Challenge #2: Singing Happy Birthday to Myself in Mcdonalds in Japan – Social Skydiving in Japan

News: Because I wanted to enhance my mindset about what I’m wanting to do and achieve with this project, I’ve officially decided to start it “Social Skydiving,” rather than “rejection therapy.”

You can read more about this social skydiving/rejection therapy experiment here.

This was the second challenge  of my social skydiving project. Man, it was much tougher than the first one. This particular challenge held a few different aspects that were particularly challenging to me: public speaking, singing in front of others, and looking like a doofus in public.

I mean, public speaking and singing is enough for someone who isn’t used to doing that sort of thing.

But what weirdo sits by himself in a crowded restaurant, stands up and announces its his own birthday and sings happy birthday in front of everyone to himself?

So for me, there was a big challenging of the fear of judgment. Judgment that everyone would think its weird that am singing happy birthday to myself.

And, I’m sure they did judge, haha. But that’s part of what this project is about: overcoming fear of judgment.

It was really cool to see that mostly everyone was supportive. As soon as I stood up and commanded everyone’s attention, they were all very interested in what I had to say and some even sang and clapped for me!

Furthermore, I’ll bet afterward they all went about their day with an interesting story to tell 🙂

This is an important realization I’m having as I do this project. The results of doing each challenge is unexpected! Not only am I challenging the fear which toughens my attitude, but I’m also becoming pleasantly surprised at what happens when I challenge the fear.

I’m assuming that this translates over to other aspects of life. We often want to do something like learn a new skill, start a new career, or have an awesome dating life… but we are afraid to try because we might expect to fail.

Well doing these challenges for me is beginning to show me that my expectations for what will happen if I try X thing are often not even correct.

Maybe if I challenge those fears more and try for more of what I want in life, I’ll be pleasantly surprised at the result of trying!

Have any of you had an(y) experience(s) like this?

Thats it for now. Stay tuned for my next challenge which will be posted up very shortly!

Please subscribe to the mailing list in the side bar in order to stay updated on the newest released challenges, and follow me on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram!

UPDATE: Why I Officially Decided to Name This Project “Social Skydiving”

You can read more about this rejection therapy/social skydiving project and see the official list of challenges here.

Social Skydiving in Japan

Up until now, I’ve been really stuck on whether I was going to use the name “rejection therapy” or “social skydiving” to describe this project of challenging myself by going out and completing these challenging social tasks.

I’ve decided to go with social skydiving, not only because it sounds cool and gives you a good visual image  of what the project is, but because it actually reflects a better mindset to me, than does “rejection therapy.”

Both “rejection therapy” and “social skydiving” are not my own terms.

Rejection therapy is the act of challenging yourself to difficult social challenges in order to overcome fear of rejection from people. It was made popular by Jia Jiang, a guy who filmed himself doing 100 rejection challenges. It is my main inspiration for doing this project.

I first heard social skydiving from Bennie the Irish Polyglot in his blog. He talks about social skydiving in terms of talking to lots of strangers in order to improve your skills in the language you are learning. “Skydiving” in that it is intense and scary at first to talk to strangers, but thrilling once you overcome the fear.

Also, after some quick research I found this post in a blog called in which the author Brad Bollenbach talks about social skydiving in terms of talking to strangers in order to improve your dating and social life in general. Another great read.

All of the above I feel are related in that you are challenging fear for the purpose of improving yourself and achieving your goals.

Rejection Therapy Vs. Social Skydiving

The main reason I’ve decided on social skydiving is because of an important difference in the implication of the words.

“Therapy” implies that there is some kind of lack in me. Something that I need to rehabilitate. Something I need to do in order to get myself up to normal. Kind of like how you can have “speech therapy” to get your speech back to normal or “physical therapy” when you have an issue with the way your body works and moves. Physical therapy is something that hopefully gets your body moving properly again, like rehabilitation.

I have always felt a little weird about using “rejection therapy” because the very implication of the term is that I am more afraid of rejection than the average person and I want to use “therapy” to get back to normal. Almost like the implied goal of rejection therapy is to just be normal, but not excellent.

However, I don’t want to just be normal.

I want to go above and beyond! I want to have tons of courage and confidence. Just like jumping out of a plane is something that a person with higher-than-average courage would take, I want my challenges to be more difficult than average.

True skydiving is a challenge, an adventure! It’s intense (at least I imagine, I have not been skydiving yet 😉 )! It’s fun and thrilling.

