Finding Meaning When Life Just Seems to Suck

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Have you ever had a week where nothing seems to go your way? You try to stay positive and push through, but life just seems to be hitting harder than normal? Well, I’m right there with you.

Work was unrelenting this week. The more I did, the more it seemed to pile up. I was working 10-12 hours a day. From the office, I would come home completely exhausted with loads of studying and budgeting to take care of. With the extra work at home, it meant I had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, take a cat nap, and get back to the office for another round.

In times like these, it can seem nearly impossible to stay positive. Finding meaning in what you’re doing, trying to turn lemons into lemonade, just isn’t something that’s very high on the To-Do list. So how should you handle these situations when they come up?

The truth is: I don’t know. When life decides it wants to hit extra hard, it just does without warning. What I’ve learned is to just embrace the suck, fight like hell, then reflect on the circumstances after I’ve gotten out alive. I’m still very young, and this definitely isn’t the last time I’ll be overwhelmed. But I can take what I learned and apply it next time.

So what did I learn from last week? Was finding meaning even possible? My Japanese studies took a hard hit last week due to the sheer volume of work, so now it’s back to the drawing board! My goal is still to live and work in Japan with Louis, and in order to do that successfully, we have to get native-level fluent in Japanese (duh! ^^). So the question now is, “When life happens, how can I handle it without sacrificing my Japanese?”

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any new ideas! And as always, thanks for reading ^^

Being Yourself – An Otaku Perspective

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Being yourself can be incredibly difficult. I used to hide my fondness of J-culture. The thought of people finding out I watched anime and read manga was terrifying, so I kept it to myself. Back then, I thought admitting to liking Japanese stuff was the same as branding myself with a scarlet letter “O” (for otaku, of course). So I kept it quiet…Until one day…

I can’t give the exact date and time, but one day I woke up and decided to just embrace who I was. I liked anime and manga. I wanted to learn Japanese and move to Japan, and I just didn’t care what others thought anymore. It’s my life, after all, right?

That was when I realized the importance of acceptance. Succeeding in life starts with being yourself. By doing so, you begin to find your talents and develop skills that you can give to the world. You develop a more positive outlook on life, which fuels your desires to succeed. And you start to attract the right people along the way.


EMBRACE YOUR CURRENT SITUATION

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Where are you right now? Are you living your ideal life?

I’m sure 99.99% of you aren’t exactly where you want to be. But that’s life! The hands we’re dealt are usually never what we hope, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost. Take a look at your current situation and compare it to your ideal life. How big is the difference?

That difference is OPPORTUNITY! The opportunity to grow. The opportunity to create and express. The opportunity to solve real-world problems. But most importantly, it’s the opportunity to become yourself.


BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

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Your ideal life should tell you exactly who you are. By simply being yourself, you can begin bridging the gap between now and where you want to be.

Are you taking the right steps to help you get there? What do you need to change in order to live the life you want? It could be a new job, new classes, or new relationships. This is definitely the hardest part of the process. But unless you’re 100% honest with yourself, you will never get to the places you want to go.

If your job isn’t developing you professionally, you need to find a new one. If your classes aren’t challenging you intellectually, find those that do. And if your relationships are mostly dead weight, ditch them. You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so don’t waste your time around people that only drag you down.


THERE WILL BE RESISTANCE

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During your journey, there will be external resistance. Your family will try and tell you “it’s too risky” (Though this is usually unintentional. Your family wants what’s in your best interest, and they’re just looking out for you), your friends will think you’re weird, and your coworkers will mock you for stepping away from the status quo. Don’t give in! Living the life you want will always be better than living the life others think is best.

There will also be internal resistance. As humans, our brains are wired to run from pain and discomfort. So we tend to compromise and settle for mediocrity. We stay in jobs we don’t really like, get degrees in subjects we don’t really care for, and settle for less than desirable relationships – because it’s safe, and because it’s what we think society wants. But this is wrong. The internal resistance shouldn’t be focused on what others think. Rather, the right struggle is trying to be yourself! Don’t get comfortable and keep pushing!


 

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So how does all this tie into success?

Being yourself allows you to develop your talents and create gifts for the world. I would have never learned Japanese unless I was comfortable admitting I liked anime and manga first. And because I learned Japanese, I was able to become a translator. Now I can share Japanese culture with those that don’t know the language!

Being comfortable in my own skin has made me happier than ever before. The funny thing about happiness is that it’s highly contagious. Happy people tend to act like super strong magnets that attract other happy people. This blog wouldn’t exist if Louis and I weren’t comfortable with ourselves.

