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Creative Career Path

Connecting to Yourself2010.01.20

    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (540~480 BC) said that, a hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one. The other side of this is that if you pay too much attention to the obvious connections, you may miss the hidden connections altogether.

    What are some of the obvious connections that occupy our attention, and give us our orientation on reality? Relationships on an organization chart, rules and regulations, cause and effect, the common sense things that everyone knows, or at least generally agrees upon. Yet sometimes what seems obvious can be grounded in false or outdated assumptions.

    What about the hidden connections which are more subtle and also more significant? Who really makes the decisions in an organization? How will our current actions affect our future? Are you pursuing the right line of work? How will you know without a curious and questioning mind?

    The history of science and innovation is a story of the discovery of hidden connections. There was a time when no one realized the connection between mosquitoes and malaria. Many large corporations have lost their caliber because they lost sight of their connection to their customers. How many of the threats to our environment, health, and safety have resulted from connections that were missed or misunderstood?

    However, many of the grand scale connections are beyond our individual capacity to control. There are hidden connections closer at hand which should concern us more and can affect our career.


    Who are your mentors, and what will you learn from them? Which of your habits can harm you, and what can rescue you from these habits? Are you paying close enough attention to your customers?

    One of the hidden connections that many people miss is the connection between trouble and opportunity. The Japanese word for crisis (危機 kiki) expresses it perfectly, combining the characters for danger and opportunity.

    Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, composer, educator, musician, and winner of nine Grammy Awards in both Classical and Jazz, captures the spirit of this connection in Jazz. In his book, Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life, Wynton Marsalis defined the ability to improvise as the ability to make up things that could get you out of a tight spot.

    This is very close to the definition of the word Nanba (難場), which literally means trouble spot, but also implies opportunity in the same sense as crisis. Nanba is the ability to improvise, to find your way out of trouble and into opportunity.

    Not surprisingly, in Japan Nanba is closely connected to the Martial Arts. But it has roots in the Edo Period, in how people in all walks of life, samurai, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants, all found ways in which physical finesse could make life easier.

    As the art of physical finesse, Nanba made use of hidden connections in body movement which affected everything from footwear to kimono, to the way tools and weapons were wielded. These connections are subtle enough that it typically takes many years to master traditional Japanese arts, and most are described as a Way (道 dō), or path worthy of a lifetime of study.

    The hidden connections in Nanba are unfamiliar to many Japanese today, despite their deep roots in traditional Japanese culture. Nevertheless, it is a living tradition and an accessible approach to many problems of modern living.

    In my own study and teaching of Nanba, I have met people applying Nanba training at a high level in the Martial Arts, in world class sports competition, in Classical music and in Jazz. Its applications in daily life are equally impressive, where physical finesse can help you overcome stress and engage more creatively in personal and professional pursuits. Just as in the Edo Period, this is something for people in all walks of life.

    If you want to work without fatigue, make a better impression on people, or find a process for continually improving your performance, then Nanba is a perfect place to start. You will find many hidden connections, and more important, you will connect with yourself.


    To bridge the language and cultural gap and present opportunities for more people to learn about physical finesse through Nanba, I have created a website with blog posts, articles, interviews, videos, resources, and information on events at


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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