And I want this social project of bettering myself to be the same, with the goal of becoming someone with tons of courage and confidence that could “jump out of a plane” socially.

To think of the flip side image, I don’t want to be sitting in a room in cast with some guy manipulating my body parts, telling me to move my leg a couple of inches in order to hopefully someday be normal.

I want to be an adventurous skydiver! A social superman! At least I want to work toward my max potential as a human being.

It’s a subtle difference in mindsets: one having the goal of being “normal” and the other having the goal of being excellent.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for my next challenge which will be posted up very shortly! You can check out the official list of challenges here.

Please subscribe to the mailing list in the side bar in order to stay updated on the newest released challenges, and follow me on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram!

Prequel – Fear Busting and Bungee Jumping in Minakami Japan

This will be the prequel to my social skydiving/rejection therapy in Japan experiment.

So with in the last year, I’ve been on this crazy journey of busting out of my comfort zone and putting myself in challenging situations. Mostly in social situations such as my “Talk to 100 People” challenge talked about here.

But also in a more primal sense. Such as bungee jumping.

This is why I’m calling this the “prequel” to my rejection therapy experiment. Bungee jumping may not be facing “rejection” in the strict sense of the word. However, when I look back, doing my social challenges back in the day contributed majorly to building up the confidence in myself to be able to face my fears and bungee jump. And now that I’ve faced the fear of bungee jumping, I feel like I am more ready to overcome my social fears as well.

So yeah, I went bungee jumping…

here in Japan in a little town called Minakami. It was one of the best days I’ve had in Japan: beautiful clear skies and sunny weather, lush mountain scenery, and a fantastic time with my buddies. It was also a major turning point in my life, as I finally challenged myself to do something that was so scary to me, I had previously told myself I would never EVER do it in my life.


Bungee jumping at Bungee Japan in Minakami Japan.

The actual bungee jump itself was intense. Aside from jumping off bridges into lakes, I have never really felt what a long free-fall – the feeling of the ground rushing up at me and the feeling of my body plummeting at high speeds through the sky.

It was a sensation that I will never forget, and I recommend everyone who is capable at least try one time in their life.

Bungee jumping and skydiving: two things I never thought I’d do. Well, on this day I finally challenged myself to bungee and succeeded. I was also rewarded by a rejuvenating soak in an onsen (hot spring) with my close friends.

Fear must be overcame if we are to live an inspiring life full of rich opportunities

I am finding that with every challenging, scary situation we are able to say “yes” to, there is an inner confidence that is built. A core confidence. And with that, a subtle confidence in yourself that grows. A confidence that you can handle whatever situation comes up in your life.

And with that confidence, new doors open up. Doors of opportunity that the fear had previously blinded you from seeing.

It’s almost like when you lack core confidence and constantly run from your fears, you hang your head low and stare at the ground as you walk through life. Because your head is looking down at the ground, you don’t see the doors of opportunity all around you and therefore, you can’t enter them.

Well every time you challenge yourself to something risky, maybe talking to a stranger, maybe applying for a new job, or maybe even bungee jumping, the confidence you built from doing that challenging situation causes your head to raise just a little higher. And as you raise your head you can now start to see a few doors of opportunity that can be entered.

The more you challenge your fears, the higher you lift your head as you walk through life, allowing more and more of those doors of opportunity to come into your life. And of course, the scarier the challenge, the more the confidence is built from it.

This is the premise for my whole rejection therapy project.

Anyways, more about bungee jumping in Minakami Japan!

The actual company itself is called Bungee Japan. And the whole team there really did an awesome job. They were friendly and had a thorough system for jumper safety. All my gear was checked many times by multiple staff members before jumping, and I really felt safe about the whole experience (obviously a big concern!).

AND, they also had a camera team that did an awesome job taking pictures of my jump. It cost an extra 2500¥ (25 US dollars) but was well, well worth the money as I got a bunch of high-quality bungee pics.

The really cool thing was that after the jump, they print you off a “Certificate of Courage”, which is a neat little paper that reminds you of how awesome you are for beating your fears and having the courage to jump.

I’ve actually got mine hanging up on my goal/inspiration board to help remind me that I have the courage to accomplish whatever I dream of.

