Embracing wabi-sabi for a beautifully unconventional career path

Navigating your career can be such a difficult and confusing journey to be on. In this blog, I borrow from the Japanese concept, ‘wabi-sabi’.

We are talking about the art form that promotes beauty in imperfection. This concept has been promoted world-wide and is expressed in architecture, pottery even presentation of food and many more. 

Just to chip this in, I also like the Japanese ‘kinstugi’ concept of mending broken pottery with gold and making it more valuable after mending. This concept shows how you could use adversity to your advantage. How you can transform your obstacles into an opportunity by building resilience and changing your perspective.

Check this idea out, it’s a good concept for healing.

The Japanese concept of ‘wabi sabi’ promotes incompletion and imperfection – in other words, the beauty in imperfection. Wonderful and great at the same time. I learnt how to accept imperfection through my training in decoration years ago. 

As a student who was learning decoration for events, I often saw a balloon arch would refuse to bend in the direction you set it, and that becomes a new style. And we learn from it and move on.

In the same way, you ought to see your career as a journey – a ‘wabi sabi’ journey, one full of twists and turns, one that is always evolving and changing in form.

One that is not complete and always under construction.

Let’s be truthful; the way you thought your career journey will fashion out may not be getting on as planned (in a good or bad way), at least for most of you.

There have been branches, detours, round-abouts, U-Turns and total traffic jam for the most part.

But how you look at it makes a difference, if you understand that it is not complete yet and there is more you can do on this path. It could be all the more rewarding.

Unfortunately, you may not be going the Japanese way and thinking this career thing is done in and what you are on is the only option available to you that you have reached your limit.

Here are three ways to wabi sabi your career, using its three principles by Taro Gold: 

  1. Let’s just say you understand that you will not be in your profession forever. You understand that retirement lurks at the corner for you and one day, you have to say goodbye to everything career and profession and you would hope that that goodbye is indeed a ‘good’ bye. The first principle is, nothing lasts forever. So, as you know that nothing lasts forever, you make decisions with that in mind. You may be sometimes living like you have all the years at your career to keep procrastinating on the decisions you need to make today. Blink your eyes and open and you are 10 years at the role, blink and open again and it’s your send-off. Knowing this, you would make hay while the sun is still up, shinning and shimmering.
  1. Principle number 2 says, ‘nothing is finished.’ You remember you need to constantly grow and improve to feel fulfilled. That is who we are. The ‘Homo-Sapiens’ that always seek growth, improvement and change. With this in mind, you need to constantly look for ways to improve in your career, grow and change. Learn new ways of completing assignments, raise the bar higher in your next presentation (I would like to add do the most- and I laugh real loud and say, why not?), seek constant ways to hone your skills, your talents. Because it’s not finished. Don’t get complacent.
  1. And on we go to the perfection subject. Point 3, nothing is perfect. You aint gonna get it perfect. It is good you are aware of the imperfection you encounter on your career journey. But at the end of the day, you have to choose what your imperfection looks like. One that will not cost you your confidence, mental health and rob you of your life in entirety and cause utter unhappiness and bitterness, then you are in good business.

So, I say, go the wabi sabi way. 

Antoinette Gyan

Antoinette Gyan is the Founder of Araba Africa, an initiative that provides career-transforming programmes for ambitious and professional women. 

Email: araba@araba-africa.com

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