The Popular Myth and the Reality of Ikigai

An AI look at the concept of ikigai in the new year, courtesy of Stable Diffusion

An AI look at the concept of ikigai in the new year, courtesy of Stable Diffusion

tl;dr: As the year comes to a close, many of us reflect on finding more purpose and meaning. The popular ikigai Venn diagram promises a formula: find the overlap between what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for.

But this myth misses the mark on the original Japanese concept. Rather than a destination, ikigai is a journey. It’s about starting small, releasing yourself, seeking harmony, appreciating little joys and being present. I present Mogi’s framework as a way to help identify and sharpen focus on the everyday meaning as we enter the new year.

I hope that Mogi’s insights will help you explore a wider spectrum of life’s diverse joys and purposes. Challenge the assumptions and assertions that purpose is an intersection of concepts on a page. Instead, discover ikigai through living life more fully.


You may’ve seen a popular take on ikigai in a popular and often used Venn diagram widely shared on social media (such as here and here) and in self-help books, depicting it as the intersection of four circles: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

Courtesy Adam Danyal’s post on LinkedIn

But as Nicholas Kemp shared in his article “Ikigai Misunderstood and the Origin of the Ikigai Venn Diagram”, this popularized view isn’t an accurate representation of the Japanese concept of ikigai. Rather, it’s a Western invention that oversimplifies and distorts the original meaning of ikigai.

“Full credit for the Venn diagram of Purpose should go to Spanish author and psychological astrologer, Andres Zuzunaga, who created it in 2011. It first publicly appeared in the book Qué Harías Si No Tuvieras Miedo (What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?) by Borja Vilaseca in 2012. Eventually, the diagram was translated into English and then started being used by HR managers and life coaches as a simplistic overview to finding purpose in your career. It is now used to help people create a more balanced work situation.”

Andres Zuzunaga, Proposito. 2011,

Ikigai history

A little history. Based on what I’ve read about and discussed ikigai throughout my career, Ikigai is Japanese for “life” (iki) and “reason” (gai), which roughly translates to “a reason for living (or being).”

Courtesy Ken Mogi, The true ikigai diagram (YouTube)

I subscribe to Ken Mogi’s outline that the real ikigai is not a formula for finding your purpose. It’s a way of living that embraces the joy of being alive. Japanese people don’t use this diagram, nor do they ask themselves the four questions that it suggests. They just follow their ikigai.

It’s not a goal, destination, or something you find, but rather a journey, or something you feel and experience. It’s dynamic and can be highly personal and diverse. And ikigai isn’t limited to your work or the path of career but includes all aspects of your life: just scratching the surface, it’s your relationships, your passions, your hobbies, your values, and even your dreams.

Pillars of ikigai

In his book, The Little Book of Ikigai, Mogi introduces five pillars of ikigai that provide a supportive framework and can help you awaken and cultivate your ikigai in everyday life:

  • Starting small: focusing on the details and appreciating the small things that make you happy.
  • Releasing yourself: accepting who you are and expressing your true self without fear or judgment.
  • Harmony and sustainability: relying on others and contributing to the common good.
  • The joy of little things: enjoying sensory pleasures and being present in the moment.
  • Being in the here and now: finding your flow and immersing yourself in what you do.
An updated view of Mogi’s Pillars of Ikigai

Rather than hard and fast prescribed rules, Mogi’s pillars are guidelines and suggestions, intended to be provocative and complementary, while flexible enough to be used creatively and experimentally. They are not based on scientific evidence or empirical data, but on cultural wisdom and personal stories. Mogi writes…

“They are not mutually exclusive or exhaustive, nor do they have a particular order or hierarchy. But they are vital to our understanding of ikigai, and will provide guidance as you digest what you read [in his book] and reflect on your own life. Each time they will come back to you with a renewed and deepened sense of significance.”

Representing ikigai

The four-circle diagram of ikigai above may be appealing and convenient, but it’s misleading and incomplete. It reduces ikigai to a formula that can be applied to anyone and anything, but ignores the complexity and diversity of human life. It implies that ikigai is a rare and elusive phenomenon, but it neglects the abundance and accessibility of ikigai. And it suggests that ikigai is a product of optimization and maximization, overlooking the importance of exploration and experimentation.

Ikigai is much more than the popularized diagram and the chance intersection of four key mystical ingredients: it’s a spectrum that reflects the richness and variety of what makes life worth living, and a growth mindset that enables you to embrace and enjoy the challenges and opportunities that life offers. Mogi offers that what you’re good at, what you love, what you can be, what the world needs… these can all be your ikigai:

“It’s all the diversity… the whole spectrum is what’s so important. The whole area [in the popular Venn diagram] should be your ikigai.”

