The problem with avoidance

What are you avoiding today?

Is it a conflict, a hard conversation you need to have, dealing with a work situation, disciplining your child consistently—that thing about yourself?

You know what it is. It’s been bothering you—nagging, really. But you keep burying it. But like a zombie that won’t die and keeps crawling back out of the grave, it continues to haunt you.

That guilt, shame, and anxiety keep recurring for a reason.

You’re avoiding what you should do.

Instead, face it. Deal with it. Go towards it, and come what may. Dealing with the hardships of life makes life easier.

If you do, your life will be better than it was before. If anything, you will be better.

You’ll be a better parent, friend, person—human.


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The difference you can make

Being different is the difference that makes you stand out.

See, many of us hate being different. It makes us feel alone, ostracized, alienated. I know.

I remember being one of the few Asians in my elementary school class. And, yes, people made fun of me for being different. It hurt. I cried. But later, I accepted my difference, that I wasn’t like everyone else.

And that did something to me. It woke me. It gave me the freedom to love myself. It allowed me to see things differently and walk a unique path.

Now, when I say “different,” I don’t mean being immoral or hurting others, or anything like that. It’s about being unlike others in personality or ethnicity or interests or looks or whatever. Being different isn’t bad. It’s often the best thing that can happen to us.

And anyone can be different. It’s a choice. If you hang out with only people who look, think, talk like you, that’s ok, but try to branch out and befriend others who aren’t like you. Just that feeling of being around someone who’s not like you will make you feel different. And that’s good.

If you’ve always felt different, you’re not alone. Many around you have the same feeling and struggle. But, know this, being different and accepting yourself is powerful.

For example, the most innovative research labs aren’t the ones with scientists from the same country or have large demographic, cultural, and occupational overlap. No, the labs that make real breakthroughs often have people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences working together. They are the ones who save lives, change the world, do great things. Their differences help them see the world differently and create something new.

You see, sameness doesn’t achieve greatness. No, those who want the status quo stay close to others like themselves.

So don’t conform. Don’t try to surround yourself with others like you, no. Engage those who disagree with you, eat other cuisines, speak another language, studied a subject outside of your expertise. A world without diversity doesn’t change the world. It can’t.

Uniformity isn’t transformational. Only diversity can do that. And diversity starts with each person accepting that they are different and moving towards others who are unlike them.

So don’t fear or dislike your difference or others for being different from you. That’s what sets you apart. It’s the fodder for the greatness that you can experience and create.

Instead, be different. Be yourself. Be true. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Instead, shine.

And, who knows, you might be the difference between the status quo and changing the world.

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Post-pandemic life

You can take us out of a pandemic, but it will be hard to take the pandemic out of us. Here’s what I mean.

It’s true; the pandemic is almost over. With the vaccines and their delivery scaling, we can be confident that the pandemic will end shortly.

The problem is that its scars are still with us. And I think they will stay with us afterward. I don’t mean people wearing masks or working from home or washing their hands more frequently, or whatever.

No, I’m talking about the fear we’ve lived with.

Many of us will carry around deep fears that haunt us. We’re afraid that our loved ones will die or that we will get stricken by a virus. We’re used to living vigilantly, trying to survive, and worrying about our loved ones.

Unlearning that will be one of the hardest things for us. In many ways, we’ve forgotten how to enjoy the day without wondering if we’ll be ambushed by some microscopic enemy delivered by friends and strangers.

But unlearn, we must. For we mustn’t confuse a season with a lifetime, war with peace, a pandemic with normalcy.

I’m not saying that that time is now. It’s not, but it’s coming. It’s soon.

And when it does, I hope you can enjoy it freely, devoid of fear, and filled with joy. I hope you can hug others without worry and hesitation, invite others over to your table without trepidation, and travel with adventure in your eyes.

I hope you heal those scars and regain what was lost, no longer existing out of this pandemic, but breathing in the world that has been freed from it. I hope you hope.

And, I hope you live.


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Do more by managing this resource: energy

When it comes to productivity most of us think about time. It is important, but there is, I believe, another resource that is even more so. It’s this.

