On Leadership, Difficulties and Samurai Swords


Difficulties don’t have to beat you down. They can give you flexibility, strength, perfected skills and sharpness.

But many time, difficulties do get the best of us and impact our mood, performance, and disposition.

In fact, you might have found that a week’s vacation doesn’t even seem to help.

  • What is the purpose of all the difficult frustrations?
  • Are they here to break us, or make us better?
  • How can we get a handle on this?

Let’s face it. We all have bad days. Sometimes it literally feels like we are jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

So What To Do?

Consider the katana, or Samurai sword.

The katana is the king of swords.

It is said to have the perfect balance of form and function, becoming one with its owner. As we look at how the katana is made, you might just discover that there is a silver lining to all this stress.

Making the Katana & You

Here is how the katana is made:


The artisan first gets the finest iron ore – two types of metal, a soft and hard metal. He then molded together by putting them in a charcoal furnace with temperatures up to 2500 degrees.

The charcoal used to fuel the fire is as much an ingredient in making this premium steel as it is a fuel. The fuel source used to strengthen the metal becomes part of its actual DNA. If the sword was made of just one metal, it would become brittle.

Do you ever feel like you are in a hot oven? That heat will add just the right ingredients to your personality to make you tough, strong, and bendable.


Then three men work together beating this piece of metal, putting it in the fire, beating it, folding it, putting it back in the fire until it is many, many layers thick. This process flushes out all the impurities so that only iron and carbon remain.

Do you have people and deadlines constantly hammering you? They are helping kick out your impurities.

Perfected Skills – Just Right for the Job

Once the sword is shaped, they slather the sword with a special mud made from clay and charcoal. This mud not only serves to protect the blade, but it also gives it design and beauty – this part is different for each sword. (Yes, all that mud-slinging can work out for your good.)

Once the mud is applied, the room is totally darkened and the sword is put back into the fire this time only up to 1500 degrees.  The room is dark so that the artisan can exactly determine the color of the metal and pull it out of the fire at exactly the right moment.

Then, the sword is quickly thrust into a cooling tank where it forms its curved shape. The cold water works on the two different types of metal in the sword, one contracting quicker than the other, causing the curve. This stage is very delicate, and as many as one in three swords is lost at this stage of the process.

Do you feel like you have been doused in frigid waters? The Artisan is keeping close watch.


After the blade has been shaped, it is taken to the polishing stage. Here, the artisan uses grinding and polishing stones to hone the blade to its perfect sharpness.

When you’ve been through the grinder, it will make you sharper and perfectly honed for use. 

Last, the sword blade meets its hilt, a thing of exquisite beauty.

A katana is priceless, and so are you!

Those rough days are your leadership development. Whether you feel like you are being plunged into icy waters or heated to temperatures that boil your blood, the Artisan is watching every moment, careful to make sure that your strength is purified, your focus is perfected, and your sharpness is perfectly honed.

You were made for this, and you are being perfected every day.

  • What are some of the things that feel like a burning hot oven to you?
  • How could mud actually help you look better?
  • What are some of your keys to surviving the plunge into icy water?
I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Kim Martinez
 is the Lead Writer and Innovator at Deep Imprints

She teaches leaders to lead with influence in a world that distrusts leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Skype: kimkmartinez

Image Sources: features.cgsociety.org


6 responses to “On Leadership, Difficulties and Samurai Swords

  1. Love the post. I am always amazed at the process of folding the metal to provide strength, I think of this as the introspection done before and after a big project. Thinking through a project, play out scenarios and then rebuilding it again. The impurities are removed and our concept comes out perfectly.

    Thanks for the post!


    • I love that application Scott! Oftentimes the rehashing feels so painful – now we know why! I am going to use that in the future – removing the impurities. Thanks!


  2. This is excellent, and defines the process of refinement that gives birth to greatness. It causes me to think of what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. You have to surrender to the painful process of the journey to find the King of Swords. Notice they did not call it the Private of Swords.. Thank you for sharing. This was very timely for me.


  3. Pingback: Leadership updates for 07/18/2012·

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