Reflecting on 2015: A Year In Review

It's been a tumultuous year of ups-and-downs if I'm being truly honest.

But overall things are always moving in an upwards direction for me. And I honestly love where I'm at. There's nothing I would change at all about how I have lived any of my life so far. That's why I want to take the time and review what I've done this year, so I can reflect and move on towards even greater things.

Here are some of the highlights of what I've accomplished this year and what I'm most proud of.

Professional:

  • Wrote 130+ blog posts
  • Launched my new website
  • Read about 15 books on my own accord
  • Spent five months studying at the University of Melbourne in Australia
  • Applied for and got into Praxis, a 12-month entrepreneurship program (that I unfortunately had to deny)
  • Landed my first internship at UAV Systems Association
  • Started working a part-time student job to make extra money

Personal:

  • Wrote out daily thoughts at least 98% of the year
  • Went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef
  • Made some really good friends from all around the world while studying abroad (Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, etc.)
  • Started an Instagram and have been enjoying it as a way to express and share my thoughts and travels
  • Filmed and edited seven videos
  • Exercised nearly every day (25 burpees every morning) along with my 3-times-a-week powerlifting regimen
  • Traveled to Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, New York City, Washington D.C., Hanoi, Bangkok, and Pattaya
  • Played a whole season of intramural football with some good friends
  • Co-wrote and helped produce a 60-page play and artistic experience

I've grown so much in my philosophies towards my responsibilities, how I interact with others, and the roles of school and government in my life. I've learned that it's easy to listen to good advice and say "of course that's true." But it's only when you experience some things that you can really start to internalize them.

Is this what growing up feels like?

Because I always feel like I'm at a point where I've got my shit together, but then there's new things that I learn every day that make me feel like "how did I get this far without knowing this?" Curiosity is one of the driving forces in my life: there's just so much I don't know, that it just motivates me to keep living in order to seek out these new things and bits of knowledge.

Hopefully my efforts towards becoming a better friend, brother, and son have paid off. Before, I've had the goal of wanting to just spend more time with people. But now, it's grown into figuring out how to deepen those relationships as much as possible.

One of my favorite memories this year was flying back to Los Angeles to help out with the play, and being surprised with a birthday party by the cast and production team. It was the first time that anyone had done that for me and I appreciated it so much more than I could express at the time.

I'm also appreciative that I got to see so many new places this year. Traveling in itself doesn't make me a happier person. It's amazing, it's fun, and I recommend that most people do it. But it definitely isn't required to be happy. What it does is give me new perspectives different from my own, an appreciation for what I have, and a chance to foster my ability to adapt in uncertain situations. In a similar way when I moved to California for school, I felt anxious in my move to Australia for my study abroad. Mentally, I really wasn't ready to leave the United States, but by trusting the fact that I could overcome any challenges that came my way, I went there and had one of the best times of my life.

My feelings towards education (and against college and the traditional schooling system) have become stronger and much more refined. I know exactly what college is to me and what it isn't. It helps me gain perspective and focus on the things that are really important in my life.

For 2016, my focus is going to be on getting at least 5,000 more readers to my blog, connecting with five good mentors, getting a summer-time internship, and following through on a business idea from beginning to end.

Hitting a 365 lb squat would be nice too. As would benching 225 and deadlifting 365. That would put me closer to joining the 1K club.

Thanks to everyone who has ever supported me emotionally, financially, or through clicks and likes. You've helped me skyrocket my growth to amazing levels this past year. I can't wait to work towards a better me next year as well.

How We Can Make Feminism Inclusive to All

Women have had a profound influence on my life.

I've often found that women are more caring, silly, and expressive with their emotions than men. Other times, they're emotionally unstable and seemingly irrational and there's nothing wrong with that.

I see women as my equals, but I also acknowledge that there's a distinct feminine energy that I enjoy when I'm around my female friends and family. I just connect differently with them than with my male friends.

It's kind of an amazing and unexplainable feeling.

This curiosity has led me to explore the women's rights movement in the US and the rise of modern day feminism.

Are you a feminist?

Odds are, you may be tempted to say no. Now why is that?

It's because the word has become so tainted and volatile these days due to the modern political movement. I have a lot of friends who believe in equality for women, but don't want to associate with the word "feminist" because they don't believe in the ways of the radical movement today.

It's unfortunate that it has to be this way.

To truly understand the origins of the women's rights movement, I recently read Freedom Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers. She is widely known as the Factual Feminist on YouTube and works for the American Enterprise Institute. Here's what I learned.

THE PAST

The philosophy most people would consider the modern feminist movement embodies is Egalitarian Feminism. It was based off the belief that women were independent of the roles of wives and mothers, that women and men were essentially identical. It began as a progressive, radical movement in the late 1700's led by women such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

These women are heavily credited with the ascent of women's rights.

They promoted great messages of individualism, claiming that a woman needed to be an "arbiter of her own destiny" and talked about freedom, dignity, autonomy, and individual rights. They eventually went so far as to claim equality on the battlefield as well, promoting females in combat and eventually the idea that females be required to sign up for the draft.

