life is pretty clear quite frankly. We may not identify these things, but I think we recognize them. The first one is the concept of Haiki, calm energy. That is such a powerful concept, but also in the chaos of the storm is probably hard to hang onto, isn’t it?
Michael Veltri: Yeah, it absolutely is. I defined it as the really cool English word of equanimity, right? It’s a deeper meaning than just being calm, but yeah, you and I both know if we go into a meeting or try to run our business scattered or angry or distracted, oh my god, John, it’s scary the mounting statistics about the losing battle against distractions that we’re facing from electronic demands on our times, everything else. Being able to maintain this calm awareness is a practice. I wrote the book so that anyone can immediately get value from it. What I did not like is I love all personal development podcast and books and I what I get frustrated with is buying a book that would leave me the 27 steps of blah, blah, blah.
It’s just too hard to do. I wrote the book where people can do these very simple relevant and retainable exercises to help them get a level of calmness in their crazy business life. That can give them tips to try. Hey, do this and experience an initial better clarity around your business or personal life. It’s very important. I really stress that you have to have balance in both. If your business is thriving but you’re going through a divorce, which I’ve done before, it’s going to impact your business. Likewise, if your business is floundering, it’s going to impact your personal life. I really encourage readers to reach for that level of equanimity in both their business and personal life.
John Jantsch: One of the principles really deals with balance and I think one of the things that is central to a lot of Eastern practices is this idea of both physical and mental balance, and that everything is about your core and about like an exact spot on your body that is the center pivot point of your balance. I think that’s one of the things I love about applying this to business because I think a lot of people give a lot of lip service to the idea of balancing your personal life and your business life, but I think a lot of people forget about that physical aspect of balance. I’m 57 and I will tell you that that’s the thing I worked the hardest on is you lose that physical sense of balance as well.
I think that the mind-body connection is such a cool part of applying one of these Eastern practices.
Michael Veltri: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Throughout the book, the way I wrote it is each chapter is booked ended with two exercises. There’s an opening exercise that’s typically some type of what I call somatic or a physical, a real simple physical exercise to teach that principle. For example, in chapter four it’s specifically called your one point. Like being able to stay grounded in the heat of battle whether that is negotiating a new lease on your commercial space or your 17 year old son telling you that they’re going to join the Marine Corps like I had to tell my parents years ago.
There is a very simple physical exercise that introduce in the book and at the very end of the chapter is a more practical “do these three things to learn this principle to get traction in your business life.” If we don’t take care of our physical well-being, we will not have the energy, creativity, innovation, clarity we need to run our businesses. I think a lot of people let their physical well-being wane, John, and it will affect their business and personal life if they don’t take care of themselves.
John Jantsch: I’ve used intentionally the word practice about 10 times already. I think a lot of times when we’re talking … That’s one thing to read a book like this and go, “Oh yeah. Those are some good ideas.” 10 minutes later you’ve forgotten them in some cases. I really think like you have the exercises in here, this is something that you have to build in as a practice.
Michael Veltri: Yeah. Yeah. I disguise my repetition throughout the book, but there’s a lot of repetition. I really, really encourage the reader to take action now. I’m really encouraging the reader throughout the book to get into immediate action. Because as you and I know, done is better than perfect. There is no perfect. We keep putting off what we want to do. I really encourage people to get into action throughout the book. Part of that is I’ve experienced … What many of your listeners experienced I’ve experienced, running a business, surviving cancer to a tough personal situation, to the ups and downs. In the book, I try to build in a relatability, so the listener can shake their head saying, “Yes, I deal with …”
I’m sorry. The reader will shake their head saying, “Yes, I deal with this in my life,” and that will hopefully spur them into taking immediate action for what I’m showing them how to do in the book.
John Jantsch: One of the I think core principles of business in general is this idea of building strong relationships and connections whether it’s people that work for you or your customers. Musubi, right? Musubi is the principle behind that. I think that in some ways the online digital video conferencing world that we live in today has actually eroded that element of our life.
Michael Veltri: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: I’ve actually started preaching this. I mean I believe we have to. Even if we can get by without ever talking to another human being in real life, that we actually have to make that a conscious effort.
