I just received an email from my 23 year old self. It’s as surprising and awkward as it sounds.

I just got a weird email I wasn’t expecting, titled simply “Five Year Letter”.

It was from me.

I was a bit confused and opened it and read the introduction from FutureMe.org,The following is an e-mail from the past, composed 4 years, 11 months and 30 days ago, on September 24, 2009. It is being delivered from the past through FutureMe.org.”

Oh, wow. What the hell made me write this?  I must’ve been bored at work or something.

I read on….

The Letter:

Dear FutureMe,
What’s up man? How’s it been going? 5 years later… damn, you are getting old. You’re what, 28 now? Damn, son! Lol. How’s life though? Still trading? Hopefully, you’ve made some real cash by now. 5 years of hard work should have paid off, so I hope you actually put the work in during these past 5 years. If you ain’t got a mil yet, you should be close, at least…. Still at Kershner? Probably not, huh? Where are you? At Assent? Are you even still in Austin? Austin is a cool town. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, if you’re still here. How are the ladies treating you? Hopefully you’ve had a couple different girlfriends in the past 5 years. Maybe you’ve even found one you really like/care about – I mean damn, you are 28. Lol. Yeah, I’m sure you’re doing fine on that front, especially if you’ve been making money, which you probably have. Man, I really hope you got some cash in the bank – a few zero’s on the end at least. You always said you could be a millionaire by 28, and I know you can. What else have you been up to? How’s that left foot feeling that you broke 5 years ago? I’m sure it’s fine. You’re probably running and playing basketball on it all the time now. Oh, that’s another thing – have you been keeping in shape? I hope so, save all that beer drinking after work for when you’re married and need time away from the wife. Lol. What happened to the old Altima? What are you driving now? A Lex, Benz? I’m curious to know…. How’s the old Chevy doing by the way. Still got it I hope. Hopefully you have a house in Austin or something by this point, paying all that rent gets old. That is, if you’re still in Austin. Man, what’s going on with George Young? I really hope he’s seen some real success by now. That boy is too dope. I wish everyone the best. How’s your parents doing? And, what about Nathan? He’s 25 now, probably making that engineering paper, ehh? That’s wasup. What’s everybody else up to? How’s my boy Patrick doing? He’s in Port Folk, LA about to leave for Afghanistan as I’m writing this. I hope he was safe over there and made it back in one piece and finished school and is doing whatever he wants to do by now. How’s everybody else: Karl? Sam? Zach? Verick? Isbell? BWilliams? Gregor? Trey? Matt? Mike? David? My boy, Victor, what’s he up to these days? Man, 5 years, that’s a long time. You’ve been out of college for 6 years now, bro. I really hope you’re making the most of it. You’re too smart and goal oriented not to be. You always were a hustler, so keep hustling, keep grinding. What’s my boy Joe Price up to these days? Yeah, yeah, I know I’m all over the place, but it is what it is. Twitter and Facebook still around? Or are they long gone? Anyway, I guess I’ll go ahead and wrap this up. Tell your parents I love them and keep ya head up, homie. Baller, baller, lol. Do what you do.

My Response

Ok, first off, does FutureMe not allow formatting, or do you just not know how to use paragraphs?

Second, I’m not old. 28 is still young, damn it.

Life is great. No, I’m not still trading. Man, you actually really thought I would be a millionaire by now, huh?  Ha. You’re a funny guy. Well, sorry to burt your bubble, youngster, but I’m not. And, no I don’t have a Benz or a Lexus. Man, the things I cared about at 23 are vastly different from what I care about now. Actually, I don’t even have a car – and I haven’t had one in over 3 years since I sold the Altima and left Texas.

So, umm, no, I’m not still in Austin. I left probably about a year after  you wrote this. Since then, I spent another year in Houston. Then, a year in Boston. Then a couple years split between London, Singapore, Malaysia and Tokyo, and about a year in Taipei. Yes, Taipei. It’s in Taiwan. 23 Year-Old Me, you probably couldn’t even find Taiwan on a map. Ha!

