Leaning In

When things get tough, some of us have a tendency to shut down. To handle the ordeal on our own. We don’t want to burden those around us.

But it’s when things get tough that we have to lean in.

But this is much easier said then done.

April 19, 2021

Understanding My Roots

Ethnically, I’m from the Philippines. But if someone asked me any questions about my roots I would have very little to say.

I know very little about the history. I don’t know much of the culture. I can barely speak the language. I don’t even think I’ve read a book by a Filipino author before.

Yet, understanding my origins means to understand myself.

And that’s worth learning about.

April 18, 2021

Shooting for a Prize

When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power. - Chuang Tzu

It seems to me that those with the best jobs, the most wealth, and are the happiest, don’t set these things as their goals.

They aren’t focused on the prize but rather chase what they’re are genuinely curious in and are indifferent to the outcome.

Everything else comes as a by product.

April 17, 2021

Mushin

Mushin is japanese word describing a mental state of no mindness” [1]. The term is commonly used in japanese martial arts and is achieved when one’s mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, and ego during combat.

It’s in this state that the martial artist or samurai is the most dangerous. They’re mind is not clouded by these thoughts and they are free to react to the flow of their opponent.

Mushin is a state of peak performance that can be applied to not only combat but everyday life whether it be exams, interviews, or on dates.

Notes

[1] You may of heard of this term before phrased in different ways such as the Western world’s Flow state, Mindfulness, or Bruce Lee’s famous Be Like Water” speech.

April 16, 2021

Tech Maintenance Workers and the Philippines

In Bianca Aguilar’s piece Make Space for Maintenance, she discusses the role of maintenance workers” in the technology industry. Maintenance work includes anything that enables systems to keep running by taking care of their parts. Examples of maintenance work in the tech industry include customer support, quality assurance, and content moderation.

This is contrasted with the creative work of knowledge workers like entrepreners, engineers, designers, etc.

She explains the hierarchical, extractive, and exploitative relationship between the Western creative class and the maintenance workers commonly hailing from former Western Colonies in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines:

One of the most impacted nations is the Philippines, which is both the country that has spent the most time online in the world and a top destination for outsourcing labor. However, the Philippines’ high-tech reputation has been built on a foundation of abuse. For instance, during COVID-19, call center agents have to work in-person without proper social distancing protocols or protective equipment. They are forced to sleep at the office to work in American time zones. Meanwhile, content moderators review images, videos, and posts from all over the world, exposing them to a whole spectrum of violence from suicide attempts to extremist murders. Finally, workers aren’t the only ones who’ve suffered from tech’s collateral damage. Most people in the Philippines only have access to Facebook, and not the entire Internet, which has left them vulnerable to fake news and radicalization.

Amidst this chaos, the Philippines continues to grow as a source of talent for international tech companies. Founder Oliver Segovia writes that Silicon Valley is turning young Filipino workers who might have been satisfied with a call center job a decade ago into a creative and entrepreneurial class seeking a deeper connection with innovation-driven and mission-focused companies.” But is such a relationship possible when Silicon Valley remains obsessed with first world problems? In the end, the development tech brings to the Philippines remains extractive: gentrification has been taking over cities, while brain drain has been taking away people. Lacking resources, the country has no choice but to continue being codependent. True change will not happen in the hands of the colonizers.
April 15, 2021

How to be Successful by Jack Ma

I remember watching this talk by Jack Ma a few years ago.

To this day it still resonates.

Here’s his piece of advice for 20 year olds:

Before you turn 30 years old, follow somebody.

Go to a small company. Normally, in a big company, it is good to learn processing; you are part of a big machine. But when you go to a small company, you learn the passion, you learn the dreams. You learn to do a lot of things at one time. So before 30 years old, it’s not which company you go to, it’s which boss you follow. A good boss teaches you differently.


April 14, 2021

Multivariable Problems

Generally speaking, in mathematics linear problems are fairly simple to solve but multivariable problems are much more complex. The same is true for life.

Many problems in life are somewhat single variable problems where the outcomes is highly dependent on one variable.

Multivariable problems or systems problems as their also known as are complex problems with complex solutions. Alex Danco explains why systems problems are difficult to solve:

System problems cannot be fixed in one step, nor can they be fixed in a sequence of linear steps. Why not? Because when systems find a steady state — which is probably where you’re encountering them, if you’re setting out to change something — they’re steady” not because they’re static, but because they’re dynamically held in place by feedback loops. If you try to change one variable, you can apply as much effort as you like, but the minute you let go, the system will just snap right back to its original configuration. - World Building, Alex Danco

Starting a business is a multivariable problem. Organizing a political campaign is a multivariable problem. Directing a movie is a multivariable problem.

Many of the hard problems that worth working on are multivariable problems.

April 13, 2021

Changing Your Narrative

As an Asian-Canadian male, there’s a certain narrative that I inherit especially in Western society. For much of my life I’ve been fighting against this narrative, trying to prove them wrong. I’m sure anyone of a minority background can relate.

Our lives are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves. And the stories we tell ourselves are influenced by the people around us and the media. But yet, we are in control of our own narrative. Once we understand this fact, once we understand that no one’s story matters but our own, then that’s when we become our most powerful.

If you don’t control your narrative, other people will control it for you. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year.

April 12, 2021

Stuff I Enjoyed Recently (4.11.2021)

  1. Endtroducing… - DJ Shadow
  2. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
  3. How Bobby Hundreds Turned A T-shirt Into a Streetwear Empire
  4. The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu
  5. Ocean Vuong: A Life Worthy of Our Breath - On Being Podcast
  6. World Building - Alex Danco
April 11, 2021

Worldwide Reach

I rarely check my websites analytics but when I do my favorite part is seeing where my visitors are from.

