Happy New Year! I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. We’re on a mission to make you remarkable. Helping me in this episode is the remarkable Héctor García.
Hector moved from Spain to Tokyo in 2004 and began writing a blog called A Geek in Japan. This led to co-authoring a book called, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
The word ikigai roughly means “reason for living” or the reason you get up in the morning. Hector’s book removed the scales from my eyes and helped me understand what makes me tick–and in particular, my love of podcasting.
The book has sold 2 million copies worldwide and has been translated into fifty-nine languages. It is the most translated book ever originally written in Spanish. I would rank Ikigai as one of the top five books that have influenced my life.
Hector’s episode is the first one of the year because understanding the concept of ikigai is a great way to start 2023.
If you don’t have an ikigai, I hope you find one. If you already have one, this episode will help you understand it better.
Please enjoy this remarkable episode with Héctor García!
If you enjoyed this episode of the Remarkable People podcast, please leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe. Thank you!
Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with Héctor García
Happy New Year.
I'm Guy Kawasaki and this is Remarkable People. We are on a mission to make you remarkable.
Helping me in this episode is the remarkable Hector Garcia.
Hector moved from Spain to Tokyo in 2004 and began writing a blog called A Geek In Japan.
This led to co-authoring a book called IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life.
The word ikigai roughly means reason for living, or the reason you get up in the morning.
Hector's book removed the scales from my eyes and help me understand what makes me tick and in particular, my love of podcasting.
The book has sold two million copies worldwide and has been translated into fifty nine languages. It is the most translated book ever originally written in Spanish.
I would rank Ikigai as one of the top five books that have influenced my life. Hector's episode is the first one of the year because understanding the concept of ikigai is a great way to start 2023.
If you don't have an ikigai, I hope you find one and if you already have one, this episode will help you understand it better. I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People.
And now, here is the remarkable Hector Garcia. How is it that someone born on the Mediterranean has become an expert in these Japanese concepts?
I wouldn't call myself an expert. I'm very reluctant. I just happened to be living here. Now it's going to be almost half of my life, so it's making me think why I have spent half of my life here?
I just happened to like it, and I came here when I was twenty-two years old and by nature, I'm very curious and if you've been here in Japan that it's all questions when you're working on the streets. So, I started answering those questions to myself in a blog.
I'm one of those old geeks that they had their own, self-hosted the blog and I started writing my impressions in the blog and many people in Spain liked what I was writing about Japan and people who knew more than me about Japan started commenting and I started reading books about Japan, asking the same questions to Japanese people around me, and eventually, my blog became one of the top read blogs in Spain.
That's also interesting. I don't know why a Japanese blog, I think it was a little bit like those early days before social networks on the internet, people got excited to see a Spanish young software ... I was like software engineer living in Japan and that's how it started. When I reflect about it, it's all about for myself, It's about curiosity.
I'm always driven to learn things and Japan is the perfect place to keep learning things. I tell people that I've been here in Tokyo for almost two decades and I still don't know, if you ask me is a huge city and I'm still exploring and learning from Japanese people.
I think it's a sign of maturity and intelligence that you know what you don't know because there are a lot of people who don't know what they don't know and they think they know everything, which is a deadly combination.
I will also tell you, a little bit more fanboying here, that the book that has been most influential for me personally is a book called If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland.
And it is essentially a empowering book about creativity and expression that you shouldn't think you need a degree in English or you need permission or training if you want to write, write. And that truly liberated me as a writer when I first started in 1987 or so.
And then fast forward to about two months ago and I read Ikigai and I told my wife, "This book is as personally influential as If You Want To Write." I just loved that book Ikigai. It really spoke to me.
I'm at the tail end of my career, maybe the tail end of my life and I truly do believe that podcasting is my ikigai and so it just came at the time that just helped me put all that together, so I love this book.
Thank you, thank you. That's very nice to hear. I had also the same, some people call it the imposter syndrome, because I was a software engineer and I started writing and then I published my first book, was called A Geek In Japan, and I felt like probably when you publish your first book I felt like, “Okay, I'm not supposed to be doing this because I'm not a writer, I'm a software engineer.”
And over time, finally I have the confidence to say, "Okay, I'm a writer," but it took me a while. And yes, so that's this mindset that you need to make. And that's a little bit the message of Ikigai, that you don't have to be constrained sometime in our minds we're being defined, but what other people tell you what you are good at or what you are bad at, but maybe you have to discover it by yourself or create ... start exploring by yourself what you are really good at.