“How are the ladies treating you? Hopefully you’ve had a couple different girlfriends in the past 5 years. Maybe you’ve even found one you really like/care about – I mean damn, you are 28. Lol.”  Hahaha, you’re a funny guy, Younger Me. But, this is probably the only thing you actually predicted well…

Moving on…

Oh, it was the left foot I broke! Ok. Actually, I was thinking about this other day, but I couldn’t remember which foot I broke 5 years ago. I guess it’s fine then…

Actually, I am in pretty good shape. Better shape than you, Mr. 23 Year-Old Who Sits in Front of The Computer All Day, that’s for sure. But, no I don’t run or play basketball much anymore. Nowadays, I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s pretty cool, because I can train while I travel as well. There’s BJJ gyms all over the world. So, far I’ve trained in 4 different countries and even competed in 2 of them.

Everybody you mentioned is doing fine. A couple of them are married now. George just released his latest project, Ventage, and of course, it jams.

Oh, and yes… Facebook and Twitter are still around. Actually, they’re even bigger than they were 5 years ago.

Fun stuff. Maybe I should keep the chain going and write to myself again 5 years into the future?

Yeah, why not?

I’m not posting that here though….  At least not for another 5 years.

23 Year Old Me, in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Co.

23 Year Old Me, in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Co.

From Groundhogs Day to Constant Flux; And 2014 Resolutions

In October, I was a robot.

I was focused on building two new habits: training BJJ, and studying Mandarin Chinese. While continuing to read everyday.

I did all three of them… almost everyday in October.

I was settled in Taipei, and I was grinding. Day in. Day out. The same thing.

Every day is the same day

Every day is the same day

Then, November came and everything changed.

November started off with a visa run out of Taipei: one week in Bangkok and one week in Manila.

Quick backstory on Bangkok, because I think it’s funny:

In November 2012, I was in Malaysia with plans to head up to Bangkok by train. I paid for an apartment in Bangkok for two weeks and had everything planned. Then, at the last minute, I cancelled the trip, saying “two weeks in Bangkok isn’t enough. I’ll have to go back there early next year when I can spend more time there.” And, I flew straight to Tokyo. Of course… I never made it to Bangkok in early 2013. Actually, it took a whole year before I finally made it there: November again. 2013. This time, I only spent one week there.

Funny how things change.

Bangkok

Bangkok, November 2013

Anyway, back on topic.

In addition to the two-week trip to start off November, work picked up, and I started an online course at HarvardX on the history of China.

Now, plenty of more things occupied my time.

Needless to say, in the first two weeks of November, I didn’t study Chinese or make it to BJJ at all. (I did still read everyday though – that’s easy to do while traveling)

I even took my gi with me, with plans to hit a BJJ gym in Manila. But, I never made it out there. Too busy.

Funny how things change.

Now, I’ve been back in Taipei for about a month, and I’ve been trying to get back to habits of Mandarin and BJJ daily. The Mandarin I’ve done well with. BJJ has been more difficult, with both the additional work schedule and I’ve encountered a nagging shoulder injury all month. It’s been annoying.

Because, of the shoulder injury, I’ve added a new daily habit into the mix: 10 minutes of Yoga every morning. It’s actually really helped my nagging shoulder and neck problems. But, I’m still not 100%.

Actually, the Yoga habit was one I started in Tokyo, but fell out of touch with once I moved back to Taipei.

I think its a good one to have, so it’s back in the mix.

Also, I’ve decided to drop reading as a daily habit in favor of studying more Chinese. (i.e.: read Chinese textbooks on the MRT to practice reading Chinese characters, rather than reading books in English).

So, I definitely won’t hit the 30 books in 6 months target.

So, right now the three habits I’m trying to do daily are: Yoga, BJJ, and studying Mandarin.

Add in work and social activities, and my time is well accounted for.

Yet, I’m still trying to do more.

