On action, appreciation, and 5 minutes

In this post, I will answer the prompts 13 (Action), 14 (Appreciation) and 15 (5 minutes) of Reverb 10. It’s not too late to join Reverb10 and reflect on your year 2010 – join us and share stories with other participants!

Prompt 13: Action

When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

In the previous post, I wrote about my possession. The last time I counted how many things I have, I had about 126 things. Now, I’ve decided to let some of them go, including this T-shirt I am attached to very much. The story behind this T-shirt is about my 18 year old self, my friend Tatsuya and this hardcore punk band called Reach the Sky, from Boston. 8 years ago, Tatsuya brought Reach the Sky to Japan on a DIY basis, and I got to be involved in their Japan tour as an interpreter/tour manager/person-to-have-fun-with-them. I still remember this great adventure we had and this T-shirt means a lot to me.

But I’m letting it go. I cut out the logo of Reach the Sky printed on the T-shirt and will keep it, though. The T-shirt will go, but memories will stay.
I’ve put this T-shirt as well as other items in a garbage bag and it’s ready to be collected tomorrow morning. I will minimizing physical as well as mental distractions from my life and focus on creation. This is one of the very first steps.

If you are interested in having a lifestyle in which you minimize stuff and maximize your experiences, you can start identifying things you don’t need, but you possess, and start eliminating these things as well. All you need to do is to take action, to take one small step.

Prompt 14: Appreciate

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

One simple thing that I started believing this year is that I have enough resources that lead me to almost anywhere I want to go, metaphorically or literally. It may take years to get to where I want to go, but I know I can make one step forward, another step forward and yet another step forward. What I already have is enough for satisfying what’s required to make this step. By resources, I mean everything and everyone that comes to my life. I appreciate them for helping me move forward.

The question of how I express gratitude for them is a tricky question, but I suppose I can simply live my life with this attitude of appreciating everything and everyone that makes my life enjoyable and that way I can express gratitude for them.

Prompt 15: 5 minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

My 2010 in 5 minutes. What do I want to remember? This year was probably a year I experienced a big shift, and slow as well as fast. It was slow in the sense that I felt frustrated with how little progress I made when I could make more progress. It was fast in the sense that I nevertheless had great experiences, such as unblocking my creative blocks, learning Argentine Tango, climbing Mt. Fuji, winning at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Asian Open Championship, making a lot of new friends, going to Kyoto and other small things I can’t write in 5 minutes.

So, that was my 2010 in 5 minutes of writing.

This prompt makes me think… I wrote 101 words for my 5 minute summary of 2010. If I live for another 60 years and write a 100 word summary every year, then these 60 years can be summed up in about 6000 words? But then, I feel I’d rather want to be able to sum up my life with something simpler like “I had an awesome life and I love you all”.

By the way, I’m having an awesome life and I love you all.


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!

Having a sense of wonder, letting things go, and making – #Reverb10

What was 2010 like for you? I am reflecting on my year 2010 by participating in Reverb10. In this post, I’ll answer prompts #4 (Wonder), #5 (Let Go), and #6 (Make). You can find other Reverb10 stories by searching the hashtag #Reverb10 on twitter, or you can check the Reverb10 official site.

Prompt #4: Wonder

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

(Author: Jeffrey Davis)

My answer to this question is somewhat circular, but I cultivated a sense of wonder by having a sense of wonder.

What helped me have a sense of wonder, though, is my desire to experience beautiful moments in my life. You can’t make beautiful moments happen and perhaps the beauty of these moments would be lost if you could control everything about them. Having said that, however, I believe you can make it easier for you to notice such moments  by focusing on what’s happening around you (or perhaps by worrying less about what’s not happening).

I’m not a guy who has a sense of wonder about absolutely everything, because I do prioritize some things higher than others, but I choose to be curious about things I want to experience.

Choosing to be curious is the key, I believe.

