Instead of reading another long post, take this time to really think about one or two people that really make you feel good about life. A person that does things for the right reasons. A person that gives you hope for the future. A person that makes the people around them better people. A person that makes YOU a better person. A person whose company makes you forget about life’s struggles and obstacles. A person that makes you believe in magic. Definitely missing a lot of people back home right now. Definitely could use a late night in my backyard with some folks, sharing frosty beverages and talking about totally unrealistic ideas. Thing is, they’re all crazy enough to believe magic IS possible and that’s what makes anything possible. I think I lost myself recently in some shape or form. I spend too much time thinking about people that make me question and undermine myself. The focus shall be thrown back on the right people. Backyard…. Folks…. Magic. Time to start believing again. Boom!

Kentucky Fried Kari

It only took six months, but here is the newest addition to the Small World Project. I promise many more before the New Year!

Want to waste time? Check my actual post below this one. It's long and probably the post I marinated on the most and had the most trouble articulating. Answer the question scenario question in it too when you have time!

Coming Home

Join me in an exercise for a second. Stand up wherever you are right now. Place your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees ever so slightly. Are you doing it? Okay, you should be standing up with your feet shoulder width apart. Now put all your weight into your feet. Let all the weight in your body flow down into your feet almost like your feet are acting like a heavy anchor pulling you into the ground. Correct your posture. Close your eyes and when your eyes are closed take a deep breath and when you exhale open your eyes and look up. Welcome home.

On December 28 of last year, I left my actual home, the Bay Area, for the first time in my life. A few years prior, I remember when I once felt so lost my junior year in college. I told my parents that I needed to travel for a while to find myself. They supported the idea but they stressed to me not to leave expecting to find myself in India or wherever I decided to go. "Everything you need to find is already inside you," they said (or something to that effect). Most of you know I went to India, which basically changed the way I view the world around me. But they were right. If I had to summarize the trip into one sentence though, I would say that "I relearned what it's like to enjoy myself and the people around me regardless of location or activity or stuff." That being said, this last year has been the most intense year of my life. New experience, new thoughts, a new view of life but it didn't lack many moments when I felt lost or confused or frightfully alone. In those moments, I took a deep breathe, made my feet heavy into the ground and whispered to myself, "stay home buddy." It was a constant reminder not only to not forget where I come from but more importantly it was a reminder that everything I needed was already inside me. I still do this by the way. This idea of growing from within would have to be the theme of the year. In life we have countless things we have no control over like our height, our thickness of hair, what school we already went to, past relationships, etc. Why do we tend to harp on these things constantly? I started to really wonder why we don't marinate on things that we actually have the power to change ourselves! Our diet, our fitness, making an effort to get into relationships, keeping in touch with people, learning new skills! SO MANY THINGS! Anyway, every year I try to sum up the year and come up with New Year's Resolutions. A few years ago I decided to start my resolutions in December, as a way to be full force before the new year begins. That post is coming soon. Before I got into that post though I wanted to spread the gospel of some revelations and mind-blowing moments I thankfully experienced this year.
One of the first people I remember talking to this year was Tyrone on January first and he kept saying, "2007 is the year to make it happen man." He said it with such conviction I started saying that to myself all the time. The beauty of the line is that "it" means something else to each person. For him it was a side business and pushing his brother Ao's music, which is now available on iTunes. Talk about making it happen. For me "it" meant to do things I had never done before. To live to the full extent of the word "alive." Here's what I learned:

Experiments with Truth.
Many of you know that about a year ago, I began these small 30 day experiments. I choose a different challenge every few months and try to stay with it all month. Past experiments have been vegetarianism, cooking every single meal I've eaten, working out everyday, calling a certain number of people each day. Most people think I am nuts when they hear about these and that used to deter me from spreading the word. Let me tell you though, of any type of personal improvement I've ever tried in my life, these experiments have given me more insight into myself and the world around me than anything I have ever been apart of before. I would love to start a website dedicated to the movement someday. The idea by the way is not mine. It's kind of mutually stolen from Ben Franklin and Gandhiji and you know you can't hate on them. It's an easy way to change things about yourself you CAN actually change.

A Reaction is Worthless without the Message.
When I was teaching, I would sit for hours and think about individual students and the dynamic of the classroom and create variations of how we could present the same information. I would envision one in my head and simulate the crowd's reaction, rewind and try another one. Though this worked well in class I unfortunately do this to most facets of my life. I realized that I spend so much time trying to convince people to come to an event or trying to write my blog in such a way as to connect with each person I know that's reading. I started caring a lot less about this as the year went on. I think we worry about reaction and the effects of our message before we even spend time cultivating the message. A couple people have told me that I seem more like my true goofy self in most environments, which made me pretty happy. Don't worry about how people are going feel about your message just make it the message you truly want people to hear. It's like in class when you want to answer a question but don't want to look stupid and then you find out you had the right answer all along. Don't question yourself.

Goofy-ness and Believing in the Self.
I have spent much of my life giving the wrong people my attention. The wrong girls, the wrong acquaintances. I've always felt like if I have an awkward conversation with someone it must be myself. If someone isn't calling me back, I must have done something wrong. DONE! So not true. At a recent party, instead of trying to win over the people I subconsciously have dubbed "cool" I acted a fool with my homies. I realized that often awkward conversations are just as much the other persons fault as they are mine. When the dancing began, me and all the homies were acting super goofy and having a really good time. Many smiles were being had. I looked over at the people I dubbed "cool" and they were being super lame most likely because they are lame. The ability to be GOOFY and SILLY may the the quality I value most in people. Those that may be dubbed socially cool often act cool to compensate for their lameness and lack of goofy skills.

Make decisions as if you were a resident of Walden Pond.
Learning how to make decisions solely based on my own thoughts has been one of the toughest and coolest things I've done this year. I still battle with the effect that others' opinions have on my views but I am way better off than I was at home. So Walden Pond... When confronted with a decision, whether it be what furniture to buy or what clothes to wear, many of us place high value on what guests and friends would think of either. How many of you would by an ugly piece of furniture that you know your guests will hate? So now I say to myself, "If you lived alone in the woods, what decision would you make" and it helps clarify things a lot! I recently bought something that I've dreamt about buying for years. Honestly of anything I have ever bought, this gives my goosebumps (and no it's not that fancy). Most guests are going to think that I am totally crazy and weird but I don't care cause Henry David Thoreau said so!

People should use their talents to help others.
This is something I have been trying to leverage for a long time. It was the core of the Small World Project. There is not one person reading this blog that doesn't have some special talent. Why don't we extend our hand more? Why don't I offer free public speaking classes to my friends? My doesn't Vijay or Ajay start an email account where people can ask them about electronics or where to find good deals? Why don't the people that have worked abroad or lived abroad make themselves more available for younger kids in need of advice? I think it's all tough but I think it would be easy to put ourselves out there more. So here I am. If anyone reading needs help with anything public speaking related, email me anytime ( If you live in Chicago, I will meet with you personally. If you live elsewhere, email me your powerpoint or presentation and I will rip you apart. Even if I don't know you. (I taught public speaking at Stanford for about 5 years by the way. I'm not just some random dude pretending to pose as a teacher!)

The Long Slow Beautiful Dance.
Life is a long, slow beautiful dance. You don't reach some plateau at 40 where you're comfortable and struggles just disappear. It continues to be challenging and hopefully it continues to offer triumph. That's what makes it scary and exciting. Glad you guys are around to experience it with me.

