The one surprising state of mind you need to call on to succeed


Thursday 8:27pm Sheffield

Did you do what you were supposed to do today? Go to work? Follow the rules? Keep your head below the parapet?

That sounds like a good day’s work. Let’s say it was better than that – let’s say it was a great day’s work.

You finished your todo list, helped a co-worker complete a few more jobs and got a large contract signed. Everything is fabulous.

You go to your manager, bursting with excitement – you’ve got all this stuff done, it’s time to pick up some praise and a well-deserved reward.

So… what do you think you’ll get?

  1. A huge cash bonus.
  2. An all-expenses paid trip to Bali with your family, with everyone flying first class?
  3. More work.

Most of us spend our lives working on other people’s priorities

We live in a world where the education system teaches us to fit in – to be good workers. And that’s great for lots of people.

But not for everyone. And the system doesn’t know how to cope with those people in any way other than putting them in straitjackets.

So we get contracts and rules and policies and training – all things designed to squish us into a role where we do what we are told to do and nothing else.

In other words, we act like pragmatic, reasonable people – agreeing what we should do and doing what we agree, most of the time.

What would a Samurai do?

Hagakure is The Book of the Samurai, a collection of conversations with Yanamoto Tsunetomo, an 18th Century Samurai who became a Buddhist priest.

The Samurai point of view that comes out of these writings is not pragmatic, not reasonable – and it’s not a philosophy. It’s a state of mind, and not one that is easy to understand.

In one of the stories, a warlord attacks and kills another one. When this happens, the soldiers of the dead warlord are ronin, masterless Samurai. What should they do?

The answer is clear. They must take revenge. The way of revenge is simply to force your way into the other warlord’s house and be cut down.

Don’t stop and think. Don’t consider details – like how many soldiers guard the place or what you need to attack. When you do this, the time goes by, your start to think, and then you give up.

It doesn’t matter if the enemy has a thousand soldiers waiting to fight you. You go in with the mindset that you will start with the first one and cut them down, one by one.

Even if it looks like you will lose, take action – recklessly, irrationally. Go in, cut them all down, or be cut down.

Don’t wait and think. Act. With no regard to reason or outcomes.

Would you attack a warlord guarded by such people?

Sometimes life needs that kind of attitude. Was Steve Jobs reasonable about removing all the buttons from the iPhone? Was Elon Musk reasonable about going to Mars?

George Bernard Shaw wrote “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

To win, you need to be the kind of person that will fight, even when it is absolutely certain that you must lose.

When the time comes, you do not reason – you must only act.

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