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Stories about hope and ways to share hope

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Jake Shimabukuro

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“He was so strict, but every once in a while when I did something really good, he would just look at me and just crack a little smile and you know what? That little smile was the greatest feeling in the world. It was like I just got approval from Grandpa.” — Jake Shimabukuro

“Jake is taking the instrument to a place that I can’t see anybody else catching up with.” – Eddie Vedder

In his young career, ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro has already redefined a heretofore under-the-radar instrument, been declared a musical “hero” by Rolling Stone, won accolades from the disparate likes of Eddie Vedder, Perez Hilton and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, wowed audiences on TV (Jimmy Kimmel, Conan), earned comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, and even played in front of the Queen of England.



04: I Share Hope with Jake Shimabukuro

“Never ever once he told me, oh that was good. He would never ever compliment anything. He was so strict, but every once in a while when I did something good, I did something really good, he would just look at me and just crack a little smile and you know what? That little smile was the greatest feeling in the world. It was like I just got approval from Grandpa. I’m Jake Shimabukuro and I share hope.”

Intro:

Welcome to I Share Hope! The podcast where world leaders share their real stories of hope and how you can use actionable hope to start changing your life today and now here’s your host, Chris Williams.

Chris Williams:

Jake, how are you?

Jake Shimabukuro:

Hey, good and thanks for setting this up.

Chris Williams:

I appreciate your time. Let me let you know how this works. It’s pretty straightforward. You have the list of questions, did they give that to you, the five questions about hope we ask?

Jake Shimabukuro:

Yes.

Chris Williams:

Alright, well today I get a chance to do something that’s thrilling me and that is welcome Jake to our show. Jake is amazing on the ukulele and you may not know anything about the ukulele or haven’t seen one in a while, but these things are taking over the world. I got introduced to the ukulele back a few months ago and my 12-year-old daughter bought one and it has made an interesting change in my life that I’ll mention in a minute.

First of all, Jake is one of those of guys who is so good at the ukulele. He’s getting recognized by everybody. He’s been on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel. He’s been on the Carson Daly Show, Today’s Show, NPR, Musicians@Google, multiple TED conferences and it goes on and on.

Jake, will you pronounce your last name so I can get it right?

Jake Shimabukuro:

Sure Chris. I’m Jake Shimabukuro, my full name, and I’m born and raised in Hawaii. I started playing the ukulele when I was 4 years old and it’s been my passion ever since.

Chris Williams:

Jake also has a video film documentary. I saw it on Netflix, you can buy it on his website as well. It’s Life on Four Strings and that’s what really got me interested in Jake. Also, thanks for letting Ally and I see you in concert recently and signing some stuff for us. Tell us a bit more about you and then we will get into questions about hope.

Jake Shimabukuro:

My family is back home in Hawaii and aside from music, you know, music is my main passion but aside from music, I love fishing. Fishing is something that I enjoy. I love all water sports, being in the ocean. Growing up in Hawaii, you have to love the ocean.

Chris Williams:

That’s great. That’s fantastic. Alright Jake, how this works is we ask you five questions about hope. I know you’ve prepared some answers for those already. I’ll jump right in.

Question 1: How do you define hope or what is your favorite hope quote?

Jake Shimabukuro:

I don’t really have a favorite hope quote, but having hope is so important because it’s what keeps us motivated and keeps us moving forward. I think that there is always – my mom would always tell me when I was a kid, “Don’t ever complain because there are always people out there suffering a hundred times more than you”. I remember her always saying that to me as a kid if I were upset about something. She would always say just be thankful, just be grateful for all of the things you have. It’s easy for me to say or to think that because I have two healthy parents, I have a healthy younger brother, at the time. We had a place to live, we had food on the table, but it was always like – for me it was always just no matter what I was going through, I could always just lean towards this in a way and always look at people at more positive sides.

