What wonderful words.

I have a number of pages in my journal where I’ve jotted down new words I’ve learnt. Some because I adore their meaning or how they make me feel, others because I’ve treasured that people have taken the time to explain the word to me with passion, and some because I want to introduce a particular concept or practice to my life.

“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.” — Ingrid Bengis

You probably know and use these words, but I’m sharing these to see how they make you feel, or if you’re adopting a practice and have stories to share, or maybe to introduce something new to your world.


Fika is a Swedish word that roughly translates to ‘a coffee/cake break with friends’. But it’s more than that, it’s a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life, and it can’t be experienced at your desk alone. Fika is a ritual and a state of mind — its a moment to refresh the brain and strengthen relationships. You can read more about Fika, or visit some of ‘London’s best places for Fika’.

Shuhari is a Japanese word, originating from the world of martial arts, which describes the mastery of a skill or talent. Shuhari roughly translates to “to keep, to fall, to break away”. The idea is that a person passes through three stages of gaining knowledge, and that it takes around 90 days to master something. Days 0–30 are about understanding and learning, days 30–60 are when you start to practice, and days 60–90 are when you become a master in a specific area.

“I like good strong words that mean something.” — Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement — implementing small incremental steps that have a big impact on reaching your goals. Change (Kai) for the good (Zen). I’ve read ‘The Spirit of Kaizen’ and quite enjoyed it — let me know if you’d like to borrow my copy. Particular points from the book that stood out for me are:

  • Our brains are designed to respond to fear by shutting down access to the mental resources we need to create change. So start with ideas so small that they can feel ridiculous!
  • Don’t get stressed, get curious. Curiosity doesn’t judge or panic. Curiosity is the ability to engage your interest in whatever is happening at the moment, no matter is the moment is large/small or pleasant/painful.
  • In times of distress that the brain craves action — however small that action might be.
  • Connect the work of an employee to benefit the end user. Connect daily acts to the larger good.
  • Be transparent, not perfect

“Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” — Carol Burnett


Yugen is a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe. It’s an awareness of the Universe that triggers emotional responses too deep or powerful for words.

‘Yugen is a Japanese word made up of two characters, one of which means mysterious and the other means profound/obscure. Yugen is to watch the sun go down behind a hill covered in flowers.. ..it is to watch wild geese seen and lost in the clouds.. ..it is to wonder on and on into a great forest without thought of return. What is the connection to these images? You can feel it, even if you can’t put a word on it.’ — Alan Watts.

Alan Watts — one of my heroes and inspirations.

Nemawashi is another Japanese word which literally translates to ‘going around the roots’ (ne = roots; mawasu = go around). ‘Nemawashi’ is kind of a semi-formal consensus building technique, wherein the person who has a new proposal informally talks to the key stakeholders and decision makers and gathers support and feedback beforehand, much before everybody actually goes into a formal meeting to discuss the proposal. These “informal” discussions can be held in smoking rooms, golf sessions, lunch, drink parties (nomikais), even standing in the corridor, waiting for the elevator. People expect process, and if a proposal is taken into a meeting that they weren’t made aware of, they may feel ignored and reject the proposal on that reason alone.

Nemawashi is one of the 12 pillars of the Toyota Production System — you can read more about their fascinating approach here.

“I believe in the magic and authority of words.” — René Char

  • Tartle is the Scottish word for the hesitation or panic that overcomes you when you go to introduce someone but can’t remember their name.
  • Mamihlapinatapei is the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego and it defines “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start”
  • Hiraeth is the Welsh word of homesickness for a home that you can’t return to, or never was.
  • Novaturient is an adjective that describes a moment where you desire or seek powerful change in your life, behaviour or a certain situation.
  • Cafune is the Brazilian Portuguese word to ‘tenderly run your fingers through your lover’s hair’
  • Wabi-sabi is the Japanese word to find beauty in life’s imperfections.
  • Forelsket is the Norweigan word for ‘the euphoria you experience as you begin to fall in love.’
  • Duende is a Spanish word that describes how an artistic performance can make you feel something.

❤ ❤ ❤

Design, leadership, open culture, data, ethics, justice. These are my personal thoughts on work.

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