Tag Archives: creativity

Mad Lab Samurai: Get in To Your Creation Station

Get into your mad lab creation space at least once a day.  It could be a work space or a rambling walk.

Get into your mad lab creation space at least once a day. It could be a work space or a rambling walk.

If you do anything for yourself give your self one hour a day of “mad lab” time.   Mad lab time is a time that you give yourself to create, tinker, putter without thinking of results, profits, “followers”, et cetera.  This time can be structured yet loose at the same time.    You can try to write for fifteen minutes, study a foreign language for twenty, brainstorm for five, whatever but it’s all done in the spirit of play.   (In fact, a tight time schedule can be good.)


  • it creates an after-burn that can infuse your other activities throughout the day
  • it allows you to discover yourself and reinvent yourself at the same time
  • when you get to play the universe is happy
  • you start to get into the habit of creating


  • set a time and place where you can create.  It could be a separate office or a quiet room in your house before everyone wakes up.  Don’t get hung up on the perfect spot.  (BTW…The Little Book of Talent says that a lot of talent hotbeds practice and create in rather spartan or grungy spaces.)
  • Have your “tools” easily accessible.  A blank pad of paper, your laptop, your guitar and your tuner.   Leave the “windows” to the necessary sites open.  After a while you will build the physical habit of getting out your tools, which is more than half the step of creating
  • you don’t have to broadcast what you are doing to everyone . . . this is your time to cook stuff up.   Don’t let the haters and doubters in by revealing too much.  (Check out this short article from AJATT “Whose Team Are You On”)
  • Play with time.   Part of having limited time is that you actually get to turn that into a game.  I’ve got fifteen minutes to write.  Let’s make something happen.    This is one of the non-language learning benefits I got from doing Silverspoon, a Japanese immersion service.
  • Repeat.  You will have good days.  You will have so-so days.   But the so-so days send a little life-line, a breath that can feed the “good” days.

    Your mad lab can be work time that feeds play or play time that feeds work. No adults except in the company of a child!

    Your mad lab can be work time that feeds play or play time that feeds work. No adults except in the company of a child!

This isn’t just coming from me.  Steve Chandler explains you should “give yourself one hour every day.”  Julia Cameron, author of the The Artists Way, writes of the vitality that comes from writing morning pages every morning.  Yukio Furichi also writes about the power of the morning in his book 「1日30分」を続けなさい!人生勝利の勉強法55 (30 Minutes Every Day:   55 Study Methods to Win in Life).  For me, it seems really important to do the heavy lifting/creating early in the day because it gets the juices going and starts the day with a “win.”

There is a Sufi saying that “You have three hours to live.  Two of them are gone.”  Get into your mad labs and create.




Claim Your Song, Samurai

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 6.50.23 AM

Image from unprofound.com. You don’t have to be Keith Richards or Beethoven to claim your own corner of music. Life is short. Play.

“Everybody loves music. What you really want is for music to love you. And that’s the way I saw it was with Keith…You’re not writing it, it’s writing you. You’re its flute or its trumpet; you’re it’s strings. That’s real obvious around Keith. He’s like a frying pan made from one piece of metal. He can heat it up really high and it won’t crack, it just changes color.” – Tom Waits

Note:  this is a break from a self-helpy vein though there is a little message about claiming your abilities.  If you are allergic to personal stories,, skip to the end. 

In August of 2010, I returned home late in the middle of the night.  My youngest daughter had just been born.  I was browsing through Facebook and found out that my friend, Tom, had died in our hometown of Lexington Ky.  Joy and sadness can live so close side by side and even right on top of each other.

Tom and I knew each other mainly through the same group of friends.  We didn’t hang out alone.   Tom was a talented musician.  One of my fondest memories of Tom was when he wrote and recorded a blues song based on a concert gone wrong.    One summer night, I was the designated driver to go to a Steve Winwood  concert.  Jimmy Cliff was the warmup act.  All went fine until my mother’s car decided to have a flat tire an hour or so away from Lexington.  To add to the fun, someone locked the keys in the trunk.  A couple of angry mothers later, we were able to go back home.   Tom wrote and recorded a song that I wish I could still find.

