I just saw the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which many successful people have recommended, including Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, the investor Tim Ferriss, personal finance expert Ramit Sethi, and actor Zac Efron.
The documentary contains so many incredible insights on success. If you’re not familiar, it’s about a tiny sushi restaurant in Tokyo that has three Michelin stars, a high honor in the dining industry. In fact, it’s the only restaurant of its size to receive such a status; you can only fit twelve guests at a time, and the waitlist can take over a year. Here are my favorite insights since they correlate with other successful people (like Warren Buffett).
- Have a relentless pursuit of improvement. There is always something you can do to innovate and improve your skills no matter what people say. The Sushi masters told Jiro that the art of making sushi is old, and there’s nothing else you can do to make it original. He proved them wrong. He’s been working for decades, and he still thinks he can improve.
- Reach for perfection. Jiro has a much higher standard of excellence for every ingredient he puts in his sushi. He examines the fish he buys in details and taste-tests everything. He lengthened how long he massaged the octopus from 30 minutes to 50 minutes to make it taste less rubbery. One of Jiro’s apprentice’s made over 200 egg treats over four months until Jiro found one he liked. Jiro doesn’t allow apprentices to make certain ingredients until they’ve finished ten years of training.
- Every detail matters. Even the seating arrangement at his restaurant matters. These things go unnoticed by his guests, but he’s been doing it so long that he notices and cares about each of these things. That’s why almost every customer always has a pleasant experience.
- Don’t do it for the money. Do it for the passion. Although Jiro’s restaurant is one of the most expensive in Tokyo, he never did it for the money. He loves his job so much that he hates holidays. He can’t wait to get back to work. Jiro is 85 years old, and he will never retire because he loves what he does.
- We may be capable of learning to love something we dislike? His son, who will succeed him, is fifty years old and has been working for decades under Jiro. He admitted that he hated working at the restaurant for his first two years and wanted to run away. It seems he has learned to love what he does. Jiro says the secret to success is to pour yourself into your work and do everything to get better at it. Once you’ve decided your occupation, never complain about it. The rest is up to how hard you work. (Note: this one conflicts with what other successful people say. There are career paths I’ve tried that I hate and couldn’t imagine doing forever. I think his point is to stop worrying about it once you’ve made your choice or if you have no choice.)
- Being a workaholic can mean you’re an absentee father. Jiro admitted he was more of a stranger to his children than a father since he worked all the time. This correlates with a ton of successful people I’ve studied (like the Quincy Jones documentary). This one’s a huge warning. For me, I took this as a sacrifice that’s not worth making. For some people, it is. My definition of success includes being present with my family.
- It’s okay to be a rebel sometimes and you’re not a failure if you don’t do well in school. A school invited Jiro to speak, and he wasn’t sure what to say for his speech. You aren’t guaranteed success if you follow all the rules. But if he told the kids to be a rebel, then they would all start misbehaving. This point reminds me of Richard Branson, a rebel billionaire, and Steve McQueen, an actor, who were told as children that they’d end up in jail or very rich.
- The figurehead usually gets all the credit. Everyone wants to see Jiro when they go to his restaurant since they see him on TV and in the documentary. They think he’s responsible for all the restaurant’s success. But nowadays, the team prepares the ingredients, which is 85% of the work, before Jiro steps in. His team is vital to his success. That said, Jiro trained his team and originated the restaurant.
I recommend watching this documentary on Netflix.
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