Posts Tagged ‘japan’

Time for a Change #24: New Ways To Finance Your Future

by William Reed on September 14, 2012

When thinking about financing your future, most people think of savings, investing, insurance, or financial planning. These are the disciplines that make up most what we think of as the world of finances. How we manage our money is the core of financial planning, but sometimes it helps to step back and reflect on how our money manages us. The ways that we think about money affects our behavior towards it, and the Mandala Chart can again provide multiple windows for reflecting on our thought and behavior regarding money. You can download the FINANCES MANDALA and follow it through the topics below.

Melodious Beans

In Japanese the character for abundance is written 豊 (yutaka), which curiously is made up of the radicals for melody 曲 and beans 豆, a happy image that might even please the bean counters in the accounting department. Soy beans are the source of many food products in Japan, one of the most popular being soy bean curd, known as tōfu. What many people do not know is that there are serious tōfu turf wars going on behind the scenes, which I wrote about previously in an article called Tofu Wars: Battle of the Bean Curd. It is a not so melodious story about how supermarkets in Japan sometimes sell tōfu below their cost as a loss leader to attract people into their stores. For the tōfu specialty stores (yes, they exist) this is a disaster, because they cannot possibly compete if they sell their core product below cost. My friend and co-author wrote a poem about this, which you can download as an excerpt from our book, Budo, Blogs, and Poetry.

What to the supermarket might only be a corner display, to the tōfu specialty shop is a move aimed at the heart. Supermarkets could rotate their loss leaders among different products to still attract customers without decimating the specialty shops. The tōfu shops on their part could offer varieties of tōfu not found in the supermarkets, and educate customers about the value that justifies the price difference, as well as how to prepare delicious tōfu dishes. And consumers can think twice about what happens to other businesses when they buy loss leader products. One secret of abundance is to take the Hippocratic Oath in business and do no harm.

The Straw Trader

There are also lessons in abundance from a Japanese folk tale called Lord Straw Stalk, in which a wandering poor and penniless boy was struggling from hand to mouth, doing day labor in exchange for his food. He often stayed at Buddhist temples, and praying to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, he received a promise that he would be blessed with a happy life and great rewards. It all started with a  stalk of straw, the end of which he tied a buzz fly to for entertainment. Seeing this toy, another boy offered him three oranges for it. These in turn he gave to a woman suffering from thirst, who gave him a roll of woven silk cloth in appreciation. He met a Samurai who offered to give him his tired old horse in exchange for the woven silk cloth. The boy nursed the horse back to health, and offered to sell it to a wealthy landowner, who instead gave him a patch of land to work. This he did very well, and thereby impressed the landowner to offer the boy his daughter in marriage, and the large house in which to raise their family. He became know as Warashibe Chōja, Lord Straw Stalk. The blessings of the Goddess did in fact come true, because he traded his way up to greater wealth, offering value to everyone he met.

A similar story can be found in the West, well known as Master Cat, or Puss ‘n Boots. The lesson is that quite humble things can be of great value when offered to others in the right spirit, and at the right time. It is possible to trade you way into abundance.

Move Less, Attract More

This was the title of an article I wrote on the Abundance Mentality for my Art of Flexible Focus column, Move Less, Attract More. It contains a Hasidic story related by Martin Buber about the difference between Heaven and Hell. Both were rooms in which an abundance of food was laid upon a table, and all of the people in the room had long wooden spoons tied to their arms, making it impossible to feed themselves. In the room called Heaven, all of the people fed each other, whereas in the room called Hell, languished and starved trying in vain to feed themselves. Both rooms offered the same conditions of abundance. It was selfishness and greed that created the condition of Hell, generosity and cooperation that created the condition of Heaven.

This is a simple and powerful story if you think about how it applies in your own life. How do you get fed when your hands are tied? Find a way to feed others first, and soon the mentality of abundance will spread to the benefit of all.

Rules of the Game

Know the rules of the game. They are not always spelled out clearly, but the world of finances is set up with certain rules and laws that ensure that somebody gets paid and comes out ahead. Many contracts are set up specifically for that purpose. While the systems may be complex, they are designed to reward the people who set up the rules, whether in real estate or in taxation. These rules do provide stability in society, but they are designed to serve the people who made the rules.

You may not be able to avoid those rules, but you can gain strength by playing in your own court. Find ways to work in your area of strength, where you know the rules and can sometimes have a hand in setting them up. This is one way to leverage your finances to abundance.

The other is through giving. Givers gain, because they play by the rules of a higher power. The universe rewards those who help others.

Conscious Consumption

One way to finance your future is to enhance the present moment. Zen Meditation can help you regain awareness and appreciation of what you have got, as well as help you discern what you really need. The mind is easily led into a path of unconscious and unending consumption. Meditation can help you become more calm and discerning, that will certainly make you more conscious of your consumption, less likely to be wasteful, and more open to real opportunities in your life.

It will also make you more conscious if you keep track of your receipts, separating them into categories so that you are more aware of where your money is actually going. Making purchases by cash rather than credit card can also give you a greater sense for what is going out, and more attention to why. The conscious consumer gets what he or she needs, and spends more wisely.

The Midas Touch

Everyone knows the story from Greek Mythology about King Midas, who in his greed for gold developed a golden touch, so that everything that he touched turned to gold, including his food and even his own daughter. Despite his riches, he died miserable and hungry.

Greed is a sure way to jeopardize your financial future. Gold Diggers are people who marry for money, where the motive force is not Love but Greed. Instead of a Golden Touch, why not develop a healing touch, a Green Thumb which gives life and helps things and people grow? Watch the people around you and help them to thrive, and you will build trust that will finance your future in subtle but certain ways.

Pull Power

If you want to travel far, you should hitch your wagon to the right horse. Associate yourself in a positive and helpful way with people who have the power to pull you forward. When you clearly express the value you have to offer, and your willingness to share it, people will come forward who want to associate with you for mutual benefit. If the relationship is based on trust and transparency, this can be a very positive way for both sides to finance their future.

The secret is to keep it simple and create a combination that makes things easier and better for both sides, a win/win relationship.

Remember and Help Them

No matter how bad you feel your fortunes have fallen, there are masses of people who are much worse off than you, and they need help as much or more. “I felt sorry for myself having no shoes, until I met the man who had no feet.” As you go about thinking of how to finance your own future, give some time, energy, and assistance to those less fortunate.

Study the inspiring work of Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, a micro-finance organization started in Bangladesh, which gives loans to poor entrepreneurs without requiring collateral, helping them to leverage their skills and finance their own futures. The organization and it’s founder were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Whereas most people search for bargains in which you buy one and get one free, there is an organization which takes the opposite approach of connecting buying to giving, Buy1Give1. This innovative approach to micro-giving enables businesses and individuals to choose projects that resonate with themselves and make a real difference in people’s lives. Your daily purchases can literally finance the futures of people around the world. Find out how it works and give it a try.

“Beware of dissipating your powers; strive constantly to concentrate them.”

~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832, German poet, dramatist, novelist)

A Japanese proverb has it that if you chase two rabbits, you lose them both. This is a good description of the problem of distracted pursuit. Do you know people who do this? Have you experienced it yourself?

The worst thing is not when the rabbits get away, but when you actually pursue and catch one that turns out to be the one that you did not want. Meanwhile your real dream has slipped away. If you are in the wrong job or career, you know exactly what this feels like.

The problem actually lies deeper, in the mind which pursues goals in the first place. Truly successful people concentrate and attract the rabbits to them.

“When you fully focus your mind, you make others attracted to you.”

~ Toba Beta, Betelgeuse Incident

Another Japanese proverb has it that perseverance prevails (Ishi no ue ni mo san nen, literally “it takes 3 years to warm up a rock”). Despite the traditional wisdom that it takes time and concentration to achieve something worthwhile, technology seems to be rushing us in the opposite direction.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, a prominent Neuroscientist at Oxford warned that the Internet and Social Media may be rewiring our brains toward hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADD).  Three years on a rock has been super compressed to the 3-second rule on the Internet, the time it takes web surfers to make a decision whether to stay or click away. The question to ask is, are we grounding or floundering when we scatter our attention in this way?

The 10,000 hour rule

Research from both Cambridge and Harvard supports the idea that expertise in any field depends more on years of deliberate practice than on inborn talent. The 10,000 hour rule suggests that it takes about 4 hours a day of deep concentrated practice with skilled coaching over a 10 year period to achieve a level of world class expertise or performance.

This fits the traditional view of discipline in the Japanese arts, where 10 years is actually considered a relatively short time to have practiced a traditional martial or performing art. By that standard, the average person today could scarcely qualify as a curious passerby.

Is Attention Deficit a disorder or a myth?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), hyperactivity combined with lack of ability to concentrate, is officially ordained as a psychological disorder. That diagnosis has led to the prescription of the drug Ritalin to now over a million children in the United States. Dr. David Keisey, professor of behavioral sciences at the University of California at Fullerton, and author of the bestselling book on Temperament Please Understand Me, wrote an article exposing this widespread practice, The Evil Practice of Narcotherapy for Attention Deficit. This article seriously raises the question that the phenomenon of ADD may be a grossly misconstrued myth, which has led to the untenable practice of drugging hyperactive children into submission, despite serious long-term side effects that could wound an entire generation.

And yet predisposition to ADD behavior may actually be built into our media and lifestyle, where technology and lifestyle choices encourage us to concentrate very briefly on many things at once. Checking e-mail during a meeting, watching TV while eating dinner, or listening to music while falling asleep may seem like perfectly normal behavior. But increasingly this habit of dividing attention between several things at once is leading to dangerous behavior like distracted driving, that is eating, drinking, reading, texting, talking on a cell phone, or even putting on make up while driving. It comes in 3 forms visual distraction: taking your eyes off of the road, manual distraction: taking your hands off the wheel, and mental distraction: taking your mind off of the task of driving. Even though it is inadvisable, and sometimes illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, it is not uncommon to see.

What to focus on?

A good rule of thumb is to take your To Do List, all of the musts and shoulds and coulds in your mind, and squeeze it for all it is worth. That is, reduce it to size with the 80/20 Rule, by concentrating on the 20% of activities, ideas, and people that yield 80% of the benefits and results in your life. This is easier said than done. Can you really say no to the 80% of the things and people who compete for your time and attention? Can you attend to the 20% that matter most?

One thing that can help you decide and act appropriately is to shift your attention from What you should do, and focus on Why?, as recommended by Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline.  It is said that if you met Steve Jobs in the elevator at Apple, your answer to his simple question, “Why are you working at Apple?,” determined whether or not you kept your job.

Bringing peace to the monkey mind

According to Wikipedia, the definition of the Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.” It is an ancient concept, suggesting that it is a fundamental part of the human experience. How we deal with this restless inner state is the key to our happiness and productivity. The scatter brain can never sit still long enough to appreciate deeply or perform at a high level.

A key question to ask yourself is, Where does the Monkey Mind reside? Is it inside you, or built into the fabric of society? Wherever you find it, what will you do to bring it under control? Fortunately, there is a far better and more natural solution than Ritalin, and it is found right in our own bodies.

Dr. William Bloom is the author of The Endorphin Effect, a book which led to breakthroughs in healthcare and personal development. This book shows how visualization and awareness can release endorphins in your body, which will heal, energize, and revitalize your life.

Dr Bloom outlines five triggers that release endorphins, and all of them are accessible to us in daily life.

  1. Enjoyable thoughts or activity
  2. Inner smile with whole body
  3. Deep and conscious rest
  4. Connection with natural world
  5. Engage in physical exercise

Endorphins is a natural ambrosia that we can produce with our own bodies, that is highly responsive to our emotional and physical awareness, and which can soothe even the beast that bothers us through the Monkey Mind.

Lastly, as a solution to the problem of goal pursuit in which the divided mind chases after two rabbits and loses them both, the calm mind is able to attract the rabbits by being calm and focused.

“For him who has no concentration, there is no tranquility.”

~Bhagavad Gita (c. BC 400-, Sanskrit poem)

Download a CONCENTRATION MANDALA which summarizes the ideas in this article, and serves as a reminder on how to practically apply the principles.

Time For a Change #12: Get More Done in Less Time

by William Reed on April 26, 2012

Rethinking Time

The characters in Japanese for the word time (時間 jikan) literally mean time-interval, or space of time. This is an interesting perspective, because it joins two concepts that in English are treated as separate things. Einstein spoke of space-time in the context of the Principle of Relativity, but that branch of Physics is still beyond the average person’s comprehension. For most people, time is something more closely associated with the clock and the calendar.

Consequently, when people think about how to get more done in less time, they usually focus on how to work faster or more efficiently, as if productivity against the clock was the ultimate objective measure. The production line mentality still holds sway over the way many people experience time. It is high time that we rethink that proposition.

From one perspective, time matters a lot. You may have noticed that time seems to fly faster as you get older. I remember commenting to a friend on my 16th birthday that the year seemed to have gone by quickly. My friend’s father, who must have been in his 50s, overheard me say that and said to us, “Boys, when you get to be my age, the decades just fly by.” The usual explanation for this is that one year is a smaller fraction of the whole for a 50 year old than for a 5 year old. Nevertheless, as time goes by you tend to appreciate how much it matters. Whether or not time is on your side depends a lot on how well you appreciate and use time. If you look back on what has gone well in your life, you realize that timing is everything.

From another perspective, time doesn’t matter much at all. It isn’t the quantity of time that you spend with people so much as the quality that you remember. The way we experience time is a lot more relative than the way it is measured in minutes and hours. If you are having fun and deeply engaged then 8 hours can pass very quickly, whereas if you are stuck in a boring job the minutes seem like hours.

Synchronicity is the phenomenon in which things occur simultaneously that cannot be explained with any apparent connection. A person suddenly mentions a thing that you were just thinking about. A friend calls you just as you pick up the phone to call them. A discovery or invention is made by two people at the same time living in different countries, despite having no apparent connection or communication between them. We are connected in mysterious ways that are  not bound by time and space.

The art of getting things done

If you want to get more done in less time, a good strategy is actually to do less, but to focus on doing the things that matter most. This is the thinking behind the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. Manage the things that make a difference, and you will see that small efforts can produce big results.

If you focus too much on perfection your work will never be done. Better to focus on the process, leaving yourself room to breathe. It is not worth sacrificing your days for the sake of filling up all of the time you have with work.

The oriental game of Go has a fascinating strategy that can apply to life as well. Black and white stones are placed on the intersections of vertical and horizontal lines on the Go board, the purpose being to surround territory by surrounding and capturing the opponent’s stones, while maintaining breathing space for your own stones. Go strategy involves playing the whole board and connecting your stone groups across the board. If you play too tightly by concentrating on one of the corners, you end up missing the big picture and losing the game. The connections are not obvious until the mid-game, except to the experienced eye, which sees time in terms of space, not in local logical steps.

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell refers to the “10,000 hour rule,” which applies in many endeavors from sports to music, whereby world class success seems to depend in part on quantity, not years of practice but the number of hours of deep practice, focused, intentional, quality practice time. Such people not only practice, but also perform more consistently in a Flow state, described in Flow Psychology as a state of full immersion and joy in the task. One of the characteristics of being in Flow is a distortion of the sense of time. Hours can pass like minutes, making you wonder where did the time go? Time can also slow down, in sports when the ball seems to travel in slow motion. It is accompanied by a feeling of spontaneous joy, and freedom from the clock. People in the Flow state are also more likely to be successful, and get better results.

Common sense

Voltaire said that “Common sense is not so common.” It is therefore worth reviewing a few common sense approaches when it comes to getting more done in less time.

  • Eliminate. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Shorten your To Do List, and just focus on those things that matter most. Don’t get caught up in trying to do a task more efficiently, without first asking if it is the right task. Free your mind by striving first to be more effective.
  • Outsource. Trying to do everything yourself is not only futile, it is downright foolish. Just because you can is not always the best reason that you should do something yourself. Look for ways to free up your time by paying or training someone else to do the task for you. Instead of yielding to the seductive lure of routine, look for shortcuts that can save you time.
  • Right Tools. A good craftsperson is very particular about their tools. One of the most effective ways to get more done in less time is to select the right tools, and leverage them to accomplish more. Whatever your trade, tools save you time.

No regrets

A Catholic Priest once commented that of the many last rites he had performed for dying people, most of them expressed far more regret for what they did not do in life, than what they had done. Their primary regret was for a life not fully lived, dreams left unattended, words left unsaid.

If you want to live life with no regrets, it is important to attend to your dreams and work on your chosen goals. Your dream calls to you constantly, if you can just free yourself from the illusions of time which pull you away from it. When you are selecting your tools, be sure to consider GOALSCAPE as the tool of tools, because it helps you gain perspective and focus on those things which matter most.

Download a TIME MANDALA as a reminder of the attitudes and approaches that can help you get more done in less time.

Growing into Interdependence

In the Flexible Focus Series we looked at the first principle of the Mandala Chart, Interdependence. That article looked at the 3 stages of growth, from dependence, to independence, to interdependence, and six steps to continuous improvement which can facilitate this growth process.

Once you begin to grow through Interdependence, a whole new set of factors come into play which enable you to cultivate and strengthen your relationships with other people, and with the universe itself.

To a small child the world revives around the self in a state of dependence. The baby cries when unhappy, and like magic mother takes care of all needs. This is a natural and healthy way for a baby to grow. However, in some people although the physical growth process continues, psychologically they remain needy and dependent, creating all kinds of problems for themselves and others.

At some stage before or after the age of 20, we come to seek independence. This is an important stage of growth, and essential to survival. However, it is also possible to become stuck in the appealing misconception that everything that happens depends on you. This is the world of the lone wolf entrepreneur, the rebel, the self-made man, and the independent woman. It can wear you down and end in a state of total exhaustion. Like Atlas trying to carry the entire world on his shoulders, in the end the burden is to great to bear.

Ultimately, and according to Carl Jung usually before or after the age of 50, you grow to seek interdependence. This is a more mature state, but unlike the two previous stages, there is no limit or limitation to the degree of connectivity you can have to the universe you live in. It is as limitless and inexhaustible as the universe itself.

That being said, the challenge is how you go about proactively and creatively cultivating this connectivity.

The Interface Connection

The character for 縁 (en) means interface, connection, and karma. It is often used to express a lucky meeting of people, an auspicious mingling of minds that produces blessings and benefits for those who become connected. It is often considered to be serendipitous, unsought but extremely lucky, and somehow meant to happen. You can have this connection with people, ideas, and places. It is a wonderful thing to experience, and one of the great mysteries of life.

While it happens through seemingly coincidental events, in fact synchronicity is deeply connected below the surface of awareness, and is not as accidental as it appears. It is possible to facilitate this process of positive change through mindful living, and paying attention to eight important factors in the interface connection.

  • Attitude. Our experience and even what we see or do not see is conditioned to a large degree by what how we look at things. This has been proved in psychology experiments such as the Invisible Gorilla Experiment, which shows how people not only overlook the obvious, but even completely miss the totally outrageous when it stares them in the face. It is also well known that a positive disposition will make you happy, whereas a gloomy outlook casts a pall over everything and everyone. You find what you look for, so it only makes sense to cultivate a positive attitude.
  • Gratitude.  When you become aware of interdependence there is a dawning awareness that all of the things that you have, all the things that you have become, depend in some important way on the help you received from other people. You didn’t do it all by yourself, and therefore it is only natural to appreciate and show your gratitude, not only in your heart by in your words and deeds. Find deeper ways to show your appreciation, and you will deepen your connection to other people.
  • Association.  Of all of the people who can help you grow and increase your connectivity, it is the great teachers in your life who can create the most change. You most likely will not find them in school, though there are lucky exceptions. One reason why you are more likely to find a great teacher outside of school is that you have to seek them out, and the awareness and desire to fill the gap in your knowledge and skills is also an important part of interdependence. Choose carefully the people that you spend your time with, as they can either buoy you up or drag you down. Energy is what guides the relationship, so keep your energy positive and alive.
  • Communication.  Many self-proclaimed great communicators are in fact poor listeners. So anxious to convey their own message, they forget to find out whether or in what way the other person might care. It is important to catch the atmosphere and mood of the people you are with, whether it is a small group or a large audience. A good way to gauge this is to ask great questions. Not only will you learn more, but good questions will open up hearts and minds. Once the flow of communication is there, you can enhance it wonderfully with the art of telling a story. This is what keeps people there, and makes them want to come back for more.
  • Collaboration.  The notion of accumulating resources is based on the independent mentality, storing up for the future so that you will have enough for yourself. The interdependent mentality thinks differently. Rather than adding resources, it jumps to a new level by multiplying resources, matching your own resources with those of another through collaboration. However, it is vitally important to choose the right collaboration partner. If you have something good, many people will be attracted to it, but not all of them have the best intentions. If you have money, beware the gold diggers. If you have talent, beware the agents and producers. Work with people whose resources complement but do not compete with yours. The real test of a good collaboration is that all parties are essential to the partnership. Otherwise they will suck out of you what they can, and then leave the relationship which never existed in the first place, no matter how friendly the early approach may have been.
  • Spaces.  Pay attention to ambience, the power of the place and the way it influences the people in it. Of course the place itself can be transformed by the energy of the people present. Ambience is enhanced through the five senses, plus the sixth sense of intuition. A space is like a stage, which can be set with lighting, color, and furniture, and enhanced through music, food, plants, even pets. It is a small universe that responds and creates response. A highly enjoyable way to increase your connectivity. Develop your own sense of presence so that you can be the master of the space wherever you travel.
  • Words.  The power of words is magic. Words can captivate, entrance, enrage, or engage. The power of the Word is recognized in all religions, and is the driving force of culture. Choose your words and phrases in such a way to enhance and reinforce your relationships, as well as remember your experiences. Words can be expressed in multiple dimensions. The tone and quality of the voice carries words when spoken or sung. There is the power of the written word in literature, and the transformational effect of brush calligraphy in art. Words are a wonderful bridge to the world.
  • Anchors.  We anchor our experiences in various ways, through imagery, metaphors, anecdotes, emotions. Those which are well anchored can be triggered through the smallest of reminders, a scent, a melody, a phrase. When you are centered you have more impact in your communication. It is as if you words have more weight, more substance, greater power to spread and take root. Anchors can be reinforced by going back to relive, revive, and remember your experiences. This is the power of a diary, and one of the driving forces behind social media.

You can download a CONNECTION MANDALA which summarizes these ideas as a reminder and a gauge of your level of connectivity through Interdependence.

Editor’s Note: The image (provided by www.toyouke.co.jp) depicts character for 縁 (en, connection), painted by William Reed on a charcoal egg.

Time For a Change #6: Meeting Your Agenda

by William Reed on March 15, 2012

Raising the energy level of your meetings

We usually assume that an agenda is something prepared for a meeting, but unless the goals of the meeting are quite clear, it is likely that we will not meet our agenda.

A meeting can be a form of successful collaboration, or it can be a mindless ritual that saps your energy and time. What makes the difference is clarity of purpose, and a commitment to work as effectively as possible within the time available.

To truly meet your agenda you need to understand your circumstances and your objectives, and not simply pile on a list of things to do. The essential ingredient which determines the success or failure of any meeting is communication.

A highly practical model to understand communication was developed by Roger J. Hamilton, the founder of Wealth Dynamics, and Asia’s leading Wealth Consultant. Roger makes the distinction that communication contains a spectrum of four energy levels: Exchange, Connect, Motivate, and Inspire. While meetings are organized with best intentions, ask yourself at what level are most corporate meetings conducted? How often have you attended a meeting at which information is exchanged in a strange volley of suggesting and then shooting down each new idea that is presented?

The idea generators focus on possibilities, and suggest new things to do, or new ways of doing things. The idea critics focus on reasons why those ideas would not work, and therefore should be abandoned. This is demotivating for both sides. Mere idea exchange is a form of corporate wheel spinning, because without achieving any traction, there can be no effective action.

People connect when they get the goals at a gut level. Something clicks when the ideas and actions presented make sense not only at a logical level, but also at an emotional and intuitive level. Still nothing changes until people take this connection and do something with it.

Although the energy improves when people at the meeting become motivated, problems occur when the motivation is not shared by other members of the team, or when it lasts only as long as the meeting, and is soon forgotten on returning to the daily grind.

The reason we aspire to inspire is that inspiration lights the fire of internal motivation, and leads to action that does not need to be driven from the outside. Inspiration is self-sustaining.

Improving your LUCK

O, Fortuna! Since Ancient Greece and before humankind have been interested in improving its fortune. And yet the Wheel of Fortune is often portrayed as something whimsical, to which you need a magical connection for it to shine on you. Las Vegas thrives on the theme of Luck be a Lady Tonight! And yet when you look closely at those who are considered lucky in love, in business, and in life, you see that there are elements at work over which we all have some control.

One of the tenets of Wealth Dynamics is that LUCK is no accident. It is constructed of four elements that are easy to remember, yet not so easy to practice.

LOCATION

Location is the mantra in retail sales as the secret to success, but location is extremely important to success in any endeavor in life. The mood of a place can kindle or kill your enthusiasm. The decor of a room can affect how well you learn and what you remember. Environment is very important, and fortunately we can often do something about it, even if it means changing your physical location. In Japanese it is called 場 (ba) and is the primary focus when people set about trying to make improvements.

UNDERSTANDING

Understanding starts with seeing, not just on the surface, but deep behind the obvious. The character for 観 (kan) depicts a stork silent but fully aware of any movement. We need awareness, and an openness to see with the eyes of understanding, rather than judging the situation with blind eyes.

CONNECTIONS

Rather than starting a meeting with what you want to say, find out what information, experience, and emotions you have in common that are connected to the meeting agenda. Make sure that everyone feels connected and involved at some level. The character for 縁 (en) means edge, interface, connection, or relationship. It is frequently used to highlight how you are connected to another person, often in a surprising or synchronistic way.

KNOWLEDGE

The lowest component in communication is data, which can be assembled to create knowledge. However, knowledge only becomes useful when it is transformed into experience and wisdom. People easily assume that they know something just having heard about it. Socrates said that the beginning of wisdom was the realization that you know next to nothing. There is always more to learn, if you have the qualities of humility and curiosity in the right blend. The character for 知 (chi) means knowledge, but knowing at a deeper level. When you have this kind of knowledge you earn peoples’ trust through your natural authority and authenticity. Knowledge must then transform into action.

Download a Mandala Chart which summarizes these ideas with questions that will help you in Improving Your LUCK.

These words go deeper than their superficial meanings, and when you can combine them you get the magic winning hand! Your LUCK will naturally improve, and your meetings will meet the agenda with action and results.

When Bob Dylan released his third studio album in 1964, The Times They Are a Changin’, the powerful message spoke to the times. But this message was hardly anything new. The ancient Greek Philosopher Heraclitus (535~475 BC) was a philosopher of change, famous for the saying that, “You never step into the same river twice.” And well before that the ancient Chinese compiled the I Ching, or Book of Changes, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd Millennium BC.

It is almost redundant to say that it is Time for a Change, except that this is a universal and timeless theme, always true, and always relevant to you. Nevertheless, the tools and means of change vary with the times. It is never too late to review who and where you are as the world changes.

Even change itself is changing, through the process of Accelerating Change. Futurologists from Buckminster Fuller (Geodesic Dome) to Alvin Tofler (Future Shock) and John Naisbitt (Megatrends) have delineated the process and the paradigm shifts in technology, social, and cultural change. Change is no longer in the domain of specialists, because we all experience it deeply in our own lives.

Ask yourself what you were doing 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, and chances are you have experienced major changes in your career or personal life, many of which you had no idea were coming. It is fair to predict that the same thing will be true 5 to 10 years hence. The purpose of this new column is to provide perspective on change, and introduce innovative ways in which we can navigate and benefit from it.

Following the structure of my previous column Flexible Focus, this weekly column will also cover topics in 8 major categories:

  • Goals and Flexible Focus
  • Problems in Goal Pursuit
  • Creative Ideas and Focussed Action
  • Presenting Goals to Others
  • Secrets of Collaboration Success
  • Templates for Problem Solving
  • Goals in the 8 Fields of Life
  • 8 Principles of Mandala Thinking

Many people think that they need to get ready for change, or even try to prevent it. Yet once you recognize that change is inevitable it makes sense to shift your thinking and find ways to be ready, to welcome and initiate change.

Think of it as a paradigm shift from being passive to staying proactive.

Our constant companion in this process is Time. We will look at ways in which to measure, manage, and manipulate time through your attitude and the use of powerful tools for Goal planning and implementation.

We do not travel alone. We will look at the importance of communication and partnership in achieving great things that you could not on your own.

Learning from experience is not always the best way to leverage your success. We will look at guiding principles, tools, and templates that can reduce the long journey of our predecessors to a shorter path for our ourselves that those who follow us.

While change can be wrenching and hard, it can also be invigorating and inspiring. So much depends on how we view and engage with it. Join us in this journey, and let us join you in yours.

EMC QUEST Corporation publishes new book, A ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE. The book is by Active Garage columnist – William Reed, speaker, columnist, and martial artist, who also serves as Chairman and Representative Director of EMC QUEST.

This is a book of practical wisdom, exploring how you can develop flexible focus using the the powerful lens of the Mandala Chart to bring your life into balance, and your goals into focus.

It combines age-old questions with actionable ideas and tools, and helps you turn your dreams into real achievements. It is the first book ever to introduce the Mandala Chart in English, and contains many nuggets of wisdom which help you make the most of each day at work, at home, at play.

Each chapter explores the Mandala from a new perspective, with compact and insightful ideas for business and personal performance.

When read on an ebook reader such as Kindle, readers can also access the concepts through the online dictionary and web access, use the notes and highlight feature, and share passages on Facebook. This is particularly useful for readers for whom English may be a second language, making it possible to improve your English while you read the ZOOM LENS content. It is also a powerful companion for the EMC QUEST Personal Coaching Program.

A ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE is divided into 4 parts and 16 chapters:

Table of Contents

PART ONE: NAVIGATION

  • Chapter One: Are Goals Traps or Opportunities?
  • Chapter Two: Oceans of Opportunity
  • Chapter Three: The Principle of Interdependence
  • Chapter Four: The Principle of Initiative

PART TWO: MASTERY

  • Chapter Five: The Eight Frames of Life—Health
  • Chapter Six: The Eight Frames of Life—Business
  • Chapter Seven: The Mandala Business Diary
  • Chapter Eight: Finding Focus in the Frames

PART THREE: RESONANCE

  • Chapter Nine: The Magic Eye of Metaphor
  • Chapter Ten: The Art of Making Sense
  • Chapter Eleven: Inside the Lines
  • Chapter Twelve: The Wonderful World of Flow

PART FOUR: FREEDOM

  • Chapter Thirteen: The Decision Trap
  • Chapter Fourteen: The One Year Plan
  • Chapter Fifteen: Determine Your Destiny
  • Chapter Sixteen: Move Less, Attract More

From the introduction

“Imagine if your view of the world was restricted to what you can see in front of your face. This was the case for much of human history. It is hard to fathom to what extent technology has changed our view of the world, giving us zoom access to the outer reaches of space, the microscopic world, cameras transcending time and space, and the web connecting our world.

What if there was a tool that acted as a zoom lens for your life? What if you could step away from the fray to see the big picture, zero in for analysis or action, without losing track of how everything is connected? The Mandala Chart is just such a tool, acting as a viewfinder with flexible focus. In all periods of history, the people with flexible focus have been able to dance circles around the rest.

The Biggest Room in the World…

My personal belief is that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. This is a proactive philosophy of always experimenting and implementing to improve.”

Words of Praise for ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE…

“A Zoom Lens for Your Life is an excellent introduction to the Mandala Chart, providing multiple windows on the method, and inviting readers to explore more.” ~Matsumura Yasuo, Founder of the Mandala Chart Method.

“What William Reed brings to us in A Zoom Lens for Your Life is a checklist, of sorts, on how to make the most of each day at work, at home, at play. And he accomplishes this through the use of the age-old Mandala.” ~Mark Gresham, Director of Cambridge University Press, Japan

“A Zoom Lens for Your Life is a practical book for business people, and it contains many nuggets of wisdom from Japanese culture.” ~Higuchi Takeo, Director of Idea-Marathon Institute

“A Zoom Lens For Your Life will help you prepare for an uncertain tomorrow, the only kind of tomorrow most of us will face.” ~ Bruce Rosenstein, Author, Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life

“The concept of the Mandala approach offers a powerful and realistic way to realize the important personal goals we set for ourselves.” ~Dermot Killoran, President of Calderwood Productions, Tokyo

“William Reed in A Zoom Lens for Your Life outlines how and why this ancient chart can be used to great effect in realizing our goals.” ~Philip T Gibb, President,British Chamber of Commerce in Japan

A ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE is available in digital form on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and can also be purchased in hard copy from Lulu.com and CreateSpace.

