Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Eyes Have It: Continuous Learning

I've recently had the privilege of sitting at the "sushi bar" at Nobu's Tokyo restaraunt, and have been able to watch the sushi chefs, up-close. What is so striking is that they are always watching each other work, in a way that suggests appreciation, admiration and a willingness to learn. The chief chef has been a sushi chef for 18 years, 8 of them with Nobu; his associate has worked at Nobu for five years, and next to him is a young man in his first year. Yet, no matter how long they've been in the game, if you watch their eyes, they're always learning.

I believe that it is this willingness -- really hunger or habit -- to learn, that typifies great sustained performance. It is all about pride, professionalism, and a belief that one can always get better at your craft. It was Miles Davis who said: "I'm happy if I can play one new idea each night. .... I try to learn something new every night: the songs I played at the beginning of the year are often unrecognizable by the end of the year.” This is exactly the same sort of learning-ethic that I saw in the eyes of Nobu's sushi chefs.

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