Target: Business Wisdom from the Ancient Japanese Martial Art of Kyudo
Jerome Chouchan’s business-oriented book Target: Business Wisdom from the Ancient Japanese Martial Art of Kyudo, offers valuable advice that is also applicable for sports and life in general. “[Success] comes to us naturally when we are not even aware of it.” Chouchan’s book, developed based on the lessons he learned while studying the very difficult, ancient Japanese archery sport known as Kyudo, is reminiscent of earlier books such as the classic Inner Tennis: Playing the (Mental) Game.
Inner Tennis made it clear that the sport was less about physical skills and natural abilities than being mentally prepared for whatever arose on a court. And this preparation was not about willing one’s way to success; instead, the book emphasized the need for mental relaxation. Being prepared and yet relaxed leads to what is often referred to as being “in the Zone.” (A tennis player in the Zone can make seemingly impossible shots while missing simple shots. The latter tend to involve instances in which the player has time – too much of it, to think about the so-called “easy shot.” This produces stress, which often equals failure.)
Chouchan’s lessons learned also seem familiar to those who have practiced the ancient “moving meditation” sport of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is often called an ancient art, as – like Kyudo – it is difficult to learn and requires intense, yet relaxed, concentration. And, as Chouchan learned with Kyudo, Tai Chi offers massive pay-offs to those who take the time to master it.
Chouchan tells the reader that in both business and Kyudo, one’s mind should be focused on continuous improvement. He provides some excellent examples of when, as the Director of Godiva chocolates for Japan, he thought of improvements for the company. Chouchan was acting in non-traditional ways as an executive. Sometimes this involves taking action in a quick, decisive, and bold way. An executive must avoid the temptation to wait for perfection. Instead, Chouchan advises the new business leader to let go of the bow and let the arrow fly toward its target even when it feels premature. This is sometimes called the “Ready – shoot – aim” principle. In other words, action gets it going.
Target also teaches a key important and often lost business principle. What is a business about? Is it simply to make a profit? No. Chouchan insists to us that a business exists to satisfy its customers. This is a point that can never be emphasized enough in today’s modern, hurried world economy.
What do companies like Sears, K-Mart, and J.C. Penney have in common? They have failed to keep their eyes and minds on Job 1: satisfying the customers who knew what they could expect from these merchants. Once retailers fail to meet the expectations of their long-time, loyal customers, failure is guaranteed. It is not a matter of if but when.
Selling a half-million finely constructed automobiles ensures the future of a car company more than selling a million poorly-manufactured vehicles, which produces frustrated, angry buyers.
In Chouchan’s view, profit cannot be the sole measure of a business’ success since this is not why a business should be established. Profit is an outcome of doing the right thing for one’s customers. It is, in a very literal sense, a reward. It is something that must be earned by being alive and humanistic rather than adhering to a mechanical set of business principles.
Chouchan closes Target by stating something that might have been found in Inner Tennis: proper technique in business, in sport, in life is not enough. Every person, every leader, every successful human being must develop discipline of the mind. One should be prepared but not in a stressful way. Mental preparation produces confidence. Relaxed confidence leads to success.
Finally, Target shows business leaders that they can draw inspiration and learn from ancient practices, arts, and beliefs. Not everything needs to be new. What worked in the past often works today.
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