Extra 5 Years

May 4th, 2016

Hi Everyone,


We are living longer. There is no doubt about that. According to Marc Freedman’s article in the Wall Street Journal, a person turning 65 can expect to live an additional 19.3 years on average – almost 5 1/2 years longer than a person turning 65 in 1950 (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Health Statistics). That’s 5 years of bonus time that we get to enjoy.


Looking at it from a different perspective, that’s 5 more years that we have to find a way to fund. It is an individual challenge to find a way to pay for a longer retirement, but also a challenge for society as a whole as the majority of funding for the extra 5 years must come from income earned by the younger generations under the current “Pay-As-You-Go” social security system. More importantly, we must find something to do during these five extra years so that we will not fall into the peril of boredom and isolation.


Diane always tells me that I have to look inside to find what I’m looking for. Happiness comes from within. I argue that there is nothing at the core of myself. I am an onion – when you peel off the last piece of onion skin, you will find no pit in the middle. Each of the onion skins represents expectation, presumption, tradition, belief, inference, judgement, aspiration, and hope. I need all those skins to build who I am.

So, what to do in the bonus 5 years is the question. Marc Freedman suggests that it is not the last phase of our lives that we are gaining an extra 5 years, but the period before that. We are talking about this period of time in your life, AFTER you took your career as far as you could take it to the point that you have no more passion and curiosity left in the morning commute, and BEFORE you look squarely into the abyss of retirement. Marc says that it could be an emerging five-year period that did not exist before in the traditional sense of productive career leading straight into leisure based retirement. He says that this period between midlife and old age “can be a time of robust personal growth and development… the chance to do some of one’s most valuable work in a way that provides personal meaning and means something significant beyond ourselves.”


Citing Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Freedman goes further to say, “Those who fail to be generative in this period – who fail to invest what they learn from life in sustaining younger generations – are prone to stagnation and narcissism.” If a glimpse of boredom and isolation scared you, imagine life stuck in stagnation and narcissism a la Norma in the movie “Sunset Boulvard” (1950), played by Gloria Swanson, coming down the grand staircase and saying “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Marc continued, “In contrast, Lawrence-Lightfoot describes the dynamics of “looking back” and “giving forward to the next generation” in which we travel home to revisit the anchoring values we were socialized.” Working with the young generation can most commonly start from your grandchildren, but is that enough? Erick Erikson, a developmental psychologist, broadens the definition of “generativty” to include teaching, writing, innovation, artistic expression, activism, advocacy and service.


What I am feeling is that we need to use this time period to prepare for the last phase of our lives. Education and vocational training prepared us for a 30 year productive career and raising a loving family; however, we need some time for reflection, reevaluation, and possible redirection. I have this overwhelming suspicion that the value system that worked in the first 30 years may not work to bring happiness in the final chapter of our lives. A single minded pursuit of success may not be the answer to a meaningful and rewarding last chapter.


Realizing that neither 10 hours of meditation every day nor pure focus on spiritual revelation is practical in our modern everyday life, we need to explore a life style that draws on our skills and knowledge to inspire others, that holds some income potential to ease a longer retirement and make our life endeavor sustainable, and help us identify a meaning beyond our ego, which may provide a roadmap, at least directionally, to where we should be heading.


This extra 5 year period may be used as a chance to embark on new learning to chart the course for the next 30 years. Then, I will look for some way I can help. Something in line with my endeavor to significance. Something I can do to inspire the younger generation and be inspired by them. Not seeking success. Not a pursuit of happiness. Just looking for some way I can help. That’s what I would like to do in my extra 5 years.


Come to Ormsby Hill and plan your extra 5 years…


In pursuit of significance…


Tipping Point

March 21st, 2016

March 19, 2016

Hi Everyone,


I was awakened by a call from the CEO in London. He wanted me to go to Mexico that day. He said that the plane ticket for a 8:00am flight to Mexico City would be waiting for me at the airline counter. If I took a quick shower and drove to the airport, I would make the flight. So, go!


What could be so urgent and important for me to fly into a country operation that I had never put a foot in? I just could not imagine what could be going on there. Why me? Why today? When I got there, everyone seemed calm and there was no sign of panic. The Finance Director told me that everything was under control and it would be in order by tomorrow. “Mañana!”, he said.


The next day, I went into the office and asked if they had figured out what was going on. He said that they were almost there, but most certainly “Mañana”, he reassured. The day after that, my hope turned into surprise when I found out that things were not sorted out at all. That was when I figured out that they had absolutely no idea what was going on! I told the CEO what was really going on in Mexico and he had to make a decision. He said, “Shut down the operation immediately!”
When do you decide that a bucket half full is really a bucket half empty and the slow leak is about to become an uncontrollable burst? How do you catch a turning point?


