Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

Sometimes I feel a little down when I write for this “Views of an Entrepreneur.” Here I am, painting a picture of myself as a swimmer, a family man, a businessman, and a globetrotter, but isn’t this a little deceiving? Am I really as great as I make myself sound? Isn’t the real me actually more of a slacker?

What I mean to say is, I feel there’s a gap between the person who I describe in my column and the real thing, and this sometimes makes me uncomfortable.

Then I received an email from an old friend.

“I always enjoy reading your interesting column. You really seem to thrive on traipsing around the world. All I can say is, fantastic! You don’t just work, you also value time with your family, you hold onto your dream of the Masters Swimming Championships—you’re literally a superman, aren’t you. They say God doesn’t bless a person twice, but I get the feeling that you have been endowed with four or five talents, and I’m so jealous! Of course, I am sure those are fruits of your untiring efforts …

“I have just one thing to ask you. If it’s true that no one is perfect, what does someone like you, who seems to have everything, consider to be your weak point?”

I read this with a sense of bewilderment. I’m no superman, no fantastic person. What I write in my column is simply displaying my good side. In fact, I’m a good-for-nothing lazybones, who just wants to have fun. I’m irresponsible, and I have plenty of shortcomings. I found myself shouting these things in my head.

When it comes to family matters, I’m no angel either. Who was it, just the other day, that got drunk and stayed out till morning, and didn’t make it in time to his eldest son’s kindergarten graduation ceremony (and was still hungover when he finally arrived)? I can’t be called a good dad just because I sometimes take my kids to play, can I

In terms of swimming, I didn’t go the other day, did I? Sometimes, I take time off work when I feel I might be coming down with something. Look at me: I’m a total slacker, right?

I have never been a model student. I love having fun and hate being restricted in any way. I skipped classes all the time in high school, and I hardly showed up at college. I only earned two credits in my freshman year. It’s a miracle I managed to graduate in four years, allowing for a year off.

So why has this lazy idler continued to put so much into writing these columns?

Until I was 30, I worked at Sumitomo Corporation, but once I founded and became the CEO of GLOBIS, it was no longer possible to go on being a slacker. I commanded myself to be disciplined, to take the lead in setting a good example. I had to be the one who pulled my colleagues along. I couldn’t very well make the excuse that I was no good at writing or speaking. As the man at the top, managing the company, I had to be able to talk and write properly, to share my thoughts. Obviously, I needed to further develop my abilities, and this meant making a sustained effort.

After setting up the company, the toughest thing for me was making myself understood to those around me. My dream was to marry a venture capital firm with a business school and create a business infrastructure of people, capital, and knowledge. I wanted to realize creativity and change in society, and in the midst of all that, create the No. 1 graduate school in Asia. This surely must have sounded crazy, particularly coming from the lips of a 30-year-old.

Setting up a venture enterprise and keeping it going in itself is impossible, unless you have a unique idea. No matter what an ordinary person can come up with and act on, many others have probably had the same idea already, resulting in too much competition. You really can’t win. Therefore, entrepreneurs who want to succeed in venture companies must be at least a little crazy and have unique ideas.

This is to say, entrepreneurs are crazy. We have unique ideas. It simply isn’t in our nature to be easily understood.

For such maverick entrepreneurs, who are difficult to understand to begin with, increasing communication is critical if there is to be any hope of being understood. You must be able to explain things like the philosophical foundation at the heart of your ideas, what you’ve been thinking, what you’ve seen, and the basis for your conviction that things will work out. This, I cannot help thinking, is the reason I am putting so much effort into “Views of an Entrepreneur.”

In other words, wanting to write this blog springs from my desire to be understood. What I’ve seen, where I’ve seen it, what I’ve been thinking—by openly communicating these things to everyone, including GLOBIS staff, students, and faculty members, and clients, I hope to be understood as much as possible. Subtlety just won’t get the job done; I have to be always clear and straightforward.

At 30, a young man with no money, no trust, and no track record had a dream and started an entrepreneurial enterprise, continually challenging himself. I intend to share through this column the worries, pains, joys, sadness, and exhilaration that I experienced. If I, as an entrepreneur with half-formed, crazy ideas, am able to candidly express myself to readers and gain some motivation for life, I can also gain sympathy. If that happens, I will consider this column to be, at least to some extent, successful.

The email from my old friend continued:

“The column is really stimulating. I want you to keep on writing it. What are the concerns, thoughts, and actions of young managers who are treading the path of success? What are you feeling about your family, your dreams for the future, your personal life? Everything written without disguise, openly and with candor—this is why I’m always so moved when I read your columns.

“For young people, particularly those aspiring to become entrepreneurs, there is nothing more like a bible than this. There will certainly be some people, your age and older, who will be envious and may even make some nasty comments about you, but I think you should see that as a medal given to your success and pay no attention to them.”

I do not intend to write a success story, nor do I care about jealous glances. I merely want to honestly share what I’ve seen and what I’ve been thinking about. I believe this is the significance of writing “Views of an Entrepreneur.”

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