Word-Of-the-Week #772: Inspiration

May 23, 2019 by  

Inspiration a feeling of enthusiasm you get from someone or something. 

When was the last time you felt enthusiasm for something or someone?

This is the follow up to last week “Blind San Diego sailor completes trans-Pacific crossing to Japan.  Mitsuhiro “Hiro” Iwamoto and his sighted sailing partner Doug Smith have become the first blind sailing team to sail nonstop across the Pacific Ocean,” by Pam Kragen.

“The men sailed 24 hours a day, alternating 6-hour shifts at the wheel. Iwamoto mostly sailed at night since he’s comfortable sailing in the dark. They subsisted on a lean diet of power bars, protein drinks and freeze-dried foods. Smith lost 30 pounds and Iwamoto lost 10 during the voyage. Both also grew thick beards. 

Iwamoto, 52, grew up on the Southern Japanese island of Kyushu where he began losing his sight at age 13. By 16, he was completely blind. Faced with a future of being dependent on others, he initially thought of committing suicide but decided instead to push his own limits to inspire others. 

He went to medical school, studying in Japan and San Francisco, to become an acupuncturist, and in his 20s he met his American wife, Karen Young Iwamoto, who had moved to Japan after college to teach English. They married 22 years ago, moved to San Diego in 2006 and have a daughter, Leena, who’s in eighth grade. 

Iwamoto runs a holistic health medicine practice in Kearny Mesa and travels the world doing motivational speaking. It was on one of those tours in Japan in 2016 that the two men met through a mutual friend. 

Smith, 55, grew up in Alexandria, Va., and graduated from college in 1990 with an economics degree. He flew to Japan, found work in the real estate finance industry and met his wife, Naomi. They married in 1995 and have two daughters, Rachael and Hana. Smith commutes between Japan and the U.S. for his job with GreenGen, a Maryland company that creates sustainable energy systems for companies worldwide. 

Smith had dreamed for years of sailing across the Pacific but he didn’t know how to sail and couldn’t find anyone to go with him. When he met Iwamoto, he saw a way to fulfill both of their dreams. 

Most of the news coverage over the past few months has focused on Iwamoto, which is just fine with Smith. Instead, his focus has been on the adventure itself and raising money for four charities including San Diego’s Challenged Athletes Foundation. He said he’s enjoyed helping Iwamoto’s dream come true. 

“I looked at this trip as our moonshot,” Smith said. “We needed a spaceship, we needed mission control and we needed an astronaut. There was always the plan that I’d build the spaceship, which was our boat, and be mission control keeping track of all the data every day. But he’s the astronaut. We did it together in our different capacities and we did it with the Dream Weaver. I think we both felt there were three of us on the voyage.” 

Iwamoto said he plans to spend a month relaxing in Japan with family before returning home to San Diego. He’s considering writing a book about the experience from the blog he kept along the way. Smith is moving Dream Weaver to a different harbor in Japan for long-term storage. He isn’t planning to sail the boat back to the U.S. for at least two years. But if and when he does, he knows exactly who to call for a second hand at the wheel. 

“We share the same determination,” Smith said of Iwamoto. “He wasn’t going to let people tell him he couldn’t do it and I wasn’t going to let people tell me I didn’t have enough sailing experience to go with him. If you tell us we can’t do something, we’ll work hard to prove you wrong. That personality trait really bonded us.”

This week’s focus is inspiration. Have you ever dreamed of doing something that you had no idea how to do? Would you risk your life in order for that to happen? Is there someone in your life that shares the same determination as you?

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