Like there needed to be yet another reason to crush on Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Let me start by saying I don’t have an answer. A point? Maybe.
I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi the other night. (Which, by the way, I LOVED.) It tells the story of Jiro Ono, a man widely acknowledged as the best sushi chef in world, presiding over Sukiyabashi Jiro, a ten seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station that holds three Michelin stars and serves only sushi. He lives for sushi, lives to strive for perfection in his craft.
He, his sons, and his apprentices all have worked hundreds and thousands of hours in the pursuit of raw fish and rice. He sits in the same car on the train every day on the way to his restaurant. He is the personification of discipline, single-mindedness, and having a clear life mission. Do this one thing, and do it really, really well.
I thought a lot about how I just don’t think I’m that kind of a person. The doggedness, the patience. Those words make me panic. I thought about how maybe that perseverance and self-sacrifice is cultural, and to some extent un-American. I thought about how nice it would be to be handed a mission, a folded slip from a grabbag of assignments. This is your life, go forth.
Cut to last night.
I got suckered in by Hulu’s A Day in Life series, featuring Mr. Mario Batali. Besides the fact that physically, Mario is probably the anti-Jiro, he comes at his work with a completely different direction. To him, the worst thing for creativity is to “settle into the same day every day.” Even if he’s walking into one place a few days in row, he makes a point of taking a different route each day to engage his mind. For someone who likes clear answers, this little fact in contrast to Jiro was making me nuts. Regardless of how you feel about Batali, his empire is wide, and far spread, and incredibly successful. He works long, tireless hours, with a self-imposed mission of showing Americans how he thinks they should eat, with simple, great ingredients.
I’ve been listening to Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why, at the recommendation of my friend Heather. His mantra? “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.” To him, innovation, creativity, fulfillment, and success (all those good, lovely things!) follow a strong, and altruistic why. The end product to him, whether it’s sushi, or restaurants, or a freaking yarn store, is a by-product of being inspired. How we get there, whether it’s by taking the same train every day or by walking a different way to work every day, is also largely irrelevant.
True inspiration is self-perpetuating. It’s a reason for our efforts, and the answer to questions. I get that.
I said I didn’t have an answer. I don’t. What’s my mission? I just want do cool stuff. That’s all I’ve really figured out so far. As the girl who likes clear answers, this soul-searching, what-do-I-want-to-do with my life phase is getting old. Cue finger tapping. Real old.
P.S. Your assignment today is to watch Sinek’s talk. Easy peasy.
I’ve been working on putting some time into my Twitter account (follow me at Most_Smartest, please!). I have also been trying to read more books because I realize that it makes me feel like a well-rounded, balanced person. When I write work or personal emails these days, I re-read them at least 3 more times than I used to, because I’ve started absentmindedly dropping pronouns and other random helpful words. I also just spent a half hour around my sink, watering my plants, cats and washing random dishes. All these things need to be done, as far as I can tell, but I just hate days where it feels like all I’ve been doing is maintenance. Into my mailbox pops this nice little tidbit from the creative team at Behance, called The Key to Creating Remarkable Things. Aren’t they smartypants? Please read.
1. Follow your intuition.
2. Love what you do.
3. Don’t lose faith.
4. Be a super genius.
Thanks Steve! Again, a stunning combination of simple and very complicated. Now give me my iPhone 4.
A few weekends ago, I watched a lovely documentary on Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a couple who managed to amass a collection of almost 5,000 pieces of contemporary art on their meager salaries as a postal worker and a reference librarian, respectively. With intense concentration, Herb and Dorothy befriended and collected from conceptual and contemporary artists like Lawrence Weiner, Christo and Jean Claude, Chuck Close and James Siena, with an eye toward understanding and unraveling the artistic process. Deeply enmeshed in the New York art scene, which is known for its exclusivity and pretensions, the Vogels managed to carve a impressive niche doing what they loved, exactly the way they wanted to do it.
One snippet of an interview with Richard Tuttle explaining why he was drawn to the Vogels has stuck with me since watching the film. “One of the things I liked about them was they were very strongly committed to animals. And I can’t tell you why, but I think there is a remarkable relation between art and animals.” Their apartment, though small, is filled to the brim with art and animals, from turtles, to fish to cats weaving in and out of the stacks. I’m not sure I have anything profound to add to that statement, but to me it has something to do with the purity of intention – art for art’s sake, and the seeking to understand something beyond yourself. And now I’ve probably just gummed it all up with unnecessary words. Dang. Just go watch it.