019 – Kokorozashi: A Personal Mission That Benefits Society

Tomoya Nakamura

Tomoya Nakamura

"Imagine kokorozashi as an enjoyable life goal, a passion that occupies your thoughts on the weekend, and makes you excited to wake up on Monday morning. Finding it requires imagination, and realizing it requires awareness. As such, developing a self-defined kokorozashi that benefits society is no easy feat."

In the podcast:

  • Defining Kokorozashi: 2:43  
  • Why do business owners need a kokorozashi: 13:02  
  • Kokorozashi and leadership: 18:10  
  • GLOBIS Unlimited: 23:26  
  • Using kokorozashi: 33:08  

Kokorozashi as a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create positive change in society.

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Nick: This is Nick Kemp with the ikigai podcast and in this episode, I speak with Tomoya Nakamura of GLOBIS University. Tomoya is the Dean of the Graduate School of Management at GLOBIS University, the largest and fastest-growing business school in Japan. Tomoya teaches courses in the disciplines of leadership and globalization, and also frequently conducts training programs for global corporations. Tomoya graduated from Hitotsubashi University with a degree in social studies and received his MBA from Harvard Business School. Tomoya is also the co-author of the book and online course kokorozashi, the pursuit of meaning in business, which is the subject of this podcast episode. Tomoya, thank you so much for your time and for coming on to the podcast.

Tomoya: Thank you, Nick, for inviting me. I'm very excited about this podcast.

Nick: Likewise, and I should mention also that you are proficient in Aikido, a martial art that you have been practising for 35 years. And that appears to be one of your passions. 

Tomoya: I'm a little bit sad I don't have a chance to throw you. Typically we practice throwing people.

Nick: Well, I have a 16-year-old son and he's returned to learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling so sometimes he throws me.

Tomoya: I see. 

Nick: I think that's important for young boys and girls to learn a martial art where there's a competitive nature, but also focused on values and respect and learning to cooperate with people.

Tomoya: Maybe I can practice with your son next time.

Defining Kokorozashi

Nick: Bring him to your Dojo. So about a year ago, I stumbled upon your course, leadership with passion through kokorozashi. I found the course very insightful and helpful, and I became fascinated with the word and concept kokorozashi. How would you define kokorozashi Tomoya?.

Tomoya: We define kokorozashi as a personal mission that unifies the passion and skills of a professional to create positive change in society.

Nick: I understand. So it is something significant and quite ambitious.

Tomoya: Yes. We are not asking you know our students to come up with a kokorozashi, personal mission easily. It takes time.

Nick: If we look at the etymology of the word, it is formed with two words Kokoro, which can mean mind and heart and the verb 'sasu' which means to point so could we understand the word to mean where the heart points or where the mind is focused on.

Tomoya: Yes, I have not thought the way you have. I think you are right, where the heart points or where the mind is focused, is a good definition. 

Nick: I have a coaching group and I often teach them words and Kokoro is fascinating because you need to understand the context. Is it the mind or your heart, but in this case, kokorozashi seems to have both the heart and mind connected.

Tomoya: Yes.

Nick: If we go deeper, we can look at the kanji of the word and that can give us more insight and it's a single kanji character made of two radicals. On the top is the radical bushi, which means Samurai or warrior and below that is Kokoro. From the kanji, I guess we could take the word to mean the heart of the warrior or the heart beneath the warrior.

Tomoya: Yeah. I think you're completely correct. I prefer to say the heart of Samurai. A Samurai knows when to put his life on the line ao kokorozashi is something that you can put your entire life onto.

Nick: Wow, that gives it some perspective then. I also learned that there is a verb form so kokorozashi is a noun, but there's also kokorozashi, which can mean to plan or to intend, to aspire to, or to aim for, or to set sights on. Is that correct?

Tomoya: Yes. But in Japan, we often use it as a noun, more than a verb.

