Here’s how it used to work. . .
A young man, wanting to become a samurai, embarked on a journey–like a religious pilgrimage, a rite of passage–in order to test his mettle, learn strategy, challenge other warriors in duels, and build his skill set.
The purpose of Musha shugyō was to harden the young man; to hone his abilities until he was skilled enough to survive on his own as a rōnin (a wandering samurai without a master), or serve under a daimyo (a Japanese feudal lord).
The modern world seemingly lacks rites of passage and holy missions. Nothing is sacred anymore. . .
Where is the honor and meaning today? Where is the quest?
–It’s still there, it’s just not as easy to detect.
Similar to the Japanese tradition of musha shugyō, in Europe, there was knight-errantry.
Knight-errantry was the process by which a squire rose to knighthood.
The final rite of passage for the squire, before he could become a knight, was to pass through the gauntlet.
–Most people in the modern world are squires, and the gauntlet still exists (it just takes a different form). But few have the guts to enter it.
If you want to become a man of value, an interesting person, and someone who does meaningful work. . .
. . . You must first enter the gauntlet.
No squire survives the gauntlet without adequate preparation
A knight who has not passed through the gauntlet is not a knight. He is a squire. The squire has neither honor nor skills, he must serve a knight who does have those things, like an apprenticeship.
The dream of every squire is to one day become a knight; to have honor, to order other squires around, to lend his hard-won services to the kingdom, and in return be awarded his own land, riches and estate–and one day, establish his own fiefdom.
But in order to do that, the squire must first pass through the gauntlet.
The gauntlet is brutally challenging and painful to go through, and that is its sole reason for existing.
Yet, nearly all squires could pass it, if they prepared themselves adequately. But, for some weird reason, only a few squires do. And for even weirder reasons, most squires never even show up to give the gauntlet a try!
It used to be that only nobles–those who were born in the right bloodlines–were eligible for squiredom, and then, if they passed the gauntlet, for knighthood too.
In the past, there was no meritocracy and social mobility was not possible. You inherited your parents’ professions. Peasants and paupers remained in their lowly classes, doomed to eternal stagnation. Squiredom was a privilege.
In recent times, squiredom no longer requires one to be a nobleman. As a result of this, there are more squires than ever before. Yet, the amount of knights remain about the same.
No one knows why.
Strange things have started happening in recent times. For instance, it has become a commonplace occurrence for jealous squires, who have not yet earned any honor, to pick fights at random with honorable knights.
(Obviously, the squires get beaten to a pulp.)
No one is sure why this is happening, but a wise man proposed that it might be the case that the squires, in their state of confusion–hungry for honor they have not yet earned–delude themselves into thinking that some amount of the knight’s honor could rub off on them, if only they managed to besmirch his shiny armor.
But it is impossible to cheat the gauntlet. . .
Most squires, when they should be preparing for the gauntlet, occupy themselves with other things instead. Even those who come from peasant families, who could not have dreamed of such privileged opportunity in the past, now forgo their preparation in priority of cheap pleasures.
“Come, friend. Have a beer with me. There shall be many fair ladies at the festival tonight. ” Says squire #1.
“But I need to prepare for the gauntlet. . .?” Says squire #2.
Squire #1 replies: “Oh, but there will be lots of time for that later. The gauntlet will remain forever, but the festival is only in town for the weekend!”
Squire #2 responds anxiously:
“But what of the plans for my future fiefdom, when I have become a knight? You see, I have this great idea. . .”
Squire #1 interrupts him mid-sentence:
“Well, you can tell it to me when we’re drinking beer and dancing with fair ladies!”
Squire #2 pauses briefly, and imagines how nice the beer will taste, how lovely the ladies will be, and how IMPRESSED everybody will be with his idea. He finally relents:
“Ok. Let’s do it.”
But as it turns out, the festival is not nearly as much fun as he had expected. The beer is average at best, the ladies are semi-fair, and no one cares about his idea. They tell him:
“But you are just a squire, and you are talking of a fiefdom. . .”
With a feeling of slight desperation, squire #2 realizes he should’ve just stayed at home and prepared himself for the gauntlet instead. . .
Squire #1 could never pass the gauntlet.