Bungy Japan Minakami Certificate of Courage

Next fear busting challenge: Skydiving

Yup. Especially because I never thought I’d be bungee jumping, but I beat it anyway, I’m committed to trying skydiving here in Japan. Maybe in the next few months so stay tuned for the next report on that!

I’m super, super scared to go skydiving, and I’m not quite sure how I will get myself to commit to this. But maybe after doing some of these rejection therapy challenges new doors will open up and I will be able to jump through them!

If your interesting in seeing more of my fear busting/social skydiving experiment in Japan, check out my other challenges here.

If you’d like to stay updated on my rejection therapy experiment in Japan, please subscribe to the mailing list in the right side bar of this page. Also please follow me on my YouTube channel, my Twitter feed, and Instagram!

Let’s make this experiment fun and crazy!




Challenge #1: Asking Japanese Police to Drive Police Car – Social Skydiving in Japan

Just did my first challenge! Making a fool of myself and waltzing into a Japanese police office and asking to drive their patrol car, which is a preposterous question.

You can read more about this social skydiving/rejection therapy experiment here.

I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt before doing it. I had previously told my close friends that I was doing this mission on this day so that it would help hold me accountable. I actually had to do it twice, due to my camera getting flipped around and not recording it the first time.

But once I did it, it actually wasn’t too bad. I even ended up having a fun conversation with the police officers!

Another thing was that this was probably the first time I’ve ever talked on camera for so long with the intention of uploading it to the internet. I’ve always felt very video camera shy and quite awkward whenever I have to talk on camera (not to mention hearing myself speak Japanese – yikes!). It will be interesting to see how this develops as time goes on and I do more challenges, and record myself more and more.

One cool thing I noticed:

If you notice the difference in my state before and after my first attempt at the challenge, it’s much different. Before attempting the challenge in the beginning of the video, I seem much more stifled and nervous to speak. My voice is a higher pitch and uses a lot of rising intonation.

But after doing the first attempt at around the 2:15 minute mark in the video, I seem much more at ease. A bit lower pitch in my voice and more assertive looking and sounding overall.

This is most likely a temporary state change, but it was still cool to notice the visible changes that happens in one’s attitude after putting themselves in a challenging situation.

I wonder what I’ll be like after an accumulation of these many challenging experiences!

Thats it for now. Stay tuned for my next challenge which will be posted up very shortly! You can check out the official list of challenges here.

Please subscribe to the mailing list in the side bar in order to stay updated on the newest released challenges, and follow me on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram!


Social Skydiving and Rejection Therapy in Japan Experiment

So guys, I’m really, really excited about this upcoming project.

Have you ever wanted to be free from all shyness, social anxiety, fear of rejection or anything inside you that causes you to not fully express yourself? Or anything inside you that causes you to miss out on achieving your goals and living your dreams?

I sure have. Especially being an American living in Japan poses a few special inhibitions that I would like to overcome. Which is why I’ve decided to give this “rejection therapy” buzz a shot (also known as social skydiving)

What is rejection therapy?

I just recently learned about rejection therapy from a guy called Jia Jiang who was an upcoming entrepreneur that found himself held back from taking the risks he needed to have success in his business ventures. This was due to his fear of being rejected by people, being told “no,” Or being judged in some way.

He decided to overcome his fears by doing 100 social challenges that caused him to put himself in uncomfortable situations where he’d be rejected by strangers in order to build up his social confidence and courage.

These challenges included tasks such as:

  • Asking a waitress to dance,
  • Asking someone permission to play soccer in their backyard,
  • Requesting a specially made Olympic ring donut at the donut shop…

and many others…

In short, his 100 challenges changed his life.

A background about me in Japan

I’m actually not new to rejection therapy. I’ve done this before, without even realizing I was doing it!

Living in Japan poses some special challenges to me. As a foreigner, I often stand out a lot. My looks, my lack of full understanding of Japanese culture (even though I’ve lived here for three years as of now), and of course, my not yet perfect Japanese.

Not to mention I’ve always been extra shy. At least I was. I actually almost failed university because I was too afraid to public speak. But I’ve came a long way since then.

My previous rejection therapy challenges

About a year ago, I got fed up with being shy. Avoiding conversation with people. Missing out on new opportunities to make new friends, new jobs, more money, and just doing and trying all the fun things I wanted to do in life.

Also being especially nervous around Japanese people when I was forced to speak Japanese. Just feeling that lack of confidence in my ability caused me to feel stifled and not feel comfortable.

So I created my own list of social challenges.

