What does it mean to have an awesome life… for you?

I almost cried while watching a TED talk by Neil Parsricha, the man behind 1000 Awesome Things. The story he shares with us in his talk is heartbreaking at times, and it’s packed with positive feelings as well. I was amazed at how excellent he is as a storyteller. I believe his storytelling ability comes from 3 A’s of awesome he talks about in his talk: Attitude, Awareness, and Authenticity. He has an attitude that he would choose to focus on awesome things in life, he is aware of what’s happening around him, and he is authentic. These 3 A’s of awesome are what Neil thinks to be essential for having an awesome life.

Neil’s talk resonates with me. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while and like it (thank you, it means a lot to me), there’s a great chance that you’ll love his talk as well. Please watch it.

What does it mean to have an awesome life… for you?

I believe it’s important to have your own standard of being awesome or having an awesome rather than following standards defined by others. The reason for this belief is simple: following someone else’s standard of having an awesome life does not necessarily make you happy. Perhaps you are supposed to buy a house and to settle down, according to someone else’s standard. But, if you are inclined to travel from place to place, then settling down won’t make you happy. I don’t think that an unhappy life can lead you to an awesome life.

What does it mean to have an awesome life for you? What makes your life awesome for you? What matters to you? What doesn’t matter to you?

For me, what it means to have an awesome life is to live my life fully. I act rather than react. I set my own purpose of living and create a meaning for my life. I live with the “my life is my art” attitude. Life is a carnival and I’m here to live, love, create and celebrate. I’m in search of beautiful moments.

Probably you can see why Neil’s talk resonates with me. My ideally awesome life coincides with these 3 A’s of awesome Neil talks about.

I had been missing until recently the importance of creating value, and giving it to or sharing it with others. What goes along with this line of thinking is: It’s great to help others achieve an awesome life. I bet this way of thinking has been around for ages; it’s a superb way of making your life even more awesome, too. (By the way, I recommend you to take a look at this article by Ashley of The Middle Finger Project.)

One thing that helps us have a head start is, by the way, to realize that our life is pretty awesome when we have the right attitude, awareness about what’s happening around us and are authentic as Neil claims in his talk. You can choose how you take care of your life and that alone makes your life awesome.

Don’t bash yourself too harshly if you are inclined to do so. I’ll tell you why. Bashing yourself harshly won’t make things better. It will just make you feel worse. Likewise, being positive won’t make problems go away, but it won’t make you feel at least. Instead, it will make you feel better. There is probably a fine line between being positive and being delusional, but, hey, it’s a matter of focus.

I can give you a fresh example – I went out tonight and bought a drink. I got a 500 yen coin (i.e. $5, very roughly) for a change and put it in a pocket. I had forgotten that there is a hole in that pocket. It seems that I lost the 500 yen coin through that hole. Now, a 500 yen coin is not too big a deal, but it could buy me a meal. I could swear at myself for being stupid, and make it a big deal. I choose not to do so. Perhaps someone picked up my 500 yen coin and he or she got 500 yen richer. Very good. I’m happy for that person who found it.

It’s a petite example, but I believe it’s illustrative enough. I chose to focus on something positive about my loss and I’m rather feeling happy about it. Being lighthearted is the trick here.

What do you choose to focus on? I just want you to know that you can choose to focus on awesome things in life and start living an awesome life, which you are having right now no matter whether you are aware of it or not. (If not, be aware! Now!)

If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends by clicking the like button or the tweet button below or by other means. That’s how you can help me grow this blog. Thank you! You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or e-mail, too. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Photo: visualpanic

Connecting 4 dots: how to live a romantic life and make the world more romantic

This post is for those who want to live a romantic life and to make the world more romantic. I’ll give you a brief outline of how you can do that by minimizing stuff, maximizing experience, living your life as your art, and finally, making the world more romantic.

From one idea to four steps: How I got there

In the middle of 2010, I realized a higher purpose of my life –  I want to make the world more romantic. This is one of the big things I want to achieve in my life, because I see it’s how I can make the world a better place. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know what I’m talking about. If you are new to this blog, you may not see what I mean. Keep reading on and you’ll know it.

