Surviving Japan(as a foreigner): The Office, Part 1


“If you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

– Greg McKeown

This is my fifth year living and working in Japan. For the first four I worked for an American company which pimps out English teachers to schools all across Japan. Although the people that I reported to were American (or British), the people that I worked directly with were Japanese teachers and school administrators. Strange as it may seem, seeing these people everyday, didn’t mean that I had to work with them if I chose not to. In fact many of my meetings with the Japanese teachers to plan out classes, and discuss lesson schedules were against our company’s policy. Nevertheless I wanted to plant myself into my environment and make a good relationship with the people that I worked with on a day-to-day basis.

That ‘rebellion’ (along with a few other things) lead to me eventually leaving that company and working directly for the Board of Education in the city that I was stationed at.  I’ve spent the last year working as a Japanese government employee, civil servant type guy.  I work in schools, and also in the city hall office of the “Teachers Management Division.”

During my time here I’ve learned a lot about surviving as a foreigner in the Japanese workplace; what the expectations are, what the limitations are, and how to make the best positive impact on the workplace and your coworkers. Being on the fringe has also given me a great window into what it’s like to work as a (Japanese) teacher, or office worker in Japan. Both of which I’m glad that I will never have to do.

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A quote to live by

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.

I’ve always liked this quote and have used it many times without actually knowing its origin (a little embarrassing, I know). But I found out the other day that it was originally spoken by a man that I view as a real-life superhero: William Wallace. Which makes me like it even more.

We’re all faced with many fears in life, and standing up for what you believe in is often difficult. The Wallace overcame these challenges and although he eventually died for what he believed, I don’t think he would have taken back the decisions that he made.

Time for a spot of self-honesty


Original Post date: 05 November 2015


I don’t like web development that much, and don’t want to do it anymore.

I’ve spent probably the last seven or eight years telling myself that it would be cool to be a web designer. Or if I got really good at it, I could get into development and create online software that would help people do X,Y, and Z. I’ve worked freelance a little, tried joining a startup run by one of my best friends (nearly wrecking our relationship in the process), and have taken on a project in my “fringe time” at work.

Every time I fall into the same pattern. The project sounds cool at the beginning, and then I get to the point where I don’t even want to turn on my computer to avoid looking at the thing.

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Install Linux Mint on ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Original Post date: 02 July 2015


This guide is intended as a reference for dual booting Linux Mint alongside Windows. It also covers some common issues, and fixes, that I ran into with Mint on this machine.

To skip to the issues section click here –> Issues

I’m using the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 3rd Gen with the high resolution, non-touch, display — 2560 x 1440 (16:9) I ran into some display specific problems that I’ll talk about later in the guide.

As far as I can tell this guide applies to many other ThinkPad models as well.

The version of Mint I’m using is 17.1 Rebecca; Cinnamon Desktop (64 bit) Get it here: 17.1 Rebecca

*NOTE at the time of this writing 17.2 Rafaela has been released, which you can get here: 17.2 Rafaela

I haven’t upgraded to this version yet, so some issues may be resolved already and installation may differ slightly. It’s worth noting also that both 17.1 and 17.2 use Ubuntu Trusty as the package base, and are both listed as Long Term Support releases until April 2019.

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Can we change our momentum?


A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star.

Original Post date: 14 September 2015

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

This morning I opened up my email to see this quote, from one of my favorite books, sitting in my inbox. The book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and it’s on the list of top five books that I recommend to people, especially for artists as you may tell from the title.

The email was from the Five Minute Journal mailing list. I like the 5MJ and I’m sure I’ll talk about it more in later posts, but that email got me rethinking all the lessons that I’d learned and forgotten from The War of Art.

The Resistance can be such a strong force, whether it be in the form of procrastination, excuses, or laziness. But alongside the Resistance, fueling it with vicious high octane gasoline is our momentum.

What I mean is all the inertia built up from past decisions and events in our lives that have lead us to the place where we currently are.

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This is the first book report that I’ve written in a great number of years, so please forgive me for any roughness, or even incompleteness that the following may entail. I hope to provide a summary and review the many takeaways from the book Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, both for my own reference purposes later as well as for anyone who manages to stumble upon this post.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. The 90 Percent Rule
3. The Power of Small Wins
4. Routine
5. Finding the Right Path
6. Essential Intent
7. The slowest hiker
8. Doing less is hard
9. Uncommit
10. Final Thoughts

The index card version of this book would probably be a bold-printed single line: “Less but better.” In other words, pick a thing that fits your top rated criteria and reject anything that doesn’t move you toward achieving that thing. Do one thing at a time, really well, because if you try and “do everything,” you’ll make very tiny amounts of progress in lots of different directions (and not end up making any significant progress in any of them) rather than a significant amount of progress in the direction you’d like to be going.

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It doesn’t look good

Original post date: June 10, 2015

“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).”

~ Peter Thiel from Zero to One

Today I took some time to step back from my ‘work’ at the office in order to map out some of the thoughts bouncing around in my head. I look really busy right now, typing away on my computer. I looked busy scribbling my idea map in my notebook. We have an open office (meaning no cubicles or walls) at both of the offices I work at so I get to see a lot of my coworkers in action. When I think about it, this quote from Peter Thiel describes my current work environment exactly.

I’ve know this for a while, and if I was single and didn’t have any kids, I know what I’d do… but since it would be irresponsible to pull the rip cord in such an abrupt manner, my exit must be planned with the utmost care. But it will be an exit non-the-less.

10 Things I learned teaching English in Japan

Original post date: 26 May 2015

“I’m only going to teach for a year, while I look for something else to support my visa…”

I’ve heard these words from a bunch of English teachers here in Japan, I even said them myself as I settled to my first few months on the job. I had no teaching experience, any my degree in design wasn’t going to do me much good (so I thought), but I met the requirements, I had a degree, and I was willing to give it my best shot. I’m now in my fifth year of working as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), and it’s been an interesting time so far.

I’ve gotten a bit of criticism from “Non-ALT” expats living in Japan, as this job is seen as a haven for anything goes slacker-types who just want to prop up their working visas. And although in many instances I feel like that is true, I also think that there’s a lot to be gained from the experience. Like with anything, you have to put in the effort if you want to create value in something.

I’ve learned quite a bit over the past few years, so here’s a list of the top ten that come to mind.

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A WP homecoming party

I thought that it would be appropriate to start this blog with a post to let everyone know that this is the new home of

So why did I move back to wordpress?

Not gonna lie, the price is a huge driving factor. I can host a blog here for free if I want and if I don’t mind having “.wordpress” in the url. If I don’t want that in there, I pay $25- 30 a year for the custom domain. And that’s it. Pretty decent. Keep in mind that I’m talking about hosting at (not .org — that’s a different animal)

Ghost on the other hand (hosting with Ghost Pro, not independently) doesn’t have a free option and the basic plan, which I have now, costs me $96 a year and that does NOT include the domain name. For that I pay $18 to Hover (the best domain host I’ve used).

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