Things I wish I knew before My Japan trip.

A quick couple of tips from what we have learnt in our first week in Japan. *Please note that we are travelling around the start of March, winter is finishing up and spring is rounding the corner.*

  1. Simple phrases.

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, excuse me, sorry, thank you and Where is (insert place)? These have been our most used in our first week of travelling around Japan, all not essential since most of the time you can get your message across and people are happy to help in any way they can. Using the phone as a way to communicate has been nice, often pulling out the good-old google translate using the conversation button to assist. However, nothing brings more of a smile to the locals when you try and do your best to say hello and ask questions using Japanese. Plus learning a bit of a language always is a nice skill to have. Below I will add the translations and pronunciation.

  • Good morning: O ha yo(go zai mas).

  • Good afternoon: Kon ni chi wa.

  • Good evening: Kom ban wa.

  • Excuse me: su mi ma sen.

  • Sorry: go men na sai.

  • Thank you: a ri ga to.

  • Goodbye: sa yo na ra.

  • Where is (insert place or thing)?: (insert place or thing) wa do ko des ka?

(I recommend buying a little pocket phrase and translation book. see picture below)

2. Bring a decent rain jacket/coat.

Our first day walking around Sakura before we left Tokyo for Sapporo, it pissed down, absolutely bucketed down. Had we not packed them for our snow trip we would’ve been looking a lot like drowned rats. We both used Kathmandu 2-in-1, a shell and inner insulation, handy since for when it starts to get hotter as we move more away from winter into spring we can take out the inliner but still be on the dryer side using the shell. Of course, keep in mind we are travelling in winter and the start of spring when there is a bit more rain, this item can be omitted when travelling in summer.

3. Bring some decent walking shoes.

Like most countries, Japan has a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing and things to do, which usually means either getting some form of transport or if you want to take the more scenic (and cheaper) route, lots of walking. Which means to keep those feet happy you will need some comfortable shoes, and if you need them, some decent orthotics. Both I and my partner have been wearing our Under Armour sneakers, which have been great for the feat, lightweight and breathable… which also makes them not so waterproof. So far they have been holding up quite well otherwise.

4. Always have some cash, in notes and coins.

I was told many times by people who had been to Japan to always carry cash, I didn’t quite take it on board. Thinking “oh yeah, we should be able to use card most places.” We got caught out one night in Sapporo on a bus, we had no coins and one 10,000yen note, after spending our last couple of 1000 on dinner. The bus would only take 1000yen notes or coins luckily the driver let us off with a free fare. From then we have made sure to have enough cash. Order of things to do when you land in Japan: Go to the atm, use your notes, keep a fair amount of coins, buy something where you can store these said coins. You’ll be right after that.

5. For a cheap meal, 7/11 or other convenience stores.

You can get a decent feed for very little money. My girlfriend and I usually spend around 1500 yen ($19AUD) for a meal and a dessert each. The best part, its actually really decent Japanese food, well by Aussie standards. It’s always nice knowing that you can walk less than 10 minutes in any direction in any city and there will be a store with some goodies at any time of day. It has been a life-saver when we are pushing our daily budget.

6. Pretty much everything is bang on time.

This has been amazing, the bus rocks up when it says, and the train stops in the designated position on the platform at the designated time. No catching the wrong bus and getting lost. However, this has meant we have needed to be a bit more punctual (not always a bad thing), and we have had to run to make it a few times(not always fun).

I hope you have enjoyed reading a few of these tips, and hope they help you plan your own trip to Japan. If you have been to Japan, what are some of your tips that I’ve left off this list?

-Carlos

5-takeaways:12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

I’ll start by saying this, I do not agree with all of whatDr. Peterson says, however, A LOT, if not all, of what he has written in this book is very useful information and some of the rules are great guidelines to live by. One of the rules that makes this list is related to this topic of “because you may dislike someone’s viewpoints doesn’t mean that everything they say should now be dismissed.” (Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.) There are a lot of things he says that I disagree with, including his view of mother/father parenting being the best way to raise a child, I know a few who have been raised by single mothers, or a lesbian or gay couples who are fantastic people, and I know of horrible people who have been brought up in the more traditional mother/father parenting dynamic. Still though I like a lot of what he talks about. One of the main reasons that I was drawn to and am interested in what Dr. Peterson has to say is his point that before pointing blame others or a system that does not favor you, first focus on the things that are in your control. Don’t give something or someone else control over the outcome of your life, otherwise, you will forever be powerless in the face of any chaos. That helpless feeling can be a very taxing one, one that can be debilitating, even fatal. The following list is my 5-takeaways (or top 5 rules in this case)of 12 Rules for Life, hope you too can take something away.

1. Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

Peterson uses many religious stories throughout the book, she has studied the psychology of the many archetypical stories found throughout the Bible and a few other religious texts. He also touches on a variety of literature and movies, including Disney classics and works from notable thinkers like Nietzsche, Solzhenitsyn, and Descartes. One such reference that stood out was T. S. Eliot’s explanation of a character in his play The CocktailParty, who “is not having a good time of it.” And Peterson’s take on it, as follows:

                “She speaks of her profound unhappiness to a psychiatrist. She says she hopes that all her suffering is her own fault. The psychiatrist is taken aback. He asks why. She has thought long and hard about this, she says, and has come to the following conclusion: if it’s her fault, she might be able to do something about it. If it’s God fault, however – if reality itself is flawed, hell-bent on ensuring her misery – then she is doomed. She couldn’t change the structure of reality itself. But maybe she could change her own life.”

