Lonely old men and ikigai

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.

家族のカタチ2019 – 家族 is the bestという呪縛Family Diversity – Time to Reshape the Family Structure「家族末永く仲良く=素晴らしい」。そんな価値観が強い日本社会で、家族とのつながりに苦しんでいる人がいるのも事実。おひとりさま問題、介護問題、夫婦別姓問題も含めて、家族とはどうあるべきか。そのあり方を問い直します。

“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.

Talking Ikigai and Gaman in my podcast debut

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!

Expand your perspective

I thought the session using cards was interesting to see differences between people. It helps understand that people have different interpretations and something they look at things which I do not care about.

2019 Points of You Corporate Workshop Participant

One of the most valuable takeaways that I hear as a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant using Points of You® in my workshops, is when participants are able to internalise that there are multiple points of view in any discussion. Of course, most of us comprehend this intellectually but in my workshops I love to see what really internalising this means to participants, especially in terms of applying that back in the workplace.

And diversity of perspective is not just about other people, how can we expand our own point of view? If we approach a challenge or an opportunity with a different world view, can we influence a different outcome?

What is “expanding” in Points of You®?

Countless points of view

Expanding is the second of four stages in the Points of You® method. It is described on the website as follows:

“In this stage we search for the unknown, not knowing where it may lead us. We allow a shift from our familiar comfort zone– to a world of new opportunities, insights and WOW moments. At the end of this stage we know this:
Anything is possible.”

https://freethoughtblogs.com/thoughtsofcrys/2017/03/02/memes-corrected/ – With a commentary about research and how to reduce ambiguity

5 ways to expand your point of view

Below I share 5 ways to expand your point of view, be open to other perspectives and generally give yourself a chance to get unstuck from self-limiting beliefs…all without using Points of You® 😉

1. Do the trusted ten exercise

Then find someone outside your regular group to talk with. Diverse opinions don’t just happen, we have to reach outside our daily experience.

When was the last time you had a decent chat with someone outside your age group, gender, race, sexuality?

Living as a foreigner in Tokyo offers some amazing opportunities to meet people from all over the world and find out about their world view.

Expanding @ Sun and Moon Yoga

2. How fascinating!

In March 2019, when I was presenting about Ikigai at the Gross Global Happiness Conference at UPEACE in Costa Rica, Juan Jose Reyes M.D, Founder of Mindstay, suggested using this reflective statement to approach our reactions to situations. Notice that you are getting annoyed? Feel your teeth clenching? You chest tightening?

Comment to yourself “How fascinating!”

Observe your physical sensations, what is going on? What is happening here? How is this response serving me? How do I want to be in this situation?

Then you can expand your choice of responses based on this awareness of your body.

3. “Thoughts are not facts”

Lean In Japan Entrepreneur member and owner of Quest Tokyo, Kirsten O’Connor, used to remind me of this all the time!

We tell so many stories to ourselves with our interpretations of a perceived slight, a shady glance, a terrible wrong inflicted on us.

During my work with Tara Mohr on her Playing Big Facilitators Training Programme in 2018, we did an excellent activity forcing us to brainstorm 20 possible…as well as ridiculous… interpretations of the facts of a situation. In individual coaching, Tara suggested that the reason my client hadn’t replied to email was not because my work was terrible but because they had fallen hopelessly in love with me and could not be professional around me! This was so ridiculous but also within the realm of the possible (obviously I’m irresistible) that I could at least see that there were ways I could expand my approach

4. Channel Littlefinger

“Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives I play a little game. I assume the worst. What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?”

Lord Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones
Source: Vanity Fair

Regular readers will know that I am a GOT (and Harry Potter) fan, mostly for the “great conversations in elegant rooms” rather than the bloody battle scenes. Whilst Littlefinger is generally not a role model for me, his approach of expanding his response can be useful. As a proponent of positive psychology though, I tend to think, “What’s the best reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?” This positive expansion helps you to focus on opportunities not obstacles…which brings me to….

