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(For the sake of necessary background, in case you are not aware of whom he is, Musashi Myamoto was a Samurai. He is arguably the greatest swordsman in history. Between the ages of 13 and 28, he engaged in over 60 duels, ‘encounters’ as he put them, and never lost, not once. Back then losing generally meant death, so in his line of work one only ever failed once.)
In 1645, in his book ‘The Book of Five Rings, Musashi Myamoto wrote the following:
“There are four Ways in which men pass through life: as gentleman, farmers, artisans and merchants.”
The Way of the Farmer was then, and really still is, the life of someone who works according to the seasons. They provide goods and services that change according to the seasonal needs of the consumer.
Many have a work ethic where their true purpose comes more from the enjoyment of providing a product or service of value than from a need to make a profit. They do, what they do, because they love it, not because it will make them wealthy.
The Way of the Merchant is similar to the Farmer. They work very hard to provide a good or service. However, their motivation is different. The merchant’s primary goal is to earn as good of a lifestyle for themselves and their family as possible. Simply put, they work to get wealthy. The Merchant is someone who feels “the end justifies the means.” They always have a clear goal that they are working to accomplish and make sure that they are always paid well for their skills.
Now the two ways I find interesting, which have inspired me to write this comparison, are The Way of the Gentleman and The Way of the Artisan.
Samurai warriors of the time generally fell into one of these two ways of life.
The Way of the Gentleman, or Gentleman Warrior as he refers to it, is someone “carrying the weaponry of his Way.” This is someone who is generally always prepared for pretty much anything in their line of work. They have considerable skill with the tools of their trade and always have what they need to get a job done.
Gentleman Warriors, while they should have knowledge for planning and strategy, generally prefer to simply be prepared ‘for whatever life throws at them.’ They are exceptional at improvising, ‘thinking on their feet’, and adjusting their way of solving a problem quickly as the need arises.
In my mind, a good IT example of a Gentleman Warrior is a Field Service Technician. This person is called out at a moment’s notice, with no real idea what they are getting in for, and they absolutely have to be prepared to handle whatever troubleshooting task they come across. The sheer nature of the job means they can’t prepare a plan of action well in advance.
Now, The Way of the Artisan is similar. However, while the artisan is also extremely skilled in the tools of their trade, they generally are masters of strategy and planning. They have a solid plan of action before ever beginning a job. When something comes up that they were not expecting, they carefully figure out the best course of action, make the necessary changes to their plan, and then implement the necessary actions to accomplish their goal.
A good example of an artisan in IT would be a Systems Administrator, or a Software Development Engineer.
These individuals have a clear goal to accomplish and a well laid out plan in place to accomplish that goal.
Which of these ways are you?
Ideally, I would say the best way to work in IT is to take traits from all of these.
Take pride in your work and sense of accomplishments as a Farmer does.
Make sure that you never ‘under-sell’ yourself and always strive to earn what you deserve as a Merchant does.
Do your best to strategically plan out the best way of accomplishing a goal as an Artisan does but always be prepared to fluidly change your plan for the unexpected as a Gentleman Warrior does.
We are modern day Samurai in a world of technology.
(On a side note, I recommend reading The Book of Five Rings, by Musashi Myamoto. The book is public domain and freely available in digital format online and through many e-Reader programs.)