Many people who have not read the book or not familiar with the concept are probably wondering what the hell we're talking about.
So, maybe you can define ikigai for us.
Yeah, ikigai is a Japanese word that is composed by two characters. And the first one, it means literally life, for anything. It can be a human, a plant, or an animal, something that it's alive. And the second character is something that is wild.
So if you put it together, you could translate it as the meaning of life, or your purpose in life. I also like to say it's that thing that makes you jump from bed in the morning and makes you feel like, "Oh, today is going to be an amazing day." I know that sometimes you wake up in the morning and you don't feel like that. I think that's okay if it's one, two days.
But if that's happening to you for many days in a row, you might have to start a little bit deeper about your ikigai, or you have to make some changes in your life to start doing more things that you are connected with your purpose in life.
So, it sounds simple, but when you go deep into it, I like it also because there is not a word in other language that compresses. In Spanish, you need several words to say the meaning of life.
In English too, you need something, you need a sentence. But in Japanese you can just say “ikigai”.
So, I can ask you Guy, “What's your ikigai?”, it's very simple. Or you can ask your kids, “What's your ikigai?”
It's a much more simple way to start asking yourself or other people about what's your true meaning in your life or what you should be doing.
Wait, so are you telling me that in Japan you can be at an event and you can literally start a conversation by saying, "What's your ikigai?" And people will not think you're nuts and they will know what you're talking about?
Yes, you could do that, but maybe Japanese people, they're very reserved. So, if you ask that question directly, it will be very, "Oh wow, this is going to get deep." Maybe after a couple of drinks, yes, I think it's a very good ... you will make friends if you ask that question.
Okay, so maybe Japanese people are reserved and it might take them by surprise, but they would know exactly what you're asking?
Yes, in order to write a book, we went to the village of the longest living people in the world in Okinawa and that's exact ... we interviewed more than 100 elders. And that was the first thing we asked them. I had ten questions and the first one was, what is your ikigai?
And it was impressive. I tried the same experiment in Tokyo and people didn't answer immediately. It took them time. I think also if I ask my friends it's like, "Okay, I don't know, maybe this, maybe that."
But the people in this village of the eldest people in the world, they answered almost immediately, with a smile in their faces, "My ikigai is my family, or taking care of my garden, or I love poetry."
There are many, many different answers. But the striking thing was that the answer was immediate. That's one of the things that I think resonates with people.
I will tell you that if someone came up to me and asked me what's my ikigai, or whatever English phrase they want to use, I would immediately say podcasting. I wouldn't have to think about that.
Yes, okay, but if I asked you ... Then you're good, then you don't need to read my book, then maybe you are already knew. But maybe if I asked you twenty years ago maybe ... This is an interesting thing people say. I also say that your ikigai can change through your phases in life and I think it's important to ... If I asked you twenty years ago, probably your answer could have been different and maybe in your twenties probably, I don't know, but maybe might it have been a little bit lost. You didn't know, you were exploring and I think that's good.
The important thing is to recognize when you are changing, if you're in your forties, and you keep living in your twenties, maybe you're feeling depressed or you are not aligned. So, that's where I think the book ikigai can help you.
Like “Okay, I need to change and shift my life to ...” That's when we feel a little bit of pain or inside, we are not aligned with ... So recognizing those changes. So, now you are in your podcasting ikigai era, so that's very good.
This is my last ikigai, I'm pretty sure.
You never know. You never know.
That's true. So, do you think that there are more people who are looking for their ikigai, or have found their ikigai in Japan, than in other cultures?
Or is it maybe we just notice it more, or you're more attuned, or are the Japanese people special that way?
Not really. We explain a little bit, the dichotomy, the book focuses ... In the title, we say the Japanese in general, but we focus a lot on how the Okinawan people live, in the countryside.
So, it's more at the end, the conclusion of the book, is to make people think also how the dichotomy between living in cities that we are always probably stressed and rushing, and we have schedules and doing more and more and more things and years go by and maybe we don't know what we are doing. And that happens to people in Tokyo.
If you are in Tokyo, it's like any other big city in the world, a little bit different, but people might be lost. You ask them about their ikigai and they don't really know.
