excerpted from this article (see link)

Imagining guys running around in black pajamas and swords, disappearing in a puff of smoke? Well let’s start with a proper… non Hollywood idea of what the Ninja were… or are… and then see what we can learn from them.

Today we have this image of the Ninja as evil assassins sneaking around Japanese castles and killing under cover of night. What most people don’t know is that the Ninja were simple farmers, priests and shopkeepers who were forced out of Japanese society and hunted by their own government. They were the ultimate survivors. In fact the word Ninja in old fashioned Japanese translates to “the person who overcomes”.

Early in Japanese history a Samurai General named Daisuke Togakure lost a battle; and as was tradition in Japan his master ordered him to kill himself and ordered that his family be stripped of all title and land. Instead this Samurai General chose to survive. He fled his home with his family and went to live in the wilderness. Now an outcast being hunted by his own government he was forced to re-invent his understanding of combat. Togakure met up with some Chinese immigrants who had fled the massive wars going on in China. Their knowledge of battle tactics, medicine and technology from all over the Asian main continent helped Togakure form what would become one of the earliest and oldest traditions of the Ninja. (This is just a rough and quick version of the oral history of the founding if this tradition) There are many other traditions of Ninjutsu but they all are similar in that they contain a philosophy of life which values surviving and overcoming or “persevering” and which leads to a simple life style with a very alternative method of self defense. The philosophy of the Ninja stood in opposition of the Bushido code of the Samurai which contained a strong class structure, and espoused suicide as a noble and honorable ideal. To the Samurai the Ninja were dishonorable, evil creatures who had no right to live… the Ninja just wanted to be left alone to live their lives as they saw fit. [ ]

As a person who has studied and practiced this tradition for several years now I have found some great principles which are a guide I use in life and in my preparations to continue life. In all of my training and all of my study of the Ninja culture as it existed hundreds of years ago and as it exists today I have found five principles that seem to apply to the Ninjas secret to not only survive but to thrive. [ ]

Principle #1: Strong and clean spirit
[ ]  The Ninja speak of attaining an unfettered mind; that you should know who you are at your deepest core. Life should be spent learning, knowing and practicing what you are. This done in everyday life gives an unfettered mind and leads to good decision making under even the worst situations. [ ]

Principle #2: Utility.
While the Samurai prided themselves on beautiful swords passed down through their family for generations and body armor decorated with family crests and religious icons the Ninja often used little more than modified farming implements as weapons. This was in part because of the ban on civilians owning or carrying swords… (we can learn a lesson here) but also because of the principle of utility. To the Ninja they were not mere weapons, but rather everything was a tool. A Ninja didn’t pride himself on a fancy sword; instead he would make a sword which like all of his tools served more than one purpose. His other commonly used weapons were converted farming implements. [ ]  Sure the Ninja would have never turned down a fancy ray skin and ivory Katana, but he would usually be found with a much cruder instrument. [ ]

Principle #3: Simplicity.
As I said earlier the Ninja were mostly farmers and merchants, but they could be found in all levels and aspects of life. There were even some Ninja amongst the ruling class of Japan at one time. What was common amongst them was that they strove to live a simple life. Both historic and modern Ninja rarely had lavish homes or castles. Rarely were known to frequent parties and social events. Instead they lived simple lives enjoying the things in life which were of true value. Simplicity permeated all aspect of their life. Often a diet of simple, healthy home grown food was eaten. With this simplicity in lifestyle one also becomes more in tuned to your own environment, able to notice small changes in weather and even understand nature on a closer level. Rarely did the Ninja draw attention to themselves. Instead of going off to become famous warriors and have grand adventures most Ninja lived quiet lives in their villages and trained diligently in their fighting arts; not for glory, but simply as a means to protect them and their families from the outside world. [ ]

Principle #4: Community and Self-Reliance.
Contrary to what some may argue community and self reliance are not mutually exclusive ideas. The Ninja were experts at having a community OF self reliance. The Ninja often lived in very close nit villages and towns where they worked and trained together so as to provide everything they needed and thus insulate themselves from the rest of Japan. [ ]

