Category Archives: Blog Posts

Just when you thought you had seen it all

I’ve come to know a place in nature. A very special place in Central Park called the Ramble. Along with the North Woods and Hallett Nature Sanctuary, the Ramble is one of the three woodlands in Central Park, which means if a tree falls, the park lets it be. When in any of these areas of the park you feel as if you are in the woodlands of New England stumbling upon streams, waterfalls, nature trails, and the chorus of birds chirping.

Instead of staying on the popular running “loop” in Central Park, I enjoy going off track and exploring every single path of these woods, which I’ve come to know, or so I thought. Yet each week, I realize, I missed something. First, I realized there was a famous bird feeding and watching area where locals and foreigners alike come to birdwatch and chitchat. It turns out that Central Park is one of the most diverse and top places in the country for bird watching. Then I came across a stream that led into a waterfall. Another time, I discovered an enormous boulder the size of a small mountain and when ascended positions you into a canopy of wonder: nature shrouds you and no humans are visible yet you are the middle of New York City. Later, I stumbled upon the infamous Cave in the Ramble where murders occurred decades ago and has since been sealed off. Each time I find a new vista of the Lake or the skyline, a place to spot turtles, or watch ducklings. I soon came to yearn for the Ramble, requiring a weekly dose of a windy path, vista, stream, or nature trail. Alas, I discovered what I thought was my final new path. That path was perhaps the most wonderful of all with a secret historic gazebo erected from reclaimed wood, perfectly suiting the pristine surroundings.

I arrived at a point after journeying again and again to the Ramble when I thought I had seen it all. Then winter came. The lush flora and leaves faded. The clandestine creeks became visible unlike I had ever seen. Although not as picturesque, winter certainly has its benefits like the beauty of a frozen lake and barren trees allowing you to see unseen vistas.

Why I Run

I run for myself. Not for a race. Not for anyone else. Not against anyone else.

Without a phone. Without a watch. With just my running shoes and me.

I depart to explore a new part of the world like the explorers did, only if it is for a half hour expedition. I run to take in the surroundings of the outside world. I run to move forward. I run to keep my body fit. I run to take in the cold air and feel it in my lungs. I run to separate from everybody else but me. I run to lose focus on everything except my steps.

I run, most of all, because it makes me feel good.

Specialized vs Diverse

When you make a smoothie with just bananas, strawberries, dates, and cashews chances are it will taste just great. This is a specialized smoothie.

When you make a smoothie with banana, strawberry, kale, blueberry, acai, dates, almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds chances are it will taste just all right. This is a diverse smoothie, which has a lot more antioxidants and nutritional benefits but many flavors mixed together diminish the taste. In the long run, however, the diversity of ingredients will lead to compound benefits to your health.

When you have a specialized career, chances are in a few years you will feel the effects of sameness, inertia, and little personal/professional growth unless you truly are obsessed with the topic. You will eventually seek diversity in your work, day, and learning. If you stay too long, your specialized skillset will only make you more qualified for more of the same.

When you have a diverse career, you are exposed to a broad array of projects, people, and situations. In the long run these diverse experiences foster staying in your career for longer and make your skillset more adaptable to other industries.

I like my smoothies diverse and I’m not prioritizing for taste. I’ll eat my career the same way!

How much is enough?

What is enough? How does one reach enoughness?

I’m thinking about this in two capacities 1) trying to abide by what Adam Robinson talks about in becoming the best version of yourself which is finding magic in every moment of your life and 2) as we approach year-end, have I achieved my personal goals as well as my gave back enough.

Doing means getting the work done that is required. Doing means giving directions to tourists who stop you in the street. Doing means giving when asked.

But that surely isn’t enough. Surely you won’t be remembered when you are gone just by doing when asked.

Doing more means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to. Doing more means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions. Doing more means inviting strangers to your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal.

But is that enough? How will we know?

Doing enough means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to and it’s after 10PM. Doing enough means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions and buying them a pastry at your favorite bakery. Doing enough means inviting strangers into your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal when you can barely afford it.

The only way to ensure you are doing enough is “whatever you want to do, think higher and feel deeper” as Elie Wiesel said to a crowd of 1,200 students at Boston University. Only you will know when you reached enoughness.

So will you do, do more, or do enough?