And that's why we differentiate countryside lifestyle and city lifestyle. So, it's not in general about Japan, but maybe people, elder Japanese, they were more attuned to their ikigai, than what is happening now in the city life.
So, that can also make people reflect about how their grandparents lived in the old times and how you are living now. It's not only a Japanese secret, I think it's a secret that has been with us, but we are losing it. You are also from Hawaii, right? Like your grandparents-
... Maybe your lifestyle when you were very young, it was very different probably. When you read the book it brought you memories of, "Oh, this is how I used to live or how my grandparents used to live."
No. Then I have to go, I haven't visited.
I was brought up as an overachieving Asian American.
Okay, then I have to go. I have to learn more about ... I've never been there. I want to go.
Me too, I have to say, and it's not like I did an extensive research project on this, but I don't know any other culture or country that has such a thing like the Japanese national treasures, where there's the guy who makes swords, and the doll maker, and the sword maker, and the pottery, and the skillet maker, and they're national treasures. What other culture has national treasures like that?
Yeah, so that's true. So, that's another way of looking at ... The thing that is common to all Japanese, not only the elders, is that they focus ... I'm also not an expert on, I don't want to generalize about the US culture, but it seems to me that you are very goal driven.
So, it's always about achieving this goal and improving more and more, it's goal driven while the Japanese culture is more process driven.
And if you put it to a personal level, it comes all from this religion called Shintoism, which is not about there is a god that is looking at you, but there are many spirits, and there are many rituals.
We use also the words like routines. Rituals and routines are more important than having goals because the goal are okay to have them, but if you are fixated to them, you might forget about doing the right things in a daily manner.
And that's how the artists, if you look at Japanese artists or craftsmen, as you were saying, they're very, very focused on improving the process over ... and everyone knows this documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, that it's a Japanese chef master that has been ... It's the best sushi in Tokyo and he has been making sushi for, I don't know, sixty, seventy years and he's still thinking that he hasn't achieved to make the best sushi. He's still improving.
So, there is an incredible focus on how to do things and there are many national treasures that are human national treasures. So, there are people who can make katanas because their family has been making katanas since thousand years ago. And that knowledge, it's written in books, but it's a lot about teaching. There are many things that cannot be transferred through books or words. It's human to human.
And that goes also into the culturing companies, like for example Toyota, or how cars are made. In the sixties and seventies, the Japanese car companies were not the best in the world. The US was number one making cars and Toyota focused on improving the processes, and how you make the car was more important than what the goal was.
And they kept doing that very slowly for decades, until Toyota became number one car company in the world. I think now it’s Tesla, so you are catching up again, but you can start philosophizing about how this goal driven versus rituals, or process driven, it makes things very different at personal level. You also see people, when you know people, they are not very goal driven, they are more about the daily lives.
And I think that makes them at the end more happy because they are not trying to achieve something, like, "Oh, I want to be this ten years from now." It's like, "I'm okay now with what I'm doing."
But wouldn't you say that the sword maker has a goal of making the perfect sword?
That's a goal.
I like these kinds of questions, but the mindset is different. The goal is there to aim for that, but the master knows that it's impossible to make the perfect katana, at the very conscious level. As you were saying with wabi-sabi, or the imperfection, they are okay with imperfection but they are always aiming to make a better ... it's always the improving.
That's also in Japanese car companies and manufacturing it's called kaizen, always the improvement cycle. So you have a goal, but that's not the focus. The focus is on the daily.
If you just have a goal and try to shortcut, in Spain, I can teach you a little bit about Spanish culture. You have a goal and maybe you will try to find all the cheats to aim to get the goal and then Okay, I'm done.” We are very lazy in Spain. We try to get the goal and then go relax in the beach.
So, I think that's also good sometimes, if you want to relax, but if you want to aim for self-realization, I think it's better to focus on the processes.
I have a very good friend and his in-laws, they pay, I think, obsessive attention to the details of making hoshigaki. So, they take that persimmon and they rub it the right way to break down the pulp, to get the sugar out. I'm just amazed at the attention they pay to something as simple as making persimmons.
Yes, sometimes I'm becoming a little bit Japanese too. Another thing is being patient. Sometimes you see that for ... Yeah, as you say in cooking, or how they take care of when they're growing vegetables, they are very patient. This is how you have to do it.
