Ikigai, The Path to Self-Actualisation — The Sabir Bhatti Show

Podcast Transcription

Sabir: Hey guys, my name is Sabir Bhatti. A very warm welcome to another episode of The Sabir Bhatti Show, the place where I interview interesting people with interesting perspectives. My guest today is Nicholas Kemp. Nicholas Kemp is an author, Japanologist, and founder of the coach certification programme ikigai tribe in which he teaches the Japanese concept of ikigai, relatable to Eudaimonia and existential positive psychology. 

It is said that ikigai offers tools for living with motivation and resilience in times of hardship, opening the path to self actualisation. Nicholas Kemp's ultimate mission is to bust the myths about ikigai, which he described as Japan's most misunderstood word and culturally appropriated concept. So let's get this show on the road. And welcome our special guests. Hello, Nicholas Kemp.

Nick: Thank you very much Sabir for that long introduction. And, yeah, it's a real joy to be meeting you. I feel like we know each other already from our pleasant email exchanges. So yeah, it's a real joy to be with you. Thanks.

Sabir: You're most welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. And you're right, actually, it does feel like that. As you said, we have been speaking over the last week or so on email. And I've thoroughly enjoyed our exchanges. So thank you, again, for joining me. I actually want to start by rolling back the years. In 1977. At the age of five, you visited Japan for the very first time, and this trip left a lasting impression on you. So with your permission, could you perhaps give us an insight into your memories from that trip? And why was it so special for you?

Nick: Yeah, I have these flashes of memory. So I was five, and I think what happened was that the strongest memory I have is that my father was a physicist, and he was travelling the world to share his research. And we were going to many different countries. 

And then in Japan, I think one night, my dad and my mum had to go out for dinner with these people he was sharing research with, and we had a babysitter, or someone to look after me and my brother. And I have this memory, I think this vague memory of a folding origami and just obviously being very playful and gentle. 

And I also have this memory of sort of running around the hotel and probably yukata, probably would have been a children's yukata. So what has just been a very casual -- I don't want to call it a kimono, but it's just a very light thing you wear like an open shirt. And maybe my brother and I were running around thinking we were ninjas. 

But I also remember when we went outside because my brother was a redhead, and I had blonde hair at the time. A lot of Japanese people would come up and sort of touch our hair and be saying all these things to my parents. So yeah, these memories seem to sort of lurk in the back of my mind and come and visit me from time to time.

Sabir: Thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate it. So let's switch gears and talk about ikigai in a bit more detail. Because that is of course, your line of work. And we're going to be delving into the subject over the next hour or so. 

So, I want to start by asking you, because actually, I loved your description of ikigai, which you shared with me just a few days ago, and I love this quote of yours, you said: 

Ikigai as a Spectrum

"Ikigai is a spectrum of all your past, present, and future experiences in your life that have been, are, and will be worthwhile." 

Click to Tweet

Now I'll be honest, this is perhaps one of the most powerful, short sentences I've actually ever come across because it encapsulates so much. Could you perhaps, give us a bit of an extension to this and explain to us what this fabulous sentence means for you?

Nick: Thank you, actually, I remember crafting that sentence and the journey to coming to understand that it's been quite long. And it's been this sort of accumulation of other people's research that I've had the pleasure of interviewing -- all these professors and authors. And ikigai is something that's temporal. And as a result, it changes over time. 

But yeah, I was fascinated when I first found out, for example, how memories can be sources of ikigai. So we should define ikigai, as there's two ways to think about it, the two words that this pioneering researcher, Mieko Kamiya, used to define ikigai. 

So you have sources or objects or targets of ikigai, and they can be people, relationships, experiences, your hobbies, but even memories, and even anticipation of the future or goal to look forward to. And then you have ikigai-kan, which is the feelings associated with those ikigai sources. 

And so, as I was going through this research, I discovered, okay, there's this definition of ikigai and ikigai-kan. And then with further research, I discovered there's this temporal aspect, and that we can have the past, present, or the future as ikigai sources. And really, it blew my mind. 

Because there's no other concept out there that really describes any other word in well-being, or even Eudaimonia that describes this idea of if you have ikigai sources, things that have value that make your life meaningful or worth living. But the most crucial aspect is it makes you feel that life is worth living. 

