I recently watched “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a documentary about the world’s greatest sushi chef. Jiro operates a restaurant in Tokyo where customers must book at least a month in advance and pay ¥30,000 (around USD$370) in order to enjoy a 15-minute meal consisting of about twenty pieces of sushi.
According to Jiro, talent plays a very important role in the success of a chef. When a chef talks about talent, he or she is referring to the sensitivity of taste and smell, something that people are just born with. To give you a better idea of how this “talent” works, if a person with absolutely no “talent” has only two categories (“rotten” or “edible”) and the average person has five categories (“disgusting,” “tastes bad,” “tasteless,” “tastes good,” “delicious”) with which they sort their food, Jiro has hundreds of categories. Like Jiro, people with OCPD have hundreds of categories in many different areas because of their sensitivity.
Sensitivity gives people the power to catch subtle details that most people miss. In order to not miss any detail, Jiro tastes everything in his restaurant before serving his customers.
Like many people with OCPD, Jiro’s high standards come from the combination of his sensitivity and his gift for excellence. Jiro knows exactly what excellence tastes like. While most other sushi chefs buy all of their ingredients in bulk from one seafood supplier, Jiro takes the more inefficient practice of buying all of his ingredients separately from different suppliers who specialize in catching only one type of fish.
Jiro suggests that talent and high standards themselves cannot amount to success. Hard work is what is needed to turn those high standards from ideas into tangible things that others can enjoy. Jiro works extremely hard, even at the age of 85. When he goes on vacation, which he hardly does, he wishes to go right back to work. He has worked so hard his entire life that, until working with him as his apprentices, his children do not remember their father ever being around.
Like many people with OCPD, Jiro has a certain way of doing things to achieve perfection that many others would find tedious. To achieve the perfect amount of tenderness, Jiro spends up to fifty minutes just massaging his octopus. Because of his uncompromisable love for excellence, he requires everyone who works under him to follow his inflexible ways of doing things. His ways are so difficult to adopt that his apprentices must learn under him for a total of ten years before they can call themselves master sushi chefs. Their restaurant has seen workers quit the night of their first day of work because of how demanding the job is.
The documentary also shows how Jiro is a man of many routines.
Finally, the documentary examines Jiro’s survival mentality, an attitude of the mind that people with OCPD are no strangers to. While he was still so young, his father left his family and Jiro had to learn on his own how to take care of himself. Jiro treats his children with the same kind of cold, tough love because he believes that that is what makes a person strong.
I highly recommend this documentary to all those who are passionate about excellence!
I leave you with one thing to think about. Because of Jiro’s high standards, he is more likely to be disappointed with the taste of sushi that is prepared by other average sushi chefs. But does that mean other sushi chefs suck at what they do? No. Now think about an area in your life where you get disappointed frequently because of your high standards. In the same way, when other people fail to meet your high standards, it is not because they suck at what they do. Do not give others such a hard time when they fail to meet your high standards. Just be excellent yourself.