The egalitarians also supported the ban of alcohol because of their belief that it would reduce "wife abuse, desertion, destitution, and crime." Not exactly a progressive view by today's standards.

In contrast, Maternal Feminism was a more traditional and family-centered philosophy.  It embraced women's established role in society as a care-giver, or at-home wife under the belief that men and women were different, but equal. Maternal Feminism was the more popular movement of its time and garnered much more mainstream support.

Popular history textbooks tend to omit this rather conservative side of the rise of feminism. That's why you've never heard of women like Hannah More, Frances Willard, or Phyllis Schlafly. These women cooperated with the egalitarian feminist movement to empower women to rise above their roles, while also embracing the values that made them unique.

Willard came up with the motto "Of the women, by the women, but for humanity" for her organization, a motto that resonated with a large portion of women in every part of America.

The maternal feminist following united hundreds of thousands of women, and promoted a culture of education and freedom.

Together, the maternal and egalitarian feminist groups achieved great things: the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (illegal to pay men and women different salaries for the same work), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibited sex discrimination in the workplace), and many more monumental pieces of legislation.

History records defeat in every instance where one branch failed to recognize the valid arguments of the other. When the two branches cooperated, success followed.
— Christina Hoff Sommers

THE PRESENT

The modern day feminist movement has become a culture of victimization, political correctness, and authoritarian policy based on a reliance of misleading or completely false statistics. It is an ideology that vilifies men and ostracizes women who don't agree.

It's very hard for people to get on board when the movement makes such outlandish claims about culture, such as the 1-in-4 statistic, workplace inequality, and an entitlement mentality based on taking down the "patriarchy".

What Sommers introduces in this book is a new way of thinking about feminism called Freedom Feminism.

Freedom Feminism is a combination of both preceding philosophies. It promotes female autonomy and the pursuit of education and happiness, yet celebrates the distinct differences between both sexes. Freedom Feminism promotes the moral, social, and legal equality of the sexes.

It doesn't shame women who are happy to be in the role of wife, mother, and homemaker.

It doesn't shame men and create an us-vs-them mentality. It acknowledges that men and women complement each other.

It celebrates the fact that with freedom of choice, women will ultimately choose the path that makes them happy, whether that is in the workplace, or at home.

"There are specifically feminine graces and virtues and a specifically female penchant for tenderness, care, and nurture."

Women in the US are some of the most free in the world, however, there are real problems with equality in the rest of the world.

That's why we cannot simply compare the struggle of Sandra Fluke (demanded that Georgetown University's health insurance cover birth control) to that of Burmese dissidents. Women in other parts of the world such as Pakistan, Egypt, and the Congo are getting arrested for speaking out, burned with acid, and being set up in arranged marriages as children.

It's time these types of feminists stop playing the victim and start acknowledging that women in the US have the power to create a real change in countries where women are truly oppressed.

Freedom Feminism has the power to make the movement attractive to the majority of American women who "cherish their rights, but do not wish to be liberated from their femininity."

It's the future of the feminist movement.

Do you think the modern feminism movement has gone "off the tracks"?  Would you identify with Freedom Feminism? Am I a sexist pig for suggesting so? Am I promoting misogyny and the "patriarchy"? Comment below and let me know what you think!

Your College Major is Not Your Passion (and How to Choose the Right One for You)

If there’s one thing that you should know about college, realize this:

Majors != Passions

For those of you who aren’t programmers, that means that college majors cannot and should not be categorized as passions.

Think about when you were in high school. The adults around us would tell us, “pick a major that interests you, you’ll be doing it your whole life after all”, as if it was the end-all-be-all choice of our lives. Can you remember staying up late on those nights doing research on what major looks the most fun, provides the most money, etc.?

With so many majors to choose from (my school has 100+), it probably made you want to pull your hair out. Maybe even procrastinate on making that decision until 11:59 PM on December 31, when the Common App was due. How could you decide what you wanted to do “for the rest of your life” at age 18?

You were just trying to get through your senior year of high school.

Maybe you’re in college now, and you still feel some unease with your major. It’s understandable. You’ve been told that this is important.

Here’s some relieving news:

Your college major really isn’t that important.

Outside of traditional job sectors (doctors, lawyers, or academia), your college major really doesn’t matter.

It’s a false pretense.

Your major gives you a certain flavor to your knowledge base, but it does not limit you to a certain set of jobs.

We need to stop inflating the importance of choosing a college major. How can we present a question like this the way we do to 18-year-olds and feel honest about what we’re saying? Why are we trying to create this idea that this decision is bigger than it is?

This ideology gives young people a false view on their outlooks on life and the future.

Your life isn’t about what role you played and that’s it. You need to be asking yourself the bigger questions of what matters to you.

So you’re a marketing major. What’s product did you advertise and how did it help people?

So you’re a business student. How do you want your company to benefit your customers and society?

So you’re a programmer. What problems of mankind does your app solve?

