We arrived at the Great Wall at around 10 AM and it was already quite hot and humid. Being my second trip to the great wall, I was not as excited as the first time. The crowds of people climbing the hilly section of the wall had us shoulder-to-shoulder as we ascended the steep stone stairways. While the age and majesty of this structure were both impressive and memorable, I was looking for THE defining experience. This was the first day of my trip across China and I felt that I needed to put it in the correct light with an experience that would be my own. I selfishly wanted the entire Great Wall (indeed all of China) to myself.

Looking across a valley, I noticed a small pavilion on the crest of a hill. If only I could be there instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all the others. As we approached a small area to take a break, I spied a small path traveling away from the main section of the Wall. Unfortunately I couldn’t read the Chinese sign as to where the path led, but I suddenly decided to take a chance. When Mike Zambrano and the others were busy, I shot down the path. I felt rather foolish as I actually ran the first mile of the path, constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I was followed. 

I continued down the path for about a mile and began to worry. Would it be a dead-end? If so, then I would have to just re-trace my steps and make a steep climb back to the main group. My heart pounded harder as I realized that not only was this actually the path leading to the lone pavilion, but also, that no one else had followed.

pavilion_distanceGetting closer I noticed that it was completely deserted and had an incredible view of the entire valley. Looking a half a mile to the right I could see the masses of people crowding up the steps of the wall. It was now clear that I was completely alone, in a place that tourists didn’t actually visit, and that no one even seemed to notice me.

I removed my very sweaty shirt (remember, I ran a bit) and hung it on a bench to dry. I then just sat and absorbed every inch of the landscape around me. I meditated, I thought about my life, the future and my place in the world, and found two hours of complete solitude amidst thousands of tourists in one the 8 wonders of the world.


It was miraculous, and someday I will share with you the revelations that lead me to create some of the most successful Shaolin-Do schools in the world. These revelations are still shaping my life. In fact, if I close my eyes, I am still on that cliff, standing in that pavilion in Northern China, tapping into that solitude, although its image has grown a little weaker. 

My shirt dry, I now had to decide whether to descend further down the mountain on the path or go back up to the main path. The possibility that I would not make the scheduled departure time for the bus was very real, and I was the leader of 25 or so of the tour members. I took my chances and continued on the path.

After another mile I came to another pavilion. This time a Chinese woman was taking a nap on a bench with a thermos of tea to drink. She sat up and we tried to talk but my vocabulary was too limited and her accent was very different sounding to me. So we just sat and smiled and made hand gestures at each other. I kept walking and soon after and came upon a wonderful little temple honoring Kwan Kung (General Kwan Yu, the Hero of the Three Kingdom Era). It was completely deserted and I visited the statues and tablets as I liked. Yet another incredible experience, I felt that the temple had been built for my enjoyment and that I alone was meant to have this experience.

The path left the temple and I eventually arrived, through back streets and alleys, at the buses. The other tour members took no special notice of me, but I felt electrified from the trip and wanted to tell somebody (and nobody) what had happened. However, this is first complete account I have given of that experience, and I have never fully explained to anyone the significance of that day. I will say that since that day I have made my OWN way in business and life, even though it often flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Every time someone tells me that nobody has done it that way or everyone else does it this way, or the rest of the industry does it like this; I am transported to the Tranquility Pavilion (I later translated the characters of the sign on the path) and the lesson of that day. I sincerely hope that you find the Tranquility Pavilion in your own lives and that the lesson is as crystal clear as it was to me that day. The poet, Robert Frost summed up this lesson best, so I will let him end this story. It is uncanny how it describes the story above.



Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

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