You’ll have to excuse a slightly erratic posting schedule. We left our home in Brooklyn yesterday morning at 7:30am, and we became parents before 9am. That was quite the car ride, let me tell you. It’s a busy week, we were also supposed to vacate said home at 10am yesterday having sold the property, but we managed to push it a week as traffic was heavy and I didn’t think I could make it back in time to close.
Be prepared for sporadic, erratic and anything else that ends in a ‘ic’ for bit. And this post will kick things off. I hope the travel community that follows the blog can see where I am coming from, and where I am going with the story I share tonight, as it is a little more… esoteric than some.
Tonight, before returning home I spent an hour holding my new baby and thinking what new parents think. How I hope he doesn’t turn out ugly, how he better be able to sleep somewhere other than on my belly, how he better start figuring out how to wipe his own arse soon, and how I want to make him the best man he can be.
I tried to think about teaching him to be strong. I cast my mind back to the times in my life where I became strong as a man, I had never left home (a smallish town in Wales) before, and I took a job in Texas. The change of location was easy enough as we had moved a lot as a family in the UK, but the immersion and isolation that crossing the Atlantic solo can convey is a powerful thing. I learned a lot about independence there. The next thought was in Japan. We moved there and lived in a cheap apartment provided to Allison as part of her job, the town was called Tanashi, which had Kanji roughly representing ‘the land of no rice‘ which in a part of the world where rice is held in higher regard than gold is saying that it was quite a shit pit.
Those early days in Japan were hard on me. I took a job that pushed against everything I was comfortable with, it needed telephone sales, lots of them. Every call had to perfect (to me) and after every single rejection I had to make another perfect call. The key to success was never to bring ‘baggage’ into the next call, because no matter how you felt, the next person could be the perfect match. Ichigo Ichie, is the term in Japanese, one moment, one opportunity. It didn’t help that I was, and still am, somewhat averse to using the telephone as I feel that I am always interrupting something important when I call someone.
I remember the commute vividly. There was a giant billboard advert in Shinjuku San -Chome that had the typical Japanese sexy salaryman holding up a cup of coffee, or a mint or some nonsense… the vivid part were the words. Fight. Everyday. Today, as I gazed at my son, this concept of fighting through my weaknesses, and being strong, yet not allowing that strength to impact the delivery of my job and those sales calls is what I would want to teach him. To be strong. yet flexible.
To teach strength poorly, teaches single-mindedness and that is actually a negative thing. At least it is to me. The true strength is being able to absorb many things, and know when to flow with rejections, know when to push back a little bit, and know when to let something that isn’t right pass by, without it slowing you down or denting your confidence. Being strong isn’t about winning, it is about accepting defeat when necessary, and refusing to accept it when it is not.
In Japan, Bamboo is recognized for such characteristics. Indeed, in Zen drawings Bamboo is the epitome of strength, it is strong, yet flexible, and empty inside- reflecting the concept of zero-ness, and not bringing baggage with you. It’s presence in such artwork is not just for scene setting, but it is a reflection of concepts that the plant represents.
For those looking for a little more directness from a post, the strength we seek is to be consistent to our values and our goals no matter what should transpire. The flexibility is knowing when to walk away from a transaction, without attachment to that goal, and move onto the next one without bringing the baggage of past failure with us. I am not sure if this can be taught in words. Instead, it must simply be lived by those who would steward, in the hope that some might follow in those footsteps.