When I met Mr. Satorialist at his meet&greet event in Tokyo this April, I asked him what he sees through his camera. “Ignorance is a bliss,” he said. He finds something interesting about people he wants to take photos of and he makes up stories about them. He sees what he wants to see in these people.

I plan to cultivate a sense of wonder more in 2011. Having a sense of wonder is, I believe, one way to make the world more romantic.

What are you curious about? What do you want to experience?

Prompt #5: Let Go

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

(Author: Alice Bradley)

As far as the practice of letting things go is concerned, I actively let go of things this year.

It all started as part of exercises in The Artist’s Way, and I continue to let go of things that don’t fit in with the kind of life I want to lead. I got rid of old clothes, books, CDs, old photos, documents that I don’t need to keep, other redundant items, creative blocks, worries, negative thoughts and the like. I’m sure these things will keep coming back like Tetris, but I’m also sure that I can handle them without accumulating them next time.

So, I will keep letting go, because my ideal at the moment is to own only what’s necessary. The motive is not so much about becoming a minimalist, but it’s about maximizing experiences by reducing physical as well as mental distractions.

It’s possible that nothing is going to stay with you forever. I can’t see any reason why you should try to keep it to yourself when it needs to go. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t welcome it when it comes to you, by the way. You can appreciate it when it’s there with you and let it go when it needs to go. It’s simple as that.

(Now I’ve finished answering up to prompt #5 of Reverb10, I sense Reverb10 helps me prepare for letting go of 2010! You were a beautiful year, but go… go!)

Prompt #6: Make

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

(Author: Gretchen Rubin)

If we are referring to something substantial here, my answer will be my NaNoWriMo novel, but the last thing I made in a more straight forward sense is stirfried eggplants. I used vegetable oil, eggplants cut into finger size&shape, miso paste, mirin, and soy sauce.

There are some things I want to make. I want to make a mini e-book that explains the concept of location independent business and introduce people who run such businesses to Japanese readers. I want to make a manifesto about making the world more romantic. I want to translate Leo Babauta’s e-book Focus into Japanese. I will make them happen.

But now I’ve mentioned food as an answer to this prompt, I came to have baclava and apple crumble in mind as well…

How about you? What’s the last thing you made? By the way, it’s important to note that you don’t need to set the hurdle too high when we talk about things we made. If you doodled something, you made something. If you cooked a meal, you made something. If you became friends with someone new, then you made something.

Or say hello to me and you’ll have made a new connection if you are new to this blog!


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: *Zara

Fundamental moves will take you further

When I was practicing tango with my dance partner last Saturday night, we noticed something. There was a part of this choreography that both my dance partner and I didn’t like. Our teachers had said nothing about this part being obviously strange or awkward, but to our eyes, there was something wrong about it.

This part involves us walking together. I stand right next to her and we walk. It takes only a few seconds… or 5 steps for this part. The problem was simple: We looked bored to death.

It wasn’t a new problem, but we finally decided to do something about it. We noticed the position of our arms didn’t look right. After we experimented for a while, we came to think it would be better if I stood on her left and behind her rather than standing next to her. That way, we could keep our arms in a better position. But, a new problem appeared. In that new position I had a difficulty moving my right leg forward, because her left leg would block it.

Then I remembered the most basic thing I learnt from my teacher: how to walk. When you walk properly in a tango way, you bring your foot forward and almost in front of the other foot. (If you are interested, watch this video.)  Before, I used to bring my right leg just forward and that was all. When I tried to walk in a proper way, I could take a step without getting blocked by my dance partner’s leg.

When I noticed this solution, I realized how important it is to work on this most fundamental move of all – walking. I only started learning tango since April, and there were a lot to learn. Compared to other moves, there’s nothing flashy about walking, at least when you look at it from a beginner’s perspective. I had forgotten about this most fundamental move. But luckily, I remembered about it.

