Shelf Talks #8: Klaas

Klaas's bookshelf

Shelf Talks is a series of interviews in which writer and librarian Oleg Kagan asks interesting people questions inspired by the contents of their bookshelves. Klaas van Oosterhout lives in Leganés, Spain. In the interview, Klaas explains how martial arts books helped him read about executing different techniques and aided him in explaining them to his students. He believes a useful martial arts book is one that combines culture/history, exercises, explanations on techniques, and effective training methods. Furthermore, Van Oosterhout talks about the BEAR acronym that he uses in his work with entrepreneurial parents to help them achieve their goals, which stands for Beliefs, Emotions, Actions, and Results, and explains how emotions can impact a person's beliefs and actions, either positively or negatively.

OLEG: In contrast to the other interviews I've done for Shelf Talks so far, I noticed you have a few martial arts books (K1, Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, etc.) on your shelf. I've always considered books that claim to teach martial arts to be at odds with their own purpose; it's the wrong medium for it -- like trying to teach computer programming by audio. What, for you, makes a useful martial arts book?

KLAAS: The reason I have those martial arts books is because I used to have a gym and was a Muay Thai, K1, Kick boxing trainer (also have always had great respect and appreciation for Bruce Lee, hence the Jeet Kune Do books). These books helped me to read about how to execute a certain technique in words, which helped me get different ideas of explaining it to my students. Every person learns in a different way and as a trainer I noticed it’s very important not to push your preferred way onto someone.

Some of my students wanted to fight in official events and very quickly I noticed that the mind, nerves, confidence, fear, etc… are of huge influence to the outcome of a fight. So I wanted to read about the best in the world that have been in the ring many times. Really understand the feelings that they were sensing, to better understand my students reactions and responses. As well, again have different methods up my sleeve to help them perform at their best level possible. It’s interesting what fighting in a ring does to you, both body and mind, plus the influence one's mind has on one's body.

So from this background information, a useful martial arts book is the one with a combination of culture/history, exercises, explanations on techniques and how to train them, plus the various attributes one can use to train in a most effective way. And as I mentioned, the stories of those that have been living their martial arts fascinates me.

OLEG: I feel like the point you made about the change fighters undergo when they enter the ring is something a lot of armchair athletes -- people sitting at home watching UFC or Glory Kickboxing -- don't understand. Honing in on the idea of that change and preparing for it, are there similarities between getting a fighter's mind ring-ready and your process in working with your current clients, entrepreneurial parents? (As an aside, I feel like it's marginally better to get punched in the face than dealing with my son's loudest tantrums)

KLAAS: That’s a great question Oleg, in all honesty, I’ve never really thought about it that way.

Thinking about it a little deeper, it has all to do with the emotions of the person, whether a fighter or entrepreneurial parent, to a certain situation that is happening or going to happen. This question ties in really well with what I have learned in regards to emotions and achieving our results, best described using the acronym B.E.A.R. This stands for Beliefs, Emotions, Actions, and Results. You decide on the result you are looking for, the actions that must be taken to achieve it and these highly depend on the emotions and beliefs around that action.

Let's look at a fighter for example, the result is to win the fight, the action can be a strategy decided upon months before the fight. Lets say, for example, a defensive strategy -- focusing on counter attacks to score points. The emotion is one of excitement about the actions that are going to be taken and the belief is that if they follow the action plan, victory is a given. However a fight, as pretty much everything in life, is never that black and white. There are different aspects to it, one being the opponent.

The fight starts and immediately one of the first strikes lands and knocks the fighter to the floor. What does this mean? Does it mean the chosen action (the plan) is wrong? And most importantly, what is the fighter now going to believe about getting hit and which emotion is going to arise. A normal person would be afraid because getting hit means pain and pain is a bad thing. Hence, for that person the belief will most likely will be: I’m hit, I’ve lost, I quit. A fighter, however, has trained their mind, worked on counteracting those normal emotions and beliefs. For the fighter, getting hit brings up the belief: I must hit back even harder, triggering an emotion of eagerness and the action that follows: Getting up and continuing to move forward. As you can understand, this takes a great amount of practise of both body and mind.

