Backdate the Journey

“It’s not until you’ve lost everything that you are free to do anything.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club.

I didn’t fully realize it then, but my journey to minimalism started in August when I got rid of all my stuff and fit everything I own into my car.

What's Left Of Me

A photo posted by Win Nguyen (@nguyenw) on

Ok this is REALLY whats left of me

A photo posted by Win Nguyen (@nguyenw) on

After my girlfriend and I broke up, I could no longer stay at that place. Four years, too many memories at practically every corner of that apartment. Speaking of the break-up, I feel like there should be a post on it. It’s coming soon.

This Friday is my last day at work. And yes, there will be another post about me leaving my job too. It’s also coming soon.

In the span of four months, I ended a three-year relationship, moved out of my primary residence, and left my (barely) stable job. This is not about quitting everything so I can become a monk. It’s about accepting the presence and moving on: be it my job, my girlfriend, or my house/apartment.

Enough for a change?

Not yet. One last corner of me that needs a “clean-up” is my mind. Thanks to Ben’s post on vipassana, I’m going to clear my mental and spiritual state as well this Christmas in Merritt.

What started out as my desire to live more simply and more minimalistic has turned into a complete life-changing experience, figuratively and literally. Even though I will miss Joshua, Ryan, and Colin Wright in Vancouver, I will be travelling the path closer to theirs than I have ever watching from the sideline. When we finally meet (I do look forward to it, dudes) it won’t be me saying “Oh I want to do what you guys do.” It will be: “I have started the journey that you guys inspired me to, and it’s awesome that we cross paths, fellow minimalists, world travellers and authentic lifers.”

Losing the Individuality

I recently asked a friend: “What’s your life purpose?” His answer was: “To live so that my kids will have a better future than I did.” A noble purpose, but he’s not even married yet. So I asked him “what about now, what’s your life purpose now?” He drew a blank. This is more common than we thought, especially in the Asian communities. Heck, I don’t know what my purpose right now is either. I do know though, that it’s not to live so that my kids will have a better future than mine. It would be nice if they would have a bright future, but to say that I actually live for this day, I’d be lying to myself.

The Asian life purpose complex:

– When you are young and in school, life purpose: study hard (regardless of the subjects and whether or not you like the subjects), don’t fool around.

– When you are a bit older and in University, life purpose: study harder, be serious, be a doctor/lawyer/financier/engineer. And maybe, have a girlfriend, but don’t screw around too much.

– When you graduate from University, life purpose: get a stable job, move up the ladder, make good money. Get engaged/married.

– After you’ve gotten married, life purpose: make more money, provide for your family, have kids.

– After you’ve kids: a shizzle load of more money, raise your kids well, be stern, and live FOR them.

20, 30 years go by, and one day, you have a talk with your buddies. And you casually mention that these days, you live to see your kids grow up and be well in the world. WHAT THE HELL? What happened to the past 20 – 30 years? What were you living for? If you want to live on so one day you can say that you live for your kids, whatever happens to YOUR dreams and the things that YOU want to do? You say that you live for your kids so you can forgo the past 20-30 years, and let your 40, 50, 60 years old self die in oblivion, in shadow of “raising your kids and providing for your family.” No wonder most Asian parents take pride in “sacrificing their lives” for their kids.

I think it’s convenient and easy to say “I live for my family or I live for my kids”. But it’s silly to say that when you don’t have a family or any kids yet. What now? In your 20s and early 30s, what do you live for? That’s the harder question. And don’t say you live for your parents. That’s the last thing THEY would want to hear. They don’t want you to live for them, especially if that means you’re giving up on yourself in order to do so.

People give up their individualities and then cling on the purpose of raising their kids and providing for their families so they DON’T HAVE to figure out their purpose on their own. That’s the easy, comfortable way to get by. Nobody criticizes you for it, because hey, it’s noble to live for your family. Better yet, live for you now, while you’re young. It’s too early to think about your future, not yet in existence for years to come children.

Face yourself. Own up to your uncertainty about what you want to become. And figure this shit out. Before the forces of life (your parents, societal pressure, you getting old) take you to where you need to be. Get yourself there voluntarily. When the time is right for you.


Memory and Why I Don’t Watch Sports

Well, except Jindo, the manga.

Seth puts out yet another resonating post about memory and media. The key message:

As we continually replace real life with ever shorter digital updates, what happens to the memories we build for ourselves and the people we serve? More and more, we don’t remember what actually happened to us, but what we’ve encountered digitally. It scales, but does it matter in the same way?

This relates so much to why I don’t watch sports. My roommate and other friends spend hours on end watching sports: golf, basketball, etc. One time over wings at Wings, one friend remarked that basketball’s golden day was back when…[insert year] (I don’t remember.) He spoke with pride and reminiscence, as though, he was there. I remember thinking:

So where were you? The victory, the glory wasn’t yours. You were watching OTHER PEOPLE making it in the world. What were YOU doing?

Hence one of my reasons for not watching sports. Beyond the pure motivational aspect of seeing athletes training relentlessly and reaping the rewards, the tears and happiness on their faces on the “golden day”, I don’t watch sports for the sake of watching sports. Seth asks if the digital memories “matter in the same way.” And I say that they don’t. In fact, they matter so little that I’d rather spend the time doing something else. My friends haven’t said:

Win, remember the time when we watched the World Cup in Brazil and we had so much fun that I can never forget how much fun YOU AND I had?

