Life Update January – October 2014

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It’s been a few weeks now since I upgraded to the iPhone 6 Plus. It was only the night before pre-orders began that I decided to go for the Plus model – up until that point I was set on the iPhone 6, thinking that the 6 Plus would just be too big for daily use. I was swayed by an episode of MacBreak Weekly, on which Leo and co all stated that they’d definitely be choosing the 6 Plus – it was something new, not merely an upgrade of the previous iPhone.

Reflecting on that I decided that the 6 Plus would fit with my game plan of treating life as an experiment, trying something new when I could. I’m glad I did.

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Family portrait shot earlier today at Ueno Zoo with the iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t feel like just a larger version of the phone I’ve been using for the past year. It’s feels like a media production and consumption device (and when I do use it as a phone it feels a bit silly, unless I use headphones). Since getting the 6 Plus I have read more Kindle books and listened to more podcasts & audiobooks than I had in the previous 12 months.

I’ve also shot a lot more video – the camera is an absolute joy! The combination of the improvements that came with iOS8, along with the new sensor and the optical stabilisation mean that I can shoot clean video even in challenging (low light) situations.

The size of the thing means that naked, it’s easy to drop when used one-handed. That was pretty clear from day one, so I bought myself a portfolio-style case (the type that folds around the entire phone, which you typically see people use with iPads). Whilst this increases the size to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to put in any pocket without it sticking out, I’ve found the versatility that the case brings more than makes up for any inconvenience. It becomes a stand when you want to watch video or read an eBook, and also serves as a tripod when shooting photos or videos – perfect for taking advantage of the new timelapse feature in iOS8.

I’ve enjoyed playing around with the new video features, especially Timelapse and slow motion. Here’s a couple of short clips.

It’s also made me want to write again – thus the update(s) to this blog. I’ve been meaning to post for some time now, but wanted to sort out my Tumblr blog too. I’ve finally done that, linking the two so that posts here automatically get reposted there (I know some posts have not carried across very well, but I’m not so bothered about that and will leave them as they are). I’ve also hooked up my Instagram account so that when I post a photo there it’ll be autoposted here (supposedly, we’ll see).

It’s a shame that I got out of the habit of writing. Life over the past year or so has been very interesting, with all sorts of changes both internally and externally. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and feel that I have a much better understanding of why I’m here that at any point up until now. I appreciate that life is a journey and there is no destination as such, but I do feel that I’m starting to get close to what I’m meant to be doing at this particular point in time.

At the beginning of the year I shared how I had joined IMPACT Japan on a full-time project to construct an innovation center in Sendai, financed by the Qatar Friendship Fund. (Why Qatar? 60% of Qatar’s refined oil products are sold to Japan). I shared how that job meant that I had to put my own projects on hold, but that it brought us security (and some flexibility).

However, I’d known in my gut from the start that it wouldn’t last that long – I was once again postponing the pursuit of my dreams, and the underlying frustration was always there. I knew I couldn’t do the full-time-employee thing long term. Security is all well and good, but at the end of the day if you’re not pursuing your passions then aren’t you just passing the time until you die? OK, that’s a little extreme, but it holds some truth.

By the Spring we’d got into the parenting thing and were less concerned about the cost of raising Ricky; it was turning out to be pretty manageable. Ricky entered day care at about 6 months old, giving Twinkle time to help with some additional projects.

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Joseph Tame - please credit Michael Holmes
The above portraits were kindly taken by Michael Holmes in January 2014. This year’s Tokyo Marathon turned out to be really tough due to a complete lack of training and 14kg of equipment!

It was late April when things started to unwind. Twinkle and I had our first trip back to the UK with Ricky booked, but our return would almost coincide with a big flashmob event I was organising for TEDxTokyo. What this meant was that for the entire holiday I was working at least 8 hours a night on preparing for that, along with working on an animation (below) for my long term client Otsuka Pharmaceutical, and preparing 101 other things for TEDxTokyo.