Around the same time, I figured that I want to live my life as my art. That’s another ambiguous idea, especially when you try to understand what exactly it means.

These ideas get along with one another pretty well, because living your life as your art is, in my view, what it means to live romantically. If you live romantically, you are making the world a little bit more romantic. So, there you go.

Living my life as my art is how I make the world more romantic – this has been the core theme of this blog, and writing about it helped me clarify what’s involved in living your life as your art.

How do you live your life as your art? Wait, what exactly does it mean to live your life as your art? I’ll give more detailed answers to these questions, but for now, let me say this – living your life as your art means living fully, and you live it by maximizing experience.

In order to maximize experience, you need to get rid of or stay away from distractions, blocks, and clutters. In other words, you need to minimize stuff.

Through clarification, I came to realize that this project of making the world more romantic consists of the following 4 steps.

  • Minimize stuff
  • Maximize experience
  • Live your life as your art
  • Make the world more romantic

How They Are Connected

Before I explain what’s involved in these step, I want to draw connections between each step so you can have a better grasp of the big picture. The first step is to minimize stuff. What I mean by “stuff” here is everything that creates distractions for you. By eliminating such distractions as much as possible, you’ll have a good foundation for the second step: maximizing experience. If you choose to live your life as your art, which is the third step, maximizing experience is a great way to do so, because living your life as your art involves meeting amazing people as well as having wonderful experiences. Once you’ve completed this step, the fourth step – making the world more romantic should be easy enough for you, because you are already being romantic by living your life as your art and what you can do further is to connect with other amazing people who live an amazing life; that’s how we make the world more romantic.

First Step: Minimizing Stuff

How do you focus on what you want to do when there are so many things that keep you away from what you love and what you want to do in your life? You could try by using various methods to manage clutters and to make sure you focus on what you want to do.

But that’s like fighting a fight you can’t win. Instead of wasting your time, energy and resources, avoid fighting and move on.

For a quick start, you can start eliminate things you have. Do you need that pile of documents? No? Get rid of them. Have you worn those clothes recently? No? You can get rid of them too.

In addition to physical distractions, there are mental distractions as well. It may be trickier to get rid of mental distractions than physical distractions, but it can be done. For example, you can write down whatever that comes to your mind for 3 pages by handwriting every morning. This exercise is one of the core exercises in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. If you keep doing it everyday for a few months, it can help you dump your mental distractions.

If you don’t have to manage your physical or mental distractions, you’ll be able to have more time, energy and other resources for what you love. This alone can be a great motivation to minimize stuff. But what we want to aim here is more than that. We want to maximize experience.

Second Step: Maximize Experience

There could be various ways of describing why one wants to maximize experience, but I believe the fundamental reason that underlies them is to live the best life one could live. You want to live fully, don’t you? I do.

How can we maximize experience? I think the following are essential:

  • Know what you want to do: Knowing what you want to do gives you a direction. If you know it already, that’s great. You can focus on it. If you don’t know it yet, don’t worry. You have plenty of time to figure it out, but make sure to start working on it right now.
  • Be curious: Curiosity is one of the best things you can have when you maximize experience. Curiosity helps you be open to wonderful and beautiful experiences life has to offer. Also, I believe the desire to satisfy your curiosity is a great motivator for what you do. So, it’s important to develop your curiosity. This is especially true if you’ve lost your curiosity somewhere along the way while growing up.
  • Celebrate: Live to celebrate your life. Whether to celebrate it or not is a choice you can make. Everything and everyone will enrich your life one way or another if you choose to learn lessons from them. If you live with this attitude, your life will be richer than now.

Third Step: Live Your Life As Your Art

I like this art metaphor, and it’s because I want to see my life as something I create rather than something I have no control of. Also, I believe that amazing people I meet as well as great experiences I experience contribute to my art. In fact, I believe they are invaluable elements of my art. They give me stories, visions, sounds, and everything else that enriches my life. I want to create this artwork and share it with those who matter to me.

Most of how I create it is already covered in Second Step – by maximizing experience.