And so you can have these feelings of excitement. Or you can have these feelings of contemplation, reflection, where you look back to important or meaningful memories, or you have this anticipation of the future. So it's almost got this aspect of retro savouring where you savour the past. 

But you also have this idea of anticipatory pleasure. And so even if you're struggling with life now, if you have things to look forward to, it will help you in the present. So you're discovering all this and then discovering other aspects. It's very much tied to your social world, your roles. It was like, wow, this word is amazing. 

But the irony is, for Japanese people, it's used very casually. And for most people, it's something very simple: their pets, their hobbies. And they approach it very casually. So there you go. There's some insight. I could go on forever.

Sabir: Thank you for sharing that. And one thing I did want to touch on with ikigai is, as I mentioned in the introduction, into the Japanese concept, which is said to help us with motivation, and resilience in times of hardship, specifically. So what would you say are the key traits of ikigai that lend itself well to helping us deal with difficult moments?

Nick: Great question. So we can touch on the research of Mieko Kamiya. The backstory of her is she actually interviewed lepers. So from about the 1940s, up until fairly recently to I think 1990s or even later, anyone who had leprosy in Japan was pretty much shipped off the islands and segregated and I think when it happened in the 1940s and 50s, it was pretty severe, you know, family ties were cut, it was a shameful disease. 

Their basic needs were met, obviously food, clothing, and shelter. But yeah, they had this obviously debilitating disease, often disfiguring, and some had no fingers. Many of them were blind. 

She, for some reason really wanted to study them as part of her own research into life meaning and life purpose. And she found obviously for most of them, they struggled with a sense of significance. And that was probably the hardest thing that their life did have really no meaning or no sense of purpose. Yet she found some of these lepers could find a sense of meaning or purpose in fairly basic things. 

So one example was someone who would orally compose haiku by listening to the sounds of nature, or there was a man who wanted to learn the harmonica, and he couldn't read because he was blind. And so he would read Braille with his lips and tongue to the point where he bled. And that was how dedicated or how much he enjoyed playing and learning music on the harmonica. 

So there was this idea of finding some sort of significance in your life, but also, this idea of a bright future. And if you do have something to look forward to. So maybe the man who learned the harmonica, he always had the idea of, I'm going to learn a new song, I'm going to learn music, I'm going to play with someone -- that gave him that desire to keep living.

So we all go through tough times, I think most people listening to this podcast, the last two years have been tough, and we've been locked down, we haven't been able to go out and travel. But perhaps the idea that eventually we'll be able to travel, we'll see friends, again, gives us that desire to hang in there and keep living. 

So if you do have something meaningful, that gives you a sense of purpose, but also a bright future, or hope, it gives you the desire to work towards your goals, or the things you care about. So there are seven needs she identified, Kamiya Mieko, that satisfy ikigai. 

And one was life satisfaction. Rather than happiness, we can't always be happy, but we probably can find satisfaction in some aspect of our life, then this idea of a bright future. And also this sense of significance through either purpose or social interaction.

Sabir: Yeah, thank you again. I'm loving your detailed responses to each question. It's really engaging. So thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time over each question. Now, again, I want to switch gears, if you don't mind. 

And I'd like to do this throughout the conversation just to give a flavour of you as a person as well. And I think that will help us understand perhaps why you moved over into the work that you do today. Now, ikigai is certainly quite a profound concept in its ability to help people navigate through challenging moments, as we just discussed. 

And I imagine, because I was thinking about this over the last few days, I imagine as a teacher of ikigai, it's likely that the teacher themselves would have experienced some profound moments in their life in order to appreciate ikigai. And I understand this was certainly the case for yourself. And there was a profound moment in your life where you realise the significance of fatherhood. Could you perhaps share this with us because I think it is really insightful.

The Significance of Fatherhood

Nick: Yeah, this is really interesting, because this also touches on the idea of a transformational experience. And often when we think about transformational experiences, we often think something dramatic happens like near death experience or you fall in love, but this again, this pioneering researcher, Mieko Kamiya wrote about. 

And yeah, this profound moment, every day I was living in Japan, I was actually living with my father-in-law. We moved out of our apartment and decided to spend the last year with him and give that opportunity for him to connect to his grandson and for us to save money. So we've been settled in living there for I don't know, maybe six months. 

And then yeah, I remember one day, I'd been on the computer, I walked out of the computer room, and my son was riding his little scooter along the, I guess, essentially a hallway. And he kind of bumped into me and he just went "dada!" That's a beautiful child word here, and he was so happy. And I looked down at him, and he just looked so happy. 

