Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Passion and Intuition

The above is a song called Weightless by Marconi Union. This eight minute track was created in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy and is regarded as the most relaxing song ever. According to scientists, it induced a 65% reduction in overall anxiety and brought test subjects' resting pulse rates to 35% of their usual resting rates.

Hmmm. So are you relaxed yet? Anyways so this is perhaps related to this "touchy feely... finding yourself bit" I've been contemplating lately. The first centers around a bit of what I addressed last week, trying to find or understand what my true passion is. The second I'm calling a need to strengthen my intuition. I think in the craziness of life we often forget how to hear ourselves. I think I've forgotten what its like to tune into that gut feeling... and even harder, forgotten how to have the guts to act on those gut feelings. I find these two related because I wonder whether I have to relearn how to really hear myself before trying to find what my true passion is.

For a while now I've honestly toyed with the idea of just quitting my job and traveling the world for a while. I would love to get away from my day to day routine and truly be able to quiet myself, so that I can really hear what it is I need or want.

Where would I go? Well I'd start here in Seattle and travel west, probably starting in Japan then Korea. Besides those two countries I'm a bit more open. Perhaps Nepal, Mongolia, and Turkey in Asia/Eurasia, then Croatia, Spain, Ireland, and Scotland in Europe. Considering my personality and that I was on the road most of last year, traveling the world for 2 or 3 months isn't as crazy a possibility for me.

The harder part is going to be whether I have the guts to take off, not knowing what would be here when I came back. It'd be different from traveling the world knowing you had a job or an offer to come back to. This is where the practical asian side of me goes "Are you freakin' nuts?!?!" Luckily I can more than afford to do this, heck I could afford to be without a job for over a year. But I've always been a pretty strict rule follower. I've always done what was expected. Can I take this big of a leap?

This has been on my mind for a bit, but I know I have to think about it more. Perhaps the rumblings will get so loud to where I can't ignore them. Or perhaps I don't need to do something so drastic. In pondering what my true passion might be, I've been asking myself a number of questions. These questions in a way seem so simple and innocuous, but I find that they are deceptively difficult to answer.

What do I love to do?
What comes naturally to me?
What do I feel passionate about?
What have been the happiest times in my life?
What have people always told me that I'm good at?
What did I always want to do when I was a child?

I'm working on my answers, though I find it difficult to just answer them and without automatically trying to tie them to some career choice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To be a shokunin

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, but I'm hoping to be a bit more regular with it (I'm sure much to the delight of a certain someone in New Mexico...) Anyways, I want to talk about a documentary I saw about a week ago that has made a huge impression on me.

It's called Jiro Dreams of Sushi and chronicles Jiro Ono, who must now be an 87 year old sushi master. He is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro and he was the first sushi chef to receive three Michelin stars. Jiro has been making sushi for over 75 years.

Yes, the movie is about incredible sushi... probably the best in the world. It also includes incredible detail about how much attention is given to every single aspect of the meal. This includes things like the order in which he presents his 18 or so pieces of sushi, the roasting of the seaweed, and the rice.

Oh the rice... which honestly is my personal kryptonite and why I could never completely cut out carbs (come on, I'm asian). The rice used here is bought from a vendor who notes that he will only sell to Jiro because only he knows how to properly cook it. I've long known that the best sushi restaurants often spend just as much attention, if not more, on the rice than the fish. But the expertise, mastery, and dedication to only the best quality rice that this rice vendor exhibits is inspiring.

Likewise the documentary will introduce you to a shrimp vendor and a tuna buyer, men who have also devoted their entire lives to mastering their craft. The tuna buyer's expertise is to an extent where he can take a small sliver of tuna, mash it between his thumb and index finger, and then use the look and feel on his fingers to determine the quality and taste of the tuna. Honestly it's mind boggling.

 They use a term in the documentary called shokunin. The best translation of shokunin would be:

"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.”

Here's a clip where you may get a sense for Jiro's dedication to his craft:

This documentary made me think about a lot of things. It made me jealous that these people have found something that they are so incredibly passionate about, to the point where they strive every day to be better than the last.

In one sense it did make me wonder whether I should complain less about my current job and just decide to commit myself to it for a certain period of time, trying to be the best that I can be at it. Haven't we become a society where we think the grass is always greener on the other side? Perhaps if I commit to my job and not constantly wonder whether there is a better job out there, I would be happier?

Or perhaps I need to find my true passion... something that I would be willing to become a shokunin in. Ultimately I'd like to find something that I'm truly passionate about, something I'm excited about, and where I feel that what I do makes a meaningful difference in the world. I wonder if I'm asking too much?

Or perhaps everything is about perspective and how you look at something. Perhaps my current job could be my passion and could make a meaningful difference in the world, if only I make the choice to look at it that way.

Ok now my head hurts. And I'm hungry for sushi.