Hiroshi "Mickey" Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
@hmikitani_e

Advice to the young is plentiful. What about advice for those in mid-career? October marks the start of the second half of the financial year in Japan, and just this week, 140 mid-career recruits started work at Rakuten with a day of training in Tokyo.

The key to success in mid-career is the ability to envision the future as one filled with great change. We may have been at work for a period of years, but we cannot assume that things will always be as they are. Change is all around us. We may find in the future that we no longer drive cars, thanks to technology and new business models. We may find that things we considered “common sense” are no longer true. By thinking of the future in terms of change, we position ourselves as the disruptors, rather than the disrupted.

This has always been my philosophy. When I was 31, I left a steady job at the Industrial Bank of Japan to found my own company. At the time, many people advised me not to go into the internet business. Internet malls were a failure, they told me. It’s not a business with a future. But I took a different perspective. Because I was willing to look into the future and envision change, my company was able to grow and thrive with the internet.

It was this same expectation of change that lead me to adopt English as my company’s official language. When I began my program of Englishnization, many thought I was extreme. But this was another example of looking into the future and expecting change. I could see that business was becoming more and more global. To be part of that future and to recruit the best talent from all around the world, we would need to communicate confidently in English.

A willingness to change can be very profitable for both individuals and companies. Taikichiro Mori became the richest man in the world after he quit his position as an economics professor at the age of 55 and diligently built a real estate empire in Tokyo. Google was a search tool until it developed AdWords and became an advertising powerhouse.

At mid-career, many may feel they are set in their ways. But change is coming – that is always true. To be successful in mid-career, adopt a change mentality and be part of what the future brings.


Mickey recently spoke to The Wall Street Journal about change, Englishnization and other topics.