Tag Archives: reading

You will never get “there”: The Now Samurai

Talk about life long learning.  I love that there is a book dedicated to teaching seniors how to play The Ventures.   But why wait until you retire to do what you want to do?

Talk about life long learning. I love that there is a book dedicated to teaching seniors how to play The Ventures. But why wait until you retire to do what you want to do?  My Japanese father-in-law is taking up guitar.  I’m thinking of seeing if I can join his classes.  Japanese and guitar, wow!

Yesterday, I decided to stop at a cafe to have an iced latte.  Because it was hot outside and their air conditioner wasn’t on, it was relatively empty.  Then they turned on some Best of Jimi Hendrix, which I hadn’t heard in a long time.  Listening to Hendrix after a long drought is like drinking a cup of coffee after I’ve “given it up”–it blasts me to the stratosphere.  What was interesting was that as I was listening to it, I was thinking things like, “oh he slid up the strings there” or “how and where did he get that idea?”  I didn’t do the usual hero worshiping, practice stopping rant.  “I will never get there.”

If you think you never will “get there” you are right.  You will never get there because where you are is right here right now.   So what are you going to do about it?  Find a way to hit just one string clearly or worship the rock gods?  (Hey, why not do both 🙂 )  Will you find a way to just push for a few minutes to write a little scale or moan about how you wish you could write songs?

Part of pushing is  allowing yourself to “suck” while you move forward.  Part of why reading alljapaneseallthetime.com was so liberating was Khatz’s concept of “suckage.”   As he explains, you have to be comfortable with were you are with your skill but not so comfortable that you aren’t doing something about it.  “Accepting permanent suckage is not humility. That’s resignation. Sucking is a temporary condition. Contact is the cure.”  Have contact with your desired skill at many ends from the theoretical pushes to just having fun listening to the “masters” without being threatened.

You will never get there.  You are always here, now.  Push. Play. Repeat.

Word Warrior: Samurai Vocabulary Power

Why do large vocabularies characterize executives and possibly outstanding men and women in other fields? The final answer seems to be that words are the instruments by means of which men and women grasp the thoughts of others and with which they do much of their own thinking. They are the “tools of thought.“

—Johnson O’Connor


Attaining great vocabulary doesn't mean you use the "highest" words all the time.  Malcolm X knew how to shift his vocabulary for his different audiences.

Attaining great vocabulary doesn’t mean you use the “highest” words all the time. Malcolm X knew how to shift his vocabulary for his different audiences.

They say that the Inuit peoples have seven different kinds of words for snow.  Hey, if you are surviving in the Northern regions it’s helpful.   Is it the soft powdery stuff or the crunchy hard, bite through your face stuff?.   An increased vocabulary gives you the capability to have more pigeon holes to understand the world.

Malcolm X discovered that while he was in prison.   Imprisoned in Norfolk County Prison, X decided to fill in the gaps of his education by first skimming through a dictionary then by copying out pages of the dictionary.   He had discovered the Nation of Islam and found that he lacked the word power to express himself effectively.   X flowed between this steady vocabulary study to his own highly motivated reading and writing, freeing his mind even though he was imprisoned:

I was so fascinated that I went on—I copied the dictionary’s next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary’s A section had filled a whole tablet — and I went on into the B’s. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary.

I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors — usually Ella and Reginald — and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.        —-The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X became a word warrior and traveled the world because of his ability to learn.

You don’t have to go prison to become a word warrior.  🙂 .  However, what X’s story reminds me of is the importance of moving between intentional word study and reading for joy, enlightenment, transformation, etc.   Malcolm X started by being highly motivated to read and write texts that inspired and informed him.   Frustrated by his word power he went all samurai by copying out the dictionary.   (That’s not the only option for developing word power.)   His increased word power allowed him to read more, which in turn increased his word power.

When I have a short amount of time, I study using the iPhone with Midori.  I collect words from reading, listening to music, etc.  There's a flashcard program but it only focuses on single words rather than sentences.

When I have a short amount of time, I study using the iPhone with Midori. I collect words from reading, listening to music, etc. There’s a flashcard program but it only focuses on single words rather than sentences.

