Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
At Rakuten, we are deliberately reconnecting to our core principles. Every week, we are holding a reading and Q&A session to explore a principle from Business-Do, the book I wrote to capture these core principles for success. This grew out of our efforts to welcome new recruits during the early stages of the pandemic. To ensure they could connect with Rakuten values even though they were working remotely, I instituted this weekly discussion series with them. Then, we expanded it to include all Rakuten staff, and now, in these posts, I’d like to share these with the business community at large.
Re-examining our core principles
In these turbulent times, I believe it makes sense to think often about your core principles and why you value them. These are turbulent days in which we are called upon to make important decisions that may affect the health and safety of those around us. We all need core principles to help guide us.
There are many kinds of successful people in this world — some are sports stars, others renowned giants of business or government, or pillars of their household or local community. Others are innovators who change the way we think and live. Successful people are a diverse group, but when we look closely at those who have achieved great things, we start to see elements that bind them together.
When I look at successful people, across industries and disciplines, I can see they have three characteristics in common: mindset, skills and knowledge. When I say mindset, I mean your passion for work. Your mindset is the root of your motivation. Skills refers to your abilities. Then there’s knowledge. It goes without saying that knowledge is useful in business.
Truly capable people possess all three of these qualities — we should all strive to have these three elements in our lives. But which of the three is the most important right now, in today’s unique and challenging climate?
Cultivating the right mindset
Let’s take a closer look at mindset.
Right now, many of us are physically separated from our colleagues. More than ever, we must keep our minds open so that we can hear suggestions and criticisms and make the best possible decisions.
The mindset that is called for today is one that is down to earth — not arrogant, but humble, modest and open to all thoughts, positive and negative.
I can see examples of this mindset in the successful people around me. For example, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry: Curry was once an underrated player, rebuffed by his first-choice college team because they thought he wasn’t big enough to play at the highest level. Despite all the doubters, he maintained a mindset of humility and hard work and it paid off for him, in three NBA championships and back-to-back Kia NBA MVP Awards.
I take the power of the right mindset to heart. I try to be as open as possible to criticism, of Rakuten and even of myself personally. My kids or my wife might say, “Papa, you’re not doing the right thing.” I ask, why? What’s wrong? And from my colleagues, I try to let them speak freely about things both good and bad about our company or about me because I know I’m not perfect. I have lots of weak points and shortcomings. I know that I still need to improve — and that I need to be humble about it.
The biggest danger we face today is becoming arrogant. Arrogance makes us overly protective of ourselves. You may not want to be criticized in front of other people. But truly strong individuals don’t mind even if some people say bad things about you. You need to be open to hearing constructive criticism, as hard as it may be to accept. Some of it is probably true.
In this time when many of us must work from home or can’t travel as we usually do, we may be cut off from our regular channels of communication — channels that would deliver both good and bad news about our performance and actions. For this reason, we must be doubly sure to maintain an open mindset, to pick up on information and criticisms that others may have for us. We must keep our minds open to them, or we may miss something critical.
Skills and knowledge are, of course, important. After all, Stephen Curry is one of the most skilled players of all time. But now, when we must be apart from so many of our colleagues and competitors, it is crucially important we maintain a winning mindset.
Mindset, Skills, Knowledge. Given today’s challenging environment, what element do you think is the most important one to ensure success?