How Do You Impact the World?

16 05 2013

highlight your cause here

First year of MBA school done! Wow, it went by quickly. I have one more year to go. I’m sure I’ll write some on what I’ve learned over this past year, but one of the things that has hit me is the responsibility that MBA students have. We are groomed to be the next business leaders; to run these companies and impact the world in this way. The goal is “to increase shareholder value”, an objective that I don’t like so much, as it tends to not consider any means to get there, but just the end result. As a person, I believe impact is very important. Whether this is through impacting your shareholders by giving them a return on their investment, changing the world through creating good products, or impacting someone’s life through mentorship or friendship, making a difference in the world is important.

Last night, Brian and I watched a movie about Jiro, the greatest sushi maker in the world. This man was 85 years old and still running his sushi shop. His restaurant received 3 Michelin stars; the price for sushi STARTED at $300 and went up from there, depending on the type of sushi you ordered. There were only 10 seats in the restaurant. He had several apprentices, and they had to stay for 10 years before they could move up. That is such a long time to be an apprentice!


Jiro states that there are 5 important attributes of a good chef:

1. Take your work seriously.
2. Aspire to improve
3. Maintain cleanliness
4. Be a better leader than collaborator
5. Be passionate about your work.

I think these attributes could also be critical for business leaders (or anyone in their life, in that matter).

This man’s self discipline is incredible. His desire to improve is tantamount to no one else I’ve seen. Even as the most famous sushi master in the world, he has a humility that he hasn’t gotten it all right; there’s always room for improvement. Even in his position! If he feels like this, shouldn’t we all? It’s a healthy discontentment. He was still working at 85 years old, and was not planning on retiring. He was in quite good shape. He said that if he retired, he would go nuts and his family probably would kick him out of the house because he would be trying everyone crazy! Interestingly, he hated holidays, because it took him away from his work. He loved his work.

Jiro stated that he was rarely at home when his kids were growing up. He even said something to the fact that he was a bad father; he loved his work so much, that he wasn’t really present at home. He said that he LET his kids go to high school — he wanted them to start working at the restaurant and learn from him at that point, but he let them go. However, he didn’t let them go to college. They started apprenticing with him after they graduated high school. His son now has his own restaurant is very successful as well. He’s 50 years old and still works with his dad.

This got me thinking about his impact. I’m curious if his sons are bitter about his lack of presence when they were younger. Yes, they have a super famous dad, but did they miss out on something growing up that they can never get back? I think family is pretty important. I think having a strong family and safe place to grow up does wonders for a kid. It gives them the freedom to be themselves and know that they are loved unconditionally, not based on the work they produce, or how they look. It allows them to be confident and change the world, because they aren’t so afraid of being accepted or liked. Having a close relationship with your family and people older than you can help you have a proper view on life, and not just the small part that you can see at your age. It requires both parents, working as a team, not just one being there all the time, and the other absent. If Jiro had taken off 10 years of super hard work and just worked in a reasonable manner when his kids were little, would they have a closer relationship? Would it have ruined his career? I don’t think it would have ruined his career, but maybe he wouldn’t have been as successful. Does it matter? Which is more important? Which makes more impact in the world? Loving your kids and being there for them, building up strong children, and having them go out into the world and be successful themselves, or being great yourself? When does your dream take over your commitment to be there for your family, and let your children have their oven dreams? What do your pour your life into?

This comes up a lot with talk about women in the workforce. Many people would say even if you’re not home much with your kids, they’ll still appreciate what you gave up (being with them) because they can brag about you to their friends. Really? That seems a little ridiculous to me. As much as they probably would do so (what else do they have to talk about from their mom except that she’s CXO (Chief Fill-in-the-blank-type-of Office) of a huge company?), they probably would say that they’d rather be loved and see their mom. In the “American Dream” life, you always hear about kids saying they don’t see their dad/mom enough and just wish they’d have time to play with them. This is important. Do we think it’s more important than our jobs? No, we don’t, because we take the promotion that makes it hard for us to be home at night with our families. It’s hard to do it all. But I like to do really well in anything I do. How can you do both? Both of them desire 100% of your time in order to be fantastic.