5. Obstacles as opportunities

Yes, I do love Spartan Races and I’m about to join the next Japan race on July 6th. Obstacle Course Racing is a great way to build resilience and also to practice “expanding”. Not just about muscles but also about your realm of what is possible for you. The self-limiting belief “I’ll never be able to do this!” can quickly be overturned by the realisation you just nailed the spear throw!

Just this morning, I caught myself saying “I don’t trust myself!” as I jumped up to reach a bar. When I changed my self talk and event went so far as to say it out loud “I trust myself” my performance improved. It might be a placebo, it could just be practice but you know what, I’ll take it! Language matters.

Read about my take on all 4 parts of the Points of You® Method. Pause, Expand, Focus, Doing.

Want to try a Points of You® Workshop with Jennifer Shinkai?

Contact me here

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Integrating my Ikigai in Year 4

Seems like only yesterday that I was writing this post about the start of my third year in business and in 2 weeks on June 29th, I’ll be kicking off Year 4.

Taking this time to reflect fills me with gratitude for my family, my customers and my community. Thank you so much for your support, feedback and inspiration!

One of the most important mantras for me are these three magic words:

“trust the process”

As an entrepreneur, there are times when you are not quite sure where your next opportunity will come from. However, I’ve found it is really important to keep making offers, following the ideas and work that really interests you. By having this focus on integrating my ikigai – to help create inclusive workplaces where teams can flourish doing meaningful work – I’ve been able to say “hell yes!” and “no way!” to certain projects. All in the knowledge that doing the work, getting feedback and learning along the way is all part of the evolutionary process.

With this in mind, I thought I’d use the 4 Questions of Ikigai to review my third year in business. In case you need a reminder, here is the Ikigai model:

What do I love?

I love creating aha moments, when I get goosebumps from client’s insight. I love seeing the energy and support in a room when colleagues are connecting diverse opinions.

I love creating “unexpected but precise” experiences through Points of You®. I love colour, creativity, making things, exploring, getting messy in order to grow.

I love freedom to grow my business at my pace in a way that works for my family.

I love meeting people from different industries, countries, professions and then realising in all that beautiful diversity that the common themes of humanity are universal.

We all want to belong, to be valued and to achieve mastery in something.

What am I good at?

I’m good at working in a variety of situations. I can flex to the clients needs and facilitate custom programmes to achieve their goals.

In the last year I’ve worked on executive coaching and 80 person workshops, one-off team building events, multi-day leadership programmes and 6 month journeys. I’ve facilitated programmes in English, Japanese and bilingually. I’ve worked alone and co-facilitated with talented partners. I’ve co-created workshops with clients and delivered localised global programmes through training companies.

Each programme requires a different approach and a thorough understanding of client’s requirements. Whilst creating custom programmes might not be the most sustainable business model, it certainly brings me a lot of joy and professional development.

What can I be paid for?

From client feedback, I’m coming to learn much more about the value of a third party as a change agent. As a trusted yet external partner, I can come in and challenge participants to break patterns. However, I also understand corporate life enough that I can empathise with the blockers and coach around possible solutions.

In a recent interview I was asked “how do you create a comfortable learning environment?” I was flummoxed by the question and said “I don’t really know…but I always get positive comments that I created an inclusive space where it was safe to fail.”

After the demo session, the interviewer said “you are right! we are not quite sure how you did it either but that was one of the most engaging sessions we’ve joined!”.

I’ve also learned that answering this question is one of the trickiest for many participants in Ikigai workshops!

I love seeing this card in Points of You® Punctum – this lady is my inspiration. I want to be wise with experience, pop with colour and eat ice-cream on a cold summer day!

What does the world need?

The world needs more enthusiastic geeks, people who are resilient in the face of obstacles, more people who live a life of purpose and joy and fun at work. I hope that through my workshops, coaching and facilitation, I can have positive impact in those areas. I think we all deserve to be heard, to feel like we belong and that the work we do matters.

