Tag Archives: Japan

Abundance Or Scarcity, Independence Or Dependence?

Which Mind Set Do You Have – Rich Or Poor?

The other day I was talking to my neighbor. She was telling me about all the stress her kids are giving her. Not bad stress, just normal mom stress. Her youngest just entered junior high school, and her oldest is a junior in high school. I don’t remember what age the middle one is, but she is somewhere in between.
They are all girls, and they are all very pretty. They get a lot of attention from the boys at school.

My neighbor is of the opinion that girls should be able to make it in the world on their own without having to rely on their looks. Here in Japan that is still kind of a not so popular idea. Many girls today are still taught from a very early age that if you were pretty and feminine you can expect to get a decent husband. Being a housewife is still a dream for many girls here.

Which is exactly why my neighbor is concerned. Her daughters are all pretty smart, they consistently do very well on standardized tests, which are pretty much the norm here. If you can’t do well on tests, it’s hard to succeed here.

Getting into a university here is much harder than the west. But once you are in, it’s fairly easy. College life here is fairly relaxed. Most people focus on getting into a good university starting around junior high school, or even sooner. Many top high schools here have strict entrance examinations. Many people consider public schools here to be substandard. If you can’t get into a good private high school, then you are going to have a second rate career, and a second rate life.

There are many who think that children getting into a good high school or university, especially one of the top universities, is nothing more than a status symbol for the parents. Many of my friends have noted that parents whose children are in good universities are very quick to point this out to their friends (whose kids are in “lesser” universities.) Of course, not everyone is like that.

Progress is bit slow here in that regard, but there still is progress. When my neighbor was in high school, most girls aspired to go to “finishing schools” for lack of a better term.

These were schools that girls from upper class families went to learn proper etiquette, and traditional Japanese customs like flower arranging and the proper wearing of a kimono. All in the hopes of attracting a potential wealthy husband.

It has been said that Japan lags behind the west by twenty years or so when it comes to things like human rights and equal opportunities. It seems that more and more couples here are facing the harsh reality that in order to raise a family, both parents have to work.

There was a “golden” time in the United States after World War II where families could easily survive on one income. That was when they made TV shows like “Leave it to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” “Happy Days,” and all those other shows from the fifties where dad went to work and mom was a happy homemaker. Most economists agree, and are backed by a lot of data, that that was just a temporary set of conditions that made it easy to survive on one income. Most of the time before that, and most of the time since, and likely for any foreseeable future, it’s going to take two incomes to support a family.

Not to say that situation might never happen again, but it’s better to realize that good times that are based only on a coincidental confluence of events never last. The best times are the ones you create yourself, based on a thorough understanding of the environment in which you live, and you skills to maximize that environment.

I heard an interesting quote the other day that the difference between rich people and poor people is that while poor people look for problems and excuses, rich people are always on the lookout for opportunities.

Poor people are always worried about the economy, while rich people are only concerned with their own economy that they can control. While its nice to live during times of low inflation, low interest rates, double digit yearly stock market returns, it’s never a good idea to depend on them.

Those that tend to be rich figure out a way to make things work for them regardless of the general economic conditions.

Which is why I think my neighbors daughters will be ok. Whenever I’ve spoken with them, they seem to be able to be flexible in their thinking, and focus always on their ultimate objectives, regardless of the meager expectations that society puts on them. They seem to have pretty good expectations of themselves, which no doubt, will carry them a long way.

How To Reframe Objections Before They Come Up

Here in Japan, Tokyo suffered an embarrassing defeat recently in not getting the 2016 Olympics, which by now you undoubtedly know went to Rio. While I understand how having the Olympics can be a huge financial and political windfall to any city, I never really understood the fervor with which cities and politicians campaigned for the win.

As a kid growing up in LA, I remember the Olympics in the 80’s, but without any of the massive campaigning that went on recently. One thing that struck me was how Ishihara, the Mayor (or sometimes called the governor) of Tokyo responded. He used the classic political “reframe.” When used correctly, this can be a powerful tool of persuasion that can gain compliance and behaviors in you favor. When used with less that adroitness, it can come across as ineffectual.

Ishihara said the reason the Olympic Committee didn’t choose Tokyo was because the Japanese delegates (or representatives, or whatever they are called) are “not good at behind the scenes activities,” to paraphrase, meaning that in order to get the Olympics in your city, one has to be skilled in backroom, under the table dealings.

In saying that, Ishihara was saying that Rio, who got the Olympics, was in some way deceitful and manipulative, while the poor Japanese, who are incapable of such dealings, missed out. In other words, he was claiming that because the Japanese delegates were too honest and upfront. That is why they didn’t get chosen for the Olympics.

Now, here in Japan, the response from the foreigner community was one of “sour grapes.” I haven’t spoken to enough locals lately to get their read on his response.

But the point of this article today is to not to point out this particular reframe, but to illustrate how powerful it can be when used correctly. In my opinion, Ishihara’s attempted reframe was less than effective.

Ideally, reframes are most effective before a decision is made by your target, not as an excuse after. Politicians that use them effectively before an election, to somehow present their weaknesses as strengths, usually have a habit of getting elected.

