It starts with self acceptance

Becoming who you’re meant to be starts with self acceptance. It’s about embracing what makes you, you, and all the charm and weirdness that comes with it. When we withhold ourselves from other in a way we’re implicitly rejecting ourselves. There’s nothing sadder than a life that’s led not being one’s true self.

So how do we start the journey towards self acceptance? One way could be to take a small step everyday to reveal something honest and vulnerable about ourselves. When we share something personal with others, we’re not only learning to accept ourselves but learning to connect more deeply with others.

What will you share today?

The first principle

Richard Feynman was a prominent physicist known for his work in theoretical physics and quantum mechanics. Perhaps one of the smartest men in his generation, even he knew that we could become over confident in our own abilities and self perception. He’s famously quotes having said:

The First Principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.

It’s easy to think that when you achieve competency in something you know enough about that topic. It’s easy to let you ego take over and begin to protect your self image about how smart, how strong, how secure, etc. etc. you might be. While this might be comforting it’s a dangerous place to be.

Why? Because you stop learning. You start creating blindspots because you’re not absorbing new information coming in about yourself or the environment around you. You miss new opportunities that could take you to the next level.

Feynman kept The First Principle top of mind by constantly challenging himself in new endeavours totally unrelated to physics. He would learn how to draw, study biology, hike the Mayan pyramids, or investigate how dogs’ sense of smell worked. He lived a life of curiosity – ignoring what other people thought of him along the way.

We should always keep The First Principle in mind. Acknowledging that whether we’re just starting out or at the top of our field that we can always learn something.

Build horizontal relationships

When we connect with other human beings, we have a choice. We can either create vertical or horizontal relationships.

Vertical relationships are marked by hierarchy. One person is perceived as better than the other. You might see these relationships at work, in families, and even friendships.

When we step into the world of vertical relationships, we automatically go into a mode of judging. We think: “Is this person better than us?” or “How might I please this superior?” We begin to cloud our thoughts and actions with a biased filter.

In contrast, when we approach every person we meet through the lens of horizontal relationships, we are treating them like a peer. We start conversations more openly and honestly. We’re not stuck in our own heads thinking about the other person’s agenda. We’re not there to please or impose our authority.

Building horizontal relationships is about recognizing the human-ness in each other. None of us are the same but we’re all equal. If we can treat all of our relationships in life – with our neighbours, friends, bosses, colleagues, strangers – as horizontal relationships, our lives change. We stop comparing ourselves with others and focus on the relationship with them.

The challenge is how we can adopt new habits that can help us lean into relationships that way. One way is to remind ourselves of some of our best relationships – are they vertical or horizontal? The best relationships are ones that are likely horizontal. They’re ones in which we feel a sense of togetherness, collaboration, and trust. It’s very difficult to build a relationships of trust when one person supposedly wields more power than the other.

The origins of ikigai

On a chain of small islands off the southern coast of Japan known as Okinawa, there’s something incredible happening. Residents there are living some of the longest, healthiest, and happiest lives. Even for a country known for its longevity where the average lifespan is 84 years old, Okinawans live a full 5 years longer. Research has described Okinawa as a Blue Zone – areas in the world where people live some of the longest and healthiest lives.

What makes Okinawans live longer and healthier? One contributing factor could be the concept of ikigai which originated from the region. Roughly translated to “the reason for being”, ikigai means that you’re jumping out of bed every morning with a sense of meaning & purpose in your life. More specifically, ikigai happens at the intersection where what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at come together.

We live in an incredible time in history where, through the advancement of human ingenuity and technology, access to knowledge and opportunity can be found all over the place. And yet many of us find ourselves disconnected, disengaged, and even dissatisfied with aspects of our lives.

What happened here? And why is there this nagging sense “I should be doing more” or “I’m not good enough” whenever we hop onto our social media feed or engage in small talk with strangers? What principles can we learn from groups of people like the Okinawans so we can not only extend the length but also the quality of our lives?

Wherever you’re starting from, there might be a place for ikigai in your life. Living with ikigai doesn’t have to mean a whole life makeover like quitting your well-paying job or going on a 30-day silent meditation retreat. It’s about infusing what we currently do with more meaning, focusing less on material rewards, finding ways to get into a “flow” state more often, and bringing more experiences in our lives that spark joy.

Welcome to The Ikigai Project

Ikigai is a Japanese word for “the reason for being” or, put another way, the reason you wake up in the morning. When we live with Ikigai, we have clarity with our purpose and the contribution we want to make in the world.

I believe that crafting your ikigai is one of your most important tasks in life. When we live with ikigai, we have more energy and clarity to fulfill our goals. We have a sense of direction – a North Star – that helps keeps us moving forward despite the obstacles that might get in the way. We become less distracted by what others think of us and show up with the courage to make a difference.

I also believe that we craft our ikigai. It’s a deliberate, evolving process and requires active decision making. Your ikigai in your 20s might look very different from your ikigai in your 80s as you learn more about yourself and the world around you.

Very few people simply stumble into their life’s purpose by accident. We need to come face-to-face with our own fears, insecurities, doubts and not shy away from the life tasks we all face. As such, crafting your ikigai is ultimately about courage — the courage to accept yourself, trust in others, and contribute to something greater than yourself.

The goal of The Ikigai Project is to help people find the courage to pursue their ikigai. Through this blog and the podcast, we’ll unpack core principles and actions that will help you take that first step forward. This journey will shift your mindset and focus on making the hard changes that you’ll need to make.

Of course, there’s already a lot of great books, blogs, podcasts, and resources on the topic of “purpose”. So how will this project be different?

First, we’ll apply the principle of leverage. Instead of sharing a plethora of different tools and resources, I’m going to focus on a few specific themes and go deep with them. Quality over quantity will be the name of the game. If we focus on the right things, in the right order, the impact that we can create within our lives will be substantial.

Here’s an example of the power of leverage. If you were to line up a two-inch domino and double the size of the next domino and double the size of the next domino etc, etc, by domino #23 you’ll have reached the height of the Eiffel Tower, by domino #31 Mt. Everest, and by domino #57 you’ll almost be able to reach the moon. If we pick the right domino (priority) and leverage momentum, great things can happen over time.

Check out this blog post from The ONE Thing for an image of The Domino Effect.

Second, we’ll focus on mindset. We’ll use concepts from philosophy and modern psychology to better understand ourselves. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom from the ancient Greeks, Zen masters from Japan, and western psychotherapy that we can tap into. Specifically, we’ll borrow some of the key concepts developed by Alfred Adler to understand what it means to live in harmony with yourself and society.

Third, we’ll focus on deep practice. The easy part is reading a book or taking a course. The hard part is distilling the key insights and putting them into practice. We’ll use some of the best practices around habit building and behaviour change to give us the best chance of making sustainable change in our lives. The shape of what this will look like is TBD but you’ll be the first to find out when we start building something out.

Finally, you should also know that I’m an unashamed jack-of-all-trades with a curiosity about a wide range of topics. Specifically, I’m interested in understanding and learning more about behaviour change, the power of mindset, and the art of learning. Not to mention I also enjoy exploring topics around health & wellness, financial growth, and the latest tech tools to help us live better lives. As you can see, this project will take an interdisciplinary approach to uncover principles that we can all apply in our lives.

As a student of living with ikigai, I’m looking forward to approach this topic with a lot of curiosity and joy. I plan to apply many of the lessons and themes in my own life. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a bit intimidating at times, but in the end, it’ll be worth the journey. Thanks for being here.