Tokyo tips on leadership and life
Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living – Mary Ritter Beard
What a fabulous quote by Mary Ritter Beard. This sums up everything about my recent trip to Japan! What an amazing place. After ten days wandering through the streets of Japan, I am full of more inspiration that I could have ever imagined. I honestly think that I could live in the magical real life ‘theme park’ known as Tokyo. In fact, I would welcome such an adventure.
In a post the other day, I described the experience as life changing. Some friends of mine have asked me to explain that further. In this post, I wanted to share with you (not a list of places to visit in Japan), but five ‘Tokyo Tips’ to master your potential as a leader and entrepreneur.
THE BIG PICTURE
Every day we answer the phone; play email ping-pong, put out fires with clients, our teams and deal with the general day to day operating of our business. While this may not be a lesson exclusively ‘Japanese’, being in a city as unique as Tokyo, paved the way for me to disconnect from my daily activities. Take a deep breath, and tune back into my ‘purpose picture’.
In leadership and business, there is a big conversation happening around purpose and tapping into our ‘why’. This is great, but how often do we take the time to not just think about the ‘why’, but to examine purpose on a deeper level. This process is something that is worthy of our time and attention.
While you may not be in a position to jump on a plane to Japan, it is vital to take time out and get perspective on the big picture. Sit with how your ‘why’ makes you feel, and what it means to create your dreams. This process will bring life to every mundane activity in your daily grind. It will bring life to your business, and it will inspire your team, aligning them with a collective purpose.
There is great value in giving yourself space to be the ‘visionary’ that enabled you to be in a position of leadership in the first place.
MANIFEST YOUR MAGIC
As an entrepreneur, the essence of what we do is to take an idea or a concept and through ‘conscious action’ allow that idea to manifest into the physical world. This process normally requires endless hours of work, strategic partnerships, websites, branding, legal requirements and the list goes on. It is easy to feel like it’s all too hard and give up. Trust me, I get it. I have had a ‘BIG’ idea I have been sitting on for over a decade. I have given up on it, walked away, but somehow the idea keeps wandering back into my mind, begging itself to life.
Given I haven’t been able to shake the idea, I needed to reframe the story I had played about this being ‘too hard’. Japan provided me with the most unexpected exercise in understanding that manifestation doesn’t have to be difficult if we get the picture right.
On one of my Tokyo adventures, I visited the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. ‘Miraikan’ is Japans major science centre located in Daiba, Tokyo. You will see in the picture below me drawing a picture (yes – I was in the kids section on a toddlers poof, but hey I am a big kid). The picture I drew represented my ‘big idea’. Along with the other kids, I was asked to hand my picture to the attendant who scanned the image and loaded it up onto a screen along with all of the pictures the other kids had drawn. All of a sudden I could see my picture emerge in a screen that represented a big city, and each drawing was a component of that city. Just like that my big idea (my drawing) came to life in a virtual Tokyo city. On that screen, my dream was projected to me as a reality.
While starting a business is an incredible amount of work, focussing on the process in a simple way, made the project feel real and alive. It shifted my story that it was ‘too hard’, because if the picture is right, and the action is clear….it isn’t hard at all. This process affirmed for me, that all I had to do was load my vision into the ‘grid’ and with conscious action manifest this picture into a real world.
I would recommend any entrepreneur to get to Tokyo and play with the kids. There is great power in understanding the simplicity of manifestation. Just focus on getting clarity about exactly what you want to draw into the world, and then trust the process.
A GLOBAL MOVEMENT
As a leader in business, it is our job to look for the gap, to disrupt the status quo, to innovate and looks for new ways to do the same things. All of this is a given, but sometimes it is a simple rhythm and common language that provide the momentum to start a global movement. So where did I gain access this chunk of gold? Thank god for Japanese Karaoke.
Unlike Australia, Karaoke in Japan is popular, and the Japanese are not backwards in coming forward when it comes to taking the microphone and belting out a few tunes on a weeknight!
So getting back to the story, on one of our last nights in Japan my boyfriend and I visited a friend’s bar in the affluent area of Ginza. Our Japanese friend was used to us dropping in by now, however on this occasion he also was hosting a Japanese Hens night. By 10.00 pm, and quite a few sake’s later some of those girls came out and asked to have a photo of Ash (my boyfriend) and I, the happy tourists. We off course obliged and after some persuasion decided to join the hen’s crew, in the Karaoke lounge. When handed the microphone, I was a little unsure of what to sing given everyone in the room was Japanese and spoke little to no English. Alas in my world, Kylie Minogue always comes to the rescue! The song was none other than; ‘I just can’t get you out my head’.