It’s not about what role you did. It’s about your cause.

So here’s my guide to finding your cause and matching that up with your major.

How to Choose Your Major:

1. Identify five potential industries or companies that you would like to work for.

You may be limited on your idea of what an industry is.

Anything that you buy products in is an industry.

If you like Nike or the NFL, you could work in advertising or manufacturing. If you like anime (please no One Punch Man), you could work in marketing or production. If you like to climb mountains, you could blog or make videos about the gear you use to help promote a lifestyle.

Imagine different ways that you can help out a company or contribute towards the overall growth of an industry.

2. Pick a major that you’re naturally curious about.

It’s hard to find something that you love. Might as well pick something that you don’t hate. Even if you don’t plan to do it for the rest of your life, if you’ve picked a major that you are naturally curious about, you’ll be able to have the motivation to explore something new for the four years you’re in college.

College (and life for that matter) is about finding your flavor of “shit sandwich”.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days. -Mark Manson

Your college major is a tool that you spend four years sharpening. Just one extra layer that adds to your unique perspective. That perspective will bring your creativity and uniqueness into any industry you want to enter.

Pick a major that lets you express yourself without hating yourself.

3. Think of ways to apply your major to where you really want to work.

Who do you know who is passionate about programming in C++? Like just loves the language, plain and simple?

Not a lot of people, I can bet.

What they’re more passionate about is what they can do with their programming skills. Is it their desire to further access to education like Sal Khan of Khan Academy? Is it their goal to provide travelers personal and affordable housing like Airbnb? What about providing affordable and efficient transportation and jobs like Uber?

Learning computer programming did not mean these people were “programmers” for the rest of their lives. What programming did was give them the method to further a mission that they thought was important. The same methodology applies for all other majors.

A better question to ask instead of “what’s your major” is this:

What’s your mission?

And how can you further that mission using the knowledge and connections you’ll gain in college?

There’s a reason people choose computer programming as a major in college; it’s in demand, and it’s extremely valuable in its flexibility to apply to virtually any industry in the world.

So how can you use an understanding of developmental psychology to contribute to the music industry? How can you incorporate your knowledge of marketing and public relations to get more resources to third-world countries? How can you use philosophy to help people make better decisions about their nutrition and fitness?

The New Definition of Passion

I want you to think of your college major as simply a medium, a method, to contributing towards a cause you believe in. This is where true passion lies. Passion is where you spend most of your time doing. Passion is in what topics you read blogs, watch videos, and talk about.

Put simply, your college major is your hammer.

And passion rarely lies in the hammer.

Passion lies in what you build.

The Secret to Put Yourself Ahead of 99% of Your Peers

You hear a lot from people say they want to change, or say they want to do something new like working out or get a job for X or Y company. And when you give advice to them, even the EXACT STEPS on how to get what they want, they say things like:

"Oh yeah, that sounds like a great idea. I should do that. But I'm busy playing video games, with work, etc. I'll do that some other time."

Or "ah... that's a lot of work, I'll just push it off until later."

And they never proceed to just. Freaking. Doing. It.

They don't really want to change; they're too addicted to comfort.

They want to do exactly what they've been doing and hope that chance somehow gifts them the thing that they've been "wanting" so hard for. People don't want to change who they are or work for things. They just want to be handed the result on a silver platter.

These are the same people who don't want to work on their social skills; they'd rather take the chance that some girl or boy will magically just land face-first onto their crotches.

The same people who do the religious resume-tweaking that every other college student is doing, and thinking it will help them stand out and get that job.

The same people who want to be healthy, or ripped, or strong, yet they refuse to let go of their current diet of Big Macs and Mountain Dew.

I've figured out that we do this because we're so attached to our identities. We don't want to let go of who we think we are, because we don't want to lose what we already have. We build ourselves so strongly around one identity, that it doesn't allow us to change our hairstyle, start a new habit, or make new friends.

We say we want success, but we fear change and growth.

We fear doing things we don't normally do, the stuff outside of our comfort zone.

But if you ever want to be successful, you're going to have to take that leap. Outside of your comfort zone is where you grow and develop yourself. You don't grow by doing the same old things.

That's the legal definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

Of course, I've fallen into the trap too.

I've been guilty of taking a lot of action in little things that don't really matter. I've tried and dropped learning so many things I can't even remember all of them. I thought I was accomplishing a lot, but it was really me just procrastinating on the things that actually mattered.

For example, there's nothing inherently wrong with reading a lot of blogs on productivity. That's what I did for a long time (still kinda do to a lesser degree, it's an addiction). It's just that when that's ALL YOU DO, you don't actually start building the life that you want. You just inundate yourself with a bunch of noise.

It's easy to dabble into a lot of little things, but scary to just focus on that one MOST IMPORTANT thing.

That one thing we know will result in the most progress and change as a person. 

What is that one thing for you?

Is it surrounding yourself with a new group of friends who think more like you?

Is it opting out of college to start a journey of self-discovery?

Is it developing your social skills for love, networking, and family?

