Curing Bad Professional Habits for Personal Growth

I’ve written 19 books so far. I have 4 more in the works in various stages of completion. My books in English and several other languages have sold way over a million copies. I must be pretty good, huh?

Yes, but…  I want to be better.

I sent one manuscript in progress to my friend book author Whitney Stewart, whom I have known since we met at a Dalai Lama event 20 years ago. I respect her, we seem to have a lot of spiritual connections, and I know she is interested in what I am writing, so I asked her to look at the manuscript with her fresh eyes and give me her take on what I could improve to be more readable.

I thought she would comment on my subject and how I told my story, but she did not. Her observation? I used way too many quotation marks for words that were not in fact quotations. I had put those quote marks around certain words to imply irony or unusual use of the words, but she felt such use was either confusing or unnecessary.

Hmmm. OK. I took those quotation marks out and re-read the passages.

Wow. Whitney was right. Despite all my reasons for having done what I did in using those quotation marks, the blunt truth is that my work reads way better without them.

How about your writing style? Any room for growth and improvement in the way you use words? Maybe you misuse apostrophe s to make singular words plural, as in the embarrassing, “Learn throw’s and kick’s”. Maybe you use capital Letters at inappropriate Places. Maybe you overuse the same phrase repeatedly – Does this make sense? Know what I’m saying?  Maybe you use popular but awkward clichés at this point in time (as opposed to just now). Ugh. Pay attention. Learn and grow. Impress more people, including yourself.

I know I have other habits that could be improved when it comes to my writing. Sentences in the Black Belt Books Ninja series Volumes 1-5 are more often than not way too long. I wish I had put in three times as many periods. That would have made the books more encouraging to non-scholar readers.

I wish I had done better, but I did what I did, and I am ready to be more skillful next time. I can look at my areas of needed improvement without shame, anger, defensiveness, or denial. That is actually the point here. How open are you to getting valuable needed advice as to how to do an even better job when it comes to something really important in your life that you are proud of?

If your goal is to communicate effectively, or be a masterful teacher, or be a good parent, or live a healthful life, and someone you respect points out a way to do that even more effectively, do you thank them and rush to make the changes, or do you resist and balk at the affront of their hurting your little feelings? Growth must involve change. How can you grow and yet stay the same?

Are you ready to learn and advance? Really?

11 comments to “Curing Bad Professional Habits for Personal Growth”

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  1. There’s also no shame or harm in revisiting older works with an eye towards improving them. The digital age means that any information you’ve published can be edited, modified, and republished at will, and at practically no cost. What would change in Ninja Volumes 1-5 if re-written by the Stephen K. Hayes of 2009 as opposed to 1989? What material would get left out, what material would be added?

    Secrets from the Ninja Grandmaster was a good example of this – an epilogue 12 years later that is now an additional 11 years out of date. What has changed since Stephen K. Hayes first opened his Quest Centers and brought aspiring students to Noda City?

    The old books need not remain musty tomes, frozen in time. (though they’re valuable for retrospect)

  2. An-Shu Hayes.

    Very ironic. I recently got a piece back from a trusted editor – i think the notes/suggestions contained a higher word count than the original manuscript! Eeeek.

    Slowly learning to say more with less noise; kind of like our taijutsu.

  3. Interesting article but aren’t you confusing professional habits with personal growth?

    This is what I was referring to in my previous comment about paramters of understanding. If we link our understanding of budo within the limits of the times we live in, then we really can’t be said to be studying anything other than what is already being offered.

    One must make a clear line between budo knowledge and temporary knowledge.

    Thank you for allowing me to respond to your post.

  4. Oh my gosh, I was appalled at how many typos and larger mistakes the proofreading committee found in my book after my precise, English-professor eye had already looked at it countless times! And my editor! How could there still be glaring errors there?? 🙂

    I highly recommend a book called _Eats, Shoots, and Leaves_ by Lynne Truss. It’s a book about punctuation, but about so much more.

  5. No.
    I am not confusing anything, Eric.
    The purpose of my writing was to explore our views – our personal inner reaction – when we receive growth input.
    I used professional skills as an example of what could trigger ego resistance.
    It is all about personal growth, as is everything about To-Shin Do training eventually.

  6. I’ve learned to push the negative feelings
    out of the way, but it would be nice to stop feeling
    them. Is there a way to do that?

    Mark H.

  7. Mark, there is a way. It’s a long-term process that requires much bravery and good guidance, but from my experiences as a student so far, it is certainly worth it.

  8. It sure would be interesting to read one of the NInja volumes 1-5 from years ago, then read the same Ninja volume as re-written or edited by the An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes as he approaches September 9 2009 and see how differently the book affects me.

  9. It would be intriguing indeed to read a new version of those original tomes and see what changes time has wrought to those early explorations.

    My own personal wishlist would include a sequel to Tulku. A look at what Ken Odate and ol’ Kozo are up to in this world we now live in would be no doubt as gripping as the first book still is.

    An-Shu, I would offer a reference that I have found invaluable ever since my late uncle first put me onto it. “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” ( is a book I’d consider almost essential reading for a writer.

    BTW, greetings from Toronto. It’s been a while since the closure of the old barn dojo but those memories are still fresh…

  10. It’s funny because I had the same kind of problem with the quotation marks a few years ago 😀
    To keep improving ones hard earned skills is the mark of great men. To share that knowledge and make sure it helps others is even greater. Thank you.
    Your books had a great impact on my life (I’ve read them all numerous times, finding new things as I go along) and the long phrases did not (quite the contrary) discourage me. Though I understand and agree that it makes sense when adressing a large audience.
    I am really looking forward to your next work.
    Greetings from Brussels.
    Yours in Budo.
    PS pardon my English (not my native language).

  11. Parsing pet peeves:
    If everything is phenomenal, nothing is.
    If everything is surreal, reduce recreational drug use.
    Starting one’s line with “Look,…” or “Listen,..” is boorish.
    Lemme tell ya! I gotta tell ya! Mr. Hayes, Thank you for a code to live by, which includes thoughtfully expressing the truth, and speaking purposefully from the heart.

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