Category Archives: Wallet

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! 🙂






Samurai Networking: Skip the Baloney

I am rethinking networking.   Maybe when it comes from true connection, it's about building bridges.

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.

The Samurai Questions: The Tipping Point

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

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

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.
  • Decisive moments.
  • 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.

Samurai Reserves: Money Moves


Building your financial reserves is also about cultivating your samurai mind.

Building your financial reserves is also about cultivating your samurai mind.

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you know that I am taking a course called Build Your Personal Foundation through CoachU.   I am currently on a unit about building your “reserves.”   According to the guide book “the more our needs are handled the more we can stretch and grow.”   The course emphasizes building reserves in 10 areas including:  time, space, money, energy, love, information, wisdom, self, and integrity.

Just beginning to read this chapter made me turn to my internet banking account.   It’s been about ten years that I learned from Phil Laut that it is really important to have multiple savings accounts.   I use different savings accounts not only to keep my financial resources focused, but more importantly as a way to train my brain to think about myself and my potential.

The Building Your Personal Foundation course explains, “part of you is so focused on survival that there isn’t time to stretch and move and say no.”  Creating savings accounts in different areas, even if you only add small amounts, is a way to send your brain a message that you are creating room in these areas.  Having an internet account like the one I have at (no plug intended – do your research) allows me to create accounts and nickname them for different purposes.  I have many accounts including:  cash flow, business development, clothing, apartment, classes, financial independence, freedom days, large purchase, and impulse.

I’ve explained the purpose of multiple savings accounts elsewhere.   Each account serves a different purpose and not only let’s me save money, but it also helps me energize different areas and projects in my life.   However, I have automated most of these savings so they happen on a regular basis without me expending my time and effort.  However, reading the article on reserves made me realize that I should also openly think about where I am putting my resources instead of going on auto-pilot.

So the other I put $20 in four accounts–not only to save money but also to put a mental bookmark on projects and processes that I want to make happen.  “Business Development” is to invest in making a better blog or increasing my skill set.   “New Apartment” is for our future three bedroom or townhouse.   “Financial Independence”  is an account that Phil Laut recommended for training yourself to live off investment interest.   Last month I made a whopping $.15 in this account, but I think the big pay off is that it opens you up to the possibility of becoming someone who can live off of investment income.

The last account I invested in was the “Freedom Days” account.  This is an account that I can use for thinking about creating days, months, or years where I won’t have to work.  Part of the energy behind this account is fighting the “part of you [that] is so focused on survival that there isn’t time to stretch and move and say no.”   By saying no you can say yes to bigger things to life.

I think I will be moving my money a little bit more consciously in the future.   Even if I only have a dollar to spare, doling it out in actual accounts seems like a powerful way to think to think about and energize projects and priorities.

Build your reserves.  Stretch and grow.  Act small.  Think big.

Other articles about keeping money in balance:


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.



Ronin Samurai: Go for Nuggets

No matter how long the path, don't forget to stop for nuggets!

No matter how long the path, don’t forget to stop for nuggets!

Yeah, well I don’t really know a lot about samurai despite the title of the blog.  But I do know that ronin samurai were masterless samurai, who lost their position through various events.  According to Wicker-pedia, in Japan “ronin” also refers to “salarymen” who have lost their jobs or students who failed to get into university and will try again.

In this shifting economy, we can all become ronin at some point.   That can be terrifying and at the same time liberating.   Furuichi talks about spending 30 minutes each day in continuous improvement.   I think in terms of placing little nuggets of inspiration and skill in my samurai mind notebook.   I love self-improvement books and one of the ways I reward myself for study “pushes” is by using little five minute explorations of self-help books.

One of my recent nugget discoveries is the career guide What Color is Your Parachute?  2013.   What I never realized about this book is that Richard Bolles, the author, updates it every year.   Every year he rethinks his advice and also thinks about the economic climate.   In the 2013,  he makes a point of really addressing folks who are unemployed.  He paints a useful picture of the difference between two unemployed folks.  One is glum and ready to blame.  The other one is not happy about his situation but:

 . . . he wakes up each morning glad to see the sun, puts on beautiful music, walks a great deal, counts his blessings, is in a job-support group, focuses on other people’s troubles, not just his own, is a great listener, spends each new day trying to be a better person than he was the day before, remains active in his job-hunt, tries to learn something new each day, essentially sees life as an adventure, and is willing to wait patiently for the next Act to unfold . . .

I think this is great advice even if you currently have a job.   Job hunt your own job to make it more interesting.  It’s also great as you are approaching your various learning projects.  Khatz over at  points to this “hunt for the nuggets” approach when he explores how to learn a language:

The journey of getting used to a language is so psychologically long that it can’t merely be a means to an end. It must become an end in itself. It must become its own joy, its own reward. And this perspective, this mental state, doesn’t require too much imagination or discipline or training to reach. Anyone who’s been on a road trip with friends knows: the destination is almost incidental.