Why is this significant? At the start of the song all of the Japanese in the room sat politely on the sofa, smiling adoringly at me belting out a Kylie hit! By the first LA LA LA chorus, the energy in the room shifted up a gear as everyone started to dance. By the last chorus, everyone was clapping, dancing and singing along! May I remind you that not one person knew who Kylie was, knew the song, or spoke English. (On a side note it is interesting that it was this song, which also made Kylie Minogue a global star).
So what is the secret? If you want to create a movement that breaks through language and cultural barriers, find a simple rhythm and language. As a business leader, what is your LA LA LA? How do you create a simple jingle that people all over the world can easily make their own, regardless of culture, gender or any other differentiating factor? What brings people together, rather than apart? How do you create a business that people can’t get out of their head?
I do have a video if this particular Karaoke event, but I will spare you my very bad singing!
STEP INTO THE NEW
Most of you may have heard about the Harajuku Girls of Japan. Some of you may have visited Harajuku, or others may be Gwen Stefani fans! For the rest of you, Harajuku in a district in Japan where the teenagers dress up on a weekend, in colourful wigs and vibrant, quirky outfits. On Sundays, the kids hang out in the parks and set the trend for Tokyo’s vibrant fashion scene.
As you can imagine the shops in Harajuku have an equally quirky style and as a fancy dress lover, I off course was excited by the purchase of a bright pink wig. Later that evening before going out, I tried on the wig, and you know what…I thought it looked pretty good. In a dash of craziness, I decided that since I was in Japan, and no one knew who I was, that it was a perfect opportunity to rock out pink hair for the evening.
You may be thinking big deal – you wore a wig, and that is true. What I found interesting was not that I was wearing a wig, but how I felt about the wig. When I first stepped out in Ginza (A Japanese version of Double Bay) there were thousands of well-dressed businessmen and women. To say that I stood out is a slight understatement. As I walked down the street some people stared, some smiled and others took no notice at all.
Observing myself I was feeling pretty insecure. Surely they thought I was a try hard tourist, or at best a b grade celebrity trying to look like Nicole Richie, (which in secret was true – I love her)…either way, I was a shy pink hair girl, in Tokyo. A few hours and conversations later with our Japanese friends at Renz Bar, I learnt that the Japanese love a good dress up, and they loved the pink hair. The Japanese have a fun and creative culture where anything goes as long as you OWN IT, then creativity rules.
As a leader or entrepreneur, do me a favour and go out with your version of a wig, crazy hat or outfit just for one night! Observe your process, and shift through your discomfort to find confidence and step into a different version of you.
Why? The ‘wig process’ is not that different to having a crazy idea you need to sell, implementing an innovative system, or even stepping into a new role. At first it feels foreign, and strange, but as our confidence increases our ability to step into change becomes natural.
As a leader, we must disrupt, but we must also own our role as a disruptor, walk the talk and continually step into our future vision for ourselves with ‘pink haired’ conviction.
TAKE A BOW
Have you ever had a handshake where you feel like your arm is going to be ripped off, or for that matter wondered where that hand had been prior to shaking yours? Yes…these are the joys of the good old Aussie handshake. After travelling through Japan, I pose the question…Why not take a bow instead?
Bowing is considered important in Japan, so much so that children are taught to bow from an early age and corporations train their staff in ‘bow etiquette’. There are basic bows that represent a casual greeting, or longer and deeper bows representing the emotion and respect expressed. It was such a beautiful tradition to witness in Japan, and while there are different levels of ‘bowing’ there was something about it that in my opinion represented equal respect and honour between two people.
One of the greatest strengths of any leader or entrepreneur is the understanding that no one is better than you, and you are not better than anyone else. In a world full of insecurities and fear, this is a liberating belief that enables a leader to step into their greatness, but to also honour and respect the greatness of others. Through this process, we can free ourselves from battles of the ego, acknowledge our strengths and the strengths of those around us. Fundamentally two heads are always better than one, and a great leader will always honour and respect the greatness around them and within them.
Who would you take a bow to in your life, and who do you know that would bow to you? These are your people and your tribe. Through honouring and respecting others as well as ourselves, we are on the path to our highest potential as human beings.
On that note Arigatō Japan. What a wonderful journey!