I look forward to continuing to evolve my programmes to support this vision of my Ikigai. Can’t wait to see what this post looks like at the start of Year 5! Just before the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 – Unity in Diversity.

Increase collaboration with a Points of You® Experience in your workplace

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend for in-house collaboration spaces. With open space, coffee bars and modern designs, these co-working spaces encourage a different energy in the workplace. The goal of the space is to bring together diverse perspectives and communication across silos. I love visiting clients offices to see how they are making inclusive work environments that motivate and inspire.

However, one thing struck me on recent office tours. They are often empty. These beautiful, expensive and expansive spaces are either empty or quiet as a library. As the spaces are still new, many companies are still running into an unexpected stumbling block when it comes to increasing collaboration. People don’t know how or when to use the space.

“If you build, it they will come”

Might work for Field of Dreams but not for collaborative spaces!

Getting people to collaborate in the space takes more than an opening event and Friday night drinks. One way is to get people to experience communication and collaboration in the space at an open event. This is where holding a corporate Points of You® Experience event with Jennifer Shinkai comes in.

What is Points of You®?

Points of You® is a creative coaching tool, originally from Israel. It is has been used globally in corporations as diverse as Google, NASA, Ikea, L’Oreal and Circque de Soleil. Personally as a Points of You® Master Trainer, I’ve facilitated group workshops in Japan around strategy, team building, inclusion, innovation and change management for luxury, manufacturing, IT, and professional services firms. With participants ranging from new grads to global leaders, from engineering to sales, Points of You® workshops encourage communication and sharing diverse perspectives. You can see more case studies at my facebook page.

What are Jennifer Shinkai’s Corporate Points of You® Experiences like?

These 90 minute workshops can be held as an 朝活 (breakfast meeting)、lunch and learn, or even as an evening workshop. They can support the activities of your ERGs, a specific team or as a way to gather diverse employees into your collaborative space.

Choose from one of the following processes and watch as your employees break patterns, open their hearts and develop a sense of belonging:

The Potential Me

Meet yourself and others from a new perspective. See how you’ve changed over the years.

Icebreaker:

A unique and fun way to introduce participants in the group using Points of You® Tools.

Why What How:

Learn the power of presence as a coach through powerful questions. Gain insight into deeper barriers to personal progress

My Life’s Wishlist:

Focus on action to drive personal goals. Share your big dreams for your life and walk the talk to action!

From July to November 2019, I’ll be offering the first 5 corporate clients to register, in-house workshops for groups of minimum 8 people at a very special rate. Contact me to find out more today.

These processes can only be offered as stand alone offerings. If you want to bring Points of You® Tools to your organisation in other workshop, please contact me.

How to be a great panel moderator

Recently, I have attended a lot of events with panel discussions. At one event, I watched 8 panel discussions in a day. As the day wore on I tried to analyse what separated the good, the bad and the ugly!

Moderating the panel at the Spotlight on Japan International Women's Day event Photo Credit: LIFE14
Moderating the panel at the Spotlight on Japan International Women’s Day event Photo Credit: LIFE14

Based on my own experience as a moderator, I’ve created 9 things you need to do as a successful moderator of a panel. What have I missed?

1. You need to have a plan

What is this panel for?

An entertaining way to spend 1 hour?

Killing time before the final keynote – probably you have bigger dreams that that!

Just as with a presentation, you should think in advance of the key takeaways that you want for the audience. You might not get them all as you will always have an element of spontaneity in there with different conversations on the day.

Think about:

What are the key takeaways you expect from this session? How does it fit into the overall flow of the event or the panel series you are part of ? How do you expect your session to run? How will you allocate time on each topic. You need to share this plan with the panelists and event organizers ahead of time to make sure expectations are aligned

2. You need to think about the audience needs

As the panelist, you are the representative of the audience on the stage. It is your job to think about the demographics and what would be the most useful takeaways and discussion points. How much do people know about the topic at hand?

