Miyamoto Musashi is a famous samurai, great strategist and skilled swordsman who lived in feudal Japan. In his books he describes the way of the samurai, a set of rules to succeed and thrive as a leader and a master of art.
Below are my thoughts and interpretation on some fundamental ideas I learned from reading his books.
1. Use resources wisely
A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and can help to achieve a goal. It may vary from individuals, capabilities, tools or commodities.
Each resource is suited for a specific need and use, understand the abilities and limitations of each one of them and be able to choose wisely which one to use when the situation requires it.
Resources are known to be limited, make use of them only when needed and with parsimony. Make sure to have a source of supply available and ready to support any urgent need.
When it comes to people, things are slightly more intricate. There are many parameters to take into account when dealing with people.
Empathy is key, value your people and listen to their needs, foster the spirit of perfection and efficacy among them. You may consider people as resources, but they are definitely not tools!
Also, when the stakes are too high, make full use of your resources. It’s too bad to lose with some tricks still up your sleeve.
2. Practice steadily and thoroughly
Place a monkey in a cage and it becomes like a pig, not because it’s not smart but because it will not have the space to practice its abilities.
Serious and dedicated practice is your most important ally of skill and capability development.
Knowledge builds solid grounds to understanding things, but theory without practice is a vain effort.
Practice makes you learn to apply your skills, it makes you learn about yourself and how to take advantage of your abilities in favor of perfecting your skills.
Consistent practice develops automatic processing and response to intense situations where normal thinking and analysis is too heavy and slow to be effective. This is how professional athletes or special forces respond instinctively fast to tense situations.
As Archilochos said: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
3. Consider timing and space
Timing and space are crucial parameters to take into account when any action is considered. These are components of your battle and should be part of your decision making.
Choosing the right time is known as a deal maker or breaker. The right time to make a move must be chosen smartly (when to ask for a raise, when to introduce your innovation to the market, when to approach an important client/prospect, or even when to propose your crush)
The most important challenge is to spot the moment and take immediate action. This requires flair, lots of practice and sharp skills and intelligence.
Timing is not only about night for stealth operations or day for public statements but it’s also about the alignment of events in a certain way that serves your interests.
Space has the same importance, choose wisely your battlegrounds, and make sure you have the best location, and orientation.
In a dominant aggressive position make sure to have your back to the sun, where you make full advantage of elements to confuse and pressure your opponent.
On the other hand, you may privilege your counterpart’s comfort to get their entire focus and relieve the tensions generated by the given situation. That may be a better alternative to achieving your goal.
Having time and space considerations is a continuous process of strategic analysis, you should be instinctively sensitive to when and where to take action or retreat.
4. Differentiate vision and perception
Vision is what your eyes see, perception is what you will find beyond.
Often, a personal first impression is what drives your perception of a given situation, based on your instincts, beliefs, and experiences. Basically, your brain analyses a situation whether it’s a threat or an opportunity and reacts accordingly.
However, people’s actions may be influenced by external elements or a one-off event that may be unrelated to your situation. In addition, people may use deception to hide information from you and influence your decision-making process.
Train yourself to refrain the urge to react, unless it’s a life and death situation, in that case, your inner system is more effective. Take a step back to analyze the situation as a whole and detect abnormal elements.
You should deepen your understanding to look beyond the impression that your counterpart would give. This requires lots of self-discipline, emotional intelligence and practice.
5. Gather knowledge and master tools
Learning is an endless process. perfecting knowledge must be an everyday activity to sharpen your learning ability and enrich your knowledge base.
Gather knowledge and have an understanding of things, but have in mind that you cannot master all the sciences, instead, master fewer skills.
Uncertainty and the evolution of our environment require us to adapt quickly to new situations and rearrange our skill set continuously.
hyper-specialization is no more a thing, being adaptive and developing a diversified and complementary skill set is the new standard instead. However, much of a polyvalence may also mean mastering none.
One should master few tools or skills but should be able to use many, to adapt to every situation and to be able to pivot rapidly if the situation requires it.
Developing knowledge needs curiosity and open-mindedness, a string will to go towards unknown areas. Meanwhile, mastery requires discipline, focus, and perseverance. you should find your balance between those two.
6. In battles, crush your enemy
Once you find yourself in the midst of action, there’s no room for doubt and hesitation. Whether you were prepared or found yourself in an ambush, you must be sure of your final goal.
When you engage in any action, you take the responsibility and commitment to go as far as possible towards your goal, which should be annihilating your opponent. If you have doubts or not sure of your ability to deliver, retreat or negotiate better terms.
You have much to lose leaving an unfinished, don’t be satisfied by weakening or hurting your opponents as they may and will recover and come to you with more force and preparation.
Commitment and clear vision of your goals should be your main concerns, when there’s an escalation, both sides are aware of outcomes and implications of such endeavor. The only issue is to make sure that your opponent will never represent a threat ever.
Through these few points, I tried to cover the essentials of what made me think and introspect on how to deal with everyday situations with technicity and philosophy.
The Concepts may seem simple and obvious, but understanding and mastering them is a long process of introspection and training.
Miyamoto’s teachings are rich and inspiring and I encourage you to dive into his books if you are looking for self-improvement in any field.
“there is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” Miyamoto Musashi