Jiro is my hero.
I began my journey to becoming a craftsman (of some sort) after watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, an amazing documentary about a shokunin. I want to become one. A shokunin. A shoku whaaat? I know. I didn't know about this Japanese term until after watching Jiro... multiple times.
Shokunin means "a way of being", a focused being dedicated to the pursuit of perfection! Right, no such thing as “perfection”. The key word, however, is—pursuit!
Jiro is a sushi master dedicated to his profession. He makes excellent quality sushi every day. His attention to detail, consistency, and precision as a result of an excellent work ethic garnered his restaurant 3 Michelin Stars.
How did Jiro accomplish such feat?
Jiro is a shokunin. A craftsman. He dedicates his time and energy everyday to perfecting the art and skill of making sushi. Jiro is a sushi craftsman, a person focused on the pursuit of perfecting sushi.
If you have not seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, then I suggest that you watch it soon. It's available on Netflix (as of December 2017). It is a movie about a sushi maker and his team whose single goal is to make a better sushi than yesterday. It is a documentary about constant improvement, and the quest for perfection (unattainable it may be).
The documentary is made elegantly, but it wouldn't be so if not for the spirit of shokunin demonstrated by Jiro and his team.
I am not a sushi chef myself. The demands of my job is not singular; meaning I don't only focus on mastering one thing (e.g., making sushi). As a community college counselor, I have multiple tasks and responsibilities that require constant interpersonal interaction and social activities. I run/coordinate a program, counsel students on their academic pursuit, and teach classes. A college counselor is not the ideal profession to achieving Jiro's state of single-minded pursuit. It's not the kind of profession in which I can focus on perfecting one art or product.
As I've said earlier, I aspire to be a shokunin. Of what? I'm not sure. I know of superstar instructors perfecting the art of teaching, or counselors perfecting counseling, but it's very rare because the feedback mechanism is not simple and straightforward. Unlike a swordsmith whose sole task is to hammer and shape a steel—day in and day out—in order to create a beautiful sword, the reward of my profession is not physically visible. I won't know if my counseling made a difference until years later. In addition, I am constantly shifting gear, addressing varying student concerns as they come. Not an ideal shokunin gig!
Can a worker in the social service field still become a shokunin, a master craftsman, like Jiro? We don't know. If you are in a career in which you are organizing and interacting with people, it is hard to concentrate and focus your energy and attention to the craft. Maybe a different system has to be put in place. Maybe a different metric is needed to follow one's development.
While a sushi master focuses on his sushi and a swordsmith focuses on her blades, it is not the same with a counselor, a therapist, or a teacher. But maybe it's not a matter of being able to focus on one thing; instead, maybe it's about focusing on the ability to put things together, of executing a sequence of actions smoothly and consistently; maybe it about measuring the number of times a desired behavior is elicited from the student or client; or counting how many individuals you help feel better at the end of the counseling session. That's the metric.
That is it.
Count how many times you are able to elicit smiles and happy faces. Count the many times that you develop education pathways for students. Or count how many times you finish a class feeling emotional and inspired by your students.
Tim Ferriss is uber productive. Judging by the amount of books, articles, and podcast interviews he "ships" every year, he is uber productive. He is, consequently, very successful. A role model.
I have a problem with people like Tim—people who give splendid advice about how to be successful. My life circumstances, past experiences, and social network are different. I don’t have the social connections and head starts/advantages like they do. I have a different beast to tackle. But it’s very tempting to follow them and be blinded.
You hear experts and gurus publishing great advice and how-to's everyday. You fall for their "if I did it, you can too" message. They make you believe that you can be just as successful as them.
Don't get me wrong. Many online entrepreneurs, experts, and masters are legit and passionate individuals. They share their wisdom and strategies generously. But the beast that you have to tackle is different from their beast. The challenge, therefore, will always be slightly different.
Your life experience and environmental influences shaped you, gave you a certain predispositions, qualities, and limitations. What worked for many people may work for you, but not always. A task that only takes Tim 30 days to turn into a habit, may take you 90 days (3 months). There is nothing wrong with that.