As a human being, you have sole responsibility of your attitude towards life, and if you can take on the burden of knowing that your outcome is dictated by your actions then you can make a start of improving, not only your life but the lives of those around you. Peterson is famous for saying “clean up your room,” in his Alberta-Canadian accent. This is not meant in a “do as your told,” way, it is meant as a, “start with something small that is easily available and achievable” way. Then once you have cleaned up your room, move on to the rest of the house, and bit by bit, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, even in the face of setbacks, slowly your life will be more in order. Leading on to the next rule.

2. Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

This is something that I constantly struggle with, I wish that I could be traveling more, or I could own a few houses already, or be a business owner. Whatever it is I forget that the person that I desperately want to be worked hard to get to where they are now. That for my own self-esteem, the comparison does not have the desired effect. When I get reminded that I am on my own path and that I should use the person’s success as motivation for what I could become, that’s when I focus on being better than the me of yesterday, it might be in the gym, or learning something new, sorting out my life in some fashion. That is when I move forward, one step at a time. Knowing full well that I need to put in the work and have the dedication to persist in the task.

“You are discovering who you are, and what you want, and what you are willing to do. You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely. You are less concerned with the actions of other people because you have plenty to do yourself.”

Of course, to improve you must see the faults that you need to work on. To not see your flaws means that you are the perfect human and that you have nothing to work on. Which would be a lie, not only do you have to make constant adjustments in yourself for your well-being but for the well-being of those around you. Of course, you can lie to yourself and those around you that everything is fine, however, your internal voice/subconscious will become louder as you keep lying, and deeper you will fall into a pit that only you will be able to drag yourself out of.

3. Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

If I could write out most of this chapter I would, but then I might be up for plagiarism. Peterson uses a lot of religious and personal anecdotes of patients or clients that have come to his practice. However, if you only take one thing from this it would be the paragraph below:

“As God himself claims(so goes the story), “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”According to this philosophy, you do not simply belong to yourself. You are not simply your own possession to torture and mistreat. This is partly because your being is inexorably tied up with that of others, and your mistreatment of yourself can have catastrophic consequences for others. This is most clearly evident, perhaps, in the aftermath of suicide, when those left behind are often both bereft and traumatized. But, metaphorically speaking there is also this: you have a spark of the divine in you, which belongs not to you, but to God. Weare after all – according to Genesis – made in His image. We have the these-divine capacity for consciousness. Our consciousness participates in the speaking forth of Being. We are low-resolution (“kenotic”) versions of God. We can make order from chaos – and vice versa – in our way, with our words. So, we may not exactly be God, But we’re exactly nothing, either.”

I know it’s a lot to take in, however, the words have that kind of remembered-truth, “remembered” in the sense that deep down every human knows that they have the potential to be great or do great things. All anyone has to do is treat themselves with the respect that they would give to the person that they could become, not the person they were or are currently.

4. Rule 12: Pet a Cat When You Encounter one on the street.

Suffering is part and parcel of Being, Being in the sense of the state of existing or existence. At any point in life, either you yourself are struggling or a loved one is. Very rarely, and I would say that close to never has there been a point in my life when neither I nor a close friend or family member was dealing with some obstacle. I currently have no ailments; however, a close family friend is currently battling cancer for the third time. And yet, somehow, through all his and his families suffering, he still has the attitude he has always had, one of never giving up, one of child-like wonder and humor and a thorough love of life. He may not know it fully, but the impact that he has on many is almost as large as his personality. Peterson touches on his daughter’s life-long degenerative joint disease and how it has impacted him, how he could have cursed the world and human existence, yet faced with the limitation of being – suffering is the limitation placed on humans– Peterson understood that suffering is a part of living, much like Viktor Frankl in his classic, Man’s Search for meaning.

“If you are already everything, everywhere, always, there is nowhere to go and nothing to be. Everything that could happen already has. And it is for this reason, so the story goes, that God created man. No limitations, no story. No story, no Being.”

Make a story, despite your limitations. Always remember though, that when an opportunity arises, to pat a dog or cat, or do something to distract you from all the sorrow life has to offer, only for a little while.“Maybe you can steal ten or twenty minutes to do some little ridiculous thing that distracts you or reminds you that you can laugh at the absurdity of existence.”

5. Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

If you remember this is the rule I mentioned in the intro, and this I reckon is one of the more important rules Peterson lays out in the book. I myself struggled with this one growing up, I still check myself sometimes especially when meeting someone new, or someone who I have heard about from friends or family. Which as awful as it sounds, a lot of people will unknowingly make biased assessments of people and will automatically either give their undivided attention or completely disregard everything they say. The chance that they know something you don’t is higher than you think. Obviously, this goes the other way too, so when mutual respect of the other person’s knowledge is achieved, the conversation can become a more productive one, the where common ground can be established.

The other point of this rule is to listen, not think about how you will retort and flatten their argument with something witty, but to actually listen. Listen with the intent of taking in what the other person is saying. Peterson includes a Carl Rodgers quote that I thought was an interesting take on this topic.

