Friends by Merit (or, People Who Meant to be in Your Life)

How many of your friends are your friends because they were there at the beginning?
How many of your friends are there because they are meant to be? When you meet someone new, you either

(1) Feel an immediate connection or

(2) Don’t feel anything extraordinary.

Some people are there because of circumstances: same schools, same neighbourhood, same family :D.

Some people are there because they are meant to be. And if you separate from each other, your friendships don’t die.

The trick is to know which friends fall into which “piles” (Leah :)) so you can hold on to the ones that are meant to be in your life. My bet is that, you’ll be happier and more content the more you spend time with the people who’re meant to be in your life.

I (used to) Lost Track Everyday and It’s not Good.

I have hundreds of “Read It Later” items that I saved to… read later. I have close to a thousand emails from various places I’ve signed up online. Not to mention ten of thousands RSS posts in my Google Reader inbox. Everyday, I would open these up and start to read. For about 10 minutes, I actually read. But after that, somehow unconsciously, my brain just thinks “holly shmucks. There are thousands to read.” And instead of actually reading the content, I start to skim, skip, save it for later. Instead of reading and learning from what I read, my task becomes cleaning out/”mark as read” my reading inboxes. Very different things.

After about an hour of not reading but cleaning out, I can barely remember what I read. Because I really didn’t read anything. Sometimes A lot of times, I saved for later the items that I had already saved for later. I lost track of what I was reading. And that’s not good. If I can’t remember what I read in the last hour, I haven’t read at all.

So I decided not to read the stuff in my inboxes anymore. For a while. Let them accumulate. When I really have time (and we know what this means :), never)  I will read them. Instead, I’m focusing on books. Most of stuff in the inboxes are just regurgitation of what’s already in books, anyway! And it’s working out better for me.

The (other) reason you went to college

An addendum to my original conclusions of why you (and I) went to college.

If someone told us that instead of going to business school, read these books. As you read these books, start your ventures and connect with people. Get together, start something, tell people about it, fail, do it again. That’s pretty much it. Actually, that’s better than just going to business school alone.

But probably 1% of us would actually succeed this way. The other reason we went to college is because we are terrible at being disciplined on our own. If there isn’t a class at 8:30 on Monday, we would be watching movies/partying on Sunday night. We went to college because we need the environment, we need someone to tell us what to do (textbooks), when to do it (attendance), and how to do it (grades and exams).

Ironically, this is the truth with everything else in life.  Take bodybuiding for example. Someone else has already figured out the way to success in bodybuilding: increase poundage with strict form. The path is simple (but not easy): pick the 5 or 6 best compound exercises, work hard at them with strict form and ever increasing the weights. Eat, sleep, rest plenty. That’s it. Someone figured this out decades ago. Yet, how many more workout programs, diet plans are popping up now and then. How many people actually stick to the simple path themselves, without having to join weight watcher programs, then rejoin and rejoin again?

The extension of lacking discipline is that we don’t tolerate uncertainty very well. We need approval and assurance. The idea of reading some books and trying to start a business right away seem too simple (but not easy.) We need entrepreneurial classes, world-class simulation studies, and Ph.Ds with credentials to judge us. Even more ironic, to be entrepreneurial is to be able to tolerate massive amount of uncertainty.

There you have it: lack of discipline and intolerance of uncertainty.

Letting Go…

 letting go

I had lunch with a friend the other day. I had a crush on her a few years back, for a couple of years. It didn’t work out and thankfully, I was over it as soon as I knew it wasn’t gonna work out :D. She’s now married and about to have a baby!

But this post is about letting go… After the lunch, we both walked back to our offices. During this short (but seemingly long) walk, we hardly had anything to say to each other. I felt a tiny bit awkward and tried to make small talks. The funny thing is, we used to spend so much time together back then, and I never felt the intense awkwardness. It’s very similar to the feeling when you’re at a networking/social events trying to “network” with a lot of people and all of a sudden, you run out of things to say.

Which brings me to the real point of this post: that’s when I know that it’s time to let go. Not of the crush, because I let that go loonggg time ago. But of the forced friendship now. Things change. Time heals. And hey, the friendship isn’t as good as it used to be. I’ve changed. Time to move on. Heck, she has REALLY moved on with a husband and a kid (a family!) already.

Which just dawned on me another idea: we usually have no problem dealing with people older than us who are at a different stage in life. Like, if your friend is 10 years older than you and has kids and a family (and not still renting out an apartment like you), you have no problem with that. But when your friend is the same age with you (or close) and is married with kids and a house, and you’re not, it usually doesn’t work. Well, except if you are me, and your friend is my buddy TJ.

Back then, she and I were at the same stage. Now, we’re not! I’m still renting apartment :).

The Big 4 Pieces of Software I Can’t Live Without (At the Moment)

Dropbox (file syncing and file management) – where I put projects, pdfs, file to print, any document, images that I remotely need) – free plan, maxed out at 25GB free storage

Evernote (taking notes, bookmarking articles around the web)

Wunderlist (to-do list manager)

Readitlater (save articles for reading later, and awesome history manager!)

