Limiting Beliefs + Monthly Income Report + Furoku Membership Sign-up


The husband tells me that I have a Teflon shield of hope and optimism. He says that this is both my greatest strength and my Achilles’ heel. “You’re too optimistic,” he advises, “you need to be more realistic.”

What does that mean, being “realistic”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. In many ways, it seems to me to be another word for limiting beliefs. Or a way to make sure you hold your hopes in check to avoid disappointment. To remain caged, as it were.


Over the weekend, I had two presentations for Little Kunoichi. I mentioned the one about the bookstore, but I also had another one the day before at K’s school. The contrast between the two presentations was striking.

Presentation 1 at K’s school: 100+ kids, a slew of teachers, riotous Q & A with endless questions from the audience, a better-than-expected sales, and many lovely words of encouragement up on offer.

Presentation 2 at the bookstore: 2 kids and 2 moms. 7 people, counting the awesome employee Jessie, K and her friend, who sat in the audience to make the space look less empty. Actually, it was really only 1 child and his mom that showed up for the reading, and the other mother-daughter pair was roped in because they happened to be in the store at the time. I messed up reading my own book (accidentally skipped some pages), no questions were asked, and I led a disastrous origami demonstration. One book sold.

I loved both.

I learned a lot from the presentations (never ask 100 kids to look for a hidden bunny in the middle of a reading, and make sure to know how to make the origami project before teaching it). In both cases, I couldn’t believe I was physically sharing a book that was just a blip of an idea two years ago. I told the gaggle of kids during presentation #1, “I’ve wanted to write and illustrate books since I was your age. It took a long time for it to happen, but it did.” Small faces nodded up at me in what felt like solidarity. I told the one kid who was old enough to speak at the bookstore, “Thanks for coming to the reading!” He stared at me for a moment and said, “I’m hungry.”


Back to being realistic. The odds of “making it” as a book author and/or illustrator are stacked against me. My editor for book #2 told me that the vast majority of authors have day jobs, and I don’t have the courage to research how many books are actually sold on average despite the backing of an established publisher. If I looked at the numbers, I would toss my current manuscript out the window and would never have proceeded with Little Kunoichi. I would go find myself a nice office job in downtown Seattle with a 401K plan and call it a day.

Then I think: If I were realistic, I wouldn’t have gotten married. What would be the point when half of marriages dissolve?

If my mother had been realistic, she wouldn’t have left Japan to go to Germany when she was nineteen — she didn’t speak a lick of Deutsch. Which led her to go to NY, where she met my father. If she hadn’t been so unrealistic, I would not exist. That would make me sad, even though I wouldn’t exist to be sad.

If all people upheld realistic as the universal measure, our human history would be as bland and as uninspired as overcooked rice porridge (something my mother would give me to soothe stomach aches). No inventions. No scientific discoveries. No art or music or literature. No internet. I mean, can you imagine how unrealistic the internet must have sounded fifty years ago? I’m obviously not of the same caliber as the great artists and discoverers, but I’d like to lean more in that direction.

I don’t mind trying things that may not work out. Because how can you know without trying? And even if they don’t work out, I’m annoyingly good at finding lessons in adverse situations. It’s a curse and a gift (it’s a curse because people want me to stop making everything a teaching moment – this reminds me of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid illustration where Greg, the main character, gets scratched by a cat, and his mom is kneeling beside him saying something like, “Okay, spell it with me: C-A-T”.)

I’m prepared to be hugely disappointed or devastated by the failures. The problem begins when I use “being realistic” to stop me from trying what I truly want to do — I’ve become certain of this. The word is often used as a crutch or interchangeably with responsibility and it urges me to focus on a paycheck or some socially acceptable mode of behavior or activity, and this too makes me wary and weary. As I grow older, I see how wise my mother is. I told a friend once that my mom could eke out food from concrete, as resourceful and creative as she is. She defines life with possibility and inventiveness, not with brand names, a business card or a false sense of security.


