Tag Archives: life-change reading

Automatic Samurai: Sprinkler Systems On!

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How can you water your dreams? Your mind? Your soul? Set up gentle “systems” for yourself to sustain growth and wonder.

I just finished my Building Your Personal Foundation course through CoachU, taught by Susan Abrams.   I was excited and challenged and by the idea of creating “automatic sprinkler systems” to fulfill various needs.   For example, I realized that one of my needs was energy.   Last week I joined the YMCA located near by job.  Oh yeah, and I actually went.  Y-M-C-A!

Needs may not be completely satisfied but it seems that you can at least create systems that challenge you in that area and increase the potential of moving forward.  For example, one of the needs that I isolated was the need for motivation and inspiration.  I may not be motivated or inspired all the time but I have started to play with  some systems and rituals that have the potential of kicking me back into motivation and energy.    Here are some of my “systems”:

  • What I read–I’ve always been kind of a self-help book junkie but I’ve added a few titles to my kindle:   Words Can Change Your Brain and Loving What Is.   Both of these books were suggested by Susan Abrams.   I keep the reading process fun.  When I am no longer inspired by what I am reading I move on to the next title and then switch back.
  • Who I hang out with:   people provide the frameworks and conversations that can motivate and inspire you.  Part of the benefits of starting the coach training program is that I get to talk to people who are focused on moving forward  I’ve also been experimenting with finding a positive spiritual community.
  • What I write and say:   I am not censoring myself but I am playing around with something I call “Happiness Journal.”   Inspired by a little page from Words Can Change Your Brain, I am taking time in the mornings and evening to write three things that made me happy.

Finally, I realized that my samurai mind notebook is actually one of my automatic sprinkler systems.  If I put ideas from projects and quotations that excite me, review them regularly, I have those thoughts as part of the conversation.   I may not listen to them but at least they may challenge the crappy mood and change the terms of what I think is possible.

What I like about everything that I’ve been hearing and encountering is that none of it commits me to becoming a happiness robot.   All the work I’ve come across acknowledges that there will be periods of darkness and –err–shades of gray.   I think the trick will be to set up “systems” that challenge the darkness without becoming inflexible or ignoring the depth and color of life.   Join me.  What are your sprinkler systems?


Samurai Attraction: Get a Little “Shelvish”

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This is one of the bookshelves I’ve started to go through. Reading is a powerful way to move your life forward. But sometimes we need to give ourselves to not be so precious or serious about our reading. Find ways to be “attracted” to books. Fun is serious stuff. 🙂

This will be the year of getting “shelvish.”  I have been feeling a little overwhelmed that I have all these great books on my shelf that have gone unread and are just “lying there.”   So I’ve begun a one page campaign.   I am going through my bookshelves methodically and just letting myself read one page each night.   Sometimes the information sings to me and I read more.  Many times I get excited and move on to the next book to see myself moving forward.  I bookmark the page and the next night I move on to the next book.

Keep in mind that I am a busy parent and teacher.    I turn to the bookshelf after I finish reading “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Jamberry”  to my three year.  The other day I read two or three pages of David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace:   The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and The Creation of the Modern Middle East.  Last night I read two pages of Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam:  A History.  In the next few nights I will hit Zen and the Art of Making A Living and some other self-helpy materials.  (My bookshelves aren’t necessarily arranged according to the Dewey Decimal system.)  I am also approaching a fun little patch of Japanese manga and self-help books.

We live in an age of information overload and days that may have 1000 demands.   It’s easy to fall into overwhelm.  But increasingly I’m finding it is important to do two things:  1)  think small and 2)  follow joy.    The information or the story or the song has to be attractive and attracted to you because that’s when you can really grow into your skill, into your self the way that you want to be.

Whenever I start to feel a little too precious or self-righteous about reading, I head over to ajatt.com.   The blogmeister, Khatzumoto, taught himself Japanese in fifteen months through fun immersion.  A big part of that involved reading fun materials in Japanese.   One of his latest blog articles is “Multipass Reading:   Be Sloppy the First 10 Times Because You Can Always Come Back.” 

I love this invitation to “read sloppy” because the other option for little ole “perfectionist” me is not to read at all.   Why should I let these hundreds of dollars of books and thousands of hours of human knowledge pass me by because I’m frozen about how to read correctly?  It’s time to be shelvish and just have fun.