He goes on to suggest that there are four categories to consider in a true ikigai diagram: Small, Big, Public and Private. I represent these in the following way, adding some structure to his white board outline:

“In your life, there are small joys and big joys and purposes, and also there are private and public joys and purposes: ikigai is all of these things. The idea of ikigai is very democratic… a whole spectrum of the diversity of things that gives your life some deeply rooted joy… all of this is ikgai.”

An updated ikigai diagram representing Mogi’s four categories (clockwise from to left): Small, Public, Big, and Private.

Quite simply, ikigai is a philosophy that can inspire you to live authentically and meaningfully. It doesn’t depend on external forces and material things – recognition, fame, or wealth – but on internal and deeply personal ones, such as fulfillment, joy, satisfaction. It comes about and is developed through your own intuitive discovery rather than methodical and rational calculations: more emotion than a matter of logic.

Ikigai isn’t something you find through a chance intersection of components outlined in a blog post: it’s something you do.

Please let me know what ikigai means to you. Is it something to find, or a way to experience life more fully?


Shuttle rides, waiting for meetings, and other places: articles and posts I’ve read

On Shuttle rides, my WindowsPhone keeps me in touch and busy… And it tells me where my next ride is. What it allows me to do is to catch up on articles of interest and Tweet or post about what I’m reading. (And when I’m waiting in someone’s office for their meeting and I know they’re on Twitter, they can see I’m waiting for them… if they subscribe to my posts 😉 With work, I’ve had less time to blog publicly: that’s a choice, particularly as I’ve been busier than ever the last few months. (And, some would argue that unless you have something of interest to say, keep it to yourself.)

But on the last shuttle ride today, I ran into a friend from another side of the campus, who asked if I was “still keeping up that blogging thing. I enjoyed your weekly reading list.”

OK, so to kick off the blog and my Commitment to step up my game in 2013, here’s an installment of “What I’ve read” recently, and posted about on Twitter. You can find a complete list on my twitter stream and in my favourites.

Via @EverythingMS: Teenagers: Apple no longer cool, Microsoft Surface is in

Having great mentors, cabinet helps link

Several slim PCs to choose from. My wife has a sleek model from Samsung link

Via @_craigk: You can put this reality distortion field in my living room right over…there. #IllumiRoom

Via @Competia: Reading: Why entitled millennials and their enabling boomer parents just can’t quit each other link

Via @CNET: The best new gadgets at #CES in every category

Via @zephoria: I’m glad to see the @nytimes pay homage to @aaronsw’s accomplishments and struggles:

Via @guardian: The inside story of how David Bowie made The Next Day  (via @GuardianMusic)

Via @BradSmi: Spoke @enterpriseSEA event #EFCSeattle Need for change w/ #STEM edu & high-skilled immigration reform

To @tom_peters five minutes… then lather, rinse and repeat? Excellence as a habit comes with consistency and repetition link

Via @marypcbuk: Oracle must up its security game. With widespread adoption comes Spiderman levels of responsibility link

Via @ForbesTech: XBox is winning the living room wars. Here’s why.  #ForbesGreatestHits

Usually, Big Bird at an event is a plus: @deantak has five weirdest things @VentureBeat saw at #CES2013

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For: @whitehouse comments on the Deathstar petition

Via @wmpoweruser: Evernote for Windows Phone updated, business features added

Via @SFGate: U.S. government tells computer users to disable Java.

Via @mahoekst: Windows Phone 8 security overview  Nice read! #wpnl #wpdev

The 100 Days Project and a Definition of Creativity via @erinjo

Weekend reading: make time for “The Anti Meeting Culture” by @docjamesw

Disruptive Trends to Watch in 2013 via @HarvardBiz

Via @aaronecarroll: Me over at @CNNOpinion: America flunks its health exam

I asked presenters to describe issues to their audience as if talking to a 5-yr old. Now I tell them to explain as @neiltyson would (link to the tweet)

Via @nytimesbits: Information Technology Dividends Outpace All Others

Via @On_MS_Products: Tablets started out as a consumer business priority but that’s changing quickly

Via @geekwire: Microsoft: Big possibilities for IllumiRoom technology

Via @VisualStudio: Really good Info for Windows 8 apps: a lot of icons are available out of the box –

Via @CNET: At #CES, two HP laptops do Windows 8 right  #2013CES

Via @MicrosoftEMEA: Steve Clayton shares why natural user interface is much more than touch and gesture

Via @wired: Recent Top Stories: CES Day 3: Curved TVs, Handheld Microscopes and Tablets Big and Small

Via @ryanday: More than 1/3 XBox Users Engage With Interactive Ads:  @MSAdvertising

Via @KevinRemde: TechNet Radio: Cloud Innovators: How Datacastle uses Windows Azure to Protect Business Data :

Pogue on the Microsoft Surface Pro: “it changes the game”… “a home run” –

Via @CNET: Lenovo’s 27-inch Horizon Table PC walked away with a #BOCA for best PC at #CES. Here’s why:

Via @bizspark: What’s the difference between Azure and AWS?