I think for me a lot of it became – I started with this exercise, I started with this exercise as a child, to never hope for something that I never took on myself, you know, I would never put on myself, but more on people around me. When you see people suffering or you see people go through pain, to me it’s always – I always hope for them or hope the best for them. In a way, it just made me appreciate all that I had. My parents, growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money or anything like that. We’re like most families, we got by and my parents got divorced when I was in fifth grade and my younger brother is five years younger than me, so I was raised by a single parent, my mom. I just always remember hoping that one day my mom won’t have to work so hard to raise me and my brother. Hoping for a better life for her and all of those types of things. Somehow in doing that, it actually changed my outlook, perspective on things.

I guess it was the same thing with prayer. In a lot of ways, hope and prayer just help me get it right and I would always like… For example, if I wanted not just… If I wanted to pray for something for myself, my exercise would be to pray for that for everyone else. That was my thing. Whenever I would pray, I would never pray for like, oh, I hope someday I find the right partner or a soul mate or I find success in this or that, but instead my hope or my prayer would turn into, I hope that everybody in this world finds happiness or I hope that everyone in this world finds success. Every time I get on an airplane, like this very day I got on this airplane, the first thing I do is close my eyes and I just either pray or hope that – and I don’t say that please I hope that I get to my destination safe, but I pray that every single person on this planet gets to their destination safely.

Chris Williams:

Well, next time you’re in an airplane, I’m going to make sure I’m in an airplane at the same time. That way you’ll be praying for me. Also, that’s a common theme that in these interviews we keep hearing is the people who have the most hope are often the ones who were thinking about other folks first. Hope is one of those things that grow faster and stronger the more you share it.

Question 2: Who’s been the most hopeful or who has given you the most hope in life to date?

Jake Shimabukuro:

Definitely my mom. My mom is an amazing person and a strong person. For me, everything I do is always because you want to make your parents proud, your family proud and you always want to make sure that everything that you’ve got, everything that they have to go through to raise me and to raise my brother and to put a roof over our head, to put food on the table, everything that they had to do, all the sacrifices that they had to make, I always want to make sure that when they look at me today, they feel that all of that was worth it. It was worth it. All the pain and the struggles and everything. My mom had a really tough life. I mean a really difficult childhood and so did my grandma there.

I’ll get into that, but when I think about the things that they had to go through, especially being Japanese-American, coming into our country, coming into this country, the sacrifices and the struggles that they had to go through especially the war and coming through a hard place. My family being from Japan and coming over at that time was a very difficult life for them. That’s why for me, I always want to make sure that I try to make the best choices that I can. I just try to do everything that I can so that when – my grandmother is still alive and healthy today, but I want to make sure that when she sees me today, with all the struggles that she had to go through, it was worth it, it was worth it for her. That is from her to my mom and then my mom to me and my brother and all that. Now, I have a child. My grandmother is now a great, great grandmother.

Chris Williams:

Wow.

Jake Shimabukuro:

I mean not great, great, I mean a great grandmother. It’s like that lineage and all that line… I think that’s another thing too where hope comes in a good place. You make these sacrifices because you hope that your children will have a better life than what you had to experience. I know my grandmother or it was actually my great grandmother that came over to Hawaii, that moved over to Hawaii from Japan, from Fukushima. You know, she had the toughest life of all and then over with my grandmother, it was tough, my grandmother had a very tough life too because she was the Nisei and then my mom had to struggle.

I think all of that – my great grandmother came over because she had hoped for a better life for her children. My grandmother worked hard. I mean she worked in the bars and had to do whatever she could. She didn’t have much of an education and she had to do whatever she had to do to survive and to raise my mom, to get my mom a place to live and food on the table. My mom, she had a little better life, but still had to struggle to raise me and my brother. Now I’m in that position where I’m the parent now and you know what, I want to do whatever I can and more so that my son will have the best life possible. I want to provide whatever I can for him to get all the opportunities in the world, opportunities that maybe I never had or opportunities that my mom never had for sure or my grandmother wasn’t even thinking of it.

