Budding potential

gazanias_77001

The past few days have been tremendously exciting. Having made the decision to actively pursue my passion, which centres around podcasting but has various attachments (podcasting alone not being a sustainable business), I’ve found myself becoming increasingly excited. For the first time in a long time I can feel that passion, that excitement that comes when you commit to tackling a big challenge.

I’ve long wanted to get back into podcasting, ever since I made my first poorly-produced and almost embarrassingly crap podcast (which has now seen approximately 9000 downloads). The only reason I’m not embarrassed about it is because being embarrassed about it wouldn’t actually be helpful to me. Instead, I’m using it as a lesson in what not to do.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days doing research (learning that podcasts in themselves don’t really generate revenue was the first important lesson!) scribbling down ideas, transferring them to a business plan, talking about them with friends, and then scribbling down a whole load more ideas and adjusting the plan. I’ve been loving it. Today, sitting in a local cafe for a couple of hours I could barely contain my excitement as I came up with a bunch of ideas that magically tied the podcast-centric idea to the online publishing company that myself and two friends started setting up last year.

I see this project as being inclusive, supporting the non-Japanese community in Japan, and producing original, engaging material for people both local and abroad who have an interest in the country.

I also see it as being a lot of fun. And having a bit of a weird name that sticks in people’s minds. Oh, and time consuming.

The more I think about it though, the more I see how in a way a lot of what I’ve done up until now leads to this idea.

I’m also aware that this is not my ultimate goal, but rather the next big step I need to take.

Deciding to ‘grow up’ has been a helpful decision to make. Whilst it doesn’t mean changing my personality or abandoning the sense of wonder I feel on a daily basis as I go about life, it does mean that in situations where in the past I may have backed out through fear, I can now tell myself that it’s OK, and continue.

I mean, come on, there is no failure, there’s only learning.

Incidentally, now feels like an exceptionally good time for a new start as the first blossoms are appearing in the local parks. Spring is my favourite season, and often seems me walking around gazing at the emerging leaves and flowers in amazement at their beauty. Just writing about it brings a grin to my face. The thought of all that ‘potential’ held in the buds now forming, amazing.

Anyway, I’d best get to bed. Today’s photo by the way is one that you may be familiar with – it’s one of mum and dad’s gazanias, which are extraordinarily beautiful. One of my favourites.

Good night.

Purpose

My sister Jessie (left) and I, age: quite young

Personally, I’m yet to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown. I’ve not been made redundant, my salary has not been cut, overtime is still allowed.

But I can feel it’s just around the corner. Local redundancies are being announced on a daily basis, and the thinking is that it’s just going to get worse. One of my private students was telling me how her company, once reluctant to fire anyone (something that is admittedly pretty difficult to do in Japan – the common method seems to be to bully and pressure people into quitting) has just announced 2000 cuts, with more to come in due course. Whilst the nature of the client base that the English & Chinese education company I work for means that we are not suffering so much from this initial phase of the slowdown, this past week there have been some hints that next year is going to be a tough one.

I’m very much a subscriber to Robert Kiyosaki’s idea of there being four main types of people when it comes to income, who together make up the ‘Cashflow Quadrant’. They are: E – employees, S – self-employed, B – business owners and I – investors.

(For more on the Cashflow Quadrant get hold of a copy of Kiyosaki’s incredibly easy to read bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad)

I’ve long had a gut feeling that I don’t belong in the ’employee’ quadrant, and in such economic conditions as these I find this gut feeling being exceptionally noisy. Seeing people in ‘secure’ jobs being left high and dry makes me question the sense of placing my future in the hands of an organisation that could let go of its staff at any time, for any number of reasons.

If I was working for the satisfaction that the day-to-day work brings, then it would be no big deal. Whilst I do feel real satisfaction in my day job (and before I go any further, I’d just like to state that as well as enjoying my day job a great deal, I see it as performing a very important and necessary role in my development, and I have no intention of leaving), I have a strong feeling that I’m heading towards a very different role in this world, of which I have only a vague picture at present) (this is aside from any purpose I have to become a better person in a spiritual sense, a journey that continues no matter what I do).

Whilst I am happy that I am able to make a positive impact upon the lives of my students and (to a certain extent) my colleagues, I can’t get away from the idea that ultimately, the main purpose of most companies is to provide a good return to the shareholders. These are shareholders of which I know nothing. Who knows what they might choose to invest the profits of my labour in.

Some people might think this is taking things a bit too far, but I don’t feel it is. I have a limited time on Earth this time around, and I want to make the most of it. I am happy to invest a few years in doing such things as working for my present company as I’m learning a lot, and teaching is a worthy cause, but I believe that I would feel that I had somehow wasted the precious gift of life were I to remain working for someone else for the rest of my life.

So then there’s the S quadrant – self-employed. One thing I’ve been fortunate to learn second-hand over the past few years is that being self-employed isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, there’s the fact that (for most one-man-show enterprises) if you stop working, your income stops. Then there’s the hours. I forget what the stats are, but self-employed people usually work a lot more hours than those in the E quadrant. Having said that, the chances are that the self-employed business owner will get a great deal more satisfaction out of their work than an E. Every hour of work they put in is an hour invested in their own enterprise – an idea which appeals to me a great deal. They are also more likely to be doing what they love (or they probably wouldn’t have started that business in the first place!). However, ultimately, the lack of time freedom in the S quadrant does not appeal to me.

Then we move across to the B quadrant – the business owners. These are people whose businesses continue to operate even when they are physically absent. This is where I want to be. This is where I feel I should be putting my energy …but find the ease with which I can invest in the E quadrant too seductive. Striking out is tough. It’s easier to just be told what to do.

The final quadrant – our ultimate financial goal, is the Investment quadrant, whereby the wealth we have created will continue to generate an income in perpetuity, for the causes that we choose. Being socially conditioned, I used to think that people in this quadrant had only got where they were by trampling on others. However, the more wealthy people I meet (here in Japan), the more this stereotype is revealed as being a load of crap. They are by far the most generous, caring and ‘normal’ people you could hope to meet, and don’t give a poop about keeping up appearances. They are generous with both their time and money, and in my book are worthy role models.


These past few weeks I’ve been making my way through The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, an updated version of the classic self-development book. It’s very good. Informative, and inspirational. Whilst there’s not much in it that you haven’t heard somewhere else, the scientific angle is refreshing and convincing.

…and it really gets you thinking – “If I could be the person I really wanted to be, would I be the person I am today?” If the answer is no (as it is with me), then there’s clearly a need for action.

It’s compelling. Real change doesn’t take months of years, it takes a split second – the split second it takes to make the decision to be that person. That person who is fit (or on the road to fitness), that person who owns their own successful business (or is in the process of setting it up), that person who has rich, loving and trusting relationships with all those around them (or is making a concerted effort to build such bonds).

I’m in an incredibly fertile environment that is brimming with opportunity. It’s called life, and it’s time I took the next step (even if it’s only a small step). I’ll write about it in due course.

night.

Brandon Steep hit the shelves at HMV Japan

It’s so good to see your friends doing well.

The Kirk family have been good friends of mine for about 20 years. My trip to Islay (Scotland) to visit them 17 years ago was probably my first ever ‘big’ trip somewhere by myself. Later, they were kind enough to let me live with them for a few months. Jo remains one of my bestest friends – it’s been great to grow up ‘together’ (by letter / phone / email / visits to Hereford & Bristol).

It’s also been great to see the boys (Jo’s brothers) grow up. They’re not much younger than me, although when you’re a child a few years seems like decades.

Anyhow, a few years back Pedro, the eldest, started a band with his friend Luke. Joined by another three friends, they converted the garage into a studio, and then worked damn hard at getting good at what they did.

Things are really taking off now for Brandon Steep. Just last week I got a mail to let me know that they have a CD out in Japan, available from (Amazon, HMV and iTunes.

I was so excited buying this CD at HMV today. I’ve never bought a friend’s CD from a ‘proper’ shop before. It felt real good to be able to support them from such a distance (and get something good to listen to too).

(The chap behind the counter was full of praise for them, saying they were getting quite a following over here).

Congrats to Brandon Steep for your continuing rise, long may it continue!

Their website seems to be being re-worked at the moment, so for now www.myspace.com/brandonsteep is the place to go to check them out.

Oh, and check out the Herefordian field in this video 🙂

It’s only getting better

As of this week, I’m pretty much working seven days a week. It’s part of the self-imposed six month debt-repayment and moving-house program, which is due for completion on the 5th of March 2009. It’s step one of many steps in our Grand Masterplan, some goals of which include the paying off of all family debt and the establishment a perpetual charitable foundation that long outlives us.

Lofty goals perhaps, but it helps us to have them, as it does to have more concrete short-term goals too, like this six-month deal. Knowing that this routine is a temporary deal, a limited-time challenge, enables me to be excited about putting a lot into my full-time job and the various regular private English lessons I give.

Slowly managing to sort out things like insurance and savings plans. Tonight, a friend of ours who works for a large life insurance company came round to explain to me more about their policies, whilst at work I’m being enrolled in various pension / insurance schemes (which I am yet to fully understand). Yesterday, *Twinkle* and I decided which charities we’ll be supporting on a monthly basis (FoE Japan and Unicef). We’ve also started our 500 yen collection scheme – inspired by my boss Mr. D who saved 247,000 yen in one year without even trying (everytime you’re given a 500 yen (£2.87) coin put it in a special tin). Proper savings and investments as such will have to wait until the debts are repaid.

It’s a fun game to play, especially as we know that this is just phase one, and as the beautiful Stephanie Dosen sings, It’s Only Getting Better (not sure about the video!). I have this song as my alarm clock 🙂

Our first professional engagement as a couple

The lack of broadband at home has finally driven me out to an Internet cafe. I would just use our iPhone, but it’s a bit tedious when it comes to long texts, and also I needed to use Skype …although now I’m here I find that you’re not allowed to talk in this place. Oh well. I could talk via Skype on my iPhone, but need a wifi network for that.