The (self-inflicted) pressure was such that I had virtually no sleep for the last three days of our holiday. This was followed by the flight from London to Tokyo, then another 3 days of no sleep leading up to the Flash Mob shoot, which itself was immensely stressful (basically as I had failed to delegate and so felt the full weight of the project upon my shoulders).

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Although it was a killer to produce, the flashmob was a success. My sincere thanks to all of the volunteers involved, it was very much appreciated. Special thanks to Jesse, and Satoko.

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There was little time to relax following the flashmob, as TEDxTokyo was now only a couple of weeks away. I’ve been a core member of the TEDxTokyo team for about 4 years now, and each year steadily taken on more responsibilities. By 2014 I’d taken on a lot more than I could sensibly manage, and by mid-May it was all-consuming, necessitating another 7 days with almost no sleep.

It was pretty extreme: I found myself regularly hallucinating, forgetting the names of close friends, being very sick …generally being completely out of it! Nethertheless, I got the job done, and the event was hailed a success.


TEDxTokyo 2014 Talk Videos

By that time my body had had enough, and shortly after TEDxTokyo came to a close, I collapsed. It was quite extraordinary, unlike any exhaustion I had experienced before. I found that I was unable to do anything other than lie in bed. Leaving the house to buy milk would know me out for the entire day. Reading emails (or using my brain in any other way) was also crippling.

I decided to take the week off work. However, in that broken state, my emotions were all over the place, and the frustration I felt with the Qatar project finally came to a head. I shared my honest feelings in an email with my colleagues. When the response came it was clear that the situation was unlikely to change to the extent that I would then be happy to continue on the project, and so a few days later I resigned.

What I hadn’t foreseen is what would then follow – the resignation of 10 staff (i.e. the majority of the team). Whilst the manner in which the sweeping changes occurred over the summer was somewhat shocking at the time, it’s all turned out for the best. The Sendai innovation center project continues under a new team, and the rest of us are now free to pursue meaningful projects without the pressure that accompanies significant outside investment.

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Ricky at 6 months

Yesterday, myself and three of my colleagues from the IMPACT project celebrated the establishment of our own legal entity (General Incorporated Association), Make It Creative. We established Make It Creative in order to be able to take on projects from large corporations who, for contractual reasons, cannot work with individuals. We’re currently in discussions with our first major client for a 6 month program of design thinking / creativity workshops, and hope to be able to announce the details soon.

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Ricky at 9 months

Meanwhile, we’re also a part of a project to turn a semi-derelict building in Meguro-ku into a shared work / creative space. As I wrote on the project homepage:

In October 2014, a group of friends made up of architects, artists, lawyers, writers, lighting specialists, graphic designers, performance artists, students, coffee freaks, community builders and event coordinators, took over a condemned building in western Tokyo.
With only 6 months until the building was to be torn down, together they set about converting what had been a sweet shop, offices, and residential apartment into a one-of-a-kind creative space. A place for ideas to be sparked, for creativity to blossom. Everything was a prototype.
The story beyond this point is yet to be written. We invite you to join us on this journey: destination unknown.

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So far we’ve torn the ceiling down on two floors, taken up the carpet tiles and painted the walls and floor white. It’s now a blank canvas for us to build upon. We have lots of ideas as to how to use it, and what kind of mark we want to leave on the creative landscape after it has been demolished …watch this space.

Having lost our primary income source in July, we had to scramble to generate new business. This has led to some interesting projects, including a new animation for a consumer technology company (yet to be released), web and mobile app consulting, video production, the relaunch of a crowd-sourcing site, map-making, and several gigs as Joseph Tame, the man with the windmills and LEDs.

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As I mentioned in my New Year post, last summer Twinkle and I did a lot of research, and a lot of thinking as to the direction that we should take moving forwards. The conclusion was that for increased happiness, flexibility and sustainability, we should pursue our passions (durrr!); in my case that is a passion for performance art. That was then all put on hold when I joined IMPACT, but now we’re back to controlling our own schedules it’s full steam ahead.