And from your eyes, it might feel like, “Okay, this is useless. Why do you need to do this? If you just need to put the salt on top of the food.” But the Japanese, they will say, "No, you first have to put the salt in this plate because then ... " I don't know, there are all these things that if you start asking, there is a hidden reason there, that at first sight you might think, "Why don't you just make the juice?" Or something like that.
And I'm appreciating more that as I get older and I'm more patient, I appreciate more, there is also a beauty in this ritual, that it makes you feel more connected with what you are doing.
For example, the first time I went to the tea ceremony to drink green tea, I was twenty-three years old, I was very impatient. “Okay, I'm going to drink green tea”, and the ceremony takes forever. You have to sit down in a tatami mat, you have to look how they pour the green tea, how they fold napkins and do all these steps. And then I drink the green tea comes to me and it's almost nothing and I drink it in one second. It tasted horrible, I didn't like it.
And after that I was, "What was the point of all this?" Now I feel ashamed. If I had a time machine it would slap me. “You're stupid Hector, you should appreciate all the cultures.”
And now twenty years forward, I love green tea and I make myself green tea at home following the same ritual. Even if it takes me five minutes, I do it following the Japanese, using the whisk, folding the napkin. It helps me ground, start the day in a different mood, and drink the green tea in a more mindful way. It has totally changed how I see the purpose of the tea ceremony.
It's not the green tea, but it's enjoying time with other people because you are usually taking the green tea with other people in the same room and being present in that moment.
So again, the main thing is not the goal, which is drinking the green tea, but is the whole ceremonial things. And probably with the persimmons that you were telling me, is the same. The goal is not to eat the persimmon, but is the whole thing that goes around it.
Here's a conceptual question. Do you find your ikigai, or does your ikigai find you?
We keep it open in the book because I realized everyone has a personal view and depending on who you are and the church you've been brought up in, personally, my view is that you have to almost create it by looking forward to it. You have to create it. That's my personal view. It's not something that suddenly you will find while you are sitting in your couch at home, “Oh my ikigai is this.”
So, I personally think that you have to create it and maybe you think you have to find it. And that's also okay if you're a very extroverted person and you have to move around a lot and meet a lot of people and get exposed to many things to find your ikigai.
And other people you might think that is going to find you. And that's also okay, as long as you move around. As long as you are trying to find it, I'm okay with how you see it.
For example, the Ikigai book, it has been the top selling book in India for three years now, which I still ... I don't know why, I'm still amazed that our book is the top selling book in India. And when you ask Indian people, they think the ikigai will come to them but they have to keep searching for it, so it's a combination.
And when I ask people in Spain, it is totally different. It's like “I have to find it.” And when I ask to engineers and people like A type personality people, it's more like “I want to create it.” So, I would say any answer is good, as long ... The main thing is that you have to have the willingness to look for it, or to make changes in your life to go for it.
And what do you think of the, I think typical American perspective, that you should pursue your passion as if one day you're going to be knocked off your feet when your passion just arrives? Do you think that's realistic? Do you think that that's how it happens, it's love at first sight? Or is it an itch that you scratch and it grows and grows?
I think it's more like an itch and then it keeps growing and growing. That's my personal experience. And I think it's also true when I looked at research, this is true for most people, I think. There is some lucky people that maybe you are five years old, you start playing piano and then you become a piano professional player, and then you are in your eighties and you keep playing piano.
And we all admire those kind of people. I think that's where in the US, you also have this attitude of admiring those kind of people. But we have to realize that those people are outliers. Maybe they are lucky or it's a blessing. And also, if you talk with these kinds of people, then maybe they don't think it's a blessing. You're like, "Okay, this is what I had to do."
But for the rest of people, most of the research says that between your twenties and sixties, there are many changes in your career or when you enjoy what you start doing. Maybe you start as a teacher, but you end up being something else.
Only in certain professions, like if you're a doctor, that you have to be very committed or you're a firefighter, things like that. I also appreciate these kind of people because they're needed for society.
But for 80 percent, 90 percent of the people out there, I think it's more what you're saying. You are scratching something and maybe you find something that you enjoy more and then you change.
Always my advise, if you are working, 80 percent, 90 percent of the people probably you are working who are listening, you are working in a company, in a corporation and maybe you are not 100 percent happy where you are now. You can always start exploring of your daily time, what are you enjoying the most?