“The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening is too dangerous. The first requirement is courage, and we do not always have it.”

I know what you’re thinking, how could listening be dangerous? Well, the danger hides in your own insecurities, maybe you’re not right, maybe you are completely wrong. The main danger, however, is not in being wrong, but having your outlook or views changed, and these may be views that you hold so dear and close that they hold up part of your personality. Continuing:

“some of you may be feeling that you listen well to people, and that you have never seen such results. The chances are that your listening has not been of the type I have described.”

Everyone thinks that they are good listeners, I know I did until I started really trying to pay attention when speaking to people. Oh how wrong I was, I always would try to come up with an “I’m-better-than-you” retort, or be extremely dismissive of what they had to say. Straw manning their point of view. Definitely not a great way to listen. Peterson notes that the form of listening that Rodgers suggest is one where you repeat the person’s argument back to them, at a standard that they see fit. This does two things, you listen, but you understand their point of view.

As I have said, Peterson is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is very good at translating complex ideas for those of us who have no prior background in psychology or mythology. The life advice found throughout the book is amazing and the 12 rules can be used as great guidelines to navigate the chaos and suffering. If you have no idea who Jordan Peterson is and enjoyed this article I can definitely recommend looking him up, his lectures can bewatch on YouTube and on multiple podcasts, such as the Joe Rogan Experience and the Jocko Podcast. I hope you enjoyed my 5 takeaways of Peterson’s book, 12Rules for Life.

See ya on the mats.

~Carlos

Role models and getting shit done.

Just do it. Why is it such a compelling statement/bit of advertising? Why do people look up to those who achieve greatness or those who just get shit done? Most likely it would be for that very reason. They get shit done. A lot of people, including myself, don’t start due to some reason or obstacle that they place in front of themselves. I know personally that I fear failure and can become anxious at the thought of what people may think or even expect of me. I have found that I often fall into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ category of people. Over analyzing and planning what I am going to do, or the possible outcomes, then not choosing any or completing anything. I have learnt only recently that to overcome this ‘paralysis’ or fear I must start doing. One of my biggest role models for this has been my girlfriend.

After house-sitting for a friend, who has an amazing veggie garden, she decided to go ahead and start her own. Buying plants, a raised garden bed, sourcing some free soil on facebook marketplace and putting it all together in a matter of days. The only help she asked for was for me to help her pick up the soil, the rest was all her. Yes, it’s only a garden bed, but I take a lot of inspiration from little things. It might be a mate, who after blowing out his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), planned a hiking trip in South America and a year later was back on the mountain skiing. It could be one of my best mates having a go at his dream, and even with setbacks still pursuing it. I don’t think a lot of people realize that they will always have the ability to dream and achieve. I know I still need reminding that not everything will happen right away. However, nothing will happen if I keep planning.

So, back to the question of why people look up to or draw inspiration from high achievers, like your Mark Cubans, or Will Smiths, or Gretta Van Riels. Personally, I look up to these type of people as they have characteristics and habits that I know I can and should pursue. Hard work ethic, Self-disciplined, Honest, knowledge seeking, the list goes on. Maybe, it might be for some that they look up to them, despite knowing that they will never truly put in the work for that level of success. Maybe, they understand the amount of hard work done and that is why they admire them? Maybe it’s like how the underdog is, more often than not, the crowd favorite, the dark horse, the once great champ that has fallen from the throne yet still aims to climb back to the top.

Muhammad Ali is a great example of this. Ali was stripped of his Heavyweight belt and slapped with a three-year ban during the prime of his career, for draft evasion during the Vietnam war. After having his boxing license reinstated, Ali would take 7 years to regain the Heavyweight belt, against heavy favorite George Foreman with an 8th-round knockout. This kind of fairy-tale story, that in effect mimics parts of life is something that most can get around. Knowing that there is hope, for when we do crash, or end up in a rut, that we can get out of it and build up again. So, for those of you out there, keep grinding, and keep drawing on other’s wins to produce your own.

See you on the mats!

-Carlos

If you are struggling with depression or find yourself in a rut, please actively seek help, there are a lot of organizations that can assist, like www.headspace.org.au, www.ruok.org.au, www.lifeline.org.au, www.beyondblue.org.au.

 

Success Patterns Can Be Found in All Things

If some of you have been following me recently you will know that I have started up archery after getting a compound bow for my birthday. And with starting something new I will usually draw on other experiences and what I can relate it too. This characteristic is something all of us do, whether we consciously do it or not. When we find patterns we create our own models from these patterns, that could be found through exploration or from learning it from an outside source. Why do we look for patterns to add to our model? Well simply for survival, maybe we can cover that in another post. But, in this case, I’m about to talk about. It’s for the sake of becoming better at something new.

So, shooting a projectile with a string attached to a stick is something very new to me. I never made my own bow as a kid, nor have I shot a rifle or firearm before. Growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne the closest thing to a rifle I had was nerf guns. Not exactly high tech. So, I really don’t know what I’m doing, I have a small understanding of it. Pull the arrow back and let it go, but as green as you can get. So, I go in for my first lesson (down at Aim Archery Moorabbin), get taught the basics, finger placement, how to aim, the arc trajectory of a recurve bow (also known as tradition bow), anchor points, range safety, etc. If you do make the way down to the range George is a great teacher, spends his time with you and really gets you to improve over the session.

