Found yourself with an empty book of business due to the Coronavirus? Join this free online community of entrepreneurs , freelancers, and professionals focused on accountability and action to make March 2020 meaningful to future success. Sessions are in English and based on Tokyo time – all are welcome!
What do you need from the group this week? What do you bring to the group this week?
Monday Morning Accountability Kick Off Schedule
Monday March 2nd, 2020 8:30am to 9:30am JST Monday March 9th, 2020 8:30am to 9:30am JST Monday March 16th, 2020 8:30am to 9:30am JST Monday March 23rd, 2020 8:30am to 9:30am JST Monday March 30th, 2020 8:30am to 9:30am JST
Mid-Week Power Hour
Wednesday Afternoons means Mid-week Power Hour We will use appreciative inquiry as a way to get new perspectives on our challenges and fire up through hump day! We hold this early afternoon as 2:07pm is the sleepiest time of the day. Brainstorming in our community will leave us energised and ready for action!
How will you #makemarchmatter?
Bring a specific challenge or opportunity to discuss and get insight for the group to move you forward!
Wednesday Mid-Week Power Hour Schedule
Wednesday March 4th, 2020 13:30 to 14:30 JST Wednesday March 11th, 2020 13:30 to 14:30 JST Wednesday March 18th, 2020 13:30 to 14:30 JST Wednesday March 25th 2020 13:30 to 14:30 JST
TGIF (Or Thursday!) Week in Review
We made it! Wrap up the week with a review – brags, failures, new ideas and inspiration. TGIF! (although sometimes this will happen on a Thursday due to my schedule and the National Holiday!)
How will you #makemarchmatter?
TGIF (or TH) Week in Review Schedule
Here are where things get a little complicated and subject to possible change!
Friday, March 6th, 2020 17:00 to 18:00 JST Friday, March 13th, 2020 11:00 to 12:00 JST (Schedule may change ) Thursday, March 19th, 2020, 17:00 to 18:00 JST (Friday is a National Holiday) Thursday, March 26th, 2020 17:00 to 18:00 JST (Schedule may change)
I’m writing this as my incredibly health son starts three days of 学級閉鎖 (class shutdown) for the flu rampaging his class. It’s common practice in Japan that if a third of the students are sick to shut down the class to prevent the further spread of infectious diseases. Needless to say: Working parents hate it! We are fortunate that we are both in jobs where we can work from home if needed. And as I mentioned, my son is not stricken with the flu and is generally very 元気 (full of energy), sometimes too much. So in the great scheme of things, I’m grateful of how things turned out!
Whilst I try to keep him off the Nintendo Switch, I’m trying to work out an issue with a client over an upcoming Points of You® Academy programme in February. After cancelling programmes in 2019 due to not meeting the minimum requirement of 6 people, I find myself having to stop ticket sales as we are overflowing the room at 10. Argh! What should I do?
It all reminds me of working at Wall Street Associates (now en world) after my first maternity leave and I was put in charge of Client Relationships and organising “Leaders of Japan” networking events for our C-Level clients. I was reporting directly to the CEO, Nick Johnston. As we were drawing up the lists of potential guests, I started to panic,
“But Nick, what if too many people come? What if we are over subscribed?”
“What? Why are we worrying about Champagne problems?”
“Huh?” My blank face showed him I had no idea what he was talking about.
“This isn’t a problem. It’s great! If we are oversubscribed, brilliant! We can create a waiting list, we can run another event at a later date. We know that we have really hit the nail on the head and the clients love this idea.
“That’s a champagne problem. Not a problem at all but an opportunity. Next!”
A quick search today on google shows me that the term “champagne problems” generally seems to be another way to say #firstworldproblems, talking about the scale and impact of your “problem” in the context of wider social issues like conflict, poverty and so on.
However, I prefer Nick’s view and the lessons on reframing and giving yourself the option to think about the opportunity to achieve more than you thought was possible.
I often talk about champagne problems with Japanese managers in the midst of organisational transformation. When we have an organisational culture with a tendency to focus on what might go wrong, to avoid risk by not taking any, we keep ourselves in a holding pattern.
“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”
We should not be a Pollyanna and be blindly optimistic but allowing room for an exploration of the upside of success can be thrilling, motivating and, most importantly, give opportunities for further innovation and brainstorming.
