Fight that urge to conform

As your friends tell you about their work life, the natural response is to compare yourself to their level of financial success. They may unintentionally do that as well. And naturally, you will feel a certain level of inferiority. You may even perhaps think: “what if I’m doing this wrong? Look at how far they have come, compared to me”

Fight that. Conformity is like gravity. It pulls everybody who tries to defy its force. You have a special gift of opportunity. You have the freedom and power to build your life from the ground up, however you want it. Your friends, the ones “succeeding” career-wise, don’t have this option or can’t see this as an option. So what that your friends are making 10-15k more than you and that it seems like they are going somewhere with their life? So what if you don’t make as much progress professionally? Even if you fail in the end, you would have lived knowing that you’ve tried. It’s a different realm of thinking that your friends right now don’t even understand, let alone try out.

It’s a special gift. You’re in a special space in your life right now where responsibilities are few (mainly, paying the bills for yourself) and possibilities are vast.Treasure, protect, take advantage of this to explore, to live, to experiment. The money will come later. Even if the money DOESN’T come later, it doesn’t matter. Because remember, you have already determined that money doesn’t bring happiness. And you’ve also determined to live a life of simple pleasures, of minimalism, of impact, not riches.

Embrace the uncertainty, the frugality, freedom and fun. Defy the urge to conform. Once you fight your way to the top of the uphill battle, the vain satisfaction of conformity will gladly take you back any time, despite how fiercely you’ve just previously fought it. But you may like the nonconformity so much that you don’t want to ever be taken back again.

Vipassana 2012 – Insights and Reflections (Part 2: The Lessons)

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. — Tyler Durden

It’s surprisingly (or not) more difficult to chronicle what happened than to tell a story. I learned this first hand, trying to outline the details of my vipassana journey in 10 days. It’s very much incomplete at 1,000 words. I’m only writing about day 2 and I’m already too bored to keep writing about each day. Ben Casnocha wrote an excellent semi-chronicle and intro to vipassana. I’m going to jump right to the lessons and insights part. My chronicle of this event shall forever remain incomplete :) There’s a strange novelty feeling in leaving it that way actually.

Insight number 1: I want things that I cannot have. And if I know I can’t have it, I want it so bad that my mind becomes irrational

This especially applies to my romantic relationships. Back in high-school, I tend to be interested in the girls that my close friends were. This created very awkward situations for me and for everyone else. I did not realize this until recently. It didn’t occur to me that the sequence of the attraction process really started with me realizing that my friend is attracted to a girl, leading me to start being attracted to her too (because the fact that my friend is attracted to this girl must mean she is attractive.)

Not only so, my (mostly) rational mind will begin acting very strange. When my ex told me she was going to move to Singapore for a 4-year scholarship, I practically broke down and begged her to come back to Canada. I told her we would move to Quebec (she speaks French) so she could use her skills more. I told her we would start a life there. Before this, I  hadn’t even thought of visiting Quebec, ever. And before she told me about the Singapore plan, our relationship was in a state of almost being broken. But none of those things mattered. As soon as I realized I could lose her forever (aka, I can no longer have her,) my mind went into panic mode. And when it does, damn this mind can be so convincing.

She chose to come back to Canada. But the relationship ultimately failed anyway. And I think I probably did see it coming, except I was blinded by my own damn mind!

Insight number 2: My eyes are bigger than my stomach

This applies to relationships and also other areas. I realized this thanks to the daily lunches at 11 a.m. We are all likely over-eating more often than we realize. But most of us nowadays eat while our minds are busy, with a screen (laptop, desktop, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, pick your favourite “lunch device”.) On roughly the third day, I realized I couldn’t finish my lunch plate on a consistent basis. Walking into the lunch area, my mind would go “oh my, the smell is so good” and I took big scoops of everything on the table. Even after the realization that I couldn’t finish my food consistently, I couldn’t stop from taking big portions. My mind would convince me I could, just this one time.