Now, let's look at the entrepreneurial parent, say they are about to conduct an important live interview and 15 minutes before it starts, one of their small children walks into the office and takes the biggest shit right in the office… A perfectly natural response would most likely will be to freak out and get really angry. The question is: Are those emotions beneficial or harmful to the results that parent is trying to achieve (ie preparing for the interview, having a great interview). An entrepreneurial parent has more results they are working towards: 1) Being the best parent they can be, and 2) Being a successful entrepreneur. Freaking out and responding with anger will result in a bad experience for the child and likely feelings of guilt for the parent, and that's not even talking about how the interview will go.

So, first look at the belief (what does it mean if something goes wrong?), then think about which emotion you would prefer to feel instead of defaulting to freaking out and/or anger; what action must I take to achieve the result I want, which is being the best entrepreneurial parents possible?

This situation actually happened to me! Better yet, that same child also made another shit next to my desk during a live interview, lol… But instead of letting the anger get to me, I remembered the belief I had been working on: “Everything happens for my betterment!” The emotion that comes with it is one of calm positive energy, which resulted in giving my child a hug, cleaning him, cleaning the floor, putting on my favourite pre-interview song, dancing, and getting ready to crush another live interview.

Maybe I went a little long here, but I love talking about this and helping my fellow entrepreneurial parents grow through their challenges, because a lot of the times they are emotional/belief-related. We all know what we must do, that’s not that hard. It’s our emotions and beliefs that are holding us back from actually doing it.

OLEG: I definitely don't mind if you go long. That's the beauty of publishing on the web -- the limit to what we write is purely driven by the reader's attention and I'd like to think that people who like Shelf Talks are the type of people who will read as long as we go, provided it's interesting to them. Obviously, there's way more to beliefs, emotions, actions, and results than you went into there, but I appreciated the examples because they described your point-of-view in a neat way, shit notwithstanding. Now, this next question may put you on the spot, but you do live interviews, so you're used to thinking quickly: Tell me about a piece of deep wisdom, or a fact of life, that's not in any of the books on your shelf.

KLAAS: First thing that comes to mind is “Everything happens for my betterment.”

I learned this during an online course from that particular coach and I really started putting that believe in my mind. It really helps, especially for situation one would usually call bad. The reason for that is that my mind starts looking for the good in whatever had occurred.

That which you look for you will find.

OLEG: It looks like you have some non-book items on your shelf. Can you tell me about some of those? Do any have special meaning?

KLAAS: Those non-book items on our shelf are just there to show you how big of a mess our book shelves are sometimes. Both our book closets are right next to the living room door, so it’s really easy to put anything and everything on the shelves in passing by… The alcohol is there, because the Spanish government recommended to put alcohol on your hands every time you come back home. I used this summer to really clean up both closets, so the only non-book items now are the kids Legos that they are building for their YouTube channel: Los Hermanos Construyen. They have now over 100 videos done and as you can imagine, that comes with a lot of Lego cars, buildings, planes, etc… They take up a lot of space, lol. We got Legos in their room, my office, and every where in the living room we can find a space to put them.

OLEG: That's delightful! I peeked into a few of those videos and the boys have a lot of fun with the Legos! It's also neat to see them working together, sometimes peacefully. For the final question: What has been the most impactful book on your shelf for you and why?

KLAAS: Most impactful book if I can only pick one would be Shine by Andy Cope and Gavin Oattes.

The book is about letting go of unimportant things in life and working on your happiness in such a way that you start to “shine.” Your happiness, excitement, joy every day will affect other people in a positive way that will automatically lift them up as well.

Plus, I’ve been able to interview both these gentlemen for my podcast Become The Me I Want To Be,” which brings the book even more to life.