I also hear clients complain about the challenges of working with a team that is “too diverse”. Again, I am like “what?! You are having creative conflict and you have a chance to really leverage the benefits of different perspectives. Champagne problem! Next!”
So next time, you hear someone complain about being too busy because of too many customer requests, or having to take time out of their schedule to onboard their new hire, remind them of the idea of champagne problems and ask them how they can reframe this as an opportunity.
I’ll remind myself that I can enjoy some quality time with my son and enjoy his company one on one for the next three days! #champagneproblems
What type of situations might thinking about champagne problems be useful for you?
So how did this lass from Bury, in the north west of England, become so interested in this Japanese concept of Ikigai?
Of course, moving to Japan in 1999 with proximity to the culture would be a simple explanation but I did not become aware of the concept until 2017. It was only after I discovered my Ikigai that I discovered Ikigai.
I wish I had known about it in 2015. It really was my “annus horribilis”.
The year began with me laid up in bed with a slipped disc. Agony whatever I did, unable to lie comfortably or move around, unable to take care of my family or commute on a crowded train to Tokyo to go to work. I could not sit or stand. Lying down was not even that much respite. I endured some terrible physio that probably made the issue worse before I asked around locally and finally found someone who could help.
But during these weeks as I struggled with pain and felt let down by my body for the first time in my adult life, I started to sink into depression. I cried when I could not carry my infant son, or even do simple jobs around the house, I could not play with or comfort my daughter. There were no more impromptu dance parties, tickle fights or circus skills. I was never a great cook but now the act of shopping, cooking and cleaning up was more than I could handle.
Who was I as a mother?
So to my husband. He had to take on all the caregiving, as well as his full time job. As a Japanese salaryman, even at an enlightened company, the fact that he could not do overtime every day was beginning to take its toll. And as for intimacy…well, that was very far from my mind. And not only in the physical sense. I had no energy to listen to his troubles, no fire in my heart to support and cheer him on. I was locked in my own suffering and frustration.
Who was I as a wife and partner?
And then my work. Truth be told, I was glad not to have the commute. Something had shifted in my engagement and satisfaction. I had been with my company since 2004. They were challenging but enjoyable years. However, after my second maternity leave I came back to a different job, with a different boss. And to be frank, I was underperforming in my role. I had no fire in my belly for the work. More importantly for the first time in my career I did not feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie with the people on my team. I could not see where the role would take me.
Who was I in my career? What was my role in the firm?
In the key places where I defined my identity, (mother, wife, professional), I felt a failure. I felt I had nothing to offer.
There were a few bright spots. I had an incredibly supportive network of women through my leadership of a Lean In Circle, a peer to peer networking group, that I founded in Tokyo. I also had the camaraderie of my local running group although obviously running was off the cards during this period.
With perfect 20:20 hindsight, I see that the slipped disc was a great way of getting me to slow down. I was forced to take stock of my life and what I valued.
The slipped disc was certainly a real issue. I have the MRI scans to prove it. I can’t help but think that I was sending myself a warning. Something had broken inside me and I could not get out. Be warned, gentle reader, that I will talk a LOT about listening to your body. The signs that our parasympathetic nervous system sends us are an incredibly valuable message.
Then slowly, slowly, the pain relief started to work. I was able to return to “normal” life and pick up all those roles again. But the seed had been planted and the nagging thought in my mind was there.
“Without these things, these roles that I thought defined me, who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?”
Big questions with no easy answers. And as a harried working mum with a young family, they were questions that were easy to ignore.
Around the time that I started to recover, I had dinner with a friend, Renee.
“How are things?” she asked.
“Not so terrible” I said, trying to reframe my current situation, to put it in perspective of my #firstworldproblems. I wanted to remind my self that in the great scheme of humanity that as an Oxford educated, white woman in a white collar job in Tokyo with a healthy family, a lovely house and many options and support, things were indeed not so terrible.
“But darling, Jen! Not so terrible is not the goal. You deserve more. Everyone does!”