I believe there’s a difference between foolhardiness and this so-called shield of hope and optimism that I seem to possess. I can always go get the job with the 401K — of this, I have no doubt — but how often will I get the chance to create books? To blog about things that matter to me? To forge an as-yet-undefined-but-potentially-wonderful community through the Furoku membership? Sure, I could put these things off for later, tomorrow, next year, but when that time comes, will I actually do it? I doubt it. I’ve already spent way too many years putting off things I really want to do.

I have a lot of realistic, limiting beliefs, of course. I’m also starting to get criticism and this only feeds into my natural tendency to doubt myself. The thing is, I’m training myself to turn a deaf ear to them unless it’s helpful somehow. To shore up an underused belief in myself to combat these thoughts. I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s pretty hard.

My book readings may have audiences of zero or bazillions (goodness, I hope not. The stage fright!). My Furoku membership may grow or not. I may not be able to make anything resembling a “real” income doing the things I love, because, as my little painting shows below, my target amount of $20,000 (the moon) is still far, far away and the year is almost half over and blah-blah-blah. Sometimes I have really high moments of “Yes!! I can do this!!” and other times…well, that’s me on the ladder, and to date, my total income is $864.44, of which $486.63 was from last month (thank you, Janome Gnome, for suggesting that I illustrate my income monthly reports).


But that’s okay. I’m just going to keep trying my best, and maybe, just maybe, it will work. And if I go splat and have to sheepishly admit defeat? Well, I’m always full of optimistic ideas and hey, I still have 7 more months to go.

In the end it doesn’t matter because right now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in spite of the doubts that try to take over, and that, my friends, trumps being realistic.


P.S. I’m keeping sign-ups for the membership open until the end of this week, May 31st. Furoku #3 is in development!! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the full story.

Email address (to get furoku):
Full Name


P.P.S. The unrealistic bet for Little K to make $100,000 is still on — If I win, M will get a Little Kunoichi tattoo. I loved all of the tattoo placement suggestions! If you feel up for it and truly liked the book, please leave reviews on Amazon or any other bookseller sites – this will help promote Little Kunoichi!

P.P.P.S. I think I will finally be able to share some sewing later this week. I miss sewing for fun!!!!!

P.P.P.P.S. I’ve been remiss and didn’t honor Memorial Day to acknowledge the men and women who serve and have served our country. Many, many thanks.



21 thoughts on “Limiting Beliefs + Monthly Income Report + Furoku Membership Sign-up

  1. Hahaaa!!!! You did it you did it!! Look at you on the ladder you made, off the ground and only steps from the moon. I love it! A tangent that might appeal: The Moroccan Arabic equivalent of step by step is drop by drop. And it’s almost exactly the opposite of the idea of a drop in the ocean. It comes from the proverb: drop by drop the river becomes full . (Noqta noqta keyhaml l’wed) . I love it because the idea of a dry river bed filling to a rushing river is so refreshing and satisfying when it’s hot… And I’m an English girl in North Africa!

    1. Oh, I LOVE the Moroccan Arabic equivalent – must paint that next time! I had no idea you were in North Africa; it’s so fun to find out these details! Thank you Janome Gnome :-).

  2. Realistic… hmm… that is a curious way to put it. It sounds like worrying to me. You are right in believing that this is now the time to write books and it would be unrealistic to think that these book deals will come later on if you ignore them now. Just think if you did not try to publish book 2 and maybe even get going on book 3 now, would you be disappointed? With yourself? With others? And how should you avoid being a disappointed person. What is a 491K job?

    I don’t think of you as overly optimistic, but maybe I never thought about it in those terms. What has been bothering me about these posts about you financial situation, tied to your creative life is that there seems to be a lot of pressure to make deadlines. There is no room to let something grow. There is always in the background the idea that it is this or that! Either / Or. Time is often the most important ingredient in any recipe. Give it time! Maybe realistically you won’t make a lot of money in royalties. Does that make it not worth doing the books? No way! You may need a few books before you are Tomie de Paola. Just make sure you are still there working away at them in the meantime.

