Category Archives: Body

Mini-Habits: (Don’t) Break the Chain

I’ve been enjoying the Udemy app so much I have become an affiliate.

It’s been an app-y summer.   I’ve finished graduate school and though I am preparing to start a new career as a school librarian, there aren’t as many looming deadlines and forced readings as last year.   I’ve installed a few apps and I’m rolling with them:

  • Simply-e–which allows you to use your New York public library card to borrow books to read on my tablet
  • Epic–to get online picture books for my daughter
  •  Sworkit—provides a variety of workouts without a gym
  • Udemy–an app for learning new skills online from various content providers
  • Chains–an app that lets you track and maintain new habits

Using the Udemy website and app I’ve been  watching the “Mini Habits Mastery” course on Udemy.   In short,  this course explains that in order to create new positive habits you need to go teeny tiny and small.  (Thanks to Rob Schwarz, a friend and an NLP trainer who suggested the course.  You can reach out to him at rob.schwartz@gmail.com for more cool ideas).

Great course on how-to of building mini habits

The course has been worth it to me even though I’ve been mostly listening to it on my walks in Japan as opposed to watching the video content.   It’s been worth the price because it has allowed me to jump start some habits and think about how to maintain them.   The course itself really digs in deep in an informative and entertaining way so check it out.
However, the main point I’ve gotten from the course is that you have to go infinitely small to develop habits that you want to sustain you.   For example, if you want to get in shape, set the goal of doing one push up every day.  If you want to write, set a goal of writing fifty words a day.

The Mini Habits course does a much better job of explaining why you would want to do this.  However, here is my understanding of the power of mini-habits:

  • setting super-small goals and actually being able to do it every day ingrains life-long habits that can transform your life
  • tiny, do-able habits get you on the page, to the gym and lead to increased forward momentum
  • mini-habits encourage “bonus reps”and often lead to exceeding mini-habits
  • Mini habits help you to insure you have your “tools” out for further creation…my mini-habit may be to out the guitar in my hands for two minutes but it puts me in the position of playing more if I want to

 

Easy to use checklist with great quotes about the power of building habits

I have game-ified the Mini Habit process with Chains.cc, an app that lets you track your habits and try to create chains.   Every day that you practice your habit you swipe to the left on your the app and create a new link in the ongoing chain

 

When you turn your phone sideways you can see the chain of habits you are creating with cute images.

So far I haven’t broken a chain because it would be so sad to break the visual picture.  What’s more important is that I’ve gained some momentum on goals that have seemed formidable.   I signed up for some Udemy guitar courses and asked have practiced at least two minutes a day.  It’s just two minutes so why not keep the chain going?

So far I’ve noticed some powerful advantages to this chains and mini-habit fusion:

Picture your on going chains of success. Part of my success with this so far is not wanting to “break” the picture by skipping a mini-habit day.

  • It’s fun.   Because the daily goals are very low stake it’s easier to have s feeling of success at the end of the day.
  • Momentum leads to “bonus reps” as the authors of Mini Habits call it.  If I have the guitar out to do my two minutes it’s easier to do more.   The mini habits author explains not to secretly raise the bar because it’s the mini aspect of this system that makes it work.
  • The chain effect makes it harder to forget where I was, whether it is the latest blog idea or the names of te guitar strings.

So far it’s only been a week but it’s been a quiet but powerful way to change up my summer.   Hope you will join me.   Become part of the chain gang.

Let’s Get Physical: Samurai Moving

“Let’s get physical, physical..let me hear your body talk.”….Olivia Newton-John, metaphysicist and 80’s pop star.

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop.   Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up.   Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven't.   A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out.  Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop. Physical activity can be a form of review, which is really key to moving forward in your life.  The physical act of going through spaces wakens up ideas and possibilities.  Pick one space to “review.”  Throw out the irrelevant bring forth the joy.

