Small Talk

Why Smart Men Do the Same Dumb Things: A Hawai‘i Psychologist Decodes the Warrior Mindset

September 25th, 2015

The irrationally demanding boss. The temperamental, uncommunicative father. The co-worker who never admits mistakes. The husband who won’t ask for directions.

Why do so many men self-sabotage their personal growth and relationships? It’s not just a “guy thing,” says veteran Hawai‘i psychologist Dr. Rosalie K. Tatsuguchi. “It’s a ‘Musashi thing.’”

Dr. Rosie Tatsuguchi. Courtesy: Watermark Publishing

Dr. Rosalie Tatsuguchi. Courtesy: Watermark Publishing

And the good news is that change is possible. Generations of men, whether they know it or not, have patterned their lives after the legendary warrior Miyamoto Musashi, who practiced bushido, the way of the warrior.

His teachings prioritized the suppression of feelings, constant wariness, isolation and the willingness to sacrifice one’s life in service of the clan lord. Followers of Musashi’s way don’t talk much. They don’t consider feelings and emotions relevant to decision making. They are perfectionists.

They don’t explain themselves, ask questions or tolerate others’ questions. They are hard on themselves and those around them.

Their children and subordinates often fear them. They lack closeness and understanding in their relationships. They are the type of friend who would die for another, but won’t ask about—or reveal—personal troubles.

Courtesy: Dawn Sakamoto

Courtesy: Dawn Sakamoto

This warrior mindset is the basis of Dr. Tatsuguchi’s newly released book, Why Smart Men Do the Same Dumb Things: A Warrior’s Manual for Change, a new release from Watermark Publishing. The book is a follow-up to her previous work, Why Smart People Do the Same Dumb Things: Causes and Cures from Buddhism and Science (Watermark, 2011).

This time around, Dr. Tatsuguchi explains the warrior code paradigm and teaches how to differentiate between the appropriate times to be a stern samurai or be open to giving and accepting intimacy. It’s a guide to beginning the process of behavioral change and opening the door to better relationships with peers, friends and family.

Dr. Tatsuguchi’s unique approach is rooted in the connection between modern scientific methodology and Buddhist principles of free inquiry and respect for the human spirit. This model of thinking will help readers realize and admit mistakes, correct them and live a more fulfilled, happier life.  She also delves into the persona of the “lady samurai,” an equally restrictive and unhealthy warrior-minded personality adopted by women.

This “samurai attitude” can hurt you in the workplace by creating obstacles to teamwork and, contrary to popular belief, making you a poor leader. Men (and women!) who have internalized the tenets of bushido do not consider emotions important, dislike being questioned, have difficulty admitting mistakes and believe that if you haven’t sacrificed yourself, your contributions are worthless.

This leads to poor communication, unrealistic expectations and a hostile environment. Employees who harbor these values are no better off—they are prone to burnout and are constantly dissatisfied with co-workers.

Most of all, the warrior mentality considers any sign of weakness a major failing—this can include making mistakes, not knowing an answer, asking for help or showing emotions like sadness, fear or kindness. Warriors are fearful of appearing weak and will often lash out to cover up what they perceive as a display of weakness. They also insist on a “die trying, no matter what” approach to everything.

If the warrior is you:

• Feelings are important data. Expressing feelings is not a sign of weakness. If you want to work harmoniously with other people, you need to be able to understand how they think and feel.

If you fail to consider other people’s feelings, you won’t be able to accurately predict their actions or understand the best way to motivate them. You need to consider emotions, as well as facts, in your equation for accurate problem solving.

• You are not a human sacrifice. The bushido code teaches warriors they must not fear death; they must be willing to “die for the cause.”

This discipline leads to physical and mental toughness, which can help them overcome many challenges, but it makes workplace warriors particularly prone to burnout because they feel compelled to give 110% in every endeavor, no matter the situation or personal consequences. It's important to allow yourself—and your employees—to set limits, give feedback, say no and request help.

• Information is to be shared. Samurai did not share information because it exposed them to possible attack or betrayal; their soldiers only needed to know where to go and whom to attack.

