Tag Archives: purpose

Happiness, Service, and the Power of Love: Martin Luther King, Jr Quotes

In my last post I discussed the happiness decision, or the power to make a decision to turn your mind towards positive things even when you don’t feel happy.  Lately, I’ve also been pondering the question of how do you confront the darkness without becoming dark.  I was thinking specifically of two people I really admire Mahatma Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many people focus on them almost as heroes or saints, but they were just human beings.  Yes, they wrote and spoke of great things, but they laughed, they cried, they had faults.  They were human.

They laughed and gathered and consulted with the people around them.  They made the “happiness decision” in countless ways.  I think this is a forgotten reason for why Gandhi and King were able to lead these social movements.  I googled, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and happiness” and stumbled upon these great quotes gathered by goodreads.  They really helped to power my morning and I want to share a few with you:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his I Have a Dream Speech at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. 08/28/1963 ARC Identifier 542069 / Local Identifier 306-SSM-4D(107)16

Part of what I think made Martin Luther King Jr. a great leader was his capacity for joy and reaching for people.   From the National Archves.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his I Have a Dream Speech at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. 08/28/1963
ARC Identifier 542069 / Local Identifier 306-SSM-4D(107)16

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from “Loving Your Enemies”)”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

I hope this all helps.  Enjoy your mind.  Share your heart.  Thanks for 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.

Samurai Dance

“Every day I count wasted in which there has been no dancing.”–Friedrich ‘Shake What Your Momma  Gave You’  Nietzsche

I’m staying with my wife and my daughters in a a little town called Yui.  It’s famous for it’s Sakura ebi shrimp and the fact that it is shown on NHK television when the waves from a approaching typhoon crash across the interprectural highway.   It is a good trip.  In the mornings I’ve been able to get away and hike among the farms.  I’m living the slug life, yo.  

Have you ever watched a Studio Ghibli movie and watched a cartoon slug wander down a plant. They are slimier in real life.

I can tell it’s a good trip because when my daughters play with their cousins, they vehemently tell me to go away.

We are also here to enjoy the matsuri or festivals.   This weekend, at night this sleepy little town is transformed into a festival of lights.  My shaky little iPhone pics won’t do justice to it.

My daughter, Sakura, especially enjoys 盆通り, or bondori.   This is basically a festival dance.   Anyone can come dance around the yagura, a large beautifully lit central platform where the musicians and drummers play.   


The central platform around which bondori dancers dance. There’s something primal in a maypole kind of way about this kind of festival dance.

There are different dances but it usually involves stylized hand and arm movements and very little moving of the hips.   What I love about this festival is how many different types of people come.   It’s cool to watch tough guys twirl their hands delicately in the air.   (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)   It’s kind of amazing that people have been coming to dance together for hundreds of years.

Last night I saw an old couple dancing.   The woman was pushing his wheelchair in the general directions that the other dancers were moving.  The man’s had moved like eagles above his wheelchair. 

That’s how I want to live–grasping every minute that I can to dance in some way.    It’s why I woke up this morning and walked to the hills and farms above the local zen temple.   It’s why I swim through lameness totry to keep on writing.  Join me.  Keep dancing. 


Above the zen temple–from the hills where you can really see far.



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!

Battling iDistraction: Samurai Goes Old School

From Miyajima Island

Hint:  given the topic of this post see if you can resist hitting any links until you get to the bottom of the post

I keep an iPad and several books by my bed.  I like to throw in a few minutes of study before I go to bed.  I pick something interesting yet not totally stimulating.   I find that two pages of a book in Japanese are enough to push mind a little forward and also overwhelm me and help me to sleep.  I also like to follow Japanese lessons on japanesepod101.com.  The information is useful, the grammar lesson are great but after fifteen minutes of reading a pdf or listening to a dialogue, I’m ready to drift into la-la land.

Driven to Distraction

But the iPad is a little dangerous.  I can check my lessons there or follow Japanese links. But the pretty little Facebook button calls and I have to just check it for a little bit.  Maybe there is a fascinating (or not) link to an article, and then I’m gone.  What was my intention?   What happened to my time?

