Master of Five Excellences by guest master, Andrew Salman

Master of Five Excellences by Andrew Salman

I remember a day back in college when I was auditioning for the “Jazz A-Band.”  It was a certain triumph for me to even be in that group…I remember my counselor telling me that they don’t let freshmen in.  I tried out for it anyway and along with 3 other freshmen we made the top band in CSUN.  What a day!  It was fun surprising the counselor!  Then, I recall another day playing with the band in the summer.  We had just finished a concert and the band director called me up in front of everyone and made a rude comment about my playing that day.  Everyone laughed and it really damaged my motivation to play saxophone.  It hurt me so much that I dropped out of CSUN that year and didn’t touch my saxophone for nearly 10 years.   It’s not all bad…as with all stories, there are lessons to be learned!

For one, this was the catalyst that started my martial arts career that I live and love today.   And because of martial arts, I ended up playing saxophone again, anyway!  But, looking back, I’m sure there must have been a better way.  I ended up finding that way much, much later in life.  And you can find it sooner, if you look!

Sometimes, I look to Grand Master Baird as an example of how to make decisions in my life.  He oftentimes teaches by example, so it may be easy to miss certain lessons because most often he doesn’t explicitly state “now you do this and this.”

One important lesson that he teaches is called, “Master of Five Excellences.”

But, it took me a while to get the lesson.  10 years, in fact!  I heard him talk about it all the time, but whenever I would hear about the Five Excellence lesson I would say, “But that’s Master Baird.  I could never do that!”  It took me a long time to learn that Master Baird demonstrates skill to show that no matter what…we are one and the same as he is and can do what he does…and even more! He reminds us that, “Our perspective is often our only limitation.”

The truth is that we can all be masters of as many excellences as we want.  There are no limits but the ones that exist in our mind.  It is our job to overcome these false limits placed on us by ourselves and others. 

The reason I never believed it at first was because in my mind, if I wasn’t doing something well then I just wasn’t going to do it!  “Why should I learn poetry when there are thousands of better poets than me?”  “What if I never get good at saxophone?”  “What if nobody enjoys my paintings?”

These are all questions that lead to inaction.  They focus too much on qualifying skill (result oriented thinking) rather than trying to participate in a craft (process oriented thinking).  The cure to all of this is twofold: Experimentation (try new things!) and participation (if you find a new skill that you enjoy, stick with it until the end of days!)

Master Baird is a martial arts master, photographer, painter, musician, poet, healer…among other excellences!  He does these things not only for himself but to inspire each of us to search for other talents that exist within ourselves.  Master Baird is a man who pursues himself because he knows nobody else will do it for him.  We can do it, too! You can do it too!

If you never try, how will you ever know?

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One Response to Master of Five Excellences by guest master, Andrew Salman
  1. Danny K.
    September 8, 2015 | 6:29 am

    Thank you! It’s too easy to get caught up in the “why I can’t” loop, only to realize that tons of time has been wasted fueling a thought process that has provided absolutely no creative/constructive output.

    Instead of “why I can’t,” what about “why shouldn’t I?”

    An excellent post, a valuable lesson, and a fantastic reminder.

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