Shinzō Abe is the Prime Minister of Japan. Being Japanese, his sushi standards are high... Prime-Minister-high, you might say.So where does Shinzō Abe take Barack Obama for dinner during the President's trip to Japan last April? He takes him to Sukiyabashi Jiro, a small sushi restaurant that's hidden away, underground, in a Tokyo subway station.
Sukiyabashi only seats ten people. There are no tables, just the one bar. It's reservation-only -- and unless you're the country's Prime Minister, you'll need to reserve your seat three, even four months in advance.
Jiro, the head chef, doesn't serve appetizers. He only prepares sushi. And for his work, the Michelin Guide has awarded the restaurant "3 stars" (NOTE: only nine "3-star" restaurants exist in the US).
That's why Shinzō Abe chose to take Obama to Sukiyabashi Jiro. And that's whyObama said it was the best sushi he'd ever eaten.
The Movie That Changed My Life
Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a 2011 documentary, profiled Sukiyabashi Jiro and its namesake owner, Jiro Ono. You can find it on Netflix.
I watch it a couple times a year, but not because it's beautifully shot (it is) or because every scene makes my mouth water (it does). I watch it because of its title. That's right, its title.
It's called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" because he doesn't merely make it or prepare it or serve it.
Jiro literally dreams sushi.
There's a scene in the movie where the master chef -- who's in his eighties -- explains that as a younger man, sushi recipes would come to him in his sleep. And he would jump out of bed to write them down, lest he forget them by morning.
It was that level of passion that led to his unprecedented success, to being the best in the world, to being honored by Presidents.
Sure, the movie is entertaining... it will keep you peeled (and it will teach you a lot about raw fish and Japanese culture in the process). But as far as I'm concerned, Jiro Dreams of Sushi isn't about sushi...
The title says it all: It's about love.
Love so profound that you dedicate your life to it.
Love so pure that it wakes you up in the middle of the night.
Work Is About Love
Jiro is in love with his profession, which, by the way, is not making sushi.
I would say that "making sushi" is his job. It's what his hands do all day. His profession, then, is making sushi better.
Year after year, Jiro strives for perfection (an unattainable yet commendable goal). And how he finds the drive to do so... well, that's what the movie is really about.
According to the chef, he made his decision a long time ago:
"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably."
- Jiro Ono
Every time I watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I'm reminded that my profession is not merely writing copy... it's figuring out how to write copy better.
Waking up with that mindset every day excites me, because I'm not getting up to do a job but, rather, to master a craft.
Whatever it is you do (or might aspire to do, for that matter) I hope that after reading this article and watching the movie that inspired it, you'll immerse yourself in your work, as Jiro suggests.
I did. And it's helped me improve every day.