You don’t have to be a super hero. Just try a little bit every day.
Touch it everyday
Touch it. I want to touch it every day. This is my new winning strategy to skill acquisition. In previous posts I’ve been examining how I’ve been using the “Mini Habits Mastery” course in combination with the Chains.cc app to keep track of the new habits I want to make.
However, what I want to focus here is a little digital tool that can make a big difference–the streak. If you are going to win, you’ve got to make daily contact with your skill. Maintain a streak of “touching” your skill every day and make a big difference.
Feed the slow steady fire
If you can’t study a lot, at least maintain your streak of making contact with the skill. Duolingo, the language learning app boldly reminds you, “Learning a language requires practice every day.” Michael Palmisano, my guitar teacher at Udemy says in his video courses that it is better to do a little bit every day than to try to tackle it all and not build the muscle memory that daily practice takes.
I finally got around to picking up a copy of The Last Samurai: The Life and Times of Saigo Takamori. After watching the Hollywood Tom Cruise version of history, I realized it is time to get a real historian’s re-telling of this transitional period of history. Saigo Takamori is the “real” last samurai, who rebelled against the central government. Long story short, Takamori loses his head. The central government tries to find it but can’t. That becomes a problem.
For me reading this chapter was an opportunity to turn great history writing into a schlocky self-help mantra: How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Head. In truth, this is what this whole blog is about: how to move your mind and life forward without self-abuse.
One of the key germs for this life approach was All Japanese All the Time. I was beating myself up about how I wasn’t learning Japanese and stumbled upon this website. Khatz, the founder, explained that you could learn Japanese by doing more fun things in Japanese and through consistent but micro moves such as SRS flashcard reviews, and a whole host of techniques. What AJATT helped me to do was be gentler with myself and keep trying, probing, and most importantly looking for the fun opportunities.
I haven’t made learning Japanese a big priority though I still make it a daily habit. (I am treading water, but I still know a hell of a lot more than if I had kept on beating myself up.) However, through my AJATT methods I’ve learned how to get ahead without losing my head. Khatz explains in “Why are Third Rate Ideas Better than First Rate Ideas”:
Here’s the trick to making deep, long-term, self-directed language-learning work.
Don’t do ten good things.
Do one good thing. One day. At a time.
And not even a very good thing. Just a good enough thing. Just barely good enough.
I think this is a great idea for making “deep, long-term, self-directed” growth work in areas beyond language. Be gentle but push forward. The samurai mind notebook is a great way to do one good thing. Put your daily inspirations/vital information and review–just a little bit if you can’t do more.
Get ahead without losing your head.
I am rethinking networking. When networking comes from true connection, it’s about building bridges.
This is one of those cases where I’m going to give you advice about something I’m not actually too good at yet–networking. Part of the reason I may be developing in this area is because previously associated networking with oil and slickery–forced associations with others for personal gain. Then this summer, I met Tony Draper over the phone through an Introduction to Coaching class. He explained that the best way to network is to make genuine connections with people and groups. He made a couple of suggestions:
find groups that you are naturally attracted to rather than forcing yourself into a “networking” group–follow your interests
give most groups at least two tries–you may find your groove with the group on the second try
think in terms of “givers gain”—think in terms of how you can genuinely be of service to the group or members of that group–whether it is an important piece of information, a lead, or just your full attention
be genuinely curious about the members of the group
As I’ve tried to think about networking, part of what I’ve been doing is also thinking of the people that are genuine at their networking. My former writing teacher and author of Devil in the Hole, Charles Salzberg, is also a genuine networker. Whenever I have lunch with Charles he is inquisitive about my life and the lives of many people that he comes in contact with. He recommends the great work of his former students, friends and in turn has a good network of people who recommend his work. Charles works at promoting his writing, of course, but I think it goes a lot easier because of authenticity and connection that he has with people.
No. Phoney. Bologna. Who knows? Maybe 2014 will be the year that Juan got his Samurai Network on? In the meantime, I am grateful for the connections I have now. In the midst of this cold snap I thank you for being part of that and I wish you the deepest and most warm connections for 2014.
Positive questions, quotations, and thoughts aren’t necessarily to turn you into a happiness robot. It’s about shifting your internal tipping point. Photo: particle man from unprofound.com.
