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Founder & CEO of Rakuten, Inc.








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This book is for my partner in life and work and our children.


Dreams are for the young. This is a beautiful saying. But it's wrong. Dreams are the very fuel that moves our society forward.

Although there's nothing wrong with having dreams when you're young, the saying implies that you no longer have time to dream once you grow up and are thrown into the cold reality of society.

I would argue that dreams are even more valuable as you move through your life. But as you leave childhood behind, you must do more than dream. Just having a dream is meaningless. You must turn your dreams into specific goals, work out the steps necessary to achieve them, and then, one by one, actually take those steps. You have to use everything you have—your talents, abilities, strength, and perseverance—to reach these goals.

You need skills to realize your dreams. What's more, you need a system and a process to acquire those skills and execute them. This is what in Japanese we call creating shikumi—or systemization. When you pair a dream with a shikumi, you may reach even the most extraordinary goals.

I had a dream over two decades ago, and I have spent my whole life since pursuing that dream. The number of people who have joined me in pursuing the same dream has also grown. The company I started with one other person has grown into a company of thousands. And the whole time, I've been constantly asking myself: How can I best communicate my method of achieving dreams and goals? What do you have to do to be truly successful? And what shouldn't you do?

I've put my ideas into words and shared them with my colleagues many times, and I believe Rakuten is what it is today as a result of this effort. The company's continued growth, even through times of global economic crisis, is proof of that.

I share my methods more widely now because we are in an era of great change—a turbulent time when dreams and their execution could not be more important.

We are at a time when it's clear that the internet is not simply a new format—another channel for our existing products and services. Instead, it is a platform on which transformed industries will grow and change. The internet has already reconfigured commerce and the media. It's now far into its transformation of financial services, turning money from bills and coins into a digitized promise and giving rise to a new industry (fintech). It's clear that this is only the start of change that will move through all industries. What will the next new major industry transformations be? Autotech? Pharmatech? Edutech? And as those industries rise up, what new questions will they raise? As the internet becomes the platform for education, of course we rethink the nature of “books” but we can also ask: What is a teacher? What is a classroom? What is a student? How does the internet transform these basic concepts? This is true for every industry. We are also seeing the changes take place in transportation. Already we have AI drones and cars. What is next? Even my own job will face change. Will we see the AI CEO? That's not so farfetched.

In a time of great change, it becomes that much more important to have guiding principles. These are not rules that cut us off from change, but truths that help us navigate it. They are methods that help us move forward and achieve our dreams. They are principles that give us a system in which to operate effectively.

This book, Business‐Dō, is a detailed look at my guiding principles, offering specific instructions, stories, and techniques to help anyone realize dreams and achieve lasting success. In Japanese characters, “Dō” represents the “way” or the “path” and it can be used to represent an essential philosophy, spirit or a moral code. You might be more familiar with the term “Bushido” which also uses this character and is loosely translated as the way of the warrior. This book breaks down my fundamental philosophy for business and leadership into useful lessons. You can be successful in business as well if you put these lessons into practice. They reflect how I think and act when facing the problems that arise in business. You don't have to learn all the rules. If you follow the ones that speak to you, I'm sure the doors of opportunity will open to you.

Don't be troubled by critics who say dreams and reality are two different things. That's just a spiteful excuse used by those who didn't work hard enough to realize their dreams. Of course dreams and reality are different. But that's why turning dreams into reality is so worthwhile and rewarding—not just for the dreamer, but for all of us who benefit when big dreams become successful reality.

It is my hope that this book helps you realize your dreams.

Here's how it's done.

Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani

Clean Your Space

Photo illustration of male worker cleaning the stand of a single stand chair.

Why do I have a Chapter 0?

I was through the first draft of this book when I realized I would need a Chapter 0—and that it would be about our ritual at Rakuten of cleaning our workspaces.

There is quite a bit of good advice in this book. But if you only take away one idea, I hope it will be this one: Make sure you clean your office by yourself.

