Native Tongue, help and hindrance

One of the book reviews I’d like to share with you soon, will be on Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — and I will; not quite ready. Still sitting with it, in that afterglow a book can give when you’ve read it all the way through but keep thinking about it, and keep going back to reread certain paragraphs.

Meanwhile, here is a passage I found particularly fascinating.

If you have not heard of him, Murakami is both marathon runner and writer. He’s considered influential in postmodern literature, is probably Japan’s best-selling novelist globally, and he’s prolific, writing essays and short stories as well. He also works as a translator, and has published translations of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Irving, Raymond Carver (who he calls “a writer beloved by me”) , Tim O’Brien, Chris van Allsburg, Truman Capote and Paul Theroux.

In his memoir, Murakami explains that he much prefers giving his speeches in English despite all the extra work, writing his speaking drafts in English too. He writes:

“Naturally, this takes a lot of time to prepare. Before I get up on stage I have to memorize a thirty- or forty-minute talk in my English. If you just read a written speech as is, the whole thing will feel lifeless to an audience. I have to choose words that are easy to pronounce so people can understand me, and remember to get the audience to laugh to put them at ease. I have to convey to those listening a sense of who I am. Even if it’s just for a short time, I have to get the audience on my side if I want them to listen to me. And in order to do that, I have to practice the speech over and over, which takes a lot of effort.”

He goes through all this, and has done so for years now, because knowing less English gives him less raw material to deal with effectively. All of Murakami’s native Japanese is just too much to sort through in constructing the sentences he’ll end up choosing. Less is easier to handle, and easier to memorize. The better you memorize a presentation, the less you ad-lib (which most professional speakers will tell you, is where they risk losing their train of thought as they speak.):

“It’s strange, but when I have to speak in front of an audience, I find it more comfortable to use my far-from-perfect English than Japanese. I think this is because when I have to speak seriously about something in Japanese I’m overcome with the feeling of being swallowed up in a sea of words. There’s an infinite number of choices for me, infinite possibilities. As a writer, Japanese and I have a tight relationship. So if I’m going to speak in front of an undefined large group of people, I grow confused and frustrated when faced by that teeming ocean of words.”

This intrigues me because of all I write in Hawaiian, even though English is my first language — my only language really, for to be accurate, I know a great deal of Hawaiian and think with the kaona (subtly hidden, storied meanings) of my life-long Hawai‘i mana‘o (beliefs and convictions rooted in sense of place), but I don’t speak it, not as language.

My speeches and presentations are all in English, of course, but I actually write them by starting with Hawaiian for the same reasons Murakami describes, with a small difference: My Hawaiian is more limited, but it is actually much more descriptive to me, especially because my thinking about it is so values-based, and my speeches essentially, are about some kind of behavioral coaching.

English frustrates me quite a bit, even after speaking it nearly exclusively all my life. There is just too much of it, and it drives me crazy how people will use different words indiscriminately. My pet peeves, as you know, are management versus leadership.

I remember how much difficulty I had in the early months of writing this blog because I used way too much Hawaiian then, and would lose people constantly. I couldn’t even understand my own challenge at first, because my ‘hapa talk,’ half English, half Hawaiian/local slang, was easily understood in my real world — my conversational, every day speaking habits are par for the course in the islands.

World-wide web publishing was a whole new ballgame, and Hawaiian is not going mainstream any time soon! I know how fortunate I am that some of my best friends today were early readers who stuck with me. I think better by thinking in writing, and so I’ve had to learn to go farther into English than I normally would have in the past — and farther than I normally want to; Hawaiian is so much more satisfying. When I start writing in Hawaiian, I start thinking within stories and concepts instead of with choosing ideas, or with writing descriptions.

So good to feel I have company in this, though we have our differences, Murakami and I!

For more about Haruki Murakami, I found this Sunday Times UK article interesting (from 2008): Ten things you need to know about Haruki Murakami: The key facts about the coolest writer in the world today.

Check out the U.S. website he has with Random House too: It’s as cool and mysterious as he is.

If this is enough to intrigue you about Murakami, and you aren’t runner or writer, I’d recommend you try reading one of his novels or short story collections first: I’ll certainly be reaching for more.