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Funny how things work out, but since I resigned from Impact I have had more opportunities to be ‘Joseph Tame’ than ever before. In the past couple of months I have done shoots for NHK World (broadcast earlier this week, video to follow), BS FUji (yet to be broadcast) and now have both TBS TV and NHK Education wanting to feature me. I have appeared on Bunka Housou radio, have been approached by a major technology firm regarding a collaboration, and have partnered with a Japanese camera manufacturer to develop a new ‘wearable’ costume for a product that launches next year.

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There’s been quite a bit of interest in my Running Art lately

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A recent shoot for the Isetan-Mitsukoshi baby catalogue, featuring the new Bugaboo Bee.

I’ve also been working with good friend John Daub on a couple of videos he’s been making for his web series ‘Only in Japan’.

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I see all these as being the fruits of years of unplanned preparation. I’m now putting in a lot of effort to actively take this aspect of my work to the next level (an example of this would be the remake of my website, http://josephta.me).

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A life update would not be complete without talking about family. The fact that they are down here at the bottom of this post (which started off talking about my latest iPhone) is a not a reflection of their importance in my life.

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Ricky’s growth is an absolute delight to behold. Now just over 1 year old, in the past month we have seen him start to walk (he can now walk a few steps unaided, but prefers to have us hold his hands. He tends to laugh a lot when walking as it’s such a fun new skill to have), and he is now expressing his wants by pointing, or saying a few keywords (they’re more noises than words). He loves doing hi-fives, and just yesterday learnt how to clap (only took about about a minute to teach him that). He loves pushing buttons, pulling wires, emptying stationary drawers of their contents, pushing a chair around, hiding things between his futon and the wall. He also knows that an iPhone is used by holding it up to your ear and talking, or by prodding the screen. Generally, he’s a happy child.

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Ricky doesn’t bother cutting his 1st birthday cake, but instead digs right in.

It’s been great to be able to share his growth with the family both here and in the UK, thanks to the fact that they all have iPhones or iPads and can subscribe to his shared album.

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Twinkle Tame is a fantastic mum, and is really enjoying the whole process too. I’m so fortunate to have her in my life – things are good (actually a lot better than previously when I was completely stressed out with work). She is continuing to work with me, the other half of Wild Tame Co., Ltd, which this year actually made a small profit, the first time since our establishment 3 years ago. She is in good health, as am I.

So, overall, things are good.

Looking back at events earlier in the year, I now appreciate just how ridiculous it was to work those crazy long hours. Whilst I have overworked myself in the past, I have never gone so far as to go without sleep for an extended period, and then crash in such spectacular fashion. Initially I thought that I could probably recover given a few weeks rest, but I’m still not back to 100%. Currently it actually feels like I may have caused myself some permanent damage. Unlike before, if I now have a really late night and only get (for example) 4 hours sleep, I’m unable to function properly for the next two days.

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Last week I took part in the Turtle Marathon

So, in addition to the change in workstyle, I am now trying to get enough sleep each night (using Lumoback to track that; unfortunately no integration with Apple’s HealthKit yet). I’m also trying to eat healthily, as I had actually put on quite a bit of tummy fat by the summer. I’m starting to run again after a break of a few months – I will be running the Tokyo Marathon in February once more.

I’ve also been getting inspiration from reading (using both the Kindle app and Blinkist). I’ve just finished Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. The contents were pretty familiar having both worked with IDEO earlier this year, and having been taught a hell of a lot by my creative colleague Alvin. Nonetheless, it helps it stick.

On my list next I have The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, alongside Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. I find Tim a really interesting character to learn from. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, is fantastic, featuring in-depth interviews with some absolutely fascinating people. There’s hours of content, and I must say I’ve felt empowered by what I’ve heard.

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One thing I find interesting is how the pursuit of happiness seems to be gaining in popularity in mainstream society. I could be wrong – perhaps it’s just on the rise amongst those whom I follow and associate with in daily life, but it feels that like over the past couple of years there has been a noticeable shift away from the notion of ‘success’ as being the achievement of fame, fortune, and a great career etc, and instead being the achievement of happiness (with that often equating to finding meaning in life).

