Thirteen months ago, I stumbled upon a documentary on TV about a samurai warrior named Miyamoto Musashi. I was so taken with his life and the samurai way, that I started a blog a month later.
One year ago today was my first entry into the blog and community now known as Urban Samurai. I challenged myself…in one year I would become a samurai warrior. Did I do it? Did I succeed?
I don’t know. Probably not. I had more than one stop and start in my sword training. And currently I am stopped again. Life has been too demanding and just too crazy. I just don’t have the time. And samurai warriors make the time for their sword.
But there was success. This has been such a valuable year for me.
In this year, I found out that I am not alone. All my feelings of anger, of heartbreak, of failure, of loneliness, of misery, that I felt throughout this year, are not just mine. You all share them at one time or another. And there is comfort in knowing that.
I have never struggled like I did this year. Every time the pain was too much, or I’d be busy with all the life, I’d consider stopping this whole thing. Then I’d come here, a place that I now consider home, and find thousands of supporters waiting. Telling me how I inspired them, or made them realize something, or made them feel better. That feeling gives me an overwhelming sense of pride. The good kind of pride.
I know it wasn’t the exact meaning of the opening like from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, but ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,’ for me. When I look back on it, I believe I will remeber this year as the best year of my life. It is one that marks the rest of my life. From here going forward.
And the real reason is because I grew strong this year. Really, really strong.
The thing I have learned through this process is that mental toughness is the key to it all. It’s the key to life. And my mental strength has allowed my worst times to be thought of in the same breath as my best. I am just so mentally strong now. That even the bad times aren’t so bad.
I know part of building that strength was a result of the meditation. And the samurai passages I read countless times. And you all coming here to read my stuff helped build confidence. And of course embracing the samurai way of death helped banish fears.
But the key to my mental strength…is simply doing things I am proud of doing. All the time. Or as much of the time as I can do them. It is that easy. Mental toughness is built, not born. So build it, by taking pride in your job. No matter what it is. Take pride in your schoolwork. Take pride in your relationship. Or your parenting. Or your friendships. Do things you are proud of all day long. No one can take that away from you. You will be recognized for it. You will succeed at anything you are doing. And not much else will matter. That is strength.
No matter how fragile a state you are in, and I was in some pretty rough shape at times this year, just start living a life you are proud to call yours. Keep doing things you feel are the right things. And you will get stronger. Then everything will fall into place.
And look, I’m not perfect still. Not even close. My feelings of rage, and heartbreak, of failure, of loneliness, of misery…they didn’t just disappear. They are still around sometimes. It’s OK. They last for shorter periods of time now.
Because I have so much more to do that I can be proud of… those feelings get squeezed out pretty quickly.
If you can take one thing from all these posts. From all these lessons I am trying to pass on from the samurai to you. That’s it. Just do everything with a sense of pride.
I have already started posting less. My life has been too demanding for much more. But I will still continue to post. I don’t think I can stop now. If my engine runs so well on super grade gasoline why would I fill my tank with anything else?
There were times in this year when I thought of quitting. But every time I did, I would come back to this page, or to my email, and see you all here. And that keeps me going. I have thanked you many times already. And I will continue to do so. So thank you again. And again.