The Power of Weirding People Out.
The weird out. Making someone instantly, without thought, step outside their comfort zone with a question or action may be the greatest revelation of this year. We are adhere to such boring convention all the time. What did you ask the last person you met for the first time? Maybe about their job or where they're from? As Hash always says, "Dude, how good could a job actually be going?" Stop conforming. Join the weirdout movement.

Here's a great weirdout question I've become quite obsessed with. Ask your friends and answer in the comment sections please! Would love to hear your responses.

You walk into a room with four random people sitting in it. As you walk in, I'm leaving and tell you I will be back in 30 minutes, could you chat with the people about something until I get back? What topic would you tell them about? This is not a debate. It's you informing them of something for 30 minutes. THINK ABOUT IT! and answer in the comments! I'll post some of my favorites there too.

I have been asking this question to every person I meet for the last few months. It says a lot about what value they feel they can pass onto the world and it says a lot about how they view the people around them. I remember my buddy once went up to a girl in a bar and said, "What are you all about? What drives you?" Sure some people might not answer your questions but my guess is that those that those people that don't answer 1) suck and 2) have no personality. Some future weirdout plans include handing out roses to girls that look sad on the street, carrying extra gloves to hand out to homeless people, and all sorts of other CRAZY SHIT!

PHEW that was a damn long post. If you made it this far, thanks for reading folks. Honestly, I want us all to be open about our revelations because I really think a paradigm shift needs to be had where we focus and remind one another of the things we can have an affect on rather than stressing about the shit we have no control over. Stay Home friends. Stay Home.


I took the comments option off my last post because sometimes I feel like a blog trying to collect comments. That leads into thinking that the value of a post is based on the number of comments. I do enjoy learning from you folks though. So here are a couple questions for you. I've answered them in the comments and you should too! Pick one to answer or answer both.

1) If you stepped outside yourself for a moment, what advice would you give yourself? What observations would you have about your lifestyle? What things are you in denial about that you would set yourself straight on?

2) I heard of a class assignment where students were told to give an hour presentation as if it was the last hour of their life. Then I saw a clip of a professor with a chronic illness actually knowingly presenting for the last time. Put yourself in that situation. What topics would you cover in that hour? What knowledge would you pass on to the people around you? What would your legacy be?

On Reality

As I sat in the lunchroom, I cooled down my hot coffee as best I could. It had way too much Splenda in it and probably one too many creams but it smelt so damn good. You see I've been drinking about two diet cokes and a cup of coffee everyday. But we'll come back to that caffeine fix. No one else was in the lunchroom because it was late into the afternoon and I finally decided to reopen a collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson pieces and poems I have been meaning to read. Oh don't worry if you don't read Emerson or don't know who Emerson is, I barely ever read (in fact I've probably only fully read two books for fun in my entire life - I'm trying to change though!). Anyway, I remember reading some of the book years back and Emerson's view on life and spirituality really struck a cord with me. So I opened up a piece and within a few pages was really drawn in. In the piecet he writes about two types of people in the world. The "materialist" and the "idealist." The materialist being one who lives a very empirical life. This mind is based upon science and that which has been proven by society. Accepted notions are the best way to describe the workings of the world. The idealist being one who suspends disbelief and is not concerned with actual "objects but with our mode of knowing objects." This mind is concerned with its own understanding of the world.

I apologize if some of this is my interpretation of what I read but he went on to explain the way in which we explain the world. Our explanation of truth being like reflected light. Depending on where we're standing we may see something entirely different. That really gave me one of those Ah ha! moments. That's it. That's my beef with our generation. We think we're a generation of idealists but we're slowly (or quickly) becoming materialists (in the Emerson sense) We're moving towards viewing the world through societal norms.

Here's what I think:

In the 9 months or so since being here I have done all sorts of good and bad things. I've had my share of mornings waking up on my floor. I've lost weight and then gained weight (back trying to lose it!). I've tried to become more fashionable and settled into a shirt and jeans kinda guy with the occasional sports coat. I've realized that I have some really bad habits.

The point being that I had no idea how much I didn't actively THINK about the things I was doing. I mean really sit and ponder daily decisions. I think that's why I started doing weird one month challenges. I wanted to only do action that I truly wanted to take part in. I quickly realized that I was often going out for the wrong reasons and I realized that an ENTREE at a restaurant is actually two (or three!) meals. I realized that I really like walking long distances (I never knew this cause no one would walk with me!) and that I am not picky with food at all. For the first time when other people didn't want to go out, I would go out by myself because I really wanted to go out. I wasn't even close to touching on all aspects of life but then I moved into more scary topics.

I've been going on AIM and Facebook for years now. I've probably used up years of my life on both. When I first moved out here I tried hard not to go onto either. I knew I would use them as a crutch. There are only a few people I talk to on either but wasn't enjoying either very much. I came to the realization that I've been using AIM as a crutch this entire time. When I'm lonely or bored it let's me reach out. I've become dependent on it. So for about a month I didn't use Facebook, AIM and I didn't have a cell phone for about two weeks. The result? I would have a shitty day at work and crave AIM. I needed to talk to someone but I couldn't. So I sat, I ran, I cooked, I actually thought about what was bugging me. I didn't have anyone to vent too or pass my anger off to so I processed it. I knew I couldn't go online and put up an angry away message or vent over messenger. I basically had to tell myself to get over it. I had to tell myself to have perspective. I have never had to do that. It was lonely at times. But for the first time I was forced to focus my energy elsewhere. I went for long walks and started reading more. Now don't get me wrong. I do have great conversations on AIM with some people and some people use AIM for real conversation (I'm just not one of them). And of course serious problems demand advice and discussion among friends. I just saw myself venting and chatting about the littlest of things going on in my life. I became more aware of what I was doing online. It was just adding unwanted anxiety and imbalance to my life. Then I would call my friends and I didn't have to vent to them, I could actually take an active roll in what was going on in their lives. Maybe everyone has that "AIM" in their life that they use as a crutch when they could try to deal with things on their own.

So why did I call out our generation as moving away from Emerson's idealism? Because we either accept the group ideal about something or we are quick to form opinions. The argument I always hear is that we are a generation of opinionated people. With so much information on the internet, I do think the truth is out there. But I don't see us THINKING about the truth anymore than before. One quick glance at Wikipedia or any other Google matched website is the only "truth" we need now. So in a way we are still accepting what we are being told. My manager at work said today that he doesn't even trust BOOKS! Every little bit he reads, he goes onto the internet and checks multiple other sources. He then sits and comes to his own conclusions. That's extreme but more in the right direction that me for sure.

We're quick to form opinions too. I can write about someone in a coded way (even though everyone always knows who a blogger is talking about - haha and I'm not blowing up anyone's spot. I have not frequented blogs in some time now) or I can voice any opinion I want about politics or religion or anything! We have the power to publish in real time. It takes me a long time to write blog posts because I want what I write to be how I really feel. Orators of famous speeches and philosophers both shitty and famous have been held to their word. Today you can say one thing in the morning (and influence the people around you both emotionally and mentally) and then totally contradict that at night. There is no responsibility or consequence for either. We can change our minds on a whim because we don't marinate on things enough to actually decide how we feel about them.

WHHHHHHEW. I love when I write something passionately or emotion-filled because someone always thinks I am sad or angry. =) No worries my friends. I am fine. I just think real conversation and seeking your own truth and personal discovery and the evolution of the self are all falling by the wayside. Reality has become infused with denial and technological cloudiness. I was in denial about my eating habits and lifestyle and lots of things. I now have cut out lots of bad habits and accepted my coffee actively. The point is that I still don't understand everything about myself or the world around me but thinking about small things actually helped, even if only a little bit. It was scary at first but I think it could help you make decisions about the world around you. It all depends on how you decide to see the light.