Energy.

I don’t mean that we are battery-operated, like a Tesla, no. But it’s not too far from that, in some sense. I mean, you can feel it, right? It’s that draggy feeling you get through the day, or, if you’ve been working really hard and hardly sleeping, you might start feeling burned out. That’s you mismanaging your energy.

Or, on the opposite side, it’s those days, when you’ve been eating well or exercising and sleeping better, that you sense your energy levels are at full capacity. You’ve got a bounce in your step and feel like you can take on the world.

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s energy.

And many of us believe that to do more, we need to work harder. But that’s not true. It’s a recipe for hating your work or burning out. I know. I’ve been there. And doing that makes you incredibly unproductive.

Energy is critical. It’s what helps you do your job, learn, create, parent—you know, live. It’s the fuel you have within you that powers your ability to be productive in your life.

And, the truth is, too many of us are terrible at managing our energy. We don’t really think about it, let alone talk about it. But we should. It’s not easily quantifiable, but, as I said, you can feel it.

You see, highly productive people have learned to dial in their energy. They aren’t just thinking about time. They find times to play, rest, relax. Jeff Bezos talks about getting eight hours of sleep. Winston Churchill took regular breaks just to doze off or stare out over his pond and daydream. Me? I like to watch Netflix or read.

I’m not saying I’m a master at this. I’m not. My point is to make you aware of this dynamic within all of us. Awareness is key. Take stock of how much energy you do or do not have. Look at your life patterns, your routine, and consider changing things to improve your management of this.

When you are running low, learn to rest, sleep more, say no to requests. Find the things that give you energy and incorporate the into your life. Maybe it’s reading poetry, or watching a feel-good movie, even really cheesy romantic comedies, or spending time with your loved ones. Whatever it is, do it regularly. Doing that will help you have the oomph to accomplish the things that really matter.

And you’ll produce more than you thought you could, even more than when you were working longer hours.


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Gain financial freedom by doing this

One of the hardest lessons to learn about investing is this: to win, you need to learn how to lose.

These past several days the market has been going down, and I was tempted to sell. Maybe you were too. I get it; losing is scary. It’s tempting to sell your investments, especially your stocks, when they are plummeting.

But that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. Sure, there are some positions you might need to get out of, the losers that have little chance of winning. But I’m not talking about those.

I’m talking about the investments you’ve researched and formed a conviction around, the great companies that you hold in your portfolio. Those are the ones you shouldn’t sell. I know. I’ve been there.

In February or March of last year, when people thought that the coronavirus was going to create a zombie apocalypse, I sold most of my Shopify position in one of my accounts. It was a big position for me. And that was a huge mistake. If I had held on, it would have been a monster gain. It would have been something someone could have retired on. But I didn’t hold on.

I wasn’t willing to lose, so I lost.

See, when the market is going down, you have to be willing to take paper losses. Those are the ones you get before you actually sell your stock to actualize your loss. Not actualizing your losses leads to a path of winning.

And, the truth is, the higher your account goes, the scarier it gets. It sounds backward, but it’s not. That’s because you have more to lose. Your account balance might be higher than it has ever been, but that’s when you’re in the most danger. Maybe your account crossed some threshold, six figures, seven figures, or whatever, and when a week like this week happens, it’s all the more tempting to sell to keep what you have left. But don’t.

The best gains aren’t made in a day. They are made in a year, five years, a decade. Hold onto the companies that are growing and innovating and dominating their industry. Don’t sell them. Add to your positions when days like these come along. And you’ll be amazed at what will happen.

You’ll gain financial freedom.

You’ll win.


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How to overcome your fear of pain

Life isn’t about avoiding pain. It’s about knowing what’s worth living for despite the pain.

To find that purpose that makes the pain irrelevant or less relevant is key to really living.

Many of us get carried along in our lives without really knowing what we want in life. And, when that’s the case, we take the path of least resistance. We’ll choose comfort. We’ll coast.

But, when you live purposefully or have a goal, you approach life differently, better.

