We’re never too old to stop learning

I’ve been inspired to write this by the BBC’s piece about Yosuke Imada, the Tokyo-based sushi chef who says that he’s still learning – at 68. When asked, “What makes a good sushi chef?” Mr Imada says, “The most important thing is spirit. You need to understand that you never graduate, you never stop learning, not until you die.

How can the rest of us remember that we never graduate and ensure we keep learning? I think it has a great deal to do with reflection and conscious practice. From the way Mr Imada recounts his journey from washing dishes to sushi chef for presidents and celebrities, my guess is he pauses for reflection now and again, and is very aware of applying the lessons learned.

Unless we reflect, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and not extract the ‘secret recipe’ for our successes. We will just do – and do again, whether right or wrong. Reflection raises our awareness and stops us sleep-walking through life. It’s essential if we’re to apply life’s lessons. Here are some ways we can cultivate the habit of reflection; choose the one(s) that work for you:

  • Keep a daily journal – in a book or on your phone / tablet – and note the experiences and learning of the day.
  • Count your blessings – at the end of each day, reflect on what went well, from something that made you smile on your journey to work to a clear win.
  • Keep a learning log – and update it frequently. What have you learned from your everyday work today?
  • Talk to someone – a friend, mentor or buddy. This might be an informal or formal relationship, where you both help each other pull out the learning, ‘aha’ moments and insights from everyday experience.
  • Write a blog post or record a podcast – whether you share them or not is up to you.

Armed with this new awareness, you can then decide what you want to be better tomorrow. It may, like Mr Imada, be the day-to-day work (which may or may not involve perfecting sushi for clients). Based on your reflection, what small change can you make to be better at the day-to-day stuff?

You may decide on some form of self-improvement, such as exercise or reading. Will you walk, run or practise yoga? What reading will feed your mind?

Or you may turn your attention to something that’s been bothering you, such as improving an important relationship. What adjustments can you make to improve the quality of your interaction with that person?

Whatever you decide, keep the lessons learned and insights gained from reflection in mind, so that you can consciously make the effort to be better in small daily steps. As Mr Imada says, “I have been working for more than 50 years. I made sushi yesterday – and I know that today’s sushi will be better than yesterday’s. It’s an endless process.

You may also find this blog post useful: Reflect on today to have a better tomorrow

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