Samurai culture was formulated around the Bushido, or “The Way of the Samurai” a unique combination of philosophy, spirituality, and practical lessons. It later became popularized by Nitobe Inazo in the 1800s. The Samurai were an honorable and disciplined group. We in the startup world can learn a lot from them. In this article, I will briefly discuss three lessons that I feel are most applicable to the world of entrepreneurship.
“Don’t curse the heavy rain” discusses two individuals, each of whom gets wet from the rain, but only one of whom gets angry. It is pointless to get angry and frustrated with the things that you have no control over. Nowhere is this more applicable than in a startup, where you can get frustrated with any number of things like competition, irritating vendors, ‘naysayers’ etc. but none of these things are within your control. Focus only on what you can control and do not get troubled by the things that you cannot control – life will become much easier.
“Find a mentor in everyone” discusses the fact that most everybody has at least one trait or skill that we can learn from, regardless of their other flaws. How many times in the startup world do we see this without realizing it? It is all too easy to disregard a great “pitchman” for being nothing other than a slick salesman, without learning from their charismatic promotion skills. Likewise, it can be easy to forget about what you can learn from competition because you get too preoccupied with their “idea stealing” or their very existence. If you look for something to takeaway and learn from, you will find it.
“Do great things without desire for reward” is a general theme in Bushido that emphasizes the importance of doing the things that you must do with the upmost diligence simply for the sake of doing something well. In the startup world there are two kinds of people, those that jump in seeking to make the “big bucks” and those who are there to create something great. It’s always the latter that finds success. Truly, if you wish to create something great without thinking of the rewards, this is when you are destined for success. Becoming preoccupied with the fantasy results simply diverts your attention and energy from the necessary steps to actually get there.
I enjoy learning from old philosophy and spirituality and think that there is much to be learned. Clearly, Bushido has tremendous applicability to startups. Don’t get preoccupied by what you can’t control, find mentors in everybody, and focus only on creating great things. Carrying a Katana to your next board meeting might be handy too – let me know if you find out!
Image credit: CC by Sebastien Bertrand