A couple of posts ago I quoted Snoop Dog, and now I am quoting Olivia Newton-John.  Yeah.  That’s how I roll.  Just the other day I was reviewing my samurai notebooks, where I put ideas and borrowed inspirations and information.   As I often do, I use a timer to keep me moving through different tasks.  (Timeboxing, read about it later.)   I wondered whether I should time the physical act of getting an old notebook out of a storage space.   I decided to include it.

When you are making moves towards your goals, you are also making physical moves.  Yes, Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and sonnets and all that, but does anyone talk about how many times he had to sharpen his quill?   There are all of these unsung moves that needed to happen.   Do you want to play guitar?  Hey, you know the guitar is not going to get out of the bag by itself.

Ay, here’s the rub.  Sometimes making the physical move gets you a little further along your “goal.”  You’ve gone through the small act of getting the guitar out of the bag, you’ve tuned it, and strapped it around your neck.  Are you just going to put it back down?  Probably not.  This little physical motion is already giving you momentum.

Khatz over at AJATT taught himself Japanese in fifteen months.   A lot of how he explains he did that is physical.  Not only was he listening and watching Japanese all the time, his walls and bookshelves were covered in Japanese.  The key part is fun.  Yes, I get frustrated that I fumble over  “stretch” activities I am learning on the guitar.   But once I have that guitar strapped around my shoulders, I make time to actually “play” with the guitar.

Make it so that you literally trip on the material you want to become. Inside you will find two lightweight notebooks (one current and one for review), a Japanese book on guitar, and random junk. :)

Make it so that you literally trip on the material you want to become. Inside you will find two lightweight notebooks (one current and one for review), a Japanese book on guitar, and random junk. 🙂

Part of the game becomes finding ways to “physical-ize” your goals.  Here are some of my recent moves:

  • leaving a music theory book underneath my laptop so I there is more of a chance that I will look at it
  • making sure I always have a Japanese book in my “man-bag”
  • leaving a travel-sized guitar in the closet at work….buying a $20 tuner . . . after all the work is done for the day I try to spend 15-20 minutes…reviewing and/or farting around
  • making sure that the battery on my computer at the Writer’s Room stays charged at 80-90%.  This means I need to show up everyday and work
  • make Netflix work by constantly having Japanese DVD’s in my laptop
  • keep various “study” and “fun” windows open on the browser so they are just there

Make 2013 the year when you get physical with your goals.  Let me hear your body talk. Body talk.  🙂

Create Your Own Microclimate but Don’t Live In a Bubble

As I write this post, the streets are teeming with people jostling and getting ready for the possible onslaught of the “Frankenstorm” Hurricane Sandy.   I hope it is just the hyperbole of the century.  I’m trying not to get sucked in to the news, into Facebook, etc.  It’s good to stay informed but the news and media have certain pull that can debilitate with fear and fascination.

 

Miraculously, no one was injured when this building’s facade came crashing down. This building is on the way to my walk to the Writer’s Room. The real damage from this storm was on the subway system, Staten Island, the Rockaways, and on the Jersey Shore.

You can spend your whole life

building something from nothing

One storm can come and

blow it all away . . .

Build it anyway.   — song quoted in Steve Chandler’s  Wealth Warrior

[11/03/12 Hurricane Sandy was devastating to the region, but I wanted to keep my words up there as a little time capsule of where my mind was before the storm.   (Even the title is ironic.   I can create my own microclimate, but I live in a world where the climate is bigger than me.)   My family and I were okay except for minor inconveniences:   neighborhood grocery stores without power, no cable service, etc.  Folks got hit hard in New Jersey and New York (especially the Rockaways and Staten IslandFor folks who can get away from families and take action here are some recommendations.   If you are reading this after the area has recovered consider giving to the Red Cross, the United

Compared to other folks in the region, we had to deal with minor inconveniences. No subway, local grocery stores without power, and gas shortages. Luckily, I could walk to a neighborhood with power and get groceries for my family.

Way and many of the organizations listed here so they can continue to serve and prepare for future disasters.]

