Dropped it

There’s a line on my resume that says, “fire-juggler.”

It’s been quite a few years since my Dad dipped a club into some paraffin, sparked its tip to a flaming ball, and flicked it 15ft through the air at my head. But I’m pretty sure I could still return a couple before setting my hair on fire.

And it’s not like they can ask me to show them in the interview anyway.

Juggling is an overused metaphor for so many great reasons.

For starters, it’s not easy to keep your eye on several things at once.

We can certainly learn to juggle more, but that means being comfortable with dropping those balls a lot more. 

Just speed up the rhythm until those flailing wrists are sending them sailing above your head with a 12345671234567123456712…

It doesn’t matter how good we get at juggling; eventually, we have to drop the ball.

It’s not how long we can juggle for that makes us great at juggling.

It’s how quickly we pick the balls up when they fall.

Hormonal Sapiens

We place so much attention on our sapient side that we often overlook the real driving force: hormones.

It’s nice to feel like we’re in control of our thoughts and actions until we wake up one morning with our hormones out of whack and nothing really matters anymore.

The truth is that on some days, the quest for improvement, kaizen, career, dreams or self-actualization — whatever we call it — is mostly just a fight to control our hormones.

Figuring out what we can do to rebalance them when they get messed up. Uncovering what messes them up in the first place.

Learning how to talk down that ancient, anxious Ape inside. How to hype them up. Cheer them up. Give them a reason not to fling shit at the wall.

And that usually means getting out for some exercise, eating something healthy, and going to bed a little bit earlier. And laying off the fermented fruit for a bit.

But some days, Chimp just doesn’t want to be good. 

 

Easy Over

If it was easy everyone would do it.

If you wanted to do it every day it would be bad for you.

If you always had something interesting to say, it would get boring.

Best to just show up and hack away until it’s over.

And hope there’s something to be said about that.

 

Build Your Boat

How many hearts were lost at sea?

Before we flew, we strung some old cloth to a bunch of dead trees, flung them in the ocean, and clung on tight. Fortunes were made and lost on the high seas. 

Many a maiden looked across the harbour, hoping to see the dove-white flash of a topsail on the horizon; their heart returned.

Most waited in vain. 

The thing about waiting for our ship to come in is there’s nothing we can do about it. We can gnash our teeth and wail and pray and beg, but that only makes us feel better about our helplessness.

Building a boat isn’t easy. It will take a long time, a year or two minimum. There will be many splinters and bruised thumbs and cursing along the way. Even if we finish it in time, there’s no telling that it will float.

And even if floats, that could spell the end for us.

We could drown, far away from where we began, wet and cold and alone and wishing we’d taken some navigation courses while we were building our boat.

But it sure beats waiting for your ship to come in.

 

 

 

Hurry up and Stick

Isn’t it terrifying that you know you could do it if you really wanted?

Deep down, we all know that if we put in the work — just that little bit every day for a long while — then whatever it is that we dream of would actually happen.

It’ll never look exactly how we imagine, of course. But often, it’s always worth the journey.

That’s the real reason behind every act of self-sabotage in my life.

It wasn’t the fear of failure. It was the fear that it might actually work, and then I’d have to actually do the work, and real people might actually hold me accountable for it.

All of that is rubbish. Ancient fear. It takes years of practice before we’re good enough to decide if we want to carry on doing it anyway.

Just pick something and stick with it for five years. No big deal.

The worst that can happen is you get better at it than most people.

And the best?

Well, I don’t think I need to tell you.

 

 

Results Guaranteed

Try this one simple trick. 

Get instant results.

Crush your goals.

Buy this tool or program to unlock the secret; the result; the answer you need. It’s the thing you’ve been missing that will make it all make sense.

But it never does. 

When we feel like we’re running out of time or we want results faster, it’s human nature to look for something that will get us there.

But no fancy or complex or brutal weekly workout can beat 30 mins moderate exercise every day. It just can’t.

If you’re plugging away at something every day, you’re already on the right path. Results take time. That is what time is for.

The only thing between you and that dream is a little bit of patience and a lot more time.

 

Before the dance

As a great pugilist once said, the fight is won long before we dance under the lights.

Just like the race is run a dozen different ways before we even cross the starting line. And the book is written over hundreds of early mornings, with words that are never read.

The training we do every day shapes our future.

What does your day prepare for you?

 

Take it Pro

Logic and tactics are rarely enough to win.

Some days, even if we love doing it, it’s good for us, and it’s worth doing, that rational part of the brain just can’t be bothered to put up a fight.

Pushing through on those days is the difference between good and great.

Doing it when we want is easy. Doing it when we don’t want to is the whole point.

The days when we take it pro and push through regardless of whether we want to or not are the days we make the most progress. 

Because nothing worth having ever came easy. 

 

Kaizen Quotes

These are all the quotes I could find about kaizen and continuous self-improvement. They are mostly related to personal development and kaizen, but there are some about kaizen in the business world too. 

Lots are missing from some of my favourite books about kaizen for self-growth, which I will be adding as soon as possible.

In the spirit of kaizen, this post will be continuously updated with more kaizen quotes as I find them and improved with images and sharable stuff as and when I can. I will also attempt to verify who they are attributed to as much as possible.

My Favourite Quotes About Kaizen and Continuous Improvement

 

“Patience is a competitive advantage. In most fields, you can find success if you are simply willing to do the reasonable thing longer than most people.”
— James Clear


“Average ones compete with others. Great ones compete with themselves.”
— Vadim Kotelnikov


“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”
— Max DePree


“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
— Sir Winston Churchill


“I’m always trying to get better. There’s always room for improvement.”
— Cain Velasquez


“Kaizen is like a hotbed that nurtures small and ongoing changes, while innovation is like magma that appears in abrupt eruptions from time to time.”
— Masaaki Imai


“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
— Vince Lombardi


“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”
— Peter Drucker


“There are no big problems. There are just a lot of little problems.”
— Henry Ford


“Persistence, perseverance, and continuous improvement are the ingredients for forming a successful person.”
— Debasish Mridha


“The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you.”
— Indra Nooyi


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but habit.”
— William Durant


“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
— Henry Ford


“Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”
— William Pollard


“The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.”
— Author Unknown


“A relentless barrage of “why’s” is the best way to prepare your mind to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo.
Use it often.”
— Shigeo Shingo 


“Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”
— Japanese Proverb


“The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better and that nothing is ever complete.”
—Mark Zuckerberg


“There’s no limit to the possible expansion of each one of us.”
— Charles Schwab.


“The message of the Kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company.”
— Masaaki Imai


“Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.”
— Bob Parsons


“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”
— Shigeo Shingo


“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
— Joe Paterno 


“The Kaizen Philosophy assumes that our way of life – be it our working life, our social life, or our home life – deserves to be constantly improved.”
— Masaaki Imai


“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
— Vincent Van Gough


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one.”
— Mark Twain


“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”
— E.J. Phelps


“Learning is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. Improvement is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. But to survive, we must learn.”
— W. Edwards Deming


“Where there is no Standard there can be no Kaizen.”
—Taiichi Ohno


“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
— Robert Collier


“Kaizen means ongoing improvement involving everybody, without spending much money.”
— Masaaki Imai


“Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well — that’s work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that’s what continuous improvement is all about.”
— Bruce Hamilton


“If a company isn’t continuously improving then it is slowly dying.”
— Dave Waters


“He who rejects change is the architect of decay.”
— Harold Wilson


“Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.”
— Robin Sharma


“Kaizen and innovation are the two major strategies people use to create change. Where innovation demands shocking and radical reform, all kaizen asks is that you take small, comfortable steps toward improvement.”
Robert D. Maurer


“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence, only in constant improvement and constant change.”
— Tom Peters


“You can’t do kaizen just once or twice and expect immediate results. You have to be in it for the long haul.”
— Masaaki Imai


“I don’t worry about maintaining the quality of my life, because every day I work on improving it.”
— Tony Robbins


“There’s no good idea that can’t be improved on.”
— Michael Eisner


“I’m never satisfied with what I do.
I always think I can do it a lot better.” 
— Michael Jackson


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started”
— Mark Twain


“Small actions are at the heart of kaizen. By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly – but painlessly! – you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success and lay down a permanent new route to change.”
— Robert D. Maurer


“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
— W. Edwards Demin


“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
— Bruce Lee


“Sometimes, the best kaizen is no kaizen at all.”
— Jon Miller


“As you experience success in applying kaizen to clear goals like weight loss or career advancement, remember to hold onto its essence: an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.”
— Robert D. Maurer


“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” 
— Yogi Berra


“We conquer by continuing.”
— George Matheson


“The past does not equal the future…unless you live there”.
— Tony Robbins


“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
— Elon Musk


“Learn continually. There is always one more thing to learn.”
— Steve Jobs


“Something is wrong if workers do not look around each day, find things that are tedious or boring, and then rewrite the procedures. Even last month’s manual should be out of date.”
— Taiichi Ohno