Brian made a point that it’s in a sense your responsibility to love, be there, and take care of your kids, if you decide to have kids. They are then your primary responsibility. You have made the choice of having a family, and you can’t just abandon them and focus only on your career.

So how then do we impact the world? How do we discover new cures for illness, create new technology, innovate with the food we grow, and create cleaner, more efficient products in the world? This is important too, right? If we state that people who have families should make sure to dedicate time to them, and not be 100% focused on their jobs, then we lose the importance on doing good work and making a big dent in the world for the future. Is it only the people without children/families who are able to then do these huge things in the world? Maybe. You know that the people who have done these huge inventions worked relentlessly in pursuit of solving the problem, running the company, saving the sick, etc. We need people to do this. It’s critical for our society. However, we need people to love their kids — there are too many kids who don’t feel loved. In this sense, is it okay to be “mediocre”? Do well in your job (of course with my always-desire-to-improve, I would not be telling you to not succeed in your job), but make sure you spend time with those who need you? I remember reading an article about a woman who stepped down from her high government position to be home for her teenage kids. They were having some troubles, and so she decided being home for them when they got back from school was crucial to the well-being of their family. She stated that her kids only have one mom. The government could find someone else to do her job; you can always be replaced in your job (they don’t necessarily need YOU), but you can’t be replaced in your family (they need YOU). Some people say our culture is falling apart. Maybe one of the reasons for this is because our families are falling apart. What if we worked as hard on keeping them together as we did for our jobs? Wouldn’t this make a pretty big impact in the world as well? Where should we impact? Can we be the best in the world yet still not miss our on raising our kids? I’m not sure if it’s possible. Which then provides the most impact? Is impacting your family better than impacting your career field? Is one better than the other? I’m curious on your thoughts. Feel free to post in the comments.




4 responses

16 05 2013

Love this. I think you raised questions that many (especially women) feel. Have you listened to any recent talks about Sheryl Sandberg? I love that one of her key points in her recent talks is “make your partner a partner.” I think that women tend to think that we have a career, we also have to do fulfill the role of traditional stay at home mom (do all the cooking, do all the cleaning, do all the tucking in of kids at night). Sheryl points out that in family’s that have two working parents, women still do the majority of the child care and housework. I’m definitely not an expect since I don’t have kids, but I love how Sheryl challenges married couples to truly act as partners in supporting each others careers, caring for their home and raising their kids. That means some nights, JoJo will cook while I help the kids with homework. Some nights, I’ll cleanup after dinner so JoJo bath the kids. It not traditional, but it is a partnership. Again, I am not an expect and who knows what my thoughts will be once I have kids…but we both love the idea of equally carrying all the goodness and burdens that comes with balancing careers and kids.

16 05 2013
Amanda Zook

Yes, I have read a lot about Sheryl’s thoughts on this. I think that is a great point that she makes about “making your partner a partner”. Women can’t do it all, and neither can men. There has to be some balance, and that’s why it’s critical to have these two people working together in a family where both parents work. Thanks for your thoughts!

18 05 2013
Stephen Miller

Fun story: I saw Jiro’s son at the Tsukiji fish market last November. He was buying fish at sunrise, just like the documentary says. If I had a backbone and spoke Japanese, I would have asked how he felt about his father’s influence. Instead I just watched.

Jiro has always been a simultaneously inspiring and cautionary tale about what can happen when you fully devote yourself to something. It tends to strike a particular chord with a lot of my tech friends out here, who always look at the “normal” 9-5 family life with a confusing mix of emotions. They’re sure they’d be restless in that scenario, but wonder how peaceful it’d feel to have a family to come home to and a job you can “clock out of.” To them (myself included to an extent), work is life but life is good. How long that can be sustained, and what trade-offs it entails, is are big questions.

Anyway, I’m just rambling now. I like the blog.

21 05 2013
Get the Facts

Much thanks! It a remarkable site!

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