For me, a great moderator will help to break the fourth wall.
They can engage the audience needs either through a Q&A or directing comments to the room. They have gathered information about what the audience wants to know rather than what their personal interests are.

Personally, if I know the panelists well, it can be interesting to build them up by saying why they were chosen to participate, what you expect them to bring to the panel 

Reading out the bio is generally a waste of time as most conferences have a literate audience who can check it out if they are interested.
Opening with a few minutes of general comments around the theme can be useful but it is easy for this to become a static talking heads round robin so be sure to watch out for that.

Connect and engage with the panelists – Listen and Enjoy

3. You need to connect with the panelists

Ideally meet the panelists before the event – face to face is great, virtually is also fine! And this meeting should not be 10 minutes before the panel. Find out if they have been on a panel before? What are their expectations and how are they aligned with yours?

It is great to go through questions or themes with them. Pick up on interesting stories that show diversity of thought and experience.

As an audience member, it can feel wonderful to be a fly on the wall in a high-level conversation that flows naturally. As a moderator you need to work to develop that camaraderie with panelists before the event.

Be careful not to take the camaraderie too far though. At a recent event, I felt like a voyeur as the conversation was too intimate, too many in jokes. It almost felt like the two speakers had forgotten we were there!

4. You need to build a connection between the panelists

Can you get the panelists together beforehand? Can they collaborate on a call or a shared document? The litmus test of a great panel is when the panelists are bouncing ideas off each other, listening and building on the previous persons statements.

I’ve seen panel discussions which were a series of 10 minute PPT presentations with no interaction between the speakers and no building on the ideas raised. It’s fine to have that format for speaker presentations with lots of short speeches but don’t advertise it as a panel discussion!

5. You need to be inclusive

Is everyone speaking? How much airtime are they getting? the bigger the panel, the less people speak. Melissa Thomas-Hunt did interesting research on who speaks in meetings. With 5 people in the room, 2 people will speak for 70% of the time. When 8 people are in the room, 3 people will speak for 67% of the time. As an inclusive moderator you need to manage this. At a recent conference, I saw one speaker so completely dominate that one of the other panelists was staring at the ceiling, totally disengaged!

Airtime in meetings

In terms of inclusion, are different opinions and approaches being given airtime? Having controversial and diverse approaches supports audience learning and brings some zest to your panel.

Make sure the staging is so that you can make eye contact with everyone. Is there someone who you suspect will dominate the conversation?
One idea comes from the old adage “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer”

This can allow you to give them a nudge if they are going on too long. If you must share a microphone, you can even hold it so they have to ask for it! Beware though if they are sitting next to you, it can be easy for them to turn their back to you and not read your non-verbals. Be ready and willing to politely interrupt and give space to other people.

6. You need to be passionate about the subject

As the moderator, you need to drum up excitement and set the tone for the discussion. Bringing your own ideas to the panel is fine but “know your place” – you are not there as the only expert. You are there to bring the expert ideas to light!

However, keep your questions precise. Big lead ups where you show your passion and knowledge and then ask multiple questions, only complicate issues for panelists. KISS!

7. You need to be able to think on your feet

If you are going through the motions and sticking slavishly to your plan, you panel will feel formulaic. Listening and building on themes that become important makes a naturally engaging panel.

It is also important to know if there are any taboo topics that panelists or the event organizers want you to steer clear of. How will you handle them if they come up in discussion or in the Q&A?

8. You need to wrap up the key points

The moderators role is to make sense of the different ideas raised. You can do this after each theme or just in your concluding comments. What were the new pieces of information that were shared? What should the audience remember.

9. You need to finish on time

Make sure you have someone watching the clock for you and giving you time countdowns. It is absolutely fine to cut speakers, to guide when people go off topic.

