Shokunin is a Japanese word that means to master your profession, it is distinguished by the love of reaching perfection in your chosen line of work and in the western world, Apple and Steve Jobs is a great example of this obsessive pursuit for perfection.
The Japanese in particular practice this culture of Shokunin and it's apparent in everything you experience in Japan. Every minute detail of all things you buy and all services you experience has that little something that makes you feel that the person serving you or the manufacturer of the product has put a lot of heart into delivering the best product and service they can.
One thing in particular that really surprised me was a little sticker at a bottom of an instant noodle tub that allowed you to remove the tight later of plastic sealing that you usually need to dig your nails or something sharp into to get rid of because it is glad wrapped to the cup. The little sticker was half unstuck so you could lift the tab easily and then the sticky part allowed you to pull open and peel the plastic layer off with such ease. One tiny minute detail that a Shokunin thought of saved me a minute of teeth putting and nail ripping. I love the Japanese!
This idea of specialising in something and obsessing over it has also been covered in Napoleon Hill's, Think and grow rich:
THERE are two kinds of knowledge. One is general, the other is specialized. General knowledge, no matter how great in quantity or variety it may be, is of but little use in the accumulation of money.
Successful men, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialized knowledge related to their major purpose, business, or profession. Those who are not successful usually make the mistake of believing that the knowledge acquiring period ends when one finishes school. The truth is that schooling does but little more than to put one in the way of learning how to acquire practical knowledge.
To be valuable in your industry you need to know things that other people don't already know, and know it well - almost to the point of obsession. This is why Apple is so big now, they think of even the most tiny details to make your life easier, for me a huge one was the magnetic power charger on your laptop. Something so little saved probably hundreds and thousands of broken laptops from being pulled off the table by a child or an excited doggy.
To really make a difference in your industry I think everyone needs to have the passion and discipline to become Shokunin, it is what will make you unique from your competitors and why your customers will keep coming back. I want to leave you with a video that is the essence of a Shokunin.
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