Upon arriving in Tokyo, one of the first things I needed to do was figure out the train system and public transportation options. Now that I’ve had a little time to figure things out, I want to share what I’ve learned, so if you ever decide to visit Tokyo, you hopefully won’t be too lost about how to get around.
If you’re going to travel to many places or to one place for a long time in one trip, then you need to plan for a lot of things and it’s probably going to mean you need to bring a lot of stuff. In the process of preparing for a year-long Exchange program in Japan, here are some things I have learned about preparing for a long-term trip.
If you or a student you know is considering or even curious about studying abroad, here is an overview of steps to take and issues to plan for to make an international experience a reality and off to a great start! As stated in my previous blog post, “Saddle Up Your Horses,” I am about to embark on my own adventure as an exchange student in Japan soon.
It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post, I realize. It’s one of the reasons I had trouble viewing myself as a writer – consistency and self-discipline is hard, especially when there are so many other things demanding attention that have greater consequences if left unfinished. However, ultimately, it all comes down to how important it is to me. If I value you it the way I ought to, then I will find a way to make the time to do it. So, here we are again! I’m going to get back to writing and this time we have some new adventures!
(Thank you to Lucas Nease for submitting this entry as a guest blogger!)
I once met a man who was riding from Buffalo to Santa Fe. I had run out of gas on a road in the plains of eastern Colorado. It was just before sunset and I was walking back up the road to where I had last seen a gas station sign. I saw him camped in the field with his horse staked nearby.
I let at least a month go between blog posts recently, and I’m sorry for that. Sometimes life can seem to get the best of you (and me). No matter how much planning you do, no matter how prepared you feel, life has a way of throwing curve balls and unexpected plot twists your way that can really rock the boat and make you wonder if you’ll ever be able to get it back on track. It’s hard enough to face financial problems, relationship problems, physical problems, emotional or mental problems, social or educational problems, work problems, and any number of other kinds of problems one at a time, but sometimes they seem to flood in almost all at once and that’s when it feels like you’ve just been trapped inside a Sharknado!
The world is full of discouragement and perceived limitations. We are constantly bombarded with ideas and lies that tell us that we can’t do things, or change the way things are. We all too easily give up on dreams because we can’t see the direct path to achieving them. If there is anything I’ve learned so far, it’s that life is rarely predictable, and often the best achievements are made from simply taking a first step, even if you don’t know how, when or where the second step will be taken. People too often seem to base their decisions to try for something on whether they can see the whole plan and picture right from the beginning. It rarely works that way, and almost never goes the way we expect even when we think we know how everything will turn out.
Every once in a while we get so many projects, duties, obligations, goals, desires and activities going on that we can go into mental and physical overdrive. You can identify some of the symptoms of being in mental overdrive is forgetfulness, sometimes insomnia or restlessness, inability to focus, etc. Physically overdrive, if maintained for too long, can make health suffer, increase likeliness of illness, increased possibility of injury during activities or performing, reduced coordination, focus, ability to think, possibly even judgment, and it could affect emotions and moods. Overdrive can sneak up on us without us even realizing it until our condition deteriorates to a point where it starts affecting the things and people around us.
When you think of success, what comes to mind? Money? A mansion? Any material possessions you want? Ability to travel? Enough money to buy time to do whatever you want? Who comes to mind when you think of success? Donald Trump? Bill Gates? A president? A CEO? What about success that looks like a mother? A father? A student who graduates and says no to drugs? Charities? Soldiers? A person giving out of their own needs to help others? Mother Teresa? Martin Luther King Jr? Harriet Tubman? Have these people achieved success in life?
Success seems to be such a nebulous term. Everywhere you turn people are chasing after success, but have they really defined what they are actually seeking? Everyone wants success, but not everyone has really thought about what success looks like or what it means to them. This is a vital step if you are ever to achieve success. It’s awfully hard to find something if you don’t know what it looks like. When you thought of successful people, what kinds of things did they have in common? Based on your impression of successful people, you might have insight into your own beliefs about what it means to be successful and what that looks like. After all, who you admire says a lot about you. Don’t forget, that Adolf Hitler was a very successful leader. Of course what he chose to do with his success is highly frowned upon by the world today, but if you don’t define success clearly in your own life, it can be easily misinterpreted or misguided. How will you know once you’ve reached success if you haven’t set the parameters for identifying success?
