Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Zen Master with a German Accent

The talented hawk hides its claws. (Japanese Proverb)

A Japanese friend introduced me to this proverb, arguing that "the competitive person hides within." As she said it, a light went off in my head. I realized that this message had meaning for me personally. For the longest time I had not appreciated how competitive I really am beneath the hood. My spiritual super ego may have overwritten this drive, or maybe I was just a lion raised by lambs, and consequently needed a while to find my true self.

This conversation with my Japanese friend came back to me when I was having lunch with an old friend from graduate school days. As we were catching up on our lives and reflecting on our university memories, she mentioned in passing, "I have always thought of myself as more ambitious than you." I almost dropped my fork when I heard that. Sure, she is an accomplished professor of classics, but does she not know that I have spent more than 20 years at one of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world? To defuse the situation I reminded her of the time when I played cards with my German room-mates, and how intense that turned out to be. She laughed and said, "Yes, that was an eye-opener!".

What my friend doesn't know about me is that spending decades in a competitive environment surrounded by experts who are the best in their fields put me in a pressure cooker that brought out many hidden things that I had not appreciated about myself before. My boss perhaps sums up my split personality best when he laughingly describes me as "Zen with a German accent". The reader of this blog knows my spiritual side, always on a quest to understand, explore and to integrate, to discover love and to become whole. Yet, if someone attacks me or my loved ones, or tries to undermine my mission, and a hawk comes out with some very sharp claws. I am thankful for my intense professional career for helping me getting my arms around that competitive side in me that I had not appreciated before.

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