In the stock market, the investor sentiment can shift very quickly. What was the darling of the growth stocks yesterday could start to fall precipitously the next day with no news to account for the movement. The analysts and traders blame sky high valuations and management guiding down the sales forecast even though they met both revenue and earnings estimates this quarter. What could cause a publicly traded company stock to fall 40% in one day? What pushed them over the tipping point? Sentiment shift, they say.

Malcom Gladwell wrote a book called “Tipping Point” in which he describes what appears to be an almost intuitive decision, is in fact the result of analyzing many data points some of which we are not even aware. Furthermore, some of the data points are not binary, meaning it is neither good or bad conclusively, and many are in the grey area. Though they cannot be counted, the data points in the grey area get picked up quietly by the pattern recognition process and alert us when “something does not feel right.” It is not a linear progression to a tipping point but often it is persistent and compelling hunch.


The irony is that, most of the time, we are actually trying to balance several priorities at the same time so that it won’t tip over. There is so much going on lately that you wonder if you are allocating your time and emotional energy correctly. No matter how much you think about the better decision at every split, you are nowhere near the answer. When things are so muddy, you just have to keep reaching outward until you find something that you can grab onto. The situation may be way beyond logical thinking and heavily layered with hopes and fear that distort what is really in the core. But once again, senses are your best friends.

In the case of the CEO who made that difficult decision, he had much input from different people in London and Mexico City who were closer to the situation, whose opinions were influenced by their own self-preservation and hope. He perhaps needed a completely objective opinion from someone who was outside of the operation to assure the integrity of an unbiased opinion. That was what he needed to tip the scale one way or the other. It had to be me.


Come to Ormsby Hill and find the balance before you tip the scale…


In pursuit of the best pattern recognition system…

Powder Day

March 21st, 2016

February 20, 2016

Hi Everyone,


POWDrrrrrrrr! That was all I could think of. It snowed seven inches overnight on top of a few inches the other day. I had to calm down and consciously drive slowly to avoid anything happening on the way to Stratton. I did not want to miss it for it has been a really bad winter and we did not have any snow to speak of all season. We had been waiting for a long time for this.


The number of Vermont license plates that I saw on the access road, the limited availability of spaces in the covered garage parking and the lines of people at the gondola already gave me a good clue as to what to expect today. I got on my first gondola ride to the summit and everyone got very chatty immediately. Unable to contain our excitement, we talked about yesterday’s conditions, last week, last month and that incredible powder day we caught last year. We don’t catch powder very often in Southern Vermont and you should consider yourself very lucky if you found a couple of inches of untouched snow on the side of the slopes. Boot-deep powder happens only once or twice a season.


As I turned back and looked down at the slope, I saw among millions of ski marks some unblemished white surface that no one had been on. “Wait, what time is it?”, I said not particularly looking for any answer. Someone said, “Just past 10 o’clock.” Wow, there were some virgin snow spots on the slope at 10 o’clock! This is amazing!

When we moved to Manchester, I bought my first season pass at Stratton. As the season began, I wanted to try the steepest and hardest line I could find and ride it well. I would attack the hills every time I went there. If I did not do well, I went back and did it again and again until I could ride the way I wanted. I wanted to beat the mountain. But the condition on the slope changes every day and sometimes I ride perfectly well and, the very next day, on the same exact trail, I am all over. The mood of the mountain changes every day and you cannot always insist on what you want to do.


In the second season at Stratton, I learned to respect the mountain. I wanted to get to know the mountain, all of it in different conditions, so that I could adjust my riding to get the best day possible under what was given to me. As it turned out, she was a lot more than I expected. That made me want to know the mountain even more. Good days, bad days, sunny days, windy days, and even impossible icy days. The more I learned about the different characters of the mountain, the more I appreciated the rich personality of the mountain. Appreciation then led me to respect the mountain in all her characters in the 20-week long season.

In the third season, I developed a relationship with the mountain. Sometimes, when I am standing at the summit at 3,875 feet elevation and looking at the cascading mountain range in the north, she is so beautiful and I feel so lucky to be there. Other times, she is so difficult and I feel why I’m wasting my time with her when I can be somewhere else. But at the end of the 20-week season, it is not about how many powder days you caught, or clocking how many days you actually went out this season. It is the good and bad and all of it that comprise the season that means something to you. It is the relationship that you developed with the mountain that makes you come back to find another day with her.


In the fourth season at Stratton, I was curious as to what would happen to our relationship. Will we have a new exciting break-through development or will it turn into a vaguely dissatisfied relationship with no fault on either part. The season started out really, really bad. No snow. The day time temperature was too high in December and January to make any man-made snow. The season was almost all written off as one of those “bad years.”