There’s a couple more habits on my radar:

    • I want to beef up my consulting grind a bit, so I need to get on that, and I think the first step to get back into consulting mode is to get back to practicing case interviews: hypothesizing, synthesizing and drilling down on client’s issues in a very timely manner. Therefore, I want to get into the habit of practicing case interviews on a daily basis again. This was a habit I had over a year ago: when I lived in Singapore I would practice cases on Skype everyday until I was good enough to run rings around the Ivy league students, but now, I’m rusty again. So, I need to get back into this habit. I think it’s just something that will help me overall in my business career.

 

    • In order to take steps to get to the next level in Mandarin, I need to really start doing language exchanges daily. These are troublesome, because they take so much time: generally two hours. One hour to speak English, one hour to speak your target language. But, I did this in Japan and it did wonders for my Japanese conversational ability – a mark I’m still fairly far off in Mandarin. Also, I’ve had more trouble finding good language exchange partners in Taipei, I tend to run into two kinds of language exchange partners: the ones who just want to just teach you random vocabulary words in Mandarin (which is not helpful at all, because a language is so much more than vocabulary) or girls who are just looking for foreign boyfriends and use language exchange as a means to find one. In this respect, I really miss Tokyo – the Japanese took their language exchange efforts seriously.

 

    • Also, I want to beef up the work out regimen. I would like to get back into the weight room and start to slowly pick up Muy Thai. My ideas for this are to basically start off with a training split of BJJ 6 days a week, Muy Thai 1 (yeah, I said, slowly – and my focus is still much more leaned to BJJ). Also, my goals for the weight room would to just get back to building strength: I wouldn’t do too much here, just a Starting Strength sort of program, focused really around bench press, dead lifts, and squats – maybe 3 days a week.

These habits are just goals right now, and nothing I’m putting much effort to building right away, but rather I’d like to add them in slowly. Maybe, one habit a month? Or something along those lines.

No New Year’s Resolutions or anything like that, because I don’t do such things. I’m more focused on building habits slowly, and changing things and adjusting always and as needed.

Cheers!

Have a good 2014 folks.

happy_new_year_2014_266948

Statue of Liberty, Rainbow Bridge

I Never Wanted To Live In New York, but Tokyo is Awesome

I never understood why people wanted to live in New York. Especially when Houston and Austin are so much cheaper.

I never understood why people would leave Houston and Austin to go live in a box the size of a closet in New York.

It just seemed backwards to me.

Until I lived in Tokyo.

Tokyo is expensive as fuck. Kind of like of New York. You live in a tiny box that is way overpriced.

But it is so damn interesting.

Tokyo has 23 different wards. Each of them different from the next.

It’s more diverse than you think. Everybody always said the Japanese are shy, very polite and respectful. Most of the Japanese I met, even in Tokyo, were from Osaka. They weren’t so shy.

I was at an Izakaya (Japanese bar) with one of my friends once, and he was commanding the waitress to pour more sake into my glass: “Moto! moto!”  He would press the button to call the waiter before even looking at the menu and then make him wait on us when he showed up. My girlfriend who was with us, said to him, “you are not Japanese. Japanese don’t act like this.”

But, he wasn’t the only one.

My first 3 months in Japan, I met with 4 different language exchange buddies on a regular basis. To practice my Japanese. 3 of them were from Osaka. One of them was from Tokyo.

The one from Tokyo would hammer me on my writing saying “you can’t learn Japanese without learning how to write to hiragana and katakana.” And, later Kanji. We would meet in coffee shops and he’d make me write Japanese the whole time.

The 3 Osakajin, much different. After they met me once, their notion of language exchange was “let’s go to Izakaya!”

Hell yeah! Works for me.

Personally, I think a bar is a great place to learn a language. After all, that’s how I learned Spanish – asking Chilean friends what to say to the Mexican girl standing over there…

I once went on a job interview in Singapore where the guy basically offered me the job, but said he’d pay for me to take business Mandarin classes, so I could learn more than just the “chatting up Chinese girls in bar” Mandarin I knew at the time.

Hey, that’s still useful stuff…. my “chatting up Chinese girls in bar” Mandarin has proved to be very good stuff, mate.

Anyway. I think I think I’m getting off track. Back to Tokyo.

Living in the city really was amazing. Electrifying.