Wherever you are in your ronin journey, find something to enjoy.  Don’t forget to stop for nuggets!

Money Buckets Samurai

Energy flows.  Life flows.  Money flows.  In the end everything goes back to the source. In the meantime, flourish from the flow with the bucket strategy.

Energy flows. Life flows. Money flows. In the end everything goes back to the source. In the meantime, flourish from the flow with the bucket strategy.

One of the best things that I’ve done to impact my creativity and productivity is to get my financial life straight.    I’m not independently wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but soon I will be down to no debt and am accumulating a modest amount in a retirement savings account.  I am a money buckets samurai.  I have multiple savings accounts for different purposes.  Having that system, catching that flow,   has helped me get clearer and more creative in other areas of my life.

There is the retirement bucket.  Steve Chandler in his book 100 Ways to Create Wealth suggests having a boring, automatic saving system along side to your more ambitious service and wealth producing ideas.  Though I never want to depend on money for my sense of security, there are times when I look at that slowly growing sum and think, “if something happens I could survive for a few years on that if something happens.”  Obviously, this is fear-based thinking and it is not advisable to touch your retirement account, but when my mind goes on fear, this account is one strategy to deal with it.

Phil Laut, author of Money is My Friend, introduced me to the concept of multiple savings accounts.  He explained that one of the reasons that it can be hard to save money is because people keep it all in one savings account.  For many people it can become a mental juggling act to remember the purpose for that money.   What I found revolutionary about Laut’s ideas about is that by having different accounts, you are also training your mind how to think about money.   Money buckets for the samurai mind.   Here is what Phil suggested:

You don't need to wait until you are financially solvent to sustain life around you. (In fact you might become more financially balanced if you focus on contribution and connection.)  However, the point of mind, body, wallet is also to be a vessel that overflows.

When I began to get control of my finances I was inspired to lead “Mind Body Wallet” workshops not as a financial expert but more of like cheerleader to encourage people to create better “vessels” for their financial and creative energy. B-U-C-K-E-T!

  • Cash Flow Savings Account:  this is an account where all your earnings go and where you pay yourself out from.  Laut suggests keeping a months earnings in this account and “paying yourself” from this account.  “The practice of spending last month’s income this month removes you from hope about money.”
  • Large Purchases Savings Account:  this is an account where you have the freedom to withdraw from it to save for and buy whatever you want.
  • Financial Independence Account:  you deposit money here and only withdraw the interest.   You are training your brain to think in terms of financial independence.
  • Millionaire Savings Account:  here you are training your mind (and your finances) to be prepared for making investments.
  • Annual Income Savings Account:  in this account you save to take a year off of work, and to benefit from the creative energy that would bring to your life and work.  Laut suggests building up to take a day off, a week off, etc.  I haven’t tried this one but it sounds fun.
  • Generosity Savings Account:  this is an account where you practice giving it away.  Laut writes, “You will find that generosity will enable you to let go of your desire to control others and will increase your ability to express your love freely, instead of looking for something in return.”  I like the act of just giving back to a world that has already given me so much.  I love giving to public libraries.

Luckily, having multiple savings accounts is a lot easier than when I first started.   Capital One 360 (formerly IngDirect) makes it easy to create and nickname different accounts and make deposits through the internets.   Interest rates, of course, are way lower so you would have to investigate different kinds of financial buckets beyond savings accounts.  But the key thing here is training your little ole samurai mind to catch your flow, financially and creatively.  Bucket!

Samurai Mind on My Money Hack

With my mind on my money and my money on my mind. ……Snoop Dog

I don’t want to get all new age-y on you, but in a lot of ways money is energy.   You, or in the case of stocks etc, or somebody else did something for that money.  You could honor that energy or just throw your money away.  (Call me, and I will be downwind from you.  I will be the goofy guy with the butterfly net and the suit made out of fly paper. 🙂 hooks me in with fun sentences and little pavlovian rewards for meeting learning goals.  It's a little mechanistic so I listen to Japanese youtube and limit using this web service to about five minutes a day. hooks me in with audio sentences and little pavlovian rewards for meeting learning goals. It’s a little mechanistic so I listen to Japanese youtube while I am using it and limit using this web service to about five minutes a day.

