I’m sure you’ve heard tales of exhausted entrepreneurs setting off on exotic vacations to renew their thirst for enterprising ventures. The hero returns from a short sabbatical filled with inspiration on how to work harder and bring an increase of cashflow. This was not my tale.
My journey to started with a profuse apology from the Japanese based airline that they were running (GASP) 5 minutes late. They explained in detail why it was late, and they were deeply sorry for our inconvenience. This came hilarious to our group of American travelers. Southwest Airlines doesn’t give you a bag of mini cookies unless you’ve been delayed for at least an hour. Trust me, All Nippon Airlines, we felt no disgrace by your lateness.
We arrived in Tokyo and started our sightseeing journey the next day. That’s me in the gray and pink coat taking the selfie! The second photo is our group getting photo bombed by the sushi chef!
I contracted a bit of a cough just before my vacation began, but with some over the counter medication, I was able to keep it under control. We headed to a few destinations on our first day in Tokyo, but at the beautiful Senso-ji temple, I had my fortune read. It said, “Your illness will not get better.” …Seriously, this is what it said. I tied my bad luck fortune to a thingy that’s like the gods’ memo board. Hoping they get my message that I don’t like this fortune and to please… not do this, thanks.
I guess the gods were a little busy – it takes me 1-3 business days to get projects done, and I did ask on a Monday (busy day for us all), so I understand – because this is me the next day. I got some intense glares as I coughed loudly through breakfast, so I decided to join the mask club. I didn’t feel terrible so the sightseeing continued!
After a few crazy nights in Tokyo we headed over to the rural Izu Peninsula for the traditional ryokan with onsen (traditional Japanese inn with hot springs). Below is a photo of me and my friend after braving an unusual storm of snow, wind and rain to get to our destination. We’re wearing our fancy yukatas.
Check out the photo, you can see it in my eyes. The fortune was dead-on. My cough has turned bad and I ask my concierge for a map to the local hospital. Izu is rural Japan, speaking English isn’t common. It took some work with the Google Translate app, but I was able to communicate to the non-English speaking doctors.
I was out before noon, we got some lunch and I took my newly acquired meds. The anti-biotics were about the same, but the symptom treatments were a little strange. They all had a fairly large dose of caffeine included. I didn’t complain, as I wanted to spend my time sightseeing, so I was happy to be alert for the rest of the day.
After lunch and still fighting a fever, we still hiked about beautiful Izu. With my medication that put energy drinks to shame, I was able to check out the coast-line, a suspension bridge and waterfalls without too much trouble. The healing onsens helped too.
Before you know it, we’re on a train headed to Kyoto. We spent our first night at a tea house. Here’s a video of me loosing a drinking game to a geisha. I wish they had caught more video of that, I actually hung in there for awhile!
I woke up early to get some emails done – if you’re one of my clients, you probably noticed I was missing-in-action for about 3 days during my trip. WiFi isn’t common Izu, so I finally got connected and working when I reached Kyoto.
We had an issue with Google Maps taking us the longest possible route from Kyoto Station to our hotel, including walking some “murdery-looking” alleyways. When I was finished with my work, I headed to the concierge around 6am. The concierge gave me a map and drew directions on how to best get to the station. We had breakfast and off again to sightseeing!
During our amazing Kyoto tour I got to talking with our guide. I was still wearing my mask most of the time – my cough was persistent but went away during the day. I mentioned my medication is full of caffeine, I’ve been able to sight-see, but I’m a dead person by 7pm. He told me that unless an employee has a severe illness, they are expected to go to work. I tell him, when you’re sick you’re not productive. It’s better to stay home for a day or two and come back when you’re well. He says that a common cultural belief was men were meant to fight and die for the emperor. The guide felt this concept had been modernized to working and dying for a CEO. Lifetime employment is common, so loyalty plays a big role in corporate life. He reminded me that every country has their social problems, over-working isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things. Their life expectancy is still higher than any other country in the world. I, personally, think that’s because they do a lot of cardio. My average step count in Japan was like 15,000 to 20,000 a day.
