Be the best of whatever you are

As I wrote in a previous post, I was “fired” and the manager expected me to come back to work when they get ready to proceed to the next step. Last week, I was asked to come back, and signed a new contract. I’m living in the business world.

Now I have been back to the work. Is this good news? Well, it’s hard to tell. Some of the workers here are demotivated for a reason that I don’t want to describe here. When I saw them, I thought of my favorite quote shown in the profile page. Here is a full text.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Now I tell this to myself.

The current contract will end at the end of May, so now I keep looking for a new job. I may end up taking an undesirable job again.  But whatever I do, be the best of whatever I am.

April 30, 2013Permalink

Independence Day? No, not really.

When I lived in a developing country called the Kingdom of Tonga, locals often asked me “when is Japan’s independence day?” I always answered “I don’t know. We don’t celebrate independence day in Japan.” After WWII, Japan was occupied by GHQ (General Headquarters). Some years later, Japan and U.S. signed a treaty to recognize Japan’s autonomy. It was April 28. This is, technically, Japan’s independence day. But at that time, some regions were still occupied by U.S.

For a long time, I have assumed that Japan, or more precisely, Japanese government did not celebrate independence day because they did not admit that Japan the loser was occupied by U.S. I have a reason to assume in this way. U.N., or United Nations, is not called united nations but called “international league” in Japan. I’ve heard that Japanese government intentionally translated it incorrectly because “United Nations” is the name of the winner who defeated Japan. But, my assumption seems not correct, or at least, it is not “the” reason.

Today, April 28, Japanese government held an event to commemorate Japan’s recovery of autonomy. Japan’s new prime minister is a rightist and likes this sort of activities. But, as I mentioned above, some regions were still occupied when “the majority of Japan” recovered her autonomy, and for those regions, like Okinawa, April 28 is a humiliation day; they were officially separated from Japan then. This may be “the”, or one of the reasons that Japan had not celebrated independence day. But the new prime minister broke the tradition. When the government was commemorating “independence day”, thousands of people in Okinawa gathered to oppose the government. As I mentioned in a previous post, Japan has a complicated history. Okinawa is the “Southern part” that I mentioned. As a Japanese citizen, I don’t want to ignore this issue. But what can I do?

Yesterday I mentioned responsibility of brands and responsibility of consumers. I do not have the power to affect the rightist government, but should look for a way to take responsibility in my way. By the way, some people in Canada now boycott Joe Fresh products because those products were made in the collapsed building in Bangladesh. This is not a constructive reaction, but may trigger positive movement. Let’s see what actions Joe Fresh will take.

April 28, 2013Permalink


The term “sustainability” is often misused. Some people do not distinguish between sustainability and eco, but they are very different. For example, if you keep consuming products made of recycled, so-called environmentally friendly materials, it definitely has negative impacts on the environment; recycling process consumes energy and emits exhaust, which will result in unsustainable solutions. Some people even misuse “eco”. For a terrible example, in Japan, electric vehicles are called “eco car”. Are they? No, not at all. Partially because of the nuclear crisis, electricity is now produced mainly from fossil fuel. Those electric vehicles are charged by burning fossil fuel. The only difference from conventional ones is whether fossil fuel is burned in the vehicle or at a power plant. Those car companies should be either not smart enough to know it or not honest enough to tell it. In either case, it is terrible.

Why do I talk about this now? The tragedy in Bangladesh, as reported in an internet article, “Bangladesh factory collapse: Who really pays for our cheap clothes?” by Anna McMullen, reminds me of sustainability issues. As I mentioned in a previous post, sustainable product design is to realize environmental responsibility, economic security, and social well-being simultaneously. Those garment companies in the Western world probably try to retain their economic security by using “cheap” labor.  Whether or not they use environmentally friendly materials, like non-toxic dye, it is not sustainable because social well-being of the labor is not secured.

So, what can we do to support sustainable garment industry? In the article, Anna McMullen argues that the brands must take responsibility, not the consumers. I agree with her. But can we entirely depend on it? As I described in another previous post, some companies in ethically-advanced nations adopt sustainable business. For example, as described in an article titled The Effects of Multinational Production on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries, some companies run Anti-Sweatshop Campaign. What we can do is to support those companies. We should find our way to take responsibility. I hope they will be as visible as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance.

