I was catching up with a former teammate of mine at a student run venture fund who ended up leading the team a few years later. We reminisced about the old times back when we were teammates. We also discussed how the highest performers on our team we’re never the ones with stacked resumes. And he joked to me that from his three years of experience, there’s an inverse relationship between how stacked resume someone’s resume is and their impact in the organization.
I’ve been on the recruiting side of many organizations. And I found that the most experienced candidates with the big logos are the most sexy. They have the most to offer the organization too in terms of network and skills. But they have optionality and aren’t as committed.
Then there are folks that don’t have the experience but are hungry and have a chip on their shoulder. I love betting on these people. They have the most to gain.
The ideal candidate, though it’s quite rare, is one that is experienced and committed.
In the 1970s, New York was in the midst of a cultural shift. The city was broken, crime-ridden, and in borderline anarchy. The youth were frustrated by the the crime and violence that plagued their communities and instead turned to a new, up and coming art form to express themselves. This was the birth of hip hop.
Widely regarded as one of the grandfathers of hip hop, Afrika Bambaataa, laid out the four pillars of hip hop: MCing, DJing, Bboying, and Graffiti. What started as a reaction to the tough cultural and economic climate of the inner city, has now turned into a worldwide phenomenon.
Hip Hop’s rebellious roots has now become the voice of the oppressed all over the world. At its heart, hip hop is about peace, love, and community. Back in the inner cities of New York, instead of turning to a life of gangs and violence, bboys would battle it on the dance floor or the MCs would have a rap battle. Fighting is highly discouraged in these communities as you would let your craft do the talking.
Throughout history, it’s interesting how beauty can arise from hardship and chaos. The story of hip hop is another one of these examples.
I’ve watched this video countless times throughout the years. Yet, the message is timeless.
I love the emphasis on the first follower. The first follower is an underrated form of leadership. The first follower changes the lone nut to a leader. So when you find a line nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.
A common theme within my blog is commitment. This daily blog that I’ve been writing for the past three years embodies this.
Some friends think I’m naturally good at focusing and saying no. But that isn’t the case at all. Even now, there’s so many things I want to do. I want to travel to Mexico, I want to learn how to powerlift, I want to try cooking different cuisines, I want to learn a combat sport, I want to improve my wardrobe, I want to get better at skiing. The list is endless. But what I learned is that I can try to do everything but ironically I’ll do nothing. One of the most important lessons I learned is that committing is how you win.
Here’s another concrete example, when I was moving to New York I was looking for a community. And back in October, I came across this new third space in NYC called Verci. I felt like I resonated with their values and ethos and decided to check it out. I talked with Anant, one of the founders, and I told him that I like to commit to very few communities and this is one I want to commit to. And that’s what I did. I joined the community, engaged with it, became a regular, started hosting my own events, and I’m now a core member in Verci. Through Verci I’ve met many of my kindreds, hosted my own events, and made lots of friends that I vibe with.
What I learned about communities is that you get what you put in. This was the case when I joined the Canadian Undergraduate Tech Conference early in college, this was the case when I joined Front Row Ventures later in college, and this was the case again at Verci. Each one of those communities I’ve gained immensely whether it be skills, experiences, or reputation.
Whether it be communities, skills, or relationships,commit and play the long game. That’s how you win.
Yesterday, I posted a tweet thread formally announcing the Olive Tree Writing Club on Twitter. The thread got a ton of traction and interest from writers in nyc and beyond.
I can’t help but feel grateful. NYC is the best city in the world when it comes to writing and publishing. This writing club was our excuse to meet them. Yet, last year, I remember what a grind it was even getting a few people interested in our writing events. Despite the struggles, we embraced slow growth and showed up consistently, making small improvements after each meetup. And finally, the slow growth paid off.
I guess now we officially enter the next stage of community building: scaling up a community. While it’s exciting to have lots of folks interested, it’s important to scale mindfully: stick to our fundamentals, core values, and not get carried away by the hype.
Today, I went to the late fashion designer, Virgil Abloh’s exhibition named, “Figures of Speech” at the Brooklyn Art Museum. In the middle of the gallery hung a large black nylon flag with Virgil’s motto, “Question Everything” written on it.
Question everything means picking apart societal norms and rethinking them from the ground up. It means challenging expectations and limits. This motto is core to Virgil’s creative process and the secret to his meteoric success in the fashion industry.
AN ARRAY OF AIR, 2019
His art embodies this motto as well. Much of it combines form factors, materials, and colors in a unique way, challenging the viewer’s concept of what is and isn’t fashion.
From Louis Vuitton x Virgil Abloh Men’s Fall-Winter 2020 collection
One of my main takeaways from the book, Lessons of History, is that the vices of one societal revolution were the virtues in the previous one. For example, conformity was a virtue in the industrial age but a vice in the information age.
The same principle applies for different life stages. Ambition is a highly regarded trait in the young but isn’t for senior folks. Arguably, you should’ve already accomplished most of what you wanted to do.
Life is a constant state of what got you here won’t get you there. And a constant cycle of learning and unlearning.
Last week, one of my friends said that, “the world needs less experts and more explorers” and I’ve been thinking about this since. Explorers progress society forward through searching for the unknown, pushing the limits of knowledge, and challenging the norm.
