"We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness -- make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it." The Buddha

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Criticisms, Mistakes, and Other Blessings

How's your Monday? (Credit: Owen Slater)

Several weeks ago, I was sharing my Cuong.com fountain pen article online, and I received this message from a reader:

"[Cuong.com] is the most 2001 looking website I've seen in years. Mind blowingly awful."

Initially I was hoping this reader would find my fountain pen interesting and enjoy its artwork and craftsmanship but instead I received a different response than I anticipated. But I seriously considered the criticism. Indeed the format of Cuong.com isn't modern. He or she is correct there. Is it "mind blowingly awful"? How was that measured? I can't determine that without further elaboration.

Although he or she is at least partially right, I am also at least partially right: in my opinion, Cuong.com is a functional personal website powered by Google, a favorite company of mine. I'm more concerned about what I write than how it's being presented. So our two opinions offset each other. Ultimately, however, I tip the balance in my favor because I own Cuong.com. I have an additional right to choose how the website looks and who I host it with.

Other criticisms I receive, however, have undeniable merit.

For instance, one of my favorite animals is a honey badger, but I made a bad mistake regarding its invincibility.

The honey badger was named the "most fearless animal in the world" by the Guinness Book of Records due to its toughness and incredible ability to overcome adversity. One nature video shows a honey badger eating a cobra, where earlier it defeated the cobra but not before it was bitten by the snake. After the venom worked through its body, the honey badger passed out. Miraculously, a minute later, it woke up, and proceeded to eat the cobra like nothing happened!

Given my admiration for the honey badger, I shared that photo above of the badger with porcupine quills sticking out of it. In the words of a famous YouTube commentator, "Honey badger doesn't care."

Or does it?

I soon received this message from a reader:

"This seems minor, but it's unfortunately likely fatal for the badger if they weren't removed. Those quills have barbs that make them very hard to pull out. They will however, keep migrating in eventually causing an infection or piercing something vital. It's actually the porcupine that don't play in this case. Sad."

How I responded was this:

"Oh man that sounds horrible. I love honey badgers and hope this guy will be ok. They're tough but by your description they're certainly not invincible. πŸ˜₯"

Then I did more searching online about porcupine quills. I was surprised by what I learned. According to Discover Magazine, "Each [porcupine quill] is tipped with microscopic backwards-facing barbs, which supposedly make it harder to pull the quills out once they're stuck in."

I initially thought porcupine quills were no big deal for a honey badger but apparently I was completely wrong. The title I used, "Honey badger doesn't care," now seems callous. As a result, I wrote a second response:


"After thinking about what you said, I'm going to delete what I posted [with the title 'Honey badger doesn't care']. I thought I was sharing something cool thinking this honey badger will be ok but it is indeed hurt. I'm sorry I posted this. You're right. I'm wrong."

[UPDATE (5/24/20 11:51pm): Good news! After receiving even more feedback from other individuals reading this article, it looks like those quills were from the crested porcupine, which are larger than the quills of North or South American porcupines and do not have backward-facing barbs, so they don’t continue to migrate into tissue. Given that fact and the honey badger's incredibly tough hide, there's a great chance our honey badger will be just fine. Those quills will eventually fall off or be scratched off. (Special thanks go to Arthur Dayne for the new information and big sigh of relief!)]


The above two criticisms are relevant examples of life itself. Everybody receives criticisms from time to time. Because we are social creatures, we work with other people. Within the process of working with others, it is inevitable our interests will clash. This is normal.

What isn't normal are effective responses and approaches to try to get along and make progress.

Marcus Aurelius, a famous Roman emperor, noted similar life scenarios encountered by his predecessor Antoninus Pius almost 2000 years ago:

"Do everything as a disciple of Antoninus. Remember his constancy in every act which was conformable to reason, and his evenness in all things, and his piety, and the serenity of his countenance, and his sweetness, and his disregard of empty fame, and his efforts to understand things; and how he would never let anything pass without having first most carefully examined it and clearly understood it; and how he bore with those who blamed him unjustly without blaming them in return; how he did nothing in a hurry; and how he listened not to calumnies, and how exact an examiner of manners and actions he was; and not given to reproach people, nor timid, nor suspicious, nor a sophist; and with how little he was satisfied, such as lodging, bed, dress, food, servants; and how laborious and patient; and how he was able on account of his sparing diet to hold out to the evening, not even requiring to relieve himself by any evacuations except at the usual hour; and his firmness and uniformity in his friendships; and how he tolerated freedom of speech in those who opposed his opinions; and the pleasure that he had when any man showed him anything better; and how religious he was without superstition. Imitate all this that you may have as good a conscience, when your last hour comes, as he had."

A big lie that too many leaders tell themselves is that they can't appear vulnerable in public. Yet they don't seem to fully realize the difference between appearances and substance. Appearances are meaningless if there is little substance. Along that same line, substance is vastly more important than appearances. I might not prevail today but I can't lose. My position sits on a solid foundation. What will eventually happen is over time substance will win out as events play themselves out.

It's ridiculous when leaders try to appear strong and won't admit to making mistakes when everyone can clearly see they made mistakes. Respect wasn't lost when those mistakes were made -- who among us hasn't made mistakes -- but rather when those mistakes are crudely covered up.

It's not uncommon for me to say, "I'm sorry." I make mistakes regularly, probably because I do a lot of things. When I do things, I have to encounter new situations and learn about them, which means I am going to make bad decisions for a certain period of time. Learning and making mistakes are one and the same.

One time I saw a fellow published author argued with one of his readers for posting a negative review on Amazon about his book. The argument between them was endless and fruitless. What the author failed to understand is logic cannot resolve matters of opinion. That's why debating politics with other people is almost always a waste of time.

In contrast, how I respond to readers leaving a negative review on my book is to thank them for trying out my book, show them I understand why they didn't find it useful, personally offer to refund them the price of the book including shipping (even though Amazon offers the same), and suggest that they give the book to someone else who might find it useful or keep it for later reading.

A mark of strong individuals is confidence even when appearing vulnerable. That's because they are strong in substance, and thus unfazed by whatever happens. Like a honey badger, they don't care much about appearances since they cannot control how others perceive them. They can only work on themselves.

Hearing and addressing criticisms in public can make anyone appear vulnerable. But it is the common sort of man to stamp them out. Unfortunately it only makes him look weak. If he can't take being criticized, how in the world can he be aware of his shortcomings, much less fix them? One must accept being weak in appearance, and in doing so, can he have any hope of being strong in substance.

Besides, appearances can be deceiving. For example, just because an hour-long concert shows the orchestra can play flawlessly doesn't mean they can do it impromptu. Numerous hours of practice and rehearsals -- including a good number of off-notes and adjustments -- were required to produce that one-hour performance. They are talented, but not that talented.

Note that being strong doesn't mean being careless. I am confident of others regarding what they do, but I am extremely cautious about what I do and how I respond. Hence, I can sleep well at night because my integrity is true, not needing to prove it to anyone but myself.

Every day I try not to complain about the small things, because sometimes peace is more beneficial than being right. I try to think bigger, because my time is limited. I try to be more understanding of others, because I had made similar or worse mistakes myself. I try to be patient and allow people to learn for themselves as I had when I was struggling in life. It would be unfair of me to expect more of young people now than I expected of myself back then.

It rarely fails that whenever I was being overly critical of others that with time, I realized that I was being irrational. So when I am being overly critical of someone right now, wouldn't it be the case I am being irrational now as well?

