Focus on your Kung Fu to thrive

Kung Fu – ˈkəNG ˈfo͞o
Any skill achieved through hard work and practice; the effort of self mastery.

ORIGIN: In Chinese, Kung Fu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining 功 (gōng) meaning “work”, “achievement”, or “merit”, and 夫 (fū) meaning “man”.  A literal translation could be “the achievement of man”. The word is also sometimes written as 工夫, this second version often being used for more general, non-martial arts usages of the term.

What’s your Kung Fu?

Those who retire at the age of 55 are 89% more likely to die within the next 10 years than those who remain working until 65. Wow. Read the study. Of all factors contributing to the above one stood out to me: the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy. Without compelling goals, we perish.

Finding a goal is easier than you may think. Simply focus on what you are doing right now. Just do it better.

Building your professional skill-set is not only a means to an end. Building skills is an end goal unto itself. Skill building is incredibly motivating and contributes to longevity and enjoyment of life. We can all find fulfillment in the pursuit of mastery.

The idea is basic. Focus begets skill. Skill begets passion. The more focus we place on a skill, the better our skill becomes. The better our skills become, the more passion and success we experience. We create a positive feedback loop fed by a drive for improvement. Small and consistent progress helps us stay engaged and passionate about work and quell inevitable “grass is greener” yearnings.

Rarely do I hear school children say: “I want to be a Salesperson when I grow up!” or “I want to run the HR department!” or “I want to be a logistics expert!”. Usually kids want to become firefighters, astronauts, dot-com billionaires, civil rights activists, doctors or movie stars. Once they have grown up, most acquire less-dramatic careers. The good news is that we can find the same childlike passion in any career so long as we’re actively exercise the practice of Kung Fu. That is, we’ve identified a skill and have committed to mastering it. Focused effort builds skill. High skill builds passion, and passion drives Kung Fu.

My childhood dream was to become a farmer. As a teenager, I wanted to become an accountant who rode his bike to work. In university, I studied Earth Sciences and Engineering. Although all dreams were practical, none of those careers happened. Opportunity, ability and work ethic led me to choose rowing as my first Kung Fu practice. After my 13-year athletic career ended, I found a new Kung Fu focus: storytelling, teaching and training. Now, after 13 years of practicing, implementing and mastering this second skill-set, my Kreekspeak team and I now rank in the top 5% of our industry. Though neither Kung Fu practices were childhood dreams, I’ve found great fulfillment achieving in both realms.

Enter the Octagon.

Let’s bring our Kung Fu up a notch. Ironically, two great examples of individuals actively practicing Kung Fu in their careers come from no-other than the world of martial arts.

I met the brand manager for world-famous Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Georges St Pierre on a recent trip to Montreal. Justin Kingsley is a tattooed, t-shirt wearing storyteller with a remarkably honest and approachable demeanour. Justin’s task was to make Georges relevant and engaging to those who don’t understand nor care for MMA. What a job… While Georges is well-known and respected within his octagonal turf, Justin’s challenge was to sway the approval of those who find MMA irrelevant – and even offensive. How could Justin reach the non-converted? Could Georges be of interest to my wife? My mom? My kids?

Enter Justin’s Kung fu: the art and craft of storytelling. Justin understood that MMA’s stigma must first and foremost be addressed before George’s brand could thrive, and he broke my (now former) prejudice within minutes of our meeting. Did you know, Justin explained, that Georges St Pierre was endlessly bullied as a kid? It turns out that MMA gave him the outlet to channel his negative and hopeless childhood into something positive and disciplined. Now 34, Georges bows and prays for his opponent before every match. “Without my opponent, I cannot become what I want to be.” What does Georges want to be? A better community leader, a better athlete, a better man.

Georges himself had a Kung Fu of Kyokushin Karate and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He combined both skills to create a career in MMA. Justin recognized his own storytelling abilities and has worked tirelessly over time to develop his Kung Fu of strategic writing and brand management.  Without Justin, Georges would just be another fighter. Without Georges, Justin would just be another Adman. Both men identified a skill, and worked very hard to master it – and both continue to benefit and thrive from the process.


What’s your Kung Fu?

Identify and prioritize a skill, then master it.  Name it your personal Kung Fu. Your Kung Fu will make you a better leader, manager, parent, employee, coach and team-member.


The Final Question

What did you do today to focus on your Kung Fu?


The Tea

For thousands of years, Buddhist monks have drank Maccha tea to aid their meditation practice. Both my wife and I have found that Maccha Tea is a powerful and effective tool to aid our Kung Fufocus in work, family, meditation and athletics. We prefer the highest quality tea that is sustainably farmed and ethicly handled. That’s why we buy our tea from Jared and Miyu at JagaSilk, a couple who have a quadruple black belt in their Kung Fu of Tea.

If you would like to try Maccha tea as an aid to your Kung Fu, check out JagaSilk and enter the promo code kreekdrink and save 10%. You can now order a tea subscription to be delivered in the mail every month, which is what Becca and I like to do.



Send Adam Kreek a message on Twitter @adamkreek. You can also find more tips to improve your body, mind and soul on the Don’t Change Much website or through Adam’s column on CBC Sports.

Adam delivers authentic keynotes, workshops and seminars for corporate, government and not-for-profit organizations worldwide.  Please contact us for information about our offerings.