How Making Sushi Helps You Find The Perfection

Every professional, whether they like sushi or not, should see the following movie:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is probably one of the most impressive documentaries I have seen this year. It tells the life story of 85-year old Jiro Ono, who is regarded as one of (if not) the best shokunin. That means sushi chef and also mastery of profession in Japanese. His restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro is probably only 3-star Michelin restaurant which is located in MRT station.

The movie is not really about coking, altough you get a decent amount of food porn and sushi money shots in the film. It is about finding the true mastery, searching the perfection and finding the meaning of life (in work). While I tend to get my nigiris from the store, there are many lessons everyone should learn from Jiro. You can be shokunin in other professions as well:

1. Inspiration (Perspiration)
Becoming a sushi master takes years and years or hard work. You first start with washing dishes and gradually move to the more difficult tasks. If you have been succesful as an apprentice, maybe after a decade you are worthy to cook the tamagoyaki. This means thousands of repetitions, iterations and failures in your working career. Good example of this in the movie is when apprentice explains how he started to cry, when he finally made egg sushi which was adequate quality for the sushi masters. He had made hundreds of attempts of making it the best.
There is never shortcut for mastery, just one way: the hard way.

2. Improvisation
The menu of good restaurant changes daily, according to what is available on the local fish market. Same way the business climate and situations vary every day and are not necessarily related to you at all. You have to find ways to cope, adapt and challenge these situations. The outcome must be great in any case.
You have to able to reach perfection, despite the circumstances.

3. Innovation
Despite the strong appreciation of the traditions, good shokunin also innovates. Jiro himself has been inventor of many sushi dishes, which did not exist before him. Like the title of the movie suggests, he used to dream about different ways to make sushi and then fulfilled those dreams in his restaurant. In similar fashion as professionals we have to keep on moving and constantly re-inventing ourselves. Otherwise we end up doing the same thing over and over again. Eventually we realize that no one wants that same thing anymore.
Knowing the history is worthless, if you are not willing to change it.

Also Jiro teaches us one important lesson: there is no retirement for true master. I hope that when I will be almost 90 year old, I am still going strong and try to find perfection.

Are you shokunin in your work?

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