Four years ago, a Facebook post caught James’s attention. It was on the Japanese concept of ikigai, a word he had never heard, but the meaning of which resonated with him on many levels.
The word inspired a blog post and podcast episode that landed tens of thousands of visits, and became the most-downloaded content of SuperFastBusiness.
Ikigai since then has gone mainstream. Millions know it as defined by a Venn diagram also published on the blog, merging passion, skill and profession to achieve one’s ultimate fulfillment in life.
The surprising fact is that ikigai, to the Japanese, has nothing to do with this Venn diagram. Self-labeled Japanologist Nick Kemp found this out when he went chasing the meaning of the word that was close to his heart since his sojourn in Japan.
Tune in as Nick enlightens us as to the true meaning of ikigai, and how it can be applied to unlock joy and satisfaction in your own life.
02:10 – Our fascination with this Japanese idea
04:37 – A concept near and dear to Nick Kemp
08:51 – Why no Japanese have ousted the myths
09:55 – The things that ikigai is NOT
11:02 – So what IS it, actually?
12:35 – A spectrum, or a single thing? And does it change?
14:03 – How seriously people take it
15:27 – Probing the etymology of ikigai
17:36 – Applying what we now know about the idea
20:12 – The seven ikigai needs per Kamiya Mieko
21:50 – On raising children and gaining the driver’s seat
24:45 – Why change and growth are essential ingredients
27:37 – Believing in the good to come
28:56 – How important is being accepted?
33:42 – The freedom of choice, in spite of life
37:45 – An existence aligned with your values
42:04 – The small things that make up joy
44:13 – Doing things now for your future self
47:10 – Reshaping the Venn diagram with four questions
48:31 – Can you honestly say you deserve to exist?
50:19 – The real-life awakenings of being a parent
52:02 – How play and work contribute to ikigai
55:13 – How James fares on the 9-point ikigai test
58:14 – The makings of a great gap analysis tool
01:00:18 – The critical takeaway of this episode
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 772. And this is a multi-part series. This episode is actually called The Truth About Ikigai. And I’ve brought along my friend Nick to talk about it.
Good day, Nick.
Nick: Hey, James, thank you so much for having me on. It’s an honor and I’ve learned so much from you, so I really feel privileged to be on this podcast today.
James: Well, I’ve learned so much from you, too, Nick. And having you being a member of the SuperFastBusiness community has been very special for me to watch. You have many years through your journey. Of course, you’re a massive fan of Japan, which is how this story starts.
And for a little bit of backstory from my side, at least, I became aware of you through our SuperFastBusiness community. You came along to some live events. You won a bottle of Grange at one point for an outstanding contribution, which I believe you’ve recently consumed.
James: And for overseas listeners, that’s an expensive bottle of red wine. Did it taste good?
Nick: Tasted great. I’ve never had three quarters of a bottle of red and not had a hangover. So my wife’s not a big drinker, but we had it to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. And as I’ve told you, she completely forgot about it.
Nick: Yeah, that was special, so thank you.
Our fascination with ikigai
James: So Nick, about January the fourth, 2016, I published an episode on SuperFastBusiness. And this is significant for a few reasons. Firstly, I became aware of a concept from a friend of mine called Jiro. And he’s a Japanese Australian guy. He invited me along to the Maldives to speak to his group of adventurous business people about what I was doing. And I saw him post about it on Facebook, ikigai.
By the way, that’s how I sort of got introduced to the boat that I normally visit the Maldives with, so it was quite some years ago.
And when I saw him post about ikigai, I thought, well, I really resonate with that concept. It sort of sounds like, you know, living a good life for yourself and finding what you’re supposed to be doing and leaning into it. And I asked my team, please go and research ikigai.
They went and prepared a document. And this is one of the first ones we did like this, because normally my podcasts are either sort of organic conversations I’m having with experts like you, or they’re an extract from a recording from the event or something. In this case, we went and did research.
My team put together the research. I then went through the research and then created a podcast from it. We published it on January the fourth, 2016. And here’s an interesting fact. Back then, there was very little about ikigai on the internet for Westerners, as far as I could tell.
We went straight to the top of Google for ikigai. We’ve had tens of thousands of unique visits to that post. It is actually the single most busy website page on SuperFastBusiness of all the blog posts I’ve done, and I’ve done well, at least 770. Done a few more, but we deleted a couple here and there.
And it’s also the number one most-downloaded podcast episode that I’ve done on SuperFastBusiness.
Nick: Oh, wow. Gee, I didn’t know that.
So what that tells me is a couple of things. I think my market really resonate with this concept of what we thought ikigai was. And of course, we published that famous Venn diagram on the post. Since that became so popular – and I think I might have mentioned it a few times in the last four and a half years – we’ve had a lot of people get on board the concept. And they’ve basically published stuff about ikigai and it’s sort of drowned out the rankings a bit. And it’s definitely become more mainstream from my perspective in the last few years.
But I also feel like what I thought ikigai was definitely seems to match with what I’m trying to do with my life.
Why Nick cares so much about the concept
And I wanted to bring you along because you’ve done some research; you’ve gone out and busted a few myths around ikigai; you’ve discovered some of the original source of the Venn diagram, the actual concept. You’re a huge fan of the Japanese side of things.
“Japanologist lifts the lid on the TRUTH about Ikigai”
Can you just give us a little bit of an introduction about your affinity with Japan? And then how you came into this ikigai story and noticing that I’d published it, and why we’re talking about this today?
Nick: Sure. So my first trip to Japan was actually when I was five. My father was a physicist, and he got a first-class ticket to go and share his research. So he turned that into, I guess, a family ticket. And my brother, mother and father, we went to Japan and other countries.
So I do have some vague memories of that trip. And it must have sort of left a lasting impression on me, because in my early 20s, I desperately wanted to go to Japan. And I was studying hospitality. And I was awarded a one-year traineeship to Japan. And so that was a wonderful experience. And I worked in izakayas. And this company had this big plan to open restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney and all these amazing things. And that didn’t pan out.
So I went back again, because that one year of doing the restaurant traineeship, I didn’t really have enough time to explore Japan. So I wanted to go back. And then when I went back in 1998, I was teaching English. On a lunch break, a coworker was talking to me. And I was very excited to be back. And I was speaking the Japanese that I knew, and she asked me this question. She said, “Nick-san, ikigai wa nan desu ka?” And I was like, oh, ikigai, like, what’s that? And she explained it.
I think she said it’s something similar to, yeah, what gives your life meaning, or the reason why you live.
And I was absolutely fascinated that one word could encapsulate this concept of the reason why you live. And straightaway, I went to my coworkers and said, Oh, there’s this amazing word, ikigai.
And so the next day, I wanted to talk to her about it. And I found out she’d been transferred. And I only met her the day before. So I was really disappointed.
