Book Review: Ikigai

Ikigai CoverThe most recent book I picked up was called Ikigai by Sebastian Marshall. I usually choose books if I think they’ll make me smarter, provide new insight on topics I’ve already considered, motivate me, or introduce me to new perspectives. This book did a little bit of each of those things.

The reviews that I’ve read of this book before purchasing were accurate–the book is a stream of consciousness type writing, and many of the chapters seemed like blog posts lumped together. However, that didn’t turn me off from the book. It was valuable to me even though it wasn’t well-organized and didn’t always flow logically.

It was an extension of the way I like to think. It jumped from one topic to another, but all topics were loosely connected and all fell within my realm of interest.

A few of the key points that I took away from Ikigai that have left a lasting impact on me are:

  • Be a producer. This means making things, putting it out there for judgment; basically Seth Godin’s coined keyword, “shipping.” However, unlike Seth Godin’s idea of “shipping,” I feel that Sebastian’s idea of producing made me feel like it was okay to finish something that was not my best work. This helped to promote me creating work even if I don’t think it’s perfect. That’s ultimately how I’ll get better at a craft I pursue–by creating a feedback loop of delivering work and seeing how people react to it.
  • Learn a few key skills that are indirectly related to developing business acumen, but will have a great impact. These include (among other things) learning to negotiate, and performing quick mental math (very useful in business deals).
  • Learn history because it’s the key to understanding what is possible. Sebastian spends a lot of his time studying history and taking lessons from those who have come before him.
  • Look out for yourself. No one else is looking out for you. No one cares as much as you do about your health, wellness, or success.
  • Happiness is not necessarily the best end goal. The fact that I’m from American culture has made me blind to the implications of the “American Dream” on how I view life. My perspective has always been that my end goal is happiness. I want to be a happy person, but Sebastian points out that there are so many other things we could be striving for besides happiness.
  • Don’t know what you want to do yet? No problem. Sebastian offers up some ideas for ways to lay a strong foundation to breed later success. This includes building good habits like taking care of your finances (building credit and saving money), developing useful skill sets, and becoming as healthy as you can be (fitness and nutrition).

I like Sebastian’s take on becoming a well-rounded individual. This book was basically a blueprint for how he would recommend people live their lives.

The point that he hammers home is that we are all going to die. He urges us to think about what really matters when you frame life that way. Many of the things we do on a daily basis are so insignificant and don’t warrant the amount of brainpower that we give to them. It’s a great reminder to focus on the important and do some interesting things with your life.

After reading this book, I feel like I’ve just had coffee with an ambitious and motivated young person–the perfect mix of a casual chat and life advice, all packaged into a single book.


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