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Japanese School Girls, Poetry, and Consciousness

Japanese School Girls, Poetry, and Consciousness

This week, I had an interesting English lesson in which I taught a Japanese junior high school girl about human consciousness.

I was at Mister Donut, sipping coffee and reading a heavy book called I am a Strange Loop when her mother called me. She said that her daughter wanted to translate a well-known set of a hundred Japanese poems into English. Since I’ve done a large amount of translation work myself, I knew that the innocent request from my cute little student was not so simple. It is monumental task that long-time professionals spend years and get paid highly to do.

So I said, “Sure, no problem.”


I am a meaning-creating machine.

I am a Strange Loop is a book about human consciousness. The author believes that human consciousness is strange because it appears that the abstract “I” has more power than the physical universe. Humans, thanks to our thinking abilities, appear to create meaning. The more meaning we create, the more we are able to manipulate the physical universe.

The author is especially interested in the fact that humans are reminded of things. We draw conclusions about seemingly unrelated things by analogy. When someone eats a piece of cake and says that the piece they are eating is disgusting, we draw the conclusion that the whole cake must be disgusting, too.

Sometimes, we use our ability to find so-called “hidden meanings”. Storytellers may have certain events happen in their stories that have a simple, level-1 meaning, but that event is meant to hint at a deeper, level-2 meaning. In fact, the truth that they wish to communicate is often the level-2 meaning which can only be understood by analogy.

However, as I said, humans create meaning. When a farmer looks at gray clouds in the distance, what does he see? Does he see something different from what his cow sees? Yes, he does. The cow sees gray blobs in the sky. The farmer sees future food. He “connects the dots” which he himself creates through simulations in his mind. After all, clouds don’t mean future food if you don’t plant seeds.

It’s that ability to create meaning from context that is very interesting to the author because that ability can be directed towards ourselves. The learning machine can direct its attention toward itself. The “I” is a meaning-creation machine that can look at itself and express its own meaning.

The important thing to understand is that the ability to find and create meaning from context is an essential quality of human thinking.

After struggling to understand the secrets of human consciousness and reality, I finished my donuts and coffee and went to help a girl translate a masterpiece.


Poems and card games

My student is a Japanese junior high school girl who enjoys Japanese literature. She especially likes a game called karuta. Karuta is a card dueling game. To win at karuta, players need to be extremely familiar with a set of 100 famous Japanese poems. Here’s how a karuta game is played:

  1. Two players sit on the floor and face each other.
  2. Between them are a set of cards from a selection of 100 Japanese poems, face up on the floor.
  3. An announcer recites a poem.
  4. At any point during the recitation, players grab the card with the poem on it.
  5. The player who grabs the most correct cards wins.


As I said, my student wants to translate those poems into English. At the beginning of our lesson, she asked, “Can we just replace all of the Japanese words with English words?”

Oh, if only that were true.

I explained that translating is complicated. There are several layers of meaning to words. Words not only express ideas, they also express feelings. They have a flow and rhythm. And as I said above, we often use words to express several layers of meaning. When translating any text, especially ones with several layers of meaning intended by the author, we need to be very familiar with the text we’re translating or we may lose important meaning in the process.

The freshman junior high school girl was understandably overwhelmed by even my simple explanation.

So instead, I decided to show her.

She pulled out a book of poems and opened it to the first one. We translated it together.

In a small shack standing on the edge of the autumn fields, the straw roof’s seams are coarse, so the sleeve of my clothing is getting wet from the trickling down night dew.

I asked my student to explain the meaning of the poem to me. She said that the author was an emperor who slept in a poor person’s house. The experience taught him the difficulty of life as a poor person.

During my lesson, I wanted to do two things:

  1. I wanted to draw attention to two sections: “the edge of the autumn fields” and “the straw roof’s seams”.
  2. I wanted my student to try to read and guess the meaning of some of the words.

For number one, in Japanese, the grammatical structure of the two expressions is the same.

The choice of using “edge of” and “roof’s”, rather than “field’s edge” and “seams of the roof” is mine to make. The alternatives express essentially the same idea. Well, at least at one level of meaning. But I’m not intimately familiar with the text, so it’s possible that one translation more accurately expresses the author’s intended meaning. Furthermore, this is poetry. The flow and rhythm of a poem may be just as important to understanding the meaning as the words themselves.

As for number two, the word I wanted her to guess was “roof’s”. I taught her the meaning of “straw” and “seams”. Given that she knew the meaning of the poem in Japanese, and given that I had taught her the meaning of the surrounding words, I believed she had a fighting chance of guessing the meaning of “roof’s”.