Along the path of doing things worthwhile and making improvements, I'll step on some toes. Of course I don't do so intentionally. And when I do step on toes, I make amends. If making amends isn't possible, then if I'm confident the effort will benefit everyone, I will strive to continue on, hoping those feeling aggrieved will eventually see the light.

Having said that, it can be dangerous striving for the ideal. In theory, everything seems to work perfectly. In practice, there is never one right way of doing things. There are always more than one way of doing them, because the world has an innumerable amount of variables. So if I try to push one way of doing things upon others, I will inevitably hurt those who disagree. Therefore, a practical approach is to stabilize before making improvement changes, then stabilizing again before making further improvement changes. This takes keen observation, patience, and planning.

The best case scenario is an elegant solution that solves the problem immediately without any negative side effects. Unfortunately it's not always possible in the real world, no matter how smart or creative we are and no matter how many different approaches we take. So, use the element of time to make things happen. The world changes quickly and constantly. Changes are good because they provide us new openings to solve old problems.

Likewise, when I am faced with a serious problem, until I understand the situation more fully, my default position is not to say or do anything, thereby preventing making a bad situation worse. Sometimes I can do too much. When I try to force things, it won't work, despite my brilliant idea or logic, because the timing is likely all wrong. The current emotions, dynamics, and overall circumstances are likely all wrong. I'm not dealing with robots but working with human beings. Thus, I will round the wagon again and seek for a better time under more favorable conditions.

As you can probably see by now, the real value in life isn't found in great ideas but in the real-world application and results of those ideas. After all, great ideas can be purchased in a book costing less than $30. So like a honey badger, I don't care about how many books a person owns or how large his library is or even how many best-selling books he had written if he mistreats his spouse, children, and associates. I care more about how he handles his critics and when things don't go well. I want to see how his philosophy, based on his extensive formal and informal education, fares in actual practice.

In addition to receiving criticism, there will be times when I need to critique and provide guidance, but not to tear down or discipline. Frankly I'm not a big fan of discipline. Too often the grief caused isn't worth the benefit. Before I criticize, I know my objective. What am I trying to accomplish? If I don't like the answer to my question, then I don't say a thing. I accept the imperfection as one of life's many quirks, more to be observed than to correct for the time being.

Philosophically, it would seem easier for us to be made like robots. We would do exactly as we were programmed to do, regardless of the stimuli we see, hear, or feel. But no. Human beings are quite imperfect, almost cursed to recycle old mistakes of past generations, albeit with better vantage points. Each of us was born knowing very little and completely vulnerable. We humans go through a relatively long and excruciating process of learning and understanding the world. Alas, even with decades of refinement, we are far from being perfect but are only closer to the realization that we are more imperfect than we first thought! The wiser we are, the more we are aware of our limitations. In essence, the more we learn and understand the world, the more disappointed we are at the glaring problems of the world.

Personally, there are some of my mistakes that when I look back on them, I cringe. They are so embarrassing to even recall. What was I thinking? Or more aptly, why wasn't I thinking? My only consolation is the fact I am mature enough to know now that I was wrong. I am now a different person criticizing my younger self, and grateful to be a better person as a result.

Like most everyone, there are times when I feel down and depressed about things in my life. I'm not immune to it. I remedy this by reminding myself that how I feel inside isn't necessarily reality outside, especially if it's in the extreme. Just because I feel down doesn't mean the world reflects my current perception of things. This makes sense because when I feel happy the next day after a good rest, how is it plausible that the entire world followed my lead? It doesn't. Therefore, I know for certain that how I feel isn't how the world is.

A healthy body isn't stagnant and calcified. It is flowing, flexible, supple. But when it comes to people's beliefs and worldview, there are those who erroneously see being the same as a strength. Yet I see it as ignorance, stubbornness, lacking in intelligence. Since they see a changing world as unchanged, they will make poor decisions, possibly costing lives and livelihoods. How is it reasonable to think that a 50 year old man having exactly the same beliefs and worldview as his 20 year old self is something positive? He essentially hasn't grown intellectually for the last 30 years! He hasn't considered criticisms seriously and thus hasn't progressed in wisdom or education.

Be better. Be open. See criticisms and mistakes for what they are: neither bad nor good but the world reminding us that we are human after all, imperfect yet strong enough to embrace them. πŸ’›

Friday, May 15, 2020

A hummingbird story

The hummingbird I helped many years ago

One day many years ago, I found a hummingbird on the floor inside my screened porch. It was completely motionless until I got close. Clearly exhausted, however, the hummingbird didn't have enough energy to fly away. I scooped it up and placed it on a soft cloth inside a plastic bucket.

It was probably another plastic container that caused what had happened. This hummingbird was likely attracted to the bright red color of my Folgers coffee carton. Previously I had seen a charm of hummingbirds gathered around it. Thinking it's a bunch of red flowers, our poor hummingbird somehow got inside but couldn't find its way out. Perhaps flying for hours frantically trying to get out, but without food or water, it finally succumbed to exhaustion.

It seemed dehydrated so I mixed some sugar with water in a spoon and offered it to the hummingbird. There was no response. Its entire body was limp. As a last resort, I opened its beak and aimed a couple of drops inside the hummingbird's mouth. Miraculously, after a few minutes, its tongue started to lap the sweet liquid straight from the spoon. I felt like 800 pounds were lifted off me. I then knew it'll be OK.

Half an hour passed when most of the spoon was consumed. Little movements became bigger movements. The eyes looked more alert. The legs stretched out. All the hummingbird parts started to work together.

The photo above was taken soon after when I took the hummingbird out of the bucket. I was standing on soft grass in case it fell. It seemed like an eternity waiting for it to do something. Its eyes and beak were moving but not much else. I even tried to spread its wings. Nothing. Doubts entered my mind. Maybe it's forever injured and will never fly again.

Then, like someone pressed the ignition button, its wings started to flutter and the hummingbird was suddenly hovering over my hand. Yes! Within the next second, it shot straight up, completely vertical like a miniature helicopter. It flew higher than the roof of my house, made one circularly pass around me from above, and finally darted into the blue sky toward the woods.

Although I was so happy because of what I experienced, I never shared this hummingbird story publicly until today. πŸ’›

Friday, May 8, 2020

There is a crisis. This is no time to look serious.

Me

When I was growing up, I never liked men who were serious and mean. I still don't. Their scowl doesn't make them look more intelligent. It only makes them look weak. Because when I boil it all down, their concern is invariably on control and authority -- not empathy, improvement, wisdom, leadership, compassion.

True strength comes from understanding the situation and knowing what to do in response. If that is the case, why the cruel behavior? Only incapable people engage in cruelty to irrationally compensate for their deficiencies and unfavorable results.

What would be the demeanor of people who are capable and effective? I know the answer to this question because I've seen such individuals in action and their extraordinary results: they are caring, helpful, respected. Not fake friendliness but real acts of support. Whatever the circumstances, they can produce the best results because they can sustainably extract and employ the best within people. They unite and consolidate people's efforts by treating everyone like valuable fellow human beings who can contribute to the goal, regardless of their age, gender, race, background, economic status, physical limitations, etc.

Suppose there were some moral-depraved scientific method of proving one person's value over another, how much is that difference anyway? That's why arrogance is really ignorance. We're all living on a rock traveling at 67,000 miles an hour through space, our lives occupying an infinitesimal sliver along the infinite spectrum of time. This fact doesn't belittle life but should bring us to the ultimate realization that we need to look out for one another and take care of each other while we are still here. We are all, frankly, vulnerable.

