Ikigai: finding our purpose

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
4 min read

I have been spending a lot of time pondering what success means and what it looks like and I have just stumbled upon a Japanese concept that directly addresses this issue. Sometimes I am amazed about how I don’t hear about things sooner. This seems to be a common cultural concept in Japan and has gathered traction among the cognoscenti in the U.S. How come I didn’t get the memo sooner? Well I want to share it with you in case you haven’t stumbled on it yet.


Its called Ikigai. Its purpose to help you discover what is fulfilling to you. It is made up of two words: iki means life and gai means worth. Here is a good article on Ikigai.

Ikigai find your purpose and meaning

I have been very lucky. I have been able to spend much of my life working in situations that met my basic criteria of being in fields that deeply interested me. This has not been without struggle, and the paths I have taken have not been clearly laid out. I look back and sometimes wonder if I would be in a better position if I had worked more traditional jobs in urban areas where opportunity, salary and prestige are in greater supply.

I traded all that to focus on happiness and contentment. To me that meant trading stressful jobs where I felt over-worked and underappreciated and virtually owned by companies who would tell me where to travel and what to do. I traveled a lot and it felt like those hotel rooms were not much different from prison cells, although I bet prison is even worse. And I didn’t like bosses that I didn’t respect and learn from.

There are two great days in a person’s life — the day we are born and the day we discover why.

William Barclay

I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

That trade-off has made all the difference.

I seriously put thought and stock into what it means to live a good and successful life. This isn’t a read-through like for a play or performance. This is it. This is our one shot. Make it count.

Here is a slide deck I created about finding fulfilling work.


And here is a post from my blog about doing what you love and letting your truth reveal itself to you.

I am really interested in your thoughts on this concept so please I encourage you to leave a comment. I plan to write more on this subject as additional thoughts arise. I hope you find this helpful. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and the world, to do things we find interesting, to find our purpose.

Here is a poem by Robert Frost that speaks to these concerns:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Share this post
John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

Receive my 7 day email course

Take your finance skills to the next level with my 7-day corporate finance email course. You'll learn all the essential topics from financial analysis to risk management in a fun, engaging format. Each day, you'll receive an email with practical examples, exercises and resources. Perfect for aspiring finance pros or anyone looking to expand their knowledge. Get ready to transform your finance game!

By clicking Sign Up you're confirming that you agree with our Terms and Conditions.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

If you like this article. Here are some more articles I think you might like.


The Road to Becoming a Unicorn: A Quick Guide to Startup Funding Rounds

The whole process of funding and developing startups has become more widespread because the cost of getting a product to market has dropped so precipitously in the past couple of decades from millions of dollars to typically anywhere from under $20,000 to $500,000.
John Cousins
December 18, 2023
7 min read

Oh Behave! Behavioral Economics: Why we do what we do.

Behavioral Economics is a method of economic analysis that applies psychological insights into human behavior to explain economic decision making.
John Cousins
December 18, 2023
4 min read
Personal Growth

Professional Development: 3 Types of Skill Sets

To perform effectively in a job and advance to greater responsibilities requires developing a well rounded set of skills. Every job and every industry has its specifics but these skill sets are general and apply across all jobs. Skills are fundamental for turning a job into a career trajectory and this trajectory is part of our personal fulfillment in life.
John Cousins
December 18, 2023
5 min read