Beliefs Differentiation Discipline Getting better Mindset

Black Belt Psychology

Getting to the top of your league is one thing. Staying there is another. Here’s what it takes.

I love what I do.

Part of that love is the time I get to spend with clients.

I was privileged to spend time with a client in Madrid a few weeks ago.

Some clients include you in their entire program. Other clients are more reserved, which means dinner on your own.

I like both, depending on the client and my state of mind.

After a tough day of facilitation, I often like my time alone.

This client is different.

They’re good people, and I like to spend time with them.

I was invited for two dinners. And reminded again that dinners around the Mediterranean start late and end late.

Each dinner was different.

The first evening we spent in a local ‘tavern.’ Cozy, informal, good food.

Bread, Jamon Iberico, cheese croquettes, shrimp croquettes, egg omelet, a ‘salad’ with fries and sausages, white fish with beans, steak, and dessert.

Those were the courses. Needless to say, I was full at the end of the evening.

The next day we ate at a restaurant owned by Rafael Nadal and Pau Gasol, called Tatel.

Wonderfully designed.

Which I like. Walking into a well-designed place is excellent for the eye. But it also creates expectations.

And that’s where Tatel fell short.

The servers were slightly arrogant and recruited for their looks.

The food was ok-ish, nothing extraordinary, compared to the evening before, a fraction of the portions.

This happens often.

A place, person, or brand gets hyped and does not meet expectations.

Getting to the top of your league is one thing. Staying there is another.

Earning your black belt is one step. Keeping it is another.

Other people want to get their black belts and beat you.

How did I get to the black belt part?

Because of a story one of the participants shared at the meeting.

He was a brown belt for a while, trying to beat a black belt he often met during competitions.

He never succeeded.

Then he became a black belt.

He crushed him the first time they fought each other, both black belts.

As he explained it to me (words are paraphrased):

“Erik, it was psychology. His black belt always intimidated me. Once I became a black belt, it unleashed powers I did not know I possessed. He must have also felt something because he fought worse than ever.”

Black belt psychology.

We then discussed titles and positions.

People with higher titles often get seen as ‘better’ because of their titles. They can leverage their power and influence. Their solutions are often seen as the ‘better’ solutions.

But are they?

Will a black belt always beat a brown belt?

Are the ideas, proposals, or solutions of people higher in rank always of better quality?

The answer, of course, is NO.

There are millions of stories through the ages of the underdog beating the favorite.

Think Morocco at the latest World Cup football.

Millions of examples show those lower in rank have better solutions than those up the ladder.

It’s all about mindset.

On both sides of the spectrum.

A black belt should treat every fight as a fight he wants to win, no matter what.

A brown belt should do the same, knowing that a black belt also can have a bad day.

A higher-ranked manager should always listen to the ideas of people lower in the hierarchy.

And a person with less positional power should always fight for their ideas.

That’s how it’s supposed to work in an ideal world and a perfect mindset.

If you’re convinced reality is different, and there’s nothing you can do about it, you’ve already lost.

We should continue to work and grow those leaders who don’t care about positions or titles but about the quality of ideas.

That’s the real fight.

And I don’t need a black belt for that.

Rafa Nadal is a superstar who takes no opponent for granted.

Unfortunately, the people who run his restaurants have not experienced that mindset (yet).

When you’re not on top of your league, whatever league or business that may be, try harder.

Just like Avis competing with Hertz.

Or the little unknown tavern in Madrid.

Your turn: Tatel or Tavern? Brown or Black Belt?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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