Are there times to be serious? Sure. But that doesn't mean I need to look and act mean. In times of crisis, for example, what's important are ears to carefully listen, eyes for keen observation, and the sophisticated skill to get everyone to work together. Even if you're missing the first two, you can still succeed if you possess the last one. Human beings didn't evolve to work alone. That would be our one weakness and vulnerability. Therefore, when we work together as a team, community, and society, there are few things we cannot accomplish. πŸ’›

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Vietnamese artist Lien and other flowers in the dark


Today I would like to introduce you to a talented young Vietnamese artist by the name of Lien. Lien is going to be a future star in the art world.

To convince you of my bold prediction, let me first take you back in time to give you some context and background.

On March 27, 2020, I received a card from my friend Hoa, a staff member at Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged children in Vietnam. It is fast becoming one of my favorite charities.

The card was a painting of a pair of blue wings. Nothing special at first glance. However, something about it made me pause for a moment. It was upon a closer examination that I noticed the brush strokes, deliberate shading, white outlining, and asymmetric watercolor application. Interesting, I thought to myself.

I then sent an email to Hoa. My question was direct: "What is the name of the artist?"

This is Lien's story:

"Lien became deaf after her fever when she was only 2 ... When Blue Dragon met Lien, she could hardly read or write and was bullied at her school. We enrolled her in a sign language class, and after half a year, she made a great improvement in her communication skills. From a timid girl, she confidently got on the stage to make a presentation in sign language. She also loves drawing, so we encouraged her to follow her passion. Lien's never been to an art class, but her painting looks amazing, isn't it?

"Below is a photo taken at our event called Blue Got Talent. Lien did a live painting in 10 minutes and was sharing her ideas behind it. She said that was what she viewed LIFE - vivid, colourful, and so many beautiful things to explore. Many of us cried when listening to her."


Lien explains her painting

Art is subjective. I can be blunt about that fact. But there is a clear difference between liking a painting and appreciating it.

My appreciation for art didn't start until I was in college. I volunteered at a medical center of a major university I was attending. The medical center manages one of the largest art collections in the nation. The purpose of the art collection was for patients to enjoy while they recuperate. It's such a wonderful concept!

The person I was working for in this art program knew everything about each and every one of the art pieces -- some they owned, some on loan from generous benefactors. She didn't only teach me the technical aspects of works of art but also why they are ultimately enjoyable and thus intrinsically valuable.

Because I didn't have much money back then, I started out collecting prints. Then gradually I was able to acquire original paintings. I visited as many art museums as I was able to. When I first saw an actual Vincent van Gogh painting up close -- no glass or rope holding me back -- I nearly cried. I was absolutely mesmerized. Those prints didn't do him justice.

There were embarrassing mistakes I made along the way. For example, one time I was doing a home remodeling project and placed some original art pieces on the floor. I was in another room when I heard multiple clacking sounds made by my toddler son. He's just playing with his toys, I thought to myself. It wasn't until the next day when I discovered he had taken a claw hammer to three paintings! Nothing I could do but hugged my son, explained to him in great detail why he shouldn't do it again, and considered it an expensive education for myself.

What wasn't a mistake was when I commissioned Lien to do a painting for me last month. The idea was completely mine, something I'm sure the charity wasn't used to. After a month of eagerly waiting, below is the painting. It is called "Blooming in the Dark."

"Blooming in the Dark" by Lien

Thanks to Hoa's coordination, the video at the top of this article accompanied the painting. In the video, Lien enthusiastically explains what the painting means to her. I highly suggest you watch it.

Here are three of my thoughts about "Blooming in the Dark":

(1) Immediately I noticed the resemblance to Vincent van Gogh's "Irises." I'm not going to make a bigger deal out of it than it currently is, but it's uncanny considering Lien's lack of formal training. She has tremendous potential. So with more formal art classes, practice, refinement, and exposure, I firmly believe she will be a notable name in the art world in the future. Similar to how quickly Lien learned sign language, her improvement by learning new art techniques will be profound.

(2) The boy in the painting could be me. If I didn't have my parents, and if they weren't loving and kind to me, and if others in my life weren't loving and kind to me, I would be a flower in the dark, soon to wilt and suffer like countless children all around the world are suffering as I type these words.

(3) Lien is a guide and has given you and me a window into something many of us hardly ever see or hear about. She is a star in more ways than one. We think we have stresses in our lives, and surely they are tough, but I can't imagine anything tougher than being a helpless child in the streets who would inevitably be preyed upon by unscrupulous people, not to mention the struggle of finding safe shelter and enough food to eat. To think these are vulnerable kids left to fend for themselves! They are indeed flowers in the dark. All flowers deserve sunlight so they can bloom.

Therefore, I will continue my support of incredible charities like Blue Dragon. When I say "incredible," I don't say so lightly. Founded in 2004 by Michael Brosowski, an Australian teacher, Blue Dragon has helped over 2000 street children, of which 403 children were rescued from their places of slavery. They also rescued 930 people from human trafficking, of which were 527 women in brothels or forced into marriages. These are astounding results, especially considering the funds they have to work with. Furthermore, their value and values can be summed up by the extraordinary work of Vi Duy Do, who has been with Blue Dragon for over 10 years.

If you want to learn more, visit their website, or you can google for their IRS form 990, which I reviewed as well. The money donated were spent on those in need, not on extravagant executive pay, unlike a few popular charities I found out the hard way. As an FYI for tax time, they are a tax deductible 501(c)(3) charity organization. Their Tax Identification Number is 45-3771750.

You should know me by now, but for the sake of transparency, Blue Dragon didn't pay me or even requested I promote them in this article. This article is entirely of my own volition. I am recommending them because I believe in their cause, and I hope you do, too. πŸ’›

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Buddha and the Gods

My tiger Emperor fountain pen in cross sections

Yesterday I spoke about being a Vietnamese refugee when I was a boy. Our escape was a perilous one. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, between 200,000 and 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died at sea, or as many as 70 percent of Vietnamese died in their attempt to escape from communist Vietnam.

Those are terrible odds. Casinos would give you better odds.

My grandmother, like my grandfather, was born in a village near Hanoi, Vietnam. After my grandfather died, she and my mother migrated south to Saigon during the 1950s. She was old school. She was elegant and dignified. Although she had beautiful long black hair, in public she always put it up in a silk Vietnamese turban. She never went outside with her hair down.

There was a time when I lived with my grandmother at her house. As elegant and dignified as she was, every morning she nonetheless would cradle me in her arms to give me lots of hugs and kisses.

My grandmother was also a devout Buddhist. I tagged along with her to Buddhist temples. I hated it. The rooms, filled with incense and somber chanting, were hot and stuffy. I felt Buddha himself would not have liked it.

There were many Buddhist rituals I witnessed that were absolutely fascinating, especially when there were delicious food involved, but I am not educated enough to speak about them beyond generalities.

However, there was one praying session I specifically remember the day before we left Vietnam. My grandmother prayed to the tiger god. She made offerings and asked him to follow us along our trip to protect us.

I know this tiger god well. As a boy, I was terrified of him -- so much so that I tried not to make direct eye contact. He was fearsome. You wouldn't find me in the room alone with him.

Fast forward to my family and me on a small fishing boat with many other families. We were put in the engine room. The room was hot and stuffy.