You also need to keep your Q&A under control – reminders for single questions so more people can get involved is usually helpful. You may want to source questions before hand and plant people in the audience to get things started depending on your demographic. Remember to take questions from around the space and to be mindful of sourcing questions from a broad array of audience members.

I hope this has been a useful guide if you have a moderator role coming up!

Looking for a moderator or panelist for your next event in Japan? Feel free to contact me to discuss how we might collaborate.

Why I’m Leaning Out

After 5 years of moderating a monthly Lean In Circle, I’ve made the decision to “lean out” at the end of the month.

For the record, I’m not leaning out because of Michelle Obama, or as part of the pushback on Sheryl Sandberg and her role at Facebook. I’m leaning out because I want to focus on other things (Integrating Ikigai, Points of You), other communities (running club, Spartan Race). Like any leadership role, I feel like I’ve learned what I can learn and I’m ready to transition into something new – a new level of Leaning In, shall we say?

So what did I learn in the 5 years?

1. Are you still learning? If not, move on

I’ve written in detail about my own Lean In journey and reading it now that the decision is made, it is all crystal clear. I was starting not to look forward to every meeting. Sometimes, I felt like I was starting to just dial it in and that was not respectful to others. As soon as I announced I was leaning out, it was like a weight had been lifted. There is also a sense of grief – to give up something that I did love so much and was so tied into my identity.

But sometimes you need to realize that you have graduated from the role, the relationship or the situation. And then, move on.

2. Women do help women

I’ve heard a lot of discussion about women holding other women back, being catty (urgh! What a gendered word!) and competitive with each other. I feel I have been fortunate in my career to only have support from the women around me. (Now I am thinking that maybe it is because I was the bitchy one… I hope not!)

In Lean In Circles, I had an amazing group of peers who only wanted me to achieve my goals. Was it because we all came from different organizations? There was certainly no zero-sum mindset in the room.

It could be because as an all female space, we did not need to resort to association or advocacy based covering. This is where minority groups downplay stigmatized parts of their identity in this case –  avoiding contact with or not sticking up for other women.  We see it when a female leader does not want to be involved in companies D&I programs. It is not because she does not think they are helpful (although that may be part of it!) but, by drawing attention to herself as a woman, she may increase the potential for negative bias.

Women do help women.  A female only space can be a useful place for women to develop confidence and speak openly about their goals and challenges.

3. Fixing the women doesn’t get more women in leadership roles  – fixing your succession planning does

The women who join Lean In Circles are talented and passionate. Each month they share their successes and I see each one of them is growing personally and professionally. And yet, when I announced that I would be leaning out, I wasn’t exactly bombarded with offers to take on moderation of the group. This despite the fact that every regular member contacts me to say thank you and how much the meeting means to them.

This was a failure of my leadership. I did not develop a pipeline of successors. I didn’t earmark people and give them time to get involved.

I thought that I was making it easier for people by taking everything on myself. If I do it all, I reduce the barrier to entry for people to attend. But what I created was a black box – what does it take to run this thing? how does she do it? I became an accidental diminisher of the people in the group.

Fixing the women doesn’t fix the problem of getting more women into leadership roles. You have to fix the leaders to make sure they are taking action about succession and casting the net across all the talent available.

4. Saying “No” to leadership is not always about saying no to leadership

However, on the other side of the coin about Leaning In, I saw a number of women who are strongly creating boundaries, not feeling the pressure to take on extra roles in their already full lives. So instead of assuming that women don’t want to take on leadership roles, how about we look at what they prioritize instead?

In your organization this can be about looking at the other roles that women are expected to take on in the home. Make no mistake these gender-defined roles are alive and well in Japan. And the stereotypes come both from women and men’s expectations of what should be done and by whom. Even as a feminist, I find myself taking on without questioning the roles of being the first port of call for the school. I say it is because as an entrepreneur I have more flexibility in my calendar but I believe there is something deeper going on from a place of bias.

Women are not always saying no to leadership roles because they lack confidence in their competence. Sometimes its just a feeling of overwhelm of the mental burden of wearing so many hats and having so many responsibilities.