Learning from context with sudoku

To help her understand what I was asking her to do, I used another Japanese game as an example: sudoku. Sudoku is a logic puzzle game involving numbers. A 9 x 9 board is divided into 9 separate large boxes with 9 smaller boxes inside them. The puzzle begins with some of the squares filled in with numbers. The rules are as follows:

  1. The small boxes in each large box need to be filled in with numbers 1-9.
  2. The large boxes can only have one of each number. There can be only one 1, one 2, one 3, etc.
  3. Similarly, vertical and horizontal lines of boxes spanning across the large boxes can only have one 1, one 2, one 3, etc.



Following those rules, players need to guess which number goes in each blank box. They guess based on the numbers that are filled in at the beginning, the rules above, and logical rules of deduction. I showed her a sudoku board and I showed her how we could figure out the possible numbers in a box based on things we already knew (rules and the numbers already on the board).

Learning new words from context works exactly the same way. Grammar rules are like rules of the game. English is left to right, subject-verb-object, etc. Words you know around words you don’t know is context.

There is no end to the amount of vocabulary that you have to learn in a foreign language. Learning from context is absolutely necessary because we can’t constantly refer to a dictionary. And even if we could, it would be slower than learning from context much of the time.

Learning and making meaning from context is not only essential for language learning, it’s essential for life. We constantly have to make sense of things that happen in objective reality. We have to look at events large and small and answer the question, “What does this mean? Is it important?”


Combing through the wreckage

Unfortunately, my student couldn’t get the meaning of “roof’s”. But, what did she get?

  1. She learned that translating complex thoughts is an imprecise and challenging effort.
  2. She learned that learning from context is the essential quality of language study.
  3. She learned a bit about deductive reasoning.
  4. She learned about the many different ways words express meaning.

After a long journey, we ended with a bit of reading practice. When we were all done, she still seemed full of energy and ready for more. I look forward to helping her develop her essential human qualities through English.

Losers make goals. Winners make systems. 敗者は目標を作る。勝者はシステムを作る。

Losers make goals. Winners make systems. 敗者は目標を作る。勝者はシステムを作る。

So you’ve read a bit about mindset. You realize now that you have changes to make to your mindset. How do you make those changes? You probably are thinking, “I should make a goal!”

“My goal is to become 100% fluent in English!”

Stop. You’re on the wrong path. Making a goal is a mistake. Losers make goals. Don’t be a loser.

You’ve probably never heard something like that. School teachers tell us to make goals. Our parents tell us to make goals. The TV and Youtube people we like tell us to make goals. It almost like the whole world screams, “Make goals!”

Forget that. Winners don’t make goals.

Want to be effective? Make a system. Want to be dangerous? Make a system. Want to be powerful? Make a system. Men and women that are deadly productive make systems. Aspiring mothers of large families make systems. Aspiring business magnates make systems.

So what is a system and what is the different between a system and a goal?

Goals are endpoints.Systems are something you do regularly. Goals are reached. Systems are maintained.

Here are some common goals you may have heard or made before:

I’m going to get a high score on the TOEIC.
I’m going to get into a great school.
I’m going to become fluent in English.
I’m going to read an English novel.
I’m going to learn English so I can get a better job.

Any of these sound familiar?

Goal-making is loser-think. The reason is that people who make goals are stuck in a state of failure most of the time. Am I a fluent English speaker? No. Have I reached my goal yet? No. Another day, another failure.

If they reach their goal, they achieve “success”. They feel happy for a short time and then are left feeling empty. Why? They lost their purpose. They had something to work toward, then when they got it, they realized that they’re done and have nothing to do.

That is the best case scenario for goal-makers. Most days, a failure. For a short time, successful and happy. Then, lost and aimless.

Choose systems-thinking. Get rid of feelings of failure and aimlessness. Embrace systems and your systems will set you free.
















Master Your Mind 脳をマスターする

Master Your Mind 脳をマスターする

You start at zero. That’s okay, we all begin there. At zero, you are barely capable of taking care of yourself, let alone of building an empire.

At this stage of your development, nobody sees you. Nobody wants you. Nobody but a privileged few see your hidden potential. You don’t even know your own potential.

Right now, only one thing matters: Get your mind in the right place.

You have been taught by many people. You absorbed the bad lessons that they showed you and have long forgotten the good lessons they told you. Our visual sense overpowers our other senses, and we feel emotions about things before we form thoughts about them. As a result, you, like all of us, learned to feel certain feelings based mostly on the things that you saw. You are likely a slave to those emotions.

You may think that your feelings are based on logic or facts. That’s how many people feel. Like many people, you are probably wrong.

