What would Soichiro do?
Struggling to find the right mindset? Here's the story of one man who...just got on with it.
It’s a good question.
The world is in a bit of tight spot right now. The pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving, no one has any money and corruption is pretty much everywhere.
Soichiro Honda would have been fine with all of that.
Put simply, Soichiro Honda just didn’t know how to quit.
His story is often told, and I’m sure many of you will have heard his many quotes and his wisdom on business topics.
So I won’t go into too much detail of his life, other than to just remember the fact that he could have given up on numerous occasions. But if he had given up, his business would not have become the automobile giant it is today.
His father was a blacksmith, and Soichiro inherited his father’s love for machinery and moving parts. He liked getting his hands dirty, and would spend time alongside his father in the workshop.
Perhaps there was one key incident in his young life that further shaped his destiny. One day a Ford model T car drove through his village. Soichiro was incredibly excited, and ran after it as it trundled along.
When he was just 15 he left for Tokyo to try and find work as an auto mechanic. It took him some time to even get near a car at the garage he ‘found work’ at, but he was patient enough to wait until that moment came.
In those first few days in Tokyo he was literally looking after an executive’s baby, changing the baby and making sure it was fed. In between doing these jobs he would often wander down to the garage and watch the mechanics at work. He even managed to find an opportunity to tinker with one or two of the cars.
Around the age of 21 he opened his own car repair shop. He developed a passion for vehicles, including racing cars. This love of speed would remain with him for the rest of his life.
There, in a shack that was 16 m², Soichiro grew a brand that soon became the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well, as my journey towards becoming a stoic becomes more fraught with stress and worry, I’m looking for sources of inspiration. I’m looking for people who are courageous and determined.
Soichiro Honda was courageous and determined. And his life story provides a few lessons that give me courage during my journey (or transition, if you will) and maybe one of these lessons will give you a bit of courage too.
The piston thing
Honda’s first real product was a new type of piston he wanted to sell to Toyota. He made a lot of them, and he went to pitch the top brass at the company.
He made 30,000 pistons.
When he went to Toyota he was absolutely convinced, as any entrepreneur is, that his product was going to change the world. Toyota thought otherwise.
Toyota said that just three of the 30,000 pistons were up to scratch. Then they sent him away.
At this point, probably most of us would give up or try and get a real job.
Instead, Soichiro went back to the drawing board and worked out what was wrong with his design.
This is perhaps the essence of the man. Rather than giving up he decided to review all his work and fix the problem he took full responsibility for.
Some of us, when we have problems, blame others. Soichiro knew that this problem was his.
Toyota told him his pistons were not viable. Rather than get angry at them or at life in general he got to work in an effort to make them viable.
It would have cost a lot of money to make 30,000 of those pistons. To be told that just three of them were any good must have been crushing.
To go back and fix them so that they would be of a good enough quality for Toyota shows the true grit and courage this man had.
The ‘fixing’ involved going to engineering school, visiting factories all over Japan, and generally showing that he would do anything to win that contract with Toyota.
He won the contract.
The Honda thing
It’s easy to give up. Anyone can give up. It’s not scary and it’s not difficult.
What Honda did was take on the fear and the challenge and he went all out.
Imagine going to engineering school and spending years travelling Japan, just to have another try with a company that had already said ‘no’ on a devastating scale.
Not 3000. Not even 300 of the pistons were good enough.
Only 3 of his original pistons passed muster.
Honda has many tag lines in its marketing. It also has some pretty annoying ads with Garrison Keillor, but that’s another story.
It’s most famous tag line is: The Power of Dreams.
So here we are. Life after the pandemic. A poorer planet. Corruption everywhere.
Yes, Soichiro would have been just fine with that.
What do you think he would do right now?
I am a writer for brands. I create copy that drives revenue and helps businesses grow. I also run an amazing website called sahailashraf.com