Nick: I love this word. I think I fell in love with it straight away. I love the way that it sounds. I find the kanji both attractive and inspiring and it appears to be a word rooted in Bushido. But it's also really relevant to leadership in business and that is something you teach in your courses and as part of the MBA programs at GLOBIS. 

I'd like to quote how you describe kokorozashi from your course, leadership with passion through kokorozashi. So I'll just read the quote out. 

"Imagine kokorozashi as an enjoyable life goal, a passion that occupies your thoughts on the weekend, and makes you excited to wake up on Monday morning. Finding it requires imagination, and realizing it requires awareness. As such, developing a self-defined kokorozashi that benefits society is no easy feat."

And when I read that, I found that very inspiring. 

Tomoya: If you have a kokorozashi you tend to wait for Mondays. But if you don't have a kokorozashi you probably think thank god, it's Friday, depending on whether you have a mission for life, and if you can make it the occupation that can drive you for many years, maybe longer than 10 years, maybe 20 years.

Nick: Wow. Okay, so it's a significant life investment. It sounds like it's not just a goal to achieve, it's something you're happy and wanting to pursue for many years or several decades.

Tomoya: Maybe if we think about mountain climbing, you're thinking of climbing the nearest mountain. But once you reach the top, you find out there's another mountain behind. So kokorozashi is like creating your first goal, seeing your second goal, maybe seeing your third challenge as a consequence it will lead you to maybe 10 years, maybe 20 years.

Nick: Okay, so it seems to evolve over time and as you mentioned, it does take time to find it. It's not just something you've come up with in an afternoon.

Tomoya: We have a course called entrepreneurial leadership. Typically it's a three months duration course, we ask all our MBA students to make a kokorozashi, personal mission statement at the end. We are forcing students to use the three months wisely. We read books about entrepreneurs, some politicians, some explorers, and by understanding what they went through in their life, we trap ourselves into their life and try to come up with a similar kind of goals.

Nick: Wow. So three months is a significant amount of time to reflect on its research, get inspired, and then get clarity. It's almost the opposite of what most businesses do. Most businesses start with a mission statement and then tend to forget about it.

Tomoya: Some companies start with a personal, let's say a corporate mission. But some companies initially start with the business and as they grow, they find the need for a corporate philosophy. So they define the corporate philosophy later. So it could be either way. In today's environment, a company should have its strong corporate vision or corporate mission. To attract I would say the younger generation. So I think it's good for the individual as well as a corporate to have something that they can stand for.

Nick: Yes, there has to be a collective vision or collective goal. Now in your course, you describe kokorozashi as the intersection of being and meaning, would you like to touch on that? 

Tomoya: Because kokorozashi is kind of a Japanese notion when we accepted international students, we were kind of struggling how to explain kokorozashi. Among the discussion with faculty, we came up with the concept of being and meaning. Essentially being is about yourself. So basically, I asked my students who is your father, who is your mother, who is your grandpa, who's your grandma? What was the value of your family? What kind of a child were you and I asked students to talk to their parents, talk to their grandparents, maybe elementary school teachers, to dig deep about themselves. 

The meaning part I know today, and probably your listeners are more used to the iPhone, you know, reading the news on the iPhone. If you can imagine there's a newspaper in front of you, I asked my students, which page do you start? Do you start from the political page? Do you start from the economy? Do you start from society? Or do you start with Sports and Entertainment? Because even in the same external environment, there are probably maybe one or two pages that catch your attention. We call those meanings. So it's an intersection of maybe your bodies, your background, and your interest, we want students to define his or her kokorozashi.

Nick: Okay, so there's an importance in understanding your values. Which is very important.

Tomoya: Sometimes our students find, their value inherited from let's say, their grandfather. They understand that it's the life of himself. However, he has been chasing the same objective with his grandfather, maybe who lived maybe 40, 50 years ago. So this personal mission is not only for himself, it's among the family in a way. So, by finding the roots we try not to fulfil only his kokorozashi, but his grandfather's kokorozashi as well.

