Tag Archives: writer

Pursuing Your Passion

Years ago I wrote a book and I sold the movie rights to FOX studios.  They wanted a screenplay written. I had never given much serious thought to writing a screenplay for the big screen or the small screen.  After writing a book and being approached about a screenplay, I thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to be in life – a screenwriter!”

They asked me to write it with an Academy Award winning writer.  The writer invited me to lunch at their home.  It was an informal lunch eaten around the pool with the producer of the project and myself.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from successful Hollywood individuals, so I thought the best course of action was for me to keep my mouth shut and take it all in.

I learned the writer, like me, had never gone to school for writing.  I learned the producer had built up an international production company in Scandinavia and sold it for a huge profit, then moved to Hollywood and started a new company in a new country.  Instead of retiring, he started over and continued to work hard.

During my time working with both of them, I was given a crash course in writing for a studio.  It was like a private lesson in screenwriting.  Looking back now I can see that I was already losing interest in writing for Hollywood, the more I learned about the business.  What I thought I had wanted, I was realizing was not my passion.

Even though I was unsure about my next steps in life, I learned valuable lessons and kept pushing forward.   In the end, my show was not picked up by Fox, but I learned enough to write my own western screenplay and sold that to History Channel.

Through my contacts on that project, I was able to secure a writing/consulting job for a movie production company in Stockholm, Sweden.  I grew up immensely while going through this Hollywood period of my writing career. The screenwriting work was a chance for me to work with people from all walks of life.

People like to talk about overnight success.  I learned that successful writers toil away for years before they get an opportunity to shine, and even then, they may end up losing it all.

Projects will come and go, but the people you work with along the way are important, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.  Work hard on every project, big or small, and always go above and beyond.

We each have our own paths with unique wants and needs.  If we follow someone else’s path we may have limited success, but it is fleeting.  We are all on our own journey, and as long as you keep learning from every opportunity and developing your skills, no project is a failure.

Opportunities often come in life when we least expect it, and they often come from unexpected people or places.  Work hard, keep a positive attitude, treat everyone with respect and pursue the passions that God has put in you – and you too will fulfill your purpose in life, even if you aren’t sure what it is right now.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

Ecclesiastes 3:1

   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 

What Drives you?

 

DCIM101GOPRORecently, when I was taking inventory of my life, I realized that there were several activities that I have always had a passion for in life.  The first I wrote about last week: my love for martial arts.  Another passion is books.  I love all kinds of books, on a broad spectrum of subjects.  In the old days, when there were bookstores all over Los Angeles, I would go inside a used bookstore or a chain bookstore and spend hours looking through the shelves, discovering new subjects and new authors.

 

There is no way to replace the lost environment of a good bookstore.  Sure, Amazon will still sell you just about any book. The problem is, you have to know the title or the author ahead of time.  Publishers pay for advertising on Amazon, and so you are in their algorithms viewing the books they want you to buy.  When I used to frequent book stores I enjoyed the fact that many of the employees were avid readers and they would recommend their favorite authors or set aside books for me.  I could browse the aisles and subject matters until I saw a book spine or a title that caught my eye.  I would find wonderful obscure books that might lead me to others.  I was never big on following the New York Times Bestseller list.

 

I would find an author I enjoyed and then I would read everything they put out. I’d be sad if it turned out that they had been dead for twenty years and would not put out any new books. I would research their lives, read their interviews, etc.  I wanted to find out where they got their ideas from, find out what helped them put words to paper.

 

Today, researching an author is much easier.  Thanks to Youtube I can see many authors speak on many subjects. In all of the available interviews and talks, I found a few things that all authors seemed to have in common.  They are passionate story tellers, most never attended special writing programs. They never gave up, they did not listen to the doubters around them.

 

I wanted to be a writer. The problem I faced was that even after all of my research, I still had no idea what it took to write a book.  I never paid much attention to writing or grammar in school.

 

To begin, I found books on writing and started reading them.  This didn’t get me fired up to write. So I tried another approach. I started seeking out authors.  Many told me to emulate the writers whose style I liked.  I was also told I had to put in the time it would take to learn to write. This is where most people would give up, because the task seems daunting.  I had no college education and no background in writing, but what I did have was the desire to write.  

 

I started by writing a blog, which was a relatively new thing at the time. It was bad: lots of typos and technical errors. Yet my content was finding an audience and it became popular.  I had a tremendous amount of traffic.  I had just as much negative feedback on my blog as I had positive feedback, and I would respond to it all.  The blog served two purposes for me: it got me noticed and it helped me gain experience writing stories.

 

As a result of the blog, I was able to get an agent for my writing and a co-author who was willing to work with me and help me with the storytelling and the editing.  Our agent sent the finished manuscript out to over fifty publishers.  They all rejected it, most answering with, “Whoever heard of a Japanese mob guy?”  It finally found a home by accident, a young woman who was running a publishing house and heard the story mentioned by a friend read the manuscript and wanted it.  