“If you stop learning, you stop creating history and become it.”
— Vadim Kotelnikov


“One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.”
— Robert E. Quinn


“Success is a process that continues, not a status that you reach. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.”
— Denis Waitley


“There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
— John F. Kennedy


“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. ”
— Pat Riley


“No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t.”
— James Cash Penney


“To make the quickest progress, you don’t have to take huge leaps. You just have to take baby steps and keep on taking them. In Japan, they call this approach kaizen, which literally translates as ‘continual improvement.’ Using kaizen, great and lasting success is achieved through small, consistent steps. It turns out that slow and steady is the best way to overcome your resistance to change.”
— Marci Shimoff


“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”
— Linus Pauling


“There are many experts on how things have been done up to now. If you think something could use a little improvement, you are the expert.”
— Robert Brault


“As you experience success in applying kaizen to clear goals like weight loss or career advancement, remember to hold onto its essence: an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.”
Robert D. Maurer


“Even perfection has room for improvement.”
— Ty Warner


“An open society calls itself open to improvement. It is based on the recognition that people have divergent views and interests and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth.”
— George Soros


“Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.”​
— A.P.J. Abdul Kalam


“Never be so afraid of making mistakes that you stop taking action.
Kirtida Gautam


“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”.
— Thomas Edison


“Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends.”
— Brian Tracy


“Persons who reach the higher rungs in business management, selling, engineering, religious work, writing, acting, and in every other pursuit get there by following conscientiously and continuously a plan for self-development and growth.”
​— David J. Schwartz


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
​— Thomas Edison


“No matter how good you get you can always get better, and that’s the exciting part.”
— Tiger Woods


“Change is inevitable… except from a vending machine.”
— Anonymous


“Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program for the human character. And what will that future bring? I do not know, but it will be exciting.”
— Neil Armstrong


“Control your own destiny, or somebody else will.”
— Jack Welch


“In terms of changes, the spiritual mentors teach me that I must not forget those relating primarily to improve myself.”
— Chico Xavier


“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
— Henry Ford


“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”
— Kim Collins


“If we’re really committed to growth, we never stop discovering new dimensions of self and self-expression.”
— Oprah Winfrey


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
— Albert Einstein


“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
— Benjamin Franklin


“An extraordinary life is all about daily, continuous improvements in the areas that matter most.”
— Robin Sharma


“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
— Mark Twain


“Continuity of strategic direction and continuous improvement in how you do things are absolutely consistent with each other. In fact, they’re mutually reinforcing.”
— Michael Porter


“Everything can be improved.”
— Clarence W. Barron


“In order to be happy, human beings must feel they are continuing to grow. Clearly, we must adopt the concept of continuous improvement as a daily principle.”
— Tony Robbins


“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
​—​ Henry Ford


“We are always pregnant with a truer version of ourselves.”
— Marianne Williamson


“The journey is never-ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.”
— Antonio Brown


“Improvement begins with ‘I’.”
— Arnold H. Glasow


“It’s a great thing about being a musician; you don’t stop until the day you die, you can improve. So it’s a wonderful thing to do.”
— Marcus Miller


“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
— Abraham Lincoln


“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
— Winston Churchill


Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.”
— Bob Dylan


“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
— William Shakespeare


“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
— Charles Darwin


“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
— Winston Churchill

 

The Magic Juice

The cliche moments in films — the cringy ones you know are coming — are there for a reason.

Take The Magic Juice. Space Jam was where I saw it first.

The protagonist and their team drink some “magic juice” that helps them win against the odds. But near the end, they find out that it was just boring old water, and they had the power in them all along.

This isn’t just the World Mothering Association trying to get you to drink more water and eat some fruit…

The magic juice has to be water because the protagonist has to learn that doing the “boring” stuff we can all do is what makes them a winner.  Not some unattainable, magical remedy.

The secret to success is doing the boring stuff, like drinking more water, walking 10 km, doing a bit of exercise. Consuming in a way that doesn’t destroy our planet. Working on something long-term that fulfills us and improves our community.

It’s all small and trite and uncool. Nothing mysterious about it.

But if you can pull that off for any length of time, you win.

 

 

Bad Idea

One life-changing moment was when I realized I would never have another good idea.

It was Seth Godin’s fault.

He was telling some overly enthusiastic podcaster that most of his writing was below average, and he had no idea which of his ideas were any good — even after they were published.

“I can just tell which ones are most popular,” he said, that mischievous little smile tweaking the corners of his lips. “They could still be terrible ideas.”

Many creatives, particularly writers, get caught up thinking they must have something to say.

It’s an ego thing. Just ask Dostoyevsky.

There are plenty of terrible, meaningless, and badly-made ideas that are considered extremely valuable and worthwhile by many people.

The secret to being a successful creative or entrepreneur isn’t having one big idea or one breakthrough piece or one work of critical acclaim that blows everybody’s socks off. 

The secret is getting used to getting a ‘D’ and still keep on plugging away at it, churning out bad ideas.

You never know which one might stick.

 

Mind the Grass

Humans sure love a patch of grass.

Maybe it’s because we were born on the savannahs and emigrated to the river banks, where grasses tend to grow.

Or it could be because the human eye perceives more shades of green than any other colour, and grass has every single one.

Grass is such an important part of human culture that we even have a few cliches about it.

Yes, the grass is always greener. But have you ever actually watched grass grow?

Sure, it’s not exactly a white knuckle thrill. But it’s not boring either. 

Checking in every day. Tempting the grass to grow this way or that. A little snip here. A seed or two there. 

Tending grass — or any plant — while it grows is one of the most interesting and fulfilling things we can do with our time.

Watching grass grow: not half as dull as watching paint dry!

But then again, I’m no Picasso.

 

25k to go

This week, the 202nd KaizenBen blog post was published.

There’s a story behind the 25,202 number, which we’ll save for another day. But I’ll give you a hint and tell you that I’ll be ninety-nine and a half years old by the time the 25,202nd blog post goes out.

If I haven’t kicked the bucket, that is.

With any luck, the commitment might drag a few more undeserving years out of me, and I shall drop dead moments after hitting ‘Publish.’ 

It’s pretty sobering to see your life reduced to a handful of digits.

25,202 blogs left to write.

25,202 days left to live.

For most things, that’s more than enough. But until that moment, the days had seemed countless.

It wasn’t until those immortal snakes danced across my notepad that fateful morning that I realized: it wasn’t very long at all.

And only 24,999 left to go!

 

 

Keeping it up

Doing it once doesn’t make it easy.

It usually doesn’t get us where we want to go either.

Most diets fail because they are — by definition — short-term.

It’s one thing to throw three balls in the air and another thing keeping them up. One is playing. The other is juggling.

Our bodies are wonderful machines that can take a real pounding, as long as it isn’t over and over again. The same goes for our minds. 

Willpower doesn’t just grow on trees.

That’s why settling for the smallest step, the thing we know we can actually do every day for decades, is so much more powerful than any crash course, extreme diet, six-month shred, or late-night sprint. 

Don’t do twenty pull-ups one day and none the next. Do five every day until you can do them with one arm.

A little more patience gets us a lot further in the end. 

 

Make it Easy

The easiest way to make progress is to make progress as easy as possible.

Mastering a skill is about being so terrible at it we have to practice the easiest part a hundred times just to get started.

Think how long it took to learn to walk. It takes at least three years before we can do it without looking stupid.

The ‘secret to success’ is being able to put up with the boredom of being crap — and falling on our arse several hundred times. 

Break down the hard parts into their easiest possible component and then do that until it’s so easy you’re bored to death.

Forget walking. Focus on figuring out how to stand without holding on to something, and you’ll be running in no time. 

 

MVP

We don’t say MVP in the UK; we say Player of the Year and give them a golden ball.

MVP has another meaning: Minimal Viable Product. And it turns out that quite often, the simplest option turns out to be the best one too.

It’s easy to get tripped up adding bells and whistles when all we need is something simple that just works.

 

Settle for Less

It often seems like the quickest way to get through a long to-do list is to rush through as many things as possible.

The hope is that at the end of a few hours, we can look back at a crossed-off list and feel content.

But the list constantly grows. And the little things turn out to be bigger and more tiresome than we predicted.

By the end of the day, only half the list is ticked, and we’re completely zonked.

On days when I settle for less — just the one big thing — I almost always find that I have the time and the energy to do a few of the small things too.

Settling for less often turns out to be way more productive.

 

Never the same

 One of the scariest realities of life is also one of the most comforting.

Many people worry and fret about things changing; some even spend their lives fighting to keep things the way they once were.

But thankfully, nothing ever stays the same. Quantum physicists won’t even say something exists anymore, in case it doesn’t by the time they check again. They will only make predictions about the probability of something existing at a certain point in time.

As Mr. Feynmann pointed out, all the atoms in the universe are in flux. Even if we know where something was, we don’t necessarily know it will still be there when we look again.

And almost always, it’s moved.

Even the bench we sat on today is different from the one we sat on yesterday if we look very closely.

