Category Archives: Notebook

Let Your Samurai Flowers Bloom!

Seed your dreams and ideas with your samurai mind notebook.

Seed your dreams and ideas with your samurai mind notebook.

Yesterday, I had a curious experience.  I was doing a six-month review of a samurai notebook.  In the notebook, I was beginning to imagine how I want to reconstruct my work experience and life.   The shocking thing is that six months later a lot of these things are starting to become true.   Just this week I learned that I am one of 15 lucky New York City teachers who will get a scholarship to take courses at the Library Sciences program at Syracuse University to become School Media Specialists.   I am going to become a 21st century  samurai librarian!

This move is a mash-up of both my work with What Color is Your Parachute and my samurai notebook.  With the help of Parachute I did an inner search for my interests, abilities, and desired working conditions.   As I did my process and finally created my What Color is Your Parachute (WCIYP) “flower,”  I made sure that I placed a lot of my searching and results in my samurai notebook.  Because of this, I kept running into my requirements for different work or training.  Because I kept reviewing my notes on the WCIYP process through the samurai notebook process, I kept my lens and inspiration clear.

Here is an excellent example of a career flower from a blog called Quantified Self.  Doing the flower is great even if you are not switching careers because it helps you clarify where and how you want to be.  Take time to smell the flowers.

Here is an excellent example of a career flower from a blog called Quantified Self. Doing the flower is great even if you are not switching careers because it helps you clarify where and how you want to be. Take time to smell the flowers.

The WCIYP process asks career seekers to begin by creating several petals on their “flower”:  favorite knowledges, kinds of people to work with, favorite transferable skills, preferred working conditions, salary and level of responsibility, preferred places to live, as well as a statement of purpose or mission in life.  Making the flower involves both inner work and research.   Once you’ve finished making your flower, you have created a powerful tool that empowers you to make a more enlightened job search.

The author Richard N. Bolles loves to bend language rules.  One of the first “petals” he asks you to create are your favorite “knowledges.”    Knowing what moves and excites you will help you find the career that is an exciting fit.   I am looking to shift rather than change my career and these were my favorite knowledges or fields of experience:

  1. Learning to learn skills.   Books and programs about how to learn and develop talent.

  2. design of learning experiences/curriculum design

  3. brainstorming and generating ideas

  4. research

  5. self-help growth strategies

I put my “flower” on googledocs but I soon realized that just leaving it there would be just like archiving it.  During my morning reviews, I spent a little time putting the “petals” into my plain old notebook.   This ensured that I would keep rubbing against all of these ideas during my day to day life and as I considered different options.

My samurai notebooks can be rough, but reviewing it I am like a gardener turning over the soil and planting.  On some days, I am “weeding” and on other days I’m planting.   Every now and then a beautiful flower blooms in the process.  Let a 100 samurai flowers bloom.  Plant you now and dig you later! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Head

Get ahead without losing your head.

Get ahead without losing your head.

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.

Take time each day to reclaim your samurai mind.

Be the Poet of Your Samurai Song: Samurai Mind Notebook

Be the poet of your life’s song.  Laurence Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Create Your Own Mix

Making the music of your life is a lot easier with a samurai mind notebook.

When I first started teaching up in the South Bronx, I started to notice that some of my students had notebooks where they worked out their rhymes.   They treated these notebooks with a heck of a lot more care than the work I was giving them, but I respect that.

To create, shape, and save your words means that you get to create your vision, create your own song.   To keep a notebook is to create your samurai sword.   To review it regularly is to polish it with love.

I just hit a patch of inspirational material that has been overdue for a six month review.    At the time I was reading Zen and the Art of Making a Living and copied the best ideas and quotations.   One more time I got to hear William James say,  “Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

The Samurai Mind Notebook is a way to do what James is asking.  By taking time to write ideas and inspirations into your little notebook and gently review them, you systematize on-going cultivating.   It’s like you are leaving little treats or positive “bombs” to challenge or steer you in the future.

