I’m Going to Start Writing Again [The Comeback of My Blog]

There’s a been a lull in my writing. A long one.

In 2014, I just didn’t write much at all.

Partly this is justifiable, but also maybe partly it isn’t.

The reason why it is a bit justifiable is the same reason I would stop reading English books for a bit: to focus on things. Namely studying Chinese, training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or working and making money.

Priorities are always flip flopping around in life. But, to some extent I’m cool with that. I’m cool with riding a bit of a wave on certain priorities. I’m busy with work this month, then I’m busy with work this month. If I’m not so busy with work, maybe I’m in the gym everyday, training.

While I am cool with these priorities flopping around a bit, I do to some extent wish I was a bit more consistent with things. I don’t really wish I was a robot, but I do wish I was pushing some things out on a more consistent basis.

I’ll use training as an example: going to the gym everyday for a month and then taking the next month off vs. going three days a week consistently for 2 months. Which is better?

Theoretically, I don’t really know. And, personally, I’m cool with, or I want to be cool with to some extent, the former – going everyday for a month, and then chilling for a month. Why? Because it allows for intense focus, and then in the off-time it allows for a focus on something else.

But, there’s also a lot to be said for the later. Going consistently for 2 months certainly does more for building up a habit. It’s not yet quite as automatically as brushing your teeth before bed, but there is something to say about habits that they take less mental focus (i.e.: less decision-making: going to the gym is something I do on these days, therefore it gets done and I’m there before I know it. There’s no internal debate about whether to go or not go going on.) And this is really what a lot of the goals boil down to with habit-building. This is why its nice to have a nice routine.

But, its also nice to shake things up. To break from the routine once in awhile.

There’s no perfect answer to life. There’s no straight line to success.

It looks more like this:


So. I want to write again. Think again. Pretend to be an intellectual. Flesh out my thoughts. Something like that.

Should I write daily? I should. Should I do BJJ daily? I should. Should I study Chinese daily? I should. Should I work everyday so that I have money to do things I want to do? I should.

And, the list builds up again. There’s not enough time in the day for it all. So, I ride the waves. The ebbs and flows.

I do want to be more consistent though.

So, I’m going to write again.

No More Goals

I Quit: No More Goals

Brighton UK

Take life one day at a time…

I used to always be in a rush.

I had to graduate college in 4 years (I even picked a major I didn’t care about and went to Summer school a bit to make that happen), I had to put out a CD by X date, I had to be a profitable trader within 6 months, I had to go to a 1 year MBA program – because 2 years was just way to long, and I had to go NOW, I couldn’t put it off for another year.. I wanted to be a millionaire by 30, etc, etc. All of these time constraints and goals on everything…

We’re told growing up, or at least led to believe, that you grow up, you turn 18, go to college, graduate in 4 years and then get a job… and then you’re done. You’re grown up now. Or maybe, it’s get a spouse, a house, a few kids… now you’re done.. now you’re grown. Like that’s a goal… we just want to grow up, in a race to grow up before X date….

Why though? Does growth stop at 18? at 25? No? Maybe at 30?

My thinking has slowly started to evolve on this. When we’re young, we look forward to these ages 18, 30, like everything stops at that point. We can’t see past that. But, really there is no rush.

I started to realize this when I would meet with professionals in Singapore, people who had lived all around the world, in the midsts of their careers, marketing managers and MDs, CEOs, and managing partners at consulting firms, and they would give me career advice, they would tell me: “Your career is a long road. You’re still young, you have plenty of time to make mistakes…” Man, what are you talking about? I’m still young? You don’t even know how old I am! I was 26 then. I thought I was old. I wasn’t some 22 year old college grad any more…

Or maybe its some of the books I’ve read lately that have changed my thinking and long-term perspective: Radical Honesty: “everything is futile”; George Valiant’s work around adult development and the Harvard Grant studies: “Why is it we know so much about childhood development, but hardly anything about adult development? Does development stop once you hit adulthood?” The answer is a resounding “NO” by the way; Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich: short-term saving plans, long-term investing, “just get started”, what you do doesn’t matter so much, 85% of it is just getting started.

But… really I think it was the last 8.5 months I spent in Taiwan: where I started to really take studying Chinese and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seriously. And, I had to give up goals, because I couldn’t see them. It was just too far out, too impossible to predict. In order to take these things seriously, you just have to imbed them into your life, make them a part of your everyday. What am I supposed to say? “I’m going to be fluent in X amount of months/years”? But actually what does “fluency” even mean? I’m fluent in English and I’m currently in the UK and I don’t understand what the British are talking about approximately 20-30% of the time. And, once you reach “fluency”, then what? You stop with Chinese? Because, you’re done? Or, for BJJ “I’m going to be a blackbelt in X number of years” Man, who can predict that? It may take 7 years, it might take 20. What if you get an injury?  What does it even matter? Oh, and when you get a blackbelt, then what? That’s the goal. Now you’re done, you can stop training. Plus, when you start to take up these long endeavours like BJJ or Mandarin Chinese, you realize this whole “I’m going achieve X by date Y” is so laughable that only complete newbs really say things like this.

I’m trying to wean myself away from goals.