Though I am still on the fence about Words Can Change Your Brain, reading it inspired me to keep a “happiness journal.” Once a day since mid-October, I’ve been reviewing the day or the previous day and searching for three events or observations that made me happy. Nothing revolutionary is happening but what I find is that asking these questions and changing my focus and taking me towards a “tipping point” that often leads to a more positive direction for the day.
Lately, I’m finding a lot of “tipping point” thinking in a lot of the top holistic career books. What Color is Your Parachute explains for example:
In any situation, no matter how much we may feel we are at the mercy of vast forces out there,that are totally beyond our control, we can always find something that is within our control and work on that.
Laurence Boldt in Zen and the Art of Making a Living devotes a significant portion of his book asking readers to think about and tap into memories of when they have been powerful by recalling:
Times of great creativity.
Moments of commitment in the face of obstacles.
Times when they accomplished something in the face of discouragement from others.
Times of being so absorbed in projects that they didn’t notice the time passing.
I just stumbled across all these great thoughts in my samurai mind notebook. The great thing about keeping positive projects, thoughts and inspirations and reviewing them regularly is not that I turn into a “happiness robot” but that by reviewing and creating my notebooks, I regularly get challenged into a proactive stance.
Apparently these practices of searching for the good and powerful is endorsed by a field called positive psychology. Apparently, it might be good to build up your strong points and focus on daily moments of happiness, rather than focusing on what is “wrong” with you.
Obstacles and trying times will come. As Bob Marley wrote, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts don’t you complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts. Put your vision to reality!”
Ask powerful questions. Find three happiness moments. Find your samurai tipping point.
One little step. Take one small action. Make small the new “big.”
Right now it is December 10th but it feels like the New Year has already begun. I’ve joined a gym and I am actually going. I’ve initiated the process of exploring a spiritual community. I’m not waiting for the New Year to get moving on projects and ideas.
It all started by going through my book shelves. I finally realized that I was getting tired of having so many books that I hadn’t read. I made the decision to go through each shelf methodically, reading at least page in each book and stopping when I got bored with the whole process. Part of what has sparked so much learning these past few years has been my experience with All Japanese All the Time, which emphasizes working with working with the “neutrino” of small actions accumulating to immersion in Japanese. The “mediocre choice that leads to excellence” can be applied to other things that you want to shift in your life.
Once I started going through the simple act of one page of every book on my shelves, I experienced a quickening. I gave myself permission to stop but as I went through my books, the old dreams and inspirations were rekindled and I continued. When I got to the bottom of the shelf in my bedroom, I decided to make a pass around the whole apartment, slowly reviewing, cleaning, reorganizing, tossing, and reigniting ideas, projects and resources.
The new year is approaching and for some people it is a time to set big goals and make major transformations. But why not start the New Year now with some small action. Make small the new big and start by picking one “corner” to begin with. Clean out your purse (or murse). Be gentle with yourself. Celebrate and move on. Repeat. Make every day a New Years Day.
How can you water your dreams? Your mind? Your soul? Set up gentle “systems” for yourself to sustain growth and wonder.
I just finished my Building Your Personal Foundation course through CoachU, taught by Susan Abrams. I was excited and challenged and by the idea of creating “automatic sprinkler systems” to fulfill various needs. For example, I realized that one of my needs was energy. Last week I joined the YMCA located near by job. Oh yeah, and I actually went. Y-M-C-A!
Needs may not be completely satisfied but it seems that you can at least create systems that challenge you in that area and increase the potential of moving forward. For example, one of the needs that I isolated was the need for motivation and inspiration. I may not be motivated or inspired all the time but I have started to play with some systems and rituals that have the potential of kicking me back into motivation and energy. Here are some of my “systems”:
What I read–I’ve always been kind of a self-help book junkie but I’ve added a few titles to my kindle: Words Can Change Your Brain and Loving What Is. Both of these books were suggested by Susan Abrams. I keep the reading process fun. When I am no longer inspired by what I am reading I move on to the next title and then switch back.
Who I hang out with: people provide the frameworks and conversations that can motivate and inspire you. Part of the benefits of starting the coach training program is that I get to talk to people who are focused on moving forward I’ve also been experimenting with finding a positive spiritual community.
