Echoes of Influence: Leaving a Lasting Impression

Adam Mitchell thinks back on his life-changing meeting with his sensei. It showed him how amazing it feels to find the perfect mentor just when you need them the most.

Timing being opportune

Nick: Well certainly it sounds that you put a lot of care, effort, and your whole life into what you do. And obviously there's this very important relationship you have had and continue to have with your sensei. So would you like to talk about Unsui Sensei and your relationship with him?

Adam: Yeah, I'd love to. In fact, I could have this whole podcast be just about him and not even mention my name. My dad and I are very close. I'm very fortunate to have been raised by a great man, and I hope dad that you hear this episode. Because I can't be thankful enough for the men in my life such as my dad, such as my grandfather.

However, when I met Sensei, he was a piece of leadership that I had been, it's not that I had been missing, Nick, it's that I never knew I needed until I had discovered that. And the way that sensei had treated me in the dojo when I would go and train.

When sensei retired from the military, he and his best friend, also a retired Lieutenant Colonel, they both retired, and they moved to, of all places, Baltimore. There's a reason behind that, They bought a house in Baltimore, they came here because they wanted to nurture our organization, it was young at the time.

So that gave me a great opportunity in the early 2000s, to spend a lot of time with Sensei. Because I could make a cup of coffee at 5am here in New York, and I could be bowing in with Sensei by 10am in Baltimore, and spend the day there and train and drive back that night.

So I was able to spend a lot of time at his dojo when he moved here for a short period of time. When I experienced that, I really knew that I was fortunate because seldom in someone's life do they encounter a moment where they know they're in the right place at the right time with the right person. And when they realize this, they acknowledge there's a certain gift here that is somewhat beyond definition.

And kind of like you, we were talking about with your ikigai experience, when you had been asked that question and you know, in your whole sort of intuition on following your own path, I had found my place with Sensei, and I connected with him. I felt just he was stern, there was no BS with sensei. It was expected you would do what was said.

However, there was this fierce gentleness that he had, where I knew I was in the right place, like I just said, and I knew that if I continued, and I stayed on this path, this is where I was meant to be. And it would lead to great things for me.

Nick: Love that expression, fierce gentleness. I might embrace that, that's beautiful. I'd like to quote your sensei. So here's a quote from Unsui Sense:

For myself, when a person's time to die comes, being able to say ‘I'm satisfied, thank you, everyone’ is the highest attainment of one's life. In addition, I feel that it is much better to do and then regret it rather than not do and regret that inaction. Consider this, if you will, and please continue to the end. Continuation is power.”

And kind of made me relate to, in some way, ikigai—this idea of learning new things, doing new things, learning, or living life. And even if we have our ups and downs, but we learn from our downs just as much or perhaps even more from ups.

So this idea of it is better to do something and if things go wrong, you regret it and then move on. Rather than imagine years later, decades later, regretting something you didn't do. So sounds like a very wise sensei.

Adam: Yeah, I think what you just read there was very impactful to me because I realized that through his teaching, and when I just said that, you know, you have to keep going; this is something that we say quite a bit in our life, just keep going.

And that doesn't come as a pat on the ass. It doesn't come as ‘hey, you just just keep going.’ Actually it's a direction, keep going. Like do not quit. And that doesn't mean stay in one line, and don't look to the sides, just keep going straight blindly. It's not that.

In fact, it is this path. Like I said, where I can age gracefully, I can age with power. And when I mean age, I don't just mean physically, but I mean, I can mature and I can continue to grow even into my 90s, I will still be expanding in this ‘do’ in this way through sensei’s teaching.

And I'm really fortunate for that. It is a real gift. And I feel that anybody who finds their way, their ikigai, for me, this is it, my dojo is my ibasho. And there's so much to unpack about this that's so beautiful.