I don't mean set a time for the janitorial staff to come by. That's a different issue. I mean: clean your own workspace. It is a ritual that I believe is a crucial building block of professional success. Sometimes, it is the most basic of rituals that allows us to achieve greatness.

Every week, at the same time in the morning, everyone at Rakuten cleans his or her workspace. We take out the rags and spray bottles. We clean off our surfaces. We pick up any trash. We get down on our hands and knees and polish the legs of our office chairs.

When I say everyone, I mean everyone. You will find me doing this chore every week, without fail.


It is a question I am asked often, since it's not common for everyone in a company to engage in this behavior. We do it because I know it's important. In fact, I know it's critical to our success.

Like many company rituals, this one started in the earliest days of our company. That's when Rakuten was just a handful of people in a single room, trying to start something big. Every week we cleaned our humble space. We had to. Who else would if we did not?

As we grew, we continued to engage in this ritual—not because we had to, but because we came to understand what it meant. I recognize this is not how many other leaders in Silicon Valley behave. Still, even though it is different from other companies, I know it is something that is very important to me personally, and to the way I want to lead.

For me, personally, cleaning reminds me to be appreciative for what I have. I often find myself thinking about the people who have supported me in my efforts to build this company. I remind myself, in this one moment a week, that I am lucky and that I should remember what got me here.

This is a mindset I spread in Rakuten by making this not just my ritual, but also our ritual. I want us all to take that moment to step back, to be humble, to engage in this shared practice.

A shared practice reminds us that we are all connected. Every job in your company is your job. It's all about whether you fully realize this or not. Those who do not realize this will absolutely never succeed in business. We clean to remind ourselves and each other that there is no job in the company that is unrelated to our own work. We are united, in this one practice and in all the things we do every day. This is a concept that we may remind ourselves of weekly, so that when we face a challenge, we can pull together, draw on that knowledge of connection, and fight as one.

What is more, cleaning reminds us to care. Think about your home for a moment. If you walked into your living room, for example, and you saw a piece of trash on the floor, would you walk around it? Would you ignore it because it was someone else's job to pick it up? Of course not. This is your home, you feel a sense of pride about it. It has a place in your heart. So of course you take the time to take care of it. Your home is worth that one moment it takes to bend down and pick up a piece of trash on the floor. Whenever I am considering investing in a company, I will always look to see how clean the office is. If I go in and it is messy and there is trash on the floor that makes me wonder if the people in the company care about it. A clean office, on the other hand, inspires me to feel confident that this company is united in the pursuit of excellence.

This is the feeling we want to instill here at Rakuten. Many companies may come and go in this world, but only some will achieve greatness. Only a few will change the world. To do this, I believe we must feel about our company the way we feel about our homes. We must feel that sense of pride and be willing to care for it. The company must have a special place in our hearts.

At Rakuten, I look for ways all the time to build that feeling in all of us. The weekly office cleaning is one ritual in which I pursue that goal. We are not just cleaning up our desks in those few minutes. We are engaging in a ritual that reminds us this is a special place. We are here not just to get through the day and make money, but also to do something extraordinary. We care about what we do and we show this in ways that are big—in innovation—and in ways that are small, such as this moment we set aside to take care of the space around us.

Many companies have achieved greatness by incorporating rituals. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, used to lead store employees in a rousing “Walmart cheer.” Many companies hold monthly birthday parties or organize regular volunteer outings. There was once a businessman in Japan who was known, even as his company grew, to go outside each morning and sweep the doorstep of the company entrance. These are rituals and they are all designed to remind the people within a company that they are engaged in something special. They can and should take the time to value that opportunity.

So I place this piece of advice in Chapter 0—a space that is empty and with no distractions. Cleaning your workspace is a simple, easy way to remind yourself that you value the work you are doing. It sets the stage, both physically and mentally, for you to achieve something great. Value the space you are in. Take the moment, put it on your calendar, make it a ritual. Do this and I am sure you will be successful.