Chris Williams:

I really think you’re doing that not just because of obviously the international fame you’ve been able to reach, which is fantastic and will obviously give a lot of opportunities to your kids. But, looking at Wikipedia we’re within a year of each other on age, we both have kids and man, it’s just great to hear another dad who’s got his head on straight, who is able to look back and say there’s some people who’ve really paved the way before me and I want to do that for the next generation. I think our kids and the kids that are our age kids’ need that more and more. So, thrilled that you’re doing that and I’m sure that the community you live in is blessed because you’re getting to hang around and be an example, so thanks.

Jake Shimabukuro:

No, no, thank you.

Chris Williams:

Question 3: Tell me a time when hope was all you had. Something going on in your personal life when you had to just pull through, you sound like you’re a pretty naturally hopeful guy, but was there a time when it was just tough and you really had to hold on for dear life on some things?

Jake Shimabukuro:

Probably the most difficult thing that I’ve ever gone through was losing my grandfather. It was the one and only time that I’ve lost someone that I was so close to. My grandfather and I were very, very close. That’s my grandfather on my mom’s side. He was a huge influence, a great role model. He was a tough guy, but he was like – I mean he rarely smiled, he would never ever compliment you on anything. He was like one of those actors, whenever he started opening his mouth he was yelling, he was yelling something, but I learned so much from him.

I remember when I was a kid, I was so scared and I hated my Grandpa because all he would do is yell at me and say blah, blah, blah, blah, but he believed in hard work. Saturday morning, if I was just watching cartoons, he would come out and he would be like, “Hey, what are you doing watching TV?” You know? Like, “so lazy. What is the problem you with guys? You guys are so lazy. You guys don’t know what hard work is.” He would chase us out of the house and put us out in the yard and make us do yard work. It was great. I’ll never forget, if my clothes were on the floor, my dirty clothes are on the floor, my Grandpa was really strong. He would take my pants or my shirt and he would tie them. He would tie the leg into a knot. He would just pull it so tight that I would have to literally – like one of my shirts, I had to throw it away because I couldn’t get the knot out.

Chris Williams:

Oh that’s hilarious.

Jake Shimabukuro:

But after that, I never left my dirty clothes on the floor. He was so strict, but every once in a while when I did something good, when I did something really good, he would just look at me and just crack a little smile and you know what? That little smile was the greatest feeling in the world. It was like I just got approval from Grandpa. He never ever once told me, oh that was good or he would never ever compliment anything, but when you did something right, he wouldn’t say anything. He would just look and smile and nod and walk away.

Chris Williams:

That’s great. How have you gotten through losing that? I mean that’s a phenomenal person in your life. How have you gotten past that? We all lose parents, grandparents, people that have really been there for us, mentors. How do you move on? How do you replace that?

Jake Shimabukuro:

It was tough and it took a lot of time. It took a lot of time. This one was like almost 20 years ago now. I still think about him, you know? He is the one who taught me how to fish.

Chris Williams:

No way.

Jake Shimabukuro:

He taught me how to go fishing. My grandfather was a really good fisherman. He taught me how to fish because he said one day you’re going to have a family and you’re going to have to feed your family. If you can’t afford to buy food, you got to learn to catch food. That’s one thing that I love doing. Every time I‘m out there in the ocean or at the beach with my pole in the water or snorkeling around looking for fish, I just think about my Grandpa.

Chris Williams:

That’s great. Sounds like we just started a whole another podcast called parenting like our grandparents.

Jake Shimabukuro:

Yes.

Chris Williams:

Question 4: How are you sharing hope today? I read a little about your foundation, seeing a little of your work out there, how are you involving your skill set, your personality, your place in life to bring hope to somebody else?

Jake Shimabukuro:

I’ve always believed in the concept of servant leadership. That was a concept that was taught to me when I was a teenager. Servant leadership, leading by example – when I was in high school, I was always involved in student council and all that. I was class president pretty much throughout high school.