I’m also coming across little bits of music theory in my notebook.  Lately, I’ve made a conscious decision to give less attention to music, but coming across these snippets in my samurai mind notebook is challenging that decision in a fun way.   I know that the holiday sale at jamplay.com is happening again, and I just might pull out the guitar and the five minutes a day to make it part of my song.

There are no obligations with a samurai mind notebook.   If reviews aren’t interesting to you, you can gloss over them and call it a success.   But every now and then elements and ideas pop up that want to be part of your life’s song.   Review.   Trust your joy.  Play your life’s song.

Automatic Samurai: Sprinkler Systems On!

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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?

 

Samurai in the Cloud: Bookmark Your Life on the eCloud

The "cloud" is just one more tool to bookmark your life.  Stop worrying and let cloud.

The “cloud” is just one more tool to bookmark your life. Stop worrying and let cloud.

I resisted for the longest time but I am finally on the Kindle “cloud.”  It started with a used Kindle that I bought from a friend, and then I became a real convert when I realized that I could stay “in the cloud” through apps on my iPhone, iPad, or even my computer.

What sold me on the whole process was how I could use the cloud to stay conscious of where I am in all my various life projects.   It’s nice to be in the belly of the subway beast and be in the cloud.  Instead of looking at the skin doctor ads, I can scan a page of “What Color is My Parachute” and work towards finding a new career or re-imaging my current career.   Richard Bolles’ book is now a career searchers’ classic that emphasizes how important it is to really have a vision of what you want before you even search for a career.

Being “in the cloud” I can dip in and out of life process books and always have a constant reminder of where I stand.  The cloud is a way of bookmarking my life.

There is a relationship between my Samurai mind notebook and my cloud.   Since I put juicy quotes and ideas from the various books and projects I am working with and review them regularly (Samurai Mind Notebook),  I am regularly reminded to go back to my cloud for on going inspiration.

The Samurai notebook is a great place to get reminded of ideas.   Theoretically, I review any entry on a roughly algorithmic schedule.   This is great but sometimes it can feel a little haphazard.   Lately for ongoing work and “visioning” I’ve realized I need a more permanent place to keep track of where I am.

Though I can brainstorm in my samurai notebook, google docs is a more permanent place to put final results.  "What Color is Your Parachute" is an interesting, at times challenging way to really explore how you want to go forward with your career.

Though I can brainstorm in my samurai notebook, google docs is a more permanent place to put final results. “What Color is Your Parachute” is an interesting, at times challenging way to really explore how you want to go forward with your life and career. I am still flushing out the categories above.

Enter google docs (or whatever cloud space you like to write on).  I used my samurai notebook to brainstorm and work out some of my “Favorite Fields” using “What Color is Your Parachute.”  However, once I prioritized my favorite interests using Bolles’ system, I put it up in the cloud to be able to work at it from any point on earth.  The samurai mind notebook is more like a sketchbook, while the google docs is a more permanent yet cheap canvas.

The real canvas is my life.  All these different tools are just more ways to play, draw, and create.  Though I try to keep my feet firmly planted on the earth, I am also a samurai in the cloud.  Join me.

 

 

Take the Toys and Run!: Samurai Mind Notebook

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A samurai notebook is a toy for the mind. It should have fun bits and ideas that you can run with. Play is important.  photo from unprofound.com.

I keep what I like to call a samurai mind notebook.  It is a notebook where I keep project ideas, inspirational quotations, and useful information.  I review the notebooks so that eventually everything is reviewed after 2 days, 4 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, etc.  If the ideas stop being interesting or useful to me, I cross them out.

What happens with a samurai mind notebook is that I start picking up the pieces so I can play with them again.  It’s not just review for review’s sake but also shake up my mind and give it little forgotten cat toys to play with.  When I review my notebooks not only do I review information but I also review inspiration.  I pick  up on ideas and states of mind that made me excited.   These quotations and inspiration all get another  to be “part of the conversation” of my busy life.