And then it hit me, that I was settling. I started to think about how it was possible to give myself permission to ask for more. It wasn’t greedy or self indulgent to want more and by aiming only for “not so terrible” I was holding myself back. By settling in a role that I wasn’t engaged in, I was also becoming a drain on resources in my firm. I was transforming into the very type of colleague that I most disliked: The safe, the bored, the clock in/ clock out, the ranks of the disengaged.
Was this the limit of my potential? Why am I here? What is my purpose?
Around the time of this dinner, a couple of other moments of clarity came to me. Once we start to pay attention, the messages start coming thick and fast. Perhaps that is why you are reading this now?
Realizing that I had been sent a wake up call in the form of a shut down of my body, I had decided to take action. I was working with Anne Good, an executive coach, and drilling down on these questions of purpose, strengths and life design. On our regular Skype calls, we focused on creating possibilities for potential next steps. I developed awareness of my unique strengths. I met fabulous people with really interesting jobs through informational interviewing. I clawed back the agency and control that I had lost over the last 12 months. I found that I was improving relationships within my team, meeting inspiring people with interesting stories and leaning into what I loved.
I attended a speech by Dr. Bob Tobin, author of “What do you want to create today?” and he asked the room “What is your dream?” And in that question, I had the saddest realization. I don’t have a dream. I can’t see beyond the hamster wheel of my work and family life. I am coasting, waiting for things to happen to me. I could not believe it but the truth was staring me in the face. I had given up on the idea of hopes and dreams for myself.
And yet, and yet… I started to see something, a power and presence in me that emerged when I was facilitating the LeanIn Circle. There was a monthly moment of flow. It was during those meetings that I felt the most energized. The most useful. The most me.
From these insights about strengths, possibility, dreams and flow, a new perspective emerged. There might be something else out there for me that could work!
I announced in a session that I wanted to return to L&D and to pursue options in facilitation and coaching. Anne, my coach asked me, “What if you stay in this job and spend the next 6-12 months studying to be a coach?”
Shudder – it was a visceral reaction, the churn in my stomach. I may have even been a little sick in my mouth! Overwhelming feelings of dread at the thought of showing up every day and becoming a little more broken each month.
But then, the practical side of maintaining the status quo held me. What would I do instead? How could I make a living? I was terrified of that too.
This is where I realized the importance of all those informational interviews. Meeting diverse people who can suggest options of how to live or choices to make that you did not know were possible. I met with Ted Agatsuma, an experienced HR professional who was now working as a consultant. I bemoaned the jobs which I had seen on the market in L&D and Training.
“I want to be a practitioner, Ted. I want to be in the room with people and see the aha moments with them!
“The only way that is going to happen is if you set up your own company and freelance,” he told me in a very matter of fact way. And just as the words “I can’t set…” started to come out of my mouth, I stopped myself. What if I could? What might it look like?
And from that moment on, it was all systems go. With the support of my family and the promise of paying my half of the mortgage for a year from my husband, I set about planning the launch of my sole proprietorship.
I had dinner with Ted on February 26th, 2016. Resigned in early May and the business was launched on June 29, 2016 with the help of the first professional I hired, Yasuko Mori, who remains my wonderful and supportive Tax Accountant.
Looking back on my personal experience, I see how useful it would have been to use the Ikigai framework. Once I had a clear understanding of what I loved, what I was good at, what I could be paid for and what the world needed, I was able to take action. Once I worked out what would make me jump out of bed rather than battle the pain of a slipped disc, I was able to start moving forwards.
So as I said, It was only after I discovered my Ikigai that I discovered Ikigai.
We were absolutely stumped on one of the missions in the Tokyo Metro: The Underground Mysteries over the new year. The four of us just could not work it out. The kids got gradually more crabby and we could see the sun getting low in the winter sky. Finally we admitted defeat and opened the page with the answer.
Which I will not reveal – NO SPOILERS!
It was so frustrating not to be able to work out how the answer was reached. Even though we knew where we needed to go next we didn’t know why. (reminds me of my post on when hitting goals feels like failure!) There was a niggling annoyance and disappointment. But time was ticking and it we needed to get moving. Oh well!
Before we got ready to leave the cafe, I popped to the loo. As I was washing my hands, suddenly I had a flash of inspiration. Could it really be that simple? Was it possible that that was the answer?
“Hey, DH, you know the thingy does it have a whatchamacallit on it?!” (I told you no spoilers!)
