Turning Japanese

Last week I returned from a trip to Japan with my family. Little did I know that I would be inspired by the Japanese culture. Observing their values made me think hard about my own business and professionalism. Here are some questions that I asked myself and the insights I took away from the trip:

Japan’s transportation system is extremely efficient. Their subway and train setup is unmatched. Amidst the crowded, hurried travelers there is a calming sense of order maintained. All the transportation is punctual, therefore dependable. Instead of worrying about “traffic,” you can literally calculate your journey to the minute. People on escalators stand to the left, so those in a rush can walk fast on the right side. There is an effective way to get from Point A to Point B quickly.

Key Question: How efficient are you?

Every time I walked in or out of a store I was greeted. It actually got annoying after a while because all of the employees would do it relentlessly. Whether eating at a restaurant or window shopping at a store, workers would wait on my every move (regardless if I would purchase anything). They treat each person with respect and I was humbled by their superior level of customer service.

Key Question: How would you rate your “customer service”?

One thing that stood out to me was Japan’s cleanliness. Their restrooms are cleaner than most restaurants in the US. Their subways are immaculate. Even though there aren’t many trash cans visible, people do not litter. There are workers that sweep the sidewalks, parks and bathrooms persistently. They tend to the little details and present their product with pristine care.

Key Question: What “brand” are you communicating?

No matter where you are in your career, there are great lessons to learn by observing “cultural” success. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he defined success as “a function of persistence, doggedness and the willingness to work hard.” Yes, we need opportunities handed down to us, but the part we can control is how much effort we put forth to accomplish the goal. The more effort you put into bettering yourself, the greater the reward will be in the end.

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