If you are enjoying the most, being in meetings with people, probably you are an extroverted person and you should try to be more into those situations. Maybe ask, "Okay, I want to be in sales," or, "I want to be a public speaker presenting products."
Or if you don't like being in meetings for example, like me, maybe okay, “I want to be more like doing this, I want to be more like a software engineer, or something like that.”
So, you can always find ways to keep scratching and doing small shift until you feel more connected with your ikigai. And yeah, the word passion, there's so many ... That's why I prefer the word ikigai because the word passion, many people think different things about what passion is.
I also think that particularly young people, they're always hearing this advice about pursuing your passion. And then now they're twenty-two years old and they haven't found their passion yet and they think, "I'm a loser. I'm twenty-two and I haven't found my life calling yet."
And I can't even remember what I was interested in at twenty-two. So, I think passion is overrated, actually.
Yes, I totally agree. You don't know and no one knows.
So, a real tactical question is what if your ikigai cannot pay the bills?
Yes. So that's why we call it the four circles of ikigai, the four elements that you need to start thinking. This is an exercise you can do at home after listening to the podcast, you can write down things that you love doing. It can be anything. I love eating chocolate with my friends, watching the sunset.”
And then things that you love doing, it can be like for you, it could be podcasting and then things that you can make money with, at the moment.
And then things that will help the world. But it's not only about the world, but maybe it can be something very simple things. Things that will help your friends, or your family, or your coworkers.
I also like to add, for example, in the money part, there are things that maybe you can make money at the moment, but there are things that you have a gut feeling inside you, that you might be able to make money with but you've never had the guts to try.
And these days I think is the easiest that you can try on the internet to test and see if maybe ... For example, now it comes to mind podcasting. Maybe making money with podcasting is not easy, but maybe it's something that you could aim for. You could try and start podcasting and see if you can make, not directly from podcasting, but from advertising, maybe you can make money.
And it can be if you're a musician, maybe you can act in a local place in your hood and start making small money and then that will give you a boost of self-esteem. Okay, there is a possibility here.
So, I always tell people to explore those possibilities that might be there, but you've never tried. So, that's why money, what you love doing, what you are good at doing, and what can help other people. If you combine those four things, you will start having an image of, "Oh this is really my ikigai."
With the podcast, you are also helping people around the world who are listening. They might be inspired after listening to this conversation to start looking for their ikigai.
Hector, to be completely honest, I love podcasting. I'm good at podcasting. I am convinced it is helping people learn how to be remarkable. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to make money.
Yes, how to make money.
So, now I would make the case that if you still are willing to do something that you love, that you're good at, that's good for the world, but not lucrative, it truly may be the test of your ikigai because you're not doing it for the money at all. In fact, it's costing you money. So, that's the true test of ikigai.
That's good. I like that one. So yeah, you can also take that perspective, the reverse, but that's a question that usually comes from ... That's a different phase.
So, we keep the circle of money, but if you are in a stage in life that you need to make money, maybe you can take that as a second, but if you've already made enough money, maybe that circle, it should be the reverse. How can you give back that money? Or how can you do something that is not about making money but about using money, as you're saying.
All I can say is thank God for Canva, because of Canva, I can do anything I want anyway.
Yes, Canva…By the way, I used the template in Canva that you have for the circles. So, it was very easy for me, not for the book one because the book, I think it was after that to make a presentation I had to do, I used Canva to make the four circles of ikigai.
So yeah, you help with Canva, to make the ikigai circles.
That's great. That's great. You touched on this briefly, but what is the relationship you found between finding one's ikigai and living long?
That's not a discovery of myself, but there is much research recently in Japan and also in the UK, where they looked at people when they ... especially in the UK because in Europe we have this culture of retiring when we are sixty, these studies show that the probability of dying, or having a cancer, or a life-threatening illness after you retire, it goes up incredibly, when you are between sixty and sixty-five. I think that's incredible.
You are aiming all your life to ... In Spain we are always thinking, "Okay, I will work until sixty and then I would retire and do nothing." And then when I came to Japan, I say, "Why do people keep doing things in their seventies? There are doctors and taxi drivers here who are in their seventies. Why do they keep doing things and working? The Japanese people, they should be retired.” And now I have changed my perspective.