We say goodbye to our guide, have dinner, hit-up Mister Donut and head back to the hotel. Remember the concierge I talked to at 6am? It’s now 9:30pm and he’s STILL THERE. At this point, he’s been at work for at least 15 hours. “Go home!” I yelled while headed to the elevator. He laughs and shakes his head “no”.
The next day, I head to the lobby around 6am. If you beg, the bartender will make you coffee (I have no shame). Guess who’s at the front desk? My new friend, the hardworking concierge. I ask him if he gets any sleep. He laughs and replies, “a little.”
At this point, I’m mentally logging every employee. Is the girl that opened Mister Donut this morning the same one at closing? (Yes, I ate donuts twice a day in Kyoto – no regrets!) That guy on the train looks like he’s going to die, why is he carrying a briefcase and headed to work? Was that the same guy from yesterday that fell asleep on the train? He’s wearing the same glasses.
My attention to their work habits gets me wondering about my own. Am I really that different from these folks? I work when I’m sick. I get up at 4am on my vacation to check emails. If I’m behind, I’ll pull all-nighters and weekends. There are times that an entire month will go by and I hadn’t given myself a day off. Am I really in a position to tell them to stop working so hard?
We head to rural Nara for a day-trip. We head to Kasuga shrine, lined with 3,000 stone lanterns, where I’m asked by a miko (shrine maiden) if I want my fortune told. I told her, “I’m done with fortunes! At Senso-ji my fortune said, ‘my illness would not get better’ and I spent a morning in the hospital.” She informed me that the fortunes are warnings of what may come if we do not change our paths. And perhaps the gods allowed my illness to continue to show me something I would not have otherwise seen.
That messed with my head. Would I have noticed the concierge working long hours, the sleeping business men, the terribly ill people headed to work if I hadn’t myself been sick? Would I have known their drugs are full of caffeine to work through their illness? Would I have looked at this way-of-life and mine and seen the similarities in a negative way? No. If I hadn’t been ill, I probably would have looked for condos thinking, “These people get me.” Holy crap…how do I convert to Shintoism? Is there a form?
I would have liked to spend another day petting sacred deer and getting enlightened by shrine maidens, but Nara was our last day before the big journey home. While waiting for our flight, there was a TV story with English subtitles. Einstein took a tour of Japan and announced, “Of all the people I have met, I like the Japanese the most…” As if on cue with my own interest, it then related Einstein’s theory of happiness, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”
OK, Shinto gods, I get you. Maybe I don’t need a new car, designer clothes and a new tablet. Maybe what I need is a reminder that I’m my own emperor and I get to decide what’s important.
If you’re wondering if this story ends with me living a monk-like possession-less existence, think again! I have a family and a mortgage for crying out loud! Daycare costs more than my mortgage. I can’t take a vow of poverty! Along with the free enlightenment, I bought a bunch of money and success charms. I’m certainly not swearing off the all mighty dollar. However, this trip had me rethinking the way I spend those dollars.
The important things in life are family, friends, and a successful career. When your asset collection is looking a little thin, it’s difficult to enjoy the beautiful things in life. Up until this point, I’ve been spending my life focusing on short-term cashflow instead of looking at the bigger picture – asset collection. I wrote a little bit about asset collection here, but I will continue to learn and build the knowledge base for your benefit and mine. Basically, asset collection is purchasing things that make money, not things that acquire debt. These things can include real estate, stocks, bonds, and profit producing assets like CRM software and lead generating services. Basically, skipping those designer shoes and spending that $200 on a US copyright and ISBN for your book. This is asset producing spending behavior.
Maybe I did get a little bit of inspiration for “enterprising ventures.” It just wasn’t the inspiration I was expecting. Stay tuned for more articles on asset production as I learn more and more on the subject!