A meaningful mentor in my life came from an unexpected place.
I met Hunter Gott at a community event I attended in Iowa about seven years ago. At the event, he was demonstrating kyudo, the Japanese martial art of archery, which I found fascinating.
I soon started practicing kyudo here in Minnesota, and Hunter’s Iowa-based group came up frequently to practice with my group. As I continued to practice, he remained involved in my learning, and we developed a mentor relationship.
Hunter is committed to seeing me succeed in kyudo — which is not just a sport or an artform but a way of life. My practice, with his encouragement, has taught me many life lessons.
As we say in kyudo, “sha soku jinsei,” which roughly means “shooting is life.”
Practicing kyudo is a lifelong learning process. You will never reach the point where you have learned it all. There is always more to learn and practice. The same can be said about most of life.
Hunter has mentored me in this mindset and modeled it. I have watched him grow and become more skilled in body and mind, just as I have.
Part of this lifelong learning approach is taking the time to reflect on what went well and where there is room for improvement in a shoot.
Attitude of growth
Another key principle of kyudo is focusing on opportunities to grow, rather than framing experiences as successes or failures. It can be easy to focus only on hitting the target, but we strive to have a balanced perspective on the result of the shot. A bad shot can sometimes hit the target, but a good shot will hit the target every time. With this in mind, it is more helpful to focus on the process and to use the outcome to inform our understanding.
This summer I will be taking the test to move up a rank, which has a pass rate of 25%, including returning aspirants. I may not pass, but regardless of the result, I will be a better archer – and professional – for having made the attempt. It is about the experience. But, of course, I hope to advance to the next rank!
Whether things in my life go to plan or not, I’ve learned to take a broader view and embrace the process and growth opportunities. Hunter has helped with this by being willing and available to listen, encourage, and coach me as I talk through any struggles in my practice.
A third principle is to remain calm and composed no matter what is going on around you. Learning to maintain composure in any situation is helpful in every aspect of life.
Starting a new job, as I did a year ago, can be stressful and difficult. Having the discipline to remain calm and to reflect and grow through challenges has increased my confidence and ability to take new responsibilities and skills in stride.
We say that kyudo impacts life and life impacts kyudo because all of life is practicing the kyudo mindset. As a mentor, Hunter has been instrumental in helping me hone lifelong skills. He lives the kyudo principles and provides individual attention and coaching to help me live them as well.