And I felt this incredible, love, emanating towards me. And then something just switched in my mind. And I thought, oh, my God, He loves me. And I'm one of his biggest influences, you know, his mother and I influenced him. And perhaps at that time in my life, I was struggling with happiness, and I had a lot of uncertainty towards the future, we were moving back to Australia. 

But it also clicked on or switched on this emotional switch I'd never really explored and I suddenly had this urge to call my father and apologise to him, which is going to sound really weird. 

But yeah, it was really weird, because all those emotions and insights that have happened within that moment, like, with one second of him sort of screaming out dada was like, oh, my God, you love me. I've got to get my stuff together. And I need to call my dad for some reason to apologise to him. 

So it came with this elation, but this positive feeling, but then this, almost like an epiphany. So yeah, to give you some backstory, at that time, it was 27 years before, but now would be, I guess, about 45 years. I went to school, first day of school, catching up with friends. And then my mother suddenly appeared at the front of the classroom and sort of the teacher called me over and gave me a hug and said, I'm gonna miss you. 

And my brother and I walked out of school and found that the car had been packed with suitcases and boxes, and I sort of knew something was wrong. And yeah, we left. We left that life. We left my father -- all my friends. So everything I knew. And I had a really good childhood there. 

And so I had this understanding perhaps of what my father went through that night, when he returned home to discover his family had left him. And this really sounds strange, but I had this desperate desire to apologise to him. And obviously, at the time, I had no control over what was going on. And I could sort of logically think it wasn't my fault. 

But this emotional side, I just had this incredible desire to, you know, I just remember bursting into tears once once we started talking, and I was saying, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll probably start crying now. But yeah, it was really, I really had the urge to do that. And I think it was the first time I allowed myself to grieve that loss. 

And it was triggered by this beautiful, playful moment with my child, my boy, and it probably then helped me accept and embrace my role of being a father fully. And I think when you're a young father, you think, I've got to provide for my child, I've got to be a role model. I should always appear fun and happy. 

Yeah, that's not an easy role to take on as you're progressively learning. So yeah, that was a pretty powerful moment. And also the phone call, I mean, that Skype call, my dad was pretty intense.

Sabir: Yes, it's great to see your emotion. And I can see that you have moved even telling that story so many years on, and I really appreciate you delving into your personal side in this conversation. Thank you for that. Now, I want to come back to ikigai, and as I mentioned in the introduction, your mission is to dispel the myths associated with ikigai. 

Now one of these myths that I came across and I'd love you to expand on this, was that ikigai is NOT a Venn diagram. And you've also mentioned this in one of your fantastic articles online as well. Could you shed some light on what these myths are? And in your opinion, why don't they quite stack up?

Nick: Sure. So we'll start with a Venn diagram. So there is a Venn diagram online, and if you Google ikigai, you will probably see it. But if you also click on images, you'll see probably 1000s of different variations of this four circle Venn diagram that asks: are you doing something that you love, that you're good at, that the world needs, and that you can be paid for? 

So each question in a circle, they all interlock, and in the centre is, you'll find ikigai. And so this Venn diagram, it's inspiring, and it's quite helpful. But originally, it was actually called the Purpose Venn diagram. And there's actually a complicated past to this Venn diagram. And it's quite hard to really without any doubt, so who created it. 

It seems to be this collective knowledge of people or playing with the Venn diagram. But the one that was merged with ikigai was called proposito, by a Spanish astrologer called Andres Zuzunaga, and I actually interviewed him and he sort of said, "At the time, I was meditating, and I used to wake up to insights. And one of them was this idea of purpose." And he said, he was inspired by natal charts to design this Venn diagram of purpose. 

And then there's actually images of it as the purpose Venn diagram online. So if you actually Googled the Purpose Venn diagram, you'd see the same Venn diagram with purpose in the middle. And then, along came, sort of he's a friend of mine now, this fun loving guy, he actually calls himself a mischief maker and lover of changing the world, Marc Winn, who's an entrepreneur, and he actually watched the TED talk on ikigai, or not on ikigai, actually on the blue zones, and they talk about five blue zones. 

These are five places in the world where they have or had the highest concentration of centenarians. And one of these places was Okinawa, Japan, and Dan Buettner, who delivered the TED Talk basically said on Okinawa, they have this incredible lifestyle, and they eat largely a vegan diet, and they're constantly moving, and they have strong social ties. 

