The Hardest Part

One week ago this blog entered its final year. The mainstay of what is written in these pages is the journal I kept throughout my training. On 24th October 2014 I will publish the last entry, but between now and then stands a year of struggle as I am challenged day after day by my trainer, Karaj. This post serves as a reminder that the final part of any journey can be difficult. It also describes the kind of man Karaj was, and why working with him was so effective.

Over the last two months, my journal entries (from 11 years ago) have begun to change. I am being challenged more regularly than before and my behavioural patterns are being exposed more often. At that time I was caught in a vicious cycle of arrogance, incompetence and expectation. I thought I knew enough for my struggle with myself to be over, but here I was being confronted on a daily basis, doubting whether I will ever succeed. Had I not made any progress? Was it not possible for Karaj to be a little easier on me instead of harder? Why had the beginning of this journey been so much fun and the final part so arduous?

One reason is that this is a normal part of the process. Karaj talked to me about the storming phase from Tuckman’s stages of group development. It is most commonly associated with team evolution, but is something we all go through, at least once, as part of growing up. We spend our formative years listening and learning, just as I had with Karaj. Thereafter, we enter our most arrogant and rebellious phase, thinking we know it all. It can take us until we are well into our thirties to realise we are not as indestructible nor omniscient as we thought we were when we were 20. That’s how it was during my training. I spent longer than I perhaps should have done in the storming phase, but the reason why that period was so challenging was not just down to me.

Karaj drove us all to the very edge of our existence, confronting us every step of the way. And when we stood at the brink of discovery, weary from the journey and doubting ourselves more than ever, he challenged us to see our greatness, acknowledge our incompetence and find a way to relax with both. He was a constant in our lives; solid and unchanging. He had to be because, whilst our commitment to the development process was clear, we could so easily be emotional, cocky, childish, rebellious, manipulative or sometimes just completely lost. As much as we may have felt that the last thing we needed was Karaj bearing down on us, that is precisely what it took for us to be able to move forward.

He was brilliantly insightful and lightening fast in his analysis. A demanding, exacting genius. Perceptive, highly effective and knowledgeable. He was relentless, resourceful, gentle, strong, supportive, understanding, clear, life-changing, engaging and instructive. And funny. A leader by example, he guided us and ensured we sought balance, correcting us as we went. He was loving and caring, but thoroughly and consistently uncompromising.

The final year was the toughest of my whole training. It was the meat & potatoes of my development, whereby everything which had gone before was merely the preparation for what was about to happen. It felt like the last four laps of a race when you think have already given everything; or that time towards the end of any journey when your concentration goes because you think you’ve made it. Not only had I not made it, I faced an uphill battle. It was the hardest part of all, but one which ensured I would never be the same again.

Related post: Evolution By Natural Reflection
An example of Karaj’s challenges: Monthly Feedback – October 2002

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