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, study 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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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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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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When I made one of the biggest bets in my life

Sometimes you need to abandon plan b and go all in.

I recently read this 2013 article on Steve Job’s presentation of a lifetime. It was for the first iPhone. It was monumental, legendary, historic. Yet the article outlines all of the things that could have gone wrong (how the multitouch, making a call and surfing the web, messaging, etc. wasn’t working well). They had to get specialized cell service just for the presentation. It really shouldn’t have succeeded. It should have failed.

And usually, Jobs had a plan b for these types of presentations, having an out for himself. But not for this one. No. There was only plan a.

I think life is a lot like that, especially when it comes to decision making. Life is a bet. I don’t mean you’re going to the horse tracks and making wagers all of the time. What I mean is that we are all deciding on various opportunities and decisions. And each one is a wager. You can try to get a new job or make a change in your life, and each decision has risks and rewards, and they’re on a spectrum. And often, one option seems safer than the other. And choosing one over the other is betting. That is especially true when it comes to the big decisions in life. So, we are all making bets, more often than we may realize.

And, even playing it safe is a bet. If you don’t take risks and play everything in life safely is still betting. You’re playing the conservative hand, sure. But you’re also losing out on the possibilities or opportunities that only higher risks afford. There are possibly fewer bumps or losses or failures, yes. But, the safe bet is still a bet.

Now, I don’t think we should be making bets just to make one. No, that’s stupid. Risk in and of itself isn’t the point. That’s like dancing on the edge of a cliff just for the fun of it. Risk without respecting the risks, and not caring for the reward is just being dangerous. I don’t think you or anyone should do that.

Instead, there must be a goal and aim for the risks you take. You need to know the purpose of the bet and the risk involved. They need to be worth it. If you gamble something important, it must be for something better, greater, worth the ante. And if you’re betting, you might not have a plan b, but you should at least have a plan a.

For Jobs, he was, in a way, betting the future of his company. Apple hadn’t delivered anything new in an extended period, and people had been calling for a phone after the iPod’s iconic launch. Jobs was also announcing the launch of the AppleTV, but he believed he needed more. He needed the iPhone, which he was determined to deliver. And he did.

Over thirteen years later, Apple’s flagship product is still the iPhone, netting billions and billions of dollars and is arguably the most successful product ever. Yet, it started with a handful of partially working, glitchy prototypes in the hands of a man with a dream of making one of the greatest bets in his life. He went all in.

I think the biggest bet in my life was getting married. I was in my early thirties, and my future in-laws weren’t exactly my biggest fans during our engagement, and my fiancé was having doubts. We had even broken up during our engagement for a few days. I was terrified to tell you the truth. I had already experienced a broken engagement with another girl in my early twenties, and coming back from that took me about five years. And I wasn’t sure if I had the emotional resilience to recover from this engagement breaking. The likelihood of things working out between us at the time was uncertain. But after some prayer, I continued to feel the conviction to be with her. In fact, it grew. So I went all in. I wooed her with a romantic trip to Chicago and, afterwards, convinced her to meet with a therapist together. She was my plan a. And we made it to the altar.

Now, over ten years and two kids later, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been. We won.

What about you? What’s your plan a? If you don’t have one, form one. Dream a dream that you think is a stretch, might even consider silly, foolish. If the goal is about happiness, a healthy family, lifestyle, financial success, whatever, why not go for it? Why not abandon plan b? Make that bet. And who knows? You might win. Of course it’s not guaranteed.

But, if anything, you won’t just be alive.

You’ll have lived.


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Resolutions are good, legacies better

Don’t just make resolutions; leave a legacy.

Over the break, I, like many of you, reflected on the past year and casted hopes for the next. It was a mixture of memories and dreams, sadness and joy, grief and gratitude. There wasn’t much clarity that came from that exercise for me. But there was one question that rang clearly.

And it was this: What legacy will you leave?

When I say “legacy,” I don’t just mean an inheritance of money or property or things that you leave behind to your inheritors. I certainly don’t mean getting your name on a big building with Roman columns, no.

I mean less conspicuous things that leave a greater impact, like shaping your children to make them more loving, unselfish, and honorable human beings. I mean giving the hopeless hope and beauty and truth. I mean the immaterial things that make the world materially better. A legacy is more than the items we leave behind; they are the impressions, even imprints, we make on a person’s soul and the world’s spirit.

Isn’t this a question that we should all ask ourselves? So, What legacy will you leave?

For me, as I let that question slap me across the face, and I feel the reverberations of its meaning pulse through me, I think of my children. I am far from a perfect parent. In fact, often, I think, “I’m a terrible father.” But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to improve. I do. But I fail often. And when I do, I ask for forgiveness, from God, from my wife—from my children.

The question also compels me to write more, better. I don’t just want to write on this blog, although I do love it. I want to create art by writing a novel. I want to tell stories that shape not only this generation but generations to come. I don’t know if I can or will. But I must try.

Maybe you don’t want to have children, or you’re not a writer, or whatever. That’s fine. There are other ways to leave a legacy. You can create something else. You affect your neighbors, coworkers, friends, etc. We all have an impact on the people around us. And it’s not just about what you do, but how you do it. Do you respect others even when you disagree with them? Do you treat people who have less than you with more dignity? Do you love people as you want to be loved? Those are legacy leaving questions.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not perfect at this. I’m awful at it, really. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continue fighting to carve out a better world. If anything, if my family and friends can say that I never gave up and continued to fight for good, that would be enough, I think.

So, in this season of making resolutions, setting goals, trying to be a better you, do that, but do more than that. Those changes are good. But let’s all find ways to create more lasting change, something that will live longer than ourselves. Let’s leave a legacy that will bear fruit beyond 2021, or the years to come, that will echo past the grave.

And, the fact is, we are all leaving a legacy whether we like it or not. The question is, What kind will it be?

That’s a question only you can answer.

It’s a choice.

So, what will you choose? It’s one you get to make every day, every moment.

Right now.


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