The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi is not a book about wizards and warriors like the movies and literature of a similar name, but rather a book of strategies that has been the foundation of Japanese business techniques for generations. Written in 1643 by Musashi, the famous Japanese sword-master and samurai warrior, this book transcends time and culture to assist businesspeople in their daily work routines. I’m sure you’re thinking, "What would a samurai warrior from the 17th century know about conducting business in today’s world?” Yet this book has proven to be an invaluable tool used by Japanese businesspeople for many years, and continues to be required reading in many of their business teachings.
Although the author originally intended the book to be used as a teaching method for elite samurais to succeed in battle and to enhance their military command abilities, it is used as a tool for leaders in other vocations as well. If you are a warrior, it teaches you the art of combat strategies. If you are a business leader, it teaches you the art of business strategies.
Everything Musashi teaches in this book directly relates to all levels of human interaction, including the art of social strategy and dealing with people. Human interaction is key to business; after all, what is business other than social interaction for a financial gain and this book enhances these interaction skills on many levels.
One of the teachings Musashi stresses in the book is that failure is a direct result of poor social interaction and the inability to properly react to adverse situations. Musashi believed that every success and failure in life was a direct result of our use or misuse of these social skills.
Of all the translations of this book on the market, I think Thomas Cleary gives the best rendition of what the author intended. His introduction gives a keen insight into the mind and traditions of the samurai and his code of honor. This helps the reader better understand the author’s life and, in effect, his way of thinking.
I’ve read this book many times and I constantly learn something new with each reading. I believe that anyone who truly wants to learn how to succeed, and is looking for a tool that can help, will find just what they are looking for in The Book of Five Rings. It is probably the best book of its type I have ever read, and I highly recommend it.