As far as developing my Japanese vocabulary, I like to follow AJATT’s philosophy of “Let Go, But Don’t Let Go”:

In more concrete, Japanese/SRS terms, this means that you need to be:

  1. Adamant about learning a new word/words every day, but…
  2. Completely relaxed, laidback and lackadaisical with regard to specific words

Learn a word, but don’t bother learn that word. Learn new things, but don’t get hung up about anything in particular. Don’t get stuck on a specific word; don’t have one-itis for any specific word. Screw it. Pick an easier word. Pick a word that’s…I dunno…”giving it up” easier, as it were.

In the mornings, I do all kinds of word study through Surusu, Anki, Japanesepod101.com, and iKnow.   Throughout the day, I do repetitions of the words I’ve studied–or not.   But what is really important is that I have books and media that move me to be hungrier to play with words more–my Youtube music and drama lists, DVD’s from Netflix, my man-bag books, podcasts etc.

Push. Relax. Push again.  Connect.  Free your mind.  Word up.



Study Hacks!: Samurai Book Preview

Just started reading this book and already getting a lot out of it.   Some positive reinforcement of things I already do and some fun "hacks."

Just started reading this book and already getting a lot out of it. Some positive reinforcement of things I already do and some fun “hacks.”

The other day Christmas came early when I bought Study Hacks by Ryuusuke Koyama.   (in Japanese) This book fits the bill of one of the main missions of samuraimindonline.com to bring you “books that explore study methods and how to better optimize learning and growth.”  (Plus, I got double stamps for buying $10 or more on day with a “three” in it. 🙂

There's nothing like a point card to motivate me to read Japanese.  I get double points for buying books on any day with a three on it.

There’s nothing like a point card to motivate me to read Japanese. I get double points for buying books on any day with a three in it.

楽しいながら成果が上がるスキルアップのコツと習慣:  Improve Your Skills While Having Fun

Study Hacks begins with three glossy pages with photographs of the essential goods you can use to improve the effectiveness of your studying and introduces three key points:

  • Get goods that will help you concentrate wherever you are.
  • Use your ears to study. [ラク耳勉強法」Shut out distracting background noise.
  • Get the “goods” that will help you multiply your study results and passions.

Top Study Hacks! Recommended Goods

  • Noise cancelling headphones:  Koyama displays the same model of earphones I own, good for increasing concentration and “ear study”
  • IC Recorder:  hey, it’s a voice recorder.  Keep your learning on an audio loop
  • iPod:  listen to podcasts in your target language or for your target interest.
  • Massage oil aroma oil:  use aromatherapy when you are tired and concentrate–news to me!
  • Herb tea:  herb tea?  chamomile, vile weed!  I’ll have to get back to you when I get later into the book.
  • Shadowing materials:  Koyama suggests CNN English Express for Japanese speakers to mimic the sounds of English through “shadowing” . . . if you are learning a foreign language find podcasts, youtube materials of things that you would normally be interested in and just mumble through it . . .
  • Evernote:  make your own dictionary” . . . .Take advantage of the little chunks of time and use this “remember everything” platform to make your own personal learning dictionary

Hello Evernote

I have to admit, I don’t get out much.   Last week I  heard about Evernote from a dad I met in the playroom who said he remembered all our names because he had put th

Just started playing around with this tool to play around with music theory and Japanese!

Just started playing around with Evernote to play around with music theory and Japanese! So far so fun!

m into  his Evernote program.  However, it took reading it in a Japanese book before I actually looked up the program and began playing with it!

So far so good!  I’ve been using it to capture my notes from the Jamplay website to remember things like scale patterns and the Circle of Fifths.  I’ve also recorded a few of my “jams” (so not ready for public consumption) since I read in the Advancing Guitarist that it is good to record yourself and periodically listen.  Evernote makes it easier to keep track of it all.

I’ve also taken pictures of Study Hacks at junctures where I think there are really interesting ideas.  What’s really been fun is that I’ve been able to clip dictionary definitions from Midori into my notes for each image.  I’ve also started reading the passages outloud with the voice recording tool.   (So far I’ve learned that I need to work on the tonality of my voice.  🙂 )

So far, I’ve gotten a lot out of my $14 besides the extra stamps.   Yes, I have read tons of study and brain books and some of this book is repetitive.  However, it is interesting to me and motivates me to find new vocabulary and incidentally introduces me to new uses of kanji.  It’s not boring.  When it gets boring I stop.  Boredom kills.

I could read Murakami in Japanese but I am not interested in it right now.  I’m learning about learning to learn more Japanese and to help others learn more.  Quadruple stamps!


“Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)”

I love it when a song pops in to your head and it fits what you’ve been thinking and reading about.   Enjoy yourself (it’s later than you think).  I just discovered the Louis Prima version but I was introduced to the song by a ska group called the Specials.

Sometimes you just have to jump into your desired skill to enjoy it.  The sign from this ice cream shop in Japan says,  "If it drinks and it eats the dessert, it becomes happy feelings about this shop."  That's my philosophy about deliberate practice in one confusing sentence. :)

Sometimes you just have to jump into your desired skill to enjoy it. The sign from this ice cream shop in Japan says, “If it drinks and it eats the dessert, it becomes happy feelings about this shop.” That’s my philosophy about deliberate practice in one confusing sentence. 🙂

Hi my name is Juan and I’m going to enjoy myself first.  (obscure song reference 🙂 )  What got me thinking in this vein was a quote from my current carry around town book,  1分スピード記憶勉強法:  Study Method with One-Minute Speedy Memorizing:


If you read things you are interested and read in a relaxed way,  reviewing is easier, and bit by bit the you will be steeped in more vocabulary.    If you ride the waves of this “Nice  Environment”,  you will be able to [read English] without knocking yourself out.  Masami Utsude

I actually finished this book a while ago but decided to just carry it around for subway rides, waiting for appointments, etc.  It’s fun, easy but with a lot of new vocabulary, and just reinforces positive thinking and methods I want to incorporate into my life and learning.  It’s like All Japanese All The Time except it’s written in Japanese most of the time!  (There are sample English sentences for Japanese learners who want to learn English.)

A big part of learning involves controlling and nurturing your environment and ensuring that you will both push and relax into your hoped for skill.   In the morning I create and study flashcards and all that other Silverspoon-push stuff.   In the off moments, I may be listening to Japanese music or watching snippets of Japanese youtube videos.   Then, I “read” my Japanese books.   I may read every word on every page or just read the chapter headings or the table of contents.  I don’t worry if I know every word.  I may look at a new kanji compound and think, “Wow, I haven’t seen you before.”  And then, I move on.   I’m light years away from where I was months ago, when a page of Japanese text put me into a cycle of self-loathing.

Whatever you are doing or try to learn, there is a place for “pushing” and practice but an equally important place is relaxing and enjoying your skill.  Create a “nice environment””

  • Begin by being nice to yourself.  Be as nice as you would to a child learning to walk.
  • Think in terms of games.  I just realized that some people have crosswords and sudoku and I have kanji.  I’m not going to master “kanji”  I’m going to play kanji.
  • Find the teachers and tools that you enjoy or at least choose to enjoy your teachers.  Currently, I am watching Steve Eulberg’s lesson on the Circle of Fifths on Jamplay.  (They have a sale in December!  Follow the link on the right)  It’s wracking my brain but, hey, I like the guy.
  • Make time on your side.  Use timers to turn the “pushing” part of your day.   Lately, I’ve been going at the Japanesepod101..com lessons (check out yet another link on the right) but using incremental and decremental timers (an AJATT tool) to make it all mission-impossibly fun.  It’s also part of adding speed to my game.
  • Let yourself play and play “bad.”  I’ve been playing a lot more guitar since I’ve given myself the opportunity to play badly.  In fact, it’s been liberating to give up.  Nope,  I am not going to play like Keith Richards tomorrow.   But I can practice this G scale pattern and noodle around afterwards.

I’m glad we all survived the apocalypse.  But the timer is still ticking.  Enjoy yourself.  It’s later than you think.

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.

One Minute Review: Enjoy Yourself to Learn a Foreign Language

I’ve been dipping into this book by Masami Utsude about adding speed to your learning methods. He recommends learning English by watching and reading materials that you enjoy. Good advice for learning any language!

As part of my Japanese immersion project, I have Japanese books stashed all over the place: in  my man bag, by my bedside, by the computer, etc.  At the Writer’s Room, where I spend 45-60 minutes each morning studying or working on my writing, I have several books.  At the top of the pile is 1分スピード記憶勉強法: Study Method with One-Minute Speedy Memorizing by Masami Utsude.   I dip into this book every now and then because it is simply laid out, has a lot of pictures, and is inspirational.

A whole section is devoted to learning English,  but these methods and ideas can be applied to any language–for fun and profit :).  Here are some of my dash of soy sauce translations of some of the best ideas.  [I put brackets around where I mistranslated “English” into “foreign language.”]

