On Improvement

One of my favorite authors is Nobuyuki Fukumoto. One of these themes he touches on frequently is the road to personal growth and the many obstacles in the way of self improvement. This comes up over and over again in one of his most popular works – Kaiji.

The concept behind Kaiji is simple – some random deadbeat who’s never accomplished anything in his life finds himself in life or death gambles for a chance to win millions. The story beats are pretty similar from arc to arc: Kaiji is introduced to a new gamble. He finds himself overmatched and loses. Kaiji then reflects on his losses, figures out how his opponent managed to stack the deck in their favor, and builds a plan to counter them.

People who watch this and expect it to be about gambling are going to be disappointed. It’s not gambling in the sense that the results are random. In fact, it’s the opposite. Both Kaiji and his opponent never win by chance. They cheat to the best of their abilities in order to guarantee their outcome. The show in general is more of a guide for people to avoid stagnation. In order to succeed, you need to have a mindset that allows for improvement. Failure can come in two forms: one, from actions cause by one’s self. The other is outside causes. While we might not be able to affect all outside causes, we can fix the problems with ourselves. However, one of the obstacles in the way of self improvement is the excuses we make up to console our failures.

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