May all the victims of the collapse rest in peace.

April 27, 2013Permalink

Honesty in the Business World

No, no, I’m not talking about humanity in war or non-biased Japanese in Hollywood movies. I’m talking about honesty in business.

I’m looking for a job now. Many people told me to use a recruiting agency, and I have sent email to many of them, but have got no reply. I had a chance, in a job fair, to talk to a recruiter from an recruiting agency who was looking for new recruiters. I told her what was happening to me, and she told me to contact them actively; give a call rather than sending email. But, reality is, many agencies only accept email. Today I visited a web site of a recruiting company which says “directly contact us”. It says that job seeking process with them begins with an initial meeting face to face. I was impressed, and gave a phone call. However ever, the agent reluctantly told me to brows the job postings and apply online. What the hell do you mean? I just followed the instructions! They might think that mentioning “face to face meeting” would make a good impression, but a lie instantly destroys trust.

Why do people tell lies? Why do they think short-term benefits are more important than long-term trust?

As I often wrote in previous posts, someday I want to start my own business, though I don’t know when it will happen. If it happens, can I retain my honesty to survive in the business world? I hope I will. I hope that honesty will distinguish me from others. Some people retain humanity in war. There should be people who retain honesty in business.

By the way, what did not kill me might make me a little bit stronger. After telling me to apply online, she saw my online profile and said “there is no job for you”. How cruel are they? I was so depressed. But, after a while, I applied for another job “online”. I’ll keep looking for a job anyways.

April 25, 2013Permalink

Normal life

In last couple of years, I have thought of one line for facebook post, “finally, I live normally”. But there seems a long way before posting it.

In last couple of decades, I always do two things simultaneously; doing a full-time job or equivalent like being a full-time student, and preparing for the next step. What I mean by “living normally” is to do one full-time job and spend spare time on hobbies without worrying about next step. Some people, especially Japanese, assume that I like to be a rolling stone and spend an exciting life. This is not true. I want to spend an ordinary but meaningful life. It does not have to be exciting as long as it is meaningful.

In last few weeks, job hunting has been my full-time job, and I did not do anything else. It is dead necessary, but boring. Let’s think in this way; do as I have done in last two decades, which is to do a full-time job and prepare for next steps. Now job hunting, more precisely, finding a full-time job, is my full-time job. So, do something else for next step beyond that. I’m looking for a new career path as a designer, and I will most probably start a job at a junior level. Let’s prepare for the next step. This, in turn, helps the current job hunting.

When I talk about my future with my Japanese friends, I often say “I want to die like Raoh”. Raoh is a famous character of a Japanese comic called 北斗の拳 (Fist of the North Star). When he dies, he screams “我が生涯に一片の悔い無し (no single piece of regret in my life)”.

April 21, 2013Permalink

Good to hear bad news

I have got email from two companies telling that I am not a good fit. One yesterday, and another one today. That’s obviously bad news, but it’s good to know that I have been considered to be a candidate.

According to the discouraging internet article that I mentioned in a previous post, the chance of your cover letter to be read is 17%. Approximately once in six times. Many companies do not require a cover letter today, and I have only sent five cover letters so far (and applied for many more jobs without cover letter). At least one of those two companies seems to have read my cover letter; they appreciated my enthusiasm that cannot be found on my resume. The other one might as well. Isn’t it good to know two out of five have been read?

I even don’t know I am positive or negative, encouraged or discouraged, but I’ll just keep looking for a job anyways. Maybe it’s time to look for a part-time job to make money while doing a full-time job called job hunting.

April 18, 2013Permalink

Skill or Technique

I got a phone call from my bank. When she said the name of the bank, I had a bad feeling. Several months ago, I got a phone call from the same bank. The speaker said many things, but she was not “talking” to me but obviously “reading” something. I told her that I was running out of time, but she did not stop reading it. Finally I told her to send “the document” through email instead of wasting my time. She took offence and hung up the phone. She did not have a communication skill. Unlike that one, the speaker this time was friendly and actually “talked” to me; we had a conversation. I don’t know whether she is a friendly person or has a technique to talk friendly, but she has a good communication skill anyway.