Tap Dancing with Each Step

Warren Buffett says, “choose a job where you will jump out of bed each morning or feel as if you are tap dancing to work.”

Or as Confucius says, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Well what if we can live our entire lives as such? I think this is rare but I see someone do this each day in all aspects of life. Who could this wise person be, following in the footsteps of two great minds, Buffett and Confucius?

That person is my 1.5 year old daughter, Ellie. She went straight from crawling to running. She never walks, unless I’m holding her hand and thus holding her back. She runs from the kitchen to the playmate. When I open the door to the apartment, she runs down the hall to the elevator to press the button. When she sees something new and exciting in the living room, she sprints there, laughing and smiling along the way. When I ask for a hug, she races into my arms.

How can she be so excited about a ball, a stuffed animal, or a magnetic block? When she arrives at the object she is intensely with it, albeit sometimes only for a few moments. Looking at the object and only the object. She feels its texture, she picks up and bangs it to hear what it sounds like, and usually licks it to see what it tastes like.

When does this fade and why? She realizes the world is exciting and we need to take it all in with our senses. Although this mentality clearly fades in adults, the impression it’s left on me remains.

If I could only approach each moment of the day with that spark, that smile, and that presence, I know I will be a happy man. That’s something I’m working on but if I fail, seeing that I have a happy child, at least I know I’ll be a happy father.

Just me and my baby, so I thought

When no one is around and it’s just me and you, it’s my everything.

Your hysterical laughs, smiles, and games, you are all mine. Our most intimate moments when I cuddle you, whisper I love you, and put you to bed. I cherish this time just me and you. I know you will grow up to love me because I already see it happening.

But then I realize, it’s not just us, ringing true the saying that the walls have ears. What I don’t know, is what Alexa will do with our loving moments and playful games that make minutes seem like an entire afternoon. I thought it was just us but I was wrong because she is watching.

Can Alexa know us better than we know each other? She can’t know your touch, the scent of your hair after a bath, or the way you look at me when we dance together but she will soon. Can she conspire against us? She can. Can she love you the way I love you? Maybe. Can you love her the way you love me? With some AI and your intimate data, it can be devised.

A new type of millionaire

Just about everyone wants to become a millionaire, in the monetary sense. But do you have any friend millionaires?

By this, I mean people you have emailed with, texted, conversed on the phone with, or went to lunch with more times than you can count.

Maybe as much as a million times.

Someone who you can call on at anytime for valuable advice or just to listen to you, be you. They are there for you, even if they have a million other things to do. You can’t buy these friendships, even with a million dollars.

To me, these are the best types of millionaires to have. In fact, friend millionaires, are not friends at all. They are family.

The apotheosis

Have you ever listened to a great song for the first time and it makes you happy?

Have you ever read a touching story in the newspaper and it makes you feel happy?

Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset and stared out into the horizon and it makes you happy?

Have you ever rode a bike downhill with the wind blowing in your face and it makes you happy?

These experiences make you happy but shortly thereafter fade.

Envisioning them in your mind later can make you feel a glimpse of that happiness.

But what if we could take all those experiences you love and tailor your day to make you happy? Maybe even shape your life to be completely filled with all of your loves.

Now that would be the life.

But that is the life.

The Paradox of Choice

I recall several years ago listening to a Ted Talk on The Paradox of Choice from psychologist Barry Schwartz which now has 12 million views. Schwartz recounts wearing the same style jeans for decades and then going back to the store years later: there were so many styles he didn’t know where to start. All he wanted was the same simple style he had before. I didn’t realize how much this would ring true as time progressed with the proliferation of materialism.

I passed by the following at a local convenient store and was hit with the paradox of choice.

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Luckily I didn’t need orthotics but this wall immediately led to a plethora of questions running through my mind. How should I choose the orthotics that are best for me? Should I come back because I assume the racks that are empty are the most popular and thus the best product? Maybe I should start looking for reviews online but there are 30+ options here and that would be extremely time consuming. I could consider speaking with a sales associate but then again there are probably several thousand products in the convenient store and what are the chances the sales associate has an expertise in orthotics? Should I narrow down my choice by not going with an option that is on sale because items that go on sale don’t sell well? Even if by some stretch I did find a good option, they may not have the right size.