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Perhaps it’s the red car syndrome, as this is the shift that I detect in myself. The question What is the meaning of life has troubled me for many years now, and at times has caused me a fair bit of trauma. As I grow older so I’m starting to feel that the meaning is not held in any distant future achievement, but instead, simply put, it’s here, today, in the choices I make every moment as to how to live this day.

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For some that may sound blindingly obvious, but it hasn’t been for me. It’s been a long gradual process, and it’s a process that is of course ongoing. It’ll be interesting to see what I think of this question in 10 years from now. For now though, this interpretation is inspiring, encouraging and empowering. It helps inform my decisions.

Anyhow, this post has ended up being far longer that I’d anticipated – I’d better end it here so I can get to bed on time!

Until next time, thanks to all my family and friends for the support, it means a great deal to me.

Joseph

Hello Baby: Joseph and Ricky featured in Autumn Winter Isetan Catalogue

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We’ve been using the Bugaboo Chameleon 3 baby stroller constantly since we first gave it a spin earlier this year. I love how sturdy it is, and how easy it is to push regardless of the terrain.

Joseph_Ricky-Isetan_shoot_81For Isetan Mitsukoshi’s Autumn/Winter edition of Hello Baby!, their mothers and babies catalogue, I was happy to be asked to try out the new Bugaboo Bee 3 stroller – the latest version of the more…

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Taking the platypus to Sendai for a workshop, then back to Tokyo tonight for the ekiden. Crazy hot.

Morning walk, contemplation

Happy New Year!

Three months have now passed since my last blog entry. Facebook friends and Twitter followers will have also noticed that I have not been posting so frequently on those platforms either.

Whilst this has been partly a reflection of my schedule (having less time to post), it’s also been a semi-conscious decision.

Life has changed quite a bit these last few months. The big change of course has been the arrival of Ricky, who is doing really well. He’s growing so fast, developing new skills every week (he did his first tummy-time head-lift a couple of days ago!). He’s also had his nappy changed no less than 893 times, and has spent almost 120 hours feeding (and that’s pretty accurate thanks to the tracking app Twinkle and I use). He’s sleeping through from 8.30pm to 4am most nights, and looking very cute whilst doing so.

It’s hard to tell if there’s any character traits emerging yet – and I’m not sure what we’d be looking for if we were being obsessive – but his temperament (so far!) is generally calm and quiet (aside from when his digestive system is giving him grief as it does fairly regularly, not uncommon in babies).

He’s smiling now when we play simple games with him (tickling, touching noses etc), and seems to have grasped that it’s not just mummy who’s important, but that I am someone to be liked and laughed with/at (since 2 weeks ago).

We’re very excited to see him continue to develop, to see his personality emerge, to be his guides as he discovers the wonders of the world.

Another big change was around the same time as his birth – I switched my work pattern from carrying out multiple smaller video projects as Wild Tame Co., Ltd to joining a startup founded by friends – IMPACT Japan – (connected with TEDxTokyo). As a founding team member (although technically I’m a consultant provided by Wild Tame Co., Ltd; having our own business remains a core part of our life plan) I work out of the organisation’s new shared office, and am helping build the entire business / program from scratch. It’s a really interesting and valuable project supporting post-disaster Tohoku – you can read more about it here.

This shift of my resources was something that had been on the cards for several months. With Twinkle having left her full time job at the start of the year, Wild Tame was the sole employer of the family, providing video production / web streaming services to a number of Tokyo-based clients big and small.

My timing to enter the market (and specifically the SME/Governmental segment of that market) was not ideal – recent years have seen the web/ event video market become saturated, with some Japanese outlets able to charge ridiculously small sums for their services. Thus, whilst I was able to make enough to pay the bills, it was extremely time-consuming, and without capital available I was limited when it came to expansion options.

More importantly though, my heart wasn’t really in it. Yes, I was happy to be doing something somewhat creative, being my own boss, able to provide friends with employment, having a very flexible schedule, working from home …but ultimately, anyone could have done what I was doing.

