Jiro Dreams of Sushi: How an 85-Year-Old Chef Made Me Want to Be a Better Athlete, Writer, & Coach

I’m normally a big budget, guns blazing, blockbuster, Hollywood action guy or a laugh your a$$ off, ridiculousness, Will Ferrell is the greatest of all-time/can’t wait for Anchorman II, dumb comedy guy.

This past weekend, however, I saw an independent documentary film about Jiro Ono, a legendary sushi chef in Japan.  The film explored his business, his daily routine, his work as a teacher, and his life, all of which are intertwined into one big devotion to a craft, to never settling for anything less than following your passion.

Before I lose you, don’t let the title mislead you.  I’m not writing about this move because of the sushi.  I’m writing about it because there are valuable lessons we can all learn from Jiro himself, regardless of our profession or chosen path in life.


Optimists might say Jiro is a true living philosopher — not someone who just writes and theorizes from an office, but rather someone who lives what he preaches.  At the very least he is a wise old man we should all throw our ears to when he speaks.

This may sound completely melodramatic, but this movie really made me want to change my life, get better at what I do, and devote more time to pursuing my true passion.  Maybe it will do the same for you, or maybe it will just make you want to go out and eat some sushi.  I hate indefinite proclamations where people assume that what benefited/was good for them will be good for everyone else.

There are no universal answers or lessons, only individual ones.

For me, it taught me about finding what you love in life, pursing it with a passion, sharing that passion with those interested (not everyone will be), achieving success, staying humble, dedicating yourself to a craft, work ethic, commitment in a world full of impatience, and enjoying it all along the way.

Here’s a link to the trailer:  JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI TRAILER


1.  Find something that you love in life, and then pursue that with a passion.

Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work.  You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job.  You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill.  That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably. — Jiro

For Jiro, his passion is sushi.  He treats sushi making as if it is the most important thing in the world.  It’s just sushi right?  How ridiculous is that?  But to him, sushi IS the most important thing in the world.  The title says it all, he would have dreams about sushi, his own ideas and unique twists to it, how to make it better, etc.

The lesson for us is that we can’t deny who we are, what makes us tick, what makes us want to get out of bed in the morning, and somehow contribute to the world.  Many of us are unhappy because we’re chasing the wrong goals, or doing what we’re supposed to do instead of what we really want to do.  I’ve been there, and quite honestly, fall back into it often.

A tougher way of saying that is who really gives a sh&t what other people think about you or what you decide to pursue in life?  People care way too much about their image, and not enough about who they really are.  It’s the old Bruce Lee thing — self-image actualization vs. self-actualization.  To put on a show is easy, but to honestly express who we are with no ornamentation, that is difficult (but I’d say more rewarding in the end).

For me, it is something as meaningless as this whole physique enhancement, warrior and beach-dude philosophy “thang” (a mixed up bag of crap I know), and specifically the educating/writing side of that game.

I am constantly reading and jotting down notes, thinking of different ways to say things, laughing at stupid jokes that pop into my head because I think you might enjoy them. I am excited to wake up every day when I’m working on one of my articles, videos, or book projects.  The more I get involved in the game, the more I realize I can’t do anything else with my life and have a shot at being happy.  Hopefully I am good enough to make it.

For you it could be something completely different.  Have you found what it is yet?  I think the main lesson is that you have to find the path that is right for you, not what anyone else or society says is the right way.  You can “follow the Joneses” straight to hell, or you can find your own little paradise, whatever that may be.

Just remember, it’s all meaningless, or it’s all the most important thing in the world, depending on who you are.  Don’t judge others or even yourself.  Just follow your gut man.  My gut right now is telling me that with all this sushi talk, I’m hungry, so lets hurry up and finish this thing.

2.  Stay humble, because there is always room for improvement.

Even at my age (85), in my work, I haven’t reached perfection…I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top.  But no one knows where the top is!

It took me 12 years of working with clients, studying, researching, competing in fitness events, prepping for photo shoots, etc. before I felt I was ready to write my first article and start educating people about fat loss and physique enhancement.  I feel like I’m off to a good start.  And just when my head started to swell a little bit, and I started to think, “yeah man, I really know my sh*t”, Jiro reminded me I still have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, and a long way to go.

