So I recently started reading a book entitled “The Compassionate Samurai”. It speaks of 10 principles which one should follow to successfully demonstrate compassion and care for others while maintaining strong personal integrity and character strength.
It really spoke to me as an individual, first, but also as a pilot. In an industry where competitors are said to even “sell their mothers for a job”, where is the line where we should simply say “enough”? In an industry where two type A personalities usually find their way in the same little enclosed space for many hours in a day, how can you build your character so that you remain respectful yet assertive in your duties? The Samurai where a ruling cast for many centuries, yet their very name means ”to serve”. How can I be of service to those around me in my professional duties?
The Samurai Code – or Bushido – lists 7 character attributes that I strive to demonstrate in every aspects of my life: (source – wikipedia)
- Rectitude (Integrity) (義, gi?)
- Courage (勇, yū?)
- Benevolence (仁, jin?)
- Respect (礼, rei?)
- Honesty (誠, makoto?)
- Honor (名誉, meiyo?)
- Loyalty (忠義, chūgi?)
I believe Integrity is not at the top by mistake. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. Integrity of character is the number 1 character trait for success (personal and career) in life. Without Integrity, none of the rest matters. Integrity enables us to pursue the other 6 aspects of Bushido with constancy and reliability.
The word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold. (wikipedia). If you cannot be true to yourself, you cannot be true to others. And to me, that’s all that really matters. Integrity means you will speak up every time you see the need to. Integrity means doing the right thing, every time – for the best interest of those who rely on you.
Finally, Integrity also means doing your utmost best at everything you attend to. As people rely on you to complete a task, they also rely on you to complete it to the fullest extent of your skills, knowledge and ability. Always aim for excellence.
”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle
I am not a warrior by nature, I admit this. But Courage does not mean in battle only. Having the integrity to know that you have to speak up or act is one thing, but having the courage to do so is quite another. Your words, although bearing truth or compassion, might hurt you or somebody else, or bring concequences to yourself or others that might not be of a positive impact. But always having the courage to be bold and true will mean that no matter what the concequences to yourself, you are ready to face them for the greater good of those you are responsible for or accountable to.
“Act like a man of thought – Think like a man of action.” – Thomas Mann
Benevolence (or compassion) is one of my favorites. But what does it mean to show compassion, when your coworker is harassing you with non-sense? Or when you clash with a close friend or family and don’t know what to do? The root of Benevolence means having a disposition for good. The compassion helps you truly comprehend the under-currents of the conflict or the problem and resolve it by addressing them with real understanding and care for the other party. Don’t let your ego take the lead, but rather, always try to remain kind and professional in every dealings at work.
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” – Frances de Sales
Respect and Honesty go hand in hand. If you respect your peers, you will always share your thoughts honestly with them, not looking to hurt them but rather to convey the true meanings of your words and thoughts. Respect means understanding and accepting somebody else’s emotional condition, character or even predicament and showing them compassion by sharing true words while taking in account their own position. If you are in the cockpit of an airplane with a co-worker you dislike for some reason, or with whom you are having a disagreement, always remember that they also have a complete story going on behind the scene you might not be aware of, and that not everything is personal. Learn to read behind the lines and keep an open line of communication at all time.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ” – Proverbs 27:17
Honor. There are many ways to describe it. To me, it is far from the Old Time’s ideology of dying for one’s name or sake, but rather to show true integrity to one’s principles in every aspects of your work. For example, refraining from spreading misleading or damaging rumors about a coworker or an employer, or biting the hand that feeds you. If you don’t like something, then do something about it. Discuss it and share your opinion with honesty and respect. Just complaining never led to any good.
“Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A Samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant.” – Tsukahara Bokuden.
Finally, Loyalty. Many companies today find it hard to keep employees loyal. Sometimes it’s their own fault, not treating employees with respect and compassion. Often, it’s the individual looking out for themselves. While standing out for what you think you deserve is not a bad thing in itself, be careful of the pitfal it might present, especially in your interpersonal dealings. Loyalty means showing total integrity to your relationships and the people you work with or care about. It’s a small world, and what goes around, comes around.
“Victory goes to the one who has no thought of himself.”– Shinkage School of Swordsmanship
While I was not expecting to make this such a lenghty article, I meant everything in it. I hope that we can all find our inner Samurai, and live with true regards to those age-old principles.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time:
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill.
Next time you go to work, or come home, or go out with friends, forget about #1. Look around, and make an impact on those around you. Share a smile, share a coffee, share a heartfelt kind word. It’s all about giving and taking.. and then giving some more!