Western culture has a habit of oversimplifying Eastern philosophy. Case in point: the Japanese concept of “ikegai” meaning “reason for being”.

If you’ve heard of Ikegai you’ve probably seen a Venn diagram with ikegai at the center. Popular lore is that we achieve ikegai by having a career that all contains the properties in the diagram in equal amounts. 

As one who’s traveled to Japan and read-up on Japanese culture, something about the diagram always seemed a bit “off” to me. It seemed too deliberate. 

Turns out I was right.

Ikegai in the West is a bastardization of the true meaning of ikegai, which has nothing to do with making money. The original Venn diagram was created in 2011 by a Spanish astrologer. In 2014, an English entrepreneur who saw a Ted Talk on ikegai slapped the word in the middle of the diagram. That’s how the ikegai diagram was born.

I kid you not.

As Nicholas Kemp says in his blog on the subject:

“Ikigai is something easily achievable, not a single formidable life goal that might take us years to achieve as represented by the Westernised version…it’s a rich spectrum where you can find ikigai in the realm of small things, in the practice of a hobby, in your roles and relationships, and by simply living your values.”

I hope you easily find your ikegai, whatever your career.