Via @edbott: Odd. Not a single mention of Gorilla Arm in this @pogue post:

Reading “Brussels takes tough stance on Google” in @ FinancialTimes

Reading: @clairesuddath @BW writes about something I know well and need: Rejection Therapy 😉

Via @whymicrosoft that should be: how we help #parents create a #healthy computing environment for their #kids:

Via @sylviebarak: Video: Intel’s CES press conference highlights:  via @eetimes

Via @DrRez: New Post from Lync team Blog: Client Side Recording: Lync 2013. #Lync #UC #Microsoft

Tags: articles, what I read, twitter.

Also available at


Microsoft on standards, behind the scenes building Windows 8, and more of what I’ve read this week

A few links of interest today… a quick post as I need to get through my email. Busy week.

With Valentines around the corner, I particularly enjoyed these 16 things Calvin & Hobbes said better than anyone else via @moorehn

Thanks to Larry Hryb (aka @majornelson) we’re reminded what happens to the losing team’s championship shirts: #SuperBowl

This great news on the Microsoft Giving Campaign: Microsoft Employees Give Back in Record Fashion: US$100.5 million in 2011

My take on what the PC will look like in five years, with a nod to my son’s possible Windows PC in 2016:

Microsoft’s public statement on support for industry standards:, plus our blog post on Microsoft’s position and support for industry standards:

BuildWindows8: Good grief. We said “Media Center will definitely be part of Windows 8” in

Also from the Win8 team: Behind the scenes building Windows on ARM, “WOA”.. video demo and tons of details see post … lots to read about! 🙂

While we’re on the topic: CNET reported that Metro’s not just an interface to Microsoft. “It’s an ethos.” Here’s why it rules.

Since we’re on a roll, how about this post on Windows 8, which should be called “Alive and kicking!” 😉 via @MichaelGillett

And worth reading: “Designing Windows 8 or: How to Redesign a Religion” via @MPalermiti

Via toddbishop: Microsoft merges voice-response tech into 24/7 Inc., promises smarter self-serve calls

From Microsoft Australia: SMB Video Series: How to manage your PCs #intune

Via Forrester Research: Top customer experiences can come from unexpected places – what brands surprise you with their customer experience?

From Linda Thomas: Facebook Timeline: Disliked by the Masses

Related, @marypcbuk‘s article ‘Why Windows 8 needs architectural hygiene for WOA’ #zdnetuk

Via danah boyd: More people live alone than at any other time in history. This is good & bad. @NYTimes oped by @EricKlinenberg:

Is This Living Room Big Enough for My TV? @NYTimes has some helpful hints:

Related, this from Om Malik on why smartTVs are going to be the next net neutrality battle ground.

From Eric Ligman, Microsoft Unveils Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile #msuspartner #mspartner via @kevinmachayya

Alan Moore explains the Guy Fawkes mask, Occupy, Anonymous and anti-ACTA protests

The erudite Michael S. Kaplan blogs: The oft-repeated ‘What version of Unicode do we/will me support?’ question, Redux

Vinod Khosla: Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science – Magazine –

The average price of a home in Menlo Park has already gone up from $1.8m to $2m ahead of Facebook’s IPO

From Roger von Oech, creativity strategy: For a fresh approach: “Change Viewpoints.” Fun story at:

Via Fast Company: With “Lillyhammer” @Netflix Wants To Destroy Traditional TV, Get You “Hooked” On All-At-Once Watching by @AustinCarr

By SAI: The Least Stealthy Startup In The Valley Has Officially Launched $CSCO by @Julie188

From Techland: Study suggests that Apple mobile apps are more crash-prone than Android apps |

From VentureBeat: Dylan’s Desk: What it takes to compete with Silicon Valley

In the Wall Street Journal: Are French parents superior? This author says while American’s fret, French raise happy children without the anxiety.