What I write and say: I am not censoring myself but I am playing around with something I call “Happiness Journal.” Inspired by a little page from Words Can Change Your Brain, I am taking time in the mornings and evening to write three things that made me happy.
Finally, I realized that my samurai mind notebook is actually one of my automatic sprinkler systems. If I put ideas from projects and quotations that excite me, review them regularly, I have those thoughts as part of the conversation. I may not listen to them but at least they may challenge the crappy mood and change the terms of what I think is possible.
What I like about everything that I’ve been hearing and encountering is that none of it commits me to becoming a happiness robot. All the work I’ve come across acknowledges that there will be periods of darkness and –err–shades of gray. I think the trick will be to set up “systems” that challenge the darkness without becoming inflexible or ignoring the depth and color of life. Join me. What are your sprinkler systems?
Actions may seem small but actions accumulate. Like water creating waterfalls, carving canyons and sustaining life.
Taking five minutes to do something you love or practice is more than a small act. Taking five minutes does more than place a bookmark in your life for important projects. “Five Minutes” is a revolutionary act because but because it can create a chain reaction that can last a lifetime.
There is something sublime about the power of small acts. Recently I’ve been taking a class called Building a Personal Foundation through Coachu.com. We have been focusing on taking steps to fix things big and small that we have been tolerating.
Last week, I reported that I what I had done for the week was small. I organized my man bag and cleaned out the spider’s web of old bags, spare change, and random papers that I had been lugging around the city. That small act actually started a whole process of going through my closets. In small chunks of time, I have been lowly and methodically throwing out unneeded materials and finding long forgotten resources.
When I reported this little victory our coach, Susan Abrams, asked me to examine the fact that I said that cleaning my bag had been a small act. She explained that even sewing on a button can be important as making a job change because it starts the chain of looking for changes. In times of great stress and overwhelm sometimes the best thing to do might be to set a timer for fifteen minutes and clean your desk or perform some equally small act.
Small has the potential to start a chain reaction. Khatzumoto over at AJATT.com started a language immersion service called Neutrino. Part of Khatzumoto’s philosophy is that you can learn a language through continuous small, neutrino sized bits of study, immersion, and fun.
Neutrinos are all part of the chain reaction. To think and act big, think and act small. Start your samurai mind chain reaction.
Overresponding doesn’t have to be hectic. Use your snail power.
In four more days, my family and I will leave Japan and we will be back in our semi-hectic work/school mode. I am spending more and more of my days preparing to teach rather than studying/immersing Japanese and doing all my other side projects. I needed a little self-help fun, though, and since I am taking classes at CoachU I decided to read a book byThomas Leonard, one of the founders of personal and career coaching.
I am still undecided about what I think about The 28 Laws of Attraction: Stop Chasing Success and Let it Chase You but I am happy to be doing some trashy self-help reading. However, one of Thomas Leonard’s ideas keeps getting stuck in my head: “By overresponding of overreacting, you evolve.” I”ve already gotten my money’s worth from getting that phrase in my head.
By overresponding, Leonard was talking about being fluid, active, and creative in confronting the issues and problems we come across. Leonard was unhappy with his chosen career as Certified Financial Planner. In the process of “overresponding” he became a personal coach and went on to start several coaching schools including Coachville before he passed away.
Another overresponder I constanly refer to is Khatzumoto over at All Japanese All the Time. He wanted to learn Japanese and “overresponded” to it by “by spending 18-24 hours a day doing something, anything in Japanese (“all Japanese, all the time”).” He emphasizes using fun materials as a way to actually learn Japanese.
Nowhere in Leonard’s book or Ajatt.com do I see anything encouraging you to flagellate or hate yourself as part of overresponding. That is overreacting. Overreacting stops action, even fun actions that can help you develop your skill, learn a language, or move a business or life forward. Even when overreacting leads to action, the negative crud attached to it can lead to resistance or worse.
I don’t write this as someone who has mastered the practice of overresponding vs. overreacting. I’m just a motivational blogger who lives down by the Hudson River. The truth is that some days I am just a hot mess. I’m writing this to motivate myself because any time I stop listening to the drama and pick up my pen, my guitar, or a fun Japanese book, the universe smiles and a puppy is rescued from a grizzly death.
