Saying ‘Yes’ and Unlocking New Worlds

on Nov 18, 2012

Washington DC, Montreal, the Catskills, Boston, Brazil, Killington, Boulder, the Adirondacks, Puerto Rico, and Moab. The past year has been filled with new experiences, travels, and adventure. But it was not by accident. It required stepping out of comfort zones and flipping upside-down the very way I approached life.

Brazil – this is where it starts. I made almost no plans for this trip. I’d be there with friends from my capoeira academy and would go along with whatever they did. I’d for long wanted to become comfortable with personal travel and experiencing things by just going with it. Until then, I’d been an intrepid planner and became easily unnerved when plans weren’t in detail or when they became unravelled. This trip was just what I needed. On the way there, I missed a connecting flight after landing in Sao Paulo and had rearrange my pickup (this required figuring out a complicated phone system by asking around for help in Portuguese). Upon meeting my friends in Bahia, they asked if I was interested in a capoeira workshop that night. Of course. They then said that its location was a little sketchy and that locals told them “don’t get shot” (it turned out fine). The rest of my time there required handling such uncertainties, especially given the nature of ‘Bahia time’, where things move at a relaxed pace.

Boston – my bus lands an hour or two late. I’d miss the first group roller blading event. A past me would have been upset at ruined plans. But hey, the weather was beautiful and there was a new city waiting to be explored on skates. I dropped off my bag with the event hotel concierge and made my own skating “event”. The ad-hoc planning was rather appropriate. I’d purchased my bus tickets just two days earlier (despite “planning” to attend this event well ahead of then) and would not figure out where I’d be sleeping until that night. There is a method to this madness – I call it just-in-time planning. There’s two parts: have a rough sense of options ahead of time and act on them at nearly the last possible moment. For example, I knew that I could reach Boston by train, bus, or car and didn’t really worry about which until the trip neared. Likewise, I figured I’d be able to stay with some skater friend (I’m fortunate to have many) who has extra space or a patch of floor, or at worst I’d just sleep outside. I asked around and it worked out. Better yet: the good skater friends I stayed with became great skater friends.

New York – this flexibility and spontaneity spreads into my typical weeks, making them not so typical. I used to be a real stickler about making my usual weekly events, like the groups skates or martial arts class. Doing so paid off handsomely with my skills flourishing but this limited new experiences. Another flip: I began to miss usual events to explore new activities, new places, new friendships, and often all of the above, and learned a great deal about life and myself. I still really hate to miss a capoeira class here and there, but I know it’s for opportunities of great personal growth in self and open mindedness.

Each experience lends to build future experiences. Saying yes to one thing that is out of one’s comfort zone makes it easier to say yes to other things. Knowing that you can splice together a plan at the last second removes worries about how things are turning out and lets you enjoy each moment at the moment. Flexibility leads to profound experiences as unexpected details fill themselves in.

P.S. I really missed writing these posts. I hope my absence in writing is understandable. It means a lot to me when friends tell me that they liked my last post or ask when they’ll see the next one. Life’s been full of surprises lately – I hope to have some more writings for you soon 😉

Why I Sleep on a Wooden Board

on Aug 29, 2011

Yes, I sleep on a plywood board – as part of an apparently successful experiment I began four years ago. At the time, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But I expected that it would be good experience to help build character and hardiness. So here’s what I’ve learned after four years:

  • I find it fairly comfortable – more so than a mattress
  • The pressure from my body weight is very soothing
  • The pressure also provides relief for sore muscles – which is a typical state for me given the amount of physical activity I do
  • It’s left me more adaptable – when I travel, a sleeping bag and slab of floor will do; no need for a mattress
  • It’s more pleasant in the summer because it doesn’t trap body heat like a mattress – it does require more blankets in the winter, however

A few notes:

  • I’m not sleeping directly on the plywood itself – at minimum there are sheets and perhaps a blanket between me and plywood
  • At first, I slept only on my back – this was an adjustment because I never did this before – but I’ve since come to sleep on every side
  • It’s not particularly comfortable to sleep directly on any bony parts

As mentioned, this is an experiment, albeit a long one. I don’t intend to sleep on plywood forever. Still, I believe a good bed is one that’s very firm. There’s a new experiment planned – sleeping overnight in a hammock. Let’s see how that works…

Dependent on Technology?

on Mar 7, 2010

Some of the naysayers of the generation gap say that the new generation is stupid in becoming dependent on technology. I argue that these folks have fallen into a trap and that it’s the case that this “over-dependence” is occurs in every new generation.

So are people so dependent on Wikipedia that they wouldn’t know where to look for information without it? Are they so dependent on calculators that they can’t do math without them? These are valid questions, but so are these: Are we so dependent on electricity that we wouldn’t be able to get work done without it? The Northeast blackout of 2003 shut down cities.

It’s all too easy to criticize others’ dependence on new technologies while we forget our sheer dependence on other less new technologies. In either case, we should be mindful of the things we take for granted. Our society has grown complex enough that there’s no way, nor any desire, to take off our dependence on many technologies. And technology does allow us to do greater, more incredible things.

So is the current generation of people, adapting to new technology, overly dependent on it? What about the rest of us? Are we not dependent on telephones? Are we not dependent on clean water?

Technology and Generation Gaps

on Jan 23, 2010

There’s no question that technology creates gaps between generations. Simply put, this occurs when one generation of people uses and understands technology in a very different way than another generation.

A NYT article brings up the interesting point that our technology is evolving so rapidly that the years between generation gaps is dwindling. A very illuminating example is that of the author’s 2-year-old child calling her father’s Kindle a book. The child sees the device for the purpose it serves, not for its physical design. One friend, upon hearing this story, said that “that’s wrong” while another said “…but I like the feel of the pages”. When making these statements, these friends (who happened to be in their early 20s) didn’t understand that they were already falling behind in the way technology was understood. The next generation of people, scarily only a decade or two younger than us, will define how technology is used. Physical books will be archaic. Virtual keyboards, like that of the iphone, will be the only ones that make sense.

But what if you like the feel of a physical keyboard better? Too bad! The next generation will have no such attachment (and will have difficulty understanding why you do). The only way to keep up with technology is to adapt. That means throwing away all your early notions and preferences and taking up new, better technologies (carefully of course) the way younger people do. The stakes are higher than ever because the changes are occurring faster than before. You won’t be middle aged before you’re out of the loop. You’ll be in your twenties!

If you see this coming, then what emerging technologies must we be quick to adapt? Or if you think this is all wrong, share your counter-arguments below.