Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

365 days – One Final Thought

A whole year has gone by since I started this little project.

Compared to previous years, this year felt particularly vivid and alive. This year, I wasn’t allowed to let a single day go by on autopilot.

Because of a simple daily practice of writing and sharing an image, I had to take at least an hour every day for 365 straight days to ask myself: How have I affected others? What did I learn? What moments of joy did I experience? Who did I choose to spend my time with? How have I changed?

When I first started, I thought my goal was to improve my writing skills. But looking back, the true gift was the spaciousness for reflection and integration of thoughts I found meaningful and interesting.

For the next year, I’m thinking of asking 365 days of questions. It’s hard to ask a question and not look for the answer.

I’m not sure how the format will work, but I’m pretty sure the journey will be fascinating. I look forward to seeing where we end up!

362- Silent Witness

Recently, I had the unique opportunity to play the role of witness in an intimate conversation.

I had no plans of becoming a witness. It happened naturally as I arrived late into a conversation trying to make sense of a complex situation.

Throughout that time, there were many moments where I felt like I had something to say, but rather than interject- I stayed silent.

After two hours, I decided to interrupt to make one single observation.

Because I had been silent for so long, that single observation had far more gravitas than if I had tried to be an active participant.

Silence can sometimes be more effective than words, we just need to learn how to use it properly.

354- Communication

A good speech is made of strong words, but strong words alone don’t necessarily make a good speech.

A great storyteller speaks in service of what others need to hear – not because of what they want to say.

A magical interaction for one can be a frustrating interaction for another.

Reality is experienced differently by the sender and the receiver.

Our ability to empathize with the other side makes us better communicators.

353- Tone. Contrast. Saturation.

So much of the magic in photography happens in the post-production studio.

The same image can look radically different as you drag the various sliders up and down to change an image’s tone, contrast, and saturation.

When it comes to the real world – The tone, contrast, and saturation of a situation are very much dictated by the various personalities of the people that fill the space.

Some people are excellent at brightening a room with their smile; others might cast shadows of doubt, while some might help balance and connect the energies between people.

Which are you? Which would you like to be?

352- Rituals to create the extraordinary

Significant life events are always wrapped in rituals.

Weddings, Birthdays, Celebrations, Ceremonies, and Funerals – the intention behind them and the ingredients of formality help mark and honor the events as extraordinary.

But significant life events don’t need to be exclusively decided for us by our culture, environment, and upbringing. We can also choose to add ritual to inject even the most mundane event with meaning.

Anything from an ordinary meal with family to a hike in nature can be made sacred with a touch of intention and ritual.

The question is, what do we want to upgrade from Mundane to Extraordinary?

351- Best Version

When engaging in creative collaboration with a fellow artist or artisan, the quality of the final art piece is directly correlated to the team’s commitment to creating the best possible result.

If we turn the lens back on ourselves and consider our future self as the piece of art we’re trying to bring to life, our community’s commitment to that new version of ourselves is similarly important.

As with art, our best work is rarely created in isolation. Finding the right community helps us become the best version of ourselves and spread that energy back into the world.

349- Energy and Profit

Capitalism works because it has one simple rule: To maximize profits.

Regardless of culture, language or privilege – everyone plays by the same rules – some more effectively than others.

When optimizing personal performance, Scott Adams proposes using “personal energy levels” as the metric to focus on.

Prioritize activities that recharge you while avoiding (when possible) the tasks, interactions, and environments that drain you.

However, boundaries for both are necessary for us to be able to coexist as a society. Finding the balance between our needs, those of the planet, and others around us is the dance we have to play.

347- Right idea, Right time

The first ever video-sharing service was launched in 1997 under the name “ShareYourWorld.” Like Youtube, it allowed users to upload and host videos for free.

At the time, less than 2% of the world’s population was on the internet (today, we’re at 67%), and everyone was on 56k modems. Social media hadn’t yet taken off, and videos could only spread via email chains.

This service had the right idea at the wrong time and went bankrupt in 2001, 3 years before YouTube came into the picture.

Success often requires us to be at the right place at the right time, but the right timing is often more a function of luck than skill.

Rather than getting too caught up in trying to time the perfect idea, an alternative strategy is to develop more ideas more often to increase our chance of having the right idea at the right time.

Ht: Scott Adams – How to fail at almost everything and still win big

345- Duality of Knowledge

When Fritz Haber discovered how to synthesize Ammonia from Nitrogen and Hydrogen gas with the Haber–Bosch process, humanity was blessed with synthetic fertilizer and cursed with explosives.