I’ve had to think a lot on this myself. I, of course, am one of those also searching for success. I promote successful living on this site, in my blog and in lots of other ways. So, it seems naturally important that I at least have an idea of what I am promoting! I believe success to come in many forms with many levels. Upon deep contemplation and also praying for God to reveal to me what His view of success is, a few things came to mind that I think establish a basic understanding of success in general. When I think of successful people, everyone from Martin Luther King Jr to Bill Gates to Adolf Hitler, there is a commonality I can think of, regardless of whether the way each person used their success was interpreted as good or evil. All of those successful people were effective with the strengths and skills they possessed. They provided value to other people. Not everyone agreed with the value they offered, but it was still very effective and created change and influence. I have concluded personally, that success has to do with how effectively you are using the individual gifts, strengths, talents and skills you have to offer value to other people.
When I think of wealthy people, or those with a lot of money and stuff, I don’t automatically consider them successful. The means by which they obtained their wealth might have something to do with their success in using their personal abilities, and their wealth might be an indication of their personal success, but I know that money itself does not define success. If a person is always looking for the next top of the line item to buy or the best place to live or the nicest car or personal comforts, they may not be taking the time to appreciate what they already have. Every time their appetite for something newer or nicer gets satisfied, that appetite grows larger and is always looking for something else, because what used to be the target of their desires is no longer sufficient to fill their desires. Therefore, if money or materialistic desires are your goal when you say, “I want to be successful,” then you are only fooling yourself. There are a lot of very rich people who do not enjoy their lives and live in a constant state of unrest and dissatisfaction. On the other hand, there are a lot of poor people and people everywhere in between who live very happily and contented, because they have learned that the definition of success does not have to do with money. Money is often a side effect, or a lie that can control you if you idolize it.
After long thought, I have concluded that success is the measure by which you effectively cultivate eternal value. What do I mean by eternal value? I mean any desirable trait, situation or state of being that cannot be worn out, degraded, destroyed, or otherwise damaged or eaten away by any physical means. For example, relationships, good will, personal development, encouragement, peace keeping, teaching, sharing, learning, creating, imagination, innovation, etc. The use and growth of such personal traits and characteristics that help one another and grow us as individuals. By this definition of success, it is easy to see how one with less money could very well be far more successful in life than one with much money. That is not to say money is bad, or that people with a lot of money are not successful in the areas of life that matter. Not at all. Success with providing value and living well does not have to do with whether or not you have money, which means both the rich and the poor have equal opportunity to be successful in life. It all depends on how they use what they already have available to them, both internally AND externally.
If you have millions, then use it to increase the amount of value you can provide. To whom much is given, much is expected. 10% for a wealthy person will be more money than 10% for a poor person, but it is equally proportional to according to what they have.
However, on the money side of things, keep in mind that money is a tool. It should not be the goal. It is a necessity we need in order to be able to continue living well, no matter what stage of life we are in. If we desire to be successful by offering value to others and helping to develop the things that last forever which are often intangible, then our desire for money should match what we need to best use our abilities to help others. It is reasonable to want enough money to cover the bills, provide for your needs and those in your family, provide a little extra for enjoyment and hobbies, and then of course enough to best provide value to others. We need to be careful though, in our money driven society, not to let greed or the having of money itself start to drive our motivations. It is hard to resist this sometimes, it almost feels natural to let the money or lack of money start to control us and our happiness. However, that will lead to unhappiness. Let’s not become a Scrooge with our resources. As you provide value to other people, it is natural that people will pay you for the value you provide. That is what usually turns into a career. As you focus on increasing value, the money will likely increase as well, but remember, it is a tool to help you, not the end goal.
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Most of us should remember hearing this phrase at one point or another, at the very least from Mary Poppins. There seems to be a lot of truth to the idea that once something is started, half the work is done. How many times do we tell ourselves that one day we are going to do something. It could even be a simple problem of procrastination. Tomorrow, I’ll do that. Then tomorrow becomes today and once again we find ourselves making excuses for today and saying we’ll try again tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Starting on a goal seems to be one of the hardest steps to take. Finishing seems so much easier if we could only get past the first step; starting.
This week I’ve been listening to a group of successful authors and bloggers sharing their tips on writing a first book or growing an email audience. Many of their tips are useful for any goal though, not just writing. James Clear is an author who recommended a few ideas I’d like to share because they may be useful for getting over this initial hurdle of simply starting to work on your goals. For starters, Mr. Clear says he has an ideas folder. He puts titles, subjects, thoughts, paragraph summaries or stories he’s heard into this folder for possible expansion into a blog, article or book later. This idea is great because it can clarify your goals. Make a place for your ideas and desires. What things do you really want to accomplish in your life. Make short term goals and long term goals and write them down, put them in a folder or safe place and make sure they are easy to see and remind yourself so that you can remember what you are working toward.