To wrap this up, here is how he finishes the passage I’ve quoted:

“Running is a great activity to do while memorizing a speech. As, almost unconsciously, I move my legs, I line the words up in order in my mind. I measure the rhythm of the sentences, the way they’ll sound. With my mind elsewhere I’m able to run for a long while, keeping up a natural speed that doesn’t tire me out. Sometimes when I’m practicing a speech in my head, I catch myself making all kinds of gestures and facial expressions, and the people passing me from the opposite direction give me a weird look.”

“Today as I was running I saw a plump Canada goose lying dead by the shore of the Charles [he writes this while in Cambridge, Massachusetts]. A dead squirrel, too, lying next to a tree. They both looked like they were fast asleep, but they were dead. Their expressions were calm, as if they’d accepted the end of life, as if they were finally liberated. Next to the boathouse by the river was a homeless man wearing layers of filthy clothes. He was pushing a shopping cart and belting out “America the Beautiful.” Whether he really meant it or was being deeply ironic, I couldn’t tell.”

A Saturday Recap: 2011 ~ First 8 Days

8 recalls Makawalu for me: Did you happen to catch it within the Joyful Jubilant Learning project? I’ll add a post reprise at the ending of this one, for a moment’s leisurely reading during your weekend, but let’s start with a quick Beginning 2011 on Talking Story Recap, shall we?

Love when this happens, that collections of posts can flow from one question as it did, for I learn to re-frame, and refresh my own learning too ~ so mahalo nui, thank you!

Happy to see the sun

If you’ve been following along (or want to catch up with us), might this help with your Weekly Review?

I had actually started by declaring 2011 The Year of Better Habits, and then Value alignment [the all-important Key 3 on our Managing with Aloha learning grid] became topic of our beginning-to-the-year talk story: It was great to get grounded that way… you could say that it was our first “best clue.”

Day 1: Wayfinding to Use Your Best Clues

On-purpose, well-chosen habits are generous helpers. With the company of good habits I can trust in the quality of my inputs. Then good begets good; my habits help me determine the quality of my resulting outputs. They’ve become a great success structure.

Day 2: Value Alignment for 2011

…my ‘Value Your Month to Value Your Life’ program will not be resurrected in 2011, at least not in the same way as before — but don’t let that stop any of you! Adopt and adapt the program for your own work team: Getting started is easy. Here’s the Take 5…

Day 4: Value Alignment for Projects

A key advantage of both Value Immersion and Value Steering is that decisions get made much quicker, and with greater clarity because criteria parameters have selectively, purposely been narrowed… Perhaps most important, is the authorship shift

Day 5: January Coaching: What are you really managing?

This is definitely a wayfinding exercise, because in starting with that first question you are confronting your existing habits and being truthful about them. I guess you could say that your answers to the second question are your goals, but in my experience it’s been much more effective for those I’ve coached to think of them as wants; they’re more basic that way, visceral even. Wants are Aloha-instinctive, and more emotion-charged compared to how pragmatic and strategic goal-setting is, and so energies ramp up quicker that way (I hate the SMART acronym. There, I’ve said it. I hate it because it’s boring.)

Day 6: Value Immersion, Value Steering” Why?

At the heart of the matter: Values drive behavior. We do stuff because we believe in it, and we resist or refuse when we don’t. You can’t, and won’t pass Go if you don’t buy in.

Day 7: Your values and your DNA

At their core (in their DNA within you), your values are good. They’ll serve you well when you choose to grow them…

Day 8: Is today :)

Thank you so much for sharing this first week of a fresh new year with me!

Now a reprise, as promised: This was originally published on Joyful Jubilant Learning in August of 2008, and I think it suits our present mood well too, in the spirit of wayfinding.

Hungry Koi

Counting Fish, Taro, and Thinking

The study of cultural values has been my keenest interest, and as we decided on our theme for August (Learning from 8) it struck me that I haven’t really paid too much attention to the fascinating language of our numbers. I’ve taken them for granted.

Simply by merit of growing up in Hawai‘i, I have always known that multiples of four and eight are highly regarded in our culture, but why? Up until now it wasn’t something I thought much about, I just accepted it. Leave it to JJL to pique my interest enough to suddenly ask out loud, “But why?”

I went digging in my own library of reference books, and this is what I discovered.

Kauna, Ka‘au, Lau” Counting Fish and Taro

“Numbers is the special language of mathematics and Hawaiians had developed a numbers system of their own long before the arrival of Captain Cook” Hawaiians had adopted a base unit of four in addition to a hybridized base ten numerical system” The Hawaiians’ base four units were called kauna, or four; ka‘au, or forty; lau, or four hundred; mano, or four thousand; kini, or forty thousand; and lehu, or four hundred thousand.