It keeps things interesting. 

 

Ten a day

A friend of mine recently went on a bit of a health kick.

She started running and being mindful of her diet and all the other things we know we should be doing to be healthier.

The one that most interested me was this: every morning, she would get up and do ten push-ups. Then, a little before bedtime, she would do another ten.

It didn’t seem like much. But then my girlfriend started doing ten push-ups every morning, and of course, that meant it wasn’t long before I started doing them too.

Quite often, your ten little push-ups every day are helping someone else get stronger too. Even the smallest acts can carry great inspiration within them.

Ten push-ups aren’t much barely anything  but they add up over time to something great.

That’s kaizen in a nutshell.

 

Wake and Bake

Here’s a recipe for a soft and delicious day:

  • One large glass of water
  • 2-4 cups of coffee
  • Walk outside
  • Touch your toes
  • Say thanks
  • Lift something heavy
  • Eat a handful of nuts and some fruit
  • Whisk up a healthy dollop of conservation.
  • Sprinkle in a bit of challenge
  • Garnish with a thin slice of luck, if you can find it.

Once that’s ready, don’t forget to set aside something for tomorrow.

Twist off a healthy goal, wrap it in a warm cloth and leave it in a dark room overnight.

You’ll be ready to bake again by morning.

 

Just like always

If you think about it, it’s pretty much been wins all the way through.

Sure, there have been some rough patches.

There have been a couple of pretty sharp shocks and a fair bit of frustration, if we’re being honest.

But there have been some pretty crazy highs too. And some irreplaceable memories.

It’s worked out pretty well so far, all things considered.

Even when the future looked bleak and you weren’t sure what was next, you kept on plugging away, doing it your way.

Just like always.

Lost Lines

There’s a monastery perched high in the Himalayas, where the monks spend all day making beautiful patterns in the sand.

Then just before tea-time, they brush them away.

They don’t even take photos.

There’s another monastery where the monks paint a circle every day, just to see how close they can get it to perfect.

They never do, of course, and all those paintings are burnt before the sun sets.

Art isn’t about perfect, and it’s not about forever, although our planet is littered with monuments to the contrary.

It’s nice to create for other people. And it’s probably more profitable in the long run. But we always win if we create for ourselves and focus on improvement, instead of being popular.

The person having the most fun is usually the one doing the creating.

If you just create for yourself and you do it often enough, pretty soon people will start turning up — just to see you having fun.

 

Making Time

Here’s something to help you get what you want today.

Whatever it is you want to get done, write it down. 

Then put it in your calendar or to-do list or a sticky note or your phone, and set an alarm or reminder at a reasonable time to do it. 

Most of the time, taking action towards our goals isn’t the hard part. The hard part is setting aside the time to do them.

When we don’t take the time for ourselves, we give all our time to other people. 

Take a bit of time now and make a little time later to something important for ‘Future You’.

You deserve a little ‘you’ time.

 

 

Enjoy the scenery

Not everyone finds out the direction they want to go early in life — but most of us have a pretty good idea.

Sometimes we don’t want to admit that’s where we want to go. We might even run in the opposite direction, which inevitably ends in tears.

Once we’ve accepted the direction that resonates with our being and committed to going that way for some time, everything becomes easier.

It’s ok not to know where chasing vague notions like ‘music‘ or ‘fashion’ or ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’ or ‘dancing‘ or ‘helping people‘ will take us.

It’s even ok if we don’t always like where it takes us. We’re constantly on the move anyway.

Just keep on pluggin’ away in the direction you want to go, doing those things that bring you satisfaction and joy, and finding new ways to do them with people you like.

The rest is scenery.

Enjoy!

 

Just fail better

Not every day has to be a win.

Most days are going to feel like a tie — at best. Especially when we’re working on something big or important.

Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Failing a bit better than the day before is usually the best we can hope for. And all it takes to fail better is showing up, again.

And that’s plenty. 

 

Recovery run

Training for a marathon is very different from what people expect.

The biggest surprise for most people is that you only run a marathon once — on race day.

The next surprise is how little running you do. 15 minutes one day.  Thirty minutes a few days later. Some days are short bodyweight workouts. And some days are dedicated to lying on the floor and stretching.

We don’t have to run a marathon every day to get where we want to go. We shouldn’t even run every day.

Time spent rolling around on the floor and stretching is as crucial to running a race as putting one foot in front of the other.

Recovery allows us to keep working towards our goal, even on days we can’t think straight, let alone move fast. And that little bit of extra time we spend quickly adds up. 

Allow yourself a little recovery time now and then, and you’ll go much further in the long run.

 

 

Ain’t no small thing

Donating a million dollars to charity is easy enough.

If you’ve got that kind of money lying around, the government even offers some very attractive reasons to give it away.

And for the good it may do, that money will disappear at a stomach-churning rate.

The surest way of actually changing the world is bit by bit.

Even tiny actions like waving to a neighbour or holding the door for someone can force a paradigm shift when repeated time and time again.

Any small thing — money, love, kindness, reading, meditation, music — when repeated consistently and often, grows into something significant.

It’s just how it works.

Now, how about that glass of water?

 

 

 

 

I could never do that

Soon after discovering the monumental Seth Godin, I unsubscribed from his email list and decided never to think of him again.

Not only was it frustrating that some of his blogs were just a couple of lines — not even paragraphs — but it was frustrating that I had written nothing at all.

Writing a daily blog always seemed like the sort of thing I should be doing and yet, for some reason, could never quite manage to do.

Seth’s wonderfully elegant and effortless scrawling reminded me that for all I called myself a writer, I could never do that.

It was magic if I wrote once every six months. And a miracle if it got shipped once a year. Whatever it was that people like that had, I didn’t have it.

I could never do that.

Seven years later and Seth Godin pops up in my life again, talking about The Practice.

And suddenly, it all made sense.

The outcome wasn’t the point; just like ‘enlightenment isn’t the point of meditating.

Don’t write to sell a book. Don’t write to get rich (good luck with that). Don’t write to get famous.

Write every day because that’s what writers do.

All those years spent trying to change into someone worthy of writing every day — a real writer — were just me hiding from myself. 

All it took was actually doing it, and all of a sudden, I was.

 

 

An apple a day

This article isn’t about apples but it might get a bit fruity.

For many years I was very cruel to my body and will suffer the consequences of that for the rest of my life. Not all of those consequences were negative, though.

One of the positives was that I had to start caring about food.

For those first 25 years my body was a machine—a roiling furnace. A power station that would burn anything and everything put into it. And I tried.

Then things began to fall apart and start to leak and the wheels fell off and I was left with a choice: an inevitably painful and premature death. Or start caring about what went into my body.

The choice was easy but the decision was hard.

And it’s still happening six years later.

But it started with one little step at a time.

A glass of water first thing.

A walk through the cold.

An extra piece of fruit a day.

A trip to the gym.

A moment alone.

All to keep the demons away.

Two steps forward one step back

People say things like, ‘Two steps forward, one step back’ because that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. Especially if you’re going far.

There’s never a straight path to any goal and trying to go the most direct route is often the quickest way to burn out. So beating yourself up when you take a hit or get diverted doesn’t make sense.

It’s ok to sit down by the side of the road for a breather after a tough day.

Same as it’s ok to cry when you take a fall.

It’s all part of getting where you want to go.

6 Elements of a Kaizen Mindset

We’ve talked before about what a kaizen mindset means and how to apply kaizen in your life. Nurturing the following six elements will help you cultivate a kaizen mindset.

1. Seeking knowledge

Even if we’re looking, it isn’t easy to see how and where we can improve; we need other people to show us. A core element of a kaizen mindset is always seeking to expand our knowledge and experience, and challenging our beliefs every day.

2. Self-awareness and critique

The second crucial element of a kaizen mindset is self-awareness. If we are to reach our goals, we need to learn to look honestly at ourselves and our behaviour and ask if they align with our plans.

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the pursuit of a goal — like making more money — and we end up making changes to our life that make us unhappy in the long-term.

Kaizen isn’t about seeing the worst in things, so don’t beat yourself up — it’s natural to have flaws. Understanding and accepting our weaknesses is just a step on the road to reaching our goals.

3. Starting with scarcity

There’s a crucial difference between this third element of a kaizen mindset and a ‘scarcity mindset.’ 

A scarcity mindset is a negative and unproductive view of the world that will make you unhappy.

Starting with scarcity means not looking for external fixes to your problems. New running shoes may help us run faster, but simply buying them isn’t going to turn us into a runner.

Equipment and gadgets are helpful, but they’re not enough to help us reach our goals. Plus, it’s hard to see the need for improvement when you have everything you need.

Instead, look at how you can improve your use of what you have already, or perhaps even eliminate, to help you towards your goal.

4. Breaking down goals into small steps

Kaizen is, of course, about focusing on the small steps we can take to reach our goals.

The steps must be clear and definite actions we can take every day, but they don’t have to be outcomes in themselves — they only have to contribute towards one.

