The Courage to Live Creatively
It was back in 2002, when my company, Aura, had just established its own original product brand and its name was fast becoming renowned throughout the industry. My business was doing great but, at home, I had just learned that my wife had joined Happy Science which was a different religion from the one that I followed.
My name is Mr. Nonomura, and this is a chapter from my Workbook of Life in how I summoned the courage to live more creatively in my business.
“Self-reflection leads to progress”
I was a long time believer of Tenrikyo*; therefore, I was skeptical about Happy Science. Ever since I lost my father at the age of 14, Tenrikyo had been my emotional support throughout my life, helping me through those tough days when I was working like crazy to support the family and my own education.
*Tenrikyo: A Japanese religion that emerged in the 1800s.
However, the change that Happy Science brought upon my wife was hard to ignore. She became a gentler person and she said things that sometimes amazed me. She even quit smoking – something I had never been able to get her to do. I became curious to know what was written in the books she was reading and studying so earnestly.
What I found were teachings that gave answers to questions I had harbored for a long time and which gave direction on how to progress towards the future. One of the teachings that left a special impression on me was on how self-reflection leads to progress: reflecting on yourself and correcting your mistakes is progress for you as an individual. I decided I would join Happy Science and study these teachings further. However, although I could understand how self-reflection would help clear your mind, I had yet to fully realize how self-reflection would lead to progress.
Soon I was given an opportunity to obtain a shop space in a commercial complex situated in a prime location in Kyoto. This was a great opportunity for the company and, though I was well aware of the risks, I decided to take it. To my surprise, all my employees were against the idea. I ignored their disapproval and went ahead with it anyway, hoping that the success in the new venture would bring them around. However, the rift between myself and my employees grew, and sales performance faltered.
Did I make the right decision? Three weeks had passed after the store opening but the confidence in my decision was waning. That was when my wife suggested I visit a Happy Science temple near Lake Biwako to practice a meditation called, “The Four Season Meditation.”
Awakening to True Progress
I was in the midst of the ‘winter meditation’ when I saw my past clearly, as if it was reflected on the surface of a lake. I saw myself pursuing my dreams of success with little regard for my family and with no appreciation for my employees because I thought I was doing all the work myself.
“Maybe I had become arrogant in thinking that I could do everything the way I wanted to?” I thought. “My employees’ opposition is biting cold like the wind in winter, but perhaps it’s a gift from God for me to wake up to the importance of the people around me…”
That was when I realized that what was lacking in me was: gratitude. In that instant, I felt myself slipping free of the heavy layers of pride and desire for prestige and fame that covered my heart. Then tears ran down my cheeks as I became overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who had supported me so far.
The last part of the meditation required me to draw a picture of my past, present and future. I was born and raised in rural Japan, so my expectations of how far I would get in life were not so high. But as I drew freely, I suddenly saw a vision of myself soaring to achieve great things on a global scale and even in the field of space technology.
“What is this!? Is this the future me?” I could scarcely believe I could rise to such heights. Until then, I carried a sense of guilt about achieving success. A bitter experience of having to help pay for a relative’s huge debt when his company went bankrupt ten years ago had made me think, “It’s better to lead a mediocre life than to cause problems for a lot of people by trying to succeed big and failing.” But Happy Science taught differently.
“If your personal happiness is the kind of happiness that will lead to the happiness of all humankind… then that is the right kind of thought; it will cause no problems when it is realized. This is the kind of thought that you should aim for, the kind in which your personal happiness and the happiness of humankind can be realized as one.”
[The Laws of Happiness | Published by Lantern Books]
I discovered that my anxieties came from not knowing that one can realize both one’s own happiness and that of others too. If my company’s success and expansion are for the sake of benefiting the world, then it’s a good thing. This realization gave me enormous encouragement and swept away al l my worries. I had a tendency to blame my employees whenever things didn’t go as planned, but I was determined to change that. To stop the harsh words from leaving my mouth, I took a deep breath whenever I felt it coming and calmed my mind. In this way, I worked to mend the rift between myself and my employees. I had finally learned what it meant to leap from self-reflection to progress.
A Vision for a New Material Design
In order to survive today’s recession though, I had to do more than simply amend mistakes – I had to think of something new. In a desperate struggle to raise sales, I went on a fervent search for business opportunities. I found one in an advertisement by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for new business ventures by small to medium-sized enterprises. Not only would I get the opportunity to start a new project but I would also get funded for it. It was just what I was looking for.
Unfortunately, there were only two weeks left before the submission deadline. It would be a challenge to come up with a business plan within such a short period of time.
I had originally started out as a Yuzen* dyeing craftsmen. It was my aspiration to combine and apply traditional skills with cutting-edge technology to create a new market which gave birth to my company, Aura. So I went back to my origin to see if I could discover a seed for a new idea, and came up with the idea for a new form of fabric called Odashi-Shikoro. Leather specially processed through modern technological methods would be woven together imitating traditional Nishijinbrocades†to produce leather fabric.
*Yuzen-dying: Invented in the 1700s, it is a mixture of freehand paste resist and painting traditionally used for kimonos.
†Nishijinbrocades: High-quality, luxury fabrics for the Imperial court and aristocracy made by artisans in Kyoto since 1,200 years ago.
People scoffed at the idea of entering the contest. “You’ve only got two weeks. Give it up,” they said. But I was convinced that if I could make this idea work, it would bring renewed appreciation to the artisans and craftsmen who are the pillars of production and manufacturing. It would create a new market for products that fuse new technologies with traditional skills. This desire or ideal almost felt like a calling. “We can do this; we have to do this!” I urged.
Time and again, I asserted to people about how serious I was about attaining this ideal. I formulated a plan on how the fabric would be utilized, and scrambled to find cooperative firms. During times for those nights when I went without sleep, Master Okawa’s lecture tapes and CDs supported me and kept me going. I listened to them constantly – at home and on the train to and from work. I listened to lectures like Invincible Thinking (IRH Press) and The Laws of Success* and soaked in the teachings about how thoughts have the power to manifest in this world, and to “face the storms that approach and take their strength for yourself.” (Invincible Thinking)
*Laws of Success: Available only in Japanese
Gradually, my employees and fellow business owners who had watched my endeavor with indifference began to offer their help and support. When the two weeks were up, I submitted my business plan.
The Courage to Live Creatively
My plan was accepted! I honestly felt that when you believe from the bottom of your heart that what you’re determined to achieve is for the good of the world, then heaven will help you. My new fabric, Odashi-Shikoro went on to be selected for use in the official bag of the Kyoto Prefectural Governor, and was included in the top 100 list of “Japanesque Modern” products, certified by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The fabric was also recently chosen to line the interior of the concept car of a major automobile manufacturer. This has generated a flood of inquiries from other automobile companies.
As Master Okawa teaches:
“Do not be satisfied merely to weather a storm until it dies down, then come up the same as you were before. Rather, absorb all of what you have experienced while confronting difficulties and transform it into energy within you.” [Invincible Thinking | Published by Lantern Books]
In November 2007, I had the extraordinary experience of being able to attend Master Okawa’s lecture. As he spoke about how, in order to create something new, one must endure criticism, have courage, and fight one’s way through, I realized that God had always been with me through every moment of my trials and struggles. I was overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.
I am currently working on my next project. With the courage to live creatively, I will continue to work towards bringing new values to this world.
“…a real business owner comes to all situations with a “do or die” attitude because that is the kind of attitude that gives birth to creative ideas.”
[The Laws of Creation (available only in Japanese) | Ideas and Your Job | p.60]