This helped me realize that a lot of times, my mind tells me I need … (fill in the blank) to be happy. I THINK I need “this” to be happy, to feel fulfilled. Examples:

– A beautiful girlfriend with great figure. Oh then the relationship will be perfect (it won’t be)

– A great job that fits my interests. Oh then my life will be happy and complete (it may not be – not to say this isn’t desirable. But anything external isn’t required to be happy)

– A perfect family. Oh then I’m allowed to be fun and interesting and awesome (it’s not required.)

Insight number 3: My failed 3-year relationship is 100% my fault

I think it’s on day 5 during the afternoon break that I broke into a uncontrollable sob. My roommates were also in the room and I didn’t want them to hear my sobbing so I took a walk outside and just completely let it out. I dawned on me that I had been a selfish bastard in my relationship with my ex. I did things because it was convenient for me, not because I so much loved and cared for her. I was a complete taker, and non-giver. In order to be with me, she gave up a 4-year scholarship to Singapore and came back to Canada (to pay $60,000 to go to school here.) This stuff is life changing. She took a completely different turn to be with me. Needless to say, her family financial situation became worse and she had difficulties paying the tuition. Christmas 2011, she gave me an iPhone 4S. To get this damn phone, she signed up for a 3-year contract with Fido, and committed to paying hundreds more in the future. Foolish as it was, it’s out of love and caring that she did, because I’d been raving about wanting an iPhone 4S but too cheap to get one myself. All this, and I can’t even name one thing I’ve done for her that’s extraordinary. And the reason why I couldn’t see all of this?

Goenka actually talked about this. He told the story of a king and a queen in India who took the vipassana course. They became very good practitioners. One day, they were both meditating in their palace and the king told the queen:

my queen, I’ve realized something. I only love myself.

To this, the queen replied

my king, you are right. I just realized that too. I only love myself.

If the king wasn’t a vipassana and enlightened meditator, he would have likely prosecuted the queen for saying she only loved herself :D. Goenka went on to say that everyone, EVERYONE, loves only oneself, including parents. I am still undecided about this point. But here’s the lesson that Goenka taught (to which I wholeheartedly agree because I experienced it first hand.)

I don’t love my partner as the partner is, in both physical and spiritual form. I love the image of her in my head, the perfect image of an ideal lover. And when the real person doesn’t meet this ideal, I don’t feel love for this person anymore.

The reason why I couldn’t see my ex’s love and great affections for me was because I was clouded with my perfect ideal. And of course, no one is perfect. How can anyone meet the requirements of being perfect. Of course I am disappointed. But not with the person. I’m disappointed because the person isn’t up to my perfection.

Sounds like a problem only I have, perhaps after hours of watching anime with fantasy hotties and movies with augmented personalities and features (and forming an unrealistic image of a lover?) We all do it more often than we realize.

Thus, our relationship ultimately failed. On the surface level, it seems to fail because I had commitment issues. I couldn’t see myself being with her forever. But this is only the surface level. I had problems committing because I couldn’t see her fitting into the perfect mold I had created in my head. The whole point of vipassana is to see things as they really are, not what we would like them to be. Ohhh my love with this image! It’s gotta go. I’d much prefer the real thing.

Insight 4: my mind (and yours) is a never-ending always-repeating movie theatre

The most powerful movie producer in the world is one’s mind. As I tried to focus on anapana and vipassana, I learned that my mind (which is separate from “me” the spirit. It’s complicated and it can’t be explained in words so sign up for a seating and see it for yourself.) I learned that my mind kept playing the same movie clips over and over and over in an effort to distract me from the present (breathings and body sensations.) Do you think you have control of your own mind? Most people would say yes they do. But if you try to control your mind and force it to focus on the present, you will learn that you DON’T have control over your mind. Not at all. It has its own agenda, which is mostly survival and reproduction. When it exhausts all the movie clips (of things you’ve done in the past and things you would like to do in the future,) your mind will employ other tactics on you. For me (and a lot of other people too, I asked):

– Sexual thoughts. Okay, I have to admit, I spent at least 3 days thinking about sex. Ben, did you struggle with this? I asked a cute girl who shared the return ride with me. She thought about it too, a lot. And it’s not like I wanted to think about it. No. My mind just dropped images trying to distract me (and a lot of the times, succeeded at that!)