 

Being a published author was an awesome experience.  I quickly let go to my head. I started getting contacted by Hollywood producers and directors.  Some took me out for meals, others just had me over to hang out.  I sold the book rights to Fox Studios and I was soon writing the screenplay with an Oscar winning screenwriter. Through that experience I learned that anything in Hollywood labeled “based on a true story” means that there is only a very vague resemblance to something real.

 

The end product was not something I was proud of. In fact, I was relieved when Fox passed on it two years later and it didn’t get made into a movie after all.  I learned some valuable lessons, but I still wanted to be a screenwriter.

 

I decided to write something in a different genre.  Another screenwriting partner and I wrote a story about a former Confederate Cavalry soldier named Clay Allison who became a successful cattleman in Texas.  Clay Allison referred to himself as a “Shootist” because he was a known gunfighter.  

 

We went to History Channel with the script and we sold the idea of the show.  We then spent the next year working on it, until they decided to pass on actually taking it to the production stage.

 

I was pretty devastated at that point.  I had been given two bites at the screenwriting apple and failed to have either make it to the screen.  I kept thinking about it.  Then one day it dawned on me. I had lost my passion for the story.  I was writing for money, for the fame and success that would come with the money.  I had compromised myself as a writer for the sake of the paycheck.  I knew that I needed to return to my passion for writing stories that would connect with the reader, inspire them, the way I had been inspired by so many important authors in my life.

 

That is the point that I decided to move away from Hollywood.  I still pursue writing, but not for the same reasons.  If you keep at something and work hard at it, learning the attributes you need to succeed at that endeavor, you will be successful.  God will provide opportunities to open up where you never thought they existed.   It is easy to quit, to give up when you realize you have hit a dead end in one part of your journey.  It is important to keep learning and moving forward after a defeat.  Keep in mind that after your worst defeat many times your greatest victory is just ahead.

 

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

  Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

 

Lessons from a Dojo

Martial arts have been a very big influence in my life.  When I was in sixth grade I heard about Red Dragon Karate, and wanted the chance to learn it.  Instead, I found myself in Military school.  After that, I ended up in Irvine, California. There my father found a place for me to learn Martial Arts.

That place was a Martial Arts Supply company in Santa Ana named Musashi Martial Arts.

The owner, David Miller, was ahead of his time. He was a former kickboxer who had written a book about the business of Martial Arts. He held kickboxing, Kali and Jeet Kune Do classes in his warehouse.  

One of the teachers was a man named Ted Lucaylucay.  He was the first student from Dan Inosanto’s school allowed to teach Jeet Kune Do.  Dan Inosanto was very close to the founder of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee – and he had learned directly from the source.

I loved every class.  I followed Ted from that school in Santa Ana to a place in Huntington Beach, where he opened up his own little studio.  I trained with him until he moved away to Washington.  I have never forgotten any of David or Ted’s training.  My problem was that I didn’t always implement their instructions.

After Ted moved away, I began to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an offshoot of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, which has been around in various forms since the 1400’s.  It was brought to Brazil in the early 1900’s as “Kodokan Judo”  where it was taught to the  sons of Gastao Gracie by a Japanese man named Mitsuyo Maeda. The Gracie brothers modified it and adapted it to its current Brazilian form.

In the art of Jiu Jitsu there is no immediate payoff. You will get tapped, also known as “submitted” many, many times during every practice.  Unlike other martial arts that teach form against mitts or pads and often without any opponent at all, Jiu Jitsu is always taught against an opponent.  As a beginner, everyone you train against is better than you. This taught me humility, patience and how to relax when faced with crushing strength.

I was already trained to relax when punches and kicks were coming at me – but the oppressive grinding, smothering claustrophobic hold of a Jiu Jitsu opponent is another thing entirely.

You cannot learn one move and expect it to work on everyone you train against.  You have to adapt it to your body style and to your opponent. It is a game of human chess and in order to excel, you must think many moves ahead.

In Jiu Jitsu, technique prevails. I had to learn to let go of my anger, because there is no place for it on the mat. Strength is important, but not as much as technique.  You will always encounter someone bigger and heavier.   It is an art where there is no room for “I know but..” You have to listen to your coaches or you will not progress.  You must be able to perform, there is no faking it on the mat.  Those who do not put in the work fall behind.

When I walk into a gym or a Dojo for the first time, I always look for the best person and that will be who I work with first.  In order to become a better fighter you must go against those who are better than you, and learn from them.

Jiu Jitsu has a belt system of promotion.  Belts are blue, purple, brown and black, each of which represent an advancing stage in your training.  I never trained in a commercial gym where they had monthly belt tests, we always trained until our coach felt we were ready, and only then were we given a new belt.  In a real Jiu Jitsu gym, a belt acknowledges that you have put in the time and hard work necessary to be at a certain level.  Each belt represents years of hard work and daily practice.