However, you won’t improve if you don’t listen and be the student. Here is one pattern that I have noticed in my performance when starting new things. If I am listening and really paying attention to what is being taught, then I will improve at a higher rate. For instance, when I was learning Spanish at university I never really paid attention, I would either be chatting with friends or on my phone. This is no way to learn something, if you want to perform and advance you have to be willing to learn. So, be open to criticism, correct your form, and try again. Someone else can’t learn it for you. When you are a good student, often the teacher will be more attentive to you, I saw this with a kid at high school, He would show interest and ask a lot of questions, he would often get a lot more attention from the teacher. Not because the teacher hated every other student, it’s just that they found the easiest mind to teach.

Anchor points are a big part of archery, especially if you want to get consistent results. Anchor points, are reference points that you use when at full draw for proper sight alignment. The most common points archer’s use and string touching the tip of the nose, the webbing between the thumb and pointer finger and a kisser button (a small loop on the string that meets the corner of the lip.) They allow you to pull the bow back, find your points, sight the target and release. Nevertheless, they will not work if you aren’t consistent with the placement of them. Which, is another pattern I have noticed for the relative success of the task or subject you are learning. Consistency will produce results, either good or bad. If you are consistently setting on your anchor points, your arrow will fly true, then it is only a matter of adjusting your sight. If your anchor points are changing constantly then you will get consistently poor results. Of course, the other part of consistency is to practice.

Often when shooting, I can sometimes throw myself off, either I get a bit too big headed after nailing the bull’s eye and punch (to stuff up) my next shot or I focus on the mistake of the previous shot and punch it again. My most recent lesson has produced a bit of wisdom from George, after two bad shots in a row, I was a bit annoyed with myself and expressed it with George, he told me, “You can only focus on the arrow you have nocked (arrow currently ready to shoot).” And this is something that carries into other disciplines, BJJ, you can only focus on the current technique or position and the escapes, sweeps, and submissions possible. Like in blacksmithing, for better results, focus on each hit, one at a time, each heat.

Just some thoughts and patterns I have noticed and experienced in multiple disciplines, that can be applied to all aspects of life, career, study, gym, martial arts, relationships, whatever else you can think of. If you want to learn quickly and get better results sooner, then try to find similarities between how you have succeeded in past pursuits and apply what you have learned there to your new career, hobby or passion. And a quote from the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

If you know the Way broadly, you will see it in everything.”

Cya on the mats!

Carlos

Why the change?

I have recently changed the name of the site to carlosygoa.com since I felt that readnroll.blog limited me in what I could and could not post about, I am in no way shape or form moving away from what I have been doing. This is just an update about the change. I Hope that you all understand.

Thanks

Carlos

Fixing yourself does more than you think it does.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently, I know this idea is not new and I have been reading books and listening to people who share this view a lot. However, I have started to really understand why improving on yourself is more important than I first thought. So, have you ever been in a situation where you can see the answer for someone else’s problem but no matter what you do you will never be able to get them to fix it or change? I have a lot, and I expect to be in more of these situations the older I get. But having learned from past experiences I know there is nothing I can do to directly make them change or make them do something. Yet, there is one thing I can do that will affect them. I can keep on improving myself because as I get better, I then become an example of how improving yourself is the best way forward.

If you don’t improve that’s fine too but know this, no-one is holding you back but yourself. So, no use pointing blame at others (which gives them the power). And that is a hard pill to swallow, knowing that you have to take the outcome of your life into your own hands, that you are directly at fault for how your future pans out. Now I know that you could come from a fractured home, or you could have had cancer, or you were in a car crash but all of that is in the past and you can’t change it. What you can change however is where you are going and how you choose to react to things. I could have the view that the world sucks and why did I have to get one-third of my bowels removed? why couldn’t someone else have had cancer? But then I lost the battle. I have to look at my experience with positive eyes and realize I had to endure that to understand something. Life is a gift, it can be taken at any moment.

As you start to put yourself together into who you want to be, then you can help others, but more importantly, others will see that it is possible. So, by taking responsibility for your part of the world, no matter how small, others may do the same with their part and together you will both help improve the world.

These are just some late night ramblings.

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

 

~~Carlos

5-takeaways: How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

This book is a classic of the self-help/self-improvement/relationship advice genre, the author Dale Carnegie has influenced many leaders, like Warren Buffet and Tony Robbins. Dale Carnegie made it by tapping into the average American’s desire to become more self-confident, where he taught classes on the topics of public speaking, sales, relationships, and leadership among others. These classes became the basis for his best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is well regarded as one of the top books on creating success in both business and personal life. I actually read this book at the start of my journey of improving myself and still try my best to use what I have learnt from it. Here are my 5-takeaways from this classic.

  1. Do not criticise, condemn or complain. Give honest appreciation for all improvement, no matter how small.

When someone starts critiquing you on your job, or on something you hold dear to your heart, how often do you try to defend your actions, no matter how ‘in the wrong’ you are. You see others do this just the same when you offer up your judgment on their action, they will adamantly explain how they are not at fault. “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself… it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” When you are told you are wrong most times out of ten you will hold a feeling of resentment towards that person, I know I do it a lot and have to check myself and remember that they might be right.

