We all go through different experiences in our lifetime. We all learn from change, pain and mistakes. We all feel different moments of elation, pride and love. We all have a slightly different perspective on the world and therefore our own version or mixture of ideas and opinions. And then one day all of those experiences, ideas and unique viewpoints are gone. Dead.

I think this fuels my interest in learning from those who are still alive and also from the writings of those who are not.  This become especially clear when my father wrote an autobiography. Although this book has not reached the ‘Best Seller List’ (yet), for me it was an incredibly valuable insight into both my own childhood and his opinions and ideas.

Some people would have been able to teach us more than others, so I definitely value advice from people who spent their entire life dedicated to a cause or ongoing learning and for them to have left it all in writing.

Miyamoto Musashi was a legendary swordsman and warrior. He spent a lifetime fighting duels and refining his craft. He was a philosopher and strategist, highly dedicated to self-discipline and analysis.

What interests me most is not his unique talent in the gory dispensing of fellow humans, but rather his commitment to his art form and the desire to become extraordinary at it.

Musashi completed two writings in his later years: the first – ‘The Book of Five Rings’ – has become a famous classic book on strategy and is often mentioned in the same context as Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’. His second – Dokkodo (“The Way of Walking Alone”) – is considerably shorter and also his last before his death.

When Musashi felt his final weeks approaching, he did what any legendary character would do: retreat to a mountain cave, give away all of his possessions and live out his days in solitude and reflection. When the time came, he even decided how he would die by positioning himself seated on the ground with one knee raised, the sword in his left hand and his cane in the right.

So what would a man like this think about while taking stock of his life? What would he say to you or I if we had trekked up the mountain to disturb the peaceful ambiance of his legendary ending by offering him a Starbucks in exchange for advice?

He kept it shot and to the point – which I respect: nothing destroys an air of wisdom like excess waffle. He broke his entire life of learning into 21 points of advice; almost as if he had written it specifically for the short attention span of the Internet age.

So now that I have written far more introducing it that he did in the entire piece of work… here are the 21 things that the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi would like you to know about life:

 

  1. Accept everything just the way it is
  2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake
  3. Do not give preference to anything among all things
  4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world
  5. Be detached from desire your whole life
  6. Do not regret what you have done
  7. Never be jealous
  8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation
  9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others
  10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love
  11. Do not seek elegance and beauty in all things
  12. Be indifferent to where you live
  13. Do not pursue the taste of good food
  14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need
  15. Do not act following customary beliefs
  16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful
  17. Do not fear death
  18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs (land) for your old age
  19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help
  20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor
  21. Never stray from the way

 

There are a lot of similarities to Stoic philosophy and many ideas that echo that of many religions. There is also no mention or praise for war, power, aggression or any other concept that we could expect from someone who lived the life of a warrior. Could it be his emotional control and philosophical outlook that lead to his success?

Would you add anything to this list? Do you disagree with any? Let me know by leaving a comment below…

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