If you are a fan of anime (Japanese animation and/or cartoons), then you have to watch Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings at some point. It is simple an awesome mess of vivid colors, gratuitous action, and over the top ridiculous story lines influenced by Japanese culture and history. Seriously, if you have some free time go see it since it is available on Hulu and Netflix.
Obviously, the historical aspects are not accurate and should not be the focus of any learning sessions. However, there is one major overarching theme throughout the series which will be the focus of this post. As always, some SPOILERS ahead.
The entire basis of the anime series is how the warring nations/clans of the past fought against one another in order to gain supremacy and unify the people of Japan into one solidified nation. Of course, these massive wars are boiled down to simple single battle matches between a few key, major characters. Essentially a few select generals and soldiers hold the sway of entire movements and decisions.
Oddly enough these major characters are never really defeated, beaten, or killed. In fact, they only seem to get stronger and stronger with each passing battle. One of the generals/lead characters, Shingen Takeda, compresses this fact into a simple stand of advice to Yukimura Sanada, his greatest warrior. Takeda tells Sanada, “to be happy and content that he has found a worthy rival in Masamune Date because through him he will reach new heights.”
Takeda’s words ring truth. There is an inherent drive and growth that occurs under a rivalry. It is the essence of a good story and a necessary trait for improvement. Think about it. What good is Batman if he has no Joker to fight? How far would Luthor have moved the needle of science without Superman? Would the Lakers have been anywhere near the team they are without the Celtics driving them forward? Simply put our rivals push us to be better than we are and vice versa.
Thus, today’s lesson is: Find a rival. Learn from them. Respect them. Improve and make yourself worthy of having a rival. I am not referring simply to your enemies or obstacle, but to legitimate rivals. An enemy is just someone or something in your way, but a rival is someone who in another time and place would have been a great friend or ally (maybe at one time they were). Those individuals who keep us up at night trying to figure out how to get the upper hand or beat them are the ones I am speaking of. You respect them, or at least their skill and talent, and want to earn their respect back to some degree or extent.
For some reason, competition, and the pursuit of it, has become an almost taboo term in modern culture. The idea that two or more individuals should want to beat one another is passe, at best. I personally recall a pseudo-academic rivalry I had when I was younger. We were both part of our school’s UIL math team (I was not nor am I now very athletic) and considered to be among the smartest students in our school. However, she excelled in math. I did not even come close to her score on our first competition. (Should be noted that I did get second place overall).
Frankly, she drove me to be better and after our third competition (I managed to get the upper hand), I did the same for her. We both would have probably been the best of our respective teams and competitions had we not met or being against one another, but I doubt we would have gone as far or learned as much otherwise. She also ended up becoming a pretty decent friend.
In the end, rivals keep things interesting and moving. Respect their existence and be glad that someone has seen you as worthy of competing against. It truly is a sign of respect…just be sure you make them work for the privilege.