Archive for December 2018

Mahalo in 2018

December 25, 2018

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Better Hawaii readers!

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude recently, after taking “The Science of Happiness,” an online class from the Greater Good Science Center. More than just feeling gratitude, we need to express our gratitude.

So I’ve been committed recently to expressing gratitude more often. I started a gratitude journal at work and invite everyone, staff and clients, to share a message or just reflect silently. The new year has been a wonderful time to express my appreciation for the people I work with and the relationships that have helped me grow.

Let’s take time to thank the people and organizations that have made our lives brighter and strengthened our community in 2018. Send an email, make a phone call, or thank someone in person. You’ll brighten their day and your day, too.

Here are just a few people and organizations on my mahalo list:

Mahalo to sixth grade teachers, Bob and Valerie, who challenged students on an impressive Immigration project; Eric who taught swimming and Zachary who conducted orchestra; and a team of seventh grade teachers, Joseph, Heather, Allison, and Renee, who encouraged students to be global citizens.

Mahalo to our neighborhood parks, museums, libraries, and volunteer groups: Koko Head District Park for their ceramics studio; our neighborhood public libraries for Free Comic Book Day, summer reading programs, and keeping up-to-date with thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers.

Mahalo to the community organizations who make Hawaii better: Aloha United Way for community services and grants to nonprofits; the Friends of Hawaii Charities for grants to nonprofits through the Sony Open in Hawaii; the Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation for their Visitor Industry Charity Walk; Foodland for their Give Aloha Community Matching Gifts campaign.

Mahalo to the Clarence TC Ching Foundation for sponsoring the “Inspired in Hawaii” Essay Contest and the Hawaii State House of Legislators for sponsoring the “Hawaii: Next 50 Years” Contest, encouraging students to think of ways we can make Hawaii better.

Mahalo to 7-Eleven for free slurpees on July 11; Barnes & Noble for a free cookie for my son’s birthday; and Burger King for free French fries, cones, Icees for a $1 donation to the BK Scholars fundraiser, helping hard-working Hawaii students.

Mahalo to the Greater Good Science Center, for teaching me that happiness is about joy and meaning, that we can train our mind for happiness, and that being kind to others – and ourselves – can make us happier.

Mahalo to you, Better Hawaii readers, for helping to make Hawaii better.

Who do you want to thank this year? What are you grateful for?

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Best books of 2018

December 18, 2018

This year has been filled with changes and opportunities that challenged me to move out of my comfort zone. I was drawn to books about coping with adversity, leadership, and finding meaning at work.

Here are 10 of the best books that I’ve read in 2018:

* “The Tower of Dawn” by Sarah J. Maas – about confronting your fears and prejudice, learning that ‘love cannot exist without trust,’ being seen as you really are, self-forgiveness, and the power of kindness.

* “Lake Silence” by Anne Bishop – about rebuilding self-esteem, being friendly but not a friend, finding where you belong, and being a bridge between worlds.

* “Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers” by Sara Ackerman – about the effects of war, the anxiety of keeping secrets, taking a stand against racial prejudice, and allowing yourself to feel alive.

* “The Forbidden Door” by Dean Koontz – about facing the truth vs. living in denial, recognizing that evil is real, loyalty, and choosing not to live in fear.

* “All Systems Red” (novella) by Martha Wells – about what it means to be human, self-identity, free will, and making your own decisions – basically, saving people so you can go back to watching entertainment videos.

* “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” (2009) by Simon Sinek – because people are drawn to why you it, not what you do.

* “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (2018) by Daniel H. Pink – about hacking your time to boost your performance and energize yourself.

* “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” Second Edition (2012) by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzlerl – teaching us how to confidently tackling conversations that have opposing opinions, high stakes, and strong emotions

* “Do It Anyway: The Handbook for Finding Personal Meaning and Deep Happiness in a Crazy World” (2003) by Kent M. Keith – about accepting that life is unfair and living as if you can make it fair.

* “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” (2018) by Daniel Coyle – about building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose.

Which books have entertained you, challenged you, or inspired you? Which books would you recommend ?

Happy reading and happy new year!

Driving with bosses

December 11, 2018

One summer, my co-workers and I took a memorable roadtrip back from a conference. One of the sponsors came up with a Gold Rush theme, and placed a large golden nugget – complete with cactus, pick ax, and lantern – as the centerpiece on each dinner table. Unfortunately, it looked a little like golden poop. My boss had a great sense of humor and drove back to the office with that golden nugget taped to the hood of his bright red car. It still makes me laugh.

Another summer, I drove to work in the mornings with my boss. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but 45 minutes in the car, five days a week, with your boss is a golden opportunity. Usually we have only a few minutes during the day to catch up. But in the car, we had time to talk about work, make quick decisions, and get to know each other better.

We usually think of meetings as the best times to get things done. We schedule formal meetings with an agenda and specific action items. We set up lunch meetings to discuss business deals – or celebrate them.

But I’ve learned to appreciate the time I spend with my boss in the car. It’s a chance for us to talk about our jobs, the challenges we face, and our personal lives, without any distractions or interruptions. We’ve had conversations about our families, our past jobs, and current problems.

Roadtrips can be a bonding experience, especially when you’re driving to an unfamiliar place. You’re navigating unfamiliar roads as a team. You’re focusing on your relationship, instead of traffic. Getting lost can make the trip even more memorable.

