Lessons From A Master

I have been re-watching the documentary “ Jiro Dreams of Sushi” for the past couple of months. I've seen it at least 10 times, probably more, while writing drafts for this article. I've watched it alone, with my wife, with friends, and I don't tire of it; I've recommended it to everyone I know, and now I'm wholeheartedly recommending it to you.

This little gem of a documentary by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.

I have watched this film in fascination, trying to extract lessons from this master. What have I learned from him? And what questions do these lessons open up for me?

You must fall in love with your work

“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “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.”

Jiro himself is enormously happy with his work; he is a blissful craftsman who truly enjoys his work, which keeps him vital in his old age.

However, it's crucial to note that he doesn't say “ find work that you love,” as if suggesting one goes on some romantic quest in search for the perfect job, but rather he tells us to love the work we have chosen.

This means to consciously and voluntarily cultivate love, much like we do in a marriage. This is different from a teenage crush whereby one gets struck in the head by a random force and goes temporarily mad, only to wake up to disillusioned weeks or months later. Jiro's path to joyful work requires a lifetime of devotion.