One extra thing you need to do when taking this step is to be aware of your creation. Some of you may not fancy living your life this way and may want to live it another way. That’s totally fine. If you want to live your life as your art, however, you can do it by all means. This attitude of living your life as your art will get you move into that direction.

This way of living will be much better when you connect with other people who have the same attitude towards living. Connect with them, and combine your art with their arts. It will become something greater.

Fourth Step: Making The World More Romantic

If you’ve completed the three steps above, I guarantee you that you’ve become the romance you want to see in the world. The world has one more person who lives her or his life fully and it has become a little bit more romantic for that reason.

Once you’ve got to this stage, I believe you’ll be able to start influencing others to live their lives fully. This will help making the world more romantic, too.

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If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends by clicking the like button or the tweet button below or by other means. That’s how you can help me grow this blog. Thank you! You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or e-mail, too. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Are you living your story?

This is the last post for Reverb10. I’ll answer the prompts #29 (Defining Moment), #30 (Gift) and #31 (Core Story) and share some of insights I got from reflecting on 2011.

Prompt 29: Defining Moment

Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

(Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

{Future tool: The 99%’s How to Budget for an Irregular Income. For the next 3 days as you round out your year, we’ll share one tool each day to help you plan your year ahead.}

If I am to pick one defining moment that affected my life this year, it has to be the moment I saw a tweet about a fund raising event at Ben’s Cafe in early January. I don’t remember what that moment was like, exactly. What happened was that I saw this tweet, clicked the link in it, and got to Ben’s Cafe’s website. My purpose was to learn more about that fund raising event, but in addition to that information I was originally looking for, I came to know that there was a group to read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way together.

I’ve mentioned this story a few times in this blog. So, let me add something to it in this round.

The reason why I clicked that link to Ben’s Cafe was simply because I was curious about this cafe as well as the fund raising event. I was interested in the event, but more in the cafe that hosted such an event, because I didn’t imagine there would be such a cafe in Tokyo. (I’m sure there are other cafes like Ben’s in Tokyo, but it’s pretty rare, I assume. As far as the vibe of the cafe and the quality of espresso are concerned, I rate Ben’s Cafe to my most favorite cafe in Tokyo.)

What made me click that link was my curiosity. What if I didn’t click it? It’s a pure coincidence I saw that tweet. I’m grateful for that. But, I could choose not to click that link and never learn about Ben’s Cafe. If I didn’t click that link, my year could have been totally different from what it was. I probably wouldn’t have met most of the new offline friends I met this year. I probably wouldn’t have done some of the projects I did this year. I probably wouldn’t have achieved what I achieved this year.

What made a huge difference to my 2010 was that one click. Whether it ends up becoming a false belief or not, it’s better, at least for me, to believe that there are a number of opportunities around here and there and it’s all up to us to notice them. It’s possible that you don’t know what you are looking for, but even in such cases, follow your curiosity and you’ll find yourself in something amazing.

I believe in my curiosity and having curiosity is one of the great ways to experience amazing things in your life.

Do you listen to your curiosity? Do you follow it? If not, why not?

Prompt 30: Gift

This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

(Author: Holly Root)

{Future tools: Lifehacker’s Free Tools to Manage New Years Resolutions and Gretchen Rubin’s Questions to Help You Make Effective New Year’s Resolutions.

Has #reverb10 made an impact on your writing, reflecting and life this month? Consider supporting the HQ team with a donation.}

On December 25th, I received a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) purple belt from my BJJ teacher. Since more than a year ago, I had been told by other people that I should be a purple belt, but since I had no one to grade me before coming back to Japan, I didn’t have a purple belt, and honestly, I didn’t worry too much about it.

All I wanted to do was to become a better grappler. To become stronger. To become more skilled. These belts themselves don’t mean anything, but how much you put yourself forward to the art of fighting does matter.

In fact, I believe this applies to other things in life as well. Don’t be worried too much about a new belt, because it will come when you’ve mastered skills necessary for holding that belt. If you have some time to be jealous about your friend who got that belt quicker than you did or some time to worry that you don’t have what it takes, use that time for training instead. Worrying will never make you get better, but training will.