Reviewing my samurai mind notebook is not some dreary, rigid, self-flagellating study in obligation.  It is a chance to let inspiration and interesting knowledge become part of my mental DNA.  Steve Chandler, author of Time Warrior and a host of other transformational books wrote,  “Be conscious of your real loves.  Keep self-inquiry alive.  You don’t drop it, you include it, and align it.”   A samurai mind notebook and the scheduled reviews is one way to keep that love alive.

I often miss scheduled reviews, but the notebooks are always there to re-light little fires.  I didn’t haul of my notebooks to Japan  so I’ve recently unearthed a few notebooks and have reviewed while on the train or waiting to get a hair-cut.  Here’s a few of the tidbits I found:

  • fun questions and thoughts and inspirations from Zen and the Art of Making a Living
  • notes from a summer coaching workshop
  • random inspirational quotes
  • great ideas for teaching that I had forgotten
  • ideas for courses I am developing for my students
  • little pieces from The Little Book of Talent
  • fun and useful Japanese sentences from various books

Theoretically I would have reviewed everything on a schedule but I came across entries from six weeks ago that had only received a two week review.   That is okay.  The beautiful thing about the samurai mind notebook process is that eventually everything gets its review and a chance to play in your mind again (or be marked out and “trashed”).

Pick up a notebook.  Pick up the pieces and play.  Take the toys and run.

 

 

May the Non-Force Be With You

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town.  Easy enough and a little adventure to boot.  You don"t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new.  Look for small but powerful shifts.

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town. Easy enough and a little adventure to boot. You don”t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new. Look for small but powerful shifts.

I’ve been in Japan for about three weeks now.  The jetlag has gone away and I am coming to my senses more.   But I’ve noticed one strange thing.  Up until a few days, I had not bought reading material.  Reading is part of my immersion path (I don’t want to say strategy-because that sounds a little too calculated).  I go to a manga cafe almost every day and I have the opportunity to check out magazines and manga every day and I do.   There are a few bookstores close by and I’ve taken the opportunity to go browsing there a few times.  But I’ve only taken one item home.

I’m not worried.   First of all, the fact that I can stroll into a Japanese bookstore, browse, and realize that I am not interested in anything is a big victory.  I know what each section is, I can skim the titles, the table of contents, etc.  One of the things that I rediscovered through AJATT is that reading doesn’t have to look pretty.  In “Why the Way We Read Sucks” series AJATT really explores how to really get the most out of reading by avoiding the stifling obligation patterns we learn at school.  For me, reading is fun but what makes it more fun is also about making choices, rejecting,  and jumping around the text.  Browsing is a powerful reading activity.

Browsing is also a powerful review though it may not feel lik it.  Browsing is a reminder that the most important review is in real-life, in navigating, hunting, and just plain old having fun.  There is a time and place for hard work and effort in real life but fun can work too.   There is a time to be the worker ant and soldier on for the colony.   But there should be time to be like the hummingbird, flitting around and looking for nectar.  There is a time for “force” and “study” but the fun stuff reinforces it and gives it life, too.

Lots of pictures.  Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know.  All part of letting the non-force be with you.

Lots of pictures. Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know. All part of letting the non-force be with you.

I finally found a book at the local Numazu bookstore.  It is a visual guide to how to use an i-Pad mini.   Recently, I’ve been looking for books with a lot of pictures.    Besides the pictures, the nice thing about the iPad book is that I kind of know how to use an iPad already and I am really interested in learning how to use new apps.   I already have the inner motivation to use the knowledge in the book.   I already know a lot of vocabulary but what really helps to “read” this book is my slowly growing knowledge of kanji.  I don’t look up words, write down key sentences, etc.  I am enjoying what I am reading and that enjoyment is sealing the deal on whatever worker ant work I’ve pushed through.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa.  This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa. This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Currently, I am in a manga cafe in Mishima, a quick train ride away from Numazu, where I usually go to the same chain store.  But it was a little bit of adventure to find this place, the books and lighting are different.  I  have work in English to do, but with frequent breaks of intentional Japanese study and just “goofing off.” Currently, I am browsing and looking at book about the pop culture (video games, pop stars, and manga) of Japan in the 80’s.

