“It's important how you deal with your failures. Don't point the finger at a third person for the reason of failure, but ask yourself what was lacking on your part. With that in mind, I never neglect to polish my baseball bats and gloves. I do this to direct the cause of the problem to myself, and not my tools.”
Winter of 2014
These are the words I heard when I first met Ichiro. A little later, I received a gift from Ichiro. It was a practice bat that Ichiro used in his training. The marks from the practice balls he hit and the non-slip resin remain intact. I thought it was just like Ichiro to have labeled it “for practice,” instead of “for a match.” This was a bat that supported Ichiro through his many challenges and failures.
Within this bat was a message from Ichiro to “take responsibility for your own failures.” As I took the bat in my hand, I remembered the congressional hearing in the U.S. On my way to the hearing that day I had sworn something to myself. That was:
“I want to protect Toyota, which I love, no matter the cost. To do so, I will not blame anyone else. I will take all responsibility for the past, present, and future.”
After making this promise to myself, I went to the hearing. As I stepped into the batter box, I was prepared to commit everything.
At a Tokyo Motor Show, Ichiro said: “Toyota and I (Ichiro) are very similar.” I think so, too.
In speaking with Ichiro, I have come to realize that he was explaining the same exact kinds of things as I was thinking. Ichiro, as you may know, achieved a legendary record of 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball.
“In the moment this record was achieved, so many teammates and fans were overjoyed. It was a moment that reminded me that it was more important that someone other than me was now happy for something that I had accomplished, rather than just the number 3,000.”
I heard his comments and could see tears welling in his eyes, and was reminded once again about my experience at the congressional hearing. Following the hearing on that fateful day, I met with people from our dealers and plants who had rushed to lend support.
“I realized I wasn't alone. I thought that it was just me, by myself, fighting to protect Toyota, but, in fact, I was the one who was being supported and protected.” When I realized that, tears came pouring out. When Ichiro achieved his record, were his tears like this? If so, then I agree and think he is similar to Toyota (or at least Toyoda!).
Congratulations to Ichiro for reaching his 3,000 hits!