What Do Buddhists Have In Common With The Military? “Pareto Principle”

As it is defined by the Special Forces community – “virtuosity” is to become very good at simple, common things that you perform throughout the day. Training your balance coordination, dexterity, maintenance and preparation for daily activity. Or how about working on your strategic communication: Becoming more concise and definitive in your speech. Throughout military basic training for example, notice how the drill sergeant will condition every recruit to perform everything very quickly and effectively, without error.

Getting dressed in the morning and tying your shoes, brushing your teeth, or shaving very quickly for example. Keeping your surrounding environment organized and clean in order to guarantee efficient economy of movement and conservation of energy. Situational awareness. How about remembering where all of your most important objects are in order to access them instinctively? During a military operation, it could mean the difference between life or death. However it is also useful skill for anyone to practice if they want to become generally efficient

Think about it this way – in our modern society we often obsess over the importance of specialization while not paying as much attention to very simple, common things that we do throughout the day. However, taking time to practice and improve such abilities could make us more effective human overall. Why? Because simple, common things are actually what we are doing most of the time.

This ideology happens to dovetail quite well with the philosophy of “superhumanism”. Sure technology can help us out by making things a lot easier. But if we completely neglect common human traits such as memory, balance, coordination, dexterity and effective communication then we risk losing far more then we ever gained.

It does not come without difficulty however. There is an element of remaining conscientious. In other words you have to pass through filter, a minimal clearance threshold of attention to detail in order to guarantee that your performance is not being compromised by efficiencies in technique. Naturally, this may be difficult for people who are low in the Big Five personality trait “conscientiousness”

However, you do not have to become perfectly conscientious at everything you do. That would be a waste of energy and time. Even people who are low in this personality trait can remember “the Pareto Principle”. Otherwise known as the 80-20 rule. All you have to do is make it past that minimal clearance threshold. Master the 20% most important first, in order to recieve 80% of the reward and it will give you a very good “head start”.

It is why in military basic everything you “own” is reduced to its absolute minimum possible requirement. There are no extra objects, no sentimental attachment. Nothing that isn’t strictly functional is kept within the barracks. That is the Pareto Principle at play. It is also an ideology I like to refer to as “tactical minimalism.” A philosophical principle that underlies the development of character within the military, as well as being commonly held by the majority of spiritual traditions.

I like to think of it as a more honest way of living overall. Why? Because ideally we should be focusing on the pursuit of meaningful purpose not the accumulation of unnecessary material belongings, nor the gratification of temporary addiction. I find it very interesting how certain philosophies in use by the military in this way also happen to coincide with some age old spiritual traditions like Bhudism. Where practitioners are encouraged to relinquish all attachment.

A quote I like to remember “Before enlightenment “chop wood carry water” after enlightenment “chop wood, carry water”

Interestingly enough it also the philosophy in used by proponents of alternative form of exercise some of you may have heard of called “functional fitness”. Where all the actions you are performing are a more realistic approximation to how you move about in the real world. In other words you are not just exercising for vanity, nor solely to preserve muscle mass and cardiovascular health – you are instead exercising to become more effective at life in general.

In this way “Tactical minimalism” is about training yourself to only rely on what you need and alchemically transmutating all “desire” toward the pursuit of meaningful purpose, rather some kind of object you are attempting to own or another fleeting sensory urge that you are attempting to gratify temporarily. In this way it is much easier to excel if you are not overburdened by the unnecessary. There is an ease of movement an ease of learning and adaptation when you do not have to satisfy addiction nor keep track of all of the meaningless objects you own.

In this way it is only the pursuit of emotionally invigorating moral purpose that can replace the habitual need for these forms of temporary gratification. In the special forces community, virtuosity is the act of becoming very good at simple, common things that blend into all other activities throughout the day. It is an especially useful skill to have if you are a jack of all trades. It is the practice of becoming generally effective at life by reducing unnecessary complications, keeping everything simple, direct and abiding by the Pareto Principle.


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