12 weeks into the season, I had not had one day that was better than last year. That meant that I did not have enough runs to be better than last year as a snowboarder. We were already in February and the season would be over by the second weekend in April. What have I accomplished this season? What did this season mean to me, and to our relationship? Then, it came. 11 inches of snow jarred my memories and I was back in the moment. Don’t be negative Nancy and stay with Positive Paul. Go snow!


Come to Ormsby Hill and see your relationship develop into the future…..


In pursuit of the best season in the mountains…


Coffee Farm

March 21st, 2016

February 6, 2016

Hi Everyone,


The concept was simple. We wanted to move to where we would like to live for the rest of our lives, and then find a way to live there. We decided to move to Hawaii and buy a coffee farm.


We had been moving from one side of the globe to the other because of my job. We moved wherever the opportunity existed as U.S. multinational corporations explored the far end of the emerging markets in search of growth. Initially I was sent from the Home Office to work at a foreign branch. Other times, I went to work in the foreign branch directly and the only time I spent in the Home Office was for the interviews. Sometimes, I felt like as if I were an offshore drill worker, except I was wearing a suit and tie.


When we moved to my new job, we typically had one week to find the best apartment we could find before we relocated to the new city. This time, as we thought about the next phase of our lives, we wanted to find a place where we would be comfortable for a long time and learn to live with the land, community and other like minded people who decided to live there. What we did was secondary to where we wanted to be, so we thought. We had some money saved up and the kids’ college tuitions were already paid for. Surely we could find something to do in Hawaii to live a modest life. We imagined how wonderful life will be if we could live on the most beautiful island.


It was 2004 and the Hawaii real estate market was super hot. There was a huge inflow of retirees from California to Hawaii, who suddenly found a small fortune selling their California home, now moving to Hawaii to find a new home in paradise. If they did not like the first island that they happened to descend upon, move to the next island in a couple of years as you made a handsome profit on the first Hawaiian house in the meanwhile. Along with the California retirees, there was so much money moving to Hawaii that it pushed up the real estate market ever higher. People were buying new condominiums off the blue print and selling them for a profit before the building was completed. Highly speculative markets brought even more speculative people. It was evident that Oahu and Maui markets were too hot for my taste. The Big Island of Hawaii seemed to be the last frontier where one could buy a piece of land at a reasonable price.


The idea of buying a coffee farm in Hawaii seemed crazy, but there was some alluring feel to living off the land you owned. Diane had been an avid gardener and we thought that it could not be that hard to grow coffee in Hawaii. You always have the sun. Figure out where water will come from and anything will grow. We found out that the Kona region of the Big Island of Hawaii was where people grow the famous Kona coffee. This small area of the island always had showers as the moisture picked up by the convectional air flow from the ocean was squeezed out by the steep hills and dumped rain drops on the hill side. Good coffee land is very limited on the island, which put a cap on the annual production of coffee beans. With limited production, demand for Kona coffee outpaced the supply and it sold out every year. If you could grow, they would buy.


This was also the time when the internet was becoming a real commerce platform and people were starting to use Ebay for business. We thought that we could grow coffee, process them, roast them and sell them directly to the end consumers around the world on the internet. Coffee cherry harvest was going for $1.15 per pound, but the roasted beans were being sold to the tourists for $27 per pound. In a super market in Tokyo, Kona coffee was going for as high as $40 per pound. The closer to the end consumers, the more value was added. Similar to Chateau for wine, if you control growing coffee, processing, roasting and all the way to bagging to maintain a certain standard, it is called “Estate Coffee”, sound of which had tone of success worthy of pursuit. Surely this is something we wanted to do.


You can dream about it as much as you want, but there was limited amount of information on the internet about how to become a coffee farmer. So, we decided to move to Hawaii first. Why not? Nothing like seeing, hearing and smelling the actual thing. We spent a couple of weeks doing what the vacationers do, and then started looking for a coffee farm to buy.


We went to look at several coffee farms. Some farms were producing a Champion Coffee, the designation you earned by winning an annual cupping contest. Some were organic, meaning some sort of co-habitation arrangement with ducks and donkeys. Others were abandoned coffee farms that looked more like the Amazon jungle than a farm. We looked at some untouched land and entertained the idea of tilling the soil and planting new coffee plants, i.e. a 3-year plan. Some progressive coffee farmers were growing new hybrid coffee seedlings which had good resistance to certain natural diseases and testing grafting techniques to combine the strength of two spices. It looked like there were lots of interesting things going on and many people pushing the boundaries. If you can imagine, you can make it happen.


What happened after that? Well, we’ll tell you the rest of the story the next time you are at the inn.