On a tiny boat traversing a vast ocean, we all understood our route out of Vietnam would take days, if we made it at all. Along the way were many dangers. One immediate danger for me was the engine itself, which was a mere foot away.

Tired and hungry, I remember being very sleepy and nodding off. As I feel myself falling into the engine compartment, a bright flash raced across my eyes. That flash was of a tiger. Not any tiger. It was the tiger god! He accepted my grandmother's request! Then I find myself being lifted up and placed right back to where I was before I nodded off. I was thus awakened by what transpired.

I am a man of science. But I am also a man of Buddha and the gods. πŸ’›

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The purpose of Cuong.com

Me as a refugee in a refugee camp

A couple of months ago, someone asked me, "What's the purpose of Cuong.com?" She didn't elaborate but I take it to mean Who am I writing Cuong.com for? and Who would read it?

The question surprised me, but it was a good one. It was a question I really didn't think too much about. Despite being a man who prides himself on planning ahead, I published Cuong.com on the spur of the moment. It was more an emotional decision than a strategic one. I knew I wanted to go back to my roots as a Vietnamese person, but with my American upbringing, I also wanted to present a unique perspective on what it is like to be a Vietnamese American. Furthermore, I founded Cuong.com because of my love of all things Vietnamese, which is indeed emotional for me on several levels.

The more I observe and learn about other Vietnamese, Americans, and Vietnamese Americans, the more I realize I am different from all of them in various ways and degrees. To try to pigeonhole me or Cuong.com into a category would be a mistake because I offer a perspective unlike any other.

Therefore, there will be times you will agree with me but there will certainly be times you will disagree with me. Expect it. It's inevitable. That's because my experiences aren't the same as yours. Perhaps over time you will eventually agree with me, or over time I will learn more to agree with you, but at this juncture, we will not agree on everything.

So what's the benefit of reading Cuong.com? It depends on the reader. With each article, I present a little of my life's knowledge and experience, and thus you might glean a little of that knowledge and experience to help you in your own life. Although I will try to use clear, everyday language, I will never dumb down my articles. Conversely, some topics I discuss might seem simple but they are far from being simplistic. It's not easy being able to boil the complex down to simple and understandable terms yet are still reflective of reality. It can only be achieved through many years of direct experience via hard-fought, real-life struggles. I prefer readers try to participate and meet me halfway intellectually. However, if you don't understand something, feel free to email me at cuong@cuong.com. Pick out what is useful and interesting to you.

It might also be useful and interesting for you to understand the context of Cuong.com. What is the general driving force of my articles? Why am I writing at all? Who am I and who am I not? So I think this is a good time for me to step back a little and explain to you the background of Cuong.com and what I envision this website to be:

(1) The name Cuong - Cuong (Cường in Vietnamese writing, Cuong pronunciation) was my given name when I was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Cuong was my name when I was a helpless Vietnamese refugee boy when I left Vietnam. I was a just a vulnerable little boat person. You can see what I looked like in the photo above taken at the refugee camp. Yes, that's me. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, between 200,000 and 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died at sea, or as many as 70 percent of Vietnamese died in their attempt to escape from communist Vietnam. As a refugee, I was completely dependent on the love and kindness of others. Without that love and kindness of Vietnamese and Americans alike, I wouldn't be where I am today. I am glad those who helped me weren't self-interested, because it would have probably ended badly for me. I will discuss more about self-interest later in this article.

(2) The domain name Cuong.com - Now I am here writing these words at Cuong.com in the United States. Cuong.com, an alliteration, was a domain name I have always dreamed I would own one day. As if I willed Cuong.com into reality, it became a reality. (I also own Cường.com.) This website is hosted on Blogger, a service owned by Google, my favorite company of all time. Since 1999, Google changed the way companies did business forever. Many years ago, Google personally invited me to visit their company. One of their executives knew about my work elsewhere. I saw firsthand early on how Google operated from the inside. I was blown away, especially since they wanted my advice on how to succeed. I felt I wasn't qualified but I gave them the best advice I had. Considering their success, my advice didn't hurt. Google might not stay that way forever, but I admired it from the beginning. Likewise, Vietnam is a place I have admired from the beginning, albeit I haven't been there since I left. But I didn't forget where I came from. I know my roots. I recognize the priceless love and kindness shown me when I was a Vietnamese refugee boy. That's why I make it my life's mission to help as many disadvantaged American and Vietnamese children as possible. I'm still learning the process. I understand I can't do it alone. But I'll get there. I'm determined to make a success at it, as I have always done throughout my life.

(3) The heart πŸ’› - Despite Cuong.com being an outcome of an emotional decision, I am still nonetheless convinced that the emotions of love and kindness are beneficial emotions. Lovingkindness, more specifically, is what I want to promote. I deliberately write "lovingkindness" as one word, and without a hyphen. What is lovingkindness? Lovingkindness is an act of love, kindness, and wisdom. They come from the heart, hands, and the mind, respectively. They aren't only intentions, academic, or philosophy. They are effective actions that benefit real people in the real world. Therefore, lovingkindness is a mark of true power and strength. The heart I use at Cuong.com isn't a red heart. It's a yellow heart, because the color yellow has special meaning to me personally, especially considering my family's lineage. The yellow heart emoji πŸ’› is prominently shown right after Cuong.com at the top of the website and at the end of each article. You can say it's a heart of gold, but to me, the color has more to do with the yellow earth -- the ground -- that provides nourishment and produces sustainable abundance, not a gaudy metal. Yellow is the color of emperors and heroes, of physical balance and mental stability.

"We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness -- make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it." The Buddha

(4) The quotes of Cuong.com - If you have Cuong.com on desktop full web version (not mobile version), you will see quotes sprinkled throughout the website. Those quotes came from Buddha, Sun Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, Mo Tzu, and yours truly, Cuong. They reflect my commitment to keep lovingkindness as my core value. They reflect my commitment to remind myself that I'm not perfect, and thus to keep refining and improving myself. They reflect my commitment to transcend the petty, selfish, and cynical nature of too many people. For example, even as a businessman, I believe the concept of self-interest often taught in economics at business schools has been a detriment to humanity. They have forgotten the top purpose of business: to benefit society! Not only is self-interest wrong in explaining how communities truly work but it is also harmful to whole nations. The core of economics is little more than modern-day haruspicy. In spite of their lofty intellectual rhetoric, economists have yet to predict a single stock market crash. Not one. In the process, humanity gets buried in complex economic models based on self-interest, a glaring academic error that fails to understand the human condition. They need to experience more how the real world works. Otherwise, everyday people will continue to get hurt, especially those who are already disadvantaged. I am determined to educate those who are able and willing to listen so they can understand what business is really about, and how it can benefit society much more than it does today.

(5) The articles of Cuong.com - Unlike some websites, I won't be able to publish articles daily at Cuong.com. First of all, I'm not that smart. Second, it's impossible for me due to time constraints. I have too many things going on. But I enjoy writing immensely. If nobody pays me to write, I'd still do it. That's the case with Cuong.com. Every article I write here at Cuong.com is a product of love. I'm not trying to sell you anything. There are no advertisements. I just want to share my knowledge and experiences with you. I hope you find them useful and interesting. Writing is something I can spend all day on and not feel strained. Writing is so enjoyable that time flies when I write. If I want to have the day go by quickly, nothing beats writing. Although I say Cuong.com is focused on Vietnamese-American issues, my articles can be on anything I feel like writing that day. In fact, the most popular article on Cuong.com currently is a math problem I shared because it was interesting. It seems to have nothing to do with a Vietnamese-American issue, but since it came from a Vietnamese American (me), in a sense it is.