According to J.H. Kānepu‘u, a Hawaiian author of a letter to the editor of the Hawaiian newspaper Ke Au ‘Oko‘a, dated January 21, 1867, the number four was used for a very practical reason: a fisherman could hold four fish by their tails between the five fingers of each hand, or a farmer could hold four taro plants in the same way. Incidentally, fisherman and fishmongers in Hawai‘i today still count fish, particularly ‘ōpelu, according to the old method, in units of four, forty, and so on.”

—from KÅ« Kanaka, A Search for Hawaiian Values by George Hu‘eu Sanford Kanahele

I have seen fish counted this way, and it’s just been one of those things I figured as a fisherman’s habit. Handy, simple, practical” hands, fish and food together; very Hawaiian.

However then there is makawalu, for to the Hawaiian, the spirit factors into everything. Where four is baseline and binary, eight is expansive and exponential. Beyond two hands is beyond eight and predicates using one’s spirit, thus 8 opens imagination and possibility. We call it makawalu.

Makawalu” Counting our Thinking

Makawalu is the concept of abundance in thinking, giving in to all the possibilities of the physical and the spiritual world. Maka is the word for eyes, and walu is eight, thus makawalu literally means to look for eight ways or facets of thinking connected to and extended from wherever you may start.

If you begin to use a tool, think of eight ways you might be able to use it.

If you plot a garden, think of eight sections that will rotate your earth in season.

If you consider a friendship, think of eight ways you will be able to share it.

If you write a song, think of eight voices who will help you sing it.

And then for each of those eight ways, think of eight more. Within your spirit, all is entirely possible.

Makawalu stems from a belief that our intelligence is infinite: For each of the eight perspectives one might come up with, another eight will be possible (making 64), and on (to 512), and on (to 4,096), and on to infinite possibility. It is the expectation of abundance over scarcity— always.

Thus in Hawaiian, makawalu is also the word we use for numerous, many, much, in great quantities, and sometimes, it is “used with implication of chiefly mana [divine power].” —Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert in the Hawaiian Dictionary

So my fellow JJLers, here is my challenge to us all this month:

For every post to come go for Makawalu!

Seek to learn with eight eyes and your spirit.

Could we get beyond our own two hands, a collaborative community 4,096 and “on to infinite possibility?” I believe we can.

P.S. And the next time you go to a fish market, see how good you might be holding four fish between your five fingers! Not as easy as it sounds (cheeky Hawaiians).

Are you able to discount your own certainty?

For that is what it takes to be open-minded —and being open-minded is but the start of possibility in your bigger and better thinking, thinking your brain is fully capable of.


Voltaire said,

“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position, but certainty is an absurd position.”

Meet Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist (Link to PopTech2010 Video). I love speakers who can communicate as eloquently as Dr. Eagleman. Trust me, he’s a scientist you’ll enjoy listening to!

“90% of the universe is what we call ‘dark matter.’ That’s a lot to sweep under the rug!”
— Dr. David Eagleman

In his presentation, Dr. Eagleman presents possibilianism:

At 13:52: Possibilianism is “the act of exploration of new ideas and a comfort with the scientific temperment of creativity and holding multiple hypotheses in mind… It’s not that anything goes; anything goes at first, and then we import the tools of science to rule out parts of the possibility space.”

What’s cool, is that “…possibilianism picks up where the toolbox of science leaves out; it’s where we no longer have tools to address it [the magnitude of all we don’t yet know.]”

So why should you bother with this video at all? (It will explain Possibilianism in about 20 minutes.)

In the crush of the holiday season the year will turn, and like it or not, welcome it or not, we will all do a great deal of thinking about ourselves and the world we live in. I urge you to frame your thinking within greater possibility. Give yourself a gift, and let your growth in.

In his talk, Dr. Eagleman will explain that we must seek comfort with multiple narratives.

“This is not just a plea for simple open-mindedness, but for an act of exploration of new ideas. …go back into your world, and live a life free of dogma, and full of awe and wonder. See if you can celebrate possibility, and praise uncertainty.”