"The mark of greatness is when everything before you is obsolete and everything after you bears your mark."

Dave Chappelle recited this quotation when asked about Richard Pryor's influence on the world of comedy. I'm sure there are numerous variations and thoughts about where it comes from but regardless I find the sentiment beautiful and since hearing it, can't stop thinking about it...

(This would probably sound better delivered verbally but you can pretend I'm saying it if you know what I sound like!)

Smoke and Mirrors

Listen to me.

As I look up from deep thought I think about life. I'm uneasy.

My Frustration is not having a cell phone for almost two weeks.
My Frustration is having to go to Sprint five effing times.
My Frustration is not attaining the fitness goals I want.
My Frustration is not being as productive as I wish to be on a day to day basis.
My Frustration is not understanding what I'm doing at work.

Are you hearing all this stuff that's going on?

Stress is getting up late for work over and over again when I set my alarm.
Stress is ridiculous traffic on my morning commute that frustrates the hell out of me.
Stress is not getting the girl I want over and over again.
Stress is people being angry at me.
Stress is having so many damn bills to pay all the time.

Stress is not knowing what I want to do with my life.

(As this rant continues a tiny squirrel runs past me. My head shifts slightly to the left)

As I look up I realize that...

Drama is not situations I've had in the past with people I know.
Drama is my buddy Kurt being a proud father and being forced to go to Iraq to fight.
Drama is growing up without one of your parents like some of my friends.
Drama is having to return groceries items because your family doesn't have enough money.
Drama is not being sure you're going to be alive tomorrow because of illness.

Reality is that most of my readers will never be below the poverty line.
Reality is that growing up neither of my parents lost their jobs.
Reality is that as a teenager most of my real problems dealt with social pressures and girls.
Reality is that most people don't have the luxury of being stressed and frustrated like me.

Most peoples' lives are too hard to even think about the inconsequential things I feel sorry for
myself about.
I dwell on things that a lot of other people would consider privileges to experience.

(As I continue to look to the left, I realize how focused I've been on myself. My Frustration and My Stress are both just that..... MINE. To the left and the right and above and behind me are other people with real problems that I could be helping. I've continually talked about how much I want to help people around me but haven't volunteered on the Southside once yet. But the great thing is that as humanoids we have to ability to make that change when we want.)

Life should be about perspective and
Life should be full of deep breathes and
Life should be about hugs (guy hugs are cool too) and
Life should be about continually taking a step back and seeing the whole picture (not just
from my point of view but from everyones)
Life is about cultivating all the things we have... not getting overwhelmed with the few things that seemingly always elude us.

Funny thing is, people will read this post and surely email me and say, “Dude, why are you so frustrated!” Again, focused on the negative part of the post. In fact, I don't know the last time I've felt so thankful and full of perspective. If anything, take the fact that as humans we have the ability to alter our perspective on life. I just feel like I've been living in my own little bubble for far too long and my priorities need some revamping. Don't get me wrong. From time to time, we all need to vent and be human, it's just important to also have perspective, which is something I was lacking before. I started getting frustrated with the effed up formatting but then started laughing cause the whole point was to let that stuff go - SO I DID!. You get the message.

I sit here and think about the people I admire the most. I'm not going to embarrass you all here but you all have something in common. You all constantly cultivate the “HAVE” in your life and you don't even think about the “WANT”. I feel very blessed to have so many squirrels in my life. Ya'll know who you are. Thanks.

The Eternal Shortstop

I still remember how that fear felt. I would pray that my name wouldn't get called but I always knew it would since I was one of the few middle infielders on the team. Of all the drills that Coach Haubner put on us this one was by far the worst. I'd much rather run for two hours (which we did in single file line) or run liners on a basketball court. Those of you that have ever had the pleasure of playing baseball on an all-dirt infield know that it is not the friendliest of surfaces for a ball to roll against. So enter the spiderweb drill. Four batter would stand next to each other at home plate and criss cross the groundballs they would hit. I would be at shortstop and Shawn Olsen would be at home plate. I can still hear the sound of the all aluminum bat with no grip on it. Shawn would always be an ass to us and hit the ball as hard as he could on the ground. The ball would ping off the bat and then time slowed down. I remember seeing the ball hit the ground and then focusing in on one bounce and then two bounces.....

Did I stop the ball? I guess that's not the story I want to tell. You see when you're playing infield in baseball you have a couple options. You can sit back on your heels. When the ball jumps off the bat you are at the mercy of the ball. The ball bounces and you're one step behind. You try to overcompensate, which in turn makes you lose sight of the ball or pick the wrong hop to attack. You might glove the ball but chances are you're going to pull up too early or get hit by the ball. Your second choice is to play on your toes and creep towards the batter. As the ball hits the ground you are now in a position to actually choose the bounce you want to attack. The last option is ideal. Not only playing on your toes but going through all possible scenarios in your head. Where are the runners? If the ball comes to you left what do you do? Your right? You're basically ready for anything in the third scenario.

Why should you care about my baseball days? Because I see lots of people around me getting hit in the face over and over again. I feel like we're a generation of youth living on our heels. We might think a lot about possible future events but we're not ready for the ball to come our ways at all times. Think about the ideal situation I described. A fielder thinks about possible actions, remains adaptable in the moment, acts decisively and completes some action. How many of us can say we go through that process in a day? week? month? I realized a few months ago that I spend the majority of my time thinking about what MIGHT happen. But not about the current situation. I was thinking about what will happen if the score is 5-4? What if we lose the game? What if we don't make the playoffs? The result, life hits you in the face. People around me are doing similar things. Constant hypothetical situations and lots of talk about "I want" and "I'm thinking about." I'm not saying those things are bad! Those things are important but we're often losing focus of the present and about the next steps we need to take to move forward. The thinking alone doesn't make a ballplayer.

I've been in plenty of situations where I marinated on a topic for far too long and ended up getting hit in the face. A simple example is talking to chickidies at a party. I'm the type of guy that marinates on what to say, and then runs through possible scenarios and then might approach said lady. The problem? I am totally on my heels, especially if she comes over and talks to me. Not sure if that's the best example but hopefully you catch my drift. We need to be more decisive and at worst we decide wrong and grow from that. The point is by evolving thought into action you're able to create life events on your terms. You're able to quickly weigh out scenarios, live on your toes, and you're able to choose the bounce you want and your instinct will tell you what to do with it. I do this at work all the time now. Before a meeting I think about where people are going to sit and what the dynamic might be like or before an interview I go through scenarios and decide what I will do in each. The point is my thinking is becoming more in the moment and more action oriented.

I still find myself on my heels all the time and I really want to change. Opportunities are flying right past us every moment of every day. Think when you need to! but be adaptable in the moment to act instantly, be decisive and make things happen. Life is going to hit each and everyone of us in the face from time to time. If you're on your heels, it might knock you down and it might knock you off course. If you're on your toes, maybe you can still make that play you need to or at least you were able to do your best on your own terms. So stretch out a little bit. Take a deep breath and get up on those toes. You know all the possible outcomes. Ping! The ball is on its way... one bounce... two bounces.....what you gonna do?

