Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Success and Happiness

December 4th, 2014
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TT and Surf Santa

PROGRAM ALERT: The new December episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., Dec. 4 at 7:30 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012. You can find daily viewing times on www.CareerChangers.TV and watch segments from past or current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Plus, we have some gift suggestions from our sponsors that would make great stocking stuffers!

For our Christmas show, I got to interview Martin & MacArthur CEO Michael Tam and Pictures Plus/Plus Interiors CEO Kent Untermann, as well as magician/professional Santa Mike Ching (pictured above with CCTV host Theresa Tilley at M&M's Ward location). We also did an update on Mermaid Kariel's latest spin-off venture -- custom made mermaid tails. Turns out there is a big demand for functional tails from aspiring professional mermaids, who are willing to pay upwards of $3-5K to shake their waterproof money-makers in pools or aquariums all over the world!

What they have in common is they're successful at what they do, and you really get the sense that these are people who are genuinely happy with their occupational choices. Yet each has had to overcome challenges, difficult business climates at times -- recessions, 9/11, changing social norms or personal tastes -- and evolve to stay in the game. Where they find their individual motivation and strength varies, but they all exhibit the same characteristics: discipline, perseverance, and a a clear vision of their long range goals. For instance, Kent cites lessons he learned as a football player at UH as a major reason he was able to weather ups and downs in growing Pictures Plus into Plus Interiors. And he's not shy about commenting on the current state of the UH athletic department in the piece we did on him (click here).

However, as a former football player and ultra-competitive person myself, I know it can be hard to be "happy" when you're driven to win in sports or business for that matter. If you're not number one in what you do, every loss seems like a nagging reminder of mistakes made or personal shortcomings... the dreaded could'a/would'a/should'a self-talk that pervades your daily life. So what is the key to being successful and being happy at the same time?

A recent scientific study I read says happiness is exceeding expectations. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The more you expect, the harder it is to be happy. That seems like such a no-brainer you wonder why they even bothered to do research on it. But when you think about the current perception of UH sports, for example, it makes perfect sense. We've seen what UH teams and athletes are capable of doing, and our expectations have grown. I remember going to my first football game at Aloha Stadium in 1986, not long after I moved here from New York City, and the Bows were playing Big Ten powerhouse Michigan. To this day, I will never forget hearing that "RAIN... BOWS!" call and response chant filling a stadium of over 40,000 fans as Dick Tomey's underdogs stood toe-to-toe with Michigan for three quarters before finally succumbing late in the game. They lost, but no one expected them to be even close -- so it felt like winning.

Kent had graduated by then, so he wasn't on the field for that battle. Still, he remembers the feeling from his own UH football days and he believes we shouldn't lower our expectations by dropping sports or going to a lower division. And that's the paradox of life I think... on one hand, unless we strive for achieving more than others expect of us, most of us won't be happy just settling for what we know we're capable of doing. On the other hand, it hurts like hell when you reach for the stars and fall flat on your face.

As a writer, I'm constantly torn between wanting to be successful, i.e. sell screenplays that become big movie hits, and staying true to my artistic aims of producing original work that is at least different than the usual cookie-cutter formula movies making money at the multi-plexes these days. So to keep myself sane, every month I write two quotations at the top of my desk calendar: "Write with no attachment to outcome" and a zen saying, "When you cease expecting, you have all things."

Anyway, check out the new Career Changers TV show this month! Hopefully, watching it will exceed your expectations.

 

Kailua Labyrinth Restored

November 13th, 2014
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Kailua labyrinth group

 

Folks who jog, bike or walk their dogs on the levee next to Kawainui Marsh (along with scofflaws that ride motorcycles back there) may recall the mysterious gravel and dirt labyrinth pattern that appeared in a turnaround area for maintenance vehicles back in 2001 after 9/11. I live right next to the marsh, so when my wife and I first saw it we were enchanted and wondered who was behind it. I had a vague idea that it was associated with meditation practices, but that's all I knew. Over time, the forces of nature and human interactions caused the pattern to erode, then disappear except for a faint outline of the concentric circles.