Anyway anyway, with time ticking by I need to be brief. Not only am I paying by the hour for this connection, but also I’m starting two new jobs tomorrow, one of which requires some prep.

The Hanpane Rally 2008 (“Volume 1”) was an unforgettable experience for *Twinkle* and I. It had been organised by a group of about twenty people in their twenties looking to promote the idea of young people going into business for themselves – *Twinkle* was the main co-ordinator, reporting back to a couple of people in their 40s who took overall responsibility.

*Twinkle* first mentioned it to me a couple of months back, something about a rally at which we’d be MCing. She sounded pretty relaxed about it so I didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward to last night, 6.30pm. We’re backstage at Nakano Zero Hall, an audience of over 550 filing into their seats out front. I’m crapping myself as I try and learn my lines (in Japanese) for our introduction, lines that we’d only written a few hours beforehand but not had a chance to even glance at due to frantic last minute prep. Hair cuts, clothes shopping etc. I hadn’t quite realised just quite what an undertaking this was until the last minute when reports came in of the number of tickets sold. (I was pretty shocked when we arrived at the hall an hour beforehand -the audience were already queuing outside the front door).

Things got even more stressful when the DVD player that was being used to project our videos onto the big screen crapped out at the last minute, and calls went out for a laptop. Macbook came to the rescue – there followed an intense five-minute crash course in (English) Mac basics for my friend, whilst I simultaneously tried to think what alerts might pop-up on screen during the show (calendar reminders, backup programs etc), and rehearse my lines.

It was all pretty surreal. I made a half-conscious decision that none of it was really happening, as if I really thought about what I was going to be doing I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk at all.

But there was that part of me that also knew that everything was going to be absolutely fine.

And it was.

*Twinkle* had written a bloomin’ good script. It was very natural, very her, very me. She was the serious MC who knew everything, and I was the comedic husband who feigned ignorance. Despite the fact that we hadn’t been able to learn our lines (and thus were overly script-dependent), it (apparently) came across as being pretty natural. The audience seemed to warm to us right from the start, with*Twinkle*s professional delivery of the long narratives, and my insertions of odd bits of English and overly casual Japanese (and multiple mistakes). We got quite a lot of laughs, and a lot of people later remarked on just how well we engaged with the audience.

It’s a shame we didn’t have a chance to listen to the main speakers – we were too busy backstage learning our lines for the next section.

The two hour set flew by, and before we knew it I was telling everyone to get home safely. …The relief was immense. We’d done it.

The after party took place just down the line in Koenji, in a mad little Japanese restaurant populated by sailors. Our guest speakers served to further dismantle my old prejudices against millionaires, all being the nicest, most interesting and engaging people you could wish to meet. They were inspirational too, with stories of Scottish adventures, business challenges overcome – and books published from personal blogs.

The thing that struck me most about them was the fact that they were really no different from anyone else I know. I find this very exciting as my family are all waiting for us to become very wealthy. That’s one of our goals, not for the sake of being rich and owning ‘stuff’ or having a high status, but because we want to help as many people as possible, and another way we can do that (apart from giving our time and energy and love to friends, family and others) is to become wealthy, and then distribute that wealth.


It doesn’t really matter to us that our MCing was at times pretty unprofessional.It doesn’t matter that I stuffed up my lines and pronounced words incorrectly. We learnt so much through the experience – not just about MCing, but about each other. I respected *Twinkle* enormously beforehand, but last night found myself in awe at her ability to deal with it all in such a cool manner, and to be so confident in what she was doing.

But actually, in reality, last night’s event wasn’t really all that much of a big deal. OK, so it’s the largest group of people we’ve addressed live, …but they only numbered about 550.

It’s what the event taught me about *Twinkle* – by seeing her pull together an event like that – and us about Us as a couple that I find so exciting.

She was bloomin amazing. Co-ordinating so many people, not only on the day but over the past couple of months, and then making sure everyone knew what was going on in the hours leading up to it whilst simultaneously learning her lines. I couldn’t have done it. 

And it wasn’t just that she did it, but that she did it without getting stressed.

This was our first professional engagement together, and it’s shown us that whilst as individuals we are pretty good at what we do, as a couple working together towards a shared goal we have enormous strength. It’s also taught me what fun it can be to work with *Twinkle*.

Today we’ve talked about our marriage quite a bit, about just how much of a blessing it has been.

We’ve been told that following last night’s performance we’ll be called upon again for future events like the Hanpane Rally. I find this very exciting as public speaking is something I enjoy a great deal, and any opportunity to further develop the necessary skills is welcome.

Anyway, I must get out of here. I’m over my hourly limit and now paying by the 15-minutes!

Start my full time job in 10 hours – Ganbarimasu!

xxx