Updated: Aug 30, 2021
I watched a documentary recently “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” I was moved by the way Jiro Ono, an 86-year old sushi chef and an owner of a three-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo, relayed the idea that refining our artisanship is necessary to our growth as human beings.
The Japanese word “shokunin” means “craftman” or “artisan.” Jiro, suggests it involves much more than just the work itself, rather it is a way to live devoted to continuous improvement.
Jiro, is believed by many to be the best in the world at what he does. So what does it take to be the best Sushi Chef on the planet? Jiro says it takes great pride in what we do, in ourselves, and it’s a drive to become better.
“There is always a yearning to do more, to achieve more,” Jiro says in the film. “Even at my age, after years of work, I don’t think I’ve achieved perfection. But I feel ecstatic every day. I love making sushi. That’s the spirit of the shokunin.”
Why was I left inspired by this 86-year old man? Why did he leave such an impression and why did I feel there is something of greater value to learn here?
As I watched Jiro at work, I remembered a Rumi quote; "Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.”
Jiro clearly loves what he does and he has become masterful at it, but I got the feeling he would learn to love whatever he did. So, how important is finding our true calling and pursuing it? Is it too simplistic to think we have only one "true calling" and is it possible that "follow your passion" is simply bullsh*t advice?
I get asked the same question by many of my clients; "How do I find my true calling? What if I end up on a path that doesn't work for me?"
Personally, I don't believe we have one true calling, I think we all have many things we're interested in that brings meaning into our lives. Passion is fleeting. We can be passionate about something one day, then completely loathe it the next.
Isn't it true for many of us that after a while, we can start to lose our passion and initial enthusiasm for our work, regardless of what we do? It's like being in a long-term relationship, what's left after the honeymoon period is over and the initial excitement and bedroom antics begins to wear off?
I've been in business for over 35-years, and as a serial entrepreneur I've passionately embarked on projects, but after a while the reality of business sinks in and the foundational things take priority.
This is where the Japanese word “shokunin” meaning “craftman” or “artisan” bares greater meaning. As Jiro suggests it involves much more than just the work itself, rather it is a way to live devoted to continuous improvement.
So instead of trying to find what we are passionate about ahead of time, we could instead work on cultivating our passion. As Jiro suggests; "whatever it is, strive to do it well, aim not for perfection (as it may become an elusive obsession), but to fare better each day, to learn something new, to improve one thing at a time."
If you haven't yet found your true calling, consider seeking meaningful work, alongside people who don't suck, and for reasonable compensation and reward. Seek to find a place where you can actually make a difference in the lives, careers or businesses of others. Once you have found something that has captured your attention and feels meaningful; strive to do it well! Aim not for perfection, but aim to improve each day, to learn something new and to improve one thing at a time. Take a leaf out of Jiro's book and take great pride in what you do, in yourself, and in your drive to become better.
This way; you'll be doing work that is engaging, while serving others, and with people you like; and you'll soon be able to start leveraging that cultivated passion into something that serves the kind of life you really want to live.
Is it just me, or does it seem like every TED talk thought leader, and self-annointed self-help guru tells us to just "follow our passion," and we will end up with a superstar life and career like them. While they may be passionate about what they do, and they've turned that passion into a cash-cow, they conveniently leave out the paradoxical bits on how they actually found their passion and ended up successful in the first place.
Let's face it, its easier doing things we are passionate about, right! Things that come naturally! While many of us have leveraged our natural talents and passionate interests, many are yet to discover them. If we aren’t part of this lucky group of demigods or demigoddesses, we might be better-off turning our attention to cultivating passion for what we are currently doing; or, if we have ended up on a path that doesn't work for us, seek a new one!
Whatever it is, do as Jiro suggests; "strive to do it well, aim not for perfection (as it may become an elusive obsession), but to fare better each day, to learn something new, to improve one thing at a time."
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