Home What Startups Can Learn From Haruki Murakami

What Startups Can Learn From Haruki Murakami

I’m a big fan of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
The genius of Murakami is in his discipline,
focus and determination. I see him as a virtual Zen master – an embodiment of wisdom,
passion, skills and exceptional will. The elements of his work and life story are inspirational and (here’s where ReadWriteWeb comes in) particularly
applicable when you’re running a startup. Therefore in this post, we take a look at what modern technology startups can
learn from this Japanese literary master.

The inspiration for this post comes from an autobiographical article by Murakami in the New Yorker Magazine (which Karen Teng, VP of Engineering at my own startup, pointed out to me).

Find Your Passion and Commit to it

Murakami was a late bloomer,
writing his first work at age 29. One day while watching baseball he realized his destiny was to be a writer. At the time he
owned a jazz bar,
yet the experience at the baseball game had a lasting effect. He started to write and
over the next few years his life changed.

Whether you’re a blogger or software engineer, you’ve experienced the same
feeling: a blog
post that has to be written; a piece of code that needs to exist. These moments of clarity
are precious and we should follow them whenever possible.

Murakami faced a choice between his business and a career as a writer.
Though the future was uncertain, he made a commitment to writing and sold his jazz bar. Soon after focusing on writing
full-time, he realized his fiction suffered because he was out of shape. Murakami quit smoking and started running.
Today he is a marathon man and runs every day.

Each startup always faces choices. Making a commitment, focusing, and then giving it your all, is the key.
There are always obstacles, but if you know what you’re after you can overcome them.

Stick With What You Know

I’d read Murakami novels before
his autobigraphical piece. Now I realize how much of him is in his novels. His books
frequently talk about jazz and one novel,
South of the Border, West of the Sun, is about an owner of a jazz bar. Murakami loves cats and uses them
to create
unique, mesmerizing imagery. Most of all, Murakami writes about love, passion
and loneliness.

A few years back, I decided to make a real estate investment in Florida. Excited, I did a lot of research and was
talking about it to my father-in-law, an experienced businessman. His advice: stick with what you know.
While initially disappointed, I then realized he was right. I am a software engineer and a tech entrepreneur. I should be betting on
my startup instead.

Many individuals and companies make the mistake of jumping into areas they know little
about. A few succeed, but most never make it. It is better to start a company around the topic
you’re an expert in or know
a lot about. This will give you an edge and ensure you’re not wasting your time.

Start Even and Finish First

life is a routine. He rises early around 5am
and goes to bed by 10pm. He declines late-night dinners and outings. He runs and works on his books
daily. He achieves his magic by pushing equally every day.

When Brad Feld, an early stage technology VC and a marathon runner, recently completed his 11th marathon, he
this lesson during the run. In the recap on his blog
he wrote:

I started strong. Too strong. Rule #1 of the marathon is to hold plenty back at the beginning so you have it left at the end. I went through the halfway point (13.1m) at 2:20,
on track for a sub 4:45. I tightened up at mile 15 and slowed a notch, thinking
I still had a shot at sub 5:00. At mile 19 I went down another notch and was now slogging through 13-minute miles. At this point I knew I wouldn’t break 5:00 and my goal shifted from “break 5 hours” to “finish this

The first time I realized this lesson was watching
Cathy Freeman win gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She won by running
like a robot, with uniform speed through the entire course.

Startups are intense. Run too fast and you’ll burn out. Many young entrepreneurs think
startups are like sprints, when
you just race from the start to the finish line. In fact, startups are more like marathons, so
pace yourself.

Never Settle and Always Seek Creativity

Perhaps the most striking
thing about Murakami is his creativity. My favorite Murakami book is Wind-up Bird Chronicle, a mesmerising “experiential” piece of
fiction. As you read you experience a world of mystical images, ideas and characters.

Each Murakami novel is different. The author never settles, constantly
seeking new ways to express himself. Remarkably, he says writing is not easy for him.
creative work is carefully crafted. It seems like an outcome of pure passion, but
it is not. The author seeks to break the methods he created yesterday and move on towards
unexplored territory.

Passion and creativity are the two most important factors for a startup. Without these
key ingredients, there is
no success. But just like the artist needs to reinvent himself, so also do startups. It
won’t be the original
wave of creativity that will carry you through, instead it will be the quest and the will to never settle
that will make your dreams come true.


The beads of sweat drip off my face as I run up the hill. It is a mild summer Sunday in New Jersey and I enjoy
my regular running route. With each step, the pieces of this post crystallize in my head. I know
I have to write it,
because Murakami can make a difference in your startup life too. Steadily as I
climb I think about this man,
his will and his magical fiction.

My iPod starts playing a faster beat, but I do not speed up. I’ve done this many times on this course to my dismay,
so now I know better. I treat this course like a startup. It is a mini marathon where I run evenly and
ponder these cool and creative things in my head.

And now please tell us what writer you find inspirational and helpful in your startup life.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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