Chris Williams:

Nice.

Jake Shimabukuro:

I just loved it. I just love serving. I love being the one that was first to sign up to do the beach clean-up or to do the thanksgiving food drive where we would set up a whole catering table over at some of the homeless shelters around the island during thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t know. I just love that. Even today, I go to a lot of schools and I talk to the kids. I don’t really get into telling them what I think. One of the things I verbally tell them is — I always tell them that I’ve been drug-free my whole life and you don’t need drugs. I try to encourage them that way. As far as with the other stuff, just being up there and I share my passion with the ukulele with them and I just hope that through that I can inspire them to find something that they’re passionate about. I do tell them that.

Playing ukulele is my passion and I want to encourage all of you to find your passion, whatever it is. That’s my hope for you. That you find something that you just love doing. I tell them it could be a passion for medicine, if you want to be a doctor. It could be a passion for food if you want to be a chef. It could be music, it could be art-related, but it doesn’t have to be. Music and the arts, it kind of fuels us. It inspires us to think differently, it motivates us to get out there and take action. That’s what I love about music and the arts. But, not everybody should be a musician, not everybody should be an artist. I mean there are people out there that need to find the cure for cancer, there are people out there that need to be an astronaut, that need to be school teachers and educators. There are people out there in business and creating their own ways. In a sense, I tell them that all those people are all artists in their own way whether you’re an accountant, then your artistic expression is in numbers. It’s all passion and as long as you find something that you love doing and you’re passionate about, then you’ll be happy. I try to encourage the young people to do that.

Chris Williams:

That’s great. You’re actually getting into question number five.

Question 5: How can we take action today? What steps, if you could give a 1,2,3 or a, b, c’s of how to take action for yourself or for others sharing hope, but you’re already saying those things…

Find what your passion is about and start doing it and then sharing, sharing, sharing. You seem to be giving your passion constantly and that’s such a motivation for everybody else who’s trying to grab on to something and do something with it.

Jake Shimabukuro:

Yes. Just be happy. If you could find a way to keep that smile on your face because when you’re happy, you have the energy and you’re inspired to do positive things and to do good things. When you’re not happy, that’s when you want to lay in bed and just mope around or you want to just sit in front of the television and just not do anything. When you’re truly happy and you feel good, it’s almost like that feeling when you meet someone and you think you’re in love, right? It’s like that feeling that you just have all that energy. You feel like you could do anything.

Chris Williams:

Yes.

Jake Shimabukuro:

If you could be feel like that all the time, that’s infectious and I know firsthand because it happens to me. Sometimes even if you think you’re having a bad day, but then you come across someone who’s like bubbly and nice and just so kind and maybe you’re at the supermarket and you only have two items and they have like 30 items in their cart and they just stare at you like, “Hey you know what, you only got two things, why don’t you go ahead” and you’re like, “oh, thanks so much” and they let you go and you pay for your things and you just tell them “thank you so much. That was so nice of you.” and you leave the supermarket and you feel good because you’re like, wow that was really nice and then you’re driving home in a great mood. Someone cuts you off and you’re just like, “ah, that’s fine” because you’re in a good mood and you’re just like, there’s no road rage. You just feel good.

If more things like that were to happen, if things like that were to happen to you all day, it’s going to definitely affect your movement and how you carry yourself throughout the day. If your day starts off with someone being rude to you, someone cutting you off and someone just doing something awful to you, the rest of the day you’re just going to be bitter and you’re going to be like “everything sucks”. You’re going to have a total negative attitude. That’s something I always try to do. Everyone that I meet, I always try to give a genuine smile or shake their hand or give them a hug. Tell them aloha or something, like that. When people around you feel good, then you feel good too.