Tom and I weren’t necessarily close friends.  But never let emotional or physical distance make you underestimate the power of relationships.   I would see Tommy once every other year, mostly at poker games when I visited my hometown.  But when I found out he was gone I missed him terribly and wished he hadn’t gone.  If you happen to go, you will be missed terribly by more people than you think.

Over the next few weeks, I had to decide whether to go to Tom’s memorial.  The memorial was the weekend before school started again, and we had a three year old on top of a newborn.   We don’t have a lot of family or extra help in New York.  I also worried that I wasn’t part of his “inner circle.”  (If we’ve had contact, please feel free to consider yourself part of my inner circle.)  I also needed to buy an airplane ticket at a time when my wallet was pouring out dollars for diapers, wipes, and did I mention diapers.

But I really missed Tommy.  After talking to Yoko and getting a sitter to help, I decided to make the trip to my hometown.  At the memorial, I got to see friends that I had seen in years in addition to good buddies that I would always see when I came home.  The pastor spoke about Tom’s natural ability to play music and bring joy and creation.   He explained that even though we may not have the same musical abilities that it was up to us to keep the music alive, in our own ways, even if it meant we had to work a little harder.  Maybe someday I will return the favor to Tommy and write my own blues tune.

Five minutes of playing is better than not playing at all.

Five minutes of playing is better than not playing at all.

It’s strange that my daughter’s birthday will also always be around the anniversary of my friend’s passing.  On the first anniversary, my friend Jeff posted a barrage of music that Tom loved and was inspired by.  It was kind of like I was getting to know Tom better even though he wasn’t on this physical plane.

I’d love to report that after that memorial, I took up music with a passion and have kept the music going every day.  I have let the dust accumulate on the guitar for months at a time.  These days I am going for a minimum though I’m promising nothing to anyone not even myself.  I’m trying to follow Julia Cameron’s advice on how to take up an art form:

sit down at the piano and touch the keys.  Five minutes a day is better than no minutes a day.

Now is the time to claim your song, whatever form it may take for your.  If you can’t claim it through joy, claim it through anger or grief and let it lead back to joy.  Life is precious.  Claim your song.

Samurai Cleaning is Samurai Learning

Still waters clearly reflect the possible.  Clearing your desk/room is one way to clear your mind and learn more effectively.

Still waters clearly reflect the possible. Clearing your desk/room is one way to clear your mind and learn more effectively.

A big snowstorm hit a few days ago and unfortunately my oldest daughter had a fever and we didn’t head out for sledding.   Before cabin fever set in, I resorted to extreme measures–I began cleaning.   I didn’t clean the whole apartment but focused on the stacks of books and paperwork that was starting to make the apartment look like New York City on the second day after a snow storm.   Before I take off on another six hundred word essay here are some reasons cleaning is learning:

  1. It’s important to throw things out.   It’s important to decide what isn’t important any more.  It’s taking up space physically and mentally. ( This goes for your flashcard decks, too. See AJATT on the importance of deletion.)
  2. Cleaning and arranging is an active way to arrange priorities.   Sorting gets you to think about what is important, inspiring, or fun.  For example, which of the 15 books around our bed do I really want to read?
  3. Cleaning is like an spaced repetition system.   Sorting and trashing is like a review of your whole life and priorities.  It reminds me of places I’ve been and places I want to be.   Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, suggests cleaning out a closet when you are creatively blocked.
  4. It’s a “one-minute” reading opportunity.  I get a fair amount of professional literature.   A lot of it is interesting material, but just letting reading pile up doesn’t help me.  I quickly skim headlines, headings, quotes, and ideas before I throw the articles out or selectively save.
  5. Having a clean, calm space is like having a clean mirror.  It’s much easier to see and clearly reflects your mind.  Anybody who personally has seen my classroom, desk, or room knows that I need to practice what I preach here.  However, I’ve noticed that when everything is neater, I “feel”  more capable.

    Half of the suggestions in this book are about keeping things neat.  Neatly arrange your shoes, notebook, etc.  I don't quite live this book, but when I do arrange things neatly I feel calmer and accomplished.