So that’s, what, that’s more than 20 years ago, that experience, and I can remember the day and the weather. I have a very vivid memory of it.
And then I guess about 20 years later, a few years ago, yeah, I started seeing this Venn diagram pop up. And I think yours was one of the first Venn diagrams, and your video on it.
“What if everything you thought you knew about Ikigai was WRONG?”
So I was thinking, ah, that word. Yeah, I remember that word. But at the same time, I was thinking, gee, that’s really un-Japanese. The Japanese wouldn’t make a Venn diagram to describe ikigai. So I knew at the time, that probably is a Western interpretation.
And then I just started seeing it more on life coaches’ blogs, and then you know, the book came out, and more books came out. And then once I saw it on the World Health Organization website, I thought, that’s enough. I’ve got to find out who made this diagram. I felt obligated to start researching it.
And then once I thought that, I thought, maybe it’s up to me to put it out to the world that this is not the concept, because of my, you know, my love for Japan.
So I started doing research, and I discovered that a entrepreneur, Marc Winn, he had merged the concept of ikigai with what was the Purpose Venn Diagram after watching a TED talk on the Blue Zones, given by Dan Buettner. And one of the Blue Zones is Okinawa. And in that talk, he briefly mentioned the word ikigai.
So that TED Talk created the perception that ikigai was or is an Okinawan word. And this guy, Marc, who I actually interviewed, he just thought it’d be a cool idea to merge the two. And so he wrote a very small blog…
James: What an impact.
Nick: Yeah, I know. The funny thing is that Marc is, on his blog post, he calls himself a mischief maker, and lover of changing the world.
James: Well, he’s done both of that.
James: And, you know, like, when we did our research, it was already established and fairly well-documented, you know, on the internet, and I guess we didn’t go to the level you are.
Why the Japanese haven’t said anything
I’m curious, you know, as a self-labeled Japanologist, why do you think it took a Westerner to get behind this? Why don’t you think a Japanese person’s gone, Hang on a minute, that’s not exactly what ikigai means?
Nick: So I think there’s two reasons. One, this will sound odd, but to the Japanese, it’s an important concept, but it’s not a special word. Because they grow up with it. So it’s, it’s not like a special self help word, or…it’s something they just grew up with. So to them, it’s just part of their vocabulary. And I think they’re so used to Westerners misinterpreting concepts that they just don’t care, or they just wouldn’t even bother trying to correct someone.
And even when I actually presented the Western concept to my audience, my Japanese audience – as you know, I taught English online to Japanese – and I usually get pretty good engagement when I send emails, I got no response at all. So they wouldn’t feel an obligation, perhaps, to correct it. Because, as I said, it’s just a normal word for them. And Westerners are always kind of stuffing up and hacking up Japanese words.
James: Well, we’re going to fix that with this episode.
The things that ikigai is NOT
James: We want to know what ikigai actually is, but it’s good to start with what it’s not. So it’s not a Venn diagram. It’s not an Okinawan word.
James: What else isn’t it?
Nick: Well, it’s also not a secret to longevity, as a few books claim. It certainly gives you the will to live. And there have been some studies that suggest it can improve conditions related to heart disease. So there’s some truth in that.
And there is one person we should pay credit to. And that’s Andres Zuzunaga, who came up with the Purpose diagram. And he’s a Spanish astrologer. And he kind of came up with the concept based on a natal chart, and just meditating. So that’s where it all started.
So there’s sort of two ironies, that the Purpose Venn Diagram before it became ikigai was used by HR managers, and they thought it was some sort of research-backed concept. And obviously, it wasn’t. And then the second irony is that millions of people think it’s ikigai. So it’s basically not what everyone thinks it is.
So what IS it, actually?
James: Well, let’s move into what it actually is.
James: And just just while we do that, if you’re listening to this, and you came to do some research on it, Nick, why don’t you tell us about your website as well, so we’ve got some resources here, because this is going to involve more than just a conversation. Where can people find out about what you’re doing with this relation to ikigai?
Nick: Sure. So my website is IkigaiTribe.com. And I’d suggest going to the podcast section. So I’ve interviewed several Japanese professors, several authors. And, yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time researching what it really means to the Japanese, and the history of the word., its various meanings.
James: Is that another irony? That your ikigai is to discover the truth about ikigai?
Nick: It has become, I think it’s become my kokorozashi, which is another word we might get into, which is sort of my personal mission to correct it.
James: I was going to say, bless you.
Nick: But yeah, it is an ikigai of mine, too. So yeah, Ikigai Tribe.
James: Let’s talk about it. Of all the research you’ve done and all the podcasts you’ve done, I’d love to get into the 64/4 of what it is, that’s like the 80/20 of the 80/20. What do we have to know about ikigai?
I feel an obligation to correct the record too, because there’s literally been 10,000 people listen to the previous episode on ikigai. By the way, I still love the Purpose diagram, it’s not going to diminish the power of that as a tool to help people, you know, find their sweet spot, because that’s a huge part of what I do.
But I want to know, I want to commit to a more authentic understanding of ikigai, so take us through it.
A spectrum, or a single thing? And does it change?
Nick: Sure. I think Ken Mogi, who’s a neuroscientist and author, he describes it best as a spectrum. So it can be the spectrum of enjoying the little things of life. So for you, it could be, you know, enjoying your morning cup of coffee, and your surf. Or it can be the pursuit of a life-defining goal.
But there are two schools of thought amongst Japanese researchers. So some like Ken think it’s a spectrum. But others think it can only be one thing. So it could only be your work, or it could only be your, you know, your children, or your partner. So there’s two schools of thought.
I think it’s a spectrum. But within the spectrum, you have this core life role or life goal that you’re pursuing,
James: Can it change?
Nick: It will change.
Nick: So it will change as you age and grow.
James: It has for me.
Nick: And as your life evolves. Yeah.
James: I mean, for example, I wasn’t even surfing seven years ago. So I didn’t know that the current lifestyle I have was an option. And prior to the internet, I would never dream of this kind of life I live now. I had a sort of suspicion about what I might do, but I had no concept of how it might translate. And thankfully, the internet came along and started to give me some clues.
So this is really interesting. So it will change. It’s interesting that you said some people, their ikigai’s, you know, their partner or their children. Does that mean they have a life of service where they just, everything is to, you know, help or benefit the children or the partner? Is that like the classic 1920s housewife?
How seriously people take it
Nick: I wouldn’t say that. Because Japanese, remember, Japanese don’t take this word so seriously.
Nick: I mean, some do, but most don’t.
James: Should we not take it seriously?
Nick: I think we should. I mean, Japan had its own ikigai boom with literature in the 60s and 70s and early 80s. But I mean, for example, there could be the hardworking salary man who does think he should dedicate himself to work.
James: That’s the ones that end up with, was it karoshi, death from overwork?
