What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Miyamoto Musashi

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Miyamoto Musashi

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Miyamoto Musashi

By Mark Wager

The truth is simple, undeniable yet brutal. If you enter the world of entrepreneurship there is a 90% chance that your business won't exist within five years and a 95% chance that it won't last ten years. So surviving the figure of entrepreneurs who are making a good living and living the dream is much lower.

If you want to be an entrepreneur you need to be warrior. This is the brutal truth.

There are resources available to all potential or existing entrepreneurs. There are people who have come before us who have taken the step to say no to an ordinary life and have committed to live life to its fullest and these people have decided to document their journey in writing, their experiences of success and failure accessible by just a turn of a page. Each and every year there are approximately 50,000 books on leadership and entrepreneurship published, yet one of the most influential books I have ever read was not written by a modern businessman, it was a book written nearly 400 years ago by one of the world's greatest warriors. The legendary Ronin Miyamoto Musashi.

Born in 1584 in Harima province Japan, Miyamoto Musashi is widely regarded as one of the greatest warriors in history. He was more than just a warrior he was a Ronin. A ronin is a samurai without a master, a concept that many entrepreneurs can relate to. Miyamoto Musashi travelled across Japan to find the greatest warriors in existence and challenged them to a duel. He won his first duel at the tender age of thirteen and would go on to fight and win over sixty official duels.

In his later years Miyamoto Musashi collated the lessons that he had been sharing with students within his dojo for many years into one book. The Book of Five Rings is a masterpiece on strategy where lessons have been embraced beyond the battlefield and into the workplace and into people lives. Entrepreneurs need to be warriors and there are no better lessons than those that can be learnt from one of the greatest warriors in history.

There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” - Miyamoto Mushashi

The secret of success both in business and in life is within. No matter how important external factors are there is nothing as important as your internal motivation, passion and resourcefulness. If you have these qualities then you have control over your destiny because no matter what happens and what obstacles may be placed in your way you will find a way to overcome them and become successful. The truth is clear, if you want to live a life of greatness you have to become a person worthy of greatness.

It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet” - Miyamoto Musashi

One of the biggest lessons I personally took away from studying Miyamoto Musashi is his commitment to learn from all different disciplines and use lessons from one discipline in order to improve his ability in another. In addition to being a great warrior he was also a highly accomplished painter and poet as well as being committed to the art of ceremonial tea making. The lessons learnt in these disciplines helped his progress in the others. In business do not limit your learning to your own chosen field if you want to truly learn then you will find valuable lessons wherever you find excellence. Success leaves clues, so whenever you achieve excellence in any aspect of your life you will find lessons on how to repeat that success in other areas.

Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.” - Miyamoto Musashi

The most successful people I know do not aim to beat other people but have an incredible commitment to beat themselves. You are your greatest opponent, no one has more capability to damage your future than you and if you can beat yourself each and every day then any other victory you desire will come your way. If in business you can adopt the mentality of a samurai and aim for improvement every day then the question of achieving your goals stops becoming "if" and starts becoming "when".

When in a fight to the death, one wants to employ all one's weapons to the utmost. I must say that to die with one's sword still sheathed is most regrettable" - Miyamoto Musashi

The odds are heavily stacked against you as an entrepreneur. This is not a life for the faint hearted nor anyone who is not willing to commit 100%. It's tempting to see that an entrepreneur's life is one which allows you to work less than you would if you were working for someone else yet the truth is quite the opposite. If you work for yourself then be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined and be prepared to commit to everything. If you are not prepared then if you get lucky, you might succeed today, you may succeed tomorrow and maybe even next week but eventually you will fail. Success requires full commitment. Anything less guarantees you nothing but regret.

When your spirit is not in the least clouded, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true void.” - Miyamoto Musashi

The final book within a Book of Five Rings is the book of the void. The void is the feeling of total immersion in your actions to such a point that there are no thoughts or self-doubt and you and your task are as one. Today, this is more commonly known as "flow state." We have all experienced this feeling and have been amazed at what can be achieved while in this state. The key to enter this state is to find your passion. If your business is not your passion then you will never be able to compete with someone who is passionate about his business. This is because effort is limited but energy is not. When you are working hard you will become more and more tired yet a passionate person is instead being energised by the same work. It's no surprise who will win in the long run. To succeed as an entrepreneur find the business within your passion.

The world may have changed in the last 400 years but who we are as people fundamentally hasn't and business is all about people. Entrepreneurs are the Ronins of today and we need to be prepared to learn the lessons left behind from those warriors who have gone before us in order to win the victories of tomorrow.

Posted: Monday 29 August 2016


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