breadcrumbs: a series of connected events

Weekend Lessons from a Friend

I wanted to dedicate this blog post to a friend, who probably doesn’t realize how much impact he left me after one weekend. This is going to be more of a personal entry, because it’s made me a better person.

A Few Things About Me

I consider myself pretty self-aware and have high emotional quotience. Among my friends, I’m usually viewed as a very strong person, driven, passionate and persistent. Most people don’t have half the energy and curiosity that I have. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing… it’s just how I am. Super overachiever and Ms. “Know-It-All” aka Hermione in Harry Potter. It can even be annoying sometimes, I know.

I also have a very high disregard for the impossible. I don’t believe in limitations based on gender, color, age, physical abilities, historical and present circumstances. The only thing that can limit you is your mind and fear of failure. Conquer these and you can accomplish anything.

I used to be a consensus-seeking person (still am to some extent). I was really indecisive because I wanted to please everyone. I was willing to sacrifice what I wanted for what other people wanted. But ever since running a startup, I’ve learned that indecision is your worse enemy. Sometimes you need to trust your gut and just go with it. The goal is to prove yourself wrong quickly, so you can switch directions and get closer to the right answer faster. Someone once told me that you don’t need to know exactly what you want in life, as long as you identify (through trial and error) what you don’t want to in life. It will bring you closer to where you want to be. I find that very liberating because we’ve been so pressured to “do the right thing” and “find the right answer” all the time. But what really matters is to get closer to where you want to be, and make sure that everything you do is on that path.

I’ve also learned to be pretty blunt and direct because I feel like there’s too much beating around the bush in this world. You can’t help someone if you don’t tell him or her the truth; but no one tells because no one wants to be disliked. They’ll probably just stay away from you or never do business with you. But I feel like that’s selfish. It doesn’t help the other person grow.

Anyway, that is a few things about me. And then my friend Will (named changed to protect the innocent but well-known tech figure) came to visit and sorta tilt my world around. Not sure how that happened but it was definitely a surprise.

Enter A Weekend of Inspiration & Epiphany

I’m not going into the details of everything that occurred that weekend (there’s a separate journal for that), but I feel compelled to write about the various “life principles” that I want to keep from a few people I’d gotten to know; Will, Paul, and Katie (name also changed to protect these bestseller beings). Some were lessons learned, some were inspirations, some were reminders, and ultimately, one was about recognizing the core of who I am and where I want to be.

Inspirations from Paul

  • Follow your intuition and gut. Some people tend to observe our environment and read others more acutely, so most of our intuition stems from sensing hints of truths. There’s always a reason why something feels “right” so if you’re the type of person who usually have strong feelings about things, follow your gut. And for whatever reason, women tend to have a higher sense of intuition, so use that wisely.
  • Confront your fears and don’t postpone doing it. By pushing things back or sweeping it under the carpet, you’re only wasting time and not moving ahead.

Inspirations from Katie

  • It’s not worth being with someone who doesn’t connect with you at a deeper level. They should have the same level of self-awareness and be in a similar “state of being” as you. That’s the only way your relationship can grow healthily; when you’re trying to help each other be better individuals.
  • Live in the present. Be 100% there when you’re talking to someone. So often our minds wander when we’re in a conversation with someone. We’re thinking about our past and our future, about what I ate this morning or the next meeting I have to run to later. It’s disrespectful and selfish. We should be focusing on the moment and be present and engaged with the people right in front of us. Actually listen, do not just hear.