Nick: Hopefully not, because if their ikigai’s dying at work, that’s not a good ikigai.
James: And there’s also the other culture of the kids who are at home and can’t leave the house and don’t have a job.
Nick: Yeah, hikikomori. I mean, that’s an episode in itself. That’s astounding, the degree and the percentage of men, of young men and teenagers. I’ll never get over that problem. And the lack of resources. Japan doesn’t have anything like Beyond Blue or…
There’s no money invested in helping people. It’s really sad. But we’re going off track.
I mean, I’ve asked my friends their ikigai, and some are a bit surprised. And they say, Oh, you know, my kids, or, My work. And then I have my close friends who are more like us. I have a friend who’s a designer, and he absolutely loves his work and his daughter. I have another friend who’s an entrepreneur, and he could never work a normal job.
So some people in Japan have it and live it, and others don’t. And that’s similar to, I think, all countries, or people in countries.
Probing the etymology of ikigai
James: If it’s not Okinawan, where is it from?
Nick: Well, I don’t know where it’s from, but I can give you a history of what the word means.
So most people listening probably know it’s from the verb “ikiru”, which means to live, and the suffix “gai”. Now, gai is from the word “kai”, which means shell. And going back about 1500 years ago, shells used to be painted and decorated, and they were used in a shell-matching game called Kai-awase. So, similar to card-matching game. So the inside would be decorated, and they’d flip them over and mix them all up.
Now these were only for the affluent and the rich. And so the value of ikigai comes from these decorated shells, and that’s what the kanji represents. So I don’t know exactly which part of Japan, but it’s just a Japanese word, not an Okinawan word.
James: And what’s a kanji?
Nick: Okay, so the kanji of this word’s quite complex to write. So it’s written with one kanji character and hiragana script. So Japanese is broken into three syllabaries, I guess. So there’s hiragana, which is your basic script. Then you have kanji, which is obviously Chinese characters. And then you have katakana, which is used for foreign words.
So the iki, I mean, we should probably put the kanji on the blog post, or in the notes.
James: Yes, if you send it to me, we’ll put it there.
Nick: So the first character represents life. And after that, in most cases, it’s written with hiragana. If it is written in kanji, the last two characters represent shell, and floral design, or decoration. And so that’s why it’s related to decorated shells.
Now, most Japanese wouldn’t even know this. So your audience probably now knows more about ikigai and the history of the word and what it means than most Japanese.
James: Yeah, I think we’ve been totally nerding out. But that was the promise, the promise of this episode is the truth about ikigai. And I guess the subtitle is almost like, how that relates to you.
Applying what we know about the idea
So knowing this, knowing what it isn’t, knowing what it is, how do we apply this?
Nick: Okay, so I think we really need to look at the work of an amazing woman called Kamiya Mieko, as she was a psychiatrist, and we could do an entire podcast on her. I’ve got a brief note that I’ll just read out.
So Kamiya Mieko could be called the mother of ikigai psychology. That’s what I’d call her. She was one of the first researchers to extensively study ikigai, and her seminal book, Ikigai-ni-Tsuite, which would translate to Regarding Ikigai, but it’s often translated, just the title’s often translated to, What Makes Our Life Worth Living, or, On The Meaning of Life. Her book is still considered standard by current day Japanese researchers and psychologists, despite it being published in 1966. And her book’s not published in English.
And she actually died at the age of 65 in 1979. So you know, she’s the mother of ikigai psychology, you’d think she would have lived on to be a hundred.
So I had to read her book. And it was a really hard book to read in Japanese. So it was a massive challenge for me to read her book. But what I learned from her book, there are seven ikigai needs that we need to satisfy in order to find or live out ikigai or to experience our ikigai. So shall we go through them?
James: Yes, please. And just as a side note, a lot of my favorite thought-leading sort of books came from that era of the 60s, or thereabouts. I’m thinking of Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics. I’m thinking of Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive. Not exactly sure of the publishing dates of those, but a lot of the thoughts and mainstay principles out there have come from those type of texts and resources.
We don’t have to get the latest course on funnels that was published last week. There’s some absolute classics out there to discover, and that’s why I’ve got such a big bookshelf, actually. I think there’s some incredible stuff there that will last a long, long time. You know, certainly generations.
So let’s talk about the ikigai needs from…
Nick: Kamiya Mieko. Yeah.
James: Kamiya Mieko.
Nick: So Kamiya is actually her surname and Mieko’s her first name. But just on that, James, you would love this book. Because she actually lived in Geneva and learnt French. She learnt English. So in her book, she cites, like, Viktor Frankl. She cites all these, you know, French psychologists or physicists, and English ones. And so it was really hard to read it, and I had to Google all these different writers and authors and philosophers. And I’m really still reading it now.
The seven ikigai needs per Kamiya Mieko
But yeah, the seven ikigai needs. So the first need, and it’s the most fundamental need, is life satisfaction. And the important point for this one is, you have this idea your life is moving forward. That’s a core aspect to ikigai.
And even if your life is, you know, crap at the moment, and you’re struggling, or you’re depressed (and obviously many people are at the moment), if you have this belief that things will get better, and you know you can action things, and you also have some life satisfaction, you can actually feel ikigai in that moment.
And there’s one thing we should have done. So we need to briefly define how Kamiya Mieko explains ikigai. So she describes it as you have an ikigai source, or an ikigai object. And she defined that as ikigai. So in your case, it could be your youngest daughter, your child.
And then she says we have ikigai-kan. Now kan means feeling. So ikigai-kan would mean ikigai perception, or ikigai awareness, or ikigai feeling. So if you think about your daughter, your ikigai source, your ikigai-kan would be feelings of love, joy, pride, even, like, hope for the future.
And that’s a really good way for us to understand ikigai, because we want to have ikigai-kan as the experience, the feeling. And we can identify our ikigai sources. So for you, it would be, you know, your daughter, your wife, your family, but also surfing or your work.
So that’s a really important point. Ikigai and ikigai-kan.
On raising children and gaining the driver’s seat
James: Very good to know.
James: The children one is interesting, because I’ve got five children, and I don’t know the source, but I read something along the lines that you don’t sort of own kids, that it’s just DNA trying to exist, you know, along with you, and then probably, you know, independently.
Like, when you think about it in the purest form, it’s a DNA organism that’s doing its best to survive. And that sort of explains, you know, why a cranky kid will slap you in the face by accident when they’re thrashing about. They don’t really care that much ultimately, they’re just trying to do their best to survive.
And I thought it was such a fascinating distinction, that a lot of parents are overcontrolling and overprotective of their kids as if they’re possessions, but really, that thing’s doing its best to survive with or without you. And it’s really fascinating.
