I recently watched the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The movie tells the story of Jiro, an 85-year old sushi chef and owner of sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. The restaurant is located inside a subway station in Tokyo, serves only sushi, and has three Michelin stars.
Although Jiro would be considered a successful chef by all external standards, he continues to refine his craft in order to deliver an ever improving sushi experience to his guests. Rather than focus on any external measure of success, his goal is to get a bit better each day. This is a quest that requires discipline bordering on dullness and an attention to detail bordering on obsession.
Jiro and his team source only the best fish, massage and cook each piece of meat according to its individual requirements so as to extract from it the best taste, and serve it with carefully sourced rice cooked at just the right pressure. The result is a 30,000 Japanese Yen (roughly $250) tasting menu which, although expensive, guests believe is well justified in light of the sushi experience.
Everyone can make sushi, but very few people can make sushi like Jiro and his team. If Jiro tried to perform at the world’s highest level in any activity beyond making sushi, he likely wouldn’t be able to. The first reason is because world-class excellence requires a singular focus and dedication. The time he spends on the new activity would lower his performance in making sushi. The second reason is because making excellent sushi is Jiro’s calling. He likely doesn’t feel the same way about other activities. He grew to love making sushi through a virtuous feedback loop between his innate skills and the resulting success he saw when applying these innate skills to sushi making.
As suggested by the name of the movie, sushi is Jiro’s dream. We all have different dreams. Some people will applaud Jiro for attempting to deliver an ever improving sushi experience, while others will question why he’s doing something meaningless. The same is true for any endeavor in life. In the end, all that matters is that Jiro believes in his dream.
What’s your sushi?