Sent to you by Sizzle via Google Reader: Why Money Doesn’t Motivate Me
via Culture Japan - Your portal to Japan - Posts by danny on 5/30/13
While Mirai has a following around the world - she is certainly not as
popular as some other characters. If all I wanted was money, instead of
making Mirai products, I would make products based on popular licensed
titles instead like Madoka Magica and make much much more money - I
could do what COSPA is doing and *only* manufacture licensed products.
Some folks say I take advantage of my supporters by selling them stuff
- thats kinda like saying Starbucks takes advantage of people who want
to drink coffee, Tesco’s take advantage of people who need groceries,
and Japan Rail takes advantage of people who need to take the train!
Mirai has also been illustrated by many popular illustrators who
participate in the Japanese pop culture field. Many of these
illustrations are used on the products that we produce. Wallpapers that
include these illustrations can be found here.
Mirai has a fair following around the world and here is just some of
the cosplayers who support Mirai - more can be found on her cosplay
After leaving Microsoft, I started up a company called Mirai Inc. The
company was to do web consulting and I initially did so for companies
like Disney and Columbia - I even got a job offer from Disney while I
was consulting for them ^^;
I also created a mascot character for my site called Mirai Suenaga and
since she was born in 2007, I’ve been working on growing her brand
worldwide. Mirai has made appearances in Japanese games, anime and has
even become a mascot on Malaysia’s electronic payment system cards
called Touch n Go.
Mirai has also had figures made of her such as figma and Nendoroid with
more to come. Find out more about Mirai and her collaborations on her
Life is a jigsaw puzzle
The basic needs of humans is food and shelter and in todays society,
these needs can be covered by money. Personally, once I had these needs
covered, earning more money in corporate life didn’t matter to me
Life is a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t know what’s going to go where, you
don’t know where the pieces are but you do know that you need to keep
looking for the pieces and figure out where they go. All events that
happen to you is a piece of your puzzle. if you are stuck in a rut at
school or work and keep asking yourself the “what if” question then its
a sign telling you that there are no more pieces of the puzzle to be
found where you are.
One of the reasons I left corporate life is because I felt that there
was no more room for me to achieve, be challenged or grow - and more
importantly - I felt that I had collected all the pieces of the jigsaw
puzzle that I was looking for in corporate life.
It didn’t matter how much more money I was going to get - it was not
going to buy me any more jigsaw pieces.
Now that I run my own company, Although I’m collecting a load of new
jigsaw pieces, I can tell you that its one of the hardest things that
one could possibly ever want to try in life!
I’m challenged daily, constantly achieving goals and growing at the
same time - although the baggage of running a company has contributed
to me growing older much faster too ^^;
Alternatively, if all I wanted was money, I could take one of the open
job offers I currently have from comrades who work in senior positions
at companies like Apple or Google - not only would I be earning more
money than I do now but I can also:-
- Sleep more than a couple of hours a day.
- Not have to worry about income and feeding my employees as I would
have a steady paycheck.
- Have more time to spend with family.
- Have more time to spend on health instead of putting constant
pressure on my Spinal Hernia.
- Spend time to relax on some beach - which I did manage to do from
time to time as a salaryman.
- Finish work at 6PM - which I did when I was at both Amazon and
- Buy my dream car which is a Nissan Fairlady Z ^^;
I left corporate life at just below Director level but if I continued
then not only would I have received more money, I would have started to
receive incentive bonuses too - things like “reduce headcount by 10 and
get another 100,000 USD bonus.”
By the way - this photo taken at the Google HQ in Roppongi. This is
their canteen where food is unlimited and free!
I get by on my current salary because my job is my hobby - most of the
things I need or do can be expensed to my company.
Much of the items that are involved with my line of work (figures,
dolls, hardware etc) fall through the hole in the ceiling meaning that
I do not need to spend a load of moolah on the stuff I want.
Most of my travel overseas is also covered by the conventions that have
But why don’t I pay myself more? Because I don’t require more money
than I need - the most important thing is to keep as much money in the
company as possible so that I can feed my employees, keep the company
running and help it grow.
