Be the same…
That’s all I wanted to be, just like everyone else when I was growing up in the Philippines.
We may have spoken the same language, but I spoke British English and they all spoke American English.
I wanted to fit in, but I stuck out like a sore thumb.
I was skinny (high metabolish), spoke “funny” (according to other kids) and didn’t know about American customs. It took me years, and lots of effort, but finally I was just like everyone else.
Then I went off to college in the States (my dream) and found out that despite acting like an American, thinking like an American and looking like an America, I wasn’t like the average American. After all, I had spent my formative years overseas in Manila first and then Bangkok later.
All of a sudden I realized how powerful different could be.
As kids, we try so hard to blend in. But as adults, it’s our differences that make us special, unique.
Having been a high performance coach for the past few years now, and having had the chance to guide many young minds, I find that many of them have yet to learn just how powerful standing out can be, even in a society as traditional as Japan.
It’s not their fault, parents and schools have instilled in them the belief that all that’s needed is to study hard and everything will work out for you.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for those youths out there, but that’s just not the way it works. Or not any more, at least.
Which is why for the better part of the last few years, I have been banging on the table telling students, and adults alike, to find a way to stand out.
Enter Carlos Sulpizio.
I happened to get to know Carlos through a mutual friend and we had followed each others’ lives via FB for the better part of a year.
Then two weeks ago, he happened to be flying in to Japan and as luck would have it, would be in Osaka for a few days, so he asked if we could sit down and talk over lunch as he had some questions about life in Japan. I said I’d be happy to.
I organized to meet him in front of a local station. He wasn’t hard to spot.
Not only was he young, and Canadian, but he had oversized headphones that were hard to miss and his backpack had over 70 badges in it. Colorful, yes. Cool, maybe not. Clever, definitely…but I’ll get to that a little later on.
Over lunch I learned that his dream was to not only teach English in Japan after graduating from college, but to one day work for a game design company or as an illustrator. You be the judge of his art. You can check out his website here.
So he asked me about my life, what brought me to Japan, how I ended up becoming a high performance coach and what he should be doing to get where he wanted to go.
I also learned over lunch that his badges weren’t just something he collected, but rather an ice-breaker. He also took his sketchbook with him to nightclubs which allowed him to walk out with $100 in his pocket and a few new friends.
He also managed to score an interview on TV last year while visiting Japan thanks to, as he put it, “looking super foreign.”
This time round, he was even luckier. A TV crew was near the Departures section when he arrived at Narita airport that just “happened” to notice him. He did a short interview with them and afterwards they asked if it would be possible for them to follow him painting in Shibuya. He said sure and set the date for the 5th.
They exchanged contact information, but when he called to confirm a few days later, there was no response.
On the night of the 5th, he took it upon himself to find the studio and go there on his own. Then, with the help of a stranger named ‘Yoshi’, he managed to phone the company and get someone to unlock the door. They immediately recognized him from the last interview on TV.
Unfortunately, due to scheduling and contact issues, director Daisuke Midorikawa said they wouldn’t be able to go ahead with the filming that night. However, he offered to take him out to dinner the night after, to discuss the entire situation and make it up to him. He went, with his friend Risa, Daisuke, and the co-producer.
He assured Carlos that we would have a guaranteed interview the next time he comes to Japan, and they would record me painting in Shibuya. They also said there would be a good chance he would be able to meet ‘Bananaman’ Himura-san, if he was to draw his portrait and show it to the camera.
After listening to Carlos tell me all this, I thought to myself. He’s a kid who gets it.
He’s doing everything and anything to get what he wants. He’s not afraid of talking to strangers, in fact, his appearance is set up precisely to get people to talk to him. He also carries his art supplies everywhere he goes, so at any moment he can impress people. But he’s not stopping there. To better his ability, Carlos has taken on an internship with one of the top artists in Toronto over the summer. And finally, as his dream is to live here, he spends an hour a day studying Japanese.
Carlos isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, and puts himself in positions to win at every opportunity.
I have no doubt his desire and effort will take him far in life.
I think back to what my mentor, Jim Rohn, often said in his talks, “When the why gets stronger, the how gets easier.”
Carlos has his why. I have mine. What’s yours?