In the past month, people visited from all corners of the globe. A few cities include Rome, Nairobi, Osaka, Melbourne, Los Angeles, and Sao Paolo.

A few people have even visited my site from places I wouldn’t expect like Des Moine, Bekasi, Christchurch, Kathmandu, and Monaco.

This goes to show how wide the reach of the internet is.

April 10, 2021

Moonlighting

Amelia Boone is an endurance athlete and 4x world champion obstacle racer. She’s one of the most decorated obstacle racers of all time and she managed to achieve all this while maintaining her day job as an attorney at Apple.

There’s plenty of other examples of successful people that have moonlighted. Ted Chiang (Technical Writer and Science Fiction Writer) and Henri Rousseau (Toll Booth Collector and Painter) come to mind.

Sometimes I use the excuse of school or work to say that I don’t have time to chase my other goals.

But reading stories like Boone, Chiang, or Rousseau’s breaks the ceiling.

April 9, 2021

Interesting is Found on the Margins

I think the most interesting books are not the popular, mainstream ones but rather the ones that are on the margins”; The ones that not many people have read.

One of my motivations for writing everyday is to explore my fringe ideas. When I finished writing about all the easy ideas what ideas will I come up with next?

Whether it be ideas, books, or people, interesting is found on the margins.

April 8, 2021

Being Kind

In 2010, Jeff Bezos gave a commencement speech to the graduating class at Princeton entitled We Are What We Choose”. In it he tells a story from his childhood that I think about often:

On one particular trip, I was about 10 years old. I was rolling around in the big bench seat in the back of the car. My grandfather was driving. And my grandmother had the passenger seat. She smoked throughout these trips, and I hated the smell.

At that age, I’d take any excuse to make estimates and do minor arithmetic. I’d calculate our gas mileage—figure out useless statistics on things like grocery spending. I’d been hearing an ad campaign about smoking. I can’t remember the details, but basically the ad said, every puff of a cigarette takes some number of minutes off of your life: I think it might have been two minutes per puff. At any rate, I decided to do the math for my grandmother. I estimated the number of cigarettes per days, estimated the number of puffs per cigarette and so on. When I was satisfied that I’d come up with a reasonable number, I poked my head into the front of the car, tapped my grandmother on the shoulder, and proudly proclaimed, At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off your life!”

I have a vivid memory of what happened, and it was not what I expected. I expected to be applauded for my cleverness and arithmetic skills. Jeff, you’re so smart. You had to have made some tricky estimates, figure out the number of minutes in a year and do some division.” That’s not what happened. Instead, my grandmother burst into tears. I sat in the backseat and did not know what to do. While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather, who had been driving in silence, pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow. Was I in trouble? My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man. He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer. My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.
April 7, 2021

Multiplying Skills

In Derek Sivers’ How to Get Rich, he advocates for learning multiplying skills:

Speaking, writing, psychology, design, conversation, 2nd language, persuasion, programming, meditation/focus.

Not pursued on their own, they’re skills that multiply the success of your main pursuit.

(A pilot who’s also a great writer and public speaker.)

(A chef with a mastery of psychology, persuasion, and design.)

These skills multiply the results of your efforts, and give you an edge over others in your field.

This explains one of my reasons for learning to write. In the short time I’ve been writing, it has benefited me tremendously in all aspects of my life.

Learning any of these multiplying skills early on seem to have compounding effects. Expertise is not required either in order to benefit. Perhaps learning a few of these skills as 100 hour assets would suffice.

April 6, 2021

Hundred Rabbits

Recently, I came across this fascinating website called a Hundred Rabbits. Here’s a snippet on their about page:

Rek is a writer and illustrator, Devine is a programmer and musician, together we operate a small research lab aboard a sailboat called Hundred Rabbits, where we do experiments on resilience and self-reliance using low-tech solutions.

Sites like these are why I love the internet. There’s so many people out there doing fascinating things and for me it opens up possibilities of how I can live my life.

April 5, 2021

Photography is Essential

In a pre-COVID world, I’d first meet people in person, whether this was my classmates, coworkers, or romantic interests. Their first impression of me is what they see; What I’m wearing, how I talk, my demeanour, etc. Afterwards, we’d exchange social media to keep in touch.

But in a post-COVID world, I first meet people online before I meet them in person. Visually, your first impression of me is through the photos on my social media.

This is especially true with dating apps. Dating apps have completely changed dating dynamics. People will choose to date you based on the quality and personality displayed through your photos.

Meeting Online is by far the most common way couples meet [1]Meeting Online is by far the most common way couples meet [1]

First impressions matter, and if first impressions are now made online rather in person, than I’d argue that photography is an important skill to learn in the 21st century. Especially now that everyone has a smartphone with a powerful camera, you might as well make use of it.

Notes

[1] Taken from: Disintermediating your friends: How online dating in the United States displaces other ways of meeting

April 4, 2021

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s popular poem, The Road Not Taken, has been top of mind.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

April 3, 2021

Life before CAD Software

Sometimes I take for granted how much technology, in particular software has changed our world.

Here’s what life looked like before Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

April 2, 2021

Creator Lifecycle

Li Jin outlines three stages of the creator lifecycle:

  1. Content creation
  2. Audience building
  3. Monetization

Each stage has its own challenges and obstacles. Here’s a few I had to overcome in the content creation stage:

This simple yet powerful framework clarified for me where I’m at in my journey. I’ve been heads down for more than a year writing everyday and refining my craft. It’s time for me to move to the next stage and start building my audience.

April 1, 2021

Web 2.0 to 3.0

Web 2.0

Web 3.0

March 31, 2021

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