Ikigai! How About Starting from Why?

Well, did you know the happiest inhabitants of the world live on a Japanese island called Okinawa? Okinawa has more centenarians than any part of the world, most notably live joyfully and are happiest till the last stages of their life.

In contrast, we see many heading towards a midlife crisis with just 10 years in our regular careers.

Research reveals, the Centenarians of Okinawa (Japan) are clear about their Ikigai (life purpose).

Moral: Consciously identify your Purpose and make it viable, makes you look forward to life and live longer and happily


Is it easy to identify your Purpose? 

 Fortunately, Yes. Small Self-Introspection around the below questions leads to discovering your Ikigai.


We have an exciting story from the Wright brothers and the untold story of Samuel Pierpont langley which helps understand the importance of Purpose(Ikigai).

In Early 1900, Langley was tasked to crack the puzzle of inventing the first controlled flight. Langley was well funded by US State dept, had great connections, knew all the great minds. In summary, a top-notch team and press following him everywhere and everyone rooting for his success.

In contrast, the Wright brothers had little money, didn’t know the right people, and no one paid attention to them. When they studied the possibility of human-controlled flight and developed conviction around its possibility and viability and started experimenting simultaneously.

Not many would bet on the success of the Wright brothers compared to Langley, who had access to all the resources, funding, and talent.

After all the work, Langley made two attempts of controlled flight in 1903, and both of them ended up in failures. Nine days after Langley’s second attempt, Wright brothers made the first successful controlled manned flight ever.

Rest is history with Langley being forgotten and manned flight always remembered as Wright Brothers invention.

What explains the underdogs in Wright brothers to overcome which Langley, with all his resources at his disposal, could not. It’s one resource which Wright brothers had and its Purpose (Ikigai)

This underscores the importance of getting the Purpose right.  Simon Sinek explains the same from a marketing/management standpoint with the below framework of Sinek’s Golden Circle


Understanding the “Why” is so critical before we start anything to succeed. If we tabulate to see why Wright Brothers succeeded and Langley failed it boils down to getting the Purpose/Ikigai right which is what Sinek refers as “WHY”

This story gives abundant reason to believe that over-investing  in getting the Purpose right goes a long way in helping a successful outcome, be it business, career, or our own lives.

Both the books “Ikigai” and “Start with Why” provide amazing insights while from different self-help and marketing/management genres and it has a powerful underlying theme that relates to Purpose.






Picture of Murali Sunderraghavan

Murali Sunderraghavan

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