I like to look for life lessons in unexpected places, and what could be more unexpected than a cartoon about an ancient samurai battling evil in the distant future?
Long ago in a distant land…I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law! Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!
So began each episode of Samurai Jack, the award-winning animated series that aired on the Cartoon Network from 2001 to 2004. Samurai Jack tells the story of a samurai warrior’s quest to defeat the malevolent Aku, an immortal being of pure evil.
I was a big fan of Samurai Jack during its initial airing and now I get to relive it all over again with my kids. Hulu has the entire series available for streaming and we’ve been making our way through it one episode at a time.
They love Jack as much as I do!
Each episode is like a mini-masterpiece with astounding artwork and timeless storytelling. But this is a family finance blog, so I’m here to talk about some of the lessons Jack teaches as they relate to money.
Lesson One – Plan for the Worst
Jack’s father is ruler of their land and despite the fact that he defeated Aku once before in his youth, he knows the master of darkness could strike again. When Jack is just a child his people are attacked and enslaved by Aku.
During the attack, his mother implements their family’s emergency plan and helps her son flee the country to safety so he can one day return to free his people.
It is also important to plan for the worst in the real world. That means planning escape routes for your family in case of fire. It means having a will that directs who will be guardian of your children if you die. And it means having an emergency fund set aside so unexpected expenses don’t ruin you.
Hopefully you will never need to use these backup plans. But if disaster strikes, you don’t want to be caught with your pants down.
Lesson Two – Knowledge is Power
When Jack’s village is destroyed, he is swept out of his country to freedom. He travels the world and trains with the greatest warriors from dozens of cultures.
He learns archery from Robin Hood, seamanship from a group of Vikings, horseback riding from Cossacks, and strength of mind from Tibetan monks.
Jack understands that the more he learns about fighting techniques the better chance he will have against Aku.
Similarly, you can’t expect to achieve financial freedom by closing your eyes and wishing for it. You need to take some time and learn the fundamentals if you want to achieve your goals. It amazes me how many people just refuse to sit down and read a book!
Lesson Three – Bartering is Cool
In one episode Jack meets a peaceful tribe with amazing jumping abilities. They can jump so high and stay in the air for so long that it seems like they are flying.
When Jack learns they are being terrorized by a neighboring tribe, he offers to teach them how to defend themselves and in exchange they teach him how to “jump good”.
Bartering is a great way to exchange goods and services without spending cash. If I need help moving some furniture or fixing something around the house I know a few buddies who will give me a hand in exchange for a free meal (my wife makes the BEST meatballs).
One guy I know even bartered with an electrician…he got some electrical work done in his condo while the electrician took possession of an old motorcycle that needed fixing up.
Lesson 4 – Leave the World a Better Place Than You Found It
While this isn’t technically a financial lesson, it’s an important one all the same.
In one episode after another, Samurai Jack came upon people who were in need. And he always went out of his way to help them. Time and time again Jack left people better off than when he first met them.
He made a real difference in their lives.
We should all strive to make a difference, rather than bumbling our way through life oblivious to those around us who are in need.
And I’m not just talking about money. I’m talking about connecting with people and making a difference in their lives. Being there with a shoulder to cry on when a loved one is upset. Reading your kids a story instead of blowing them off because you’re too tired or too busy. Doing the little things that make your husband or wife feel special even after all these years.
Our time on this world is short. Let’s put that time to good use.