From Specifics To Fundamentals

As parents, teachers, leaders, or mentors, one of our most important and powerful tools we have at our disposal is the object lesson.

If we are able to point to and extract from a specific incident, a lesson or principle that applies to a variety of situations or circumstances, and if we are able to communicate that lesson or principle to the person or persons we are attempting to help in a way that is heard, understood, and, most importantly, felt, we empower them to make better decisions in the future.

It is difficult to do this if we are caught up in the immediacy of the moment, however. In order to find the greater lesson or principle in a specific incident, we must be able to step back, to distance ourselves psychologically and emotionally from what is happening, to look at the situation objectively, and to consider what single shift in mentality or behavior would either prevent or replicate this occurrence en masse in the future relative to our desired outcome.

Object lessons are a means of pointing out and communicating repeatable patterns, whether good, bad, or neutral, in a way that these patterns become predictable and controllable. In other words, object lessons are a way to teach causality so that it can be used to one’s advantage, ideally in an ethical, productive, and socially contributive way. Simply put, object lessons empower us to see beyond the specifics to the fundamental.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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