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Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to our venue sponsors who enabled us to keep the meetings free with no barrier to entry. It is very tough to find free meeting space in Tokyo but these organizations supported monthly meetings en world Japan, Michael PageDale Carnegie Japan and Smart Partners K.K

Want to find out more about where you can Lean In?

If you would like to get involved with Lean In activities in Japan, you can connect with the following groups

Lean In Tokyo – Active Japanese language group and the Country Chapter Leader for Lean In in Japan

Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs – will be run by Katheryn Gronauer of Thrive Tokyo

Lean In Tokyo Girls on Fire – taking a hiatus until late summer/ early autumn  but you can request to join the group.

Diversity Dojo: My Photo Album Workshop

201902 Diversity Dojo

As part of my Points of You® Master Trainer Certification, I am running a number of workshops around Tokyo to practice implementing the process with diverse groups.  (Contact me if you have a group of 10+ people and an event space as I have some new processes I need guinea pigs for!)

On February 4th, I was invited back to Diversity Dojo to use one of my favourite processes, “My Photo Album”. With participants from all over the world many of whom were meeting each other and Points of You® for the first time, it was a unique opportunity for people to hear truly diverse points of view and think about fresh ways to address current challenges. I love this workshop as it allows groups to be creative, and for individuals to practice inclusive leadership. The process helps you to open your mind to every single voice and idea in the room. You can make new connections between ideas and see your issue from many different perspectives. It is these new perspectives and connections that drive innovation.

 

 

Thanks to everyone at Diversity Dojo for their engaged and active participation. This group is always very open to trust the process and thus had many “unexpected but precise” insights. I look forward to hearing about how they turned their insights into action in 24 hours, 1 week and the next month.

Contact me to try “My Photo Album” to engage your employees in a new approach to problem solving.

Ikigai and your Inner Geek

I’m half way through listening to the farewell episode of my favourite podcast. I have to stop…I just don’t want it to end. So I decided to stave off the inevitable by writing a blog post about it.

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Over the last 12 months I’ve been re-exploring the Harry Potter universe and the wider Wizarding World. I’ve finally accepted that I am Ravenclaw not Gryffindor. I find myself reading scripts and screenplays for the first time in 20 years to get my fix of the world beyond the original Hogwarts stories.  Perhaps you could blame my fondness for the dashing Eddie Redmayne but mostly I blame Binge Mode: Harry Potter. Listening to these podcasts reminded me to go back and reread all the books (I haven’t rewatched the films…yet). I’ve just added “See Harry Potter and The Cursed Child in London” to my list of things to do in 2019. My family just does not get it and my kids are resisting my rather fanatical requests to let me start on The Philosopher’s Stone with them! One day….

I’ve loved the experience of listening to the passion of the presenters, Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion. They absolutely f*cking love Harry Potter and everything about the stories and the depth of the fantasy world.  They are both reverent and irreverent with adult content, in-jokes and deep discussion of the “wider Potter Canon”. Listening to them do their thing, really brings me back to the “What do you love?” question at the heart of the Ikigai concept.

You can’t deliver over 160 podcasts over 7 months with freshness and passion and energy unless you really love the content.  Their emotion is so fresh and true it really brings you back into what it feels like to really love a work of art.

In addition to “What do you love?”, Binge Mode: Harry Potter really makes me think, “What does the world need?”, the final question of Ikigai. People around me say しょうがない (It can’t be helped, there is no other way) everyday. Accepting the status quo, even though they hate it and it is making them ill. I believe the world needs people who can stand up and say “しょうがある”(there is a way, it can be helped)! The world needs passionate people who can geek out over things that they care about.

But why do we fear being seen as a geek?

We fear being rejected. We fear seeming uncool and being humiliated. Why? There is something a little bit scary, a touch confronting to be in front of someone who cares so intensely about something, who is passionate about sharing their love for a work of art, an idea or a concept.  As an onlooker, we can’t always understand it and so we ridicule it, “Why are you pouring your energy into this children’s story?”