It was gone, but not entirely forgotten when I joined Cynthia Yamasaki's monthly leadership walk after meeting her at the Honolulu Small Business Fair. She was one of the featured speakers (click here for the video on that event) and we did a segment on her as well. You can see her profile on the Career Changers TV YouTube Channel by clicking here. I was so impressed with her background and energy, I suggested to my wife that she connect with Cynthia since Isabel was looking to expand her professional network (i.e., thinking of making a career change). When we found out Cynthia's "Leaders Who Walk the Talk" was practically in our backyard on the second Saturday of each month, we decided to tag along. And we're glad we did.

Each time we've met fascinating people with varied backgrounds. These seemingly random introductions often led to discoveries of mutual friends and experiences... such as the origins of the labyrinth, which was the spot where we ended the walk to reflect on the theme we were discussing that day. While we were looking down at the weeds, someone said, "We should fix this up." Except none of us knew what it was supposed to look like -- how many circles, where the turns were supposed to be, etc.

I remembered seeing an article about it years ago in the old Honolulu Advertiser, so I did a quick Google search and found this link. I forwarded it to Cynthia, who put it out to her network of friends. Next thing you know, one of the women on the walk -- Lisa Jacobs of Better Way Divorce (interesting concept!) -- recognized a name: Beth Davidaan. Lisa put Beth in touch with Cynthia, and we all met at the marsh last Saturday to restore the labyrinth.

As we yanked up weeds and raked the stones back into place, Beth and Chandra Peters (program coordinator at Punahou's Luke Center) explained what the significance of the design is and put it into historical context for us. Many people, myself included, mistakenly think of a labyrinth as being the same as a maze. In fact, they're completely different in intent and form. A maze is meant to confuse you with many dead ends and turns that lead nowhere. A labyrinth though, has just one path to the center, allowing you to focus on the steps you take toward your goal. Mazes can be stressful -- did you see the news stories about people getting lost in giant Halloween mazes and calling 911 in a state of panic? But walking the circles of a labyrinth creates a state of calmness. It can also be an emotional experience.

It's funny how life's twists and turns often bring you back to the same starting or end points. That morning it had been raining in Kailua, and being the natural worrywart that I am, emailed Cynthia with a weather report, thinking we'd have to postpone our plans to fix the labyrinth. She replied cheerfully that rain or shine, they were going to proceed as scheduled, and added: "I made brownies too!" That's the difference between men and women. Men would argue about logistics and the weather conditions for doing a project like this. Women make brownies, then hope for the best. As it happened, the rain made it easier to pull weeds and kept the dust down. The sun eventually came out, and when we were finished, I walked around the circles... I thought about the people I've met in the past four years of doing my Career Changers TV show, and how our lives have intersected. We've become friends and business associates. We've shared professional aspirations and personal dreams.

And because one person simply said, "Let's fix this thing," we came together to create something special. Time and events will wear away the labyrinth again. But someone else will come along and be inspired to take up where we left off. It gave me hope. Plus, the brownies were delicious.

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Reminder: Despite forecasts of rain, it seems every time Waimea Valley schedules a big weekend event, Mother Nature cooperates and blesses them with good weather on the North Shore. So if you're looking for a fun family event -- cheap too! -- check out their Makahiki Festival on Sat., Nov. 15! Here's a video preview we did for them.

Tetris Movie in Works?

September 30th, 2014
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UPDATED OCT. 3: The public relations contact for Tetris got back to me after I email Henk Rogers, and has confirmed the details in the linked article are true. So the Tetris movie is for real!