On the flip side when someone is making gains in an area it is imperative that you compliment them, no matter how small the improvement. Carnegie references the experiments conducted by B.F. Skinner who tested the learning methods of reward vs punishment in animals, noting that the rate and effectiveness that rewarding good behavior had over punishing bad behavior. “By criticizing we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.”

  1. If you want a change in others, first start by changing yourself.

Pointing blame at others is the easy thing to do in most situations, it is harder to take a good look at yourself, your actions and how you react to what other people do. Of course, most people think this is the harder path and it would be easier for the other person to change, which would be a false assumption. Like my dad always says, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ This is true of people, no matter what you try to do or how much time and effort you put in, a person will only change of their own accord.

“Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine. I am all in favour of it. But why not begin on yourself? From a purely selfish standpoint, that is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others – yes, and a lot less dangerous. ‘Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof.’ Said Confucious, ‘when your own doorstep is unclean.’”

  1. Make someone feel important/needed if you want them to do something. Make it their Idea.

If you do want someone to change or you want them to complete a task the best thing to do in any given situation is to get them involved in the planning process. Make them feel needed and an integral part of the success of the project. Carnegie references American philosopher John Dewey who said “that the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’” Everyone wants to be the hero of their movie. Carnegie includes multiple stories about students reporting back to him of their endeavors, all relating his teachings and how well they have worked. By being interested in the other person’s hobbies or making workers feel important in some fashion, they have gained something that they would not have otherwise. From a puppy for a child to a better relationship with the subordinates who outperform their previous efforts.

“No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thought.”

Instead of trying to force an idea on someone, or forcing them to buy a product, get them involved. Like most of the points that Carnegie makes he includes a plethora of stories and anecdotes one that jumped out was a story of an X-ray equipment manufacturer. He sent a letter to the local hospital who had a number of other sales reps selling their equipment. The letter as follows:

                “Our factory has recently completed a new line of X-ray equipment. The first shipment of these machines has just arrived at our office, They are not perfect. We know that, and we want to improve them. So we should be deeply obligated to you if you could find the time to look them over and give us your ideas about how they can be made more serviceable to your profession. Knowing how occupied you are, I shall be glad to send my car for you at any hour you specify.”

The letter made the leading doctor feel important, and upon reviewing the equipment he ordered that it be installed. The manufacturer didn’t have to sell the doctor their product, he discovered the superior qualities himself.

  1. Listen and show interest in others.

People often want to become better at conversing with others and think their answer lies in getting better at speaking, However, Carnegie explains that it’s the complete opposite. Listening is the key to becoming a better conversationalist. Most, if not all, people want to feed their ego and talk about themselves. And that fine. Let them, they will love you for it.  Carnegie relays a story from a dinner party he attended, where he struck up a conversation with a botanist, he made the point to listen and show a great deal of interest in the man’s work. At the end of the night, the botanist told the host that Carnegie was ‘most stimulating’ and that he was a ‘most interesting conversationalist’ of course Carnegie barely talked.

“To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”

Since reading this I have found this to be true, show a genuine interest in them and they will appreciate it like nothing else.

  1. Admit when you are wrong.

This is something I had a lot of trouble with before reading this book, I still have my moments but I try my hardest to take on board others criticism and admit when I have fucked up. At first, this point didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, why would I admit I am wrong, even if I was not totally at fault. This thought came from my ego, came from a place that didn’t want my pride to be damaged.

“If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, isn’t it far better to beat the other person to it and do it ourselves? Isn’t it much easier to listen to self-criticism than to bear condemnation from alien lips?”

I now, instead of defending my position, do try to hold true to this principle put forth by Carnegie. It helps in all situations, the workplace, with my girlfriend, family and friends alike. So, drop the attitude, don’t let your ego be your amigo, really check yourself. You will be wrong more times than you are right. This, however, WILL NOT WORK if you don’t truly take it upon yourself to see that you are at fault and you don’t mean to correct the problem or situation.

These are only 5 points from this book, which is jam-packed full of goodies on not only how to win friends and influence people, but to become a better leader, one that can inspire and help others grow. This classic will always be one of my recommended books for all to read, even if it takes you a while to get through it, Carnegie’s lessons and principles last a lifetime of use. I know that it will be a book I go back to regularly. Here is one of my favourite quotes (one of many):

“That is what every successful person loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. That is what makes foot-races, and hog-calling, and pie-eating contests. The desire to excel. The desire for a feeling of importance.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

5-takeaways: The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi

Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi is regarded as the best Japanese swordsman/Samurai holding an undefeated record in his 61 duels. He not only was a wandering swordsman (ronin), but a writer and philosopher. He was the founder of the Niten-Ichi-Ryu-School, a style of swordsmanship where two swords are used. In his later years he wrote The Book of Five Rings, in which he “defends his thesis: a man who conquers himself is ready to take on the world, should the need arise.” (from the blurb on the back). The Book of Five Rings is considered alongside The Art of War, by Sun-Tzu, as one of the few books that cover the laws combat and more than that cover the laws of life. Here are my 5 takeaways from this classic.

