Annie and I went to the Whitney Museum this afternoon and worked our way through some fascinating exhibits and permanent installments. There was one painting that, for reasons not apparent to me in the moment, really jumped out at me in the room dedicated to artist Edward Hopper.
What really caught my eye in the descriptor next to the paining was the phrase “I’m after ME.” It was buried in this sentence, “Asked once what he was trying to achieve on a painting, he answered, “I’m after ME.” His aim was not to record outward appearances but to use his observations of the external world as vehicles through which to portray his inner life.” (Learn more about the artist and this work HERE) As I read that, I wondered if the same wan’t true in the “art” that I create. Now, I don’t actually think about my writing and blogging as art, but it is the most consistent and public place that I share my thoughts and inspirations.
A friend of mine who is a reporter for a major news station shared this today on her Facebook wall: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” This quote by Joan Didion is exactly where I was going with my curiosity about Edward Hopper’s pursuit of “ME.” My writing, both in my personal notebooks and in public forums like this or Forbes, are as much about understanding what I understand about my world as it is sharing that understanding with anyone else.
So here’s to that discovery and the revelations that come along with it.Tweet
Last night I watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary featuring 85 year old Jiro Ono, arguably the world’s greatest sushi chef. The movie chronicles his life, his restaurant, and the challenge that lies ahead as he and his 50 year old son work through a succession plan that will keep the legacy of his father’s work preserved.
The opening scene, Jiro explains his life work:
“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.”
He was sent out into the world at the age of nine and became an apprentice at 10. He has been making sushi for over 75 years and for 75 years he has been searching for an even better version of his work. He says in the movie that every piece of sushi he serves is better than the one before. That when he does his work, he feels victorious. Every single day, repeating the same steps to create the same excellence, and pushing just a little bit harder to make it just a little bit better. Never settling.
His persistent and consistent work to create excellence and the expectation of his staff (minimum of ten year apprenticeship before they are allowed to be in the front of the restaurant) got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule.” It would certainly seem to apply here. But that rule also always gets me thinking, what have I spent 10,000 intention hours work to become the best at?
My career has been much more dynamic than Jiro’s and anyone on Gladwell’s list. The skill set that I’ve been asked to bring to the work I do can and does change with the task at hand. My aspirations of being a renaissance man seem more realistic than an master craftsman like Jiro. And there is nothing wrong with that, but, it does beg the question, of the skills that I use today and know I will use for the rest of my life, am I obsessed with making everyday’s efforts better than the day before?
“We shouldn’t give up on our ideas of success but we should make sure that they are our own. We need to focus in on them and truly own them. We must be the authors of our own ambitions because it is bad enough not getting what it is that we say that we want, but it is even worse to have an idea of what you want and then to find out at the end of the journey to get it that it isn’t what you truly wanted all along.” – Alain de Bottom
“The strongest thing to cultivate as an entrepreneur is to not need to rely on luck but to recognize fortunate situations when they’re occurring.” – Jack Dorsey
“The best time to innovate or start something new is in the midst of a recession or depression.” (speaking about launching Square during the 2008 financial downward spiral.)
Make sure to listen to the passion with which he describes the Golden Gate Bridge at the 21:50 mark. It is something that shouldn’t exist but does and does so beautifully.