I was born in Ravenna, Ohio, in November of 1957. When I was two years old, our family moved to Yokohama, Japan. My father was stationed at Tachikawa Airfield. My mother went to work on base as an executive assistant to the colonel in command. She hired a nanny to look after me. Her name was Yoshkosan. She loved me unconditionally and affirmed that I was meant to do something special in my life. She would speak to me in Japanese and I would reply in a blend of English and Japanese words and phrases. Because of her, I have had a lifelong love of all things Japanese: the culture, the language, the people. Certain words have stayed with me like green tea infused into boiling water.

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning "change for the better" or "continuous improvement.” It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process. The foundation of the Kaizen method consists of five founding elements:

  • Teamwork
  • Personal discipline
  • Improved morale
  • Quality circles of innovation
  • Suggestions for improvement

Mokuteki: “To be useful; to be helpful; to serve the purpose.”

The great author, salesman, and motivational speakers Zig Ziglar said it best: “You can have everything you want in life if you only help enough other people get what they want first.” There it is.

Arigato: “Thank you!” Gratitude is a habit and philosophy to live by.

Yesterday, I learned a new word from my old friend and client, David Indursky. A very successful HVAC contractor in New Jersey, he asked me if I knew this word. I did not. After researching it, I smiled. This single word defined what I discovered about myself when I was 35 years old. The word I used to describe my revelation was “bliss.” The Japanese define it in a more meaningful and profound way:

Ikigai: (生き甲斐, pronounced “Ick-ee-guy,” is a Japanese concept and philosophy that means "a reason for being." The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one's life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. Americans translate this word into four aspects or elements:

  • Do what you love
  • Do what you are good at
  • Do what the world needs
  • Do what you can get paid for

This morning as I consider the meaning and value of each of these four words, because of my love of all things Japanese and the foundation Yoshkosan laid beneath me, I have turned these four words into affirmations:

“I am committed to continuous improvement through the daily discipline of reading, writing, and learning, improving 1% a day for 90 days. I love working with organizations to improve their teamwork, morale, innovation, and profit. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the finest organizations in the world. I love what I do and keep looking for ways to improve the quality and quantity of service to my fellow man, knowing my rewards in life are directly related to that service. Thank you.”

What will your affirmations be?

If Yoshkosan were still alive, I would FaceTime her and tell her how much I love her and thank her for planting the seeds of success and the unconditional love she gave me when I was in the Land of the Rising Sun.


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