Actually, I bet that fundamental moves like walking make a difference between the good and the excellent when you look at the whole thing from an expert’s perspective. I think this way, because I can apply my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experiences to this situation as well. I know from my experiences that the fundamental moves are more important than flashy techniques, and I know that many people neglect those fundamental moves, while getting distracted by fancy moves.

I have a few questions for you. What’s the most fundamental thing in what you are passionate about? Have you been paying attention to it? Or have you been distracted by some other things that look somewhat better than this most fundamental thing? If you’ve been distracted, perhaps it’s a good time to focus on the basic things.

Photo: notsogoodphotography

Showing your weaknesses… with confidence

I want to tell you something I know about confidence.

“Masa, you’re not good at seeking help from others,” my good friend once told me. She was spot on; it is indeed the case that I tend to avoid seeking help from others. I believe I did get better at it, but I was rather bad. The whole story is probably much more complicated and something even I don’t know completely, but one of the reasons behind it was simple: I used to think that asking for help was a weak behaviour and I didn’t want to show my weaknesses to others.

Some, like my past self, might think that showing no traits of weaknesses is the way to become confident. That is, in their way of thinking, one can be recognized as a confident person by looking strong and impressive. A confident person doesn’t ask for help!

But is that really the case?

These days I’m inclined to think that showing weaknesses is a confident behaviour, unless it’s overdone. On one hand, a good way to do it is 1) to acknowledge your weaknesses, 2) to be casual about them, and 3) to show them with honesty. On the other hand, a bad way is to do it with the intention of getting attention from others.

There might be various defintions of confidence, but one I have in mind comes from how the Japnese word for confidence (Jishin) is written in Chinese characters. If we translate the two characters used to write this Japanese word, the Japanese word for confidence literally means self trust. Believing in yourself – I like that.

Whether you like it or not, your weaknesses are part of you. Imagine they are like your little babies. I’m sure you can be nice to them and won’t hide them from the world.

I know it can be scary to show up as who you are, which inevitably includes your vulnerable side and your weaknesses that belong to it. But just show up anyway. These elements of you do belong to you; believe in them – in yourself no matter what. I’d say that will lead you to be more confident about who you are.

There are a few more things about confidence, but I’ll save them for another time…


This post was inspired by the following talk given by Brené Brown at TEDxHuston. It’s a great talk and I highly recommend it. I have some other ideas for blog posts inspired by this talk as well. Stay tuned!

Photo: rolands.lakis

Cat vs. Curiosity

Curious CatWhen I was working on the about page of this blog yesterday, I got an amusing thought.

Cat vs. Curiosity.

Imagine a cat fighting against a giant monster named Curiosity. Well, in fact, Curiosity may well be invisible. When the cat seems to be playing, he may well be fighting against Curiosity.

A bloody battle.

Wait, what’s so bloody about it? The cat seems to be amused as if he is playing with Curiosity!

But, we are told that Curiosity killed the cat. Surely, the cat must have been fighting against Curiosity before his death. Let’s assume Curiosity did kill the cat… What does that mean? The cat shouldn’t have been curious and invited Curiosity to him at all?

After being amused by this thought on Cat vs. Curiosity, I tweeted:

Curiosity killed the cat? Nonsense. Curiosity made the cat’s life awesome. Even if the cat did die due to curiosity, the cat died happily.

To my surprise, 23 people retweeted it (at the time of writing this post) and it’s the most retweeted tweet I made so far.

That makes me wonder. I can understand that the positive nature of this tweet might have made those people want to share it with others, but there must have been more to it. My guess is that it depicted a story, like the one I told you in the beginning of this post. I knew about the importance of storytelling, and this Cat vs. Curiosity tweet made me feel it.

Speaking of storytelling, let me come back to the story of Cat vs. Curiosity.

I never know what happened to our cat. All I can tell you is based on my speculations. Actually, I don’t want to believe that the cat died at all.

Perhaps we were talking about a different cat, because our cat died happily or he didn’t die.

My bet is this: If the cat was killed, 1) it was another cat and 2) it was Fear that killed the cat. Not Curiosity.