Why do business owners need a kokorozashi

Nick: Wow. I didn't know that. That's fascinating. This almost sounds like this, this sense of honouring your heritage, respecting your heritage, and bringing that to kokorozashi. With all that insight, my next question is why do business owners need a kokorozashi?

Tomoya: Of course a business owner, I think, can run his or her company, without a kokorozashi. Meaning if you have a business model, if you have clients, you can make money. But in the long run, probably we need intrinsic motivation. To have intrinsic motivation, something like money could be too small, of course, money is important. We need money to conduct economic activities. However, if you gain enough money, it probably will not motivate you. So, probably you should use your money, your capability, your energy for something bigger than money. That's the reason why we ask students to have a societal goal, not just a personal one.

Nick: So it's something bigger than yourself, bigger than your company, bigger than making lots of money, involves adding some value to society.

Tomoya: If you want to buy a Ferrari, that's great. But I don't think many people will support you.

Nick: It's a pretty selfish goal.

Tomoya: But if you use that money to serve local people. I think many people would support you,  assist you, and help you in achieving that goal. So we think first fulfilling your personal needs are important but I don't think that's the end.

Nick: This seems to go back to the idea of Bushido, I don't know a lot about Bushido, but I do know one of the values of Samurai was to serve their community and their elders.

Tomoya: So the unique part of Samurai in Japan is that they had both responsibilities of the arm and also the government. So in many countries, the warriors and the governors are different. But in Japan, they were the same. Even if you are a warrior, you need to think about community, you need to think about your people. So Bushido requires integrity. It's not just yourself to cash in for your clan to prosper, together with you.

Nick: I think it's something that the world desperately needs at the moment but we're very much focused on success and materialism. I think we need more businesses wanting to serve society. 

Tomoya: If we look at something like the B Corporations, these are businesses that have a focus in society. So maybe like Ben Jerry's ice cream, companies like Patagonia, a sports gear company, they are kind of focused both on business and society at the same time. So there are companies who are I think are following societal goals,

Nick: So with this idea of kokorozashi, how does one develop a self-defined kokorozashi that benefits society, what's the process one needs to go through

Tomoya: At least in our MBA program, we make students make a presentation of what he or she wants to achieve, kind of like a starting point. Because you have shared your kokorozashi in front of your classmates, he or she would start speaking to close friends, maybe bosses, clients. Let's say, I want to be a bridge between Australia and Japan, for example, and that will lead to more connections, more contacts, more business opportunities. And we are kind of encouraging students to take actions when the opportunity comes, of course, they have hardships or challenges along the way but, if they can overcome the fear, we believe, to the second mountain that they should aim for, and eventually to a kokorozashi.

Kokorozashi and leadership

Nick: So there seems to be this requirement of synergy with people and with that comes the importance of leadership. I know that's an important aspect. And kokorozashi is leadership in a way just Would you like to talk about that?

Tomoya: Kokorozashi is about intrinsic motivation. He or she needs to take initiative and we believe that passion or energy transcends from a higher person to a lower person. So if you want your kokorozashi to realize you should be the one who is most energetic, most passionate about it, and it won't without your internal motivation. That's why we think it's closely related to leadership.

Nick: Now with ambitious goals, business ventures. Inevitably there are tough times. So how does one maintain their kokorozashi and stay focused when times are tough? 

Tomoya: I tell my students to try to find even the slightest improvements in every trial, meaning maybe the result was bad, and we didn't succeed. However, at this point, I could see an absolute improvement. In that way, I think he or she can carry on or try again. That's one thing another is because we have shared the kokorozashi among the GLOBIS community. The classmates are there to support you, especially in the hard times So we have three meetings in a year, where GLOBIS alumni get together and share the progress of their kokorozashi. So in that way, even if you are struggling, their classmates who are with you would kind of encourage you to keep on challenging. So in that way, we are trying to help every student, of course, life is not that easy, not everyone succeeds but at least we would like to provide some kind of support and system.