This is something you have to work at, because old conditioning can fight you:

At 6:18: You don’t need to be an anthropologist to recognize that our nervous systems absorb whatever our culture pours into us” it is not coincidence that there isn’t a blossoming of Islam in Springfield Ohio, and there isn’t a blossoming Protestantism in Mecca, because we are products of our culture; we accept whatever is poured into us, right? If there was one truth, you’d expect it would spread everywhere evenly, but the data doesn’t support that”

Merry Christmas my friends. However your faith got you where you are today, I’m celebrating the possibility of where we all have yet to go in both heart and mind.

Many thanks to Liz Danzico for introducing me to David Eagleman.

On the 5th Day of Christmas: Wonder

Wonder. To have an inner capacity that can always make room for awe and wonder is such a blessing. To return to child-like innocence and acceptance, to be rendered speechless, and have it feel good and right, never helpless. To not have all the answers but feel it is perfectly fine not to, to just have wonder.

How is wonder an Aloha Virtue for you?

Imagine having a Thought Kit

Last week I encouraged you to Embrace your Systems Thinker. Well, when it comes to THINKING there is so much more nurturing of it we all can do!

“What did you learn today Ralph?
Did you learn what to believe or did you learn how to think?”

— The questions Nathra Nader posed to his then ten-year-old son, Ralph Nader
when he came home from school
From The Tradition of Education and Argument, The Seventeen Traditions

The thinking I’ve been doing lately is about kit creating. It’s thinking, and writing which has spun off into a brand new book!
(If the photo doesn’t pop up for you in your reader, please click in to see it!)

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Become a Business Thinker.

Re-imagine work, and gain better control of your life as you do so, even if you never decide to go into business for yourself. Adopting and adapting a business mindset opens up your options, helping you feel confident, connected and in-the-know. This book presents the business thinker’s possibility for a new working attitude with a values-based bonus: the coaching of the Managing with Aloha movement.

Purchasing Options:

Business Thinking with Aloha is now available on Smashwords, within their Premium Catalog: I hope you’ll take the time to check it out, for you can sample 40% of the book for free there, and then choose from eight different reading options, including Kindle.

A note for Kindle owners: Business Thinking with Aloha is also available in the Amazon Kindle Store, however the sample size may be shorter. You can find instructions at this link on purchasing Kindle downloads from Smashwords.

A note for Business Thinkers: Smashwords does have an affiliate program you can check out too! Become an affiliate.

Why Ship So Soon?

I know this seems to come rather quickly on the heels of Become an Alaka‘i Manager in 5 Weeks, yet very naturally so from my perspective. My reasons for publishing the two books align: Both offer Take 5 coaching programs. Both have strong connection to the evolution of  Managing with Aloha in response to the challenges we face in today’s economic climate.

Business Thinking with Aloha (BTWA) is written for the person who has not read either Managing with Aloha or its new how-to guide for Alaka‘i Managers, and who may also be meeting me for the very first time.

As you know dear readers, I write quite a bit, and for a variety of different audiences. Out of everything I have written, this is the mini book I wrote with both of my children in mind (they’re young adults now, ages 26 and 23), and because I felt compelled to be part of the solution for our workforce challenges. I’ve asked them to read this, and share it with their friends and contemporaries, because I want them to have a healthy relationship with work; they’ll be tackling a lot of it! I want them to be inquisitive young adults who seek to shape their world in the best possible way, loving life as they do so, and fully cognizant of how powerful they are with creating their own destiny. Life needn’t just happen to them; they can navigate their choices skillfully and design it.

So can you. As I wrote BTWA I also thought of it as a way I could help the Alaka‘i Manager who would like to give their employees a gift as suggested reading, i.e. something in full alignment and support of what that manager is seeking to learn in their own self-development: I asked myself, “As a manager grows, what lighter, but parallel path can their staff start with?” and Become a Business Thinker became a possible answer.

If you are already into the reading and application of Become an Alaka‘i Manager in 5 Weeks, I suggest you finish that one first. You will then find that BTWA works great as a follow-up which takes you deeper into the 9 Key Concepts, and where Become had ended — and you’ll likely be the person who gains the most benefit from it. Consider BTWA number 4 to this posting: The 1-2-3 journey of Alaka‘i Managers.

Business Thinking with Aloha is a shorter book (it’s about a fourth the reading time of MWA). I think it offers  fabulous utility, an ever-present goal of my work, and I hope you will agree. Go on, grab your sampling today and take a look!