Ikigai: How I Accidentally Found the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life




Over the past four years, something drastic has changed in my life, I am the happiest I have ever been at work. Literally, every day I go to work with a huge smile on my face and I am excited and fully motivated to do my best. What happened? What changed? Well, four years ago I was in a slump. While I was working hard and doing well, I felt like something was missing. I decided to take some time to do a personal inventory and really figure out what I wanted to do. After a few months mulling it over, it hit me. I was asking the wrong question. It was not a matter of what I wanted to do, but who I am that was the missing piece. After some soul searching I boiled it down to three questions I needed to answer:

  1. What do I truly love?
  2. What are my God-given talents?
  3. What experience do I have?

After answering and finding the intersection of these three questions, I landed on: Brand Strategy, Hip Hop Culture, and Community Advocacy as my core Brand Identity. Ever since that day, life has been moving in fast forward:

  1. I was recently awarded as a 40 under 40 Brand Marketer two years in a row by Brand Innovators (the nation’s largest Brand Marketer organization)
  2. I have been promoted and even wrote my own job description at work
  3. I have been noticeably happier and healthier (according to my wife and doctor)

What is it about answering these questions that seemed to supercharge my career and more importantly my overall happiness? Well, a few months ago a good friend sent me a diagram that explained a theory for achieving purpose and happiness from far across the Pacific ocean.

In Japan, there is a small island called Okinawa (about 70 miles long and 7 miles wide), that is said to be home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. Upon deeper investigation, nothing about their diet or activity alone seems to account for their longevity. Furthermore, by many accounts, they are said to be some of the happiest and most fulfilled people on the planet.

What are people on this small island doing that seems to have given them the key to long life and happiness?

On that small island, thousands of people are said to have ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy)— a reason to jump out of bed each morning.

Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:

  • What you love (your passion)
  • What the world needs (your mission)
  • What you are good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get paid for (your profession)


Finally, I have uncovered quantifiable validation for the three questions I asked myself just four years earlier. In my own way, I have found my ikigai and now that I have it, I will do my best to hold onto it forever.

Get out and find your Ikigai today!

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