On Luck and Opportunity

“Pixar’s Ed Catmull likes to say that since you can’t control [luck], which is bound to come your way for better and for worse, what matters is your state of preparedness to deal with it.” –Becoming Steve Jobs

As you go through life, be mindful of your ability to grab opportunities as they come. Remember, you cannot control when opportunities come your way, but you can prepare yourself to be able to grab them when they do. Some of the things that determine whether you can grab an opportunity or not are:

  1. Your health. If you are too weak, too sick, too slow, etc, the number of opportunities you can grab will be significantly reduced.
  2. Your mental acuity. If you are too slow mentally or too limited in your base knowledge, not only will you be unable to grab many opportunities, you won’t even recognize some of them!
  3. Your finances. Money is still the primary thing that keeps the world moving. If you do not have a reasonable amount stashed, your ability to make things happen in the world will be reduced. Otherwise, you’ll put yourself in debt and, potentially, in a desperate situation.
  4. Your soul. If you have lost touch with your conscience, you have lost touch with humanity from which nearly all opportunities emanate. Even if you manage to find opportunities, there is no point in grabbing them. For humans, life is empty without humanity.

On Opportunities to Grow

Every so often, life will present you with totally new events that are opportunities for significant growth. You can think of them as the mana or power ups in video games that give your player a significant boost in energy or experience. In real life, these opportunities basically give you a new understanding of the world that you never knew before or probably heard about but were, up to this point, just a bystander. The effect on you is that you’ll be more confident and better equipped to tackle whatever else lies in front of you.

You’ll know when these opportunities are just ahead of you because you get a little bit scared, a little bit nervous, a little bit excited, and a little bit curious. Don’t let the fear overpower you or cause you to shrink back to your comfort zone. Instead, investigate, research (that’s what the Internet is for, son!), learn as much about this upcoming event as you possibly can and equip yourself so you can be prepared to tackle it head on.

As you go through it, you will be scared, excited, happy, sad, miserable, or exhilarated (sometimes all at the same time!). Don’t cower, don’t take a step back. Do whatever it takes to get through it, to keep moving forward. Draw strength from your support system (That’s us! Oh and good, supportive friends). When all of it is done, those power ups will be right there ready for the taking. And you know what’s even better is that once you have it, nobody can ever take it away from you.

On Self Awareness

Self awareness is the core human ability that has enabled our species to improve over centuries and millennia. Had it not been for our self awareness, we would not have the ability to anticipate future situations and to change our behavior to either avoid it (if it is negative), or improve its chances of happening (if it is positive). As you can see, without self awareness, we would be miserable captives of the ebb and flow of life.

Like all human abilities, we are endowed with self awareness at birth and, just as with all human abilities, we start out with an underdeveloped one. Over time, through numerous life experiences, our self awareness grows. In this sense, self awareness is very similar to your muscles. The more your exercise it, the better it gets. Likewise, without regular exercise, your self awareness will atrophy and you will become a victim of fate.

The wonderful thing about all of this is that you can build upon the lessons of others to “turbo boost” your own self awareness. As you know, this is the reason why I started this blog: so that the two of you can take advantage of the lessons I’ve learned in my life and, hopefully, avoid the mistakes that I’ve made or, if that’s not possible, to enhance the lessons you take away from them.

I’ve been reading about Stoicism lately and I’m glad to discover a philosophy that describes the way I live my life more eloquently and in better detail. I’ll be sharing some of those lessons here in the next few days. I hope you will both learn from them and put them to good use in your lives.

Appreciation and the wonderful evening we had tonight

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well”



Today was a wonderful day for all four of us. There were some tantrums throughout the day, “Terrible Twos” rearing its ugly head at dinner, and rice strewn on and around the dining table. But we spent a few minutes after dinner dancing in the living area. I danced with both of you in my arms, I danced with mommy, and mommy danced with both of you. I wish I had all of this on video or in a picture, but I suppose having it in my memory is much better because I got to immerse myself in the moment rather than fiddle with gadgets. I am very grateful for this day.

On Being Saved

Imagine there’s a drowning man in a river and he’s helpless. “Save me!” he cries to a passerby. Now, the passerby—the rescuer—feels flattered because we all like to help people. It makes us feel good. We’re proud to play an important role, to save someone who’s in trouble. So the rescuer helps the victim out of the river and goes home, and so does the victim. All live happily ever after in this parable.