Just a reminder: Google+ ‘is not a social network’ via @Telegraph. Confused with a movie of the same name

Via Bruce Temkin: Thinking about a Chief Customer Officer role within your company? Check out my new post: #cx custexp

Cisco’s Vision: Top 5 Future Technology Trends

Harvard Biz Review: America’s Next Top Engineer: She Needs Your Models

Via Dare Obasanjo: the difference between solving problems in real life versus school – #programming

How can we capitalize on #cloud computing to strengthen the #EU economy? from Microsoft Europe

More on Kinect for Windows: Game on for commercial use

Tarran Vaillancourt, Why I love #Windows7 – it can help employees be more productive while achieving better work-life balance “Ohmmm” 🙂

W3C co-chair: Apple, Google power causing Open Web crisis (@stshank / CNET)

Here’s How Microsoft Could Sell Lots Of ARM Tablets To Big Companies (MSFT), via Everything Microsoft

Also courtesy Vinod Khosla: The Future of Peer Review –

From Jessica Vascellaro, With 5.2% of PC shipments and 13.9% of smartphone shipments globally here’s one way Apple wants to close the gap.

Thanks to David Aronchick for the pointer on this great essay… may you all never have this problem: How to Minimize Politics in Your Company via @bhorowitz

Steve Wildstrom reports Why Tablets are Important For eCommerce | The Daily @Techpinion

And to round it out, from @tgrumm: Hilarious – Will Ferrell introducing da Bulls

Did you see ‘Walk Off the Earth’ cover song that got 50,000,000 views AND a record deal?

Tags: articles, what I read, twitter.

Bookmark this on Delicious Bookmark and Share

Also available at


The time has come to move on… to Windows 7 (especially if you’re still on Windows XP)

It’s time to make a move away from Windows… Windows XP that is.

As Rich Reynolds noted in his post on the Windows team blog commemorating Windows XP this week…

“We’ve been talking a lot about the anniversary of Windows XP and how much technology and business have changed since a decade ago when it launched. Today we officially commemorate its 10 year anniversary and we also celebrate the anniversary of Windows 7 officially being in market for two years on Saturday.

“We also thought it would be fun to represent the shifts over the last decade through this infographic.

“Although a lot has changed since we launched Windows XP, the one constant that remains is our focus on enriching people’s lives through the power of technology.”

I agree.

And perhaps with all the talk of “falling behind” and changing the batteries in your smoke detectors, I’ll say that upcoming “fall back” from daylight saving time is a good time to go out and get a new PC, or at least upgrade to Windows 7. (Disclosure: I upgraded my own HP Touchsmart to Windows 7 from Windows Vista.)

Get a good-looking new PC. It’s a great time to get a new PC that, as the Windows team says, goes great with your living room and your budget. I’m looking to replace my now three year old PC at home with a new All-in-One (love the design of the HP Touchsmart) and considering the latest version of the line, such as this HP TouchSmart 610-1151f. (The new 420 and 520 model in the line are also quite nice.) I’m also looking at the new Sony VAIO VPCL235FX/B and the Samsung DP700 (which you can use as a mega-slate, with it’s full flat design).

Tags: Microsoft, articles, blogs, Microsoft, Windows 7

Clubhouse Tags: Clubhouse, Windows 7, computers, how-to

Bookmark and Share

Also available via


Announcement: Microsoft webcasts on DST changes in Russia: Oct 3rd & 6th

We’re doing another series of webcasts next week to help customers and organizations preparing for daylight saving time, particularly the new changes in Russia this year. This is part of our “step-by-step” program on making the DST transition. Geared toward IT Professionals, we’ll walk through a general overview of DST and the impacts and solutions for Windows, Outlook and Exchange.

Understanding and preparing for 2011 Russian Daylight Savings Time Change (VIR71CAL)

October 3rd at 4:00PM PDT
Click here to register for the webcast. You can login with existing Academy Live username and password or click “Register Now” to join for the first time.

Presented By:
M3 Sweatt, Partner, Program Management, Microsoft
Matthew Brown, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft
Mike DeGooyer, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft
Bala Sivakumar, Program Manager, Microsoft
Ron Ragsdale, Program Manager, Microsoft
Jenny Liu, Program Manager, Microsoft

Session Overview: In 2011, the Russian government adopted a law to cancel Daylight Saving Time (DST). As a result, Russia will not “fall back” to Winter time. This webcast will discuss the implications of that decision and what Microsoft is doing to mitigate those implications for our Customers and Partners.

Level: 200

Microsoft Customer Information

Before the Webcast: Please ensure you have downloaded the latest version of Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007. For an overview of the Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007 platform and features, please view the Getting Started guide here.

You’ll find a list of these upcoming webcasts on our DST & TZ site at  We also include a few archived, on-demand webcasts available here:

We’ll also host a second webcast next week to accomodate customers and partners in earlier time zones on October 6th at 7:00AM PDT. We’ll be providing login information for this Live Webcast shortly on the DST Webcasts Page of

Tags: Microsoft, Daylight Saving Time, Daylight Savings Time, RSS, DST, Russia

Also available via

Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious Bookmark and Share