I think that it was this realisation, coupled with the impending arrival of Ricky, that was the key to making me reconsider all that I was working 7-days-a-week for. Over the summer, Twinkle and I did a lot of thinking, mapped out various options, consulted with friends in relevant industries who had years of experience behind them. We listened, we thought, we developed rough business outlines, we scrapped them and went through the process again. We would settle upon a plan and keep that in our minds, and then see how we felt about our decision a couple of weeks later.

The most valuable part of this process was that it made it clear what we didn’t want to be doing (such as taking on investment and buiding our own creative agency).

Over time though, we found ourselves coming back again and again to something I knew in my gut – that a big part of our future was connected to my being some kind of performance artist. The successes I’ve had over the past few years with projects revolving around running, windmills and technology have been real highlights, indeed our greatest successes (bear in mind that Twinkle has been an important part of all of these behind the scenes). We see that these kind of projects also have the greatest potential in terms of enjoyment, creative contentment, self-improvement, health and the opportunity to travel; they are also the hardest to replicate in that they have to be original and are tied to my persona.

It was around the time of reaching this conclusion that I was approached by the IMPACT Japan team. I recognised the value in that project for the community (both in Tohoku and here in Tokyo), and saw that I was a good fit for the needs of a lean startup, being a jack-of-all-tech-trades. Having a repeat client that offered some flexibility (including flexible employment for Twinkle when the time is right, which is pretty soon) but a regular payment also gave us some security – something we’d like for the time being as this whole parenthood thing is full of unknowns!

Thus the decision was made.

Being in startup mode and having Ricky on the scene has meant that since October I’ve not actually spent any time on further developing my/our own projects (this is reflected in the lack of public posts). That’s OK. I needed some time to adjust to the new reality. However, with the new year, I feel it’s time to pick back up and put in consistent effort to make our dreams a reality.

So what does that mean in reality? Well, there’s plenty of practical steps to be taken, such as: get fit (not only for the marathon on Feb 23rd but also as fitness is a key part of my image of myself); spend time developing my contraptions (as I have done this week, see the video below); spend time thinking up, drawing, prototyping new ideas; instead of reading news sites read design, tech and art related sites; learn the basics of OpenFrameworks to at least understand the potential, buy a RaspberryPi and make something simple with it…

But hang on, where’s the time going to come from to do this?

That’s a question I asked myself as I was being inspired by Give It 100. Initially I was thinking of setting myself a whole bunch of mini-projects using that platform to keep me on track with each, but then I drilled down, and realised that the main habit I need to develop is one of actively tackling procrastination.

I’ve come to realise that procrastination has become a bit of a problem, and is holding me back from realising my full potential (something that is important to me). Whether it’s reading all the news on the BBC site late at night, or not putting something back where it belongs at home (leading to a messy environment and a messy mind), I see it occurring on a daily basis.

I’ve been aware of my tendency to procrastinate for many years now, and have sought to turn it on itself by doing other things that need to be done when I see myself avoiding some particular task (which I really don’t want to do). But, that in itself is not tackling the fundamental issue, and I see now that it’s starting to cause pain in my life (and is a pain for Twinkle at times too!). This is pain that is totally unnecessary.

So, I’ve decided to Actively Beat Procrastination for 100 days. Basically, whenever I sense that I am procrastinating, I will act to do the thing that I am avoiding.

Coupled with this I am going to Actively Not Get Distracted. When it comes to computer work, I am a multitasker, and frequently flit between emails and other work, usually having multiple apps open on multiple monitors. I understand that multitasking does have it benefits, but for someone like myself I think it does more harm than good (just laughing at myself as I’ve just caught myself attempting to update another wordpress site whilst writing this paragraph!).

Because of how easily I get distracted I don’t think it would be a good idea to use the 100 Days site – recording and uploading a daily video is an invitation to divert my attention! Instead, I’m going to use Audioboo to track my progress.

So there we go.

Well, I think I’ll leave it there for this update. Thanks for reading.

Joseph