    1. Hi Max! A 401K job is one with a retirement plan. You know, the super safe job. 🙂

      And yes, I would absolutely be disappointed in every way shape possible if I didn’t pursue these book opportunities right now. I can’t stress enough how much of a dream come true these last few years have been.

      I’m right with you on the time factor. I keep telling the husband, “I think I can make this work but I have a feeling it’s going to take longer than we’d hoped.” As much as he wants to be on board, we had already agreed on a three-year plan, had budgeted for that, and currently there are some things going on behind the scenes that I can’t share that require that I stick to the plan.

      I hope it doesn’t become either / or. But I know that if it turns out that what I’m trying to do isn’t a viable option even after giving it my all, then I will have to find other ways to help sustain my family. The $20,000 amount and the deadlines aren’t completely arbitrary. It’s an amount we thought would be achievable yet would most likely grow with time and effort. If I can’t even make less than minimum wage with the dedication that I’m putting in, then I have to explore other options. I’ll still try to find small ways to continue what I love (writing, sewing, painting, etc.), but I know that it’s challenging to juggle a “regular” job with things like blogging or making books, which take an enormous amount of time. I might have powered through to do it in the past, but my health is not what it used to be. Then again, maybe I can — it’s hard to tell.

      I think life is about choices and sacrifices. And I work well with deadlines. None of this has been a waste, things might change in unforeseen ways, and I haven’t given up yet. I’m just trying to be as open and honest as I can through the whole process.

      Also: I’m a huge Tomie de Paola fan!!!!

  3. It’s always interesting to read your posts AND the comments that come with them! I think right now you are in a creative flow resulting in work that may not be “401K” but that you love. Passion drives a lot of creativity while “realism” can just douse it with doubt, etc. Just think of it as a 9 month gestation of something that may be awesome beyond belief. Just like with a baby, the amount of love, health, nurture, dreams(!) make a difference.

    You are way ahead of most of us in having the opportunity for creating books and now it’s all a learning process. I think you are doing great. (Now repeat the mantra!) 🙂

    1. I’m loving the gestation analogy, Melissa! I’ve got high hopes for something awesome beyond belief, but I’m also aware that hope alone won’t make things happen so I try to temper it with being “realistic” and then came to the conclusion that it was my way of trying to protect myself from feeling downtrodden. Hence, this long-winded post. I try to communicate that I am incredibly happy and grateful for this time that I have right now, and I am learning like nobody’s business — I feel like I’m getting a PhD in life 101. I probably don’t succeed in communicating my intent 100% of the time, but hey, I’m okay with that.

      Thank you for cheering me on! All this support means the world to me, because I tell you, I can’t do any of this alone.

  4. I am sitting here laughing and crying… I needed that today. Continue to follow your dreams even if they are unrealistic. We have a dream to home school our kids and there are four of them ages 7-10… and I have fibromyalgia (which doesn’t sound like a good mix) and my own mother thought I was crazy when we started (she still may, she hasn’t mentioned it in a while though) 🙂 But we are doing it and every day God makes it work. Sometimes you just have to forge ahead and then when you look back you say, “Wow! I’m doing it, I’ve been doing it!” I’m all for crazy, unrealistic dreams. As for your books, I have a dream of seeing your book #2 at B&N or the library and saying, “I pattern tested that!”. For me that will be a high! Thanks!!!!

    1. Hooray! You can do it, Kristi! I have a friend who had the same condition and had to go through some painful surgeries, but now she’s doing great. Thank you for testing, and yes! The plan is for the book to be everywhere — we shall see! 🙂

  5. I can’t wait to see your new sewing! Your books have been a hugely successful undertaking–you thought of it you sold it and you produced it–I’m really proud of you and completely amazed. It was a TON of work, but you saw it through. Keep going.

    1. Thank you so much, Greta! I appreciate your support so much! I’m still finishing up #2, but the end is near. It feels good and scary at the same time…

  6. Wonderful! What a terrific, insightful post. I agree! For years, I’ve been disappointed with life, and not really allowed myself to be happy or have expectations, because they would only lead to disappointment. I stopped taking risks, and I rarely left the house apart from the trip to work and to see family. I gave up. It protected me from disappointment but it also stopped me experiencing life. I was lonely, but protected from the sadness and difficulties – and the joys – that come with relationshps with people. It was not a good existence. It probably didn’t help that I was clinically depressed for a lot of that time!

