我慢 Gaman — Persevere

A few weeks ago I passed my 12th anniversary of being cancer free.  Each year when my anniversary comes around, I pause to reflect on what it is like to battle and survive cancer — twice.

I would arrive at the cancer center at 8 AM, Monday through Friday and leave around 2 PM.  I would have blood drawn to check various markers and other important indicators that I never really understood.  Then I’d be hooked up to an I.V. to start the toxic drips of various cancer drugs and saline solution necessary to battle my disease.  When I was not at the cancer center receiving treatment, I was at home curled up in the fetal position…

This reminds me of the Japanese concept of gaman (我慢) which loosely means “perseverance”.  The term gaman has a very stoic Zen origin and can be translated as “having patience and dignity while enduring the seemingly unbearable”.  Such as sitting for hours in a very uncomfortable Zen meditation position.  Or having to go through three months of daily chemotherapy.

Winston Churchill said it best, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  When I was in agony from chemotherapy, when my hair fell out, when I could not eat, I stayed positive — it meant that chemotherapy was working!  Gaman.  Hang in there.  Persevere.

Practicing The Mushin Way and embracing gaman go hand-in-hand.  The Mushin Way requires you to be patient and dignified.  To to be calm and clear.  To persevere in the face of adversity — to be unstoppable in achieving your goals.  How do we do this?  Here are three Mushin Way tips to start developing your “gaman muscle”:

  1. Take care of your physical well-being.  Find a one or two physical activities you love to do, and do it.  At least three times per week.  Otherwise you will not have the energy you need to succeed at your other endeavors.
  2. If you are married, ensure your spouse is prioritized over everything else.  And that your relationship continues to grow in love and intimacy.  Otherwise you career, business, health, and any other endeavor will suffer.
  3. If you are not married, ignore number 2 and focus on number 1 above.  For the married people, these two points will provide an incredibly strong foundation to succeed in life and truly develop your “gaman muscle”.

There are many other steps you can, and need, to take to embrace The Mushin Way and to be successful in life.  And this is a good place to start.  Leave a comment below or Tweet me @mpveltri to tell me what you achieved by practicing these tips.  If you need any help, let me know that also — I’ll be sure to reply back!  Gaman.  Hang in there.  Persevere.