President's Message at the 2017 New Employees' Initiation Ceremony

April 3, 2017

Good morning. I am Masahiro Okafuji, President & CEO of ITOCHU Corporation.
Today, I am very happy to welcome 149 new colleagues to our Company: 142 of you in career positions and 7 in clerical positions. This year’s recruitment again revealed that many people aspire to join ITOCHU Corporation as we received numerous applications.
Each of you has superbly cleared the major hurdles of stiff competition in being selected to join ITOCHU.

Well, everybody, are you familiar with the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”? Looking up this phrase in a dictionary shows that it means a person who has dabbled in many areas, being moderately skillful, but has never attained success because of giving up on all of them halfway through. There are skillful people in all areas of life. People who are skillful in whatever they try their hand at tend to have difficulty developing tenacity. Their half-way conceit causes them to be deficient in ambition, and for better or worse they give up trying before completing a challenge.
You often see people who have gone to all the trouble of joining a company and then leave for another job before they reach a high-ranking position only to start from the beginning again at their new company. However, when it comes to clumsy people, they have an awareness of being clumsy and do not get depressed if they can’t do something properly. They are able to continue patiently focusing on one thing, rather than trying to do many things. Ultimately, though, compared to dexterous people, persistence and ability to persevere enables their rise and these clumsy people end up attaining success. Clumsiness is a wonderful ability and can be the optimum weapon in guiding your life.

I would like everybody to first concentrate on the work you have been given by the department to which you are assigned and aim to become a professional in that field. Regardless of the work in which you are engaged, throwing yourself into that work, taking on challenges, achieving results, and becoming a professional in that field is the first step toward becoming the type of human resource capable of succeeding in any industry at all in the future.

Moreover, in patiently focusing on one single type of work, you will inevitably encounter obstacles. You will probably have to confront these trials not just once or twice, but many times over. The second thing I would like to talk about is what you should do when you are going through an ordeal. For instance, think about running a marathon. Where is the fun in running a marathon? Why do marathon runners go through the struggles of running for 42.195 kilometers? In the sport of marathon running, there’s a tendency to think that distress increases the more time passes from the start toward the finish, but this isn’t actually the case; apparently, once the most difficult time has passed, there is a point where the body feels at ease. This is called the “runner’s high,” which is when the body feels light and it’s easy to run. This sensation is deeply embedded in the marathon and is unforgettable for runners, so they take on the challenge of running marathons in the hope of experiencing the feeling once again.
However, unless you’re building up these ordeals on a daily basis and getting to experience what it’s like to overcome these dead points, it’s not possible to experience pleasures like a runner’s high. Work is exactly the same. People who have experience in overcoming dead points on a daily basis know what it’s like to experience the moment of pleasure that follows them, and therefore are filled with a power to “give it one extra effort.” Consequently, from now on when you’re working and about to give up, first continue striving until you reach a dead point. When you think it’s unbearable and too hard to go on, it’s important to remind yourself that you are currently going through the dead point and that if you overcome it things will become easy.

Clumsiness can be a powerful weapon to guide one toward success in life, and those who are armed with this weapon can concentrate on giving their all to the job they have been given. Moreover, these people will grow by accumulating the experience of overcoming the obstacles they come up against, and become recognized by everybody as a full-fledged sogo shosha person.

All of you have been gathered here today because you are expected to possess the merchant spirit of ITOCHU Corporation, a mercenary band that constantly pioneers the future. I hope that you are confident and proud of the fact that you were chosen to be here and that you will demonstrate your abilities to the fullest extent possible.
This year, ITOCHU, which is proud of being the sogo shosha with the longest history, will mark 159 years since its foundation. I would like each and every one of you to have the great backbone to believe that you are engaged in work that is going to contribute a new chapter in the annual rings of ITOCHU, which has long been built up by your predecessors, as you start out in your ITOCHU life. I welcome you and congratulate you on joining ITOCHU Corporation.