Certain skills will take less energy, effort, and time for Tim to develop, while it may take you longer. And that's okay.
Two qualities are important to remember:
1.) Patience - because you won't know how long it will take to tame the beast.
2.) Endurance - you won't know how long it will take to outlast the beast.
Use all the strategies you can find (yes, use Tim, Seth, Anthony, Pat, etc. advice). Use what works. But discard those that don't. Be patient with yourself and endure the pain. The time of completion varies, but triumph feels the same.
I like Haruki Murakami’s novels. I like his characters: sad, melancholic, and sometimes lonely—like me.
I'm an introvert who suffers from bouts of melancholia like many of Murakami’s characters. What Murakami’s characters feel, I’ve felt before. What they are thinking, I’ve thought of before.
Murakami's writing style is called magical realism. The settings are familiar yet surreal. Similar but strange. Modern Japan with an out-of-this-world element. Like Toru and Naoko’s world in Norwegian Wood; or Aomame’s In IQ84. Human characters coexisting with the supernatural.
Colorless Tsukuru was the book that introduced me to Haruki's writing. I devoured it and became a fan. I've never read anything like it. It was my introduction to magical realism.
I remember reading IQ84. Fuka-Eri was beautiful and weird, and I wish Aomame is a real person. She is lethal.
Murakami’s characters are attractive. Their sadness, introversion, and self-reflectiveness are so real. The way they think, process information, and dwell on their dilemmas... are so real. They remind me of me.
Murakami's characters are so compelling. People are able to relate to their suffering. I am able to relate to Tsukuru’s suffering.
A weird thing happened about an hour ago. After coming home from visiting my parents in Sunnyvale, I was feeling really tired and lazy.
I knew that a major procrastination episode was underway.
Then, I read a Facebook post by my friend about a "7 Days of Gratitude" challenge, outlining the many ways that she was thankful today. Her post inspired me and so I wrote my own 7 Days of Gratitude challenge, per her encouragement.
Let me be the first to declare that I don't believe in "the-universe-is-sending-me-positive-energy" bull****. I'm not religious either. So, whatever happened after posting my own 7 Days of Gratitude was beyond me to explain.
Maybe there is is something to be said about positive thinking, feel-good-mindset, or whatever. But after hitting the submit button I started working. I gained a boost of energy. Considering I was about ready to call it a night just an hour ago, shit was strange. It was as if I took the unlimited pill that Bradley Cooper took in Limitless.
I finished my lesson plan for the next day's class, created a handout for the Transfer Day event, then walked my dog Milo. Now I'm writing this post for my journal.
What happened there? Beats me. But if there is a muse, I certainly caught her attention with my positive energy that emanated out of my body after switching my mindset to focus on things that I am grateful for.
Here are three things that shifted in my thinking:
A bolt of energy went out, woke the muse from her slumber to helped me get moving.
I'm still feeling the impact now.
If only I can make this happen more often, summon the will when I need it the most, I would be soooo productive.
So, 7 Days of Gratitude challenge anyone???
My procrastination game is really intense right now. I'm procrastinating much worst that before, and I feel helpless and weak to fight back.
I don't like this.
Every now and then I might get a boost—usually a day days before something is due—but when I'm in the middle of a really bad procrastination episode, I am helpless to do something about it. But I've noticed something: when I get some rest, even just 15 minutes of nap in the afternoon, my energy recharges quickly and I'm able to push forward.
I now know that this is the solution: quick shut-eye. The challenge is to be mindful of the need to rest. I must rest in order to regain the energy and boost. The best book I read about the benefits of rest is The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.
The time factor is also real. The closer to the deadline a task gets, the stronger the urgency to act and the least powerful the resistance is. Time seem to manipulate perception and affects my energy level. I get a boost. The tiredness disappear. Time perception plays an important role.
If I can manipulate my perception of time by creating an artificial deadline and time constraints, I may be able to get moving. I can use a timer and give myself a time limit to get things done next time.