For example, if you want to become a good guitar player, you have to set aside a certain amount of time each day to practice; 15 minutes is enough. But if you want to get better, you can’t just spend that time messing around.

You need to set definite, measurable outcomes to help you learn, such as a song or a scale. Then you spend those 15 minutes practicing that song or scale until you’re comfortable with it.

A year of doing that, and you’ll have a lot of songs under your belt. But more importantly, you’ll be a much better guitarist.

5. Committing to practice

Committing to daily practice is crucial.

It isn’t just a way to get what we want; it is what we want. Our daily practice and its results are one and the same thing; you cannot have one without the other. Winning the fight is impossible without putting in the training every day.

Small habits are incredibly powerful ways to change our lives. They take effort to form but become part of you over time. Daily practice is one way to tap into the power of small habits.

6. Embracing obstacles and mistakes

Mistakes and obstacles are life. If they didn’t exist, we’d go out looking for them.

A kaizen mindset is about seeking out those mistakes and obstacles — choosing our suffering — to improve our lives. Obstacles are just what happens when we go after something we want. They are how we get there. 

Yes, we will often fail in our daily practice, but the important thing is continuing after we stumble. Keep at it long enough, and the number of days we did it will outnumber those we didn’t, and that’s enough for progress.

Failing and mistakes are often an opportunity to progress rapidly. If we don’t overcome an obstacle or we struggle to maintain our daily practice, there’s probably something holding us back — a previously hidden obstacle. Overcoming that will help us progress much faster in the long run.

Cultivating a Kaizen Mindset

A kaizen mindset is a growth mindset. It starts with the assumption that the way we are doing things now is the worst possible way to do it. 

To have a kaizen mindset, you must:

  1. Always be learning
  2. Have self-awareness
  3. Start with scarcity
  4. Break down goals into small steps
  5. Commit to daily practice
  6. Embrace obstacles and mistakes

There are countless ways of applying the kaizen philosophy, including figuring out what the fuck to do with your life. These elements play a crucial part at every stage, whatever the goal.

 

 

Photo by kylie De Guia on Unsplash

Fuck someone else’s perfect

Perfection is an illusion of the mind.

It’s natural, though, to look at all the ‘perfect’ pictures on social media and wonder if they have something we don’t.

But there is no one-size-fits-all magic solution to get what we want overnight.

We might get lucky, but even winning the lottery screws people up.

And trying to fit into someone else’s idea of perfect only ever ends badly.

If you’re still looking for the ‘perfect diet’ or the ‘perfect workout’ or ‘perfect partner,’ stop.

It’s not going to happen because it doesn’t exist.

What does exist are the fruits of people who took action towards their dreams, screwed it up, and carried on anyway.

Find what works for you, do it every day, and build from there.

Fuck everybody else’s perfect. 

It doesn’t matter how you make the bed

You’ve probably heard of the US Navy Admiral who speaks about how making your bed can change the world. He even wrote a book about it — he was obsessed. But with good cause.

Our physical surroundings affect our behaviour, and mess causes stress.

Being the kind of person who makes their bed makes us feel like the kind of person who does other productive, organized things and looks after themselves.

71% of bed-makers say they’re happy, while most non-bed makers say they’re not. Bed makers are also more likely to own a home, enjoy their work, sleep better, eat better, and exercise regularly. They also have more sex.

And as JP said to teenagers everywhere: “If you can’t even clean up your room, who are you to give advice to the world?”

Slaying that first little dragon of chaos only takes 90 seconds, but it sets the tone for the day. 

There’s no right way to do it; doing it is really all that matters. But its impact is noticeable because we’re taking charge of our small domains and deciding our future.

And every time I do that, my day is that little bit better, and I take a bigger step towards my goals.

What is the difference between Kaizen and other suggestions of improvement?

The kaizen philosophy is the grandfather of many ideas and methods of improvement out there. This blog will look briefly at what kaizen is and how it compares to three other common improvement philosophies, Lean, Six-Sigma, and Poka-Yoke.

What is Kaizen?

The idea of Kaizen came from Japan. The word itself means ‘improvement,’ but it has become a philosophy for successful, continuous innovation and improvement.

It rests on breaking down goals into small, actionable daily goals and creating the processes that drive change.

Kaizen is one of the oldest philosophies of improvement. It inspired lean and six-sigma, and even contemporary development methodologies like Agile and KANBAN.

Think of kaizen as the overarching umbrella of improvement. Both lean and six sigma systematize different areas of improvement but share the same goal: improved outcomes. They vary in how they aim to achieve more value and what tools they use to get there.

What is the Lean Manufacturing Method?

Lean methodology is a way of optimizing your resources and energy towards creating the most value possible.

It’s the younger brother of kaizen and incorporates the kaizen mindset of continuous improvement with the equally important tenet of respecting people.

Businesses worldwide subscribe to the lean methodology to sustainably deliver better value for their customers and employees through sustainable and resilient organizations.

The Difference Between Lean and Kaizen

While both these philosophies can improve our results by optimizing our processes and resource usage, lean is primarily focused on reducing waste. Reducing waste or ‘Muda’ is a crucial part of the kaizen philosophy, but lean regards it as an end in itself.

What is Six Sigma?

Six sigma is another business process born due to kaizen’s industrial success in the 80s and 90s.

It aims to increase performance and decrease variation to reduce manufacturing defects and improve profits, employee morale, and product or service quality.

Where Lean focuses on reducing waste and optimizing resource usage, six sigma focuses on reducing variation.

Lean uses kaizen to achieve its workplace organization goals, whereas six sigma is more concerned with using statistics and data analysis to enact change through experimentation.

Lean, six sigma, and kaizen are mutually dependent and not mutually exclusive.

The Difference Between Kaizen and Six Sigma

Kaizen is a philosophy that demands constant self-assessment and encourages continuous improvement — but doesn’t determine the speed or significance of those changes, or in fact, whether those changes are guaranteed to succeed. 

Kaizen encourages mistakes as a way of finding success, while six sigma attempts to reduce the number of errors in a process. It’s concerned with improving the quality of outcomes by creating consistent and reliable results. In the case of six sigma, ‘better’ is defined as ‘more consistent.’

What is Poke-Yoke?

Poka-Yoke is another Japanese term that came about by applying kaizen philosophy in the Toyota production lines.

Initially, the term was ‘Baka-yoke,’ which means ‘fool-proofing. To avoid negative connotations, this was later changed to Poka-yoke, or ‘mistake-proofing.’

It came about as a way to empower employees to enact change while mitigating the risk that these innovations would turn out to be a mistake. Poka-yoke is any means, tool or process that helps avoid mistakes.

One example of this is how modern cars are designed so that you cannot start the ignition without pressing your foot on the brake. This simple process probably prevents thousands of fender-benders every day.

The Difference Between Kaizen & Poka Yoke

Kaizen is a philosophy of improvement that encourages us to think of everything as poorly planned and executed, and challenges us to make mistakes to drive innovation.

Poka-Yoke is a production mindset that we can hold in our minds to help reduce the likelihood that our innovations end up being a mistake or our products cause an accident.

If you are continually seeking improvement, make sure you put systems into place to protect yourself, to foolproof your actions. Our lives are not dependable systems, but we can ‘foolproof’ our improvement by combining habits, not taking on too much at once, and remembering to give ourselves time to recover.

Which method of improvement is best?

This question is redundant in the pursuit of perfection, or even just ‘improved outcomes.’

If you want to apply kaizen to your life, think about how you can use all of these methodologies to reach your goals.

Poka-yoke, six sigma, and lean manufacturing are all systems we use in our pursuit of kaizen. We should use them all together, at different times, to help us move closer to our goals.

The best improvement method is kaizen because it does not tie us to any particular system but encourages us to experiment and try them out until we find what fits best with our goals. Each of these ‘secondary’ methodologies is a tool or an avenue through which we create our kaizen.

 

 

 

Phots by Austrian National Library and Lenny Kuhne via Unsplash

 

How to Apply Kaizen in Your Life in 5 Easy Steps

Kaizen is a business philosophy and a powerful tool for achieving goals and personal growth. There are many books about kaizen for self-improvement but its often difficult to see how to apply it to your life

Here’s how you can apply kaizen to reach your goals in five simple steps:

1. Self-reflect to find your purpose

The first stage of using kaizen in your life must always be self-reflection. Self-awareness and mindfulness are the heart of kaizen philosophy.

Even if you already have a specific goal you want to achieve, it’s still important to reflect upon why and how you can get there.

Your goal can be as vague as wanting to ‘improve your life’ or as specific as wanting to run a marathon in under 3 hours, 3 minutes, and 21 seconds.

Ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve?

Then write it down.

This is your ‘purpose’ or (Mokuteki 目的).

2. Research to find your change agents

Once you have decided what you want, you need to understand who you have to be to get it. Find some examples of other people who have done what you want to do. There are always a few.