(6) Cuong.com is all about lovingkindness - In case you haven't noticed already! Lovingkindness is what I strive to exude and put into practice in my daily life, whether it's at home or in public. Ultimately, I want Cuong to be synonymous with lovingkindness in such a way that lovingkindness spreads throughout the world. I know this is such a crazy dream of mine. But if I can make this dream a reality, is there anything of greater value to accomplish? πŸ’›

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Two things I do to stay healthy

My son insisted on using my boxing gloves!

For the last month or so, I have resisted talking about the coronavirus crisis because, frankly, I wouldn't be telling you anything you don't already know. What the crisis does highlight, however, is the importance of our health and keeping ourselves healthy.

Today I will be sharing with you two things I do to stay healthy. They are personal to me, so keep that in mind. Yours might vary. The first thing will seem mundane but the second thing might be interesting and different. I'm not a health nut but I do try to stay in shape.

The first thing I do to stay healthy is not drink or smoke. I have never understood the fascination with drinking and smoking. When I was growing up, I was familiar with Vietnamese drinkers and smokers, but never close to them, because I knew none of them could help me advance in my education in America. My goal of higher education was found in places like the library. The library allowed Vietnamese people but it didn't allow alcohol or cigarettes. Hung and Cuong were allowed but not Heineken and Camel.

So as you can see, initially it's not so much because of my health I stayed away from alcohol and cigarettes but because of their lack of usefulness in achieving my academic goals. I still have no problem with other people drinking and smoking. Although personally I think those habits are unhealthy, I don't judge people if they drink or smoke. Throughout my personal and professional life, I simply drank water, even in social and business settings where smoke filled the room and alcoholic drinks flowed freely. Having fun is having the freedom to be ourselves.

Although I never tried smoking, I did try drinking two times. The first was at a wedding where I tried red wine. Disgusting. I felt like I was going to vomit. I couldn't even finish the ounce or so given to me.

In contrast, the second time I tried drinking was a pleasant experience. It was during the reception at my own wedding. I tried a hard liquor my wife's family owned. I can't tell you the brand but it's famous and shipped internationally. Anyway, the moment I tasted it, I liked it a lot. Delicious. One of my wife's uncles poured me another shot. I drank it with ease. This continued on for quite some time where I even lost count of how many shots I had.

All throughout the reception, I felt nothing. I even gave an impromptu speech. No problem. But I did feel the libation's effects afterwards in our evening walk with my wife and mother-in-law (who, by the way, is unquestionably the kindest person I know). I was clearly buzzed and felt my capacity to talk and walk properly was slowly being compromised. Not sure if my wife and my mother-in-law noticed I was inebriated but I certainly felt it. I did my best to act normal but after we finished our walk, I wanted to go straight to bed. The next morning I woke up as normal and I never drank again since. As I mentioned earlier, it's not because I am a judgmental teetotaler or against drinking, but simply I have zero interest in alcohol.

The second thing I do to stay healthy is boxing. More specifically, I enjoy punching the heavy bag.

I have been boxing for eight years. The first time I boxed, I could only punch for two minutes. Then after some time, I was able to do it for 15 minutes. But it took me four full years of consistent practice to be able to punch the bag without stopping for 60 minutes straight. For context, a 12-round boxing match has a total of 36 minutes worth of boxing. I have gone as long as three hours nonstop. A couple of years ago, the Guinness World Records approved my application to attempt to break the world record of 50 hours (which included five-minute breaks each hour). My main concern is being able to stay awake that long, not necessarily the boxing part. Sometime in the future, after much preparation and promotion, I will take on that world's record to raise money for my favorite charity.

For people who have never tried boxing, they might think it is boring to be punching the heavy bag for an hour. But for me, it is by far the only exercise I enjoy doing for an extended amount of time. I think other exercises are boring. I enjoy it so much that whenever my son sees me box, he wants to do it too, hence the photo above. In that photo, he didn't have his own boxing gloves so I gave him mine. They covered both his arms entirely! Not sure if my son will be a fighter some day, but he sure looks like a fighter -- see photo below:

My son on the left, Bruce Lee on the right

And for people who have never tried boxing, they might think it is easy to punch the heavy bag for an hour. It is not. For example, one time a really fit and healthy guy claimed he can do what I do. Normally I ignore such challenges because I don't want to embarrass people. But because he was so cocky, I wanted to witness the inevitable. After ten minutes, I could tell he was exhausted. I've seen this scenario all before. He asked if I wanted to box. I said, "No. Continue." After another minute or so, he left without saying a word and I never saw him again.

The lesson above is clear: ability takes time. It can't be rushed. There have been numerous occasions when I see people's knuckles bloodied because they tried to copy me. They have neither patience nor prudence. Such patience and prudence require years of practice. There is a proper way of breathing that prevents me from getting tired. There is a proper way of striking with quickness and force yet without hurting my hands and wrists, even with repeated strikes for an extended period of time. Also there is proper protective equipment, like good boxing gloves. Many people think boxing gloves are made to protect the face. Not true. Their purpose is to protect the hands, such as the fifth metacarpal bone. After much trial and error, I found I preferred "Winning" brand gloves which fit my hands perfectly. I own multiple pairs so they can air dry between workouts. As a writer, I needed good hand protection.

Nowadays, I only need light hand protection. I can box all out for one solid hour, and afterwards, use my fountain pen to write a letter to a friend. This ability took over six years to gradually develop.

So there you have the two things I do to stay healthy. As you can tell, these two things are individual to me. They might not be right for you. You will need to find out things that you enjoy to keep healthy. You might not find boxing interesting at all. You might like to drink. For instance, Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan, a Vietnamese businessman, is the Guinness World Records holder for having the largest whiskey collection in the world. The collection took him 25 years and $14 million to assemble. Sounds like an unhealthy habit to me!

Regardless of your habits and interests, I hope they promote your health. If they don't, you might want to reconsider and change for the better. I'm not saying that as a Vietnamese father lecturing to you, but as a Vietnamese friend looking out for you. Take care of others during these difficult times, and most of all, take care of yourself by staying healthy so that you can continue taking care of others. πŸ’›

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Memories


Above is J.Fla wonderfully singing the poignant song "Memories," written by Maroon 5. If the song sounds familiar, that's because it comprises of Pachelbel's Canon. You can hear the classical melody in the background.

My favorite part of the song is:

There's a time that I remember when I never felt so lost
When I felt all of the hatred was too powerful to stop
Now my heart feel like an ember and it's lighting up the dark
I'll carry these torches for you that you know I'll never drop, yeah

Wow. Those words are so inspiring, and sum up much of what I believe in.

Below are the full lyrics:

Here's to the ones that we got
Cheers to the wish you were here, but you're not
'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
Of everything we've been through
Toast to the ones here today
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you

There's a time that I remember, when I did not know no pain
When I believed in forever, and everything would stay the same
Now my heart feel like December when somebody say your name
'Cause I can't reach out to call you, but I know I will one day, yeah

Everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody hurts someday, ayy ayy
But everything will be alright
Go and raise a glass and say, ayy
Here's to the ones that we got
Cheers to the wish you were here, but you're not
'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
Of everything we've been through
Toast to the ones here today
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you
Doo doo, doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo
Memories bring back, memories bring back you

There's a time that I remember when I never felt so lost
When I felt all of the hatred was too powerful to stop
Now my heart feel like an ember and it's lighting up the dark
I'll carry these torches for you that you know I'll never drop, yeah

Everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody hurts someday, ayy ayy
But everything will be alright
Go and raise a glass and say, ayy
Here's to the ones that we got
Cheers to the wish you were here, but you're not
'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
Of everything we've been through
Toast to the ones here today
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you
Doo doo, doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo
Memories bring back, memories bring back you

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Can you solve this math problem?


