In the United States, we use Nordstrom as a gold standard business case for customer service. And, it is well deserved. But the Japanese take it to a whole other level.
Each time I have gone to Japan, I am amazed by their exceptional level of service. If the Japanese don’t love their work, they hide it well.
Don’t believe me? Go to the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo and witness the store’s exquisite daily opening ceremony. Once you enter the store, every aspect of the shopping experience is amazing.
Each and every staff member acknowledges you with a genuinely warm smile and bow. Even if you buy a cheap souvenir, the staff will treat you like royalty. The care with which your purchase is packaged will blow your mind.
Now, I understand that every culture has its ups and downs. And I am sure that there are even Japanese who despise what they do, and that they aren’t above a bad day at work. But I would submit to you that there is something special going on in Japan. There is an attention to detail and a level of caring that goes beyond doing one’s job.
Money cannot buy this level of commitment to your work, it has to be rooted in something more.
I believe it is the Japanese concept of Ikigai.
What is ikigai?
Ikigai means “a reason for being”; it is the Japanese “why” in why one gets out of bed every morning. It‘s a more practical philosophy than our Western “happiness lies in following your bliss”. The Japanese search for their purpose is not a search for happiness. Happiness for them comes from the mastery of their purpose.
This is how the sense of pride they get can come from the details in a bento box or from providing excellent service. This sense of purpose, and the perpetual need to master it, is how they find meaning in their work. It‘s also why they don’t have the same need to retire as we do. If one loves what they do, and continue to get better at it, why retire?
Ikigai is the state of balance between:
-Doing what you love
-Doing what you are good at
-Doing what you can be paid for
-Doing what the world needs
Your purpose lies at the intersection of these 4 aspects. Then once you have found your sense of purpose, you are on a lifelong learning journey to master it.
Why should you care?
Because chances are, right now you are pursuing happiness and not your purpose. And you either feel like something is missing - or you are even miserable in your work. When what you don’t have is the balance that comes from your ikigai
-If you want to do something you love, but can’t be paid for it - you’ll be poor.
-If you work at something that you make a ton of money at but hate, you will be resentful and feel trapped.
-If you are good at something but the world doesn’t need it, you will feel useless.
-If you are being paid for something the world values, but you don’t have the skills to do it well - you will be stressed.
This is why finding your ikigai matters.
Finding your Ikigai will be your internal compass as you pursue work that you are passionate about, balance life and career, and put plans together to achieve your goals.
Ready to find your Ikigai? Start here with self-discovery