If your goal is so innovative that nobody has done it before, you already know your first goal: figure out how you could do it. There are many examples of people who have done something nobody else had done before, including things that nobody thought possible.

Once you’ve found someone who has what you want, write down some things they did to reach that goal. Ask yourself, “What kind of person does this?” “Who are they?” “What do they do?” as well as “What steps did they take?”

Now you know what you need to integrate into your life. These are your change agents — the habits of the future you.

If your purpose from step 1 was to ‘lose weight,’ you might research how other people have lost weight and find that they all changed their diet and exercised more.

If your goal is ‘being successful,’ your research may uncover that most successful people spend time learning how to do new things and, in particular, learn how to make the most of their time. These are also great change agents.

3. Break down your goal into small, achievable daily steps

Now you have your change agents, and you’re ready to break them down into milestones and small achievable daily steps. The trick here is making the steps so easy you can’t fail.

That could mean reading for five minutes a day or running five meters further each run or meditating for five minutes each morning.

If your goal is to lose weight and you’ve found the change agent ‘improve diet,’ find some ways to achieve that. There’s a lot of advice for doing this, but they all say to stop drinking sugar: Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Apple juice, milkshakes, lattes, etc.

These are tasty treats, and sugar is highly addictive, so it’s not going to be easy to cut them out. Start small. Very small. Leave a couple of sips at the bottom of the can. Then see if you can cut out one more sip every day or so until you’ve cut out that whole can.

The key to success is making a goal so small that you can’t fail to do it. If you think your goal is too small, it isn’t. Once you have it, write down exactly what you are going to do each day and at what time for maximum motivational effect. It will look something like this:

  • “I am going to walk for 5 minutes every evening after work.”
  • “I am going to do ten push-ups at 8 am every morning.”
  • “I am going to write a blog about cats in one hour every day.”
  • “I am going to take one less puff of every cigarette I smoke.”
  • “I am going to drink a glass of water as soon as I wake up every morning.”

For bonus effects, post a picture of your kaizen and tag someone you know well. And don’t say anything.

Don’t worry about all the other things you think you need to do, their time will come if you execute this properly. Focus on getting this one change nailed down.

4. Track and record your actions to actualize your progress

I’m not just banging on about writing things down because I’m a writer. It can have a potent neurological effect. Things become so much more real when you write them down.

When things are going on in your head, they’re going on behind your eyes, so obviously, it’s difficult to see them. Writing it down helps you to realize them. Sometimes, I’m scared of writing things down because then they’re more real.

Tracking your progress helps you achieve your goals. There’s a lot of reasons for this, not least because you’re writing things down and making them tangible. Whether that’s keeping a detailed personal journal, recording your food intake on an app, or simply marking off every day on a calendar that you complete a task, it all helps you towards your goals.

Tracking is how you become great at anything. But make sure it’s the right measure for your goals. That famous phrase goes, “What gets measured gets managed, even if it’s the wrong thing.”

5. Always look for ways to improve your actions

To do that, you need to practice self-reflection. The small steps are crucial for improvement, but they will take you in circles if you don’t spend time reflecting. Because if you’re not spending the time reflecting, you’re not being the kind of person who wants to reach that goal.

It seems ridiculous that something as small as trying to drink a sip less of each soda every day can change your life, but merely working towards this goal every day will have a knock-on effect.

Some days you will fail, but that’s still progress because it allows you to find out why. On those days you ‘fail,’ you get to ask, ‘why did I fail today?’ And answering that will take you a step forward too and may show you another area that’s holding you back.

For example, you may notice that you struggle to cut out sugar on mornings when you stayed up late the night before. If you want to achieve your goal, it turns out you must implement some changes to make sure you get a good nights sleep. You may find the key to giving up liquid sugar is not drinking caffeine in the afternoons.

After a little while of exercising your willpower muscle, you build confidence, and other ways to improve will open up and give you new avenues to pursue your purpose.

The point about kaizen is that it’s continual. Even if things seem to be going well, there’s always room to improve your method or system. It’s this ‘kaizen mindset‘ that’s so powerful because there is no way to fail. There is only pursuing improvement, or not.

With things like music or sports, you can always be better. And if you’re not practicing, you’re probably going backwards; just like you still need to brush your teeth, even if you brushed them the day before.

In a couple of years, when you rarely drink sugar and are pleased with how you look, you need to keep eating healthy and continue to optimize your diet and exercise habits to maintain it; to continue being the kind of person who isn’t overweight.

Applying kaizen in your life is so powerful because it changes who you are; you become someone who is always looking to improve. You are limitless because there is no ‘arrival,’ there is only ‘where next.’





Thanks to Darwin Vegher for putting this photo on Unsplash

200 shitty words a day

Nobody knows who said this but I suspect Mark Manson made it up in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

In the story, he asks a prolific author how he managed to write 70 novels.

The author’s answer is simple: 200 shitty words a day.

That’s it. That’s the secret to motivation. The ‘secret’ to creating prolific work — and to success.

Motivation isn’t outside ourselves, it’s something we give to ourselves through doing.

If you want to get motivated, just do something; anything. 

It could be as simple as making your bed.

Because when you take that one little step forwards and you’ll create momentum that makes the next step easier.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good.

You just have to get it done. 

Get going!

And thanks for reading mine.

How to win the stock market

The people that make the most money in the stock market aren’t day traders. Ever.

They’re the patient ones. The people who wait it out.

They’re not trying to make a million today, or even tomorrow, because they know that if they turn up and put in a little extra every day, they’ll be head and shoulders about the rest in a decade or two.

They don’t worry when the stock market goes down. Or too pumped when it leaps up.

They just turn up every day and look for little ways to improve.

Life is a bit like the stock market — it’s all over the place.

Some days are going to feel like you’re going backwards.

You’re not.

And guess what?

Just like the stock market, a little investment in yourself on those down days is worth a lot more when your stock goes back up.

That’s just how it works.

Kerching!

11 books about kaizen for self-improvement

This is my reading list for books about applying kaizen principles in your life. I haven’t read them all, or in fact, very many of them at all. 

As I read and digest each of these books over the next year, I’ll write a more personal review.

For now, here are my top eleven books about kaizen for self-improvement, as recommended by my teachers, friends, and the internet. 

Success Habits: Kaizen – Improve Your Life and Become Successful by Taking One Small Step at a Time — Michael Ceaser

Success Habits Kaizen_Michael_Ceaser

Kaizen Ben’s Book Review:

This is a very small but fairly comprehensive guide to implementing kaizen in your life.

If you’re wondering why it’s so cheap, it’s because this book on kaizen only about 20 pages or so.

Perhaps it’s fitting that this little book on the basics of implementing kaizen is so small; it’s that first little step on your improvement journey. Plus, it won’t take you more than a couple of hours to read at most, so it’s an easy win. Hard to argue with the price too, as it’s only a couple of bucks. 

A solid start for anybody who wants a quick introduction to kaizen ideas in an hour or two. Would recommend. 

 

 

Choose Yourself — James Altucher

Kaizen Ben  Book ReviewChoose Yourself - James Altucher

This book isn’t strictly about kaizen but it is about self-improvement and taking little steps towards achieving your goals — or choosing yourself, As James calls it.  

James Altucher’s show was the first podcast I ever listened to. I came across his blog while procrastinating at work and probably trying to figure out what to do with my life.

One way or another, it was through James that I found about the ideas of 1% improvement, kaizen, and a great many other helpful and life-changing advice. 

As books about kaizen go, this one doesn’t talk about kaizen much. But it does talk a lot about self-improvement and how to create the life you want, doing the things that you enjoy.

Choose Yourself takes you through some practical examples and anecdotes of kaizen in action; people choosing to get something more from life and going after it methodically, step by step, day after day, and eventually getting what they want. 

In Choose Yourself, James Altucher makes the argument that the world is changing and the jobs market will likely never look the same again. If anything, this is even more true post-COVID. All of the things that we were taught were “safe” options are under threat, and on top of that, the robots are coming to take our jobs. James says that it’s up to us to choose ourselves and use contemporary tools and channels to build the life we want, by serving other people.

Choose Yourself is a relatively short and cheap book, and I would advise anyone to read it, whether or not you are interested in kaizen or self-improvement. James is a funny and vulnerable writer, who has lived an interesting life and is not afraid to share it with the reader. 

 

 

One Small Step Can Change Your Life — Robert Maurer

Amazon Description:One Small Step Can Change Your Life The Kaizen Way Robert Maurer book cover

Improve your life fearlessly with this essential guide to kaizen—the art of making significant and lasting change through small, steady steps.

Written by psychologist and kaizen expert Dr. Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life is the simple but potent guide to easing into new habits—and turning your life around. Learn how to overcome fear and procrastination with his 7 Small Steps—including how to Think Small Thoughts, Take Small Actions, and Solve Small Problems—to steadily build your confidence and make insurmountable-seeming goals suddenly feel doable.

