You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret to success…and is the key to being regarded honorably. – Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Last night we watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix Instant, and we both fell in love with Jiro. For his amazing work and his intense focus on being a Shokunin (show-koo-nin).
I wouldn’t say he is eccentric. He just works relentlessly every day. That’s how Shokunin are. The way of the Shokunin is to repeat the same thing every day. They just want to work. They aren’t trying to be special.
And in the words of Jiro, once you choose your occupation you must immerse yourself in it and fall in love. Which I think is important. This is not for any job you happen to fall into, it is a chosen profession. And if you are lucky enough to get that choice then dive in and become a Shokunin.
That’s what I want to do. I dream of working that hard, every day, and never stopping. No retirement, no vacations, just a simple dedication to something I love. For years I have built up the discipline and focus needed to be so resolute.
And I’m at the point in my life where I get to make that choice. I have taken a year off work to find my occupation. The whole time living off savings and dedicating myself to writing. Every day I wake up and write, take a break, and write some more. And I’m proud to say in the last year I’ve never taken a weekend or holiday. I’ve gone on vacations and written during them.
I’m proud of that dedication, but I know I’m no Shokunin. To meet that standard I will have to persevere for another 9 years.
“The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. … The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.” – Tasio Odate
…in short, we work. This is the dirty little secret of seaside living. Everyone around us may be on vacation, but that doesn’t mean we get a holiday. People move here imagining that life is just one long afternoon under a beach umbrella. They stop for lunch and look out onto our sidewalks and think, “Don’t people here need to earn a living?”
Yes, we do. Those window-shoppers? Other tourists.
This rings even more true for me since I work from home. I set my schedule around the crowds and that means I tend to work on Friday nights and all weekend long. I have my fun on a Tuesday afternoon and run errands at 10am on a Wednesday.
It beats the hustle and bustle, but also prompts the question, “Don’t you work?”
Technology is at its best when it makes people’s lives better, and that’s precisely what we’re going for with our self-driving car project. We’re using advanced computer science to try and make driving safer and more enjoyable.
Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They’ve covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn’t been a single accident under computer control.
We’re encouraged by this progress, but there’s still a long road ahead. To provide the best experience we can, we’ll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter. As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work. This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter. One day we hope this capability will enable people to be more productive in their cars. For now, our team members will remain in the driver’s seats and will take back control if needed.
With each breakthrough we feel more optimistic about delivering this technology to people and dramatically improving their driving experience. We’ll see you on the road!
In our second film, we meet writer turned knife maker Joel Bukiewicz of Cut Brooklyn. He talks about the human element of craft, and the potential for a skill to mature into an art. And in sharing his story, he alights on the real meaning of handmade—a movement whose riches are measured in people, not cash.
“It takes buckets of blood, sweat, and work…to get competent, then maybe you have it in you to get good, to go beyond and become an artist.”
director-producer – KEEF
director of photography – JOSHUA KRASZEWSKI
editor – MATT SHAPIRO
music – MICHAEL TRAINOR & NATHAN ROSENBERG
music produced at THE DOG HOUSE NYC
sound recordist – ROBERT ALBRECHT
re-recording mixer – NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY
assistant re-recording mixer – JOHN GUMAER
gaffer – ADAM ORELLANA
title design – MANDY BROWN
Why doesn’t brainstorming work? What should we do instead?
I think the failure of brainstorming is inseparable from its allure, which is that it makes us feel good about ourselves. A group of people are put together in a room and told to free-associate, with no criticism allowed. (The assumption is that the imagination is meek and shy — if it’s worried about being criticized, it will clam up.) Before long, the whiteboard is filled with ideas. Everybody has contributed; nobody has been criticized. Alas, the evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of these free-associations are superficial and that most brainstorming sessions actually inhibit the productivity of the group. We become less than the sum of our parts.
However, in recent years, scientists have shown that group collaborations benefit from debate and dissent; it is the human friction that makes the sparks. (There’s a reason why Steve Jobs always insisted that new ideas required “brutal honesty.”) In fact, some studies suggest that encouraging debate and dissent can lead to a 40% increase in useful new ideas from the group.
You talk a lot about the benefits of cultural mixing. What legislative changes would encourage more of this?
More immigrants! The numbers speak for themselves. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Patent Office, immigrants invent patents at double the rate of non-immigrants, which is why a 1% increase in immigrants with college degrees leads to a 15% rise in patent production. (In recent years, immigrant inventors have contributed to more than a quarter of all U.S. global patent applications.) These new citizens also start companies at an accelerated pace, co-founding 52% of Silicon Valley firms since 1995.
Many of the anecdotes in Imagine have a disconcerting common theme of drugs or mental illness. Are creative people all doomed to be addicts or mad men?
I don’t think so. (Yo Yo Ma, for instance, is a very nice guy.) But I do think the prevalence of such stories reminds us that creativity is damn difficult, which is why those in the creativity business are always looking for every possible edge. That’s why many great writers experimented with amphetamines and why performers have always searched for compounds that let them get out of their head, silencing that voice that kills their spontaneity. In the end, of course, these chemical shortcuts rarely work out — there’s nothing creative about addiction. And that’s why I remained convinced that the best creativity booster is self-knowledge. Once we know how the imagination works, we can make it work better.
Next week, Steve and I will be packing up our place in DC, moving our furniture into storage and heading to Southern California to live for three months as part of a pact we made in December to split our time between DC (where I’m from) and California (where he’s from).
We have no grand strategy other than the fact that DC (weather-wise) is rather miserable in the summer and winter months, so we’re opting to enjoy SoCal during those seasons.
During our time in California (LA for July and August), we’ll still be working on projects and growing 1X57 (which is made possible by this little thing called the internet) but I’ll be taking an advanced screenwriting class at UCLA so I can refine my screenplay to the point I’m ready to pitch it and Steve will be reunited with his family, his friends and his “true love” – the Pacific Ocean – where he can surf his throbbing heart out. I’ll be hitting the waves, too. And we’ll be looking to become a part of a community in the same way we’ve done in DC, which we’ll be returning to in the fall.
While have some big things planned both work- and pleasure-wise (more and more they’re becoming the same) when we return to DC, we’re focusing on following our hearts and passions and riding whatever waves come our way.