Whatever your path is, if you destroy your addiction to comfort, you will grow exponentially in mind, body, and spirit.

How to Be a Rockstar Fraternity Brother

A band of brothers is only as good as the individuals who join it.

As a member of a fraternity, you need to identify why you joined the organization in the first place. Understanding your "why" is what will drive you in all of your collegiate pursuits. It will also motivate you to do everything in your power to make your fraternity the best it can be.

So what does it mean to be a rockstar fraternity brother?

In simple terms, it means making yourself great, in order to make the fraternity great.

But how do you go about in doing that?

Here are four ways that you can stand out as a fraternity brother, no matter your position or whether you are newly initiated or not.

1. Join at least one club and work towards attaining a leadership position.

The point is to delve deep into one of your passions and build a community around it. We want brothers who pursue their interests, interact with the communities they choose to associate with, and make the decision to lead these groups.

The people you meet in a fraternity are great, but if you're not constantly meeting new people and inviting them to learn about the fraternity, then you're not adding as much value to the fraternity as you could be.

A strong brotherhood is built by the relationships we make.

That's how we throw bigger parties, how we recruit more brothers, and how we attain more positive recognition from our peers, the university, and the National Chapter.

Besides, student clubs on campus are one of the fun things about being at college. So use it to meet new people, learn new things, and grow yourself as a person.

All of these things contribute towards you being a better brother.

2. Communicate with brothers and prove yourself as reliable.

Let me repeat a point I mentioned before: a strong brotherhood is built on relationships.

I want to specifically mention three types of relationships that are important for making a fraternity productive, meaningful, and enjoyable. These are the relationships between: 1) brothers and other brothers, 2) brothers and non-fraternity people, and 3) brothers and alumni.

Without healthy interaction in all of these three relationships, any fraternity will crumble in on itself. Make it a habit to regularly build these relationships up.

On the topic of communication, you must also work towards a building a culture of transparency.

One where you expect people to reply to your messages within 24 hours. One where you know what the status is of any given project at any given time. One where you know what funds are being spent and where.

Let e-board members know when you're dissatisfied with the fraternity. Keep your brothers in check. It is your duty as a human being, as a friend, and as a member of this organization to constantly be seeking improvement.

3. Take pride in the chapter house. Treat it with respect.

Your relationship with the house should be strong. This is where the fraternity eats, sleeps, works, and socializes. It's okay for the house to be disgusting on party weekends, but there's no reason to leave it in a perpetual state of disarray. The default status of the house should be clean.

Keep the house clean not only for yourself, but out of respect and empathy for your brothers. 

If alumni see that we don't even respect and appreciate our own space, what kind of message does that send them to how we value things? How can we expect them to help fundraise our efforts?

Taking pride in our chapter house means creating an environment that is welcome to all of the relationships in any brother's life. We want to create a space where we can invite classmates over to study during the week. A space where girlfriends of brothers can enjoy hanging out at the house.

A space where brothers can feel proud to say they live there.

4. Contribute a little bit each and every day towards improving our Band of Brothers.

Take out the trash that's not yours. Help tutor a brother struggling with a course you've taken already. Share a meal with other brothers from time to time.

Although they don't seem worth it or seem like they matter, if you do the little things, you and your fraternity will build camaraderie over time.

Talk about the fraternity daily and suggest at least one new idea every month. 

Because without a constant circulation of new ideas, we stagnate as a chapter.

I understand that college students have many commitments, but if you take the time to create at least one new idea every month, then you are doing your role as a brother.

Whether you bring this up at chapter or suggest it to another brother is irrelevant. As long as you are talking about the fraternity in your daily life, then you're keeping yourself stimulated in what you're doing with the chapter.

And that's honestly what's going to lead you to being happy in the fraternity you're in. When you are constantly seeking improvement as an organization and more importantly as individuals, fraternity will have done its job.

Understand the ultimate point of a fraternity: to shape each other and make ourselves the best men we can be.

If all a man has is his alone time, then he’s not going to be rounded. He’s not going to have people who can warn him about things. He’s not going to have people who challenge him to be a better man, and I don’t think he’s going to be what somebody calls a 360 Man — a fully orbed man. A fully developed man.
— Stephen Mansfield, Art of Charm Podcast

When Someone Close to Me Hated Me

This is a repost from my old blog: The Otter Guys.

Recently, someone close to me told me that he thought I was arrogant in the way I talk and undeserving of the lifestyle I lead, what with my love for travel.

He thought I wasn’t working hard enough for my own money and that my parents were just handing me everything that I have ever gotten on a silver platter. This came after years of silence. For a long time, he never once thought to tell me how he felt; he just let it build up over a period of years of silent tension.

He never once thought to ask me how I do the things I get to do, or what things I do on a daily basis to get these opportunities.

His silence manifested itself into something far worse than annoyance. It turned into contempt — contempt for the character of myself that he created in his mind. A false reality that became true in his head.

I’m not saying that I can’t be arrogant at times; I have strong beliefs and I may act a certain way as a result of my stubbornness.

