What Engineers and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Jiro Dream of Sushi

By Poornima Vijayashanker

For the past few weekends I’ve been pushing myself learning iOS development.This past Sunday I was just mentally exhausted, and I knew that nothing more would seep into my burnt out brain. I decided to take a break for the evening. I fired up Netflix and chose to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi. No one recommended it to me, and honestly, I chose it because I was in the mood to travel to Japan for a change. Boy was I in for a treat!

There aren’t many films that I recommend to people, but this left such a lasting impression on me that I’m going to recommend you watch it if you haven’t already, and even if you’re not a fish lover! I also promise not to give away too much about the film in this newsletter.

I remember waking up on Monday morning and remembering 3 things that I learned from this film that I just wouldn’t have learned had I sat through another lecture on iOS.


If you’re passionate about a subject, you’ll continue to unravel interesting details about it.

As someone who is multi-passionate, it’s hard for me to just love one thing. I split my focus between yoga, engineering, and business. Yet I was amazed at how Jiro managed to hone in on one interest, sushi, for 75+ years! He has dedicated his life to studying sushi, and his approach is an art form.

The key to holding his interest for basically his entire life, was to keep digging deeper, uncovering all the nuances that make sushi.

As you watch the film you’ll notice each of these nuances emerge. You begin by learning about how Jiro selects various types of fish, then handles the fish. The film also walks you through ingredients that you might think are mundane like rice and vinegar. But as you watch, you start to realize there are no small ingredients to Jiro, every ingredient plays an important part in perfecting his product, sushi.

It’s ok to have a small shop.

Too often we are led to believe that passion comes from pursuing BIG ideas that impact millions and billions of people. And that we have to produce ideas or products that will change the face of humanity forever! However, Jiro’s life and experience is in stark contrast to that. He’s happy in his small restaurant, serving one product for 75 years, to less than 10 people at a time.

But his passion and stellar focus have still managed to make a mark, reaching the much coveted 3 Michelin star rating, and becoming a world renowned sushi chef.

Dream about what you do.

The most profound piece about this film is of course Jiro’s character. He is filled with integrity, and while I haven’t yet tasted his sushi, I’m sure it’s evident in it.

His desire to improve his own craft is what motivates him, and continues to motivate him even at 85! He’s not into riches, fame, or the approval of others. He certainly wants to make the best sushi for his customers, giving them a good experience, but he’s also very happy just working.

So much so that he dreams about making sushi!

Art like this documentary is meant to inspire us to do better work and build better products.

For myself, better work is improving my teaching and communication style, honing approaches to software product development, and offering them as courses on Femgineer.

 Have you seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi? What are your thoughts ? 

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