The Ancient Theory of Mind Blowing

The day I graduated high school, I received a hand written letter from a freshman named Adam. Now at this point I knew Adam pretty well and he had become a friend of mine. So I opened the letter and it started out by saying something like, "It was almost a year ago but I still remember I was having a bad day and then to top it off I had to walk all the way home. That was until a senior was nice enough to stop his car and pick me up and drive me home." Adam lived down the street so I stopped to pick him up that day. It was really nothing to me but apparently meant a lot to him. Thinking about Adam reminds me a lot of one of my girlfriends in high school. We had lots of great memories but honestly I don't clearly remember all of them. But what does stand out though was when I would be all tired and frustrated after baseball practice. I would walk back to my car in the empty parking lot and there would always be a note waiting for me on my car windshield.

Neither story is flashy and neither story took a lot of planning or money but in both cases minds were blown. I still remember the feeling I would get opening those letters. The people involved experienced some sort of magical memory that sticks with them. I've been thinking a lot about what creates these mind blowing experiences and they really grow out of being good at little things. I feel like we focus too much on being extravagant and flashy when really memorable events are the result of people realizing that you took the time to think about them. In high school I was fortunate enough to eat lunch at the White House and to be honest I don't remember much about the meal but about 2 years later I ate lunch at my friend's house in Hanford, CA and I could to this day DRAW you the meal. Everything we ate was handpicked from their farm and that could have been one of the best meals I've had. Or when Biggest called me from Egypt right at midnight on New Year's Eve.... I thought to myself, "How did he do that math? Wow he planned that shit out. My mind is blown." Or when I would make an error in baseball. My coach, Art, would come up to me and whisper in my ear, "V, I've done that a 1,000 times. No one feels worse than you right now but relax. Just do what you need to do next time." And for some reason I not only appreciated Art for saying that but he calmed my nerves every time. It was like he had put himself in my situation before talking to me. I guess it's that empathy that lies at the core of mind blowing. People do not expect others to attempt to look through their eyes and when you do, they notice.

So why do we spend so much time trying to impress people with decorations and flossy things when it's the simple things that blow peoples' minds? I've been to a few weddings recently and you see some crazy things like chocolate fountains and the bride wearing more diamonds than a rapstar. I don't remember any of that shit to be honest. It's generic and it's fleeting. At Chuck's wedding they handed out a CD of their favorite songs. That seems to be standard these days BUT they sang the first song on the CD. How badass is that? I've been listening to them sing everyday on the way to work since the wedding. At another wedding I heard about, they handed out flip-flops so the ladies could take their heels off to dance. Both are cheap, simple ideas that are burnt into the minds of the people around you.

I don't think mind blowing is difficult it just takes time. You have to really sit and think about your audience. About their motivations and about their wants and desires. Don't be so generic and cookie cutter. For your next party or get together or class or meeting, instead of brainstorming about what alcohol to get or what decorations to buy or how to organize your meeting, brainstorm about who's coming. What do certain people have in common? How can you introduce this person to that person? What motivates people and what makes people smile? If you even take a few minutes to do this, I ensure you that at least a few minds will be blown. Just keep some Downy handy to clean up the mess.

In a Sentiental Mood

Sometimes I need to get into the mood to blog. So tonight the candles are lit, the lights are low and Coltrane is jammin' through the speakers. I slept to Coltrane almost every night my junior year in college (random factoid about me). Something about his music soothes the soul. No matter how your day went, he refills your spirit. And I digress.

So I realized a while back that my blog offered less marinade and was offering cooked delights. Hopefully this marinade satisfies that brain stew you're slow cooking later tonight.

I guess the last few months have given me more time to think about things on my own than any other time in my life. I've always placed such high importance on the approval of the people around me, so being able to think things through and act on my own is pretty revolutionary to me. With that being said, I'd like to share a couple revelations I've come across the last few days. If I so may carry on with the self improvement posts one more time, I would be most thankful.

[Sorry that these are all about fitness. I think these ideals really apply to any goal in life]
  1. Be productive today but remember that tomorrow is also a workday.

    What do I mean by this? (I'm not trying to remind you about that report you need to finish by lunch tomorrow). Actually it's more about breaking goals down into tangible tasks. From my senior year in high school to college graduation I gained over 50 pounds! Do you know how many grocery store clerks made fun of me? Bastards! My family loves me so much that they always tell me I've lost weight but it never really dawned on until after college that I was so much heavier. I tried to lose it the way most people do. I cut out all sorts of foods. I worked out hard one day (then took a bunch off of course), and I deprived myself of many things. I would do this and lose quite a bit of weight but then feel entitled to a free weekend (which more often than not carried into the week) and I'd gain it all back. I didn't feel any better and as far as my goals were concerned they were in the shitter.

    What's the point here? That we think personal change has to be instant. Makeovers on TV, Biggest Loser, and all sorts of other media outlets give us this impression. We want instant gratification. We don't want to move up the corporate ladder. I think my generation is even worse about this than previous generations. Well in high school, I was fortunate enough to be pretty cool with one of the tougher kids in our school, Brian. One day I was in the gym and he must have seen me long-faced and ashamed of the barely visible weights I was lifting. He walked over to me. This guy is gigantic by the way (I still remember when I played on the basketball team with him, a guy punched him in the face and he laughed at the guy). So Brian comes over to me and says, “Don't get discouraged man. Chris (his good buddy) felt the same way a few months ago and I told him everyone has to start somewhere and work their way up. (At this point Chris was actually pretty cut) Even I started at that level” He said. Okay he didn't say that last part but I can remember it however I want. That must have been over 8 years ago and I still think about it when I get discouraged with my fitness goals. We need to be productive today but always remember that tomorrow is also a workday.

    I didn't see any improvement in myself until I started working out hard on a given day but reminded myself, “Leave enough for tomorrow buddy. This is about tomorrow (and a month from now). No excuses that you're tired tomorrow.” This type of thinking spread over to other aspects of my life outside of fitness which brings me to my second juicy piece.

  2. Offer yourself positive change rather than negative restrictions.
    This idea has really starting to blow my freaking mind (and those people that know what I'm talking abouts!). One of my first weird experiments was with Ajaya and Hash, where we went vegetarian for a month (I know, I know it sounds easy but believe me, we are carnivorous to the max) Anyway, there were no restrictions on what we could eat within the vegetable family. The result? Each one of us began drinking more water, we didn't eat junk food as much, and we started working out WAY more. Positive byproducts are so rewarding. I once hated most vegetables and started to love bell peppers and onions and eggplant. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that we phrased the challenge in a positive way rather than saying, "NO MEAT FOR A MONTH!"

    Now, take this last month for example. I decided to cut a little weight by cooking every meal I ate. No restrictions on what I ate. For the first 15 days, I only ate meat once. I started working out a ton more and drank craploads of water. I also no longer craved some of the foods that I constantly ate and made me feel shitty. I would actually rather eat homemade food now. I also started to really look forward to coming home and making food. So you see, this could have been phrased as, “I'm not going to eat out for a month” but because somehow I thought of it more as I'm producing my own food for a month" it had a much more positive impact on my life. It also made it more fun because it was a challenge instead of me removing something from my life.

    So maybe instead of trying to watch less TV, tell yourself that you're going to read an hour more everyday or instead of saying, “No going out until you study for an hour” maybe you should think of it as, “Every time I study I get to party.”