    Half of the suggestions in this book are about keeping things neat. Neatly arrange your shoes, notebook, etc. I don’t quite live this book, but when I do arrange things neatly I feel calmer and accomplished.

I’m not alone here.   Both STUDY HACKS and  Zen Suggestions for Simple Living call for cleaning and simplicity as way of

clearing your mind and getting better results.  Studyhacks recommends that you start any study session by cleaning your desk.  (A principle I often break. :).   Don’t wait for the perfectly organized space to pursue your dream, but remember make cleaning and organizing part of your learning toolkit.  Clean up your act!

Samurai Swimming: The Importance of “Treading Water”

Sometimes you have to bookmark or tread water with your skill. If you can’t do all guitar all the time, do five minutes. Photo by sudyasheel. http://bit.ly/UChtLh

The other day I was minding my own business and paying attention to @ajatt’s twitter conversation when a rockin’ young ma twitterin’ man named @Mikeylovesrock asked, “Could someone create an @ajatt method for guitar fluency? :p I’d be much obliged.”  I told him that maybe he is the man that everyone is waiting for. Khatzumoto didn’t know Japanese when he began his immersion experience.   Now Khatzumoto has a cool blog helping people all over the world learn Japanese through fun and immersion.

Later on, I suggested some of my posts where I mention guitar.  I also sent Mikeylovesrock a link to Rittor, a Japanese music publication company.   I have a great book from them called (roughly), 100 Hints for Becoming Better in Guitar.

@mikeylovesrock graciously conceded that he would give it a shot when he finished learning Japanese.  I let a few hours pass, thinking about the fact that even Khatzumoto began from nothing and I replied, “fair enough … but what is one thing you could do in guitar? keep strings tuned hold guitar five minutes/day.”  Why wait?

The Importance of “Treading Water”

“Relax your mind and float down stream.” When you are treading water, a relaxed attitude will help you “float” better.  Photo by Jim:  http://bit.ly/S1Kvpd

Even if you have a big learning project underway, I think it is important to “tread water” in the other skills you want to develop.  Why?

  • Your mind loves a challenge and progress is made in minutes of doing rather than not doing.
  • The next skill can become a motivator for continuing and progressing with the on-going learning project.
  • A little bit a day lays the groundwork for more each day and gets your mind thinking like a guitarist/pianist/speaker of French/coder etc.
  • Because it’s just plain old fun.

Tips for “Bookmarking” or Treading Water on a Future Skill

  • use your current learning to shore up future learning–i.e. play around with the guitar books written in Japanese
  • keep the instrument(s) of your future skilled out and “tuned”-take the guitar out of the case, keep it tuned, and just touch it for five minutes
  • have a place in your notebook for future goals, dreams, and skills in your notebook and find fun ways to keep reviewing them in your notebook…create ways to keep bumping into your desired skills
  • if you can’t do five minutes, do one minute.  If you can’t do one minute, do one second.  If you don’t physically pick up your skill, hold it in your mind.  A friend of mine says he practices guitar scales and patterns in his mind when he is too busy being a dad.   Guilt and self-hatred don’t count.
  • create an online flashcard deck for your future skill….even if you just put one card it in the deck it counts

The nice thing about giving advice to other people is that sometimes it spurs you to follow your own advice.  🙂  I blew the dust off my flashcard deck for guitar and landed on Jamplay.com lesson based on an AC/DC song called, “You Shook Me All Night Long.”  For five minutes, the bright lights shone on me as I had my Angus moment.  Of course, this was a four day weekend.  Let’s see if we can sustain the five minutes during the stress of the school year.  In the meantime, stay “tuned.” 🙂

How to get better in one easy step. Show the Samurai Up!

All I need to know is how much is enough.   —James Heisig’s translation of  saying on a small stone basin at Ryonji,  a Zen temple

Buddhist poet Saigyo tried to live “one inch above the ground.”  . . .not with one’s feet planted firmly in the everyday, not walking on the clouds, but floating a thumb’s length above the ground.   –Heisig,  Dialogues at One Inch Above the Ground

Stop being a jerk to yourself.  You did your best given what you knew at the time.  Now do your best now. —from a Silverspoon email.

