I have been doubting my worth a lot lately. It could be a prolem with my own self-esteem. Or, as I’ve began to think, a nasty bi-product of my surroundings. There is this ancient Japanese expression which goes: “an apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures without tuition.” Which, as I’m sure you gathered, basically means, we are greatly affected by our environments.
America is so darn materialistic to me.
This attitude, this strong emphasis on “success”, achieved solely through 1. an esteemed tertiary education, 2. the “right” career, and 3. moneymoneymoney is so upsetting. It makes me miss Japan greatly. For even though the Japanese are perhaps the number one work-oriented society, when it comes to “success” there is room for everybody.
I once watched this great documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. This is what Jiro says in the movie:
“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.”
As far as I’m aware, Jiro didn’t study at Harvard. Nor was he a lawyer or an accountant – not that there’s anything wrong with studying at Harvard, or being a lawyer or an accountant. Just that Jiro reached his success through different routes than the restricted three mentioned.
Because of this idea, ALL jobs in Japan, from government officials to persons whose only role is to shred unwanted paper are respected. All work is given great value and all work is praised. Where you studied in order to land your current position, what connotations your job title possesses in this day and age, and how much moolah you make, are not the only measurements of your success.
Which is why I’m suggesting we re-think these conservative pathways I keep encountering in the West. Instead of a renowned University name or a “prestigious” (according to whom?) job title and the amount of cash in ones bank, what about pondering how our careers and/or actions affect others, in what spirit do we conduct ourselves and for what purpose? What are our true intentions?
Which is better? A Harvard graduate with the sole motive of shallow wealth and hungry power? Or a “poor” painter, potter, cleaner, or waitress (the list goes on…) working in the spirit of service? In the spirit of love. In the spirit of creativity. In the spirit of justice.
‘Abdu’l-Baha, beautifully describes this concept when he says: “[A]ll effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”
So. I am successful because I love my work. Because it often positively affects others. And because I put my entire heart and soul in it. And that’s it. That’s all it should ever be. Because that’s all that has ever mattered.