If not reading is holding you back, join me!  Let’s make this the Year of Being Shelvish!

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.



Samurai Reading Sluts: How to Become One

Pile on the fun with books for fun and profit.  :)  Photo from unprofound.com.

Pile on the fun with books for fun and profit. 🙂 Photo from unprofound.com.

Khatz over at ajatt.com has posted an excellent article called “12 Common Reading Mistakes You’re Making That You Need to Stop Making if You Want to Be Thin and Pretty Like Me.”  Just looking at the title and the summary jolted me into re-reading the Japanese book that has been lingering in my man-bag.  Here’s the helpful snippet:

Stop trying to read in massive chunks of time Most of life is waiting. Most of life is disjoint snippets of time: two, three, five minutes here or there. That’s when you read. Stop trying or waiting for some golden multi-hour block . . .

I think that my problem with reading is that I tend to see reading as a marriage til death do us part kind of process.  Probably what might be most helpful is to adopt a philandering, slightly-abusive role model towards books:

  • Read more than one book at a time.  I have light books for taking on the train, heavy books like Zen and the Art of Making a Living that I work through pages at a time, and books that are pleasing but sufficiently unexciting for right before bed.
  • Graffiti and abuse certain books.  Yeah, get all juvenile delinquent on some of your books.  Some books have been untouched on my shelves for years, and now I am getting use value from them by writing on them, dog-earring the pages, and just making sure that I’m not reading passively.   My music theory book has gotten and will get the most abuse.
  • Read for free until you don’t.   I just recently got a kindle.  It’s so easy to sample books and eventually I end up buying something and supporting authors.    Just skimming and sampling seems to be good for my brain.  I’m out there searching for good ideas.  As of two days ago, I just discovered reading “on the cloud.”  It is so nice to be able to jump into a book from the computer, to the iPad, to the iPhone.
  • Quick and dirty.   Slow and savor the flavor.  It’s all good.  There are so many ways to enjoy reading.   Skip pages.  Read the end first.   (I used to read history books that way.)   Read the first sentence of each paragraph until you hit something good.  I recently read Guitar Zero that way.  Enjoy all the positions.

Most importantly, have fun.  Ironically, this is one of the key messages of the Japanese book that I am reading, 情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術 (Increase Your  Information Rate 10 Times Through the NLP Speed-Reading Method).   There’s a lot of NLP talk about “anchoring” and “filtering” in this book.  Basically, when we have negative thinking towards reading we become less efficient
in retaining information and even continuing to read.

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop.   Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up.   Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven't.   A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out.  Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop. Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up. Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven’t. A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out. Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

The book includes exercises on getting in the right frame of mind to enjoy reading, but it’s also important to change the way we read in order to continue to read.  There’s no one way.   You are not contracted to any book.  Speed date.   Skip lines.   Pick them up off the street.  Have fun.  🙂

Hey Coach, Samurai Shrink This

Some Brazilian players play "futbol de salao."  Small, challenging environments can improve skills.  Work it!

Some Brazilian players play “futbol de salao.” Small, challenging environments can improve skills. Work it!

“Shrink the space.”  After reading Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent, this phrase has been going through my head continuously.   Coyle says tweets or microfiction help writers to hone their sentences and ideas.  Brazilian soccer players can play futebol de salao, or room soccer.  Within that small space, little moves are magnified.  So much can happen and so much be learned in a small space.

One way to “shrink the space” is to get a coach or an experience that moves you through an experience or skills.  A good coach, program, or book helps you get to the core of a skill in a shorter amount of time.  You are always experimenting and trying things by yourself, but part of that experiment can be the stable of people you hire, the podcasts you listen to, the books you read etc. to help you shrink the space.  The strange thing about coaching is that a coach is not even necessarily better at the whole “game.”   They are just great at shrinking the space, whether it is physical or mental part of the game.  Even Tiger Woods hires a golf coach.