The science is irrefutable: Small steps circumvent our brains’ built-in resistance to new behaviours. Throughout this book, Dr. Maurer also shows how to visualize virtual change so that real change can come easier, why small rewards lead to significant returns. And how great discoveries are made by paying attention to the little details most of us overlook.

His simple regiment is your path to continuous improvement for anything from losing weight to quitting smoking, paying off debt, or conquering shyness and meeting new people.

Rooted in the two-thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching—“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”—here is the way to change your life without fear, without failure, and start on a new path of comfortable, continuous improvement.

 

How to Set Goals with Kaizen & Ikigai — Anthony Raymond

Amazon Description:How to Set Goals with Kaizen & Ikigai Anthony Raymond

The truth is…80% of New Year’s Resolutions have failed by February. Why? Because people were never taught how to set goals properly. Most plans are never completed on time. And even highly skilled and dedicated professionals still struggle to accomplish goals and overcome procrastination.

The solution lies in understanding the innate psychological forces that conspire against us. We must become aware of these “mental traps,” which prevent us from getting things done.

What if I told you that the Japanese had solved this problem?

In this book, we’ll be introducing you to 3 concepts from Japan:

  • Hansei – The art of honest self-reflection.
  • Ikigai – How to find your “true calling.”
  • Kaizen – Goal achievement through incremental progress.

Each one of these techniques is a powerful goal-setting aid. But when combined, they can multiply your productivity by a factor of TEN and make your most ambitious dreams appear achievable!

When your personal life goals are in harmony with the challenges that lie before you, that’s when the magic happens. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote:

“Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.”

Indeed, when your goals are properly aligned, there is much joy to be had in any challenge you choose to conquer.

 

Kaizen and You — Igor Popovich

Amazon Description: Kaizen and You Personal Success through Self Knowledge and Continuous Improvement_Igor Popovich

If you want to improve your life while becoming happier and more productive, then take the first step right now by reading this book. Anyone who thinks they don’t need to improve should also read this book to get to know the people who will defeat them in the game of life.

Who is running your life? It may seem a strange question to ask, and you may be inclined to answer automatically: “I am, of course.” However, when challenged to think about this question, the answer may not be so clear. Who is running your life? Is it you or your employer, government, friends and relatives, children or parents, or spouse? Maybe it is your fears and phobias, your lack of self-esteem and assertiveness, your lack of knowledge and experience, your poor ethics or poor memory, your ill health or constant debt? Are you running your life?

This book guides individuals to employ Kaizen’s principles – the famous Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement – in achieving personal success. It provides a step-by-step approach enabling you to start right away.

This book is about achieving positive, ethical results through constant self-improvement. Kaizen is an Anglo-Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. It is about success based on one’s inner strength, which then expands outwards.

That one doesn’t have to be an individual; it could be a corporation, an institution, or a whole society. Packed with fascinating quotations and insights, this book challenges readers to take control of their lives and take responsibility for the constant improvement of their personal and business achievements.

Atomic Habits — James Clear

Amazon Description:Atomic Habits James Clear

Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving–every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviours that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves repeatedly, not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the status of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven method that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for distilling complex topics into simple behaviours that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Learn how to:

  • make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);
  • overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;
  • design your environment to make success easier;
  • get back on track when you fall off course;

…and much more.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about success and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits, whether you are a team looking to win a championship or an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress or achieve any other goal.

 

The Power of Habit — Charles Duhigg

Amazon Description:The Power of Habit Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a full new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core,

The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, we can transform our businesses, communities, and lives by harnessing this new science.

 

Algorithms to Live By — Brian Christian

Amazon Description:Algorithms to Live By The Computer Science of Human Decisions _ Brian Christian

What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of the new and familiar is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not. Computers, like us, confront limited space and time, so computer scientists have been grappling with similar problems for decades. And the solutions they’ve found have much to teach us.

In a dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths show how algorithms developed for computers also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one’s inbox to peering into the future,

Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.

 

The Tipping Point — Malcolm Gladwell

Amazon Description: The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

 

Outliers — Malcolm Gladwell

Amazon Description:Outliers Malcolm Gladwell

In this stunning book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

He answers that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way, he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

 

Understanding Variation — Donald Wheeler

Amazon Description:Understanding Variation The Key to Managing Chaos_Donald Wheeler

We live in the Information Age, and much of that information comes to us in the form of numbers. But before numerical data can be useful, it must be analyzed, interpreted, and assimilated.

Unfortunately, teaching the techniques for making sense of data has been neglected at all our educational system levels. As a result, through our culture, there is little appreciation for effectively using the volumes of data generated by both business and government.

This book can remedy that situation. Readers report that this book has changed how they look a data. It has turned arguments about the numbers into a shared understanding of what needs to be done about them. These techniques and benefits have been thoroughly proven in a wide variety of settings. 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Tom Hermans for sharing his photo with me via Unsplash.

Where did kaizen come from?

Like most great things, Kaizen wasn’t ‘invented’ by one single person. It was developed over the last century from a simple word to a powerful practical philosophy that can be used to get whatever you want from life.

Here’s a brief history of where kaizen came from.

Kaizen is just a word that means ‘improvement.’

Kaizen is just a Japanese word (改善) that means ‘improvement’ or ‘change for the better.’ Over the years, it has come to mean striving for continuous improvement.

The earliest form of Kaizen came from the United States.

In the 1930s, an American statistician and engineer called Walter Shewhart created the ‘Shewhart Cycle’ while working for Bell Labs.

This system is now most commonly known as the PDCA Cycle; Plan, Do, Check, Act. It’s the direct ancestor of kaizen in business, and the process is pretty self-explanatory. You make a plan, carry it out, analyze the results to see what could have been better, and then act on those insights to improve. Simple.

Edward Deming (far right) and colleagues
Photo from The Deming Institute

Later, in the 1940s, Edward Deming adapted it and focused on creating better systems and better quality, rather than cost-cutting. More crucially, he determined that management caused 85% of all problems and insisted on putting the onus of development on those carrying out the work on the shop floor.

In the 1950s, Japanese business managers took on the idea and developed it further.

The PDCA cycle — along with many other processes — made its way to Japan after the second world war. Deming’s ideas were far more popular in Japan than they were in the USA, and his ideas were seized by Japanese managers and spun into the kaizen philosophy that we know today.

photo of an old factory The most notable of these was Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer working at Toyota. He developed the famous Toyota Production System up until the mid-1960s.

Ohno’s Ten Commandments have a powerful influence on modern kaizen:

  1. Seek to eliminate waste, and recognize that you are a cost.
  2. Say “I can do it” and try hard. 
  3. The workplace is your teacher. You can only find your answers there.
  4. If you’re going to do anything, do it right away. The only way to win is to start now.
  5. Once you start something, never give up. Persevere until it’s finished.
  6. Explain complicated concepts simply. If an idea is simple to understand, repeat it.
  7. Bring your problems out into the open.
  8. Realize that actions without value are bad.
  9. Keep improving productivity and improving what has already been improved.
  10. Practice and share wisdom, don’t just hoard it. The power of kaizen has helped Toyota to become a world leader in innovation and manufacturing — as well as a hefty market cap.

NBC made a documentary and saved Ford

From the 1970s, Japan was an economic powerhouse with the world’s second-largest GDP. Everybody was looking at the Japanese as innovation leaders.

In 1980, NBC made a documentary called, If Japan Can, Why Can’t We? and introduced Deming’s ideas to millions of Americans. Here it is:

Executives at Ford must have seen the documentary because a year later, they hired Deming to turn the company around and prevent $1 billion in losses every year.

By 1987, he’d saved the company, and Ronald Reagan had awarded him the National Medal of Technology.

Kaizen came back to the West in the mid-80s

In 1986, a management consultant called Masaaki Imai penned the best-selling book: Kaizen – The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success and founded the Kaizen Institute. His concept revolved around incremental growth and process improvement.

He also notes how the results-orientated mindset of much of the West’s factories resulted in worse results than the process-orientated Japanese companies. His and Deming’s ideas were developed in the last 30 years into the concepts of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma that are widely used in manufacturing today.

Robert Maurer brings these ideas into the personal development world in ‘The Kaizen Way.’

The earliest I can find kaizen ideas applied to the world of self-development is Dr. Robert Maurer’s The Kaizen Way.

In it, Robert explains that the reason that most people fail is that,

“All changes are scary, even positive ones. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”

He breaks it down into six ideas:

  1. Taking small actions.
  2. Asking small questions.
  3. Thinking small thoughts.
  4. Solving small problems.
  5. Bestowing small rewards (to yourself or others).
  6. Recognizing small but crucial moments others ignore.

These are simple ideas that I find beautiful. Perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t read this book yet. I came across this concept of incremental improvement through other ways, but it’s had a powerful impact on my life nonetheless.

Kaizen-Ben launches in 2018 and does nothing for two years.

I aim to popularize this thinking and add my own spin to it to help you make the life changes you’ve always wanted. 

I knew there was something powerful here to share with people. And I wanted to share my journey. 