I have met many people over the years that I would not have met if not for Jiu Jitsu.  The mat is not about winning a match, it is about you and what you can do to improve yourself. It teaches you that you can overcome any obstacle in life with hard work and determination. I have learned that it does not matter what you do, where you came from or where you are today.  If you are willing to put in the hard work you will see results.

I’ve heard it said before that some Christians believe that martial arts are not compatible with Christianity because of the involvement of Eastern Mysticism in the past.  I firmly believe that God used Martial Arts, and Jiu Jitsu in particular, to bring me back to Him.  I cannot tell you how many Christians I have trained with over the years.  Their words, lives and actions all served as a testimony to me.  Whether it was sitting me down to talk about faith after practice, saying a team prayer before a match, or just being an example in the way they carried themselves.

Now, I am the one one ready to share the Good News on and off the mats.

In today’s instant gratification society it is not normal to commit to training in a sport or an art for many years. For me, Martial Arts has been a lifelong pursuit that has had an effect on every aspect of my life.

What is the special thing that motivates you? What do you have a passion to become great at?  Are you willing to put in the hours, days, weeks and years of training?

1 Corinthians 10:31

Therefore, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

No Excuses

DCIM100GOPRO

Fun

When I was growing up, I watched the people around me and learned from what I observed.  I wanted to be a part of a certain criminal lifestyle, and everyone in that circle was older than me.  The only way that I could be a part of that world was to do everything better than those around me.  

I took all the advice that came my way from the older, more successful criminals around me. The mafia life is one of oral history and apprenticeship, there is no “school” to graduate from, so being able to listen was a huge part of it.

An older guy once told me, “Listen, nobody cares about your personal problems. Just get done what you’re asked to do.” That stuck with me my whole life.  The rules were clear. Do what you are told, and never come back empty handed or with any excuse.You always show up when called for, and on time. If there might be traffic, leave early.  If there might be bad traffic, leave earlier.  Being late was a sign of disrespect.

Those lessons became part of my life and I was able to see the consequences when people did not follow them.

Take some time to sit and listen to people talking around you in different places.  Observe conversations on social media.  You will hear a lot of blame and a lot of excuses.  It takes more courage to step up and take responsibility for your own actions instead of making excuses.

“But Kenji… Life isn’t fair! ________ happened to me!”

Life is unfair.  No amount of wishing, or talking, or blaming will ever change that.  What we can do is be as fair as possible in our own lives and accept that worrying about things that are beyond our control will do more harm than good.

You will be surprised at how much inner peace a simple act of stepping up and taking responsibility for your life will bring you.  If you made a mistake, you can analyze your actions  and learn what to do different in the future.  Worrying about what someone else did will get you nowhere since you can’t control their future or past actions.

Approaching life in this way and makes it easier to love others, even when they may have wronged you.

What would you lose by taking responsibility for your life?  Try it out for awhile and see what happens.  Like any new endeavor, it may take a bit of time to change your reaction in circumstances.  Learn to fill your mind by thinking about positive things instead of focusing on the negative events of life.  The other choice is to keep living life like so many who spend their days blaming others for their situation.

2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Galatians 6:5

For each will have to bear his own load.

Philippians 4:8

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

Freedom is not Free

 

 

DCIM100GOPRO

Freedom

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… often attributed incorrectly to the Constitution, they are the famous words found in the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

You are free to choose how you spend your time, where you live, what you read, the words you speak, and the future you work towards.  There are no hordes of barbarians at your gates, no wild beasts hunting you, you don’t have to spend your days gathering and hunting for your meals.  If you believe you are being held down by some force, then you are – you will be holding yourself back.

So where is your time spent?  This is where the small steps and freedom of choice come into play daily our lives. Will you watch a tv drama, a sports game, or go to the gym?  We can spend our time on distractions or we can better ourselves and those around us. Exercise will make you feel better physically and mentally.  If you feel better, those around you will notice and be inspired.  Lead by example.  Will you spend an hour on Facebook or pick up a book and feed your mind?

Liberty, wrote Thomas Jefferson, is “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”  We are all given the right to do as we choose, as long as it does not infringe on others.   

Many people confuse unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the right to be cared for and have our needs met for us.  Our needs being met is not something we are owed by being born.  We have the freedom to choose how we meet them through our decisions and how we spend our time.

Government was never intended to take care of our needs – that is what we are intended to use our freedom to accomplish.  That and so much more! The beauty of life in our day is that meeting needs is just the beginning, the limit is the limit of your dreams and your hard work.

Very few people living in the United States understand this concept. Many people would prefer for the government to be our surrogate parents, taking care of us from the cradle to the grave.  That has become a big pattern of this world.  Paul writes in Romans that as Christians we are not to be conformed to the patterns of our world, but instead we should renew our minds, take care of our bodies, and seek God’s will.  Are you renewing your mind? Taking care of your Body?  Is your goal, as Paul instructs, to find and follow God’s will for your life?

ROMANS 12
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.