What is Your Next Big Thing?

When I have downtime, I create things. That’s exactly what I did between January and February. As I studied the Kaizen/Ikigai philosophy of gift sharing, I wanted to get something out in the world that I felt would cause transformational mindset change that people would benefit from. The title of my brand new training workshop is “WHAT IS YOUR NEXT BIG THING?” How to discover your hidden gifts and build a plan to monetize your knowledge and skills … ONE SMALL STEP AT A TIME.

Please see all the details about my webinar workshop. This workshop is being hosted by Small Business Administration’s Seattle SCORE program. As a SCORE Mentor, I help hundreds of entrepreneurs, want-to-be entrepreneurs, and life-long learners every year to guide them through reaching their dreams and goals in life and careers. You can register here. I hope to see you there! SCORE offers this class for a low fee of $35.

Spring Has Sprung!

Are you ready to celebrate more daylight and warmer weather in spring? I am for sure. I’m dreaming of giving brightly decorated Easter Gift baskets filled with little tiny surprises to a few of my special people. I love to surprise people and bring smiles to their faces. We need more people smiling in our world right?

I’m inviting you to join me on Zoom on March 27th to make hand-made baskets, flowers, and sweet bunnies… plus practice self-care for yourself.  You will love making these colorfully decorated spring gift baskets from the comfort of your own home. So simple and affordable.

Don’t wait, register here today: https://bit.ly/3cDYi2Q

Sign up here:



Remember the Good Times

My Jack Russel Terrier, Max passed away three months ago. It’s hard to live with an emptiness in my heart … the pain feels worse during this COVID time. I try to remember the happy things Max and I did together. One of the happiest times we spent together was driving out to the country every week to take our agility lessons. Watch a video of Max running an almost perfect course. It may look easy to the person watching this video, but it took years of practice and working together as a TEAM for us to get to this point.

Here are some tips I learned in Max and my agility classes. I hope you will agree that these handling skills can be readily transferred to the people in your life. In the end, I think that we can all become better leaders if we follow these tips.

Dog Training 101

Be clear and specific. Your voice should be clear and upbeat so your dog can understand you, and don’t forget to keep a smile on your face.

Be consistent. It will confuse the dog when you don’t use the same words.

Keep it simple. Use only one command at a time. Say “Sit down” instead of “Sit there, wait and come here.” 

Be gentle and kind. Let your dog know that you are trying very hard to understand their point of view.

Gain loyalty by being fair. Dogs notice if you are not fair. Be compassionate and truthful. Do not use physical violence. Instead, show them respect.

Be confident. When giving dogs a command, show confidence in your body language, tone of voice, and facial expression. 

Give feedback.  If you don’t get the appropriate response, give feedback immediately. Be patient and keep teaching until you get the response you’re looking for.

Praise all the time. When you get a correct response, praise immediately and give a small tidbit of his favorite treat. Yes, do this every time!

Positive ending. Never finish your training time on a negative note, instead, make sure that it ends with one positive behavior performed by your dog. Praise by saying “Yay, good job!” Give ample treats and a slow pet on their head.

Now, does these sound any different than how we should treat the people in our lives? Our relationships with the people we care about will improve if we apply these age-old dog training methods in our daily lives. I guarantee that you will see an improvement in your relationships with co-workers, friends, and family members!

Celebrate Young Entrepreneurs

I remember so well, when I was trying to start my business many years ago, I was not able to get a $40,000. business loan. I got turned down by every bank that I submitted my business plan to. When I was just about to give up on my idea of starting a business, an acquaintance told me to go and talk to a SCORE business mentor at the Small Business Administration. To make a long story short, my Mentor helped me to get the financing I needed, called the SBA Guaranteed Loan. My SCORE Mentor held my hand and guided me through the ups and downs of the beginning years of my business.

Well, things have a way of reaching a full circle. I became a SCORE Mentor two years ago because I wanted to give back to the Small Business Administration. Now I volunteer to meet and counsel young entrepreneurs who have dreams of starting their own business.

Watch me celebrate Fan Hong’s recent success!

If you liked Fan’s hand-made Initial Stamps, you can reach her here [email protected] to place your order. She will custom make one just for you.

