Second in a series

The result of life or work is determined by one’s attitude multiplied by effort and ability. That’s the equation presented by Kazuo Inamori, chairman emeritus of Kyocera Corp.

One’s ability is largely congenital. You can boost your effort at your own will, but the output also varies for each individual. The score of both the ability and effort can range from zero to 100. The most important factor is one’s way of thinking, or attitude in life. It is your attitude that will be scrutinized as to whether it is right as a human being.

One’s way of thinking can range more widely — from good to bad, or a score of 100 to minus 100. If your attitude is bad, the outcome of your life or work will be even worse the greater your ability or effort is, thus leading to a miserable result. Your life will change depending on whether or you have an excellent way of thinking (which Inamori calls “philosophy”).

In February 2010, Inamori became chairman of Japan Airlines without remuneration to take charge of resuscitating the failed airline. A then-executive of JAL says he remembers feeling as if had been hit on the head when he heard Inamori speak, during a training session, that one’s way of thinking is the most important factor in the equation. The executive says he also realized that it’s one thing to understand a theory and quite another to put it into practice.

Inamori attributes the success of Kyocera to its philosophy. The way of thinking, he says, is nothing complicated but something simple and primitive — what is right as a human being. At the same time, he cautions against mistaking what is right for yourself for what is right as human behavior.

The capacity of one’s mind is fixed — and the question is whether selfish or altruistic way of thinking occupies the major part of it. Inamori thinks that people should put altruism (which he calls the spirit of “rita”) — the opposite of selfishness — at the center of their way of thining. In order for the people to eliminate an evil thought that their own gain comes first and foremost, he calls on them to keep in mind and practice Buddha’s teaching that one needs to be satisfied with what is given to one.

Inamori graduated from Kagoshima University’s faculty of engineering in 1955. His statue now stands on a plaza of the campus. An inscription on it reads: “No matter how difficult the adversity, no matter how severe the environment, if you never give up, always remain hopeful and positive, and continuously accumulate steady efforts every day, your dreams will surely come true.”

Inamori says that one needs to “cultivate the garden” of one’s own heart to restrain selfishness and give full play to an altruistic, beautiful mind. In addition to having a pure and beautiful thought, he says, one has to have an intense desire and to elevate the thought to faith — it needs to be so intense that one keeps thinking of it night and day. Inamori calls on people to “maintain an ardent desire that penetrate into your subconscious mind.”

One’s power will be maximized by basing his or her thoughts on something more beautiful and pure — that is, an altruistic mind, Inamori says, adding that when your thought is underpinned by an altruistic mind, realizing the thought helps polish the “rita” mind.

In just four years after graduating from the university, Inamori established Kyoto Ceramic Co., or what is today’s Kyocera. As its credo the company upholds “Respect the divine and love people” — words by Saigo Takamori, a great figure from Inamori’s native Kagoshima. The Kyoto Prize, an international award created by Inamori, is based on his view of life that “a human being has no higher calling than to strive for the greater good of humanity and the world.” In launching the telecom carrier Daini-Denden Corp., currently KDDI Corp., Inamori is said to have gone through the process of “another self rigorously confronting” himself every night for half a year with a question, “Is my motive (in starting the company) virtuous or selfish?”

We find ourselves exposed to Inamori’s philosophy — and the altruistic mind at its core — in various occasions in life or in professional career. It is so universal and immutable that you can use it as a mirror to reflect your own growth. It serves as a guidepost that teaches you how you should live and work. At the same time, it also acts as a strict teacher who helps you train and discipline yourself.

Inamori’s thought covers a wide area ranging from how society should be to what path humankind should follow, and is widely accepted as a universal thought overcoming differences in language or culture across the globalized world. That is why it has become a subject of academic research in such fields as management philosophy, corporate ethics, organization theory, business history and science of accounting.

In 2008, Kagoshima University started lectures and programs for undergraduate students and people in business to study and learn from Inamori. The project is halfway through, but time is approaching for all the students who enrolled in our university to have an opportunity to study Inamori’s thought.

Akira Takekuma is director of the Inamori Academy of Kagoshima University.

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