Early on in life I read a book by Miyamoto Musashi called The Book of the Five Rings. It was a guidebook to living a life as a samurai and dedicating yourself to this philosophy. It gained some popularity in the public in the same way that The Art of War found a niche in the business world. At the time I was a practicing Buddhist and I found the book to be very intriguing but there was one phrase that stood out from everything else:
From one thing, know ten thousand things.
I must have re-read this simple sentence a dozen of times as it mimics what Jesus says in the Bible that we should ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). When we focus on what is most important to us the entire world opens. Miyamoto goes on to explain the power behind this thought. As a samurai he knew that his success was not predicated on only studying the craft of the samurai (swordplay, war strategy, tactics, etc.). In reality his success in being a samurai would come down to his understanding of a variety of different disciplines such as economics, politics, history, philosophy, biology, and so on. As he mastered each of these areas he found himself becoming better at his primary craft. His studies did not take away from being a samurai but added to it unmeasurable value.
I’ve found that my pursuit of simplicity has gone through a similar experience. While initially I just wanted to get rid of some material items to make it easier to move, yet this idea of ‘less’ became quite pervasive. How could I use this desire in other areas of life? Today I eat differently because I have taken a closer look at the food I consume – and I eat more slowly. I sleep differently because of wanting to make my schedule easier to maintain. Even the way I exercise has been altered so that I focus on what is important to me rather than what is important to Instagram stars and Snapchat phenoms.
Too often we can find ourselves spreading ourselves thin in a variety of endeavors instead of just focusing on one thing. Usually we do this because we fear of missing out. Even when we find that one thing we are completely passionate about we hold back because we don’t quite want to put all of our eggs in one basket. However, what I have seen in my own life, is that people with this mindset never make that first step. They are constantly weighing their options instead of moving forward and attempting to obtain even a small victory (eating better, taking a walk, reading a good book…). They lament the fact that they are just fluttering in the breeze and not making any headway. We’ve all heard the old phrase “can’t see the forest because of the trees” but for many people it is the exact opposite – all they can see is the forest and they are unable to focus on one tree. Perhaps that is why we admire individuals such as doctors, musicians, even athletes because they have put all of their time, energy, and passion into a single pursuit. Yet this one thing has opened up more doors to them than if they had attempted to go after everything that came into their field of vision.
So what is your ‘one thing’ that will help you to know ten thousand other things? Go after it, pursue it, and keep it simple. One simple thing is usually enough.