Chris Williams:

It really does make your day brighter when somebody is happy to you and nice to you. I think that is the end of our normal five questions. I would love to know, if you’re heading home from whatever you’re doing there on the island, what are you popping in? What are you listening to? What do you put your headphones in after a concert? What do you jam out to?

Jake Shimabukuro:

You’re going to laugh, but whenever I feel like I need – whenever I want to get motivated to do something, I put music – well obviously music is my passion, so music really affects my mood. So, if I need to take action and do something, but if I’m feeling kind of blah for the day, I always reach for my Rocky Soundtrack.

Chris Williams:

That’s great. Eye of the Tiger, original Rocky?

Jake Shimabukuro:

No, the songs that I like, what’s that? That instrumental, War, that’s the one from Rocky IV. I like the Training Montage from Rocky IV. These are two instrumental songs. Eye of the Tiger, that’s good, but I don’t know, for some reason I prefer the – what’s the one? I’m trying to think of it. Wait, I’m going to pull out my playlist.

Chris Williams:

Okay, go for it.

Jake Shimabukuro:

I’m just opening my computer a bit.

Chris Williams:

The Eye of the Tiger, that band is from Memphis. They’re still around.

Jake Shimabukuro:

The one, Survivor, yes.

Chris Williams:

Yes. Survivor is a Memphis band.

Jake Shimabukuro:

Oh there we go. Hearts on Fire.

Chris Williams:

Got it.

Jake Shimabukuro:

Hearts on Fire, that’s a good one.

Chris Williams:

Who’s the artist on that?

Jake Shimabukuro:

It’s John Cafferty and then No Easy Way Out is Robert Tepper. I’m sure you’ve heard those. I bought the album The Rocky Story and it’s a collection of all his sounds from the movies, the Rocky movies. I’ll tell you some of the other ones that I have. I also have The Measure of a Man, that’s by Elton John. That’s another really good one that I really like. It really gets me going. Those are my go-to songs. One last my go-to, Count on Me by Martin Page. It’s off of the soundtrack of Gladiator.

Chris Williams:

Yes. Oh my goodness, yes, that’s really good.

Jake Shimabukuro:

Count on Me. That one, when I just want that, I sit there and just like that inspiration, that motivation. It’s more like when I’m just contemplating on what I need to do. That one actually helps in doing it. When I just need to sit down, listen to a good song, to get the wheels turning, Count on Me, I just love it. I don’t know. For some reason that one gets me all fired up.

Chris Williams:

I love it. Okay Jake, if people want to follow you around and find out what you’re doing, how can they get a hold of you? Websites, Twitter, etc, what have you got?

Jake Shimabukuro:

I got my website, its jakeshimabukuro.com. But you know, I’m very active on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all that, all the social media. I just love music. I love playing and I feel so fortunate that I get to just focus 100% on my passion everyday. It’s awesome.

Chris Williams:

I’m glad you’re getting to and I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of others that are glad you get to as well. I’m going to put on the show notes for this podcast the ways to get in touch with Jake, also links to some Amazon, his website, several places you can find more about him and some incredible music and videos and products that he has that really are unbelievable. If you ever get the chance to see Jake in concert, it’s worth it. Get as close to the stage as you can get. You really got to see the fingers move. It’s really freaky amazing. Thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate you being with us today and I can’t wait to share the hope that you’re sharing here today.

Jake Shimabukuro:

Thank you very much Chris. I really appreciate it and give my best to your daughter.

Chris Williams:

Sitting here wrapping up Jake’s interview in the show notes page. You all should head over to isharehope.com at the Show Notes page and join the discussion underneath Jake’s comments. Also, jump on Twitter or the Show Notes page and let me know who you want to hear from. Who out there in the world do you want to hear answer these five questions? We would love to know and love to try our best to get in touch with them. Thanks again. Talk to you next time.

You’ve just listened to I Share Hope. If you’re ready to make a change, head to our website at isharehope.com and claim your free copy of the Top Ten Actions of Hope from World Leaders to use hope in your own life. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next time.

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