So what’s my zero? Well, I’m the 57-year-old Japanese American man who grew up in Hawaii. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over the last 30 years. I’m a Satellite Systems Engineer who has worked on a number of large Government Satellite Programs throughout my career. Many satellites of those systems are still operational today, protecting the world in some fashion. Honestly, I’m proud of my accomplishment, and of the people with whom I’ve been privileged to collaborate.
I love movies. When I watch up on the big screen, I look for my life in the movies from the inside out. I’m also a writer and have written over 460 movie reviews on IMDb.com, many of which are also on The Good Men Project.
In a Variety interview, actor Chris Evans discussed making movies with Scarlett Johansson. Chris said that people don’t watch him up on the screen; the audience sees themselves up on the movie screen. That’s me.
I look at what aspects of myself I see in those wonderful movie characters: Chris’s Steve Rogers (Captain America) in “Avengers: Endgame.” I wanted to see him fall in love with the love of his life Peggy Carter. The Hero deserved that, after all, he had forsaken, and the difference that he made for others. Watching Chris’s Steve slow dance with beautiful Peggy drew tears from my eyes. Steve risked falling madly and deeply in love. Yes, as Chris said, I saw myself up on the screen.
My childhood might not have been at all ideal. Although, I get that nobody’s life is perfect. That being said, I would not wish my childhood upon my fiercest opponent. My dad scared the hell out of me from as early as I can remember until I was about 18 years old. Only now, being a little wiser and way more compassionate, I get that Dad wasn’t really angry with me; he was afraid because he didn’t know how to raise me. Consequently, he did what his dad might have done to him.
Years later, in talking with my dad, I got whatever suffering I had endured. The lineage of fear and suffering over generations was far, far worse for Dad when he was a young boy. Working with my Therapist Lance, I could separate the fearful acts from the man. I forgive myself for not being strong enough to stand up to Dad. I forgive Dad for his humanity. I discovered compassion and forgiveness, perhaps the hard way.
Throughout my childhood and beyond, Mom was my hero and my love story. When I feared Dad and felt that knot in my chest, Mom said, “Slow down, Jonny.” She calmed my very soul. She taught me that a good man has kindness and compassion in his heart. Mom is gone, now. That part of her still lives within me. Mom’s legacy was kindness. Amen.
We have power when we accept what we have. Yes, my dad was my dad. Yet, to be the good man I wanted to become, I needed someone else. Fortunately, I discovered Sensei Dan, my Aikido Sensei. Dan granted me permission to make him my father, the one who would help me invent my greater-than version.
Ironically, Sensei and Dad were both Nisei, 2nd-generation Japanese American, very ‘Old School’. Where Dad yelled at me out of fear of not knowing what to do, Sensei yelled, because he knew I could be greater than I knew I was capable of becoming. Profound difference. I shared a 25-year partnership with Dan. Under his guidance, I became Yondan, 4th-degree black belt. More importantly, he taught me what it is to be a good man.
Sensei passed away several years ago. It was more important to him who I was outside the Dojo, out in the world. I honor Sensei’s legacy in passing on what I got about Aikido, honor, training, and what it is to be a good man. That’s helping out in the Dojo. That’s guiding young Lieutenant Jon to learn the ropes of the Government Satellite business, and supporting him in getting into medical school. In the absolutely bigger picture: I have to be a service to others. Like what Sensei did for me, I look for the greater-than version of others. Amen.
In 2018, I self-published my first book on Amazon. Before that, I had no dreams of being an author. I was a Systems Engineer and an Aikido Sensei, not (yet) an author.
A couple of years ago, Lance, my Therapist, asked me to list down the things or qualities I wanted in a woman, in terms of a romantic relationship. Honestly, I had no fucking interest in generating that list. So I looked around. I did like to write. At that time, I had already been writing movie reviews. So, I considered falling madly and deeply in love by looking at the movies that I loved. I started with my All-Time Favorite: “Meet Joe Black” starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt.
“Meet Joe Black” is very obscure. Yet, I remembered having the joyful, fun conversation with one of its stars, Marcia Gay Harden. So it was personal. It was meaningful to me.
I expanded the context to writing about the things that were meaningful to me like The Hero, The Sensei, and Living with Love. I discovered my narrative conscience in my best friend John, who questioned and collaborated on this writing project.
I worked with another dear friend from high school, Ken, who was a bestselling author. Ken said that what I wrote might have an audience out there. He encouraged me to self-publish. So I did. No, my book was no bestseller. Yet, it represented my authentic self. What I wrote was meaningful to me. Hopefully, it was meaningful to others, as well.
Ken hooked me up with my Editor Lisa from the Good Men Project, where I write posts. Lisa is amazing. She makes me the greater writer as I continue to evolve and write about what’s important to me.
My hero, the late 22-year-old Claire Wineland once said, “Have your life be a piece of art.” So I work on book projects like “Your Life: Your Work of Art,” which will be professionally published. Writing, like Aikido, gives me purpose. I look at life and write about that. I’m inspired by kindness and compassion. My dear friend Cheryl often reminds, “Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.” Amen. I write about what I think makes a good man, what I learned from Sensei and Mom.
A couple of years ago I joined Match dot com as part of the possibility of falling madly and deeply in love. Unlike, Aikido or writing, I’m not really good at dating. Rather, I’m not as good as I would like to be. If Sensei were alive today, he might laugh and say, “Just train.” Got it.
I’ve had several dates, meeting some amazing women. They didn’t work out. Or I wasn’t what they were looking for. I’m not handsome. I’m short. So, I don’t get a lot of responses back. That’s just the deal. My hope is that some woman might be willing to take a risk, see my passions like teaching Aikido or writing. At least that’s my hope. In the meantime, I sift through my daily Match profiles and send out messages to women I’d like to meet. That’s my zero.
Amazingly, that zero grants me some freedom. I’m more comfortable with who I am. Cheryl taught me the value of the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi: The beauty in our imperfection. I accept my strengths and frailties. I hear Sensei’s voice in my head: “Make it work.”
All of this is part of my “zero”.
So where do I go from my zero? Who knows? I remember after taking pictures with Sensei at the Dojo after the Sunday morning practice when I received my Yondan certificate—the one Sensei recommended me for—I was proud and grateful. Sensei was, too. I think. Yeah, Sensei was a man of few words. On the next Sunday morning, we were back at it. Working on waiting out the attack. Matching up with the opponent. That was my new Zero. What’s next: Working on my next greater-than version of myself.
So what am I gonna do? Well, maybe keep it meaningful. When I spoke at Mom’s funeral services in Honolulu, I caught up with some dear old friends. Carlos, from grad school, told my sister Carol, “Your Mom was like our Mom here (in Hawaii).” My eyes welled with tears. In speaking with Mom’s teacher friends, I got that Mom had a meaningful life. Mom meant so much to so many people. Something, I got personally being her proud son.
My zero, my continually evolving starting point, keeps me humble. My zero reminds me to be grateful for all those like Sensei, like Mom who made a profound difference in my life.
So what am I gonna do from my Zero? I’m gonna create my next greater-than version of myself. I’m gonna do my best to make a difference for others. I’m gonna be kind to others, and to myself. Hopefully, I’m gonna have a meaningful life like Mom. That would honor her legacy. Just saying.
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