職人気質 [Shokunin Kishitsu] or: I want to become better

A couple of years ago someone named David Gelb made a wonderful movie about a Japanese chef in Tokyo who had honed his skills to make mind-blowing sushi. The movie is called ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi‘, I believe you have heard of this? The film became a bit of a global phenomenon due to its incredibly aesthetically pleasing shots of sushi — and the eccentric but lovable elderly man who ran the business: Jiro became somewhat of a hero. Or at least in my eyes he did. As much as this film is about sushi, it is about finding and living a life’s purpose. It was Jiro that coined the words 職人気質 [shokunin kishitsu] during the film and suddenly made this a thing in the world, more than just a thing in Japanese culture where it probably already exists for centuries. It roughly translates as “the craftsman’s spirit” and the idea that you should strive to continually improve yourself and your craft each day.

In my opinion shokunin kishitsu illustrates a wonderful, wonderful thing that helps you live a more authentic, purposeful life with meaning and intention. Meaning and intention are key here. It is about pouring not just your hands and your heart into a project, but also a part of your soul. With whatever you do, you can stretch this idea and apply this in all areas of your life. It can make that subtle difference, that something made with love and intention can be so much more beautiful, delicious or meaningful. The combination of intention and passion— it creates an energy that is tangible in the end-result.

This may be the ‘new year, new me’ talking (it is still January), or it is that little glimmer of hope inside the sea of despair and depression that is my mental state right now, but I do really want to become better. More aware. More conscious. More alive. And I do intend to fully educate myself because that’s the only thing I feel I know how to do. And I do apologise if I sound preachy, in this post or in my previous ones. But to me it is part of the process, isn’t it?

I have finally realised that I shouldn’t essentially be doing work solely for the people around me. But we also have to keep our own soul nourished and happy, this is not a selfish thing but a vital thing. And there are some questions that can be asked when starting to practice, or evaluating my own shokunin kishitsu:

  • Are you doing the work you can be truly proud of? Do you take pride in whatever you are currently doing (be it big, small) knowing that the way you do it makes a difference? And do you do this with full dedication and concentration?
  • Are you raising the bar for yourself? Do you always try to refine your ways of working and elevate the level of your work? Do you steadily, constantly try to be better? Do you look for newer ideas and insights that can help you in your work – directly or indirectly?
  • Is your work making a difference to others? Are you aware of the impact of your work and do you try to maximize the impact to bring about a positive difference around you?

There is no right or wrong. Just become more aware of your hopes, beliefs and actions. After all, it’s not just the words we utter, or the intentions we have (which are indeed critically important) —it’s the actions that follow that really matter.

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