Principle #5: Fluidity.
Absolutely essential to the fighting style and even day to day life of the Ninja is the principle of fluidity. The Ninja fighting style involves five principle ways or feelings of combat. Each one represents an element of existence and grants almost a personality to your movement and technique. Examples are fire, a strong hot burst of energy cutting through an opponent or earth, the stable and immovable feeling of power. The five elements (earth, wind, fire, water, and the void) are not in themselves all powerful; it is the Ninjas ability to transition from one to the other and combine them in response to any situation which is essential. This fluidity was not just expressed in the elemental forms of combat, but instead is the fundamental difference between the Samurai and the Ninja. The Samurai followed set in stone techniques and movements. Memorize enough movements and you will have one for every situation. The Ninja started when they had to adapt and abandon old ways; this flexibility allowed them to meet all situations and adapt their techniques to any situation. A fundamental idea in the Ninja philosophy is not to have expectations of what will happen, but instead to be ready for and deal with whatever comes. Work towards your goals but adapt to the outcomes as they happen, don’t get caught in a frustrating loop of things not going your way and reacting with the same effort every time. [ ]  We should have basic tools which will work in any situation. Tools which serve multiple purposes and can be adapted to anything we need.  [ ]

WATER: Just as water feeds life and contains a power in both its ability to draw away from and crash back onto anything, to slowly erode a mountain, feed the tallest tree; we need the essentials of life. [ ]

EARTH: Strong foundations in faith and community allow us to stand like a rock against the corruption and destruction around us. [ ]

FIRE: Fire is our arms, our brute force through firepower.
[ ]  The Ninja as with all people of Japan were disarmed by the ruling elites, however the Ninja refused to comply, instead they fought back. [ ]  Fire comes in a burst of violence, heat and action. It is emotional, but not un-controlled. Fire also represents our passion, the passion which makes us act. It is the burning sense of right and wrong which protects our very soul from the corruption of the world. [ ]

WIND: Wind leaves us aloof, it represents the lighthearted sense of security preparedness gives us. [ ]  The feeling of being un-touchable effects your very movement and every aspect of life. Being self reliant, with your own business and self sustaining property gives you this confidence and allows you to take stands politically and economically without fear of losing your job or being evicted from your home if you oppose the powers at be.

THE VOID: This is often a difficult concept. [ ]  The void is the sense that anything can and will happen. On one hand it is the knowledge of all potential dangers and the ability to handle them. On the other hand it is the ability to react with anything, having every tool in your toolbox so that you can react and adapt in any way necessary. [ ]  Where the void can help is in the idea of not being an idea. Not being anything in particular, be void of form. Don’t fit a stereotype . . . . [ ]

The Future

from here

What is the future of work? How about the future of education?  [ ]  People are debating whether or not going to college is worth it, and the work landscape looks fairly bleak. The future of work is constantly shifting as we untangle ourselves from the traces of our industrial past and figure out the implications of a mobile, wired, location-free global society.

The systems and structures we’re using are a bit broken. Not all of them are broken, and not everything needs to be redone, but I agree with the sentiment that innovation is desperately needed.

Innovation doesn’t come from a specific age, place, or group of people. We like to glamorize the entrepreneur as a college-dorm-room drop out, and Inc’s 30-under-30 lists sometimes make it seem as if you’re 31 or older; you’re toast. The good news is that innovation is popping up all over the place — New Orleans, Silicon Prairie, Start Up Weekends, etc. and Under 30 CEO’s recent (unofficial) reader rankings listed places like New Orleans, Kansas City, and Austin, Texas as great for entrepreneurship.

As TIME Magazine wrote in the 2009 special, The Way We’ll Work: “Who knows what jobs will be born a decade from now? Though unemployment is at a 25-year high, work will return eventually.” How it returns, however, has yet to be seen. In the report, Time suggests that managers and management will have to be rethought, women will rule the workforce, baby boomers won’t quit, and sustainability won’t be a fad – it’s here to stay. [ ]

Want to get intimately entrenched in understanding how the landscape of work is changing? Want to change the world yourself? The best way to make something happen is to do something. It doesn’t just matter what’s written in Time. It matters what you do, both for your own career, as well as in changing work and education for everyone.

9 to 5 Workday: Dinosaur

from this blog post

[ ]  The simple recipe of 9 to 5 has no resonance with me; many suggest that the 9 to 5 is antiquated, a thing of the past. I can neither sit still nor think for 8 hours, let alone be in one place or with one task. Everything about that schedule is arbitrary – the start time, the end time, the things that we must produce within that set amount of time.  The only thing left is an antiquated system that we perpetuate because we don’t have the courage to think differently. We have moved quickly, cleanly beyond an industrial age where outputs were set (“build 18 shoes, please, and send them down the conveyor belt”) a time when we knew exactly when our works’ work was done; beyond the infrastructure of the giant corporation, the relic of the 1950’s-2000’s, to today: today, we live in a world where information is ubiquitous and overwhelming, and being ‘done’ with work is never truly over. A world where information threatens to take over globally, yet somehow this collection of voices creates so much noise that it pulls us locally again, towards communities and coffee shops, to social circles that we can trust instead of constantly test (for being on top of information at all times takes far too much energy for the individual).  In all of this, creative and intellectual pursuits require exceptional discipline, or else these individuals can become swallowed by the banal of chasing information and products that yield no results. [ ] 


A Hero

Lessons from the financial industry for the legal profession — an eye-opening expose by an insider:

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs


TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

[ ]  I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

[ ]  My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

[ ]  Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

[ ]  It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

[ ]  My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.


from the Wizard:

[ ]  As for your finances, so you believe that working twelve hours a day at a job you don’t even give a damn about, wasting your God-given life in the process, going to work while the kids are still asleep and returning home after they are already in bed, forcing you to hire a babysitter because your wife can’t look after them because she works too. You do all this instead of investing and working on sources of passive income to become free. And of course, people who do not have to work because they have invested in developing automated ways of earning a living like CEOs, stockholders, online marketers, bloggers, and franchise owners are all EVIL and GREEDY because they don’t labor their lives away like mindless drones. Instead, they go to your office three hours at a time just to check things out, and they can even bring their kid to work while you don’t even see yours. Your negative emotions toward them are just your defense mechanisms for guarding your ego, because you know deep down that you do have a choice to live that life, but you suck it up because you can’t take a risk or make an effort to get away from your boring and miserable life, like in Revolutionary Road. So, are you just content to sit there and rationalize to yourself that you never had a choice? Of course you never did, yeah man whatever.

[ ]  You consider yourself lucky to know such things and you genuinely appreciated it when he shared his wisdom on vital male behavior that you must use to attract the opposite sex and maintain healthy relationships, which is of course not taught by society because they want you in their production lines, and if you become alpha, then you are less likely to slave at a mindless job your whole life to demonstrate sexual value to the opposite sex by buying useless crap that only serves as social proof. Because you already have GAME, women respond even if you don’t own a ten-story mansion in or have a wardrobe full of clothes from a designer in Paris. Women will just be as impressed without all the social programming bullshit that was force-fed unto you by society and your parents who are just as clueless as you were when you were young.

Relationships & Networks

from this article

Old-school networkers are transactional. They pursue relationships thinking solely about what other people can do for them. Relationship builders, on the other hand, try to help others first. They don’t keep score. And they prioritize high-quality relationships over a large number of connections. The second ability is being able to think about how you can collaborate with and help the other person rather than thinking about what you can get. We’re not suggesting that you be so saintly that a self-interested thought never crosses your mind. What we’re saying is that your first move should always be to help. Dale Carnegie’s classic book on relationships, despite all its wisdom, has the unfortunate title How to Win Friends and Influence People. This makes Carnegie widely misunderstood. You don’t “win” a friend. A friend is not an asset you own; a friend is an ally, a collaborator.

The best way to engage with new people is not by cold calling or by “networking” with strangers at cocktail parties, but by working with the people you already know. Of the many types of professional relationships, one of the most important is your close allies. Most professionals maintain 5-10 active alliances. An alliance is always an exchange, but not a transactional one. A transactional relationship is when your accountant files your tax returns and you pay him for his time. An alliance is when a co-worker needs last-minute help on Sunday night preparing for a Monday morning presentation, and even though you’re busy, you agree to go over to his house and help. You cooperate and sacrifice because you want to help a friend in need but also because you figure you’ll be able to call on him in the future when you are the one in a bind. That isn’t being selfish; it’s being human.

Just as a digital camera cannot store an infinite number of photos and videos, you cannot maintain an infinite number of allies or acquaintances. The maximum number of relationships we can realistically manage—the number that can fit on the memory card, as it were—is described as Dunbar’s Number, after the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar. In the early 1990s Dunbar studied the social connections within groups of monkeys and apes. There is indeed a limit to the number of relationships you can maintain, but a crucial qualifier is that there is not one blunt limit of 150; in fact, there are different limits for different types of relationships. Think back to the digital camera. Either you can take low-resolution photographs and store 100 of them in total, or you can take high-resolution photographs and store 40. In relationships, you may have only a few close buddies you see every day, yet you can stay in touch with many distant friends if you e-mail them only once or twice a year. But there’s a twist: You can actually maintain a much broader social network than the people you currently “know.” Your allies, weak ties, and the other people you know right now are your first-degree connections. But your friends know people you don’t know. These friends of friends are your second-degree connections. And those friends of friends have friends of their own—those are your third-degree connections. Think of your network of relationships in the same way: The best professional network is both narrow/deep (allies with whom you collaborate regularly) and wide/shallow (weak tie acquaintances who offer fresh information and ideas).