It was difficult for me to accept the truth, too. Emotions come before facts or logical thinking. You are emotional. How do I know? Because every healthy, functioning human being has emotions. When we are passionate about something, we often express those emotions. That’s part of the human experience.

Here is the scary thought: feeling emotions is the primary human experience. People mostly act based on their emotions. Those emotions are programmed into us by our DNA and environment. The majority of people don’t do the hard, painful work of understanding and controlling their emotions. As a result, they experience a lot of pain. They often spread that pain to the people around them.

The beginning of life success and happiness is to fix your mindset. It is absolutely essential. Your mindset is the foundation for your future happiness and success. Skipping mindset training is not an option.

There are a lot of books that will help you fix your mindset. Here is a small list of books available in English and Japanese.

  • The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  • Influence, Robert Cialdini

There are more books. My two favorites are Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich and How to Win Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Launch is another important book about online marketing, but you can learn many mindset principles from it. Sapiens is an important history book that has a powerful message about mindset.

I’ll help you get started on your mindset training with some powerful thoughts to begin your reprogramming.

  1. You were born with infinite potential. You are still filled with infinite potential. You are infinite.
  2. Your current and future friends and family need you to be happy, successful, and healthy.
  3. The stories you tell about your past, present, and future are more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
  4. Tell yourself the most powerful, inspiring stories that you can imagine.
  5. Whatever story you tell yourself, it will not be ambitious enough. It will only be the first chapter in your story.

You have lots of reading and thinking to do. However, you won’t be able to perfectly finish your mindset work reading books. You need to start doing something.









  • 積極的考え方の力
  • 人を動かす、デール・カーネギー
  • 影響力の武器、ろばると・ちゃるでぃにー



  1. 君は無限のポテンシャルで生まれた。まだ無限のポテンシャルでいっぱい。君は無限だ。
  2. 現在と将来の友達と家族は幸せと成功した、健康的な君が必要なんだ。
  3. 君が話す過去、現在と将来の物語は、想像できる以上に強力だ。
  4. できるだけ協力でインスパイアしてくれる物語を自分に言う。
  5. どんな物語を自分に言っても、十分野心的ではない。その物語は第一章に過ぎない。


Music to my ears・耳に音楽

Music to my ears・耳に音楽

Personal development material, old and new, deals with a central challenge facing everybody: happiness. How can we be happy? On Facebook, you might see pictures circulating that say things like, “True happiness comes from within.”

Has a more unhelpful truism ever been uttered?

The problem is the question. It’s too high-level. What is “happiness”? The mystery that exists in that one word is enough to make any equally high-level answer to the question totally unactionable. We can think at the level of “happiness”, but we live the level of “go here and do that.”

Wise people have come across a simple technique for finding happiness. People are typically unhappy because they can’t have the things they want. It’s hard to stop wanting. It’s part of what makes us human. How do we embrace our humanity yet find happiness?

The wise people say this: the first step to undoing the unhappiness is to observe our lives and ask: What do I have? Instead of focusing our attention on the things we want but don’t have, refocus on what we do have. Reconnect to the things we are taking for granted.

That’s what people call gratitude. Gratitude is a way to check in and stabilize our emotions. When our emotions are starting to take over, when stress and worry about the future start to overwhelm us, the best thing we can do is simply change our focus to the things closest to us.

Recently, I was experiencing a lot of irritation when I got home from work. I would be upset, seemingly for no reason, and avoid contact with others. I just wanted to be alone.

But, I knew I had to change. The first thing I did was begin fixing some problems in my environment. After I started getting my environment under control, I decided I needed to purposefully counteract my desire to be alone or “disconnect”. So, I made a new rule for myself:

When I get home, as soon as possible, I give my wife a kiss.

It’s been a successful technique for boosting my mood when I get home.

Then, a couple days ago when I got home, something happened. After I put my things down by my desk, I gave my wife a kiss before going to change my clothes. As always, she said, “Welcome home!”

Something about her beautiful voice echoed inside my head, like I had just heard music for the first time. I felt a deep sense of connection with her, and strangely, the world. I also felt proud for changing myself and creating that moment. While walking up the stairs, I almost cried.

There are a lot of things I want: a new camera, new lenses, new house, a new chair, etc. But, that’s okay. I’ll get those things. The good news is that I have something really important to me already.

They say true happiness comes from within. Maybe. But having someone to come home to and kiss everyday doesn’t hurt, either.

パーソナルデヴェロップメントの取材は古くても新しくても、みんなが向かっている挑戦について語る: 幸せ。私たちはどうやって幸せになれる?フェースブックでは、こういうことが書いてある写真をよく見る:「本物の幸せは中から」。