However, I didn’t truly understand what it was going to take. And I wasn’t ready for what would happen next. But it taught me what I needed to know to take this step now, so buying the domain wasn’t a total waste.

Today, you read this blog.

What step will you take next? I hope you learned something useful in this blog, and it’s piqued your interest enough to explore the idea of what kaizen is and how you can use these ideas to improve your life.

For some more quick inspiration, check out these quotes about kaizen and continuous improvement.

Or you can sign up to receive my Mote Note every day free. 

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What if you had to live today forever?

We watched 50 First Dates last weekend.

It’s the one where Adam Sandler gives up chasing all the women to chase one (Drew Barrymore) who will never remember him for more than an afternoon — because she has anterograde amnesia.

Drew can’t remember a single day since her memory was damaged.

She does the same thing every day because to her, no time has passed since her accident (more than a year ago).

And she’s totally happy living that day again and again.

About halfway through, my friend asks: What if she’d gone to the gym instead of the waffle house that day?

She’d be absolutely ripped!

What if she’d played a game of chess or meditated? Imagine how good she’d be after 2, 5, 10 years of doing a crossword for 10 minutes a day.

And what about if she got drunk? Or actually ate the waffles instead of playing with them?

I’m not so sure Adam would’ve fallen for her.

It’s funny to think about, but this type of amnesia can happen to anyone.

You could bang your head on a cupboard one day and: bam—Groundhog day.

So — what would you want to do for eternity, even if you didn’t know it?

And what would that day do for you?

Mind your head!

Not great isn’t bad

It’s not easy being great every day.

So it’s ok that some days you don’t feel like it.

You’re already doing so much better than you give yourself credit for.

An hour spent stretching is just as valuable as an hour spent lifting weights, in the grand scheme of things.

So, give yourself a break from being great, and just be good for the day.

When you’re not feeling up to it — when you’re hungover, or tired, or grumpy — doing the smallest thing is worth so much more; especially if you wouldn’t normally do it on a ‘bad’ day.

On those ‘bad’ days, maybe being great just means reading something interesting or watching a documentary that teaches you something new.  Or drinking that extra glass of water. Or ordering a large fries instead of your usual extra-large. 

And that’s more than good enough.

What is a kaizen mindset?

A ‘kaizen mindset’ is one of the most powerful ways to get what you want from life. It’s simple, effective, and easy enough that anyone can execute it.

Anyone!

But be warned, a kaizen mindset won’t just change your life.

It will change you as a person.

A Kaizen Mindset is a Business Growth Strategy

Kaizen is most often found in workplaces, but it’s just as potent a self-improvement tool.

Businesses who want a ‘kaizen mindset’ train their employees to always look for ways to improve their job — and any other processes in their company they come into contact with.

The companies that are the best at doing this tell their employees to think “the current way of doing things is the worst way.”

As you can probably imagine, that has a massive impact on the business’s success in the short and long term.

It was one reason Japan made such a strong economic recovery post-WWII and is behind Toyota’s long-term success.

Many of the elements that make it a successful management tool make it an excellent tool for self-improvement.

A Kaizen Mindset is a Way of Life

The beauty of a kaizen mindset is that it’s all about the little steps. 

These make improving your life much more manageable for two reasons:

  1. They overcome our natural fear of big changes.
  2. You don’t get disheartened by failure because it’s part of the process.

There’s always a place for radical life changes, but too often, we overestimate our capacity to maintain those changes over the long term.

When you have a kaizen mindset, you are committed to improvement, whatever that looks like. It is the practice of self-criticism, a stoic approach but unleashed from values or virtues.

A kaizen mindset is a continuous pursuit of perfection. And because it’s impossible to achieve perfection, this process never ends. 

You can apply it to achieving a specific goal or learning a particular skill. But it’s most useful when you apply it to your life as a whole because all the little changes feed into each other. Achieving your bigger, hairier goals becomes a part of the process — an inevitability.

The 6 Elements of a Kaizen Mindset

The core elements of a kaizen mindset are simple but powerful ways to live your life.

I have chosen these because they are rules rather than values — they are flexible, so you can use them to build your own values, like courage or temperance, or confidence.

  1. Self-Awareness & Critique
  2. Always Be Learning
  3. Start with Scarcity
  4. Break Down Your Goals into Manageable Steps
  5. Commit to Daily Practice (habit-forming)
  6. Embrace Obstacles and Mistakes

How a Kaizen Mindset Works in Practice

The best example of how a kaizen mindset works in practice is the problem of ‘losing weight.’

When people say that, they don’t just want to lose weight; they want to keep it off too. We want to feel sexy and confident, and healthy. And we want it fast.

Most people go on a crash diet or a ‘super shred’ and go to the extreme for a couple of months. 

If we do it right, it works. We look and feel great.

Then, a long weekend comes along, and we decide to give ourselves a break because we ‘deserve it.’ And before you know it, a week has gone past, and you haven’t worked out. You abandon the diet; the tracking app notifications get turned off because they make you feel guilty.

We struggle on, not sure why it’s not working or where our ‘motivation went.’ But the weeks creep by, and slowly but surely our body settles back into its old cuddly shape.

The most significant obstacle for most people — and why they usually give up here — is realizing that they’re going to have to change a lot more than just their diet to reach their goals.

They realize that the kind of person with washboard abs or a great arse isn’t the kind of person who goes to the pub and orders takeaway four nights a week. 

If you want a significant change in your life, you need to be prepared to abandon who you are right now, and who you’ve been all your life. 

That’s terrifying.

Following a kaizen approach makes that fear smaller and more manageable because you don’t have to change who you are overnight.

You just have to change one little thing at a time.

Here’s how it applies to the example of ‘losing weight.’

Approaching Weight Loss with a Kaizen Mindset

If you approach losing weight with a kaizen mindset, you first appreciate that it will take some time to reach your ideal weight or look. Probably several years.

It doesn’t take long to lose a few pounds, but you have to stop being the kind of person who gains excess body fat. 

You must accept that to become the kind of person who is confident about their body, you have to ‘un-become’ the type of person who eats take-out four nights a week.

And making long-term lifestyle changes is the only way to do this.

But with kaizen, you only have to change one small thing at a time.

Think of one thing that you can do — one habit you can bring into your life — that will help you towards that goal.

For example, the kind of person who has washboard abs is the kind of person who drinks a glass of water in the morning — every morning.

Start doing that every day. This one is so easy that you’ll be ready to move to the next step pretty quickly. Usually after a couple of months.

The next one could be, stop snacking.

The kind of person who has washboard abs is the kind of person that says ‘no’ when you offer them a snack.

EVEN if it’s french fries. 🤤

This one is pretty simple to execute, so you start practicing that with minimal equipment: Anytime your brain or your friends suggest you have a snack, say ‘no.’

That’s all pretty normal.

But the key that makes a kaizen mindset is that when you fail to say no to that delicious bite of pizza, or you somehow fail to drink a glass of water in the morning, you need to ask yourself why you failed and how you could prevent that failure in future. 

And then, when you SUCCEED in refusing food (and you’ll notice it!) you ask yourself why you succeeded and how you could do that again, and maybe even do it better, in the future too. 

I know from experience that refusing free food is takes time to build into a habit. But the best part about kaizen is that every little step you do strengthens the other actions you take.

You’re more likely to say ‘no’ to a snack if you’re the kind of person who drinks water every morning.

And if you decide that you’re going to add in 10 push-ups every morning…

Well, you get the idea.

The Best Way to Start Building A Kaizen Mindset

The easiest way to change your life is to start drinking a large glass of water every morning.

If you’ve got that sorted, the next thing you should try is meditation.

Meditation is the single best way to execute kaizen in your life because it’s so simple. And it’s pretty much the embodiment of a kaizen mindset.

Anyone can do it. And you can meditate anywhere. There are no excuses for not being able to meditate because you were travelling, or hungover, or didn’t have the equipment.

If you want to start to bring a kaizen mentality into your life, start meditating for 5-10 minutes—every day. 

You don’t have to do it well. There’s no way to meditate that’s better than another, or any way to measure if getting better; you just do it every day. Don’t worry if you miss a day here or there, the main thing is that you do it as many days as you can.

It’s probably better to accept that you will never be good at meditation from the start — like I’m never going to enjoy cleaning my room — and buckle down and do it. I know I’m going to enjoy the result, at least.

Meditation is also similar to drinking a glass of water. There’s no ‘better’ way to drink it. No matter how many times you drink a glass of water, you’re never going to ‘drink it better.’ But it’s still just as beneficial to your life whether you sip it through a straw or glug it down at once.

The benefits are in the doing; the practice. You are adding that little 1% interest to your savings account.

And if you did that every day, what would life look like in five years, or ten years? Who would you be?

I encourage you to give meditation a whirl for free on Insight Timer. Here are three of my favourite morning meditations for you to try:

  1. Morning Meditation
  2. Cultivating Focus
  3. Morning Meditation for Energy & Clarity

You can’t lose!

