I heard years ago that a long lost aunt went off and married the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. When this brought to my attention, I was curious to learn more about the guy who was said to have shot through a wall to kill a man for snoring too loudly.
To learn more about this outlaw, I read the book John Wesley Hardin Texas Gunman by Lewis Nordyke. This was a fascinating story about a man who didn’t seek trouble, but somehow always got into it. The most impressive thing that I learned from reading the book was that Hardin was one of the fastest to draw a pistol.
A post-Civil War outlaw in Texas had to be fast, but it was more than speed that was required. His senses had to be tuned in all the time. He had to be aware of his surroundings. He had to assess the potential threat of any enemies. He had to be ready. Just like I was told in the Army, “Stay alert, stay alive.” Hardin had to live his life always on guard from any potential threat. Though he may have believed he was retired as a gunman, in the end he didn’t follow his own rules. One night he turned his back to a window while playing a game of pool. He was shot in the back by a man out on the street.
The Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi, understood the same perils. The ronin was famous for his ability with a sword. His skill was forged in combat. The more he fought, the greater his reputation. Challengers seeking to prove they were the best travelled from all over to test themselves against him.
A gunman and a samurai. They came from two different eras but were both cut from the same warrior cloth. There was no denying that the enemy was looking for them. Their survival depended on:
- knowing their surroundings and how they could use it to their advantage,
- knowing their enemies and how to control them by putting them at the disadvantage.
If you do not control the enemy, the enemy will control you. –Miyamoto Musashi
Who is your enemy today? Is it a person? Is it internal or external? Though I am always looking out for potential threats, my biggest enemies today are coming not from people but from things. My enemies are vying to steal my attention, to make me soft, or to keep me from pursuing my dreams. The enemy could come in the form of a lack of discipline, an overindulgence of unhealthy food and alcohol, or an electronic device wasting my time. My success in life is dependent on the same survival tactics of the warriors of old. I have to know my surroundings and know my enemy. I have to stay alert. When I let my guard down or put myself into a defenseless position, then the enemy will come.
Ice cream is a good example. If I buy it and put it in the freezer, I am going to eat it. I can’t help myself. I will try to practice restraint, but then my defenses will eventually weaken. I will get bored and the thought of eating it will enter my mind. I will begin to obsess over it until there is nothing else I can think about. The enemy wrapped in sugar and cream will win out. By buying the ice cream, I gave the enemy the advantage of the surroundings and the control. I was not going to win.
Consider today what is holding you back. Identify the enemy and understand the terrain in which it likes to operate. Figure out a way to gain control, so that it does not control you.