I have already told you one of events that caused this fire – the podcast interview with Joe De Sena. Chasing Goals
Well, now it is time to tell you about the second one.
The second event was my realisation that I needed a mentor or coach. More accurately, the realisation was just the beginning, it was my coach who poured the fuel onto the fire.
She didn’t just fan the fire – she poured fuel onto it
As you may know I have been mentoring people since 2012. The transformation of one of my recent mentees absolutely astounded me. At the start of our mentoring relationship she had no drive, little decision making capability, and no confidence. During our mentoring sessions she regained her confidence, exorcised her demons, and created a clear action plan. What I saw was the most amazing change in the shortest time that I have ever witnessed.
It was during the closing of this relationship that my realisation struck me. Here was someone who had turned their life around with a help of me, their mentor. They had invested many hours of their own time performing the tasks that I asked of them. Why was I not doing the same for myself?
I had been too busy to perform any of these tasks myself. That is what I told myself. But the truth was that I had not prioritised these tasks.
I was being kinder to my mentees than I was to myself.
My realisation could not have been better timed. At this time I found out that one of my friends in Tokyo, Nhu Nhu Vu, was a trained Ontological Coach and she offered to coach me. I must admit to feeling a little concerned at first. I thought there may be confusion in the boundaries between friend and coach. But Nhu Nhu was a true professional putting me at ease and I quickly moved past this.
Right from the start Nhu Nhu asked me the correct questions. She was digging down, making me verbalise thoughts/feelings/fears that I’d kept buried. She helped me paint a picture of my future – the one that I’d not been able to paint for myself.
My fire is really burning now – and it has a visualised future to chase after.
Everybody can benefit from a coach or mentor. Children, young adults, and seasoned professionals. They can help you re-assess yourself in ways that you might not have thought about. They can give you a different prospective of yourself. Ask the probing questions that need asking. These days we give away so much of our precious time to trivial matters. Surely it is worth taking back some of that time and using it for self-development?
Working smarter rather than harder is something that I have tried to do for as long as I can remember. It all started at university where I had to develop my own way of learning. Up until then I’d had an education system that had told me how to learn – and the rules were clear. Now I was on my own and I was not going to let my dyslexia disadvantage me.
I realised very early on with my dyslexia that I could not compete on other people’s terms. I could not read or write as fast as them – so I had to find a way to change the rules of engagement. I had to find my own way to be successful. There were simply not enough hours in the day for me to keep up. I didn’t want to just survive university – I wanted to thrive at it and be successful. I also wanted to have time to enjoy myself. It was at university that I got my first opportunity to live overseas, and this wouldn’t have been possible if I’d been an average student.
From a young age I knew I was different. As a child I did not like this – children have a strong need to just fit in and those who don’t get teased. But being different gave me an opportunity to be myself, to find myself. I had artistic licence to create myself how I wanted to. I didn’t have to fit into any societal norms.
Being different has given me the opportunity to be myself – I have not had to fit in
My life since then has only increased this. By the age of 41 I have lived outside of my country of birth for 12 years. I have spent a significant amount of time in five additional countries. In each of these I was, and am, different. I cannot fit in, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I do not share the collective history with the country.
So I have a long personal history of getting the best out of myself. I do a lot of research to make my job easier. A lot of it is related to learning, and there are three reasons why I do this:
I want to be able to learn new topics as quickly as possible – I am always learning something new,
I want to be able to help my children learn as quickly as they can,
I want to make my job easier. If I can educate my customers more quickly, then we can work together much more effectively to get a better result for them
So I’ve always tried to work smarter rather than harder. But I have had times when this has not been possible and I’ve just had to work harder. Every time that I’ve had to do this I’ve seen my productivity drop. I’ve watched the quality of my work reduce. I’ve asked myself if anybody would want me to work this way if they knew their returns were diminishing. The overall results have not been good in the long run.
Culturally, this is something that Japan is currently trying to get its head around. It has a falling workforce so is trying to work out how you get more work done with less people? My experience here has told me this: if I were to work as the Japanese already do then my productivity would plummet. There have been times over the last 18 months when I have worked as my Japanese colleagues do – and I’ve felt myself getting slower. My thinking, my idea generation, my decision making processes. So what was the benefit for myself, for my company, or for my customer when I worked longer hours? There was no benefit – only cost.