Remember, in order to actually get better at guitar you need to actually take the guitar out of its bag. —Dan Emery, head of NYC School of Guitar in a postcard to all the students

I decided to shut up and show the samurai up with guitar. I picked this book to begin with because it will reinforce my Japanese. Of course, it has a mangalike character on front. If you are interested, here is the closest version I could find on Amazon Japan. Two birds. No killing. Just a rolling stone gathering no moss.

In my last post, I focused on Heisig and how he examined his systems and perfected them.  Heisig  optimized his learning and the learning of many more through his system for learning kanji.   I also suggested that it’s great to examine your methods, find your weaknesses and reassess.   I still believe that is true, but I also believe you also just have to show the Samurai up!  If you can’t think of the “right”  thing to do, do something! In short:

  • if you can’t think of the most fun or targeted learning activity, do the “boring” one until you are inspired
  • inspiration sometimes comes through “work”–sometimes it doesn’t
  • keep your brain myelinated …keep the mental and physical conversation of the skill going
  • still, don’t forget the fun–what’s really great is when some fun activity or experience reinforces the work and seals the deal on what you have learned
  • stay “one inch above the ground”…grounded in the practice of what you are trying to learn and also dreaming and enjoying it . . . watch experts and children who still enjoy learning and model them
  • use a timer to get through the blocks

I need to practice what I preach. 🙂 Lately, I decided to start playing guitar again.   I have no dearth of materials, in Japanese and English.  I was getting my underwear all in knots thinking of which set of materials to use:  a Japanese guide, Jamplay.com, or the many English DVD’s and books that are hidden in different corners of my apartment.

Did anyone notice how good Japanese graphic arts can be?  In addition to these homey little characters (this one is showing you how to hold a guitar correctly) there are also very precise and sharp schematic drawings about how to hold the pick and hit the strings.

I finally to stop fretting (guitar joke!) about all the materials and just get started.   I had an old flashcard deck devoted to guitar playing and started with some scales.   Then I decided to open up one of the many guitar books I have and just go through it.  It includes a DVD and I fired up an old Dell that I now use as a spare DVD player.  The first few lessons are really simple, and explain how to hit the strings with your pick. The first few video lessons show how to hit one string with different rhythms.  It’s kind of boring but hitting the strings and doing it rhythmically correct is fundamental to a lot of guitar playing.   Hey, someone should write a book called Zen Guitar!  (It’s an actual book!)

This is a reference manga for the manga series, “Beck.” The manga is about a 90 lb. weakling who joins a rock band. (I didn’t end up following the manga or the anime.) The music guide gives background to all the characters and all the real-life music influences that run throughout the manga. If I read this, not only will I know more Japanese, I will also know more about rock and roll music history. Amazon Japan Link.

After doing scales for a few days, I thought about perusing the lessons at jamplay.com and found a new series on the guitar playing of Eric Clapton.   I went through a beginning lesson that covered the style of the Yardbirds doing a song called “Boom Boom.”  I listened to this song and the many versions of the original by the blues-man John Lee Hooker.  It’s so much fun to watch what the masters can do with their guitar.   (of course you never hear what they sounded like when they were sucky beginners)

The Beck Music Guide is fun and encyclopedic. For example, one character is really influenced by the blues, so here you see the character and then all the real-life albums that “influenced” his playing. It’s great to see the cover art of all these great blues albums from Bo Diddly, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, etc all in one place.

But all of this happened because I decided to show the samurai up!  Use a timer if you need to do but do something daily instead of fretting about the methods.    Stay grounded but not at the point where you are digging your own rut.  Get inspired by the masters but not to the point where it looks impossible and you stop practicing. Work.  Have fun.  Stay “one inch above the ground.”

Online Guitar Lessons

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.

Clear Clutter, Clear Mind: Samurai Cleaning is Samurai Learning

Clear Clutter Clear Mind.

Cleaning and clearing clutter helps me see to the distance. Part of the attraction of temples and gardens in Japan is they are clutter free zones for the mind, and spirit.