All are available to me wherever I go, whenever I need them (on my iPhone and iPad, on my laptop, and on the web.) All can be had for free! Awesome. Love them. Can’t live without them. What are yours?

Life as a Battle

Living is either:
– Conforming with what’s already been done: traditions, customs, family expectations, societal demands
– Fighting against what’s already been done: having it your own terms, resist, fight back, and change

Steve Jobs’ life was, at least in parts, about fighting the establishments. It was a battle. It was epic – it was the war to show the world that beautiful things are worth paying for. Steve had so much fun, excitement, and pride, and purpose w Apple.

Reading the biography, Apple products are results of battles. Battles over what is right, what is divine and what’s worth fighting/creating. The whole industry (the Establishment) was licensing from Microsoft and encouraging fragmentation. The social pressure was immense and at some points Apple did license out its OS. Steve changed that later. He fought back the pressure. With ordinary people, the more intense the pressure, the more likely the people to submit. With the warriors that Steve was, the more intense the pressure, the more he fought back.

Live a life like this, life as a battle. Take comfort in conforming, or afford joy from resisting.

Was it worth it Jobs? Or would u have preferred a more serene life w ur kids and family? Would you have lived it any differently?

Obsession with the Way

I’ve always been obsessed with “the way.” in grade 6, I went to night school at trường Lý Tự Trọng (camped out at truong Nguyễn Du!) My math teacher told me about a group/cult that I still remember today. It must have resonated with me a lot: this group’s purpose of existence is to figure out how to do things using the least steps. In other words, doing things with the least effort. In other words, doing things the simplest way. My teacher’s example was: let say a cup with a lid on it. Someone drinks from the cup has to take the lid off, drink it, and put the lid back on. So to simplify, toss the lid.

This sounds so trivial. Even to me. But it remained in my head through all the years. Probably because I identified with it.

I’m obsessed with “the way.” The principles that always hold true. Like the laws of physics (though there are exceptions now.) It’s super hard to explain what I mean by “the way”. I’m not even sure what it is exactly.

I yearn to see the eternal truth. The truth that is always true, no matter what.

While I can’t tell what this thing I seek is, I can tell what it isn’t (in my definition):
– If God loves all people, God will not send anyone to hell. This truth has a condition. What then, is the truth about God?
– What is the one way to live life? If there is one way to live life, then why do we live so many different ways? And if there are truly many ways to live, why are we unhappy with some ways? Why do we envy others?

This post isn’t about God or religion. It’s about this elusive and undefined “eternal truth” that I long for. I’m not sure what it is yet.

Nice cars, designer clothes, and high-tech gadgets

The first thing that nice cars, designer clothes, and high-tech gadgets have in common is that they cost a bunch of cash to buy. The second thing they have in common is that they are the different ways humans use to layer up themselves. The more expensive cars, clothes, gadgets a man has, the more he has to talk/boast about. It’s also easier for someone else to talk/admire. Because without these fancy things, what would men talk about?

It would be so empty, so awkward. Can you imagine any fun coming to someone’s house that has nothing but a table?


Oh no, what are we going to do? There’s nothing to do! There’s nothing to talk about!

Stripped away of all possessions, man feels he’s empty, he’s naked. So man dresses himself up with fancy clothed, fast cars, sophisticated tech. To hide how empty he is inside. The more layers he has, the harder to see his true self – nothing but his possessions.

Other ways of hiding how empty one is:

    • being in a relationship. He doesn’t have to feel lonely or unwanted. He doesn’t have to love himself just the way he is. There’s someone else who loves him and cares for him.
      Devoted to a religion/cause/job: he can devote himself to the job or the cause. He is his job. His identity is nothing but blended into his job.
  • There’s a reason to this: it’s INCREDIBLY hard to be without all the possessions because it’s IMPOSSIBLY hard to just BE. So we get attached to things to have an identity. As opposed to developing one.

    The end of PC

    The end of PC is here when it’s faster to open up calculator on the phone, when it’s easier to check the weather on the app, and when it’s more convenient to jot notes on the phone than it is on the PC.

    Dont be mistaken though, The PC isn’t going away completely. It’s just about to be a lot less important. So much that Microsoft isn’t going to make most of their profits from PC licenses anymore.

    Secret to Blogging

    Blogging is a way of expressing knowledge. If you find it hard to blog, maybe you’re stalling on learning new things.

    When I first graduated from University, I was afraid to go to networking events. Because I wasn’t learning anything, nor was I doing anything interesting. I could no longer say “I’m studying this”. Up until that point, studying and college activities were everything that defined me – going to classes, being involved in clubs, excluding partying and doing other interesting things (like travelling and scuba-diving, which I’m going to do now!). So when I graduated, all of the commitments ended.

    Now, as I start to read more and do more, ideas for blogging are everywhere. Whenever I get up and read in the morning, there’s 1 idea to blog about.

    So the secret to blogging is to actually not to blog more, but do more, learn more, read more.