I want to leave you with a link to a video of a cyclist finding a completely unique way to ride his bike. While I’m not sure how authentic this video is it’s a bit of fun and makes you think about the harder/smarter equation!
My blog has had its busiest week ever (most views),
I’ve been going to bed too late,
My son had a birthday celebration,
My daughter had a sleepover,
We had a school talent show on Saturday
I’ve been preparing for my first Spartan Race – it’s now only 7 days away
I’m tired just thinking about it. Today is Sunday and we are all taking it easy – including my blog which has only had 1 view so far today (down from 154 on Friday!)
As for the preparation for Spartan, I am happy with how it has been going. All except my lack of sleep – I must resolve this this week. I restarted my strength training regime about six weeks ago. I have got past the feelings of soreness after each session. Over the years I’ve learnt that I only suffer from the soreness that a lot of people have after a training session if:
I am restarting my strength training after a pause, or
I do not strength train often enough each week
I know that some people are put off strength training because they don’t like this soreness that comes one or two days afterwards. I can understand this, it isn’t the greatest feeling in the world. If you only strength train once a week you are likely to feel this after every training session.
I strength train four days a week – twice on my upper body, once my core, and once on my legs. Most of these seasons leave me absolutely exhausted, often with muscles twitching and shaking. In fact in the past I’ve found it difficult to climb stairs after some of these sessions. I’m in no doubt that these sessions are building muscle – but they do not giving me soreness.
The same is true for running. I’ve run up to 30 km in a day, and I’ve always remained active the days afterwards. My first half marathon was run in excessive heat – but I listened to my body and ran a speed that it was happy with. I finished the race exhausted but in good spirits. Fast forward three years and this time I ran the same race with a certain finishing time in mind. I was not prepared enough, having missed too many running sessions during the preceding six months. The result was that I went out too fast for my body to hold for the whole race. I crossed the finish line – but I had not enjoyed the experience like I had the first time.
The secret seems to be to move your body constantly. Not once a week at the gym – but every day. After my first half marathon I went for a short and slow 3km run the next day – just to keep myself loose. It really felt good. After that last half marathon I couldn’t walk properly for a week afterwards.
This is in my mind while I prepare for this, my first Spartan race. It would be easy, much too easy, to get caught up in the adrenaline moment and set off at full speed – burning through precious energy too quickly. My aim is to remain composed and set off slowly. I want to enjoy this event – enjoy the experience – enjoy the teamwork. Life should be enjoyed – I’ll let the elite racers push themselves to their limits this time…
It was a cycling centred weekend. Well why wouldn’t it be: the sun was shining and the air was warm. But most importantly my daughter had finally got her hands on the bike she’d been eying up for almost a year. The bike in question is bright green, has large wheels, and proper brakes on the handlebars. It is a big kid’s bike. It has been sitting in the basement for the last year, waiting for her. It used to belong to my son, but ever since he grew too big for it it’s had nothing to do but wait. And now, to my daughter’s great delight, she is big enough to inherit it. Yeah!
So this was a weekend centred around cycling. Cycling, and crossing off some of my Tokyo wish list items too. Kind of like a “Tokyo Bucket List”.
I have always been fascinated by water. Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to live in cities that have big rivers running through them. And as we all know, the bigger the river, the bigger the bridge. In Tokyo there is a suspension bridge wonderfully named “Rainbow Bridge”. I’ve no idea where it got its name from but I’ve never been bothered enough to look it up. It looks nothing like a rainbow, and even though the Japanese are famous for their lighting displays, it does not light up with rainbow colours at night (sadly).
Rainbow Bridge crosses the harbour in Tokyo, going from the mainland to Odaiba – the manmade island out in the bay. I’ve crossed it many times, mostly by monorail, and I’ve wanted to cycle across it ever since I found out you could. The green bike has made this possible. With its larger wheels it is faster and more effortless to cycle than the old bike. This means she can cycle further and faster. Suddenly, more destinations are within reach.
So on Saturday afternoon off set the intrepid explorers. We had one mission in mind: “cross the rainbow bridge”. I said *we*, but I really mean “I”. I’m sure my children were thinking about the ice cream and beach that lay at the of the rainbow. Maybe that’s where the name comes from?
The green bike made short work of the journey to the bridge. Standing underneath it gives an indication of its sheer size – it’s massive.
