The Maxims of Ieyasu

I’m currently reading a biography of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616), the excellent strategist who united the nation (after quite some preparatory work by Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi) and who became the first shogun of the Edo period. His family effectively ruled Japan for more than 250 peaceful years.

At this point, I don’t want to go into details – I haven’t finished the book yet – but here are what is generally known as the “Maxims of Ieyasu”, which I found insightful and inspiring.

  • Man’s life is like going a long journey under a heavy burden: one must not hurry.
  • If you regard discomfort as a normal condition, you are not likely to be troubled by want.
  • When ambition arises in your mind, consider the days of your adversity.
  • Patience is the foundation of security and long life: consider anger as an enemy.
  • He who only knows victory and doesn’t know defeat will fare badly.
  • Blame yourself: don’t blame others.
  • The insufficient is better than the superfluous.

Especially the fourth maxim about patience is something Ieyasu practiced extensively. There is the famous saying about a bird and what measures to take if it doesn’t sing.
Oda Nobunaga would kill it.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi would force it to sing.
Tokugawa Ieyasu would wait until it sings on its own accord.