You look up and there’s Sony. Over there is Nintendo.

Sega is from here too.

That pretty much covers every video game system I ever owned.

Then, you realize that those silly key chains those nerdy kids had on the school bus in middle school called “Tomodachis” were from Japan. After all, “tomodachi” means friend in Japanese.

You realize Pokemon is Japanese.

So is Karate.

And Jiu Jitsu.

Of course you already knew Dragonball Z was Japanese.

Then, you look down the block and you see Nissan. The first car you ever bought was a Nissan.

Before you actually bought a car, you drove a Toyota. Oh yeah? They’re here too.

Most of the girls you dated in high school and college drove Toyotas. I don’t know why, they just did. Broke Americans love Toyotas.

Oh, don’t forget Honda. Your mom drove one your whole childhood.

And then you realize.. you grew up Japanese and you didn’t even know it.

This one city (Tokyo) on the other side of the world had more influence on your childhood then you ever imagined.

And, you thought Globalization was a new thing.

And, I’m not even one of those Japanophile dudes. I never really got into Anime or Manga – except for Dragonball Z. I mean, I would record Dragonball Z episodes on the VHS back in high school. But, then I would get home from track practice, take an ice bath, and fall asleep… and forget to watch the Dragonball Z tape.

But damn… Nintendo, Panasonic, Sony, Sharp, Nissan, Honda, Toyota… they’re all here…

Tokyo is amazing.

Statue of Liberty, Rainbow Bridge

Tokyo!

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I Moved Out of Texas So I Could Read More (How to Read 30 Books in 6 Months)

 Don’t Know When I’ll Be Back Again…

Outta here…

A couple of years ago I made the decision to move away from the place where I’ve lived all of my life: Texas.

One of the main reasons I moved out was because I wanted to read more books.

I’m being serious.

Well, I felt like I was just wasting too much time driving. I know I was wasting too much time driving because I would put a CD in the deck and before the end of the day it would be back on track 1. Sometimes back on track 10.

I’m talking about 80 minute CDs here. This means I must’ve been spending like 100 minutes driving per day.

Way too much. For what? To turn a wheel around. To move my foot up and down between two peddles. How is any of this productive? How does it benefit me in the long run?

What else did I do while I was driving? Well, I would listen to music. Or I would think about things. Just flesh out ideas. Think and think and think.

I like doing both of those things. I like listening to music. I like thinking.

But, I don’t really need to drive to do either. I can do both of those just fine walking around aimlessly. Or sitting in a park.

I guess one benefit of driving is I could talk out loud to myself. But, I can also talk to myself while walking around aimlessly. Or even siting in a park. Passer-bys might think I’m crazy, but that’s okay. I used to do that in college too. My roommate back then once said he’d drive by sometimes and sees me walking around with headphones on and talking to myself. He said I was one of the few people who could get away with doing that, because people would see me and think, “oh, that’s just GP.” That’s what they used to call me back then: GP.

So I’ve been crazy. It’s okay.

Metros & Inspiration

I went to London a couple of years ago. I thought riding on the Tube was awesome.

Everybody I met in London complained about how bad the Tube was. But to me it was awesome. At least I didn’t have to drive.

I started to think about all the cool things I could do if I lived in a city with a good metro system (Americans call it a subway system). I could read more books. I could talk to random people.

I can’t do either of those when I’m driving.

I mean you can try. But, then you’re doing things like trying to get the girl next to you to write her phone number on the windshield before the traffic light turns red. Yeah, it’s not impossible. But, it’s logistically difficult.

So I sold my car and left Texas. I just didn’t want do drive anymore.

I wanted to read more. I wanted to talk to random people.

read more

Or he’ll eat you

So, I’ve spend the last two years living in cities. Big cities with metro systems. Cities where you can walk around a lot. And just explore random neighborhoods. Just wandering around random streets. I’ve never gone this way before… So then I go that way.

I’ve also been reading a lot more.

I started out reading on an iPad. Then an iPhone. I had a Kindle app. I didn’t understand why people would need a Kindle when there’s Kindle apps.

But, then I eventually did understand.