Who are the modern day explorers? Artists, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, astronauts, and scientists come to mind. These folks are fearless, courageous, and determined. And we can never have enough of them.
Last week, I went to a small, intimate dinner hosted by one of my writing friends. This was the first time I was meeting him in person and I noticed that he had a certain gravity to him. Gravity in the sense that people are attracted to him, and I’m not talking about a romantic sense, but rather a sense of admiration.
It got me thinking about this idea of gravity. It’s a rare quality to posess, yet it’s extremely powerful. I believe it’s universal as well. If someone has gravity, most people will find this person attractive.
I’ve met few people with gravity in my life. But I noticed that they have some core, fundamental similarities: they have a strong sense of self and are living in line with their values. They know who they are. They have strong convictions. Maybe they’re pursuing something bigger than themselves, or maybe they have this aura of love wherever they go. This self assuredness and authenticity is rare and when people sense this, they are attracted to it. They want to be around this person.
One indicator of gravity is how other people talk about them? Do they hold them in high regard? Do people want to be around them? If so, then maybe this person has gravity.
Our relationships make us. Thus, judging character is a crucial life skill when evaluating potential friendships, business partners, or romantic relationships.
Ted Goia, the author of the Honest Broker, wrote about 8 techniques for evaluating character. I found his first tip the most interesting:
Forget what they say—instead look at who they marry.
This is a sure-fire technique, and it tells you important things about people you can’t learn any other way. A person’s choice of a spouse—or if they aren’t married, their closest lifelong partner—is much more revealing than anything they say or do in public.
This choice tells you about their own innermost longings, expectations, and needs. It tells you what they think of themselves, and what they think they deserve in life (or will settle for). It is, I believe, the clearest indicator of priorities and values you will ever find.
So the next time you’re introduced to strangers at the party, and they start talking business, spend at least a little time sizing up their partners. If you don’t pay attention to this, you will have lost an important source of insights, and may pay a high price as a result.
While I’m not at the age where most of my friends are married, I do agree, that you can tell a lot about a person by who they are dating.
Back in high school, a few of my high school friends started a YouTube channel where they would post comedy skits. I remember telling them that they would fail. Why did I say that? What was my point? In retrospect, the thought of them succeeding made me feel uncomfortable. Putting them down made me feel better about myself.
Criticizing is easy, creating is hard. Creating art and putting a piece of yourself out there for the world to judge takes courage. Those who are cynical don’t understand.
Shedding this cynicism is one of the first lessons in the creative journey. If you’re constantly critcizing other people’s ideas you’ll be even harsher on your own ideas. This will create more creative resistance leading to internal strife. This internal struggle is one of the most difficult for those on the creative path. Once you understand this struggle, cynicism turns into respect, admiration, and support for your fellow creator.
A friend described anger as uncontrolled helplessness. I thought it was an interesting framing of the emotion. This blog post by Chris Wong expands on this:
At its root, anger is a reaction to the shame derived from both helplessness and grandiosity (the unrealistic sense of superiority). In Peter’s podcast with the family therapist Terry Real, he tells a story of his anger when a food delivery came late and he wasn’t able to make dinner on time. He felt shame because he felt he couldn’t provide for his family and needed to overcome the shame with anger at the delivery person… A feeling of inadequacy driven by helplessness or grandiosity creates shame. Anger is the reaction to the shame.
As a kid, though I’d read infrequently, I’d enjoy reading atlases, encyclopedias, and novels. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I took reading seriously. And one of the first books I read was Malcolm Gladwells, Outliers.
As someone who was new to reading, this book was a revelation. It felt humbling knowing that there was a whole world of knowledge out there that I just discovered. My initial foray into a serious reading habit started with the classic self help books: Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Mindset. Each one of these books was quite formative to my young mind.
While I’ve moved on from the self help genre, many of these books were foundational for my love of reading and self education.
The hard thing about pursuing life as an online creator is that you measure your self worth based on status metrics such as followers, subscribers, and view counts.
What’s worst is that your perceptions of other begins to warp as well. Someone’s status is elevated with high follower counts and someone’s status is lowered when they don’t.
What’s important is to have, what my friend Kasra calls, “a bigger heart and constantly being in touch with the inherent worth of every being”, no matter if they have status or not. You see them as equal to you and to each other. No better, no worst.
There’s a saying that when a person dies, a library burns to the ground. Their experiences, lessons, and wisdom die with them. Some of these stories may have passed down verbally, others may have been written in archives or journals, but most is lost.
Through this blog I’m cryogenically freezing my thoughts for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. Who knows who’ll read this blog after I pass. Nonetheless, this blog will be there for anyone looking.
Back at Waterloo, my classmates and I had to uproot our lives every four months due to the co-op system. We didn’t know what city we’d be in because we had to land an internship first. While it was fun initially, eventually it got exhausting. Every move meant habits, environment, and communities needed to adapt as well. By the time I hit my senior year, I became more efficient at adapting to new environments. Still, I yearned for stability.
This constant change, on top of an already demanding curriculum, is one reason why I and many friends burned out while studying at Waterloo.
This stability is an aspect of life after graduation that I’m really enjoying. The stability of knowing where I’m living and working a year from now, I don’t have any plans on moving or changing jobs any time soon.