You won’t see pain as something to avoid, no. It becomes an obstacle that you must overcome to get to your goal. Pain becomes a challenge, not a deterrent. You see, good goals eclipse the pain.

So take the time to clarify what you want in life. If you do, you’ll be able to go through anything to achieve your purpose.

You won’t just be alive. You’ll really live.


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A secret to winning

We all want to win in our relationships, investments, love. But winning is often counterintuitive. And we can sum it up like this.

To win, you must be willing to lose.

You see, in relationships, we want to be right or argue our point or make people see our way, our hurts, our pain, our truths. But if you’ve been around the block and have some experience, you know that doesn’t work. In fact, it only poisons relationships. Making people see what you see isn’t a way to create intimacy. To go deeper with people, you have to lose that need to be known first and, instead, try to understand others before being understood, empathize with them, feel their pain. When you do that, you will likely deepen your relationships. Of course, you want to find people where this “losing” is mutual. They are willing to “lose” for you and you for them. But sometimes, it takes someone to initiate it. And if you do, you will not find yourself without friends and loved ones.

Who doesn’t want more money? Of course, we all do. I’m just keeping it real here. But, what we aren’t real about is how to win in this area. In investing, winning is also about losing. Maybe you’ve lost money trying to invest, and you don’t want to touch the stock market. But I think there’s a reason for that. It’s the fact that you’re trying too hard to win. I know that sounds confusing. But let me explain. When I lost money in the market, often it happened because I was too afraid to lose money: anytime my stock or investment started losing money, I would sell. Then that investment would recover and appreciate, and I would feel terrible because I felt like I was missing out. So then I would buy back into that stock when the price was higher. Then it would go down again, and I would sell again because I was losing money. And that cycle kept happening. In short, I would try so hard to win that, at any moment when I was losing, I would try to save myself by getting out of the market out of fear of losing more money. Maybe you can relate. After reading books and reflecting on my countless mistakes, I realized that I needed to just buy and hold. But to do that, I had to get my head right. I had to be willing to lose my money, all of it if necessary, if I had a high conviction about a company. That’s when I started making money. To make money, you have to be willing to lose it.

Love is complex. And I don’t want to say that to make romantic relationships work, you just have to lose, because that’s not necessarily true. But it does help. I’ve seen it in my marriage. When I’m willing to die to myself for my wife, our relationship goes better. And, when I say “die to myself,” what I mean is that I’m willing to set my agenda, preferences, desires, etc. aside and let hers be higher, more important. That’s losing. And if you do that, you will win. Your love will grow. Now, I don’t mean for you to get abused. No, marriage or romantic relationship is a two-way street. So you need to tell the other person to treat you better if they are treating you like crap. But often, to engender love, love will feel like a one-way street. And you might be the roadkill sometimes. But your relationship will likely flourish.

And, in general, too many of us care too much. We live like we have something to lose. We strive to upgrade our cars, houses, jobs. And we are terrified of getting them taken away from us. But what we don’t see is that this race robs us of joy. When we care so much about our stuff and titles and money, keeping up with the Jones, we just end up living poorer lives. We lose.

It’s when we stop caring so much that we begin to live more richly. When we stop trying to make another buck, sacrificing time with loved ones, and start making sure they feel loved, we are richer. I mean, have you ever seen someone who seems to live so effortlessly, who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world? I don’t mean that they are careless. They just are not that burdened. They may not be the wealthiest person, but they have something money can’t buy. They are free. I’m not saying we should all become homeless people. But we all burden ourselves with things that just don’t matter that much. If that’s you, stop worrying about winning. In fact, be more willing to lose.

If you do, you’ll become a real winner.


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A secret to writing even when you don’t feel worthy

One of the hardest things about writing is saying something worth sitting down to write.

I know. I’m feeling it right now, as I’m trying to write this.

And that’s the thing about writing; it’s often based on our feelings. When we write, we can feel not only that our work isn’t worthy enough, but that, somehow, we are unworthy. That’s what makes writing so hard.

In writing, it’s less about what is being written than it is about the writer. You. Me. Us.

