One Great Lesson We Can Learn From The Samurai

If you think about all the samurai movies or books that you saw and read, you may notice one thing repeated over and over again.
It’s not about sword fighting, archery or war. Actually, it’s almost the opposite.
The one thing samurai’s stressed about as being key to success and great performance is:

Being Calm

And it wasn’t just one random samurai randomly mentioning it. We’re talking about some of the greatest samurai who ever lived writing about it over and over for five hundred years:

Shiba Yoshimasa (1349-1410):

For warriors in particular, if you calm your own mind and discern the inner minds of others, that may be called the foremost art of war.

Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655):

When you manage to overcome your own mind, you overcome myriad concerns, rise above all things, and are free. When you are overcome by your own mind, you are burdened by myriad concerns, subordinate to things, unable to rise above. “Mind your mind; guard it resolutely. Since it is the mind that confuses the mind, don’t let your mind give in to your mind.”

Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645):

Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased.


You know the benefits: you think more clearly, you don’t make rash decisions, you don’t mumble, etc.

Our society is energy drinks, fast-paced video games, non-stop notifications and fast food. And even funnier, much of what we know about relaxing and being calm goes against to what the samurai taught. But the samurai had answers.

So How Do You Remain Calm?

The samurai trained a lot, both physically and mentally, and they thought about death a lot.

One who is supposed to be a warrior considers it his foremost concern to keep death in mind at all times

This is not just a samurai thing. Saint Jerome use to keep a skull on his desk as a memo of mortality.

This act is known as keeping a Memento Mori.

A Memento Mori was often used to remember its user of the finitude of life. That every day is a gift and not a right, and our time is limited.

Some people today still use this type of memento.

If you think that you need an extra reminder too, make sure you get a reminder like this or this, and not an actual human skull like in the old days.

But back to the point:

By having this “Negative Visualization” you’re going to discover that maybe your anxiety or your fears were a bit exaggerated.

As the philosopher Michel de Montaigne says:

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened

Research shows that training very hard and imagining the worst that could happen are two powerful techniques for promoting calm.

Samurais trained hard. Like the Stoics, they strongly believed you should always be prepared. Research shows that preparation reduces fear because when things get hard, you don’t have to think and you can react much faster.

Who survives wars and battles? The people who are prepared.

These people don’t get desperate during hard times because they’ve already done the deliberation the other people around them are just now going through.

Really thinking about just how awful things can often have the ironic effect of making you realize they’re not that bad.

It’s what the Stoics call, the premeditation – that there’s actually a lot of peace of mind to be gained in thinking carefully and in detail and consciously about how badly things could go.

So what’s the point here?

Research shows the most powerful way to combat stress or anxiety — to stay calm — is to have a feeling of control.

For samurai, training tirelessly and visualizing the worst that could happen gave them a feeling of control while in battle.

Without a feeling of control, (when stress gets high) we can’t think properly. So anything that gives you a feeling of control over a situation helps you stay calm.

That’s the thing that will help you keep your cool like a samurai: The Feeling of Control.

It doesn’t even have to be legit control, just feeling like you do can work wonders, so you can just “fake” it. Even a mantra can work! Mantras provide a sense of control, and that feeling of control actually makes people perform better.

So now you know and you can start implementing this mentality in your daily life. I recommend starting with what the Stoics called “Voluntary Discomfort”, by having daily cold showers!

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