But I do, of course, absolutely love my youngest daughter, she’s amazing. And for me, having the ability to spend the experiences are probably positive for her and for me, and for my wife. It’s really a magical scenario that was harder with my first few kids, because I was in a job then. So I noticed the contrast, and it’s definitely easy for me to get a gauge on that scale. You know, like it’s 10 out of 10 now, where before I had this overriding need to get money to pay for survival.
James: It was just, almost shock and trauma for the first decade, just jamming out kids and trying to survive. Now it’s like, I got a lot more time freedom, money freedom, relationship freedom to be able to discover this.
But I’ll also say this – when I quit my job in 2008, it was overwhelming to have so much freedom and the ability to shape my life where before, there was a lot of control taken away from me, having an employer, having the bulk of my week already allocated by someone else, and basically, I was in the backseat.
But when you get in the driver’s seat of your life, it can be really difficult for some people to deal with or to manage. And whilst I might be unemployable now – you know, I could never go and work a traditional job, I suspect, because I just couldn’t have that level of compromising control – I think these are good tools for you to benchmark against, to give you some guide rails, if you do happen to have quit your job or you’re free or you’re planning on it.
Be ready for a whole new reality. You can no longer have that excuse, you know, I have to surf before work, or you know, I can only have 30 minutes off during my lunch break or whatever. I was surfing with a guy the other day, lovely guy. And while we were surfing, I said, are you working from home at the moment? He goes, Yeah, I just popped on a video, which I’m running in the background so they still think I’m at my desk. I said two words. One started with F and the other one with T. Like, there’s no way I could place myself in that reality. It’s over 10 years since I’ve been there.
But I think a lot of people could really hit the accelerator on this ikigai concept if they create a path for themselves. So let’s give them the guide rails. What are these things they need? Life satisfaction is one.
Why change and growth are essential ingredients
Nick: Yeah. What you’ve just said there highlights the next point, so it’s change and growth. And so you’ve just said, in 2008, you said that’s it. And what I like about you, James, is you don’t have one of those rags-to-riches stories. You had an incredible job and you were earning lots of money. And from the outside, I imagine people were thinking you were crazy. Why would you quit this job at Mercedes-Benz?
“We must embrace change in order to grow.”
But you weren’t happy. And so you had the courage to change, and you took a gamble. And with change comes growth. And so Kamiya Mieko (I’ll just refer to her as Kamiya), she states that boredom can indicate a poor mental health state, and that we must embrace change in order to grow. And so we must proactively seek change. And again, if we do this, we’ve got a very good chance of experiencing ikigai-kan.
James: Preparedness and the ability to deal with change – and we’re certainly seeing that in the world right now – is what builds resilience. It’s what builds good habits. It’s what builds reduction of anxiety, and uplifting of confidence.
Thankfully, and I’ve talked about this in some of my other trainings, I’ve been preparing for change since at least 2001, when I went to management training and got a hold of this German book on change management. It changed my life, because I then embraced and accepted change.
And you’re right, I gave up a job that everyone thought I was crazy to. But I’d reached the pinnacle of a hill. And I wanted to get down off the hill and go up the mountain.
James: I actually was future pacing. I thought, I do not want to be that bitter, downtrodden, burnt-out wreck of a corporate shell who’s just overstayed their peak. It’s just going to get difficult in the future.
So I also felt that I had to immediately get rid of the most dangerous scenario ever, which is getting paid by one person. And if you were to poll a lot of people right now, they would have had the harsh reality of what that means. And when the governments eventually tug the support systems that are in place – maybe it’s next year, maybe sometime in the future – there’ll be a bitter reckoning, and a hangover is coming. I’ve talked about this in the previous episodes. We have to prepare for change. I love this concept of change so much.
Nick: So do I.
James: That it’s a guiding force in my life. And it was the one commitment I made myself when I quit my job, is that I will accept change, I will thrive in change. I will embrace change and use it as a tool to succeed.
Nick: I had a similar experience. One day I was, after coming back from Japan, I eventually got a job, and I was just so unhappy. And one afternoon I just, I got a witness. I had problems at work, which I won’t go into. I just got a witness. I spoke to one of the managers and said, I’m leaving. I’m quitting today.
And I walked out, and it felt so freeing. But then yeah, I had to adapt and change. And it, you know, it wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I did it.
Believing in the good to come
So the next ikigai need is something probably we all need to put energy in and believe, and that’s thinking that you have a bright future, and that your life will unfold in a new direction, a new positive direction. So it’s similar to life satisfaction.
“We need to have manageable short-term goals and ambitious long-term goals.”
And what Kamiya suggests is we need to have manageable short-term goals and ambitious long-term goals. And we know how powerful goal-setting is. And so this is another great, great need that, you know, believe that you’ll have a bright future and set goals to move towards that future.
James: You know, in my case, I believe I’m going to get a good barrel. That’s really my bright future vision, if you like.
Nick: We’re talking about surfing now, aren’t we?
James: We are. It’s when the wave goes over you and you’re inside the middle of a wave that’s closing over you, and you’re moving forward. That’s like, the ultimate moment in time that I dream of, that motivates me with my surfing. Therefore, you know, everything else follows. That’s very important. Ask any surfer.
Nick: Yeah, well, that’s a good goal. And if you visualize that, and you look forward to it, that just makes you feel ikigai-kan in the moment.
James: I dream about it, when I go to bed.
Nick: Well, I’m sure you’ll get there, James.
How important is being accepted?
So let’s move on to the next one. Now, this to me is probably the most important one. I mean, they’re all important, but resonance. And so this is about interpersonal relationships. We need to be accepted by others, and we also need to dedicate ourselves to a significant other.
And so yeah, remember these are needs we want to satisfy. So it’s very important that we’re accepted by our friends, our coworkers, our family. But we also have an intimate relationship with a significant other.
James: I want to ask about that one. Because, you know, one of my favorite books of late was The Courage to Be Disliked. You know, if you’ve ever watched a Gary Vee video, he’ll talk about why other people’s opinions of you is their business and they don’t know you well enough to have an opinion. And one of the things that stops people poking their head up as an entrepreneur and doing something worthwhile is they’re worried about not being liked.
And occasionally, when I’m out and about, I’ll see a young girl with their phone doing little Instagram selfies for, like, 25 minutes. Or down at the beach, when I’m walking down the beach, I see them doing these little jump shots and lying in the shallows and stuff during their… And I think they really, really, really, really have this strong need to be liked by others. But I would say that that is unhealthy.
What’s your thoughts on that? Like, is there a place for not worrying what other people think?
James: I mean, I publish this podcast. I don’t love the sound of my own voice, I just plug away. And hopefully, it lands, you know, resonates with some people. But ultimately, if it doesn’t, it’s still okay. I’m not doing it for others so much anymore, as I used to.
I used to be exclusively selfish. I did my podcast to make money in the early days. Now I’ve got a more creative pursuit, where I’m doing it to curate the best content that I think is going to really be good for me and my audience, because we’re on the same path.