Don’t move to an island if you have never been there… Come to Ormsby Hill instead…


In pursuit of the best island to live…


Act of Small Defiance

March 21st, 2016


January 3, 2016
Hi Everyone,
We were taking a company car to one of our sales offices in Tokyo. It was raining and not an overly upbeat day to give a pep talk to the team of sales staff who were all eagerly waiting to hear what the leadership team had to say. I was going there just to show my support to the newly arrived Country Manager and I did not have any speech to deliver. So I was just gazing outside of the car window, getting lost in thoughts.
The car stopped for a red light at one of the traffic lights. I saw a group of young junior high school children in uniform crossing the street. It was raining a fair amount and everyone had his/her umbrella out. What struck me was that none of the children opened their umbrellas even though every one of them had an umbrella in his/her hand. They were just talking, laughing and having a good time crossing the street. It was so much fun living in the moment that opening the umbrella was the last thing in their mind. Do you remember those moments when an act of small defiance was fun and natural, and you felt free?

At a certain point in your life, you need to de-clutter things you accumulated along the way. I don’t even remember why I bought some of the things I have, but it looked like a nice thing to get at the time. It reminds of a cheap souvenir from one of my trips to Southeast Asia. Primitive, crafty, and woody. A lack of smooth lines indicated that it was made by hands… just skilled enough, but never overly trained to do more than necessary. A cool object in your first apartment perhaps, but sitting in your nice suburban living room, it looks ridiculous. It was never the level of quality that you call “art” or “collectible.” It does not even make a good conversational piece any more. It detracts from who you are trying to be at age 50.
At a certain point in your life, all those stuff you accumulated become an extra load on your shoulder. Material stuff, psychological stuff, memories, regrets and unfilled dreams. Some of these unmet expectations are not even yours. Is it not the time to stop carrying your mother’s expectations? With all that stuff around you, no wonder you feel heavy. Dead weight feels heavier, you know. If all these things have the purpose for them, they never feel heavy. Find the purpose or shed the stuff that’s making you heavier. The lighter you are, the freer you feel.

At a certain point in your life, you need to re-evaluate some of the rules you live by. Roll up the shirt sleeves six and half times. Never wear brown shoes for business. Never re-cork the wine bottle once opened. Don’t put wasabi in the soy source tray because sushi already has wasabi, etc. etc. I always thought that I don’t need to wear a good watch because when I was 12 years old, I broke a brand new watch and my mother said that a person who cannot take care of a good watch does not deserve one. After that, the only watch I ever wore was an indestructible Casio G-Shock.
40 years later, a friend of mine asked me why I did not fix it. Wow, why didn’t I? So, I decided to confront my mother and asked why she did not help me fix the watch. She said that she had no memory of the incident at all. Then it dawned on me that the reason why she didn’t remember was that I never told her. I never told her that I broke my watch. I must have imagined that, if I told her, she would have said that I do not deserve a good watch. Re-evaluate your rules, real or imagined. It’s okay to re-cork your wine bottle because you are going to finish it tomorrow.

It feels good to be free, you see. Free from all those stuff you accumulated and cluttering your life. Free from all those expectations you put on yourself, real or imagined. Free from the old rules that define and confine who you are. Sometimes I wonder how close I am to the person I have spent 59 years trying to be. I wonder whether my current endeavor is on track with my final goal or I should cut my losses and start looking for something else. Then, I hear this voice, whispering to my ears. Why are you trying to be someone you are not? I like who you have become already. Let life freely unfold and you’ll be surprised that there are more good moments than bad. It sounded like Diane…

Come to Ormsby Hill and feel the exhilaration to travel light and unencumbered…
In pursuit of a small defiance…

Summer Waves

November 9th, 2015

Hi Everyone,


To me, summer in Vermont is like a calm peaceful ocean on a cloudless sunny day. Perfectly nice day for most people, but a disappointing and somewhat sad day for the surfers who are waiting for waves. There is nothing you can do if there are no waves to ride.


There is this belief that calm contentment brings happiness. That theme is repeated by many different religions. The core of this idea seems to be that Self already has everything it needs to be happy in the present moment. Uneasiness, or discontentment comes from the self consciousness or ego being detached from Self and start thinking about the past or future (for example, should have been, could have been thoughts). This creates swirls of self-conversation that disturbs the naturally calm and quiet state of mind. If we could get back to our original Self for a few minutes, we will be in touch with our inner happiness again, so they say.