Throughout my life, I realized I’ve had experiences and “coaching” that have helped me “shrink the space” and move forward in different areas:

  • Life/Thinking Big:  Outward Bound.  Spending 23 days learning how to set up tarps, climb, and orient myself in the woods helped me think about bigger and bigger challenges in my life.
  • Money/Finance:   Steve Chandler, Phil Laut and others.  I went on to learn how to be an Outward Bound instructor but I was also in debt.   The books of Phil Laut, Eric Tyson, Jerrold Mundis and others really helped me to have a healthier money practice.  Their books “live” on my Amazon Store.  Check them out and support this website.
  • Relationships:  Eileen Jacobson.   Relationships can be scarier than rappelling down a cliff face.  Eileen really helped me find my ground.  Now I am married with two little people who call me “daddy.”
  • Language and Learning:  ajatt.com and silverspoon. I’m not only learning more Japanese because of this website and paid immersion coaching service, but I have also learned how to be a more successful lifelong learner.  I have learned how to box time and sting like a bee.

Opportunities for shrinking the space are everywhere and are often found when you are “playing around” in addition to when you are intentionally targeting areas for improvement.  I’ve recently stumbled on to the podcasts of Kim Doyal at thewordpresschick.com and have been having fun with it.  Just recently, she interviewed Nicole Fende, author of How to Be A Finance Rockstar.   I am interested in WordPress and I am also interested in small business and finance with a heart.   Through this at times zany but extremely insightful interview, I was able to “shrink the space” and get some interesting perspectives on both.  One of the key themes–don’t be afraid to get help and coaching along the way.

Of course, “getting a coach” can become a hang up.  Yes, I want a guitar teacher but should that keep me from practicing at least five minutes a day?  I would really like to work with an editor, but should that keep me from writing at least fifteen minutes a day on ideas that excite me?  No.   For now I will work with little windows of time and shrink the space.

Join me. Coach or no coach, shrink the space. Try. Play. Love.


The Things I Carry: A Day in the Life of a Silverspooner

I am on day 572 of 595 in Silverspoon, an internet service designed to help people immerse themselves in Japanese and become fluent.   I like the fact that there are limited days.  These past weeks I’ve passed over opportunities to immerse in English media because in the back of my mind, I am always thinking, “I only have x days left.”   Time limits good.  Goals with time limits are powerful and effective.  The “race” is on.

Some of the things I carry: headphones, Heisig cards, One Minute Study Method Book, and kanji cards designed for Japanese fifth graders. Music or podcast is usually always on. Depending on my mood and travel conditions, I may pull out any of the other materials.

Tim O’Brien wrote a very powerful book about the Vietnam war called The Things They Carried.  The novel reads more like a poem describing the different objects, memories, and stories that the soldiers carried on their tour.   In a completely different vein, I just want to take a minute to describe some of the things that I carry as I try to immerse myself in Japanese.

A quick word about the methodology of Silverspoon, or at least how I interpret it.  When I log on to Silverspoon, everyday I open up a link and follow the day’s “sprints.”  This could involve anything from making monolingual (Japanese-Japanese) flashcards about a mouthwash ad to just doing flashcard repetitions in various time configurations.   These pushes are followed by “chillax” periods where you may have Japanese in the background but you aren’t consciously pushing on the language.

The pushes are punctuated throughout the day, which is a smart way to work because of the way memory and Spaced Repetition Systems work.   It is better to space out studying over the day than drill to kill.    As the memory of a new learned fact begins to “decay”, you get the opportunity to revive this fact and move it closer to storage in long term memory.

1分スピード記憶勉強法  (Study Method with One-Minute Speedy Memorizing) uses a matches to candle metaphor  for this process.   A fact learned with your short term memory is like a match.   If you don’t do anything eventually the fact will just extinguish it.  However, if you repeat it again, you can use it to light another “match”  and then another until finally all the last match can light the candle of long term memory.   A candle burns longer and is more dependable than a match.

On the back of these cards are Japanese definitions, sample sentences, and a humorous strip to reinforce the words. A lot of times the vocabulary is beyond my grasp. I give it a read and throw the card away. My thinking is that I will have other opportunities to have fun with this word. I stop looking at these cards when it feels like a chore.

Fun illustration from 1分スピード勉強法。 Short term memory expires quickly. However, through repetitions the memory can cover the distance to light the candle of long term memory.

Most of the “heavy lifting” in Silverspoon comes in the morning, when I make new flashcards and to the longest repetitions.   There are flashcard repetitions throughout the day, but they are interspersed with a lot of “chillaxing”  (or in my case, work and child care).

The nice thing about Silverspoon is that you get links to Japanese content that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I also do a lot less to almost no movie or anime watching than Silverspoon recommends.  I just don’t have a lot of time, so the links are really helpful.

