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Okinawan Retirement Wisdom

Okinawan Retirement Wisdom

By Mike Drak

The title is a little misleading because in the Okinawan language there isn’t even a word for retirement. In it’s place is the term ikigai, which roughly translated means, “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”

Older Okinawans are not hampered like we are by some artificial retirement finish line which causes a lot of unnecessary stress. They can readily articulate the reason why they get up in the morning. They live intentional, purposeful lives. They feel needed, they matter, they contribute, and as a result they live longer than most.

Two other Japanese terms that fascinate me as well are “kaizen” and “shokunin.”

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “continuous improvement” based on the idea that small ongoing positive changes (baby steps) can yield major improvements over time. Normally it is used in a business setting but it can be applied to a person’s life as well. We apply the concept of kaizen in our Victory Laps when we continually set new goals for the retirement principles with the expectation that our retirement trajectory will improve over time.

The Endless Pursuit of Perfection

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”

– Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

Shokunin is an interesting Japanese concept which means “mastery of one’s profession or art.” It’s based on helping others by delivering a product or service of the highest quality, to one’s community. Shokunin kishitsu, means “Craftsman’s Spirit”.

The Japanese believe that there is pride in every profession, as long as you do it to the best of your ability. Cooks, garbage men, waitresses, plumbers, teachers, office workers, are highly respected in Japanese culture, because of their shokunin kishitsu.

If you want to read about a great example of a Japanese Shokunin you just need to watch the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”. It’s the story about the first ever 3 Michelin Star Sushi chef, a person who had found his art, and who worked well into his nineties trying to perfect what he loved to do.

Jiro’s chosen art makes him come alive doing the thing that he loves to do, where he can cultivate the special gifts he was given and share them with the world.

After watching the video you will understand that finding your art is not so much about making money, it’s more about how it makes you feel while making it. It’s a way of expressing who you are, and what you believe in. People that practice their art don’t just do a job, they own it and live it. They enjoy the beauty of the work itself and the contribution that they make. Your art allows you to reclaim your creative spirit and imagination and will satisfy you more than other leisure activities ever can.

Finding your shokunin kishitsu – your art will take your retirement to a whole new level.

Working at always trying to become better at whatever type of work you choose to do – the pursuit of perfection, is something that you can enjoy doing for a long time, something that will unlock the potential within you.

Also Read: Finding Your Flow In Retirement

At our seminars I’ve had the pleasure to hear the stories of many kinds of people who have found their art. They are the retirees with the big smiles on their faces that get so excited when they tell me how they found/created work that they can play at. What I’ve learned from hearing their stories is that your art can be found in anything.

Stories from a former car mechanic who found his art in restoring and selling old cars, or a retired plumber who ended up working at Home Depot, to people who create websites, who teach boomers to become computer savy, and people who grow beautiful gardens and who regularly win the annual best garden award.

They are all practicing their art, creating new products and offering services, and their art makes them feel really good about themselves and what they are doing. Being able to say I built this table, or I created this blog, or I helped this person, is much more satisfying than just saying you are retired like most people do.

People who follow their dreams and practice their art, work that lights them up are the most happy retirees I’ve met because they live the most satisfying and fulfilling retirements.

Find your art and you will enjoy a great retirement. When you connect purpose to passion you can’t lose.

Here’s the trailer for Jiro Dreams Of Sushi;

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Mike Drak

Author, Retirement Coach and Public Speaker at Victory Lap Retirement
Mike Drak is a thirty-eight year veteran of the financial services and lives with his wife Melina in Toronto, Canada. Mike is the Author of the best-selling book Victory Lap Retirement and also an award winning blogger, retirement coach and public speaker. Mike has also appeared on BNN, CBC Radio and iHeart radio.