I recently received a copy of Wealth Warrior by Steve Chandler.  I agree with a few of the political points Chandler makes out but I really appreciate the distinction he makes around how CREATORS deal with their media climate versus reactors:

CREATORS create their own community

*  create their own media resource list

*  create a lot of silence zones

* create periods of solitude . . . .

REACTORS turn on the so-called news and REACT to it

*  go to every new movie no matter how violent, frightening or gross, and react to it

*  react to whatever gets posted that day in social media

There’s a line between being informed and being totally drained by the news and social media.  I haven’t figured out how to surf that line.   As Hurricane Sandy approached, I followed the news and did my best to inform friends and former students to pay attention.  As it hit and in the aftermath, I continued to monitor the news and social media to see how my friends and former students (some who live in evacuation zones) were doing and to inform people about food distribution zones.  But after a while, following so much media and not taking any action was just draining.

The Writers Room had no power and no working elevator so I didn’t have my usual quiet “mad scientist in the lab time.” On one of my grocery runs, I spent an hour at a manga cafe to enjoy the normalcy of studying Japanese and doing my “reps.” Sometimes you need to “power up” with quiet time for yourself.

Yesterday, I took a modified media break.  I just took a few minutes every hour to check on what was going on.   At one point, I just took a long nap and lingered in bed.  (Not an easy thing to accomplish with children.)  I studied Japanese and shuffled around websites.   It was a luxury that many people in the area can’t afford, but what good am I going to be the world if I arrive exhausted, stressed out and on information overload?

Be on the lookout for media overload in your life.   How can you serve if you don’t know who YOU are amongst all the media chatter?  Make time for silence.  Create your own media micro-climate but don’t stay in a bubble.   Power down so you can power up and be a steady shining light.

Little Moves, Great Power: Lessons from the Cowardly Samurai

If I were to really be a samurai, I would probably be a samurai during the Tokugawa era, when the country was pretty much unified and most samurai were bureaucrats sitting around in the entertainment district trying to write haiku or decide which spot would be best for lunch.   Everything I learned about the fighting arts I learned from two weeks of Aikido. (and when I got tricked into learning to fight by a slow moving Chinese guy–see below)   I left my gi at the dojo almost 18 years ago.  If you see it,  it’s mine.

This is the only evidence of my martial arts “prowess.” I stopped going to the Tai Chi studio over five years ago, however I still do a set of exercises called Nei Kung. I also dispense advice based on my superficial knowledge of these arts. 🙂

I may not have a fighting license, but I do have a poetic license which allows me to dispense Aikido life lessons.  If you’d like to skip my stories and metaphors here is the “Little Moves, Great Power” cheat sheet:

  • “stretching” is activity
  • you have to learn how to fall
  • a little each day is better than nothing
  • slow helps you go fast
  • one small mastered move can transform the potential of your power
  • you don’t always have to fight head-on– roll with the force of the obstacles
  • stay grounded but loose

“Stretching” is activity/learning

When I started Aikido, I thought it was pretty funny that we started the class with little hand stretches.  One of them involved putting the thumb of one hand on the back of the palm and torking the wrist a little bit.   Then I saw one of the master teachers use that very hand stretch to flip a dude on to his back.   Don’t underestimate the power of whatever stretch activity is part of what you are trying to expand in your life.   Guitar scales and warm ups have the power to transform your playing.  Brainstorming and free-writing could change the way you write.  Shadowing, babbling, and playing around can put the sizzle in learning a foreign language.

 

You have to learn how to fall

In addition to those puny little hand stretches, the Aikido folks also practice how to fall.  They practice rolling into the falls to avoid injury and also as a defensive/offensive strategy.  What a perfect metaphor for learning.   When it “doesn’t work out” how are you going to fall?  Ready to spring up again and try a different approach or are you going to leave your uniform at the dojo and never return again? (Like a certain person I know?)

A little each day is powerful

Many years later I stumbled across a Tai Chi center near my old neighborhood in Hell’s Kitchen.  Hey, this is Tai Chi, I thought, it’s gotta be easy.  C.K. Chu, the sifu, would come around and teach me a new move each day I came and I kept adding to the form.  Uhm, ouch.

