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Thursday
Jul022009

on the verge of being lost?

One of the world’s largest underground railway stations is Ikebukero station in Tokyo. I used to pass through everyday when I worked as an English teacher at a high school in Japan in the 1990s. I never learnt the right way through that station, even though I passed through it daily. I used to just muddle through, keep going until I saw some exit sign that looked familiar.  There wasn’t even the excuse that the signs were in a foreign language, because they weren’t- they were all in English as well as Japanese. I tried to picture the station in my mind but I just didn’t care enough to really explore and set all the details in my memory. You could say the whole time I was in that station I was on the verge of being lost.

I didn’t care because I didn’t want to be there. I was doing a job I thought was pointless, just to pay bills. The pointlessness of what I was doing meant I didn’t pay much attention to things around me. I just muddled through on the verge of being lost all the time. 

Now I find it amazing that I put up with muddling through without bothering to learn the station’s layout. I recall kidding myself I enjoyed the uncertainty and ‘spontaneity’ of it. I didn’t. I was just another confused person doing what he thought was his level best. It took an encounter with some of the extreme training methods used in Japanese dojos to help me redefine ‘doing your best’.

I hadn’t even learnt a basic lesson: paying attention is something you use or lose. It’s your fault if you put yourself in a situation where you don’t want to pay attention to your surroundings. By not paying attention you lose that ability- an ability which is crucial to learning in general.

I mention this story because if the main structure of your life is not in place then the motivation to shore up the super-structure or the bolt-ons and additions will be lacking.

Some people beat themselves up because they are ‘inefficient’ (me included) but that could be a reflection of the fact that the main structure is not in place.

I love hiking and the simplicity of the structure- you get up, you pack all your gear and you walk. I am very efficient about hiking because the whole structure is in place and agreed.

Getting lost in the station was like a signal, a wake up call: change the basic structure of your life. Instead of doing a job you hate in the best part of the day, do a part time job to earn money and do what you love full time. So I did.

Strangely, when I started doing aikido full time I found that riding a bike took less time so I stopped using that big station. So I solved that problem too.

 

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