Do I have a treat for you today! Can you solve this fun math problem above? Give your answer by commenting below. I'll tell you if you're correct or not.

Hint: You'll have to pay close attention. The math works out. It'll make sense once you figure it out, so don't give up too soon if you don't get it right the first time. Good luck!

I want you to give it the good old college try, but after you tried and if you want to know the answer, email me at cuong@cuong.com and I'll explain it to you. 

Solving problems isn't the most difficult part. In the real world, identifying the problem itself is the hardest part. Once you figure out exactly what to solve, the rest is relatively easy. The quiz above incorporates all that. If more parents and teachers foster creativity and open-mindedness, only then can our society take a huge leap forward, not only in technological advancements but also in social ones as well.

UPDATE! I want to recognize those who got the answer correct so far:

Nick Engelen (you're #1!)
Tony (dictionary has your photo under persistence)
Jessie Nguyen (you're so smart, Con!)
Maaz
Miss Koopman
Kelsea
Eric Johnson (extra credit for being so tenacious!)
Shreyas
Emma from Australia
Hoa Le Nguyen (you're extra special to me, Hoa!)
Fady El Khoury 
Mormor 
Ranjeet 
Nabin Devkota (you made it because you didn't give up!)
BystanderM
Umesh 
Gifted_12 (yes you are!)
Andrea
Joker (where's Batman?)
Bob
EXPLEMBUOIU0LUe (kudos for not giving up!)
Dra
Neo (your persistence paid off!)
Mon :) (irie, mon)
Atraiu Pradhan (thanks for reaching out, Atraiu!)
Priceless
Rayun
Sreemoyee Gupta 
Hannah (yes, it's you, the only Hannah!)
Shubham Singh
Sky
Aiden (well done, Aiden!)
Priyam
Yahoo! Christine
Toyotaku86
Rorschach (you didn't give up!)
Yoink (you didn't give in!)
Richo (you neither gave up nor gave in!)
Arcogx
Coyote
Nhung Hong Nguyen (you're so smart, Nhung!)
Kavitha Latha
Junechen
Mary Joy Apepe (you were determined to get it right and so you did!)
Anupama Davuluri (you kept trying and you got it!)
Marilyn Sarita
Miss Tawau Lorghhh (you made it!)
Lyn Isabel
MK
Shashwat Bajpai
Bhoomi
Shyaam Ganesh
Judith F
CGT
Celal Malkoç (thanks for showing your work!)
Anupama Davuluri (I'm glad you didn't give up!)
Ugg
Sailaja Konety
Killz 
J. Anilkumar 
NesaLE
Zacurnia Tate
Isabella Stevens (you gave the most comprehensive answer I ever saw!)
RickyR
Ano
Dalpat Jain
Yegon Philemon (I'm so proud of you for not giving up!)
Zarah 
Syam
Shailesh Gawas (you kept on going and you made it!)
Siele Philemon
Eindra lwin (you followed through! Good job!)
GayJay2k 
Steef (I'm glad you tried one more time and you got it!)
MossJr 
Mar (Hooray! You didn't give up and so you made it!)
Esper
Dimpufrn

Congratulations! I'll continually update this list once more individuals solve the problem correctly. If you know the answer, simply comment below, and you'll be recognized as well. Also, if you want to be included in the list, be sure to answer with a name because I can't give you credit anonymously. πŸ’›

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Six-year-old Miumiu playing "I'm Alright" by Neil Zaza


Can we get enough of six-year-old Miumiu playing the guitar? No, we can't.

Here she is this time with an electric guitar playing the rock classic instrumental song "I'm Alright" by Neil Zaza. So sweet.

Look at her little fingers go! You go, Miumiu! πŸ’›

Saturday, March 28, 2020

My Message to Young People

Credit: Forbes

This article is dedicated to five special Vietnamese university students who I have the honor of sponsoring. You know who you are. You all have such bright futures ahead of you. Let your dreams be big.

The reason why I'm writing this article is because my friend Nhung, who is really smart, suggested I write it for young people to assist them during these difficult times. I don't give advice unless someone asks, and given who would benefit, I am eager to share what I know. I've made enough mistakes so others don't have to. What you will read below is something I would advise myself if I were young or to my own son or daughter. As always, it is written with much love.

There are four areas I will discuss today: family, friends, school, and work.

Before I go through each of them in detail, I want to highlight the most important and fundamental principle of success that applies across all four of those areas: managing your emotions.

Do not underestimate your emotions. The moment you believe you can control your emotions is the moment they take over. Treat your emotions like formidable enemies. You must actively seek to understand how you feel at all times and what that emotion is making you do, especially toward acts that you don't want to do.

At the same time, there is nothing wrong about feeling a certain way. As human beings, what you feel is perfectly natural. You cannot deny how you feel inside. However, it is how you respond and act on the outside that's relevant. Therefore, the best way to combat a negative emotion is to be aware of it. Pinpoint the moment you feel hurt, angry, or sad. By being constantly self-aware, it is like wearing a protective armor in battle. You might feel the stress and pressure of battle, but at your core you remain intact because you haven't done anything harmful to yourself or to others.

"Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot exist again, the dead cannot be brought back to life." Sun Tzu

When you say or do the wrong thing because of a negative emotion, it is difficult to repair the damage. There are times it is practically impossible to remedy a situation. I hope by now you can see that much human grief can be tied to our own actions, not necessarily the evil actions of others. Many people worry too much about what others do. That's a futile exercise. It causes anxiety based on things outside of your control. Your worry never goes away if you let such an unhealthy habit fester. Instead, focus more on your own actions. Fortunately, that worry isn't too bad because at least you can control how you act.

Just about the only emotion that hasn't led me astray has been love. With love, even when I'm wrong initially, I am invariably right in the end. I often have regrets whenever I act with hate or selfishness. In contrast, I never have any regrets whenever I act with love. A few people have called me naive but I smile and continue being who I want to be. What they don't know is there are other people who side with me and feel the same way I feel. Those people are immensely kind, and not surprisingly, they are also very successful. They think big and aren't petty. Ironically, the more they give, the more is given to them. Yet they give not because they expect benefits for themselves in return. They give because giving is the benefit. That's why you'll see me express love in many places here at Cuong.com. Love is a mark of strength. When you have love in your heart, you are in a strong position. Love is the foundation of who I am, and who I strive to remain in the future.

Indeed, I do understand the tremendous hurt you feel when people yell or laugh at you. I understand how angry you feel when someone takes advantage of you. I understand how sad and lonely you feel when nobody seems to support you. I understand the feeling of lashing out and giving up. I understand all these feelings because I have felt them in my life, and sometimes I still do. But I don't act on my strong emotions, since I know strong feelings rarely reflect reality.