Not just in BJJ or Mandarin, but in everything: career, finances,…. Life.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m not still working at all of them everyday.

You get better at something through constant work, constant reassessment, constant refocus.

In fact, I’m probably working more at all of it now, because I’m learning to enjoy and experience the pursuit and process. Not chasing some end goal.

Pursuit and process.

“Goals are for losers.” – Scott Adams


Four Entrepreneurs Aim to Get Back to the Heart of Tourism: Learning from Locals

We live in an interesting time. One where travel is more accessible than ever.  It used to take days just to get from one village to the next.

To go from Europe to America, it used to take 65 days plus.

Traveling out to Oregon took another 4-6 months along the Oregon Trail.

To go from Shanghai to Beijing once took 33 hours by train. Now it takes 5.


My view from the Shanghai-Beijing train, the fastest train in the world.

The world is more accessible than ever. Because of technological advances in aircrafts, rail, and… don’t forget, the internet.

With being able to scan for the cheapest flight, renting out somebody’s house, or just crashing on their sofa ….. travel is very accessible these days.

And more and more interesting opportunities keep popping up at the intersection of travel and technology.

The latest of this being a new website, GrandtourGO  – which allows locals in any country to act as social media entrepreneurs in their own right by offering tours and activities to travelers, and it allows travelers to get away from the guidebooks and actually learn from locals first-hand through inexpensive tour options.

It’s like AirBnB for local tours. Anywhere.

I had a chance to catch up with Miquel, one of the founders of GrandtourGO, the other day and he was able to fill me in a bit more on the business and where they plan to take it.

Background: The Name

GrandtourGO takes its name from “The Grand Tour”  – which was a trip that young European upper class men would take in the 17th century. They would travel around the European continent and immerse themselves in other cultures, developing social, intellectual, and artistic skills in the process. It served as an “educational rite of passage”

The Grand Tour was initially started by, and undertake by wealthy Englishmen in the mid 1600s, who would travel around the European continent, experiencing other cultures and languages, but by the early 1800s, the advent of the steam-engine made the trip much cheaper and safer – and opened the doors for many outside of the aristocrat classes to partake on it.

The tour was so popular it began to catch on with Americans and other Europeans as well. Some believe The Grand Tour is where the “tourism” first originated.


The Grand Tour

Miquel and his team hope to build on this tradition with their GrandtourGO, by allowing anybody to travel and learn from locals. “We wanted to get back to this. To original tourism, far away from mass tourism.” A chance for people to see things through a local’s point-of-view.

The Team and What Else Inspired Them?

Miquel and his other co-founders, 4 in total, share responsibilities for the venture. “One is coding, one is handling social media, one is like a product manager, and the other is handling finance.”  They have all traveled around extensively themselves and they realize that locals really help to personalize any trip. “We always thought that meeting local people is the best”

They felt that just visiting a place is not a lasting enough impression – you don’t really experience a new culture from a plane ticket and hotel room. You experience it through meeting the people.

So, they set out to create that experience.

The site launched in April. And already offer tours in more than 45 countries. “In only 3 months. We are quite happy. It’s growing at a good pace.”

They plan to continue growing rom there and would like to offer more travel features in the future.

“It’s not all about booking the activities. We want to promote free communication between travelers and locals.”

It’s collaborative consumption. A marketplace that builds and grows upon itself. Locals in virtually any city in the World can start their own side-business or even full-fledged business by offering a variety of experiences from classes to tours to interested travelers.

Locals anywhere can use this as a means to set up a new side business, or even possibly a full-fledged business. “We believe it could be a really good thing for people – especially in developing countries. It can allow people to be micro-entrepreneurs. That’s the idea. That’s the goal – to help to promote micro-entrepreneurs worldwide.”

Here are some of the current offerings, as described in the latest press release, just a sample of what is possible:
•    a Baroque music tour with original instruments in a 17th-century Borromini’s church,
•    an archeology tour with a passionate archeologist or a Vespa tour in Rome,
•    a sea turtle camp,
•    a volunTourism week camp or a safari just for girls in Mexico,
•    a cooking master class with a renowned chef in New York,
•    an antique shopping and wine tour in the exclusive Bordeaux,
•    discover an amazing skyscraper inspired in the Masonry and in the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri in Buenos Aires,
•    a meal with a local Senegalese family,
•    a tour with a professional photographer at the cosmopolitan Paris’ Marais,
•    a street art workshop in Berlin,
•    an underground Mediterranean diner,
•    a kids interactive tour or a balloon tour over Barcelona,
•    a Favela or Bossa Nova tour in Rio de Janeiro,
•    an international camel derby or giraffe feeding experience in Kenya,
•    a summer cruise in idyllic Santorini,
•    a whale watching activity in Reykjavik,
•    a mountain bike tour in Machu Pichu,
•    an alternative tour of Lisbon in a classic Beetle,
•    a floating market and elephant tour in Bangkok,
•    an East Docklands architecture tour in Amsterdam
•    a Presidio exploration hike in San Francisco
•    and much more to come.

At the end of our conversation, Miquel also pointed out.. “In Tokyo, we have a guy offering a Ninja training tour.”  Hmm…. I might have to check that out.


