“Who Am I?”: Finding Your True North With Yosuke Masuko And Sanae Takasugi
When speaking to young teenagers, Yosuke Masuko (4P’s Founder & CEO) and Sanae Takasugi (4P’s Co-founder & Deputy CEO) often find that many worry about not really knowing who they are and what kind of possibilities they have. In a lecture given to the 7th and 9th graders at a Japanese school in Saigon, Pizza 4P’s leaders shared their personal stories in the hope that their experiences will serve as a compass to help students find their True North. This is the abridged version of the lecture.
Where is the boat taking you?
Masuko: Let’s imagine you get on a boat. You don’t board a boat unless you know where you are going, am I right? What I mean is, unless the destination is crystal clear, we are not leaving the port. The same goes for a company or an organization. When a group of people share a vision and an understanding of what kind of world they want to create, when they are facing in the same direction, we are able to move forward. Interestingly enough, there are many examples of companies that at first blush offer similar products or services and that seem to be facing in the same direction, but are totally different beasts indeed.
Takasugi: For example, Patagonia and The North Face both sell outdoor wear and gear. However, the directions they've chosen are totally different. The goal of Patagonia is to “engage in a business to save the earth, our homeland”, while The North Face puts emphasis on “eliciting the maximum function with minimum energy and substances”, putting more focus on clothes and gears.
Masuko: Starbucks and Blue Bottle are also on totally different paths despite both being coffee shop chains. While Starbucks aims to provide what they call “a third place” (a place other than home, office or school), Blue Bottle focuses on the quality of coffee itself and aspires to deliver delicious coffee to as many people as possible. It’s not about one being a better business model than the other, it simply means that customer experience, service, style and overall impressions reflect the goals the companies had set.
Takasugi: There are many cases where business models diverge greatly, even though two businesses seem to be cut from the same cloth. So, when you choose which company to work for, first assess and determine what kind of purpose the company has and whether you are in lockstep. There is another option too and that’s starting your own company. Building your own boat. Masuko and I chose that option.
But what do you REALLY want to do?
Masuko: When after graduation I was trying to decide on a career, my concern was not knowing what I wanted to do and what my strengths were. Eventually, I joined a trading company, then an Internet-related company, yet I was unsure whether my aspirations and those two companies’ visions matched. So, the whole time I worked there I couldn’t help questioning myself. In fact, in my 20s I went through a really rough patch after losing a close friend and struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. So I cannot say it was all smooth sailing all the time.
It was out of these worries and struggles that the vision for my own company emerged. I wanted “to create a world where people can smile every day, even if just a little”. I really wanted to dedicate my life to “Making the World Smile for Peace”.
I put a lot of thought into how I could realize such a vision. About 15 years ago I started the “Pizza Party”: built a pizza kiln in my yard and started inviting friends to weekend parties. At first, everyone thought it was just pizza, but while making pizza, they realized they were having fun, with people going around offering others to try their creations saying “mine is the most delicious” and making friends along the way. Seeing my guests smile made me really happy. I spent all my weekends throwing these pizza parties, buying all of the ingredients.
Then my light-bulb moment came: if I was spending all my free time and money on pizza, it meant that pizza was what I really wanted to do, right? I thought, if pizza can help me realize my personal mission to “Make the World Smile for Peace”, I’m going to pour all my energy into it. That’s how 4P’s started and has become a big driving force.
Finding the connection
There is a Japanese concept called Ikigai which means a joy of living or an interest in life. The chart below shows Ikigai in the center where what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for and what the world needs overlap. For Masuko, 4P’s is something that he likes and is good at. Then there is the fact that what he does is appreciated by people in Vietnam. So, it’s truly his Ikigai.
Masuko: I can’t stress enough how important it is to know yourself. I hope you will delve into yourselves and continue to think about what kind of person you are, what you are enthusiastic about and what you really like.
Equally important is to keep asking yourself about what kind of world you want to build and to find a company whose philosophy is close to your course and whose direction is similar to yours. If you can’t think of any organization that is a good fit, I think you should start your own business.
Do it your way
Takasugi: Some of you are probably asking: “Ok, so I found what I like and what I’m good at. Now, what are my options?” To help you answer this question, I want to talk about the many positions and roles that exist within a company. For example, 4P’s, a restaurant business, has a COO who supervises operations of the whole restaurant business under the CEO, Masuko. Other roles include the Chief Peace Officer who is responsible for human resources; Chief Financial Officer for financial matters; head of creative and marketing; head of IT; and head of sustainability. There are a lot of positions and roles within one restaurant or company.
Or, let’s say, you love to draw and want to be a graphic designer. So you may want to work in a creative agency. Or, you could join a company with a similar vision to yours, as a designer. These are two very different paths you can choose, even though your job descriptions will be similar. So to those of you who are worried that you won’t find the perfect fit, I want to say there are more options than you imagine!
“Knowing yourself” is a journey
Masuko: A company’s vision is always a dead giveaway, and just like when making a purchase, you should look at the company’s vision before applying for a job with them. Then you will know what thoughts and purposes undergird the product. You can learn a lot about the brand’s philosophy by simply going on their website.
Takasugi: Be open minded. Ask your mom or pop about the companies they work for, or maybe consider working for a brand that you like and are curious about. As a result, you might get interested in something that you are usually indifferent to, giving you a fresh perspective.
Masuko: Until my late 20s, I was constantly asking myself about what I liked, what I was good at and what boat I wanted to board. Actually, for me, the journey of trying “to know myself” never ended. As young teenagers, you have plenty of time to ask yourselves these big questions. If you begin now, you get a head start.
Who Am I?
Who am I? Make this question a thread running through your life. A source of inspiration on this endless journey. That’s what makes life exciting and worth living.