by Lisa Schoenhofer, NAJC Young Leaders Chair
On a trip to Japan earlier this year, I was introduced to the concept of ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会), a Japanese idiom that describes the idea of treasuring meetings with people. Ichi-go Ichi-e is often translated as ‘for this time only’, ‘never again repeated or replicated’, or ‘one chance in a lifetime’. In a world where your report was due yesterday and your calendar looks like a child’s colouring book, is there room for us to stumble upon such once-in-a-lifetime moments? I say no – well, not by chance at least. As young people who are trying to establish ourselves, we have the power to create these moments by breeding the right environment for such opportunities.
Establish your network & expand your connections
For some, including myself, starting a conversation with someone is quite daunting. Young people in particular may lack the skills to connect meaningfully with strangers or even people you know, but you need to start somewhere. And do it often. Actively try to create these “once in a lifetime” encounters and connect with people. You never know when the ‘one-time, one meeting’ from volunteering will lead to a full time position or lead you onto a career path you actually want. We’ve heard again and again how our generation got the short end of the stick when it comes to job prospects and social connections. Embracing this ichi-go Ichi-e ‘mantra’, if you will, can open you up to connections that will truly help you in the future.
Six years ago when I graduated from undergraduate university, I struggled to establish the career I wanted. I thought with my Bachelor of Commerce degree with a specialization in Marketing, I would be primed for a wide range of jobs. I quickly realized how bleak the job market was (not just for me, but for my classmates as well), and I flip flopped between some contract work for a few years. I remained active in my local Japanese Canadian community, and had one particular ichi-go ichi-e moment that lead me to where I am today – in a job in my field that I enjoy. I had gone to a multicultural organization’s meeting, and that’s where I made a connection with a gentleman who would later become my boss. There was no way I could have recreated that one fortuitous meeting down the line as the connection would not have been as genuine.
Much like dating, you need to get out there to even have a chance of falling in love. Serendipitous encounters happen because you get out there and make them happen.
Let’s not go overboard and try to milk every instant of your day of ‘once in a lifetime’ moments, though – and this is not to be confused with that ‘YOLO’ thing. It’s very easy to get caught up into the routine of life, and not step outside of it. Once in awhile, it’s important to consciously do so and use ichi-go ichi-e to actively and mindfully create moments with those around you. Ask yourself this:
• Will you be able to recreate this moment with these people and look back on it in the same joyful way?
• When will be the next time you can meet these people again?
• Are the possible positive outcomes worth the discomfort?
An easy opportunity for young people to practice this [cue shameless plug], is to attend the third annual Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Conference (JCYLC) in Winnipeg, Manitoba this year from August 7-9, 2015. This conference, which is sponsored by the National Association of Japanese Canadians will bring together young people in Japanese Canadian communities across Canada for discussions, workshops, and overall unforgettable moments. Visit the www.jcyoungleaders.najc.ca to learn more about the conference and to register! I’m looking forward to seeing past participants, meeting new attendees, and creating those ichi-go ichi-e moments together.