Lessons From The Samurai: The Secret To Always Being At Your Best - Barking Up The Wrong Tree


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Jul 29, 2023

4 min read


Lessons From The Samurai: The Secret To Always Being At Your Best - Barking Up The Wrong Tree

In the pursuit of success and optimal performance, many of history's greatest warriors stress the importance of being calm. The samurai, considered some of the greatest warriors who ever lived, have written about this concept for over five hundred years. Overcoming one's own mind is the key to overcoming concerns, rising above challenges, and achieving freedom. On the other hand, being overcome by one's own mind burdens individuals with concerns, making them subordinate to external factors and unable to rise above them. The samurai advise us to guard our minds resolutely, as it is the mind that confuses the mind. They emphasize the need to approach both combat and everyday life with determination and calmness.

Interestingly, the samurai also contemplated death extensively. They believed that keeping death in mind at all times, from the morning of New Year's Day to the night of New Year's Eve, was crucial for a warrior. This constant awareness of mortality helps to prepare for the worst and practice ahead of time, as the Stoics also suggest. By thinking carefully and consciously about the worst-case scenarios, individuals can gain peace of mind and be better equipped to handle challenges.

Research supports the idea that a feeling of control is essential for combating stress and anxiety. The loss of prefrontal function, which occurs when we feel out of control, can be prevented by maintaining a sense of control. Even if it is an illusion, the belief that we are in control helps preserve our cognitive functions. This finding reinforces the importance of staying calm and composed in stressful situations.

In addition to a sense of control, lucky charms can also contribute to improved performance. Studies have shown that people with lucky charms perform better in tasks such as golfing and memory games. The presence of a lucky charm boosts cognitive performance and enhances outcomes. This highlights the significance of having a calm and focused mindset, as it leads to creative and strategic thinking.

Moving beyond the realm of warriors, the human species has a remarkable ability for collective learning. This ability to preserve and share information with each other and future generations has led to the creation of entirely new forms of complexity. Humans have survived and thrived through the ice ages by developing tools such as controlled fire and better clothing technology. They also engaged in storytelling and exchanged knowledge through symbolic language and art.

Writing originated as a system of accounting, allowing elites and power brokers to keep track of their wealth. Over time, these symbols evolved to convey everyday languages and generate literature, history, and proper writing. As cities grew and interacted, commerce and conflict exposed once-isolated populations to various cultures, religions, philosophies, languages, and technologies. Trade routes like the Silk Road facilitated massive growth throughout Afro-Eurasia.

With the knowledge gained from their environment, humans began experimenting with agriculture, leading to a revolution. Farming produced a surplus of food, enabling individuals to pursue new endeavors. Societies became diverse, populations expanded, and collective learning flourished.

From the samurai's emphasis on being calm to the human species' ability for collective learning, there are common threads that connect these seemingly disparate concepts. Calmness and control of the mind are crucial for success and optimal performance in various aspects of life. By staying composed, individuals can overcome challenges, make better decisions, and think strategically.

To apply these lessons to our own lives, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Practice mindfulness and meditation to cultivate a calm and focused mind. This will help you navigate stressful situations with clarity and make better decisions.
  • 2. Embrace the practice of premeditation by considering the worst-case scenarios and preparing ahead of time. This will give you peace of mind and enable you to handle challenges more effectively.
  • 3. Find your own lucky charm or ritual that brings you a sense of control and enhances your performance. Whether it's wearing a specific item or engaging in a specific routine, having a personal anchor can boost your confidence and cognitive abilities.

In conclusion, the lessons from the samurai and the human species' history of collective learning teach us the importance of staying calm, being in control, and embracing the power of the mind. By adopting these principles and incorporating them into our lives, we can strive for success and optimal performance.

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