Making better sushi

I love watching movies around the holidays. Because of the weather and the hordes of people rushing around trying to get last-minute presents, sitting at home with a movie has always appealed to me. It's a great opportunity to get caught up on that movie you wanted to see during the year, but didn't get the chance to go before it was pulled from theaters. Surprisingly, I didn't get a chance to watch any good movies this year (although I did catch up on some Modern Family and South Park episodes, and just recently finished watching True Detective... (That's going to be a whole other blog post once I've fully digested it!) I was thinking back to last year, and I recall that I watched a movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If you don't have an issue with subtitles, I recommend watching this movie to gain insight into a unique way of doing things.

It was a documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old Japanese man who just so happens to serve the best sushi in the world. He's had all manner of celebrities in his small three-Michelin-star restaurant, including heads of state.

The man is obsessed with the notion of continuing to make better sushi and delivering the best possible experience to his patrons. How does he do this? By focusing on the details. He has his staff massage the octopus meat for 40 minutes to ensure it is perfectly tender; not thirty or thirty-five minutes, exactly 40 minutes. He's worked out the perfect amount of vinegar to add to the rice, which gets fanned for a specific amount of time so that it can be served at body temperature. He even pays attention to his customers as they sit at the table: are they left- or right-handed so that he can serve everything exactly where it's most convenient to make the meal an incredible experience. He has literally dreamed of sushi!

Some of you probably think he's crazy. In Japan, he is called a shokunin - someone who spends his whole life pursuing the perfection of his craft. A master.

You don't get to be world-class by taking shortcuts. Michael Jordan's intense practices with his teammates followed by hours of work on his own is the stuff of legends. Tiger Woods is said to practice 7-8 hours a day.

Bruce Lee, no slouch by any means, put it best when he said:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

If we're going to spend time doing something, why wouldn't we work to do it as well as we possibly can? Isn't our time worth more than putting in a half-hearted effort?

Part of the problem, in today's culture, is that we have so many things vying for our attention. It's hard to prioritize, so we're constantly thinking about what's next and not giving nearly enough attention to the present.

For example, as a national trainer for a company that produces pre-choreographed group exercise programs that instructors have to memorize, I hear things like:

  • So what if it's a deadlift instead of a dead row? It works the same muscle group, right?
  • I have to learn 6 different programs, so sometimes I mix up the choreography. Why do they always use the same music in all my programs?!
  • It's only the abdominal (or cooldown) track; it doesn't matter if I do the exact choreography.
  • It's only group fitness. They'll still get the work as long as I get most of it right.

Would you be happy with the service technicians fixing your car if they said they fixed most of the issues?

What would happen if a bridge designer ran most of the calculations for the bridge?

Tacoma Narrows Bridge [Lenz, Garrett. "Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse." 10 Nov 2008. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 11 Jan 2015. <http://youtu.be/lXyG68_caV4>]

Every job is important; especially one in which people are putting their well-being in your hands. And it's not just group fitness. There's an attitude in which people can't focus on the things at hand; they're just getting through what they're doing to move on to the next thing. But if you want to be world-class at anything, every thing matters.

So does that mean we can't make mistakes in life? That we have to be absolutely perfect before we do anything? Of course not. But there's a difference in saying to yourself "I'm going to strive for perfection in everything I do" rather than starting out by giving yourself permission to not bother in places where you'd rather not.If you do your best and make a mistake, that's fine; accept it and move on.

So here's one way of avoiding this problem: Make it Matter! In everything you do, make it matter. Don't do things just for the sake of doing them. Put yourself into everything you do fully and completely.

And maybe one day, we can all find our "perfect sushi".

When you give yourself fully and completely to all that you do, you start to find your unsteady state! Let me know if you're making it matter in all you do. Use #makeitmatter or #MIM and share a story of how you make it matter. Spread the word!