Live with Meaning, Die with Passion

Live with Meaning, Die with Passion is in essence a biography by Fumitada Naoe, a man who went from a dirt-poor slum in Taiwan to achieve great heights as a Japanese businessman. It was written in Japanese and then translated into English. It is interesting to look on this book - not as an actual self-help treatise - but as one man's views on what creates a successful life.

Fumitada grew up naked and stealing food until at age six his mother married a Japanese man and they moved to Japan. It might be difficult for Americans to understand this fully, but Japan is extremely race-sensitive. As a non-Japanese child, Fumitada was ridiculed and picked on. This helped to shape many of this philosophies, like being a "lone lion" and being absolutely bullheaded about pursuing your goals. You have to give him credit - it must have been very challenging to survive the childhood he went through.

Still, for US readers, his resulting mantras can be a little difficult. He becomes obsessed with his heroes, plastering his walls with their image. He latches onto one businessman as his savior and starts calling him 10 times a day to get a meeting. Finally he gets in and does actually win the guy's support for his grand plan. However, his friends are a bit lazy so he promptly abandons that plan (and apparently his savior!) and loses focus.

Then a friend of his dies, and at the funeral he gets very upset that the funeral's progress is not halted because he wants to straighten a photo. So he immediately decides he's going to take over the funeral industry. He cheated banks by running around and getting loans before they realized how much he was taking out, and got out 7 million yen (which they don't bother to transfer into US dollars, but it is about $80,000. He justifies his trickery that he didn't want to take on any other investors to make them incur costs - but wasn't he moments ago trying to have that businessman help him launch a business?

There is of course a lot of good information in here. Fumitada did, after all, succeed. Create a track record and build on it. Get along with others as a top priority. However, he also says "someone who aims to rise above the status quo can't hope to be a philanthropist at the same time." I disagree strongly with this statement. I run several businesses and I donate millions of ads to charity every month. It CAN be done if you want to. Fumitada apparently does not want to.

Other US / Japanese issues exist. He talks about it being "normal" to have a funeral in the house. That might be normal in Japan, but it is not normal in the US.

His business - that he launched into without apparently any research but with lots of funds taken from banks - went 10 months before they held their first funeral. That doesn't sound like good planning to me. A restaurant that went 10 months before having its first patron would be a bit challenged. I also disagree with his statements that all grief is the same. I would think a quality funeral home would take the opposite stance, that every family's grief is unique and should be handled with personal care.

Still, on to the good core messages. Regard the present as your point of origin for your plans and move from now. Don't obsess about past problems or mistakes. Accept your stress, but then release it. Find ways to clear your mind. Use meditation and yoga and hot baths to relax your mind and body. Take breaks, it really helps with your effectiveness.

However this is the guy who works every day until 9:30pm - apparently he doesn't have a family to worry about, a luxury few of us have. He talks about making sure you "look cool". Even more odd (to me at least) he talks about looking good and checking yourself in the mirror "for the sake of your friends". Why, because your friends might be embarrassed to be seen with you otherwise? Is this the man who called himself a Lone Lion?

The urgent / important grid of dividing up your work items are found in many other management books, and are a good way of organizing your work.

It's hard to summarize this book. I enjoyed the many photos in the book of "indigenous people" in a variety of locations, to me they indicated that people from all cultures can learn to succeed in their surroundings. I enjoyed the story as an insight into what it would be like to struggle out of "slums" and deal with the racist aspects of Japan's society. I liked hearing how Fumitada dealt with several challenges.

But as a treatise on how to live your life or to run your business, I had very mixed emotions about it. I don't like the stalking ideas. I don't like the run around tricking banks idea, or the "make sure you look cool so your friends aren't embarrassed". I most especially don't like the statement that you can't be a philanthropist. These thoughts may work for him, and have helped him survive the long years out of poverty and abuse. For me, it's interesting to read about, but not someone I would guide my own life by.

I'll give it a 3/5 for a unique biographical story. However even as a bio it was very short and without detail which would have helped me relate to him better.

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