Nick: Yeah. Now, I’ve read that book, The Courage to Be Disliked. So the context of being accepted by others is by the people who define you. So that would be your children, your partner, your close friends, and your parents. And obviously, you know, someone in your social network, your family, your friends, and your children, at some stage, they won’t accept who you are, for whatever reason. So it’s not everyone.
James: Definitely. If you’ve ever had teenagers or older, I find that is very interesting. Even the parent one. You know, I love my parents. But from time to time, we have different viewpoints and I’ve done things that they don’t accept or that they won’t be happy about. But again, I have to do what I do. And my hope is that they’ll be happy and proud now, for the most part.
I’m really wrestling with this concept of how much independence should we have, or responsibility for ourself, versus worrying, especially if you have friends or whatever. If I became like, some of my friends or whatever, I don’t think I’d be having the same quality of life I have, because I’m usually an exception in my group, not the norm. Because I’ve fortified myself. I’ve put that thing on.
So it is a really interesting one.
James: This one is the one I’m most intrigued by, so far. Resonance.
Nick: Yeah. So I think with the acceptance part, it’s more perhaps who you are, rather than what you do or achieve, or whether you disagree.
James: So is this acceptance from yourself?
Nick: Well, Ken Mogi talks about the most important thing you can do is releasing yourself, which is accepting yourself. His book, and I won’t mention his, he has five pillars of ikigai. I’ve interviewed him twice. He’s an amazing man. And I’ve done a blog post. So if you google five pillars of ikigai, you’ll see his pillars.
But that pillar, if you can release yourself, meaning accept yourself, your life will dramatically change. Then you won’t care about strangers or people…
James: So it seems, like, to be the opposite.
Nick: Yeah, but it’s not really. So the context of Kamiya is the people you care about. Obviously, you want them to accept who you are. Yeah.
James: But they might not. I care about some people who don’t care about me in return.
Nick: Okay, I mean, it’s, trying to say it’s not the context that you’re thinking it is.
James: Okay. We’ll leave it at that.
James: I’m okay. But I just wanted to, I mean, I’m not trying to argue. I just, really genuinely, that is such a dynamite trigger for me, is worrying what people think is such a killer of moving forward for some people. But I also think you would feel, you’ll definitely feel better if the people you care about care back about you. So I get that, if that’s the context.
Nick: That’s the context. There’s a great quote, and I don’t know who said it, but you need to be indifferent of the good or bad opinion of others. That’s a really good quote.
James: Like, basically don’t care.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. But that’s, I think that’s different to your meaningful relationships and if your children, you know, accept who you are.
But let’s move on.
The freedom of choice, in spite of life
So the next need to satisfy is freedom. And she actually says, we’re not completely free. But we need to have the sense that we’re free with, you know, agency and autonomy, and that despite life’s restrictions, we still have the freedom of choice.
“We need to have the sense that despite life’s restrictions, we still have the freedom of choice.”
So obviously, you know, you made that choice in 2008, to change your life. So every day, we have choices, and she also says that we can sacrifice our – not sacrifice – but we can make choices for the long term rather than acting on impulses.
And we can also sacrifice our own freedom for the others, for the freedom of others, so maybe our children or partners. And that, in and of itself, is a freedom of choice that we make for ourselves.
James: That is an interesting distinction.
James: I mean, at the moment, listening to this, some people are in complete lockdown, and they may be feeling definitely having less agency than normal. They can’t leave their house, or within five kilometers of it, and only for an hour a day or whatever, to exercise. And if they go, they must wear a facemask, etc, etc. So this might be really an important point.
Certainly, it’s true, when you refer to my job, I felt like I was in a system or a prison, an employee prison from a very pushy corporation. You know, like most big corporates, they’re a machine and they’re not friendly for most employees. So I definitely pulled the escape hatch, and I felt responsibility for that.
But now I’m just thinking, I’m placing myself more in your shoes. Not for me. I can go to the beach and go and have a coffee or whatever. I’m outdoors probably six hours a day at the moment. You’re in lockdown. How do you feel about this point? Is the choice you
have whether to wear a black top or a white one, or whether you have rice bubbles or cornflakes? Like, how do you interpret that?
Nick: I mean, I’ve been walking every morning and afternoon to get my exercising, and I’m walking down leafy Melbourne streets. No one’s out there. And yeah, I’m having to wear this mask. So it feels so strange. When I’m in this park, you’ll see someone walking up to you, and at the same time, you both kind of slip on your mask, because you know you have to.
So it really is weird, because nothing’s changed in terms of our environment. You can’t see the virus or anything. But you have to do this, obviously, to cooperate. But for me, it hasn’t been a big concern, because I have this freedom to work at home, and I’m making all the choices I want to.
And occasionally, I think it would be nice to, you know, have dinner at a restaurant or go to a cafe. But I still have this sense of agency and freedom, because my life hasn’t dramatically changed.
Now, I’ve got friends who are up in arms and really struggling and getting depressed. I’ve got one friend who’s never been depressed, and he’s actually being depressed. So I think it depends on the person, maybe where they’re at in life.
And I think it’s a massive wake-up call to everyone who thought their stability was in their job. And now they have so much time. They don’t know what to do with it. But the irony is, when they were working, they desperately wanted time.
James: That’s what I was talking about before. I used to see someone drive past with a dirt bike on the back of their car, like some plumber or whatever, he’s knocked off at three o’clock and he’s going for a dirt bike ride. And I’m like, What am I doing wrong? I make big money. I’m in my little suit in my corporate prison, and he’s the one riding his dirt bike.
But then the time comes, I’m like, oh my god, we have so much time. If we sleep for eight hours a day,.even if you work for eight hours a day, there’s still another eight hours a day for you to do other things. So there’s actually abundant time. When it all piles on, though, you no longer have to go somewhere else for 60 hours a week, it can be intoxicating.
And, you know, after you’ve renovated your house and set up your home gym and cleared out your boxes of rubbish and learned to cook some meals and studied a new language, it’s like, that responsibility comes back to you. So I guess what we’re talking about here is maybe the concept of freedom is from within.
Nick: Yep, yep, absolutely.
An existence aligned with your values
Moving on, self-actualization. And she describes this as the development of one’s core. That really means one’s true self. And she says, you know, this takes patience, and a lot of effort. And I think it goes back to, you know, accepting who you are, and realizing who you want to be, rather than achieving wealth or social recognition.
So it’s not about being your best self, because that’s unattainable. You can never really be your best self, because you could always do something better. But you can be your true self. And that means to live and align with your values.
If you’re compromising your values, or you’re forced to live in conflict with the values, it’s going to be really hard for you to experience ikigai-kan. But if you’re being true to yourself, and you’re living your values, then you’re going to be pretty happy and you’re going to experience ikigai.