Next, I would recommend something I heard from another successful author named Lise Cartwright. She uses a method called, “Mind Mapping” to organize her ideas. She says she writes an idea or goal in the center of a page and then in bubbles or sections around it she breaks down the idea or goal into subtopics, steps or descriptions about what it looks like, what it means, what is involved, how to get there, etc. She uses different colors and creative expressions in this process. When I heard her idea of Mind Mapping, the first thing that came to my mind was an online program that operates very similarly called, “Coggle.” I use Coggle the same way she described, but I haven’t been very active with it, so after her recommendation, I will probably expand my use of this program. It does essentially the same thing, it provides a center space for a main thought or topic and then you can add different colored branches to subtopics, descriptions or ideas related to that main topic. It is completely free to use and quite helpful. It also has printing, saving and sharing options so multiple people can contribute to the same mind map or brainstorming Coggle sheet.
James Clear as well as other authors also emphasized consistency. He says there is something powerful about simply “showing up” regularly to work on something. When you work on a new idea or goal, or a new writing project, etc. the first few ideas or attempts that you make might not work out so well. That is part of the process. He says that the bad ideas or failed attempts are not a reason to avoid starting or trying again. It’s all the more reason to start faster and do more because you have to get through the bad ideas and attempts in order to get to the good ones. As he put it, you can’t skip straight to year ten of a career. You have to go through years one through nine first and put in the necessary time in the learning curve before reaching a stable handle on things. If you are trying to write, you can’t skip to book four before you write books one through three. It’s a learning process, so the faster you start the learning process, the sooner you’ll become a master. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to reach your goal. Just get started!
To help with consistency once you start, Mr. Clear recommended making it part of your regular scheduled routine throughout the week. People who put in the effort to schedule a committed time and place to do something have a much higher rate of sticking to it and getting it done. Scheduling something in advance and consistently makes it a priority and eliminates the decision making process. You no longer rely on your mood or whether you feel like doing it or not. It is in your schedule of required appointments, so you show up regardless of whether you feel like it or not. It’s like scheduling time to work out and get fit. If you leave it up to the whim of how you feel when your alarm goes off in the morning, you’ll probably just go back to sleep. But if you commit to a scheduled fitness regime, then you rule out your mood and just show up, which yields the benefits you seek. Know that working on your goal is something that you are going to do at this scheduled time and simply expect that and comply with that demand as if it is part of your job.
Also, give yourself a deadline. Having a final completion date in mind creates focused attention on the goal in order to reach the desired result within the time frame you set. Make it reasonable and don’t kill yourself. Remember that quality is better than quantity. In writing, if you can only write 3 good sentences, then just write 3 good sentences. If they give a good strong message, that is better than writing five pages that are weak or beat around the bush too much. Make your time count. If you feel like you don’t have time to work on your goal, then make it a very small amount of time to start. James Clear also gave these suggestions:
If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately.
Make your initial goal so small that it doesn’t take much motivation to do it. If you can work on it daily, that’s great, but if you can’t, then pick once or twice a week to work on it.
If you are really overwhelmed, then just commit to working on your goal for just two minutes. If it’s writing, then commit to write for only two minutes, or if nothing is on your mind, just stare at your page for two minutes. What Mr. Clear discovered when he made himself do this is that during his two minutes of just starting to write something, whatever came to mind, before the two minutes were up, he stopped paying attention to the timer because he was now on a roll with whatever thoughts started coming just from committing to those first two minutes.
The bottom line is that small improvements, slow or average speed, and tiny gains can add up to amazing achievements. Slow progression is better than standing still. Wonderful pieces of work and accomplishments can come from simply showing up often and consistently.
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I can’t exactly remember where I heard it, but I remember a story that I think illustrates the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people. It went something like this:
Two men went to work for a railroad. They both started at $10 per hour. They both stayed with the company for ten years. By the end of the ten years, one man was in the top leadership of the company, and the other was still making $10 per hour in the same position he had when he started. So, what was the difference between the two men that made one advance and the other remain stagnant? The difference was that one man went to work for $10 per hour. The other man went to work for the railroad.
