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Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, Not Kung Fu

Posted on: March 17th, 2013 by Paula Lazarz

There has been a lot published lately on the methodology of highly successful people.    Malcolm Gladwell’s #1 bestseller, “Outliers” is one popular example.  In it, he stresses the importance of repetitive practice to achieve mastery.   In his book, he states that,  “by the age of twenty, elite performers had totaled ten thousand hours of practice” in their chosen fields.

Kung Fu means, “skill through practice.”    Modern martial arts practice in China consists of 5 hours a day, six days a week.  For the Shaolin Kung Fu practitioner, this “skill through practice”  has its roots in the Shaolin Temple’s isolated location on Song mountain.   Nothing much to do but practice.

Because of this, I have been fascinated by people who attain a high level of mastery in any field and their methodology to get there.  Almost without fail, they all possess a single-mindedness of purpose in the pursuit of their passion.

The documentary, “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” focuses on such a man.  Jiro Ono, is an 87-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star, $300 a plate restaurant in Tokyo.  Jiro has been doing the same thing, day-after-day, for 65 years.

On the surface, one could think that a person might get bored.  Jiro though, has an undying passion and no-fail policy for what he does.  The amount of detail that goes into his process of selecting ingredients, preparing ingredients, handling ingredients, combining them, presenting them is, in someways, mind-numbing.  When viewing this story about Jiro, one can’t help but wonder about everything else in the world this elderly man might be and might have missed.

Modern physics, continues to break our world down to smaller and smaller particles all the while increasing our ability to magnify the smallest of details.  Does Jiro’s ability to continually strip down this passion of his into smaller and smaller detail allow him an insight into our existence most of us lack?  Is that insight what drives his desire to continually evolve in his practice?

Regardless of the questions Jiro brings up for the rest of us, one thing is certain.  In order to master anything, the first commitment we must make is one of time.   Maybe not 5-6 hours a day, but consistent practice on a daily basis. This is the only cold hard fact we can take away from Jiro Ono, Malcom Gladwell and all legendary Shaolin masters, with certainty.

“I don’t have time.  I want to, but I can’t make the time.”  This is the most common lament in our modern age.  But people who want something bad enough, DO make the time.

Our reply to this is, “Well, think of the other things they sacrifice in order to make the time…..”  We imagine these sacrifices are relationships, child-rearing, varieties of experience, sense pleasures, health  – the list goes on and the sacrifice depends on the art and the person.   But have people who attained a high-level of skill really made any sacrifice?

If a person pursues something they truly love doing – If they do something everyday because it gives them a deep-seated satisfaction and contentment with their life, where is the real sacrifice?

We all just do what makes us happy.

Regardless of the answers (or lack of) for these questions, in order to master anything,  the first thing we must possess is passion. 

Passion + time = mastery.  Thank you JIro Ono!