I also realize that I am privileged to be able to have the opportunities to travel, surround myself in an environment of amazing people, and basically spend a day watching Netflix without having to worry about starving.

But it is hardly fair to judge me and make assumptions about my work ethic based on the rewards you notice in my life. There’s a reason I got those rewards, and maybe it’s part luck. Maybe it's part privilege. But it’s definitely a large part effort.

That’s why it’s incredibly frustrating for me; just because I get to have these amazing experiences and you don’t think I deserve it, does that mean I can’t enjoy the fruits of my labor?

I want to think that people who work smart and hard, deserve all that they get.

I realized at a young age that if the only thing you do is "work hard," you might not get everything you expect.

What people don't tell you, is that the game is about working hard and building up your social capital and communicating with other people your wants and interests that gets people to propel you to higher levels of opportunity.

So while this person thought he knew how hard I worked, he really had no clue. It's not a matter of whether I'm actually smarter or not (I'm not), it's just that I figured out how to succeed in the system I was put in.

With the way our world works, a lot of the time, life is about learning how to succeed in the system you're in, whether that is school, career, or sports.

And for the people who don't notice this game happening behind the scenes, I understand why this can be infuriating.

I can imagine the frustration and anger manifesting itself and culminating over the years, and the psychological effect it has on people.

I've definitely felt these things.

And in my situation, by not actively talking about these feelings, they grew to become so much worse than it should have been.

Think about fire; with time, you could do nothing and let it burn over a whole forest. Or, you could stamp it out whenever you noticed a hint of smoke.

That's why negativity should never be bottled up. My situation would have never been so catastrophic if we were both open from the beginning — that way, we would have let each other know how we were feeling and could fix ourselves before anything worse happened. We would also be building a true image of each other’s character, instead of these one-dimensional villain characters that we tend to manifest in silence.

Channel your negativity towards finding a solution.

Passive aggressiveness is not this solution. You have to be open. You have to be clear. And you have to be deliberate.

We can’t let our minds trick us into thinking a false reality in isolation. We have to interact with the world, to discover the true reality of things. How do we do that? Talk to your friends, your loved ones, your teachers. Stop letting your mind build a false character of the people in your life.

My happiness is really based on transparency. By being honest with how I feel to myself and to others, there's never any doubt about miscommunication. I never have to feel guilty about lying, and I usually don't have to question if other people are lying.

Be transparent with your relationships and use this to truly start understanding each other.

Self-Education is More Fun than Formal Education

I love the idea of getting smarter.

Most people do.

Like many others, I want my brain to have that addictive stimulation that is triggered by interesting new concepts and ways of thinking that get me to a higher consciousness.

Where does society tell us to satiate this desire?

College.

"We have over 150 majors!" some colleges will parrot, in order to give us an illusion of choice.

We think we have so much flexibility to organize what our education is going to be like, but really, we're all just taking the same classes in order to meet requirement after requirement.

College has made learning seem boring.

And that's a problem.

What college has done is it has quantified learning. It's created a "social hierarchy of smartness" where we celebrate people with higher GPAs as either hard workers or intelligently-gifted people.

Shame to other people. You're too dumb.

How can learning be fun again?

Choice.

Self-directed learning.

You just naturally become more passionate about what you're doing when you take responsibility for your own education. It's no longer about just suffering semester after semester but about just learning something for the fun of it (or the employability part of it). 

I can tell you that whenever I have free time, I don't just use it to goof off. I use it to learn the things that I want to learn, with the time that school doesn't steal from me.

Here's an example of the things I'm currently learning:

1. Lean Six Sigma - Management Style

Lean Six Sigma is a method of working where you focus on minimizing wastage in whatever it is that you are doing. It's a methodology used by Toyota that has helped them gain their way to the Fortune Top 10 multiple times.

You can apply this philosophy to your personal life or your entrepreneurial ventures. It's all about making your life or your business run as efficiently as possible.

2. Swedish

Jag talar svenska. Well, I'm at least trying.

You might be thinking, "Evan, why are you learning Swedish? Are you going to go to Sweden sometime?"

And the short answer is yes. 

I know I'm going to be traveling the world in the future, and I definitely plan on hitting up this beautiful Nordic country. I have a good friend who lives in Sweden as well.

I'm learning because I think Swedish is a fun language, and it is also similar to other Nordic languages, so there is the ability to translate into new skills. It also makes life interesting to study a foreign language, as I'm used to being surrounded by math and engineering problems.

3. Building Social Capital

Popular mindsets of society go like this: "If you work hard, you'll be successful and get everything you deserve." 

Well it hurts to say, but that's not how the world works.

Not completely at least.

You should be working hard at mastering your craft, but you should also be creating relationships with people in higher positions than you as you go.

These are the people who will get you to where you want to go in life.

If you plant the seed of relationships early on before you need them, you'll see way more success than the person who just shoots their resume out aimlessly into the world in the hopes that someone will "find" them.

But building your social capital is about so much more than just "networking".