I’m glad that I’m now recognized as I have reached this level, and I want to continue sharpening my skills. One of my big goals next year is to win my division at BJJ World Championship, to be held in California, in June. This goal gives me a great motivation for the first half of 2011.

What’s your big project in 2011?

Prompt 31: Core Story

What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

(Author: Molly O’Neill)

{Future tool: Susannah Conway’s Allowing Dreams} Today is the final day of #reverb10. Thank you for your reverberations this month. Keep an eye on your inbox at the end of January 2011 for something from HQ.}

So, this is it. This is the last prompt of Reverb10. And I’ll make my answer brief and tell you what my central story will be in 2011.

The central story at the core of myself is that I will live my life as my art and as something to celebrate. I will navigate myself in this adventure by my curiosity. I will head east from Japan to the USA for BJJ World Championship and for World Domination Summit in June, and I will head south from the USA to Argentina after WDS. If there are monsters I need to fight, I’ll think about ways to get away without fighting them so I can focus on important things in my life. It’s an open story and desiring to be written down in my history book.

How do I share this story with the world? I can think of 4 ways to do this. I share my story with the world by…

  1. Living that story: Now I have declared this story in some platforms and in person, I’m motivated even more. I will live this story and that will become part of me.
  2. Being not afraid of showing up: But if I’m afraid of sharing my story or don’t believe in myself, it’s possible that I don’t feel like sharing my story. I choose not to be afraid of showing up and telling this story.
  3. Actually showing up: It’s easy to promise something to yourself and to forget to do it. I’ll keep myself accountable about it on this blog. I didn’t mean to write the sentence before this one, but I happened to write it. So, I shall do it.
  4. Getting others involved in this story: For me, my life – my art involves other people, who contribute their stories, visions, sounds and other things to my art. I want you to get involved in my art as well. I want you to be part of my story as well. You can subscribe to this blog to keep track of my journey to Latin America. If you are interested, please join me!

I’m grateful for Team Reverb10 for running this online initiative. It’s been a great way to reflect on 2010 and to prepare for 2011.

Tomorrow, I will share 27 lessons I learnt in my life with you on this blog. Stay tuned!

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If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends by clicking the like button or the tweet button below. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or e-mail, too. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Photo: Zest-pk

On being beautifully different, party, and wisdom

Today’s post answers prompts #8 (Beautifully Different), #9 (Party) and #10 (Wisdom) of Reverb10. I’ll talk about #9 and #10 first, and then #8 in the end.

Prompt #9: Party

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

(Author: Shauna Reid)

This prompt reminds me that life is like a carnival. There’s no reason why our daily lives can be a party. For living this way, you don’t need to get drunk or to do activities that you’d do at an event that is structured according to the norms regarding what we call ‘party’. It’s more about your attitude that matters. Having said that, I haven’t shown up in my daily lives with this party attitude that much this year. So, stay tuned for 2011.

Prompt #10: Wisdom

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

(Author: Susannah Conway)

The wisest decision I made was to show up at Ben’s Cafe in Tokyo for the very first meeting of the Artist’s Way Tokyo group this January. This first meeting led me to a 12 week of creativity Tetris as well as another season of it. I have been mentioning this book a lot in this blog, but that’s pretty much because it’s a great book if you actually do the exercises in it. The next group will run from January 2011. If you are based in/near Tokyo and curious about giving it a go, check out this Facebook page or contact  Soness the facilitator.

Prompt #8: Beautifully Different

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

(Author: Karen Walrond)

There is nothing that makes me different from others, because I, like you and everyone else, am different by definition, or so I believe. I’ve been thinking about it this way for a while. But, if you insist, perhaps the fact that you are there makes me different from you. Likewise, the fact that I am here makes you different from me. After all, you are not me and I am not you. If you were me, then I wouldn’t be different from you. If everyone else was me, in the very literal sense, I wouldn’t be different from them.

But then, we are all alike for this difference by definition that we all have respectively. I’m inclined to think that similarities are more important when it comes to making connections with people, by the way. The basic idea is that we make connections by finding similarities between us. Learning about differences is fun, but what we really get us closer is that similarities we find in such differences. I’m going to elaborate this idea more in another post.