But in the meantime, I have the things I carry:

  • iphone and a Bose Headphones:   Lately, I’ve been pushing a little bit by taking fifteen or less minutes to listening to japanesepod101.com lessons on my 40 minute walk to school.  The rest of the time I listen to Japanese music.  Lately, I’ve discovered a Japanese podcast called ラヂオ版 学問ノススメ Special Edition.  I discovered it by doing an iTunes search for Kenichiro Mogi  (茂木建一廊)、a Japanese brain scientist, author, and former television host.  I don’t understand most of the interviews but I listen for the tone.   Besides “chillaxing” I use the iPhone for the spare moments on line or waiting for the elevator to keep the matches lit.  I always keep a few iPhone windows always open to anki, surusu, Japanesepod101 and random Japanese  websites.
  • a wallet full of cards:  just in case I have a spare moment and don’t want to seem completely rude I have Heisig flashcards and a Japanese 5th grade cards that have

    I bought these cards for a $1 when the Asahiya Book store closed. 🙁 They come in a book that you can tear up. On the front of the card is the stroke order and some Japanese mnemonics to remember how to write it, in addition to the Japanese and Chinese readings.

    mnemonics on the front and sample sentences on the back ….

  • a man bag with at least one Japanese book in it:   I pull this out when I can get a seat on the subway or when I am waiting at a doctor’s office.  Right now, I just read for fun and skip over words and kanji I don’t understand.   Really, relaxing and having fun with target language material is the ultimate “repetition.”  Reinforcing through fun.  Exposure to new material without that high stakes, “gotta study” feeling.
  • If I can’t get a seat on the subway or the trip is very short, I pull out the Midori flashcard app on my iPhone.   However, I’ve realized (even though it’s been drilled over to me by the likes of AJATT since Day 1) that studying single vocabulary words without the context of sentences is one of the least productive things to do.  However, it’s nice to keep moving when I have a few minutes.

Stay in motion. You learn the things that you carry.   What’s in your wallet?   What are you trying to learn?   What do you carry?  What could you carry?  What would be fun?   Keep in touch and let us know.

Read This Fast!: Samurai “Speed Reading”

Well, I finally finished reading, 情報が10倍になるNLP速読術 BY Naoya Matsushima.  (soy sauce translation: Get Ten Times More Information Through the NLP Speed Reading Method.)  Since the book is about speed reading, I had to read it fast.   I probably only understood about 40% of its real essence, but the book seemed to offer a mix of novel and common sense advice for

These days I’m always ready to read. As a busy dad and teacher, I don’t have a lot of discretionary time, but if I keep my “man bag” ready with good stuff I can read. I’m trying to learn Japanese. Here are the NLP speed reading book and Japion a free weekly newspaper for the Japanese community in New York.

reading more effectively.  Here are some of the key points I remember:

  • when you prepare to read, get yourself into a good state–imagining a pleasant memory totally unrelated to reading
  • check and fix your breathing, posture, and mental state before and while you read–Matsushima offers some NLP exercises but I didn’t understand the finer points of how to do that
  • really pre-read a book and do it with gusto–look at the front and back cover, preface, conclusion, and the table of contents
  • ask you look at the front and back matter, really think to yourself, “What do I want to get out of this?”
  • practice relaxedly scanning each page—begin this with books you really want to read
  • be ready to switch techniques at any point

If you are already a reader, most of these techniques are not big news too you, but it was nice for me to be reminded of how I could be a better reader.  I turned reading this book into a game.   I read the table of contents really thoroughly but briskly and enjoyed the promises of the book.   When I got bored, I practiced just scanning the lines and looking at the sentences as a picture, not really stopping to decipher so much.  I tried to see how many pages I could read while taking the subway from West 4th street to West 23rd street.  (short ride).    When the book got boring or frustrating, I switched to other books or did something completely different.   If I didn’t know the kanji or vocabulary, I just tried to think, “nice to meet you maybe I’ll see you and understand you again.”

Sometimes you just have to add a little velocity to the learning games.   There’s a time and place for more in-depth study but moving quickly seems to do a few powerful things:

  • gives you quick in context exposure to new ideas and vocabulary
  • short-circuits some of the negative self-talk that can frustrate you when you read–you are just reading so fast you don’t have time to call yourself an idiot 🙂 (lies, lies, lies)
  • gives you a quick road-map for knowledge in a field

    I also have been carrying around a copy of the Beck Music Guide, a music guide to the music of a fictional rock band manga. On the back is some sheet music from Jamplay. They had a great lesson on visualizing before you play so I thought it would be great to carry sheet music around with me as well. Trying to stay like a rolling stone.   “Gotta keep on movin’.”