A few days ago, I wrote about skills and expertise. I wondered if what I wrote makes sense, and looked up some words in my dictionary. According to Longman, skill means “an ability to do something well, especially because you have learned and practiced it”. [1] Expertise means “special skills or knowledge in a particular subject”. [1]  And technique means “a special skill or way of doing something, especially one that has to be learned”. [1] All of those attributes are a kind of “skill”. By the way, talent means “a special natural ability or skill” [1], and ability means “something that you are able to do, especially because you have a particular mental or physical skill”. [1] English is a funny language.

Anyways, my job hunting will go on to get a job to use my design skill, technique and expertise in design.

[1] Longman Group Ltd, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited, 1995.

April 15, 2013Permalink

My own weather

When I decided to take the previous job in Orillia, I worried a lot as I wrote in a previous post; I knew it would not lead me to a desired job. One day, I rented a car to visit the company to have a job interview. After the interview, I drove around a bit in Orillia and parked the car in a park beside Lake Couchiching. In October, it was like this photo. When no-one was around me, I told myself “this is a good place.” Eventually I decided to take the job.

As I wrote in another previous post, I am fired and now I’m looking for a new job. As I anticipated, the previous job did not bring anything to me except for “a job experience in Canada”. This is a very depressing situation. A few days ago, I visited the park to reset myself; I wanted to remember the positive feeling. However, there was no green or red and yellow like in the photo, and it was cold under an overcast sky; it was depressing weather. I was lost.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of my most favourite books. Habit 1 is Be Proactive; people have the freedom to choose between stimulus and response.

Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conductive to it or not. [1]

It is not about weather or the colour of woods. It is value. It is not whether the previous job brought something to me or not, but what I find in it and where I go from there.

Today I saw a blue sky between clouds after a couple of weeks of overcast days in Orillia. I felt better, and want to assume it is not because of the weather but because I talked to some people in Toronto and Hamilton the day before yesterday and thought of my value.

[1] S. R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, New York, NY: Fireside, 1989.

April 14, 2013Permalink

Somebody is out there.

I went to Hamilton yesterday to attend “my” students’ final presentation. As I wrote in a previous post, if I understand it correctly, the aim of the course is to make engineers designers. Some students might have had a struggle to accept a fact that technology is not the only thing that engineers need to care about. For the final presentation, the instructors invited some guests who work in the area that the students’ projects fit. During their presentation, the instructors, some of the guests and even other students often asked some harsh questions, which is quite common in a graduate school, which I have experienced several times, which I learned from. I tried to play a different role and made some constructive comments, like “this is good, so that could have been better if you did it in the same way.” I liked to see their smile after harsh questions.

After the presentation, one of the guests, who asked some harsh questions, told me that she liked my comments. It’s good to know that some people appreciate my role. The instructors appreciated it too, and they told me that they will talk to some people who could lead me to a design-related job. I understand that they cannot guarantee anything, and I should not be optimistic about it. But it’s good to know that somebody is out there willing to help me get a job.

I am not strong, but not alone in this fight. Somebody is out there.

April 13, 2013Permalink

Skills and Expertise

If you are one of few readers of this blog, you can probably tell that the design has changed. The web host recently changed the database, and the users have more choices of templates. As I wrote in a previous post, there are many web services that replace designers’ job like designing business card, but users often feel frustration; they have to choose from a limited number of templates. Now I have felt the same; I am given hundreds of templates that I can choose one from, but none of them is what I want. I had to compromise.
But they are, of course, very professional. Now I’m writing this post on my BlackBerry at a bar. I confess that I don’t know how to do it; whatever hardware the user uses, it opens in the most suitable way. This should be quite simple and easy for professional web developers, whether they have a sense of design or not. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have design skills and web development expertise. As I wrote in another previous post, I’m thinking of starting a small business in the future with my design skills. But how can I compete with people who have both design skills and technical expertise while I only have skills?
Anyways, let’s concentrate on job hunting for now, whether it is a part-time or full-time. But I will keep looking for opportunities to improve my design skills and use it in the real world.
Is this post not well organized? Hey, please go easy on me. As I wrote, I’m in a bar. I’m drinking!

April 11, 2013Permalink