I'm about to be really busy this Fall semester. I don't know If things are going to change. I hope so for the sake of my future self.
I said that I was going to eliminate distractions and focus on becoming excellent at my day job; therefore, I closed emergency kit online store, shut down my productivity blog, and stopped writing eBook drafts. I was very determined to eliminate many things that was overwhelming me and stressing me out throughout last year and the beginning of this year.
Now its summer and I have some free time again. The lure of an online business is getting strong again. Why? Because I truly feel I'm in the wrong career. And I also want to be able to spend more time with my family and wife. My desire to start a business where I can work alone, or partner with a few folks, hasn't gone. The idea pulls me every closer; especially when my day is free.
So I'm at it again. This time, though, I'm not rushing or acting impulsively. I learned from last year and I'm taking my time. This summer, I started doing some research, reading more blogs and watching more videos before diving into a new eCommerce venture. After learning the basics of drop shipping, invested a few dollars on subscribing to membership sites for research and development, I felt ready to give this another try. The point is to learn from previous mistake not to give up altogether, right?
Born out of our Europe vacation, I have an idea of selling travel gears and products specifically for travelers. I ordered lunch bags on AliExpress and listed them on Amazon FBA. I also them on eBay. All the while, I sold old items at home. My Sony camcorder sold for $45 + shipping. My brand new Fossil Wallet sold for $25 + shipping. I gained momentum and got into the habit and mindset of selling online again. I recently opened my Shopify store. I am determined to learn and improve.
I ordered items on AliExpress. I opened a Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) account and a Shopify account. I niched down: travel bags/clothing organizer for women. This time, I have a cheaper supplier source: AliExpress. This time, I am learning about Facebook Ads, Google Ad Sense, and Instagram Influencers.
I'm going to master online marketing. I will start with my online store Graceful Traveler focusing on travel bags and luggage organizers. I will think of more ways. I will diversify my online business.
I struggled with self-confidence for most of my life; therefore having confidence is very important to me.
Self-confidence is a prerequisite to a fulfilling life. If I am confident, I am in control of my life. I am happy.
Lately, I heard something that went against my belief. This new idea shook the very foundation of my understanding about self-confidence. Basically, self-confidence is bull.
Debbie Millman, artist, writer, branding extraordinaire, said: "Confidence is overrated... [and] confident people are kind of annoying." I was kind of annoyed at first, but Debbie Millman is trustworthy and she was being interviewed by Tim Ferriss. Debbie's biography blew me away. Her career credentials and life experience is incredible. Here is what she said that blew me away: more important and relevant than self-confidence is... courage.
Courage as a quality more important than self-confidence. I've never heard this before. It goes against what I have been working hard to gain more of. It is worth investigating.
In the eBook that I published on Amazon, I emphasized the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. I mentioned that some people can act confident as a defense mechanism, but one cannot fake self-esteem, a person's core belief about herself. I then argued that by building one's self-esteem one can have genuine and lasting self-confidence. My question is how can a person with low self-esteem have the courage to take risk in the first place?
Debbie said that when your situation is uncertain or unknown, you must have the courage to jump, or dive into the unknown. So while self-confidence is a trust in yourself when the outcomes are predictable, courage is trust in yourself even when the outcome is unpredictable. Courage, therefore, is actually self-esteem in disguise. It is what you need to gain self-confidence.
Neel Burton, a fellow of Green-Templeton College at Oxford, said, "People with healthy self-esteem are able to take risks and to give their all to a project or ambition, because, although failure may hurt or upset them, it is not going to damage or diminish them." Self-esteem is courage and "in the absence of self-confidence, courage take over" (Burton)
Self-esteem is important. Improve your core belief and you will have the courage to venture into the unknown. And venturing might just be what you need to gain self-confidence.
I've been observing people's behavior,and mine, a lot for awhile now. I asked why we behave the way we do, why we respond to certain stimulus the way we do, and why we love or hate the way we do.