 

 

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

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How to predict the future

Not many people saw the pandemic coming. And nobody predicted what actually happened in 2020.

Don’t believe anyone who says they know what’s going to happen in the future. At best, it’ll be a lucky guess.

We can’t predict what happens to us, but we can decide what we do next.

We always get to decide how we react.

When you know how you’ll react before the Universe throws the shit — that’s what we call ‘having values.’

And having values is how you predict the future.

So, if kaizen is one of your values, it means you’ve decided to improve: To take a little step forward every day.  To learn something new. To leave our beautiful home a little better than when we arrived.

And to me, that’s greatness.

It doesn’t matter what you do

If you woke up this morning with a big old task list weighing you to the bed, this might help shift that nasty beast.

Just do one thing.

It doesn’t matter what it is.

It doesn’t even matter how well you do it!

All that matters is that you take that one little small step.

That one little task looks a lot sweeter and cuddlier than an ugly old list. And motivation almost always comes after we take action, not the other way around. 

Taking that one little step will motivate you to take the next one.

Mark Manson calls this the ‘Do Something Principle.’

If you’re struggling to start a project or tackle a big task, just do a little something towards it.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Seriously — anything will do.

And you’re gonna feel great when you’ve done it.

Take it from me. 🙂

Don’t worry about what’s ahead

Most of us wake up every morning with a to-do list packed full of tasks.

And when you’re trying to make changes in your life, that list can be very intimidating. 

With every goal, the list of things we need to do balloons, sucking all our motivation with it.

We can get so overwhelmed thinking about what it will take to reach our goal that we don’t take any steps towards it at all!

Instead, we should focus on the process itself. On taking that one small step or performing that one small daily action that will get us a little bit closer to our vision. That’s your practice. 

When you do that, no matter what else happens that day, you know you’re on the right track.

What’s your daily practice?

Mine is this blog 🙂

What is kaizen and what does it mean?

You may have heard the word kaizen and wondered what it meant. The answer is stranger than you’d think.

The root of the word kaizen is in manufacturing and business processes. But the principles behind it are applicable in our lives too. That’s why it has crept into the world of self-help.

But what does kaizen actually mean?

What is kaizen, and what does it mean?

Kaizen is a concept and a Japanese word. This is the word:

kaizen kanji horizontal

The word simply means ‘change for the better.’

A more straightforward translation might be ‘improvement.’

There isn’t much philosophical about the words improvement or kaizen by themselves. But kaizen has grown in meaning in the last half-century to describe the philosophy of continuous improvement both in business and private life.

The Deeper Meaning of Kaizen

The English language is well-known to relentlessly and mercilessly acquire words and phrases from others — often shamelessly ignoring its deeper meanings.

One of my favourite quotes on this:

“We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” James Nicoll

Kaizen has avoided that treatment so far. But unpicking its meaning reveals a philosophical beauty.

This gent does a better job than I could ever do.

Kai (revolution) = Self & Whip (flagellate)

Zen (good) = Sheep (lamb/goat) & Alter (sacrifice)

Kaizen, translated very literally, means revolution through small sacrifices.

I love the philosophy behind this.

Change is the relentless beating of life upon us.

And ‘good’ essentially meaning sacrifice, or from sacrifice. Because nothing truly good ever happened without a little sacrifice.

Sacrifice is how you get there. Not huge sacrifices, just small, meaningful ones.

Keep both of those meanings in mind as we go a little deeper into the meaning of the word kaizen, and you’ll see the power these short lines represent.

Kaizen translates to improvement.

But ‘improving’ isn’t very helpful. How do you improve? And how do you know you’ve improved when you get there?

To incorporate the philosophy of kaizen into your life, you need a framework.

Here are some pillars that make kaizen practical for personal growth.

The 3 Pillars of Personal Kaizen

Kaizen has been turned into a framework for creating better businesses. And as with any such framework, it rests upon pillars or principles. You can find various versions of these, but they all seem to be rather wordy and boring business-speak.

After some research, I decided that these three were probably the most important — everything else stemmed from them. Someone will probably complain about me twisting meanings here, but I don’t care. Words are what you make of them.

1. Mokuteki 目的 (Purpose)

Mokuteki is at the core of kaizen. It roughly means ‘purpose’ or ‘goal.’

Mokuteki is the growth part, the addition, the result of the improvement.

If you want to execute kaizen in your life, mokuteki is both your goals and your intention to achieve them.

It’s the whole point.

You could also use seichō (成長), meaning growth or ‘ (増) meaning increase. Or just kaizen, of course.

I find ‘purpose’ to be most fitting for self-improvement, partly because of its double meaning in English.

You must have purpose — intent — to change. And you must have a purpose for doing it—your objective. The roots of the word purpose are from the Latin for resolve. Something else you must have.

One of the pillars of the original business philosophy was eliminating mura or ‘useless – waste.’

This also fits nicely with our use of the word ‘purpose’ because eliminating waste and distractions becomes easy once you have a purpose.

There are some elements of this in personal kaizen, and we’ll certainly need to eliminate things that don’t help us work towards our goals.

2. Gemba 現場 (Place)

Gemba is a Japanese word that translates approximately as the real place. Google (rather dully) tells me that it means on-site.

If you’re interested, the two kanji characters that make this word translate as current and field.

In the business consulting frameworks, Gemba typically refers to the workplace or factory floor. But we can use it in several other ways:

A police detective would call a crime scene the gemba, live TV journalists report from gemba. It’s where the action happens, where the rubber hits the road. It’s the field where you will sow your seeds of growth. 

If you are trying to apply kaizen to your life, gemba is the area of your life that you want to improve.

To some people, their gemba is obvious and specific. It could be learning to play the guitar or running a marathon.

It could be more abstract for other people, like being happier, or more confident, or more successful in your career.

You need gemba to help you focus your efforts. It directs your energy and shows you what you need to sacrifice. It helps you cut away the chaff and focus on what’s essential to your mokuteki.

It keeps you on track. Identifying your gemba is essential if you want to benefit from the principles of kaizen.

You cannot climb any mountains unless you pick one mountain to climb first.

Gemba is also where you do that improvement: work, home, the gym. Understanding how your environment affects you is an essential part of self-development.

3. Renzoku 連続 (Persistence)

The final piece of a kaizen philosophy is this: continuity. That’s the more common translation of renzoku. But that doesn’t make a neat Three Ps for the pillars. 🙂 

The business concepts refer to this as standardization — and that’s important to remember. Another way we could look at this could be iji (維持), which would mean sustainability or to maintain, but I prefer 連続 because it is more about using it continually. And also the whole ‘P’ thing I mentioned earlier.

Personal kaizen is more about continuity because you can’t standardize life in the same way you can standardize a production line or business process. 

Kaizen isn’t about making fast changes to your lifestyle or habits. It’s about continuously making improvements to your lifestyle or habits. These slight improvements will all add up to significant change faster than you think.

It’s not about quick hacks and instant results. Because, as appealing as those may be, these things don’t work.

You might drop the ~10lb (for me, it was about ~25lb) that you thought was making you unhappy. You might get the raise you need to feel like a success. You might find the perfect productivity app, or personal trainer, or diet plan, or partner. But none of that will count for shit in the long run because they’re not what drives change.

Kaizen is about taking small definite actions every day — some of which you can standardize — no matter what happens. It’s about persistence.

Renzoku is the current that drives the change. It’s your motor, the wind in your sails. It’s the realization that there is no final ‘better’ — perfection is impossible, after all. 

The power behind the kaizen philosophy lies in renzoku. The whole point is just to put one foot in front of the other and keep on moving. It’s the method that makes it all possible; it’s the regular deposits you make into your account.

But it’s also the realization that making the regular deposits is more important than how much they are or how much is in the account!

It’s the action that makes it all possible. 

Kaizen is a Way of Approaching Life

Here’s another analogy that relates to this story about the man who wanted to climb the mountain.

Adopting a kaizen philosophy is deciding to climb the mountain for yourself. It is also your map and your method.

If you are that traveller walking up a mountain, gemba is the mountain, mokuteki is the view from the top, and renzoku is the action of putting one foot in front of the other; the steps you take to get there.

And those travellers who are fortunate enough to reach the top and look out on that view tend to realize one thing. Each of those little steps was the point. The steps were the goal in themselves. After all, how many people climb just one mountain?

Once you get to the top, you realize that the whole point is to climb — and to keep climbing.

Kaizen is the toolkit that will help you climb any mountain you choose.

 

What Kaizen Means to Me

This whole blog is about what kaizen is to me and how to use this practical philosophy to improve your life.

Kaizen helped me to turn my life around completely, and it can help you too.

It’s taken me from being a lost, sad, goal-less drug addict to a productive, healthy (mostly) happy human, doing what I enjoy for a living.  

And hopefully, it can help you too. 

I’d also recommend reading one of the top books about kaizen for self-improvement.

And for some more quick inspiration, check out these continuous improvement and kaizen quotes.