This process continues to feed over 2/3rds of the population today and yet is also responsible for causing the death of millions.

When we develop new tools and technologies, it’s often impossible to control how others use them and what the unintended consequences might be.

As we continue to increase our control over the natural world to make it more convenient and comfortable for ourselves, we also have a responsibility to elevate our consciousness and awareness of its repercussions.

What role are we currently playing? What role do we want to play? What can we do better? How do we enroll others along with us on the journey?

Even without the answers, we need to continuously ask the question.

344- Commitment and Patience

The calendar and clock are phenomenal inventions that enable us to coordinate and communicate effectively.

Thanks to both of these creations, we’re able to schedule precise time slots with many individuals for activities far into the future.

Unfortunately, neither the calendar nor clock are capable of forecasting our state of mind, energy levels, or emotional bandwidth.

Rather than treating the calendar as a sacrament, we might want to downgrade it to a strong recommendation that we consistently re-evaluate.

Flexibility for the present should be a commitment made in the past.

343- Intention vs Grit.

Before navigating a raft through the rapids, it’s essential to have a plan.

Simultaneously, it’s equally important to let go of the plan the minute the situation changes.

Regardless of how much grit we have, working against the water is guaranteed to fail.

In other words, finding the balance between our intention and a constantly emergent reality is key to achieving our goals.

Grit and willpower should therefore focus on the desired outcome rather than the steps of how we get there.

337- Gift of Culture

When we explore a new culture, we explore it through our five senses.

Like learning letters in the alphabet, these novel sensations are simply an exploration of the building blocks of a new language.

Grasping the nuance of that new language requires time, practice, and immersion – but once we master it, we acquire the ability to communicate with a whole new level of depth.

As a nomad and third culture kid, I’ve always found it easier to understand and speak the culture of others.

But occasionally, I get surprised when someone speaks my culture back to me.

The feeling of understanding without more than words is so unexpectedly welcoming and an absolute gift to receive.

334- Ideas are like fruits

Ideas are like bananas after being plucked from a tree.

Initially, they’re green and hard.

They need a little time to sit and mature so that the enzymes within have time to break down starch into sugar and transform the fruit from sour to sweet.

Wait too long, however, and the fruit starts to decay.

Ideas, like fruits, have a half-life. It’s helpful to think them through, but overthinking it to the point of paralysis takes a perfectly good idea and drops it right into the compost bin.

If an idea is important to you, watch it carefully. Don’t let it go to waste.


332- What toddlers want

Toddlers are masters at getting what they want.

Their unwavering focus on their own needs, regardless of how embarrassing or inconvenient it is to others, helps ensure they get the attention and care they need.

As they age, they become more aware of their surroundings and the societal norms expected of them until they eventually learn to control their urges and impulses.

By the time we grow into adults, we’ve often become so good at intellectualizing, rationalizing, and justifying behaving the way society expects us to that we’ve forgotten to look inwards to figure out what we actually want.

To get better at asking for what we want, we first need to figure out what we really want.

Reconnecting with our inner child is the first step.

Ht: Conversations with Seif Belhani

Quality & Frequency

Following a conference, gathering, or event – the people we remember best are the ones with whom we had the most vibrant interactions.

Whether it was a shared struggle, moment of inspiration, or deep inquiry – these peak moments are the ones we search for, celebrate and value.

However, relationships need more than peak moments to grow and thrive into friendships. They require a regular frequency of interaction over time.

Finding excuses to follow up with those you experienced a momentary spark with is the best way to nurture your friendships.

Quality of interaction alone isn’t enough.

329- Voices of inspiration

Every so often, I stumble across an explosive display of creative genius, talent, and success.

In those moments, two little voices pop up in my head.

One says: “Wow! If they can do it, you can do it too!” The other whispers, “Boy. You’re dreaming way above your league. You don’t stand a chance.”

Until I dig deeper, both voices are equally misinformed.

They only see the output rather than the process, ingredients, and privilege it took to get there.

When inspiration strikes, the real opportunity lies in harnessing both voices to fuel curiosity and research.

Why are they successful? Where does their genius come from? How did they acquire talent?

Sitting next to the answers are lessons we can learn.

325- Confidence and stress

Whether we’re dealing with a project, situation or relationship – stress comes when we doubt our ability to get from where we are, to where we need to be.

That feeling of stress intensifies as the stakes rise or deadlines shorten.

One antidote to that feeling, is a fresh wave of confidence – which can happen anytime we experience a personal breakthrough, or when an ally gives us a helping hand.

