Maybe when reading the title of this article you might have thought I went complete bonkers now, and maybe I have! Who can say what is sane and what isn’t, anyway. Nevertheless, thank you for the next 5 minutes of your time, I promise you won’t regret it.
I have always been fascinated by the martial arts, and by everything related to Kung Fu/Ninjas/Samurai, you name it, whatever was popular at that time in pop culture and what looked cool. I don’t really know what started it, maybe my infatuation with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or my childhood hero, Jackie Chan, started all of this when I was a kid. I began visiting Judo classes at the age of 6 and as soon as I could read, I’d consume everything I could find about these topics. Back then there was no internet so all I could do was going to the library, and they didn’t have much material at all. Interestingly enough, my dad gave me a book by Mishima Yukio, one of the most important writers in recent Japanese history – he killed himself by means of ritualistic suicide, Seppuku, after a failed Coup d’état – when I was a bit older, and from there I dug my way deeper into the eastern philosophy of life and death.
The Chinese art and wisdom of Wushu, or Kung Fu, especially fascinated me, among others like Confucianism, Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War, or even the Japanese ethnic religion called Shinto. But the Japanese way of the warrior, Bushido, was the one philosophy to become my guide for life. The Bushido was a code of conduct for the Samurai developed over centuries, comprised of 8 values.
- Heroic Courage
- Benevolence & Compassion
- Duty & Loyalty
Whenever a Samurai was not able to uphold these values while serving his lord, and his lord expulsed him, or his lord died or lost his title, and so on, the Samurai was either to end his life through Seppuku or become a Ronin, a Samurai without a master – basically, an outlaw.
Now while we can all agree that the above values are virtues, of course, I don’t advocate suicide or blind allegiance. There are smarter ways to deal with problems. Nevertheless, Bushido coupled with hard and honest work can be a great teacher in many areas of life.
As I said, Bushido as a way of life developed over centuries but mostly as a quiet understanding inside the Samurai subculture, there were not many writings about it until the Hagakure came around. The Hagakure is a book written by Tsunemoto Yamamoto during the Edo period, a former Samurai turned Zen monk. Related writings are The Book Of Five Rings by legendary Samurai Miyamoto Musashi and also Sun Tzu’s Art Of War, for example, although written in completely different time periods. The Hagakure greatly influenced Yukio Mishima’s life as well and came to greater fame through pop culture when the cult movie Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai with Forest Whitaker was released (absolute recommendation).
If I had to summarize the Hagakure in one sentence, I would say it is that you have to live as if you were already dead. A Samurai must be willing to die at any moment, fearlessly, and be at peace with that, in order to truly fulfill his duties in life and become the ultimate warrior. Sounds crazy? Not so much. Take a look at this quote by the late Steve Jobs, a man that was really going to die when he said those words.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
We are all going to die, no one can escape the final destination. Some people seek solace and comfort in the thought of rebirth or eternal life in paradise and use that as an excuse for leading a mediocre life. But I said it before and I will say it again, you got one shot only.
“Live every day as if it was your last” is a famous quote in this context, but most people mistake this as an excuse to get drunk and party every day, that is obviously not the meaning behind it.
Famous blogger Mark Manson as well wrote a few lines along this philosophy in his genius book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck. See, I am not alone with this view. And I must say, aligning my whole way of living with the thought that I could die at any point was one of the best choices I ever made. Every morning when I wake up I remind myself that I am going to die.
It takes away everything that is not important. It gives you a clear perspective on things. When you lie on your deathbed, what is the most likely statement you’ll be making?
- I wish I had kissed more asses and spent more time in the office at a job I hate
- I wish I had seen the world
- I wish I had always stayed true to myself and lived my life according to meaningful values
- I wish I had spent more time thinking about what others think about me
- I wish I had spent more time regretting, being sad, being governed by fear
- I wish I had been more jealous about my neighbor’s Lamborghini
- I wish I had spent more time in that shitty relationship because it was the easy thing to do
- I wish I had spent more time trying to make everyone happy
- I wish I had influenced more lives in a positive way
- I wish I had played more video games and watched more TV series
- I wish I had cut out all the bullshit, all the gossip, all the worries and doubt
- I wish I had tried harder appreciating the little things in life like good food and friends
- I wish I had spent more time working hard on something that gave my life meaning
- I wish I had been more forgiving and kind
- I wish I had spent my life more meaningful, following my passions and my heart
- I wish I had appreciated my loved ones more
- I wish I had spent more time praying to invisible men living in the sky
- I wish I had left a meaningful legacy for all the generations to come after me
These are just some of the thoughts that will get to you when you are on your deathbed. Eventually, we all have to take stock. It is never about length of life, it is only about depth. I know people that only spent 25 years on this planet and created a more meaningful existence than others with 90 years time. And you never know when your time will come to return into the void.
When I look around me, I don’t see happy people. I see people that are worried about how they look. About how popular they are. About where to get the next kick. About what other people think about them. About what their parents, society, and friends think about them. About what to buy next. Sure, everyone wants to be happy. Just the thing is, happiness is for free, and no one wants to believe that. Acceptance of death, total humbleness, this will bring you peace, freedom, and if you want, whatever wealth you wish to acquire.
These days, when someone bullshits me, I simply walk away. And believe me, my bullshit detector is working incredibly well. People wasting my time are essentially criminals, I will never get that time back. And certainly, they would be the last go give it back to me, even if they could. Soul suckers. I fear no confrontation, no argument, no fight. Death is the great equalizer.
Now I could keep writing forever about this topic, how everyone believes all the propaganda in the media, how everyone is a slave to the Matrix, how in the West, especially, we base our lifestyle on exploiting, humiliating, enslaving, and killing our fellow human beings, and so on, and you would probably think I am an arrogant prick, which is totally ok. You can think whatever you want about me, my job is not to please you or anyone. But let’s get into trading. How does all of this help you with your trading, actually? Tough break, I know.
Let’s look at it from this perspective – if you accept that you are going to die anyway, and nothing comes after this life, what will happen to your ego, your pride, your expectations, your jealousy, your fears, your greed? Yes, they will all disappear. Everything will be crystal clear, right there in front of you. You will no more procrastinate, no more be impatient. You will feel no fear while you are in a trade, because what is the worst that can happen? Exactly, nothing. There is no need to feel embarrassed, angry, or anxious. There are no invisible barriers in your brain holding you back. Total humbleness.
Trading to me, these days, is just a craft. A craft I love very much because it allows me to express myself, and also to exercise humbleness. No emotions go into my thought process when I’m trading because I am dead already. Got it? And I don’t mean that in a depressed Smashing Pumpkins way. I am happier than ever. Since living life in the face of death, I have quit my job, built a business, become a much better trader, friend and son, traveled the world and I don’t even get an elevation in heart rate before giving a speech in front of 200 people. Because what is the worst that can happen? I am already dead. What do I care? Perfect execution is what I strive for, in everything I do, and if it doesn’t work, no big deal. We’ll just do it again. Pride and fear, what shitty concepts of the human mind.
I hope some of this makes sense to you, I sincerely do, because if you truly understand this concept, life will become your playground, and death will be your greatest friend. Don’t suppress it, embrace it. Get a copy of the Hagakure and thoroughly read it, then read it again. Every time I read it, I learn something new, depending on my age and the experiences I made since the last time I read it. It is truly a huge compendium of wisdom and can very much be a guide to life if you find a way to convert the written word into actions (which by the way is always the problem, isn’t it :).