How often are you at your best? If you’re like most men, the answer is rarely, or even never.
In an age rampant with digital addiction, unregulated dopamine release, and a wide range of acceptable excuses for outright immaturity and irresponsibility, very few men are EVER performing even remotely close to their best.
You can blame the world or your past all you want…your abusive parents, alcoholic father, or childhood bullies…but in the end, you’re the only one who can change your life, so you’re the only one at fault for the way it is.
At some point, you must ask yourself…
How did I get here, and more importantly, how do I get out of here?
To answer this question in today’s article, we turn to the masters of high performance: men who based their existence on fortifying their minds and bodies to be at their best when the worst of life faced them…
We will discuss the samurai mentality and the lessons you can glean from the thinking patterns and habits of history’s greatest warriors.
Throughout my ten-plus years as a men’s coach, I’ve learned that there is no better way to improve yourself as a man than to study those who have gone before and done it successfully.
The following are seven tenets of the samurai mindset that made them such successful men.
Stay Calm: The Mark of a Grounded Man
“If you can make your opponent flinch, you’ve already won.” – Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi is widely regarded as the best swordsman to ever live. Through intense discipline and rigorous devotion to his craft, Japanese legend has it that he went undefeated in an impressive sixty-one duels throughout his life (the first being at the age of thirteen).
One of the beliefs that formed his identity as a master swordsman was that to succeed in all things, you must accept things as they are no matter how they are.
He maintained that one must remain grounded and even-keeled, no matter what they face.
You may be wondering why this applies to you or why you should even listen to some swordsman who lived five hundred years ago. More likely than not, you don’t actually have a duel coming up any time in the foreseeable future.
The thing is, samurai weren’t just swordsmen. They were masters of life. Their approach to day-to-day routine with measured self-control has been closely scrutinized for centuries because of one fact: they were successful in EVERYTHING they put their mind to.
If you want to become a new man, the samurai are some of the best to listen to.
Here is what Miyamoto Musashi meant by “not flinching”:
- Accept rejection from a woman without letting it eat away at your self-esteem
- Be a bastion of stability during trying times
- Be slow to anger
- Be assertive, not aggressive
- When someone calls you out, accept your fault willingly but without prostrating yourself
- Don’t let the stress of day-to-day life affect your mental state
Grounded men are calm not because their lives are easy, but because they accept the good and bad as part of their journey.
Take the Reins: a Lesson in Controlling Your Life
The worst mistake you can make as a man is losing control over your life.
Note that this DOES NOT mean that you should try to control everything in your life. That is unachievable.
In a world where it is impossible to control so much (death, disease, weather, etc), to maintain order, the samurai believed that you must maintain control over the things that you are able to: your thoughts, your day-to-day activities, and your body.
This belief is based on one of the most important things I’ve learned over my years as a men’s coach. The fact that…
Left to its own devices, life doesn’t take you where you want to go. Failing to take intentional control of your life is akin to sitting a drunkard in the driver’s seat of your car and hoping you end up at home.
Modern know-it-all influencers and self-proclaimed philosophers preach a doctrine of “go with the flow”. They claim that by being an easy-going person, your life will somehow sort itself out.
As someone who tried being “easy-going” for much of my life, let me save you some pain and tell you it doesn’t work. “Easy going” is nice in concept, but it is close cousins with people-pleasing and passivity.
Some of the best ways to take the reins for your own life are…
- Leave your soul-sucking job, even if it means less money
- Stop slavering after every woman who crosses your path
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time each night
- Get off your phone and live in the real world
- Cut out toxic people from your surroundings
- Get a mentor
Even just by doing one of these six items, you will see significant changes in your life.
How Much Worse Could it Be: Using Negative Visualization as a Gratefulness Tactic
How often do you think about how blessed you are?
Before you shake your head and tell me all the things that are going wrong in your life, take a second and think of a few things that are going right.
Now, let’s try something else.
Instead of thinking of a few good things in your life, think of how much worse things could get. Yes, really…think of the worst possible things. Losing family, losing limbs, incurable diseases…the worst.
This is negative visualization, the samurai’s method of recognizing their blessings even in difficult times.
To have a mindset of excellence and wake up each day motivated to go about life in an intentional way, you must find a way to be grateful. By purposefully thinking of how awful things could be and letting your brain shudder at this imaginary pain, you are able to better comprehend your blessings.
Have you ever had an awful dream (killed someone, lost everything, etc.) only to wake up and realize it’s not real. Those moments after your body returns to reality feel like heaven because the truth is, your life is heaven compared to how it could be.
In essence, gratitude is intentionally recognizing the good things in your life. By recognizing them, you feel the joy you get from them even more.
A Splinter Under Your Nail: How the Smallest Problems Can Become the Biggest
The samurai were masters of detail. In a duel, the slightest miscalculation–a mistimed swing, a misplaced foot, or even a slight flinch–meant instant death.
They knew better than any that when striving for success in any arena of life, neglecting the small problems could be just as deadly as neglecting the big.
