you have to fall in love with your work

you have to fall in love with your work

The famous Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono is a prime example of living a life enriched with a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment. Chef Ono runs a small, exclusive 10-seat sushi restaurant in Tokyo and has devoted his entire life to innovating and perfecting sushi-making techniques.

Having achieved the highest Michelin restaurant guide rating of three stars and widely considered the most accomplished sushi chef in the entire world, Chef Ono is truly an exception. In fact, it’s safe to say that he’s a living and breathing embodiment of the Japanese concept of ikigai that roughly translates to “reason for being.”

In the award-winning documentary based on his life and work Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Chef Ono says, “You have to fall in love with your work… dedicate your life to mastering your skill… I’ll keep trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.” This is what ikigai is all about: a consistent effort toward mastery and accomplishment, and being a part of a never-ending journey that benefits others as well as brings a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

It’s good to note that Chef Ono is wholeheartedly committed to pursuing excellence in the art of making delectable sushi. On top of managing the preparation of sushi in his restaurant, he also observes up close his customers’ tasting and reactions to a meal thanks to its tiny real estate and open layout. He takes all these reactions and feedback into account and uses them to perfect his sushi recipes. This constant pursuit of excellence is what takes him miles ahead of the competition. 

This steadfast commitment to make the world’s best sushi and pursue mastery in his craft so that he can break new grounds and bring excellence to those who enjoy sushi and fine dining is what drives Chef Ono’s ikigai and inspires him to get out of bed every morning and make the day count. 

Like Chef Ono, we must always strive to hit the “sweet spot” — something that combines a craft or activity that we are truly passionate about, that we are determined to pursue excellence in, and that can help us make our highest contribution to the world and in return get decently paid for. In essence, we must work towards finding a purpose for ourselves that has multiple dimensions — personal, philosophical/spiritual, social and financial.

The journey of finding our ikigai might take time, deep reflection and self-introspection, continual trial and error and relentless effort, but it’s one we can all embark on. If you truly want to live your personal legend and make a significant contribution to the common good like Chef Ono, then I highly encourage you to get started today.