The Bow Stance

The Bow Stance

Archery is the national sport and pastime in Bhutan. Prior to a fortuitous business trip to Bhutan last fall, I was fascinated to discover in my research this curious centuries-old factoid about the tiny Himalayan country I was soon to visit: a long shot for sure.

The first image that came to mind – and the only personal association I had with the sport of archery – was a dim childhood memory. I am about five years old, and I am sitting on the grass under the big shade trees in the park near our house in Sacramento watching my parents and some of their friends shooting bows and arrows at a big bale of hay in the distance. That day, I learned from my father what a bulls-eye was, and I kept my eyes peeled for it, as he suggested, but it never came to be. Lots of arrows hit the bale of hay, all right, and some came close to the middle, but none hit the bulls-eye. It looked pretty easy to me, so I was puzzled.

It was a few decades later when on a visit home from Berkeley one weekend, I discovered the long, thin, tan-colored metal box in the guest room closet and opened it. My sister and I had been warned not to touch the “dangerous box,” so of course we did. But we never took out the bows or arrows, just looked at them, finding them frightening and mysterious, like a loaded gun.

When I opened the box this time, as an adult and parent, I burst out laughing, remembering the day in the park and how strange it all seemed now. In the rear-view mirror of our lives, it seemed such an aberration, that whole bow and arrow thing. It was incongruous.

As a joke, I grabbed one of the bows, picked up an arrow, and striking the bow stance in the kitchen doorway, aimed it at my mother where she stood making sandwiches for our lunch. When she looked up in pale-faced shock, she too burst out laughing, and we laughed ‘til we cried. Once recovered, we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about how inexplicable that whole archery episode was in the first place. She couldn’t really remember how long it lasted. It was kind of a fad among young marrieds at the time, an unusual social pastime with friends in the park on a warm sunny day.

As a career/life coach, I use the concept of the bulls-eye all the time to describe what we are up to in the coaching process. I want all of my clients to achieve the best possible outcome to their particular transition. In my last post, I talked about two clients who hit the bulls-eye last month. There have been countless others over the years and will be many more. One is interviewing right now – only for jobs in her desired target market – and I believe she is close to hitting the bulls-eye. The interviews she is getting now with her cover letters and resume suggest she is indeed getting closer.

Several other of my clients and I are engaged in identifying the target outcome of our work together – the job, the business they want to start, the goal they want to achieve at this particular time in their lives and careers – and we are specifying all of the criteria that need to be present in the multi-faceted target. Otherwise, how will they know it when they see it? And how can they hope to hit the bulls-eye if they don’t know what it is?

In archery, the bow stance, the aim, is everything. It requires thinking, grounding, positioning, preparation, and practice. In the marketplace today, too many people are in a rush to shoot off their arrows into cyberspace without any real preparation at all. They have a vague idea of an ill-defined target, not much deep thinking or positioning or strategy at all; and they often aim too high or too low, erroneously thinking this is increasing the likelihood they will hit something, anything. They tend to wing it on the tools they are using, too – the cover letters, resume, and spoken narrative about who they are, what they want, why they see there is a match between the job possibility and their gifts, talents, skills, education and experience. And have they even thought about their own requirements for the match?

On our first day in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, my husband Jim and I met with the officials of the Bhutan Trust Fund for the Conservation of the Environment, our hosts and reason for going half way around the world to a place we had never even thought of before, let alone visit. After that first meeting on the first day, we looked out the window of the fifth-floor office (no elevators in Bhutan), and to our amazement we were looking down at an archery arena right across the street! And sure enough, there were two archers at practice. We had thought we would have to seek out the possibility of observing this unusual national pastime.

The first thing we noticed was that we could barely see the target, much smaller than a bale of hay – more like a small grave marker out there in the distance – and the bulls-eye, which we were told was painted on the oval stone, was entirely invisible to us. The target, 140 meters away, seemed impossible to hit, let alone the bulls-eye!

We quickly observed that the Bow Stance – the aim – is everything. The arms of the archers were strong, muscular, toned, and their stance was perfectly grounded, still. When the bow was finally released, it came as a shock, because there wasn’t a sign it was coming any time soon. It was simply released – perfectly aimed at the target. Almost every arrow hit the target, and many came very close to the bulls-eye. If there was one, we were unable to see it with the naked eye.

There is an art to archery. And there is an art to just about everything in life, including finding the right partner, the right place to live, the right work, and the right job. All of those things require thinking, clarity, strategy, practice, a grounded sense of what the target is, and a solid bow stance, and a skilled aim, before releasing our arrows into space – cyber or other.

Our dear Bonnie Bonetti-Bell was the force behind our Career/Life Coaching services, until her passing in 2019. As a principal of our firm, Bonnie had an innate talent for seeing the best in people. Moreover, she helped others see the best in themselves. Bonnie is fondly remembered and deeply missed.

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