  1. Know not only your abilities and limitations, but those of others.

Knowing your limitations means you can also know your strengths. So, you know when to ask for help or speak up when you don’t know how to do something. Musashi relates carpentry to the way of the sword, “The foreman should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men, circulating among them and asking nothing unreasonable. He should know their morale and spirit, and encourage them when necessary.” However, this can be applied across life. When you ask for the help of others, or when you are in a leadership role, you can organize people into roles in which they will thrive. This can also work in going against someone else. They will be defiant in their beliefs and will hold strong in opposition to them, so to know their limitations or weaknesses that will allow you to come at them from a different angle.

  1. Have the ability to view both the details and the big picture, be able to switch between the two.

Being able to detach and look at the big picture enables you to take stock of what you have done, what you are currently doing, and what you have to do. Giving you the overall picture, not only that but letting you really think about what you are doing and how to make it easier to achieve your next task or overall goal.

“What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive. In short, it is difficult for large numbers of men to change position so their movements can be easily predicted. An individual can easily change his mind, so his movements are difficult to predict.”

Look at big goals, they are easy to understand, but the smaller you go the harder you must think about how it pieces together with other goals and tasks. However, when you can focus on the task at hand you are able to complete it quickly, whereas the larger goals need to be done over a longer period of time.

  1. Winning or success requires constant small improvements.

Throughout the whole book, Miyamoto finishes a lot of his paragraphs with lines like this:

“You must learn this through repetitive practice.” Or “You must study this well.” Or “With detailed practice you should understand it.” or “You must train constantly.”

So, it’s fair to say that he believes in constant and detailed practice, it might be a technique or strategy, but he really harps on this point. To get the desired results, you must put in the constant hard work. “Men must polish their particular way.” This can be applied in all aspects of life, you want to be better at your job, or you want to build a successful stock portfolio, or you want to lose 10kgs. Constant small improvements will determine if you succeed in achieving your goal.

  1. Live life fully. Don’t hesitate.

“This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet drawn.” Miyamoto is talking about when in a swordfight you want to use everything you can at your disposal, however, life could be viewed as a swordfight. You could look at your potential as your weapon in life, and why wouldn’t you want to see yourself using your highest potential. Giving all you have to whatever task is in front of you.

Of course, not unlocking your potential or waiting for the opportune time is not good either. “Waiting is bad.” As above, you need to work on it constantly, “step by step walk the thousand-mile road.”

  1. Train your body, mind, and spirit.

Keep your mind sharp so you can perform in stressful environments, keep your body strong to be able to move how you want, and the spirit or heart must be able to push through the challenges you will face. Go to the gym, read books, study philosophy, write out your goals, listen to podcasts, meditate, whatever you have to do to improve yourself. Back to the constant improvement, just a little at a time.

“Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.”

Of course, if you lack training in one of these three, you will not be able to perform at a higher standard. You could be strong and have a large spirit or will, however, you could be bested by a person with a sharper mind. Conversely, if you are smart and strong you could be bested by a person with more will. It is like in jiu-jitsu, you want to have both strong defense and strong offense, if you lack in one, you will not be able to transition to your stronger aspect.

Hope you enjoyed my 5 takeaways from Miyamoto Musashi, like always I left a lot out, even though this book is less than 60 pages. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from this classic.

“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

5-takeaways: The Essence of Happiness: A Guidebook for Living, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I thought I would try something new and use a new format of review, where I break down my top 5 takeaways from a book. Hopefully reducing your reading time, let me know how you find it. While I was reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller, I was also plodding along on the tiny 120-page book, The Essence of Happiness. The book is an already summarized version of The Art of Happiness, which is based on the conversations held between The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard C. Cutler. Cutler wanted to understand the qualities and practices that the Dalai Lama uses throughout his day that allow him to live a rich and fulfilling life. Deconstructing and forming them so that they could be used by non-Buddhists to pursue happier lives. So here are my top 5 takeaways from The Essence of Happiness.

  1. That no matter where you come from or what has happened to you, you can find happiness or fulfillment.

How do you find fulfillment if you come from a broken home, or you are a recovering addict how does one find happiness? Well as His Holiness says “generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.” Now, I believe that you can never truly eliminate suffering, as it is a part of life, whereby you can truly appreciate the highs when you pull through the lows. However, using your positives in ways to help others this contributes to a more fulfilling life. “Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about a transformation in your outlook, your way of thinking, and this is not a simple matter.” It is not going to be easy, as your way of thinking is brought about by your experiences, however, you can change your future experiences to be positive ones.

  1. Having a clear and calm mind needs discipline.

The correct mental attitude towards anything is paramount in its success and your happiness, so when a greater level of calmness is achieved it allows you to enjoy life, that little bit more. If however your mind is clouded with negative emotions, everything will seem to be against you. “For example, if you harbor hateful thoughts or intense anger somewhere deep down within yourself, then it ruins your health; thus it destroys one of the factors.” Having a calm state of mind should not be confused with an insensitive state of mind. “a calm state of mind is rooted in affection and compassion. There is a very high level of sensitivity and feeling there.” without a calm mind you can be easily influenced by outside forces, however, with a little bit of discipline, you will be able to have some stability and therefore even in dire straits you will be able to navigate your ship. Discipline in the sense that you must train yourself to bring about positive thoughts.