In a workplace environment, your employees and co-workers need to be able to make their own decisions, based on good information that is shared with everyone. Many problems can be averted or solved better through timely sharing of information.

If you work with a warrior:

• Respect everyone’s busshin. Your busshin is your inner self, your energy, your soul. Warriors ignore feelings and believe that they should follow orders, endure silently and “die trying.” It is easy to take advantage of their seemingly endless capacity to work hard.

Warriors also have little respect for anyone’s busshin, including their own. If you work with a warrior who won’t change, it is up to you to remember to respect their busshin by accepting your share of work; honor your own, too, by making it clear when you have not been given the tools necessary to perform a job or speaking up about other situations that disrespect your busshin.

• Write it down. Warriors tend to make unrealistic demands driven by an unspoken quest for perfection. Follow up such a demand by writing down the request and asking them to confirm their words.

When the warrior sees how absurd the task is, they may say, “No, that’s not what I meant.” (Accept that you may get some heat for “not understanding.”) You can potentially head this off by offering a different plan of action that accomplishes a similar end-goal, but is more reasonable to execute. This gives the warrior a chance to save face by simply approving your plan instead of admitting an error.

Why Smart Men Do the Same Dumb Things: A Warrior’s Manual for Change (ISBN 978-1-935690-66-5) will be available at the end of September for $16.95 at bookstores, other retail outlets, online booksellers or direct from the publisher at

Dr. Tatsuguchi will make the following appearances for her new release. Seminars will include a 30-40 minute discussion introducing Dr. Tatsuguchi's philosophy regarding the “samurai attitude” and how warriors can effect change in their lives for better mental health and improved relationships with friends, family and co-workers. Questions are welcome. All events are free.

Saturday, September 26
9 a.m. – noon | Mo‘ili‘ili Hongwanji Bazaar
902 University Ave | (808) 949-1659
book signing

Saturday, October 3
9 a.m. – 11 a.m.| Buddhist Study Center
1436 University Ave. | (808) 973-6555
seminar, followed by book signing

Sunday, October 11
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. | Native Books / Na Mea Hawai‘i
Ward Warehouse | (808) 596-8885
seminar, followed by book signing

Saturday, November 7
1 p.m. | Gallery Theater, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii
2454 S Beretania St.  | (808) 945-7633

5 Responses to “Why Smart Men Do the Same Dumb Things: A Hawai‘i Psychologist Decodes the Warrior Mindset”

  1. Tita Girl:

    Great article!

  2. Vince Nishina:

    Doctor RT
    Are you class of '57 RHS?
    How did you get so smart.
    RHS really prepared us for college and the thirst to read. I have read the book of the rings and I
    see Miyamoto Musashi as brilliant strategist and would have done well or died early if I lived in that era.
    Love to discuss your and my point of view if you ever attend a class reunion.
    Take Care,
    Vince (LTC USAF Ret.)

  3. 2d2:

    Can somebody take this article and book to Hawaii Hall?

  4. rosalie tatsuguchi:

    #2. hi vince,

    yep, it's me class of '57. the airhead cheerleader... a lot of water has passed under our bridges. glad you liked what i've said so far. i wrote this book for my father, and people like him.

    take care, see you at a reunion. i actually don't know when the next one is, i'm still working.



  5. Al Paraso:

    hola, doctora,

    okay, i'm glad you presented your view as you did. as an RHS'er of that era, many of us males, like vin, did manage to read the book of rings and did come away with more of a balanced "mid-road" sense of life and the set of beliefs, attitudes and values to support them. and as much as i may agree with your book's premise, i have personally found that many men today may not fit that mold or have none of those musashi-like qualities to fall back on. many seem to be at the other extreme of the continuum. they do not posses any back-bone, initiative, integrity, or accept personal responsibility. many are sheep who will always look for the easiest way to exist and bame their plights on the actions of others. they are more willing to feed at the trough of governmental hand outs instead. all this may be an unfortunate consequence of "our time".

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