Life’s Ups and Downs

Recently my mind has been preoccupied by the expression “Life is full of ups and downs.”

There is a tale about an old man living in the northern part of ancient China who was good at fortune-telling. To the north of his village there lived another tribe, and a fortress stood on the border between the two regions.

One day the old man’s horse bolted across the border into the northern region. When others consoled the old man over his loss, he replied, “Maybe some good fortune will come from this.” And lo and behold, one day the horse returned, bringing another fine horse from the north with it. When he saw the delight of the other villagers, the old man warned them, “Maybe some misfortune will come from this.” And lo and behold, after a while his son fell from the horse and broke his leg. Again, the old man’s response was, “Maybe some good fortune will come from this.”

About a year later, the tribe to the north attacked the old man’s village, and the young men living near the fortress all went off to fight. Although the village was saved, many young men lost their lives in the fighting. The old man’s son was unscathed, however. His broken leg had prevented him from going into battle.

The old man’s horse first brought good fortune, then misfortune, and finally good fortune again to people’s lives. The lesson of the tale is that since it is absolutely impossible to predict whether something is going to be fortunate or misfortunate, we should not get either elated or dispirited too easily.

Of thy sorrow, be not too sad.
Of thy joy, be not too glad.

At the same time, I would like to add, “Don’t get too puffed up by success, and don’t let disappointments get you down.” When things are going well, keep your cool, and when things are not going well, keep your dignity and composure. That has been my motto for a long time. Over the last few years, which have been a very disruptive time for us all, I have tried to encourage many people with these words. Just be natural.

Speaking of sayings like this, there is one maxim I coined that I keep repeating to myself; it has given me a lot of internal strength over the years. That is, “People who love humanity will do well in business.”

First of all, what human beings really want, in the end, is peace and happiness. The Japanese kanji for human beings and humanity are not singular but plural. Relations with others are the essence of human existence. Recognition of this fact is vital. Everything starts from here.

Thus, the iron rule of business, the starting point, is “love of humanity.” People cannot survive unless they love humanity. Accordingly, people who really do love humanity have a head start and naturally do well in business. They get a good reputation and attract others more and more.

Another of my favorite maxims is “four principles of success.” They are (1) follow the right path (understand the essence and make it yours), (2) be sincere (act with integrity), (3) be passionate (after all, with integrity alone, you will only be a good person; to be successful, you must also be passionate), and (4) be grateful (a thank-you attitude will make you a bigger person).

And another is “three-generation marketing.” In the early 1980s we carried a feature in this magazine on three-generation marketing targeting baby boomers, their children, and their parents, and after that business magazines also ran special issues on the topic.

At the start of this article, I said that my mind has been preoccupied recently by the expression “Life is full of ups and downs.” Seeing the baby-boom generation beginning to move into its late 60s, I cannot help but wonder whether this trend is going to be fortunate or misfortunate.