Michael Veltri: Yeah. It is funny because I think we lose the ability to interact with human beings or we don’t know how to handle a face-to-face interaction. I know my challenge as I travel all around the country is I go in this order of course. If I can meet with somebody face-to-face, fantastic. If not, the cool thing about technology is I try to use it. I don’t let it use me. If I could see somebody over Skype or Google Hangouts or some other video conferencing, that’s a close second. Then of course, the ability to connect on the phone. Yeah, the importance of in person meetings because so much happens, John, that the verbal and nonverbal communication that is missed when you don’t have that opportunity.
Building that connection to understand your customers, your clients, your colleagues is just so important.
John Jantsch: Nothing beats that unfortunately.
Michael Veltri: That’s right. That’s right.
John Jantsch: One of the principles of a lot of Eastern practices certainly in Aikido is this idea that it’s not about winning, it’s about getting the best result for all. I think that’s clearly a strong business principle, but unfortunately is not always mainstream.
Michael Veltri: Right. I’m sorry. Were you going to continue that?
John Jantsch: No. No. No. What I was just saying is that idea of how do we bring that idea that it’s not about the competition and about winning, that it’s about … Even with a customer. That it’s about getting the best result for your business as well as the customer.
Michael Veltri: Right. One of the concepts I’ll introduce in the book is this ability to see things through your competition’s eyes, see things through your colleague’s eyes, see things through your spouse’s eyes. Because if we’re unable to see what our competition’s seeing, John, or what our customers are seeing, we’re going to fail. Our businesses are going to fail. I give in the book some specific practices to help business owners, whether you manage your own company or you manage a team or you simply manage yourself, to be able to see through other’s eyes. In that way, what becomes a win is very different.
If you just want to hit your quota or make a certain revenue number and do that and you push, push, push, it’s a short term goal that you may hit that will ultimately cause you to suffer in the long range. If you can practice seeing through your competition’s eyes, seeing through your colleague’s eyes, seeing through other’s eyes, it’s a different way of setting and achieving goals that I think people will find very, very interesting.
John Jantsch: I guess it verges on something we might call empathy, but it does change so many things. This is maybe a silly story. My father had Parkinson’s and sometimes I get so frustrated with him because he says, “You know, my clock doesn’t tell the right time. It’s a 24 hour clock. Somebody changed it.” I just am like, “Dad, it looks just fine. Why are you being so silly?” Then the doctor told me that no, actually it’s very common for Parkinson’s patients to … Actually the numbers disappear or that they go outside the clock. Like spatial things start happening. Immediately I was like we’re not looking at the same thing. I need some empathy here rather than wonder what’s wrong with it. I know that’s a silly story, but I just had that just this last week.
I think that that’s true of a lot of business situations. We don’t come into them with empathy for where the other person is and so we’re only seeing the world through our own eyes.
Michael Veltri: Yeah. As I wrote the book and explain that and I want your listeners to understand too and I’m sure you understand this, right, is that empathy is not to be confused for any type of weakness or anything like that. That’s one of the challenges I have with folks is that their ego comes in and says, “Well, if I do that, I’m giving in.” It’s actually quite the opposite. When I’m speaking on stage or consulting or anything like that, I have to make everything that comes out of my mouth all about the audience. It can’t be about Michael Veltri. It has to be about the audience. Imagine if we’re coming and running our business where it’s just all about the other person and if you’re doing that, then it’s what I call right livelihood.
You’re going to provide them the best product and service possible, but if you come into it with the blinders on, making it all about you and your product and business and me, me, me, me, it’s going to fall flat. On a scale of 1 to 10, you’ll only achieve a level of three of success. Then I think that’s also where frustration sets in and then we end up in that success trap of you’ve reached the small level of success, but ultimately become disenfranchised or successfully miserable and you just can’t get your business to the next level.
John Jantsch: I’m visiting with Michael Veltri, the author of “The Mushin Way to Peak Performance.” Michael, tell us where people can find out … Obviously the book’s available anywhere people like to buy books, but tell us where they can find out more about you and anything that you might be working on?
Michael Veltri: Sure. Very simply on my website, which is michaelveltri.com. From there they can easily see videos of me speaking, order the book, and a whole lot of other resources that can help them achieve a level of balance and peak performance without burnout.
John Jantsch: We’ll have the links to everything we talked about in the show notes at ducttapemarketing.com. Michael, thanks for joining us and hopefully we’ll bump into you out there on the road.
Michael Veltri: Okay. Thank you very much for the time, John.