Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Kazuo Inamori is the founder of electronics company Kyocera, the Honorary Chairman of Japan Airlines and a trained Buddhist priest.
The 83-year-old philanthropist also founded the Inamori Foundation which awards the annual Kyoto Prize, Japan’s version of the Nobel Prize, that honors individuals’ “extraordinary contributions to science, civilization, and the spirituality of humankind.”
From his 1995 book, “Passion For Success”, he shares his philosophy on success in life and in business.
1. Know what your true motives are.
“Zen, the Japanese word for ‘good,’ means being universally virtuous in anybody’s eyes. I cannot achieve something worthwhile by considering only my own interests, my own convenience, or how I may appear to others. The motive has to be good for others as well as myself.”
In whatever passion you pursue, if your motives aren’t just, you will surely fail. The most successful ideas and businesses today have flourished because they positively impact the lives of billions.
“If your motivation and methods are virtuous, you need not worry much about the result.”
2. Make a habit of being a perfectionist.
“When it comes to work, I am a perfectionist.”
Perfection isn’t just something that is achieved, it is something that is practiced until it becomes your second nature.
“It is extremely difficult to begin demanding perfection of yourself in everyday life. However, once it becomes your second nature, you can easily live that way. Aerospace engineers know that it takes tremendous energy to launch a satellite against gravity. But once it is in orbit, the same satellite needs very little energy to remain there. A business leader must pursue perfection as an everyday habit.”
3. Think optimistically, plan pessimistically, execute optimistically.
“The most important factor in starting any new project is having a dream and the passion to achieve it. In setting your vision, you need to be ultraoptimistic. You must first believe that you have unlimited potential. Continue telling yourself, ‘I can do it,’ and believe in yourself.”
“Once you begin making your plan, however, you must become a pessimist. You should review your concept conservatively. By this I mean that you must recognize every potential difficulty, and plan for all contingencies.”
“Equipped with such an ultraconservative plan, you should then move to execute it optimistically. Pessimism at this stage would prevent you from taking the bold action necessary to succeed.”
4. Your life or work = Attitude x Effort x Ability
“The outcome of our life or work is the product of three factors: attitude, effort and ability. Effort and ability range from 0 to 100 points. As these two numbers are multiplied rather than simply added, it means that persons who exert unbeatable efforts to compensate for their only ‘average’ ability can accomplish more than geniuses who rely just on their ability while making only a minimal efforts.”
But effort and ability are nothing without the main driving force that every successful entrepreneur has mastered:
“Depending on our attitude, the outcome of our work and our life can change by 180 degrees. Thus, while ability and effort are important, it is our attitude that counts the most.”
5. Always aim higher than what you think you can achieve.
“When choosing a long-term goal, I purposely select something beyond my ability. In other words, I choose a goal which is impossible for me to accomplish at the present time: no matter how hard I struggle now, I will not be able to reach it. Then I set a date in the future by which time I shall have achieved it.”
You really don’t know what you don’t know, and that applies for what you will be capable of in the future. With the right motivation, spirit and attitude, you almost can’t imagine what you are capable of until you finally achieve it.
“A person who wants to accomplish something new and worthwhile must assess his or her own ability from both present and future viewpoints.”