"Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair." - Tokugawa Ieyasu, Unifier of Japan, Founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate
I've studied the Sengoku Era of Japanese history a lot. There are so many lessons in it - about courage, about restraint, about going too far, about not going far enough... about honor, about idealism, about pragmatism... about trust and distrust, love and hate, loyalty and betrayal...
It's rare that an era of history has so many unique and varied lessons to teach. The only thing that comes close, in my mind, is the Italian Renaissance. Certainly, there's been eras with a great many lessons to learn from them, but not so many with such a wildly diverse range of views. Sengoku was the crossroads that created Japan. The victors of the era were those who could appeal to tradition while using the most modern advantages - tapping into the samurai culture and spirit, while simultaneously beginning to employ firearms and other newly emergent technologies in war.
Out of Sengoku came Japan's "Three Great Unifiers" - Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. It's a long story and you can read the history article I wrote on Sengoku that I linked if you're curious to see the whole thing.
But the basic idea is, Nobunaga and Hideyoshi were both probably more remarkable and more brilliant men than Ieyasu. But in the end, Ieyasu won and his family and administration ruled Japan for the next 250 years.
I think the key, most critical difference that sets Ieyasu apart from the others is his self-control. It's something I strive for and model, something that's easy to see in the leaders who build enduring success.
Washington had it. Augustus had it. Rockefeller had it. Rothschild had it.
Alexander didn't. Napoleon didn't. Hitler didn't.
You know, the victors - the ones who build the really enduring victories - they're often not the most brilliant or charismatic or brave. They're the ones who are most patient, who are most rational, who have the most self-control. You can win 10,000 battles, but have it all undone in one rash misstep. You could perhaps lose 10,000 battles, but still win at a decisive moment and then consolidate intelligently.
I was originally going to write a slightly different piece than this one, focusing more on mental state than on historical analysis. But this is pretty good.
"Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair." Imperfection and inconvenience are part of the bargain of being human. Do not act rashly or impulsively. There's no reason to feel discontent or despair when things are going wrong.
Things are never perfect. Acknowledge things as they are, always. Discontent and despair don't serve you. When bad feelings come over you, acknowledge them and dismiss them. Thinking, reflection, and self-control reigns. Keep building. Win.
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