What QlikView developers can learn from The Karate Kid

By Barry Harmsen

Karate KidAs you might have guessed from some of my earlier posts, I am a sucker for popular culture from the 80’s and 90’s. On this (apparently) most-depressing day of the year, let me offer you some light hearted, positive reading and share with you five of the motivational lessons that I learned from the 1984 classic The Karate Kid. Specifically, I will tell you how these lessons can be applied to learning QlikView, increasing your skills and expanding your knowledge. Or at least make you smile.

A quick summary of the plot for those not familiar with the movie (shame on you! πŸ˜‰ ):

Daniel has just moved from New Jersey to California with his mom. He quickly discovers that it isn’t as great as he thought it would be. Daniel doesn’t fit in and a gang of bullies, who are all adept at karate, are making his life miserable. He then meets Mr. Myagi, a handyman who also happens to be a karate master. Mr. Myagi takes Daniel under his wing and teaches him karate, showing him along the way that karate (and life) are not always about power and strenght. Can Daniel overcome his bullies in the All-Valley Karate Championship? (spoiler: yes he can!)

And now, on to the lessons!

1. Wax on, wax off

Let’s start with what is probably the best known quote from this movie: “wax on, wax off”. When Daniel starts his karate training with Mr. Miyagi, instead of learning cool karate moves, Mr. Miyagi instructs Daniel to do all sorts of menial chores. Waxing his (pretty awesome) collection of American cars, sanding his deck, painting his fence and house. Mr. Miyagi is also -very- particular about the way he wants things done, what a control freak!

The chores go on for several weeks and Daniel gradually gets discouraged and frustrated, this man isn’t teaching him karate at all! One night, Daniel decides to confront Mr. Miyagi about why he does not (seem to) holds up to his end of the bargain. The video below shows how this plays out.

As it turns out, these seemingly random chores were indeed karate training! Better yet, Daniel continuous practicing of these defensive moves had made them like reflexes. He didn’t even have to think about them anymore.

So, what can QlikView developers and consultants learn from this? As it turns out, quite a lot!

Practice makes perfect, even if it is frustrating at times

During my classroom and online trainings, students often ask me why my exercises require them to write so much script and expressions instead of just copy and pasting them. The reason for this is simple. Even if, at first,Β  it can be frustrating and grinding work, writing and reading a lot of script and expressions trains your hands and brain to more effectively process it. Do it enough and it will become a natural, intuitive process for you. Those missing comma’s and quotes that you struggled so much with when you first started with QlikView? You will be able to spot them instantly!


2. First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.

During one of his training sessions at the beach with Mr. Miyagi, Daniel spots him doing a particularly interesting move. Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi what the move is and Mr. Miyagi tells him that this is the “crane technique”. More or less this is (supposed to be) the most complicated and ultimate karate kick. Master this and you are the king of karate! (yeah, of course I’ve tried it πŸ˜‰ )

Daniel immediately asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him this technique, to which Mr. Miyagi replies “First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine“. Or, in plain English, Daniel is not ready yet.

By the end of the movie, after much practice, Daniel has finally mastered the crane technique. In the grand finale, shown in the next video clip, he uses the technique to beat the main bully and win the karate tournament. (fun fact: karate experts agree that using that move should have gotten Daniel disqualified)

Start simple and work from there

The lesson for QlikView professionals is (hopefully) pretty obvious. If you are just getting started with QlikView, work on something small, simple and manageable. Then as you get more comfortable with the tool expand your solutions and incorporate more advanced and complex methods and techniques into your applications.

This is exactly the approach we used in our book QlikView 11 for Developers, it starts out simple and as the chapters progress we gradually introduce more advanced concepts. Once you have reached the end of the book you will be able to crane kick any bully and take first prize at the Qlik World Conference Hackathon! (OK, so I guess that is where the similarities end…)


3. Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.

One day, while visiting Mr. Miyagi, Daniel finds him trying to catch a fly with a pair of chopsticks. Daniel doesn’t understand why Mr. Miyagi would use such an awkward method and asks him if a fly swatter wouldn’t be easier. Mr. Miyagi responds that a “man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything“. As the next video clip shows, Daniel also tries to catch the fly with chopsticks and, amazingly, he succeeds! Mr. Miyagi dismisses this as beginner’s luck, but it is clearly a big boost for Daniel’s confidence.

So what can QlikView developers and consultants learn from this seemingly nonsensical exercise?

Sometimes you just have to try something new, even if it seems impossible and success is uncertain

Many people get stuck in the comfort of their own routine and knowledge. Whenever a task presents itself, they are very result-oriented and quickly reach for the familiar approach to achieve it (“I’ll just do this in Excel…”). Many times I have seen colleagues and clients spend hours, days even, on (recurring) tasks that could have been completed (and automated!) in under an hour if they had only taken a step back, thought about the problem a little and had decided to try a different approach (or, a few different approaches).

