Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Your Work Demands Your Loyalty

18th century Japan was a world of ceremony and etiquette. Wearing the wrong outfit or colours in front of the shōgun could mean death. 

Today, the man in charge of receiving the emperor’s guests is Asano Naganori. A young feudal lord. Being unfamiliar with the court rituals, Asano was ordered to take lessons from Kira Yoshinaka. An older but powerful government official.

Fueled by envy of the young lord’s wealth, Kira was very rude to Asano. But the morally devout Confucian shrugged it off and did as he was told. Set on taking Asano down a peg, Kira then called the warlord a mannerless peasant.


Asano could no longer restrain himself and drew his sword. He then slashed Kira’s face and poised himself to come down with another strike, but his blade struck the air as he was tackled by the palace guards.

By attacking Kira inside the emperor’s palace, the feudal lord had committed a severe crime. Asano was sentenced to death, his land was confiscated and his 270 retainers were forced to retire.

Still loyal to their deceased master, 47 masterless samurai plotted their revenge. 

Seeing a scared Kira hire extra guards and fortify his home, the ronin decided to calm his suspicions and fight another day. The swordsmen hid their equipment and took on new careers as merchants and monks.

It took two years before Kira’s spies convinced him that Asano’s samurai were cowardly and that he was safe.

Kira finally let down his guard.

And so, on a snowy December morning, the 47 ronin stormed Kira’s home and lopped off his head. Before turning themselves in, the head was brought to their master’s grave. Next the samurai took their own lives.

Loyalty of this magnitude is rarely seen today. Especially loyalty to the organisation.

And perhaps rightly so. The market has sped up to the point where change is the only constant.

Economies crash, conservative businesses go belly up, and careers are lost to automation.

So if the company can’t offer you financial security, to whom do you pledge your loyalty?

Your body of work. And that’s more than just a resumé.

It’s your projects, your skills, the problems you solve and the people you help.

That means you do more than serve a box on the organisational chart. Instead of passing on responsibility to the one in charge, you do everything to get the job done. 

You don’t know the meaning of, “That’s not my job,” because you’re too busy figuring out how to add value. Too busy starting projects, delivering on time and putting out fires.

And you sure as heck don’t wait for higher ups to sign off on your decisions.

Now, execs may have a fit if they see you vault over the company’s red tape. So it’s up to you to explain your new work ethic.

And as it so happens, being loyal to your work means to service the customer to a tee. Not to mention your peers and organisation as a whole.

So inventing your job is a win/win. 

Now how do you successfully vow loyalty to your work? By thinking portfolio.

Find projects and/or jobs that not only boost your skills, but look good to your peers, clients and potential bosses. Next, hold yourself to a high standard and do an extraordinary job.

If you are remarkable at your work, discover a way to measure the value you deliver. Consider the testimonial. Will your customers testify to your skill? What else shows that your skills are top of the line? 

Lastly, update your resumé every six months. Frequent updates keep you honest and remind you of your progress. Not satisfied? Take on a new gig, enroll in a workshop or help write an academic paper.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach