What day of the week do you dislike the most?
I ask folks this question from time to time and more often than not, the reply is usually "Monday."
When asked the reason, most would say "because I have to go back to work or school."
Typical answer yet interesting. If one dislikes Monday because of school or work then why does one continue to go back to work or school? I believe that folks like this are probably in the wrong job or studying the wrong course and probably should look for something that enables them to enjoy Mondays – and every other day for that matter. Those who genuinely enjoy work or school probably wont give "Work or School" as the reasons they dislike Monday.
Quality Not Quantity
I watched an extremely moving documentary about a girl called ashley who had a medical condition called Progeria where her body aged 13 times faster than a normal human being. The condition is said to affect 1 in 8 million newborns. A person with the condition normally dies at the age of 13. She just had her 14th birthday and she knew that she was going to die any day. She said that she was prepared to die and that she had lead a great life up until now – it was all about her experiences, the friends she was able to meet and being happy. Living a longer life was not important. The quality of life over quantity was more important.
Death Is A Reality
We watch the news and see people dying left right and center – people being stabbed, run over or just plain dying in everyday accidents. Many folks who see/read about others dying don't usually think much about it – and the folks who died probably didn't think too much about it either.
I was talking to my estate agent at the time we purchased our house – I asked him how I should go about writing my will – he looked at me as if I started to grow horns and said that people don't usually write their will until they are about 60. I was thinking to myself "apart from being a liar, this estate agent is an idiot too."
This may seem the obvious but the thing is, none of us have been given a guarantee that we are going to live until we are golden. One could live in the "safest" part of the world, be healthy and still have their life cut short by a knife, bullet or drunken driver. None of us know when we are going to die but there is one thing that we do know for sure – we all will die someday – could be in another 30 years time, could be tomorrow morning. Death is a reality that we must all understand – its the final piece of our jigsaw puzzle that we all will collect.
(more after the jump)
The Comfort Zone
Now I would like to talk about something I call the "Comfort Zone."
The comfort zone is where one is content with their current situation and I'm going to use an ex colleague who I shall name as Sally as an example. Sally had a job doing what she was good at (web design) and had a small team to manage. She had a good salary and good working hours considering that it was Tokyo.
But she wanted more from her life than just being content – she wanted to be happy. My personal interpretation is that being happy and being content are two different things. Being content fulfills basic human needs of being able to eat and have shelter. Being happy is going a step further and fulfilling the need to live ones passion.
One day, I asked Sally why she didn't start to do something about her situation. She said that she was waiting for somebody to give her an opportunity. When I asked "who", she said "I don't know…"
Sally was in the Comfort Zone and going nowhere fast. Her comfort made it difficult for her to take her own initiative to seek other opportunities.
The Jigsaw Puzzle
Life is a jigsaw puzzle. You don't know whats going to go where, you don't know where the pieces are but you do know that you need to keep looking for the pieces and figure out where they go. All events that happen to you is a piece of your puzzle. if you are stuck in a rut at school or work and keep asking yourself the "what if" question then its a sign telling you that there are no more pieces of the puzzle to be found where you are.
I could have chosen 15 years-ish ago to stay in the comfort zone content making shoes back in London. I was content but kept asking myself the "what if" question. I knew I wanted more to life but didn't know what it was until I discovered how passionate I was about Japanese culture.
I chose to seek my passion instead – done everything I could to get me closer to my dream including taking a BA in Japanese at London University, working nights after classes at a Japanese restaurant (t'was the Benihana's in Chelsea) so that I could save enough money to travel to Japan every year to absorb the culture. Ended up as a Computer Engineer at Japan Airlines and finally got hired by the Japan office of the scientific journal Nature. I reached my first destination.
The second destination was for me to start up a business by the age of 35 which I managed to do. I didn't want to take any venture funding or angel investment so needed to find other ways of building up capital.
As Website Manager at Amazon, I helped with the launch of the Japanese Amazon Associates Web Service API. I built the first ever Japanese AWS powered website and with permission of the Finance Director at the time, all Amazon products on my site had an associate tag.
I set up a sole proprietorship in Japan so that I could declare my earnings and expenses which you can legally do on a working visa – if you are doing stuff on the side then I recommend you to set one up and if you are doing it in Japan then here are the instructions.