Since a few years ago, I’ve been working with the Japanese Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry on various projects. This year, the
Japanese government appointed me as a member of their Creative
Industries Internationalization Committee (CIIC) where I gather with
the top folks from companies such as Bandai Namco Games, Sony Music
Entertainment, Horipro, Kodansha, Isetan, Mitsui Fudousan, TBS etc to
decide what measures should be taken to help the proliferation of
Japanese content around the world.
I take on this role for free because its an honor that the Japanese
government has recognised my work to share Japanese culture with the
world which started off as a hobby but turned out to be a business.
The gentleman standing next to my right is Isshu Sugawara - the State
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. The full member list is up at
the METI website.
If all I wanted was money
If all I wanted was money, it would be a much much wiser decision for
me to not leave corporate life and remain as a salaryman at either
Amazon as Website Manager or Microsoft as Product Manager where I was
earning about 30,000,000円 per year (300,000 USD at today’s rate).
Compared to back then, my company now pays me 1,200,000円 (12,000 USD)
per year - less than what I pay my employees ^o^
Also, at the same time that Amazon gave me the job offer, I got an
offer from eBay too. My recruiters got them both in a bidding war - the
more they paid, the more the recruiter gets which is about 30% of my
annual salary. eBay ended up offering *much* more but I chose Amazon. I
felt I was more familiar with e-commerce rather than auctions - it was
not the money that counted.
If you are interested, you can read what life was like at Amazon and
Microsoft in this post.
There seems to be a large number of folks out there who think that
money is my only motivation for doing what I do. I find this rather
amusing because if money was a driving factor for me then I’d be doing
something very different indeed.
Today I will talk about how I currently make money, why its not a
motivating factor for me - and then cover some of the factors that do
The contrast is incredible when I compare today and back then. Today, I
have supportive comrades from all over the world who I have connected
with through sharing my life and interests on this website and on my TV
This photo taken in Tokyo during a meetup recently where I got to meet
readers from all over the world - they were complete strangers at the
beginning of the evening and are now comrades.
What motivated me in the Past?
In the How Discovering Japan Changed My Life post I extensively talked
about all the techniques that I used to learn Japanese.
Self study can be difficult unless there is a motivation to do so -
below are some of the factors why I was motivated to be disciplined and
spend every ounce of my time studying Japanese.
I loved anime, manga, Japanese dramas and music but couldn’t understand
the actual content. I didn’t have any Chinese education so didn’t have
a head start with Kanji either.
The more Japanese I studied, the more satisfaction I gained as I
realized that I could read and understand stuff that once sounded alien
London was my home for many years - but I lived in the worst place in
London called Hackney and it was such a dump with muggings and
stabbings happening all the time. Hackney was also voted the worst
place to live in the whole of the UK.
I wanted out and wanted it badly. While I didn’t know exactly where my
Japanese learning was taking me - I knew that the key was to continue
to study as much Japanese as possible - and I think I was right.
While learning Japanese, I made a load of Japanese friends in London
who I would converse with. They were learning English and while I tried
to help them as much as I could, they always tended to default back to
For me to convey my feelings and thoughts effectively, I had to learn
as much Japanese as possible.
I confess - the Idol Nishida Hikaru who I fell in love with was another
motivation of study for me - I wanted to know as much about her as
possible from the magazines, CD’s and VHS tapes so just had to learn
So how do I rate my level of Japanese now? If I studied for all these
years and spoke poor Japanese then that would not have been a good use
of time ^^;
Currently my Japanese is good enough to be the only foreigner working
for the Japanese government on the Creative Industries
You can also hear be babbling away in Japanese on my TV show Culture
After a few visits to Japan on holiday, I knew that Japan was where I
belonged. During those times in Japan, I would record the sounds of
Shibuya and capture all the hustle and bustle of the crossing which
included conversations of folks standing nearby waiting for friends.
Back in the UK, I set up speakers around my room and played the
recordings of Shibuya and closed my eyes - I was transported back to
I knew I could not be in Japan for another year until I saved up enough
money at Benihana but listening to the sounds of Shibuya motivated me
so much and I would always play it in the background while I continued
to self study Japanese.
I would say to myself daily:-
“I must make it to Japan”
“I must make it to Japan”
“I will make it to Japan”
Default Life Template - fine for some but fine for you too?
