The Student And The Master

In the early 1970s there was a television show called Kung Fu. It was all about martial arts and a story line of a Kung Fu Master and a student referred to as “Grasshopper”.

The Master was an older blind man who would open (or close… I forget) the show by opening his hand palm up with a pebble in the open palm. He would tell “Grasshopper” that when he could snatch the pebble from his hand he would graduate. As you can imagine he would try and at the very last second like lightening the Master would close his hand.

This little trip down memory lane involves the young firefighters, officers and instructors and the senior more experienced people.

As a young firefighter and instructor I was Grasshopper. I was convinced I was smart enough and good enough to be the Master. I was pretty good but I never grasped the pebble. I was far from being the Master.

The student should always try and continue to emulate, follow and study to become the Master. The Master must always be patient and continue to help the student no matter how frustrating that can become.

But here is a part of the equation that I wish someone would have told me early on……The student must acknowledge and realize their limitations and the should not try to be the Master while they should be honing their skills as the student.

As a young instructor i was probably teaching people that I should have been sitting in the classroom and listening to!

I don’t think we should suppress anyone, but as I hear the words, mentoring and all of the leadership buzz words, it seems to me that we have people that feel that have already mastered severals levels of this job, beyond their capabilities. Take a breath, do some self reflection and figure out if “you too, can snatch the pebble” from the hand of your mentors, officers, and senior personnel.

Stay focussed Grasshopper. Be undeterred!