The Secret

September 12, 2012

“Once you decide on your occupation…you must immerse yourself in your work.

You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job.

You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill.

That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

– Jiro Ono

The greatest sushi chef in the world, Jiro, in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, works relentlessly to master his skill.  Everyday, for the past 70 years, he has committed to making sushi that tastes better than the sushi he made the day before.

How much of my own life have I dedicated to mastering my skill?

For 12 years, I played piano.  In the beginning, I only practiced 30 minutes a day. By highschool, I practiced at least 2 hours a day.  Growing up, my piano became my best friend and my enemy. (I hear kids these days call that a frenemy?) With the piano, I shared my joys and shed my grief.  It became my enemy when I was lazy and despised practicing. Yet I dragged myself upon that bench and played out of obligation (so my parents wouldn’t claim I wasted their money on lessons).  Over time, the piano became apart of me, as an extension of myself: my lungs breathed fluidly like Debussey’s First Arabesque, my heart pumped vivaciously like Chopin’s Etude Revolutionare, my spirit soared like Lizst’s Un Sospiro.  Strangely, when my hands finger the keys, they always intuitively know where to go.  My fingers frolic without thought, without strain, unearthing the rich melodies etched into my memory.

For 4 years, I danced Khmer folk dance.  By imitating the motions, movements, and expressions of Khmer agricultural life, I gained a better understanding about my heritage.  I learned how to smile, how to tilt your head, how to raise your eyebrows, how to bend your hands back so elegantly.  In Robam Kous Angre (bamboo dance), the brightness of the moon invites the dancers to jump gleefully amongst clicking bamboo stalks.  In Robam Kane, the dance titled after the woodwind instrument, the male dancers play the ‘kane,’ wooing the female dancers onto the stage.  In Robam Nissat (fishing dance), the male dancers reenact the excitement from the catch of the day, while female dancers carry bamboo trays full of invisible fish from shallow water.

For 4 years, I learned to play oboe. Breathing life into a wooden instrument was exhilirating. There was something absolutely magical that happened when playing a wind instrument, something I had never experienced before. Upon a stage, surrounded by fellow musicians, every deep inhale always produced an auditorium full of vibrant, beautiful sound. The music engulfed me like waves lapping up from the ocean, swallowing me into a cathartic euphoria. But my perseverance wore thin; with each chipped reed, it also chipped at my confidence. Discouraged, I quit.

For 4 years, I studied nursing, and learned anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, nursing theory and clinical skills on how to become a nurse. Then the next 4 years, I worked at the bedside, in the hospital, and learned firsthand what it REALLY means to be a nurse.  You name it, I did it. CPR, peritoneal dialysis, chemotherapy, cardiac monitoring, etc… You name it, I spilled it.  Urine, stool, bile, wound drainage, etc… You name it, I have been called it. (All the 4 letter expletives that angry patients throw at me.)  But really, how could I possibly quantify all the powerful things I experienced? The privilege of being a nurse, caring for patients in their greatest time of need, being their advocate, and supporting them- I am incredibly humbled to have been apart of it all.

In the past 2 years, I’ve become a community health nurse, working with the underserved, the refugees, and trauma survivors.  Here I am learning how to tackle health care problems that stem from social issues, like poverty, homelessness, lack of family support, domestic violence, oppression, a history of trauma, and immigration status.  Here I am developing relationships, getting to know patients one by one and over the duration of many months.  Here I am caring for newborns, their siblings, their parents, and their grandparents, all under one roof.  But because this is my area of least experience, I have so much to learn.  SO MUCH.

Unlike Jiro, I have been blessed with the opportunity to explore many different interests, not just one.  Meaning I know a little bit of everything, but I’m not a master in anything.


Nursing and writing have become my life’s work.  I will never finish learning all that is required in becoming a good nurse, it is a never ending pursuit.  I must persevere.

And like Jiro…
dedicate my life to it

not complain
fall in love with it.

(I can do this.)

~ ~ ~

Reading Chloe’s post, Living with Reckless Abandon, reminded me of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Now that a few years have passed, I thought I’d repost this to remind myself of God’s calling for me. Though the work is hard, it is a privilege, and I must strive to fall in love with it, in dedicating my life to giving the most compassionate, excellent nursing care that I am capable.


17 thoughts on “The Secret

  1. I think this is a perfect representation of what life is like for many of us. For years I studied and worked towards music, as well. Growing up in a musical family, it was bound to happen. I played the flute for six years, spent a year on oboe when the band lost their only player, and I sang for over 10. All of those pursuits gone as I reached adulthood. The only thing that remains is my writing. It’s great that you could find your calling in nursing and how you strive to be the best at it, and it’s equally encouraging to see that you pursue your dreams in writing, as well, because you are really good at it. 😀

    • you played flute 6 year and then learned oboe? that’s awesome! i tried my hardest but could never get a clear sound when i attempted to play flute (my sister used to play flute so i’d play on hers). i’m glad you stuck with writing though. if you don’t write about it, over time, if it’s not written, it’s like it didn’t happen or exist. so it’s good that that’s the one you’ve become dedicated to! =D

      thanks so much for the encouragement!

  2. Wow! You have put so much time and effort into so many different things. Good for you for being so well rounded. I definitely have had the feeling of being a jack of all trades, master of none before. I do think it’s incredible to remember the things that God has called us to, though. This post is a great reminder of that!

    • yes, considering my parents were refugees, i do feel God blessed me in countless ways, that i was able to experience so many opportunities and be exposed to so many cool things. And that’s all the more reason why the gifts and skills He has given me, i feel it’s my responsibility to use for His glory and to further His work, in caring for others and caring for the community via my work or our church ministry. =)

  3. I remember when I first read this post! For some reason, it has always stuck with me, and I always think back to it when I’m working on one of my hobbies, or if I find myself complaining about studying.

  4. Absolutely adore everything about this! Such a great reminder that anything worth doing takes practice, time and dedication. We should always strive to do our best and live out our calling!

    Love your testimony and your heart!! {also really excited to watch this film!!}

  5. i think there is no urgent need to be a master in anything. nowadays, i believe it is enough to be happy and keep striving for what you think is important in life. but judging from your posts, it seems to me you certainly are close to mastering the art of nursing, or maybe you already have but you didn’t know it. there are many nurses out there who are not as caring and skilful as you are, and so this means you have achieved much more than them. and i’m sure to the many you have cared, you ARE a master nurse.

  6. I think in becoming the patient’s advocate, you’ve surpassed the boundaries of a nurse. There are all the technical things that a nurse should do. But being an advocate is a bigger responsibility. You see people who are often vulnerable. Giving them a hand, offering a voice of encouragement and hope can be part of the healing they need. I salute you.

  7. This is awesome! I have always liked jack of all trade people. I think having a well rounded background is great in my opinion. It seems like you did a lot!

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