I, on the other hand, believe that some level of excitement always accompanies my happiness. Whether I’m having the best riding day at Stratton or watching our 2 year old grandson reading a book for the first time, the excitement seems to underscore the feeling of happiness. I even think that the elevated heart rate and happiness necessarily go together. I don’t have to get my heart rate going to induce the state of happiness but happiness in a sedated state does not appeal to me. The notion of calm contentment bringing happiness seems contradictory.
As it turned out, there are two distinct types of happiness – one associated with peacefulness and one associated with being excited.


Professor Cassie Mogliner of the University of Pennsylvania, who carried out the research on how the meaning of happiness changes over the course of one’s lifetime, found that, for young people, 60 percent of happiness is about excitement. In contrast, older people associate 80 percent of happiness with contentment. The difference appears to come from the varying degrees of emphasis placed upon the future compared to the present.


This opens up a theoretical possibility that if you consciously put a larger emphasis on the future, create the reasons to get excited about it, you then feel younger and the excitement brings happiness. So, how do you create a reason to get excited about the future? If you have a fairly predictable future, embedded in the routines, within a known environment, it would be difficult to expect anything new happening. So, begin a new journey, open yourself to new experiences and a bit of adventure, you will then have something to look forward to and be excited about what tomorrow will bring. Isn’t that why you travel?

Another way to create a reason to get excited about the future is to embark on new learning. Not just learning in the sense of reading and gaining conceptual understanding of things, but ideally it involves both mental and physical learning. The physical aspect of learning will slow down the process of getting bored and carry you through the repetition, only after which comes the next level of mastery. Learning is fun as long as you are getting better. Aspiration and anticipation of improvement in the manageable time frame will bring your attention to the future and you will be excited about the progress of learning.


Now which type of happiness do you pursue? Calm contentment or being excited about the future yet to unfold? You know which one I’m after.


Come to Ormsby Hill and create the reason to get excited about the future…


In pursuit of the best future…

The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255


November 9th, 2015

Hi Everyone,


How do you reinvent yourself? By now, you probably know what you like about yourself and what you don’t. When was the last time you had a significant and noticeable upgrade to those things you liked about yourself so that this version of “you” is something you will be happy with for a couple of years? Is it time to reinvent myself? That’s what I used to ask myself.


Moving from Tokyo to Connecticut, and back to Tokyo, and to Pennsylvania, and then to Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and back to Connecticut again, I had plenty of chance to reinvent myself. The problem was that I kept reinventing the same exact “me.” Not even a slightly improved version of me. Just me.


According to Dr. Joe Dispenza, the author of “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”, you think what you feel most of the time. Your environment is the biggest influencer of what’s in your mind. You are cold, you are hot, you are hungry and you are all stressed out. Animals don’t dwell on the thoughts even after an attack by a tiger, but humans tend to think it over and over again. Pretty soon, you start to feel what you think rather than thinking what you feel (i.e. Have you felt sick on Monday morning?) When this cycle of thinking what you feel and feeling what you think becomes memorized in your body, you don’t even need to think consciously any more and the body begins to respond automatically. Dr. Joe Dispenza calls this state of being “Thinking equal to environment” and, when you are in this loop, nothing new can be created from it.


The scientists have discovered that most of our decisions, actions, emotions and behavior depend upon the 95% of brain activity that is beyond our conscious awareness. Our body-mind is so highly capable of living our lives on auto-pilot that you don’t need to think consciously to do 95% of what you do every day. That’s pretty amazing. Sometimes you feel your life is becoming slightly repetitive and uneventful, but that’s because your body-mind is doing a good job.
Moreover, your subconscious mind, by design, is operating without checking with your conscious mind so you don’t even know why you are acting the way you are and feeling what you are feeling sometimes. If you are feeling blue today, it is very hard to get out of it by your conscious effort because your subconscious mind has already decided that it’s going to be a bad day independent of what you are thinking consciously. This is one of the reasons why it is so hard to change. The conscious mind may be in the present (for example, I want to lose weight.) but the subconscious body-mind is in the past, faithfully and automatically reconstructing the old “me” from the memorized emotions (Ice cream makes me happy!).


I made a conscious decision to come to Vermont so that I can spend six months snowboarding. There is nothing here to automatically reconstruct “me” from the memorized experiences and there are no expectations of what I should be. I put myself in a survival mode so that whatever “me” I create is wholly a consequence of my conscious decisions. I was curious what kind of “me” I will create this time.


Did I succeed in reinventing a better version of “me” in Vermont? Is it a happier “me”? Well, I really don’t know if I am better or happier, but I think I am a truer me than when I was a Corporate “me” where I felt I was the only Zebra among Thoroughbreds.


I just wanted to be “me” but I did not know who I was supposed to be, so I ended up with a bunch of well groomed Thoroughbreds. It was fun running at high speed with a group of fast horses, so I kept running faster and faster. Sometimes I ran faster than most of them on this side of the field, but no one wanted to bet on me on the race track. The thing was that I quietly enjoyed being the dark horse… with a stripe.


