Three Ways to Master Marco Polo Kung fu At Work

I may have just found my newest binge-watching obsession on Netflix, about the obscure story of people in the period of Kublai Khan. “Marco Polo” tells the story of the famed explorer’s early years living in the Mongol Empire with all its oriental grandeur, intrigue, elegantly choreographed fight scenes, and skin.

All empires fall. History repeats itself. These and other timeless adages are yet again illustrated onscreen.  In my mind appears historical parallels in matters of security, defense and coin; almost seeming predictable in one way. Like it’s all been said before.
Yet this scene jumps out at me, about the true definition of Kung fu, and how close to my present reality it actually is. Play this quick clip:

“Kung fu means supreme skill from hard work….Practice, preparation, endless repetition….until your mind is weary, and your bones ache, until you’re too tired to sweat, too wasted to breathe…”
Sound familiar? A bit extreme I know, but drama aside, it’s quite eloquently delivered in the video, play it now if you haven’t already done so.

So here we go, mastering The Kung fu Way to success:

(You may already have these in your heart, we all just need a refresher.)

1. Practice. Repeat. Strengthen and sharpen the tools 

The Khan did not have the value of webinars or conferences, but he did surround himself with an advisory board and mentors. And a Shaolin Temple Kung fu Master, naturally. He made sure every revered official in the kingdom were abreast with battle and politics. They trained in exemplary fighting. Repeatedly.

This is of course an easy parallel in today’s business world: Learning is literally at the tip of your fingertips, potentially with every tweet and post.

The key is creating your circle of trust with time-tested online sources, and an openness to guidance from mentors or a trusted team.

Of course Kublai did have a secret weapon to divine even deeper insight: 
The Empress. Sharpening your instinct with just one more conversation rarely goes astray.

2. Snoop on the potential warlords and learn from History’s Greats. 

Every industry has its local legends. Competitive Analysis. They’ve been doing it since the beginning of commerce, don’t drop the ball on this.

Despite his unearned position of prisoner and ‘tolerated guest’, Marco Polo finds a way to win the Khan’s attention and admiration by eloquently delivering his personal insights and knowledge of war heroes. “I admit,” said Marco to Kublai, “I am quite taken by the audacity of Alexander (the Great).”

Although such traditional oration isn’t so necessary, sharing your personal heroes and influences is a good way to connect with people in the workplace, or even with clients. Let’s face it: You can strike alliances when you speak of ideations.

Brainstorming and collaboration are time-tested ways to conquer. Book the board room for more than work in progress meetings.

3. Devotion to your cause

What are you totally devoted to at the moment? A project? A client?
The Way by which you meet The Dream?

You know the answer. But how does one truly show devotion? The Khan would have some pretty intense ideas. He often used words for or against the ones that stood before him: “What is this I hear about how you can paint a picture with your words?!” And this of course is almost certain: what you say and how you say it will paint the picture for your team, or for your clients, about what it is you wish to achieve in both the short-term and long-term.

All too often, the ‘Big Picture” idea is glazed upon, or held in an almost superficial Mission Document with no bearing on everyday work life.

There is nothing wrong with sharing passion…however you can do so.
Marco Polo recorded it in very detailed journal entries, with words and hand-drawn ideas. Entrepreneurs today sketch ideas on everything from high-end digital software, to cafe napkins. Be Kung fu, be bold, share!


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