No. It’s:

Win, remember when Brazil won the World Cup in [insert year]? It was awesome. Ronaldinho did this crazy [insert goal].

Because after 10, 20, 30 years of watching sports, we can say the golden years of basketball, soccer, golf were this and this and this. And yet, we will have forgotten to answer this question:

When was YOUR golden year?


On Parenting

Keep in mind that these are parenting thoughts from a less than 25 years old who doesn’t have kids yet!

The primary “wish” that parents have for kids is that kids will be successful, happy, and satisfied with their lives. (and perhaps rich so they can send their parents on an all inclusive boat trip for the rest of the parents lives :) The question then becomes: if my kid is successful and happy in his/her own way, will I be OK with that? Example: your kid is an artist who doesn’t make a lot of money – actually, she doesn’t make much money and on occasion doesn’t make ends meet. But she’s generally happy with her work and her lifestyle and she would not rather do anything else in the world but be an artist. This is vastly different than the sit-on-your-ass-all-day-to-watch-tv-and-facebooking kinda kids whose parents only wish is “if you would just get off your ass and get a job, any job!”

Or do you, the parents, have a picture in your mind of the perfect life your kids should have? Nice house, nice car, stable job, lots of grandchildren… I can safely assume that my parents want the latter, even though they won’t admit or even be aware of this secret wish.

There are two choices when it comes to parenting styles, finely put in Ben’s post:

If you want to guarantee your kid is not a fuck up and leads a productive and “successful” life, be totally overbearing and induce lots of stress early on. If you want to give your kid a chance to end up in the history books, give him a long leash and excessive freedom to explore, but be aware that with freedom comes risk — he could more easily get into drugs and alcohol, for example.

The primary “duty” of parents (aside from providing food & shelter) is “nurturing” in its purest sense. That is, helping your kids realize their fullest “potential”. Until kids have explored their own boundaries and experiences, nobody knows kids better than parents. The question to ask yourself as a parent is this:

Have I provided, directed, helped influence my kids to be the best they can be, given their abilities, circumstances, and life aspirations?

For example, there is a worldly difference between “You need to become a lawyer/doctor/engineer” (insert an adult Asian face here) vs “What do you want to become when you grow up” (I don’t think I was ever asked this question :|). Actually, the more important question for parents is this:

Have I done enough to give room, to encourage, and to enable my kids to fully explore their interests? Have I really instilled in my kids the sense that they really can be who they WANT to be? And furthermore, have I done enough to motivate my kids to want to be who they want to be?

Example: One day you realized that your kid is 20 and you say this to your fellow parent friends:

He’s 20 years old and he’s playing games all day, doesn’t have a job, has no desire to get a job, and has no clue what to do with his life. Heck, he doesn’t even have the need to think about what to do with his life.

Then have you, the parents, been gently nudging your kids all his life toward this self-exploring process? Do your kids even know this is one of the most important things to do as a human-being? Do your kids even know there is a process?

So if your kid is for real 20 and in this situation, the safe thing to do is to tell your kids to pick a program at a university that he MIGHT be good at. Something safe, something stable and well-paying: nursing, doctor, lawyer, banker, teacher, etc.

Or you could tell your kid about the process of exploration. Heck, I wish my parents did this – I found it AFTER graduating from college!

My Favourite Parable at the moment – the Fisherman and the Banker

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Unbelievable Character

This post will be short.

If you feel stuck, don’t know what you “should do”, perhaps consider this. What if your job/mission/ultimate goal/whatever you want to call it, is to build yourself up to an unbelievable character? I don’t mean character as a fictional movie role kind of thing. But this way:


  1. The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
  2. The distinctive nature of something.
Instead of your friends saying that “you’re a nice/cool/awesome guy”, what if the people you meet say “that guy has an unbelievable character” about you?
Something to consider.

Leader vs Manager

Today’s post will be short. It’s about your aspiration.

If you aspire to be a manager, be ready to climb the ladder. It could be a short ladder (if you start with a small company,) but the ladder’s length is proportionate to the size of the organization. Manager is about ranking, and ranking by definition, requires tenure. You put your time and effort in, long enough, hard enough, and hopefully you can become a manager (before the next guy, or better than the next guy, or before a better guy comes along.)

Leader, on the other hand, is instantaneous. The moment you (or really, I) grow a pair of balls and decide to be one, I become a leader. Manager requires permission. Leader requires balls.

Whichever one comes easier for you (and I.)

Learning Something vs Having Something

Are you interested in LEARNING some skill or just HAVING it? I have always wanted to be the bad-ass martial artist. But when it comes to LEARNING the martial arts, it didn’t happen. Bought a coupon for 30 days worth of unlimited martial art lessons, and I didn’t use it, until the very last day. I made some lame excuses not to go in, and tried to get a refund from SocialShopper (which I didn’t get :()

Still, “It would be cool/awesome if I am good at martial arts”.

The difference: some skills you are willing to put the efforts in to LEARN vs some skills you think would be cool to have (juggling, magic) but not really wanna put your efforts in. That’s like everyone wants to have more money. But not everyone wants to put in the time and effort to have more money.

Stop wasting time with the “it would be cool if I…” and spend more time with the “I actually enjoy learning/doing…”