25/05/2024

The CTO

The Best Chief Technology Officer

Mental Toughness – Think of it As Part of the Act of Killing

Mental Toughness – Think of it As Part of the Act of Killing

“Think of it as part of the act of killing”.

Many people head their articles or book chapters with a quote; this lends gravitas, authority and authenticity to what follows. On the whole I like a good quote, although seeing the same quotes and anecdotes repeatedly, (Edison and his light bulbs, Colonel Sanders and his chickens) starts to grate after a while.

With that in mind, here is a quote that changed my life, from “The Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi (translated by Thomas Cleary). Have a read and I’ll explain why.

“FIVE KINDS OF GUARD” “The five kinds of guard are the upper position, middle position, lower position, right-hand guard, and left-hand guard. Although the guard may be divided into five kinds, all of them are for the purpose of killing people. There are no other kinds of guard besides these five.

Whatever guard you adopt, do not think of it as being on guard; think of it as part of the act of killing”.

I found The Book of Five Rings for the handsome sum of fifty pence in Oxfam. At the time I was operations manager for a media firm. I headed 12 managers and 160 staff across three day and night shifts in a business that ran 24/7 and only closed on Christmas Day. Getting everyone moving in the same direction was often a challenge, as we were a feisty bunch, with sizable egos. There were many heated conversations and passionate arguments. I have to admit that sometimes, I would come out of a meeting and feel as though I had taken a right good kicking.

When we are under attack, people will look for our soft and vulnerable points; they aim at our emotions and our pride. This can knock us off balance and cause us to feel hurt and angry. If our pride is hurt, we may counter attack irrationally and ineffectively and this will make us look even weaker.

Rather than have a weak counter attack it is better to guard and admit that you may not have all the answers, need more time, even acknowledge mistakes, or oversights and apologise. Do not show anger but strive for inward calm, put your ego on hold and demonstrate unwavering equanimity.

Have patience, have perspective, and have perseverance. Not all conflicts are won in a few easy moves. Do not think of it as being on guard; think of it as part of the act of killing. You will persevere. You will win.

The greatest battles are those we fight inside of ourselves, often we need to be on guard. In this case, do not think of it as being on guard; think of it as part of the act of living.