Reaction to Disgrace

It is unthinkable to be disturbed at something like being a ronin. People used to say, “If one has not been a ronin at least seven times, he will not be a true retainer. Seven times down, eight times up.”

One should understand that it is something like being a self-righting doll. The master is also apt to give such orders as a test.


The literal translation of the word ronin is ‘wave man’ or ‘one who is tossed about as on the waves in the sea.’ A ronin is a masterless samurai. There were two different ways for a samurai to become ronin. If your master died, you were masterless and forced into being a ronin. The ronin referred to in this passage, fell out of favor or privilege with his master, then was punished by being disowned, and therefore had no master. As you can imagine with the samurai being all about honor, it was a disgrace to become a ronin in this way.

I smiled when I read this passage. How many times have I seen the phrase, “get knocked down seven times, get up eight,” and it’s credited to some personal trainer or football coach? The phrase is great. It holds up today and it will hold up a thousand years from now. And I don’t know if the samurai were the first to coin it, but it obviously wasn’t Nick Saban.

At one point, I heard the statistic that half of all billionaires, at one time in their lives, were bankrupt. These men and women risked everything to achieve some abitious goals…and they lost. And they lost huge. Think about the public humiliation and angst that comes with bankruptcy. Think of how low these people were at one point in their lives. Not being able to rub two nickels together.

But they got back up. They stood up…again. In the face of their friends and the public and dared to do something great…again. They put everything on the line…again. These people were not afraid of failure…again. They pinned their ears back and went at it…again.

Is there anything you want so badly that you are willing to risk everything to get? Something that if you fail, if you reach the absolute bottom, that you are still willing to get up and go after it a second time?

Michael Jordan got cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore…was that humiliating to him around his friends? Yes. Could he have gone into a tailspin and shut down and cursed the coach and pouted? Yes. Did he? You know the answer. He worked his ass off. He played until his fingers bled. It’s said that he worked so hard and got so good in such a short time, that by the end of his sophomore year, there were more people coming to watch his JV games than the varsity games.

To put aside fear. To put aside public scrutiny. To put aside public failure…or as the samurai would put it…death. That’s the goal. That’s what we should all strive to do.

This passage isn’t telling you not to fail. It’s telling you to have resolve.

You are tested in failure. Everyone of those billionaires would probably tell you that it was in failure, it was at the bottom, that they met themselves. They had to look inside to see what was there. And they responded.

Which kind of person are you? Do you cower in fear or retreat in failure or death? Or do you get back up and fight?