And they have this amazing word that imbues their life called ikigai, and you know, they don't retire. And so inspired by this word, Mark thought, oh, wouldn't it be cool to merge the two. And essentially, he told me, he spent less than an hour, like 45 minutes on the blog post, and had someone else make the graphic. And I think it took a while, but about six months later, or a year later, it then went viral. And it's been copied and shared 1000s of times. 

So it's really strange. It didn't go super viral as the purpose Venn diagram, but because this sort of mysterious word was added to it, it went viral. And I guess the problem is, people associate ikigai to work, and that it's something you get paid to do. And when I've shown the Venn diagram to my friends, usually the first thing they say is no, you know, ikigai is not something you get paid to do. 

So ikigai is the spectrum of all things about your life, and that can include work, and you know, meaningful work. Which is actually, we might call that hatarakigai; the verb for work is hataraku, so something that's work that's worth doing, or maybe work motivation would be hatarakigai. So that's how the Venn diagram came about. 

And I know, everyday people are sharing it on social media, and they find it really inspiring. And so did I, I remember seeing it, I thought, wow, that's inspiring. But then I thought, hang on, Japanese would never define a word like this. 

So I kind of knew it was strange. And I remember actually also the way I was introduced to the word was also very casually, someone just sort of casually asked me “What's your ikigai, Nick?”, in Japan on a lunch break. 

So that's one and then because of the Okinawa association with the Dan Buettner TED Talk, a lot of people think the word's from Okinawa, and they also associate the word to longevity, which Japanese generally don't do. We could say it's correlation, maybe for the centenarians in Okinawa, that yeah, they have a strong sense of ikigai. 

But none of the researchers or none of the friends I've spoken to have ever openly or said anything about ikigai being something to do with longevity. And there's also one more which is this idea that you never retire. And I can tell you Japanese do retire. And for many Japanese, they explore ikigai after they retire. 

So it's all these romantic images or ideas of romanticisation, I call them, of the concept that we kind of fall for. And yes, we've sort of touched on, it's more relatable to intrinsic motivation or positive psychology or existential positive psychology.

Ikigai is Not a Venn Diagram

Sabir: Oh, thank you again for sharing that. And I quickly want to mention to everyone who's watching and listening, Nicholas Kemp wrote a wonderful article online. One of his many great articles to do with what we just spoke about in this question. And the title is "Ikigai is Not a Venn Diagram." 

If you search for that, along with Nicholas Kemp's full name, you should find that article on medium.com. And if you don't mind, Nick, I can also include that link, if you wish, in the show description as well. Just to give people a flavour of your work, your written work online as well. That'd be okay.

Nick: Awesome, that would be great. Actually, the first article I wrote on there was called "Ikigai Misunderstood" and it's very similar. But yeah, I put it on medium recently. So I've jumped on medium like many other people.

Sabir: Yeah. Perfect. So I'll definitely include that link for everyone who's watching and listening in the show notes on the YouTube and podcast description. So Nick, I want to come back to an earlier conversation that again, we were having a few days ago. And you were kind enough to share that you are someone who sees life as an opportunity to learn and contribute. 

And I believe there is one particular Japanese word that resonates with you in this regard. And I'm going to completely screw this pronunciation out. I'm going to try, and that word is shimei-kan. Could you please firstly, correct me on my pronunciation and also delve into what this word actually means?

Nick: Sure, shimei-kan, yeah, so I love this word. So shimei means purpose, generally translates shimei as purpose and then kan means feeling and we've touched on kan already, this idea of ikigai-kan. So ikigai-kan would be the feeling of ikigai, and then shimei-kan would be perhaps a sense of purpose, we often talk about a sense of purpose. 

And actually the kanji behind me is the character for kan sort of one of my favourite characters. It's a little bit complicated to explain, but the bottom part represents shin or kokoro, which is this idea Japanese have that both your mind and your heart and your spirit really are to one concept. 

So we might often say you think of your mind, feel your heart. And Japanese do say that, but often they also say you can't have one without the other. So yeah, kan is really crucial to all these aspects. In other words, relatable to ikigai. But what's fascinating about shimei-kan is the breakup of the word. And so there are usually two readings of Japanese characters.

