Achieve mastery like Jiro

achieve mastery
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old sushi chef with a 3 Michelin star restaurant. He is a true shokunin and achieved mastery in his profession. His extreme focus is an inspiration to me. Can I also achieve mastery and be a little more like Jiro?

When you want to achieve mastery in your profession you may be inspired by Jiro Ono’s story. Jiro’s small restaurant, that can seat only 10 people, is very minimalistic. It is basically just a bar with 10 barstools. With the toilet outside. For 300 dollars you can eat 20 pieces of sushi. Which will take you about half an hour. But then you can safely say you have eaten the best sushi in the world. Made by a true shokunin. Oh, and make sure you make your reservation months in advance.

Shokunin – mastery of ones profession

Shokunin means ‘mastery of ones profession’. It is a typically Japanese mentality. A craftmen’s spirit that drives their work ethic and discipline. Only achievable when you are extremely devoted to your work and take pride in it. What inspires me is the fact that everyone – no matter your background, education of profession – can become a shokunin. And what bothers me is the fact that, in the Western world, we do not value our craftsmen enough.

This is what a famous food critic has to say about Jiro’s mentality:

He just works relentlessly every day.
That’s how shokunin are.
The way of the shokunin is
to repeat the same thing every day.
They just want to work.
They aren’t trying to be special.

Jiro Ono started working in a restaurant when he was only 7 years old. At age 26 he became a qualified sushi chef. In 1965, when he was 40 he opened his own sushi restaurant ‘Sukiyabashi’ in Tokyo.

Jiro’s son – Yoshikazu

Yoshikazu Is Jiro’s 50 year old son. He too has been working on his mastery for decades in his father’s restaurant. One day he will follow in his father’s footsteps. Though he would have never expected it to take quite this long! This is what he has to say about his work.

Once you decide
on your occupation…
you must immerse yourself
in your work.
You have to fall in love
with your work.
Never complain about your job.
You must dedicate your life
to mastering your skill.
That’s the secret of success…
and is the key
to being regarded honorably.

When you achieve mastery the people will find you

Jiro dreams of sushi is a movie about finding a passion, dedicating yourself and achieving mastery. When you are a master in your line of work, the people will find you. The clients will come and you will be successful. People will pay a premium price. Jiro is not a man with super powers. He just had the focus and discipline to dedicate himself to his work. Striving to be the best. Which resulted in the best sushi in the world.

Surround yourself with true craftsmen

One thing that also struck me was the fact that Jiro surrounds himself with true craftsmen. Which, in turn, also kept striving to be the best. Not only the apprentices in his kitchen but also his suppliers. They follow him in the slipstream and he lifts them to a higher level. Improving the overall quality.

I realize Jiro is an extreme example. His dedication also had many downsides when we look at other aspects of his life. When his children were small he basically never saw them. He never had a vacation and he only left work when there was a funeral or when he was hospitalized.

Mastery in the Western world

Still, in the Western world, we can draw lessons from his focus, discipline and dedication. Instead of achieving mastery, here we are more focused on climbing the ladder in the organisation that we work for. Becoming a manager. Instead we should recognize that true, dedicatied craftsmen – no matter what kind of occupation or schooling background they may have – are also extremely valuable. We should strive to surround ourselves with craftsmen and work together to lift our work to an even higher level.

Be like Jiro and achieve mastery

I want to become a little more like Jiro. Always aspiring to become better and constantly improving the quality of my work. Also, from now on I will try to recognize and respect true craftsmen when I see them.

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