10.1 Ways of the 21st-Century Samurai


The Samurai has long intrigued the world’s imagination.


While much of the writing about the samurai has focused mainly on bloodletting, the samurai’s strict adherence to a code of conduct is packed with many lessons that help to map a path to success.


As Terukeni Uki, a samurai teacher at a martial arts near Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, summed it up, the modern significance of the tradition is to teach the art of winning.


“Here we teach the spirit of winning, but it’s not so much defeating an opponent as overcoming one’s self,” Uki said in an interview with National Geographic.


“These days it seems everyone is looking for someone to blame rather than focusing on himself. We’re told to believe that unless you graduate from the best university and are somehow elite, you’re a loser. Our message is that if you try hard, you will enjoy your life,” he added.


Indeed, in modern times there is lot that can be learned from the ancient spirit of the samurai to cope with the demands of an increasingly harsh and fast-paced world.


1. Know what you want.

Famous for their exploits in battle, the samurai always knew what they wanted, and they went to all the lengths to get it. The samurai knew the danger of dilly-dallying, and that’s why they gave their all to a chosen goal. Like the samurai, you define and refine what exactly you want out of your life. Your purpose must be crystal clear in your mind that you turn neither to the left nor to the right in your quest.


2. Get the right tools.

Before going into battle the samurai always checked his tools, that is, the weapons that he would use to conduct the fight. In the same vein, you must fashion yourself properly in your chosen field. You must do a check on the tools that are required in the battlefield of your chosen contribution to humanity. Without the right tools, you will not be able to get what you want. That is why the samurai always took an inventory of the weapons that were required so that he would not be found wanting at the battlefront.


In addition, you must enhance your skills and competencies before you head out to the playing ground. Preparation is a key ingredient in your quest for achieving your deeply cherished goals.


3. Give it your all.

On the battlefield, the samurai sacrificed everything, including his life. Not to say you have to commit suicide as the samurai did but you must give your all to your chosen path. You have to put in the time and energy to be able to reach your goal. The way of the warrior demands that you stay fully committed and determined to undergo the arduous journey that will lead to success. You absolutely have to give all your mind, heart and soul. Like the samurai, you must refuse to allow obstacles to deter you from following your dream.


4. Stay true to the code.

Values are the lifeblood of success. They help you to determine and even predict the choices that you make especially in times of crisis. You need to define a code that will guide you like a compass on the journey. You must never, never compromise your principles.


5. Be at your best.

The samurai teaches that you cannot do battle when your spirit is half into it, otherwise you expose yourself to the wiles of the enemy. Excellence is not a given, it’s a function of the decisions and choices that you make.


6. Conquer your fear.

When the samurai went to the battlefield, they threw fear to the side, and jumped into battle like a fish into water. Fear is like a virus. It slowly infects, then ravages your whole system, and stops you from going after what you want. But why did samurai throw themselves so wholeheartedly into battle? It is because they were crystal clear about the path they had chosen.


The first thing to know is that we are never born with fear. Rather, our life experiences inject fear into our spirits, little by little, until we become immobilized to take action.


But fear is also a product of having no cause in your life, not dedicating yourself wholly to that which you really want. Hesitation becomes the order of your being.


7. Get out of your way.

Habit is the greatest cancer in the world. It is very to atrophy and yet still get an impression that you are alive. You can be “dead alive,” so to speak. Thinking that you are enjoying your life but in reality you are simply slipping into a cesspit. The way of the warrior is to get out of your own way. Self-sabotage reduces your chances at advancement. In everything that you do, you must strive to choose what really matters.


8. Improve your soul.

The soul is the key to all the world has to offer. There is something in life bigger than the reality of being. Being in itself is a small, non-significant speck of the whole that defines existence. In the beginless, wherein it is begotten, being makes no real choice. Something other than being is responsible for defining factors of the beginless that eventually gives birth to being. The samurai knew that sojourning in the dark valley of being yields no results. That’s why he dedicated to consistently improving the state of the soul.


The philosophies of Buddhism and Zen, and to a lesser extent Confucianism and Shinto, influenced the samurai culture. Zen meditation became an important teaching due to it offering a process to calm one’s mind. The Buddhist concept of reincarnation and rebirth led samurai to abandon torture and needless killing, while some samurai even gave up violence altogether and became Buddhist monks after realizing how fruitless their killings were


9. Dedicate yourself to the arts and nature.

Take a cue from the samurai, and put a spark in your imagination by dedicating yourself to the arts. The arts and nature teach us that there is an endless world outside the miniscule reality of being.


10. A sword never rules.

The best of the samurai knew that real power lies outside the sword but in the spirit — the spirit to conquer self. Nothing can ever be achieved without conquering self. Self is perhaps humankind’s greatest enemy in today’s world. Everyone looks outside self to attach blame for failure in his or her life. They do not realize that they are equally played in contributing to the position that they find themselves in their life.