Lastly, being yourself allows you to chase your dreams. Success is subjective and everyone has their own definition, but I think we can all agree that taking steps toward our dreams and ideal lives should be considered success, right?

 

Photo credits go to the wife! She snagged these awesome shots while visiting Izumotaisha!

My Japanese Wife – Love & Dragonball

My Japanese wife didn't like anime until I introduced her to Dragonball

My Japanese wife didn't like anime until I introduced her to Dragonball

Despite what you may believe, not all Japanese people like anime and manga. Many, like my wife, absolutely hate it. Or should I say “hated” it?

My wife and I are both incredibly stubborn. We like what we like. I insist that anime and manga aren’t bad and that they’re actually great tools (and entertaining, to boot) to use to pick up common words and phrases for studying Japanese. She insists that I eat more vegetables -_-

Japanese wife not amused with Dragonball
Our Trip to J World in Tokyo last summer. She could barely contain her excitement ^^

If she wants me to eat more vegetables, she knows she can’t put a giant bowl of broccoli in front of me and expect me to eat it without resistance. Instead, she cuts it up and mixes it in with foods she knows I like so that it doesn’t seem like I’m eating a massive bowl of greens. The same goes for anime. I couldn’t make her sit down and watch anything, so I just watched it by myself! Eventually, she got curious…

One day, I was sitting on the couch catching up on Dragonball Super. My wife was on the other side of the couch playing on her phone. I noticed that as the show progressed, she got closer and closer to me until she was sitting in front of the computer screen (blocking my view, mind you^^) watching Dragonball! When the episode finished, she asked me to play the next one. I explained that we had to wait until Sunday when it came out and she said “OK!” and went back to playing on her phone.

The next day, I came home to this scene:

I came hoe from work and caught the wife catching up on Dragonball. She says she wants to start reading the manga because she likes it so much! Did I do good or what! ^^
I came home from work and caught the wife catching up on Dragonball.

She had watched all of Dragonball Super in one day! One Day! Smiling from ear to ear, she asked if there was more. “I want to watch what happened before Super. I don’t know all the characters.”

I introduced her to Dragonball Z. And instantly, she was watching it like crazy. I would come home for lunch and she would have her computer by the stove, watching it as she cooked. When I would come home from work, she would be in the living room working out with Dragonball playing.

Even now while she’s in Japan visiting her family, she’s watching Dragonball. Our conversations every day go a little like this:

Me: “Good morning baby! Hope you slept well!”

Wife: “I slept alright. I stayed up late watching Dragonball. I LOVE Vegeta!”

Quite the change in attitude!


Now we have something new we can talk about and enjoy together. We anxiously anticipate every new episode of Super and immediately talk about it as soon as it’s over! Unfortunately, the Olympics got in the way of last week’s episode, and the wife was not in the least bit amused. She even tweeted her dissatisfaction ^^

Japanese wife not happy about Dragonball being cancelled
My wife tweeted “I can’t believe Dragonball got cancelled this week because of the Olympics. I’m getting impatient!”

I still don’t love vegetables as much as she loves Dragonball, though ^o^

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Positive Thinking Only – Go Away, Negativity!

“Positive Thinking”. It’s a phrase we’re all familiar with. Yet many people have trouble practicing it. Imagine you’re late for work, you don’t have time to drink your morning coffee (which you need to function ^^), and you’re stuck in traffic. You know once you get to work you’ll have to explain what happened to your less-than-understanding boss. And you’re kicking yourself for not taking the time to make your cup of coffee now that you realize you were going to be stuck in traffic, regardless (-_-).

Or imagine that you’re in college. You’ve made plans for the summer to go to Japan with your friends. The plane tickets are bought and the hotels are reserved. Then your end of term grades come out and you failed a class. Now you have to take the class again in the summer (the same time as the Japan trip) or else you can’t graduate.

 

Positive Thinking. Times can be hard, even if you're Godzilla. So make the best of what life offers you in order to buld the future you want
Times can be hard, even for Godzilla.

We’ve all had days where we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Moments where things just don’t go according to plan. The day starts off on the wrong foot and doesn’t seem to get better. Sometimes life just seems unfair – like the universe is out to get you. It’s times like these when positive thinking is the most important, yet hardest thing you can do for yourself.

So how can you think positively when everything seems to be going against you? The answer is to change your perception. Stop looking at the glass as half-empty and start looking at it as half-full. Or better yet, if you think the glass is half empty, start thinking that you’re going to need a refill and chug it! After you fill the glass back up, you don’t need to worry about whether it’s half-empty or half-full. You have a brand new, full glass to work with!