    Friend, I'm no disciplinary expert and I most likely never will be. I've gone to the gym before and then snuck out to go to Taco Bell instead. The point is that is this guy can do it, anyone other human can (some other animals I'm a tad bit skeptical about). For example, my diet in college consisted of hot pockets, bagel bites, corndogs, shumai, potstickers, and buffalo wings (COSTCO freezer section anyone?). For about a month span we also had those giant Nestle cookie ice cream sandwiches everyday and all sorts of ice cream. I ate those things everyday with at least a couple cups of coke and beer for good measure. Change didn't happen because I have more power than you. Change also didn't happen because I woke up one day and deprived myself of bad things. Change was gradual. Change was made up of tiny little steps (that went backwards at times) that evolved into permanent distances. We can't go through life hoping to change with the flip of a switch because that's just not fair to ourselves and life is not about depriving ourselves. It's more about being more actively in control of ourselves. So when you fall out of line, take a breath and step back in and when you look in the mirror look at yourself in the way you want to be seen and remember we're all in this together.

    Change CAN be painful and change CAN be overwhelming but maybe if we all listen to Brian and remember that everyone started in the same position as us, maybe change will come in the form of tiny steps.

On Morning Inspiration

The other day I sat at work and was rather overwhelmed with this sense of unfamiliarity and uneasiness. Usually when this happens I cycle through a couple blogs and feel better. I visited smallchou's blog (since he's been on a roll lately) and was super amused by his story of racing an older Asian man on his bike into work. The thing that struck me though was that he had run six frickin' miles that morning before his bike ride into work. I was impressed but thought nothing of it. I just pictured him walking into work at Google, where some hired servant fanned him the rest of the day. That night I came home and went on my usual run but as I came to the end of it, I thought about smallchou again and got all fired up. "If he can run before work, I can sack up and run an extra mile or two after work," I thought. Sure enough not only did I run farther than I have ever run that day but I did it two more times!

These inspired runs led right into one of the best weekends of all-time. On Friday night I went to a BBQ at Ritz', came home and cleaned my place, and then went to a birthday party in the city. Oh but wait! Then our night began. We came back to my place, had a couple frosty beverages and played wii for a couple hours. Believe it or not we were waiting to go out again. The City of Chicago was throwing this all-night party downtown and we wanted to see the tail-end of it. We rolled to this community center downtown, which seemed abandoned. As we walked in, I got a HUGE smile on my face. At least a hundred people were playing chess, two to a table. Now I am talking people big and small; people black, white, brown, green; people in their 80s and people too young to cross the street. It was seriously an inspiring scene. We couldn't even get a table to play on. While all this is going on, the main hall has Classical Indian music, which was too popular for us to even get into!

My friends were fading fast and I made my last attempts to keep them awake. "Coffee? Red Bull? Come on Ritz!" The classic line of, "We really want to stay BUT we're tired." Alas, it was not meant to be. So the night was over..... well it would have been.

Rewind to a time before I moved and I probably would have gone home with them. I was determined to stay by myself and walk over to the park. They were going to have a CELEBRATION at sunrise. I grabbed a giant coffee and walked over to the park around 4:45 AM. I met a bunch of loving folks that were enjoying their night. We all sat in a big circle on the lawn at Millennium Park and waited for the festivities. What were they? YOGA! So at this point I had been up since 6 AM on Friday and I was doing YOGA in a park at sunrise at 5 AM on Saturday (in a hoody and hat nonetheless). I did many downward dogs and triangle poses as the sun warmed the park and then sat front row for a choir singing morning (WAKE UP!) songs. If that wasn't enough though Stavi (who's a med student) just got off call, picked me up and we went shopping for groceries. We came home, woke Ritz up and cooked a mean ass brunch, went for a walk and then I finally called it a night around noon.

As I stood there in the park at sunrise I had this weird feeling. Maybe what I think of as a emotional feeling of being lonely is actually just me getting used to being physically alone? As I stood alone in the park, I seriously felt like everyone I had ever known was there with me (sure maybe I was delirious). I felt more like I was there because of all those people and it was a CELEBRATION of that idea! It wasn't the cold feeling associated with loneliness but a warm feeling of comfort (even though I knew not a soul out there). Maybe even though we spend most of our lives physically alone, we're actually still connected to those people in our lives all the time.

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it's the smallest, seemingly inconsequential events that light the fire at our core. I haven't seen smallchou in person in years and yet he's changed the course of my fitness routine (and not even on purpose). We reflect on one another and reflect ourselves back onto the people around us. The tiniest of movements and actions influence the people around us. So keep your eyes and ears open.... this post is just one example but if we're if we're open to them, life changes may be just one small(chou) step away!

Picture Show

I have a few things I really want to post about but have yet to find the right words to describe them. I had one of the best weekends I've had in a long time and tonight I went and saw Les Nubians (a French r&b duo) and they blew my mind too. I also went samba dancing a few days ago. Still digesting the coolness of some of those events including my first Flaco's in Chicago. Anyway here are some pictures from the last few days. Hope you enjoy them. A real post is coming soon.

To the right is some masoor daal, mushroom and green bean medley and some chana (garbanzo bean) masala. Since going on my "only eat what I cook" routine I've only eaten meat once. Another weird byproduct of trying something new. Not to mention the redonkulous amounts of water I've been drinking.

To the left is a great example of my lack of actual cooking skills. Every night I know I have to cook for myself. So of my available ingredients I throw something together. Top left is bell peppers and mushrooms in a soy sauce and sriracha sauce, bottom left is canned tomatoes and kidney beans in italian spices with A LOT of chili peppers, and since presentation is everything I dropped some black beans and avocados in there too for good measure. See, you can all make shit like this EASILY. It's just a matter of making yourself do it!

LES NUBIANS! The concert was phenomenal and both of them are gorgeous! Their message was smart and super positive and I was really impressed. Those that have never heard their music should definitely check it out. An entire concert in French (I don't even know French) and they rocked the house. An entire post about my thoughts about their message and concert is coming soon.

When Hegyi and I were in business, Chuck was one of our best customers. Having him here over the weekend brought back sooooo many memories. I was going to make a Cinco de Mayo mustache too but he fell asleep and I decided to shave instead.

My thoughts about these cups? No fight could ever be broken out in their presence. Am I right? TURKISH coffee is the BEST! One of my coworkers hooked us up!
Anyway sorry about the picture show today but theres been lots going on and soon enough some really coherent mind blowing marinades shall be offered to the masses to cook your mental chickens. Until then.... enjoy your Thursday and GO WARRIORS!

Fill Us Diller

It's always insightful to see what drives the people around you. Some may be driven by food or money or family or the want for love. What drives you people to get up in the morning and do the everyday hustle?

Complete this sentence:

I live for ____________________. (could be many words or a few)

(p.s. HAPPY FRIDAY people)


Tonight a third citizen entered the Small World and it seems like more and more people are are sharing stories!

Marinades from the past few days:

Daily Laughs:
Are there some things that make your day everyday? There's one guys at work that looks exactly like Sylar from Heroes. Everyday he wears a hat and glasses just like Sylar. I walk past him and think in my head, "SYLAR!" Then I laugh to myself a little bit. I've been watching an episode or two of South Park before going to bed too. The latest season of that show is sooo on point with the comedy. Any quirky things you see everyday at work or home that make you laugh?

Chosen Dependence:
For the longest time I've felt like I've been way too dependent on the people around me. I've been on the flipside and been that crutch for people before and it sucks. Do you have a person or persons in your life that you feel like you're dependent on when in need? Well this week I have basically embraced my alone time and really tried to make the most of it rather than getting all weirded out. I've gotten so much done and realized that alone time is actually MY TIME (when I can make shit happen). Revelation. I'm thinking too that I was never fully dependent on the person(s) but kind of loss my point of reference out here. It feels good to realize that I really do just enjoy having them around.

