“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.

“The End”

The final episode of the TV show “Lost” aired last Sunday. (Spoiler Alert! Stop reading now if six-feet-underyou don’t want to know the ending) Even though I was not a rabid fan who religiously watched the show weekly over the last 6 years,  I did watch many of the  episodes this past season on-line. For the most part I was satisfied with how it ended, and was happy to see the last scene. Depending on your point of view, it was a happy ending. It made me think that dying is not at all a bad thing. It also reminded me of the last episode of my all time favorite HBO TV show “Six Feet Under”. Everyone dies sooner or later, no one escapes from it. But if you have come to terms with yourself as who you are and have made peace with what you have done, or what has happened to you or to people you care about, you can move onto what comes next after you die. The possibility of reuniting with people mattered to me most is definitely something to look forward to when it’s my turn to cross that bridge.

It was interesting to read people’s reaction in the comments section of abc.com where I watched the last episode. Some people were not happy at all about the last episode. It seemed that there were lots of questions unanswered especially about the secrets of the Island. Some expressed their frustration by saying things like “I wasted six years for this ending!?” While I understand their sentiments, I wondered if those who felt cheated really did not enjoy this past 6 years watching the show. I hope they kept watching it not just to learn what happens in the end, but also because it was entertaining, thrilling, or touching. It’s like anything in your life. Like the spiritual teacher in the movie “Peaceful Warrior” said, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. If your eyes are only looking at where you are going and not paying attention to the surroundings, you might be disappointed when the view at the destination is not as pretty as you had expected. But if you have immersed yourself in the experience and fully enjoyed the process of getting there, what’s in the end matters less, if at all. In a sense, we all know what happens in the end at this life – we all die – so it should make sense to most people that it’s not what happens in the end but how much you experience in the process of getting there. The last episode of “Lost” also suggested that how you live your life dictates how you die or who would be around you when you die. Did you live your life fully today? Make it count as you never know when you get there.

Opportunity Is….

I recently had a chance to take a peak at this book called “Survivor’s Club” (Japanese 416woct79rl__sl500_aa300_translation) at Kodansha International office while waiting for someone. In this book, the author Ben Sherwood showcased several survivors of catastrophic real-life events in attempt to examine what it takes to survive such an event and to gain insight of “the secrets and science that could save your life” which is the tag-line of this book. It looked interesting and I scanned through it for a few minutes, and I came across this web-site URL:


What did you think about this URL?

According to the author of this book, this works as a simple yet effective test to see if you have “glass half-full” or “half-empty” type of mentality. You might have read this as “opportunity is nowhere”. Well it’s not very encouraging, right? The other way to read this is “opportunity is now here”.  Remember, your brain will look for evidence of your beliefs – whether it is true or not. Look for opportunities and you will find them, it’s all around you. Same goes for love – look for love, and it is all around you. Look for supportive friends if you are going for your dreams, and I can assure you, you will find them. I suppose you can also guess which type of people is more likely to survive in the catastrophic events. Do you have what it takes to be one of them?

How Much Is Your Dream Worth?

I watched this movie “Up in the Air” in December last year, 2009. I like George Clooney (I’ve been a fan movie-release-up-in-the-air_articleimagewhen he was still playing a doctor in “ER”), and even though the story wasn’t as convincing towards the end, I still enjoyed it. George Clooney plays Ryan, a jet-set executive flying around the country firing people on behalf of his clients. There was a series of scenes where he told people that they are let go, and he had to handle their reaction and lead them to take a “transition package” and leave the room.

Considering how the economy has been struggling the last few years, one might say that the movie hits too close to home and the storyline is depressing. However, one of the most memorable lines also came from one of those firing scenes. Ryan fired a guy with two children, and he got understandably upset – he stated that he is old and he can’t be a superstar in sports or anything like that. Ryan then said “But you can cook”, pointing out that he has gone to a culinary school by looking at his resume. Then he asked, “For how much money did you to give up your dream?” While I forget what the exact number was (probably mid-20K or low 30K),  I thought that was a very powerful question. My husband and I talked about this after the movie. I believe some people know themselves well enough that they know what they want to be when they grow up at an early age, but there are many who still do not know even in their 40’s to 50’s. I wondered how many people can answer that question like the guy did in the movie. Knowing how much your first job paid is one thing, but what about your dream? I believe that some people don’t even know what it was – or is.