Looking At Things From A Different Perspective

I remember being in middle school and learning about the Great Depression. During that time, the unemployment rate was around 20% (the highest it’s ever been in America). I explained how hard the times were to my dad, who was listening intently. He grinned and said, “20% unemployment? So that must mean that 80% of Americans had a job!”

And just like that, my perception of the Great Depression had changed. 80% meant that 4 out of 5 people had jobs. For example, if you were applying for work with 4 others, based solely on the 20% unemployment statistic, you would have had a 1 in 5 chance of not getting a job. Those seemed like pretty good odds! Because of my dad’s remark, I learned that looking at a problem from a different angle, coupled with positive thinking, could help solve some of life’s most difficult challenges.

Japan has had its own share of economic recessions. The most recent being the Lost Decade of the 1990s. Img src - Google Images
Japan has had its own share of economic recessions. The most recent being the Lost Decade of the 1990s. Img src – Google Images

I’ve been interested in Japan for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to learn the language. As I mentioned before, I work as a financial analyst in the Air Force. Initially, I wasn’t at all excited about the job (in fact, I was furious – the universe was out to get me then ^^), but the more I learned about it, the more I realized that life had given me a golden opportunity. I was given a typical 9 to 5 day job with weekends and holidays off. This was my chance to learn Japanese!

Positive thinking turned a seemingly bleak situation into a golden learning opportunity! I turned every wall in my room into a Japnese reading center
My old room. As part of my immersion, I covered the walls with manga pages and Japanese newspapers so that I would see the language no matter where I was in the room. At night, I would take the comforter off the bed and sleep on the floor.

I immersed myself in the language. I listened to Japanese music and NHK podcasts at work, read manga and watched anime at home (raw, of course ^^), ate all my food with chop sticks, and slept on a makeshift futon (basically a comforter that I laid on the floor). Because of my job, I was able to learn Japanese at a very fast pace. And because I was able to learn Japanese, I met my wife! Life has a funny way of giving you what you ask of it. If I were still complaining about my job, I would have missed this great opportunity! So the next time you feel like you’re in a bad situation, think about how you can benefit from it. The benefits may surprise you!

The wife (fiance at the time) and I celebrating our engagement at her grandmother's house.
The wife (fiance at the time) and I celebrating our engagement at her grandmother’s house. I’m a HUGE Space Brothers fan in case the shirt didn’t give it away ^o^

Your Current Situation Is Only As Permanent As You Allow It To Be

Danny Choo has a fantastic article on his blog about pursuing your passions. In it, he describes what he calls the “comfort zone”. Someone in the comfort zone is content with their current situation and refuses to step outside of it because, basically, it’s uncomfortable. Outside is a world of unknowns, a world of uncertainty, and most importantly, a world of risk.  Are people in the comfort zone happy? They very well could be. But like Danny, I agree that happiness and contentment are two different things.

Our very own Louis Rivera with the one and only, Danny Choo!
Our very own (and very young) Louis Rivera with the one and only, Danny Choo!

To me, happiness is chasing your dreams. But in order to chase your dreams, you have to continually fight the urge to slip back into the comfort zone. To paraphrase Mr. Choo, if you find yourself in a comfortable situation, you’re doing something wrong. If today was your last day on Earth, how would you spend it? What would you want to accomplish?

I doubt anyone would want to focus on the menial negatives of day-to-day life. Most people would want to make their last day the happiest ever. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “…but nothing in this world is certain, except death and taxes”. If we’re all going to die, and we could die tomorrow, why do we focus on the negative aspects of everyday life? Shouldn’t we be living every day to the fullest? To hell with the negatives!

This picture was taken right before I took my first step out of Narita Airport and into Japan. I had dreamed of this moment for a very long time and had saved money for a few years to make this dream a reality.
This picture was taken right before I took my first step out of Narita Airport and into Japan. I had dreamed of this moment for a very long time and had worked and saved money for a couple years to make this a reality.

Your current situation is only as permanent as you allow it to be. Are you happy or content? What would it take for you to be happy? Although everyone’s definition of happiness is different, you have in your mind a very vivid image of what it means to you. Focus on that image and eventually, you’ll begin to find ways to turn it into a reality. Ask yourself how you can overcome the problems and obstacles standing in the way of your dreams. The worst thing that can happen is that you figure out how to solve the problem and, as a result, have more time to focus on the things you love doing!


Always Try To Make It Fun

Have you noticed that positive thinking people tend to have more fun? They smile more, typically have better health, and are more enjoyable to be around. Is it because they’re all optimistic and able to cast aside all worry without a second thought? Not necessarily. Louis and I tend to fall more in the “realist” category. We’re fully aware of the fact that life has it’s challenges and acknowledge when things go bad. But because we know there’s always a solution to every problem, our thinking remains focused and positive (you could say we’re pretty rad dudes ^^).

Our outlook goes back to what I said earlier about happiness being the ability to chase your dreams. The desire to achieve our goals allows us to continually take risks and stay out of the comfort zone. Every day is a new and exciting challenge. We’re constantly sharing what we learn with each other and pushing one another to get even better, and we’re have a blast while doing it!

Positive Thinking - Life is a lot like Pokemon. You go through a lot of small battles to prepare for only a handful of major ones. Each battle is a chance to get stronger and stronger until you become the champion
Life is a lot like the Pokemon games. In the game, you start off with only one Pokemon and no badges. But as you progress through the game, your Pokemon get stronger, you collect all the badges, and you eventually become the Champion!

The thing is, life is a lot like the Pokemon games. In the beginning, you start off in your tiny little hometown with only one weak little Pokemon. But as soon as you step into the tall grass for the first time, your adventure begins. As you progress, you increase the size of your team and they get stronger with each passing battle. When you want to get stronger, you do what’s known as “grinding”, or fighting wild Pokemon and trainers to level up. You grind and level up enough at each stage to be able to defeat the gym leaders and advance. This pattern continues until you become the Pokemon Champion and beat the game.

It’s a very simple game, yet people haven’t gotten tired of playing it in the last 20 years. Why? Because it’s fun! With every victory, you get one step closer to becoming the champion. Sometimes you get beaten, and when you do, you train more and get stronger. Then you go out and challenge the opponent again! It’s not beating the gym leaders that’s fun, but instead, grinding until you’re too strong for the gym leader that you beat them in 2 minutes that’s enjoyable.

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In life, we face many challenges. Some are bigger than others (we’ll call the big ones the gym leaders), and they can seem almost too intimidating to tackle at once. But if you break the challenge down to the point where you can get small victories in winnable games (a.k.a. “grinding), the seemingly insurmountable doesn’t seem so bad! Big problems usually arise from a combination of smaller problems. Once you identify the smaller problems, you can take them out one by one.

People like to win, and win fast (I’ve never met someone who likes to lose ^^). It’s fun, builds confidence, and pushes out that pesky negative thinking. So remember – life is like Pokemon. The big challenges you face are the gym leaders, and the smaller ones are your opportunities to grind. Beat enough small challenges and you’ll crush the big ones!


Wrapping It Up

There will be times when you feel like the hand life dealt you isn’t good enough (insert YuGiOh! metaphor here). But if you stop and take a deep breath, you’ll be able to get out of any sticky situation. Life is too short to dwell on the negatives. Try looking at your problems from a different angle. Convince yourself that the problems you face now are not permanent and that there’s a way to beat them. Then go out and get strong enough to do it! We’ll be right there with you.


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We look forward to hearing from you!

What Should You Go To College For?

It’s summertime! That means road trips, beach vacations, late night bonfires, video gaming &/or anime binging all day long, pool parties, cookouts, and of course FIREWORKS (I mean that literally and figuratively, of course ^^)! This time of year is especially important for the recently graduated senior class as they prepare to embark on life’s next big journey – COLLEGE!

In recent years, college has become more of the norm in America. But still not everyone opts for that route. Some people join the military, some learn a technical skill and start working almost immediately, and some decide to take a few years off from school to travel. With so many options, I’m sure many of you have thought “What should I go to college for?” at some point in your life.

As for me, I went to college and thought it was a fantastic learning experience. However, the majority of learning took place outside of the classrooms, away from any kind of academic environment. Everything I learned from college came from getting away from home, meeting people from all walks of life, and trying to start my own business. Today, I want to share my college story with you. The story of how the most important and valuable lessons I learned didn’t come from a classroom, but from a stage. How I learned more about business from writing songs instead of resumes. And how I learned that you can succeed in a t-shirt and jeans as much as you can in a suit and tie.


Self Discovery

I can remember going to orientation at the University of Tennessee. It seemed like a dream, or something I had seen straight out of the movies. I was excited to learn. I was going to be whatever I wanted to be, and I was going to study hard! I was ready to embark on the adventure to adulthood. I was independent! …Except all my expenses were covered by a couple scholarships. The first being a state sponsored one, the second being a Dad sponsored one!

The motivation to excel academically faded very quickly, however. Like most people, I was consumed with the idea of “freedom”. I could essentially do whatever it was that I wanted – and I did do whatever I wanted (I probably should have heeded Uncle Ben’s words -“With great power comes great responsibility”!). I only went to class when I knew there was a test or attendance was being taken. The rest of my time was spent partying with my friends or sitting in my room playing the guitar.

The gang decided to go out as Mario Kart for Halloween one year. This is the only group shot from the whole night. Photo taken outside of my duplex in Konxville
The gang decided to go out as Mario Kart for Halloween one year. This is the only group shot from the whole night. Photo taken outside of my duplex in Konxville. Notice the lack of studying? ^^

The idea of the “American Dream” started to feel more like a weight around my ankles. I changed majors a couple times simply because I was just not excited about the real life jobs that existed for those particular fields of study. I wanted more. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want to live in the same house, wake up at the same time, wear the same clothes, and go to the same job in the same company every day for the rest of my working life. And the more I thought about it, the more I skipped class to play the guitar.

Freshman year of college. Hanging out in my dorm room with a guitar
Freshman year of college. Hanging out in my dorm room with a guitar

After a while, I got the crazy idea to start a band. Reading books and listening to professors talk about stuff was starting to bore me. I wanted to do things. To experience things. Playing guitar was what I was good at and I thought that was my best bet. So I got together with a friend who played bass and we started our first band!


Putting Down the Books, Picking Up the Guitar

We recruited 2 other members. The first was a singer, who we asked to join us simply because his best friend (our final member) was a drummer who was looking for a band. We played mainly fraternity parties and campus events, covering rock songs from the 70s through the present day. Our popularity was growing, and my skills as a guitarist were becoming well-known around the university. Getting to go to all the cool parties, drinking beer for free, hanging out with pretty girls, and getting recognized as “the guitarist for that band” every weekend was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. I was living the dream!

However, friction between the singer and me started to grow. It got to the point where we wouldn’t talk to each other, so I decided to leave the group (before we actually started to fight). I still wanted to play music, but I didn’t really know of any bands that needed a guitar player. Naturally, I did what anyone looking for a job would do and started searching the web. I spent a few days scouring the Craig’s List help wanted pages when I came across an ad that seemed like a decent opportunity.

A hip hop group was looking for a band for their live performances. I had never done hip hop, but I liked their music, so I went in for an audition. Immediately, they asked when I could start playing. They had already booked a few shows and needed people to quickly learn the songs. So I gladly stepped into the role of lead guitar. At the time, it felt like I was just moving on to a new band. I had no idea that the next few years would become some of the most important years of my life.


From Band to Business

I’ve been playing guitar for around 13 years now, have been in many bands, played some great shows, met a number of famous people, and enjoyed every moment of it. My proudest moment as a musician was playing with the band from the Craig’s List ad, The Theorizt. You can watch the video for our song, Targets, below:

We were a unique hip hop band with live instrumental backing. That kind of music was unheard of in Eastern Tennessee (where every band wanted to be the next Black Crows) so it was easy to disrupt the scene. Before we knew it, we were a top local band getting extensive radio coverage, playing up to 3 shows a week, and even touring a bit. I was convinced that I could make a living with these guys, so I put my schooling on the back burner and devoted all of my attention to music.

Our debut, full-length album titled Samurai Love Songs (I was very much in love with Japan, even at that time ^^)
Our debut, full-length album titled Samurai Love Songs (I was very much in love with Japan, even at that time ^^)

We released 3 CDs in a two-year span. One was a five-song LP, the next was a mixtape featuring samples from Nujabes (specifically, the soundtrack to Samurai Champloo), and the third was our debut, full-length album. You can listen to the songs here (it’s 100% free, I promise! ^^)

The Theorizt playing one of the many venues in Knoxville, Tennessee. This event was a music festival that a few friends and I managed to put together called Fort Sanders Fest. It was an all day event featuring some of the biggest local bands as well as local artists and vendors
The Theorizt playing one of the many venues in Knoxville, Tennessee. This event was a music festival that a few friends and I managed to put together called Fort Sanders Fest. It was an all day event featuring some of the biggest local bands as well as local artists and vendors

All the albums were self-produced, which meant I had to quickly learn about recording software & techniques, editing, and mastering. We also had a set list of songs we played at every gig (except a couple of wild cards to keep things fresh), so we could focus more on theatrics and controlling the flow of the show. Our marketing campaigns included street performances, throwing our self-designed logo on every street lamp in Knoxville, wearing our own t-shirts, and radio interviews (a close friend of ours had a nightly radio show, so we would show up whenever we wanted and do an on air set and promotional interview). It was definitely a boot-strapped effort that immediately paid dividends. Within weeks, we were in every newspaper, local magazine, and club in Knoxville. It felt like we had risen to local celebrity status almost overnight.


A Business Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Unfortunately, we had no growth strategy and continued to stay mainly local. It worked for a couple years, but eventually, everyone had been to enough of our shows that our crowds started to dwindle. I learned this the hard way when I asked some of my friends if they were going to come to our show and they replied with, “Why? We’ve already seen it like 100 times”. I knew we had to make a pivot.

I began reaching out to college radio stations in other states, getting quotes for airtime and new orders of CDs. Our only income was from shows and t-shirt sales, and those were diminishing quickly. The only way to raise money was to either play in other cities, play more shows locally, or invest personally into the band.

We were becoming very popular very fast. In order to maintain this type of engagement, we had to think outside the box and get creative with our marketing and products
We were becoming very popular very fast. In order to maintain this type of engagement, we had to think outside the box and get creative with our marketing and products

We had to stay local. There just wasn’t enough money for a tour. So I took up a job at FedEx loading delivery trucks in the wee hours of the morning (3 am to 9 am 6 days a week) in order to help fund the band (this is a major lesson I learned about starting a business – if you’re unwilling to invest in it yourself, don’t expect others to do it for you!). Mind you, I was still going to school so I rarely got to sleep more than 4 hours. I would go to class after work, go to band rehearsal after school, go to a venue for a gig after that (every other day), rush home for a cat nap, rinse and repeat.

We spent hours on the days we didn’t have a show calling venues, hoping for a gig, but got the same answer every time, “We would love to have you guys, but you’ve been playing here for so long, and we haven’t seen any crowd increases, so we don’t think it would benefit our business. There are a lot of up and coming groups that are packing our house night in and night out. Maybe you guys should take a break, write some new stuff, and call us back.”

The idea for a new album started to get tossed around. However, making an album takes a lot of time. Which meant we couldn’t focus on touring, we would have to hold off on marketing, and we would have to turn down the rare show (when the opportunity came up). It was a catch-22. In order to make an album, we needed money. But we would be sacrificing what little revenue streams we had if we decided to go back to the studio. So we decided to re-brand.

Part of our re-branding effort. We went from wearing simple t-shirts to a more modern day, stylish feel
Part of our re-branding effort. We went from wearing simple t-shirts to a more modern day, stylish look (basically a blazer and some fresh sneakers ^^) and added more samples and effects to the live performances.

There was an initial burst of excitement from the local community. But even though we sounded way better, we didn’t have any new material to sell. We had spent a lot of money on what was essentially a sugar rush. Soon, we were back to where we started, scrambling for ideas. But we refused to go down without a fight!

This was my home studio in my little bungalow apartment. I would spend hours in different parts of the apartment playing the guitar, positioning the mics in different areas for the best sound for a particular line. I would also program samples here
This was my home studio in my little duplex apartment. I would spend hours in different parts of the apartment playing the guitar, positioning the mics in different areas for the best sound for a particular line. I would also program samples here

It turned out to be a very quick fight, however. Even though I had just graduated and was using the extra time to practice music – joining a couple of different bands to make ends meet. The other members of the band were all feeling the heat, as well. Our rhythm guitarist could no longer afford to keep playing music, so he moved back home. Our drummer and his wife had gotten pregnant, so he quit the band to get a real job to provide for his family. With two massive holes to fill and no money to keep going, I had to make a decision as well. We tried to keep pushing through with substitute players, but after a month, I had to face the music (no pun intended). My time with The Theorizt had come to an end. It was time to move on.


So What Does This Have To Do With Going To College?

At this point you’re probably thinking “What the hell does this have to do with going to college?”

And that’s my point! My major was business in college, but this post never mentioned all the amazing things I learned in the classroom. Instead, it focused on how I managed to get a more hands-on education from failing in business. And that’s the point I hope reached you.

Experiencing the world firsthand, taking risks, and learning from your mistakes. These 3 things will give you much more of an education than a college classroom ever could. The lessons I learned from my first failed “business” have been passed on to Chasing Japan. The work required to build a successful brand, how to manage a team, how to think outside the box, how to effectively market, how to manage finances, and how to deal with turbulent times are all things I took from The Theorizt.

Going to college and getting out of the classroom enabled me to step out of my comfort zone and see how the world works. I would have never gotten this experience (or the degree to prove it) if I had stayed home.

So, if you’re planning on going to college, allow me to offer my two cents. First, real world application is much more effective than what’s written in textbooks. Take what you learn in class and see if you can’t start a business, develop some kind of software, or invent a gadget that makes life easier (sorry all you medical people, you’re going to have to wait until med school to start poking and prodding people ^^)? Second, and this is the most important advice you’ll ever get, GO TO CLASS! You’re paying for it, so make the most of it! And attendance is usually weighted pretty highly, so it could be the difference between an A and a B.

Being Free Spirited…Like A Kid!

There are quite a few things I can learn from myself from way back when. I was free spirited – paying no mind to meaningless things like what others might think, how they might react, or whether I would be accepted or not. I marched to the beat of my own taiko drum. I lived a carefree life – having fun unleashing all the possibilities and creativity within me.

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Skydiving is a big part of my life. The definition of a carefree spirit! I’m smiling as I reach terminal velocity (about 124 mph). I’m LIVING! Not worrying about the bad things.

What I want to shed light on today, what I learned from my free spirited former self, are the topics of RISK TAKING and LEAVING THE COMFORT ZONE. Now, while we have been making grounds in the ever growing backbone of Chasing Japan, it has been done in a vastly controlled way. We minimize risks and loss while we are developing, especially in the early stages (Nick is very calculating). Which makes sense, because it would be suicide to just go all in at the poker table and lose everything in one go. However, as we get bigger and bigger and our leveraged skills start approaching a tipping point, those risks need to be reevaluated.


RISK TAKING AND LEAVING THE COMFORT ZONE

Basically, the tipping point I mentioned is another term for the domino effect. Doing one thing causes something else to happen, which causes something else to happen, etc., until all the pieces fall in place to create the big picture. Nick and my unique skills are the individual pieces, and how we put them together brings us to our tipping point. How we arrive at our tipping point is all about taking risks and leaving our comfort zones.

Using our skills in the real world as entrepreneurs is our first, and scariest, risk. For me, that skill lies in my passion for photography and photojournalism. To illustrate the point, I have to put not only my reputation on the line, but also Chasing Japan‘s when I work out in the world as a photojournalist. Coming up with ideas on how to craftily put my work to high use is no easy task. With the way society has conditioned me, I easily went into the “what if” mode. But I didn’t let that stop me. Nick and I are on a mission!

On a photo walk looking for some tasty shots. Rocking my Chasing Japan tee while I do it!
On a photo walk looking for some tasty shots. Rocking my Chasing Japan tee while I do it!

On photojournalism – after playing with quite a few ideas I finally have a plan to step out of my comfort zone, crush the what-if mode, and start putting my skills to use!

  • Step 1: My inner producer has told me to make my upcoming trip to Japan more than just a vacation, so I gave myself photo assignments.
  • Step 2: Plan to make photo essays documenting the daily life of people and businesses/events in Japan.
  • Step 3. PREPARE BY PRACTICING.
This is a photo from my Instagram. You can follow us by clicking on the social icons to the right of the article. This is the gear I took to ComiCon. As you can see, I've been jotting down ideas for shots to take while I'm in Japan
This is a photo from my Instagram. You can follow us, or just me X), by clicking on the social icons to the right of the article.
This is the gear I took to Comic-Con. As you can see, I’ve been jotting down ideas for photo-journalistic articles for the blog!

Practice is the fun part! For my long-awaited upcoming trip to Japan, I have been practicing by going on photo walks. I’ve been taking pictures of structures, of people, and dabbling in street photography. I have also covered shots in a Japanese garden celebrating Golden Week. And to top it off, my photo library has an endless supply of shots using my friends as test subjects.

While I’m practicing, I manage to find time to network with and introduce myself to people as the photojournalist here at Chasing Japan. The first few times were incredibly nerve wracking, and I’m sure my voice was probably cracking. But at the same time, I was super excited for making progress!

The business cards are in! We're official!
The business cards are in! We’re official!

Now for even more excitement! With our business cards rolling in, we can start networking in a more professional manner. For my trip to Japan, I can hand out these bad boys when I take photos of people or do covers on local businesses. It’s all coming together! With a renewed child-like free spirit, focusing on my passions for photo-journalism and life in Japan, the images in my head are starting to come to life! My friends and I are hard at work to bring you the best of Japan. Please subscribe to our blog if you’re interested in what we’re doing!