By the way, why do I want to reinvent myself? It’s not perfect, but I kind of like “me” and it does not need a major overhaul. I carefully steer clear of over-expectations to avoid any disappointment and try to find many small happiness in my every day life. Why do I need to change what I have?


Because you are so much more capable of being better. Because you can be more than what you are today. So, why not try? You don’t need to wait till you have some traumatic experience to change your life. But if you are not quite ready to totally rebuild yourself from scratch, perhaps what you need is to “renew” yourself, not reinvent, so that you erase some of those memorized negative emotions and create more positive ones. Then, you look forward to what is to come in your life and be excited about what you are creating. I like when you talk so passionately about things you like.


Come to Ormsby Hill and renew some of your memorized emotions…


In pursuit of a better “me”…


The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255

November 9th, 2015

Hi Everyone,


When I was eight years old, all proper middle class Japanese boys my age had to go to a few after-school activities. If I had a choice, I would have rather played baseball until it was dark and I could not see the ball any more, but the game usually came to an end when one of us had to leave because it was time to go to abacus school.


An abacus is an exercise in visualization of mathematics. The top bead represents 5 units and the bottom four beads represent one each. You add/subtract left to right (as opposed to right to left as you would if you are adding numbers with pencil and paper) just as the numbers are being called. “Four hundred..”, you add four beads to the third digit column, “Fifty..”, you add five beads to the second digit column, “and Two”, you add two beads in the first digit column. After a few years of abacus schooling, children were adding and subtracting a series of 3 digit numbers by mentally visualizing the finger movement and bead placement on the abacus. I saw some older kids practice this mental abacus along side a bunch of us who were flicking the beads furiously to keep up with the numbers being called out. I could not guess how many hours of practice it took to get to that level, but the message was clear that, with discipline and repetition, any child could learn to use an abacus at a level that was very impressive.


Sunday morning calligraphy school was meant to teach children discipline, concentration and subtlety of perfection and nuance. Before we could write anything with our horse hair brush, we had to make black sumi ink by grinding an inkstick against an inkstone with a little bit of water. You must sit on the tatami floor with your back straight and your legs neatly folded under your body. The proper posture was essential in your effort to concentrate and relax at the same time. The harder the inkstick, the richer the blackness it produced; however, it took longer to make sumi ink with a hard inkstick. The time you spent on making ink was rewarded by the quality of ink you produced. This was a lesson in patience and we learned that nothing beautiful can be created with a hasty mind.


You wrote on a super thin paper and you only had one chance to do your stroke. You could not go back and correct your stroke as it would be obvious if you went over the same stroke twice. One chance. One chance only. You committed yourself and moved your hand with precise direction and controlled velocity to express the intensity of the stroke. If you messed up, which you did often, you started over again from the beginning. Finally your calligraphy was done and you brought it to the teacher at the front of the room. She looked at it and corrected your stroke by going over it with orange ink, demonstrating visually what the perfect character brush stroke would look like. Then, she drew circles. Three circles for a good job done, two circles for an OK job, and one circle for “Try harder.” You went back to your seat and tried again until you got three circles. If the correctness was the goal, the practice would get you there. If you wanted to cultivate a little bit of individualism, style, and artistic expression of your own, there was absolutely no room for that on Sunday morning. Perhaps mothers sent their children to calligraphy school, not to make us an artist, but to teach discipline and focus.


Japanese mothers in the 1960’s were starting to explore cultural training for their children. In addition to almost obligatory math and calligraphy, music lessons were a popular choice at that time. I had my piano teacher come to our house once a week for a one hour of lesson. He gave me a new sheet of music to practice and I was supposed to practice a couple of hours every day, which I of course didn’t. He would come to check on my progress, or more like lack of progress, and critique my playing. He would write down the date we went over a certain piece on the upper right hand side of the music sheet. The problem with this system was that the dates that were supposed to show progress were stuck on one sheet as I never practiced. I wanted to play baseball, you know. Without practice, I never became good enough to progress to the next piece of music. Pretty soon, my sheet of music was looking like a calendar, filled with dates of shame. One week, I was fishing for a crayfish in the pond and did not appreciate the thought of seeing my piano teacher. So I decided to not go home. 2 hours after the piano lesson time, I finally went home only to find out that he was still there as my mother made him wait! Another date of shame was on the music sheet.