Squire #2 could have passed the gauntlet, if only he had firmly said “No.” to squire #1, and continued with the preparation and practice.
But he didn’t do that–and now he’ll never be a knight.
What is Needed to Pass The Gauntlet
In your preparation for the gauntlet you must not only exercise discipline, but also cultivate tactful ruthlessness.
For example. . .
Do not engage in conversation with squires who:
- Are not already preparing for the gauntlet;
- Squires who, when you share the insightful things you’ve learned, reply back: “Yeah…sounds cool man.” (as opposed to giving you constructive feedback on your training, or help stimulate your thinking),
- And squires who do not show promise and potential, for example, in allying yourself with later, when you are both knights.
A squire who doesn’t fulfill at least one of those criteria is useless to you.
–Although he can perhaps perform some lowly task for you later, if you become a king.
Lay the bricks. Build the castle, make sure it has a moat. Retract the drawbridge. Recruit squires. Expand the kingdom. Sit on the throne.
— LudvigSunstrom (@LudvigSGM) April 12, 2015
How to Not Pass The Gauntlet
Each time you indulge yourself by prioritizing your temporary well-being over your duty of preparation, when you are choosing idleness over practice, you are RUINING your odds at survival. The gauntlet will demolish you.
A piece of candy today can result in a painful death inside the gauntlet.
Is that what you want?
If you have any excess fat, lose it. It is of no use to you. It will only be in the way, and slow you down inside the gauntlet.
To persevere through the gauntlet you need to acquire toughness.
Like natural selection, the gauntlet roots out the weak–those who cannot adapt; it penalizes the weak-willed squires, who cannot delay their indulgences until after they’ve passed the gauntlet.
Gear all your actions towards survival.
Every action counts.
When you are faced with temptation, always ask yourself:
How will this help me get through the gauntlet?
There are only two kinds of decisions: those that offer some conceivable way of helping you get through the gauntlet, and those that do not. The more of the first type you make, the higher your chances of survival will be.
—But there are no guarantees that you’ll make it.
No, you can’t have any guarantees. . .
Most squires do not have the mental fortitude to accept this fact. So they waste time going to church, where they listen to the soothing sermons of pampering preachers, who tell them that they should be content to remain squires, and find happiness in the little things befitting of their lowly position.
–Dumb move. They could’ve used that time to practice instead.
Those who make the wrong choices will either die inside the gauntlet, or talk themselves out of entering it, and then they will find a way to rationalize their cowardice. Both of these choices lead to the same outcome: insignificance.
No one cares about a squire, and no one cares about the death of a squire either. Squires are insignificant. Only knights and kings matter, their great deeds are recorded into the glorious annals of history.
The gauntlet is not merciful. It has no conception of fairness, ‘right’, ‘wrong’, whatever. You either make the cut, or you’ll be cut down.
This is how it is, how it always has been, and how it forever will be.
The gauntlet is the sorting mechanism that separates the squirming squires from the knights and would-be kings, and no amount of wishing can make the gauntlet go away.
There is No Shame in Dying Inside the Gauntlet
You must enter the gauntlet at all costs.
You must be more motivated than anyone who stands between you and the gauntlet, and tries to prevent you from entering it. This includes your family, who don’t want you to die a painful death.
–But even if you die in the gauntlet, you will still have made it further than 90% of everyone else, and you will die with honor.
Better to die with integrity, in pursuit of the quest, than to live in mediocrity.
By not entering the gauntlet you are, in fact, dying anyway; death by a thousand cuts, the slow death of a coward.
You must practice diligently. You must make it so that your entire life is practice; so that everything you do counts as preparation for the gauntlet.
–That is the only way.
Your 20s-30s Are the Gauntlet
You have three choices:
- Enter the gauntlet: if you get through it you will live gloriously, and if you don’t, you will die with integrity.
- Evade the gauntlet: pretend it isn’t there and postpone entering it until you are too weak to make it through; you will then rationalize your cowardice, and spend the rest of your life as a failure.
- Do nothing (and get the same end result as #2).
No need to overcomplicate things.
You have these three choices; no more, no less.
Take your pick.
You can choose whichever, but you already know the ‘right answer’–so why make the wrong choice on purpose?
Enter the gauntlet–or be doomed to eternal squiredom.