Slow Food:
Hegyi (the other half of Flaco's) has been telling me to get down with an organization called Slow Food, which seems pretty cool. Bringing my lunch to work is starting to make me feel like I did in elementary school. Everyone else is buying chicken nuggets and tater tots everyday (okay the occasional pizza slice) but I know that whatever I've brought is going to be as delicious as I made it (or gross). It's made me think a lot about what I actually eat AND I think something I really want to start pushing is fresh food and teaching people how easy cooking can be. Making actual dishes is just as easy and sometimes less time consuming than making pasta or macaroni. More to come on this topic SOON!

The other funny thing is people always ask me where I learned how to cook. I don't know how to cook but I definitely know how to eat. So I work backwards. I think about what tastes good. For tonight's party on the stove I invited red bell peppers (thought of you niva), garlic, onions, hmmmm some tandoori powder straight from the motherland, some thai chillies and soy sauce for good measure. I had no clue what I was making but when you use all ingredients you like, more often than not it tastes pretty good.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

Here's what I took to lunch today. Felt really good to be healthy again and bring my own food. As healthy as food can be in the cafeteria at work nothing beats bringing in your own food!

I also have been saving a little bit of my lunch everyday to eat right before I leave the office. On days I go grocery shopping, this prevents HUNGRY SHOPPING (how much do you do that?) and on days I work out, I don't feel like I need to eat when I get home and can get right to the gym.

By the way, as a snack, tomatoes with black pepper on top of them are DELICIOUS! I also drank a ridiculous amount of water today which always give me extra energy and makes me less hungry. Who knew?

The Questions

Look out... this is my second post in one day? Obviously lots is on the mind. I wanted to learn more about you, the reader... so here are some questions for you. Even if you don't want to comment... think about them!

1) What are 3 things that you're better at than the average person?

writing, playing basketball and baseball, and understanding people (and eating).

2) What's one thing you would be considered a professional at?

eating sunflower seeds and teaching public speaking.

3) What's 1 thing you wish you would spend more time getting better at?

running, knitting, cooking, singing, getting to know people on a deeper level.

Funky Fresh May

People that spend a lot of time with me know that I am constantly jabbering about wanting to do this or how cool it would be to try that. Some people may even think I'm being insincere (since I don't follow through the majority of the time) but that's just the way I am. I love thinking about possibilities and pushing the limits. So here is a crazy idea I expressed to a few dearests and they got really excited about it. You might want to sit down for this......

From May 1st until May 31st I am going to attempt to only consume food that I cook with my own hands. That means no eating out for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or Weiner Circle late night!). It also means no chips, fries, wings, SUNFLOWER SEEDS! or other delicious snack foods in between. Basically I am going to allow myself to eat only home cooked meals mostly comprised of fresh (and canned) vegetables and fruit. Of course things like eggs and bread will be allowed. I'm thinking for snacks and the such, I'm going to take cut veggies and granola or oatmeal.

As a celebration before Funky Fresh May I indulged quite a bit today. My stomach is currently the proud owner of a Pollo Vagabundo chicken fajita burrito and a delicious al pastor torta for dinner (not to mention both are joyously swimming in all sorts of salsa and guacamole).

If you have easy recipes you would like to share, I would love the advice. I'm definitely going to constantly be referring to Anu and Cooking Light. I'll keep you all updated as much as possible on how the experiment is going! Whoooooooo!

Moment of Truth

Do not blame Heaven
And do no
t blame earth
For your loneliness.
You are
traveling the ways of loneliness
Because your mind has no
t tried to conquer
The darkness of frustration-frown.

Lately I've been in some kind of funk. How does one rid of a funk? Well baseball players take extra batting practice and politicians probably practice their speeches just a little more and famous people date other famous people. Well my immediate reaction has been to branch out. To go out as much as possible and surround myself with new things, experience new things. But I've been missing one important thing... myself.

The three months or so since I've been in Chicago, I think there have been visitors in town every weekend except two or three (not that I'm that cool, lots of them have been in town for conferences and the such – not to see me). So most Mondays have been filled with some sort of human withdrawal and then coming home to an empty apartment doesn't help that situation. So I've focused a lot on redefining myself. I've gotten into fashion a lot more (changing my kick's laces to match my shirt color and plaid shirts cuffed over a long sleeve sweater... LOOK OUT!) and I've gone out by myself quite a few times, which is something I never thought I would do. So that's all been great but none that have given me the feeling I'm looking for.... what's this feeling you ask? Well I've gotten “the feeling” a few choice times since I've been out here. The other day when I was playing tennis with Ritz I got it. I was freewheelin', talking trash, and diving all over the court. I got the feeling when I had people over for dinner and we stayed in for the night and just chatted and I get the feeling every time I cook. It's all the times I felt like myself.

Living in the place my entire life, I think I really became dependent on other people making me feel like myself, like food for my soul. Part of the reason I wanted to move was that I felt stagnant. I didn't feel dynamic or evolvable (see I just made up that word) anymore. In that sense the move has been incredible but somewhere along the way I got ahead of myself. I think we spend so much time focusing on the gigantic world around us that we forget the feeling we get from looking inward.

It's definitely still strange to spend so much of my time alone and to spend so much time thinking but honestly I think the funk has been the result of me fighting myself. The other Sunday I walked out my front door and onto the street. At that moment I realized that I could do anything I wanted. I could swim in the lake if I wanted to or go buy an ice cream or drink at a bar. I was super overwhelmed. Then I let that idea marinate in my head for a while and the overwhelming-ness (another made up word) turned into a feeling of empowerment. I'm in a situation that few people find themselves in and that's crazy exciting. So instead of being overwhelmed by the world around me, I'm going to take a deep breath, shake out my hands and turn to the one thing that I almost forgot about but has been with my since the beginning... myself.

Jimmy V's Legacy

With all the tragedy going on in the states and around the world I thought I would post something short and uplifting. As a public speaking lecturer and as a human being, this is one of the best speeches I've ever heard. The transitions are seamless, he hits all human emotion, gives you actionable advice and ends strong. It's about 10 minutes long but the entire thing is worthwhile. If you have time please watch the entire thing because the end is unbelievable. "Laugh.....think..... and have your emotions moved to tears."

Room with a View

In our everyday lives we find ourselves looking out of windows all the time. When you look out of these windows what do you see? You might see birds flying freely or you might notice people walking. But perhaps what’s more interesting is not what’s outside the window but rather the influence of that which is inside the window.

At a time where I could not find my way (professionally), I went and spoke to my adviser and his advice is still marinating my mind. I basically came to him and asked what I should do to make myself sexier to potential companies and future business. I asked if I should be taking more technical engineering classes or if I should be taking more fuzzy design classes. He basically said in his perpetual joking manner, that it didn’t really matter what I took. The most important thing was to learn how to understand the folks that actually excel in those fields. Basically if I took an engineering class, marinate on what an engineer’s experience is like and the same for management classes or art classes. Empathy is one of the keys to success.

So earlier today, I bet at some point you started out some window. Jerome Bruhner (author of “Acts of Meaning”) talked at length about how every individual interprets and interacts with the world around them through a personalized view. Our eyes allow us to see things but it’s our experience and environment that creates the windows in which each of us views the world. Perhaps that sounds obvious but when you start thinking about the implications of such subjective viewpoints, things begin to make a whole lot more sense.