And, yes, it did! We understood how to solve the puzzle. I felt so light and happy!
We all know, in theory, that when we are stumped by a problem we need to create some distance, allow the brain some time to access it. Last week was a really perfect example of this unconscious processing in action.
“Unconscious processing” is the third step in James Webb Young’s 1965 classic “A Technique for Producing Ideas“. And we’ve all experienced it! You know the feeling of the Eureka moment- having our best ideas in the shower, whilst taking a walk, doing something completely different to just let the brain do its job without things being so hard. It really questions the point of brainstorming in meetings and exposes why it is so hard for teams to be innovative in those environment.
As a side note, I recently heard Emily Aarons on James Wedmore’s podcast talking about why that whole water on the head in the shower is such a great way to have ideas – an interesting idea of the power of chakras if that floats your boat! I’ll take the magic and the science – whatever helps!
How to apply Unconscious Processing in daily life?
What ideas are you finding tough at the moment? Where have you been working hard but not seeing any new connection or inspiration?
It might be time to step away from the whiteboard, post its or screen and create some space for unconscious processing.
With no scientific proof, here are five simple ideas to make like Elsa and let it go!
Find water – take a bath, jump in the shower, sit on the loo, walk by the river, go for a swim, wash your hands – Find flow!
Take a hike!… or a walk, or climb the stairs, go for a run – get some exercise endorphins to move your brain into a new state
Get your hands dirty – sketch, colouring in for grown ups, play with modelling clay, legos, play a musical instrument – focus on some different parts of your body to forget about your conscious brain.
Pause – ah yes, the Points of You® favourite for transitions, shifting energy and opening up to inspiration. Mindfulness, meditation, or just sit and listen to some music.
Would love to hear your ideas about unconscious processing in the comments!
Want your team to discover unexpected but precise connections? Points of You® Experiences are great places to unlock new perspectives and innovate in an inclusive environment. Take a look at some of the corporate workshops (including finding your individual and corporate ikigai) or contact me to set up a meeting to create a custom made workshop for 2020!
At the second half of 2019, I set myself a goal of finishing 26 books. I didn’t quite make it but I really enjoyed the process and the accountability of announcing it publicly, posting on SNS (Facebook and LinkedIn).
Someone suggested that I start using Goodreads and I put it off until this year so I could start clean! So here we are – 40 books in a year. Watch this space for my progress with quite a few to come in the first few weeks as I have several books on the go near completion!
When did you work with Jennifer Shinkai (event, date, her role, areas of expertise)? How did she add value to your organisation?
Bosch Corporation Aftermarket Japan, Gasshuku – Management Bootcamp Nov. 2019: She provided facilitator role with concepts as Points of You®, 4 Tendencies and Appreciative Inquiry in Japanese and English. Focus on Self Awareness as the source of change that needs to enable the whole organization for the transformation in the Automotive industry.
Create creative ideas and sample process to MVP with out-of-box-thinking and Design Thinking Methods, customer centricity and fun in mind.
We all left the day of facilitation exhausted, but happy with a smile for the different perspectives we had a chance to enter.
What were her strengths as a facilitator/moderator/coach? How would you describe her style? What was it like to work with her?
Empathetic and strong in group management, Jennifer always knew what the group needed (we started with a meditation! :-)) and set the tone with different tools throughout the day.
Her bilingual language skills were highly appreciated and were one of the main reasons for many managers to actively participate throughout the whole day.
Why would you recommend her to facilitate workshops/ offer coaching for other organisations?
Great input from various different sources, I met Jennifer due to a Ikigai workshop, which I thought we could do with our management group, but in the course of preparation, we realized it wasn’t the right thing. She has a huge toolset of different methods to unveil more potential in your group.
Any other comments? Questions or Ideas?
Highly recommend Jennifer, great investment of budget and time into a more inclusive and empathetic team !
Joo-Seuk Maing AA/SMS-JP, Marketing Director, BOSCH Japan
In November I attended the Mashing Up Conference again. I really love this event because it’s “cool”. It has a casual vibe and is just a bit edgier than your average D&I “empowerment” conference. The team do try to bring some different ideas to the stage as well as some local legends.