In my case, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was 21. I tried to find jobs in my 4th year of college, without knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, and naturally  I didn’t find anyone who’d hire me. I believe that I was lucky that I didn’t find a job at that time, because that forced me to look at myself and ask some serious questions. In the end, I decided that I want to work for the United Nations and took the path to pursue that goal. Now, many years later, I am on to pursue my new dream, but it was because I learned back then that it’s up to me to decide what I want to do and do what I need to do to achieve it. I hope that many people will find that to be true for themselves. To assist anyone who needs support in pursuing their dreams, I’ll start a group where people come together and encourage each other in going for their dreams. Stay turned for more information!

Princess And Frog

A few weeks ago we went to a military movie theater with our kids to watch a Disney movie “Princess and Frog”. I was curious if our older son could sit through a 90 minutes animation film, and princess-and-frog-posterit turned out he did fine for the most part, though there were some parts where a voodoo doctor appeared which was scary for him. It was an entertaining story with so much color and music, with an unique storyline; The main character Tiana turned into a frog when she kissed a voodoo cursed frog, thinking it’ll turn him back to a prince. Together they visit Mama Odie, hoping that she’d undo the curse, but she told Tiana that she needs to understand the difference between what she wants and what she needs. Continue reading

My Sister’s Keeper

I recently watched the movie “My Sister’s Keeper”. It is based on a novel with the same title, however the movie differs from the novel slightly. It is about a girl, Anna, whose DNA was my_sisters_keeper_postergenetically designed so she could be a perfect donor to her older sister, Kate, who has leukemia.  In the movie, Anna, age 11, decides to sue her parents seeking to win control of her own body on the grounds of medical emancipation  as she no longer wanted to give her body parts to help her sister due to the potential impact it would have for her own life. Despite this serious theme, I found the movie enjoyable and somewhat uplifting. It was also thought provoking; would  parents really go as far as having another, genetically designed baby so they’d have a perfect donor to their dying child? Where is the line between wanting to do everything within their power to help, and going too far? Continue reading

I’d Rather See A Sermon…

Some time ago, my husband and I watched the movie “Seven Samurai” which was highly recommended by my friend Henry. It is an old movie (1954) made by the CB059174world famous film director Akira Kurosawa. We enjoyed it very much. It is about a village of farmers that decided to hire seven samurai (ronin; masterless samurai)  to defend themselves from an impending attack of bandits instead of letting the bandits steal their crops after the harvest. There were many things to be said about this movie. I liked what Kanbei (the head Samurai) said to others when he was trying to recruit his small army. He was honest about it up front and said “I have a job that brings you no money and no fame”. Continue reading

Meeting with Hayao Miyazaki, the Worlds’ Best Creator of Animated Film

My husband and I just came back from a special full-screening of the movie “Ponyo”, which is the latest animated film created by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki made an appearance and talked about the film prior to the movie. In order to get in the theater in downtown San Diego, my husband went there to get in line and waited for a few hours. After I got off work, I joined him and waited some more, during which I wrote most of this post.

6a00d8341c630a53ef01157231e806970b-500wi Continue reading

Spirited Away

I recently re-watched the movie, “Spirited Away”, a Japanese animation film created by Hayao Miyazaki. The main character is a sullen ten-year-old girl named Chihiro. In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, they wind up in a mystical town where gods, spirits, and monsters get together spirited-awayfor a retreat at a bathhouse. At some point, Chihiro got separated from her parents and had to rely on her inner strength to survive there and to find her way home. In the DVD, there was a bonus feature which explained how Miyazaki came up with this basic plot. He revealed that Chihiro had a model – a daughter of a friend of Miyazaki’s. Chihiro was described “typical, apathetic and lazy” 10-year-old before winding up in this mystical town. After going through a phase of denial, Chihiro accepted her fate and started tapping into her inner strength. Continue reading


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the movie “Departures”. The main character (Daigo) takes on a job as a “Nokan-shi”, a person who performs the ritual of “encoffinments” which consists of washing the body, putting on a new kimono and putting make up on the face. Daigo didn’t know what exactly the job was about before going in for an interview – he answered a classified ad entitled “Departures”, thinking it must be some kind of travel agency, only to discover the true nature of the job. The employer somehow talked him into “trying the job for a few days”. When he came home, he told his wife that he found a job, but he didn’t tell her the whole truth. He let her believe that it was a job at a wedding sugchapel. For a while, he sneaked around to conceal the truth as he was not ready to tell her, which created comical scenes in the movie, but in their lives it created distance between the couple. When Daigo’s wife finally found out what he has actually been doing, she was furious. She asked him why he didn’t tell her, and he said “I didn’t think you’d approve”. Sure enough, she didn’t think it was a good profession for her husband, and she gave him an ultimatum that it will be either life with her without that job, or vice versa. Continue reading

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