Shaking loose from the confines and constraints of an old identity – it’s a lot of weight to shed. It’s something you have to do alone. And it’s something you can’t accomplish alone at the same time.
Going through old notes I came across this quote from a few years back. I was in a miserable relationship, working a job I felt stagnant and stuck in, terrified to make any big changes because it all just felt so… big.
I was soon turning 39, staring down 40, and terrified of turning 50 in any remotely similar circumstance.
Eventually – it breaks you OR you break through. Maybe both. It’s the together and alone mystery, tugging on your sleeve to think about it again, because it’s a call to live.
Lord Naoshige said, “The Way of the Samurai is in desperateness. Ten men or more cannot kill such a man. Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate. “In the Way of the Samurai, if one uses discrimination, he will fall behind. One needs neither loyalty nor devotion, but simply to become desperate in the Way. Loyalty and devotion are of themselves within desperation.
I’m 42 today. And happy. Largely because I made several big changes I needed to make.
Soon to be married. Loving my work.*. Looking at too many options, leading me to have to say “no” to stuff I genuinely wish I had time for. Abundant abundance. What a dance.
Did I become “insane and desperate” a few years ago? I kind of think so. It’s why I understand the quote in a different way as I’m reading it now.
I see the old mindsets as insane and desperate. The meaning I was craving, the external attention and validation to quench the internal empty… it’s like I was waiting for somebody else to divinely sanction me as “OK.” Like that would make me whole. When what I needed was to lose that religion. To just let go.
I had to lose the “this is just what it means to be an adult” religious stuff. In the moment, it felt insane and desperate. But in hindsight, it’s why I’m alive today.**
The Hagakure is full of wisdom. It bends your brain around these ideas. The Way is desperate because it doesn’t fear death. Less dramatically, the way is desperate because it doesn’t fear change.
And once you don’t fear surviving change, ten men or more can’t bring you down.
What’s the worst that could happen? You could turn 42 (or any older age than you are now), and not have done it yet.
What’s the best that could happen? You could make the changes you want to make and wonder “how did I not do this sooner?”
Ironically, sometime around when I turned 30, I decided to bring some books to my office. The Hagakure was one of them.*** It went on a shelf and sat. Even when you’re not on the way, it’s there, waiting for you to return to it. I like remembering this metaphor. I’m also deeply amused I can’t find my copy of the book anywhere to take a picture of for this post. It’s somehow fitting.
Lose the religion and find the faith. Again and again. This is the way.
*the job of the samurai is to follow the way, not to just be titled as a samurai. In the same way your job is not your identity, and neither is mine (and neither is Maren Morris’ FYI). It’s the reminder, “don’t sell yourself to fall in love with the things you do.” To choose to do what you’re in love with doing that the world also loves you doing and follow that path. This is a work in progress for me. It can’t be finished, but it can be progressing, and currently – I know I’m heading in the right directions. I’ll put a candle in that and make a wish every day of the year.
**I was not at any heightened risk of being literally dead, but I wasn’t living my life either.
***I thought Hagakure, and The Book of 5 Rings, and The Unfettered Mind were going to help me invest in markets. When I eventually revisited them, they did help me invest. Just not how I thought they would.
h/t to Brent Donnelly for writing “Hagakure: The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai” earlier this year, and to Ben Hunt for re-sharing it at Epsilon Theory, because it got me to pull a digital copy off the interwebs to reconnect with it.