– Happy thoughts. I had this perfect vision of how I would get a job at once I finished the retreat. I would walk into Andrew‘s office and talk to him about his life, his work, and a little bit about me. Then I’m gonna tell him that I don’t qualify for the jobs he posted on the company’s website but I don’t want anything less than working for the coolest company in BC, IMHO. And I will figure out just what to do, as long as he’s ok with me sticking around the company. That eventually I want to be an independent web and mobile developer and start companies (online, in Canada, and in Vietnam.) For the time being though, I want to work for the best and learn from the best. I’m going to tell him my plan to start the Starter League in Victoria. All this, and magically, he’ll say “fuck yeah. Let’s give you a try.”

– Weird, incomprehensible, grotesque images. Not like a horror movie kinda way. But strange, attention-catching transformations, like a purple flower turning into a chameleon, a leaf turning into a face. Like anything that would divert my attention from the present.

Insight 5: I’m also a taker in family relationships

Similarly to my romantic relationship, I’m a 100% taker in family relationships. This just made me realize that I have much work to do to put my family into proportion of how important it is to me.

Insight 6: We’re all here for one reason

This one is the least “eye-opening” at the time but potentially the most important insight of all. I sort of had this insight a few months back during the IELTS exam. Essentially, everyone is doing whatever they are doing for one reason: to be happy. Being good to family, being healthy, being financially wealthy, giving back to the community are all means of being and feeling happy with oneself. And if we’re all here for one reason of being happy, why not be happy with each other and stop the bullshits, the lies, the manipulations, the judgement.

Goenka especially emphasized this. The enlightened practitioner experiences the truth. The truth that we are all made of tiny particles, tiny vibrations. The physical body that we have, is nothing but a collection of vibrations. Notice I use the word “experience”, not “know” or “understand”. A scientist can understand and accept that on the atomic level, we’re all the same. But he cannot experience this truth/reality. But the enlightened vipassana practitioner does experience this truth, according to Goenka and the Buddha. I can’t speak for this because I did not reach this level of practice. However, to use an analogy, it’s like finding civilization on Mars. If I went there and found a bunch of Martians there, came back and told you about it, you wouldn’t believe me. I suspect them not like this but more like this. Even if you did believe me, you would have only taken my words for me. Unless you went to Mars and saw it for yourself. Me telling you about the truth is like the scientist using the machines to tell him what we’re made of. And you going to Mars to see the truth is like you experiencing the reality that we’re all made of atoms.

This realization helps me in 2 ways.

1. To live more freely, because I am a collection of vibrations. There is no “me” to be embarrassed about, and no expectations for “me” to meet.

2. To accept and welcome people more freely. Hey, we’re all essentially the same, and we’re all here for the same reason. You can’t hate people who are like you. Or you shouldn’t anyway.

There you have it, 2000 words for my insights from Vipassana 2012. I am definitely coming back. It is not the same 10-days every time. Each time is different. And if not for the insights, I felt an enormous gratitude for the volunteers who cooked my meals, cleaned my plates, woke me up at 4 a.m. every day. The whole thing only runs on donations by people who completed the course (you can’t donate unless you’ve done at least 1 seating.)

If you’ve done it, what’s your experience like?

Vipassana 2012: Insights and Reflections (Part 1: The Chronicle)

Never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may. — Tyler Durden

This post is only almost 1000 words long. Choose your favorite beverage (a lot of it) and settle down as I take you through my journey to the world of vipassana. Credits and introduction will be given at the end of the post. Actually, the post title is misleading. This is more of a chronicle than insights and reflections. I guess the lessons will come in the next post.

