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  • Writer's pictureFernando Olivo

Business Strategy according to Miyamoto Musashi: The Five Rings for Entrepreneurial Success

Today, and it's only 10:00 am in Miami, has been an amazing day. I started at 4:00 am giving a conference to 200 people in Shanghai. At 6:30 am, I was with 70 people in Dubai, and I just finished with a group of 35 people in Rome. The topic? The Book of the Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. A real Business Strategy.


As you all know, my almost two decades in Asia shaped my life. Not only I am a Taoist, but I am a practitioner of using philosophy in every aspect of my life. Some have called me an expert on "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and the "Tao Te Ching" by Laozi, and while these two have been important books in my life (I received teachings of these two books directly from their descendants), there are other books from the Asian classics that have been paramount for me.


The three conferences were supposed to be just a very light overview of the book and how it applies to businesses in the West. The contents were the same even if I had the challenge of doing them in Chinese, English, and Italian respectively.


The Conference

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for attending this conference on the application of the principles from Miyamoto Musashi's "The Book of Five Rings" in the business world. Today, we will explore how we can extract wisdom from this classic work and apply it to our businesses to achieve success.


I. Musashi's Five Rings: An Overview

Miyamoto Musashi presents us with five rings, each representing a key aspect of success in martial arts and the business world. Let's briefly examine each ring and its relevance in business development, supported by direct quotes from the book.


The Water Ring: Adaptability and Flexibility

Water flows and adapts to its surroundings, and in the business world, adaptability and flexibility are essential for success. Musashi said, "Water can take various forms, whether it's a river, an ocean, or a small droplet. The warrior must learn to adapt to different circumstances and not limit themselves to a single approach." An outstanding example is Netflix, which started as a DVD rental-by-mail service and quickly adapted to online streaming, becoming the market leader.


The Fire Ring: Focus and Determination

Focus and determination are key qualities in the business world. Musashi wrote, "When I enter a fight, my determination is firm and clear. Even if my enemy is strong, I do not retreat. I always advance." An inspiring example is the legacy of Steve Jobs, who remained focused on his vision to revolutionize the technology industry. Despite challenges, Jobs demonstrated unwavering determination and transformed Apple into one of the most innovative companies in the world.


The Earth Ring: Stability and Solid Foundations

Stability and solid foundations are essential for sustainable business development. Musashi stated, "Without a solid foundation, you cannot build anything that lasts." Coca-Cola is a prominent example of a company that has established a solid and enduring foundation. Through strategic planning, efficient resource management, and a focus on quality and customer satisfaction, Coca-Cola has withstood market fluctuations and remained an iconic brand in the beverage industry.


The Wind Ring: Flexibility and Speed

The wind is fast and changes direction in an instant, and in business, we must be agile and quick to adapt to new opportunities and demands. Musashi said, "The warrior must be swift and flexible, like the wind that changes direction effortlessly." An outstanding example is Spotify, which quickly capitalized on the rise of music streaming and became the market leader, surpassing the traditional model of the music industry.


The Void Ring: Empty Mind and Intuition

The void ring teaches us the importance of empty minds and intuition in business development. Musashi wrote, "In the empty mind, answers present themselves before questions are formulated." Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is a notable example of someone who trusted his intuition to make bold and successful decisions. Bezos has led Amazon's growth and diversification into multiple industries, applying an open and receptive mindset.


II. Examples and Success Cases

Now, let's delve deeper into each of the mentioned examples to better understand how Musashi's principles were applied and led to business success:


Adaptability and Flexibility: Netflix

Netflix began in 1997 as a DVD rental-by-mail service. However, as technology advanced and content consumption habits shifted, the company had to adapt quickly. Co-founder Reed Hastings realized that online streaming was the future and started offering online content through their platform. Their adaptability allowed them to evolve and become the undisputed leader in content streaming.


Focus and Determination: Steve Jobs and Apple

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, is an iconic example of focus and determination in the business world. Throughout his career, Jobs maintained a clear vision and unwavering determination to revolutionize the technology industry. From the launch of the Macintosh to the creation of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Jobs remained focused on innovation and product excellence, even during challenging times. His determination propelled Apple to become one of the most valuable companies in the world.


Stability and Solid Foundations: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized and successful brands globally, and its stability and solid foundations are crucial to its success. Since its inception in 1886, the company has built a solid foundation upon which it has grown and adapted. Strategic planning, efficient resource management, and a focus on customer satisfaction have allowed Coca-Cola to maintain its dominant position in the beverage industry for decades.


Flexibility and Speed: Spotify

Spotify is an outstanding example of a company that quickly capitalized on emerging opportunities. Anticipating the change in how people consume music, Spotify launched its music streaming platform in 2008. By seizing the growing demand for streaming services, the company adapted swiftly and became the market leader, surpassing the traditional model of the music industry.


Empty Mind and Intuition: Jeff Bezos and Amazon

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is known for trusting his intuition and making bold decisions. His vision and ability to anticipate consumer needs have been crucial to Amazon's success. Bezos has diversified Amazon's business across different industries, from e-commerce to cloud services and entertainment. His focus on an open and receptive mindset has been a key factor in the company's constant evolution.


III. Practical Tips for Applying the Principles

To apply Musashi's principles in business development, here are some practical tips supported by direct quotes from the book:


Foster a culture of adaptability and continuous learning in your company. As Musashi said, "Do not be confined to a single approach; adaptability is key to success."

Set clear goals and maintain focus on them, overcoming obstacles with determination. Musashi stated, "When I enter a fight, my determination is firm and clear."

Build a solid foundation for your company through strategic planning and effective resource management. Musashi said, "Without a solid foundation, you cannot build anything that lasts."

Stay attentive to market trends and changes, being flexible and quick to capitalize on opportunities. Musashi wrote, "The warrior must be swift and flexible, like the wind that changes direction effortlessly."

Cultivate intuition and make decisions based on a deep understanding of the business environment. Musashi emphasized, "In the empty mind, answers present themselves before questions are formulated."


IV. Conclusions and Recommendations

In summary, the principles from Musashi's "The Book of Five Rings" offer valuable guidance for business development. Adaptability, focus, stability, flexibility, and the empty mind are essential for success in the business world. By consciously applying these principles, supported by examples and quotes from the book, we can drive growth, overcome challenges, and achieve lasting business success.

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