Phone Number: 984-439-4935

Instagram: @fan.tasticgifts

Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/FantasticGiftsCo

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FantasticGiftsCo

Hearts, a Meditative Practice.

Today, we in the Pacific NW are celebrating a snowy Valentines Day. Being stuck at home is not a bad idea. I’m at home practicing how to water color loose and flowy HEARTS. Anyone can do this. It’s so intuitive, using no brain power. Just get yourself a cup of hot tea, sit in your favorite corner of your house, dip your brush in the water, drop some color in the puddle of water, and get lost watching the flow of the water on your paper… so meditative.

This is my Ikigai. Enjoying small things, being in the moment, and know that this particular moment will never come again…. breath, breath…

Wishing you all a heartfelt Valentines Day! YOU ARE LOVED!

Just an update on the Artful Giving Community. The members enjoyed two Valentines workshops this month. It was so enjoyable to gather with the members on Zoom and enjoy few hours of self-care, where we let creativity flow. Want to come and join us? Contact me!

The Power of Small Steps

Wow, I’m still coming down from the Kaizen-Ikigai Seven Day Journey that we just finished on Sunday. The lessons were presented in small bite sized videos plus doodling and writing. I was so pleased to meet people from across the continent as well as throught United States. I received many positive feedback from the people who traveled the Seven Day Journey with me. Here’s one from Alice that surprised me but made me happy.

“I never thought washing dishes, cleaning the house and other mundane tasks would be anything more than I wanted to get over them quickly so I can do other things. Learning about the Ikigai philosophy, I now perform those tasks while really enjoying the moment. Just imagine, getting joy out of how sparkly and smooth my dishes look after I wash them with care and love. I say to myself, enjoy this because this moment will pass quickly and never return again”.

On our seventh day, we got together on Zoom and had fun talking, drawing, cutting in a very safe environment. Everyone made a vision board that was very personal to each. I was amazed at the creativity and the affirmations that were placed on each of the vision boards! Here is the one I made as an example. I’d like to show what others made, but decided not to because vision boards are very personal to each one.

The Wait is Over, Artful Giving Community is accepting new members!

Why you should join a community of like-minded people?

You will experience:

  • The joy of being a part of something bigger than yourself.
  • The joy of working towards a common goal of life-long learning.
  • The joy of building skills in art, positive mind-shifts, and making friends.
  • The safety of being vulnerable and navigate challenges together.

Learn more here.

As a member of the Artful Giving Community, these are the things you can expect:

  • Monthly “Make by Hand” art workshops
  • Weekly Inspiration times where I will share with you ideas and projects straight from my art table.
  • Guest appearances of women doing great things in the world.
  • Show and Tell from the members.

Come and join us. Wonderful members are waiting for you inside!

Registration will close on Friday, Feb. 5 at 10:00 PM (PT)

Learn more here.

Your 2021 Plan, the Kaizen Ikigai Vision Journey

Come with me on a seven-day doodle art journey where you’ll make your own 2021 vision board!

What is Kaizen and Ikigai?

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that values lifelong learning in small incremental steps. Translated, Ikigai means “a reason for being” or “a purpose to life.” Although seemingly different, ikigai is a concept that is very much in harmony with kaizen and its underlying process of continuous improvement.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. It is the basic principle in their life and the reason they wake up every morning; it is their secret to living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. Finding ikigai requires a deep and often lengthy search into one’s soul. In Japanese culture, this search is regarded as the most important aspect of their life. It is the point where their passion, talent, and life’s mission intersect.

Once there is a sense of purpose, people find that they are even more resilient to anything life throws at them throughout their lives. When it comes time to retire, most Japanese people are quite different from those in the Western culture in that few of them actually retire. Because their ikigai allows them to thrive in every situation, they find joy in keeping busy and remaining active throughout their lives. 

After my visit to Okinawa, on the southern tip of Japan, I noticed things that distinguished their culture from others that I had previously experienced. After years of studying kaizen and ikigai philosophies, I eventually found my personal ikigai, which was helping people find their inner strength and the courage to live authentic, fulfilling, and contented lives. In simple words, “My ikigai is to support and strengthen the mindset and the skills of the people around me.” Now, as we enter a new and hopeful year, I want to share all that I have learned!