Imagine a blank piece of paper in your head. Now think of a group you’re a part of…. It could be a club or a cultural group. Draw a circle somewhere on that page to represent that group. That circle encompasses all that the group considers to be truth. Could be truth about the meaning of life or something as simple as shooting a gun can result in danger. Experience within some group could lead to both ideals. Now think of another group you’re a part of. Maybe your family or your college. These circles encompass the appropriate ideals as well. So why am I having you draw? Well each one of us, stands at the middle of these circles. These concentric circles represent the very grain with which we are made. Our actions, reactions, opinions and ideals can all be traced back to events, experiences and the history we’ve had in these cultures of our lives. For example I stand at the middle of San Ramon, Stanford, Konkani and now Chicago culture. Contradictions in ideals and morals could emerge but standing in the middle, we make decisions about what our view will be like (whether we do this consciously or now).

Immigrant parents are a great example of this idea. My parents for example still hold onto ideals that they experienced when they were young folks living in India. India doesn’t even hold these ideals anymore but those circles have stayed unchanged since my parents have been in the states for so long. They stand in the middle of some circles that don’t even exist anymore but the power of those views are still long-lasting.

Now think about the actions of world leaders. If they took more time to think about one another’s concentric circles, how different would the world be? Get microscopic on it and think about our everyday lives. When your car gets broken into, you could say, “How could people do this?” or you could realize that society has created an unfair system and as a result some people in urban areas have a very different set of circles and basic needs than those in the suburbs.

But yet the beauty of the circles is that they are truly dynamic. In college, I constantly had discussions with my hardcore Catholic buddy. His argument against all other world religions was that Catholicism was the only pure path to truth. Maybe it is, but I also know that he’s a guy whose life contains an extremely large Catholic circle. He views the world through these Catholic ideals and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem emerges when these windows becomes blind to the circles of the people around them.

My argument to him was always that truth is the residue of information mining. The way Forty Niners used to sift through California river beds, truth is found when we sift through the information around us.

Many world spiritual leaders understood the idea of these circles well before Bruhner. Swami Vivekananda once spoke at the World Fair (which was ironically in Chicago!). Now I’m not even going to pretend to be well read on him but I thought this speech was phenomenal. His message was that man viewed religion as an ocean. An ocean that could not be shared among groups and an ocean that certain people had rights to, while others just didn’t understand. (wait for it… here comes the circles!). Religion, he said, in actuality was not an ocean. Religions were merely rivers that joined into the same ocean. Call that ocean truth or love or whatever you want, that’s a pretty powerful thought.

I think that ideal extends beyond religion though. We all have similar desires and goals. Maybe they have different forms and we go about getting them differently but when they’re stripped to their base fundamentals, we’re all very similar. At one point, Gandhiji wanted to spread the idea that “God is truth” only later to decide that “Truth is God.”

We all stand in the middle of many circles. It’s who we are… it’s why we act the way we do. Every action stems from previous feelings and experiences and what we believe to be the way the world works. Why limit ourselves to these circles? I would like to believe that we’re much more dynamic than that. So when you’re looking out your window tonight, realize that although the view is nice, you’re only in a duplex. If only we actively put ourselves in the circles of the people around us… we could together enjoy the view from the penthouse of Trump Towers.

12 not 21

Over the last two years or so, a lot of my friends have been really focused on getting older. They have started staying in a lot more and refuse to go out during the work week. I've been fighting the good fight against these evil thoughts. 21, is what I think. Live like you're 21. So I've been going out a lot and raging late into the night and having a damn good time but I realize something... the 21 year old lifestyle will always be there. Late night spots are always open and people will always frequent bars and clubs. It's not 21 that I need to focus on, it's 12.

How fun are those days when you do something super silly like play whiffle ball or play an old board game? You know the purest forms of entertainment. No expectations and no end in sight. Just enjoying the activity itself. So here are some things I have done in the past and things I have planned to feel 12 again.

BOXing - Rones and I used to put cardboard boxes on our heads and run into each other. People thought we were crazy but we would laugh like school girls.

RAZR Speedway
- Someone on our hall in our dorm had one of those crazy Razr scooters. We would put up obstacles and ramps and time ourselves through the course.

Friday Recess
- Oh yeah! I sent out an email at work AND people are all fired up about having recess on Fridays for lunch. Brown bag lunches and then switching between kickball, dodgeball, whiffle ball and maybe some ultimate frisbee. I cannot wait for this Friday lunch!

Nintendo Wii
- Buying a Wii has given me that young VLove feeling sooooo many times now. I get so lost in the games and it's one of the greatest escapes in a long, long time.

Crazy Dance Party - Rones and I used to throw on dope beats late at night and battle one another with crazy dance moves. Today, Jandro, Vito and basically everyone I chill with is down for a crazy dance challenge anytime, anyplace.

- Residents of the former Casa de VAT will go outside with a checker board from
time to time and sign that reads, "CONNECT FOUR - 25 CENTS/GAME" and play any challengers from the street.

- Hegyi is my favorite opponent in this game. Every time we did Flaco's, we would try to weird one another out. Whether it be with weird looks or standing in each other personal space, we were laughing the entire time.

You got anymore ideas? Send 'em my way homey! Oh and check out the Poppin' and Lockin' Marionette at the Small World Project.

I think one of the greatest feelings is making someone you don't know or someone that seems uptight feel comfortable enough to be goofy. Why don't we do this more? The beauty of kids to me is the ability to find the goofiness in every situation. A toilet paper roll becomes a ball to throw, a cup of water becomes a water fight, a piece of paper is a football, two sticks become swords, and no matter what we can escape and marinate in those few hilarious moments.

The Art of Storytelling

So I'm beginning to like the format of writing a summary of things that are going on in my life and then writing about something that has been marinating in my mind recently.

Lately I've been feeling like one of the characters on the TV Show Heroes (not the horn-rimmed glasses dude – come on now!). Slowly things are becoming more clear. I'm realizing things about myself and about how life works. I am not even close to any definitely answers but slow clarity is a good thing nonetheless. Telling others about my faults and insecurities used to feel like a sign of weakness to me. What would they think about me? What would they say about me? A lot of people probably think this way. But that's not the point. The point is bettering yourself. I am quickly realizing that being honest and in tune with your faults is the best way towards evolving above those faults. One of the most powerful things you can show someone is your vulnerability and then your ability to overcome that weakness. I feel like we are constantly wearing masks. We try to shield ourselves from the world around us in an attempt to hide our vulnerability, when in actuality the world around us is going through similar tribulations as our own. With that being said, I would like to lose more weight. I have no discipline with the things I eat. In 2006, I gave up beer and most things unhealthy and lost about 30 pounds only to move to Chicago and basically live inside a beer vat and eat all sorts of unhealthy creations. I'm telling you this not to complain or be sad about it. I'm telling you this because I think (I actually have no idea who reads my blog) some of my readers might be in a similar situation. Well let's work together then. How bout you email me every time you work out or every time you pass on eating something that's bad for you? I could do the same and we could motivate one another. Mangster and I used to do that and it worked in such a positive way! Just think of me as your Richard Simmons.... errrr how about the Tae Bo guy instead. On to Word Life. Part II


Word Life. Part II

I ended the last section on language somewhere in the middle of written text. Oh baby, it's time to jump right off the page into oral communication. I am extremely intrigued with the spoken word because to communicate even the simplest idea we have basically unlimited word choice. People we all wear a toolbox of words around our waists throughout life. Too many people view speech as a means to get a message across to someone or a way to pass on information to an audience. That's not how it works at all! Your words are the tools that allow you to mix and interact with the audience. Your words and an audience are in constant motion with one another. It's a constant back and forth relationship. You say a few words and immediately the listener interprets those words and communicates back to you either verbally or with their body language and from that communication you adjust your message. In informal settings, we do this subconsciously all the time. Think about the last time you almost ruined a surprise or starting saying something you weren't supposed to. You saw a reaction from the listener and quickly tried to cover up your blunder. For some reason people forget about this all together when giving a formal speech. Speeches more than anything are a verbal relationship you create with a given audience. You can inspire them or make them feel the way you feel and in return you are able to understand how they feel.