Flexible Focus #73: The Power of Ritual!

by William Reed on October 13, 2011

Ritual Enhances Engagment

There is an energy crisis that rarely makes the front page, yet affects you each and every day. That is the internal energy crisis that comes from lack of full engagement in what you do.

Energy is a combination of spirit and vigor, which determines how much you enjoy your work, contributes to your staying power, and improves your performance. The crisis occurs when you do not have enough energy to meet and surpass expectations.

If your energy is not up to the task, then you are likely to perform poorly or put it off until later, neither way a productive strategy. Continuing to work like this will lead to burnout, or put you in the cue for the exit door.

If you feel out of synch like this, it is easy to blame the boss, complain about your colleagues, or decide that you deserve better. And perhaps you do. The problem is that entitlement has never been a ticket to empowerment.

The superior strategy is to navigate with full engagement, because its energy empowers you to enjoy and accomplish more, and actually increases your options on the path.

One of the most useful ways to generate energy is the power of ritual, developing a personal power routine. Institutionalized ritual is nothing new. It has been practiced for centuries as a means of cultivating energy in groups. It has also proved effective in enhancing performance in sports, and many top athletes stick to their rituals religiously.

In the martial arts and calligraphy, the power of ritual is self-evident. Training itself is a ritual, and the cumulative power of practice leads to improvement at all levels.

Part of the power of ritual is in repetition, where intentional effort gradually turns into automatic ability. The power of ritual is the power of habit. We are ruled by our habits, good and bad, as Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) said:

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.”

There is a Japanese proverb which advises to sit 3 years on a stone (Ishi no ue ni mo san nen). The implication is that it takes 3 years of effort, engagement, or sometimes endurance for something to take effect. Although this seems counter-intuitive in a world brimming with promises of instant results, patience and perseverance were once considered to be the secret to success.

In fact, if you engage in a regular ritual, you can break bad habits and form good ones in a matter of weeks or months, not years. But you need to start, and you need to stay with it. A good place to start is with a morning power ritual, which you design yourself and make a personal priority to practice.

Have fun designing a ritual that works for you. Your rituals must have flexibility, or they will not last. My personal rituals are phrased in such a way that they are easy to practice and allow for variety. For example, to spend some time on my feet every day can be achieved by walking, running, Aikido, or dance. I commit to daily work on my Mandala Diary, Idea Marathon, and create at least one sketch-poem a day.

Food rituals are important too. You cannot deny the effect of food on your physical energy. Choose fresh ingredients, chew your food well, don’t overeat. Take responsibility in what you eat, so you don’t have to suffer for it later in life.

The coolest thing that I have discovered about ritual is that the more you engage with it, the more it transforms from a routine into a journey of discovery. The 30 to 90 minutes that you invest at the start of your day will set the tone for the entire day, help you stay focused and strong, and build momentum that makes you more productive.

Develop Your Talent

If you have an interest in improving your skills in any area, particularly performance, you owe it to yourself to read The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.

Written by an award-winning sports journalist who turned his own talents toward investigating the process of talent itself, what it is, how it develops, what is universal. The subtitle offers the promise: unlocking the secret of skill in math, art, sport, and just about anything else.

He breaks the code into 3 essential parts: Deep Practice, Ignition (Passion), and Master Coaching, and ties it together with a biological key that could revolutionize the entire field of learning and teaching. In a word: Myelin, the insulating sheath of protein that forms protective layers around the axons of neurons.

The author’s metaphor for a well-formed myelin sheath is extra bandwidth, formed through repetition and particularly deep practice, which increases the speed, accuracy, and frequency of nerve impulses which result in the performance of a particular skill.

He traveled around the world to visit the “talent hotbeds,” places which produced an extraordinary number of world class performers in music or sports, and came back with some surprising findings. Regardless of how different the language, the culture, or the field of play, there were surprising consistencies which the author describes as the Talent Code. Slow, deliberate mindful practice over thousands of hours made all the difference.

This is actually the power of navigating your way steadily over a period of years to achieve outstanding results. Whether your goal is to boost your energy, achieve something you want, or develop your talent, you can only benefit by employing the power of ritual!

Flexible Focus #53: WA JAPAN Project

by William Reed on May 12, 2011

I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.

~Jewish Proverb

In the first article of this series, we introduced the Mandala Chart as a tool for continuous improvement, an art of flexible focus, a way of life. Yet what does one do when lives and livelihoods are swept away in a single hour, leaving a trail of destruction by an unimaginable force?

The dramatic destruction of the earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan on March 11 were reported worldwide on television, as day by day estimates of the dead and the missing climbed from hundreds to thousands, to tens of thousands. And yet while the after effects threaten to bring the world’s third largest economy to its knees, somehow the Japanese people have risen in the spirit of their own proverb, Seven times down, Eight times up.

People around the world have marveled at Japan’s inner strength in the face of adversity, yet it cannot be explained solely by stoicism, determination, or experience. Many countries have experienced calamity, and many of them have rallied in crisis, but even so the way people have responded to the current crisis in Japan has caused people to think deeply on the life lessons to be learned from it.