My personal favorite reframe was by Ronald Reagan in the debate with Mondale. Going into the debate, Reagan was fairly old, and Mondale was much younger. The underlying, unspoken concern was that Reagan was too old to be an effective president. Reagan, being the great communicator, knew this and used it to his advantage.

What he did was illustrate two things. One is that by effectively reframing your weaknesses into strengths, you take the air out of your opponent’s objections. If you are a salesperson, and you have a list of your products likely drawbacks, and can figure out a way to make them into strengths, you can usually sell a lot of products.

The second thing that Reagan did was not only reframe, but also pre-frame. He voiced the objection he knew his opponent had, and not only reframe it, but he did it before his opponent even brought it up. When you can reach into our opponents mind, and reframe his objection before he even voices it, you can be pretty much unstoppable.

You can watch it here:

Another great example comes from the movies. There is a scene in 8 mile, with Eminem, when he has to do a “rap battle” with somebody that is better known, bigger, stronger, better respected, and even who stole his girlfriend. Eminem’s character, “Rabbit,” has to go first in the rap battle, and effectively takes all the “dirt” his opponent is likely to bring up during his “turn” in the rap battle, and effectively deflates them, one by one, leaving his opponent with nothing to say, speechless. Granted, this is a movie that is written, shot and re shot with many takes, but it illustrates the powers you can achieve when you not only know what objections your opponent has, but dismantle them before they object them.

Check it out here (right around :48 the reframing starts, language is NSFW)

Of course, all this was first illustrated by conversational hypnotist Milton Erickson. When you can take your targets objections, and reframe them into positive aspects, before you target even voices them, you will gain powerful authority in their world, and they will be much more likely to take your suggestions.

Are You In Sync with Infinite Intelligence?

This morning I was talking to my neighbor. Sort of my neighbor. She lives about three streets over, and has a huge rice field in her back yard. I live out in the countryside, and it’s not uncommon to see many houses that have pretty big sized rice fields next to their house. It’s kind of an old world traditional thing here that keeps people connected to their roots, so to speak. Lately people around here have been preparing the fields for planting rice, so they’ll be ready to harvest in fall. It’s interesting to watch the fields slowly, one by one, transform from lots of unkempt dirt and weeds, leftover from last season, into flat, tilled earth. And then flooded with water to soak deep into the ground, and then finally when they plant the seedlings. Then it’s only a matter of time before the result comes.

I went to a business seminar once, and the instructor was saying how creating a successful business is exactly like being a successful farmer. Many people start business with some vague hopes and only a partial understanding of the laws of human behavior. He said that when you have a clear outcome, and a solid understanding of human behavior, then your success would be inevitable. He went through a few examples of successful entrepreneurs that applied these principles. They knew exactly what they wanted, so much so that when it appeared, there was no misunderstanding. One of the dangers of not having a clear outcome is that when your wish comes true, you might not notice it. If you are having a bad day, or you just got into an argument with your boyfriend, you might not notice that what you’ve been working towards for so long is sitting here waiting for you to take advantage of this.

Farmers, on the other hand, know exactly what they want. They know how much they can sell a bushel of wheat for, and exactly what acreage is needed to produce exactly that much wheat. And they know exactly how to prepare the soil, and plant and feed the wheat, and when it’s ready to be picked. It’s like they buy a book on how to grow wheat and go to bed every night wishing the gods of wheat would visit them in the middle of the night and make the wheat magically appear. Sadly, too many people treat their business ventures that way. Especially folks that are starting a business for the first time.

One of the things that the instructor told us is that even if you don’t have a solid understanding of human behavior, if you have a solid goal in mind, and sufficient motivation and patience and drive to take you there, that will be enough. You jut have to be open to learn from your mistakes and be able to make adjustments along the way. One thing that he recommended was to dig underneath your motivations for that particular business, and find your underlying criteria for running our own shop instead of working for somebody else. He suggested once you have that, then you can shift your goals from being successful in that particular venture, to simply being a successful business owner. He explained that many successful businesses were started by people that had failed in several businesses before they became ultra successful. I think the average successful entrepreneur had five or six business failings before they finally hit their stride and began reaping the real rewards they were after. Persistence pays. This was due to their underlying belief in themselves, and their burning desire to be successful on their own.

So anyway, my neighbor was explaining to me the ins and outs of being a successful rice farmer. She started telling me how when she was a kid, she would sit and listen to her father tell her stories that his uncle told him and his brothers when they were kids. How you have to have a respect for nature and nature’s laws. And that how knowing and respecting natures laws is really not so difficult when you can embrace the cyclic nature of everything. Kind of like when you are on a swing and you swing your legs back and forth with just the right timing to get you higher and higher. Being able to pay attention to the cycles of nature, and not trying to control them, as so many people think you can do, but to respect and learn from them, and move in sync with them. Because when you move in sync with nature, you are moving in sync with the most powerful force in the universe.

And when you start to understand that people are also and expression of that infinite power of the universe, moving in sync with nature takes on a whole new range of possibilities.