I was happy to join two discussions where I could listen to the wry and laser sharp insights of one of those legends, Chizuko Ueno, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo who used her entrance ceremony speech as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the reality of institutional gender discrimination in Japan. Ueno sensei has an amazing delivery style where she challenges with the sweetest, most innocent question that just stops other panelists in their tracks. It is magic to watch!
In the first session, Ueno sensei talked about the family structure – here is the info from the Mashing Up website.
“Families that get along forever = wonderful.” This value is strong in Japanese society, but it is also true there are people who are suffering due to their family relationships. What should families be like, including people who are alone, people caring for family members, and husbands and wives having different family names? Those things will be reconsidered.
One idea in particular struck me in relation to my work on Ikigai and creating long and healthy lives worth living.
Talking on the subject of 介護 (elder care), Ueno sensei mentioned that she is hearing many adult children say
“I will look after my mother because I love her. But my father?! No way! I can’t stand him.”
It struck me as such a sad and terrible view. I thought about all the fathers who have been focused on their companies with no time for their families. The result is fathers who are so focused on financially supporting the family that they become alienated from the lack of relationship.
Men’s ikigai and their role in the family
A few weeks ago as part of my Ikigai research, I met with Dr. Akihiro Hasegawa, Associate Professor at Toyo Eiwa University and an ikigai researcher. He told me a similar story. Japanese men who live in multi-generational households with their sons after retirement report a decrease in their ikigai. Dr. Hasegawa explains that this is because their ikigai was so tied up in their self identity as the breadwinner, the head of the household, that when the generational roles shift, they lose their sense of self and purpose. Dr. Hasegawa’s research shows a strong link between having an ikigai and better health, slower onset of dementia and so on.
(As a side note, I asked if there was any impact to living with adult daughters and the answer was no. It seems that the father’s ego can survive that relationship into old age!)
Again, this idea of isolated fathers struck me as so sad and yet also so avoidable if we can change the working style and support people living different types of partnerships at home with an emphasis on family first. Glen Wood is doing a lot to raise awareness on パパハラ(Papa Hara – paternity harassment). It isn’t easy for men to ask for permission to break from the サラリマン salariman stereotype and spend time with their families. But the social and personal costs of isolation in old age for these types of people are no longer sustainable.
What do you think?
How can we start to address this problem? Some efforts are being made at the policy level but what can private enterprises and individuals do to support a healthier and happier second life and what might be the positive impact on society from that.
I remember learning early in my career that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (although that myth may have been busted). I think we can all agree that it takes much less time to break one.
Over the period of the Rugby World Cup my sister and her family visited us. Absolutely amazing experience for us all and I had a whale of a time! With an extra 5 people in the house, and a packed schedule of sightseeing, eating Japanese food and drinking beer and sake, it did not take much to get me out of my morning ritual.
I usually wake up around 5:30-6am and then either go running with my running club or do yoga at home. Wake up the kids at 7 and they are out of the house for 8:10. In the evening, depending on the day, I pick up the youngest around 6pm, dinner at home, bath and bed by 9pm. We have days clearly defined for screen ok and no screen days.
Well, a staycation with kids at school, threw all of that out of the window.
And I really felt the difference.
Whilst we were certainly getting our daily steps in, and I did have an amazing time the fragility of my system became clear. So this got me to thinking about some of the ways that work for me and my coaching clients to get things back on the habit horse. There is no size fits all so use this list as inspiration!
And if you want to look at habits more deeply in your team, contact me to set up a Four Tendencies Workshop. Great for individuals and people managers alike.
Getting back on the Habit Horse
Make it the default – eat the frog and do it first. It is not about a choice but like tooth brushing something that you do without fail.
Prepare the night before – this is about creating ease. For example, last night, I laid out my running clothes, plus my clothes to wear for the day. I was intentional in my choices after a week in casual sightseeing wear to want to be “coordinated” and colorful.
Don’t break the chain – similar to the default above but there is a great feeling of seeing the days add up on the calendar. Get visual about it and you might be able to see the impact. And there is something great about saying, “Wow, I did X everyday for Y days”. Take a look at Outrun Cancer for an inspiring take on this.
Make it easy – going to the gym requires too many steps for me! Registering initially and then getting out the door, to the gym, possibly joining a class. So I workout at home, and just choose the most recent session. I love doing plans like Yoga with Adrienne: 30 days of Yoga (coming up live in January every year), or one of the Nike training courses where you get told “do this today”.