But, if you remember anything from this post, remember this. You are good enough to write.

Sure, you’re going to write crap. A lot of what you create will be garbage. Yes, most of it won’t get read, or it will get ignored. And all of that will feel horrible.

I know. I’ve been there. I still get there. I was there today.

But that doesn’t mean all of your writings are bad. You’re just in process. You’re growing. And that is painful.

I find that I must repeatedly give myself the permission to write, even if it’s poor, unread, ignored material (especially in those times). We as writers so easily stop ourselves because we have this imaginary person inside of us, criticizing us, telling us that we have no business sitting here writing.

But they are wrong. You do belong here. You do have something to say. You must write.

You must because you feel it in your heart. You have a desire within you. And, if you do, you must keep at it. Don’t stop. Keep writing.

You see, writing isn’t about whether your writing is worthy or not. Every writer, even Stephen King to Shakespeare, wrote words that flopped. So, no, it’s not about how worthy your writing is. It’s about what you do.

And if you write, you, my dear reader, are a writer.

And, over time, you will improve. You will find readers. You will write words that will resonate with the world, people, whom you never thought you would reach, will begin reading your words and find them worthy of reading.

I don’t know if it will get any easier to write as you proceed, but I do know this.

You’ll be a writer no matter how you feel.


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Silence: hearing the sounds of the soul

Silence. It’s one of the best things for us. Even so, for many, it’s scary.

So we surround ourselves with noise, TV going in the background or music streaming, podcasts playing, zoom meetings zooming. These days we have more noises than ever before. There are videos, shows, audiobooks, and on and on chattering in our ears all of the time. And that’s not mentioning the real people you may have on the phone or in the room with you. We live in a noisy world. It’s loud.

And that’s not the real issue. It’s this: the fact that we don’t allow for silence in our lives.

You see, silence lets us hear what’s important. It cuts through the noise. Without it, we can’t hear what we really need to hear: our inner voices. I’m not talking about the voices of a mentally ill person. No, these are the ones that make us better. They show us the way. They tell us who we are, who we can become.

Silence is about giving yourself the ability to hear your inner voice speak. In the quiet, we can hear the negative voices and correct them. We can understand what our conscience is actually saying to us. We can hear our souls sing. And, for those of you who believe in Jesus, like me, it’s in the silence where you often hear God.

I’m not saying you need to become a monk. You don’t need to go on a silent retreat where you have thirty-six hours of straight silence, without talking, walking in the woods barefoot in a robe. That would be nice but unnecessary.

What I’m saying is that you need to have some quietude programmed into your life. Whether it’s an hour or two once a week or some minutes a day, you should have some regularity where you seek and find quiet so that you can commune with those quieter voices that need to be heard.

And I’m not saying that this will solve all of your problems. It won’t. But it will make your life better. It will make you more self-aware. It will help you grow as a human.

It will help you hear the signal through the noise.


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Time is more than money

Time isn’t money. It’s more than that.

Yes, I know that some people like lawyers and consultants bill hourly. But just because an industry works like that doesn’t mean we should live life the same way. We shouldn’t.

“Time is money” is a phrase that is pervasive in our American culture. Not everyone says it, but, nonetheless, too many of us feel it. It’s the pressure to do more so we can get richer, make an extra buck, and become more valuable. But it doesn’t work.

You see, as soon as we make time the same as money, it kills our health, relationships—life. Putting earning money as the end all be all and tying each minute you spend into a monetary value in all of life is not living. In fact, it’s dying.

Not only does the idea that “time is money” stress us out, but it also isolates us from others and makes us into human doings instead of human beings. It kills us from the inside out.

Instead, we should see time as a resource that we get to choose how to use, and making money is only one of many options. We need to see our time differently, not only with a monetary lens; rather, we must view it through one that is multifaceted and rich.

Time isn’t just money; it’s family, friends, rest, fun, games, hobbies—life.

And if you have time, no matter what your net worth, you are, in my book, one of the richest persons alive.

So don’t just spend your time wisely.

Enjoy it.


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