Hinohara’s Perspective on Life

At the age of 97 years, Shigeaki Hinohara is one of the world’s longest-serving physicians and educators. Hinohara’s magic touch is legendary: Since 1941 he has been healing patients at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo and teaching at St. Luke’s College of Nursing.

After World War II, he envisioned a world-class hospital and college springing from the ruins of Tokyo; thanks to his pioneering spirit and business savvy, the doctor turned these institutions into the nation’s top medical facility and nursing school. Today he serves as chairman of the board of trustees at both organizations.

Always willing to try new things, he has published around 150 books since his 75th birthday, including one “Living Long, Living Good” that has sold more than 1.2 million copies. As the founder of the New Elderly Movement, Hinohara encourages others to live a long and happy life, a quest in which no role model is better than the doctor himself.

Here are some of his views:

Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot. We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.

All people who live long regardless of nationality, race or gender share one thing in common: None are overweight. For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.

Always plan ahead. My schedule book is already full until 2014, with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 I’ll have some fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics!

There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set at 65, half a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old. Today, Japanese women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians in our country. In 20 years we will have about 50,000 people over the age of 100.

Share what you know. I give 150 lectures a year, some for 100 elementary-school children, others for 4,500 business people. I usually speak for 60 to 90 minutes, standing, to stay strong.

Music and animal therapy. When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.

To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.

Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.

Don’t be crazy about amassing material things. Remember: You don’t know when your number is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place.

Hospitals must be designed and prepared for major disasters, and they must accept every patient who appears at their doors. We designed St. Luke’s so we can operate anywhere: in the basement, in the corridors, in the chapel. Most people thought I was crazy to prepare for a catastrophe, but on March 20, 1995, I was unfortunately proven right when members of the Aum Shinrikyu religious cult launched a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway. We accepted 740 victims and in two hours figured out that it was sarin gas that had hit them. Sadly we lost one person, but we saved 739 lives.

Science alone can’t cure or help people. Science lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.

Learn from life’s incidents. On March 31, 1970, when I was 59 years old, I boarded the Yodogo, a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as Mount Fuji came into sight, the plane was hijacked by the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction. I spent the next four days handcuffed to my seat in 40-degree heat. As a doctor, I looked at it all as an experiment and was amazed at how the body slowed down in a crisis.

Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. My father went to the United States in 1900 to study at Duke University in North Carolina. He was a pioneer and one of my heroes. Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the problem.

Retirement and contribution to society. It is wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it

This is from an email forward I received from Mom. I thought he had some really nice pointers there – especially about energy coming from feeling good..

On the Red, Blue, Green notebooks

This week’s learning draws inspiration from ‘Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield –

Jack Canfield once attended a seminar on ‘Happiness‘ . As soon as he entered the room, he noticed red, blue and green notebooks on the tables. He went to his assigned seat and found a red notebook.

There was a problem though. He didn’t like red. He wanted the blue that the person next to him had. As people streamed in, many looked around uncertainly as soon as they saw their books. He realized that most of them were likely to have similar feelings.

That’s when the facilitator walked in. ‘Let’s address the elephant in the room everyone’ – she said with a smile.
‘How many of you don’t like the color of your notebook?’
2/3rds of room raised their hands.
‘Then switch!’ She cried ‘Trade the notebook with somebody else who has the color you want. That IS the first rule of happiness folks. You have the power.’

As Uncle Sam implicitly tells us, we have the power! If we take a quick look at the various factors in our life that cause us unhappiness, where can we take the initiative and make switches?

Here’s to simple switches to improve our happiness this week!

Where Competition is Useful

I’d brought this up in my Leadership is Overrated – Part II and thought I would explain further.

If perspective is the most valuable commodity on the planet, competition helps greatly in keeping this commodity.

