Often duplicated, never replicated


A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of “Parts Unknown” (Anthony Bourdain’s travel and food show on CNN) where he was visiting Japan with Chef Masa Takayama and I was introduced to the concept of “ichi-go ichi-e” that describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people. The term is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” As I read more about this, I was struck by the implications of this in our lives.

Admittedly, I am probably more interested and/or attuned to this as a Vistage Chair because my entire professional life is based upon meetings with both groups and individuals. Then, it occurred to me that everyone’s lives are really an ongoing series of both professional and personal interactions regardless of your chosen profession. It is at that point the concept truly takes on weight & raises the following questions:

  • Don’t we have to admit that each interaction we have with another human being is absolutely and truly unique because, although you might meet with them again in the future, you will both only be the people you are at that moment so that meeting can never happen the same way again?
  • Don’t we have the responsibility to uncover and discuss the state of mind (if only briefly) of all attendees at these meetings and determine if there are meaningful conversations that could happen that would benefit some or all of the attendees?
  • Isn’t there an inherent opportunity to then abolish “small talk” because we don’t want to waste time “talking around things that don’t matter” because we could then focus on “talking about things that matter”?
  • How will this impact both the number of meetings you are willing to have as well as the time you set aside for each meeting you schedule? If each meeting truly was an opportunity to intentionally engage at a meaningful level, what would your criteria be? How would you communicate that to others? How would you prepare?

I will conclude with a few more open-ended questions that are actually not rhetorical in nature because I would like for your to answer them for yourself. If your answers are positive in nature, then would you be willing to give it a try?

  • Would this be meaningful to you?
  • Would it meaningful to others?
  • Would these meetings build up or tear down walls & barriers?
  • Would you walk away energized or drained?

About 2,500 years ago Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its the not the same river and he is not the same man.” We cannot slow time down nor do I believe we should try. We can, however, embrace the opportunities that the passage of time presents to us and that is the ability to learn & change. The real challenge becomes providing others with the space and safety to do the same.

I believe Mother Teresa summed it up best with the following, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”


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