James: So is there somewhere where this sort of intersects with wabi sabi?
Nick: No, no, let’s not go there. Because wabi sabi, to briefly say, is something you sense, and it’s to do with nature and the elements. You can’t be wabi sabi. A person can’t… They can experience wabi sabi, but they can’t… It’s an aesthetic. It’s a sense.
James: Is it a loose interpretation of being okay with things not being perfect?
Nick: Yeah, yeah. So I’ve done lots of research on wabi sabi recently. And see, Japanese would never say, wabi sabi, they would never describe it as the beauty of imperfection. You have to understand, every translated Japanese word, I mean, with a deep meaning, is just one person’s best attempt to try and define it.
And what we need to do is we need to let go of definitions of these words, and we need to think, Okay, these definitions give me a snapshot or a glimpse of what it means. But if I really want to understand ikigai or wabi sabi, I should go and study it. You know, I should google it, try and get books that have been translated from Japanese authors. Because a lot of the books out there are just interpretations of Westerners.
James: The reason why I was trying to draw a bridge there was when I’m talking to people like Ezra Firestone, you know, he talks about concepts of just being comfortable in your own skin, being happy with yourself. And it seems there’s some kind of tie-in between self-actualization and, you know, being aligned with your values and not seeking out some artificial, you know, Instagram-curated magazine cover version of the life that you think…
Like, God knows we get enough jet planes, Lamborghinis and whatnot rammed down our face on a daily basis from people saying, Hey, this is what success means. Well, they can go suck it, because, you know, I know that for me, that’s not a real version. It’s certainly not what would make me happy. I don’t think I’d be happy paying the fuel bill for a jet, let alone I don’t know where I’d get it to take me. Right now, it’d be sitting on the tarmac burning up dollars.
So I guess it’s just sort of hinting at, is it possible that we can be okay with things not being this fairy tale perfect that media might have us believe?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, it goes back to that Ken Mogi’s pillar of accepting yourself. But you’re right, we’re chasing this delusion that, you know, once I have success or wealth, or I’m recognized, I’ll be happy. And that’s not true, because happiness is, real happiness, are these unexpected fleeting moments of joy. Happiness is best experienced when you don’t expect it, and when you have the opportunity to share it, and it’s fleeting.
So in that context, it’s like wabi sabi. It’s this fleeting moment. But the key thing we’re probably trying to chase, or not chase, is we just want life satisfaction. That’s attainable, because you can get up in the morning, you can go out and have your surf, and you can come back and think, that was really satisfying. But you probably can’t say, I was so happy when surfing. Because, you know, you might have had a bad day or struggle. But you can have life satisfaction.
James: This is a really interesting thing for me. Because from an outsider, my life might look totally unremarkable. But I’m experiencing such joy and good moments on a continual basis. But I do have all the same apple carts that tip over, like all the other people have. Because I’ve got kids, you know, life happens, things change, deliveries are delayed or whatever, all these things happen. Health things can happen and so forth.
The small things that make up joy
I can’t put it into words or an Instagram picture. The little things, like, yes, I’m happy when I get a perfect coffee, when I paddle out, I walk down in the sun and I get great waves. The feeling is terrific when I’m spending a fantastic time with my wife, we have lunch or we go and do some other activities together. Yeah, when I hold my little baby daughter’s hand, we walk down to the park in the afternoon.
Those things are just, they’re simple. They’re not Lamborghini moments. They’re not $10 million revenue moments. But by God, it’s like the most awesome thing that if other people could know, they might put in the effort to build the machine that can get them there. Because it is a bell curve. You start with nothing. Then you go through this enormous workload and stress and finding your offer that converts and building a team and all the rest of it.
But the reality is like, for me even to be able to spend, like, it’s the middle of a day here on a beautiful sunny day in Sydney, to spend this time delving into an amazing topic where I’m literally getting an education from you, Nick, as are our listeners, which I’m grateful for. I guess I get sponsored to do this by people buying my membership, or my book or whatever, it all comes back. But it’s such a privilege, and it’s a position I put myself in.
And that’s why I’m really interested in this topic. It’s so hard to put into words, and I think ikigai is sort of as close as might be for the criteria that you’re talking about.
Nick: It is. And while you’ve just mentioned all those little things, the coffee, lunch with your wife, holding your daughter’s hand or hugging her, these are what we can call the joys of life, the little joys of life. And that’s another pillar of Ken Mogi’s book.
So, of all these books – and that’s in English, so you can get that book – all the books I’ve researched, and the people I’ve spoken to, there’s all these common themes that if we just sat back and thought about life, it would just make sense. Like, be in the moment. Hug your child, enjoy your coffee, leave your phone at home, go out to lunch with your partner. That’s where you have life satisfaction and those happy moments.
Doing things now for your future self
James: But it’s also sometimes luxury. Because you have to do things now for your future self. So you have to be a little bit in the future. So that you’re not, you know, just like, you’re not going to be homeless or whatever. Like, you’ve got to do things now for the future self. So you’ve got to spend some time in the future.
Like this podcast. I’m recording this podcast, and let’s hope it transcends the original ikigai episode as the most-downloaded episode. Wouldn’t it be great, if we have like 12,000 downloads? That’s me, that’s James now looking after James in the future. And Nick, Nick’s going to do fine off this episode as well. So that’s great.
Nick: As I said, I couldn’t sleep last night.
James: Oh, that’s funny.
Nick: But I mean, you’ve just gone back to that point of freedom. So you’re making this choice of freedom, thinking, you could be off doing something else today. Something fun. But you’re thinking, no, I’d rather do this podcast because I know…
“Spend some time being grateful for the things you’ve done in the past, to put yourself in today’s position.”
James: This is fun. I’ve already done something else for fun before, and I’m going to do something else for fun after. What I’m saying is, I’m not going to miss out. This is my work for the day. And what a glorious work it is, to get paid to talk. But it’s also worth spending some time being grateful for the things you’ve done in the past, to put yourself in today’s position.
Don’t delve in the old traumas, which is really like the big lesson from The Courage to Be Disliked, is forget about the bad things of the past because they no longer exist. But I do sometimes pay a little bit of gratitude to my parents, my grandparents, me in the past.
When I think back of my old self, like, walking out of that dealership was such a pole. Looking back, I go, Oh my god, you’re crazy. You know, what a risk. But what a gamble that paid off. And as the chips fell, it worked out. So this was so prescriptive. I love it.
And I don’t mean to be selfish talking about me relating to this episode. But it’s so personal for me, this topic, that I literally wrote a book around it. Work Less Make More is an attempt to share what is possible, you know? Figure out what your effective hourly rate is, just get your offer that converts, build a team.
Straight after we hang up, my team is going to get to work and make sure this gets out to our audience. Thankfully, you know, they’re right there, this powerhouse engine in the background who have been with me for over 10 years, are going to drive this website and get this podcast episode out there.