Oh, and I hope that if you have any inner passions that you would like to pursue but have something holding you back, do listen to that free spirit from your childhood moments. It may be just the trigger you need!

 

Staying Motivated – The Art of Getting It Done

To be honest, I felt like writing more of a motivational piece today. The goal was to explain how I stay motivated even when all I want to do is lay on my couch and eat popcorn (delicious, buttery popcorn *drools*). I searched the web for a bit looking for fitting quotes, specifically Japanese proverbs. I was ready to drop some inspiration when I came across this:

I'll let you do the translating for the Japanese text ^^
I’ll let you do the translating for the Japanese text ^o^ (I’ll give you a hint: It has something to do with “yellow” snow)

I laughed pretty hard when I saw this and thought, “I HAVE to share it!”

So what about staying motivated? Isn’t that what this article is supposed to be about?

I’ll apologize for the lack of ancient Japanese proverbs. But the English “translation” did strike a chord with me XD

Why do so many of us settle for contentment when we all have the ability to be great? Of course I could say that it’s simply a matter of motivation, but I think it’s deeper than that. What is it exactly that keeps someone motivated?

Sometimes life can be pretty tough. Work can wear you down. You can’t seem to catch a break. How you program yourself to react to adverse situations will help determine their outcomes. A better question than “how do I stay motivated?” is “what am I living for?”

My wife sleeping on my office floor as I stay awake through the wee hours of the night, finishing up some work. Our bedroom is literally 50 feet away, but she's such a great supporter that she wanted to stay by my side, cheering me on, until I finished my work. These kinds of acts are what keep me going, even when I can barely keep my eyes open. (But don't worry, people! I didn't let her stay there. I picked her up and carried her to bed!)
The wife sleeping on my office floor as I stay awake through the wee hours of the night finishing up some work. Our bedroom is literally 50 feet away, but she’s such a great supporter that she wanted to stay by my side, cheering me on until I finished my work. It’s this that keeps me going, even when I can barely keep my eyes open. (But don’t worry, people! I didn’t let her stay there. I picked her up and carried her to bed. I’m a good husband, I promise!)

With a clear goal in mind, any seemingly negative outcome can be turned into an opportunity. I’ve been turned down for a number of translation gigs, but each time I would read the rejection letter and think, “Well, at least I learned some new, unique vocabulary words. And I can read a rejection letter and understand keigo very well! On to the next one!”

My goal is to make enough money as a translator to live comfortably (in Japan, of course ^^). I have to learn from my mistakes and get better as I progress. The failures keep me motivated to study Japanese harder, to translate documents faster, and to provide better customer service to my clients. And because I push myself, I’m able to understand more of the source content and I’m more aware of the mistakes I can make. So the next time I translate, my product is much better. If I just gave up, how would that benefit anyone?

This was a shot I took at Enoshima Island in the Kanagawa Prefecture. I had spent all day visiting temples, so I was pretty tired (I had also just gotten in country that morning). I walked out onto a slab of rock jutting out into the ocean and watched the sun set right in front of me. Once the sun got low enough, I saw her for the first time - Mt. Fuji! It was at this exact moment I knew that I would do whatever it took to live in Japan.
This was a shot I took at Enoshima Island in the Kanagawa Prefecture. I had spent all day visiting temples, so I was pretty tired (I had also just gotten in country that morning). I walked onto a slab of rock jutting out into the ocean and watched the sun set right in front of me. Once the sun got low enough, I saw her for the first time – Mt. Fuji! It was at this exact moment I knew that I would do whatever it took to live in Japan.

What is the one thing that you love doing the most? THAT should be your inspiration. The opportunity to wake up every day and enjoy whatever it is you love doing should be your number one motivating factor. “How can I make more time to do this?” or “Can I share my love for this with others?” are phenomenal questions to constantly ask yourself to help keep you pushing toward your goals. Take chances! Don’t let “What if?” be your main thought when you’re on your deathbed.

These are just a couple memos I have on my desk. The daruma is a good luck charm for making dreams come true, and the mug is self explanatory ^o^
These are just a couple memos I have on my desk. The daruma is a good luck charm for making dreams come true, and the mug is self explanatory.

Well, I couldn’t come up with an explanation for how I prevent myself from eating popcorn, but I hope you got something out of this post! If you like what you’ve read, please don’t hesitate to subscribe to our blog or share with your friends ^^

 

If you’re still needing some motivation, here’s a motivational Piccolo video ^^

 

 

P.S. If you really want to know, the Japanese text says “Don’t eat the yellow snow” XD