My promise to you is I will continue reading, researching, testing in the real world, refining my philosophies, absorbing what is useful, rejecting what is useless, sharing with you what I’ve learned, getting better at delivering those lessons, and being more efficient in everything I do.

And you?  Don’t let your head get too big no matter how successful you are.  When you stop learning, you stop growing, and when that happens, the competition catches up.  That’s why I feel like whatever you decide to do in life has to be linked to your passion.  That’s the only way you will put in the work necessary to be successful.

3. The simpler the better man.  These days we overcomplicate everything.  That’s why we get nowhere.

In one scene, Jiro and his son talk about how they have no “secrets”.  Their success really came from trying to perfect the simple.  Consistency of effort in refining and mastering the basics conquers complexity every time.

That’s how I feel about fat loss and physique enhancement.  People make it way more complicated than it actually is, or ever needs to be.  I guess part of that is the industry’s fault.  My industry is full of information overload, scientists battling over minutia or more interested in establishing credibility or supremacy than actually trying to help people, marketers trying to make things seem more complex so they can sell a product, insecure trainers and coaches that feel they need to be “innovative” or “cutting edge” to be relevant, etc.

As an “insider” in the industry, I understand how simple it really is, in theory anyways.  The 100% honest truth is that success in fitness comes from hard work at the basics.  But people’s laziness, trying to avoid the necessary work at all costs, and searching for magic pills instead, is why the majority continue to be disappointed with their results.

And that makes me think about other industries as well, industries that I am not necessarily a part of.  I’ve had the benefit of working with professionals from a variety of fields.  You know what I’ve learned?  Its all simple man.  Life is simple, it is we who over-complicate it.  Success in anything comes down to consistent, relentless effort in the basics.

We overcomplicate everything, which intimidates us, and paralyzes us from taking action.  Simplify.  It’s all easy in theory.  The difficult part is putting the hard work into what we already know we should be doing.

In an effort to truly get better in my work (and helping you achieve your goals), I will be trying to simplify everything.


I initially started writing this post to let you know what’s going to be happening with this blog the next couple of months, but as always, got a little sidetracked.  That’s cool.  I don’t overanalyze, I flow like water baby.  I hope the detour proved valuable to some.

1. It has become obvious to me that educating people about fat loss, physique development, health enhancement, with a little bit of philosophy and a few sick jokes along the way is my true passion (along with being an athlete, and applying all of that information to myself as well).

I’ve been sidetracked a bit lately, but I plan on re-devoting myself to that passion.  Whether it is through this blog, articles, speaking, or the products I’m working on (videos and books), I will be trying to educate those who want to listen as much as possible.  So stay tuned for more regular and consistent content.

2.  I’m also going to go back through some of my existing content, re-edit, and re-release to make sure it is all up-to-date, and as close to perfect as possible.  Methods refine, and I feel I’ve gotten better at writing and educating over time.  So I want to make sure all of my content reflects that. A few emails about older articles made me realize some updates are in order.

3.  My last article on T-Nation was a hit, largely because people seemed to like the simplicity of the bulletpoint format.  I think its because that style of writing largely cuts through the fluff and gets to the heart of the matter.  So you might be seeing some of my old (and new articles) using this “bullets” format.

We have a long road ahead of us my friends, thanks for taking the walk with me.

6 thoughts on “Jiro Dreams of Sushi: How an 85-Year-Old Chef Made Me Want to Be a Better Athlete, Writer, & Coach

  1. Eric

    This is the second thing on this theme I’ve read today. It’s pretty striking how the philosophy is so similar despite the source being so different.

    The Seven Secrets of Success
    1. Do something you love
    2. Master what you do
    3. Focus your efforts
    4. Word hard
    5. Serve higher cause
    6. Never, ever, ever, ever quit
    7. Take massive action

    This is from a SealFIT graphic by Mark Divine — it’s a still from a video posted here

  2. Jim

    Good article. In order for me to be a better trainer I’ve used a similar attitute about myself. One is that I’m the best trainer around, but I have a lot to learn. I have used your website to make me a better trainer because you give simple advice.