I recently watched an episode on NHK (the Japanese PBS) about a celebrity who spends a weekend at a Zen monastery.   Before she gets to the “business” of meditating, she has to clean the bathrooms, cleaning the beautiful wooden floors with a cloth.   I guess it’s part of the Zen attitude that every activity is a chance to wake up.  It also saves tons of money on cleaning bills. 🙂  Clear clutter, clear mind.  Samurai cleaning is samurai learning.  (I love it when I can talk like Yoda.)

The school year is coming to a close, and during non-administrative duties I’ve been cleaning and organizing my classroom.  I have over twenty years of material in addition to materials left over from previous generations that have used my room.  I’ve been able to methodically work on every corner, throwing out materials I don’t need any more and organizing the materials I still want to hang on.

That is the essence of a samurai review—toss out the material you no longer want and organize, touch, reshuffle the material you want.   The added plus is that it doesn’t just involve your mind; it involves your body in action.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, suggests clearing clutter as one way to breakthrough creative blocks:

Few things are as distracting– and destructive– as clutter in your home environment. It is hard to have clarity when you are living amid rubble. Clearing up your space gives you room for new thoughts. Clutter can be tackled in small amounts. Try fifteen-minute cleanups. You will be amazed at the difference in your psyche. Where before you felt frustrated, you will now find yourself feeling optimism.

From Miyajima Island temple. Clear mind, happy mind?

Cameron gets the Samurai Mind award for not only suggesting a technique but also using time limits as a tool!  Clear clutter, clear mind.  (Clearing Yoda throat)  Clear clutter, clear mind.  Samurai cleaning, samurai learning is.

The Power of Morning and Evening: Samurai Slumbering–Samurai Rising

A passageway from a temple to garden in Nagasaki. Morning and evening are key transition times.

A Japanese self-help book, a samurai self-help blogger , and a Japanese immersion website meet at a bar and talk about the best time to “do it.”  Morning and night.

Morning and night might be one of the best times to set your intentions, embedded knew knowledge, and change your life.

Anchors Away!

Khatz talks about the importance of morning and evening as anchors:

I’ll just say that in terms of just outward behavior patterns, those two “anchor points” do tend to set pattern for the rest of the day. Broadly speaking, the rest of one’s day often seems to run off of the inertia from these two times of day.

Focus your energy on managing your immediate environment, the 3-foot wide country that is you — especially at these two critical times – and you may well find that other things just naturally fall into place.  —All Japanese All the Time

Khatz has been lightly hammering the idea of anchors in my daily “sprints” or suggestions for immersion.  Basically, I take this to mean that the morning and the minutes right before sleep are the most key moments of the day.   The morning sets the tone for the day and the minutes before sleep set the tone for the dream scape.

I’ve been experiment with this in many ways.   When I walk out in the mornings I often listen to japanesepod101.com podcast lessons.  Yesterday, however, I felt the pull to listen to Japanese music.  I follow whatever method or activity seems to be the most fun at the time.  In the middle of a work day, I usually work through at emergency room like atmosphere at a school.   As I get ready to sleep, I may read the supporting materials to the jpod lesson (if I’m interested) or listen to an non-jarring podcast.  These days I “listen”  to Tokyo FM’s Tokyo Midtown Presents, a pleasant and interesting program about different design concepts.   The voices are so pleasant that I never consciously listen to the content before sleep.  Does it work?  Who knows?  But I am enjoying Japanese, so why stop?

Power Your Morning (and Night), Furuichi Style

Yukio Furuichi, author of 1日30分を続けなさい!人生勝利の勉強法55 Learn to Win  My (My take with a dash of soy translation:   Keep going 30 minutes a day!  55 Study Steps to Winning in Life) also writes about the power of morning and the evenings.

Furuichi’s Reasons Why Studying in the Morning Pays Off:

  • There are fewer interesting television shows in the morning.
  • There a less distractions such as phone calls, social outings, etc
  • From his experience, the rate of learning seems to be higher in the morning than in the evenings
  • If you “git ir done” in the morning, you’ve got a huge part of your studying done for the day

Furuichi’s Hints for the Evenings:

Buddha at rest. You have to sleep in order to wake up.

  • Get at least six to seven and a half hours of sleep
  • If you don’t get enough sleep you become less effective when you study
  • While you are sleeping, memories get arranged and fixed
  • If you can’t sleep, have something by your bed you can study.  After you are tired (usually around 30 minutes) you should be able to sleep.
  • Napping helps but don’t go for long naps because they throw off your biorhythms.

