Category: Blog

Emulate. Why you should and shouldn’t emulate other people.

There are loads of people I admire.

There’s Jane Austen for writing, David Bowie for creative genius, Jamie Oliver for businesses that achieve good, Seth Godin for marketing nous….the list goes on and on.

At times I thought I may try and them. Imitate their success in some way.

The problem though with emulating someone else, is you’re not being yourself!

You have to believe in your own brand and abilities to succeed.

It’s very hard to succeed or be happy when you’re trying to be someone else.

It’s okay to admire other people but not envy them.

It’s okay to adapt and apply something that resonates with you, make it your own, but not to copy it.

It’s okay to follow another person’s success, but not to run the same race as them.

You are running your own race. Strive to improve, learn from others, find role models that resonate with you, but don’t try and emulate them.

I’m never going to be Jane Austen, David Bowie, Jamie Oliver, Seth Godin or any of the fabulous people I admire.

I’m going to be me. And I’m good enough. No….I’m perfectly imperfect just the way I am, which is perfect.

‘Emulate’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 

Forget 10,000 Hours of Practice – Embrace Shokunin To Be an Expert

Uncharacteristically, I had a hour or so to spare the other day, and I remembered that a new episode of Vikings should have been available SBS On Demand.

I was bitterly disappointed to find that the show hadn’t aired that week. Instead I poked around for something else to watch. My eyes fell on . As a Japanophile the title was enough to draw me in, and I’m so glad it did, I just wish I’d seen it well before now.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a 2011 American documentary film following, the now 92-year-old, Jiro Ono – a sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Sukiyabashi Jiro is a Michelin three-star restaurant that only seats 10 people, and can be found in the unglamorous location of a Tokyo subway station. You won’t find any appetisers or fancy a la carte meals there. Jiro Ono only serves a tasting menu of around 20 courses, for a minimum of 30,000 Japanese yen (350 AUD) – ouch!

Apparently though it’s completely worth it. Obama described his meal there as the best sushi he had ever had.

What’s that got to do with being an expert?

It turns out everything.

Embracing Shokunin

Jiro Ono subscribes to the practice of ‘shokunin’.

is a Japanese term that translates as a ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan’ – more specifically, the mastery of ones profession.

Famed Japanese artist, sculptor, teacher and woodcrafting expert Tasio Odate says “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 is a beautiful idea, but it seems that shokunin isn’t always driven by social obligation – even if there are beneficial outcomes for other people.

For many the shokunin is about the practice of doing something carefully and beautifully, to the best of your ability, and the personal joy derived from this. It is also about the continual quest for improvement and perfection.

In Jiro Dreams of Sushi we learn that the chef wakes up every morning and goes to work, despite already being incredibly successful and arguably the best sushi master in the world. He does this because he is driven by shokunin. He says, “All I want to do is make better sushi”.

The Cost of Perfection

As a self-confessed perfectionist I know the pressure I put on myself and how unhealthy it can be to me and those around me.

These days I prefer to aim for ‘progress’ rather then perfection – and sometimes ‘good enough’, is actually good enough.

Even Jiro Ono admits with perhaps a smidgen of a regret, that his quest for perfection meant he missed a lot with his family and could have been a better father.

So perfection isn’t all together perfect.

What I like though about the idea of shokunin is the drive to always improve and be better – to continually refine and master your craft – knowing that you may never reach perfection, and being okay with that, but also enjoying the journey and your craft.

Mastering Your Craft

I think shokunin is incredibly important whether you’re a writer, a software engineer, a cleaner, or a sushi master.

We should all take pride in what we do, want to be better at it and obtain joy from the process.

It can only lead to becoming an expert in your craft – and with that comes recognition, opportunities and self-satisfaction.

Debunking The 10,000 Hours Rule

Most of us have probably heard that we’re considered an expert in our field once we’ve practised our craft for 10,000 hours.

The concept comes from the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, and was popularised by Author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Gladwell pointed to several case studies of incredibly successful people such as Bill Gates, whose success could be partly attributed to putting in 10,000 hours of work. That though is a simplistic interpretation of Gladwell’s book, which provides a lot of other compelling evidence for what makes people successful – it’s very much worth the read.

What though has come to light more recently is that the 10,000 hours may have little to do with whether you’re an expert.

Brad Stulberg, co-author of the book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, says expertise develops based on the way you practise, rather than the time you practise. That the quality and focus of your practise determines your performance. He recommends intensively focused practice or “”.

Start Becoming an Expert

Deliberate practice certainly isn’t at odds with shokunin, because they’re both about mastering your craft.

The premise of the 10,000 hour rule isn’t terrible either, as the more you practise something, the more likely you are to improve.

Perhaps in our quest for shokunin and being an expert, a realistic step is reminding ourselves that every day is an opportunity to be better than we were yesterday.

For me, I dedicate myself every day to improving my writing and marketing craft. If you’re looking for a writing expert .

Intuition or Not. Why I Want to Trust My Gut

We all know that emotional response when something just doesn’t feel right…or in some cases feels exactly right, but we can’t put our finger on exactly what and why.

Call it intuition. Call it trusting your gut. Call it a hunch. Call it whatever you like, it’s a real thing.

And from what I understand there are plenty of sound reasons to be aware of it and listen to it Maybe not as a the ultimate decision making guide, but to be listened to and considered in your decisions.

Personally I’ve always struggled with making decisions.

I never know whether to use focused logical thinking, follow what’s in my heart or listen to my gut—all of which may be suggesting contradictory actions.

For example, my logical brain has been telling me for years to get a sensible and secure job.  My heart tells me to focus on writing fiction.

I’m not so sure what my gut is saying, other than a sick feeling when I’m doing something that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s probably why I decided not to decide between a job and writing, and split my attention between running a business and writing books at the same time.

So while my intuition does kick in, I’ve never been completely comfortable listening to it…but maybe I should.

explains that intuition isn’t necessarily a magical phenomenon, that gut feelings are formed out of our past experiences and knowledge.

“So while relying on doesn’t always lead to good decisions, it’s not nearly as flighty a tactic as it may sound.”

Some experts explain intuition as a form of —that intuition is actually a process of taking information in without realising you’re doing it.

“The best explanation psychologists now offer is that intuition is a mental matching game. The brain takes in a situation, does a very quick search of its files, and then finds its best analogue among the stored sprawl of  and knowledge. Based on that analogy, you ascribe meaning to the situation in front of you.”

 

So can you trust your gut?

If your gut feeling is a form of automatic information processing, than it’s worth at least listening to it.

I don’t think it needs to be one of the other when it comes to rational (conscious) and intuitive (nonconscious) thinking. They both deserve a voice at the table.

It’s okay listen to your head, heart and gut, and trust that you don’t need to know the reason why your intuition is saying something. Then decide.

‘Intuition’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .