“The Happiness of Pursuit”

002I just finished reading “The Happiness of Pursuit” written by Chris Guillebeau. I received an advanced copy of his book, which was one of the gifts that were available for this year’s World Domination Summit attendees. This book is about a quest and I enjoyed reading it. Chris said this was the most difficult to write of his three books he has published so far, and I could see why – he told us many stories of the people who took on a quest, including himself.

People often talk about a “hero’s journey” and the word “hero” has this connotation that the mission is heroic in nature. It is quite prevalent in pop culture from Star Wars (my husband’s all time favorite) to Harry Potter (my personal favorite). But reading this book, one thing I realized is that a quest doesn’t necessarily have to be about saving the world. Many people whose stories he showcased in this book do/did have a great cause, such as Miranda Gibson who lived on a tree in Tasmania for over a year to protest illegal logging (she saved the forest!). But there are others who did things as a personal pursuit, such as travelling great distance on foot, bicycle or by sailing the ocean. The author Chris Guillebeau’s quest was to visit every country in the world before his 35th birthday. For each quester in Chris’s book, the quest started out as just a thought. An idea each person started contemplating, because he or she felt the strong pull to it and just couldn’t stop thinking about it, until one day they felt compelled to put that thought into a plan and took action. Pursuing it brought the quester joy and a sense of purpose.

This is great news for people who has read this book, and started thinking about their own quest but have no idea what to do or where to begin. In summer of 2012, Chris gave out $100 to all the 1000 attendees at World Domination Summit(WDS), an annual gathering of people living unconventional life. A few months later, when I talked to a few other fellow attendees, I heard from some people that they were still sitting on that $100 because they felt the pressure to do something amazing (such as multiply that money a 100 fold), and the thought of whatever idea they come up with might not be “good enough” stopped them from moving forward. I can imagine some might feel the same pressure and challenge in their attempt to decide on a quest that is worthy to pursue. For example, would collecting every stamp that was ever produced in my country be significant enough? Does it meet “WDS standards”? Having been to WDS a few times, I can say that it’s easy to compare yourself to fellow attendees and feel discouraged that you are not as accomplished. However, I believe those are the wrong things to worry about when you think about your own quest. As you will read in Chris’s book, a quest doesn’t have to solve any problem in the world nor does it have to be practical for anyone involved. The quester that will strike most people as “odd” would be John Francis who one day decided to not use a car (so he went everywhere on foot) and then also decided to not speak for 17 years. Because of this vow of silence, it was very difficult for him to explain to others why he chose that for himself. This tells me another aspect of a quest; the pursuer (you) need to believe in it even if it might not make sense to other people. You need to be convinced that this is something you will do, as it takes commitment and courage to see it through especially when others don’t understand or support it.

A part of the book that spoke to me the most was the last part. Chris illustrated what happens when quest comes to an end. I felt a little sad to read about what happened to Howard Weaver who took down a competing newspaper company in Alaska. After the competition was destroyed (by the newspaper he built), he was pushed out of the company he spent years building, and eventually he left the town he grew up in. There is definitely a sense of loss after a quest ends. A quest does not guarantee that you’ll live happily ever after once you have completed it. Through a quest, you will most likely grow as a person and become a different version of you, but from these stories in this book, I can tell that people don’t do it to make money or to be famous (“those are called career move”). You do it because you want to (or you feel you have to), no matter what it may bring. I personally think that while you are on your quest, you might not even feel happy 100% of the time. Gretchen Robin said that being happy comes with three components: feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right. Every quest has its own process and there will be times that it becomes another daily grind…that’s the “feeling bad” part. You might even die while pursuing your goal. But the questers in his book all say they were glad they did it, despite everything, and after that’s over, some will chose to take on another challenge.

I am writing this in a hotel room with a partial ocean view of Coronado beach. It just so happens that my 12 years of San Diego life is coming to an end this week, we had moved out from our apartment last week and we have been living in a hotel since then until we finally leave in a few days. It was not that I was not happy here…that is not why we are leaving…if anything, we have been living a nice, comfortable life where it is almost always sunny, people are friendly and beaches are just a few minutes away. As my husband put it, we are leaving a perfectly good ship. And yet, I know I need to do this so that I (and we as a family) can experience and grow. People ask why we are moving to Japan for a few years, and the left-brain answer would be so my kids can learn Japanese language and culture, so they can get to know their Japanese grandparents and relatives, and that it might give me more opportunity in terms of business and writing my next book – but my right-brain answer is just one word: adventure. I just have to move my family across the ocean so we can experience what’s out there; the good, the bad and the ugly, all of it. While I wouldn’t call my move back to my home country a quest, it is certainly an adventure as I have never lived there with my chosen family who grew up in the U.S.A. and have Japanese language skills that are emerging at best. I am certain I will miss my life here in San Diego that I worked hard to make it easy and comfortable, especially when things get stressful and tough as I am sure they will be at times. But I also know I will regret it if I did not do this. In that sense, the words of the questers in this book on why they chose to pursue what they pursued resonated with me a lot.

As for my own quest – I have two projects I am working on right now. The first one is to document my life and my children’s life by using 1 second everyday app, basically taking a video of them and preserve one second of each day. My motivation for this project is that when they grow up and ask me “what was I like when I was little?” I can show them their individual timeline. You can watch your whole year in just 6 minutes! I’ll continue this as long as my kids allow me to chase them with my iPhone video camera. Another project is to produce my podcast show where I interview people and collect their stories. So far I have produced over 80 episodes, featured stories on the life in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan, France, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates….eventually I want to showcase stories from every country in the world(do you know anyone who has gone everywhere?), though I can’t say at this point how long it will take to complete. Reading this book will inspire you to think about your own life (my friend Oliver said it’ll make you feel like you are lazy) You could start thinking about what your quest could be – but remember, it is not something you do to get other people’s approval. I wouldn’t even do it to be happy. Do it because it sounds fun, interesting or make sense to you. My two little projects fit that criteria so I’ll continue them as long as they stay that way.

Revive Your Dream (World Domination Summit 2014)

The 4th annual World Domination Summit (#WDS2014) concluded last Sunday. I have been attending this summit since the year 1 – but this time I participated as an ambassador (=volunteer to help out running the show).  I have always been curious about the ambassador team with different color shirt from the rest of us, and after attending as a participant for 3 years, I wanted to see how it’s like to be on the other side. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. Throughout the few days of being an ambassador, I found myself wanting to sing the Lego Movie theme song “Everything is Awesome” as the lyrics goes “everything is awesome when you are a part of a team”.  I did watch the movie with my boys so I know this is not necessarily a song about being unconventional or remarkable, but all jokes aside, being an ambassador was unique and wonderful way to experience WDS.

Since I was a part of the team that focused on making the attendee experience as great as possible and helping out with whatever and where-ever was needed, I really can’t write much about main stage speakers – this is not to say that I didn’t catch any of it. I was able to see about 50% of the speeches. But I was always “on duty” and constantly looking at the clock on my phone so I was not late for the next task, so I was not fully present while sitting in the audience.  I also sat different parts of the theater as opposed to the front rows where I always sat over the past three WDS (which explains a fair amount of my pictures on flicker stream from past WDS!) As a result, my level of engagement or excitement for the content of speech was very different from the past years. I look forward to catching those speeches once they become available in a few months – from talking to my friends or reading others’ blog post, I know they got a lot of inspiration out of them.

Being an ambassador was a fun experience. I loved being able to say hi to anybody, smile or attemptto give high-five without being self-conscious about it because of the orange shirt I was wearing. I do not consider myself introvert – I am right in the middle based on the test Daniel Pink recommended in his book – but being an ambassador pushed me to be extra friendly or open to talk to anyone, asking where they are from or if this was their first time attending WDS. I know I could have done all those things as a regular attendee too, but the orange ambassador shirt empowered me to do more, and also pushed me to stretch myself even when I felt tired and didn’t feel like it. Because of that, this WDS became the year I talked to the most people in all of the years I have attended. I also got to know more about other ambassadors and core team members. They are truly devoted, committed group of people. Jollie Guillebeau (Chris’s wife) reminded us right before the closing that WDS could not happen without this team and that is true. I was happy and proud to be a part of the team who believe in the vision of WDS.

At the closing, Chris did something to make me all teary. The team and he selected 4 attendees to be on stage, and after showing their vision for their future captured in the video they shot during the registration, he announced how they’d help them realizing their visions. He said “We can’t help everyone. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help someone”. One of the four people who received this incredible gift was clearly overcome by sense of shock and joy, and crying. Seeing her face got me crying too. Later when I congratulated her in person, she said it was a miracle. Of course Chris didn’t forget to remind everyone that they still have to do the work, it wasn’t like he or WDS made their dream come true. But he also said that all of us have a responsibility to help others with their dreams as well.

This last segment made me think of my past 4 years of attending WDS and what it all meant to me. Here is a short recap of what has transpired since the first WDS.

WDS 2011 – I didn’t know what to expect but I signed up right after it was announced just because Chris invited us to do so (I was and still am a true fan). It was much smaller event with just 500 attendees. Iremember the ice sculpture of the globe at the opening party and thinking “they do things differently here” as I had never seen one at a conference…. I enjoyed every minute of it including a Bollywood dance lesson during the official programming on the main stage by DJ Prachant. Yup, it really is a tradition to have him at WDS! Credit to Chris for finding such talent and bringing him in. You can read about my experience of the inaugural WDS here.

WDS 2012 opened with a keynote speech by Dr.Brene Brown who blew away everyone with her own act of vulnerability. Then at one of the attendee-lead sessions, I was so inspired to learn that someone from my own town took immediate action after the first WDS…that person was Gregory Berg, he started Radio Enso after the first WDS and he was presenting how to start a podcast show in a workshop! I was almost shocked and felt like “what did I accomplish this past year?” Looking back, I did have a baby between the first and second WDS, so I should probably cut myself some slack, but in any case, I remember thinking that I need to do something before coming back again. At the end of the last main stage speech, Chris shocked everyone with the gift of $100. WDS 2012 was truly magical from the beginning till the end. 7 months later, I used that $100 to purchase some microphones and a mixer, and I started my own podcast show. I continue to produce one show a week ever since its launch and as of this writing, 74 episodes have been released.

At WDS 2013, Darren Rowse talked about dream. Then he had Clare Bowditch perform a beautiful song and he re-appeared wearing a superman costume. His speech and Clare’s song planted seed in my mind and on my flight home, I decided to revive my dream of moving to Japan with my husband and kids for a few years – a dream I had shared with my friend Eddie Hori (@mehori) at the first WDS, but had given up after we had our third baby.  After returning home from this experience at WDS 2013, there was a big meetup in September with San Diego WDS group, and I told my friends there that I am committed to do everything in my power to make it happen.

Then, one month before this year’s WDS, it became clear that we are moving to Japan in one of the best ways we imagined possible. I saw Darren Rowse at the opening party, so I had to share this story with him – that it was him who inspired me to reconnect with my dream, and that 12 months later it is about to become a reality. He said he came back to WDS this year partly because he wanted to hear what people did with their dreams. From that perspective, this year’s WDS really felt like a celebration. Speaking of celebration, WDS has always closed with an epic party, but this year was extra special – I somehow ended up dancing on stage in the end (I believe it was the power of orange shirt), and WDS designated “party closer” DJ Prachant gave me a gift of having everyone sing Happy Birthday for me after the party ended at midnight as my birthday officially began.

I am about to embark on a new journey at the end of summer with my husband and three kids, and I have many more dreams I will pursue. At the same time, I am also curious how I could be of help to other people’s exploration of their vision. I’d like to encourage you to share your own dreams publicly, if only initially just with close friends. I, for one, would love to help in any way I can if you dare to share your dream with me.

*Photos by Armosa  Studios & Gregory Berg

My Peaceful Family Podcast: English episodes in 2013

New Year. New Beginnings.

I started My Peaceful Family Podcast on 2/2/2013, on my son’s 1st birthday.

This show features a guest who meets one of the following criteria.

– Living outside of Japan and/or can talk extensively about life abroad

– Being in a cross-cultural marriage

– Creating a life according to his/her own rules

While most of them are done in Japanese, 11 episodes were done in English in 2013. It comes with a short Japanese intro & epilogue.

Click title to listen.

Vol 2: “Unconventional Lifestyle” with Nathan Agin

Vol 3:”Travel as a Way of Life” with Nathan Agin

Vol 4:”Let’s Talk about Food!”with Nathan Agin

Vol 13: “Love at First Sight” with Yukari & Mark Davidson

Vol 21: “Voices from World Domination Summit

Vol 27: “Japanese Mom, American Dad” with Mari Beal

Vol 28: “Bilingual Education” with Mari Beal

Vol 32: “Just Married!” with Nanae & Mike

Vol 36: “Turning Japanese!?” with Brett English

Vol 44: “Reflecting on the year 2013” with Nathan Agin

Vol 45: “Welcoming New Year” with Nathan Agin

You can find this show on iTunes as well.

World Domination Summit 2013 (#WDS2013)

This year’s World Domination Summit (WDS) was different in a few ways. The biggest difference was the size; there were more people this year than previous years with over 2800 participants from 33 countries. I also traveled a lot more distance to get there unlike last two years (See my previous post for details). Here is the brief summary of my experience.

・Speakers & Workshops

My #1 favorite speaker was Jia Jiang who spoke about how he overcame the fear of rejection. His experiment of “rejection therapy” where he deliberately seeked rejections by asking outrageous things such as driving a police car or flying airplane was very inspiring. You can watch one of such experiment on his YouTube video. I heard from many attendees that they would like to do the same thing in order to overcome their own fear of rejection. Often we talk ourselves out of pursuing what we really want because we are afraid. Jia Jiang beautifully articulated how he built an intimate relationship with fear of rejection so he could go for what he wanted without being afraid.

I also enjoyed two musical performances; Clare Bowditch sang this song called “Amazing Life” at the end of Darren Rowse‘s presentation.  On the 2nd day, Steve Schalchlin who is living with HIV/AIDS performed his own songs while playing the piano, singing about the days of his struggle, later accompanied by Portland Gay Men Chorus. These musical performances were  played with such heart and soul  that they brought tears in my eyes.  Judging from the looks on the other attendees, I believe I was far from alone. I was reminded how powerful the human voice can be.

One of the workshops I attended was with Danielle LaPorte from Canada. She had many “quotable” suggestions. I have always enjoyed her talks very much as her words always come from her heart. She spoke about desire mapping and how to find one’s core desires. A few of the memorable phrases are:

“Your journey of exploration could be moneytizable”

“Love at first sight can happen when you trust it can happen”

“What if joy is your birthright?”

“Beauty is a powerful door-opener”

“Imprint yourselves with victories”

“Obsess yourself about being useful”

“Real men love curves” – this one came in response from a question about women and body image issue. She also said “either deal with it or learn to accept it”. I believe this is true for other aspects of life.

・Friends & Attendees

WDS is not just about speakers on main stage or breakout sessions. Meeting with other attendees is a core aspect of WDS. On Friday night at the Oregon Zoo, I saw lots of familiar faces from the past 2 years. Also, I became a part of a San Diego WDS group last November and we had several meetups this past 6 months, so seeing many of them again in Portland was really nice. Knowing so many people made me feel more comfortable than the past two years in social settings. I was particularly happy and proud when one of our San Diego friends won the Unconventional Race. Well done Oliver!!

・Parties!

When I told someone that this was my 3rd WDS, he said that “you must really like the parties”. I never thought of WDS as a party, but it is true. They know how to throw good parties! The opening ceremony was at Oregon Zoo with a marching band playing music while doing all kinds of crazy tricks. For the closing ceremony, they blocked off “Pioneer Square” which is at the center of downtown, and following the WDS tradition, Bollywood dance kicked off the party. In both places I had lots of fun, partly because of the music and dance, but also it was a great opportunity to connect with the old friends as well as make new ones. Of all 3 years of WDS, I had the best time at the parties this year as I knew a lot more people this time around, and it also made it easier to meet new people during this time.

Also I did a river cruise on Saturday evening where 400 WDS attendees got on a cruise ship called “spirit”. I had a good time on the cruise – I enjoyed meeting with other attendees, looking at the scenery along the coast, a view of the Portland bridges which are very unique, and beautiful sunset.  To top off an already fine voyage,  the  excursion included  swing dancing with a fellow attendee named Trevor whom I also danced with at the last year’s closing party.

・The Toast

At the closing, close to 3000 peop      le in the theater toasted with apple cider (Chris was cracking jokes on how they came to chose this beverage while close to 3000 glasses of apple cider were being distributed throughout the theater) . It was quite a view. Every year, the ending closes with bittersweet feelings as I always feel that I don’t want it to end. I must admit that I didn’t particularly love having to wait a long time to get in the main building or workshop venues, but it is true that all of the attendees are what make this event so special and that is what makes me want to come back.

・The Team

Don’t forget the amazing team of “Ambassadors”!  I felt so much love coming from them each time we walked into the theater, and a few different ambassadors helped me throughout the weekend, all of them equally helpful and very friendly. WDS came out of Chris Guillebeau’s mind but the team truly embraced his vision and created something really magical. If I lived in Portland, it would be a team I’d love to be a part of.

・Next  step

I wrote most of this blog on a flight going back to Japan. I also wrote my new goals on another list, with specific “next step” for each one. I am excited to get it started, and I will share them here in coming days.

Journey to Portland, OR (#WDS2013)

I attended the World Domination Summit(WDS) in 2011 and 2012 and had a wonderful experience in both years. This year, however, I almost did not go back.

I’m from Japan and I’ve been living in San Diego since 2002. My husband and I now have 3 sons, ages 6, 5 and 16 months old. This year, we decided to go back to Japan as a familyfor 6 weeks, starting early June, so our oldest son could have the experience of attending a school in Japan for one month. It was what I’ve always wanted to do, so I did not purchase the ticket for WDS2013. I told myself that I could not go to WDS this year.

January came around, and a good friend of mine said, it would be nice if I came. Yes, it would. Then I asked myself – why wouldn’t I?

I then realized that I was putting myself in a box – a box that is made up in my mind, putting myself in the roles such as being a mother or a wife. The self-talk sounded like “I should not go because I’m a mom of 3 kids including a baby”, “Japan is so far away from Portland, OR”, “I should not leave my husband at my parents house, that’s just not what a good wife & daughter would do”.

But then I remembered how capable my husband is in taking care of our sons, or how my parents and my husband get along well enough that they would be fine without me for a few days.

When I pitched this idea of me leaving for a few days for something I really cared about, they were very supportive. They didn’t reject me. They had already embraced who I am a long time ago and they continue to be the most supportive people in my life.

This experience reminded me that you have to be vigilant, constantly keep watch on your self-talk, and keep these “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” in check. A quick recap of WDS2013 will follow in the next post, but I wanted to write about the journey to get to Portland, OR this summer and how grateful I am for my family. Making the round trip Tokyo – Portland just for the weekend was a crazy thing to do, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it was well worth it.

How I spent my $100

I’m at Seattle airport, waiting for my flight to Portland – I am attending the World Domination Summit 2013. This will be my third year.

This past 6 months have been very strange – a lot of things happened that made me stop and think about what I was doing. Kids are growing up, even the little one started walking – he is no longer a baby! It’s a bittersweet feeling.

On his 1st birthday, I started a podcast program and have been putting a new episode every Friday – so far, 20 episodes have been put out there. I used $100 that I received at the last year’s World Domination Summit to purchase some equipment for the show. I am sure the question of “how did you spend your $100?” will come up during this year’s summit and it will give us some opportunity to reflect on what we have done this past 365 days.

I know it will be a crazy busy next 2 days, so I wanted to write this before I get on a short flight that will take me to Portland. Last year’s summit was amazing. I am sure this year’s will be as well. Most of all I am very excited to see my friends again, and make new ones. Portland, here I come!

Baby in the car…

When I take my 5 year old son, Kenta, to school in the mornings, my routine is usually to park my car, put our 14 months old in a stroller and walk him to his classroom. But last Thursday morning I drove my husband’s Honda Civic hatchback as he needed a bigger car that day to do some errands after work requiring the bigger car. So on that morning, I did something different; I just dropped him off at the curve. The plan was to watch him walk up the ramp to school before driving away. I parked the car in the loading zone, got out the car, got Kenta out of the car, walked to the other side to get his backpack and jacket from passenger seat. Just when I was about to say “good bye”, Kenta shut the door. A moment later, I realized that the door was locked, even though it was not all the way shut, with the car keys in the ignition, and of course, baby still in the car.

“Oh my…” A panic went through my head and body. I tried to wiggle the half-shut door to see if I could open it, but I knew it wouldn’t work – I had done this a few times, a long long time ago. My cell phone was in the car too and I didn’t have my husband’s work phone number or road side assistance number memorized. It was clear that I needed to get some help from strangers.  Just then, Kenta’s classmate Alex’s dad walked by. We ran into each other in the morning all the time and we always waved at each other. I walked up to him and asked if he had a moment. He said “sure”, so I explained the situation and asked him to stay by the car while I ran up to the office to get help with figuring out the phone number to call.

I walked with Kenta and left him with his class line at the daily morning assembly, and ran to the school office. “Excuse me”, I said in a hasty tone, “I need some help! I locked myself out of the car, with the key in the ignition and my baby is in the car”. While I was saying that, there was a dad dropping off a piece of paper at the office.  He heard me and said “Baby in the car?”, and offered to use his cell phone. School office staff quickly found the number I wanted to call off the internet, and that dad and I started walking towards the car while he was making the call. When we arrived at the car, he saw the car, and the baby in the car and said “I am a fire fighter. Let’s call my buddy, they’ll be here faster than the road side assistance”.

So he made the call. While waiting, a police car drove by and asked if everything was ok as they saw three of us standing next to a car with a baby inside. The firefighter dad said “yes, the engine’s coming”. We chatted while waiting, I said “I hope I am not keeping you two away from your work”. The man I thought was Alex’s dad said “No, I am a retired grandfather, I’ve got nowhere to go anytime soon”. Also the firefighter dad was not on duty that day, all he had was a dentist appointment in an hour. He also explained that the firefighters are called to open a locked car door if there is somebody in danger, and it’s a good practice for the firefighters. Even though the car was parked in a shade, and baby seems to be just smiling and all, I felt so much better knowing that the help was on the way. After a few minutes, a shiny fire engine appeared.  Four firefighters got to work from both side of the car, and the door opened in no time. I was almost in tears and I thanked everyone, especially the firefighter dad.

After they left, I re-park the car, took my baby out and walked back to the school office, letting them know that everything went well. I then walked to Kenta’s classroom and told him that the firefighters came and helped us (to that he said “hey, not fair!”, meaning he wanted to be there). We then drove home.

When I look back this incident, I feel incredibly lucky. Yes, I could have avoided all of that if I had taken out the keys, or made sure the doors were not locked – or not get out of the car without my cell phone on me.  Also, when I realized what happened, my first instinct was to call 911, but I didn’t because I was afraid to do so, and talked to myself out of it by thinking “the car is parked in a shade, and road side assistance is pretty quick too”. So I was grateful that firefighter dad was there when I was asking for help, and made that call for me. He said later that the road side assistance would have told me to call 911 in this kind of situation. So here it is, the lessons learned; Trust your instinct!  Nevertheless, I am so grateful for the angle that appeared that morning when I doubted myself. Also I am eternally grateful for our society’s first responders!!

PS…. I figured out where the fire engine came from, so I stopped by there today  to express my gratitude. They were really nice and showed us around the firehouse, which made my boys’ day!

Meet Nathan Agin

Nathan Agin came into our lives about 2 weeks ago. Here is what I knew before I decided to open up our place for him to stay: He is a traveler, a foodie, a fellow World Domination Summit (WDS) attendee, and he comes with great cooking skills. He was all of that and then some.
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During the past two weeks, we had a pleasure of having him around. He cooked for us, showed us what more we could do with our Vitamix (ultra-blender), how he decides what to eat, not to eat and why. He greatly influenced my thoughts about healthier food choices – now my breakfast is green smoothie instead of bread or cereal.  He did this not by telling me what to do but by showing that you can actually make healthy stuff that are delicious.
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He was also very kind and always willing to help out. Not only did he give me some tips on how to create a podcast, he was happy to be interviewed by me for my podcast program. We had lots of fun discussing WDS, travel and food. It will be available for the world to listen once the show launches in coming months.
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There was also an unexpected event during his stay. One day when he was in our place by himself, he noticed that his stuff on the kitchen counter top is wet with water. He realized that water was leaking from the ceiling, and he went upstairs to see what was going on and talked to the upstairs neighbors. That’s something I would not have done if I was staying at someone’s house by myself, but he did, because he is just that kind of a guy, always looking for a solution, taking action, and goes above and beyond when called for.
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For a young, single guy, he is also very good with kids. Our middle son loved to climb on him or sit on his lap and watched him do stuff on his computer. He has been travelling past 2.5 years, and mostly couch-surfed, so he lived at a variety of settings and with different people. When I asked kids what they remember most about Nathan, our oldest said “he didn’t act like a guest. He was like a family or someone in charge, like cooking stuff”. Our middle son said “He loves to hike. And travel”. In short period of time, Nathan had huge impact on our family.
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On our last day together, we went to a meditation garden in Encinitas – one of my favorite places. It was a gorgeous day and we were standing at the top of a hill looking over the ocean. We talked about some deep topics such as who we really are if we are not defined by what we do. As we said good-bye in front of Starbucks in Encinitas (omnipresent temporary office for nomadic people), I wondered if he will continue travelling or possibly change course, as he shared (both online and in person) some of his thoughts that came up in considering his next move.  I sensed that he is partly afraid of stopping now because of this question: who will he be if he is not travelling?
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As I started writing this post, I continued to ponder this question. Who are you if you are not doing all the stuff that are (in your mind) making you an interesting person? And it occurred to me. We tend to think that we are what we do, and people like us because of our ability to do something. But is that really true? Yes, he might not be the “food and travel guy” if he doesn’t travel anymore. But that does not mean he will stop being all the things he already is; kind, intelligent, helpful, upbeat, motivating, fun-loving and adventure-seeking. We are not defined by what we do , but who we are will guide us to choose what we do – or rather, who we are will show up in EVERYTHING we do, even during the process of “trying to figure it out”. I will continue following his path on his blog, and will see him in Portland, OR at the third annual WDS in July. Whether he will continue travelling or not, I will cheer him on his journey as a friend. Thank you, Nathan, for enriching our lives. Until we meet again!

World Domination Summit 2012

World Domination Summit 2012 ended last Sunday. It was my 2nd time to attend this conference (I wrote about the first one here). This year, it was twice the size from last year, and it was amazing to see this beautiful theater filled with 1000 attendees. What’s more, apparently some 5000 more people wanted to come.

The most memorable speaker for me was Brené Brown. I wasn’t familiar with her work before I heard her speak, but I am now a fan. She talked about vulnerability.  The topic happened to coincide with an area I’ve been  working on these past few years. Most of us are so afraid of being or feeling vulnerable. She then talked about the value of keeping our heart open even when we want to shut down, withdraw or hide, because that is what keeps us connected with people, and with the world. It’s what makes us feel. She said that “the capacity to be wholehearted can’t be greater than your willingness to be heartbroken”.

After seeing her speak, and sharing the experience of singing the song “Don’t stop believing”, a popular song by Journey, with everyone in the theater full of people, I remember thinking “this alone was worth coming here”. You can read a back story of this occurring in a blog post by Brandon Sutton, who took over the microphone from Chris (in picture) after a while. Reading Brandon’s post reminded me that nothing is quite how it seems on surface, as he looked calm and confident as if he was practicing for this performance…

Then there was Cal Newport, author of “How to be a high school superstar”. He talked about how thefamiliar advice of “Follow your passion” is a bad career advice, based on his research and discovery. He said that nothing is quite as simple as the phrase suggests. He talked about the value of craftsmanship, spending 10,000 hours or more to be truly great at something, how we all should want to strive for mastery – and how the most satisfied and happy people at their jobs share common “patterns” in their career paths. When you come to this kind of conference and hear the speakers talk, you might think that the people up on the stage make everything so easy, and “anyone can do what they can do”. Or just the opposite, they might make you think that they possess something special  that you don’t, and you can’t do what they do. The truth, of course, may lie somewhere in between. Anything worth doing, and more importantly, anything that creates a lasting impact will take time to master, and one needs to put in some serious effort. Those who are the happiest at their job have spent time doing the work and got really good at a rare and valuable skill, to the point that they can leverage those “career capital” to gain general traits(characteristics of the life you want), so their life can be filled with the value of their choice. Cal concluded his speech with this remark “Do what Steve Jobs did, NOT what he said”, meaning that when you closely look at his career, creating a computer was not his #1 passion to begin with. According to Cal, if Steve Jobs had followed his passion back then, he probably would have become Zen instructor. Overall, I enjoyed Cal’s speech a lot. It reminded me that in the world of instant gratification, sticking to one thing and pursue until it becomes your passion, has lots of value. It can also be a good relationship/marriage advice. Rather than try to find what you love, learn to love what you already have….

Then there was Chris Guillebeau. At the end of these mind-turning, heart-opening, inspiration-loaded 2 days, he managed to shock us once again. He shared that unlike last year where they lost about $30,000, this year they came out ahead and made a small profit.  Then he talked about an anonymous donation that came after the last year’s summit. He announced that he would invest that money in us, the 1000 attendees of this conference. He told us that we were all going to receive a $100 each when we walk out of the venue, so we could do something good and meaningful with it. When he said that, I felt like I could hear what people are saying in their heads while quietly gasping in shock and disbelief. The picture above was taken when he just announced. In the end, we walked away with an envelop which contained $100 bill and a small card that said “Thanks for making #WDS2012 a fantastic experience. We’d love to see how you can put these funds to good use. Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different – it’s up to you”.

How will my life be different because of this experience? How can I make someone’s life different, or make a positive change in this world? These are the big questions I still need to answer. But first thing first, my birthday is coming up in exactly 3 days! Since I pledged to give up my next birthday at the end of the presentation by Scott Harrison for his charity: water,  I created this page and started a campaign to raise money so we can give more people access to clean water all over the world. Please join me to make it happen!

Thank you Chris, the action team and the ambassadors, all of the speakers, and all those who attended and became part of this experience!

*Photos by Armosa  Studios

New Beginnings (again)

Our son was born on 2/22/2012. I was secretly hoping to have him on that date so it was a happy coincidence that he actually decided to be born that day. I started having contractions the night before, and decided to go to the hospital in the morning after having breakfast and taken kids to schools. Delivery went smoothly and uneventful, and he was born at 3:04 in the afternoon that day. Our kids came to see him later at the hospital that  evening. It was definitely an emotional day for me.
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Fast forward three months – he is growing nicely, despite the fact that he has been hospitalized twice already. On the first incident, he developed a lump on his upper right cheek when he was  about 7 days old, and it wasn’t getting smaller over time.  We decided to present the lump to an after-hours pediatrician on the weekend instead of waiting until Monday, who sent us to the Emergency Room. He was admitted to NICU that evening and spent next 10 days in the hospital – it turned out he was infected with MRSA. We never found out how he’s got it, but apparently MSRA bacteria is among us (Community-MRSA) so it could have been anywhere. After ten somewhat stressful days, he was able to come home with oral antibiotics. After another week or so, he got a clean bill of health and was able to wean off all the meds.
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Then just last week, he developed a high fever, and after consulting with nurse over the phone, we decided to take him into the ER again. My husband took him in and while he was at ER, his oxygen level dropped to an alarming level where nurses made the call to intervene  with an oxygen mask. Naturally doctors wanted to keep him for observation. His fever spiked even higher later in the morning, so he stayed two more nights, doing all kinds of tests. Well, they ruled out bacteria, and dangerous kinds of viruses. They never figured out what caused the fever in the first place, but he was better by the 2nd night so he was discharged from the hospital.
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At home, Baby Hirot likes to be held a lot. He is a good eater. He recently started smiling and making quiet cute audial baby noises. Our older sons, now 4.5 years old and almost 6 years old, love their baby brother. It is one of my favorite things to see how much they adore him. Another thing about him is that, unlike most babies, he doesn’t like riding in a car seat and he almost always cries. When I tell people I have three boys, most people say “Wow”. Sometimes people ask me if I wanted a girl, and/or ask if we would still try for a girl. To that, I say – after having lost the previous pregnancy at 16 weeks, I am kind of over that boy/girl thing, and that I am grateful that we were given another chance to raise another baby. But sometimes people press like “You must try for a girl” or “At some point you should give up, right?” To that, I don’t really know what to say. The other day, one of the teachers at my son’s preschool said “Three boys! You are a chosen mom”. I liked that comment a lot (I do think I am good at making cute boys). I hope this trip to ER followed by hospital stay does not become his “thing” – we need to reinforce more strict hand-washing before touching him – but that kind of experience gives you perspective. Nothing is certain or guaranteed in life. We are all given equal chance of choosing to feel grateful and make the most of the time or the situation. I am grateful to be given another day with him, and with everyone in my family.
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