I stumbled on to the Tai Chi Chuan Center in the late 90’s. A wonderful, quiet place in the heart of Times Square, with dedicated but not pushy teachers and students. Photo from http://www.ckchutaichi.com/chu.shtml.

Slow helps you go fast

Eventually I learned that if you sped up the Tai Chi form it is actually a fighting art.  I thought Tai Chi was something I could do while my crystals were getting patchoulied.  But then one day sifu showed us how those curvy little moves are actually powerful thrusts and parries.   Big surprise.  Going slow can be challenging and helpful in many fields.  In guitar, using a metronome and practicing difficult moves at a very slow tempo and then graduating to a faster tempo can build accuracy and fluency.

Khatzumoto at AJATT is quick to mention the power of small but also mentions that you shouldn’t wait for magic bullets and magic methods.  He suggests in “Three Minutes Of . . .” that you work small and:

  • Don’t hold your breath until you figure out some mythical, I dunno, “Aryuvedic”, “correct” way of breathing
  • Don’t stop drinking water until you analyze every brand that exists
  • Don’t get it right. Get it started. Don’t get it good. Get it going. Don’t get it finished. Touch it. Don’t do it. Do three minutes of it.

Don’t wait for your mojo to get to the dojo.

You don’t always have to fight head-on–roll with the force of obstacles

Part of Aikido and Tai Chi/Push hands is learning how to roll with the force of your opponent and use it as part of your defense.  The force of your opponent’s punch with the rightly guided defense move can be used against your opponent.  (At least that’s what they told me 🙂 )   It makes me think that as far as learning tools you need to find ways to roll with the resistances to learning and use them.  Are you too busy reading trashy Hollywood celebrity news to learn French?  Find French celebrity news websites and look at all the trashy pictures.  Two birds. No stone. No killing.

Tai Chi works on more levels than I can write or even know about. It is supposed to activate “chi” and help your health. However, I was surprised by how most of the moves were powerful fighting moves. Key to all of this is staying grounded and fluid at the same time. Image from CK Chu Tai Chi.

Stay grounded but loose

The other day I was talking to a fellow dad at the playground.  He used to be a boxer and he still trains.  We were relaxing and talking while our little ones were playing in the sandbox and he made a point and brushed me on the shoulder.  He nearly knocked me off my feet.   The great ones in any field are grounded in their field but loose.  They “fly like a butterfly but sting like a bee.”  Whatever you are learning, analyze and master the basics but stay loose, stay grounded, find the different angles, and enjoy!

The Happiness Decision: Samurai Book Review

Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.  –Ben Hogan

  • You don’t have to “feel”happy to put your mind in happy places.
  • Focusing on happiness is a decision.
  • It’s possible that happiness is a habit of turning your mind to positive places.  There is also a key role for tears.  Sometimes you need to wring out a wet towel before putting it in the dryer.
  • The happiness decision may help you learn more.  Earn more?
  • Learning more may help your happiness.  It’s an unvicious cycle.

I’m back in New York and writing out of the Writer’s Room.  It has a lot more sunlight than the cave-like atmosphere of a manga cafe. My laptop, copies of the books in the post and two of my samurai notebooks. Samurai notebooks are more fun to review when you fill it with fun, personally thought provoking and inspiring material. What is in your notebook is a happiness decision.

For a few weeks now I’ve been walking around with two Japanese books in my “man-bag” and realizing that there is a strong connection between the two books but not quite being able to put my finger on it.  Today I finally realized what was the connection.  Happiness is a decision and it can help you transform everything that you do, especially with learning and transforming your life.

My dose of soy sauce translation of the two book titles are:  Only Do Good Things with Your Brain by Ken Mogi (脳にいいことだけをやりなさい!)and Speed up Your Information Rate by 10 Times with the NLP Speed Reading Method by Naoya Matsushima (情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術).  (Keep in mind that I am in day 457 of a 595 Japanese immersion experience.  Some day I will throw more English resources at you.)

