Gunpei Yokoi was born on September 10,1941 in Kyoto, Japan. Chances are that you have never heard of him, but more likely than not, as a Generation-Yer, you have used one of his inventions when you were younger. Yokoi was hired in 1965 by Nintendo — back when Nintendo was manufacturing Hanafunda cards (Japanese playing cards) — as a janitor and machine maintenance man. Yokoi’s real passion was electronics and gadgets. He liked to play around with things and make little inventions.
One of his inventions was a toy extending-arm that he had made for his personal amusement. One day the president of Nintendo at the time, Hiroshi Yamauchi, visited the factory and became intrigued by Yokoi’s toy invention. They dubbed the toy the “Ultra Hand,” selling 1.2 million units in the first Christmas season alone.
Yokoi was then asked to work on other Nintendo toys such as the Ten Billion Barrel puzzle, a baseball-throwing machine called Ultra Machine and a “Love Tester.” One day, he saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons and he got the idea for a watch that would double as a mini game machine — just for killing time.
He called it the Game & Watch, a line of handheld electronic games. In 1981, he was asked to supervise Donkey Kong along with Shigeru Miyamoto. After Donkey Kong’s success, the two worked on the next Mario game, Mario Bros.; Yokoi was the one who proposed the multiplayer concept. He eventually went on to design the most famous and loved handheld: the Nintendo Game Boy.
Yokoi had to start all the way from the bottom of the food chain and work his way to the top before he found himself in the position that he wanted to be in. He had to prove himself competent, talented and ingenious before anyone even knew of his existence. Generation-Y is not known for being the patient generation. We are not known for feeling as if we have to prove ourselves to anyone.
We were raised to believe that the only person worth proving ourselves to is, well… ourselves. Most of Generation-Y believes that the only opinions that truly matter are our own. I will admit that when I was younger, I had a very similar mentality; I didn’t feel that I needed to prove my worth because I knew that I had worth. I believed that the rest of the world should look at me and conclude that I have worth, value. I had a rude awakening. The world does not work that way.
The world is set up in such a way where no person ever starts on top. No person ever experiences the pinnacle of success right off the bat — no one. The truth is that no matter what industry you or working in or what field has your focus, you will spend most of your time proving yourself to others — whether you know it or not. This is not something that we get to choose to do or not to do. All that we can do is either succeed or fail in proving our worth; we have no choice but to play the game because the game is the world that we live in.
People judge you; it’s human nature. They look at your actions and outward appearance, placing titles and keywords over your head. This one is sharp, this one is lazy, this one is witty and cute, this one is brutish but a genius… The world judges us left and right and as long as we remain part of it, there is no way to avoid judgmental eyes.
We need each other — it’s a fact of human life. No person can survive completely alone. Moreover, no person truly wants to live an entirely secluded life because their dreams and hopes require a certain level of success that is only available through competition. In order to compete, you need others to compete with. You may feel that you are better than the rest — hell, maybe you are. Nevertheless, you will have to play the same game as the rest of us because people do not trust strangers. If someone does not know you, does not know what you do, what you are capable of, does not know your product or your brand, then they will not trust you or your company.
If they do not trust you then they will not buy from you. Gaining trust requires one thing: proving that you are trustworthy. And back we loop around to the fact that in order to do anything meaningful with your life you will need to accept the fact that others judge you. You will have to accept the fact that the opinions of others do matter — at least in the sense that their opinions directly affect your success. You will have to accept the fact that it will take time to gain the trust of the masses or those of importance.
The more important a person is — or feels to be — the more they will scrutinize you and what you do. This is not to mention the fact that, say you are applying for a position in a company, they will be comparing your credentials to those of other candidates. Once again, you will have to prove your worth and, more importantly, prove that you are worth more than any of the other applicants. This is the routine that people go through their entire careers. There is always someone above you or someone below you trying to take your position.
The “dog eat dog world” remark is spot on. The ones that do end up on top and stay on top are those like Yokoi who find what they are patient about and stick with it day-in and day-out. Only those that continue to be innovative and continue to prove themselves of worth to those who matter are those who believe themselves to have experienced success. There is no way around it; you are starting from the bottom and will be proving your worth for the rest of your life. There’s no shortcuts. You can be stuck-up and high-and-mighty if you wish…but that janitor will prove himself worthier than you sooner or later and you will be the one polishing toilets.
Photo courtesy Wiki Commons