I'm currently working on figuring out who I am, what I want, what other people want, and finding out how I can be offer as much value as I can to other people.

Networking a.k.a. relationship building is such a vital skill to accomplishing your goals in this world, yet many people just don't spend the time doing.

From Here on Out

My education is so much more than institutions telling me what I should or should not learn. I want to be allowed the choice to not do classes I don't like, and choose the ones that I do like, regardless of what my major is.

Here's a few things we can change our mindsets on what education should be:

  1. College is not equal to education.
  2. Stop thinking of learning in time-increments of semesters.
  3. The most powerful learning you can do is implementing your knowledge on side-projects.
  4. Instead of using grades as a way to measure your learning, write down in a journal every day about what you learned and with each entry, notice your progress in the right direction every time.
  5. Play around and have fun with your learning. I know it's hard to play around with a college education when each class is ~$5000 each. But in the real world, dabbling a little bit in this and that is less than $50 to do (buy a book, enroll in an e-course, take a class, etc.)

I really think self-education is the future of the growth of the American mind. The sooner we can escape this idea of centralized learning, the more independent, exciting, and deeper our learning experiences can be.

Understand My Life: Gordon Ramsay

I've made it my goal to read the biographies of 3 of my favorite people. I'm calling this the "Understand My Life" series.

Why? I believe that through the understanding of other people, we can better develop our sense of empathy for other people.

It’s impossible to hate anyone whose story you know.
— Andrew Solomon

I have a good friend who slightly differs from me politically, but our openness and respect for each other allows us to have really meaningful conversations.

Recently, we came to the conclusion that one of the main points of our college's general education and diversity requirements is to teach the skills of appreciation and most importantly, empathy. Whether it does teach empathy is arguable, but that's what the intention is.

So in order to better understand the struggles of different people and increase my ability to empathize, I've chosen the following 3 people to read about:

  1. Gordon Ramsay: Humble Pie
  2. Bear Grylls: Mud, Sweat, and Tears
  3. Malcolm X: The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told by Alex Haley

Let's talk about this week's first autobiography: Humble Pie. This autobiography was written 6 years ago. 

How does a man end up owning multiple Michelin-Star restaurants around the world, be an international television celebrity, and complete several Iron Man races?

Ask Gordon Ramsay.

He seems like a mean guy on his reality TV shows, but underneath it all, he's a man who has high standards for himself and for others, and he shows it through tough love. It's amazing because no one would expect the amazing person that exists today to come from such an unfortunate background.

A short timeline of Ramsay's life:

  • grew up with an abusive and often drunk father
  • chose soccer as his first real passion and almost went pro in order to impress his dad
  • came home late one night with a girl and his father went mad
  • his father got drunk one night and poured hot milk on and started beating his mother
  • dad fled the country after authorities were called
  • at 19, was just excited to be cooking at a restaurant learning a skill
  • had an affair with his boss's wife
  • didn't work out that his life's work would be in cooking until his mentor gave him the verbal recognition of his talent
  • traveled around Europe and working at different Michelin Star-quality restaurants, slowly building up his reputation
  • started his first restaurant, Aubergine
  • Left Aubergine because of poor leadership

... and after a little show called Hell's Kitchen, the rest is history.

I definitely think there are a few things we can learn from his journey.

1.) Cooking was not his passion at first.

Cooking was just a skill to him that he enjoyed doing.

The great thing about the way Ramsay learned cooking was that he wasn't just learning new concepts and recipes and never applying them. He learned and consistently applied at the same time.

And he was earning money as he was learning through working, which is quite the opposite of today's idea of what learning is. Soon enough, Ramsay reached a masterful level of cooking, built his personal brand, and didn't even have to go into debt.

Work is who I am, who I want to be. I sometimes think that if I were to stop working, I’d stop existing.
— Gordon Ramsay, Humble Pie

Some people simply use work to pay the bills. Others create their identity through their work. It's like an artist, who has spends years building one giant art piece of a life.

These type of people inevitably are the ones who choose to create something marvelous no matter the cost. They've chosen to ride the proverbial "struggles-and-breakthroughs rollercoaster" that comes with devoting yourself to your job.

I find it really hard to devote myself to school because I don't see any immediate effects when I complete a course. After a half-year of my life, multiple problem sets, and being around $5000 poorer, what do I get back?

The honest answer is, I don't know.

I guess I know a couple of new mathematical concepts and philosophies behind statistical analysis, but what's the point of learning if I don't get to use it? For a half a year, I don't get to practice what I've learned unless I manage to get an internship at the same time, which is not well-integrated into the college experience at all.

The thing with college is that it separates too far the learning from the producing. This makes it almost impossible for experiential learners like myself to ground our lessons through practice. Else, everything we learn goes in one ear and out the other.

2.) He acts as a mentor and lifts up those around him.

People sometimes point out how, in shows like Kitchen Nightmares, I’ll always encourage the youngest chap in the kitchen. If you want to know why - Paris is why. I know how it feels to be in a corner, unnoticed and unloved.
— Gordon Ramsay, Humble Pie

Ramsay's background is part of what makes him so humble and understanding of other people's situations. He sees these young cooks with large amounts of potential, and sees himself in them.