Check out GrandtourGO.com  to learn more about their business, and/or explore travel plans and options for your next trip.

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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.


 The Goal: 30 Books in the Next 6 Months

read fast 4


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.


Explore the world, travel and read…

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“I Wish I Could Travel Like That.” Then Do It. Here’s How.

All-American Access

I’m always amazed by most Americans’ view of travel. Like it’s so “exotic” or something special or something everybody can’t do.

Me, on a beach somewhere "exotic" like the UK

Me, on a beach somewhere “exotic” like the UK

But, that’s completely false.

If you’re American, you can travel.

All you really need to do is get your passport.

Personally, I feel like as an American, we are blessed to be able to travel. That USA passport is equal to visa-free access 166 countries in the world.  Why the hell would I not take advantage of that?

Yet, I see it all the time: “I wish I could travel like that.” I see comments like this on my stuff, all over Maneesh’s blog anytime he goes somewhere, all over Benny’s posts all the time. It seems to be a common thought.

But, I think to a large extent – it’s just not true. You don’t really wish you could “travel like that.” Not with any real desire anyway. Because, if you did, you would do it.

Listen to Nike

Listen to Nike

No. Instead, you probably just like the “idea” of travel. It sounds a bit fancy. Travel. New countries. Exotic locations. Foreign cultures.

So, special…. but, also, so.. not special.

I don’t know why most Americans don’t have a passport, or even bother to get one. But, I was that way once too. I didn’t get my first passport until I had already graduated college – and then I got it, and looked at it and thought, “This thing is valid for 10 years. I’m definitely taking advantage of that!”

And, so I did. Or I guess you could say I do.

In the past year, I’ve been in 10 different countries. 6 of them you could say I “lived” in. The others were just short trips.

And, I’m not sure I’m going to stop anytime soon.

Frankly, I don’t even know where home is anymore. In the US, I’ve lived in 3 different cities: Houston, Austin, and Boston. Yet, Singapore, Tokyo, and Taipei seem just as much as “home” to me as any of those cities do. It’s an interesting conundrum I suppose. I have little pockets of home around the world… but no real “home” to speak of.

Maybe I have no heart

Maybe I have no heart

But, anyway – back to why most people don’t really travel.

They don’t really want to.

Because if they did, they would.

Why do people not travel?

“But, I don’t have the money”

Well, most would say it’s because of money. But I’m not really buying that argument. And, if you’ve ever actually travelled and stayed in a youth hostel you’d know why… plenty of travelers do not have money. At least from what I can tell. I’ve met tons of travelers who essentially travel just to travel. Who eat Ramen noodles, or an equivalent of it, everyday for lunch in the hostel’s kitchen. I’ve met tons of broke travelers. I’m quite certain my non-travelling friends in America have more money than these traveler types. Even the non-travelers who think they’re broke.

So, clearly  they don’t really want it. Or they’d do it.

Travelling is not that expensive, especially these days now that the internet exists. You can book hostels or apartments on AirBnB for fairly cheap – hell, you can even CouchSurf and find free accommodation. With the advent of budget airlines and aggregate sites, flights are cheap. And, in most countries the cost of living is lower than that of the US.

So, it’s really not money holding you back. Money is not stopping anybody from travelling. At least not any Americans. You live in the richest country in the world. Even when you feel broke, even when you’re unemployed, you still have more money than 80% of the people on the Earth. Naw, money is not stopping you from traveling. At all.

Money is just an excuse. But, it’s a common one.

But, the real “players” in life, don’t let money stop them. From anything in fact. Just ask James Altucher, who once said of buying a company: “We had no money to buy anybody but if you ever let that slow you down you might as well run around naked in a football stadium with 60,000 people watching you.”

Yeah. Money is just an excuse.

Excuses, Excuses

But, there may be some real reasons why people don’t travel when they “wish they could travel like that”. And those reasons probably come in the form of real life obligations:

Work obligations – you have a job. Places you actually have to be at certain times on certain days. You can’t just get up and leave. And, I’m assuming you want to keep your job. (Otherwise, you could get up and leave – I once walked out at lunch on a job I didn’t like and never came back).

Family obligations – I’m assuming this means you have kids. Yeah, I could see how kids could get in the way of doing things you would like to do. I don’t have that problem, so I don’t really relate to you, but I get it – your responsibility to your kids and their schedule is important.

Those are probably the two biggest obligations that could serve as reasons for not travelling. School is one too I suppose – but school is a bit more flexible: you usually have scheduled breaks, you actually could miss a couple of days and not get fired, and a lot of times you could just study abroad. So, school provides options for travelling. Any other obligations you might have would probably fall fairly similar to work as: “Places you actually have to be at certain times on certain days. You can’t just get up and leave.”

Obligations do make things more complicated, I’ll give you that. But, you could likely still travel if you really wanted to. I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out how to travel and handle your obligations during the trip. I mean, anything is possible, and I’m sure there’s people in your situation who have done it before.

Naw, you really just don’t travel, because you don’t really want to.

Otherwise you would do it.

Money never stopped anybody.

The World is Yours

The World is Yours

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