What a Sushi Master Taught Me about Self-Respect and Career Mastery

Published on Forbes 6/24/2014

I’m not much of a seafood connoisseur. I usually keep my distance from anything that smells fishy.

Recently, an acquaintance mentioned that fresh seafood never smells bad and that I had most likely never learned to fully appreciate the delights of it prepared properly.

The only memory I had of fish tasting unbelievably good involved catching trout in the high mountain streams of Canada, carefully cleaning and placing the catch of the day in tin foil with butter, salt, pepper, and fresh lemons and then letting the campfire take care of the rest while we enjoyed the pleasant aroma, the crackling flames, and our “fish tales” of reeling in the big ones. A simple piece of fish cooked on cedar wood, eaten with our fingers – the delicious taste was one I won’t likely ever forget.

This trail of thinking led me to give sushi a try. I always assumed I didn’t like sushi. I did not expect to taste something extraordinary when I first tasted sushi at a local sushi bar. Food is basic fuel for me. I keep it light, simple, and on the back-burner of my priorities.

You can imagine my astonishment when a taste of delicate sushi lit my taste buds on fire and I became an instant sushi fan.

Sushi masters take pride in their work and so should you if you want to be a master in your own field of work.

When the next opportunity presented itself, I found my way to the intriguing little sushi bar and ordered the same item again. I was eager to experience the magic again. Sadly, I was unprepared for what happened next. It wasn’t the same. Something was missing.

What went wrong? Why didn’t the sushi taste the same as before? I stopped by a few weeks later and checked in with the manager to ensure I had ordered the correct ingredients. He assured me that I had and requested that I try one more time. Once again the experience was less then favorable.

My taste buds kept hounding me to try again so I returned. On my next visit, I noticed the young man who had made the first batch of sushi had returned. It hadn’t occurred to me that sushi might taste different when it is made by different people.

He never looked up from his work. His laser focus and craftsmanship skills were remarkable to witness. The energy in the room actually felt lighter and the customers were happier as we all watched him prepare our dinner orders.

To my delight the magical taste was back and a sense of joy filled me. I also gained an appreciation for witnessing a true master at work. I did not find him in a 3-star restaurant but in a small, humble sushi bar. He taught me that masters couldn’t care less about accessories of life. They just need a place to work and create. Their work fills them with a sense of self-respect.

This concept is applicable universally in all lines of work; the heart of the master beats with self-respect and honor for his work.

I eventually learned that there is an art and mastery to sushi. The best sushi has soul in it that you can feel, see, and taste. I believe the same can be true in all of our work contributions. We know deep in our hearts when we are giving it our all.

The humble sushi master put everything he had into filling my order. I could see in his countenance that he was performing the work he was born to do on this earth with fire in his belly and passion for his craft. In that moment, I learned the true meaning of self-respect.

Can you remember the last time you gave your all?

The sushi master knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was creating something magnificent. He did not require applause and he was not motivated by his ego or pride.

Masters don’t rigidly clock out at 5pm because they are so intensively focused on what they’re working on. They often forget to sleep, eat, or drink. Their inner intensity (soul) drives them to push harder and work harder than their contemporaries, and they also eventually find a way to incorporate breathing space and time away from work into their lives.

Like a seasoned baker, they intuitively know when to let their work rest and rise on its own for a while or when others can knead the dough and add interesting flavors.

We want to help you improve in all aspects of your life this season to become a master. How many times in life have you assumed you didn’t like something that you never tasted?

We’re learning a great deal about life at Fishbowl, from nature and life experiences. Here’s to creating your most magnificent season of mastery.

Together, let’s make this a season to remember. We look forward to hearing from you regarding your adventures in developing mastery.

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