The Power of Starting Small

How can people practice kodawari? Ken Mogi explains that it is all about starting small and focusing on the important, tiny details to achieve one's goals.

Nick: This is probably the most interesting aspect of kodawari: in order to practice it, you need to start small. And there is no grand announcement or chest-beating or goal setting. It’s just starting small.

I think I'd describe it as like a baby steps to mastery but there really is no mastery but, it is this baby-steps approach, one thing at a time trying your best to perfect it then moving on to the next step.

That's something you talk about a lot and it's one of your pillars of ikigai that starts small. Is kodawari something you can force and how can we practice kodawari?

Ken: That's the most difficult part, isn't it? The fact is that if you go to a restaurant or any craftsmanship place you really talk about the ultimate goal or ultimate purpose.

You really start from small things like, Hey, can you peel this onion? Or can you make this scrambled egg? or whatever it is, you always start from a specific thing and you almost never talk about the grand goal of achieving something.

That is the spirit of starting small but it's not that shokunin or craftsmen do not have any goals. They do have goals, but they do not mention it. I think this is a great way of starting things because too many times people talk about the ultimate goals. 

You can even discuss it in modern settings. For example, people who make games, many kids’ dream job is probably now making games and to be a game producer. You can be grandiose and talk about ultimate goals of producing really wonderful games

But at the end of the day, you start from how to design your characters, how to make it playable, and so on. Nintendo is a company based in Kyoto, and Nintendo of course produced all these wonderful game characters like Super Mario and so on.

I don't think people at Nintendo start from really grandiose ultimate goals they probably start from discussing how we should make the moustache of Mario. This whole attitude of starting from very specific, small things actually makes you go the longest in terms of creating something wonderful.

So I think that's a really typical approach by Japanese people and I think that could be an inspiration for many people around the world because we talk too much about goals and not enough about specifics and small things.