Only Do Good Things with Your Brain by Ken Mogi (脳にいいことだけをやりなさい! )

Ken Mogi is a Japanese brain scientist and prolific writer and talk show host.   This book is slightly more technical, so I find it hard to keep really give the full meaning of it to you.  (I am also only in the middle of the book.  Yeah, I break the rules but at least I tell you!)  But it is pretty clear from on of the first drawings that Mogi believes that happiness is, in part, a decision. Part of the reason I picked the book is because it has pictures  (all is fair in love and reading!).   The first picture shows a happy person with the happiness lgauge on full blast.  The illustration below that is an unhappy person (fumes emanating all around him) with the happiness full gauge on low.   The final illustration on the bottom shows a person changing a control gauge (like an old fashioned volume control) from bottom to high.   The phrase at the bottom reads:  脳の中にある「幸せど度」いつでも変えられる or “You Can Always Change the Degrees of Happiness in Your Brain.”

How do you do this?  The second illustration tells you how.  It hows a person who has built a happiness house:

  • The foundation is “elimination of negative thinking.”
  • The supporting pillars are:  positive thinking, love and gratitude, the body’s energy (breath, position, etc), and “grabbing big power” (?)  「大いなる力」とのつながり。
  • The roof is goals for living.
  • There is a nice yard around the house and that is labelled, relationships with people.

All of these things interact and Mogi spends the rest of the book describing certain techniques for developing happiness.  Just looking at the picture makes me happy.

Speed up Your Information Rate by 10 Times with the NLP Speed Reading Method by Naoya Matsushima (情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術)

Matsushima’s book is a guide to help busy, overwhelmed or under-motivated readers increase their reading speed and increasing their information retention.  Matsushima, being an NLP guy, emphasizes the importance of getting in the right state of mind for reading and argues that one of the reasons people have problems with reading is all the negative associations they have with reading.  He offers several exercises for using breathing and body posture for changing your state of mind before reading.

But what is most interesting to me is that he asks readers to pick a happy moment and think about and feel it with all the senses before commencing with reading.   Happiness is an active decision that can help you learn more and experience joy through learning, if I follow Matsushima’s book correctly.

This happiness decision might be worthwhile in other areas.   In  100 Ways to Create Wealth, the authors explain that you should always “move to the part of the work that you love.”   This is a happiness decision that can result in improved efficiency, service, and even the ability to more easily transition to work that you love.

If you make the happiness decision then maybe you can experience more creativity in your life. Self-loathing and criticism aren’t going to help you. I finally got around to getting out my Japanese guitar books. Learning through love. Trying to make the happy decisions. Many birds, no stone. Online Guitar Lessons

I will warn you that the day I made the connection with all of this happiness stuff,  I was grouchier than the Grouch.  I also believe there is a role for crying and other forms of expressing other emotions.   Sometimes you need to wring out a soaked towel before you put it in the dryer.

But it’s nice to be able to make more decisions to move towards happiness.   Heck, it might even get addictive and help to you to transform the world.

Happy Feelings Bring Happy Learnings

Yes, I guess my mind is turning into a Japanese t-shirt.  That’s a good thing  While I’m at it, here is a whole string of truisms coming at ya:

  • Do what you love and love what you do.
  • Love what you learn and learn what you love.
  • Bored or frustrated with what you are learning?  Here are two options:  change what you are learning or change your mind.
  • Fun doesn’t mean easy.

The other day I was doing my Chinese exercises by the beach and was graced by both the sight Mount Fuji and a fleeting glimpse of a rainbow.  I caught it all on my iPhone.  In between Nei Kung sets, I did little flashcard reviews using my Midori app.   In these brief little sprints, I stop when a word repeats or when I get bored.  (AJATT and other immersion experts recommend studying sentences rather than single words but I enjoying having little bursts of vocabulary exercise.)

Rainbow!