I was going to post a program alert about the new Career Changers TV episode that will premiere Thurs., Oct. 2 at 7:30 PM on Channel 12/high def 1012 (a.k.a "OC16") but I just saw a movie biz news item that says the Tetris game is being turned into a live action feature film. According to this article, "The film is being developed by Threshold Entertainment, best known to gaming crossover fans as the studio behind the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. That film, which grossed $70 million, was one of the first to take a video game license to the silver screen..."

Followers of my show may recall we featured Henk Rogers in a couple of segments that told how he got the worldwide rights to Tetris, and about his interest in things like Burning Man. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2. Fascinating guy! I just sent him an email to ask if the Tetris movie deal is for real, and if he had a hand in negotiating the film rights. It's supposed to be a big sci-fi epic. While I'm happy for Henk, it's another sign that Hollywood seems to be out of original ideas for films that might actually appeal to adults with functioning brains.

Speaking of which, my Industry Insider Top 10 finalist script wasn't chosen as the winner... so no all expenses paid trip to L.A. for me to meet with A List screenwriter Sheldon Turner, who provided the premise for the contest, and the industry execs affiliated with that competition. Sigh. I was bummed, but felt my screenplay was one of the better things I've written. So I submitted it to the Black List, which was started by an agent who informally asked other agents and movie execs what their favorite scripts were that year. It became a big thing to have a script on the BL. Many of those BL scripts got produced and became hits with critics and the box office. For writers who weren't on the A List or still waiting for their breakthrough sale, getting on the BL could be a tremendous boost to their careers.

The creator of the BL, Franklin Leonard, began a commercial version to rate unproduced scripts from screenwriters like myself, who might be seeking representation or hoping for an outright sale to professionals who have access to the posted screenplays. The paid BL readers who evaluate the scripts for $50 a pop, rate each submission on a scale of 1-10 in different categories that agents/producers care about. Anything over an "8" is deemed worth considering and represents the top 5 percent. Thousands of scripts have been rated over the past couple of years since it began. In effect, BL acts as a filter for busy movie execs who rely on professional readers (and certain contests) to separate the crap from the diamonds in the rough.

Anyhow, the script I wrote for the Industry Insider contest scored an ''8"... which puts me on the hot list for recommended screenplays in Hollywood. It's called BLOOD MOON, and is based on the "inugami" curse -- kind of like a Japanese version of the werewolf legend -- which I first read about in the late Glen Grant's "Obake" collection of local ghost stories.

As fate would have it, I got to know Glen's protege -- Lopaka Kapanui -- who continues to uphold his mentor's legacy by retelling stories he first heard while working as an assistant to him. Lopaka finally got the rights to use the "Chicken Skin" name for his own ghost tours, and has some special events he'll be doing for the month of October. You can here more about that, plus his recent marriage to Tanya, by going to the CCTV YouTube Channel where we've posted segments from the new episode. Strange how it all comes round, huh?

Seeds of Hope

September 3rd, 2014
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new September episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over half a million views!

August was crazy busy for me so I didn't have time to weigh in on the elections (no surprise Neil got trounced -- I've written in this blog that right after he got elected, he and his "team" promptly alienated supporters by ignoring them), Kawainui Marsh plans (I live next to the marsh and can tell you the same objections being raised now were raised over 10 years ago by residents -- and ignored by the bureaucrats who get paid to do these pie-in-the-sky fantasy park plans), or UH athletics/football problems (again, same old obstacles ignored by the State Legislature and public at large).

And yet, my latest show is about people who are doing positive things without government help or involvement! What started as a short feel-good piece on Seed Restaurant in Kaimuki, near Big City Diner, grew into something much bigger once I started talking to the couple behind the venture. I was a bit leery when I first read that it was affiliated with a religious ministry because I consider myself an agnostic and have issues with organized religions in general. However, Jordan and Sonya Seng, the couple behind Seed and Bluewater Mission in Palama Settlement are... well, different than what you might expect. They met at Stanford University. His background was in academia -- he wound up at Harvard, writing papers on nuclear proliferation/WMDs and warned about meddling in the Middle East back in 2001 before we invaded Iraq (his analysis was quite prescient). She studied music, sang professionally  (Jordan taught himself to play instruments so he could back her up) and acted in commercials, TV shows, musical theater productions. Jordan's stories about growing up on the run with his fugitive father is pretty incredible too.