It is at this point that our trip really does become an adventure. For safety reasons, I can only assume, you are not actually allowed to cycle over the bridge. But you are allowed to push your bike over it. So before we could step foot onto the bridge we had to run our bikes into some sort of animal trap that attached to the back wheel. These animal traps are little trolleys, with tiny wheels, and Velcro straps.
I have absolutely no idea why we had to use these animal traps trolleys (I should use the proper name), because they took all of the joy out of pushing our bikes. Suddenly our bikes became heavy and unwieldy. The animal trap trolley (I keep forgetting) could not hold the bike upright – so stopping for pictures meant finding somewhere to rest the bike. The wheels on the animal trap trolley (who am I kidding) were small enough that they got caught in ruts while pushing the bike. This either resulted in the animal trap falling off, or rotating up the wheel and catching on the bike frame. Anyway, long story short: I was not a fan (had you guessed?).
The only purpose that I could see was that it absolutely prevents you from riding your bike
Anyway, having taken the fun out of pushing our bikes we set off across the bridge, stopping to take pictures along the way. If you are thinking about doing this yourself, then I must warn you about the noise. You walk right beside the road, and as there is a roof above you there is nowhere for the sound to dissipate. It does get noisy up there. Windy too. We were in shorts and t-shirts so it felt a little on the cool side for us. Luckily my family is part Viking so they didn’t really feel anything – but you might. Finally, if you take your bike with you make sure that you cross on the correct side of the bridge – the routes are meant to be one way for cyclists.
I got some great pictures during my return trip across the bridge. If you’ve already got pictures of the Odaiba and Tokyo skyline then you won’t get anything new here. I’d advise you to go at night if you can – that’s what I’ll do next time without the children. I’ll also cycle there, but walk over the bridge alone…
On Sunday my daughter had a birthday party to get to. We got there by bike – well what other way is there to travel? After dropping her off, my son and I continued on to Yoyogi Park. We were heading there to support the Pride march that was underway – and luckily we got there just in time. The march itself was much smaller than I had expected, but in true Japanese style it had its own life size furry mascot.
We dumped our bikes and wondered through the park, observing people spending their Sunday afternoon. There were drummers, families, and amateur performers. One pair in particular grabbed our attention so we stopped to watch for a few minutes.
Suddenly, there they were – right in front of us. The Elvis impersonators. Everybody must have heard of the Elvis impersonators of Tokyo, haven’t they? They seem to be famous all over the world. Men who, on a Sunday, will dress up like Elvis Presley and spend the afternoon acting like The King in Yoyogi Park. I’d first heard of these guys when I was a teenager.
I must admit that I am finding it hard to put into words the feelings I experienced while watching these guys. One of them was an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Whether I had built it up in my imagination, or whether it was once a bigger event I do not know. But here were 6 or 7 men, dancing in a circle to music playing from a stereo system. One would take a comb, redo his hair, and then put it back it in his pocket. A few seconds later another would repeat the spectacle. Considering how well the Japanese usually “do” street performing I was hugely disappointed.
I can understand a feeling of disappointment, but why the sadness? I realise that it wasn’t sadness for me, but for them. They appeared to be the all that was left of a once great institution. It was like their time was up but they had refused to heed the signs.
Or maybe I just caught them on a bad day?
The time had come to rescue the party boy’s parents from the party so off we cycled back to pick up my daughter. She had had a wonderful time.
I wonder where our bikes will take us next adventure?
How much uncertainty can you handle in your daily life? Are you somebody who likes to know what you will be doing next week, next month, next year? Or are you somebody who likes not knowing what is coming? Did you know you can grow through living with uncertainty?
Living an expat life makes it difficult to look forward with much certainty for more than a few months at a time. You never really know what’s going to happen. When you live on the other side of the world from friends and family, this uncertainty makes planning visits difficult.
The inspiration for this post came from an overheard conversation that my wife was having with a friend. Both are planners so our friend asked if they could come and visit us in 2019. Bear in mind that this post was written in May 2017 when I say that my wife could not contain a small laugh.
To be fair our friend has an international family which needs planning. Also, this is the type of planning that we’ve done with her in the past. However, as my wife said: ‘We don’t know where we will be living in 2018 yet, let alone 2019.”
