Bending to the Truth

There is black and white. It is a clear division between right and wrong. There is no question about it. It just is.

And then, there is the gray. It is the fuzziness between the two that adds complexity to that which should be simple. It is the muddy waters that distorts, entangles, and glosses over the easily identifiable.

Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.

Miyamoto Musashi

Navigating the gray is difficult, but it is necessary if you want to get to the pure. The truth is law. It does not change. And no matter how much I want to manipulate it, I cannot. Therefore, I am left with the choice Musashi gave me: bend to its power or live a lie. One is a snare that can entangle my feet and leave me powerless. The other brings me the freedom I desire. My only choice is to submit to the truth. If I bend to its power, my steps will be sure, my way will be unhindered by the distractions along the way. I will be free. Freedom is what all of us desire, yet so few find it. There is no bending the truth, only bending to it.

Body vs. Honor

Some would suggest that money is the root of all evil. And though money in and of itself is neither good nor evil, the lengths that some go to acquire it is indeed evil.

  • For only 30 pieces of silver, Judas betrayed the Son of God.
  • Because they were rewarded bonuses based on stock prices, Enron employees manipulated the price of the stock.
  • Of course, this list could go on ad infinitum, but we will not try to exhaust it.

Your money can’t go with you into the afterlife, but would you be willing to sacrifice something that goes with you into the next world for a little monetary gain today?

I work hard to maintain my body. After all, it is the only one I have in this life. The fitter my body, the more I can do. In fact, like the one with money, there are greater opportunities for those in good health. But also, like money, there are limits. If I am driven purely by vanity, I would go to unethical means to achieve my goals. But this body will only last one lifetime. The spirit and soul may continue into the next life, but the body will return to dust.

You may abandon your own body, but you preserve your honor.

Miyamoto Musashi

The ronin Musashi was a great warrior who lived by a high standard. He understood that reputation and honor was more important than even his own body. If it were the other way around, there is a good chance that history would have forgotten him. His body is no longer here, but his legacy has lived through the centuries. To be like Musashi, one would do well to live a virtuous life of wisdom, discipline, courage, and justice. To forsake those virtues would be to leave to door open to such vices as greed, gluttony, licentiousness, and cowardliness. These vices if left unchecked would slowly erode a person’s reputation. You would lose your honor, and unfortunately, this would be the legacy you would take with you into your next life.

Feature photo by Totte Annerbrink on Unsplash

Useless Things

What are useless things? Timewasters are the obvious. But what about the not-so-obvious: multi-tasking, dwelling on the past, or anxiety about the things that are outside of our control?

You could go back and beat yourself up over all the useless things you have done, but this also is useless. After all, you cannot go back in time and change it. A better solution would be to use those past failures as learning opportunities and try to make better decisions.

If there is no value added than it is useless. If there is one thing that I absolutely despise, it would have to be micro-management. As the managed, having someone constantly looking over your shoulder is frustrating. Your productivity is diminished, and you lose the ability to make your own decisions. As the manager, you spread yourself too thin and fail to make any solid gains. The manager can only maintain the status quo, while never developing the talent of his subordinates.

During the creation of this post, I stopped and checked my phone. I saw a video of someone doing something dumb. This led to watching more videos of dumb stuff. The deep guttural voice of Miyamoto Musashi kept ringing in my ears, “Do not do useless things.” And here I am, doing something useless. It sneaks up on you when you do not realize it. Stay vigilant my friends and have a great day.

Believe and You Can

I can’t. It is one of the more frustrating phrases I hear from my son. It is especially frustrating when it is said before he even tries. To say the words “I can’t” puts a period on the limits of possibility. Your potential is stopped short never crossing the oceans of faith and hope to land on the sandy beaches of a new reality. This is what it means to say, “I can’t.”

We live in a world where what is possible was once only conceivable in science fiction literature. All the advances we see today were once in the imaginations of yesterday. They were all created by people that said, “What if?” followed by the statement, “I can.” Our capacity for greatness is only limited by our faith in ourselves. Change is possible. Advancement is possible. Going from the ether of our dreams to the concrete world of a new reality starts with a belief in the things we cannot see but know to be possible.

All men are the same except for their belief in their own selves, regardless of what others think of them. –Miyamoto Musashi

Control of the Enemy

Temperance 11/19/2019

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.

Tao to Rise Up

Charity 11/10/2019

Ambition is tough. The desire to get ahead in the world is a natural thing for the one interested in her own self-development. She wants her life to be better tomorrow than it was yesterday. She looks around at those content with where they are at in life, and realizes that she wants more. She’s hungry, and her desire won’t allow her to sit on her laurels like everybody else.

Over the years, I have worked with people like this. I’ve seen both the good and the bad. I know a guy who is hungry to get ahead. Nothing wrong with that, but he’ll cut your throat to do it. Along the way, he will be all smiles. But then one day, you will wonder what happened when you got run over.

I’ve seen some others that were all smiles as well, but their approach was completely different. They knew that a highly functioning team was more important than individual glory. They built relationships and brought those around them up. There was no pettiness, and certainly no back alley throat-cutting.

The famous samurai, Miyamoto Musashi said, “You must understand there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.” And to get to the top of your proverbial mountain, you will have multiple paths. The way you choose is completely up to you. But if you would destroy those around you to achieve your own success, you will find yourself lonely and unhappy at the pinnacle. You will find many wanting to pull you down. What happens if you choose to help others ascend to their own heights? You will discover that you have company at the top, and true happiness with those respect you for who you are.

How will you get to the top?

We rise by lifting others. –Robert Ingersoll

Battling Hills, Fighting Weakness

There are five hills on my usual running route. Four of them are only 100-200 meters in length with a moderate incline. When I get to these hills, I attack. I pick up my pace and run them as fast as I can. The fifth hill is different. It is about four times longer and has just a slight, barely noticeable incline. This hill is deceptive. It is stealthy. The end isn’t visible at the beginning. Running up this hill, I find that my intensity wavers. My focus will drift, and soon I will notice my pace has slowed down.

There are some battles that are easily won. They are not drawn out, and the damage is minimal. Then there are some battles that have no end in sight. They drag on and the attrition begins to affect the mind. The long drawn out battles are dangerous as the intensity wavers.

We don’t decide to be weak. We allow it to creep into our lives. We justify small decisions without considering the long-term consequences. In his book, Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink explains this well:

We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be. It isn’t that you wake up one day and decide that’s it: I am going to be weak. No. It is a slow incremental process. It chips away at our will- it chips away at our discipline. We sleep in a little later. We miss a workout, then another. We start to eat what we shouldn’t eat and drink what we shouldn’t drink. And, without realizing it- one day, you wake up and you become something that you never would have allowed.

That one hill is a reminder to be ever vigilant. It reminds me that without a constant focus on every action, I am susceptible to allowing weakness to creep into my life. Some of those choices may seem miniscule, a mere drop in the water. But who is to know the lasting ramifications they can have? Who is to say that slight detour doesn’t take you along a path just slightly different than the one you should be on? As Miyamoto Musashi said, “There is no end to the path of discipline.”