Research, Values

Cultivating Indifference to Toil

Jiro Dreams of Sushi* is a documentary film about Jiro Ono, a three-star Michelin chef who runs a small sushi restaurant in Tokyo. What emerges from the portrait is an unending search for perfection; Jiro is 85 years old and is not interested in retiring. Jiro’s philosophy of his success is pure rigor—get up and do the same thing every day, but try to make it better every day. It’s not OK to make it just as good as last time.

Westerners might call this level of commitment passion or obsession, yet Jiro seemed to transcend emotion. He didn’t seem crazy or myopic. He was just astoundingly hardworking and rigorous.

Jiro also talked about choosing a line of work and loving it, and never complaining about it. This really struck me. As an American, my conversational style is casual, emotional, and revealing. As a New Yorker, I’d love to be the New Yorker type that thinks that everything is fabulous; I’m not. And as an artist, I can feel challenged working with partners with differing time lines, communication styles, and priorities. But this is a good reminder to be grateful for all the opportunities to make art, work as an artist, and share my thoughts and projects. There is much more to think about beyond the constraints.

*Watch the trailer.

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