There’s an advert currently that focuses on an every-day, good-looking, well-kempt man i.e. not you, walking in the busy yet silent streets. How can this be, when simple minded viewers (this is you) can see speeding cars and people talking all around him? Because this man, dear pleb, is wearing the new noise-cancelling X1860JFW6573829-P headphones. Imagine, listening to all that silence! However, for almost the same price as those headphones, you could fly to Japan and experience all that silence for yourself.
Tokyo, a vast metropolis of fourteen million peoples living in quiet process harmony, was for a long time an itch that needed a ruddy good seeing to. Flying there on my way to the UK from Australia may well have been a long route, but absolutely worth it, although perhaps for not all the usual reasons. You see, it’s not much of a seeing place. Sydney is blessed with a glorious harbour and Opera House, Paris has its Eiffel, Barcelona it’s Gaudi, New York it’s lady justice, Tokyo it’s . . . well, you see? It doesn’t have a single monument of intrigue, but it’s a joy by a thousand niceties.
There are of course shopping centres galore, the just-about-recognisable Tokyo Tower, the famous Shibuya Crossing (ok, ok, one icon!), gaming and gadget districts, monolithic government buildings, ancient wooden Buddhist temples, manicured beautiful gardens, and a plethora of bars and restaurants illuminated by all-action dancing neon. So far, so normal. Yet it’s the little things that bewitch into finding Tokyo truly fascinating. The tiny one-chef, one waiter restaurants that specialise in only a few outstanding dishes resulting in a steady stream of clientele; the humungous underground and overground train network spanning the city making London seem like child’s scribble; the constant cycling and walking by the older generation to keep themselves trim; the adherence to cleanliness and calmness like it’s a religion; the respect given to every other human being through kindness and a welcome greeting; the quietness of children (yes, you read that correctly) and adults alike; the sheer number of people that you can squeeze on a train carriage without even a murmur of alarm; the handing out of face-towels when riding the bullet-trains to ease you into your journey (first class, I’m posh!); the fact they even have bullet trains at all, and they run on time too. It’s not so much of a seeing city, but a doing city. A city what does.
To illustrate, here’s a quick list of Japanese tech and engineering companies: Toyota, Subaru, Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, Mazda, Hino, Yamaha, Mitsubishi, Lexus, Nissan, Daihatsu, Sanyo, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Sharp, Kodak, Hitachi, Fuji, Fujitsu, Nintendo, Sega, Bridgestone and Yokohama. That’s . . . that’s a lot for several countries let alone one. There is an all-pervading confidence and calm about Japan, and the ability to simply get things done.
There’s an excellent line in the film Crocodile Dundee when the hero visits America and claims, ‘imagine all these people wanting to live together. . . New York must be the friendliest place on earth!’ Come to Tokyo, forget the headphones, and relax in a thriving, bustling city of quiet wonderfulness.
Every man and his dog know I love to read, and more often than not there is a continued theme of habits, routines or advice that authors impart. Logical advice such as working hard, incessant learning and improvement, self-awareness and not being a dickhead. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There is sometimes advice that makes you query if the author was smoking nail polish.
One of my recent favourites is the classic Think and Grow Rich by the slightly dubious Napoleon Hill, one of the biggest selling self-improvement books of all time. In this the protagonist lays out the successful methods of the successful, of definite goals, of desire, of positive thinking, of collaboration. All make perfect sense. There are other aspects however such as “wrong use of, and over-indulgence in sex.” What on earth is the wrong use of sex? Over-indulgence would be a fine thing, with slaps on backs all round (if you’re into that) but I cannot fathom the wrong use of sex. Bestiality? Maybe he’s referring to simply missing the hole you were aiming for, hitting a butt-cheek or a nose?
Then there’s the “inadequate supply of fresh air, due to improper breathing”. Is this related to the nose-sex? Because that would absolutely tally with the improper breathing, an unfortunate penis-lodged-in-nasal-cavity episode. And what about ‘improper breathing’? I only know one way: in; out. (Like sex, really). I breathe in, I breathe out. I can’t just breathe in; breathe in again; breathe in some more. I’ll blow a lung! Maybe he means the speed of the breathing, like an over-zealous wheezing bicycle pump? Napoleon goes on to talk about the control of “sex energy” . . . which, I don’t know, perhaps is referencing another energy bucket accessed after your usual energy reserves are depleted? Like a dessert stomach when you’ve already packed in a whole ham. Editor – you still talking about eating, right?
So, all in all dear reader, not everything I read is gold. But neither should it be. These are models and lessons from people offering advice which you can dispose of or adhere to at will. You cannot follow every golden rule. As with life, find something that works for you and be kind to yourself in doing so.
*Post-Post – Just did some googling, sex transmutation energy is apparently a thing. Who knew!?
I generally avoid chest-beating, die-for-the-jersey, more-than-a-game schtick that comes with patriotic books, odes to a sporting code, conduct or nation. I have an inherent distrust of fundamentalism, a thinly veiled mask of self-deceit. It’s with some hesitation then that I approached a book about the New Zealand rugby team, Legacy, by James Kerr. It’s first few pages talk of beating the Welsh rugby team. Its last few pages talk about beating the Welsh rugby team. Needless to say, I hate this bloody book. Which isn’t to say it’s not good. It is!
Kerr relates culture and leadership back into the corporate world where those two quintessential elements are often left wanting in my opinion. They become so diluted with growth (making money) or cost reduction (saving money) that culture can fuck right off. Whilst leadership obsession is quite rightly through continuous, incessant improvement, a leader works for the team not the other way around. Leaders take care of their team like they take care of their family. Culling one of your family to save costs is madness. You win together, you lose together. And to paraphrase the New Zealand Team, ‘no dickheads allowed.’
Culture in an organisation or a team can, to quote Kerr again, be summed up by the Greek proverb: “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see”. You plant seeds for the fruit you may never eat, you make improvements today that you may never see the benefit of. But the next generation will. We make things better incrementally. Our actions today will echo beyond our time. Apparently women can also plant trees, but who knew?!
And by the way, this book costs nothing. Enter stage-left BorrowBox, an app that lets you borrow ebooks for free from your local library. I take it all back, there is a God!
Other nuggets for the week:
Finishing the thoroughly excellent The Magic of Thinking BIG this week I started a book about the New Zealand rugby team, Legacy, by James Kerr. Not my usual ardour, I admit, as I generally avoid chest-beating, die-for-the-jersey, more-than-a-game schtick. It’s first few pages talk of NZ beating the Welsh. Twats. Will leave that write up for next week when I’ve calmed down.
Reminiscing on David Schwartz tome, I think I can summarise in one sentence: you are what you eat. However, it’s not quite what you think. The book only mentions food in the context that Mr Smith’s wife will be preparing some for dinner (it was written in 1959 so don’t expect progressive). The core message is instead that you need to consume success, you’re a product of the environment you choose for yourself:
The best term out of the lot is one I will hold dear for a long time: psychological sunshine. Pack your environment with positivity that stimulate your mental health, enhance your down-time and make the most of the moments with those you love.
What is so wonderful about this advice is that almost every self-improvement book is knocking on the same door: whether it’s Tony Robbins; Tim Ferriss; James Altichur; Peter Thiel; James Allen; anyone ever; they all have the same basic advice – get rid of the distractions, build routine, get better at what you do, work smarter, and work your ass off. Oh, and get all the free education you can get! Smartly still offers free on-line MBA’s, what you got to lose?
Writing and writing...