Why not Curiosity? That’s a very good question. Curiosity is a good fellow. It won’t kill anyone (or any cat). It might look like rough and tough at times, but Curiosity makes sure that you get to have awesome experiences. I believe Curiosity was just playing with the cat as you do with your awesome friends.

My theory about the other cat that died not quite happily is the following. Curiosity did visit this cat, but Fear told him not to go with Curiosity. Fear is quite clever and good at convincing people (or cats) about this kind of stuff.

How did Fear convince this unfortunate cat? Here’s what he might have told the unfortunate cat.

“Curiosity is a dangerous monster… He killed other cats. If you stay here, you can be safe! It’s warm here and you won’t starve to death. Join me and other cats that managed to escape from Curiosity!”

OK, I’m not sure if I’d be the go-to-guy for working on behalf of Fear when he’s sick, but I suppose he’d be saying things like that.

I’m not in a position to judge that this cat made the wrong choice. Probably he got what he wanted anyway. However, if he did want to play with Curiosity and chose to go along with Fear instead, I’d say he did make a mistake. That’s a recipe for an unhappy (cat) life.

What if you were a cat and met Curiosity and Fear? What would you do?


Photo: stalkERR

Let’s make connections with yourself and others

Here’s my favorite part of The Connection Manifesto by Pace (@PaceSmith) and Kyeli (@Kyeli) Smith.

Before you know how to read or tie your shoes, you’re off to school. You spend 13 years, day in and day out, doing what others tell you to do, being shoved into boxes and molds. You get out of school, get a job, and spend the next fifty years, day in and day out, doing what others tell you to do, being shoved into boxes and molds. Eventually you retire, and then and only then can you enjoy life. When you’re 65.

Fuck that.

You can download The Connection Manifesto from here for free, and let your friends know about it if you like.

I read this manifesto recently, and it resonated with me. The Connection Manifesto introduces core ideas behind Pace and Kyeli’s world changing movement The Connection Revolution. I was moved by their manifesto, because they were honest and passionate about encouraging you to connect with yourself and others… about making this revolution happen.

Making connections with yourself and others. I believe this is very, very important. Making connections is a big theme in what I want to do as well – making the world more romantic. So, I was naturally interested in what Pace and Kyeli had to say about it.

It’s something people tend to miss or are afraid of doing when interacting with others. I don’t know if there is any single, unifying reason behind it, but I bet one of reasons why some people might be afraid of making connections with others is because they have to be authentic in front of others.

To be authentic, you can’t hide your vulnerability. You can’t impress others by putting on a mask. But if you can’t hide your vulnerability or impress others by putting on a mask, what’s going to happen? What if others judge you for who you really are?

Well, the answer is: nothing happens unless you make a big deal out of it. Trust me, you’ll be much more impressive when you show up as your authentic self.

But how do you make connections with others? In fact, what do you mean by ‘connections’ anyway? That’s a question I want to think over a little bit more… I can answer the first question though. Well, I’m not sure if people I interact with feel the same way, but I tend to ask them what their childhood dreams were and/or what their current dreams are. I’m more interested in these things than in how they make money (the typical ‘what do you do’ question, which I hardly ask), where they are from, and whether they have siblings or not. The trick is to be really curious about what their dreams are. I mean, aren’t you curious about such things more than those boring, average questions like the ‘what do you do’ question?

I can imagine some people getting frustrated about me calling this kind of questions boring, and I can understand that frustration. But let’s face it. It is boring. Imagine you could meet anyone you admire and ask one question. Would you really ask Andy Warhol (for example) how he earns money or where he’s from? You wouldn’t, would you? It’s totally fine if you would, but… Anyway. And don’t tell me the man sitting next to you might not be as interesting as Andy Warhol. He could be. In fact, assume he is as interesting as Andy Warhol (or whoever you think is interesting) and he will be.


Hi. What’s your dream?

Photo: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser