More Samurai Wisdom for Projects – Hagakure Part 3

Here are three more chunks of wisdom from Hagakure, the book of the Samurai.  You can find my earlier posts at:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2

Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai

Control versus Flexibility

“Fish cannot live where the water is too clear.
But where there is weed,
the fish can hide beneath it and thrive.”

If you attempt to control your project too tightly (interpret the word “too” according to your context) then you may get a pristine project environment, but it cannot work in the real world, where we need some flexibility to deal with minor unexpected hazards. Instead, put some contingency into your plans, to allow space for messiness and innovation.

Risk Control

“Tether even a roasted chicken”

There are equivalent proverbs from all over the world, such as “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel”.  They should all remind you that, in your project, you must take nothing for granted.  Of course, what you must not do is take this too literally – always evaluate the costs of mitigation as well as the risk concerned.  Some mitigating actions are too expensive for the threat.


“A man exists for a generation but
his name lasts to the end of time.”

Or, as Shakespeare said, “the evil that men do lives on”.  You are only as good as your last project, unless you can make a very good case for your performance.  The important thing is not that every project is a success – though it is pretty important – but that in every project, you perform exceptionally, and that you learn from your experiences.


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