Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence

I'm writing on the 4th of July 2017, which marks 241 years since thirteen colonies determined they would prefer to decide their own fate by declaring "Independence." This yearning for self-determination required a collective sheer force of will against the most powerful empire of the era. It took many years of suffering and uncertainty before Independence became a reality in the form of the United States of America. As I observe our political dialogue today, it is clear that the path to independence is a constant struggle of ideas, ideals and hopes crashing into one another in a messy, passionate experiment.

I'm reminded of a book I recently read, "Transitions" by William Bridges. Originally published in 1980 when Bridges was in his mid-40s, he released an updated 25th anniversary edition in 2004 when he was in his early 70s. An elderly man looking back over the decades to appraise his own work as a middle aged man, he could see quite clearly the psychological tasks that had driven him in each phase of his own life. With effort, each one of us can discern the meaning behind the patterns of behavior in our past. I've found it even more difficult to recognize them in our present. But the effort is worth it. It is often not until much later that we can articulate what our nudges are trying to tell us, and they are usually helping us become the person we are meant to be.

"Transitions" offers a helpful framework to describe the internal movement at play within each of us as we pass through life's phases. Each transition starts, ironically, with dying: We experience a kind of death, as part of our old way of being no longer suits us. Then we go through a frustrating period of disequilibrium and lostness. Finally, we can emerge reborn with deeper insight, wisdom and clarity about who we are and where we're going. 

This was the case when I decided at age 40 to "dream up adventures with my kids." That led me to cycle the length of Japan the following year with my 8-year-old son. I took a 2-month unpaid leave of absence from my position at Intel Corporation, was nearly fired, but instead convinced Intel to sponsor the trip. On the last day of that 67-day, 2500-mile journey, I told my son I would write a book about the experience. It would be my gift to him so that, after I died, whenever he missed me, I'd be waiting for him right there in the pages. That book is Rising Son

Two years later, I left a 14-year corporate career to become an "Adventurer." I declared my independence from an old way of being and decided to chart my own future and craft the most meaningful life I could dream up. The decision was frought with risk. The suffering and self-doubt have been debilitating at times, but the rewards have been exhilarating. The transition from my stable corporate identity required a part of me to die in order to make space for something new to emerge.

I developed a workshop called "What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?" and in the past three years have delivered it to groups of CEOs all over North America. I've given a version of this talk to people of all ages, from Kindergarteners all the way up to executives who retired decades ago. 

The message is the same for all: It is up to each one of us to craft our meaningful life. It will take focused effort and a sheer force of will in the face of any and all opposition. That opposition may take the form of your pre-conceived notions about who you are. Or it may be the opinions of others, financial realities, irrational or well founded fears, or any other reason that keeps you stuck right where you are. 

But if you spend time thinking about the internal process of transitions, you will see that you are never stuck. You will move through life's phases whether you like it or not. So, you might as well take the reins and choose the direction yourself. Like a set of thirteen uppity colonies nearly 2 1/2 centuries ago, you are free to declare independence from whatever perceived limit makes you feel trapped. You are free to direct the course of your life in a way that is most deeply satisfying to you. The path will not be easy, and you will suffer. But you will wake up. You will come to life. You will be full of vitality.

And in doing so, you will give everyone around you a gift: the profound hope that they can do the same.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Kili in the Dark

Congratulations to my friend and Team See Possibilities co-founder Dan Berlin who was featured in this Wall Street Journal article by Jen Murphy: "He Went Blind, Then Became a Distance Runner." We're in Tanzania now, having just finished climbing to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Naming our trek "Kili in the Dark," we're raising money to support children who are vision impaired. If you would like to make a donation, please click the "Donate Now" button at www.teamseepossibilities.com. Through the Intrepid Foundation, our sponsor Intrepid Travel will match every dollar raised. Thank you!



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Return to Tokyo

All good things must come to an end. Saya and I have officially finished our cycling trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. I always feel a little down when a big adventure comes to an end, but the sadness is quickly replaced by many good memories and the excitement of knowing that we will come up with more challenges to share in the future.

On Monday, July 25, I will give a 90-minute presentation to the management team and employees at Intel Corporation in Tokyo. I'll talk about ways to use discomfort to your advantage, the power of informed risk taking, and the secret to optimal performance. All these were top of mind as my 9-year-old daughter and I cycled over mountains and through Japan's summer heat in the past two weeks. Whenever the trip felt overwhelming, Saya and I laughed and said, "The harder things are, the more interesting stories we'll have to tell afterward!"

Yesterday, I attended a memorial service in Tokyo for my father-in-law, who died a year ago at age 86. The Buddhist priest who presided over the ceremony said that it's natural to feel sad and lonely after someone we love dies. But their death is also a reminder of how precious each moment is. Each of us can craft a meaningful life full of gratitude for our short time on this little blue ball falling around the sun. 

My father-in-law experienced so much in his life: World War II, working in the U.S. and Europe, raising a family, losing his wife to cancer. As I looked at the many people who attended the memorial, I realized how much energy he put into building and treasuring connections with people throughout his long life. He understood that humans are designed to connect with one another, that we need support and love, and that we always have the opportunity to grow and change and help one another along the way. I miss him.

Here are some photos from the past few days:


Saya being her usual silly self

Saya and I with the owner of Sunaba Minshuku on Cape Irago. The food was excellent, the sunset amazing, and the futons super comfortable.

Saya and Kinpara-san, who took a day off work to cycle with us. He rode from his home in Hamamatsu to meet us in Cape Irago, then he guided us back to Hamamatsu, riding 140 kilometers!