Become an overresponder. The life that you save may be your own. Or a puppy.
Cans of oxygen to get you to the last steps of the climb up Mt. Fuji. Sometimes you need to go beyond the edge to the WTF territory. Get lost, disoriented, and helpless. Metaphorically speaking. 🙂
My last post was about not using force and having fun. I still stand behind what I think I said. 🙂 But I would also like to advocate for “forcing” yourself into totally new WTF environments.
I came up with that idea in a Japanese Tai Chi class as I was moving my arms and legs in all kinds of weird positions and getting totally confused by the directions. The teacher was really nice and she said (in Japanese), “Don’t worry, even Japanese people get confused by this.” It reminded a little bit of my old Silverspoon experience, where Khatz kept encouraging us to buy yoga, karate, exercise videos etc. I never did get around to getting any of those videos or books but I can imagine that it is a whole new cool way to learn a new skill while immersing in a second language. Combine body movements with learning a foreign language sounds like some kind of hybrid Brain gym exercise.
Though there’s a lot to be said for comfort and fun, sometimes you just have to startle yourself out a plateau to develop your skill. That’s one of the key ideas that I got from Daniel Coyle’s book, The Little Book of Talent. The fact that the Zboys spent a summer skating in dried out swimming pools changed skate-boarding forever.
As AJATT.com recently reminded me, sometimes you have to go a little bit loco on whatever skill you are trying to develop:
Some Brazilian players play “futbol de salao.” Small, challenging environments can improve skills. Work it!
“Shrink the space.” After reading Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent, this phrase has been going through my head continuously. Coyle says tweets or microfiction help writers to hone their sentences and ideas. Brazilian soccer players can play futebol de salao, or room soccer. Within that small space, little moves are magnified. So much can happen and so much be learned in a small space.
One way to “shrink the space” is to get a coach or an experience that moves you through an experience or skills. A good coach, program, or book helps you get to the core of a skill in a shorter amount of time. You are always experimenting and trying things by yourself, but part of that experiment can be the stable of people you hire, the podcasts you listen to, the books you read etc. to help you shrink the space. The strange thing about coaching is that a coach is not even necessarily better at the whole “game.” They are just great at shrinking the space, whether it is physical or mental part of the game. Even Tiger Woods hires a golf coach.
Throughout my life, I realized I’ve had experiences and “coaching” that have helped me “shrink the space” and move forward in different areas:
Life/Thinking Big: Outward Bound. Spending 23 days learning how to set up tarps, climb, and orient myself in the woods helped me think about bigger and bigger challenges in my life.
Money/Finance: Steve Chandler, Phil Laut and others. I went on to learn how to be an Outward Bound instructor but I was also in debt. The books of Phil Laut, Eric Tyson, Jerrold Mundis and others really helped me to have a healthier money practice. Their books “live” on my Amazon Store. Check them out and support this website.
Relationships: Eileen Jacobson. Relationships can be scarier than rappelling down a cliff face. Eileen really helped me find my ground. Now I am married with two little people who call me “daddy.”
Language and Learning: ajatt.com and silverspoon. I’m not only learning more Japanese because of this website and paid immersion coaching service, but I have also learned how to be a more successful lifelong learner. I have learned how to box time and sting like a bee.
Opportunities for shrinking the space are everywhere and are often found when you are “playing around” in addition to when you are intentionally targeting areas for improvement. I’ve recently stumbled on to the podcasts of Kim Doyal at thewordpresschick.com and have been having fun with it. Just recently, she interviewed Nicole Fende, author of How to Be A Finance Rockstar. I am interested in WordPress and I am also interested in small business and finance with a heart. Through this at times zany but extremely insightful interview, I was able to “shrink the space” and get some interesting perspectives on both. One of the key themes–don’t be afraid to get help and coaching along the way.
Of course, “getting a coach” can become a hang up. Yes, I want a guitar teacher but should that keep me from practicing at least five minutes a day? I would really like to work with an editor, but should that keep me from writing at least fifteen minutes a day on ideas that excite me? No. For now I will work with little windows of time and shrink the space.
Join me. Coach or no coach, shrink the space. Try. Play. Love.