Not at the same rhythm as when you are thirty, but it's good to keep doing things even in your sixties, seventies, and keep having an active lifestyle. If it's being active with your ikigai, probably in your seventies, eighties, it can be your family and that can be your ikigai, perfectly.
But the point is that you don't stop and start doing nothing because it seems at a biological level, our body can feel like, "Okay, now I don't have anything to do. It's no meaning my life has no meaning anymore."
And the mind body connection ... There is still research on this. So if listeners want to research on this, it's not clear, but there is a connection. If you start having a sense of meaning of life or you have nothing to do, then we are ill and people die.
So, that's why the message is so powerful, I think. Having a ikigai, keeping active, connected with your family and friends, it will basically prevent you from being ill. And if you keep that for long enough, you might become a centenarian.
So, you have to keep podcasting now for thirty-five more years. I give you work for-
Oh God, help me.
... thirty-five years.
“This is Guy Kawasaki, this is episode number 1,500, or something.”
You can think of it as it's your medicine. So you can think of it, your ikigai's going to keep you alive.
Your book had a great discussion of flow. So, would you define flow and explain how to achieve flow?
So flow, it's a concept that it always fascinated me. The original person who talked and defined flow was Mihaly, and his second name is very long. It's Mihaly, something very long, and he read Ikigai, and he sent a message.
Nobody can pronounce his name, not even his little-
So, Mihaly, and he sent a message saying it was the best summary of flow that he has ever read. So, I felt very proud about that chapter because I read everything he had written about flow and I condensed it in one chapter and he invited me to go to LA to visit him.
But unfortunately. He passed away recently, last year. And I was always fascinated with this flow concept because of both what we talk about before, about the Japanese focus on the processes and rituals. It seems to me that the Japanese spend more time in this flow state, like building things, they're craft mans. While cooking you're in this flow estate, again, I'm going to repeat myself, it's not about eating the food, but it's about the whole process of enjoying that while you are doing it.
Flow state is, everyone has experienced this when you are doing something that you enjoy so much and suddenly one, two hours have passed, or even five hours, and you were like suddenly, "Oh wow, five hours passed away," and it's time for dinner and you totally forgot, or you forgot to eat lunch because you were so into that moment.
I believe a good life, you don't have to be like a person who has achieved many big things, but probably a person who has had a good life is the one that has spent the most time in this flow state, because you are more connected with yourself and the universe and everything.
And another analogy's in sports. When you are practicing exercise, you are running, if you become a good runner, that's also an indication that you are liking something or not. Many people ask me, "Okay, ikigai is very nice, but I don't know what I like or dislike."
I think flow is a very good indicator that you are liking something or not. So, “I need to exercise in life.” And then you start going to the gym and after a while you never get into flow. You hate it, that's okay, you can try something else. You go running for a while and you don't like it. You don't get into the flow state. Every five minutes you are looking into your watch and you want to go home.
But maybe one day you try surfing and I think you start surfing. So, you start surfing and then after a while you realize, "Oh wow, I've been surfing for hours and time flew away."
Then that's one of the things that you should start focusing on. Or probably podcast for me, also, I'm enjoying this conversation, I'm losing track of time while talking to you. So, you can use flow as an indicator that you are loving something or hating something.
Yeah, I don't know if I should tell you the secret, Madisun helps me with scheduling all my meetings and basically scheduling my life.
And speaking of surfing and flow, where I surf, the best time to surf is at low tide. So, all my meetings are scheduled around the tide. Now everybody's going to know- so if you're out there and you want to meet with me, check the Santa Cruz tide schedule because I'm only available at high tide. You also mentioned this great concept of micro flow.
So yeah, we understand the big picture of flow, where you just lose track of time, but what in the world is micro flow?
So you can think of this flow as like for hours, you're losing track of time, but micro flow is more about this small things, that maybe it doesn't take a long time, but it's enjoying ... it's a little bit about mindfulness. It's being focused on what you are doing on a moment-to-moment basis. That's a micro flow.
So you are present, you are not thinking about something else while you are doing what you have in front of you. So, you are flowing in that moment. So, you're focused in step-by-step. If you divide time into step-by-step, and that's another thing that it comes back to the Japanese obsession with the details. I think in English you have the expression, “The devil is in the details.”
In Japan is the reverse. You say, “God is in the details.”
So, the mindset is totally different. It's like, in the details you will find the beauty. So, in the microphone you will find the beauty of things.