For example, whenever I feel angry, I refuse to immediately decide or act. I know my emotion has taken over and I am behaving irrationally. I tell myself I can be angry later! If even the great philosopher Plato couldn't control himself during a fit of rage, thereby delegating decisions to his friend Speusippus, what makes us mere mortals more capable? I know all too well my limitations. Instead, I behave based on my goals, where I want to go, how I want to shape my world. That takes clear thinking and deliberate strategy, i.e., making the most of what I have, even if it's very little. Few beneficial things happen by luck, or at least we shouldn't depend on it. Only gamblers rely on luck. The casinos rely on their business strategies. Guess who wins in the end? If I want clean dishes, I cannot depend on them to be washed by a promising politician or some fortuitous cosmic event. I will have to roll up my sleeves and wash them myself with perhaps others joining in later.

You can do the same thing as I do, too, since I will tell you something crucial that is 100 percent true. You are already special. You were born special. It's inherent in you. No matter where you are in comparison to others -- what you look like, how much you own, who you know -- you are here on this earth for a reason. Fate brought you here. From your ancestors since the beginning of time to you at the present moment. Thousands upon thousands of years of being tested and surviving have brought you here. It's incredible, really. A few people can try, but they can't take away your immeasurable value as a human being. To me, you are much too important to think small and negative. You deserve only big thoughts because you can decide right now to make a more positive impact on your life.

Have you decided? Are you ready to act? Let's go through the positive actions below that you can make in the four areas of your life: family, friends, school, and work. They are sensible ideas that had helped me considerably in the real world. They have given me leverage, advantage, and strength. Consider them not as all-encompassing but rather starting points. Think and ponder on how they relate to your life. Pick and choose what are most useful to you.

FAMILY

Unlike many things in life, you can't choose your biological family. Sadly or happily, you're stuck with them.

There are essentially three types of parents. First, there are cruel parents. Second, there are supportive parents. Third, there are mediocre parents, which range between cruelty and support.

If you have cruel parents, you are not alone. I've spoken with many young people who experienced physical and/or psychological abuse. Understand you have tremendous worth. You deserve the same respect and consideration as anyone else. If possible, seek help from a reputable organization that could assist not only you but also your abusive parents. They need help as much as you do. No matter how your cruel parents frame the situation, the abuse you experience isn't your fault. They are the adults. They should know better. As a parent myself, I can tell you they have no excuse for hurting you. They can have financial problems. They can have drinking problems. They can have gambling problems. They can have drug addiction problems. It doesn't matter. Nothing justifies their behavior. Them abusing you doesn't make their situation any better. Unfortunately abusive parents were likely abused themselves when they were young. They think abuse is normal. It is not normal.

If you have supportive parents, listen to them. You don't have to agree with everything they say, but simply listen. Reserve judgment and truly consider what they have to offer. Older people certainly don't have all the answers, but for those who are experienced and truly care about you and your well-being, they deserve your attention. I remember when I was young, I thought I knew everything. I never really thought myself as a child. I always saw myself as an adult. But I had blind spots. I couldn't see the full picture in many situations. If you have parents who love you, they are trying to protect you from harm they might have experienced themselves when they were young. Perhaps if you feel strongly about something, you may want to move forward, but always be cognizant of what your caring parents said while you are trying to make your way in the world. With time and prudence, you might discover the benefits of their advice, saving you from much grief along your life's path.

If you have mediocre parents, separate what is useful and what is not. Mediocre parents aren't bad but they're not good either. Seek the good in them and ignore the bad, as long as it's not abusive. What most mediocre parents need is your love. They are on the cusp of being supportive parents. They simply need a little push to see the importance of their job as parents.

The above applies to your guardian or older siblings as well.

FRIENDS

This matter is tricky. It's tricky because I know what I was like when I was young when it comes to friends. It's hard being alone. As social beings, we long for friends. But sometimes, the friends we accidentally meet are friends who aren't healthy for us, yet we continue to meet up with them because we don't want to be loners. So what I will say below will require you to have faith in me, and hopefully you will see why my suggestions make sense.

Imagine you are going shopping for shoes. Do you go to any shoe store, pick out the pair of shoes that looks good, and buy it immediately? No. You first have to request the right size from the store clerk. Then even when you have your hands on the right size, you need to try on those shoes to make sure they're comfortable. You're smart so you will put on both shoes and walk around for a little bit before finally purchasing the shoes.

Friends are like shoes. Certainly, you need friends like you need shoes. But not all friends fit you well, and many don't fit you at all. Be as selective with your friends as you are your shoes, if not more so, because friends affect your mood and motivations. They can affect how you view life itself.

Strangely enough, the "cool" kids aren't normally the kind of friends you want. Being cool is being aloof; it's the opposite of caring. A person who doesn't care is someone you don't want as your friend, no matter how popular they seem to be. To me, popularity and $5 will only get you a cup of coffee.

Therefore, if someone doesn't seem right for you, then continue to seek for someone who does. When you can't find the shoes that fit you, you don't stop, do you? In our modern world, there are millions of people within your reach. The odds work in your favor! So have patience. As you are trying to find one good pair of shoes, you are trying to find one or just a few good friends. Seek quality over quantity. You're not trying to find perfection, simply individuals who truly understand you and you understand them.

Interestingly, good marriages are comprised of good friends. Romance comes and goes, but love and friendship are forever. In short, friends support each other, and more specifically, each other's life goals. If they cannot, then they are mere acquaintances. On the internet, what social media calls your "friends" aren't all your friends. They are mostly acquaintances. They are not going to support you when the relationship doesn't benefit them. You don't have to get rid of your acquaintances, just keep them at arm's length.  Acquaintances are part of life, but they are not like friends, who are much rarer, and will be there for you even when you cannot return the favor. It's not that acquaintances can't eventually become friends later -- much like how mediocre parents can become supportive parents later -- but for the time being, they are more like colleagues and associates, not friends. Friends love and promote you on a personal level, and you feel the same way about them.

SCHOOL

School can be enjoyable if you look at it from the point of view of fine educational institutions: a place of exploration and learning.

The wrinkle is that the intention doesn't always translate during implementation. What they say isn't always what they do. There might be incompetent teachers who are difficult to understand. The books might not be very good. In those cases, my first step would be to change how I view the situation. What good can I still get from this? If there is little good, then if possible, change the class. But I caution that you don't give up so easily and try it out for a sufficient period of time. Only then would you have a better assessment of a seemingly bad situation.

At one of the universities I graduated from, the graduation rate was about 50 percent. Half of my classmates who started out with me failed. That statistic is deceiving, because from what I witnessed, most students who dropped out were smart -- we all had to pass difficult tests and had excellent grades in high school to be admitted into the university -- but they partied and wasted their time instead of trying and studying. They failed not because they weren't capable. They failed because they quit. Don't do what they did. By persevering through hardship and graduating, you will have more life options in the future. Having more options is a good thing. By graduating college, it doesn't only demonstrate you learned the subjects you studied but also your tenacity and strength to overcome adversity even when others had quit.

When I was in school, I excelled. But I had a secret. I had a superpower. No, my superpower wasn't that I'm smarter than everyone else. Rather, I employed the element of time. I had more time than all of my classmates because I prepared more than all of my classmates. I read chapters before they were assigned, studied for tests earlier, and started on projects months before they were due.  As a result, I understood what the teachers were talking about in lectures, and did exceptional well in projects and tests. It's not that complicated. I didn't do much more work than my classmates did. I simply did them earlier and over a longer period of time. While some of my classmates struggled because they didn't plan ahead, I sailed through my classes.