From various surveys I’ve seen, most people seem to hate mondays and
most would quit their job if they won the lottery. From this, I gather
that these folks work purely for money and not for anything else.
But lets face it - money is a necessity in this day and age to cover
our basic human needs of food and shelter. Family members also need to
be looked after and its the money thats going to help do that.
The DNA of living beings is programmed to give us instincts that help
us stay alive and to do so for as long as possible through reflex
actions and our will to stay alive. In todays society for the case of
humans - we need money to do that so it’s natural that money becomes a
major factor that influences the decisions that shape our lives.
But what happens is that most of us start to only live a life which is
based on the concept of money - we start to live the Default Life
The Default Life Template says that we should go to a good school so
that we can go to a good university so that we can get a well paying
job so that we can pay the bills - this then allows us to go back to
work the next day to earn money to pay for the bills. This cycle is
repeated until we retire and die.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the Default Life Template -
I’m sure it’s perfectly fine for some - but is it a template that you
want to shape the rest of your life?
As for this photo - its some lottery tickets that we buy from time to
time just for the heck of it. But my wife and I always say - even if we
won - nothing much would change in terms of the work that we do.
Probably buy that Nissan Fairlady Z though ^^;
These days, I get trolled for anything and everything - does not really
matter until the trolls start to tell malicious lies to gather
recognition from their peers.
But as I mentioned earlier - spending my time on a troll means that
they have a double win as not only does the troll gain a sense of
achievement, they also have taken away my precious time.
One of the reasons why trolls do what they do is because they do not
have the ability to accomplish much in real life but gaining your
attention gives them a sense of achievement.
Never ever react against a troll - instead of using your anger to
counterattack with small clumsy uncalculated blows that will leave you
feeling embarrassed afterwards, use your energy to aggressively
continue to achieve your goals and live well.
Your trolls just can’t get enough of you and are always watching your
every step so they will eventually see your success and when they do -
well you have just dealt them a calculated fatal blow as your
trolls *just hate* to see you do well - it makes them sick and gutted
to watch you advance onwards.
I want my trolls to know that whenever I achieve my goals - this is
what my face looks like when thinking of you. Please keep up the
trolling - it really does me wonders.
Have you thought about what motivates and drives you?
I know that achievement, challenge and growth are my main drives but I
want to know more about what drives us so am currently doing research
on motivation studies. I’ll share what I come up with in the future but
I thought of something that can help us start to understand what drives
Think back to times in your life where you were working hard towards
something - it could have been completion of a goal or a goal to get
somewhere or a goal to acquire something. Think what was driving you at
that moment in time.
Why did you try to complete that goal?
Why did you try to go to that place?
Why did you try to acquire that object?
How about those of you to participate in competitive sports? Do you do
it because you enjoy it and does not matter if you win? Do you do it
because you want to better your best? Or do you do it because you want
to be better than the other man?
Would it still be interesting if your competition performed badly and
it was always easy for you to win?
Since I started my study on motivation, I’ve been consciously thinking
about what motivates me to do every single action throughout my daily
life - why do I wake up? Why do I eat? Why do I get on the train to
head to a meeting?
Some of these motivating factors can be linked to our human instincts
which keep us alive and avoid destruction - and then there is the other
intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that I’ll talk about when
I learn enough about the subject to share with you in the future.
Hopefully, by spending time to think about what motivates us, we can
learn how to better achieve our goals and start to make decisions
sooner than later which will shape the rest of our lives.
Retaliation as a motivator
It’s going to sound very childish of me but I’m going to be very open
and honest with you. Another one of my motivating drives is to
retaliate against my trolls. But rather than spend time to launch a
counterattack, I use that energy to aggressively continue to do my best
and accomplish goals. This is the most effective form of retaliation as
your trolls just *hate* to see you doing well.
I’ll give you an example of how I was motivated to retaliate without
launching a direct counterattack.
At London university, I studied Japanese and Korean language. In my
Korean class, there was a half Korean/Japanese classmate who was
native-ish Japanese but didn’t learn Korean as a child.
During class I spoke to him as a friend but learned from others how he
would suddenly bring up the subject of “Hey you know that Danny? He’s
such an idiot. Why does he need to learn Korean?” I was surprised to
learn how much he hated me!
