Recently, I watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a biopic on an 80+ year old sushi chef who has spent 75 years perfecting his craft of sushi-making. One of the biggest takeaways from the movie is the idea that whatever you engage in, you must seek perfection. It’s not that you need to become perfect — Jiro himself notes that he is not perfect, but that you always need to continue to get better, to attempt mastery with practice, reverence and knowledge.
“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
Whether you want to become a master sushi chef, an Olympic-level weightlifter, or a mechanic, no matter your profession or pursuit, I encourage you to watch this documentary and appreciate it for the guidance it offers. Here are the biggest lessons weightlifters can learn from Jiro:
1. “In order to make delicious food, you must eat delicious food. The quality of ingredients is important, but one must develop a palate capable of discerning good and bad. Without good taste, you can’t make good food. If your sense of taste is lower than that of the customers how will you impress them?”
In order to become a great weightlifter, you need to surround yourself with great weightlifters. This means seeking out the best training hall in your city, or making the move to one held in high regard. In the current age of technology, it is easier than ever to find weightlifters and coaches near you. It is also easier than ever to seek online coaching, or find teachings on blogs and YouTube from top coaches and athletes. When you train, find someone better than you to train with. Find someone to push you, and you’ll get better. If you’re the heaviest lifter in your gym, it’s time to find a new gym, or bring in a training partner.
2. “The techniques we use are no big secret. It’s just about making an effort and repeating the same thing every day. There are some who are born with a natural gift. Some have a sensitive palate and sense of smell. That’s what you call ‘natural talent’. In this line of business, if you take it seriously you’ll become skilled. But if you want to make a mark in the world, you have to have talent. The rest depends on how hard you work.”
There’s an old adage floating around the internet that says if you do something for 10,000 hours, you’ll become an expert. Repetitions create muscle memory and synaptic density, which in turn create a more skilled lifter (or whatever it is you’re repeating). The key to becoming great isn’t just in the repetitions and the movement, but in the fact that you need to devote time and mental space for this. You’ll need to commit, and “take it seriously” as Jiro warns, to become better. The hours you spend in the gym need to be sacred and focused. You’ll need to be disciplined in order to continually carve this time out of your daily life.
3. “Always look beyond and above yourself. Always try to improve on yourself. Always strive to elevate your craft. That’s what he taught me.”
Never be satisfied. Never be content. Always continue to make and achieve goals, and continue to get better. Celebrate your success then get back to work. There is always room for improvement, no matter how talented you are or how much time you’ve devoted to your training already.
The lessons we can learn from Jiro and his dedicated staff aren’t unique. Find any master of their craft and they’ll likely say similar things. But what makes Jiro’s film so inspiring is the tenacity and grit he shows. At filming, Jiro was eighty-five, and was not ready to retire. His craft consumed him, and his quest for greatness had no end goal. Give this movie a watch and I’ll guarantee it’ll make you want to grab your bar and become a better lifter.