Nick: So to summarize, you've got to recognize your growth or your small wins and understand that people will support you. As we touched on earlier, you do find that one's vision of their kokorozashi evolves as they pursue it, for example, their vision of their kokorozashi might become bigger, as their business gains traction, or might become more focused in a certain area, once they understand their market better.

Tomoya: Yes, one of the concepts that I value is synchronicity or coincidence. Why am I doing business with this client there should be some meaning behind it and not just transactional business, let's sit down and think about things that only we can do. So through these things, I think a new direction or new opportunity arises. So that's how we believe that your kokorozashi can grow. 

Nick: Let's talk about GLOBIS. GLOBIS itself seems to be an example of kokorozashi. The school started with humble beginnings and it's now Japan's biggest school. I know that Yoshito Hori, the Founder and President of GLOBIS wants to make GLOBIS the biggest school in Asia, and maybe, eventually the world. GLOBIS is an example of an organization with a strong kokorozashi.

Tomoya: I would say yes, our founder, started GLOBIS in 1992 if I'm not mistaken. Initially, he thought of creating GLOBIS to create the infrastructure for Japan. He just graduated from Harvard Business School, and comparing the United States and Japan, he saw that Japan lacked venture capital, a business school and business publication. So that's why we were born. As Yoshito Hori's kokorozashi grew, the business has grown. We have become Japan's largest MBA a long time ago and Hori has upgraded his vision to Number one business school in Asia, to number one business school in the world in the technovate era which is technology and innovate combined. We are aspiring a little bit higher now. A big challenge.

GLOBIS Unlimited

Nick: I like this idea that kokorozashi is an endless goal because it evolves and changes. As you pursue something, you grow yourself and you realize you're capable of more and offering the world more. So I think it's a fascinating aspect to this idea of kokorozashi and I know GLOBIS offers courses on what we've been discussing to help people develop their kokorozashi, both in Japanese and English. Would you like to share what the school offers?

Tomoya: We have a full-time MBA program in English and part-time and online MBA program, both in Japanese and in English. So because of online, we have students studying from all over the world, I think, including Australia, and we also offer some business courses in Singapore and Bangkok. We plan to create more hubs in the future. It will be fortunate if we can reach out to different businesses regions.

Nick: It also seems you're growing quite fast online and I know you offer something called GLOBIS unlimited. Would you like to share what that is?

Tomoya: I think Nick you have taken the GLOBIS unlimited course on kokorozashi, it's a microlearning platform that you can learn on your fingertips. If you have an iPhone or a smartphone, you can see GLOBIS' faculty teaching on video. Again, it is offered both in English and Japanese, we also have some offerings in Chinese. I think it can help you in your small spare time, maybe during your commute, or if you have a 15-minute break. So that's how we see education evolving in the future.

Nick: I like that aspect and that approach, where I don't have to take an entire MBA, to learn something. I just want to learn, and I can just get online and find something that interests me or is relevant to me at the time. The way you present your courses, it's very engaging, very professional and I enjoyed your course. So thank you for making it. Now that we're talking about GLOBIS. Could you provide some examples of your GLOBIS graduates who are pursuing kokorozashi?

Tomoya: I like to introduce two of my graduates, Miss Mihoko Suzuki, she was working mum and she was struggling to balance work, raising kids, studying and doing housework. So she developed a housekeeping service that would send a senior working mum to do the housework for the busy working mum. So she wanted to help herself. This business has grown, connecting senior housewives with busy young working mums. So giving senior housewives a role to play and gives more time for the young working mums. So I think it was good for two generations.

Nick: Yes, and I understand it's quite successful and quite a large number of senior working mums now have that role.

Tomoya: Yes, and another example I'd like to mention is a case of Dr Jose Fernandez. He started a bio interactive technology in Silicon Valley. He helps patients who have had a stroke with the virtual reality response, they can do rehabilitation of their, let's say, right hand or left foot. These are some of the alumni who are making their kokorozashi a reality. 