Day 0: December 19 2012

Tony and I got to Hope and we stopped for lunch. The entire time to Hope and while lunching, we debated about going to Merritt. It was snowing hard outside and I’ve never driven through the Coquihalla in the winter. The conversation mostly revolved around me telling Tony “I don’t want to you put into any kind of danger” and Tony replied back sarcastically “Don’t worry, if I die I’ll visit you at the meditation centre.” As we got up to pay for the meals, I looked outside at the pouring snow piling on the road and our van and concluded firmly “nope, I’m calling this off.” I sensed a tiny bit of reluctant relief from Tony.

We got into a car and Tony answered a phone call on his cell. I sat in silence staring at the space in front of me. I thought about Tony and his safety driving back alone from the centre. If anything were to happened to him, I’d feel horrible for the rest of my life. But I wouldn’t know about it until after I’ve finished the 10-day course. He’d be long gone by then. So it’s right not to go. I can reschedule this in the summer when it’s sunny. It’ll be easy driving to Merritt then I can even do it myself.

Then I felt this regret growing in me. If I don’t go this time, I won’t ever do it. This is possibly the only chance I got. And I need this. I need to figure this out. I need to know what to do next with my life. I’ve just quit my job. Not long before that, I broke up the relationship that lasted for almost 3 years and moved out of the apartment I’ve lived for the past 4 years. I’ve given up everything (or so I thought at that point.) So I am free to do whatever now. Vipassana was going to be the place that I define what “whatever” is. It’ll be perfect timing: meditate through the Christmas season (December 19 – 30), I’ll be fresh and enlightened to embark on the new adventures awaiting in the new life I’ll be leading. With this thought, I told Tony as he hang up the phone: “Tony, let’s go. I gotta do this.” He complied without saying a word.

Day 1: December 20, 2012

The noble silence started since 8 pm last night. The hall, the kitchen, the rooms, and the meditation hall all filled with silence. How can silence be filling hey? Yeah, it’s deafening. It’s definitely there. Silence isn’t simply the complete absence of sound, as the dictionary and the scientists have it. Nowhere on earth (or space) is there a place where we can find the complete absence of sound. Well, maybe except this place. Even there, with complete removal from the outside noise, you will be acutely aware of your own body’s noise. That and not to mention your own mental chatter. Silence is an illusion until your ears and your mind are sharp enough to hear the never-ending sounds reside within you. But this is way to early for this understanding. Let me back up a little.

I woke up at 4:30 on day 1. Waking up early has never been a problem for me, especially if it’s an important day to wake up to. Staying up and alert is usually the troublesome part. But day 1 was easy. Sitting in the meditation hall with 50 other people, nothing but breathing sound and the occasional scratching noises, somehow is enjoyable in a weird way.  I found myself enjoying the apparent silence. It’s easy just to let myself drown in thoughts. Exactly what I needed, even though that’s not what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to focus on my in-breaths and out-breaths around my nose and my philtrum*, and nothing else, especially thinking. I’m supposed to just focus on breathing for an hour straight. Not easy, if you’ve ever tried for even 5 minutes. The first day was relatively easy because I had no trouble killing time by thinking. 10 – 12 hours of meditation a day went by pretty quickly when you only spent 1 or 2 hours meditating and the rest thinking. Yet, thinking is exactly what you need to NOT do if you want to meditate…

Also, imagine the first time you have to listen to a chanting and it’s in ancient Indian (pali). And for some unknown reasons, the chanter ends every sentence of the chanting with a disgust-able sound in his throat like he’s burping very lowly but uncontrollably. My very first thought (and I’m sure of a lot of the other people in the room) was “what the hell is this noise he’s making?”

But other than that, the first day was comparably easy.

Day 2: December 21, 2012

Day 2 was supposed to be a lot harder and a lot of people quit on day 2 (and day 6, apparently.) But it was also surprisingly easy for me to get through.

