Ikigai Wisdom of a Shipping Magnate

I was traveling from Korea to China last week when I met the gentleman in this story. He has a dozen companies in trade and shipping based in Hong Kong. He described to me that his clients were from all over the world from Germany through China to South Africa. He joked that the sun never sets in his business and the emails never stop.
“We will all die with our inbox full”.

Predictably we ended up talking about managing time, keeping focus and producing results. I was especially curious as he ran his businesses as a family enterprise. How do you find the time? I showed him our kanban boards and we joked about carrying paper planners in the past. Then he got serious and spoke about Ikigai.

I had never met a person who managed their time based on Ikigai. For me it was more like a philosophy of life, keeping things in perspective, but certainly not a methodology. For him, it was guiding his daily priorities. After a long discussion his methodology boiled down to this:


  1. Keep a running list of projects and tasks as they occur to you  (like GTD)
  2. Every morning review the list and for each item ask the following:
    1. Am I skilled to handle this task?
    2. Am I excited to do this?
    3. Will I get paid to do it (or lose money if I don’t)?
    4. Will the world be a better place if I do it?
  3. If the answer is NO to the above, delete or ignore the task. 
  4. For the tasks that remain, prioritize them as follows:
    1. MUST DO  – Excited about, have the skills, will get paid for it
    2. SHOULD DOExcited about and the world will be better
    3. DO LATER  – Not exciting but have the skills and will get paid for it
    4. DELEGATENot exciting and don’t have the skills but paid to do it

I noticed I started asking myself more of his Ikigai questions.

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