Wisdom from the principles of Budō: Lessons for work & life
July 26, 2010
Even though these first simple rules comprising "The Three Rules for Practice" are taken from a manual on swordsmanship from a time long ago, notice how you may use these rules in your own work, or life in general. You can see how these ideas apply to the practice of the Japanese martial arts, of course, but perhaps you can also apply the ideas to the activities of everyday living including delivering a presentation or speech, managing a project or leading a team, and other practical endeavors where excellence is required and self-mastery a must. Here are the three rules from the Tanseki School of Swordsmanship.
The Three Prohibitions
(1) To give up
(2) To misbehave
(3) To be clumsy
The Three JoysThe Three Evils
The Joy of vicissitude
Change is a part of life. Change — even sudden and painful change — is indeed about the only thing that is certain in life, yet often we deny it or run from it. Instead, learn to prepare for change, face change, and even embrace it. We must adapt to the vagaries and ceaseless changes of everyday life. Experience can be a good teacher for dealing with the vicissitudes of life and work. Perhaps this is why athletes, for example, improve through real-game experience due to all the challenges that one faces in a real game that can not be simulated well in practice. If you want to get better at something, you have to do it, make mistakes, make adjustments, and improve over time. Just as a martial artist has his training enhanced by widening his experience through confronting ceaseless changes, we too can broaden our skills by being open to change and developing our skills further through the experience of dealing with those changes.
Ten "evils" to overcome
These items below come from The Ten Evils for a Budo Practitioner, a list from a Kashima Shin School scroll which appear in Budo Secrets. These ten (fear & doubt appear again) have to do with one's character as a martial artist, but as the author points out, these are aspects of ourselves that everyone needs to overcome. All of these are in us (we're just human after all) — the key is not to be defeated by them. Our enemy is not in the audience (or the competition, etc.). Usually, the biggest obstacle to success is not from without, but from within. I love these words by the late Aikido master Kensho Furuya: "You have the infinite capacity to do anything you want. You compare yourself to others—that's why you feel so limited." Here's the list from The Ten Evils for a Budo Practitioner:
I think you can see, for example, how none of these ten are helpful when making a presentation, performing a piece of music, teaching a class, and so on. All of the ten listed above can be destructive and hold us back, fear and doubt in particular. Fear holds a lot of us back. It is our fear of failure, our fear of what other people may think. We're afraid. We're not sure. So we hesitate...and we fail to act. Seth Godin calls this the Lizard Brain. Now, confidence is necessary and important, but overconfidence can sometimes be as destructive as fear and can also hold us back. Overconfidence, conceit, and contempt also prohibit us from seeing the lessons from those people and experiences around us. The old adage is "Once you think you have arrived, you have already failed." Humility, a virtue often gained through much practice, study, and experience, is key. Yet humility and great strength go hand in hand. However, a kind of projected modesty that is really a face over self-doubt and fear is not the same thing as humility. Genuine humility comes from a place of strength. It is the truly courageous who remain always humble.