I've always been fascinated and curious about our collective and unique behaviors. Particularly, I wonder why I sometimes do good things and why I sometimes do bad things. I couldn't make sense of it and it has bothered me. Sure, they are based on our specific circumstances, and various factors colliding, and even genetic predispositions. But I feel that there is no overarching theme as to why we behave the way we do—or so I thought.
It was difficult to get past out individual behaviors at first, because they differ by degrees. So to find a common and consistent theme in our actions and reactions is mind boggling. But I started to see IT..
Behind the unique actions or reactions that we exhibit is the fundamental truth about us. It's the very foundation that the cells in our body and every single living organism operates based on. We might be a complex walking and breathing organism that responds to stimulus in a myriad ways, but it's the overarching motive that is fundamentally common in each of us: the need to survive.
People Love or kill other living things for the exact same reason: to survive.
So remember: when people treat you badly on the streets or at your workplace, it's because they are responding to the same motive as you: survival.
When you break a promise or betray a friend, you are acting in alignment with this motive: survival. And when you give your all to someone, or dedicate your life to a cause, you are also trying to... survive.
It's 4:14am and I'm wide awake. Jet lagged. I'm in Paris. My wife is sleeping next to me.
I love Mary Grace. She planned this whole trip for our one year wedding anniversary and I'm loving every minute of it. But right now my only choice is either stare at the ceiling or close my eyes. Jet lagged.
I decided, instead, to be productive... by updating my blog!
Its been three weeks since I last posted something. I promised then to narrow my focus. To narrow down to the most essentials like... updating my blog consistently. So far? I suck.
I struggle on deciding what to focus my time and energy on. I have so many interests and so many ideas, but I'm worried that if I focus on one interest, I might be focusing on the wrong one. Then I would've just wasted my time.
And time is valuable because life is finite, RIGHT?
I said I was going to let go of activities that were stressing me out. I let go of selling online. I stopped my emergency kit drop shipping business. I let go of writing another eBook. Although it is something that I imagine I'd love doing, I'm not sure if writing is really want to do for a living. Maybe. Maybe. But I have to consider the return of time and energy invested to writing. For sure eBooks is a great way to generate passive income. But the one that I've published so far hasn't really paid off. I know I need to improve my marketing skills. They suck. I'll have to figure this out later.
You see, my dilemma is that I can't make up my mind on what passive income business to focus on. I can't decide. I can't focus. I continue to waste my time. I'm preoccupied with generating passive income that it has become a constant stress.
Maybe be the answer is not to focus so much on generating more money, but to actually... find something I am somewhat interested in and then become very good at it. I read about this from Cal Newport who wrote the book So Good They Can't Ignore You. Basically: forget about passion, become good at something, and money (maybe) will come. This entails focusing on one thing and mastering it! (based on the book: The ONE Thing).
I kinda the idea of eliminating a bunch of activities, and focus on one activity. I believe mastery at something, I feel, generates pride because I would feel accomplished.
After months of trying to figure out my life, I've realized that what is needed is the elimination of distractions. But what are distractions? Well, basically, anything that prevents me from performing optimally; anything that prevents me from entering a state of flow, of deep engagement with the activity that I'm engaged in. It could then be browsing through Facebook, watching YouTube Videos, listening to "productivity" Podcast, or reading self-help books and/or novels.
At the extreme, eating, socializing, and traveling can all be forms of distractions really, if you think about it. I've read extreme cases when an individual is so engaged in an activity that provides adequate challenge and enjoyment that the person forgets to eat. I'm not going there.
The goal is to achieve optimal performance in whatever I'm doing. And I won't do it for money. I'm not going to pursue passive income. It will come as I master a skill and produce quality work. Right now, the goal is the identification and elimination of distractions. This entails that I have singular or narrow goal pursuit, and that I focus my time and energy and effort on those pursuit.
What are these pursuit?
Well, first, is writing. I'm novelist. I've come to accept my personality style—preferences and tendencies—and writing suits me. Hence, I shall write and write and write until I develop a habit and master the art of writing good.
I'm also an organizer and a cleaner. I will pursue a life of organizing my time and energy to minimize my natural anxious state. This includes organizing my workspace, responsibilities, and demands at my full-time job as a College Counselor. I'm going to constantly organize my home for optimal living and I will implement "Kaizen" - continuous improvement.