Nick: It seems like GLOBIS is open to helping anyone, you can be a working mum, you can be someone who's probably done a degree at university, you're willing to help anyone who has a passion to make the world a better place through business.

Tomoya: We do have a business plan contest for our students. If they have a business plan we are happy to provide the seed capital. So some of our students have started their own business through winning in the GLOBIS business plan contest. We provide roughly 100,000 US dollars for the champion.

Nick: That's very generous. I better get my business plan together.

Tomoya: Yeah, please apply. 

Nick: Let's touch on a word you mentioned just before technovate, and I heard this on one of the GLOBIS webinars, and actually, the President presented and he talked about kokorozashi, but he also mentioned the word technovate. It is a concept that GLOBIS is focused on and investing in, would you like to explain that in more detail?

Tomoya: This word is created by our founder. He combined technology and innovate and created the world. I think the reason behind him creating a new word is it's more unique, and it has more power than you saying technology and innovation. The reason why he came up with this notion is that we have a venture capital, a GLOBIS capital partner. This is one of the most successful venture capital in Asia, a lot of our invested companies right now are in technology and we could see the impact of technology. 

So although we are in an MBA school, we are doing a lot of technology or innovation-related courses such as IoT, robotics, big data analysis, and emotional intelligence. What we are doing with our online education is we are not necessarily asking faculty to teach from Tokyo. Some faculty teach from Silicon valley, from faculty from Singapore, from Barcelona. So in that way, we are trying to capture the leading trends in technology and innovation.

Nick: It seems GLOBIS has embraced teaching online well before universities and I think we've all discovered through the pandemic, how poorly positioned some universities were. I know a few universities here in Melbourne, they struggled to get something up and running. It's been a real tragedy for the first year university students. How has GLOBIS transition with the global pandemic COVID-19 would have prevented many prospective students from travelling to Tokyo to study on campus? 

Tomoya: On February 27th, this year, The Governor of Tokyo requested all schools to be closed. Because we had our online MBA in 2015. That weekend, we decided to go all online. From next Monday, we started providing MBA courses online. So we were fortunate to continue our education. Some students prefer to come to campus, but because it was a social request, we asked for students to study online. But you are right for the full-time student’s full-time students meaning they leave their job and come to Tokyo to study. We could not start this program, typically we start in September, so we asked them to stay in their country and study online on weekends and the Japanese government started to issue international student visas from September. So we are hoping that from January 2021, we can start on-campus classes with them If the COVID situation settles.

Nick: Okay, but you're weathering the storm quite well.

Tomoya: I think so and we were lucky because we already had an online program and a lot of online teaching experience.

Nick: That was a wise decision and investment made several years ago.

Tomoya: Yes, we started in 2015.

Using kokorozashi

Nick: As you know, I've been studying ikigai in-depth for the last year and a half and I’ve been seeking to understand deeply many Japanese words. So I do have a question about kokorozashi. It seems to be something quite ambitious, requiring the support and synergy of others. But can it be a modest meaningful business goal of a solo entrepreneur or even a non-business personal goal?

Tomoya: I think maybe the word ikigai may fit better for personal goals. Ikigai I think can be, for example, bonsai gardening, or creating poems, or calligraphy. Because at GLOBIS we aspire to develop visionary leaders who create and innovate societies we have asked our students to have societal goals. We make a distinction but for people's happiness, it could be either way. Ikigai itself would make maybe a senior person happy to do gardening on Monday morning. At the same time, it will make a business leader happy to conduct their business on Monday morning. So for an individual, either way, is fine, ikigai is great and kokorozashi is also great. That's how I see it.

Nick: In the context of a solopreneur, someone who likes me, for example, I pretty much run my own business online, record podcasts, sell courses, and have a coaching program. I don't have any staff so In that context, I do have a fairly ambitious goal. The vision probably is, at some stage go to Japan, interview more people and have staff that will help me. I don't see this as my ikigai, my learning about ikigai and sharing it with the world is something more for me. I have other ikigai like music. So I wonder, even if you're only at the stage where you're working by yourself can you use this idea of kokorozashi?