I have written before that life as an expat family is like living life on speed (Life as an expat family). Situations change very often, and normally with great speed. Well let me dive into the realities in a little bit more detail. An expat community is constantly in a state of flux, kind of like the waters in a river swirling around a rock. People, like the water, may stay still for a while, but there is a force that is constantly pulling them on – propelling them forward.
At any given moment in time, there will be people planning to leave a community while others are planning to join it – sometimes moving into the same accommodation. Contracts are often short term, with the possibility of extensions – so nobody really has any idea how long they will be in a location.
Add to the fact that most people can’t start discussing an upcoming move until it is all confirmed and you see how situations can change quickly – kind of like the rapids in a river (to keep the river analogy going). Things can have been moving along smoothly when suddenly you are thrust into this mass of instability.
In Appreciate your Friends I explained how everybody deals with the news that somebody is leaving differently. Some people draw away.
The fear of this happening prevents some people from announcing they are going until the last minute. When this happens it is like suddenly coming across a waterfall without any warning. One moment somebody is there, the next they have literally fallen over the edge and are gone – carried away by the force of the water (last river analogy – I promise).
Right now I know of two families who are leaving in the summer and one probable. I wonder how many others there are?
Back to the overheard conversation, our friend then asked my wife how she could handle this level of uncertainty, or to put it in her words: “how does your head not explode from all this uncertainty?” Listening more closely now, I was interested to hear her response: “Well there’s always someone who has it worse and I’m privileged to be living this life. I have to go with the flow.”
Living with this level of uncertainty on a weekly basis pushes you out of your comfort zone. To add some quotes from my second ever blog post, Smashing the Comfort Zone:
…It is in stepping out of my comfort zone that the really exciting things happen. This is when the periods of accelerated development occur…
…So it turns out that even though everything is new, I have still done it all before. I know what to expect…
…The more times I step out of my comfort zone, the easier the process gets…
It gives you a period of intensive emotional, personal, and professional growth. Combine this with a desire to learn and time spent contemplating future goals, and you can turn the experience into something exceptionally enriching.
Sure, it can result in some incredible lows in life, but it is also the source of some unbelievable highs.
I started myself off on this path well over 15 years ago. At the time I didn’t know where it was going to take me but I was curious enough to find out. I’ve been lucky enough to be married to a lady who is willing and more than able to make this life her own.
While you may not want this kind of life yourself, please see my message here. By actively putting myself into situations of uncertainty I have been able to accelerate my personal development. Ask yourself the following question: Is your life too full of certainty that you have stopped yourself growing? Remember, change finds all of us, even those people who don’t go looking for it. When it comes you want to be ready for it, you want to be adaptable. Are you?
We live in a time when outside distractions are taking over like never before. It is possible to go through a full day with precious little “brain” time. This has very real consequences, both in the short term and the long. It is bad for your body, bad for your mind, and bad for your potential. I am here to act as that voice inside your head, the one you can no longer hear above the noise. I am here to tell you to snap out of it – to start actively living your life. This is going to be a journey of discovery and I want to set you off on your way.
I cannot tell you where your journey will take you – only you can work that out
I have been blogging for over a year now and I have come to realise what the main aim of my blog is. I want to channel all of my passion, all of my creativity, and all of my desire to help people into persuading and convincing you to take back control of your life. You need to start:
Actively living your life and taking responsibility for it.
Being more present in your daily life
Spending more time day dreaming
This is what I mean by “brain” time. Time spent when you are engaging with your brain, whether this be for making decisions, or letting it wonder.
We live in a period of time where many people could be described as having “Sluggishness of mind”
The issue that confronts us is nothing new – but it is the extent to which it engulfs us that has changed:
First came the TV – disrupting people’s home lives. But the TV set was tied to the home, leaving people free of its influence when away.
Next came games consoles, computers, and the internet. These expanded the ways that people could surrender their own time to devices. But still these remained tethered to the home.
Then came the smartphones. These finally allowed TV, gaming, and the internet to break out of their confinement. To go with us wherever we went. This was a game changing moment. Just as technology was granted its freedom, so many people gave up their own – whether they realised this or not.
It was surprising how quickly the tool became the master. How those friendly little bleeps reminding you of its existence became commands for attention. Now that friends could post from anyway at any time there suddenly became a real fear of missing out. Stay offline for even an hour meant missing out on what was happening – you’d no longer have your finger on the pulse.