Make the activity a reward in itself – very much of the idea of Be Kind to Your Future Self. How luxurious to spend time doing this task! How wonderful will I feel when I am finished! How clear my mind will be!
Multipliers – I came upon this in a Lean In Circle meeting which focuses on how you can combine multiple activities into one. This is not the same as multitasking but about thinking about bigger goals or values that you have and how you can combine your activities to support those goals. For example, my goal was to find ways to refresh my energy during the workday, stay fit and connect with my friend (also a colleague) so we arranged a weekly lunchtime run on a Friday. We could talk as we ran, felt energized from the endorphins after even a short 20 minute run. Think about a couple of goals and values that are important to you and work out ways that you can combine 2 or more together in an activity. It is easier than you think.
What is the MVP? Minimum Viable Product is a lean startup term that helps us to consider what the minimum feature set required to get feedback from customers is. Having an MVP for your habit might be doing 3 minutes of mindfulness instead of 20, limiting coffee intake to the morning instead of quitting completely, committing to calling 5 customers instead of 10. Whilst your real goal and regular activity level might be more lofty, you will gain from the quick win and instant gratification of doing something. This can be a powerful motivator to exceed your goal and do more. If not, at least you started and an MVP is always about iteration. Just Ship It!
Count to 5 – this is Mel Robbins 5 second rule It has worked very well for me about getting out of bed in the cold winter mornings. I even changed my alarm clock to 5:55 (Go, Go, Go! in Japanese) to reinforce the message.
Be kind to yourself
It’s easy to beat yourself up when you let a habit slip and I know that I did. But shame is not a helpful energy or emotion to drive growth. Instead, analyze the why and think about how you can most easily put one of the habits back into place today.
Even if it not a “full” display of your habits, even if it is not a perfect version, your first action is to ship it. To climb back on the horse. Get started!
But maybe I don’t want to anymore
Everything happens for a reason right? A slipped habit might be a good time to check whether this habit is still necessary. They might not even be useful or important to you anymore.
So when you find yourself feeling at sea and that your rituals and habits are no longer anchoring you it is good to ask yourself the following coaching questions.
What makes this ritual or habit important to me? What goal is it supporting?
Is that still important to me?
What would happen if I stop? How does that feel?
If you feel lighter, released, then it might be time to say goodbye or to reframe this habit!
Still want to continue? What can I do to reintroduce this habit? What will make it easy to do? What is the MVP I can start with today?
When will I check in with myself to track my progress on reintroducing this habit?
Want to learn more about how you and your team can create Habits? I deliver a 90 minute to 4 hour workshop on Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies Framework. Fascinating with great takeaways for individual and people managers about motivation, communication and how to get stuff done!
What do you think?
How do you get yourself back on track? As always, would love to see your comments and ideas below!
I get a lot of questions about the Ikigai x Points of You® workshop so I thought I would share this video from my presentation in Costa Rica in 2019 at the Gross Global Happiness Forum at UPEACE.
With a new decade coming up, isn’t it time for you to focus on how you and your employees can integrate personal and corporate ikigai, mission, vision and values? Contact me or check my calendar to set up a meeting to find out more about journey programmes, workshops, coaching and public speaking for your organisation.
Whilst I’ve done plenty of public speaking and a couple of YouTube videos (Thrive Tokyo and about the Wor Watthana Muay Thai gym in Thailand), I’ve never been on a podcast! I’m always talking about the importance of getting used to hearing your voice as other people hear it but hadn’t recorded myself recently – time to walk the talk.
So I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just been featured on the Transformations with Jayne Podcast. You can find it over on iTunes Episode 58 or over at Anchor with lots of different ways to listen. It was a great experience to talk informally about a whole host of topics. Jayne was a member of the Lean In Japan Entrepreneur Circle that I ran from 2017 to 2019 so it was great to catch up with her as well!
In this episode we talk about: The recent typhoon and flooding How Jennifer came to be in Japan What is “ikigai” Points of You® coaching Hope you enjoy the discussion and there are some useful ideas for you!
If you’d like to be featured in my book about how you integrated your ikigai, please contact me through the website to share your story!