I’ve never managed to find a direct road to success.
My bio reads like a random walk down many different career paths, so I always feel unqualified to answer when people ask me for career advice. Today, however, I’d like to share one insight about doing business in Japan that I learned the hard way.
If you’ve been through something like this, I hope you’ll be able to identify with it. If you haven’t, I hope you can learn something from it, and avoid it.
Please share your experiences in the comments.
More life lessons from Mark the Dog
Japanese fluency is an odd target
What’s worse than any horror movie plot?
Success via humiliating failure
How good does your Japanese need to be to do business in Japan?
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Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs.
I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.
Today I want to tell you the story about one of the most embarrassing and publicly humiliating events of my life, and something very important it taught me about doing business in Japan.
Before we get to that, however, I received a lot of great feedback from the last episode on the Japanese trap of the Glorious Failure, including a number of Japanese listeners who said they really liked Taniguchi-bucho’s explanation of corporate Japan’s negative point system.
(More) Advice from Mark the Dog
But by far the most popular request was for pictures and more life lessons from Mark the dog. Well, OK. I’m going to do that, but please understand that this is not a very deep well. There is only so much Mark the dog can teach us about how we should live our lives, because after all, Mark the dog, is … well, he’s a dog.
So I’ll put a couple of pictures of Mark the dog on the website, (Yes, he is very cute), and I’ll let you know that there is, in fact, one more thing that Mark the dog has taught me during the ongoing lockdown.
Mark being a good boy.
This was my wife’s idea.
Meet my PA, Mark.
You know how dogs get really excited every time they hear a little noise outside or see something move past the window? Or how they become nearly hysterical whenever someone rings the doorbell or comes to the door?
Well, I get that now. I totally understand where dogs are coming from on this. The other week two pigeons landed on my window sill, and I got way more excited about that than I probably should have.
So hey to all the world’s dogs; we’re cool on the doorbell thing. No judgment here.
OK, back our main story about my path to success via public humiliation.
Japanese fluency is an odd target
One of the things people always say when they find out I’ve been living in Japan for almost 30 years is “Wow. How good is your Japanese? You must be fluent!”
I never really know how to answer that. I’m definitely not fluent. I mean, I’m not trying to be overly humble here, my Japanese is good. I manage staff in Japanese. I do sales in Japanese. I do presentations in Japanese. So it’s good.
But fluent? No.
Often when I try to explain a complex or abstract thought, I manage to get lost before I find my way to the verb. I can’t get into a heated argument in Japanese. And I usually don’t understand most of the jokes. My wife loves rakugo, which is a popular Japanese form of comedy storytelling. They are these long shaggy-dog stories that people find hysterical, and I can understand 100% of the story, but I can’t for the life of me see how any of it is funny.
And then of course, there is keigo. The mind-boggling complex protocol of honorific and humble forms whose use depends on a complex three-dimensional matrix of formality, in-group out-group status, and the role you are playing in that particular interaction.
Frankly, once I get past basic greetings and a few set phrases, I tend to screw it up pretty badly. But, as I mentioned, keigo is hard,
from Disrupting Japan: Startups and Innovation in Japan https://ift.tt/2zkfU4c