Shigeru AoiCEO of A-TOM Co. Ltd.

What we need is compassionate mindfulness,
and that’s unwavering love.

On a trip to Imabari in Ehime, I stopped by a park called Shimanami Earthland. The park featured Passage of Earth, a 460-meter walkway that represented the scaled down time of the Earth’s 4.6-billion-year history. Human life, rounded up to a century, would be merely 0.01mm on this scale. A-TOM Co. founded in 1959 would only be in the last 0.0063mm. Seeing that our time is an invisible spec, reminded me of how short and insignificant our time on earth is. At the end of the passage, there was a monument engraved with a native American proverb. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Sadly, there isn’t a day without a war somewhere in this world. But even then, new lives are born, and we continue on living day after day, passing down our world from one generation to the next in an endless cycle of life.

If we look closely, there isn’t a single thing in this world that isn’t part of a cycle. Business for one, is a continuous cycle or people joining and leaving. A-TOM has had its shares of transitions, but I don’t view an employee’s departure negatively. It simply means that they have found a new platform to make the best out of themselves.

A business is similar to an ecosystem such as a rainforest, where each living being has a specific role to fulfill. Rain forest and its diverse life forms build and sustain a genetically abundant and stable cycle, which in turn becomes a part of the earth’s greater cycle. Human society works in a similar way in which diversity is crucial to its growth and development. Diversity is what keeps the cycle running, and despite its ups and downs.

I believe that this continuance is a work of the Invisible Hand. Despite the lack of calculated plans by the most educated, this world continues to find its equilibrium and stays on its natural course. This pre-established harmony is what keeps the world turning, balancing out the times of peace and conflict.

The Invisible Hand is a well-known economics metaphor, coined by a British economist, Adam Smith, in which he claims that actions based on self-interest by individuals eventually result in benefitting the economy as a whole. However, this term has been misinterpreted over time and many people believe it means, that the economy will be just fine as long as the market is free, or a laissez-faire economy, but this is far from what Smith had implied.

Smith promotes free market, but he also believed that this should be practiced with the bottom line that people uphold a moral standard where a wealth of the nation is determined by the prosperity of the entire population. In short, this system is doomed if the people are lacking in moral, and only seeks self-benefit at the price of others. This is not only true in economics, but in any social setting. When a person wishes for a life of fulfillment and happiness, they realize having compassion and wishing the same for others is crucial in this pursuit.

What does it take for a nation as a whole to be prosperous? This is a challenge similar to that of a businessowner. What must a business do for all of its employees to live rich and enjoy their work? I believe that this can be attained when all the employees have compassion for one another, in other words have a sense of mindfulness.

In business, mindfulness might sound like a customer service protocol, but business is driven by teamwork, requiring each person to fulfill a role based on their talent, skills and experience. Mindfulness comes in play when seeking out roles to be fulfilled and stepping up to it. I see mindfulness as a cross between a rational thoughtfulness and readiness to take action. In team sports, players must make calculated passes to their teammates who can most likely score or assist in it. Same is true in business where employees’ mindfulness results in success as a company and be valued by the community.

Mindfulness comes from stepping into someone’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective. This can only be achieved with love for friends, colleagues, clients, customers and people. Having unwavering love is what makes a business last, grow and continue.

At A-TOM, good friends have joined us, but some have also left. It is always sad to see people go, but I see it like pruning a tree. A tree full of heavy branches won’t reach its full potential and needs to be pruned. The pruned branches are used for grafting or transplanted to support the next generation, just as A-TOM alums find new roles and thrive in their new environment. It makes me proud to see the friends who left A-TOM creating our future in the greater circle of life and I want to support them with all my love.

At the end of the day, love is what makes business grow, what makes a happy workplace, and create a ripple effect from one business, to the community, society and the world that connect all the way to our sustainable future. In a future built based on love, economy will be stable, people will shun the self-centric winner-takes-all attitude, but instead will consider the happiness of others. Adam Smith was not writing a book on economy, but he was writing about fundamental love for all living beings. Business founded with love is enjoyable, kind to its people, and often times profitable. As the CEO, I intend to lead A-TOM and make bold moves with love and mindfulness.