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Friends on Pause

I land in Narita Airport, Japan, pull two thousand Yen out of the ATM, and get on the train for Tokyo. From memory I walk down familiar streets until I get to the New Zealand Embassy in northern Shibuya, where my friend Elliot lives. I haven't seen him in almost two years, and have only emailed a few times since then, but it's as if I never left. We joke around, walk to dinner, and make plans for the weekend.

The next day I pop my Japanese SIM card into my phone and call my friend Toby to let him know that I'm around. He tells me about a party he's throwing in Yoyogi park, so a couple other friends and I join him.

Nothing about these individual scenes is particularly noteworthy. That's the point. In various places around the world I have enough good friends that I can have a pretty normal life there while visiting.

Kaizen - The Japanese Concept of 'Good Change'

On Zenthusiasm

"Kaizen" is a simple concept from the Japanese language, literally meaning 'Good Change'. That's it, nothing more. It can be big or small, quick or extremely time consuming, all it needs to be is a change for the better.

Japanese business leaders have adopted this term, and modified the concept slightly to being one of smaller steps, incremental change, over time, which leads to a much brighter outcome. It is this second usage that I'll talk about today.

I'm sure most of us know that Japanese culture is very . .. driven. Their ideals are high, their personal and societal expectations are high, and their demands on themselves and of others is high - its part of the reason why suicide rates are so elevated in that country. But there is another side to Japan, one that takes into account the betterment of a corporation, or society, as a whole. We can take this concept, and apply it at the personal level very effectively.

We as individuals can be very driven too - driven by our own personal desires, societal norms, parental expectations, job demands, internal voices that say you aren't good enough yet. We often are our own worst critics. I know myself I love photography, but I've often suffered from the fact that my pictures aren't good enough by my own standards, and that makes photography a self-defeating hobby for me. Well, at least it used to be, before I discovered the concept of Mindfulness.

Applying the concept of Kaizen to my life, it basically boils down to this - what small changes can I make in my life, that given sufficient time, will produce big rewards or positive changes? Its like applying the concept of compound interest to your personal life. Small steps, small changes, day after day, tend to build on each other. So lets look at some changes that I hope to make in my life, and how I expect them to compound over time

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