Ring my Bell

If you want to inspire others, you’d better wake-up and hear what you need to hear

At this time of year I once took a trip to the Kurama-dera Mountain Temple, a day out from Kyoto, up on the shoulder of Mt Kurama. It was one of the best parts of that visit to Japan. You can either take the funicular railway up from the Kurama side, and hike down to the amazing village of Kibune, or do it the other way around. The whole place is quite a beautiful, inspiring experience.

I must have been ready for some deep discovery, because it felt like lots of things shifted for me that day. Here’s one of my highlights.

As I’m hiking up the mountainside, through alternate bright spring sunshine and then dark cool forest, I can hear this deep, booming noise. It sounds like someone is using explosives to mine away somewhere in the mountain.

I start to get very angry that they would do this in such a beautiful, natural environment. I’m on my way to the Buddhist temple at the top, and getting more and more annoyed at how complacent and supine the Buddhists must be to allow this. If you’ve been to Japan you’ll know how the cities can sometimes look, with cables strung everywhere and rough, raw concrete a popular building material. I was very ready to believe that the mountainside and temple would soon be the same.

Then I turn a corner out of the forest and approach the temple properly for the first time. There’s a huge bell hanging in a shrine. I mean, a really big thing. There aren’t too many people around, and they’re mostly Japanese people, and all of them are either waiting in line to ring the bell, or waiting for their companions to do the same. Then I realise for the first time that I’m looking at the source of the booming explosions I’d been hearing and had been getting so angry about.

I join the short line to ring the bell and then stay around for a while to watch and listen to other people do it. The sound of the ‘explosions’ now having quite a different meaning.

It was a great lesson. How I could hear one thing and imagine something quite different. Of how important the nature was to me, that I’d been so ready to accuse others of letting it be destroyed.

That bell was also a wake-up call. My anger can be very energising. I’d used it to put right all kinds of things at work, fixing broken processes, championing how things could be better for customers. And I was ready for something more. Part of me knowing that anger wasn’t quite enough for the next step I wanted to take at work. That I’d need to learn how to call people up towards something inspiring and beautiful as well.

 


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