What I do that makes people light up? Perhaps my Cheshire Cat smiles?

And if what makes me different is what makes me beautiful, then it is you that make me beautiful. But beautiful in what sense?

Let me throw away an analytical mind for a moment. I’ll be happily non-sensical here.

My non-analytical answer is this. My life is my art, and I can perhaps claim that I am the platform of my art, because… well, I carry my life with me, or my life carries me. How I create my art is by experiencing this life as much as I can. Amazing people like you, as well as amazing experiences, contribute to stories, sounds, visions and everything else that go into my art. If I am beautiful, then that means my art is beautiful. If my art is beautiful, then it’s due to this whole art and each element of it. They are beautiful in the sense that they make people curious, wonder, examine and reflect on their feelings in one way or another OK, I just made up that sense of beauty, but I like it. Are you still following me? In short, you make me different, and my being different from you makes you curious about who I am – well, maybe not everyone of you, but some of you, I hope. And that power of creating curiosity is what I’d consider as an ingredient of beauty. But whether we’d come close to each other is, in my view, depends on similarities we find in one another.

You are beautiful, by the way.

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What’s your thoughts on these prompts? Tell me, because I’m curious. If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends by clicking the like button or the tweet button below. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or e-mail, too. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Photo: milena mihaylova

Reverb 10 – Days 2&3: Writing and Moment

I’m participating in Reverb10 and reflecting on the year 2010 as well as preparing for the year 2011. If you want to join this initiative, take a look at Reverb10’s website and sign up!

In this post, I’ll write on the prompts for Day 2 and Day 3: Writing and Moment.

Day 2: Writing

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

From January to June, I worked on the Artist’s Way as well as the Vein of Gold. One of the main exercises in these books is the morning pages — as soon as you get up, you write down whatever that comes to your mind for 3 pages. When I was good, I simply woke up and grabbed a pen and a notebook placed right next to my pillow and started writing my morning pages.

But I don’t write morning pages these days.

Now, I tend to take some time to start writing after I get up. This warm up time doesn’t contribute to my writing that much, because I know from my morning page experiences that I can wake up and start writing without any warm ups. In fact, the morning pages can serve as a good warm up for the day.

Let’s eliminate unnecessary warm ups, such as e-mail checking and coffee making, and bring this habit back again.

Day 3: Moment

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

There were some beautiful moments that made me feel alive this year. I’m grateful that I experienced them. But I will choose not to pick one moment and describe it in detail. There are two reasons for this: 1) I want to keep those moments private, and 2) I simply can’t choose one moment among those moments.

Instead of picking and describing one moment, I want to describe some common features that underlie those moments.

  • When a beautiful moment comes to me, it feels as though time freezes. All I need to do is to ask that moment to stop for seconds and to dance with me.
  • When I experience that moment, I feel warm and connected with the world in one way or another. Yes, that was the case even when I was all wet and frozen on top of Mt. Fuji.
  • Shortly after I experience that moment, I often think that my future self will randomly remember this moment. This thought makes me feel great as well.

I’m keen on experiencing such beautiful moments again in the year 2011 as well. I will focus on minimizing stuff and maximizing experiences more and more next year.

Are you part of Reverb10 as well? If you are, give me a yell in the comment section below and point me to your blog so I can read your stories! Even if you are not, I’m curious about your experiences in relation to the prompts above or this post in general. Tell me about it!

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If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or e-mail, too. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Photo: Kyle Kruchok

“Show Me Japan” photos

My friend Anna (@AnnnaTrouble) is organizing Show Me Japan, in which Japan bloggers, photographers, and other interested parties display their Japan-related photos on their respective blogs. If you want to see photos of Japan by other people or want to participate in this meme, make sure to visit Anna’s website linked above!

Now…

I wondered what part of Japan I could show you, and realized that I took some photos when I went to Nagatoro, Saitama recently. Nagatoro is a great place for nature lovers. Unlike other popular destinations like Nikko or Mt. Takao, Nagatoro is less crowded. It’s quite accessible from central Tokyo, too. (i.e. it takes about 2 hours to get to Nagatoro from Ikebukuro by train)

The photos below are all taken with iPhone 3GS.