In essence, let’s take a simple situation.
John works for a small 100 person company. He is one of few in his peer group and is doing very very well. He is much loved by all his superiors, colleagues etc and is essentially on a ‘high’.
A few years down the line, John is pitted against his peer group thanks to MBA school admissions and he realizes, in horror, that his growth and training have been woefully inadequate. And that he wasn’t as ‘cool’ as he thought he was.
In short, he had been ‘drinking his own kool aid’ and it was competition that woke him up.
Herein lies the single greatest value add of competition – keeping perspective. It helps keep our achievements in perspective and keep us grounded. And for those of us who are competitive, it can help us spur action as well..
But, aside from that, competition (in my humble point of view) does more to breed insecurity and unhappiness than almost any other force on the plan. Competition for money, attractiveness and the like helps very few and leaves the rest unhappy. So, let’s brush aside the ‘competition is good for us’ myth and move on ahead.
Do we think Microsoft sleeps better at night knowing Google and Apple are waiting to take over their market share wherever possible? Or Coke because of Pepsi?
Let’s stop singing praises of competition and just use it for where it serves it’s purpose.

Your Greatest Strength is Always Your Greatest Weakness

I write this as I just had a discussion with a friend about her mid-year review where her improvement point turned out to be an inverse of her biggest strength.
In my case, for example, one of my big strengths turns out to be my energy. However, this pops up in all places – most of all by fidgeting. I hardly sit still.. and I imagine if I had to, I would implode. (And, if you are wondering – yes, my legs are tapping away as I write this post. But, of course!)
Now, I do understand there are times and places where fidgeting doesn’t help – serious meetings for example. And in situations like that, I do work hard to keep it down. But then, that saps me of a considerable amount of energy! Now, as with most things, it does help having a balance.
Previously, however, I used to feel very bad about my constant fidgeting. Thanks to some nice advice from a wiser friend since, I’m less apologetic about it these days. I’ve learnt to accept that it comes with the package..
I’m not advocating lack of balance but just that every thing has a flip side. And it helps to be aware of that..
(Just as a test, do look out for your ‘improvement point’ in your next feedback and take note of whether the weakness mentioned is a flip side of your greatest strength)

Leadership is Overrated – Part II

Before I begin the next phase of my leadership rant, I will recommend a great book. This book is called ‘First, break all the rules‘ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. ‘First, break all the rules’ analyzes what great leaders do. This is backed up by close to 25 years of research by the popular analytics firm, Gallup and is a gem.
Moving onto the issue itself – my hypothesis is that every organization doesn’t need tons of great leaders.
Can you imagine Apple with 2 Steve Jobs like personalities? Can you even imagine the kind of fireworks that would cause? (And historically, it did. Jobs did leave Apple and come back..)
What has worked for Apple is to have Steve Jobs lead the charge and have many great managers all the way down who stay true to Jobs’ philosophy.
Similarly, every great organization has a few leaders on top and the rest below are simply great managers. If we go back to the ‘shirtless dancing guy’ episode, that group did not need 10 shirtless dancing guys, they just needed one. In fact, 10 such guys would have only divided the group and caused chaos..
The point I am trying to make is simple – Leadership is a talent. Just like football. There’s only so much you can do to ‘instill’ leadership qualities. Schools can give students opportunities to lead but all this does is bring out the ones who have the talent.
Great management, on the other hand, can be learnt. And, as a result, taught. Great managers can codify what they do and pass it on. That’s precisely what ‘First, break all the rules’ does.
That’s not to say great management is easy. In truth, it is bloody difficult. Imagine you are a star in a football team to whom natural talents come easy. Now imagine you make the transition to managing a team – having to bring together a group of likely less talented lads, having to control a couple of arrogant stars and having to just be the ‘catalyst’ and make your group succeed. Suddenly, it is not about you. There is no place for insecurity.. there is only place for coaching, mentoring and letting people do their thing.
The good thing however is that it is difficult, not impossible. I would argue what we need is not a world full of leaders. We just need more potential great managers – people bred with self confidence rather than insecurity, bred with the understanding that competition doesn’t decide self worth but is only worthwhile to help maintain perspective and bred with the understanding that leadership is not everything.
It would help us remember that people do not leave companies, they leave managers. And great companies/organizations as a result simply have many great managers. And we need more great organizations in this world.
And by great, I mean purely in terms of quality.. (I hope you did not naturally picture a mammoth organization when you heard ‘great’ – if you did, then it’s not necessarily uncommon and that’s a discussion for another post.. :))
To be continued (1 more post to go..)