Sometimes the clouds just lift and you can see Mt. Fuji

As I went through the cards, I noticed that I was really  remembering the cards I had some fond, personal connection to rather than the cards I just collected by more formal ‘studying.’   I remembered that どじょう was loach fish (wth?) because it was a word I had collected while my daughter was singing karaoke with my father-in-law.   I could picture the cartoon face. Last night I looked up ひやひや (chilly or fearful) and can remember that it was a word a Japanese ping pong player used to describe her team’s close game.

Love what you learn and learn what you love.

It’s a non-vicious cycle.   Turn to the things that you want to learn and master (guitar, economics, starting your own business, the interwebs) and it makes it easier to learn.   Turn to the things that you love, and it will help you learn (and do) more.   My Japanese ‘studies’ improved when I decided to use it to read self-help books, my guilty pleasure.

Change what you are learning or change your mind.

Change it up.   AJATT has a hilarious post called,  ‘That Righteous Feeling, Or: If You’re Not Feeling Naughty, You’re Doing It Wrong.’  Khatzumoto basically argues that if you are reading a book in your target language out of duty or obligation instead of fun, you are actually hurting your learning efficiency.   I think this is true even if you aren’t learning a language.

I think it’s also possible to change your mind about what you are learning and ask what’s the fun in this?  Sometimes I get a lot more out of just reading the table of contents of a Japanese book rather than boring myself by struggling through every page and killing my desire to read.  Everything is fair in love, reading, and learning.

Fun doesn’t mean easy.

Kenichiro Mogi, author of several books on the the brain ( 脳)  loves  to talk about the dopamine effect.  He explains that overcoming mental hurdles and challenges releases endorphins and dopamine that create feelings of happiness.  It’s why some people love video games, mountain climbing and even algebra.

A  lot of people idolize Jimi Hendrix as a rock god.  (Yes, I am not worthy.)  But what a lot of people don’t acknowledge is all the hours of work that he put in to play the guitar so well.  He walked around his apartment with his guitar strapped on.  And he didn’t forget the fun.  Hard work + love + fun= dope (dopamine)

Learn what you love and love what you learn.  Become the Jimi Hendrix of your life.  Climb the mountain!  Catch the rainbow!
Online Guitar Lessons

I ‘caught’ the rainbow!

 

Zen–Suggestions for A Simple Life

Samurai Book Review/Preview:  禅、シンプル生活のすすめ or  Zen:  Suggestions for Simple Living by Shunnmyo Masuno

Half the fun/learning is just browsing. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the book was Zen based. (I read everything but the biggest kanji on the cover.)

I am going back to the roots of Samurai Mind Online.   When I began this blog I was inspired by Japanese self-help writers as way to learn how to use my mind better while learning Japanese .  I was browsing through a Numazu bookstore and found a nice little pocket sized book.   It was until I got home that I actually noticed the biggest kanji on the cover and realized it was a Zen based book.  Samurai score!

I am enjoying just reading the chapter titles.   The chapters are bite-sized but I haven’t gotten around to reading the  innards.   There are some great hints for leading a powerful, simple life.  Here are a few of my faves.  As always, take my translations with a dash of soy sauce.   Use it for your life or for your sentence sampling if you are studying Japanese.

  1. 十五分、早起きしてみるーーTry waking up fifteen minutes earlier.
  2. 朝の空気をしっかり、味わうーーReally take in the morning air.
  3. 脱いだ靴を整えるーーWhen you take off your shoes, arrange them neatly
  4. いらない物を捨てるーーGet rid of things that you don’t need
  5. デスクの上整える^^Arrange your desk neatly (uh-oh)
  6. 一杯のコーヒ^を丁寧に淹れる–Serve Up Your Coffee Mindfully
  7. 食事をおろそかにしないーーDon’t neglect your meals
  8. 食事では、一口ごとに箸を置くTake Only One Bite-Full with Your Chopsticks
  9. 好きな言葉を探す^^Search for Words That You Really Like
  10. 持物を減らすーーReduce the Amount of Stuff You Carry Around
  11. ベランダに小さいな庭をつくるーーCreate a Small Garden on Your Veranda
  12. 自分の手で自然に触れるーーTouch Nature With Your Hands
  13. 寝る前は嫌いなことを考えないーーDon’t Think About Negative Things Before You Go to Sleep

    My Un-Zen desk at the Manga Cafe.