Guarantee Improvement While Having Fun!:  One Minute English Study Method.“楽しいながら確実に上達!「1分スピード英語勉強法」”  

Unless the text is completely compelling, these days I am choosing Japanese books with pictures. 1分 has a lot of fun pictures. This one emphasizes that it is more fun and easier to learn a foreign language through quick and repeated reviews.

Utsude argues that one of the main reasons Japanese people don’t learn English is because they don’t give themselves enough opportunities to read, speak, and hear English.   The best way to actually review is to read, speak, and hear materials that you enjoy in a foreign language.

The Shortcut to Learning a [Foreign Language] is Repetition“英語上達の近道は「くり返し」増やすことに尽きる”  

Utsude explains that you wouldn’t expect to become a better swimmer by reading a book and getting into a pool once.  To become better you need hundreds of hours of actual practice.  Utsude was writing about English but you can fill the blank above with any language or skill you want.

What are the Two Walls that Keep (Japanese) People from Learning a [Foreign Language]?日本人の英語勉強を阻む「2つの壁」とは?  

  1. Your Environment:   Are you surrounding yourself with good materials in your target language?  Ajatt.com recently echoed this sentiment by explaining how learning a language is a lot easier when you modify your infrastructure: “So any issues an able-bodied, sound-minded adult is going to have with learning (getting used to) a language will be entirely due to infrastructure, not linguistics, not biology.”
  2. Your Self (自身)  Are you clear and confident in your goals and motivation for learning a foreign language?

In Order to Remember/Review Your [Target Language]  Relax and Surround Yourself With Materials You Like ラクにくり返しをして記憶するための一番コツは、あなたの「好きなこと」「得意なこと」と英語を結びつけてしまうのです。

It’s the infrastructure issue all over again.  Masami Utsude urges his readers to “review” while having fun learning from English dramas, movies, newspapers, etc.  It’s the reason that I am reading Japanese books about learning.  I have a natural motivation that keeps me motivated and moving forward.  No birds.  No stone.


How to Smoothly Read [Foreign Language]  Books 英文がスラスラ読める効果的な方法

  1. Read the Table of Contents First–It Gives You a Road Map and Gives You a Native Experience of the Foreign Language
  2. Relax and Read without a Dictionary
  3. Read the Titles
  4. Make Sure You Are Reading the Genres You Enjoy

Getting The Most out of Watching [Foreign Language] Television and Movies「好きなテレビドラマー映画を楽しんで観る」がコツ 

  1. Watch without subtitles.   Even if you don’t understand just enjoy the atmosphere of the movie and let it fill your heart.
  2. Repeat scenes that you love over and over again.
  3. Let yourself feel like you are part of the movie or drama.  “Shadow” the dialogue and repeat what they say.


1分スピード記憶勉強法 has a lot more great ideas about learning foreign languages.  If you are a follower of AJATT or antimoon, these ideas are not new.  In a way, that’s why I chose the book–because it affirms messages that I already understand and know.   Reading about these methods reinforces both the positive advice and Japanese itself.

In learning a foreign language there is a time for pushing and a time for relaxing into the language.  Both are important.  I push by making new flashcards, reading definitions of Japanese words in Japanese, and studying flashcards.   I relax into the Japanese by listening to Japanese music, television, movies and by random channel and web surfing.   I’m not “fluent” yet but I consider it a milestone that I just read Japanese books for fun now.

Don’t give up on your dream of learning a foreign language.  Take a minute to have some fun.


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Give Yourself the Edge: Interview with James W. Heisig

I use kanji.koohii.com to share and use mnemonic stories to remember how to read, write, and understand the kanji. It’s great to work with others across the world but in the end you also have to make your learning your own. I am wandering beyond the standard kanji. Learning a lot of botanical kanji lately, like this kanji for “stamen.”