And it’s such a symphony of alignment where they are making this beautiful orchestral music out of our raw inputs and a little bit of conducting. But I think some of them actually get a lot of passion in putting this together, and they send me comments like, Oh, boss, that was a great episode, or, Really enjoyed this, or, I learned a lot from that. That actually ticks a box for me, too.
Nick: Yeah. I was going to say, James, I was hoping one day that I would invite you onto my podcast, because you really do make a good example of someone living their ikigai. And I’ve fought this for, you know, months. So hopefully, I’d love to do that with you. Another point, yeah, gratitude is a very important aspect of ikigai.
Reshaping the Venn diagram with four questions
But let’s move on, because the next point is really important. And we can use this, probably, to redefine the Venn diagram. The next point is meaning and value. And so Kamiya basically says, we need to reflect on the meaning of our life, to justify its value. And whether we know it or not, we are asking the meaning of our life in every experience.
“Whether we know it or not, we are asking the meaning of our life in every experience.”
And if our answers aren’t life-affirming, if we don’t think what we just did wasn’t worth it, and last night was a disaster, we’re not going to be able to experience ikigai. And she has four specific questions on how to reflect on your life. And she sort of, in her book, it’s not a self help book, but she does encourage the reader to, you know, reflect on your life. And here are four questions you can use.
So these four questions could replace the four questions in the westernized ikigai Venn diagram.
James: Go for it.
Nick: And they’re a little bit confronting.
So the first one is, in general, is life worth living?
The next one is, what am I living for?
And the third one is, what is the goal unique to me?
And the last one is in relation to those two questions. So in relation to, what am I living for, and what is the goal unique to me, do I deserve to exist?
And that’ll have you thinking for quite a while if you go through those four questions.
Can you honestly say you deserve to exist?
James: That’s an interesting one, about the deserve.
James: Because, you know, some people relate this concept of people saying, you know, I deserve this, or I deserve that, to causing entitlement. You know, people having a bad attitude, because they think something’s owed to them.
And then you hear other people talking about the lottery of life, like, I think Warren Buffett might be the guy who talked about, basically if you’re born white, in Western society, to good parents, you’ve won the lottery, the genetic lottery.
So there’s definitely different starting points to life. There’s the possibility that if you have this, you know, I deserve this, or I deserve to have that, that you might be creating a feeling of entitlement. I suspect from this statement, it’s really trying to pin some sort of responsibility for being worth onto yourself. Is that what’s happening here?
Nick: Yeah, what she’s saying is, every day we wake up to a new morning, and we have the opportunity to make something of our life. And she’s not saying like, you’re obligated to do something, you have to make the most of your life. It’’s more like, you, you’ve been given this life. And so with the things you do, you know, with your unique goal or your roles in your life, do you deserve to exist?
James: Right. So it’s like that one where it’s like, your life is a bank account and time is a unit, so you get 24 units each day, for however many thousand days we live. How are you going to invest that time?
“Are you making the most of your life? And can you justify it today?”
Nick: Yeah, it’s not your self worth. But it’s more probably, am I making the most of my life? And can I justify it today? And then you can say, Yeah, I can justify it today.
I mean, obviously, you can, James. I mean, you help thousands. I think you’ve got close to 1000 people in SuperFastBusiness. But you’re helping thousands of people just with your podcast. I’m sure you’re getting feedback all the time. So you can say yeah, you know, I’m helping people. So I do deserve to exist. Because I have several roles, I help people in business. I imagine you’re a loving, caring father and husband. So you could say, yeah, I deserve to exist.
The real-life awakenings of being a parent
James: I try my best. Parenting man. If I was to write a book on parenting, it’d be like, you know, a book on parenting might be the cover, and then inside it’ll just say, it’s really hard. There’s no shortcut around that one.
Nick: Well, you’ve got five kids, so that’s quite a challenge.
James: Yeah, it’s like a work in progress. You know, I’m trying to get a bigger data set so that I can figure some of this stuff out. You know, that’s one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever, I think it’s the hardest thing, the most incredible thing, is being a parent. It’s why I generally don’t follow self help advice from 21-year-old authors who have yet to have any life experience in real terms.
You know, I think that having children teaches you a lot about yourself. It also makes you aware of your own parents.
James: And gosh, it throws some challenges. I have them spanning different age groups now. And what an education.
Nick: I just got one boy, he’s 16. But I remember reading this one line in a book, it said, if you want your children to be happy, the best thing you can do as a parent is get out of their way and let them experience life.
Nick: And that was so powerful. And I thought, right, this is what I’m going to do.
And yeah, he’s turned out all right. But it’s, yeah, it’s challenging, but it’s rewarding. And now he’s 16. So he’s always ribbing me about Oh, ikigai, whoa, you know, kind of thing. But yeah, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to have children.
James: It is amazing.
Nick: And to, hopefully, in some way, have some sort of positive influence on them.
James: You just do the best, you know? Try and be a good parent.
And so where to from here?
How play and work contribute to ikigai
Nick: Yeah. So I think we need to have a really good example of someone living their ikigai. And that’s you, James. And what’s interesting is we can break this down into similar words, ikigai. So you love surfing, everyone knows that. So we could define that as your asobigai . So there’s a verb in Japanese called “asobu”, which translates to “play”. And the verb “play” is not restricted to just children in Japanese. So it can be applied to adults. So the value you experience in surfing could be described as asobigai.
James: I love that. Play and fun. Like, most western adults have just had the kid beaten out of them by the time they’re my age. I’m, I joke about this, but my local surf shop thinks that I’m probably about equivalent to maybe a 15-year-old kid in terms of my surf froth level.
But I am playing, you know? I surf, I ride my bike, I shoot hoops with a basketball, I skate. I’m interested in playing and having fun, because that is huge. I like this asobigai.
Nick: Yeah. And then your work, there’s a word for that. So hatarakigai, there’s the verb, hataraku. And again, it can be conjugated with gai to become hatarakigai. And that’s the value you have in working, or the meaning you find in work.
So this is where these two schools of thought come in. Because there’s another author, Kobayashi Tsukasa, who says, look, your ikigai can’t be, you know, your surfing or your tennis or your craft. That’s your asobigai. And your work can’t be your ikigai because that’s your hatarakigai. Your ikigai is more meaningful than that.
So that’s really interesting. And whatever the case, it doesn’t really matter. Because if it is your asobigai, that’s still great, because you’re finding this meaning and value in surfing. And if SuperFastBusiness and SilverCircle is your hatarakigai, that’s great, because you’re finding this value and meaning in your work.
And then his idea is that your ikigai is closer to self-actualization.
James: You know, what we really need is a good old Venn diagram. Put these circles intersecting in the middle.
Nick: Well, I’m working on that.