Day 3: December 22, 2012

Day 4: December 23, 2012

Day 5: December 24, 2012

Day 6: December 25, 2012

Day 7: December 26, 2012

Day 8: December 27, 2012

Day 9: December 28, 2012

Day 10: December 29, 2012

Day 11: December 30, 2012

Introductions and Credits


Vipassana on Ben’s blog

The anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis: I would do anything to have a 10-day retreat here.

(yep, that’s a word referring to the area below your nose and above the upper lip.)

Toward a New Beginning

The final analysis:

People are often unreasonable, self-centred: Forgive them anyway. If you are Honest, People may cheat you, but be Honest anyway. What you spend years to Build, someone could Destroy over night. Build anyway. The Good you do today, People will often Forget tomorrow. Do Good anyway. You see, in the final analysis with God (or with yourself on your death bed); it never was between you and them anyway.

— Unknown, modified by me.

Tomorrow I will be embarking on a new journey to “see things as they really are.” Vipassana is one of the oldest meditation techniques from India. It’s a 10-day course that involves nothing but meditation in silence. Waking up at 4 a.m. and going to bed at 9:30 p.m., I will be meditating for 10 hours per day. No communication is allowed with the outside world and the inside world. The only conversation I’m going to have is the conversation with myself. And when that is also muted (which will take a few days), I will be able to see things as they really are.

When I tell people about this, the two things that they tell me:

1. Why??? (really, it’s “What? You’re joking, right?”)

2. Have fun!

To the first question, I say it’s to clear my mind of distractions, including myself. And to the second question, I say it’s not really a “fun activity.” It’s a mental training exercise. But I do look forward to it, as it has a certain kind of novelty. However, I am prepared for the grueling first few days, where most people quit. Because I’ve never really “meditated” longer than 15 minutes, it’s gonna be hard sitting still for 10 hours a day. Being the “millennial” generation that I belong to, not having my phone and google and facebook and flipboard, anxiety and withdrawal are in order. But to paraphrase my dear friend Iris, I am going to “meet myself this way.” Because it really is about meeting myself for probably the first time. No phone, no paper, no pen, no exercise, no talking with other people. The only thing I have is my mind and my body.

The first few days will be extremely discomforting as the Resistance kicks in. It’s the same kind of Resistance that Steven Pressfield talked about in the War of Arts. It’s the Resistance to do great work. It’s the Resistance to do things that scare you. It’s the Resistance to be vulnerable, to be true, to be really naked for the first time (metaphorically, I will be wearing warm clothes through out.) I will be “one step closer to hitting bottom.”

The discomfort, both physically (from sitting for 10 hours) and mentally (from not having anything to be distracted from) is so overwhelming that a lot of people give up within the first few days. I don’t plan to be quitting. No matter what happens, I am committed to completing the course.

To the present, here I come.


Moving Away from Complacency

On a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.

Fight Club

1402513_93661585Today’s my last day at work. I’ve been here more than 6 years, being a student for five and working since. My experience as a “Canadian-wannabe” mostly formed around here. Most of the smart people and great friends I have right now, I met them here.

So it’s only slightly hard to say goodbye. But I needed to. I was getting complacent: with my corner, my desk, my peripherals, my work.

It’s a great place to work and not many international students have the lucky opportunity to work here. I feel blessed because UFV has not only educated me, given me the awesome friends and relationships that I currently have, it has also given me the means to pay for all of the expenses these past 5 years while I was in school. All in all, it’s given me pretty much everything.

I still remembered the first day I set foot on campus with my mother and my grandparents to see advisor Simon. We talked about all the career options that my mother wanted me to have: doctor, lawyer, engineer. She specifically wanted me to study chemical/petroleum engineering because it was the hot stuff in Vietnam back then. And somehow, we settled with Business Administration. At this point, I had already fought with my parents about me wanting to study Computer Information Systems. I don’t know where I would have been today if I actually won that battle. It’s interesting where life takes you. And despite what you think you can predict, there is no way to know how life would turn out had you taken a different road.



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.”