For example, most classes have syllabuses that go into great detail on what is required throughout the quarter or semester. Don't ignore that document. The teacher spent a lot of time on that syllabus, so you can bet he or she will use it. Read it carefully. Prepare and plan your path of excellence in this class. That preparation and planning mean the following:

1) Read all required materials as assigned in a timely manner. I know students who can do well in a class or two without reading but I have never met anyone who can do well in all classes without reading. It's impossible. Don't believe anyone who says he or she could. Why put yourself at a disadvantage? Read. Don't skimp on it or delay. Do yourself a favor and always read the book pages assigned.

2) When you know there is a project coming up, work on your project weeks in advance. If you know there is a test coming up, study for your test weeks in advance. That's right. Work on your project weeks before it is due. Study for your test weeks before it happens. As you gain new knowledge and review it constantly, that knowledge will be ingrained in you. Much of learning is repetition. The quality of your project will be noticeably better than others. The score of your test will be noticeably better than others. You are using the element of time to your advantage. Time is your superpower.

3) Memorization is inevitable in school. The trick I use is simple. Study it the first time. Do something completely different, like watching TV or playing soccer. Then study it again. Then do something else, like helping your mom wash the dishes. Afterwards, you study it yet again. You repeat this process as much as possible over several days. If you want to do well in your test, you can't do this enough. Hopefully you can see how this method helps your memory. But it requires that you strategically plan ahead. It's ineffective to use this method if you try to cram everything in the day before the test. Again, use the element of time to your advantage.

4) In the rare case you are still having problems understanding the lessons, don't be afraid to ask for your teacher's help after class. Ask for help as early as possible so that your lack of understanding can be resolved quickly. Be courteous and listen a lot more than you talk. Demonstrate consistently that you are trying your hardest to study and learn. Even in the absolute worst-case scenario where you fail all your tests, I have never heard of a teacher flunking a student trying his or her best.

5) Sleep before 10 o'clock at night. I did this throughout my college life. Study hard during the day, but no matter what fun you might have by staying past 10 p.m. with your family or friends, you will miss out on the incredible energy you would feel by sleeping earlier. You can drink coffee but don't think it is a good solution. I didn't drink coffee until many years after I graduated with my master's degree. I didn't need coffee. I had sufficient sleep. My alarm clock was a reminder, not an alarm. Because you have abundant energy from a good night's rest, you pay better attention to the teacher, understand better when reading the textbooks, and perform significantly better in tests. The gain is a lot more than the cost of having to go to bed earlier. Those one or two extra hours of sleep make a huge difference.

WORK

Unlike school, if you think about it, work is a place where they pay you to learn! It doesn't matter what you are doing at work, you are learning. When I was young making very little money cleaning windows, I learned.

One particular day when I rushed and sloppily cleaned the windows, my supervisor pulled me aside to tell me I was doing it all wrong.

"It's not a race," he said. "Clean them well."

He made me re-clean all the windows. Although I was initially upset about being reprimanded, I learned a valuable lesson that day. A job worth doing is a job worth doing well. Do it so well that people are impressed by your dedication. Do it so well that it impresses you! From big to small matters, you show pride in everything you do. The work you complete exudes excellence. You help a coworker in need even though it's not part of your job. You personally handwrite "thank you" cards to coworkers and outside associates whenever they help you. You brush your teeth after lunch. Don't think nobody notices because they do. Whether or not you literally wrote down your signature, your name is on everything you do at work. When superior quality is your standard, you will stand out from the rest. You will never be out of work no matter how bad the economy. Good people are always in high demand, especially during hard times. There will be a point in your career where your reputation precedes you, and that's a great place to be.

When you start out in your career, understand your place in the organization. Even though you try to do your best as an individual, you are nonetheless part of a team. Do your part to express what you know and educate other team members on what you know, but the final decision is up to your supervisor. Unless he or she is telling you to do something immoral or illegal, simply go along with it because the company has tasked him or her with that responsibility. Don't feel hurt. It's not personal. There might be constraints you are not aware of. Because you're part of a team, contribute where you can and leave the rest for others to do their parts as well.

All the while, learn. Learn everything there is to know about your job. Look for the best performers and those who command respect from many coworkers, not because of their title but because of their skill. Observe them, ask them questions, and listen to them. You might have better ideas later, but at this time, consider their ideas first. Later on, once you feel comfortable about your job performance, seek to understand the ins and outs of the company and how it conducts its business. Learn about the various processes and functions. How does the company go from customer order to final service or shipment? Keep updated on your company's industry news and understand how your company fits in that industry.

Like graduating from your school, there will be a point where you feel you can graduate from your company. You either move on to another company that offers you a better opportunity or you strike out on your own to form your own company. Either way, you will have a firm foundation and a bedrock of knowledge on how to succeed wherever your career takes you. By the way you talk and by the way you conduct yourself, others will clearly see you are different. They can see how you can help propel their company to a higher level. You are destined for bigger opportunities, but first you must humble yourself and learn the details of your job, including reading manuals and proper procedures. You cannot be a good leader unless you understand what it's like being a good follower.

This paragraph is something even some experts and professionals forget. But they forget it to their detriment. The purpose of business is to improve society. A company's purpose is to improve society. You're helping to make people's lives better. Everything else is secondary. As such, when you are in a company, you strive to do what's right for the company. That means taking care of employees and machinery that take care of customers. Profits will naturally follow. Don't let people pressure you into doing something immoral or illegal because even if you were to acquiesce to them, you won't get their respect anyway. They know what they're doing is wrong. In the past, there had been companies that tried to subvert the system and create short-term profit at the harm of society. But inevitably they are found out and quickly eliminated. These companies never last. The people in these companies who did things immorally and illegally didn't last either. Therefore, while you do things right (competency), also do the right things (integrity). You can always find another job, but you can't always find your soul once it's lost. Maybe not immediately, but with time, you will see the wisdom of your decision to do what's right.

Ultimately, I believe that whatever happens in your career is for the best. If a company fires you because you act with integrity, why do you want to stay and help that company? Only a good company with good people would have the wisdom to keep a good employee like you. That is the kind of company you want to work for and help grow. And once you are good enough, it is the kind of company you would create in the future.

CONCLUSION

So there you have it. Manage the family you're given. Manage your friendships. Manage your schoolwork. Manage your workplace. And most of all, manage your emotions. When you aren't managing your own life, someone else will, and often your interests aren't his or her top concern. There will be times when you wonder whether or not you will be successful. No need to worry about that. If you are reading these words, I assure you that you're already a success. And since you're already a success, what would a successful person like yourself do next? Hopefully what I discussed today provides you the first stepping stones. Future stepping stones are up to you. I have no doubt you will go far, because you inherently have what it takes to go far, as far as your heart desires. Big dreams belong to those with big hearts. πŸ’›

Friday, March 27, 2020

"I Wish You Love" song by Miumiu


If you need something that makes you smile and fills your heart with love, you are in luck! Above is a video of Miumiu, a six year old girl singing a classic song, "I Wish You Love." She sang it so sweetly that I just have to share it with you all. Below are the lyrics to her song:

I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss, but more than this
I wish you love
And in July a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
I wish you health, and more than wealth,
I wish you love
My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So, with my best, my very best
I set you free
I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all, when snowflakes fall
I wish you love 
When snowflakes fall
I wish you loveπŸ’›

"Irrigators channel waters; fletchers straighten arrows; carpenters shape wood; the wise master themselves." The Buddha