"In fact, there is absolutely no difference between hell and paradise. At a glance, they look just the same. But the mind-sets of the people who live there are completely different.

"For example, imagine that, in both hell and paradise, there is a pot of noodles, which people take with chopsticks and dip in the own bowls of sauce in front of them before eating. In each large pot, the water is bubbling temptingly. And around the pots, people with empty stomachs are waiting, with chopsticks at the ready. Their chopsticks are one meter long. It is what happens next that makes hell and paradise so completely different.

"In hell, it is every man for himself as the people greedily thrust their chopsticks into the pot. They manage to grasp some noodles, but their chopsticks are a meter long, so they are unable to carry them to their own bowls. Naturally, they are unable to eat.

"Eventually, one person on the other side of the pot tries to snatch noodles held by someone else's chopsticks. 'Hey, they're mine. Don't eat them!' cries the other person angrily. He uses his chopsticks to hit and stab the other person, who shouts 'You swine!' and retaliates. Brawls begin to erupt everywhere, and the noodles spill out of the pot. Without having eaten a single noodle, everyone starts to quarrel and fight. Pandemonium breaks loose.

"That is hell.

"What about paradise? In paradise, people have a beautiful spirit of altruism and compassion toward others. When they grasp some noodles with their one-meter-long chopsticks, they dip them into a bowl of sauce by someone on the other side of the pot and say, 'Here, you eat first.'

"And then the people on the other side of the pot feed those on this side, and everyone eats heartily, without wasting a single noodle.

"In other words, hell and paradise certainly do exist, but it is the mind-sets of people that create them."

That anecdote by a wise old man can be found on page 246 of Jinsei no odo (The Royal Way of Life) by Kazuo Inamori, one of the founders of Kyocera Corp. Inamori writes, "The nature of a group differs completely depending on the mind-sets of the people who constitute that society. If the people who are living there are full of self-centeredness and think only of themselves, then the society is desolate. If the people are amicable and full of compassion, then the society is affluent. The wise old man's story is a manifestation of society."

The wise old man's teaching made me realize that until then I had indeed been looking at all kinds of things in terms of hell and paradise.

Saigo Takamori (1827-77) said that "the root of all evil lies in self-love." I think that the current global recession was brought about because the hell-like people in the world thought only about themselves and acted greedily. Recovery is going to take time, but I believe that paradise can be realized by people who have a desire to improve themselves. Such is the essence of human beings.

Have the mind-set of paradise, firmly understand customers through a hands-on approach, and act unceasingly. Only then will the road ahead open up.