A strong sign you’re working with the right collaborators is the feeling of confidence they bring with them anytime they show up.

Add confidence. Subtract stress.

323- Counting vs measuring

The world of social impact is obsessed with measurement.

Impact metrics are used to judge existing programs, submit grant applications and apply for awards.

As a result, we tend to discount all but the biggest and most impressive numbers we can muster.

But when we think about the impact we have on our closest friendships and relationships – we don’t try to measure how much impact we have on their lives.

Instead, we count the number of times we’ve shown up for each other; it’s the frequency, quality, and consistency that matters.

Who we can count on is something we also need to start measuring.

321- Consistency in Inconsistency

When sleeping in a foreign environment, I wear a simple headband over my eyes and a pair of noise-canceling sleep buds.

The headband helps drown out any light leaks while the sleep-buds operate on an 8-hour timer. Whenever I stir in the middle of the night, I know I should continue sleeping – without looking at my watch.

Finding consistency in inconsistency helps me more rapidly adapt to a changing environment – but first, it had to be established as a priority.

Identifying our priorities is the first step to building a system of routines that works for us.

319- Distance and Perspective

Yesterday, I picked out a handful of random Von Wong Daily’s to share with a couple of friends.

As I read them aloud, I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed re-reading most of them.

Writing these daily thoughts is a long and arduous morning routine. By the time I press the publish button, I’m usually closer to the feeling of: “Alright, that’s good enough” than I am to “Wow, I’m in love with this!”

Revisiting old posts allowed me to experience the same writing through different eyes.

As creators, our ability to enjoy and appreciate our work gets stifled by the struggle required to create and maintain it.

A little distance and perspective is always helpful.

318- Debate vs Disagreements

When disagreements make their way to social media, we often see both sides trying their best to shut the other down. They use superficial memes, Ad hominem arguments, and bad faith questions to stifle dissent and conversation.

Unlike a proper debate, neither party takes the time to listen, acknowledge and respond – entrenching both sides even further in their opinion.

Suppose we reasonably assume that any change of position results from multiple conversations where both parties can debate an issue safely.

In that case, the goal of a disagreement is less about winning or losing – but rather about ensuring that the other side is interested enough to come back to the table to continue the discussion.

Imagine the possible progress if we forgot about our need to win “right now” and focused on healthier debate and conversation.

ht: Bo Seo – Debate Like a World Champion: A Conversation with Bo Seo, Harvard Debate Coach & Global Debate Champion

314- Testing Stories

I recently met someone who described his life as a love story.

He had been dating his high-school sweetheart for over 30 years, and they had gone through many trials and tribulations together.

Although he had many career accomplishments, those were simply sub-plots to the main storyline: his relationship.

It made me wonder how I would re-tell my story if I saw it as a romance rather than an adventure. How would the story continue if it was a thriller or a drama? What would happen next if life until now as one big comedy?

How we narrate our past defines how we build our future.

313- Location Serendipity

Google Maps has a feature where you can broadcast your real-time location to your friends and family.

When enabled, they see your location anytime they pull up google maps to navigate.

As a geo-flexible nomad, this feature helps to create another layer of serendipity – an opportunity to reconnect with someone because they see when you’re in town.

Half of the challenge of staying in touch is remembering to reach out. Helping to make it easier for others to reconnect is half the battle.

309- Kronos and Kairos

The ancient Greeks had two different words they used to describe time.

There’s Kronos – which describes the chronological passing of time. It is quantitative, universal, and measurable and cannot be practically manipulated or changed. It cannot be controlled and moves inexorably from the past, through the present, and into the future regardless of convenience or desire.

Then, there’s Kairos – which refers to the “right time.” The opportune moment in which the stars align and magic happens. Kairos is qualitative, serendipitous, and opportunistic. We experience it anytime we lose track of time and space, only to look back and wonder: “How did this even happen?”

Society prioritizes Kronos with fixed work hours, meetings, and deliverables with incremental, scheduled, and predictable progress. But Kairos is the land of infinite dreams and possibilities where anything, or nothing at all, can happen.

Both are necessary. The challenge is to make space for both.

Art & Luxury

Art and luxury goods occupy a similar marketplace.

Artisanal, hand-made, or custom-built objects are in demand – not because of form and function, nor because of their efficiency and practicality.

They’re in demand because they take the time to design custom creations that impress and inspire.

In the quest to create a thriving business model, the temptation to scale and operationalize by catering to the mass market is always lurking around the corner.

There’s nothing wrong with catering to everyone, but if you’re aspiring to become an artisan, don’t try to get there by becoming a manufacturer.