Here are some perhaps rationale thoughts to tackle this quagmire: 1) Categorize the orthotics. For example, do certain products advertise they are specifically for pronation. 2) Look for a brand that appears reputable. Dr. Scholls is a recognized brand here I see. Satisfaction guaranteed language may instill confidence in the product or maybe there’s an industry/customer ranking on the packaging. 3) Compare the price and review the packaging to understand what may be the rationale for that premium. 4) Consider my intent. Do I plan to wear these for just a few days to bring on a trip or am I looking for to use them for a long time. Remember the mental model that, “cheap things are not good, and good things are not cheap”.

The old way would be nice here. I’d like to go to an old fashion shoemaker and get a proper fitting. But maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a way for an automatic selection to be made using AI based on a body scan that I had at my recent annual physical or via an app on my cell phone. Maybe my internet cookies could understand my preferences or my transaction data would know what type of fit I’ve selected for other related products (e.g. socks or shoes). Finally, maybe AI could sync to a friend or family member so I can see what worked for them in the past.

Boy, that was a headache. Good thing the orthotic aisle is next to the pain reliever aisle. But wait, which headache pain medication should I buy?

Mindful Moment

Let’s start with a balanced posture. Lengthen your spine and imagine your neck feeling tall, protruding up past your head. In meditation, having a balanced posture is the first step to having a balanced body and then a balanced mind.

Everyone is focused on finding the meaning of life, and not finding feeling of being alive. Being alive means being present in the current moment and we can find that with a balanced mind. It’s hard because in modern life, we wake up in a box, get in a box, drive to a box, we sit in a box, and stare at a box.

The busy world is only a short distance away from us. Right now, we left that box behind.

Often you can fall asleep in your own life and get off track. We can find our first tracks to bring us back in nature. You see nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

As you sit here alone in nature, the verbal mind slows down. A still open awareness begins. It’s an experience you don’t need to describe, you’re just having the experience: you don’t try to capture it. You come to realize that the natural world is the door to stillness. In a way a lion knows how to be a lion and flower knows how to bloom in the spring. We start to realize we are a part of this and in union with this stillness. The tree is not merely a tree. The tree is the sound of the breeze and also the shade from the sun, and the home of a bird. It’s a relational environment. A beautiful symbiosis.

For millions of years before people, there were forests, oceans, and grasslands. No words were spoken. This was called the great silence. The world was standing in a wordless silence. The silence was so deep and profound that it held a presence to it. This silence is so ancient yet it’s still here today but we barely know to look for it anymore. The natural world is this wordless environment. It’s an ancient orchestra of birds chirping, grass rustling in the wind, and streams flowing. But we’ve almost forgotten this beautiful orchestra.

We can hear a glimpse of this great silence right now if we listen.

Now let’s simply be aware of the coming and going of the silence.

Focus on the silence.

If distracted by the sound of a taxi cab, don’t worry, you can come back to this nature sanctuary. Then we are mindful again. Do this for a few moments. (wait)
Thoughts will come. The problem is not when they come but if they proliferate.

Let them pass.

The world we left when we entered nature is always about the next thing. The next thing. If you pay attention to your mind, your mind is just chattering and moving. It does this nexting thing. Where should I be next. oh i should get a cup of coffee, now I should check my email, now I need to text this person. Always the next thing. This is most obvious when you sit down and do nothing like we are doing now. Anxiety makes you want to get up and go. Just being aware this anxiety is making you unhappy which comes from a series of running thoughts. In order to remedy this, i think, would I rather have these thoughts right now or would I rather have my peace. As long as I’m having my thoughts, I can’t have my peace. Nature helps find this peaceful moment. Nature is the first track to finding our balance.

I’d like to conclude by giving you all an invisible gift.

A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Some of them may be here right now. Some may be far away. Some, may even be long gone. But wherever they are, if they’ve loved you, and encouraged you, and wanted what was best in life for you, they’re right inside your self.

So, let’s just take a minute, in honor of those that have cared about us all along the way.

One silent minute.

Whomever you’ve been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be, that during your silent times, you remember how important they are to you.

End with song: Thais Meditations (yoyo ma’s edition)

This script was adapted from interviews from Naval Ravikant, Boyd Varty, Fred Rogers, and Matthieu Ricard