A while back I became really fascinated with storytelling. We began teaching a unit in my class about how to tell a good story. Students starting coming back to us and saying that they were not only better at telling stories but their jokes were funnier and their friends were impressed at their timing. I started to think about people I consider great storytellers. Lots of people came to mind but a high percentage of them happened to be friends in India. Their tone variations and ability to mimic other voices and use imagery are very strong. So why are they so good at telling stories? Well most of them happen to be Konkani. Am I saying that my people are just naturally charismatic? (actually we're quite awkward). No, actually I think it's because Konkani does not have a written script. Ask most Konkani kids here about the story of the pigeon and the crow. The voices people make are similar and the story is basically the same. So over the years culture and traditions had to passed solely through oral tradition. The result is an inherent ability and comfort in varying tone and voice volume. I was telling some of my Nigerian friends about this the other day and they said the same thing about their family in Nigeria. They're part of the Igbo (pronounced EE-BO) tribe, which also has no written script and apparently their families also have an uncanny ability to tell good stories. Regardless, good storytellers have a great feel for the relationship I spoke about earlier. They are able to read their audience and adjusting on the fly. They read peoples' eyes and body language and through these cues are able to build a relationship. Just watch someone next time they're telling a good story. They're absorbing all sorts of cues from their audience. Comedians are a great example of this absorption process.

The other fascinating thing to me about spoken language is the barriers we create for ourselves. Formal language for example drives me nuts. I was talking to Ajay about this one day. You ever notice how super proper language is very barrier heavy. Lots of “excuse me” and “pardon me” and words that we don't normally use. Why do people feel like public speaking or any speaking for that matter needs to be formal and fancy? Isn't the point to get your message to the most number of people? Think about people from urban areas or from very dialect heavy parts of America. They way they speak is MUCH more inviting and in a way loving. It's not emotionless, instead there is lots of tone variations and almost a sense of warmth in every line. I have never seen the informality of spoken language as an inability to be articulate or a sign of ignorance. To me the spoken word is all about connecting with your audience and down home folks connect with me instantly. Ritzy folks, on the other hand, sometimes make uncomfortable. That amazes me though that word choice and tone alone can break these invisible barriers and create connections between a speaker and the listener.

We can't escape language because it's part of life. Perhaps we all could take one more minute to marinate on who we're speaking to and rather than telling them what we think, directly interacting with that audience. I think you would find that more often than not you would make connections with whomever you were speaking to. After all, isn't the point of written and spoken language to express ideas and express emotion? So why not think of it less as talking to someone and think of it as talking with someone. Now if I could just apply these principles at every bar I went to..... but that's a whole other blog entry.

They Thought I Was a Zero

During a rough couple days last week, this commercial made me smile many, many times. I love when people in the media spotlight are honest and I have really come to admire the way certain athletes seemingly have no fear and believe in themselves in any situation. (I also love Gilbert Arenas - even though I hated him when he was at Arizona). "The reason I wear number zero is because it lets me know that I need to go out there and fight every night." I feel like we all have something (or many things) that we see in ourselves that other people might not and sometimes it's just a matter of staying true and believing in yourself.

Word Life.

Last week was one of the loneliest weeks of my life and I'm happy about it. Instead of continuing to push things away and postpone thinking about them, I brought all my thoughts inward and came to terms and made some important decisions. It was almost like I finally digested the reality of things, which felt really good. I felt much more aware and at peace this week. A certain edge that I used to have years a go is starting to come back I think, which could be exciting. I've also realized recently that I enjoy language very much. Not just different languages (which are great) but accents, word chose, intonation, and generally just the way different people choose to same the exact same thing. So this post is the first of a multipart post on my thoughts on language and word chose. The theme of this thought flow is written language.

Sometimes I feel like I was meant to be a product design major. I've always thought about the way that I package things. One of my teachers in elementary school once told me, "I enjoyed your paper but you always sound like you're trying to sell something." I actually took that as a compliment, although she definitely meant it as a bad thing. I think you need to think about your reader and what they're going to get out of your writing. This blog is a perfect example. If I didn't want the reader to get anything out of it, it would be a Hello Kitty Diary underneath my bed. I think a lot about what people might take away from everything I write (even party invites, personal emails and notes). For every blog post I actually publish, I have about 2-3 post I just sit on. I think of every one of them as a piece, a product. Anyway before I weird you out with my idiosyncrasies, let's move on.

I've always been preoccupied with the way writing flows and making sure the way I start something I write keeps the same personality and somehow ties up loose ends and surprisingly returns to the opening sentiment in a Magellan like voyage for the reader (when we used to freestyle in college, I would call myself MC Magellan sometimes because when I would try to come back to the same line I started with when I passed the mic. People thought that was pretty stupid but I guess, a little funny). That's why speeches were entertaining to me. Speeches have a clear objective and you plan on giving the audience something, whether that is a feeling or a message (or if you're really on your game, both).

Now let's truncate this idea of written language down into a simpler form: Quotations. I have always been somewhat obsessed with quotations. In high school, I had a binder with two clear plastic openings on both sides. Everyday I would have a new quotation on each side and it became something that everyone in my class would walk over and read. I started out with famous quotations and then started making up my own. If you want a quotation that you write to seem famous, just put quotation marks around it. So in my room now I basically have an entire binder of quotations about everything from life, to girls I was into at the time, to what was going on in the world. I love the ones about girls because I would make them all cryptic and good friends would understand them but other people just took them as actual quotations about life. ZINGA! I got them!

Today I am basically out of the quotation game and have shrunken the scope down even further to a Rick Moranis size level. One day I was thinking about where I want to be. I thought about characteristics I would love to embody and about where those characteristics could someday lead. What I basically drew up for myself was a character map (not to be confused with a "character map" for computers you technophiles). It was four words/characteristics that I want to always hold on to and the fifth characteristic is where they would lead. Another way to think about it would be four corners and the fifth characteristic is the center of the rectangle. Physically drawing it out helped quite a bit too (I need to see things to properly absorb them). So if you had to do the same thing, what would your four corners be? What would be the four steps on your path to the fifth? The plan is to have the four words framed between my bed, the bathroom and the kitchen with the fifth above my door, so every morning I have to walk through the set. I think about the words a lot and in some ways I think they have helped me stay on track. It's nice to think that in such a goal oriented society, you can break larger goals down into words and act upon them.

People absorb the words you use. I realize that more than ever now at a company where basically everyone reads every word of everything I write. People don't skim but rather break apart every line. That's not to say that people should freak out about writing or get nervous. It's more to say that in a language where you can say any sentiment in a hundred different ways, shouldn't you choose the words that best represent you? And if you do draw out that four corner diagram of yourself, you'll find that you get a warm fuzzy feeling anytime you use one of those five words maybe because subconsciously you've become that way.