There's onyomi and kunyomi, and I think onyomi is Chinese and kunyomi is Japanese reading and Japanese use both depending on how the kanji is used. So part of the word, shi is also used for the verb "to use", and then mei can be read as inochi, which means life. So we have "use life", and then add kan "A sense of using your life." 

So this kind of blew my mind when I actually spent the time breaking this down. And I thought, wow, we could perceive purpose as this opportunity, or even obligation to use each day to contribute or grow to others. 

So you could always ask yourself, how do I want to use my life? Reflecting on life or even each day, you could just wake up and say, Okay, I've got all these things to do. But how do I want to go about that? How do I want to use my life? 

So that blows my mind that if you said, Hey, define purpose. You know, I wonder how many people would say, well, purpose is the way you want to use the life that's been given to you. So yeah, I reckon it's amazing how Japanese articulates words with kanji.

Sabir: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you, as well for pointing out the calligraphy in the background. And you know, I always find Japanese texts very interesting. It always is, and I'd love to get your thoughts on this. It has a very powerful imagery. Not explaining this properly. But know what I mean, every time I pass Japanese calligraphy, and when I see your background as well, without knowing too much about what it actually means, it still has a very powerful sense. 

And I find it quite moving. I'm wondering what your take on that would be because you've delved into Japanese culture for many, many years. It's your life's work. What would you say about that? Do you find similar feelings when it comes to Japanese expression through language?

Nick: Absolutely. So I've actually written about this in the book. And I mean, if we look at this kanji character, it's well balanced, it's quite dynamic. But it is kind of communicating something. And so I've actually spoken to a professional calligrapher, and through conversations with her and other artists, I sort of came to this theory of this as an example of captured flow. 

So we're sort of witnessing the artist's captured flow. And she presented this idea that when you're doing calligraphy, the ink never lives. And so someone who's maybe knowledgeable about calligraphy or teaches calligraphy, they could probably tell when their students overthought the process, so they've been hesitant. 

And they can probably also identify someone who's been in a really good state of flow, and they've done these beautiful dynamic brushstrokes with both concentration and ease. And I really think it's a captured flow. And even though you can't read it, you can't really understand what it means, you do sense something and I think you're sort of feeling the flow of the artist that's been captured in calligraphy and I think we often feel it in artwork, or often even in pottery. 

So my father-in-law, he's a master potter, he makes a type of pottery called shinoyaki, and he makes matcha jawan, which are tea ceremony bowls. And sometimes you just look at one of them and you sort of feel something -- you feel his flow, his spirits somehow being passed into or fused into the pottery. And yeah, it's quite powerful when we experience that.

Sabir: Thank you again for sharing that. And as you're talking, I was just remembering how bare my walls are at home. I've got white walls all around, and I don't have many pictures up. And I was thinking a few weeks ago that I need to fix that part of my apartment, and I think you've just inspired me. I may need to start thinking about possibly bringing in some Japanese calligraphy certainly. Maybe I can drop you an email.

Nick: I can refer you to someone. Someone in the UK. I know.

Sabir: That sounds good. I look forward to that. Now, you actually set me up perfectly for my next question because I want to talk to you about your book. And you did touch on your book a few moments ago. So, let's go right from the beginning. 

It's newly published, I believe, and it's called Ikigai-kan: Feel a Life Worth Living Japanese Wisdom for a Fulfilling and Meaningful Life. Now, on the book's website, you say that quote: "I hope to move readers from cultural appropriation to cultural appreciation." 

With your permission, Could you perhaps delve into what you mean by this?

Nick: Sure, I'm assuming most people who buy my book would probably know of the Venn diagram, and probably might know of these romantic ideas that it's a word from Okinawa, or it's the secret to longevity. I think a lot of people are unwittingly using the Venn diagram to offer advice to others. And I think some people are using it professionally. 

I guess in some ways, I feel that is an appropriation to sort of not spend the time to properly validate something and look into it, and take something on face value, especially something that's not of your own culture. So I think that's a typical trade in the West that we do, you know, we think we can understand something in a sentence or a Venn diagram. 

Shoshin - A Beginners's Mind

Whereas I've discovered with so many Japanese words, it takes many long conversations and an open mind and a beginner's mind, there's a word called shoshin, which again, means this idea of shin: heart and mind, so beginner mind, to understand concepts that are foreign to us. And I don't think we give ourselves enough time to start with a beginner's mind or an open mind. 

