Words of Zen for the Workplace

by Kiyohiko Shimazu


198 pages / August 2013 / 1,300 yen (w/o tax)

Steve Jobs, Ichiro, Phil Jackson ...Why are top-notch individuals attracted to Zen?


The business world has always drawn words of wisdom from Zen. Although the word “Zen” is well known, it hardly ever comes up in Japan, and very few people have connected it to business. Nevertheless, the most important ideas in business can be found in the words of Zen.

Some people have problems at their workplace or don’t always get along with their colleagues. Mr. Shimazu says that the main reason for this is that they don’t have a clear vision for themselves. In other words, they haven’t found their own guiding principles.

Words of Zen tell us what direction to follow, and they also help us find an anchor for our hearts and minds. For example, the word aisatsu (greeting) is a characteristic Zen term. It originally referred to the dialogue between Zen priests. It means that in order to get closer to understanding, you have to communicate with others. Although aisatsu is an everyday word, understanding more about its meaning will change how you think about interacting with your colleagues.

From numerous words of Zen that have been well crafted and simplified over hundreds of years, this book introduces 31 carefully selected examples that are practical and worth keeping close to the heart. There are many concrete examples of people who succeeded in business while learning from words of Zen. Steve Jobs and the noted NBA coach Phil Jackson are a couple of famous examples. This is one of the first Japanese books to combine Zen and business, and just by reading it you will discover what stance you should take to be successful.

From the table of contents

Aisatsu (Greeting)– Realize the subtle nuance in “Good morning”
Yama kore yama, mizu kore mizu (It is what it is)– If you want to focus your mind, don’t be picky
Choshin, chosoku, choshin— In new situations, focus on steadying your mind rather than your heart
Katsu (Scolding)– 70 percent of young people nowadays should be scolded, not praised
Zenkigen (Totality)– The first thing a leader does is read through an employee’s profile
Heijoshin (Presence of mind)– The more pointless a piece of advice seems, the more valuable it is
Kissako (Downtime)– Why do busy Google employees take time out for lunch?
Hobo kore dojo (Every moment is a training ground)– The art of attentiveness practiced by Coach Sasaki, who led Nadeshiko Japan to the world championships
Genkan (Entrance)– Why knowing the meaning of genkan can reduce your mistakes at work
Riyaku (Benefits)– If you seek the benefits, the profits will follow
Shoshin (Inexperience)– In a long life, sometimes you lack experience along the way

From the editor

I met Mr. Shimazu around the time when I heard about the Zen Cafe growing in popularity. I had some interest in Zen, but after listening to Mr. Shimazu, I came to realize how closely connected the words of Zen are to business. The most basic of basics in the workplace are explained in very simple words. The Zen word shoshin (inexperience) is a prime example. Through this book, I was able to express in words the person I want myself to become. Why don’t you give the words of Zen a try and see in them the reflection of your true self? I believe that you will definitely find it when you read this book.


Kiyohiko Shimazu

Kiyohiko Shimazu is the director of the Shimars Company and the Zentrepreneur Association. Born in Tokyo in 1965, he started working for Chikuma Real Estate (now Starts Corporation) in 1987, and by 2001 he had been appointed director and head of the personnel department, which was unprecedented at his young age. He conducted over 6,000 interviews, and he came to know the importance of being in the right place at the right time. After that, he was promoted to senior managing director and then became the representative director of Starts Pitat House. He went on to other accomplishments at the frontline of business. However, after the Great Tohoku Earthquake, he decided to start his own consulting business. Not long afterward, he encountered Zen and felt its role in his destiny, and he soon joined the Buddhist priesthood at Sotoshu Kounzan Kannon Temple and devoted himself to studying Zen. After discovering that all the rules of success in business are found in Zen, he focused his efforts on establishing the Zentrepreneur Association, where he is the director.