Read Book of 5 Rings and The Art of War... Then Do The Opposite
Learn the lessons of Miyamoto Musashi, Bruce Lee, and Sun Tzu, but don't follow their advice blindly. Instead, take a lesson from Tony Stark and be open and honest about your skills and abilities. Find a balance between secrecy and openness, and don't be afraid to take risks.
Discover a Better Way to Live: Read Book of 5 Rings and The Art of War... Then Do The Opposite!
By Michael Levin
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
There’s a lot of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Miyamoto Musashi thinkers out there who are going to tell you to hold your cards close to your chest and keep revising your plans to throw off the enemy. They’re going to tell you secrecy is key, right up to the moment you act swiftly and decisively, delivering a death blow. There’s a lot of man-children out there with Batman complexes living in ancient feudal Japan in their heads believing this shit. You don’t have to. Let me tell you about a better way. You’ll live longer, make more friends, and just be all around happier and less shitty of a person.
But first a few words about Miyamoto Musashi. I talk a lot about Hiro Protagonist from Snow Crash as the self-proclaimed greatest sword fighter in the world. Uh uh. That title goes to this badass who wouldn’t even bathe for fear of a challenger sneaking up on him. Baths are for the weak! And when such a badass as Mushahi racks up a head count, you know what that means? That’s right. It’s a literal count of the heads he decapitated shortly following the next dumbass to challenge him. And no, Miyamoto didn’t eventually die from losing. He died from cancer, haha! Right? Do you get it?
After racking up 61 wins, and mind you a “win” means the other guy is dead, Miyamoto goes peacefully into the afterlife because his cellar automata said eff this shit (it’s okay to say “shit”, but not the f-word). If an opponent can’t do it, then your own body’s going to do it for you, and there’s no amount of bad hygiene that can save you. And at only 61 years old, 5-years longer than Steve Jobs made it, tracheal (windpipe) cancer cancelled a blowhard, and the real-life greatest swordsman of his time clocked out.
So anyway, this blowhard wrote a book considered to be one of the greatest of all time on the subject of strategy and how to always win. It’s called The Book of 5 Rings, but many think a better translation would be The Book of 5 Disciplines, or perhaps the 5 Styles or Elements. And when you hear me talking about the “soft” watery ways of a blue personality, or you hear Bruce Lee talking about being like water, this is what they’re we’re paying homage to. Bruce Wayne, Bruce Lee, Bruise Me. Or rather, don’t be bruised because you flow like water!
Anyway, you get it? There, I spared you from having to read the book. But no really, you should read it for getting the subtly and nuance down as if a translation from the native language could ever allow that. That’s why Jews read the Bible in Hebrew. All those translations with such gems as “dominion over beasts” can be terribly, horribly mistranslated. But it’s still a good read, as are 2 or 3 translations of Sun Tzu (don’t stop at 1 translation!), The Art of War. The main thrust of these books’ messages is always different than what you think at first, and even more important to understand.
I remember the first time I read someone putting down this Batman-complex mentality, and it was Mr. Could-have-been-Google himself, Seth Godin. Seth is a marketing genius and another one of those bald guys of tech. Yes, he wrote the Purple Cow. The book, and not the poem. But if you were to ask me so, read both. You ought to know ‘em.
You will have enemies. You will have people who hate you just because you’re the best swordfighter in the world. You will especially have enemies if you’re the best sword fighter in the world, because really what were you thinking? They are out to get you and it’s not paranoia. Take up another field if you don’t like that, dumbass.
But say you got into the field of SEO… uh, I mean swordfighting because you were young, it sounded sexy, and you found that you were good at it. Okay, you’re now in quite a pickle. If you tell people all your secrets, they’re going to use it against you to kill you, right? Right!
So let your body catch up with this effed-up reality you so foolishly carved for yourself and deny your enemies the chance to kill you and prove you wrong and steal your legend. No, I’m not going to do that. That’s what Steve Jobs did… and Johnny Carson… but I’m not going to do that. I’m going in the other direction.