My first challenge was:

Say “Hello.” to 100 strangers in public.

This doesn’t sound like much, but for me, it was pretty intense. I was sweating, shaking, nervous as heck. A lot of my hellos were pretty weak. I would just barely choke out the word. But probably after the first 20 or so, it got much easier and I was able to finish out the 100 Hello Challenge in two weeks.

After feeling the confidence and satisfaction of finishing my first challenge, I decided to kick it up a level and start my next challenge, which actually took me about four months to complete:

Start a conversation with 100 strangers in public.

The bar for what was considered a “conversation” was fairly low. But I had to at least commit to trying to talk to a stranger, and they had to at least reply with words in order for it to count as a win.

In Japan, more so than in western countries, people are not used to being engaged in conversation with strangers. It’s just not something that happens a lot. So knowing how awkward it is, it made this mission especially challenging for me.

The thing is, when I did these challenges before, I didn’t document them on camera or blog about them. I just wrote about them in my journal.

This time…

I want to record all of it and throw it up on my YouTube channel to keep myself accountable. I will write about each challenge on my blog. Plus, having done this before, I think I can really kick up the difficulty of these challenges to make them more extreme.

Whereas before, I did my previous challenges and it brought me from being a shy guy, to being a normal (maybe a little more confident than average guy), this time, I want to make the challenges so extreme that the result is I will be like Superman in terms of social confidence.

Actually the way I imagine it is that many opportunities will open up for me because I will have developed the courage and confidence in myself to face the fears required for those opportunities.

This is what I really want more than anything in life: to be completely free of inhibitions so that I can act anyway I want around other people – being completely at ease with myself and enjoying sharing life with others without worrying about being judged.

Let’s see if I can accomplish this with these missions.

To be honest, I’m not really sure how many of these challenges I’m going to do in the long run. I like to make goals that I know I can commit to, so I don’t want to say 100 challenges because that may be even too long for me.

But I think I’m going to start at 25 challenges. Once those challenges are complete, I will decide if I want to continue or not.

Like I said before, this time I want to kick it up a notch, so I’ve been perusing various prank channels on YouTube, going through, and brainstorming my own ideas to see what kind of challenges I want to do.

Here are just a few challenges that I’ve came up with so far…

  • Walking around wearing a samurai costume in a busy district in broad daylight, high-fiving people.
  • Speaking Japanese and pretending I don’t speak English to foreigners in Japan.
  • Approach people on the street speaking “beatbox” language to them.
  • Sing happy birthday to random people on the street (when it’s probably not their birthday).
  • Asking people to borrow their car.
  • Asking policeman if they’ll give me a lift to the nearest station.
  • Asking my waitress to dance.

And the rest I will dream up as I go along.

If any of this is exciting to you or if you have any suggestions for crazy social challenges please post them to the comments and I will do them if they seem appropriate.

This is all for now.

If you’d like to stay updated on my rejection therapy experiment in Japan, please subscribe to the mailing list in the right side bar of this page. Also follow me on my YouTube channel, my Twitter feed, and Instagram.

Let’s make this experiment fun and crazy!






What Lifting Weights Has Taught Me About Learning Japanese

So, I accidentally made a body transformation picture. It’s not very scientifically rigorous, but it still proves a point.

Tony Michael Head transformation picture.

I never even meant to make this. I was milling through old photos and found this picture of  me three years ago.

I was completely shocked at how different I looked. The one on the left was taken August 2012. I was 55 kilos (121 lbs). The more current picture was taken August 2015 and I was 68 kilos (150 lbs) at the peak of my bulk.

Quite a difference, huh? Now I’m not claiming to be huge, because I know compared to many dudes, I’m not. But it was eye-opening to see for the first time actual progress I had made – 13 kilos (29 lbs) of muscle and a big improvement of strength was gained during the last three years.

I have no idea what is typical of a natural lifter who has been putting in his time consistently for three years; I hear a lot of different ideas.

But seeing this change made one thing clear in my mind…

Consistency…even to the point of blind faith will inevitably lead to results.

The most shocking thing about all of this was that the entire time, I never felt like I was making gains. I often felt frustration when I went to the gym because I wasn’t sure what I was doing was actually working. And to be honest, it wasn’t in the beginning. I wasn’t doing it right. I made a ton of mistakes.

If I had had the knowledge I have now, who knows… maybe I could have made the same progress in one or two years. Like I said, I have no idea what is typical of the average person.