Learning about the accounting involved in running a proprietorship brought me a step closer to setting up my own company.
At first I thought it would be great to earn something like 60 USD per month to pay for the phone bills. Didn't see the earnings reach that amount at all and realized that I needed to learn more about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), server side caching and what have you. Through this research and learning, the income from Amazon associates not only started to pay for the phone bill but started to pay for just about everything – bills, food and even covered my wife's salary.
While Amazon affiliate earnings paid for the daily stuff, salary from Amazon was being banked and helped with the 50,000 USD needed to set up a company – at the time, foreigners needed to invest that much (about 5 million yen) to start up a company. The affiliate earnings also helped us buy our current house too. These days you can set up a company with 1 yen but would probably find it difficult to do business when potential clients see how much you invested in your company.
Left Microsoft after spending a year with them as a Product Manager managing some of the Windows Live services to start up my current company Mirai Inc which focuses on licensing a community e-commerce platform called Mirai Gaia.
Many of our clients are Japanese companies in the subculture and entertainment field which makes my current job a dream job – doing something I'm passionate about (building websites) for clients who operate in an area that interests me most.
Life is great and I love my job and life in Japan. You can achieve anything with passion and focus. Destination 2 reached.
Getting To The Point
Given today's technology, one can put wo/man on the moon, split the atom and even replace the keyboard with a single wheel. But what humans have not figured out is how to sell bottles of time on the shelf. Just imagine – you walk into a store and say "Gimme the usual bottle of 1 hour."
Time is not on your side – its a friend for the duration for life but it never sides with you – never be under the assumption that time will favor you.
Self – Our Biggest Enemy
Many people make excuses for themselves like "but I got no time to do X" or "by the time I get home I'm so tired." These people are actually their own biggest obstacle because they build a tall wall of an excuse to do nothing.
If one can make time to eat, poo and pee then one can make time if they are passionate enough to start learning, experiencing, building or meeting. Lets encourage ourselves – not discourage buy making excuses.
The human race is still relatively young and we all have basic needs. One of the needs is to eat.
If you just sat in front of your computer for hours on end, most of you will eventually get up from your desk and seek food.
If there is nothing in the refrigerator or cabinets, you will either call for a pizza or go out to get something.
If all the shops around you were closed, you would travel to another part of town to seek food. You could alternatively wait until the morning when the shops open but you will still go out to get food.
The point I'm trying to make here is that if you really want something, you have the ability to get it.
Some of us have health constraints that may prevent us from easily doing stuff but if you are relatively healthy and can easily move around then you really don't have any excuse to do nothing.
If you are unhappy with your current line of work and presuming that you work for 8 hours, sleep for 8 hours and use the reminder of the 8 hours for commutation, hygiene, recreation and nourishment consumption, you are spending 33% of your life doing something that constantly fuels that burning question of "what if"- don't fuel that question anymore – go out and do something!
It could be anything from starting to meet recruiters, taking up a new course or activity, research, meeting people with similar interests and so on. I may make it sound plain and simple but in fact it is. Something leads to something. Nothing leads to nothing.
Money is indeed important in this society we live in and I understand that one may need to do something that one may not exactly like to make ends meet. But, one can also be doing something on the side at the same time (learning, experiencing, meeting) in order to fulfill ones real passion. If you truly believe in yourself, your skills and ability, then you will be successful anyway – meaning that if you are going to ditch a well paid job to take a risk of a lower paying position where you can fulfill your passion, you will eventually make it anyway – because its you.
Taking the leap from safe comfortable steady ground into an unknown void is not something that comes easily. Humans basic instinct is to protect itself and places priority on food and shelter and taking risks could affect these necessities.
But life is not just about being comfortable – its about living your passion.
You can spend most of your life doing something you dislike to bring in the money which pays the bills which enables you to go back to work another day to bring in the money which pays the bills…
Life is short. One may not appreciate just how short it is while we are young but really start to understand as we get older. I'm in my late 30's now and am under no illusion whatsoever that I'm going to die at old age – I could die anytime like any of us. I want to ensure that I died while living a life doing what I love most. Don't want to live forever and am happy with the time I've been given – will make sure I make the most of the rest of my life and I hope you do too.
As for me – hopefully you can tell I love Mondays ;-)
Photos in this post taken from my last Kamakura visit.