However, in the real world, what tends to happen is that someone isn’t actually about to drown; they just think so. They think they’re helpless. And in real life, there are no rescuers. A passerby will help you to some extent, but only to the extent of help they feel comfortable to offer. In the real world, they don’t have the resources to save you. So the help is ultimately insufficient.

In real life, people who allow themselves to play the role of victims, who wait for a rescuer to come along, tend to live unhappily ever after.

In real life, there are no rescuers, but you are not helpless.

Adapted from Rise and Shine: The Extraordinary Story of One Man’s Journey from Near Death to Full Recovery

On Persuading Someone

Boys, here’s a very valuable and very welcome advice given to me by one of my mentors in Morph:

When you are delivering advice, you are already communicating to the person from a bit above.  When you are delivering eulogy, you are already communicating to the person from a bit below.  Whenever you want to persuade a person, you are supposed to communicate with the same eye level.  Without placing yourself there, you will not be able to develop “empathy to reach mutual benefit”.  Business is all about “the empathy to reach mutual benefit”  When you become a leader, act under this base concept.  Same thing can be applied when persuading employees, partners, and customers.

On Pain by Kahlil Gibran

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Just as the skin of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain

And if you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain will be just as wondrous as your joy; And if you accept the seasons of your heart, just as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields, you will watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility: For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen, And the cup he brings, though it burns your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

On Risk

Let me tell you something about risk:

  • It’s NOT something that you plan to include in your life.
  • It’s NOT something that you pursue in the hopes of finding great rewards at the end of the road.
  • It is something you try to avoid. If you cannot avoid it, try to minimize it as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, get the hell out of there!

You cannot control risk, but you can prepare yourself so that the effects on you are minimized. Life, after all, is more about avoiding or reducing risks:

  • You keep yourself clean to avoid the risk of illness
  • You educate yourself to avoid the risk of unemployment or being taken advantage of
  • In business, you do an appropriate amount of market research to avoid bad investments (and yes, businessmen who say they are risk takers are being ignorant)
  • You take in up to 8 glasses of water a day to avoid the risk of dehydration

Don’t believe for a second that the amount of risk is always directly proportional to the reward. Most of the time, it isn’t (think about this: do you think it’s more rewarding to bungee jump with an umbrella instead of a bungee cord??). So don’t make decisions in life based exclusively on the amount of risk involved, you’ll just end up setting yourself up for a lot of frustrations if you do.

UPDATE (2011 Oct 31): I feel that some parts of this entry sound too much as if I’m saying avoid all risk no matter what. That was not my intention. The gist of what I’m trying to say is this: find something you truly believe in (e.g. creating an amazing product, starting a movement, founding a non-profit organization) and, after evaluating the risks involved (to you, your idea, your family), set out to achieve it while reducing the risks involved as much as possible.

Finding a work of art

Here’s something to think about when looking for or pursuing that special someone. Every person that you meet has been working their entire lives on their own selves. Just like you. Our own person is the greatest work of art that we will ever make. One thing about a work of art is that its creator would jump by leaps and bounds if there was only one person who knew how to genuinely appreciate it. That is why people value it very much when they realize that someone understands them completely.

So the question now is this: who is this someone that, despite their imperfections, despite their shortcomings, despite what other people say about them, you still think that their work of art is the most priceless thing in the world. And the feeling is mutual (and by this I mean you can observe it without her telling you about it).

That person is someone you can have a genuine relationship with.

Calling Bullsh*t

Boys, I think that calling each other’s bullsh*t is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a good sign that you’re keeping yourselves honest with one another. But perhaps a few rules of engagement to keep things in order:

  • If your brother calls your bullsh*t and he’s right, admit it. Don’t be afraid to lose face. You will lose your brother’s respect more if you stay on with the lie.
  • If you call your brother’s bullsh*t and he admits to it, show him some respect. It takes guts to admit one’s flaws.
  • After the bullsh*t has been called, make sure to patch things up right there, then hang out over a couple bottles of beer. I expect, however, that you are already at a drinking age when you read this. Otherwise, stick to the orange juice.

This letter may sound funny but I really believe that this is one of the best ways to keep yourself honest with one another and help to strengthen your bond as brothers.

Stay close, and be grateful for each other always.