Tsunami, Sweets, and Resilience

I just read an excellent article in The Wall Street Journal (link at the end of this blog) about a middle-aged baker, in the tsunami-devastated region of Japan who lost everything in March 2011.  The story is painful and inspiring all at once.

Painful because I think most, if not all, of us can relate to his loss as the world deals with the financial struggles of today’s economy.  But more than that, this simple but strong man, dealt with the visceral anguish of the actual loss of family, friends, and livelihood.  As I read this well-written article I couldn’t help but recognize the familiar feelings of simply just wanting to move on from heartache and start something new while this painful section of my life’s road quickly disappears in the rear view mirror.

Don’t we feel like that sometimes?!  “Things are too tough and didn’t go the way I planned, so I am just going to throw in the towel, move on and start over with something new.” 

There is nothing wrong with starting over but the baker in this story, Mr. Kimura, shows us that resilience is about being true to who you are and the talents and legacy that shape you.  Recognize who you have become and what you have to offer the world and then start over! Thankfully for Mr. Kimura he had somewhat unknowingly established a real loyalty from his customers who longed for something familiar; his sweets, in their newly uncertain and completely un-familiar world in post-tsunami Rikuzentaka, Japan.

He says: “I feel a lot of pressure, but it’s good because it helps me move forward.”

This is what most inspires me.  Despite the natural human inclination to give up and try something new; or to take the less productive route of railing against the world while you seek free hand-outs; Mr. Kimura was able to muster enough consistent effort to mount a comeback.  The article goes on to describe how he cobbles together a location, the funds, and enough equipment necessary to rebuild his bakery in a borrowed cargo-train car on the side of the road in his hometown.

His story has progressed so far because he first moved.  It doesn’t matter what the initial catalyst was: his grandmother’s words, his customers requests for him to rebuild, the generosity of others cutting him a deal on equipment, etc.  The point is he found something to propel him to take the first step.  Then he showed the courage to take the next one, and so on.

This story is still in the making but my guess is Mr. Kimura has generated enough momentum now to continue to breakthrough the inevitable challenges ahead and succeed by regaining his livelihood as he delights customers with his increasingly famous sweets.

Mr. Kimura’s final words in the article offer great advice from a man of unquestionable courage and resilience.

“In making sweets, things never happen the way you imagine it.  And everything seems to take longer than we imagine.”

As with Mr. Kimura’s bakery, life doesn’t reward us with bonus points for things going exactly according to our plan or occurring exactly on our timetable.  Rather, we achieve success by fighting through those things, those events, those disasters that threaten to derail us from our ultimate destination of the legacy we dream to leave to the world.

To read the full story copy and paste the entire address below into your web browser.

One response to “Tsunami, Sweets, and Resilience

  1. Thanks for this post Adam. I especially appreciate your comment about the need to recognize who you have become and what you have to offer and then to start over. Great advice. So many people justify doing something they either have no interest in or passion for because they're wedded to a traditional business plan model, which usually gets it backwards where an analysis of the demands visible in the current market dictate what one plans to offer.Ultimately if you’ve already decided who your buyers are then you’ve taken all the real fun out of business. The heart and soul of business is to discover yourself first and then discover who your customers are. To do the reverse only leaves the businessperson on the rich man, poor man merry-go-round, making money and struggling to protect it, or chasing money and obsessing over it. Neither position lends itself readily to personal satisfaction or fulfillment I don't think.

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