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Being Jouzu
Leveraging Your Talents for Success

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Any foreigner living in Japan quickly discovers the word jouzu, a Japanese word that means skillful or talented. When uttering any relatively coherent Japanese phrase, kind Japanese listeners eager to encourage your linguistic brilliance often exclaim “Anata no nihongo wa jouzu desu!” Like me, many of you might bask in this fantasy of fluency for a few seconds before quickly exclaiming, “iie, jouzu ja nai!” as you know they will quickly discover the pathetic limits of your language abilities. On the other end of the spectrum, those of you who truly can nihongo pera pera likely find this reaction to your konnichiwa annoyingly patronizing.

Regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall on when it comes to language abilities, understanding  and embracing your legitimate jouzu-ness can go a long way towards helping you to increase your energy, manage your stress, and fast-track your career.

The first step to capitalizing on your jouzu-ness is to distinguish between the two elements of being jouzu that get lumped together – skill and talent. A person can develop some level of skill in almost anything they set their mind to (or are forced to do). Talents, however, exist in a person’s innate ways of doing and being independent of skill. For example, it is possible for a person to have a natural talent for music but have very little musical skill if they have not taken any training.

The secret to leveraging your energy, managing your stress and fast-tracking your career lies in focusing your energy on building skills in the areas where your natural talents and abilities lie.


People build skills faster in areas that are related to their talents. A natural talent or ability, by definition, is an area where the fundamental competencies for being good at something already exist. A person who is naturally good at distinguishing subtle differences in colors is going to be quicker at learning things like graphic, interior or fashion design which depend upon this ability.

People build higher levels of skill in areas that are related to their natural talents. People tend to enjoy activities that they are good at more than activities they are not. The more you enjoy an activity, the more likely you are to spend time doing it. Because people build skills faster in areas related to their natural talents, they are likely to enjoy learning in these areas more, spend more time building these skills, and hence acquire higher levels of skill than in areas they do not enjoy.

People are more likely to experience success in areas related to their natural talents. Obviously if you build skills faster and to higher levels in areas related to your natural talents you are more likely to have career and financial success in these areas. The key reason, however, is that even if you have a relatively low level of skill in an area that you have a natural talent, you are going to experience using that talent as more fun and more energizing. This makes it more likely that you will persist through the inevitable challenges of learning – and even seek out challenges because the discomfort of facing them is somehow enjoyable when it is related to your talents. Excelling in any field is a result of constantly challenging oneself to learn and grow. Perhaps more importantly, sustaining excellence in a field requires that you can maintain the energy and motivation to continue to challenge yourself to learn and grow over the long term.

Living in Japan both requires and inspires the development of many skills. To avoid overextending yourself and to ensure that your experiences in Japan will fuel your career success rather than sidetrack it, remember these words of Bruce Lee –  “The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” The more you focus your efforts on becoming jouzu in those areas that are most fun, easy and enjoyable for you, the more the line between work and play will be blurred and the more effortless your success will become.

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