  1. Change takes time.

These words are the only words on one page (page 29, if you have it), and I think that a lot of people forget that. If you go for the quick fix, it will be just that, quick. Then the problem will rise again. For a long-term problem a long-term solution must be used, “at the beginning, the implementation of the positive practices is very small, so the negative influences are still very powerful. However, eventually, as you gradually build up the positive practices, the negative behaviors are automatically diminished.” Do not get discouraged if you take a backward step, it is important to know that eventually, a negative situation won’t have an effect on your overall state of mind.

  1. Take the initiative to connect with people.

A lot of people often wait for others to respond to them in a positive way first, this creates a feeling of remorse and promotes a feeling of isolation away from others. Take the initiative and approach “others with the thought of compassion in your mind” meaning that you will be able to connect with them limiting the possibility that both of you involved will hold any ill will and negative feelings towards each other. “Whenever I meet people I always approach them from the standpoint of the most basic things we have in common. We each have a physical structure, a mind, emotions. We are all born in the same way, and we all die.” Using these underlying beliefs, you can more effectively and easily “exchange and communicate with one another.”

  1. The attitude you hold will determine the overall outcome of your life.

If you think the world is against you then it will seem that way. If you think that life is amazing and it should be cherished then that’s how you will see it. Experiencing suffering is inevitable, that is just how life is. A death in the family, finding out you have cancer, losing money on the stock market, all levels of suffering is sure to happen. “Our attitude towards suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises. Now our usual attitude consists of an intense aversion and intolerance of our pain and suffering. However, if we can transform our attitude towards suffering, adopt an attitude that allows us greater tolerance of it, then this can do much to help counteract feelings of mental unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and discontent.”  The Dalia Lama talks about people who can often allow feelings of loss, anxiety, and grief to overwhelm them if they go unchecked, pulling them into a deep hole of self-absorption. A few ways to combat such feelings is to think of others that have been or are in similar or worse off situations, allowing you to not “feel isolated, as if you (had) been single-pointedly picked out.”

These are my 5 main takeaways from His Holiness, however, the following passage is one that resonated with me the most.

“Trying to avoid our problems or simply not thinking about them may provide temporary relief, but I think that there is a better approach. If you directly confront your suffering, you will be in a better position to appreciate the depth and nature of the problem. If you are in a battle, as long as you remain ignorant of the status and combat capability of your enemy, you will be totally unprepared and paralyzed by fear. But if you know the fighting capability of your opponents, what sort of weapons they have and so on, then you’re in a much better position when you engage in the war.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

Book Review: The One Thing, Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

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Having recently found an interest in extraordinary successes and results I decided to pick up The One Thing, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan, as my next book review. Gary Keller is an American entrepreneur and best-selling author, he is most known for his work as the founder of Keller Williams which is the largest real estate company in the world, with over 180000 agents, and franchises in North America, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and Dubai. He has co-authored two previous books, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, the latter becoming a New York Times best-seller. So, it’s fair to say that Keller knows a bit about extraordinary success.

A Russian proverb starts the book, “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” This sets up the book which holds the view that as Humans we can only focus on one thing at a time if we want that one thing to be successful. He backs this up with a passage from the movie City Slickers, where the following conversations take place between two characters:

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?”

Mitch: “No. What?”

Curly: “This.” [He holds up one finger]

Mitch: “Your Finger?”

Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”

Mitch: “That’s great, but what’s the “one thing”?”

Curly: “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

Keller goes on to say that at the time he didn’t realize the importance of this conversation. His company had run into some problems, after almost a decade of successfully building it from the ground up they had hit a wall. After going to a coach who helped him through his predicament they had come to the conclusion that Keller needed to fill 14 positions that needed new faces. Keller seeing that the most important thing to keep the business going was to find the people to fill those roles, he fired himself as the CEO. He made it his mission to focus on his one thing. Once the roles started being filled, the company grew year on year by an average of 40 percent for almost a decade. After looking back on his successes and failures he noticed a pattern, one that he would base this book on.

Keller goes on to reference the Domino Effect, whereby a single domino can set in motion a series of dominoes, not only that, but a domino can bring down another domino that is 50 percent larger. This can be used in the same way for goals and actions. For instance, what single action will set up another action that will ultimately end in achieving a goal. Keller notes that highly successful people find the lead domino every day and keep setting things in motion until they reach their goal or target. Keller has already underlined things of importance for readers, one being the following sentence:

“The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.”

I used to struggle with this concept, I would want that instant gratification and success. This is something I learned through starting Jiu-jitsu, and I have to thank my instructor Robbie for drilling it into my head for the past couple of months. I know that a lot of people think that success happens overnight, but having read books and really delved deep into how success occurs I have come to the realization that this is far from the truth. Constant work at a skill, on a task, or on a project in a big part determines its success.

Moving on to part one, where Keller breaks down the lies of success that mislead us and derail our efforts. Keller notes that there are six lies that society deems are true in creating success:

  1. Everything matters equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A disciplined life
  4. Willpower is always on will-call
  5. A balanced life
  6. Big is bad

Now a few of these I already knew to be lies of success, such as multitasking, where you try to get multiple things done and you seem like you complete them both but ultimately you actually waste time in hopping between the two. Your mind has to adjust to the new task each time. That’s why you notice that your productivity goes down when a co-worker asks you to do something, as you then have to turn your mind to the new task to receive information, then go back to the one you were just working on.  However, I would have thought that discipline would be a key of success. But how Keller puts it changed my mind, how you can use discipline to create habits that lead to success. So, in the sense where self-discipline breaks down after a while unless the habit is made.

