A few weeks ago, I was telling Lauren how I've been feeling stuck in my work lately. I explained that I haven't been feeling my progress day to day. She said, "maybe you're just making rice?"
I was confused at first, but realized she was referencing the apprentices in Jiro, Dreams of Sushi. Apprentices may sometimes spend years doing very mundane, basic, work day after day: cleaning, making tamago, mastering how to make rice, then maybe after 5 years they can touch a fish.
This led me to googling more about the apprenticeship process and coming across the term Shokunin. I had to cross reference the definitions I found with my friend Kai, who then called his mom and asked her as well. We had a great discussion about the deeper meanings of the term.
This is one I found floating around the internet:
I absolutely loved Cal Newports book, So good they can't ignore you. He focuses on the craftsman vs. passion mindset. Cal Newport argues that we should be focusing on honing our skills, instead of trying to figure out what we're passionate about. Being service vs. self focused.
I feel like Shokunin brings his ideas a step further. What resonated with me was that craftsmanship has a heavy focus on the quality of the skill. Where as Shokunin takes the improvement of skill further, with seeking to improve the social welfare in its communities. It extends the idea of "serving" with an obligation to serve.
After 6ish years in film, I feel like I'm still making rice. The leaps I see in my craft aren't as noticeable day to day, but when I look back year to year, there have definitely been big learnings. I'm continuously asking how filmmaking can be used as a tool for improving our society, instead of creating more noise. When I can connect to a greater why for the work, I fall more in love with the process. I fall more in love with making rice.