In your book you discuss Steve Jobs, many times. And you detail his love of the Japanese culture, his trips to Kyoto, love of ceramics and stuff. Do you think Steve Jobs would've been Steve Jobs without the influence of Japanese culture?
Oh, wow. This is a question maybe for you too, because before answering the question, I think I learned about you from Steve Jobs. So, that's for me.
When I arrived to Japan, instead of reading books about Japan, I read the Art Of The Start by you and then I bought my first Mac and everything.
So, you did your job as ... Your previous ikigai was probably an evangelist. You did a good job there also. And that's why maybe there is so much of Steve Jobs in the book too.
But he came to Japan many times. He came to Japan the first time, a little bit before the Macintosh in Japan. They were manufacturing the first ... I think it's three inches, the floppy discs that were three inches and a quarter, if I remember correctly. Steve Jobs flew here to Japan to a factory here west of Tokyo, in Atsugi, when now they have many factories of Sony and Panasonic. And when he came back, I think his mindset of how to use the uniform always.
We all know the Steve Jobs' uniform for himself and also in Apple, he had this mindset, this comes from Japanese mindset of wearing a uniform in the factories and also in companies, so you focus on the craft.
I also know he went many times Kyoto and I think it was one ... Before he died, his last family trip was to Kyoto, to the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.
So, at the end of his life, he chose Japan for his last family trip. I think in the design of his products, you can see Japanese minimalism, how there are many ... Again, lots of focus in the details to make it more complex, but to make it more simple and hide the complexity.
And that's in again, the Japanese katana, or Japanese pottery and ceramics. It looks very simple on the outside, but if you learn how it has been made, it kind of ... “Okay, this has taken months to make this katana. It has taken one year from the ... You have to go to the mountains to take the materials from the mountain and then bring them home and then start working from there.”
I think Steve Jobs appreciated that the whole detail-focused orientation on making something beautiful, simple, and at the same time having all the complexity hidden from you.
I think that philosophy is still ... What is amazing is even after Steve Jobs' death, that philosophy is still there in Apple. That culture of hiding complexity and detail orientation is still there. So probably, I don't know about the Steve Jobs itself, but probably Apple could have been very different, the whole culture, without this Japanese mindset.
I absolutely agree. In the middle of the reality distortion field, and I will tell you something with total certainty, which is you can take a random group of people and send them to Kyoto and they're not going to come back Steve Jobs. It's not just going to Kyoto that's the key.
Yeah, that's the key, yes. But there is something I have reflected. You will not become Steve Jobs, but a trip to Japan will probably change your life in some way. That's something I believe, more than going to somewhere else.
I think most, not a hundred, not everyone, but most of the people I know friends who come to visit me and then they go back, they bring something with them that becomes a life obsession or a new hobby.
So, I have a friend now who is obsessed with bonsai. To the point he decide, "Okay, I'm going to grow a bonsai at home."
I have a friend who is a collector of Japanese green tea now. And that became after the visit to Japan. And that doesn't happen that much if you travel to a country in Europe, maybe you bring some souvenirs back, but you don't bring something that will change your life forever.
So probably, Steve Jobs did that but he brought it into Apple and then changed not only his life but the whole world.
Absolutely. So, the next concept is ichi-go ichi-e, which is what?
Ichi-go ichi-e is another Japanese word that I used to be ... I'm still very obsessed with because again, it compresses meaning. And we can say in English, “Every moment is very important” or something like that. And “We should appreciate every moment of our lives.”
But I think the deeper meaning is that even the small moments in your life like this, you are going to spend thirty minutes with your kids this afternoon, going to the park. That moment is very precious, very important because it will never happen again in the same way.
The next time you go to the park, your kids will be a little bit older, they will be in a different mood. You will be older, you will be in a different mood. There'll be a different weather, everything will change.
So, it's a reminder to ourselves that every moment is very special and we don't have to keep worrying about the future or the past. The best strategy is to focus on the present.
Ichi-go ichi-e, it's a word that is usually put in the green tea ceremony places in a scroll to remind you, because we are all humans. We always forget, even if you say, "Oh, ichi-go ichi-e," maybe you would remember today, but tomorrow it's like, "Okay, I drink my coffee, I have to do this, that." And then you forget about enjoying your moments.
