I recently spent 10-days leading a group retreat in Japan. And I’m still basking in the glow of all things Japanese. It is a remarkable country, and every time I visit I always marvel at how so many people can fit into sosmall of an area and get along so well.
Did you know that the population of Japan is about 40% that of the US’s? 127 million Japanese versus 322 million Americans. Yet Japan is only 3.8% the size of the U.S. — smaller in land mass than the state of California. And most of Japan is either uninhabitable volcanic rock or farmland. Only 25% of Japan’s tiny landmass is livable!
So imagine taking almost half of the U.S. population, shoving them over into California, then squishing them all down into San Diego county. That is how dense living in Japan is. How do the Japanese survive — thrive even — under those circumstances?
The idea of wa (和), or harmony, is deeply woven into Japanese culture. And it is one of the core principles of the Japanese martial art that I love so dearly — Aikido. Aikido asks practitioners to approach battle (and life) with a radically different mindset than the one most of us have been taught. You are not competing with others; you are striving for harmony. That is the secret to true victory in any situation.
But most of us think of battle, and business/life, as dog-eat-dog and winner-take-all. The business world is littered with cautionary tales of this from Enron, to WorldCom, to Fannie Mae and the mortgage crisis, to Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme.
When you become so focused on wining and defeating your opponent, you become consumed by that desire. Your fear and ego take over and blind you — you are unable to see what lies beyond the horizon.
Aikido teaches you to enlarge your worldview to include that of your opponent’s. Or your employees’. Or your customers’. Or your spouse’s. It is a lesson that business people often spend a lifetime trying, without success, to learn. After all, if you are unable to see what your competition/employees/vendors/spouse is seeing, you are eventually going to fail.
But if you can clear your mind and practice seeing through the eyes of your opponent or competition or teammates or loved-ones, you can first embrace and then overcome ANY challenge. And to do that you have to let go of your fear of losing. Get rid of your desire to win at all costs. Throw away your corrupting ego. You must embrace the practice of Mushin — no mind. That is true freedom and success. Freedom to act in way that truly serves you, your purpose, and your goals — naturally, harmoniously, and effortlessly.
And that is how the Japanese live and thrive and enjoy their beautifully successful, tiny little country. Wa (和). Harmony. They see through each others’ eyes. They take care of each other. They win together.
What about you?