One day in class, while I was struggling reading some Korean text, he
suddenly stood up in class and shouted (in Japanese) “Look! Why don’t
you just study more! You are keeping the whole class behind!”
The experience left me embarrassed and shaking with anger. It’s an
experience that I don’t purposely choose to remember but can recall it
like it was yesterday. I read somewhere that emotional experiences can
be easily recalled because when one is emotional, some sort of hormone
is released which makes it easier to remember experiences and fixes
that time and space in memory - this is the reason why most of your
emotional memories (sorrow, happiness, anger) can be replayed clearly.
I’m not an expert on the subject or terminology though.
I was depressed about the experience but the sadness and anger wasn’t
doing me any good. I decided to use that energy instead to focus on
improving my Korean just as the guy suggested.
I spent every ounce of my time learning new grammar patterns and
absorbing myself in the language just like I did when learning
Japanese. A few weeks after the experience, my effort was beginning to
The teacher would basically be going over grammar patterns from the
textbook that we done homework from but I made sure that I studied a
few chapters ahead and also made the use of other textbooks.
I would be asked to complete a sentence using some new grammar pattern
but I would always use new stuff which I studied on my own.
“Very good Danny! Chal Haesumnida! Everybody, repeat after Danny…” I
felt like a kid back in primary school being praised by the teacher for
being able to spell “d-o-l-p-h-i-n.”
That guys face would stiffen up and turn bright red as he clenched his
pen which dug deep into his notebook and I made sure that he didn’t
have the pleasure of me not looking at him. I guess those who laugh
last really do laugh the longest.
As for this photo - because I learned Japanese first and Korean is like
95% the same in terms of grammar, I actually used Korean books that
taught Japanese to reverse learn Korean.
When I travel abroad for conventions, I get to hook up with comrades in
that locale and its great to be able to spend time with them.
The friendship that I bond with my readers is something that I truly
value and is a motivating factor that drives me.
What Motivates Me
My latest project is developing 60cm tall doll robots - a challenge
because I have not done it before and don’t exactly have a large amount
of cash in the company to enable me to move faster than I would prefer
- but these are just examples of the challenges that I get to work with
which are helping me to grow and I’m learning so much while I join my
comrades as a hobby maker.
You can read the latest on this project in the How To Mass Produce Your
Own Products post.
Projects like these that I initiate ultimately have a goal that I need
to reach. Goals that I set for myself is just one of my sources of
motivation and I think I tend to perform better when the odds are bleak
and there are a bunch of naysayers for me to prove wrong.
After university, I got a job as an Engineer at Japan Airlines and then
moved to Japan managing Web Marketing for the scientific journal called
Nature. From there I proceeded to build my career at Amazon and
If my dad was off loading cash onto me and all I cared about was money
- there would be absolutely no reason for me to earn for myself and
build my own career.
This photo snapped a couple of years ago when vising the UK.
While working for my dad, I learned everything about the shoe design
and the manufacture process. I could design, cut patterns, stitch and
last Uppers too. I even made shoes for Lady Diana.
I also worked with fashion journals such as Elle and Vogue to get them
samples for their model shoots and attended many of the fashion shows.
While the work was interesting, I knew that this wasn’t something that
I wanted to do in life.
As I continued to learn more Japanese and discover more of the culture
through anime, manga, games and spending time with my Japanese friends,
I found a purpose in life at last which was to pursue my knowledge of
Japan - I knew that I couldn’t do that while working part time for my
dad. As I was living with my mum, I didn’t see my dad for a few years
after I left his studio.
You can read more about what happened during this time, how I learned
Japanese and how I made it to Japan in the How Discovering Japan
Changed My Life post.
Now I’m going to go over some of my past. Many people know that my
father is the shoe designer Jimmy Choo and automatically think that I
must be loaded with cash - but just because the people who are saying
this would easily accept or ask their parents for cash, it does not
mean everybody would.
My parents gave me everything I needed to earn for myself - a pair of
arms n legs and a reasonably healthy body - I do have asthma and spinal
hernia but not complaining as thats nothing compared to illnesses that
some others have to deal with.
The best thing that my dad has ever done for me was to let me achieve
and earn on my own - he didn’t want me to turn into a vegetable.