None of that stuff is in the two-parter we're running this month. I'm saving their personal back story for a future show because I want people to hear why they started Seed Restaurant and understand that this is how change happens. They had no experience whatsoever in the restaurant biz. But they were trying to help the homeless, survivors of domestic abuse, sex trafficking and prostitution, ex cons... people who have largely been left to fend for themselves without the tools or resources to rebuild their lives. And here they are half a year later, with a thriving restaurant that sticks to their core principles of "justice." They are accomplishing more with far less money than city, state and federal agencies have spent on countless studies and pilot programs. Yes, it's on a small scale -- but that's how you tackle big problems: one person, one step at a time. I love what they're doing. Check out my show, and I think you'll be impressed too. Maybe even moved, like I was.

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Speaking of tackling, I have to get in some last licks about the UH home opener against Washington. Months ago when it was announced season tickets were at an all-time low, I used that opportunity to upgrade our seats at a decent price. We've been there at Aloha Stadium, rain or shine, win or lose, and stuck with them through the tough times, which made the winning seasons even more special. When Ben Jay commented that football might be dropped, I knew he was talking about a hypothetical scenario set in the future -- not something imminent. But I hoped it would light a fire and make people realize you can't take things for granted. Sure enough, there was a much bigger crowd for the first game than was projected. And the stadium management blew it.

My wife and I got there around 2 PM for the 4:30 PM kick-off and we could already see the parking lots were nearly full. Traffic was backing up around the stadium. Hundreds of people waited hours to get into the lot, then waited in lines for tickets, or gave up and went home. Not a great way to entice fans to come out to future games. Inside the stadium, it was obvious the management expected the dire predictions of a small crowd. There were fewer concession stands open than we've ever seen at a UH football game, including during the Von Appen Era.

This is what negativity and pessimism does. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The team is expected to be bad, so people won't come, so we'll plan on them not coming, and then when they come, we won't be ready to handle the crowd, so they'll have a bad experience... and then the future crowds will meet their initial low projections. Sheesh.

My one gripe about the UH effort on the field was a moment of indecision by the coaching staff during the first half of a tight game: fourth and one inside the Red Zone. The Bows had Washington on their heels. Joey Iosefa was plowing over people. We had already scored twice on the Huskies defense. Now, if this was Navy or Georgia Tech, which runs triple option, they don't hesitate. They line up with the QB under center. Sometimes they snap it quick. Other times they try to draw the defense offsides to get a "free" first down. If the defense doesn't bite on the hard count, they'll call a time-out or take a delay of game penalty, then kick the field goal.

So why didn't we at least try to draw Washington offside BEFORE calling the time out, instead of running a trick play AFTER the Huskies had a chance to regroup? That's also what I don't like about the shotgun in short yardage situations. It literally limits your options on running plays and takes away the QB sneak. Heck, even back when I played high school football, the quarterback and center always had an "automatic" tap on the butt play to snap the ball if there wasn't a defensive lineman covering the center. With a running QB like Woolsey, that should be part of the short yardage package.

Anyhow, I still liked that they went for it on fourth down instead of just settling for the field goal. Like the folks who started Seed Restaurant, sometimes you have to take chances and have faith in people to make things work.