Use your hard power.  Use your soft power.  Fly like a bee and sting like a butterfly and vice versa.  May the non-force be with you.

 

“Weaponize” It

In real life, swords and spears are a little too pointy and scary.  As metaphors they great.  Nice quote from Boldt:"The Warrior is totally alive. He accepts his life and his death.  Most people accept neither.  They live in terror of death and muddle through life half asleep, scarcely aware of the dangers and opportunities that lie all around them."

In real life, swords and spears are a little too pointy and scary. As metaphors they great. Nice quote from Boldt:”The Warrior is totally alive. He accepts his life and his death. Most people accept neither. They live in terror of death and muddle through life half asleep, scarcely aware of the dangers and opportunities that lie all around them.”

I’m trying to re-envision for work, for myself,  my audience and students.   I bought Zen and the Art of Making a Living, by Laurence G. Boldt, many years ago but was put off by its size and its tendency to ramble.   But I’ve decided to put a few minutes each day into reading it and its starting to get its grip on me.   Zen contains a lot of questions and exercises to reflect on your life, vision, and how to translate that into a career.

The effect of Zen and the Art of Making a Living has the potential to be even more powerful because I have put key parts of it into my samurai mind notebook.  A samurai mind notebook is just an over the counter-notebook that I fill with inspiring ideas, skill work, and reflective exercises.  What “weaponizes” the notebook is that I review these notebooks on a rough “Spaced Repetition System” schedule.   I have an easy to use system where I am reviewing my notebooks 1 day, 2-3 days, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year basis.   If I hit upon positive knowledge or inspiration or even reminders to follow up on different projects, I place that in the latest notebook.

Reviewing my notebook, helps me create my own inspiration and information ecosystem, that reminds me of what is important to me and through others’ word helps me expand in areas where I want to grow.   Looking at my notebook provides a little immunity from the information ecosystem that the media provides us: despair, statistics, stories of violent crime, etc.   So instead of picking up the daily rag and reading about who is divorcing who or who killed who, I get a little message that directs me to myself and to how to best serve the world.

For example, one of the fun ideas I’ve gotten from Laurence Boldt is the idea of playing the career game without getting to wrapped up in it.  I put one of his affirmations into my samurai mind notebook:

Because I choose my career with full awareness, I am able to play with intensity without getting serious.

I wrote that quote into my notebook on June 9th and then came across it again in relaxed reviews on June 10th, June 11th, and June 13th.  I would then come across that thought a week later, two weeks later, etc.  If upon review, my spine tingles and my heart quickens and I realize I really need that thought right now, I will copy it again into the latest notebook entry so the thought gets further looped into my daily routine.  A useful thought is now further “weaponized” into my  mind.

Keeping a samurai notebook is one way to fight for your life.  A notebook helps fight against mental decay, despair, and has the potential to multiply the benefits of any self-improvement work you are doing.  Pick up that pen.  Use it.  Weaponize.

Push ‘n Play Samurai: Small Steps Big Results

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This is the last hint in a Japanese book called, “100 hints to Becoming Better at Guitar.” Have fun with your “pushes” and “produce” the life you want. (I would love a great translation of the caption in this book.) You can do this in any area of your life.

My little music theory experiment continues.   Music theory has scared me in the past but I have books that I have accumulated over the years that have laid dormant and untouched.   I have decided to take one book, Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist, pulverize it into little digestible bits and put it into my samurai notebook.   Each bit doesn’t take me more than two or three minutes.  Today, I will draw the F major scale in my notebook and call it a day.

Because I review my notebook, I will be seeing my new friend a few more times.  In the two months since I started this, I have progressed nineteen pages.  Because the bits are so small the process has actually become fun.  I have become a push ‘n play samurai.