Do you want to go on a journey with me to find and make your own Kaizen/Ikigai Vision Plan for 2021? Do you want to live a happier and more fulfilling life? If the answer to both of those questions is “Yes,” then this is the right course of action for you!  Here’s how to register for my FREE Seven-Day Art Journey – https://kayhirai.mykajabi.com/pl/258824  

  • Tools needed to travel on this journey:  A sketch book or loose sheets of paper, pencil, pen, colored markers, coloring pencils, crayons or anything else you already have on hand. 
  • I will send out an email each morning from Monday, January 25 through Friday, January 29. On Sunday, January 31, we will meet from 11:00 a.m.–12:15 noon on Zoom and add the final touches to your vision board. 

As you travel this Seven-Day Art Journey with me, you will uncover your gifts, passion, values, acceptance, and purpose for being. You will experience less stress, get more done with what you enjoy doing, improve your relationships with others, and learn to open up a pathway to creativity and abundance. You will reflect, draw, and write! When you have completed your journey, you will have consolidated all of your discoveries and developed your Kaizen/Ikigai Vision Plan for 2021! Bring your enthusiasm, ideas, and join me! 

 Register for my FREE Seven-Day Art Journey – https://kayhirai.mykajabi.com/pl/258824  

New Year’s Memories

As we enter into the new year, reflecting back to our childhood experiences of the past years brings us many good memories as well as some that may be painful. I like to remember the fond memories and bring it with me into the new year… remembering the lessons I learned and putting them into daily practices as I go through the year.

I am sharing with you an article that was published in the North American Post newspaper a few years ago.

My Mother and me

            My childhood memories of year-end traditions while growing up in Kyushu, Japan always flood my mind this time of the year.

            I went through culture shock when I arrived in America at the age of eleven and saw how differently people in America celebrated the coming of the New Year. Lively New Year’s Eve parties, waking up late on January first and watching football games on television while munching on various party foods was so foreign to me. 

            The older I get, the more I cherish my childhood memories and the tradition of 
“starting new with a fresh mindset.” It’s such a good feeling to get enough sleep and rise early on January first, refreshed to face the coming year.

            These are the fond memories of my New Years while growing up in Kokura.

            Starting on the first of December, Mother would say, “Keiko, we are going through each room in our house and cleaning every nook and corner. Here’s a check-list so be a good girl and do your part.” Without argument, I helped Mother clean all the shoji-screens, de-cluttered the drawers in every room and scrubbed marks off the walls.

            Mother’s To Do list for me read like this:

            Do you owe anybody money? Pay it back.

            Did you say mean words to any of your friends? Apologize

            Did you mean to do a kind act for someone? If not, do it now.

            Do you have any unfinished homework or projects? Complete them.

            Did you think about what you will do in the coming year to become a better person? Write it down.

            After I finished my to-do list, it was time to relax and enjoy the coming of the New Year on the evening of December 31. Mother and I sat in our clean house and enjoyed eating traditional bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated mountain potatoes. As the slippery noodles went down our throats, we listened to the far away sounds of the temple bells as they rang out the exact number of the year we were about to enter.

            Mother said, “Keiko, soba noodles are the last to enter your stomach this year. This is cleansing. You will start out the new year with a clean body and a clear mind.”

            I loved getting up early on New Year’s Day. Mother dressed me in a colorful kimono and we visited the temple and prayed for a good year so as to have the fortune to maintain good relationships, health and wealth. After that, we went home, ready to have fun playing children’s games with the neighborhood children and eating traditional New Year’s food which Mother prepared. 

            Japanese New Years is called Oshogatsu and lasts for three days (Jan 1st – 3rd).

            I take this tradition seriously and try my best to follow through as much as I can with the list Mother made for me. 

            Why not try to follow this list for yourself? I guarantee that it will make you feel so much better. Out with the old and in with the new!

My first art of the year
My first drawing of the year

Editor’s Note: Kay Hirai is a social entrepreneur, author and artist. This column will be regularly published in this paper, and she can be reached through www.keikokayhirai.com.