The Book of Five Rings
By Miyamoto Musashi
Even though this was written for Samurai warriors in the 15th century the Book of Five Rings shows the way to learn and master your craft. Learning how to learn is a skill that few have. The ego gets in the way. People often lack the humility to say, “I don’t know how to do this.” As a result, they master nothing. While most of us are not Samurai warriors, we all need to learn how to practice and work consistently in the era of instant gratification
The Way of the Warrior
“The teacher is as a needle; the disciple is as thread. You must practice constantly”
Good leaders and good followers cannot exist without one another. As a learner, drop the ego and learn from the master to improve your craft. Not just working hard but working consistently.
Likewise, the master has more responsibilities, especially if he has multiple followers. He must be aware of his people’s morale and find out how to challenge his students without putting too much pressure on them.
“Train day and night in order to make quick decisions. In strategy, it is necessary to treat training as part of normal life.”
People in our culture tend to give up quickly when they don’t see immediate results. Musashi teaches that you must constantly beat on your craft, see your art in every aspect of life, and practice to the point where it becomes instinct.
The Way to Learn
“It seems difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first...As you become accustomed to the bow so your pull will become stronger.”
Most of us tend to give up immediately when things get hard. The damn ego convinces us to feel sorry for ourselves or to make excuses why things get uncomfortable. Musashi says that everything seems hard. Don’t just work hard, work consistently and patiently with the intent of mastery.
Increase Your Arsenal
“You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.”
Developing one style makes you one dimensional. Musashi isn’t saying that you should master multiple crafts. He is saying that mastery is continuing to improve in your own field of study.
One example that comes to mind is Michael Jordan. In the 1980’s people thought he was just a dunker that couldn’t pass, shoot, or play defense. As a result, Jordan mastered every aspect of the game. In 1988, he even became the NBA defensive player of the year. Master your craft by becoming skillful in every aspect of it.
Spiritual Bearing in Strategy
“Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined through calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased.”
This is the killer instinct. That mind state of pure focus on the task at hand. Not getting over hyped or consumed by timidity. Get in that zone where all you can think is, “I’m about to kill this motherfucker.”
“The mountain-sea spirit means that it is bad to repeat the same thing several times when fighting the enemy.”
You are never predictable. You must become formless like water. That is why being one-dimensional is so dangerous
Way to Win
“The way of strategy is straight and true. You must chase the enemy around and make him obey your spirit.”
In other words, make your enemy play your game. Become the standard in which others hope to match. An example is when a runner runs at the speed of the other runners rather than trying to surpass all of them. Or in an argument with a fool, do not stoop to his level, let your actions speak volumes.
“The master of strategy does not appear fast…when your opponent is hurrying recklessly, you must act contrarily and keep calm.”
This doesn’t mean you should be slow, rather you must be precise. In any area of life, be consistent and be masterful.
We live in a culture of instant gratification. It hard for people to wait patiently for their own goals to become fulfilled. Have the humility to learn and the consistency to improve daily you can achieve mastery in due time. Don’t listen to your ego because it will give you excuses to quit. Mastery and success both come gradually.