I got tired of reading on those things. So, I quit reading.

My eyes would hurt. My head would hurt.

The Need to De-Screen

Too much time on backlit screens. I would spend all day looking at a computer screen. Now, I’m spending my commute time looking at a screen too. Too much screen time.

I got sick of it. I wanted to de-screen.

When I was in Taiwan, one of my mates (he’s Australian, so I think the that’s right term) had a Kindle. I asked him about it.

Then, I read about Kindles. I looked into it. They are made to read like a book. Without bothering your eyes like a screen does. It’s not a backlit screen. It’s e-ink. But, I was in Taiwan and there’s no Amazon there. I guess because it’s not a real country. I don’t know. I didn’t know Amazon played by the UN’s rules. Actually, I don’t know what they do. How do people in Taiwan shop on Amazon? I still didn’t figure it out.

So, then I looked up Kindles in Japan. Japan has become my go-to place to buy new electronics, because everything is so cheap here. I don’t know why. Maybe because the Yen is falling to pieces. I don’t think that’s the whole story though. I don’t know why really. All I know is when I bought my MacBook in Japan it was $300 cheaper than they are in the US.

So, I looked up Kindles. The new Kindle Paperwhite was $120 in the US, but only $70 in Japan. So, I waited until I got back to Japan to get it.

Actually, I think the money I’ve saved on my MacBook and my Kindle has probably paid for my plane tickets to Japan. But then again everything else in Japan is twice as expensive, including food and transportation, so it probably doesn’t work out if you actually take into account everything and do the math. Ahh, well… forget your numbers.

“You can make numbers do anything you want them to do. Including make yourself sound like an idiot.”

By the way that quote is from Kobe Bryant, so I should credit him for it. I don’t even like Kobe Bryant, but that’s a great quote. It’s even better in context. The context is: Kobe was on a radio show talking about how good Larry Bird was and that people seem to have forgotten how good Larry Bird was. And, some guy tweeted something like “if you look at the numbers, Larry Bird wasn’t even that great of a shooter.”  See. I told you it was even better in context.

Anyway….

 The Goal: 30 Books in the Next 6 Months

read fast 4

Clockwork…

Since getting the Kindle I’ve definitely seen my reading go up. I’m finishing a book every couple of days now. And, I try to keep at least 5 unread books in waiting. That way as soon as I finish one, I can flip through and have a decent choice based on how am I’m feeling to determine what I read next.

I’m nowhere near Scott Young’s or Claire Diaz Oritz’s pace. I’ve only read about a dozen books in the past 9 months. But, that’s partly because I’ve still gone through 3-4 months periods without really reading much at all.

I’m actually starting to realize those kinds of numbers are possible.

For myself, I’m setting a goal to read 30 MORE books by the end of the year. Yeah, 30 books in 6 months is quite a jump from 12 in the past 9 months, but I’ve put some “hacks” in place to help me get there.

And, I know how to get there:

  • Keep my work locations and home location separate. Don’t work from home. Home is a place to relax. There’s an old saying “don’t shit where you eat” – rather vulgar, but it gets the point across. So, that means I have to have a daily commute. Commute on the metro everyday. This not much else to do on the metro but read, so this forces a good everyday reading habit. Especially now that I have a Kindle.
  • Spend weekends outdoors. I need to get away from the computer more. Get away from work more. And just overall relax more. One way to do that is to spend more days in the park on at the beach. Since I travel a lot there’s almost always a new park, a new beach, or even a new temple or something to explore. So, at least one day a week, I’m going to just leave my computer behind and head out with only my book and my camera. Relax and read.
  • Take advantage of reading time wherever and whenever. Another good thing about having a Kindle and having a daily reading habit as mentioned above is I’m going to wind up getting really into a book. And not want to set it down. If I take advantage of this by just dropping by a cafe and continuing to read when the mood strikes me, I’ll be able to chill there for a couple of hours. Then, I’ll really get through books in no time.

Yeah. 30 books in the next 6 months. I’m going to make it happen. Which means I’m also going to stay out of Texas.

child

Explore the world, travel and read…

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