But, despite the maybe slow progress, despite the mistakes I made (not counting calories or macros, not sticking to programs long enough) I had the faith to stick to it. The faith that no matter what, as long as I kept at it, things would straighten out.

And eventually, it did straighten. Things started to  come together.

Learning Japanese (or any language) is a lot like weight lifting

You spend lots of effort over a long period of time with minimal return on investment. You spend the effort doing it consistently. Both are strenuous(weight lifting on the body, Japanese on the mind) but you rarely see progress as it’s happening.

In other words the progress is glacial. It happens so slowly and incrementally that you don’t notice it. But it’s there. As sure as global warming is in effect and the polar icecaps are melting, you are gaining muscle and getting bigger. You are also getting better at Japanese, provided you are making that consistent effort and showing up every day.

Now I know I’m not the best Japanese speaker in the world. I still have tons of improvement to make. Just as I have yet reach my fitness goals. As you can see by the picture, I haven’t reached マックスパワー(max power) yet.

I don’t have a before an after pic that lets me readily view my results with learning Japanese, but looking back

there was a time when…

  • I was afraid to hang out with Japanese speakers who couldn’t speak English because it meant I had to rely on my terrible Japanese.
  • I would watch Japanese movies/anime with subtitles because I couldn’t understand it.
  • I couldn’t read and write 2500 kanji characters from memory. Heck, there was a time when I couldn’t even read the kana.
  • Shonen manga (children’s manga) in Japanese was too difficult for me to read.

There was a time when I couldn’t talk my way out of a friggin’ paper bag.

I’ll stop now because I’m really worried about coming off braggy. Compared to where I want to be, I still really suck at Japanese. Nevertheless, looking back now in retrospect, I have made great improvements in my ability to speak Japanese. Just like I was able to transform my body, I was also able to transform my mind from someone who doesn’t speak Japanese, into someone who does.

And the common thread was consistency in my daily actions combined with just a little blind faith that if I just put my head down and kept moving forward no matter what, I would eventually see progress.

So that’s it. That’s my spiel for today. I hope some people will read this and feel a bit motivated to just commit to being consistent in their endeavors, even if when they feel like giving up.

If it was possible transform my body from being a skinny and weak dude, into a slightly less skinny, much stronger dude in a few years, the same is possible for you – whether that be lifting weights, learning to speak Japanese, or any other long-term endeavor.


Turn Painful Emotions into Inspired Action Using a Journal

Have you ever heard that emotion is energy in emotion?

I have somewhere, more than once. Honestly I have no idea where it came from. But I believe it to be true. Based on this simple truth, any emotion that one experiences whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, can be used as energy to fuel your actions and produce desirable results.

Framed in this way, all depression, sadness, anger, hopelessness, or any emotion that you find unpleasant can actually be transmuted into action that can create positive change in your life.

I’m not a spiritual/emotional guru of any sort, but I have found this to be true in my own life. In fact, I believe that those so-called negative emotions are there for a reason: to alarm you to the fact that you are not living the life you desire/living your purpose/getting your needs met.

Those feelings are there to tell you when you are making the wrong choices (or neglecting to make choices at all). A lot of people want to avoid these feelings, ignore them and NOT feel them. However this resistance creates even more stress; not only do you have the unpleasant emotions, but now you are resisting feeling them. This resistance creates even more unpleasant emotions.

Rather, we should be feeling the depth of these emotions and channeling that pain into motivation which charge us into to taking action.

It’s not enough to know that those unpleasant emotions can be channeled into motivation. You need a tool for doing so. I have found using a journal to be an effective tool to funnel my own unpleasant emotions into positive, inspired action that has helped me create much of the success I have experienced in life.

I always carry my journal with me, everywhere.

It’s always in my backpack when I’m on the go. At work its on my desk. At home its on my night stand.

Anytime I start to feel down, angry or sad. Anytime I feel depressed, lonely, or like a failure. Anytime I feel like I’m unsure of what step to take next in life, what to do, or where to go. I bust that puppy out and begin to …


Free-writing is a technique that’s often used as a warm-up or a brainstorming activity by writers in order to get their mind flowing and their pencil moving. It helps them slice through those writer’s blocks.

I found that by using the same technique, I can let my thoughts and emotions (which are often tied up in a big confusing mess) pour out onto paper in a way that can be observed more easily, rather than just floating around in my head.

