What is the meaning of life? Is the point just to live longer or should we seek a higher purpose? Why do some people know what they want and have a passion for life, while others languish for confusion?
Lingering over these thoughts the word “Ikigai” comes up. Ikigai is the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Ikigai is one way of explaining the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese, especially on the island of Okinawa, where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 100,000 people, the highest in the world. Those who study why the inhabitants of this island in the south of Japan live longer than people anywhere else in the world believe that one of the keys – in addition to a healthful diet, a simple life in the outdoors, green tea, and the subtropical climate is the Ikigai that shapes their lives.
“Ikigai is your reason for being: According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai. It’s the reason you wake up in the morning. Some of us have found our Ikigai while some are still searching. It lies deep inside us and finding it requires a deep and patient search. It’s our search for the meaning of life.”
Ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is, above all else, a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical. This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.
The greatest example of someone who found his Ikigai was Steve Jobs. It is easy to think of Jobs as a titan of technology, but that would be inaccurate. He was a lover of good design and craftsmanship. It was his passion. Apple was a medium through which he fulfilled his passion. Every Apple product focused on the details of good design. They were mediums of expression of his passion.
Discovering your Ikigai
“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then, is not act but a habit”
Imagine you are swimming in an Olympic size pool. You can feel the movement of the water pass through all the muscles of your body. You have complete focus on this one activity. Your mind is clear without any thoughts. There is no past and no future, only present. You can feel the cold air every time you move up to breathe in and you can feel the air bubbles every time you breathe out. You have lost all sense of time.
We have all felt our sense of time vanish when we lose ourselves doing an activity we enjoy. What is the activity that makes you forget everything? There is no magic recipe to finding your Ikigai, but rather spend time in doing things that make you happy. Things that you love and could do it for the rest of your life. Find the activity that helps you get into the state of Flow. Flow is that state in which nothing else matters other than the activity at hand. The experience should be so enjoyable that you would do it any cost.
Ikigai and Investing
Tiger Woods does not play Golf for the money, he doesn’t need the money, yet he plays. In April’19, he won his 15th Major Grand Title almost after a drought of 11 years. In the past 11 years he went through 4 back surgeries and one heck of the divorce that took the world by surprise. He lost all his sponsors and the best of brands abandoned him. But, at the age of 43 he made one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports.
Warren Buffett is 88. He has made enough money to service an entire country. Yet, he drives to work and actively invests. He does not need to.
These men do not do what they do for the money or to please someone else. It’s their calling and they have found their Ikigai early on. Investing is a profession where most enter with making money as the sole objective. It’s not wrong, but it will not take you too far. You have to learn to enjoy the process. “Games are won by players who focus on the playing field, not the scoreboard.” Great players focus on the process not the outcome. Money is only a sideshow in the arena of investing. It is a yardstick, not the race. Invest because you love to, not because you want to make money. Let money be the output. Learn to enjoy the process; it will make you a successful investor.
Find where your Ikigai lies. Enjoy the process; the outcome will take care of itself!