Most of this has focused on the orderliness and cooperation, the calmness, dignity, and sacrifice observed, as if nature’s force had brought out the best side of human nature, rather than it’s worst.

Many living in Japan who were spared the worst which they witnessed, feel a deep moral calling to help, to do whatever we can at whatever level to lighten the load. Likewise, many people around the world who watched the calamity on television feel a deep desire to help, and yet lack the means to make a personal connection.

We started the WA JAPAN Project to provide a bridge across which people can contribute and feel connected to the culture, as well as develop a deeper appreciation for Japan’s Inner Strength, through the power of calligraphy, poetry, and art on 10 Meanings of WA, the character which represents Harmony, Pliancy, and the country of Japan itself.

Readers of this column will be familiar with how the Mandala Chart is designed to help you achieve abundance in the 8 fields of life: Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Study, and Leisure. To live in abundance in 8 fields of life is to feel connected at the common edge. By serving those on the other side, you honor that connection by sharing something of your own.

Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher whom some consider to be the Lao Tzu of the West, said that hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones. Through your connection of understanding and appreciation, and through your contribution and generosity measured by your intent, you will create a kizuna connection 紲 or literally the threads 糸 that bind the world 世

Poetry and calligraphy are a way to connect with yourself as well. The brush strokes are connected in space by an energy line known as the kimyaku 気脈 which exists in poetry as well, as the energy and emotion which bind the words and carry the deeper meaning. The calligraphy, poems, and artwork we created for the 10 Meanings of WA are special, because they are connected to the crisis, and were inspired by the remarkable energy at the roots of Japanese culture, the same energy which is helping them to cope and to have hope, to survive and again to thrive.

We sincerely hope that you will visit the WA JAPAN Project Page, make a contribution in any amount of your choice, then follow the links and download the 10 Meanings of WA, an ebook of our calligraphy, poetry, and artwork, in full color and beautiful design.

We have arranged it so that you can decide the amount of the donation, so that more people can participate in our project, and we hope to attract the support of thousands of people, who will help us reach our target of raising ₤30,000, or about $50,000 for the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.


The 6th Century BC Chinese General and military strategist Sun Tzu, best known today as the author and genius behind the classic text on strategy, The Art of War, penned a gem of a statement that has gained the status of proverbial wisdom.

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

This book held profound influence over Asian military thinking and the Way of the Samurai. It was translated into French as early as 1772. Ultimately the book had an influence on leaders and generals from Napoleon, to General Douglas MacArthur, to Mao Zedong. It is studied at West Point Military Academy, and has been applied metaphorically in business and management strategy.

What is this powerful and apparently universal appeal behind Winning without Fighting, and more to the point, why is it that so few people throughout history have been able to master its lessons?

The Fisherman’s Quarrel

There are many variations on this wisdom in traditional Chinese culture, often told through profoundly simple and often humorous stories. One is that of The Fisherman’s Quarrel, in which two fisherman quarrel over their catch, during which time a bird makes off with the fish.

There is an inherent sense of the folly of fighting, and the wider perspective which seeks a way to win without fighting. There are many ways in fact of winning the battle but losing the war. We might say as well that the operation was a success, but the patient died. There are many ways of expressing the folly of the short-sighted solution.

We see it played out in our economy, where greed is good produces a massive win/lose scenario, eventually pitting Wall Street against Main Street. We see it in the nasty deception of going to war for the sake of peace. We see it in gross energy consumption that is altering the very climate of the planet we live on.

Sometimes we learn the hard way that fighting is not a way that works. Many conflicts erupt because someone had to talk back, stare back, fight back, rather than letting it go before it escalates. Even while studying the martial art of Aikido, which is fundamentally based on the art of winning without fighting, I have found myself drawn into conflicts that didn’t need to happen. Read Scene Three of my Manga Story, and see how easily this can happen. To have no enemies means to make no enemies.

Baker vs Taker

Guy Kawasaki tells of how he has found that by collaborating with what might have been his competition, both win and the pie gets bigger. He sums it up by saying that there is a fundamental difference in the mentality of the baker vs the taker. The baker makes pies and provides plenty to go around, whereas the taker gets his and leaves nothing for anyone else. The baker is creative and has an abundance mentality, whereas the take is destructive and has a scarcity mentality.

The Mandala Chart can help you develop an abundance mentality because it frees you from the one track mentality, and gives you 8 ways in which to view any particular situation. The power of the creative mind derives from flexible focus. If more people applied this in business, we would have the ability to generate solutions and preventions to problems, instead of constantly fighting to put out fires.

The Principle of Non-Dissension

There are many ways to think about winning without fighting. You can win by escaping, getting out of the fray in the first place. If you have a good understanding of all points of view, you can find a Win/Win solution, in which all sides benefit. You can win by passive resistance, the way of Mahatma Gandhi, in which you win by not fueling the conflict. Sun Tzu’s way is to win at the outset, through superior insight and perspective.

Instead of butting headlong into people and problems, develop a sense of pliancy and flexibility in your approach to life. Once you realize the folly of trying to enter the highway through the exit ramp in the face of oncoming traffic, you feel much better about following the good sense in the traffic signs that say, Yield or Merge.

An excellent way to cultivate this sense is to learn it with your body, by studying Asian martial arts which are based upon the principle of non-dissension, such as Aikido or Tai Chi Chuan. Learn to diffuse conflict by redirecting it, rather than fuel it by forcing the situation. You will avoid many of the problems that plague people, problems partly of their own making, and enjoy life more as you find the path of least resistance.