He did pay for the foster homes to look after me way back then and I
did get a few pounds now and then but I was pretty much on my own since
college when I started to live with mum - good thing college and
university was covered by a government grant back then. If I wanted
pocket money then I had to earn it and I did so initially by working
for dad part time.
This photo taken with the Konami team who use a web platform called
Mirai Gaia (which is used by this site too) that my team develops and
licenses. Konami pay me a license fee and I license and maintain the
platform for them - a very simple business transaction.
For some of my clients, we also maintain their social media networks
like Facebook and Twitter too. My clients are mostly in the anime
industry and include Production IG, King Records, Good Smile Company,
Bushiroad, Kadokawa, Ascii Media Works, Yuzu Soft and more.
I often get contacted by companies who offer me money to promote their
stuff. While this would be a normal business transaction or business
model for other companies, I’m only keen to share things which I
personally am fond of and I’m willing to do it for free - it simply
goes against my programming to be paid to share something that I have
absolutely no interest in.
Culture Japan & Japan Mode
I direct and produce a few TV shows which include Culture Japan and
Japan Mode with sponsors being companies such as Panasonic, Toyota,
Good Smile Company and Bushiroad.
Some folks say that I only produce these TV shows to make money but
suprise suprise, making TV shows *does not* make money!
While other TV shows have large production quotas, the shows that I
produce only have a shoestring budget. I don’t *make* money by
producing TV shows but I’ve learned how to *save* money by doing a lot
of the production myself instead of outsourcing. I learned how to use
camera and sound equipment and also how to use Final Cut Pro by simply
asking Google Sensei.
Products of sponsors do appear in the show from time to time but that
makes sense as they are paying for the production - its kinda difficult
to say to a sponsor - “Give me your money to pay for production of the
show but you won’t see any of your products or branding.”
I’ve been spreading Japanese culture through photos on this site for
many moons but there are some things which cannot be captured or
expressed in a photo and requires video to do so - the sound and
atmosphere at a Japanese festival for example. This is the reason why I
went into TV.
This is a Japanese learning set of flashcards called “Moekana” that we
have developed. We have sold tens of thousands of packs worldwide (also
became the 2nd most popular anime product on Amazon Japan) but I could
have sold much more if the characters were other popular titles like
K-ON! - and thats what I would have done if the purpose of the product
was to solely make money.
My readers are my motivation
During my early years as a child, times were tough for my parents who
both worked hard day n night. As they were both busy trying to make
ends meet, they decided to put me in various foster homes which I lived
in for most of my childhood. In some of the homes, I wasn’t treated
incredibly well but didn’t say anything to my parents as I knew they
were having their own financial and other problems. I ended up living
with a white, black and then with an Indian family for what seemed like
As luck would have it, one of the foster homes had guardians who would
take my clothes and consider it theirs while their kids would
constantly bully me - was easy to pick on the boy who had no parents. I
was made to feel as unwelcome as possible in their house.
I remember a particular evening where we came back to the house to
discover the front door open. We walked in to discover that the place
was a mess - burglars had got in. I was scared and started to cry. The
eldest child of my foster family shouted at me:-
“What are you crying for?! This isn’t even your house!”
I didn’t have much fun in school either. Was constantly bullied and
most of my memories were of being dragged through gravel, gang beaten
up, having my possessions burned, football constantly aimed at my face,
and having the big guy in the school playground say to me “If I smash
your head with this bat and kill you then I would go to jail. But it
would be worth it.” I remember having to ask the same person to punch
me so that I could be part of his posse.
Back then my only comrade was my imaginary friend Buck Rogers coming to
visit me with his trusty robot Twiggy.
I met my wife when I was working in that Japanese restaurant Benihana
and we’ve been together ever since. She has provided me with the
support throughout the years and I certainly would not be sane without
If I don’t do it for money, why don’t I do everything for free?
Interesting question! But unfortunately maybe not such an intelligent
question that I often get asked.
There are 3 construction workers who are building a playground. We ask
them what they are doing.
- Construction worker 1 says “I’m working for money.”
- Construction worker 2 says “I’m building a playground.”
- Construction worker 3 says “I’m making a place where children can
gather together and play.”
Construction worker 3 is being paid for his work but his perception on
what he is doing is more holistic.