I really liked Khatzumoto’s article, “Reading is Skimming.”  He has a wonderful way of explaining the power of skimming in your life:

There is only one book: the world book.And all books are volumes of this one book. And all pages are pages of this world book.Now, there are billions of pages in this book. And you’re never going to read them all. Not. Ever…..Don’t save the best for last. Take the fun right now. Be a pro-active fun-seeker. If you don’t have fun now, today will be the beginning of the end as far as Japanese is concerned, believe you me.

I think this is true for whatever you really want to learn.   Give it a try, have fun, flip through pages, and open up the book of your life.

Online Guitar Lessons



All”s Fair in Love and Reading

One of the three books in my rotation. I started just writing the chapter titles down because they make sense. “Don’t compare yourself to others.” That’s a good one, especially when you think of yourself as a reader.

Okay, well far as love goes, you should try to be human , respect and work things out, and let them down easy but as far as books go, love ’em or leave ’em.   Here are some other important differences between love and reading:

  • Having multiple ‘partners’ is healthy in reading.    You can read several books and articles in quick succession.
  • You can drop a book the minute you’ve gotten whatever you want out of it.
  • A book can’ t break your achy breaky heart.

Why read?   Sam Beckford,  co- author of 100 Ways to Create Wealth explained that the difference between his  successful business and a several failed businesses before that was the 700 books that he read in between the two.   Reading and applying what you read is a powerful way to move forward.    Most importantly, reading is just plain fun way to explore and use your mind and a great way to keep it active.

(Being shiftless, cheap, and easy is specially important when you are using reading to learn a foreign language.   Keep it fun, or drop it and leave.   I know I quoted AJATT in my last post but I want to emblazon the title of his last piece into my brain:

That Righteous Feeling, Or: If You’re Not Feeling Naughty, You’re Doing It Wrong)

Here are some quick Samurai tips on how to be a reading ‘player’:
  • Browse. Go to real bookstores and libraries and relaxedly look around.  Even if you don’t buy or borrow a single book, a browsing session is a fun way to explore and map out the

    I picked this up at a local Bookoff. Kenichiro Mogi”s , “Only do Good Things with Your Brain.”

    topography of your heart’s desires.

  • Speed it up.  Spend one minute, five minutes, ten minutes on a book if time is limited or even just to get more out of it.    For a long time, I was one of those people that said that ‘there is no time to read.’   However, adding ‘time pressure’ to your reading can actually make reading more fun.    Set a timer or just use your interest as a guide.  Skim through every page or read closely.  Whatever turns you on.
  • Suck the marrow out and spit the rest out.  You aren’t married to your book.   Lately, especially with Japanese books, I’ve noticed that I get a lot out of a book even if all I do is read the table of contents.   Skip to the good parts.  You can always go back later.
  • Break up huge or ‘unapproachable’ books into small bites.   Ask yourself, ‘What is fun or interesting’ about this.   It can be fun to claim some herculean work.   I’ve been reading The Making of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen with the help of a timer.  It also helps that I ask myself what is fun about what I am reading.   I tend to skip over the parts about the bureaucratic administration of rice allotmentzzzzzz.

Sakamoto Ryoma, the 19th century samurai who is credited with helping to create the plan that would help Japan move into modernization and protect it from the West is credited with saying, “In whatever situation a person finds himself, he should not

After finishing this post, I went for my last browse in a Japanese bookstore until I come back next summer. This is an NLP inspired book called (roughly) “NLP Speed Reading Techniques to To Speed your Information Retention by 10X” Talk about serendipity.

abandon his favorite ways and his special abilities.”  Remember this as you read and choose how and what to read.  You are the artist, defender, and creator of your life.  Have fun, read, and  grow.


How To Leverage What You Read: Furuichi Tip #3 「読書のコツとは?」

Break out the soy sauce, because Samurai Mind Online is lost in translating another Japanese source today!  In this chapter of 1日30分」を続けなさい!人性勝利の勉強法55 Learn to Win by Yukio Furuichi (古市幸雄)  asks the simple question,  what is the best way to read?   Continue reading