Finding Your Purpose: The Secret Sauce of Success


Not many people can say they've worked the same job for 75 years. Add to that such a deep affection for the work that it never grows old.

This describes Japanese sushi master Jiro Ono.

On two separate transcontinental flights recently my seat mates mentioned the film, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary about Jiro Ono and his tiny sushi-only restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, unassumingly tucked away in a Tokyo subway station.

My fellow air travelers were headed to Japan and had plans to dine at Jiro's restaurant, which has become a sort of pilgrimage. With only 10 seats, reservations must be made months in advance and diners pay top dollar (starting at 30,000 Yen) for an experience compared to a symphony in its composition.

He's earned his success. Each day, even at 85, Jiro heads to his restaurant to strive for ever purer expressions of his art. But he doesn't give a hint of being burned out, stressed, or ready to retire. And despite his global acclaim, he hasn't expanded his restaurant or tried to build bigger. Instead, his love and dedication to the purity of his craft fuel his ambition.

Jiro's story (you can find it on Netflix) stands out as an example of the healthy stamina that comes from having a pure motive for hard work and dedication to one's career.

The secret sauce for Jiro's success seems to be a good amount of talent, passion, and persistence. "Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with it. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success," Jiro says. He certainly lives his advice after beginning his profession at 9 years old and hardly spending a day away from the kitchen since.

This example may sound like an anomaly in a day and age where job-hopping is the new normal for ninety-one percent of millennials, who, according to Forbes, change jobs every 4.4 years. And while their preceding generation of baby boomers were more interested in finding job security and starting families, millennials are more concerned with job satisfaction and finding real meaning, happiness and purpose in their work.

You might be asking, how can I know my purpose and find satisfaction in my career -- and what if I never find it?

Those who define their purpose by achieving wealth or rank will eventually discover these outward markers don't truly satisfy. Whereas aims that exceed materialistic goals bring a higher, more satisfying meaning to success. And seeing one's purpose in direct relation to our God-given talents -- in other words, defining ourselves in spiritual terms -- can be a game-changer.

A friend of mine changed jobs many times throughout his career. He's a Gen-Xer, between a baby boomer and a millennial. His multiple job changes, while supporting a young family, were at times extremely challenging both financially and personally. He wondered where he belonged and what his place was in the world.

As a deeply spiritual person, my friend is in the habit of finding answers through prayer. So he prayed to see the "golden thread" that didn't just tie his many jobs together, but pointed to God's hand in his life. He learned that it was his God-given qualities that brought consistency and value to his work, such as humility, honesty, trustworthiness, joy, clarity of thought, compassion. It was his expression of these qualities that not only promoted him, but also protected him while in and out of the workplace. With this understanding, he increasingly valued what he brought to his positions. Eventually, he had the courage to start his own business.

My friend studies Christian Science, which is the practical application of the laws of God and Christian qualities in daily life. He continues to glean insight from this idea today: "... business men and cultured scholars have found that Christian Science enhances their endurance and mental powers, enlarges their perception of character, gives them acuteness and comprehensiveness and an ability to exceed their ordinary capacity" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 128).

Today, my friend is happier than he's ever been with his work, in part because he knows deep down that his satisfaction isn't derived from his career choice but rather from how he's chosen to see himself through the lens of Spirit. His spiritual perspective freed him from the limitation of job titles and credentials.

Each one of us can, like Jiro, work diligently for a purer expression of our craft. And we can find the satisfaction and well-being that come with a deeper, spiritual view of our identity and purpose. Then our careers can't help but flourish.