Samurai at Rest/Samurai Rising

If morning and evening are such powerful anchors, why limit using them to whatever you are studying?   (Keep in mind that by studying I mean that you take on what you want to move forward in your life.)  What are the thoughts and intentions that you go to bed with at night?   I’ll be the first one to admit, that I often wake up with internal grumbling?  But why not wake up thinking about what you want in your life?  What you want for the world?   Why not rise up singing?

It’s the same with the evening.   Instead of taking your worries to bed with you, what about going to bed with appreciations and your dreams for the yourself and the world?

Sun up.  Sun down.  Samurai at rest.  Samurai rising.

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


The Power of Five Minutes: Mutant Samurai Turtles, Activate!

The Power of Five Minutes–Let Your Power Flower

I did it!  I headed to the post office, got the right postage and sent my book proposal to an agent I worked with years before.   (I will tell you later what it was my book proposal was about.  I like to let creative projects incubate until they are ready.)   What’s amazing that even though I’ve been working on this project for seven years, I hadn’t done anything to move it forward.  I’ve done more to move this project in the last six months than I have in six years combined.
The secret?  The power of five minutes.  Turtle power.

I’ve had almost everything you might need to work on my writing.  I have a computer at home.  I also have a laptop and I am even member of a quiet space to work called the Writers Room.

However, I would get to the Writers Room after a long day at school and be overwhelmed by the day that I just had and the enormity of “WRITING.”  Then I would proceed to read the New York Times, take naps, grade homework, study Japanese, and then later on check my Facebook page.

I Khatzumoto put it best how often what we really need to do is just start:

I’m with HONDA Naoyuki on this one — most of us don’t need to prioritize our work, we just need to get started on it. Many times. That’s what’s killing us…paucity of starts. And all the tidying and soda breaks and relaxation exercises in the world cannot will not ever change this. Let’s be brutally honest: your life simply is not that complicated — most of the time, you already know what your top priority direction is. The only question is: are you headed in it?

As I’ve discussed ad nauseum on this blog, I started to do All Japanese All the Time and later the paid Japanese immersion coaching service called Silverspoon.  Part of what I learned to do with AJATT is to use my vibrating watch to take little bites of everything I want to accomplish and move forward, whether it’s learning Japanese, writing, or doing more mundane things like cleaning up my classroom.

Having time limits can turn everything into a game.  How many words and ideas can I fit into five minutes before the time runs out?   What’s next?   It turns big tasks into digestible bite sized git ‘er done bits.

I also changed my routine.   One of the things Japanese writers on learning discuss is finding your “golden time.”   What is the time of day when you can move your mind, tune into creativity, and let things flow?  For me, I realized it was in the morning.  I had to break my routine of going to my favorite coffee shop, which opens at 7 a.m.   Instead, I made sure that I was at carrel at the Writer’s Room.  (With a cheaper and less tasty cup of coffee at hand.)

A lot happens in the hour before I have to go to work now.  I do my Japanese “sprints”  (little Japanese “study” suggestions from Silverspoon).  I work on my traditional writing.  I work on the blog.  But I work at a turtle’s pace, going slow and a little bit at a time.   But it turns out that maybe that is the best way for me to work.  It means that I always have my tools out (laptop, notebooks, reference books, headphones, etc) and move a little bit on them everyday, not thinking about rushing to the end.

So I continued to work on a book proposal for a project that I started seven years ago.  (Seven years!)  It felt like a big mess, but I took daily stabs at it—organizing ideas on paper, looking at a proposal writing reference guide.   I would set the timer for five minutes and take one little piece.   Sometimes, I “cheated” and worked a little bit more.  One day, I looked at my book proposal and realized that I had come to the end.   I realized it needed a lot of proofreading and took the turtle approach.   Again, I was surprised that I had come to the end.

The book proposal may not lead to a contract, but I feel like I have moved a mountain.   I’m ready to write again, five minutes at a time.  What’s your dream?  What are you willing to give five minutes a day?  Mutant Samurai Turtles activate!