Free-writing helps your thinking become a more organized. You could just allow your thoughts and emotions to mill around in your mind without expressing them. But the racing mind fueled by the pain of unpleasant emotions will create branching, never-ending thought streams, which are hard to resolve due to their complexity.

Writing your thoughts down on paper as they arise causes you to lock in on one train of thought for longer, allowing some time and insight for solving the problem at hand,  rather than getting swept up in the never-ending streams of thoughts.

So what is free-writing anyway?

Sit down with a pencil and paper (or perhaps open a blank Document on your computer if that’s your thing) and simply write nonstop for a predetermined amount of time with no breaks. That’s free-writing. 

For example, five or ten minutes – perhaps longer. When you run out of things to say, you can either keep repeating the last word, or start writing “Now I don’t know what to say, but I have to keep writing…” or something similar to keep your pen moving. Often new thought threads will appear out of nowhere, even If you thought you had nothing to say.

This works well for helping writers overcome the dreaded writer’s block because it lowers standards of what you write so much that it becomes impossible to NOT to write. When you lower your standards for what you write so much that ANYTHING is okay, your judgmental mind will loosen its grip on you. As a result,your thoughts flow onto paper much more fluidly.

Couple free-writing with the power of observing your emotions and being present, and you have a wicked combo that will allow you to be aware of the entirety of what you feel. You can then discover what action needs to be taken in order to deal with your emotions effectively.

How to start

First, recognize the next time you are in a funk. Notice when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, lonely or anxious. In that moment say to yourself, “Alright, I have an unpleasant emotion inside of me and it doesn’t feel good. But I embrace its existence fully because I know it is there to help motivate me to make a positive change.”

In fact, the degree to which the emotion is painful is equivalent to the degree it will help motivate you to make change. The more painful, the bigger motivation.

Once you have the proper accepting attitude toward your emotions it is time to pick one of the two prompts:

  • “Right now, I feel…”
  • “Right now, I want…”

Then, just write.

Once you got your prompt, start the timer for however long you feel like (I like ten minutes) then starting with the opening line and just keep writing without stopping. All that really matters is that your pen keeps moving across the paper.

I will give a brief example of what your free-write could look like:

Right now I feel a little bit sleepy, a little bit worn out, and a little bit ready to sleep haha. Actually I don’t know what I’m gonna write about. This is kinda weird because I’m writing for my blog and everyone’s gonna read this. So ironically, I want to judge what I’m writing so it comes out perfect but fittingly if it comes out bad that’s okay, since that is the point of this exercise, to lower your standards of what you write about so that your thoughts and words flow freely without getting all stifled…

So there it is, an unedited impromptu free-write as an example of what to do except for the spelling errors ‘cuz that’s just embarrassing.

“Right now I feel…” is great at times when I might be feeling depressed, hopeless, or nervous because by writing about the exact sensation that I’m feeling, it causes me to focus my attention into the present and actually experience the sensation of the emotion itself, rather than get wrapped in the story I’ve created around the emotion with my mind.

We often experience emotions, which are real, physical sensations inside our body. Then, in response to feeling them, our brains try to justify the feeling by attaching a thought or story.

Have you ever been in a “bad mood?” Maybe someone did or said something that provoked anger in you, then you carried that anger with you throughout the day, interpreting other events throughout the day as more events to be angry about, even though you probably shouldn’t have. Perhaps you “took it out” on a spouse, friend, or child.

Often when we feel a challenging emotion (such as anger), and rather than experiencing just the emotion itself, we get wrapped up in this story in which more and more thoughts are created by the mind and more and more emotions are then created and intensified.

Writing about and describing how you feel keeps you in the present moment, i.e., keeps you focused on exactly whats going on right now. In doing so, you’ll often realize things that you didn’t previously, and by making those realizations, the solution to your problem becomes clear.

“Right now, I want…” is also great because it gets you focused on what you actually want RIGHT NOW. That I believe is your ultimate purpose and drive in life.

Once you are thinking about exactly what it is you want in that moment, the free-writing allows your thoughts to flow on your paper so that you can become aware of important elements of that desire, such as why do you want it, how will you feel once you have it, what steps do you need to take to get it, and how long will it realistically take to achieve it.

I believe that the more clearly you are able to answer these questions. The more motivated you will feel in taking the right action to achieve you goals.

Journaling: the key to clarity

Free-writing is a versatile tool that you can use for many different circumstances: brainstorming solutions to problems your having, figuring out your next life goals, pulling yourself out of depression or any painful feeling you may have, or just maintaining your focus on success in general.

Sometimes emotions we feel can be complex. They become tangled up in knots along with our thoughts, and untangling them in a way that makes their energy and resources available to us can be tricky.

Free-writing for me has been one of the ways I’ve been able to effectively sort out my unpleasant emotions and turn them into energy to help spur me into inspired action, and I hope it will do the same for you too.

How have you used a journal to process challenging emotions? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!




Improvisational Exercises for Speaking Japanese that Make You a Better Conversationalist!

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String and tin can telephone-*

I’ve been wanting to share a few exercises for speaking Japanese that will not only improve your Japanese, but your overall conversational ability. In fact, some of these exercises are used in improvisational classes for improving your ability to be creative and talk on the spot.

If done every day for a long enough period of time, these techniques will improve your “fluency” in Japanese (how quickly and fluidly you can speak Japanese).  They will also train your ability to chatter away, hopefully making you a more interesting person.

In fact, the reason I started doing this exercises was because I wanted to develop the ability to speak Japanese quickly, while generating new conversational threads rapidly. I was feeling a little sluggish in my conversational ability before (yeah, not just Japanese, even English). I found these exercises really helped.

Conversational ability is a muscle, and these drills are like weights that build the muscle up.

Maybe some of you are already adroit socializers who can talk up a storm without the need of any extra practice. That’s fine. But these exercises will help get you up to speed in Japanese. Best of all, they give you an aim and avenue for Japanese speaking practice without the need of a partner!

Free association (sentence chaining) exercise

The purpose of this exercise is to train your brain to rapidly generate conversational topics in context based on the previous topic.

Step 1) Say a sentence in Japanese. Anything is okay.

Step 2) Pick one word from that sentence.

Step 3) Make a new sentence using that one word you picked from the previous sentence.

Step 4) Repeat for a predetermined amount of time (I usually do chunks of five minutes). Make sure you set a timer.

The goal of this exercise is to keep generating new sentences and talk continually and smoothly without long pauses in between sentences. When you first begin doing this exercise you might find yourself taking  a long time in between sentences thinking about what you’re going to say next. That’s totally okay at first. After a few days or weeks of doing this daily, you will find yourself rapidly generating new sentences quickly and automatically without much thought. An example in English would look as follows:

Notice how the words in bold are selected and reused in the following sentence.

I am writing an article right now.

I haven’t read any good news articles recently.

Recently, I’ve been studying more Japanese than usual.

I think I am so lucky to have like-minded peers that are good at speaking Japanese!

…  * continue nonstop for five minutes or for whatever time span was predetermined*

That was an example in English; doing this exercise in English alone will explode your conversational skills. Do it in Japanese and you have an excellent way to expand both your conversational muscles AND your spoken Japanese.


“Rambling” AKA monologue practice

Whereas the last drill was for exercising your ability to generate and talk about new topics very quickly, this one is its polar opposite. Rambling practice is choosing one topic, and talking nonstop about that same thing for a given amount of time (again, I like to do five-minute chunks).

Like the last exercise, the goal is to successful talk about the object for the full five minutes without any long pauses in your speech. Also, try not wander to far from the topic.

For example, if I’m rambling about my snowboard, I might start talking about my last snowboarding trip in the Toyama prefecture. I could also branch off and talk about my favorite brands of snowboard equipment, or how I like snowboarding fashion. However, talking about surfing or going to the beach would be too far off topic. Or going deep into how winter is my favorite season might be too far off topic.

Use your judgment and bring the monologue back to the chosen topic if you begin to wander too far.

I like to pick random objects in my room such as an article of clothing that I bought, or a decorative piece in my apartment, or whatever.

Also, abstract topics can be chosen: what you did (or what you will do) for winter vacation last year (this year), how to play guitar, or the origin of the cosmos.

I like to balance the free association exercise with the rambling exercise because whereas the former trains your brain to generate new topics quickly, the latter teaches you to go deep with any given topic.


Telling stories in Japanese

This is one of my favorites. First you brainstorm a list of interesting stories from your life. I actually have a bank of them in my journal that I will refer to when I do story telling practice.

Choose one interesting story, and tell it. You can set a timer for five or ten minutes, or whatever you feel is appropriate. Or, you could even just practice telling the story naturally with no time restraints.

