Efficiency: A standard of performance that uses the least amount of effort to achieve the highest amount of result.
Incompetence: The inability to complete a task successfully due to ineptness.
For those of you that have worked with me, trained with me, or have gotten to know me personally or professionally, you will know that variables related to these two definitions are the most direct route to draw my ire. As I am getting older, I had hoped that my patience with those who are either inefficient or incompetent would have subsided. I was horribly wrong because I am getting worse by the day. At first glance, efficiency and incompetence may not seem to be directly related. As you read on, allow me to take exception with this idea.
We live in a society that has embraced a culture of expediency and opulence. We want what we want now an we want it immediately. We tend to think that we are entitled to having our wishes met instantaneously. Don’t get me wrong, proper customer service is the hallmark of sound business practice. But there is a difference between customer service and being commercially indentured. What has resulted is the constant need for more of anything and everything.
The need for more products and services quickly has led to a decline in quality in deference to quantity. Instead of repairing a high-quality product that can last for years, it is much easier to simply buy a new product and discard the old one. Efficiency has been replaced by expediency, and do not be misled into believing that the two are synonymous. This is especially true in the martial arts and self-protection industry.
In my own training, I have returned to my roots as a beginner circa 1992. As a beginner, I knew very little about karate. In fact, I knew nothing at all. I started with very few techniques in my base of knowledge. My instructor insisted that the few techniques that I knew should be honed and refined before acquiring new skills. As I am moving further away from those days of my youth and origins in karate, I am returning to the idea that less is more. My focus on the number of kata that I practice is dwindling to a very few. The number of techniques that I would consider my” go to” techniques in a self-protection scenario are also dwindling for various reasons. The point is, I have determined that efficiency and competence can be achieved with a more direct path with the appropriate tools.
Karate is plagued today by schools and instructors that promise Black Belts in a specified period of time. In two years, yes YOU can be a Black Belt. This has degraded the coveted Black Belt to nothing more than an athletic fashion trinket. If you simply want the Black Belt, this is indeed an efficient way to obtain what you want with a modicum of knowledge and effort. But does it foster competence? If we look at the history, tradition and quality of karate schools and practitioners of bygone eras, that answer becomes painfully obvious. Expediency, not efficiency, has led to an incompetence that is embarrassing to those in the martial arts who were made to earn what they saw as the ultimate goal in the martial arts, the Black Belt.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is where my distaste with issues pertaining to efficiency and incompetence comes to a halt. Inefficiency and incompetence have plagued our society. Recently, as a consumer, I have been browbeaten with inefficiency and incompetence by that behemoth known as the United States Postal Service. Allow me to give you three glimmering examples of this relic of an organization that if left to its own devices would defraud every American with the introduction of the self-licking stamp.
I recently ordered some T-shirts from a military and lifestyle brand that I favor. As with many online retailers, they provided tracking information with my order. In this particular episode, I noticed that my package had been sitting in a distribution center about an hour from my home for over a week. I inquired with my local post office why this may be, at which time the postal employee told me that my package had never been shipped by the merchant, despite the presence of a readily available tracking number. The postal employee insisted that the fault was solely with the merchant. Before contacting the company, I decided to give it one more day. Guess what arrived in the mail the next day? You guessed it; my shirts. Coincidence?
Today, on two separate occasions, I received e-mails that two packages had been delivered for orders I had placed. One was for a golf club that was sent from Michigan, but there was a small discrepancy in the delivery notice. My package had been delivered to a residence in Las Vegas, while I live in North Carolina. Simultaneously, a limited edition set of poker cards I ordered was showing to have been delivered to my Post Office box in Kyle, Texas. Not having a post office box in Kyle, Texas, nor having ever been there for that matter, was of no consequence. One would think that reading an address label and sending a package in the general geographic direction of the recipient would not represent the summit of intellectual thought. Here, we see inefficiency and incompetence at its apex, and we as Americans continue to funnel billions of dollars into an organization that cannot tell east from west.
It’s very fortunate that we do not rely on the United States Post Office to send our military into areas in which they must conduct combat operations. It would be most embarrassing deploying the 82nd Airborne to Iraq only to witness them invading Nova Scotia. Now, if any postal service employee is reading this, find my golf club.