There is no grand guardian blocking your path to any field of knowledge.  You don’t have to own it overnight.  There should be no,  “I am not worthy.” There is nothing you have to do to be worthy. You are already “blessed” with the ability to breathe and think on this beautiful and complicated world.  It’s a lot easier to start from, “what would happen if I just push a little bit and try to have a fun.”  Here are a few little tips:

  • you don’t have to put your creative/learning pushes out there for the world to doubt, hate, question etc.  I’m putting my little music theory push out there as a public service announcement but there are other pushes that are under the cloak of silence
  • you don’t have to know where you are going . . . I don’t really know if understanding music theory will really help my playing.  But it has seemed impossible, and that’s part of why I’m attracted to it.
  • keep thinking small is powerful.   Khatz, the dude over at alljapaneseallthetime.com, calls his immersion service Neutrino.  Teeny tiny particles.  According to wikipedia, my vast samurai mind powers, “a typical neutrino passes through normal matter unimpeded.”  When you pulverize your new skill into do-able bits, it’s you will pass through skills you’ve seen as obstacles before.
  • Don’t break the neural chain, man.  (You have to say this in a hippie voice!)  Even if you pick up your guitar (code, language, piano [ouch!], business plan, etc) for five minutes, you are making the next day of practice a little easier.

You won’t always feel great, but I think you might just get a lot farther than if you just beat yourself up about how you don’t know fill in the blank.  Skip the drama.  Become a push ‘n play samurai.

 

Catch Your Samurai Flow!

You can't really stop the flow of ideas, money, life but what are your systems to help you "go with the flow?"

You can’t really stop the flow of ideas, money, life but what are your systems to help you “go with the flow?”

The other day, I had the rare pleasure of going to a little bar/restaurant called Lil’ Frankies with friends from work.   As a teacher and dad of two young children, I don’t get out much.   I was a amazed that I could enjoy a place with purty looking drinks and food.  At 4:30 p.m. I announced I had to go and return a library book.  “Nerd Alert,” my friend chided.  As I walked towards the library and home, the nerd alert approached def-con as I fantasized about–hold on tight–getting a new filing cabinet.

Anyone who has seen my apartment or even my man-bag would know I am not going to be your de-cluttering guru anytime soon.   But what I am getting from my ongoing experience learning Japanese, writing, and guitar is that it’s really important to have tools and systems that catch your flow.

I want a decent and beautiful filing cabinet where I can easily organize my samurai notebooks and other projects, so that creating and remembering becomes even more systematic. I already have a plastic box where I have folders organized according to topics and by months and days.  (This is an idea I got from Getting Things Done.)    But I am ready to upgrade so the folders sit up right and the whole process of getting a folder out is smoother.  I’m trying to minimize physical or mental resistance because the more organized my flow and capture systems are, the more I can create.

It’s important to “capture” ideas, money, and projects in ways that enhance the flow even more.   It’s important to create systems but not be enslaved by those systems.   Here are some examples of tools and processes I consider to be my “flow capture” systems

  • Setting a timer for 15 minutes and writing even if I don’t have “anything to write” about every morning.  It can change my whole day to create an idea where there wasn’t one just through this little move.
  • Keeping a samurai mind notebook.  Keeping a notebook with positive ideas. information, skill bits and reviewing regularly means that my circuitry is kicking around the ideas and questions that I want there.
  • I have several automatic savings accounts for different purposes.   Capture your financial flow and keep your finances in different “buckets.”
  • I use surusu, an online spaced repetition flashcard system, to remember where I am in guitar.  When I study something on jamplay.com, I create a card with a link to the lesson.   When I don’t know “what to do” on guitar, I go to this deck and it takes me to the lessons either targeting or that I’ve forgotten about and could use a refresher.

Creating these systems may seem restrictive, but it actually frees you to play more.  Suddenly, there you are with a guitar strapped around your neck because deciding what to practice isn’t this mental storm of self-hatred.  The flashcard reminds you what to practice.  You practice.  Then you play.  Just in case you are too serious to remember to play, you can make that part of your system.  Part of why I enjoyed doing Silverspoon, a Japanese immersion service is that I would get reminders to just play–in Japanese.  Play is the ultimate “capture system.”  (Sounds severe, no? 🙂 )

You have a flow.  Catch the flow.  Catch the rainbow!