Conquering self is a life mission. It is something that has to be practiced all the time. The best of the samurai knew that to be able to really and truly master the sword they had to go deeper onto their spirits to master the energy of controlling the sword.


10.1. Be a servant.

The word “samurai” is derived from the archaic Japanese verb “samurai,” changed to “saburau,” meaning “to serve”; thus, a samurai is a servant, that is, the servant of a lord. You must absolutely change the way you think about making a contribution to whatever cause stirs your heart. Being a leader means zero if you have nothing to offer. It’s not about position. The samurai were content to serve their master to achieve a cause, using their skills and competencies. The applied what they knew to the mission that they had identified. 

How to Shine Up the Career Ladder

In a corporate world that is increasingly over-crowded, highly competitive and ever-changing, getting a promotion can indeed be a hassle.  But, through deliberate, well planned steps, and a willingness to take initiative, you can put yourself at the front of the line for a promotion.  


First things first: If you keep yourself sheltered away from the attention of your bosses, you will always miss the opportunity to climb up the corporate ladder.  A promotion typically means having more responsibility.


So you have to position yourself as a person that has the aptitude, value and capability to meet the requirements of a potential promotion.  


Develop career goals. You must be absolutely sure about where you want to go. Start maintaining a career journal where you write down your career goals. It’s important to make sure that the promotion is in alignment with both your credentials and personal goals. Develop long-term, medium-term and short-term goals that will keep you grounded towards a career upgrade. If you find it difficult to envision, consult a career coach to help you develop a clear perspective of what you want to do. A coach will help to expand your vision and push you to function at your peak.   


Do your current job well and more. If you want to make it to the top of the corporate ladder, do your current job well. Demonstrate honesty, empathy, trustworthiness and an ability to be a team player. See every challenge and responsibility as an opportunity to shine, and to sell yourself to your organization. Always review what you are currently doing and identify gaps that can allow you to do more. The surest way to get promoted is to do more and better than is expected of you. Show the value in yourself and create a demand for your abilities.   


Make a contribution. Start right away to contribute ideas and suggestions to improve processes, practices and profits of your company. To grant you a promotion, your company has to be satisfied with your value. Get all the facts about your ideas. Having more information will increase chances of your ideas and suggestions being accepted, and put you in favor to get promoted.


Keep a portfolio of your work. You must maintain a portfolio of work contributions that are directly connected to the position that you seek. Never make an assumption that your bosses know what you’re doing. Without being big-headed about it, let your organization know of your accomplishments. Gain visibility with your current job successes.  


Review job descriptions. Be clear about the additional responsibilities involved in the promotion as well as the salary level. In your career journal, keep job advertisements that underline the major duties or responsibilities of the job you want to promote in. Make a note of the qualities, attitudes and outputs required for that upward career opportunity. After you have identified these attributes, the next step is to put them into practice to prepare yourself for a promotion.  


Update your resume. Take time to review your current skills and accomplishments, including what you’ve learned in your current position. Update your resume so that it reveals your talents and hidden skills. Make sure your resume is specific to the potential career upgrade. Remember: Highlight unique qualifications and background. A well-written resume can significantly improve your chances to landing a promotion.  


Develop your skills. Identify areas that need improvement: don’t just focus on your strengths. In your career journal, make a note of areas of weakness and strive to improve in those areas that are critical to your promotion. In an ever-changing business environment, you must constantly update your skills to enhance your chances to get promoted.  Consult and learn from experts in your field. Find out what they did to succeed, what they would do different, and steps that you can take to improve your chances of a promotion.  


Take Courses in Your Field. Many companies require a potential candidate for promotion to have an advanced degree. Like it or not, having an advanced degree exponentially increases your chances to move to the front of the promotion line. Target unique qualifications. Read books, join a professional association, attend seminars and do courses that will build your knowledge, skills and abilities.  


Market yourself. Make full use of every opportunity to sell yourself. If you’ve got it, flaunt it and don’t wait quietly for someone to acknowledge you. Make sure that you demonstrate your ability to hold a higher position with flair and confidence. Also, show how your past achievements have contributed to the growth of the organization. When it comes down to the selection process, make sure to put your best foot forward, just like you did when you were first hired.    


Get networking right. If you want to fly like an eagle, then you have to stop taking lessons from chickens. Avoid co-workers and people that will pull you down through negative talk, and fill you with frustration over your desire to get a promotion. Associating with winners will fill you with a positive outlook on life and your career opportunities. Surround yourself with people that are success-oriented, and will encourage you to take the big leap forward towards a promotion.   


Make yourself outstanding. There’s no doubt that polish and presence are critical ingredients for a promotion. Be open to new inputs and ideas. Become an expert in your field. Write articles or a book. Develop a dress sense that shows you are headed for the top.  


Positioning yourself for a promotion at its most fundamental is an inside job. It’s a matter of finding what you want, and expressing that essence and character in everything you do.  


With hard work and an effective strategy, you can raise your stakes to get a promotion. 


So don’t let anything stop you.