  14. 今できることを一生懸命にやるーーDo everything you are doing now with gusto
  15. ときには、考えるをやめてみるーーTry to Stop Thinking Every Now and Then
  16. 起こっていないことで悩みないーーDon’t Worry About Things That Haven’t  Happened Yet
  17. 仕事を楽しむーーEnjoy your work
  18. 悩むより動くーーMovement is better than worry
  19. 人と比べないーーDon’t Compare Yourself to (Other) People
  20. 平凡な一日こそ、感謝するーーBe Grateful for the Average, Every Day Things in Life

This book didn’t make my browsing cut but I like the message. I think the title is something like ‘Nothing is Pointless.’ More Buddhist self-help, please!

Of course, this all brings me to the question:  Is Zen Zen because its Japanese or are the Japanese Japanese because of Zen?  The answer is probably yes.

Will all of this help you?  I don’ know.  I do know my mother in-law is thrilled I neatly arranged the shoes.  🙂

Push, Relax, Have Fun, Repeat: How I ‘Read’ Japanese News

Here’s a quick little Samurai success formula to take on whatever you want to do or  know more about in life:

  • Push.  Find little windows where you can push yourself to learn a little more and push.   Write down a new word, concept, do push ups until you are tired.
  • Relax.  Congratulations on pushing yourself.   Take a few breaths or a nap.  A relaxed learner learns more than a self-loathing ball of nervousness.
  • Have Fun.   Find a fun angle on what you are trying to learn, do, or accomplish.  Find a comic book version of what you are trying to learn.  Zumba!  (WTH!)
  • Repeat.  Go back to the seat of the crime and take a fresh samurai stab at it all.  Be persistent like water, grasshopper.

Yesterday’s Yomiuri. A foreign newspaper can seem scary, but it can also be a game. You can look at pictures can’t you. Any goal has opportunities for pushing and having fun.

Case in point–the Yomiuri News.   Yomiuri Shinbun is kind of like the Japanese Wall Street journal.  It’s the most interesting newspaper lying around my father-in-law’s house.   I already know a lot of kanji and a lot of Japanese vocabulary, but if I try to read every page my eyes start to swim in desperation and confusion.

But all is not lost.  My vocabulary has increased since doing AJATT but what has also changed is my attitude.  I’ve begun to take on Japanese newspapers.

Bad stuff happening in Syria and the ongoing mess at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Yomiuri is the best paper in the house and I’ve decide to at least open it every day.   Push.  I scan the headlines and pictures for things that interest me.   Have fun.  I find a story that interests me and find one word or more that I don’t understand and look it up with my iPhone app, Midori. At the touch of a screen I instantly add it to my flashcards.  This word will be with me for a while.   Push.  I start to feel like it’s turning into homework and I Relax.   I like reading the small ads at the bottom of Yomiuri hawking all sorts of diet, sports, business, and self-help books.  I enjoy the language of promises and I also like the bite-sized、digestible bites they come in.  Have fun.  The newspaper comes again the next day and I Repeat.  PRHR! (Like a cat with spelling issues.)

The ads are like little candies. Small and chewy!

I’m hoping to PRHR through more of I want to learn:  financial and investment literacy, Spanish, and playing guitar.    Today Yomiuri, tomorrow the world.

Cut Through Indecision: Let Go and Let Samurai

“Chase two rabbits and lose them both” (nito otte itto mo ezu). This Japanese proverb is a graphic picture of the mind which is divided in its purpose, and therefore loses that which it would gain . . .

In the martial arts, the hesitant abiding mind is considered to be the most vulnerable to attack. The main thing is to get moving. You cannot balance on a bicycle unless you are in motion. Once you are moving you can adjust your course. . ..  William Reed. Aikido expert and business consultant

 

So many rabbits too little time. I spent the day at Makai Farms in Fujinomiya. Language immersion and family time. Killing two rabbits with one stone? Ouch!