I work for MOZ now and I’m going to tell you all my SEO secrets.
Seth says, and I heard this one in-person at the University of Pennsylvania on Walnut Street in Philly where I drove back from NYC to hear him speak at my old haunt. Seth said, and I’ll never forget this, that you could take your highly detailed business plan, put it in an envelope and send it to your main competitor and it wouldn’t make any difference. They will neither be able to take your plan and run with it, nor be able to block you from acting on it yourself. And the reason is simple. It’s because they are them and you are you.
That plan came from inside of you. It exists because of you. And it will take on life because of you and you alone. Now the dumbasses who published the seminal Google Transformer paper in 2017 might disagree because that’s exactly what they did, which Sam Altman snatched-up and Google still hasn’t recovered from and it could lead to their ultimate demise. So take even what I’m saying here with a grain of salt. If your competitor has Paul Graham whispering into their ear, all bets are off. Paul’s Kung Fu is better than Seth’s.
But with the exception of things that will make an enemy of Paul Graham, Seth’s comment is pretty sound. Why bottle it all up when you don’t have to? Be like Tony Stark and just tell the damn world that you are Ironman. I mean it’s not like they didn’t expect it already and fantasize about you in that capacity. I mean you’re young and sexy and a billionaire, come from family wealth. And the family’s business is weapons? Mmmmm what secret weapons are you hiding there, Tony? I mean come on, of course it’s going to incubate an AI.
It takes a Jarvis to actually make an Ironman suit work well. But that was a later-day addition. I know that because I’m an Ironman fan from back in the 1970s. I’m not one of these discover-him-lately meetoo fans. By only real memory of my Granny on my Dad’s side comes from her reading me about Ironman in one of his black stealth suits. I was so impressed both that Ironman had different suits for different occasions, and that my old Jewish Granny could relate to the subject-matter enough to enjoy reading it to me.
This by the way is the type of content that the Google algoritm will deem low-quality. No matter what keywords I target and no matter how I try to link it, make it crawlable and all the rest of that bullshit, Google knows shit when it sees it, and this content is shit. Hmmm, maybe it’s my use of the word shit? Perhaps I should refer it to episode “Hits the Fan” of South Park… hmmm S5 E1 that would be. Same deal. Give them one excuse to penalize you and they’ll take it.
Honesty is still the best policy. You have to tell it like it is, or the situation will never get fixed. The thing is, whatever solution you have in mind has to be one that requires a lot of work, love and passion that you have and are willing to put in, but others don’t and won’t. That’s your protection. People will “see” you and people will “get” you. You have to be consistent because even fakers and posers can done a 1-time grand hurrah! This is why a Magnum Opus every day. Google either won’t be able to ignore a legitimately high quality magnum opus per day, or they’ll be outed as hypocrites, which is really a big deal when all your revenue comes from maintaining strong brand equity.
Miyamoto Musashi would tell you how to stand, how to furrow your eyebrows to be most intimidating but looking the least like you’re trying. I mean the whole Batman shebang, but like totally in real life. And if you dig that stuff, then good. Here’s an Instagram for you… nah, I’m not even going build them up with a referral. Suffice to say it’s easier than ever to hide behind and Avatar that’s auto-reading some platitude you Googled up. The whole Miyamoto Musashi thing has run it’s course. We’re in the era of the superpowered emotionally intelligent now.
Subtlety and nuance matter. Implementation and stick-to-it-iveness matter. Good hygiene matters. So take that bath, Miyamoto! Take that bath and wash the stink off, Batman! Take a lesson from a better role model, Tony Stark. You can be Ironman and still be a billionaire playboy philanthropist. That’s the lesson here. You can let them know you’re the best swordfighter in the world and still… and still… Oh, you’re gonna lose Gwyneth Paltrow? Sigh.
Oh and Seth, if you’re out there reading this, you don’t need to be Google. You’re better than them! Now go enjoy a meatball sunday together. On Walnut Street.