“Meditations on Death Should be Performed Daily” — Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure
A leader should intently study and concentrate on their mortality.
Reflections upon modern leadership should be aimed to shed light on the certain realities that today’s peace-loving culture would otherwise shun as outdated, barbaric and unfair. Robert Greene warns us accordingly “the problem for us is that we are trained and prepared for peace, and we are not at all prepared for what confronts us in the real world—war.” Concentrating on one’s death then is no reason to act forcefully, lash out in mood at those around you or to act in an otherwise immoral/unprofessional fashion. It is the reason to elevate you above the chaos, achieve an objective perspective and consciousness of and in the moment.
Culture today is in a constant struggle (unconsciously or not) to keep death at bay, pushing it out of our individual and collective consciousness. This all-encompassing fear of death has created a culture that shuns age, wisdom, education, reflection…anything that might bring the light of understanding and acceptance to the inevitable. The consequence is the lost ability or motivation that the intensity of death pushes you to achieve; the motivation that only the realities of your death can bring.
“The clear anticipation of one’s end provides a person with a solid measure the relative importance of things: it puts the self as well as the world into their proper perspective.” — Jorn K. Bramann, .
Consequently, there are those who will capitalize on society’s collective fear and inability to face and accept those fears. This ignorance then makes you susceptible to and blinded from the reality and makes you easily led astray and distracted by those who have their own self-interests in mind.
“First, you have to know, not fear, know that someday you are going to die. Until you know that, you have no sense of urgency. You think you have all the time in the world to do amazing things, but you may not live to see that particular someday.” Loose quote from Chucks Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden, Fight Club.
Whether you read Hagakure, Robert Greene, academic journals or fictional novels, every level of culture and history informs us that a mental intensity upon one’s death is a vital key to achievement in life. Corporate “warriors” in the U.S. of the 1970’s and 80’s might have espoused similarities as they looked to Sun Tzu for success with the directions of strategy. But one can consider them as failures because of their very un-strategic and short cited nature. That failure to grasp not just Sun Tzu in an context, but also as part of a greater philosophical whole; that whole which cannot be otherwise understood.
Hagakure informs the reader that going so far as to “consider oneself as dead” through mental and physical practice will bring the practitioner to see life more clearly, understand[ing] matters small and great and how they fit into their life. It creates the prioritization of perspective, stoic mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper toward equanimity; so that even when confronted by a challenge, diversity or idiocy, you will be unaffected and without frustrations or foul mood; and “never fazed by untoward events,” (Bramann, 2009).
If the modern leader wishes to succeed; they should consider themselves as dead. The conquering of the fear of death or the healthy awareness of the fear and its inevitability is the first and even single greatest and ultimate motivator above all others. It ingrains the sense of purpose, the challenge of the inevitability that only your death can bring you. Feeling, knowing and accepting the challenge that your time is limited and otherwise wasted if you do not make the best of every moment of it. Making every meal the greatest you have ever had, every new day the most beautiful of your life…motivating you to the work of higher purpose instead of squandering it on trivialities and distractions. All that is possible, simply because you are still alive.