Yes money is important to help us not only cover our basic human needs
but also to help us cover some of the other stuff that we want that
helps compliment our lives.
As mentioned above, money is not a motivating factor for me because if
it was I’d be continuing my corporate life printing money and not
caring about what goes on in the world - meaning that you would not be
reading this post and there would be no website.
Being focused on money would prevent me from having a holistic view to
achieve the big world changing goals that I have in mind - changes
which would hopefully stand the sands of time.
Money on the other hand only lasts until one dies - no matter how much
of it one has.
Once upon a time, I wrote that one of the immediate goals that I had
was to earn enough money so that I could buy what I wanted, eat what I
wanted and travel to where I wanted.
These days, I’m neither loaded nor strapped for cash but have come to a
stage to realize that what I want from life right now are things which
money can’t buy which is to achieve goals that I set and improve myself
through gaining experience from learnings and failures.
Thank you dad
I recently interviewed a candidate for a full time job. He spoke
excellent Japanese which he learnt on his own from playing games and
watching anime - but that was about all he could do.
He was going on about how he would improve the Pixiv website user
interface - and when I asked him how he could not answer.
He said that he was studying in Japan and was being funded by his
parents - his huge collection of anime stuff was also being funded by
I asked him why he wanted to stay in Japan after his studies - he said
so that he can attend anime events to buy stuff using money given to
him by his parents.
I gave him a hypothetical question - what would he do if he won 1
He said he would buy a house.
At this point, the interview was over. I paid for his meal, wished him
the best of luck and let him go.
I’m soooo glad my dad didn’t turn me into a veggie.
If my dad loaded cash onto me, I would not have lived in this dingy
place in London with my wife - we would have at least got a place where
we didn’t have to wash our clothes in the kitchen sink. Although I’m
not complaining as I’m fully aware of many folks out there who don’t
even have a roof over their head.
I also started to work part time at a Japanese restaurant called
Benihana. Not as one of the chefs who threw around knives which
occasionally hospitalized customers but as one of the waiters who ran
around the halls carrying dishes, washing dishes and occasionally
breaking dishes ^^;
I chose Benihana for a few reasons. One of the reasons was so that I
could speak Japanese with the many Japanese customers that Benihana had.
The other reason was so that I could save enough moolah for a ticket to
go to the land of the rising sun. I wanted to travel to Japan and
absorb as much of the culture as possible.
I remember my first paycheck - worked a tough schedule only to see a
couple of digits. But I knew not to expect too much at the beginning.
It took a year to save enough cash for a ticket to Japan with some
money leftover to spend. I would come back to the UK and continue to
work at Benihana to save enough money for a trip the following year.
Not working at my dad’s studio anymore meant no more income at all
which is generally a bad thing ^^;
I signed up to a talent agency called Richard Starnowski. Whenever
Asian looking folks were needed, I would be given a call and have been
in TV dramas, commercials and documentaries.
A memorable moment while on a shoot in the sticks for a documentary
about fireworks for the Discovery Channel was when a bi-plane flew by
the cast and camera crew at low speed and altitude. It was a clear blue
evening and the sight sent a tingle down my spine. Was an inspiring
sight that made me want to do something with this life.
This photo here is for a publication called “Let’s Oshaberi” which
teaches basic English phrases to Japanese families in the UK - I found
part time work with the publisher to translate English to Japanese.
Some folks think that I must have a bad relationship with my dad for
taking off like that - I was given a bashing labeling me as an
embarrassment to my father by becoming an Otaku ^^;
My dad thinks what I do is great and is also a big fan of Mirai
Suenaga. He always comes to the events that I participate in when I’m
in Malaysia too. This photo taken at Culture Japan Night Penang.
If I wanted to make sure that as many readers as possible buy
Mirai-chan merchandise, I would not distribute the high res photoshop
files for free to those who can’t afford our stuff so that they can
make their own T-shirts or posters.
If money was my main drive, instead of printing Mirai Suenaga T-shirts,
I would only print Hatsune Miku, Sword Art Online or other character
T-shirts as they would sell waaaaaay more than Mirai T-shirts - then I
would sell them at the same price as other companies because I know
that the market would tolerate 6,000円 for an anime T-shirt.
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