Going Old School

I’m not abandoning my electronic toys.  The convenience and tools are just too elegant and fun.  These days I am enjoying reading about daruma, these funky Japanese dolls that are actually based on the story one of the founders of Zen in Japan.  I love that I can read the wikipedia page that’s loaded on to my iPhone.  I love that I can tap on to a Japanese word and get a definition.

But I’ve noticed these tools can turn into toys that encourage your “monkey mind.”   I’m not a Buddhist, but I play one on the internet. 🙂 “Monkey mind” means that you grab at whatever catches your attention in the moment.  One moment you are eating a banana and the next moment you are picking bugs out of your friend’s fur in a tree.  One moment you are setting out to study Japanese Zen schools of thought and then the next moment you are listening to “Tied to the Whipping Post” on Youtube.

Monkey on Miyajima Island. The fence is actually to keep the humans out of the monkey territory. Now, who has the monkey mind?

You don’t have to spank your monkey mind.  Exploring, goofing off, wandering aimlessly all have valuable roles to play.   But lately, if I find my self too iDistracted I resort to the following:

  • Read a book.   There are very few apps on a book.  Follow one mind.  If you “have no time” take five minutes a day to read.  Skip over parts that don’t interest you.  I just pulled out Marius B. Jansen’s The Making of Modern Japan.  800 pages.   So far. So Sekihagara good.
  • Write in and review your samurai notebook.   Follow your own mind for a while.  What are your thoughts, plans, goals, noticings? Review your notebook and enjoy.  Even if your notebook is filled with interesting quotes from other people they are your gatherings.   Reviewing your notebook reminds you of where your mind has been.  It anchors you.
  • [Practice what you preach alert]  Meditate.

Well, if you made it to the bottom of this post it means you got past the iDistraction and “monkey mind.”  Congratulations.  Gotta go see my friend about a banana, his fur, and something about a whipping post.

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!

Keep Your Mind on Samurai Shuffle


I was one of those guys that resisted getting an iPod for what seems like an eternity.  Then, I started trying to learn Japanese and realized what a relic I was walking around town with a cassette deck or even a CD player.

Ipods, etc are a great boon to the samurai mind. You’ll want to have moments of silence but you can immerse yourself in your field or in your field of dreams. I have used my sound environment to help me with Japanese, WordPress, my health, and to start blasting through old creativity and money patterns. Photo by Jim at http://bit.ly/S1Kvpd

Then I started doing AJATT (All Japanese All the Time) at ajatt.com.   Khatzumoto recommends that you always have fun Japanese music and podcasts playing during times you can’t be hooked up to other forms of Japanese media.  It made sense and I bit the bullet.  I haven’t looked back since. Continue reading

Samurai Notebooks of the Mind

Spaced-repetition, the final frontier.   To boldly go where no samurai notebook has gone before.

I’ve used notebooks for a long time.   For a while, I was doing “morning pages”, a method popularized by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.  (I highly recommend it.)   Continue reading

Let’s Go Dutch: Career Advice from A Samurai

Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655) who had fought as a samurai in the battles of Sekihagara and Osaka argued that in the life of commoners, ordinary, daily work, could lead to enlightenment.   What mattered was internal attitude; when this was properly adjusted and focused all trades could become the roads to spiritual emancipation.”  p. 222 Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Source: Wikipedia Genpaku trained himself to understand Dutch to further Japanese understanding of medicine and science.

Source: Wikipedia
Genpaku trained himself to understand Dutch to further Japanese understanding of medicine and science.

Well, despite my disclaimer samurai have crept into my blog.   First of all, let me explain how I found this quote.  I am a busy high school teacher and a father of two children and time is at a premium.  However, what I have learned All Japanese All the Time and Japanese writers on learning, is that squeezing in little moments of learning things that bring you joy is much more preferable to throwing up your hands and feeling that all is futile.   Want to play guitar?  Hold it in your hands five minutes a day and do something. Continue reading