Why don’t they try an alternative solution? Because they know that their familiar approach will get the job done, even if it is horribly inefficient. There is risk associated with trying something new!

I firmly believe that everyone should (to some extent) find better ways to achieve their tasks and solve their problems. Or, just plain “experiment”. Can it be done? We will only know if we try.

Many experiments will not work out, I will certainly stick with the fly swatter instead of using chopsticks. Even from those failed experiments though, you -will- learn something new. It might not be applicable immediately, but very often some time later you will benefit. For example, those pointless visualizations I published two years ago helped me get many new insights that enabled me to deliver some really nice custom visualizations for clients.


4. Hey, what kind of belt do you have?

When Daniel first meets Mr. Miyagi he asks what kind of belt he has. Mr. Miyagi replies that his is from JCPenney and costs only $3.89. Of course, this is not the answer that Daniel was looking for, he wants to know what kind of -karate- belt Mr. Miyagi has. The video below shows Mr. Miyagi’s response: “Karate here (in your mind), karate here (in your heart), karate never here (in your belt). You understand?

The lesson here? Well, we’ve learned that belts were much cheaper in the 80’s, but for me the main lesson is:

Certifications are great, but they cannot replace experience and a proven track-record

When starting with QlikView (or any other technology), getting certified is a great way to distinguish yourself from inexperienced, non-certified QlikView developers and get your foot in the door at potential clients or employers.

Don’t stop there though! Certificates typically only demonstrate that someone possesses the minimally required amount of knowledge. In my experience, certificates do not always accurately predict a person’s actual skills. There are many examples of people who passed certifications merely by rote learning. They might know the answer to the question, but not how to actually implement it. Certificates are a hygiene factor, not a differentiator.

So what, in my opinion, is a more accurate prediction of someone’s skill? Experience and a proven track-record of course! In the early part of the movie, we see Mr. Miyagi beat up an entire group of skilled karatekas. After seeing that, no one doubts that this man has the skills! While Daniel asked Mr. Miyagi about his belt before he saw him perform, he now asks him to train him without asking him for any formal qualifications or certificates. Seeing Mr. Miyagi in action has already convinced Daniel that this man can deliver.

How can QlikView developers and consultants gain provable experience? It is easy if you are already in a QlikView role, just build solutions, try to make them as good as possible and deliver them on time and within budget. People seeing (or hearing) that you can predictably deliver results puts you in a much better position than merely being certified. A solid resume listing your accomplishments and good references from employers or clients can go a very long way.

But what if your current role is not suited to build up experience and demonstrate results? In that case you can still build up experience and a track-record, but you will have to do some of it in your spare time. Think about:

  • Answering questions on the QlikCommunity, preferably with good example QVW’s that demonstrate your skills;
  • Creating a blog (or get a guest blogging spot) and sharing your solutions and experiences with people;
  • Submitting an extension or mash-up solution to Qlik Branch.

If you get a little creative, I am sure there are many more things that you could come up with.


5. hole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

Daniel is about to go on a big date and Mr. Miyagi, being the cool dude he is, lends him one of his awesome cars. Something is wrong however, Daniel looks anxious. Mr. Miyagi asks him what’s the matter. Could he be nervous for his date? As it turns out, Daniel is scared about the upcoming karate tournament. It’s all he can think about right now.

Mr. Miyagi asks Daniel if he remembers his lessons about balance? Turns out that lesson was not just about karate, but also a lesson about life! Or as Mr. Miyagi puts it “Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?“. Everything sure has a deeper meaning with this guy.

How might this wisdom apply to the life of a QlikView developers?

Got stuck? Relax and do other stuff

I am the last person to deny that QlikView, Qlik Sense and technology development in general can have very addictive qualities, and that stepping away while an issue is still unsolved annoys me to no end.

However, while putting in lots of hours gains you lots of experience and I think tenacity is a positive character trait, through the years I’ve learned that continually hammering away at an issue is usually counterproductive. Got stuck? Do something else for a while, let the mind wander and return to the problem later.

It’s been hypothesized that there is a strong relation between unconscious thought and out-of-the-box thinking. The supporting evidence is all over history; Archimedes and his Eureka moment in the bathtub, Isaac Newton and his apple tree, Einstein solving special relatively while riding a car and just last week, Barry Harmsen finding a missing comma because he went out for a little walk.


Got any Mr. Miyagi wisdom?

I could probably go come up with much more Mr. Miyagi wisdom, but the 5 lessons in this post have already pushed it way too far into tl;dr territory. So instead, let me ask you; what are your favourite bits of Mr. Miyagi wisdom? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts (bonus points if it includes a video)!

And just in case you still feel a little depressed on this Blue Monday; remember that you’re the best around, and that nothing’s every gonna keep you down!

About The Author

Barry Harmsen

Hi there, I'm Barry and I'm a Business Intelligence Consultant at Bitmetric and based in the Netherlands. Originally from a background of 'traditional' Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence and Performance Management, for the past 10 years I have been specializing in Qlik and a more user-centric form of BI. I have done numerous QlikView and Qlik Sense implementations in many different roles and industries. In 2012 I co-authored the book QlikView 11 for Developers. You can follow me on Twitter at @meneerharmsen.


