My mom prepares a traditional Japanese feast every New Year's Day called Osechi Ryori. Once Christmas is over, the aroma of soy sauce, sake, and sugar fills the house as my mom toils for days preparing the food. The taste and textures are perplexing, but there is symbolism to each dish, and my dad would talk about how this food would bring us good fortune in the new year.
This year, my daughter challenged me to create traditional Osechi Ryori with her and give my aging mom a well-deserved break. I was reluctant as I was unfamiliar with the ingredients, let alone the cooking techniques. It was one thing to be accustomed to this ritual but entirely another to be responsible for a year's worth of good luck for the family.
But this was not a typical year, and we were already in year two of living in a world turned upside down, so I figured, why not. We set out to find easy-to-follow recipes (thank you, internet) and made copious lists and notes. We planned the menu, determined how to set the table, and made three trips to the Japanese grocery store.
Fast forward to the end, everything turned out wonderfully. The ratio of carrots to radish in the daikon carrot salad was misjudged (too much carrot). The shiitake mushroom caps were not cut into hexagons (resembling turtles to symbolize longevity). Still, the flavors were on point, and the presentation was delightful. I always enjoy spending time in the kitchen with my daughter, but this was a watershed moment. My mom officially passed the baton to the next generation.
Next generation of leaders
The experience of preparing Osechi Ryori shares many parallels with my experience at work. My team comprises mainly of Millennial project leaders, and it’s been gratifying to watch them learn to navigate the murky waters of corporate hell. Month after month, they become more finessed, more patient, more nuanced. But mostly, I notice that I’m increasingly ready to pass the baton to them officially with each passing year.
My New Year’s experience with my daughter is proof that you cannot calculate or prescribe transformations but that they occur at the right moment, often when you least expect it. When that time comes, you work hard, side by side, just as you have for many years past, but when the project ends, you know that the next generation has ascended into the leadership role.
What an excellent end to a challenging year. May the Year of the Tiger bring you courage and bravery. 2022 will be the year to go big or go home, so Bitches, let’s go BIG!