On Leadership and Learning to Pace

Martial Arts

Pacing: How I Realized I Was in Sprint Mode Most of the Time

Problems sometimes get solved in the most unusual ways. As I worked through a framework designed to help me look at one business problem in a new way, I had a “Eureka! moment” pertaining to solving an entirely different problem.

Life in the Fast Lane

What popped into my mind was a solution to a problem that I didn’t even realize I had. It surfaced while I was trying to solve something else entirely. It had to do with my preferred pace for engaging in problem-solving at a very quick pace.

I like it FAST!

It was in analyzing my preference for a fast pace that allowed me to see the benefits of a different, slower pace.

And what astonished me most was that I hadn’t even considered this before!

Cross Functional Analysis

Using Martial Arts Skills to Solve Business Problems

I train in martial arts and have done so for nearly four years. One day, I wondered whether I could solve a business problem using the technical skills I practice in mixed martial arts.

These technical skills are combative and forceful ways to defeat problems. And they work well for my fast-paced nature.


Striking came to represent dynamic, verbal attacks.


Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ or the ground-fighting game) represented actions or answers that involved a methodical approach to blocking or controlling someone or something.

Take Downs

Take downs (or body slams) are those things undertaken to abruptly stop something or someone. For instance, going on strike or a work slow-down is a severe take down undertaken when employment contract negotiations are at an impasse.

Counter Attack

Every move that an opponent can deliver in a match is generally met with a counter-move or counter-attack.

Analyzing The Problem

Where’s the rub?

Lining up my thoughts and ideas underneath the appropriate headings, I noticed some irritation and tension whenever I added something to the BJJ ground game list.

Reviewing the list, I didn’t notice anything particularly onerous. But then, I noticed that the list contained tasks that required research.

Eureka! Tasks that are slow, methodical, twisty or frequently interrupted were unconsciously causing me irritation.

I REALLY like fast paced activities. These please the striker in me. I’m tall with long limbs, good for punching and kicking and applying the quickness to my feet to get out of harm’s way. And anything else can often just seem like a boring chore.

Finding the Right Gear

Applying the same pace to a different task

What popped into my head was that when I’m working with a training partner (“rolling” as we call it in jiu jitsu practice,) I’m applying the wrong pace.

The ground game is different from my “stand-up” or boxing and kicking game.

Of course! Why didn’t I notice it before? I often say to my training partner Dana that she is moving at a jiu jitsu pace (relaxed, methodical) when she should be moving at the pace of a striker (darting in and out).

It never occurred to me to reverse that advice to apply it to me because I move at the wrong pace when I’m on the ground.

I move too fast and I miss opportunities to set up my attacks effectively.

Mindset for Solutions

Urgent vs Relaxed

This made me think of strengths and weaknesses. Sorting my work activities into distinct martial arts skill sets allowed me to see that I was missing my opportunities on the ground because I wasn’t taking advantage of the extra seconds available to make a good decision before I adjusted my position.

The ground game is designed to allow time to think and choose from a list of alternative reactions. Strikers practice split-second reactions or else risk having their heads, unnecessarily, in the line of fire. Two completely different speeds.

I looked back at my list of methodical activities and felt myself relax.

By allowing myself the time and the pleasure to work through the tasks at an appropriate pace, the tension and irritation lifted. Next step is to apply that same thinking when I’m waiting for someone else to complete methodical tasks requiring their time and attention.

Learning to Pace

In Praise of Slowness

My wake-up call came when I found myself toying with the idea of buying a collection of One-Minute Bedtime Stories, Snow White in 60 seconds. Suddenly it hit me: my rushaholism has got so out of hand that I’m even willing to speed up those precious moments with my children at the end of the day. That’s why I began investigating the possibility of slowing down.” ~ Carl Honore, “In Praise of Slowness

Slow down, you move too fast

“Infectious multitasking is on the increase. If you’re attempting to eat breakfast and floss at the same time, you could be in trouble…Studies have shown that rushing is a direct cause of rudeness, blunder, and mishap.”

Sound familiar? Slow Down Now

Questions for your consideration:

  • How do you think about adjusting your pace as you move from activity to activity?
  • Do you rush other people to meet your need for speed?
  • When do you know and what do you do to match another person’s pace (slow down or speed up)?
  • Do you think people should adjust to your pace? When and why?
  • Where are you applying the wrong pace in your life?


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Cheryl Ragsdale is Coach at “So, You Lost the First Round”
She helps with Operations Management, Team Building, Coaching & Training
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Workbook | Yahoo Sports

Image Sources: martialartsfemale.com


6 responses to “On Leadership and Learning to Pace

  1. Awesome post. Love the references to MMA. Your insight about slowing down were spot on. Its funny that we think that we can actually do two things at once (and if you ask my daughter, do them well). Thanks for a fun post that made me think and learn.


    • Hello Anil,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this post. We really do think we can multi-task and do more than one thing well. Sometimes, that’s true. Perhaps that’s what makes it such a hard habit to break.

      I’m practicing noticing my tempo and determining whether my pace is a good match for the task(s) at hand. I’d love to hear what happens when you apply what you’ve learned–from either you or your daughter or both of you.


  2. What a great story! Yes, the energy you describe is what we call Driver energy – crucial to martial arts and business. And yes, as you’ve said, without counterbalance, it’s a burner. I’ve come to understand that counter balance in terms of 3 other patterns in the nervous system (and personality) that we also have access to: Organizer, Collaborator and Visionary. As a fellow martial artist, I was especially intrigued to learn how each of these patterns is grounded in difficult physical movement, as well as emotions, thoughts processes and behaviors. We have the capacity to shift between them as readily as shifting from calm waiting to full-on attack. My suggestion: don’t try to slow down in Driver mode. Shift to a different pattern.


    • Hi Ginny,
      Yes, slowing down in Driver mode would have disastrous consequences “on the mat” and with producing good results in a timely fashion. Bridging the physical to the practical and emotional has opened my eyes and allowed more access to the other patterns you mentioned: Organizer, Collaborator and Visionary. That moment of slowing down allows the right direction to be chosen.


  3. Great article! I too have been practicing American Kenpo for the last 8 years and the need for yin and yang totally resonate. I also have the issue of moving too fast. I am usually to the solution before others are still debating the problem. I used to continually ask “why can’t they speed up?” I have learned that making sure people are along for the entire ride leaves less feathers ruffled and results in much less repeating. Thanks for an awesome article!


    • Hello Cheryl,
      After 8 years of study and practice, you must be formidable as an opponent. It’s always a pleasure to meet a fellow martial artist.

      Slowing down to allow others to keep up and enjoy the journey with us is an indication of wisdom, plus care and concern. Fast isn’t always the right answer. I believe there is such a thing as divine timing or synchronicity.

      Whenever I see a traffic accident, I say to myself, “See, if you weren’t delayed by that traffic light, then that might have been you.”


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s