Implement: Ikigai

by Dan Walsh

I finished Ikigai, by Sebastian Marshall, last week. The book would have benefitted greatly from a strong editor, but the content was enjoyable. In the spirit of learning-as-behaviour-change, Ikigai will be the subject of my first attempt to make a habit of making new habits. Moving forward, I want to answer two questions about every book I read:

1. How did this book change my outlook?

2. What is the ONE behaviour change I will implement?

1. How did this book change my outlook?

Think Bigger

Sebastian is a big thinker. There are many instances in the book where he advises thinking of grander schemes, but this mentality pervades his writing even when he’s not explicitly discussing the topic. It is obvious that he doesn’t sweat the details. Reading the thoughts and exploits of someone who doesn’t care about minor logistical issues like, “how can I fund this project,” or “is it possible to get a meeting with the CEO?” is refreshing. It throws a light on all the areas of my life where I’m dragging my feet because the details are daunting.

Feedback Loops
I currently have many feedback loops in my life, but Sebastian’s discussion of time-tracking and daily self-reviews caused me to think about how my own feedback loops function. I know from my own research that tight feedback loops are the surest way to adapt and grow. Are mine tight enough? Am I missing out on insight and growth opportunities because I have too much friction and waste in my machine?

Ship More
Sebastian pounded in this point frequently. His argument goes like this:

“If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of stuff. If you want to make a lot of stuff, you’ll make a lot of crap. If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of crap… The dabbler moves on when things get tough. The generalist keeps going until he puts enough work out that he feels complete in a particular field, and then, and only then, is he on to the next thing… In order to avoid dabbling, ship work in the fields you care about before moving on.”

This is a lesson I internalized while studying photography, “take 100 pictures but only show your best 3,” but I never applied it to other aspects of my life. Perhaps it’s time.

Increase Connections
As a corollary to his “Ship More” advice, Sebastian also recommends to “reach out more” for the same reasons. It’s impossible to know ahead of time who will be a good connection, confidant, advisor, or friend. So you might as well reach out to anyone and everyone of value and attempt a conversation. I have thought these thoughts many times before, but the details became daunting and I dragged my feet. “What should I say?” “What’s the best way to reach out to them? Twitter? Facebook? Email?” But just as shipping more can take the pressure of being great off of individual works, sending many emailwill take the pressure of being all-important off of any single email.

2. What is the ONE behaviour change I will implement?

I don’t reach out to enough people who I find interesting. Everyday, I will send one email to a new person whose work I admire.