Indecision can be a time and motivation killer.  I know.  I struggle with it every day.  Sometimes I lose precious time playing around with Japanese because I agonize about which would be the right method.   Should I finish a japanesepod101.com or iknow.co.jp lesson or should I do something fun in Japanese.   If I decide to ‘have fun’ in Japanese, I agonize about what would be fun.

The key would be to keep moving, as Samurai Renaissance William Reed explains.   As I’ve explained before, I am currently doing Silverspoon, a a subcription program where I get daily recommendations of what to do and study in Japanese.  Khatzumoto, the webmeister behind AJATT, deftly calls it structure without stricture.  I like having a structure not just to have a structure but also because it gives me something to rebel against.   You want me to watch anime all day today?  Eff it…I think doing a japanesepod101.com lesson might be more fun today.

A friend recently asked me what I would do to create a program to get more people writing.  One of the main suggestions I offered is to simply get a timer and write.   I am not Shakespeare but I am writing.   When I get stuck writing about a specific project, I get out my timer and go to the ‘blurts’ section of my documents and complain, scream, whine.   Many times I come up with ideas for chapters or blog posts.  Sometimes the blurts are just kitty litter、but at least I am moving.   ‘ Once you are moving you can adjust your course.’

We spent some time at the sheep races. Which sheep to pick? Indecision. As Khatzumoto says. ‘Just pick. Click. Move on with your life.’ 🙂

In his article, Action is Easy.  Decision is Hard Khatzumoto puts it more bluntly:

So stop being such a queen and just pick whatever. Decide. Either way, it’s easy in that all action in your cushy, sedentary life is easy. It’s easy to do; it’s easy not to do, and — now that you’ve given up the duh-rama — it’s easy to pick as well.

Go on, timebox it. 90 seconds. Pick. Click. Move on with life.

Take out your Samurai katana and cut through indecision and do something in the direction of your dreams.   And, if you see me on the road vacillating, give me a swift kick in the samurai.

Samurai Dance

“Every day I count wasted in which there has been no dancing.”–Friedrich ‘Shake What Your Momma  Gave You’  Nietzsche

I’m staying with my wife and my daughters in a a little town called Yui.  It’s famous for it’s Sakura ebi shrimp and the fact that it is shown on NHK television when the waves from a approaching typhoon crash across the interprectural highway.   It is a good trip.  In the mornings I’ve been able to get away and hike among the farms.  I’m living the slug life, yo.  

Have you ever watched a Studio Ghibli movie and watched a cartoon slug wander down a plant. They are slimier in real life.

I can tell it’s a good trip because when my daughters play with their cousins, they vehemently tell me to go away.

We are also here to enjoy the matsuri or festivals.   This weekend, at night this sleepy little town is transformed into a festival of lights.  My shaky little iPhone pics won’t do justice to it.

My daughter, Sakura, especially enjoys 盆通り, or bondori.   This is basically a festival dance.   Anyone can come dance around the yagura, a large beautifully lit central platform where the musicians and drummers play.   

Yagura

The central platform around which bondori dancers dance. There’s something primal in a maypole kind of way about this kind of festival dance.

There are different dances but it usually involves stylized hand and arm movements and very little moving of the hips.   What I love about this festival is how many different types of people come.   It’s cool to watch tough guys twirl their hands delicately in the air.   (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)   It’s kind of amazing that people have been coming to dance together for hundreds of years.

Last night I saw an old couple dancing.   The woman was pushing his wheelchair in the general directions that the other dancers were moving.  The man’s had moved like eagles above his wheelchair. 

That’s how I want to live–grasping every minute that I can to dance in some way.    It’s why I woke up this morning and walked to the hills and farms above the local zen temple.   It’s why I swim through lameness totry to keep on writing.  Join me.  Keep dancing. 

Yui

Above the zen temple–from the hills where you can really see far.