I’ve taken roadtrips with bosses along scenic highways, through “country” towns, and to a little-known barbecue take-out restaurant. There’s a right turn that we almost missed without some fancy steering. These shared memories make working together a little easier. It just costs us time and gas.

Traffic doesn’t have to be a roadblock – it can be an opportunity.

Have you ever driven with your boss? Or, if you’re a boss, have you ever driven with your direct reports? What is the most memorable conversation you have had on the road?

Interviews with mirrors, webcams and Alexa

December 4, 2018

A few weeks ago, my 12-year old son asked if he could interview me for a school project. “Sure,” I told him. Then he said that he had to video the interview. “OK,” I said, less enthusiastically.

We cleared a space on the table and set a chair in front of the laptop. We cleared away things in the background. He told me that I should look at the computer camera, instead of facing him. Then we started the interview.

I was nervous at first, but then I realized that he was nervous – which made me less nervous, because I wanted to do a good interview for him. He asked some questions out of order, but he assured me that he could edit the video and we didn’t have to start again. In under ten minutes, the interview was done.

Public speaking usually makes me feel anxious and panicked, and I was surprised that this time, I didn’t feel very nervous at all.

After thinking about it, I realized that four elements combined to make me feel more at ease:

It’s not about me. I was doing an interview to help my son. So I was focused on providing good answers that would help him do well on his project, not about how I felt or what people would think about me. I learned that when I speak in public, I can try to focus on the audience and what they need, not on making a good impression.

It really is me. In this instance, I was talking to myself on a computer screen. I talk to myself all the time (usually, in my head). It’s hard to feel nervous talking to yourself. Watching myself on the computer screen, watching myself mirror my own body language and movements, helped to build rapport with… myself.

It’s become normal. In the past few months, I’ve participated in online classes, webinars, and video conferences. I’ve watched people make mistakes, like lose track of their thoughts and then get back on track. I’ve watched people take a moment while they decide what they want to say. It’s not strange to talk to a computer screen or webcam anymore.

Alexa helps. Before I could ask Alexa to tell the time, play music, or set an alarm, I had to practice speaking clearly so that Alexa could understand me. I couldn’t mumble or pause too long, and I had to learn to wait until there’s a break in the background noise. In real life, this has made me more patient about waiting for other people to pay attention to me.

I’m still not comfortable speaking in front of an audience. But mirroring and Alexa helped give me a confidence boost.

How comfortable are you with public speaking? Do you video conference at home or work?

“Citizen 13660” by Miné Okubo

December 1, 2018

Last year, I learned that my maternal great-grandfather was arrested and spent the war at an internment camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He returned to Hawaii four years later, before my mother was born.

She didn’t talk about her family’s experience during World War II, and I never thought to ask. Even in school, the Japanese internment seemed distant. We didn’t spend a lot of time learning about it. It wasn’t until I read artist Miné Okubo’s account of her Japanese internment experience that it became real.

“Citizen 13660” (1946) is an autobiographical account of camp life at Tanforan and Topax during World War II. It was originally drawn and written for Okubo’s “many friends who faithfully sent letters and packages to let us know we were not forgotten.” Since cameras and video cameras were not allowed in the camps, her drawings offer a first-hand view of “what happens to people when reduced to one status and condition.”

“My family name was reduced to No. 13660.” After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, Okubo and her younger brother scrambled to make sure that their property was stored and they were packed for evacuation. “We tagged our baggage with the family number, 13660, and pinned the personal tags on ourselves.”

Art by Miné Okubo

Tanforan. In May 1942, Okubo arrived at Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California, originally a race track. Her home for four and a half months was Barrack 16, Room 50, a 20’x9’ stall divided into two rooms. “To discourage visitors, I nailed a quarantine sign on my door,” Okubo admits in a flash of humor. “We were close to freedom and yet far from it,” separated from the rest of the world by barbed wire, guard towers, and armed guards. There was no privacy, a curfew, roll call, a post office, churches, and even jobs – Okubo was an art instructor, working 44 hours a week and earning $16 per month. People kept busy, trying to make a home, and creating beauty even in a prison. The most inspirational story is about a group of Japanese landscape architects who transformed a wet spot into a miniature aquatic park with a bridge, promenade, and islands. Ironically, Okubo writes that “Letters from my European friends told me how lucky I was to be free and safe at home.”

Topaz. Okubo spent the rest of her internment near Delta, Utah at the Topaz War Relocation Center. After a long train ride, her new home was Block 7, Barrack 11, Room F. Topaz was dusty, windy, muddy in the spring, hot in the summer, with annoying insects and poor alkaline soil. There were sparse conditions and rationing. “The birth rate in the center was high,” Okubo comments dryly. Though there was still barbed wire and prison guards, there were slightly less restrictions. Okubo worked at a newspaper, Topaz Times for $19 a month. Hawaii connection: 230 Hawaii evacuees were transferred to Topaz. Okubo left Topaz in January 1944, 7 months after her younger brother left, admitting that “fear had chained me to the camp.”

Aftermath. Okubo doesn’t tell us what happened next in her life – it ends with her leaving Topax and looking to the future.

Okubo’s account is matter-of-fact, honest, and factual. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, angry, or bitter. She lets her words and drawings speak for the injustice of the forced incarceration.

While Okubo was interned at Tanforan and Topaz, Japanese nationals and citizens were also interned at the Honouliuli Internment Camp, now a national monument. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (JCCH) in Honolulu has a Honouliuli Education Center with photos, artifacts, oral history videos, and virtual tours. Admission to the education center is free and open to the public.