    I think optimism – relentless optimism, is great! There’s room for realism, provided it’s not defeatism.
    I had a friend who, when convalescing from an illness, did a few weeks of a golf course. She said she was going to be in the national women’s open. Ridiculous! I couldn’t understand her thinking. It’s not something I’d say, but I can see that, for her, saying that was somehow invigorating. She wasn’t her illness.

    I’m not saying your plans, dreams and actions – because you ARE taking action and it’s GREAT action – are like my friend the two week golfer. I think it’s a very individual, personal thing, how we approach what we want to do, what we aspire to.

    I think this is turning into a stream of consciousness post… where am I going with this. I don’t know!

    I just want to encourage you in your optimism and actions – they are good! As someone wise said, coz I have it on a postcard – action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. No one would write a book if they thought every story had been told before, and that there were tons of other books already out there. No one would really DO anything, at all.

    Go forth, bloom!


  7. PS
    I forgot to say – I took a chance. Met the love of my life. We’ve embarked on an adventure. Who knows what will happen. But I’d rather try than never experience good things. What wise person said failure isn’t giving up, failure is not trying.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment brimming with so many motivating words, Jenny! My favorite part is “Go forth, bloom” – I think we should all bloom, no? We will all also wilt and wither at points, but blooming, now that’s a beautiful visual. And thank you for the quotes. I need to make some postcards of my own with them :-).

      There was a book I read a while ago (the title escapes my memory), but after surveying hundreds of elderly folks, the biggest regret people cited was not trying something that they thought was a true expression of themselves because they cared too much about what other people would think. Truth.

  8. Hi Sanae,

    isn’t sometimes beeing realistic more of beeing anxious, is it? I mean: what is realistic? You can only know whats realistic, when you know what your doing, when you know the situation or most parameters. Doing something brand new, like you did lately, you can’t really be realistic. Maybe someone at Simon&Schuster reads “Little Kunochi” and loves it and BAMM: your into it, signing a contract for book 3-10. Who knows? Why expecting less? In the meantime you can do other things to earn some money, maybe furoko (and i’m a proud member) maybe other stuff.
    What i know: when i first started reading your blog (it started with a series about japanes Sewing books on some other blog) i immediately knew: here is someone special. Thats all.

    1. Haha! How amazing would that be to have books 3-10 lined up?? I’m a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson, the educator extraordinaire (he did that viral TED talk about how we need to change the way we educate the young), and he often talks about how people create these false ceilings of expectations for themselves and how the school system also reinforces this mentality. I’ve been mulling over that a lot. He asks the same question as you, “Why expect less?” because how can you possibly know where your potential can take you?

      Thank you, Marit!

  9. I love your optimism, Sanae and am inspired by it as I tend to be, shall we say, overly “realistic” (my husband says pessimistic)! Love the attitude in this blog post – where indeed would we be without the “shoot for the stars” attitude you describe? Although I’m sure some days are harder than others to foster this attitude, I hope you will always nurture it!

    1. Thank you, Lucinda!! The ups and downs are actually quite dramatic inside my noggin, but overall, the optimism does win out pretty consistently :-). Let’s shoot for the stars!!

  10. My town has an annual Memorial Day race. Our neighbor ran it this year and we met up with her afterwards and she said she was a little disappointed in her finish time and how tired she had felt the whole time. I told her, “But you did it. You weren’t standing on the sidelines.” Her face lit up a little and she said, “Yeah, at least I did it!”

    Just like her, you won’t be left wondering later what it might be like if you had just done it, because you are doing it 🙂

    1. This is fantastic, Amber! It’s so true, isn’t it? Having done something is light years ahead of wishing to do so. I’m trying, I’m trying…we shall see how this crazy quest unfolds! 🙂

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