The movie ends up feeling like a prescription for success - choose your occupation, then work hard to continuously improve your craft. This takes repetition, doing the same thing every day for years and years. Apprentices at Jiro’s restaurant had to work for 4 months just squeezing hand towels before they were allowed to touch the fish, and it took one student 3 months of practice cooking egg sushi before he earned Jiro’s approval. It sounds incredibly tedious, but according to Jiro, the practice of perfecting your craft should bring you joy and satisfaction, even though it’s not easy.
Work tirelessly you’re whole life, and you’ll be successful. This is a very Japanese work-ethic, I thought. And honestly, maybe an American one too. But is it overly workaholic? I was also reminded of a quote by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs: “Don’t follow your passion, but always carry it with you.” Should we all stop “following our dreams” to instead pursue a craft we can become really good at?
I appreciate the importance of quality work, continual improvement, and avoiding the mediocrity that often comes with work we do "just for the money.” But I also think it’s important to distinguish between busy work and effective work. We might not need to put in SO many hours just for work’s sake if we can find a smarter approach - the same way we can workout efficiently to build strength without running ourselves into the ground. Even with all the innovative drills in the world though, we still need lots of practice to learn difficult skills like handstands. And maybe Jiro Ono IS working smarter and not just harder - apparently he has pioneered several innovative methods of sushi preparation.
As for following your passion, I’m more inclined to follow Naval Ravikant’s advice to “find something you love to do, so you can have a shot at being one of the best people in the world at it.” This sounds to me like a healthy balance between passion and skill.
Still going strong at age 90, Jiro Ono must be doing something right. He clearly hasn’t worked himself into the ground, long after his contemporaries have all retired. I guess when you love perfecting your craft, that becomes your PURPOSE in life and there’s no need to retire, no need to “escape.” I also think a huge factor in Jiro’s success must be the strong sense of community among the chefs in his kitchen, who’ve become like a family he works, eats, and laughs with all day long.
I'm struggling to identify just ONE craft to pursue. Can I be an expert skill-acquirer, please? A professional generalist? I guess for now I’ll just settle with learning one skill at a time.