Category Archives: Career

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 unprofound.com.

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.
  • 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 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 ajatt.com  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!

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 unprofound.com.

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 AJATT.com 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

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.

The Importance of Browsing: Samurai Browser

Now that I am in Japan for the summer, I find myself browsing a lot.   In the mornings, I go to write at a manga cafe where I can have some semi-privacy.   When I goof off, I browse through the free movies available through their Cinema Channel.

Fuzzy screenshot of manga kissa cinema channel.

Sometimes I even get up and look through real comic books and magazines.   I also go to the Numazu library to write and think.   To take a break, I will just walk around and browse.  I can read the section titles more easily now but sometimes I just wander down the aisle pull out a book and see what I find.

Sometimes, I find myself getting annoyed.   I feel like I am wasting time just looking through books.  I should just be doing something productive!!  But lately I have had a change of heart about browsing.  I think browsing does a few key things:

  • Browsing allows you to stumble upon new ideas.  (Hey someone should come up with an internet program where you stumbleupon new websites!) 🙂
  • Browsing helps you point you back to yourself.   As you relaxedly allow yourself to pick up and put down books that bore you or interest you, you are getting information about what is important to you.  Relax and listen to what you discover about yourself as you browse.
  • Browsing is a form of review.   As you look at information and making decisions on whether to pursue it, many learning actions are happening.  You are tossing aside knowledge you have already learned, you are putting  ‘bookmarks’ on information you want later, etc.
  • Browsing is a great way to support libraries and bookstores.  (A bookstore is a physical place where you can buy physical books.  Yes, they still exist.  :))

Of course, don’t make browsing a chore.   If it’s not fun it is not browsing.  In this day and age anything that sounds like loafing seems like a waste.   But the earth needs you to be you.   Samurai browsing is samurai becoming.  Trip the library fantastic!

The Power of Five Minutes: The Condensed Version

The Benefits of Taking Five Minutes Each Day To Do Part of Your Dreams:

  • Starting is better than thinking about starting
  • Five minutes each day keeps your brain “myelienated”.  You keep the thread of practice or the thought of your novel, composition, graffiti bomb masterpiece in your mind instead of losing it.
  • Five minutes sometimes turns into half an hour, though it doesn’t have to.
  • Try it, Mikey, you just might like it.
  • You might start a fire that burns all day.
  • Hey, it’s just five minutes.
  • The universe likes it when you get to be you.

    I can see for miles and miles. View from Miyajima Island near Hiroshima. A mere five minutes a day can help you see and move farther.

  • Doing something for yourself helps you have better relations with others.
  • Five minutes helps keep your “tools” handy.   The guitar is tuned.  Laptop is close by.  Brushes are washed and arranged.  The running shoes are by the door.  Reference books are bookmarked to the next section.
  • Five minutes today makes it easier to continue tomorrow.
  • The burn files, redux.  Five minutes allows you to experience the power of the “burn”, whether it’s mental or physical.  Haven’t done push ups in a while?   Set a timer and do the “easy” push ups for five minutes.  You’ll feel the burn at some point.  What if you did this for a month.  Try it.  It’s just five minutes.
  • Five minutes let you know that maybe that task is not so scary.  Maybe you can put in another five minutes at some point during the day.  Why not now?
  • If you can spend five minutes on Facebook, you’ve got five minutes to look at your budget, play your guitar, write to someone you love, __________________________.
  • Five minutes keeps you in the present, the only place where things can happen.

Related link:  ” The strategic behavior: The power of five minutes “ from SmartBusiness