Sales Masters Guild Mentor, Mike Ainsworth introduces us to Ikigai and how it could be something that could improve your business. Don’t know what Ikigai is? Read on.

I love to learn new things.

And so far I’ve discovered that one of the best things about working with the Sales Masters Guild is the fact that every time I attend a meeting – whether just with my fellow mentors or with business owning mentees – I learn something new.

Last week I learned for the first time about the concept of Ikigai.

Initially I was more concerned about the correct pronunciation but having quickly crossed that hurdle I kept researching and what I found was extremely interesting and with wide reaching implications for all of us.  

As the name suggests, Ikigai is a word that originates from Japan. The word is derived from two words Iki (meaning “life” or “alive) and Gai (meaning “effect” or “result”). The word is usually translated into English as meaning “reason for being”. For me it’s more a reason to look forward to a Monday morning, a reason to jump out of bed every day or perhaps just a purpose for life.

I’ve spent a lot of time since last week learning a lot more about the concept and how it affects my life and how it can affect your life as an entrepreneur.

As a pragmatic person first and foremost what I like about ikigai is that it balances the spiritual with the practical. It’s simple, but also elegant. The following diagram illustrates:

As the chart shows, Ikigai lies at the congruence of four major components in your life:

  • What you love (your passion)
  • What the world needs (your mission)
  • What you are good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get paid for (your profession)

Ikigai was first conceived as a way of life in Okinawa, Japan, a city that boasts the largest population of over-100 year-olds in the world. And the reason often cited is because the people of Okinawa have cultivated a way of life that teaches them to “do what you love” without the risk of burnout.

So is it possible that the inhabitants of the island of Okinawa have discovered the secret to the longevity and vitality? If so is it possible to do some of it ourselves? Living better would be a good start!

My own story goes a bit like this:

When I started out in my work life I guess that my main thought was to earn a good salary and that would lead to fulfilment. Luckily I was also good at my job and was promoted regularly so my salary was increased and so my vocation became my profession as I established myself, obtained banking qualifications and as my experience grew.

Whilst at times the job was fulfilling (particularly when I was training and also when I was at one or two branches where I was lucky enough to work with a great team) and so at times I loved my job and I think mostly in the 1970s and 1980s the world needed bank managers who could understand their business.

But by the mid-1990s the world had moved on and banking for me was just a well-paid job.

By the mid-1990s I was stuck in the bottom three circles on the illustration above. Like many people in their jobs I was comfortable but there was also a feeling of emptiness.

So I decided to quit my job and joined the ranks of the self-employed.

If I said that I cared deeply about finance I would be lying. It never was my passion. My passion is for helping people, doing deals, and seeing businesses grow and flourish. During most of my banking career I was able to do that and I’ve been fortunate that since leaving the bank on the whole I’ve been able to indulge my passion.

When I first left the Bank I stayed involved in finance as it was something that I was good at. But as I moved through my post-banking career I made changes whether by accident or design so that every role had more of the things that I like and less of the things that I don’t like.

Today I’m fortunate in being able to help people and watch their businesses grow every day at Sales Marketing Guild. I believe I have finally found my Ikigai.

So how can you find your Ikigai?

In my opinion Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfilment, and balance in your daily routine. So it’s just as important to have a happy social and family life as it is to have a job or a business that is fulfilling.

You job doesn’t have to be the first love of your life but it does have to be something that you’d stand up for, to defend. There will preferably be an emotional connection and it should certainly be something that you could happily talk for hours about with passion, energy and enthusiasm.

At this stage I should point out that plenty of people have done well despite checking the boxes in only two or three of the circles. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try for all four.

A lot of people go into business doing what they are good at and what they can be paid for. If they are fortunate enough to find something that the world needs then their business is on the road to success – up to a point.

The problem that I’ve found with businesses like this is the owners often burn out too soon. And if not then the business becomes the owners and vice versa and thus has no intrinsic value. When I’ve valued businesses where the owners tick just these three boxes then often the business can be unsellable.

But look again at the diagram above. Ikigai is found only when the four elements converge and that means home life as well as business.

It’s easy to get blinkered and to think that home life and business are completely separate. The truth is that everything is connected. It’s possible to be true to the things that you love and to use your business to provide and to live a life of meaning and value.

And when you manage to find your business Ikigai the benefits will come in that not only will your life be transformed but your business will as well. At the same time your business could become more valuable in order that one day it can be sold and you can live a long and happy retirement in the manner of the citizens of Okinawa.


If you would like to discuss Mike’s training courses and how they could make an impact on your business, you can contact him directly through his Mentors profile page.

Mike Ainsworth

Mike Ainsworth

Mike Ainsworth is a Sales Masters Guild Personal Business Mentor.

Mike lists his three main strengths as: Having an analytical approach to problem solving, being commercial and understanding value, having compassion and deriving real pleasure in being able to help other people (or other people’s businesses)

Find out more about Mike on his Sales Masters Guild profile page.

Read more blogs from Mike.

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