By age 10, I went to another after-school school that taught mathematics. After going through mathematical concept and theory in the class, the teacher gave us a test at the end of each class. Usually 100 three digit additions, subtractions, multiplication and divisions. Fairly straight forward stuff. The only caveat was that as soon as you finished the test, you could go home if you got everything correct. We would go through the test as fast as we could and bring the answer sheet to the teacher. Being the first one was always accompanied by a little bit of glory. He checked your answers and told us how many wrong answers we had without telling us exactly which ones were wrong. You went back to your seat and started checking every single one of 100 answers until you found the wrong answers by yourself. The ironic fact of life was that you tended to use the same short-cuts and mis-process that caused the wrong answers to begin with, which made finding your wrong answers very difficult. You would go over 100 questions over and over again, but just couldn’t find the wrong answers. Other kids were leaving the class and you were still stuck with this frustrating test, which made you even more careless. Sometimes doing it the right way the first time was the fastest way to get out of the class room, you learned.


Our children never went to abacus school. They never practiced calligraphy on Sunday morning. They had no piano teacher waiting for them at our house. They did not have a special after-school math class. Yet, they learned discipline, focus, patience, and subtlety of perfection and nuance just fine. I really wonder if all that shame of not achieving your talent and dates of embarrassment were necessary to learn whatever I learned. I could have just played a PlayStation game to learn the reward of repetitive practice.


Skip the piano lesson, if you want, and come to Ormsby Hill…


In pursuit of Life’s best lessons…


The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255

Lucio’s Plan

July 11th, 2015

Hi Everyone,

“So, Lucio. Do you have a contingency plan?”, asked Gregg.

“What do you mean by a contingency plan?”

“Pirates on the high seas. What would you do if you encounter pirates on the Indian Ocean?”

“I will surrender $1,000 to make them go away. They can take my radar and I would not replace it either. They don’t bother small sailing boats because there isn’t anything to steal, but if I do come across them, I’ll give them what they want. If they shoot a hole in the hull, it will cost me more to repair it.”

[What if they shoot a hole in your chest?], I thought about it silently, but there was no sense in asking him that question. He is risking something far greater than a chance encounter with pirates. What if you discover a leak in your water tank half way across the Indian Ocean? What if you get washed away by a huge wave and all your food spoil? What if the sail breaks in a monstrous storm in the middle of the night? What if you sail into one of those mystery zones where all your navigational equipment becomes totally useless? What if you get so sick and could not even get up from bed? What if you get lonely and desperate and start thinking about your daughter? What if you discovered one day, that you did not have passion for this voyage any more? What if you find yourself wanting to quit? What if… What if…

Lucio is getting ready to sail away from Manila to Europe, a six-week journey…. with a good wind. I cannot help but to be envious. Another soul is seeking what is unexpected and un-discoverable in an ordinary life. He says that he is tired of working for money and he will never work for something he doesn’t like. What happened to this man? Is he another man who is suffering from a premature mid-life crisis?

This man too has befallen to life’s pitfall. Why is it that all men who have seemingly achieved the state of an “ordinary” happy life with a caring wife and loving children get a hollow feeling inside? A dog or two would make this suburban life a picture prefect happy family. Why can’t he be happy? Why can’t he be satisfied with the life that most of us work all our lives to get to? Why is it that these men get an overwhelming urge to leave everything behind to seek if there is something else out there?

Life could not be a happy-end at age 36. It is like a 3 year old knocking everything down, after he so carefully stacked wood blocks to build a tower. Something tells us that there is more beyond. In order to find that out, we must leave the comfort of home and search for what lies ahead – whatever that may be. Will we come back? Will we ever be satisfied with what awaits us? Will we ever find what we are looking for?

“I don’t know what I would do once I get there”, says Lucio without defining where “there” is.

“Last time, I sailed across from Hong Kong to Manila in four days and I could not wait to get off the sailboat. After that, I did not want to see the water for a long time.”

[ Silence ]

“What if, after eight weeks of sailing, you get off the boat and suddenly you know that the only thing you wanted to do is to go back to the ocean. Then you know you are in trouble. What would you do if you find something that you were not supposed to find….”

Lucio laughed. We did not know what to do but to smile as we did not really understand what he meant.

“So, do you have radar?”

“Yup. I have two GPS systems too.”

“What happens if two GPS had different reading? Which one do you trust? You need three so that two readings confirm which one is right.”

“Well, either it works or it doesn’t. You don’t usually get different readings. Besides I’ll be sailing along the land most of the time. It is only the Indian Ocean that I have to cross and it’ll probably take two weeks.”

“What are you going to do for two weeks on the open seas where there is nothing but water and the sun? You could not possibly be looking at the water all that time.”

“Well, actually we will be pretty busy with three guys taking turns. I have an autopilot, but somebody has to watch out just in case something suddenly appears on its course. And I suppose I’ll read a lot.”

“I got an idea. Why don’t each of you give me a book to read.”