Kinpara-san and his wife invited us to their home in Hamamatsu for a delicious home cooked meal. We were very lucky to meet such kind people.

If you wear these water shoes while cycling for many hours a day in the hot summer sun, your feet will look like this!


Saya taking a snack break

We cycled through the pedestrian-only Meiji Tunnel while riding over a mountain into the town of Shizuoka. Saya called it "spooky and great!"

Back in Tokyo, we were reunited with my wife Eiko and our son Sho. This is at the memorial service for Eiko's father.

After the memorial service, we ate dinner with our family in Tokyo. My niece Arisa is in the middle holding a photo of Eiko's mother and father. The cake says "Happy Second Birthday Arisa." She survived cancer three years ago thanks to a bone marrow transplant, and she carries a beautiful energy full of gratitude and hope.

My brother-in-law Aki drove me to Shizuoka to pick up the bikes I left behind when Saya and I had to take a train back to Tokyo to attend the memorial service. It hurt to put the bikes in a car. My heart still wanted to be on the cycling trip. But that's okay. I suspect there are many more to come! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

On the return trip from Kyoto to Tokyo

Saya and I are on the ferry from Toba to Cape Irago, and I thought I'd post a few pics and videos from the past few days of cycling and exploring. Saya's favorite part about our visit to Kyoto was seeing her beloved babysitter, Miho-san!


Miho-san lived in NYC for 8 years and babysat Saya starting at age 2. She moved back to her home in Kobe, Japan last year and Saya has missed her a lot. Miho-san and her husband spent a day with us in Kyoto, including a visit to the local aquarium, where Saya got to feed some seriously large turtles. Saya is on the far left.


Here's a photo of us with Miho-san and her husband Masamitsu Yoshida:


And here are some photos of Saya and I cycling out of Kyoto:



While in Kyoto, we had the distinct honor of seeing the Gion Matsuri festival, which dates back over 1,000 years and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. Here are some pics:



We ate lunch at the same restaurant in the town of Seki where we ate last week. Our friends there presented us with so many gifts we had to turn some of them down because we couldn't fit them on our bikes.



In between cycling, we've been checking out the sumo tournament under way right now:


Today is quite hot but our bodies have become accustomed to the heat. Here are pics from a break by the seaside:



And here is Saya supervising the workers securing our bikes on the ferry to Cape Irago: 


We need to arrive in Tokyo by Friday night in order to attend a memorial service for my father-in-law, who died a year ago. It doesn't look like we'll be able to reach Tokyo by bicycle in time. That's okay - we'll ride as far as we can until Friday, then lock up the bikes somewhere safe and take a train the rest of the way to Tokyo. We don't have bike bags, which are required to take bicycles on the train. I'll return after the memorial service to retrieve the bikes.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Made it to Kyoto


After over a week of cycling, Saya and I pedaled into Kyoto two days ago, tired and happy! We're halfway through our bike ride from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, and we decided to spend a couple days enjoying this unique, tradition-rich Japanese city before beginning our return journey. Kyoto is full of ancient temples, yukata-clad men and women (yukata is a casual type of kimono typically worn in summer), tourists galour, and a wide variety of food. 

Saya's favorite?
Cucumber on a stick!

Today we plan to check out the famous Gion Matsuri, a festival that dates back over 1,000 years. One of the main streets was already closed in preparation for the big event:

And we fit in a visit to the stupendous Kiyomizu Dera Temple:


Hmm, I don't think Saya showed the proper reverence for this ancient temple...

Since my last blog update from Hamamatsu, we've had many memorable experiences. 

Sometimes the ride was Tough
When we cycled beneath the brutal sun on a hot, humid day or up long, seemingly never-ending climbs to a mountain pass. Here's the tunnel at the top of a climb outside the town of Seki (between Tsu and Kyoto)
I was dripping with sweat when we finally reached this point. On the other side of the tunnel was a long descent, and while I relished the chance to rest my legs and enjoy the cool wind on the steep downhill ride, Saya complained that my sweat was splashing back on her. Poor kid. So gross...

Sometimes the ride was Annoying
Like when it rained so much I had difficulty using my iPhone to figure out the route. Water on the screen and wet fingers make the iPhone unhappy and prone to temper tantrums. Saya wasn't bothered though. She loves the rain.

Sometimes the ride was Embarrassing
Speaking of temper tantrums, when I got tired or hungry or dehydrated, I may have gotten a bit fussy and less patient than usual. But Saya was patient with me and always found a way to cheer me up.

Sometimes the ride was Slow
Traveling by connected bicycles with a 9-year-old and 70+ pounds of gear makes it hard to ride fast. In less than an hour a car can cover more miles than we can pedal all day. But traveling by bicycle makes it easy to stop and check out the many fabulous creatures waiting to be noticed. Saya is an expert at this.
  


Sometimes the ride was Breath-taking:
We continually came across views that simply demanded we stop and take a photo, like these from Cape Irago.





Here's what Saya did with the beach sunset at Cape Irago:




Sometimes the ride was Unusual:
 
 This is how our bike was secured on the ferry ride from Cape Irago to the town of Tobe

If you happen to visit Tobe, make sure to check out the fabulous aquarium!

Sometimes the ride was Social:

With friendly patrons at a restaurant in the town of Seki

Saya with a cyclist from Thailand

Sometimes the ride was Delicious.



And sometimes the ride was Perspective Giving and made me deeply happy to be a father.