Inspirations from Will

  • Surround yourself with the best people you can. People whom you respect and that you can learn from, people who will teach you to be a better person. Develop a mutually respectful relationship with them and always stay in touch.
  • Find people who can be brutally honest with you. Life is too short to live on lies, embellishments and niceties. And that’s the only way you can improve yourself.
  • It’s okay to be direct and blunt with others. Believe it or not, people actually appreciate it because there are not enough of us out there. The key is not to be tactless or hurtful in doing so. There are ways to be candid without being a ruthless jerk. You compensate for this by being very thoughtful, observant, and even kind. When you pay attention to details and make comments about it, you show that you actually care. It shines through and compensates for the rawness.
  • Show gratitude to the most insignificant people and never take anyone for granted. Always be humble. Not enough people in this world show recognition and give positive encouragement to people who’re trying hard. People may come up to you to speak to you because you’re popular and successful, but not enough people come up to thank you for being who you are and for doing what you do. A pat on the back or a simple but genuine thank you goes a long way. Everyone just wants to be appreciated for their hard work at the end of the day.
  • Share things that make you vulnerable, because that helps you connect with people and establish trust. Talk and be open, but don’t talk too much about yourself. Listen more because you learn to see other people’s perspectives.
  • Be compassionate and have a genuine desire to see others succeed.
  • Write more… privately or publicly. It’s healthy to be retrospective, to have time to think and reflect, and definitely helps with personal development and emotional awareness when you try to put your thoughts down. I once read that the best leaders usually tend to be really great speakers too. There’s something about being able to articulate your thoughts and principles, and convey that to inspire or lead others. I see writing as the same way.
  • Knowing more of less is sometimes better than knowing less of more. Does that make sense?
  • Hire a personal or virtual assistant when you can afford it. I’ve seen first hand how the magic works 🙂 But you need to know how to use it effectively. I’ve seen some people spend more time instructing and fact checking that it ends up being counter-productive.
  • Seek to understand before you judge.
  • You shouldn’t seek to be loved, but to be respected. Doing what’s right may not always make you popular. If you’re hated, then you’re doing the right thing and making a real impact.
  • Don’t bullshit yourself. Always stay true to yourself and keep it real. (That’s pretty vague maybe even cheesy, but I just wanted to write it :))

Thank You For The Shoulder

I think the single most powerful thing that occurred to me that weekend wasn’t merely these inspirations (and other personal lessons that hit home for me), but something deeper that had a very humbling affect on me. Will said he almost felt bad for me after hearing my background, my journey and situation. How I’d literally come from afar, am all alone with no family in a foreign country, having been through so many setbacks and obstacles in life; yet I’ve been so strong, I’ve never given up, I’ve always tried my hardest in everything, and continued to pursue my passions. He told me how admirable I was and that he wants to help me get there because he felt sorry for me. At first, I felt like he thought I was pathetic and questioned who he was to think that he could “help” me?

But after this weekend, I realized that he’s one of a few people who’ve been able to not only call me out on my weaknesses, but also knew exactly what I needed. Everyone usually congratulate me on my “successes” so far and tell me that they look up to me and admire my courage and drive. But I’ve always felt like I have to convince other people that the journey is really rough and that there are many many moments of despair and worst of all, loneliness. Being the super sharer that I am, I usually only share the “good” stuff, so people always perceive my journey to be a lot more rosy than it actually is in reality. (Honestly, the things I share on my social networks are pretty superficial and does not scratch the surface of what defines me as a person. Well, perhaps I should use this blog more effectively as a means of showing who I really am.)

Anyway for the first time, I’ve had someone genuinely recognize that what I’m doing is really brutal; to sincerely appreciate me for being so strong and having so much heart. He didn’t pat my back and in fact told me I “wasn’t there yet,” subtly teaching me how to be a better person. He also lent me a shoulder to cry on, a place where I felt safe to go to, knowing that someone out there too knows what a nasty world it is sometimes, and that’s why not everyone is doing it. And not everyone can survive it. More than that, he broke down my wall of steel, and made me realize that I don’t always have to be this strong. That I’m not that strong after all, and it’s okay. I have a few flaws and weaknesses that I need to fix before I can get there, despite my already heighten sense of self. And I need to surround myself with people who can keep inspiring me, reminding me of that, and helping me get there. I think I just need to be with more people who are stronger than me because it’s so humbling 🙂

Thank you Will, for listening, for telling the truth and for that shoulder to cry on.

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