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Originally from the West Coast of Canada. Living and teaching in Kobe, Japan since 2000. I review teaching materials at

How to learn a language from those that are best at it.

I’ve been a language teacher for over 20 years. I’ve taught almost every conceivable type of language class. But honestly, I’ve never been that great of a language learner myself. The modest French I worked so hard to acquire is a distant memory and my young daughter has far surpassed my Japanese already.

So I’m in awe of polyglots. Polyglots are people who can use multiple languages fluently. I became fascinated by the online polyglot community for two reasons. One, most are unimpressed with conventional language teaching and teachers. A group I am a proud member of. …

Six lessons from tragedy

If you haven't had someone close to you have a stroke, you are lucky. It is one of the leading causes of death. Most people survive their first stroke. Many suffer long-term damage. There is always regret from the person who has had the stroke and the people around them. However, we can learn from tragedy how to live our lives better.

Strokes come quickly, of course, there are some warning signs but, they usually hit people hard and fast without much warning. Nobody plans for having a stroke. …

A simple way to reduce your tendency to over-commit

This idea sounds so simple. Obvious even. Silly. If think so you likely don’t have a problem with overcommitment. I can say this simple idea has helped me keep my life on track for over 30 years.

In this busy world, we all have stress. A lot of this stress comes from overcommitment. We are too busy, busy, busy. We talk about efficiency, meditation, and methods to reduce stress. The best method doesn't get as much airtime. Doing less. The way to do it? The time budget. Force yourself to make trade-offs rather than stacking commitments.

I am an over-committer…

How to recalculate the balance and avoid pain

We all lose relationships sometimes. It hurts, especially when we feel it came out of nowhere. It isn’t from nowhere. The facts are right there in front of us. We just didn’t add them up properly. We gave too much weight to our positive behavior in the relationship. At the same time, we gave not nearly enough weight to our negative behavior. Negative behavior makes a much bigger impact on others than positive behavior. A recent Medium article by Jessica Stillman termed it the Magic 5:1 Ratio.

Behavioral Modification

I first heard of this idea when I worked at a…

Greatly increase your writing production if you can get through the initial frustrations

What would increasing your writing output mean to you? You will experience some frustrations while learning the software. It will take some time to learn how to talk in a way that results in a clear first draft. You still have to edit. But if you have an hour or two walking in quiet areas as part of your life you can get an extra rough draft of an article every day. To get around the resistance, you just need to do a little preparation.

I was skeptical of using digital voice to text at first. First, I hate Siri…

Besides oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.

I was picking up speed. I could only see sky but I know there must be trees and rocks in front of me. I tried to grab onto the side of the mountain but it was all ice. This was going to be bad. I used to work at a head-injury rehabilitation hospital so I knew what a hell that could be. Shoganai the Japanese say, there was nothing to be done. I was going down the hill until I hit something. I put my arms over my head and waited for impact.

The day had started out pretty well…

No I’m not a billionaire

Memorial candles in Japan. Photo by author.

The pandemic reminds us tragedy and suffering are ever-present parts of human life. The photo above is from a memorial to the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1997. My neighborhood was particularly hard hit. The pain of those who lost loved ones is still strong 24 years later. This year those that lost loved ones or suffered significant health or financial hardships will look back on the 2020–2021 pandemic year with sadness.

I’ve been very fortunate. There were a few bumps along the way. I had to adjust to teaching online. I couldn’t meet…

Is it even a good idea?

I know what you are probably thinking. What's the matter with you? The Perseverance lander just sent pictures back from Mars. We made it! We are on another planet. It's so cool! Link to NASA’s Mars Exploration Website.

"Elon Musk is a genius! We'll live to see a million-person Mars base"

The above quote is from a coworker. It is the inspiration for this article. I hate it, but he is wrong.

I get it. I love Sci-Fi. Star Wars, Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica, The Expanse... But, sorry, it's not going to happen. Do the math. We are not…

My shorthand way to evaluate Medium publications

A constant question from new Medium writers is: “Which Medium publication should I publish my article in?”. The algorithm of exactly who gets shown your article is not crystal clear.

There is often confusion and disappointment after an article is published and does not have the desired impact. New writers often assume bigger is better, but this is not always so. The number of followers is important. The reading preferences of the followers is important. Also, the number of articles being published is important.

Is it a big publication publishing lots of articles each day? Your article will get quickly…

Part Four: The Visa

The visa is really the key. You can't do anything without it. You need to focus on getting the stability of a longish-term visa for your life in Japan. Once that is done you can branch out and do the things you came to Japan to do.

If you are coming to Japan on JET or another teaching program you are all set and you can just relax. If you have a working holiday visa also you can just focus on the job hunt. Just make sure to hand in all your paperwork on time and in order.

If you…

Michael Wilkins

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