It’s important to then look at ourselves, “What am I passionate about? What do I love?” Sometimes what is really confronting us is when we see the gap between what we say we love and how we spend our days. Integrating your ikigai is about (re-)discovering that passion and then engineering ways to bring more of it into our daily lives.

We need more passionate geeks in the world. I encourage you to nurture your inner geek. Shout from the rafters about the things you love. Bring more of it into your daily life. Find your kindred spirits who care about it too. It will widen your world and you might just inspire someone to find their ikigai.

Oh, and if you are also a Ravenclaw, let me know. I feel like we don’t really get a lot of positive press in the books (Gilderoy Lockheart is not an ideal role model) despite our wit beyond measure!

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P.S. I listened to the end of the podcast… It was so moving, I was in floods of tears. I am going to miss it so much. I’m not sure whether I’m more excited about Fantastic Beasts 3 in 2020 or the return of the Binge Mode Harry Potter Analysis.

P.P.S. Have you seen this???? Wizards Unite! I cannot wait!

What Spartan Races taught me about inclusion in the workplace

I was starting to shiver as the wind came up. I‘d successfully made it through the dunk wall, an obstacle I’d always dreaded based on my fear of dark water. It was beginning to come a little more easily. I was learning how to trust that I would make it through to the other side, with eyes closed and mouth shut tight.

We had less than 2 km to go. The end was in sight but, up next, was the slip wall.

“Evil race director,” I thought, but also brilliantly planned. Cold and wet with no grip you have to haul yourself up and over a slippery incline. But I had a huge mental block after a complete wipe out at the last race.

I”d watched videos on technique  and felt a bit more prepared.  However, that little seed of doubt was already planted.

“Ok…bottom out, keep the legs braced. At the top, not too early, shift forwards to grip the wall.”

All good.

But at the top I froze. Mentally, I knew what to do. In theory, I understood the required movement. But, somehow,  I could not move.

“Tazukete!!! Help me!” I shouted to the other Spartans at the top of the wall.

From out of nowhere, a hand gripped my arm then around my waist. I was hoisted forwards and  could grab the top of the wall.

“Arigato! Thank you!”

I looked at the face of my Slip Wall Saviour.  It was Keisuke, my team mate.  In his first Spartan Race he embodied the inclusive spirit of Spartan that I hold so dear: always help others, give a boost – physical or verbal, look around and help others.

I hadn’t realized that Keisuke was still at the top of the wall. But I had known that when I asked for help, someone would be there. Having this total trust in the system, knowing that if I ask for help I will get it, is an essential element of inclusion at work.

Catalyst describes the Sense of Belonging as one of the key elements of Inclusion. In a Spartan Race, we see the output in a strong sense of Team Citizenship, “going beyond the call of duty to help others”. “No Spartan left behind” is a key mantra and I’ve lost count of the times I have seen people slow themselves down to help others, to offer support through advice, a pep talk, a joke to lighten the mood or, as in my case, a helping hand.

This is the exact opposite of the silos we see at the office. I’m so engrossed in my own targets. I don’t have bandwidth to look around for a second or respond to a call for help from outside that silo.

What would be possible for your business if you could foster an environment like the Spartan Race where Team Citizenship was a given, a key element of your culture?

 

What have Spartan Races taught me about inclusion?

When we feel included and have a sense of belonging, we are able to do amazing things. We can operate at a level well beyond what we thought we were capable of as an individual.

What can you do today to create a sense of belonging in your team?

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Post Script

I’m happy to say that at the dry and sunny Sendai stadium race in December 2018,  I made it over the slip wall without any help! Dragon slayed!

Not without drama though. I ripped my nail off (schoolboy error – always trim nails before race day!) and was forced to a pit stop at the medical tent for a plaster.

So now training begins for my next nemisis… the Bender….