Never really thinking about if everything mattered equally I just assumed that everything was equal. Keller though would say that nothing is equal, in a contest one team is always going to be better, no matter how fair the official is, a person will always be more talented in one skill over another. Keller notes that when it comes to decision making, on what task to complete first we tend to trade the best decision for any decision. When everything seems important, then everything seems equal, we then try to complete everything at once, or value something that is not as important over something else as it seems more urgent. Making us busy and active, even though it doesn’t correlate with producing any results.

I am a sucker for to-do lists, I always make them and try to tick off the tasks on the list. Keller explains how they can become a trap of time wasting, as everything on the list seems important, even if it is a trivial task, it still sits on the same list as something more important. Keller referencing Australian prime minister Bob Hawke: “The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” How to combat this lack of purpose in a to-do list, make a success list using the 80/20 principle, otherwise known as the Pareto principle. Take 20% of the list that would give you 80% of the productivity, and make a new list with that new 20%. Keller says to go even further, make a list that ultimately gives you only one thing to focus on.

Throughout the book there are many quotes by famous thinkers, writers and successful people from all walks of life, each giving a little bit of insight on the topic of the chapter. Not only has Keller underlined and included quotes, he has also summarized each chapter in a “Big Ideas” section at the end, meaning that instead of re-reading the book, you can just go back over each summary. The book is littered with figures and diagrams that help the reader visualize the concepts that Keller talks about.

Part two of The One thing starts with Keller telling his story of how got tired of “playing success” and ditched the lies of success that he talked about in the previous part and embraced the simple tactics that produce results. Starting with asking the hard question on what to focus on, what task are you going to focus on that will help you the most in working towards your goals, be it business, be it personal life, relationships whatever it is. Asking what Keller calls the focusing questions will allow you to break the task into smaller, more easily completed tasks. “The quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.” Keller includes a poem by J.B. Rittenhouse called My Wage that I will share with you below:

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening when
I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.

Noting especially the last two lines. When you ask for it, life will give it. However, you must take on the task of achieving it.

As covered in my review of Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, Life is about searching and giving it meaning. Keller agrees and states that Life is a question, that is up to the individual to answer with their actions. Everyone will be different. Another benefit of asking the focusing question is that when you add on to that question “what is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” meaning that you can still have a big picture view of your current situation yet still focus on the one thing at that time and place that would make the next domino fall with less effort.

Keller talks about creating habits of success, habits that keep you asking the main question that he pushes: “What’s the one thing I can do today for______ such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” and you use discipline for the habit to stick. Keller notes that research says that for a person to form a habit it takes 66 days. To help you in establishing this habit, it is imperative that you give yourself reminders to ask the question. Part of the ritual of asking questions is to break the question down, into small, big, broad and specific. So, you might ask yourself “what is something I can do to double my sales?”, this would be a big and broad question, too broad, and it doesn’t have any urgency to it. “What can I do to increase sales by 5% this year?”, this is a small and specific question, gives a goal date, but the sales increase is achievable. This is where you would have to ask a big and specific question to maximize your results. The question might look more like this: “What can I do to double sales in six months?” making it a habit to ask the questions in this way, gives you a large and challenging goal that you will have to work harder to achieve, while giving you a strict timeline whereby it creates a sense of urgency to complete it.

Moving onto part three, where Keller sums up how to get extraordinary results, where your productivity can be derived from the priority you give yourself at any given time, that works towards completing your purpose. “Live with Purpose”, how do you find your purpose? Well, you have to take on a task that you choose, it might be that you want to create a business, or that you want to grow your own produce and help reduce your pollution, whatever the case maybe it is up to you to decide on a purpose. As Keller puts it, “Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.” However, I will state that if you are struggling with a purpose and you are not sure were to aim. My advice, pick a direction and shoot, as long as you learn something from it, even if it is that you learn you don’t want to do it, then there is no harm done by it. Just don’t get discouraged and pick another thing to aim at.

With many repeating concepts such as goal setting, such that it gives you a clear big-picture direction that you can focus down on to what to do right at that moment of your day, where that action tips the next domino. Blocking time, not only time dedicated to your one thing, or big project but more importantly, a time where you can relax and time where you plan for the next week or month. The idea of making yourself accountable, where you actively seek and acknowledge reality and therefore find a solution to the problem you are faced with. Keller has written a great book, where most, if not all, of the concepts of The One Thing can be applied across all aspects of life. And Keller recognizes this, including a chapter all about putting The One Thing to work, including personal, family, job and a few others, all with examples of questions that you could ask of yourself.

The One Thing is another book to recommend to all of you, as I have only covered a fraction of the material. Keller and Papasan have written a great book, with a lot of new and old ideas that are actionable and backed by studies and research that was compiled over the four years before the book’s release. I buy most of the books I get through booktopia.com, I like the hard copy feel. However, if it is easier for you to get a PDF and chuck it on your Kindle or listen to an audiobook then I can highly recommend that you do so. What’s your One Thing? The thing you want to complete today, next month, next year? Let us know below.

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See you on the mats.