This influence is worth gold to these young chefs as I can envision the approval of such a skilled person acts as a Rite of Passage for them.

It mentally gives them permission to keep getting better, giving them the confidence to be the teacher rather than the student.

3.) There's a positive dynamic in celebrating the differences between men and women.

What about women in kitchens? I love women chefs: they’re intelligent, they’re fast learners, and they can be tough. As for the effect they have on the boys, it’s entirely good. Put a woman in a kitchen and discipline will improve. The guys hate being told off in front of the girls. It’ a playground thing - they just find it embarrassing.
— Gordon Ramsay, Humble Pie

I think it's interesting to note that Ramsay talks about the workplace dynamics of men and women and how it works in harmony to have both sexes represented. 

Overall, I've learned that Gordon Ramsay started from very humble beginnings. He didn't build his legacy overnight. It was slowly accumulated through times of struggle, embarrassment, and uncertainty.

The most important part of his pathway to success? Consistency.

He was always taking action, no matter how seemingly small in the beginning.

I think that's a lesson we can all implement in our lives: focus on getting just 1% better every day of our lives.

Next up: Bear Grylls - Mud, Sweat, and Tears

You Are Enough: How to Build Confidence by Destroying Envy

It's only once you hear of someone's accomplishments that you get worried about your own self-worth. 

Only then do you start to become extra aware of the "progress" you're making in your life.

Think about if you met someone new. You didn't know about his/her wealth, social standing, education level, family, sex, none of it.

When you strip someone down of all of the things that society tells us is important, what do you get?

A simple human being, with a unique personality.

There's nothing he/she's better than you at, and there's nothing that you need to concern yourself with other than just enjoying each other's company.

People tend to never be satisfied with the rate at which they're going at once they know of someone's success, with wealth, fitness, or relationships. That feeling of envy starts to create a self-doubt which starts to eat away at them.

That premise is why I believe that the secret to building confidence is destroying envy.

Have you always been a "high-achiever" according to your high school or your parents?

Maybe you went to college as the star pupil and woke up to the reality that other people were way better at doing school than you did. Frustration arises out of not being able to be "at the top," as your expectation is to always be there.

Your believe that you have a high expectation of yourself is often rooted in the comparison of your progress compared to others. These high expectations, more often than not, don't motivate you out of joy for what you're doing, but out of desperation to not fall behind other people.

Do you see what I mean?

Envy is what puts your self-worth into question.

It's hard to think that you're enough when you're constantly stacking your achievements against other people who have bigger lists.

With any progress you actually do make, you'll never acknowledge it or appreciate it. Because it is never as good as the progress he or she over there is making.

You're just never good enough.

And I know this feeling can permeate your life for a long. Long. Time.

I know from firsthand experience.

See, I've learned within myself that the biggest thing that depressed me was envy.

Envy of my college buddies who got more internships than I was getting.

Envy of other races who got more privilege than I had in my life.

Envy of other boys who would hang out with the kind of women that I wanted to interact with.

My confidence was a crumbling mess. Self-doubt flowed out of me whenever I tried to actually act on the skills I wasn't good at. "Don't lift weights, you're not as strong as the other guys in there" or "don't try to talk to pretty girls, they're out of your league and for the handsome dudes only".

I stopped myself from doing things outside of my norm, in order to protect this image of what I was already good at. I didn't want to lose face because I was a terrible at things that other people I knew were great at.

This envy controlled me and caused me to think irrationally.

Why shouldn't I do something that I want to do as long as it doesn't hurt anybody?

Am I really a fool for trying something new, or am I just a beginner who understandably needs a few more lessons before I get good?

Maybe you find yourself at a time in your life where you just don't know if the steps you're taking are the right ones. You're just doing what people have told you to do.

Maybe you think to yourself,

  • "I hate taking college classes. Is this really what I want to be doing?"
  • "I haven't had an internship yet. Am I making as much progress as my friends?"
  • "I'm stuck at this job/location/classroom. Am I realizing my full potential as a human being?"

How do you become more confident with your life's direction, and with the actions you take?

First, let's define what confidence is.

The textbook definition of confidence is: self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities.

While you should definitely be appreciative of yourself and your qualities, you need to see the best in other people as well. In other words, in order to be confident, eradicate envy from your mindset and learn to be more appreciative.

It's okay to admire people and their accomplishments. As you learn to truly appreciate other people's qualities and abilities, you'll find yourself becoming more genuine, and less focused on your qualities compared to theirs.

So when you're surrounded by lots of talented people, you can generally frame it in one of two ways:

  1. Everyone is so ahead of me. They have so many internship experiences while I've had none. What am I doing? I'm not going to get a job out of college and my friends and parents will think I'm a failure.
  2. Wow. I'm doing really cool things. Everyone around me is doing such cool things as well. What can I do to help these people, while potentially advancing my own goals?

