This is Randal Burton. He owns Gracie Cincinnati, a Jiu Jitsu Academy in Blue Ash.

I caught him doing this and got so excited, I just had to take a photo.

Excited? Over someone mopping a floor? Seriously?


Actually, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

You see, this isn’t the first time I’ve caught Professor Burton cleaning the floors. Or collecting trash. Or organizing chairs. It’s actually quite normal.

But no one will ever hear about it. There won’t be any headlines. There won’t be an award given.

So, why would the owner of the school, regularly do this type of work? Surely there are others who can do these tasks?

I submit to you that he does it because he cares. Because he wants his students to have a clean surface for their training. That he respects the employees and teachers who dedicate their time enough to give back. That he likes to see things done right. That details matter.

All of these things are important, but it’s not what gets me most excited.

What gets me excited is that he is setting the tone for his business. He’s setting standards for behavior without saying a word. He’s teaching fundamentals by his actions.

This is true leadership. A blackbelt in Jiu Jitsu, demonstrating blackbelt level leadership. All the while his students catch his lessons.

It seems that important lessons in life are not taught, instead–they are caught.

It’s how I learn.

My primary instructor at Gracie is Professor Steve Wong.

Steve is a long time blackbelt who has trained with some of the greatest martial artists in the world, including Rickson Gracie, who personally awarded Steve’s blue belt. Who is Rickson Gracie? He’s the son of Helio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and whom some consider the best fighter to ever live.

One day in class, Steve “caught” me making the biggest mistake a fighter can make while defending. As my training partner took a dominate position I reached up with my hands to defend myself. Steve, in his no-nonsense style screamed at the top of his lungs “what the f&*$! are you doing!?”

The entire gym got totally silent and all eyes were on me.

Caught! Forever burned in my memory.

This moment has stayed with me because Professor Steve made a big deal out of my mistake.

Why would he scold me in such an aggressive and public way?

Surely he could have waited until after class to gently explain to me that extending my arms while defending from the bottom will get my arm broken.

No, gentle is not the way to react when the subject is a broken arm or God forbid, a life or death situation.

Professor Steve’s reaction was the PERFECT reaction to a very serious mistake. (One that I rarely make now.)

As I think about this incredibly important lesson, I think about how I raised my kids and how I reacted very aggressively when they needed correction.

My son Scott received only a few spankings as a child, but when he ran out into the street as a toddler, I had to get his attention. It was an important, possibly life-saving lesson.

The other time he was severely punished was when he argued with a referee during one of his basketball games.

You see, I picked my spots to punish him and only when it really mattered. Like Professor Steve did with me.

My son is now the father of his own child.

Precious Amelia will one day catch her dad doing something right, and one day her dad will catch her doing something dangerous. In both cases she will learn valuable lessons.

As shown by Professor Randal and Professor Steve, the greatest lessons in life are caught, not taught.