One of the ways I like to honor money is to use it to trick my mind to learn more.  Money can function like a timer, turning learning into a game.   See how much learning you can get with your money.  I remember in the old video arcade days that one of the advantages of getting skills was that you actually spent less money.  See how much you can get out of a service or product by keeping it in “play.”  I try to “make contact” with products and services that I’ve purchased to help me learn:

  •   hundreds of sentences read by native Japanese speakers.   The service can be come hypnotic/robotic so I only try to make a “target” of 30 minutes a week.
  •   now that I have more language under my belt, I am appreciating the grammar and cultural explanations.  I switch between yojijukugo, beginner, video, lower intermediate, upper intermediate, and cultural lessons.  I listen on my way to work and switch to Japanese music or podcasts when I am done.
  • silverspoon/neutrino:   I am done with this but it was one of the most expensive pay by month services.   But it was kind of like going to a trainer who changes the way you think about exercise.  It seems expensive but the benefit, if you “play” it right lasts long.
  •   this is a guitar learning website.   I like the teachers and the tracking tools so much I’ve put a link to it on the right.  However, as the time to renew (and pay) approached at New Year’s I beat myself up for not keeping up with it.  (Note:  don’t beat yourself up.  It hurts you more than you.)  I recently came across a whole stash of Julia Cameron quotes from back when I was “doing” The Artists Way book.  This is a gem:

Instead of thinking about conquering an art form, think instead of kissing it hello, wooing it, exploring it in small steps…sit down at the piano and touch the keys.  Five minutes a day is better than no minutes a day.

One of the nice advantages of paid learning services are tracking tools.  I was a lot more active on jamplay before and am easing back into playing. Part of the mental trick of practice is moving "the bars" of progress a little bit.  I do it with jpod, too.  I don't think of mastering the language but just moving the bars forward.

One of the nice advantages of paid learning services are tracking tools. I was a lot more active on jamplay before and am easing back into playing. Part of the mental trick of practice is moving “the bars” of progress a little bit. I do it with jpod, too. I don’t think of mastering the language but just moving the bars forward.

  • books:  get thousands of dollars of value out of books.  How?  First, enjoy the heck out of them.   (Check out ajatt’s article “If Your Played Songs The Way You Read, You Would Hate Music.“)Go to the parts that you like.  Skip around.  Read the book that you really liked again and again.  Read it backwards.  Read it fast. Read it slow.  Put the juicest parts in your samurai notebook.


Money is just a like the boundaries of a game.  Limits can frustrate you or they can force you to be creative and really play.   Become a pinball wizard.  Bend it like Beckham.  [insert sports or game metaphor here].  Put on some good tunes while you’re “doing it.”  Enjoy!


Honey in the Crack: Find It!

Make honey.  Find honey.  Share honey.  Use your samurai mind to add sweetness to life.

Make honey. Find honey. Share honey. Use your samurai mind to add sweetness to life. Photograph from

Sometimes I am as optimistic as a Russian novel set in gulags of Siberia.  However, I am finding that optimism is not necessarily something that just magically happens but something you can develop as a habit.  I don’t know if this habit will transform your life or anything, but it has slowly transformed how I approach learning and writing. (I owe a lot to and its constant and various ways it encourages persistence and fun.)

In previous articles, I’ve discussed the advantages of finding small moments of time and using them to do CRACK (Crevice Reading Acquiring Cool Knowledge).  There’s more to life than crack.  There’s honey in the crack–discovery, laughs, affirmation. Continue reading

Flow Like Water: Financial Samurai

…the sage, traveling all day, does not lose sight of his baggage. Though there are beautiful things to be seen, he remains unattached and calm.”Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (Feng and English translation)

If we’re on a quest for spiritual self-transformation, we need to give our best attention to how we are with money because it’s one of the keys to a big part of our human nature.  A human being, according to the great spiritual teachings of the world has two natures or aspects: a side that is meant to be engaged in the activity in the world, making and doing…the other side has to do with the spiritual, the transcendent . . . We are called on to find the relationship between these two opposing parts of ourselves and to develop the kind of awareness that relates each to the other in a harmonious way.  –Jacob Needleman in Personal Transformation Winter 2000


I used to do a series of “Mind, Body, Wallet Workshops” to encourage people to think about money. Sometimes money is a reflection of thought patterns that obscure reality. Surfing is great but if your mind is ruled by these unobserved and uncontrolled waves it can lead to trouble. (Drawings are by Ken Polotan)

I have this habit of overcoming challenges, doing a lot of research, and then sharing what I’ve found with the world.  I did this 15 or so years ago when I got out of debt and started thinking about the role of personal finance in my life and my so-called consciousness.  I still firmly believe that you need to “do money” or money will do you.  I need to think about money so that money concerns don’t affect my health, my relationships, and my ability to learn more.

Versions of this article appeared in magazines over a decade ago.  (BTW magazines are these paper objects with articles and photographs that people read.)  The articles appeared in New Age magazines.  Yes,  they were written when my crystals still smelled of patchouli.   But I still stand by a lot of what I wrote, specifically these three steps:

  • Watch –your financial patterns without judgement
  • Build–a base by eliminating debt and thinking about your life purpose
  • Move–invest and find work that you love

I am not a financial expert.  Consider me more your financial cheerleader (or coach if you don’t like facial hair on cheerleaders.)  Check out the storef or helpful books and specific resources.  Continue reading