By Keiko Kay Hirai For The North American Post
I was asked by my friend, Elaine Ikoma Ko, and NAP editor, David Yamaguchi, to write a series of articles that would be of interest to NAP readers. I had to give this some serious thought because I wasn’t quite sure what readers would be interested in hearing from me. Although I have participated in the local Omoide writing group, I’m not a prolific writer like many of those who regularly contribute to this paper. I wasn’t sure that I was prepared to write something truly meaningful on a regular basis.
Without wasting any time, I called my writing mentor, Randy Tada who happens to be a board member of the NAP and the editor of my three books.
“Randy, help! I don’t know what to write!” I blurted out.
My nerves were immediately calmed when I heard his confident and reassuring voice on the other end of the phone. He said, “What are you worried about? You have more than enough life experiences that you can call upon to share with the readers.”
I replied, “Tell me what some of them are because right now I’m drawing a blank.”
“Take a deep breath and think about Kaizen. It’s your favorite Japanese philosophy that means lifelong learning in small incremental steps, one step at a time. Why don’t you use that philosophy when you write your articles for the paper?”
My ears perked up when I heard him say the word Kaizen.
“You mean I should write articles that focus on different things and show readers how to take small steps to achieve their goal instead of trying to tackle something all at once?” I asked.
“Exactly. You wrote a similar chapter called ‘Lessons I Live By’ in your book. I think they would love to hear how you went about it. They are basic things that people already know but often need a refresher on.”
“Okay, I like your idea, Randy!”
I think he guessed that I had a big smile even though he couldn’t see my face.
Randy asked, “Can you remind me again what Kaizen means to you?”
“Sure. These are the words I repeat every day of my life,” I replied.
The Kaizen Way
Take one small step at a time.
Ask small questions.
Solve small problems.
Take small actions.
Reward small gifts.
Enjoy small moments.
With all these small steps in mind, let me illustrate how I put Kaizen into practice.
The other day, a client came into my salon looking absolutely disgruntled. I happened to be standing at the front desk and gave her a warm greeting, as I always do.
She gave me a burning look and said, “How come you always appear as though you’re so happy… no, make that more than happy. I’m coming from the opposite extreme. I feel vulnerable, like I’m living in a state of limbo, wondering what else is hiding around the corner.”
I replied discreetly, “I understand how you are feeling. With the ongoing news about Delta and the other variants, the negative impacts of climate change, and the suffering experienced around the world, it’s easy to start believing that there will be no end to all of this. I think the only option is for us to be as happy as we can be.”
“That’s easy to say but really hard to do,” she said.
“’Thank You’ are only two words, but put them into action and see how they result in making people happy,” I said.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
Let me show you some examples of what we do in my salon.
We make an effort to create a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere by putting a smile on our faces every time we greet someone who enters the salon. We call this our “THANK YOU” smile. When we smile and they smile back, we’re happy.
To show our appreciation to each of our clients, we say “THANK YOU” for your trust and support of our business.
When they reply “You’re more than welcome,” we’re happy.
Whenever we can, we remember to say “THANK YOU” to each team member in our salon.
Each time they respond, “No problem. Hope you’re having a great day,” we’re happy.
Our clients always say “THANK YOU” for their haircut and style makeovers as they leave the salon. That comment ALWAYS makes us happy.
You might think that saying “THANK YOU” is just a little thing, but it is important because it creates a feeling of happiness with each person you associate with. Try showing your appreciation by saying “THANK YOU” to everyone you come into contact with today. When you do, watch closely as they instantly smile to acknowledge your kind gesture. It will make you want to do it all the time, every day.
I hope that I have provided some information that provides a new or different perspective on the word HAPPY. I learn something new every day, so I would love to hear your comments on my columns as they appear in the coming weeks. Please feel free to reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also love for you to read my blogs at www.keikokayhirai.com.
I look forward to us learning from each other.