And then before we think, oh, yeah, I know what it is, it's this Venn diagram. Before we do that we actually spend time maybe doing some research or we have the opportunity to speak to people from that culture, I guess, in this case, Japanese. So for me, it was sort of saying, hey, ikigai is actually something very different. 

For me to write the book and I guess, to complete it, I needed many of these conversations with many different people: researchers, artists, everyday Japanese. And I hope that's what the book does. So I'm not sort of pointing fingers. But I guess I'm pointing out a trait that I don't think is very helpful. And I think Eastern culture obviously has this different way to approach things and take time to understand. Yeah, so I guess that's what I mean.

Sabir: Yeah, absolutely. I want to come back to our conversation that we were having personally off air a few days ago. We touched on a few things, and one of the things that I found extremely profound and interesting was when you said that you are someone who loves to do things properly. 

You don't like to leave any stones unturned, so to speak, when you're carrying out your work. And you say that by leaving things undone or not done properly, it creates a sense of unease and disharmony. And I found that really interesting, and I was wondering if this way of working has any links to ikigai in any way I imagined it does.

Nick: I would say it does. It definitely has a strong link to Japan for me. I lived in Japan for 10 years. And what I noticed about Japanese people is that it doesn't matter where you are at a convenience store, high class restaurants, hotels, five star hotels, everyone does things properly. And it's such a joy to go to Japan. 

I've just countless stories of just things being done properly, everything's clean, everything's safe, but social interactions are also done with care. Then coming back to Australia is quite a challenge. Because I come back to this, you know, should-be-right attitude, it's all half done. 

And you really notice, and I'm not sure about the UK, but a good example, if you go to the supermarket, and you'll often be served and coworkers sort of talk as they're serving you, and then they'll go have a nice day and that they haven't really served you. And that sort of seems to happen almost every time I go to the supermarket. 

Whereas in Japan, that just would never happen. So there's a social impact, I think, when you don't do things properly. And I guess, because ikigai is tied to our social world, I mean, I wouldn't say doing things properly is ikigai, but it could be for some people to think I'm going to do things properly, I'm going to serve my client, or I'm going to take care of my students. 

So I want them to have that positive experience. I want them to know that I care. And there's nothing worse when you're trying to work with someone, or help someone or you're trying to get help from someone. And they just do it half done. And it disrupts the flow, so it has all these negative impacts -- it stops flow, it wastes time, creates uncertainty. And it actually shows you don't really care. 

So I really learnt in Japan to do things properly. And this is why I think we enjoyed what we've sort of said we've had a conversation, but we just exchanged emails, but you're so polite, and so diligent with every email, I thought, wow, this guy reminds me of someone in Japan like you are so caring with your exchange, you're so polite, and I thought, wow, this is a real pleasure. 

So obviously, that sort of inspired me to also do the same kind. And yeah, I feel like we could be really good friends from that experience. So we've really started off with this positive social interaction. But it probably only took us a few extra minutes to do that. Well, it didn't take us an extra hour to craft a special email.

Sabir: Yeah. The reason why I asked you about the question that I just did about doing things properly, is because it's very, very personal to me, throughout my working life, because my background is in television, so I used to work as a producer director. And that's when I first realised, this was between 2010 and 2015. 

For about five years, I started really realising properly the way that I liked to do things when it came to work. And it was very similar to what you've just discussed about doing things properly. I used to get really agitated with myself inside if I wasn't doing things properly. 

Because what I found was that the environments in which I've worked throughout my life, haven't necessarily adhered to that type of work ethic, where you tried to do everything you possibly can to make the end product or the end goal of your project to look as fabulous as possible. This idea of trying to reach perfection, but knowing that perfection itself will never be reached. Always trying to flirt with that level of perfection, if you like. 

And this is a concept that I've been thinking about a great deal over the last couple of years even. And that's why I was so taken aback when you said what you did, during my exchanges about doing things properly. And I really think it's such an important trait to have, as you said, not just in the workplace, but in everyday life. 

Because as you said, if you practice that, then naturally it will have a knock on effect on everyone else. So I guess what I wanted to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing that when we had the exchanges because it really lit something up inside of me. That's why I really appreciate that. And it's great that we connected on so many levels. So thank you for that.