James: The new improved, revised and more accurate Venn diagram.
Nick: But it’s only three circles. But yeah.
And this is where ikigai could also be for example, like, your daughter, maybe at the moment, that age, when she’s close to two?
James: Yeah. Not quite, but yeah.
Nick: I remember when my son was two, I realized, this is the absolute significance and importance of my role. Because when they’re a baby, you’ve just got to hold them and your wife nurses and feeds them.
James: They need a lot of help. They need feeding, dressing.
Nick: Yeah, I mean, there’s all that, but when they’re two, this little personality develops, and they look to you like you’re a rock star. They absolutely love you. And I can understand why some men, or particularly men, can’t handle it, because they have this wonderful bundle of joy, who just loves you unconditionally. And that for me was when I realized, wow, I’ve got to be the best dad. Because this little boy, at the time, I didn’t relate it, but at the time, he’s my ikigai.
Nick: So that’s the context of where it can be one thing. I think it’s the spectrum with this core.
How James fares on the 9-point ikigai test
So yeah, James, you have this great life, because you’ve built this machine. And now you have all these freedoms. So you’ve got asobigai in your surfing, you’ve got hatarakigai in your work. And you’ve got ikigai in your family. But I think for you, you know, your surfing is your ikigai, your business is your ikigai. And obviously, your family and your young daughter is your ikigai. But if we really want to measure your ikigai, would you be up for a test?
James: Sure. In the interest of education, why not?
Nick: Yeah. So there’s a tool that was developed, and it’s called, it’s a psychometric tool, it’s kind of measuring your traits and tendencies. It’s called the ikigai 9. And it was developed at the Department of psychological counseling in a major university, so in Tokyo. This was quite a while ago, I think it goes back at least eight years ago.
But then it was translated and validated in a UK sample. And I actually interviewed the professor who did the translation, and his name was Dean Fido. Yeah, there’s a podcast on that. So if people google ikigai 9, or go to my website, they can listen to that.
James: We’ll also list as many resources as we can in our show notes.
James: Episode 772.
James: What’s your website again?
James: There you go.
Nick: So there are nine statements, and I just want you to answer one or five, with one being, does not apply to me at all, and five being, applies to me a lot.
Nick: I’ll write down your answers so we can tally up your score. So obviously, a score of 45 is the highest you can get.
All right, I’m going to read them as if you’re reading them.
Nick: Okay. So here we go.
I believe that I have some impact on someone.
Nick: My life is mentally rich and fulfilled.
Nick: I’m interested in many things.
Nick: I feel that I am contributing to someone or to society.
Nick: A bit of a theme here.
I would like to develop myself.
Nick: I often feel that I’m happy.
Nick: I think that my existence is needed by something or someone.
Nick: I would like to learn something new or start something.
Well, James, you wouldn’t make a very good coaching client for me, because you’ve got 45 out of 45. So you have got a lot of ikigai in your life.
James: Thanks. But, you know, hopefully, that’s what I’m helping other people get. That‘s really my goal. I don’t really have a coach as such, but I do feel like I’ve figured a lot of the stuff out now.
And I’m actually just about to create. So keep an eye out for this. A Work Less Make More in 30 days free training, challenge of sorts. And so I’m just producing that at the moment. And my goal will be to move as many people as I can through to getting more set up, the way that I’ve been able to do things, even if they get the starting steps done.
That was an interesting thing. I mean, yeah, my frustration is it’s only limited to five. Some of them, I’d be jumping out of my skin to over score.
The makings of a great gap analysis tool
Nick: You’ve got a perfect score. But I mean, that’s a study. So that’s how these Japanese psychologists…
James: I imagine they’d quickly flush out people who are depressed.
Nick: Yeah, yeah.
James: Or have, you know, reached a dead end or are feeling unfulfilled. And then they can use that as a tool to go and replace that gap.
Nick: Interesting you mentioned that, because Dean Fido, and the guy who helped him translate this, Yasuhiro Kotera, basically they believe, based on the research, that ikigai can help people with depression. You know, this idea of having something to look forward to.
James: I think it would be a fantastic gap analysis tool. If you’d find out where you’re down on the scale, it’s like, okay, the question becomes, how do we improve that score?
It reminds me of the Instant Influence framework, where they use it to help people who need to take drugs or are suffering alcoholism or whatever in the emergency ward, and they ask people on a scale of one to 10, how motivated to change are they? And if they say, oh, three or four, then they say, Well, why didn’t you give it a one? They’re looking for that sliver of motivation or, you know, starting point of looking forward to, you know, or positivity.
And then they ask you, what would it take to move that to say, five or six? And that’s sort of exploring the gap. And then you start moving it up the scale. So that’s a good analysis.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I can’t tell you how rewarding and fascinating this has been to study all this and what I’ve learned. There’s so much more.
James: I know we’re only scraping the iceberg, but I want to ask you if you would come back and talk to us about some more of these philosophies that I’ve been asking you about privately, on my own journey of discovery, and just, like, put it public.
Nick: Absolutely. I’d love to, for sure.
James: Great. So we’re going to cover in future episodes things like wabi sabi, and a couple of other things that you suggested, Nick, because, you know, you are my audience, you’re a perfect representative of the people we’re speaking to. But you’re also, in this case, a Japanologist. You’re a keen aficionado of all of these meanings and understandings, but you’re helping us understand it better. And this has been such a good journey.
The critical takeaway of this episode
So I’m going to suggest that we wrap up this episode with a thought or a summary that you would like someone who’s listened all this way, or if we take this as a grab for the start of this episode, to interest someone in listening to it, what would you say is the most critical thing to take away? If you could take nothing else, what’s like, a phrase or a paragraph that would get someone a good understanding of this episode?
Nick: Okay, this is how I define ikigai. So ikigai is a life philosophy involving daily rituals, living your values, building intimate relationships, fulfilling your roles, and pursuing a life goal with a healthy sense of urgency. If you can do some of that, or all of that, you’ll experience the Japanese concept of ikigai.
James: Legend. There you go. That is Episode 772, with Nicholas Kemp. And he’s got his own website there, IkigaiTribe.com.
Nick: Yup. IkigaiTribe.com.
James: Come check out resources. We’ll put a list of references, linking off to Nick’s site, and mention the books that have been talked about and other resources for this episode, 772.
By the way, if you like this episode, please leave a review, wherever you listen to it. I would greatly appreciate that. That would definitely improve my ikigai. And I’m sure Nick, who didn’t sleep last night, would love to get some feedback on how he went, because we’ve got a few more episodes coming out with some other concepts.
If you like this, well, I always read the comments and answer emails personally. If you get an email letting you know about this episode, then you can always reply to that and I’ll be able to read that. So thank you so much, Nick, for sharing today.
Nick: Thank you so much, James, for having me on. Thank you.
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