That sounds like a wonderful idea. I can send you a book or two that I recommend. I know just the perfect ones to read on a two week of meditative journey. I’ll definitely do that, Lucio.

Endless questions flow out to this brave man. We are all excited about his humble attempt to do what is incalculable. We are all happy that Lucio gets to do what all of us dream of doing, but never have guts to do it. We are all cheering for him.

“Lucio, what would you do if, after three weeks on the high seas with no signs of land, you sighted a small island with three gorgeous women. They’ve never seen an Italian man and fall in love with you instantly. Your ship was wrecked and the only thing you could salvage was your portable phone. What would you do?”

Lucio thinks a second and says, “You gotta take a risk some time!”
Don’t take unimaginable risks… Come to Ormsby Hill instead.
In pursuit of the best Risk/Return scenario…


Snow Rider

May 12th, 2015



Hi Everyone,


Early season at Stratton Mountain, I caught up with a Ski School instructor on the chair lift to the summit. We’ve already had one snow storm in November, which dumped 13 inches of snow on the mountains, so the slopes looked ready. Prior to that, the day time temperature was cold enough that they were running the snow guns all day and all night to prepare for the 2014/2015 season opening day.


Unfortunately for me, when nature decides to snow that much, there is too much to do around the inn that prohibits me from entertaining the idea of catching the fresh powder. I shovel snow around the front entrance, back door, the guest room entrance and deck. I take snow off the front entry roof so that icicles will not grow there. I try to rake some snow off the hedges so that they will not be crushed by the weight of frozen snow. If there are any icy spots on the parking lot, I will spread some ice melt. It is a full day of work to dig out of a big snow day.


By the time I got to Stratton on Monday, a couple of 40s warm days have melted most of the snow. By Thursday, the temperature was down to the low 20s again; however, this deadly combination of temperature fluctuations made the trail surface extremely hard and icy. Not too many people come out in such conditions, so the top half of the mountain never got enough traffic to have the shave-offs that provided any hope of grip.
I went down carefully with ample amount of cushion left in my knees to react to suddenly slipping edges. Low temperature and icy surfaces meant that there was a very little friction between the board and hard snow. Controlling my speed and carefully measuring the amount of unexpected movements underneath my board, I tried to remain in control over such an unforgiving condition. It is no time to learn new skills as the consequence of anything other than perfect execution is a hard fall, usually accompanied by pain.

So, when I find myself riding the chair lift with a Ski School instructor, I wanted to ask if there are any tips for skiing in conditions like this . After a casual exchange of “Hi”s and “How are you”s, I started talking about how bad the conditions are. He told me that he has been a ski instructor for thirty some years. He used to work at Jay Peak near the Canadian border, but moved to Stratton because he wanted to get a new certification. There is a panel of judges who decide you are worthy of a certain level of certification and there are seven such judges in the Stratton area, but there are none up there. So he moved down to Stratton so that he can find out what’s in the minds of these judges and become familiar with the way they think of skiing.


I never knew such a level of ski certification existed. Apparently, at that level of skiing mastery, it is not about technical skills and much more comes into play. It reminded me of the documentary movie about the Master Sommlier examination. There are now 135 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. There are 211 Master Sommeliers worldwide since the first successful Master Sommelier examination was held in the United Kingdom by the Court of Master Sommelier in 1969. This movie gives a glimpse of what it takes to pass the nearly impossible Master Sommelier examination. Check out the movie “Somm” at the NETFLIX documentary section.


Back to snowboarding… As I practice the familiar lines on the Black Diamond trails every week, I figured out that the difference between a good run and not so good run is purely your attitude. You have the skills and technique to negotiate the slope. The steepness of incline is such that the harder you try to control, the more chances you have of losing control. When the unexpected surprises you, your attitude changes. Fear takes over, doubt seeps in and confidence dwindles. Then, it’s over. Instead, you should trust your ability and let your body spontaneously react to whatever is happening underneath. Seek less control and minimize resistance. After all, it is a controlled fall. You are falling undeniably, while balancing to stay up. Respect what gravity is doing to you, and don’t just insist on what you are doing to it.



So when I met the ski instructor of 30 some years, who moved to Stratton to prepare for the next level of certification, who is skiing in these impossible conditions, I wanted to ask what revelation he had on skiing. He told me about his friend. They grew up together and they were in the same development program when they were teenagers. His friend went onto competitive skiing and achieved much success. He is in his mid 50s now and they still see each other once or twice a year. “You know what…”, he says. “Every time I see him, he starts out by saying, “I am working on a new move…”


Come to Ormsby Hill and peek into the minds of Masters…


In pursuit of the best snowboarding move…


The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255