So, one idea that you can have it at your home, you can have your own small place, that you can sit down with someone. It can be your kids or your partner and have a routine. It can be weekly or daily. “Let's sit down, have a cup of tea and talk this fifteen minutes and be totally present.”
Of course, no smartphones, no nothing, just be there with that person. Now, we are having an ichi-go ichi-e moment. You and me here, maybe if we do another podcast when you are a hundred years old.
I hope it doesn't take that long to do another podcast. It will be different, you will already know-
... you will know my personality, I know you or your personality. So, it will be maybe more relaxed, I don't know. It would be a different mood.
So, we have to appreciate this podcast, this ichi-go ichi-e moment that we are having.
I love it. Is ichi-go ichi-e about creating special moments or finding what’s special in any moment?
Very interesting question. I think both, but it is more what you say finding in any moment ... you should just strive to any moment ... but there's also a meaning in Ichi-go ichi-e when you're meeting with other people. So, you don't have to aim to prepare a special situation.
It's like, in everyday life, this time that you are spending with this person or that person, are you truly present? You go have coffee with your friends and then you realize after two hours that twenty minutes, you were on your phone and another twenty minutes, you were stressed because of a message that you were thinking and you go home and you forgot what you were talking about with your friends. And this happens to me and this happens to everyone.
So, it is more of getting from those encounters when you are with other people, being really there. And then these days, this smartphone is the evil thing that is there to interrupt us. So these days there are more and more ways to stop notifications and everything so when you are with someone, be fully present.
So, have some kind of setup or mindset that when you are with other people. I'm also a big believer that the way you set up the environment around you at your home, I have different areas.
So, I have a place that is for writing and my place for writing is for myself. There is no internet. I just sit down. And the place that is for podcasting, like here now, I'm connected to the internet, it's a different mood.
And the place where I have dinner with my wife, we sit down, the smartphone are far away. So, we are with each other. So, you can try to make small changes in your environment to be more fully present in those moments. So, there is both things I think are true.
I want to make sure people don't misinterpret this concept into being something that's sort of “Live for the moment because tomorrow we may die”, not sacrificing and planning.
Because you could take it that way, right? Live every moment to the maximum, which is not what you're saying.
That's a very good explanation and that's why we had to write a book about it, to explain that's not the mindset. It's the same thing as before, with the goals and the process. This saying also carpe diem, like you have to live at your ... That's not the message, exactly, as you explain. It's more okay, “How I am doing things now?” It's more about being grateful for what you already have now in life.
Many times we are always obsessed like, “I don't have enough and then I have to do more and more crazy things and enjoy more life and have more hedonistic” and that might ... I think in my experience, that might work for humans. We are very bad with that.
There is this hedonistic treadmill and then hedonistic adaptation. You can do that for a while, but there will be a point that your mind will adapt to going to the best restaurants in town. And then you will become the grumpy old person who cannot enjoy Mac hamburger.
So, you don't want to become that. You can enjoy both. You can enjoy the best restaurant in town, but you can also enjoy a burger with your friends and have a nice time. You should aim to be a person who can enjoy in any situation, like the time we saw other people.
I've truly enjoyed this. We definitely achieved a state of flow in podcasting. And again, both books were very meaningful to me and Ikigai just shined a light on my relationship with podcasting and what I want to accomplish with the rest of my life.
It truly was a very moving experience to read that book.
Thank you. That's very nice to hear.
Let's do this again, but sooner than in thirty-two years because-
Yes, yes. I want to do that.
I'm going to be podcasting when I'm a hundred.
Yes, let's do,
If I'm podcasting in thirty-two years from now, it'll be from Okinawa.
Isn't ikigai a great concept? After I read Hector's book and then interviewed him, the scales were removed from my eyes. I truly understood why I love podcasting so much and how my life has been preparing me for this path. The scales were removed from my eyes.
I truly understood why I love podcasting so much and how my life has been preparing me for this path. What more could you ask for from a book and an interview?
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People, it is my ikigai.
Thank you Hector, for showing me the light.
Thank you also to the Remarkable People team, Peg Fitzpatrick, Jeff Sieh, Shannon Hernandez, Alexis Nishimura, Luis Magana, and the drop-in queen of all of Santa Cruz, Madisun Nuismer.
Until next time, I hope you find your ikigai, Mahalo and Aloha.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Leave a Reply