The other night, my wife and I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The film is a study of Jiro Ono, the man widely considered the finest sushi chef in the world. 

Jiro is a shokunin. A shokunin is a sort of artisan, a person dedicated to the improvement of their craft for the betterment of the public. As Jiro explains it in the documentary:

I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is. Even at my age, after decades of work, I don’t think I have achieved perfection. But I feel ecstatic all day… I love making sushi. That’s the spirit of the shokunin.

Of course, a shokunin doesn’t have to be a chef. A shokunin is a person wholly dedicated to his or her craft. Director and cinematographer Daniel Olivares made a short film about the shokunin at Varis Japan — craftsmen who make aerodynamic parts for high-speed vehicles.

The shokunin are fascinating because they are perfectly content with something I think many of us struggle with in the west. They dream of doing the same thing, every day, for decades. They don’t appear to have a problem with repetition. They are relentlessly hard on themselves in pursuit of the perfection of their craft.

In our culture, we struggle with the Groundhog Day of our lives: the mundanity of a day-to-day life where much of it feels the same. On the other hand, a shokunin looks for repetition. It is an opportunity to improve. Repetition is a chance to get better.

Jiro just wants the best fish to practice his craft on. He is content with that. He and many other shokunin have transformed their work into a spiritual practice.

This is a noble pursuit.

For those of us outside Silicon Valley, the push towards the ​“new” can be set aside. We can agree to work on perfecting what we do, and let that lead us where it will.