Nick: I just want to add to that, something really important. I just sort of reminded myself of something I actually learned on a YouTube video from a Zen priest. He actually calls himself a great fool as in foolish. He's quite young, and he has a very popular YouTube channel. And he talks about this concept, these two concepts of doing things properly. 

He kind of says half-assed, and he said, if you think about the compound effect of years of doing things properly, whatever it is, people will perceive you, almost as a master of so many things, and you will have developed this skill, it will be very easy for you to engage with other things and do them properly. But if you do things halfway, or half-assed, he basically says that will invade all areas of your life. 

And soon your relationships, your love life, your family, everything will be half done. And your whole life will essentially be halfway half done. And yeah, that compound effect of years of doing things half done, you'll probably not be living a life that's meaningful. And you'll probably be living with some regret. 

So it's funny how the small things do matter. In the context of our life, and again, I really appreciated the way you communicate with me. I thought, wow, this guy, he does things properly. So it was a real joy.

Sabir: Thank you for the interaction. As I said earlier, I did really enjoy it.

Nick: The video is all in Japanese. There are subtitles or captions on some of these videos.

Sabir: Perfect. Yeah. So if we did manage to find that I can always include it in the show notes for this episode. So yeah, that will be awesome. And I'd be really intrigued as well, I'm intrigued to have a listen myself. That'd be awesome. 

Nick, before we wrap up today's show, I just wanted to ask if there were any questions that I perhaps missed out that you would really like to touch on? Or if there are aspects of ikigai that I haven't asked, and anything else that you want to mention. Please feel free to do so. And then after that, I'll remind all our viewers and listeners of how to get in touch with you and find out more about your work.

Nick: Sure, I think one thing we can mention is that ikigai can be something very small. And well, I guess one of the misconceptions is it's your one life purpose or it has to be something big. And we do have this attitude almost like an all or nothing attitude sometimes to life, if it's not big enough, well, why bother with. 

Japanese are really good at appreciating the small things and there are so many things that we get to enjoy and experience every day. I think if we lost them, we'd quickly realise how important they are or how much they comfort us, will give us joy, or just make us feel alive. 

So you can certainly find ikigai in the small things, whether it's your favourite music, taking a walk, or some sort of social engagement, a hug with someone. So that's something I would say, try to find it in the small, you don't have to be solving your life purpose and working out your life purpose with ikigai. 

Ikigai sources

And it is this spectrum. So I think if you start to appreciate what you already have, you'll soon discover you have many ikigai sources, and then you can really reflect on how they make you feel. But I think the strongest source of ikigai is often relationships. 

And one thing I recommend people to do is call an old friend that you haven't spoken to for months or years; having a conversation with an old friend just can be life-changing. You never know what can happen from that.

Sabir: Yeah. Well, thanks so much.

Nick: And yeah, just that emphasis on it's very much attached to your social world. This is why I love having these conversations with people like yourself, Sabir, to, you know, feel like we're almost friends and who knows we hopefully we'll have our next conversation in person.

Sabir: Yeah, you never know, if I ever managed to get over to Australia, or if you ever come back. So I think you mentioned you may be travelling to the UK, perhaps in the next few months or next year.

Nick: The plan would be next year, hopefully. So I'll let you know if that happens.

Sabir: Absolutely. It will be amazing to connect in person for sure. Nick, I just wanted to say thank you so much. It's been a real honour and privilege to have you on the show. I'm so happy we connected and we managed to arrange this conversation. I've learned so much about ikigai. So much information that I wasn't aware of before. And I don't think I could have found anyone better to translate that information to us today. So thanks so much.

Nick: Well, thank you for the opportunity and for those kind words and feedback and it is a real joy to share this with people. And yeah, you've been a very kind and gracious host and probably I'll call you a friend. So it's good to know you, Sabir. Thank you so much.

Sabir: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you once again, Nick. It's been an absolute pleasure. For everyone who is watching and listening. Just a quick reminder of how you can follow Nicholas Kemp's work. You can find him on Twitter using the handle @Nicholaskemp and his main website which is of course ikigaitribe.com And as we spoke a few minutes ago, 

Nicholas Kemp's new book, which is called IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living, Japanese Wisdom for a Fulfilling and Meaningful Life, and the website for that book is ikigaikan.com. So for everyone who's watching and listening, thank you so much for tuning in to this special episode of The Sabir Bhatti Show. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. Until next time, do take care of yourself. Have a blessed day. Bye bye

>
Scroll to Top