I'm a teacher. I will pursue impactful teaching. I will focus on constantly improving my performance in delivering well researched materials for my classes. I will ensure that my students get the most out of their time in my class. I will make sure that they are happy and satisfied with what they are learning.
These are my narrow pursuits for this year.
Five lessons in marathon (or half) racing that you can relate to everyday living:
1. You will have to endure so much pain and suffering along the way. Persevere.
2. Some spectators will admire you, others will ignore you. You don't need to impress anyone.
3. Physical appearances can be deceiving, some look heavier, some older. But many can outrun you. Stay humble.
4. The race is long. It's not a sprint. Be patient.
5. The finish line is far, far away. Don't despair easily. Be hopeful—always!
Last December 2015, I invited my friends and work colleagues for a Christmas get together. On that day, I declared that, as a new years resolution, I will complete 10 races in 2016. Why? I want to challenge myself. And I want to have more accountability and discipline in my life.
Today I completed my 11th race of the year at the Golden Gate Half Marathon, San Francisco, CA. Before the year 2016 ends, I will have completed 13 races. The Las Vegas Rock n' Roll Half and the California International Marathon (CIM) are coming up in the next two weeks.
I now feel more empowered to make more challenging resolutions for next year. And I feel more confident about my mental discipline to fulfill them.
I figured it out! I will break down important tasks into smaller tasks with concrete description of what accomplishing each task looks like. This is the way to beat procrastination.
I'm still on a quest to find the cure to my procrastinate. It's hard because this human problem is so complex and has been around for thousands of years. It's humbling to know that other people who are more famous, more efficient, more productive and successful than me experience procrastination.
I may have forgotten to mention but, basically, I stopped updating my productivebee.com site. I got busy with my day job as a college counselor at my new college. I also kinda paused a little bit from updating my prep4disaster.com online store. I need to figure out how to create an email marketing sequence. My day job is front-and-center at this time.
Hopefully I can find a way to balance my various interest. I know it's up to me. And I know it's about setting boundaries and deadlines with the things I have to do throughout the day. Like, I will decide to write a blog for 30 minutes and 30 minutes only, or review the counseling documents for an hour each day and only an hour each day. Easier said than done of course. But it's for my future.
I also have live to the fullest at the present moment. I have to enjoy my time with my loved ones because today is not coming back and tomorrow is another day. Man, life is so complicated.
For some reason, I feel like a celebrity knowing that my now page, which is part of this blog, has a link on Derek Sivers's nownownow.com website. I have a short profile there based on the questions Derek asked. Awesome-ness!
I took action and now it's there. Now, what else can I do to increase my presence on the webspace. What about you? What are you doing to move you closer to your goals these days?
In less than a week, I've already lost my interest in writing the book that I proposed last 3rd of August. Simply put—I suck. The thought of writing a book is daunting and I don't have the will and motivation at this time to bring myself to sit and write.
The biggest factor that's preventing me from moving forward is monetary reward, or lack of. There are a lot of "what-ifs" in my head. What if I don't sell anything—again? What if all this hard work is for nothing? What if nobody likes my message, my story, or my writing?
So I am revisiting my prep4disaster.com website. My emergency kit online drop shipping store. I closed it awhile back. Now I created another site via weebly. I keep thinking that my mistake is the lack of marketing and, really, not enough time dedicated to the store. I gave up easily. I didn't work on it enough.
So now I will dedicate more time on this endeavor. I will be more detailed oriented, focusing on writing more for the store, and marketing more.
Let's see what happens.
I'm thinking about writing another book. Although the thought of publishing another one feels good, I'm dreading the process of sitting down and writing again. If only the finished book guarantees a pay off once I start selling them online, I would feel very motivated. But, alas, that is not how it works.
Is this revealing of my motivation? Am I only in this for the money? Maybe it is. Money has been at the forefront of my goals. I'm not saying that money is the answer to everything, but at this moment in my life, money means freedom and opportunity. So I guess, yes, money is my motivation.
