Review: Ikigai

Ikigai Book CoverThe very existence of “Ikigai” has come about because the author, Sebastian Marshall, got so pissed off at his treatment by a large publisher that he decided to flip the bird in spectacular fashion and grind out a book in one week.

As you’d expect from a project that was so tightly framed, there are some rough edges to the completed work, but these are not so jarring as the ones that spoiled my enjoyment of How to be the Luckiest Person Alive. This book may have been churned out in about a week, but in that week a designer and an editor were working hard on adding value to the collection of essays gleaned from the blog.

The main rough edge issues are repitition of some sections and also many of the essays were in response to emailed questions or previous discussions and they have not been properly re-framed to take that into account. It’s not hard to see where this is the case and backfill a little yourself, but does leave you feeling that one more week of editing could have made a big difference.

The overall structure, however, is well defined, and the selection of works used is excellent and they flow well together – this is where the majority of the editing time has gone and it has paid off.

We open with covering the principles by which Sebastian tries to live, the thinking behind them as well as ideas about how to think and when to think. What does it mean to act tactically or strategically or even philosphically and when should each be applied when navigating towards our goals?

This neatly links to a section on growth that takes a hard look at how to analyze your own habits, track them and incrementally change them for the better; greatness is something you do, not something you are – and this section is all about the personal growth required to build great things through the lense of how Sebastian has tried to do it.

Finally the book concludes with a section on action, covering the gritty detail of some of the methods explained in the section on principles and expanded and referenced in the section on growth. The actual secret sauce of these are quite simple to boil down:
  – Track what you do
  – Treat everyone well
  – Demand to be treated well yourself

What makes them compelling is the narrative of how Sebastian has applied these himself and where it has taken him.

What sets Sebastian’s work apart from other titles in the same sort of field, is that he does not pretend that aiming for the level of success he has already achieved nor the higher realms he has set his eyes on is in any way easy. Quite the opposite, as it opens with him crying on a station platform in the realization that he will never have a quiet suburban life, that he can’t.

I had read the majority of the contents of this book before on the blog, but this really is a well thought out collection of the work following both a personal journey toward and shining a light back down the path for others to follow. If they dare.

This is not your normal self help book or how-to on entrepreneurship or what have you, the title Ikigai means something like “reason for being” or “purpose” and it is very much a manifesto that fits its title.