Samurai Mind Online is dedicated to helping people take on whatever they want to learn whether they think it’s impossible or not.   Last night I almost gave myself a concussion when I realized that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to share an interview that I did with James W. Heisig in 2006.    As you’ll see in the interview (it’s way longer than my typical post), Heisig came up with a system for how to remember kanji, the Chinese based system that is a key system of writing in Japan.  But regardless of whether you are reading this blog because you are interested in learning Japanese, I think there are a few take aways from this interview that any one wanting to learn anything in their life could take away from this story:

  • be bold and don’t be afraid to follow your own path
  • always be on the look out for smart short cuts or opportunities for deliberate practice.  Khatzumoto has some key questions in his article, “Practice Time, Game Time” that I think can apply to any field:  What don’t I know well? What doesn’t work?  What needs fixing?  What can be improved?  (Talent is Overrated is a great book to think about this whole idea of deliberate practice.)  Heisig realized that understanding kanji would really propel his Japanese fluency and invented a whole system around it.
  • don’t depend on others to tell you what is impossible or not
  • have fun.   Happy feelings bring happy learnings.  Heisig hightailed it from the language school as soon as he could and went to the mountains of Nagano and said he learned a lot of Japanese by playing with children and reading comic books.

Give yourself the edge.  Be bold and independent but also look at all the resources that are available and be persistent about evaluating them.  And above all have fun and enjoy the journey.

Another great tool is anki.ichi.net, which allows you to create flashcards for anything that you are learning. As you pass and fail cards, they come up in a spaced repetition system, so you are mostly reviewing things at the edge of forgetting and remembering. SRS systems are a great way to give yourself an edge.

This interview originally appeared in kanjiclinic.com, a great resource for learning more about kanji.

“Adventures in Kanji-Land: James W. Heisig and the Birth of Remembering the Kanji”
Based on an Interview with James W. Heisig
By Juan W. Rivera

Free download of the first 125 pages of Remembering the Kanji I.

Every now and then, someone confronts their own personal challenge, systematically overcomes it, and then shares that system with the world. This not only opens up their world, but also opens up the world for generations of people to come. James W. Heisig, author of the sometimes controversial book Remembering the Kanji I: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters, is definitely one of those people. Many people refer to his approach to learning to write the complex Japanese characters as “revolutionary,” making Japanese and kanji study accessible to their lives and opening up a whole world of learning and possibilities for them. I conducted a telephone interview with Prof. Heisig from his office at the Nanzan University Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan.

Heisig’s kanji journey began while he was living in a commune of poets and artists identified as the “spiritual” side of the Sandanista revolution that would soon overthrow the Somoza government. Because of his familiarity with research centers, he was invited by Nanzan University to consult on the establishment of an academic institute devoted to dialogue among religions and philosophies East and West. Shortly after the consultation he was invited back to assist in the project, on condition that he would remain for five years and first attain fluency in spoken and written Japanese at an academic level.
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In a Learning State of Mind: Samurai Reading is Samurai Singing

Get in a Learning State of Mind

The time that you can wake up to what you can do is now.  As you follow your dreams and learn what you’ve always wanted to learn you need persistence.  You also need to bob and weave.  You can change your materials and your learning approaches like a time shifting ninja.

I’ve been taking photographs of pages from books that I find inspirational or interesting. This is from Kenichiro Mogi’s Japanese book, “Only Do Good Things With Your Brain.” This phrase here means that developing happiness helps your brain grow. Happiness, learning, happiness. A non-vicious cycle.

However,   I’ve also come to realize lately is that you can also change your state of mind.  Yes, you can change your materials and your methods and you should always be awake to that.   But you can also change your mind, and that can make a world of difference.  Before I lose the thread of what I want to say in a jet-lag haze (just got back from Japan two days ago), here are some quick tips to help get you get in a learning state of mind:

  • Check your breathing and your posture.   Open up.  Breathe deep.
  • Smile towards towards your work and tell yourself, “I am going to look for what is fun in this.”
  • Be gentle with yourself.  Do you point and laugh at children that are learning how to walk?
  • On the other hand, don”t try to bliss out.   You don’t have to motivate yourself to do what is odious to you.  Put that Napalm for Idiots book in the trash.  You don”t have to know every fact or keep every flashcard.  Choice is a loving act.

The other day, I was looking at my Samurai notebook and really feeling resistant about looking at it.  I had been resisting looking at it for days.   Part of the reason I was feeling this resistance was because I had filled my journal with “obligatory” notes from online courses from my job, etc.  I realized this recently smiled, took  relaxed breath and a looked at one of the positive goals in my Samurai notebook and turned a chore into a joy and challenge.  I also made a decision to quickly skip over things that didn’t interest me at the moment.  My samurai reviews have been going better ever since.

“Don’t focus on being negative.  It won’t work anyway.”

