"10 Japanese Concepts for Self-Improvement, Balanced Life, and Building a Second Brain"


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 26, 2023

4 min read


"10 Japanese Concepts for Self-Improvement, Balanced Life, and Building a Second Brain"


Living in Japan for over 20 years, I have come across various Japanese concepts that promote self-improvement and a balanced life. These concepts have not only amazed me but also humbled me with their depth and wisdom. In this article, we will explore these concepts and how they can be applied to building a second brain, as exemplified by the success of Roam Research.

1. Omoiyari:

Omoiyari, the practice of showing compassion and empathy towards others, is a fundamental concept in Japanese culture. By incorporating omoiyari into our lives, we can develop a greater understanding and consideration for those around us. This concept can also be applied to building a second brain, where we can cultivate empathy towards our own thoughts and ideas.

2. Ikigai:

Ikigai, the state of well-being derived from engaging in enjoyable activities, is another concept that resonates deeply with the Japanese. By pursuing activities that bring us joy and fulfillment, we can lead a more balanced and purposeful life. Similarly, in building a second brain, we should focus on activities that genuinely interest us and contribute to our personal and professional growth.

3. Wabi-sabi:

Wabi-sabi is the concept that encourages us to embrace imperfections and accept the natural cycle of life. By understanding that nothing is permanent, we can learn to let go of attachments and find beauty in simplicity. Applying wabi-sabi to building a second brain means accepting that our thoughts and ideas will evolve and change over time, and that is perfectly okay.

4. Shu-Ha-Ri:

The Shu-Ha-Ri framework, which emphasizes learning, experimenting, and innovating, can be applied to building habits and adapting to new situations. In the context of building a second brain, we start by learning the basics and imitating the work of others (Shu). Then, we move on to experimenting and integrating our learning into our practice (Ha). Finally, we reach the stage of innovation and adaptability (Ri), where we can truly harness the power of our second brain.

5. Kaizen:

Kaizen, the concept of continuous improvement through small positive changes, is a fundamental principle in Japanese culture. By applying this concept to building a second brain, we can focus on making small, incremental improvements to our workflows, organization, and overall effectiveness. These small changes can lead to significant long-term benefits.

6. Mono no aware:

Mono no aware, the concept of having empathy towards the impermanence of things, reminds us to gracefully let go of attachments to transient things. In the context of building a second brain, this concept teaches us to adapt and evolve our systems and workflows as our needs change. It encourages us to be open to new ideas and embrace change.

7. Omotenashi:

Omotenashi, the concept of offering the best service without expecting a reward, is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. By embodying omotenashi in building a second brain, we prioritize creating a system that serves us and enhances our productivity, without being driven solely by external validation or recognition.

8. Ho-Ren-So:

Ho-Ren-So, the concept of reporting, informing, and consulting, forms the basis of effective communication and collaboration in Japanese organizations. In building a second brain, it is crucial to establish clear channels of communication with ourselves, ensuring that we are regularly reporting, informing, and consulting our own thoughts and ideas.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace imperfections: Practice wabi-sabi in your second brain journey by accepting that your system will not be perfect from the start. Embrace imperfections and focus on continuous improvement.
  • 2. Find joy and purpose: Incorporate ikigai into your second brain by pursuing activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. This will make the process more enjoyable and sustainable.
  • 3. Cultivate empathy: Practice omoiyari in building a second brain by developing empathy towards your own thoughts and ideas. Treat them with kindness and understanding, allowing room for growth and change.


Incorporating Japanese concepts for self-improvement and a balanced life can greatly enhance our journey in building a second brain. By embracing imperfections, finding joy and purpose, and cultivating empathy, we can create a system that serves us and enhances our productivity. Remember, building a second brain is not just about the tools and techniques, but also about the mindset and approach we bring to the process.

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