The principle here is that if you go to work for money, you will be owned by money and remain a slave to the amount you make. If you go to work to provide value to others and genuinely care about people and the mission of your work, then you are more likely to advance and be entrusted with more assets. It’s very much like the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Customers steer clear of salesmen who are only out to get the money. Customers are attracted to people who offer them value in order to help them improve their lives. It is detectable which one is which. If you are only working for the money, you will never be satisfied and will not likely be nominated for advancement. Life and work are about more than money. As Brian Tracy once said, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “what’s in it for me?”
So if the keys to success involve offering value to others, how do I do that? What if I don’t know what value I can offer?
Everyone is made uniquely different. Some love their individual attributes while others don’t like their uniqueness. However, we are all made differently because we are all made for different things. There is something that we each can contribute that no one else can offer. Why is it unique? Why couldn’t anyone else offer the same things I can? Well, there may be some overlap on some things, but overall, what you offer the world is unique because no one else has had the exact same experiences, perspectives, talents and personal attributes that make you you. The things you’ve been through, the beliefs you’ve adopted, the physical features you have, the challenges you face, the limitations you endure, the losses you’ve grieved, the victories you’ve won, the skills you’ve developed and every other aspect of your life, image and spirit are a unique combination that no one else can match. People may share a few similar features or experiences, but the combination of all of them is never the same.
So often people mistakenly believe that the only people who can be truly successful, make a difference, or have anything of value to offer are those that are born with all the right attributes, in the right environment, surrounded by the right people, with the right personality, with the right abilities, etc. I’m telling you that your exact personality, attributes, environment, abilities, etc. ARE the right things to enable you to offer value and to be successful in life. It doesn’t matter where or how you grew up, what disabilities or limitations you may have or just think you may have, or what environment you are currently in, these things provide you with the value that you alone can offer.
For example, I grew up believing that divorce is bad and I was certain that I would never go through a divorce. When I got married, I made sure we were on the same page about divorce, that it simply was not an option and that our marriage was too important to us to give up on it. A few short years later, when my husband told me he wanted a divorce, it shattered me. It was a blow not only emotionally, but to the very beliefs that I held dear my whole life. I have never felt a worse pain than heartbreak. However, as a result of having been through that, I have discovered that that experience has now enabled me to relate to and reach out to a whole new group of people that I was not equipped to help before. Before having gone through divorce, there was no way I could relate to someone who had, or be a comfort to them. What did I know? I had never felt that pain, so how could I comment on the possibility or length of recovery? How could I give tips on things that would help the healing and coping? My support efforts would be almost useless to those people if I couldn’t say that I’ve been there.
Here’s another example. During my studies of dance in college I was introduced to the idea of people dancing with physical limitations. These limitations are most commonly referred to as disabilities or being handicapped. As I learned about these people, I also learned to refer to them as being “differently-abled” rather than disabled. Disabled has a negative connotation that implies having less ability than others. However, these people don’t have “less” ability, they simply have different abilities. In fact, some of them have some very amazing abilities that “normal” or non-disabled people would not be capable of doing. I was introduced to a dance troupe in Denver that is called, “Spoke N Motion,” which is a group of mixed ability dancers made up of many people whom society calls, “disabled.” The dancers include people who are blind, deaf, crippled, autistic, etc. You can check out their Facebook page HERE (please LIKE!) These “differently-abled” people are amazing examples of people who do not let their circumstances dictate their value or quality of life.
No matter what you have been through, what you look like, what scars you have inside or out, what environment you are in, you are able to use all of those things to be a beacon of hope to others struggling with similar challenges. You may even save lives of people who are losing their battles with the same kinds of things you’ve been through. Your life has developed in you skills and strengths that can be channeled to help others improve their lives just as you improve your own. No matter where you are coming from, what your background is, or how you feel right now, always know, tell yourself, and believe that you are incredible and no one can offer the same kind of value that you can. Now go find a way to use your gifts and experiences to help others! Opportunities find those who seek them.
Feel free to watch this video of a dance performance by the Spoke N Motion dance company:
Come Sail Away by Styx
Here are a couple more wonderful videos of amazing differently-abled people doing amazing dances!
This guy is Dubstep Dancing with crutches! Click HERE!
Ballet; Hand In Hand – She without an arm, he without a leg! Click HERE!
Be sure to LIKE Spark True Living on Facebook HERE! Feel free to comment and tell me what you liked or a personal inspirational story that can be encouraging to others! I’d love to hear it!