That phone or video game addiction may seem small and benign right now, but without intentional treatment, it can turn into something much worse.
Many men write off their small self-sabotaging habits as nothing more than temporary issues and fail to realize just how dangerous they can become.
Like a splinter under your toenail, tiny addictions or habits pierce deeper and deeper into your body until you’re hobbling through life without even recognizing why.
Musashi likened this phenomenon to the danger of a single, deadly opponent compared to a large group. The large group (the more obvious problems in life) are easy to spot and therefore, you direct most of your attention toward them. A single foe, on the other hand, is easy to overlook and underestimate.
All large issues were once small. Alcoholism starts with a drink every now and then. Crippling debt starts with one missed payment. A broken life starts with a broken promise to yourself.
Failure VS Growth: Changing Your View of Defeat
To get anything of value in life, you have to take risks.
To get a pay raise, you have to ask for one and risk angering your boss or losing your job. To get a woman’s number, you have to approach her and risk rejection. To become a successful speaker, you have to speak and risk being laughed at.
ANYTHING OF VALUE COMES WITH RISK.
Therefore, if you are pursuing value in every area of life, you will be rejected, made fun of, and sent away.
This scares many men, so they choose never to pursue value in the first place. They prefer comfort and predictability over discomfort and improvement.
To avoid being one of these men and wading in the pool of mediocrity your whole life, you need to do one thing: erase the word “failure” from your mental dictionary.
There is no such thing as failure, only growth and learning. You might get rejected, defeated, screw up– but as long as you stand up a better man, there is no such thing as failure.
Rather than wallow in misery if and when they faced defeat, the samurai learned to take each defeat as a lesson on the road to success. Life was their all-knowing teacher and they observed every one of its lessons with patience and belief.
Don’t waste time worrying about rejection or defeat. Failure is life’s ever-present companion. Lucky for us, we get to choose how we fail. We can either push ourselves and fail and grow every day, or fail to have a worthwhile life.
The Power of Silence
While they are most known for being warriors, the samurai way could be said to be first and foremost one of peace.
Much of their way of life and training revolved around silence and meditation. By observing their thoughts and living their lives consciously, they kept themselves peaceful and took the tragedies of life in stride.
When they fought, they did so to defend their honor or that of someone they protected. Contrary to how they may be depicted in film or fairytales as these wandering, sword-slashing, blood-thirsty men, the samurai were actually not violent by nature.
As a man in today’s world, it’s easy to think that the louder or more aggressive you are, the more of a man you are.
We all know that person who just won’t shut up (if you don’t, it might be you). They’re so insecure that they actually have to fill you in (and everyone within earshot) on why they are actually such an important person.
A grounded man doesn’t need to broadcast his importance to his surroundings.
A grounded man walks in a silence that speaks to his assuredness in himself and his understanding of his own value.
Your Body is Your Temple
As warriors, the samurai cared about their bodies just as much as they did their minds.
Their body was their primary weapon–a weapon more deadly than any sword, bow, or ax. If they mastered their body, the use of a weapon would make them the most fearsome enemy.
Physical health and fitness have turned into somewhat controversial subjects nowadays with some of the modern world claiming that they are simply unnecessary relics of the past. Why put in the work to maintain a toned, muscular body when there aren’t any wars to fight or stones to carry?
The “love yourself” movement claims that fitness is egotistical and that truly loving yourself is loving your body NO MATTER HOW IT LOOKS.
In reality, the best way to learn to love yourself well is to take care of your body.
Men have been taught to cast aside the masculinity of the past and shrivel in front of computer screens and video games.
The truth is, men are meant to be powerful. Men are meant to be deadly. Men are meant to be defenders and protectors.
It is the restraint and composure that differentiates a good man from the angry, wife-beating savage of the past.
If you can merge the strength of your body with honorable anger and temper it with self-control, you will become a man to fear and love.
Every man wants to be at their best, but very few have the courage and grit to put in the energy and time to get there.
Whether you are looking to take your business to the next level, win the woman of your dreams, or just get rid of people-pleasing behaviors and self-sabotaging habits, the samurai mindset could prove invaluable to you.
The samurai mentality isn’t about learning to use a sword or how to kill quickly. At its core, it’s about taking the reins of your life, remaining calm in the face of uncertainty, maintaining a strong body and mind, and altering your way of approaching life.
It’s about accepting the circumstances and mistakes that have brought you to the current moment, assessing potential futures, acknowledging your own value, and moving forward.
Forward, forward, forward.
This is the message I have been preaching for as long as I’ve coached men and the words I run my life by.
If this article has connected with you (I’m guessing it has if you’ve gotten this far), I have something for you. Over my years in the self-improvement industry, I’ve gathered a team of the best men’s coaches on the planet.
With these men leading, I have founded a brotherhood of like-minded men who are looking to push past generational mediocrity, wake up with passion and purpose each day, and take responsibility for their own lives.
If this sounds like you, I’d like to invite you to join my brotherhood and become the best man you can be.
Click here to join my new client orientation!