  • 1
    January 19, 2015 - 16:21 | Permalink

    Quick and Dirty Tricks are a sure way to get beat up.

    At the Dance Daniel plays a trick on the bullies by spraying them with water from a hose in the bathroom. The bullies chase him and eventually beat him up. Mr. Miyagi comes to the rescue but it was the Quick and Dirty trick that get’s Daniel into trouble.

    I’ve been developing QlikView for many years for many clients and there is nothing that is more certain to cause me pain in the future than a Quick and Dirty fix to problem. At my company we focus a lot on structure and methodology and it is one of the key skills we teach every consultant we hire. These methods are built on our collective experience and are constantly changing but we are often asked to bypass those methods and just “make it work.”

    This commonly ends up causing us more headaches in the future…

    The SIB document that we rush through and then are expected to “productionalize”
    The workaround that becomes “the way”
    The hard coded whatever that does not adapt to the changing data environment

    All these situations are quick and dirty fixes that cause us to have uncomfortable conversations with our clients about how much it will cost to replace it or cause unexpected data issues in the future.

    Establish your process for handling your data in Qlikview and stick to it even when you have to do a job in a hurry and you won’t need Mr. Miyagi to rescue you.



    • 2
      January 19, 2015 - 18:48 | Permalink

      Well said Chris! One quote I really like in this context: “The dirty remains long after the quick is forgotten.”

  • 3
    Manoj v. Gorivale
    January 19, 2015 - 19:04 | Permalink

    Thanks Barry….
    Very impressive blog…
    Like it & Inspired πŸ™‚

  • 4
    January 21, 2015 - 06:33 | Permalink

    Excellent blog .. really inspires me since I have been in the shoes of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi both πŸ™‚

  • 5
    January 22, 2015 - 17:55 | Permalink

    Fun read and inspiritational Barry πŸ™‚

  • 6
    January 29, 2015 - 17:32 | Permalink

    This article is a nonsense and it can be applied to any aspect of the wole life.
    I find no use and maybe it could be more interesting if it would be a review of the film itshelf.
    Try to connect Sesamos Street with QV in the next article!

  • 7
    Steven Romero
    January 29, 2015 - 19:15 | Permalink

    I totally agree with QV. this article is peanuts. Maybe you can compare iQV with any film of Claude Van Damme or Bruce Lee if you feel bored.

    • 8
      January 29, 2015 - 22:20 | Permalink

      I’m not surprised you agree with QV, as you are both posting from the exact same IP address. It looks like I have my first sockpuppet on QlikFix! (but why?)

      Anyway, I do appreciate the feedback, but please understand that this post was just meant as a little light hearted fun. I mean, what did you expect from a post titled “What QlikView developers can learn from the Karate Kid”?

      If you want serious reading, please go read the “QlikView Reference Manual”. I’ll be doing my Jean Claude van Damme dance in the meantime >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE8XKeN0zk4

  • 9
    Steven Romero
    January 30, 2015 - 15:23 | Permalink

    Yes, you are right.
    I advise you to check this link to inform about the reason of sockpuppets.
    There are some theories about it!!! In the meantime I will watch “Drunken Master” from Jackie Chan.

  • 10
    Tormod Hanstad
    February 4, 2015 - 10:25 | Permalink

    Hi Barry, thanks for a post that bring us above deep coding. It is a nice metaphor with something we all have seen when we grow up with. About the important contents in the article, Its giving new and experienced users of QlikView, a nice breath in the daily work.

    So Mr. 0101110010011100001110(QV), I did like this very much.

    Look forward to more nice stuff related to the Cookbook (i have the paperback on my desk) and I love it.

    Tormod Hanstad

  • 11
    Anna Rigstem
    February 17, 2015 - 14:59 | Permalink

    OH I love this post. Definitely it changed my life. Since I saw it, I was upgraded in my job; I found an adorable husband and my friends invited more frequently to dinners.
    It is incredible how the teaching of Barry about Karate Kid and Qlikview can modify your whole life.
    I expect a new post about Qlikview and sausage of tomatoes. I cannot imagine how much culture and knowledge it could contain!
    Thank you deeply so much, Barry! And please, don’t stop writing something like that!!!

    • 12
      February 17, 2015 - 15:26 | Permalink

      Anna, Steven, QV or whatever your name is (looking at my logs you’re all the same person): give it a rest. You’ve been commenting over the stretch of a few weeks already, so maybe this post -did- impact your life a little more than you want to give it credit for πŸ˜‰

  • 13
    Martha Cano
    February 19, 2015 - 18:14 | Permalink

    I laughed a lot with this post, It is very funny and very true. I have a customer that want to create a enormous app but he has only a couple months like developer. The point 2 of this post is perfect to show him. I really enjoy this blog.

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