Give Me 2 Minutes and I’ll Give You the Willpower of Hattori Hanzo

by Anne Dorko

Let’s say that you have plans for running a ninja clan and leaving behind such a badass legend that people will talk about you for, oh, say the next 470 years.

I can tell you right now that you’re not going to succeed.

Why? (Hint: It’s not because you probably don’t have access to the training you would need to be that badass.) It’s because you don’t have minions or any other kind of support team. The fact that you’re here means that you don’t have the intrinsic willpower that you need to keep yourself going alone. Don’t feel bad though — most of us don’t.

When you want something epic for your life, you should find a mentor that has accomplished epic things and imitate their behavior. Let's dig into the life of Hattori Hanzo to discover where he was able to source his extreme willpower from, and how you can apply it to your own life.

Note: This still makes sense even if you’re just trying to change your life in a simpler way, say by eating healthier, being more productive at work, or learning how to surf.

Being Hanzo: Never underestimate teamwork.

ninjas underestimate teamwork

Hanzo was born a humble samurai of no unusual importance. Unlike the pirate Roberts (who had wanted to be a navigator), Hanzo always knew he was going to be samurai.

As he grew up, he was able to persevere in his training by relying on his family and his clan. He earned himself the title Devil Hanzo because of his amazing abilities.

So what was it about him that allowed him to gain such distinction?

Simply put, Hanzo knew how to draw on the power of a support team.

He began serving in several battles when he was 16 years old. It was during these battles that he first began to make a name for himself. He did so by working together with other leaders, and playing to the strengths of his team members.

Hanzo would never have found the strength to continue without joining forces with the other men during battle. In every story you can find about Hattori Hanzo, he is making friends in all the right places. Hanzo knew that when you have someone at your side who is encouraging you to keep kicking ass, you’d be surprised at the motivation it gives you.

Teaming up with people provides you a net of accountability. When other people are checking in on you to make sure you’re doing your job, you’ll find that your willpower to keep going is much stronger than when you’re trying to accomplish something alone.

Being Hanzo: Find your support team.

ninjas find support team

Nothing says “We should work together” better than having a common goal.

Hanzo knew the secret of making friends that he could count on was finding people who wanted what he wanted.

When you fight in battle, the common goal is clear and defined for you. In your own life, you’ll have to learn how to set goals that you can achieve before you’re able to find your core team.

Finding your support team can be as easy as talking to a few of your existing friends and working together. It can be as easy as joining a community online that is willing to be there for you as you’re working towards your changing your life (more on that later).

Hanzo developed an inner circle of 2-3 important men that he kept in constant collaboration with. He also had the men that served under him in battle. You should have the same.

Seek out a core team of 2-3 people that will have the most influence on you. Then, set yourself up with a support team that will keep you going in the right direction, even if you all have slightly different specific goals.

Being Hanzo: Provide support for your team.

ninjas support teammates

It’s not always about you, you know.

In order to get ahead in life, you have to know when to step back and focus on the other guy. Just because you made friends based on common goals doesn’t mean that you will both always be at your A-game.

If you expect your team to support you, you need to be there to support them in return.

People don’t need help when they’re doing well, but that’s usually when people offer it to them because they’re hoping to ride the wave of success. People need help when they’re down and out. That’s when you need to be there for your team. Maybe they lost motivation. Maybe their willpower is draining.

It’s up to you to figure out the ninja tactics required to get them back on track.

In Hanzo’s case, he even went so far as to save his best friend’s life when he found out that his best friend had been betrayed in a fatal power play.

You may not be able to save your team’s physical life, but you will make an impact on what their future looks like.

Being Hanzo: Listen to your support team.

ninjas listen to teammates

Hattori Hanzo was well known for his ability to treat his teammates well.

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out that people feel better about their bosses and coworkers when they feel like their needs are being met. How could Hanzo possibly know what their needs were?

He listened to them.

Not only that, but he took their advice for action under consideration. He had to collaborate many times during his battles, and in many of those cases it saved his life because he was paying attention to what his teammates had to say.

You won’t know when your team is down and out if you’re not paying attention. You won’t realize when you need to change up your strategy if you never listen to the people who can give you a new perspective on your approach.

If you’re going to use a team as your strategy for success, you need to learn how to listen.

So, where does willpower come from?

Sustainable willpower requires accountability.

Whether it’s accountability to yourself, to your family and friends, or strangers on the internet, you NEED someone to be accountable to.

Princeton defines willpower as:

self-control: the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior.

Nothing new, right? It only makes sense. The word is fairly self-explanatory. We’re talking about your power to control your own will. We now know that Hanzo’s secret was getting a support team to keep him going when times got rough.

Generally speaking, willpower is not a strong asset in most of our lives. Anything that is not necessary or required for our day-to-day living tends to get pushed to the side and ignored.

It’s because willpower is a hard muscle to work when we’re by ourselves. Life is frustrating. Bills are looming. You’re barely making ends meet, let alone finding the time and energy for extra work. The odds are stacked against us. We’re tired, man.

Willpower in its most raw form comes from passion. The drive of willpower comes from a spark of desire for whatever it is we are powering towards. Unfortunately, passion dies and desire fades. We move on and resign ourselves to a lesser fate.

Accountability: Hanzo’s Secret Weapon

In between disappearing like a ghost, holding his breath under water for hours, and generally engaging in brilliant espionage strategies, Hanzo knew that he needed to keep himself accountable to something bigger than himself in order to succeed.

Hanzo had it figured out:

Raw willpower: Passion

Real willpower: Accountability

Willpower is rooted in passion, and fulfilled in accountability.

Growing up in a ninja clan, he was naturally provided with the accountability he needed to sustain the passion he had for developing his insane ninja skills. As he became a man and moved on to battle and protecting people from betrayal, he had to find his own team for accountability through the rest of his life.

You may not have the luxury of ever having had a built-in support team, but you can start finding yours now.

First published November 05, 2012

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