46 – Lessons from the Samurai with Steve Beauchamp

When we hear the term Bushido, we imagine the Japanese samurai and think of it as something related to martial arts. But the principle of Bushido can actually be applied to some aspects of our lives and help us gain continuous improvement.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick speaks with Steve Beauchamp about how people can integrate Bushido into their lives.


Podcast Highlights

  • Publishing a book. At 1:43, Steve talks about what it is like to release a book.

  • A life-defining experience. At 7:54, Steve shares a transformational experience he had.

  • Work-life harmony. Steve differentiates work-life balance with work-life harmony at 15:13.

  • Bushido. At 22:30, Steve explains the meaning of Bushido.

  • Kamon. At 27:22, Steve discusses what kamon means and how he used it to represent the 8 virtues of the Bushido code.

  • Using kaizen to change for the better. Steve shares his own understanding of what kaizen is at 31:59.

  • Seven main weapons of continuous improvement. At 36:37, Steve shares the seven main weapons of continuous improvement mentioned in his book.

  • Values in action. At 44:38, Steve talks about the values in action survey which he recommends to his readers.

  • The 8 virtues of the Bushido code. At 52:36, the two discuss some of Steve’s 8 virtues of the Bushido code. 


Steve Beauchamp

Steve Beauchamp Ikigai

Steve Beauchamp is an author, lover of nature, Lean six sigma master black belt, a continuous improvement mentor and practitioner, and an Ikigai Tribe coach. His coaching practice aims to help overwhelmed leaders to stop being productivity junkies and discover work-life harmony through Japanese wisdom and philosophy.


LINKS

Website - Looking for Work: Life Harmony?

Book - Always Improving: Lessons from the samurai


Publishing a book

Steve recently released his book, Always Improving: Lessons from the samurai. He shares that writing his book has been a great experience for him; to acknowledge himself as an author is a big identity shift for him, and he gains support from his community and receives a lot of encouragement from the people who have read his book. He shares that he wrote his book for his younger self – for all project management professionals who are struggling with finding harmony between their work and personal life.



A life-defining experience

In his book, Steve shares how an eight-second experience made an impact on his life. It was back in 2002, he was at the office, working in a bank, doing a conference call as a personal banker when suddenly they heard the security guard yelling at someone to drop his gun. He states that everything from then on became a blur for him, all he remembers was huddling under a desk with his co-workers, and in a second, their building was surrounded by police cars and ambulances. When everything’s over, they realise that the incident lasted for only eight seconds. However, Steve shares that eight seconds changed his life for quite some time; he suffered from PTSD, and every time he went to a restaurant he would sit in the corner or anywhere where he could see the entire room. He sought counselling and worked with a therapist to overcome it. Up to this day, the incident would cross his mind, but he sees it in a different context; he started to realise that he has total control over his emotions, and how he perceives the occurrence.


 

Work-life harmony


Work Life Harmony


Steve shares that he prefers to use the term work-life harmony over work-life balance. He thinks of work-life balance as a scale where people have a never-ending game of trying to balance both sides. On the other hand, he compares work-life harmony with music; there is a balance between them – it is about finding activities that fit together, and he thinks that’s where ikigai comes in – people connecting to their values to find harmony in their lives. Hence, he used the kanji wa (harmony) for his book cover; he explains that wa can also mean finding peace and acceptance of occurrences around you. 



Bushido

Steve explains that back in 1899, Japanese author Inazo Nitobe wrote about Bushido and defined it as Military-Knight-Ways or the ways which fighting nobles should observe in their daily lives, as well as their vocations – the Precepts of Knighthood. Differently from how Samurai are depicted in movies (guys running around with their swords), Steve shares that Samurai often have a strong devotion to a hobby such as calligraphy, poetry, or tea ceremony – Samurai warriors are prolific in other areas of their lives, not just getting into a war with people.


 

The 8 virtues of the Bushido code

Steve introduces the 8 virtues of the Bushido code in his book that people can apply to in their lives: gi, yuki, jin, rei, makoto, meiyo, chuugi, and jisei; they discussed five of them in the podcast:


Form of Justice


  • Gi (justice) - a focus on equity; providing opportunity so that everyone has equal outcomes, no matter where they’re starting from. 

  • Yuki (courage) - to learn new things, people need courage; learning things for the first time can be tough, which is why it requires a lot of courage. Moreover, people need the courage to overcome obstacles in life.

  • Jin (compassion) - by understanding that the way others act has nothing to do with them, it is easier for people to show compassion towards others; rather than being affected by their actions, they try to understand what the other person is going through.

  • Rei (respect) - recognizing other people’s work and allowing them to have pride in what they do is a way of showing respect to them.

  • Makoto (integrity) - integrity is important as it shows how people live their lives and carry themselves. 

Bushido Code


Kamon

Steve makes use of kamon to represent the 8 virtues. He explains that kamon started way back in the Heian period – it is a clan crest and is unique to each clan. It was used by Samurai on the flags they wore and brought into battle to easily identify which clan they belonged to; it’s a visual representation that expresses who they really are. Steve thinks that it is a great way to show the world what he is all about, thus, he uses kamon to exhibit the journey he has been through with the 8 virtues.



Using kaizen to change for the better


Authentic Self


Steve states that kaizen is interpreted in the Western world as continuous improvement. However, after spending some time studying the concept in depth, he understood that it doesn’t only apply to businesses, but can be something personal as well. He had his mentor, Sensei Nakao, who taught him that kaizen is all about changing for the better; sometimes people have to make a fresh start and rebuild themselves to become better and more in line with their authentic selves.



Seven main weapons of continuous improvement

Steve mentioned in his book the seven main weapons of continuous improvement; he explains that Taichii Ohno, who used to mentor the leaders and engineers of Toyota was the one who came up with it; Taichii believes that anyone who masters the seven tools can be ready for anything that comes their way from a business perspective. The seven weapons consist of:

  • Check sheets or tally sheets - are used to keep track of occurrences.

  • Pareto chart - also known as the 80/20 chart, is used to find where 80% of the problem is coming from which is commonly 20% of the potential causes.

  • Ishikawa diagram - also known as the fishbone diagram, is used to sort out the potential causes of a problem to the more likely causes of a problem or effect and is used in conjunction with the Pareto chart commonly.

  • Control chart - it plots data points along a timeline to show the natural output of a process.

  • Scatter plot - used to see if there is a relationship between two different variables.

  • Stratification plot - it is used to see if naturally occurring groups of data perform consistently with each other.

  • Histogram - groups data into natural categories to see if a trend or natural balance appears.

Values in action

Steve recommends his readers take the values in action survey; he shares that it is something he learnt from Nick – it’s a simple survey that helps people understand what are their most prominent core values and strengths. It is separated into 6 categories with a total of 24 different core values and strengths. He thinks of it as a tool to help people understand more about their authentic selves.


 

Conclusion

The Samurai are known for being well-trained and highly skilled; they follow a code of honour known as Bushido. The principles of Bushido don't apply to combat alone, but can be also put into our daily lives; we all face different battles, and we often fight for our way to be successful in life. Using these virtues can be helpful for us to get through the difficulties that we encounter.

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