In one of Khatzumoto’s emails as part of my Silverspoon (a Japanese immersion service) experience he writes something like, “don’t focus on being so negative.  It won’t work anyway.”  (Khatzumoto sends out emails containing both an inspirational quote—sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime, sometimes cheesy. )  In the daily “sprints,” Khatzumoto asks that you do what I would call an affirmation (though I think the youngster would probably choose a “hipper” phrase.)   “Why do I choose to touch Japanese every day” is just one example.

A sign for guitar classes in Numazu. I want to take guitar classes and study how to play guitar with Japanese materials. Use what you love to learn. Loving two birds with no stone!

Part of the reason I keep recommending Khatzumoto’s site, ajatt.com, is because he is constantly finding ways to challenge states of mind that get in the way of doing what seems impossible.  His site is about learning Japanese but just check out his site and replace learning Japanese with whatever “impossible” goal you have in mind.  Here’s a start.  I want to turn this into a bumper sticker.  (I just need a car first):

“Keeping the Game Alive: Self-Abuse Ruins Everything, So Be Nice To You


Take a look around you, inside of you.  What seems impossible?  What’s one little step you can take.  Breathe.  Smile.  Open a new page.  Samurai reading is samurai singing.  Samurai singing is samurai learning.

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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.


Happy Feelings Bring Happy Learnings

Yes, I guess my mind is turning into a Japanese t-shirt.  That’s a good thing  While I’m at it, here is a whole string of truisms coming at ya:

  • Do what you love and love what you do.
  • Love what you learn and learn what you love.
  • Bored or frustrated with what you are learning?  Here are two options:  change what you are learning or change your mind.
  • Fun doesn’t mean easy.

The other day I was doing my Chinese exercises by the beach and was graced by both the sight Mount Fuji and a fleeting glimpse of a rainbow.  I caught it all on my iPhone.  In between Nei Kung sets, I did little flashcard reviews using my Midori app.   In these brief little sprints, I stop when a word repeats or when I get bored.  (AJATT and other immersion experts recommend studying sentences rather than single words but I enjoying having little bursts of vocabulary exercise.)


Sometimes the clouds just lift and you can see Mt. Fuji

As I went through the cards, I noticed that I was really  remembering the cards I had some fond, personal connection to rather than the cards I just collected by more formal ‘studying.’   I remembered that どじょう was loach fish (wth?) because it was a word I had collected while my daughter was singing karaoke with my father-in-law.   I could picture the cartoon face. Last night I looked up ひやひや (chilly or fearful) and can remember that it was a word a Japanese ping pong player used to describe her team’s close game.

Love what you learn and learn what you love.

It’s a non-vicious cycle.   Turn to the things that you want to learn and master (guitar, economics, starting your own business, the interwebs) and it makes it easier to learn.   Turn to the things that you love, and it will help you learn (and do) more.   My Japanese ‘studies’ improved when I decided to use it to read self-help books, my guilty pleasure.

Change what you are learning or change your mind.

Change it up.   AJATT has a hilarious post called,  ‘That Righteous Feeling, Or: If You’re Not Feeling Naughty, You’re Doing It Wrong.’  Khatzumoto basically argues that if you are reading a book in your target language out of duty or obligation instead of fun, you are actually hurting your learning efficiency.   I think this is true even if you aren’t learning a language.

I think it’s also possible to change your mind about what you are learning and ask what’s the fun in this?  Sometimes I get a lot more out of just reading the table of contents of a Japanese book rather than boring myself by struggling through every page and killing my desire to read.  Everything is fair in love, reading, and learning.

Fun doesn’t mean easy.

Kenichiro Mogi, author of several books on the the brain ( 脳)  loves  to talk about the dopamine effect.  He explains that overcoming mental hurdles and challenges releases endorphins and dopamine that create feelings of happiness.  It’s why some people love video games, mountain climbing and even algebra.

A  lot of people idolize Jimi Hendrix as a rock god.  (Yes, I am not worthy.)  But what a lot of people don’t acknowledge is all the hours of work that he put in to play the guitar so well.  He walked around his apartment with his guitar strapped on.  And he didn’t forget the fun.  Hard work + love + fun= dope (dopamine)

Learn what you love and love what you learn.  Become the Jimi Hendrix of your life.  Climb the mountain!  Catch the rainbow!
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I ‘caught’ the rainbow!