But I have to write something meaningful too. I have to be into it. And the only topic I could think of right now is Filipino immigrant success. I want to write and share with others about how I succeeded as a Filipino immigrant. This topic is very unique in that immigrants have a very steep hill to climb. I know I did. What takes one month for many is going to take several months for an immigrant. That's because we have to learn new things. We have to learn from scratch. We have to find people to help us learn. And for this, we have to learn to communicate effectively—another skill we must master before anything else.
Filipino immigrant success is going to be the topic. It's a very small niche, but I will right it, because it is important to me and others need it.
I've made a decision to stop pursuing the quest to create a successful online business. Maybe I'll come back to it later, but at this time, I am going to focus on ONE thing and one thing only to generate income (other than my full-time job).
No longer will I be frustrated by my slow progress, or my lack of sales. From here on out, at least for the rest of the year, I will focus on investing my extra money in stock index funds!
I have invested a couple thousand dollars in the past month, and it has generated some profit—much more than the few cents I get from Google AdSense or the $.33 from Amazon KDP select. So I will make money passively by investing in stock index funds.
I realized that there is more to online business than just a good idea and the basics of setting up shop. Marketing and selling is one of the most CRITICAL skills to have that online business gurus rarely mention. If you don't have such skills yet, then you better invest time and money to learn them now. It's going to be awhile to generate income in your new online shop.
Online business personalities make it sound so easy to start a business. As long as you are hard working, dedicated, and persistent, you can make it in the online business world. No—absolutely not true. More than hard work, dedication, and persistence, you need a strategy. In particular, a marketing strategy. In fact, to generate income, it's all about marketing strategies!
One successful businessmen I know who spoke about marketing in length is Steve Scott. A successful self-publisher who makes over $30k per month, Steve emphasizes the importance of building an email list, subscribers who you can then reliably market your products to. It's the one thing, he said, that drives traffic and sales to his kindle eBooks.
Since I'm starting a new job and don't yet have the marketing skills needed to be successful in driving traffic to my online shop, I am—for now—investing my money in stock index funds.
Every now and then I would hit the wall. A crisis. It's invisible so I am always surprised when I am abruptly stopped on track. Just when I thought I'm gaining momentum, generating steam, I am knocked down. Fuck.
What is this wall? Why does it appear out of nowhere? Or has it always been there and I just happen to reach it? Or, did I overdo it again—pushed down on the accelerator too hard and I forgot to hit the break pedal. Maybe that's what happened. Fuck.
Blogging. Self-publishing. Business developing. Working. Reading. Writing. Planning. Worrying. Self-Criticizing. Self-deprecating. Self-loathing. All of them cost physical (at the molecular level) and mental energy. All are efforts in one form or another.
Yeah, I pushed the accelerator too hard again.
So here I am—losing interest in everything; wanting to get rid of things again. I usually start by getting rid of Apps on my phone. Then I remove all the eBooks on my kindle but two. Then I donate clothes and things from my house. Then I commit to stop doing non-critical/urgent activities. Then I focus on one idea and one idea alone.
I hope this process works.
Achieving success is difficult. Out of 10 attempts, you'll get one right. The rest are mistakes. Sounds gloomy. Discouraging.
Out of 10 attempts, you'll get one right. That means that out of 20 attempts, whatever endeavor you pursue, you'll get two right.
You shot the ball 20 times and two will go inside the ring—or maybe three, or four.
You submit 20 resume to 20 potential employers, and two will respond—or three; maybe one will actually invite you for an interview. Tough gig!
You write 30 blog post, three people will read. It's an uphill battle.
Success is always an uphill battle. But it's not hopeless. It takes time but not hopeless.
So cheer up! Look at the bright side: for every 10 attempts, you get one right. One.
So make 100 attempts and get 10 right.
Write 10 books, publish it on amazon, and one of them will start selling—everyday... to the world... because it's amazon. You will only need to work hard for a couple of months, but once it starts selling, you can relax and watch money come in.