People have become ensnared by their phones
Soon, your phone became the answer to everything:
Bored in a line – get your phone out
In a lift – get your phone out
Want to find food – get your phone out
Having lunch with friends – get your phone out
Most people can see the effect that this has had on time spent with friends. These days it is very uncommon to have lunch with somebody without the distraction of a phone. What some people may not have noticed is the reduction in the quality of time spent on your own. The reduction in quality of “Me Time”. If you always have your phone with you:
You never have to be bored
If you are never bored:
You never need to fill the time with your own imagination
You never invent or find new things to do
You never give yourself time to question your life’s direction
You never daydream
Meanwhile, time does not stop. It does not wait for you to catch up. It keeps marching on. Weeks, months, years can go by without your active input, control, or direction.
I am not against technology, I just want to remain in control. A friend of mine here in Tokyo took the conscious decision not to have data on his phone while living here. This way he has limited his use of the “smart” capabilities of this phone to wifi access areas only. There have also been some high profile cases of celebrities ditching their smartphones altogether – in favour for models with less capabilities.
These two are examples of how people have taken action to re-take control of their lives. I am not suggesting that you have to be this drastic – but you can if you want or need to be.
So do I have all the answers? No! But what I do have is a desire to improve – a belief that we can all change. I know from my own life that the times when I was actively present have been my most rewarding. I can also count the month when I let me life slip by. I feel passionately that everybody should reach their full potential and I want to help as many as I can to do this. This is a personal journey, nobody can do it for you. Nobody will do it if you don’t – you have to do it yourself.
With my blog I hope to get you to think – to ask questions for yourself, about yourself. I want you to be a positive change in your own life, and in the lives of others. I’d love to build up a community of like-minded people – encouraging yourselves and each other to take up the challenge. Let me know if you are interested.
What I want you to do:
Become more comfortable in your own head – use your brain more
How do I want you to do it?
Start by monitoring your smartphone, TV, and device usage – make a daily log if you want to
when you know how much time you have been spending on your devices, think about what you could have accomplished in that time
Start consciously deciding whether to use your phone/device or not – don’t just passively reach for it as you may have done in the past
this is like somebody flicking through channels on the TV until they find something they’d like to watch
Use some of your newly made free time to think about how you’d like to use this time and then do it
Smartphones allow us to take TV, gaming, and the internet with us wherever we go. This has turned us into spectators in our own lives – observing them rather than being actively engaged. We are too busy on our phones. My challenge to you, my call to action, is to:
Break the dependency on your phone
Use your brain more
Re-take control of your life
I don’t think you know where this will take you. Do you want to find out?
I try and surround myself with people who expect me to do more, be more, be a better person. This, I have found, helps me in a number of different ways. It helps me to be a kinder, more generous person – and it helps me achieve more both privately and professionally.
It encourages me to push myself to do more, be more
My wife is a constant inspiration to me, without her even realising it. Just this afternoon her actions reminded me of the little ways we can show generosity to our fellow humans. The generosity she showed was so easy to offer and so happily accepted. The sad thing for me was that it had not crossed my mind. Every day we have countless decisions to make. We can choose whether to be the best example of ourselves, the worst example, or somewhere in between.
It is easy to become self-absorbed – making us lose sight of how we can help those around us
Sometimes we are not at our best simply because we are too busy thinking about something else. This is when we need the help of others to re-open our eyes.
My wife is not the only person in my immediate family who does this for me – my children have played this role also. They have both shown generosity in ways that I had not thought possible in somebody of their young age. It shows how easy it is for adults to dismiss children and their views/values. Sometimes they have surprised me so much that it has lead me to re-evaluate myself.
I seem to be drawn to people who exhibit this behaviour. Whilst I might not have noticed this on a conscious level at first, I am sure that my subconscious must have. These friends help bring out the best in me – all in their own unique ways. Some friends have helped me progress professionally by providing the support and encouragement I’d needed. Others have helped me through their own actions.
Open your eyes to the world, and your own capabilities. We can all do more than we believe.
Choosing to be the best you can be is a worthy cause. It can give you more success professionally, more joy socially, and makes the world a little bit of a better place. Seeing more smiles during the day makes it all worth it.