Deadlines and Routines

August 6th, 2014
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new August episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., 7:30 PM on channel 12/high def 1012, and will feature the Pacific Aviation Museum -- plus a profile of Burl Burlingame, the former newspaper writer, who is also a book author, musician and now works as curator at the museum. There's also a preview of their upcoming Biggest Little Airshow on Aug. 16 and 17 at Ford Island! For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

In my last blog post, I mentioned I'm a finalist in a national screenwriting competition that required the top 10 entries to complete a new script in about two months. Screenplays for feature movies average around 100 to 120 pages with each page representing about one minute of screen time. So cranking out 10-15 pages per week is pretty doable for most writers. The challenge though is writing good pages that will survive the inevitable edits, cuts, and rewriting that comes with producing a workable script. If you're writing a novel, you can wax poetic, spend time inside your characters' heads, describe locations in detail right down to the blades of grass or hue of the sky. Not so in screenplays, which have to move fast since Hollywood readers often make up their minds on whether they will read the script after just one or two pages. By page 10, many have already decided if it's a "pass" or "consider."

So I was churning out pages the first month, and thought they were pretty good. Except my story coach would pick apart scenes and prod me to develop the characters more in each of our weekly phone sessions, which is what makes this contest a unique experience for aspiring screenwriters. Script consultants like the one I'm working with charge as much as $75 per hour for their feedback (my sessions are free, courtesy of the contest); notes can range from a couple hundred bucks to a thousand or more. There are so many wannabe screenwriters/directors/filmmakers that a cottage industry has developed in L.A. to tap into that market, which generates 30,000 to 40,000 new scripts that are registered with the Writers Guild each year. Of those, less than five percent will even have a remote chance of being seriously looked at by industry players.

And this contest is one way to get to the top of the wannabes heap... if I win, that is. The problem is I was making up much of my new screenplay as I was going along, while dealing with the demands of producing my TV show and other video projects -- all on deadlines too. Then, after taking in what the story coach criticized or suggested, I'd go back and make changes that improved the script but put me behind schedule. My normal routines were thrown out of whack -- which can be a good thing. Sometimes we get stuck in ruts and do only as much as we're used to doing out of habit. We forget how much we're actually capable of accomplishing, unless we're pressed by outside forces.

With just one week left to turn in the first draft, I was at page 55 -- mid-point -- and had to write another 50 pages in seven days. To begin with, I'm not a fast writer by nature. Some of my prior scripts have taken years to complete or even start because I'd be carrying around ideas for a long time before the story kicked in. Also, I tend to procrastinate unless I'm faced with a deadline... which might be related to my early writing career as a news reporter back in New Jersey. Somewhere along the way, I got into a mindset that my normal routine was to do "x" amount of work per day to be finished on "y" to meet deadline "z" -- it's how I chunk out tasks and allot time to multiple projects I'm usually juggling.

But even for me, the prospect of crafting 50 plus script pages -- actually twice that since I know I'll delete half of what I write -- was daunting. Yet exciting too. Some days I woke at 4 AM to start work. My mind would keep writing even when I stopped to eat or watch TV before going to bed. I wasn't sure what direction the story was going in toward the end, and when I was stuck, my subconscious sometimes provided answers through the characters I had created. Somehow, I got the draft done and submitted it with a couple of hours to spare.

However, that was just the first deadline. A week later, I got back detailed notes from another reader/story analyst as part of the contest steps, and now have until Aug. 16 to turn in the final draft that will be possibly read by an A-list screenwriter and top management company in L.A. The notes were spot on and pinpointed story problems that were largely a result of making stuff up on the fly in the mad dash to the finish line for the first draft.

It's amazing how much we can do when we force ourselves to buckle down and deliver the best work we can do on a shorter timetable. Some people thrive on that kind of pressure. Others can't handle the stress of performing on demand. What's funny is when my wife and I are watching reality shows like Project Runway or Top Chef, there are always one or two competitors who seem so fragile and unable to cope with the time constraints, you wonder why they even wanted to be on the show in the first place! It's like that old saying, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen -- but if you enjoy competing, seek out opportunities that will bring out the best in yourself.

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To see video segments from past and current Career Changers TV episodes, check out the CCTV YouTube Channel -- now at over half a million views worldwide, and climbing!