This technique is quite versatile and you could use it with different objectives in mind. You could…

~Just focus on practicing a handful of stories over and over, until you can smoothly bust them out at any time, any place. You can get all the details and intricacies of your story worked out until you can deliver with perfection.

 ~Practice telling a wide variety of different stories so that you get better at improvising on the spot in general, but in the context of using stories from your own life.

~You could even record yourself so that you can play it back and become aware of idiosyncrasies in your speech, and parts of the story you’d like to improve on or change for the future.

What I’ve done before was a mixture of all of this. First, I brainstormed the top ten most interesting stories from my life. Then I wrote them down and in Japanese and had it corrected by a native speaker of Japanese.

Then later I practiced telling the stories (off the top of my head) and recorded myself telling them so I could analyze the way I spoke.

Really the possibilities with this drill is endless.

How to unify these improvisational speaking techniques into a daily practice

Now we’ve talked about a few useful techniques to improve your conversational skills in Japanese, but how do we unify those into a daily practice that will help you improve over time?

I love these techniques, and I use them often. But it’s not like I have done them every single day since the beginning of my studies. Instead, I do them for a fixed period of time (2 weeks or a month). Within that period of time I will do some or all of the activities for a certain number of minutes each day.

I will create a progress bar for the activity in order to track it easier. This practice is of course done in addition to sentence collecting, Japanese immersion, and other deliberate practice.

What follows is a few sample plans for how to incorporate these exercises into your normal routine.

Every day for two weeks:

Free association 5 mins

Rambling 5 mins

Story telling 5 mins

Or perhaps…

Every day for one month:

Free association 10 mins

Story telling 10 mins

Or even….

Every day for three weeks:

Story telling 25 mins

So basically it’s up to you to choose the combination of exercises you want to do, the time span, and how long you want to do them each day.

That’s all I got for now! Feel free to post your comments, suggestions, or questions if you have them!

Back to The Unorthodox Guide to Learning Japanese [Table of Contents]



Waking Up Early is Da Bomb for Productivity

Beautiful sunrise on Mt. Fuji

For the last two months now, I’ve been waking up at 6:20 am.

It takes some getting used to, but once adjusted, I found that it really helps productivity and focus.

Why did I start waking up at 6:30 when I don’t really need to be awake until 7:45? Well I’ve had a busy schedule working on many goals at once, as well as other important tasks: writing this blog, music gig this month, new side project with my Japanese studies, and other daily tasks such as reading, journaling, and gym. I found myself faced with so many tasks that it was a nightmare to get everything done throughout the day. I was feeling hurried trying to get all this stuff done every day with no time for myself to unwind and relax.

Waking up one hour early to study Japanese, rather than trying to fit it in after work, proved to have some benefits.

Doing your highest priority task first in the early morning ensures that it gets done with your freshest attention and energy

After the initial moments of morning drowsiness fade away, the warm morning sunlight shines in through the window and hits your skin (and that good ol’ coffee kicks in). You find myself more alert and focused than any part of the day.

For me, rolling out of bed, pouring that big cup of Joe, and immediately getting started on my largest and most important task of the day soon leaves me with a sense of accomplishment knowing that I got a critical task for the day finished.

I mean, you could just save that important task for after work but I imagine work would leave you tired and with less mental resources to work with. Especially when you just want to relax, right?

It is natural for humans to wake up with the sun

I’m actually talking out of my ass on this one. But I imagine that it would be most natural for humans to wake up with the sun. I’m assuming that having not evolved with digital alarm clocks to wake us up in the caveman days, we relied on our biological alarm clocks to sense the sunshine and wake us up when appropriate.

If it is true that waking up with the sunlight is natural for us, then it follows that repeating this behaviour would cause us to feel our most alert, focused and engergetic (as well as optimize other biological process in our body). Doing this along with making sure you meet your nutritional needs could be gold for optimizing brain performance.

All about experimentation and finding what works for you

I dunno. This is probably super obvious for some people. But for me it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and even after I finish this current project with Japanese I will continue to wake up at 6:20 on the daily and get my most important tasks finished.

I know everyone’s different and that’s why some people choose to get their most important tasks done at night (I remember hearing one of Tim Ferriss’s podcasts about his most creative period of the day being late night).

Let me know if you guys have had any experience with this. And if not morning, what’s your most productive time of the day?