I want you to forget about that 1st frame of mind. It's not going to help you. The comparison will only make you more depressed.

The 2nd frame of mind is so much more conducive to positive thinking and problem solving. It doesn't dive into or really compare your progress to other people. The statement just simply acknowledges that you've made progress. That's all. It reframes your situation in a way that helps you figure out how to get over the humps in your life, rather than lament over your supposed "failure" to attain what you want.

Now that you know a more productive way to combat envy, let's go deeper into why we have envy a.k.a. a lack of confidence in the first place.

Where Lack of Confidence Stems From

The common narrative of what "success" is the backbone to of a lot of the non-confident behavior we see a lot these days in young people.

The boomer mentality goes like this: get a good education. Get a well-paying full-time job. Find a stable partner. Buy a house and a car. Preferably, have a child. Failing any stage of this process is a reflection of your self-worth and indicates a lack of moral fibre.

With regional variations, millennials have absorbed our parents’ world view. We consider these expectations reasonable, and we blame ourselves for not living up to them.
— Eleanor Robertson, the Guardian

When you internalize these storylines that you think are supposed to happen, your life becomes a never-ending vortex of sadness and jealousy.

Every time that you veer slightly off the path you think is supposed to happen, it has catastrophic implications in your mind. On the train track to a destination called "success", one little teeter becomes a derailed train, and if that happens, you end up with nothing.

So we live our lives trying our best to stay on track, never questioning whether the track leads to the path we actually want. Our brains turn on autopilot, and we simply ignore the frustration that we have for our direction in life, claiming that this temporary struggle is necessary to give us the freedom to achieve what we want.

"It's for a greater purpose," you reason, and although that may be true in some cases where you do have to stick it out, sometimes the fight is simply not worth it.

In some cases, you are lied to. The path you were told to take by society, your parents, or your friends may not be the best method to getting the results you think you'll get.

This situation is sad because it's this popular mentality and narrative that we're fed that is the cause of so many of my friends' self-loathing and general lostness in their lives (as well as mine).

If you resonate with any of the words I've said so far, then you need to change something. You owe it to yourself to get off the tracks you were put on and start building the person that you want to be.

Stop internalizing this bullshit narrative of success.

By simply being a person, who is trying their best with the information you have at the time, you have worth. That's all there is.

Just believe it.

And if you don't believe it, indulge in delusion.

Let yourself believe that you are enough in the state this present moment. Trick yourself if you have to.

You Are Enough.

The Secret to Getting Jobs, Living a Fulfilling Life, and Making Amazing Friends

Why is it that the guy who watches 50 movies a week, buys a bunch of the pop culture merchandise, and immerses himself in film industry news can't break into the film industry itself? 

He knows every actor's name just by the movie title.

He understands the philosophies and styles of different directors.

Surely someone as knowledgeable deserves a job in the industry right?

Unfortunately, the world doesn't reward people who consume and consume and consume.

He may be a great "student of film" and has a huge database in his head, but no one's going to pay him for that. He has to apply that knowledge.

Because right now, he's only taking.

He's not giving to the film industry.

Now before you say "Hey, he's paying for the movie tickets, he's definitely contributing to the industry, so HA YOUR LOGIC IS FLAWED," just remember that he is one of millions paying for a ticket.

I'm sure the film industry is grateful that he is a customer of their products, but as long as he stays just a customer, he will never find it within himself to direct a film, interact with A-list actors and actresses, or indulge himself in the pride of telling a story to an audience of millions.

In other words, he's never going to distinguish himself from the millions of people who simply consume content.

How does he fix this?

By engaging himself.

What does being engaged mean? (no, not talking before marriage)

It means immersing yourself with the content you're consuming by interacting with people in the industry, getting your feet wet and participating in conversation and producing in order to add value to the industry.

For a step-by-step, you can do this:

1.) Consume the content that your industry produces.

Read blogs about economics if you're trying to go into politics. Watch movies and go to plays if you're looking to get into the acting world. If you like music, listen to as much Kanye as you can.

Usually, this step is one that doesn't need to be said.

You probably already do consume a lot of content of the things you like.

But that's not complete engagement.

In order to be truly engaged, you need to:

2.) Start producing and contributing to this industry that you love.

Write a review of a movie so that other people can make a better judgment of whether to watch or not.

By simply writing your thoughts on trends and the products of your industry, you're adding value to that community. You add exposure, contribute a unique viewpoint on the future of the industry, and distinguish yourself from others.

You can start by creating your own videos, blogs, or podcasts.

The more you build a reputation for your work and get people to engage with your content, the more value you are creating for the industry.

3.) Join groups that share your same love for the industry and build relationships.

Your network is a powerful thing.

When you combine who you know with the value you've contributed to the industry, success will become natural and literally work like dominoes falling in succession.

You get one opportunity. You create value. You get another better opportunity. You contribute even more value. And it goes on and on.

Participate in online forums, email people in the industry you admire for advice, or go to events where you're bound to meet a lot of people.

That's really all there is to it.