Tomoya: First of all Nick, I admire and respect what you're doing.

Nick: Thank you.

Tomoya: Spreading the word of ikigai and I saw your website and some of your Venn charts on how you define ikigai.

Nick: Thank you.

Tomoya: Having influential people like Dr Ken Mogi talk I think you already have supporters. Because of COVID-19, I think we are moving more online. So your activity itself, I think can be a big relief for many people. If people can have ikigai or kokorozashi that makes people want to live to their full capacity, not just becoming a director or buying a Ferrari. But doing good for Melbourne people or the Tokyo community. So I think your activity would gain a tailwind and I think at some point it will take off. 

Nick: I hope so, that is my goal. Japan has given so much to me, I spent 10 years in Japan, so I do feel this sense of obligation and gratitude to give back, and this opportunity presented itself. So this is my chance to give back and share with the world all these amazing philosophies. I see these words as philosophies and there are so many. I guess I've decided to focus on ikigai, but I'm also really interested in sharing what kokorozashi means so I hope that it doesn't have this misinterpretation as ikigai does in the west where it's this idea of doing something that you love, that you're good at that the world needs, that can be paid for, which is not what it means to the people of Japan. 

Tomoya, at the end of my podcast, I usually ask my guests what their ikigai is. I'm assuming it's going back to your practice and passion for Aikido.

Tomoya: Actually,  am Japanese born in Japan but I from my father's business I was raised in North America, and Canada. So when I came back to Japan at high school, I wanted to do something Japanese and that's how I encountered Aikido. Aikido took me quite a long way. Initially, I just wanted to throw people and understand Japan but eventually, when I was at Harvard Business School because I practised Aikido, I met a great professor called Professor Urban. He was the CEO of Pioneer Hi-Bred, that was that was bought of Monsato. He told me that "if you act like an American student, there is no use of you in Boston", so I learnt about Japan and learnt about ki. Ki is a principal in Aikido and that kind of led me to write about Eastern philosophy and Japan. 

So my ikigai or kokorozashi is similar to Nick, I want to convey what we can offer to the world. There are many things I like about this interview but if I may mention your word, you said gratitude, gratitude is the strongest form in martial art. If you can say thank you to your opponent, your opponent will go flying. If you think you want to beat up your opponent he's not going to fly.  It's very controversial but thank you or gratitude is a very strong word. I think it's not only for business or individual but if a business can think in a similar way I Think business has a bigger role to play in society, not just making money.

Nick: I agree wholeheartedly, and it's something I think I came to truly understand in Japan because gratitude is expressed constantly. I realized it doesn't take a lot to express gratitude but it means so much. I'm very thankful and very grateful for your time today. I just like to recommend my audience, your course, kokorozashi, the pursuit of meaning in business, where you cover the importance of leadership and you talk about concepts that you have created the kokorozashi wheel, and the four steps to kokorozashi and other aspects about business, in doing business in general, where can listeners find more information about the course?

Tomoya: If you can type in GLOBIS unlimited you will find the course in the microlearning offerings. Or if you can type in GLOBIS University on the web, probably you would see descriptions on kokorozashi.

Nick: And you can also get the book on Amazon, which is a Kindle book.

Tomoya: Yes. Thank you for mentioning. There are stories about CEOs, alumni, who are on their way to achieve kokorozashi. So for your business, I think it would give some imagination or intuition.

Nick: And people can also follow you on Twitter. I follow you under your name. Tomoya Nakamura. I feel like you're a friend so I've watched your video several times. I'd love to come and meet you in person. Hopefully next year.

Tomoya: Yeah, let's do an ikigai and kokorozashi seminar maybe. 

Nick: That'd be fantastic.

Tomoya: Yeah.

Nick: I'd very much love to do that. Well, thank you so much for your time.

Tomoya: Thank you, Nick.

Nick: I'll keep in contact. 

Tomoya: Thank you.



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