When you realize life is beautiful.

Ok, as promised, here’s the longer post on the trip thus far.

What can I say: everytime I’m away from home it’s an adventure, an exploration. I always discover new things I would’ve never discovered if I stayed home. I would of course go explore new places, but sometimes, I go back to places where I’ve already been but still discover new things about the place and of course within myself.

As everything stands, each second in this city (and this continent) in general is making every cell in my body alive. I can only say that staring at the cityscapes I’ve missed so much makes all those 12 plus hours working a day worth it. I can’t say much about anything else in life that makes me this happy, being around people I love and in a city that reminds me of my actual home.

Now with that said, I also noticed a harsh truth: no matter where you are, the struggle will be the struggle. The struggle is universal. I can say this from visiting my friends whom more or less are all around my age (millennials) and contrary to popular belief we’re all busy either working or studying or doing both or juggling with our own business ventures – yeah, we’re all busy bettering ourselves and our situations, no matter which city in the world we reside in.

The work is never done. And quite frankly, I find the friends that I’m with would agree with me. There’s always something to do, something to improve upon. And therefore, life might be challenging, but it would never get boring for us.

I would also like to remind myself and those that find themselves in my shoes (because I know this is also common), if you ever wake up angry, frustrated, depressed or just unmotivated – remember that every second of the day that you spend angry or resentful or in a negative state is a second wasted. Sure, I get it. There are times when it’s hard to turn off those emotions – but you must remember and laser focus on your journey and your goal. Remember where you want to be, rather than be distracted by the right now – live for the vision that you have in your mind rather than the circumstances you find yourself in currently. I know I’ll need that reminder for when I get back to my current ‘homebase’ (which I absolutely despise). Make it possible for yourself to find peace, with your vision in mind, push for the reality that you’d imagined. 

 

 

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Why is rent in Amsterdam so high?

“Amsterdam is a victim of its own popularity.”

Or so I remember reading sometimes way back, then thinking to myself – it’s alright. That was probably in 2013. Now fast forward almost 3 years – “Woah, why is rent in Amsterdam so high?!” I say to myself as I scroll through AirBnB, various hotel booking sites, and as last resort – hostels.

I told myself I’ll never stay at the same hostel again – you just gotta try something new – so I thought, why not AirBnB, after all, AirBnB is the place where I found cheap rentals for Oslo, Norway (one of the most expensive places on earth, where a grande Starbucks latte cost $10, yup.) So imagine my surprise when I checkout dates on AirBnB for Amsterdam around the New Years…

And I realized.

Shit.

I’m going to have to shell out $1,000+ for a week worth of rent aren’t I?

Yes…that’s like a month of normal rent crammed into a month. Ha ha ha, Amsterdam, you’re funny. Not.

I guess that’s the price you pay for wanting to be smack center in the middle of the action, as price often correlates positively with desirability. Still, I haven’t made a decision yet on which adorable yet expensive canal house I’m going to rent. But a part of my brain is already nagging – you deserve this for working so hard all year and forgoing all the fun – you should do it already – but the more frugal part is already fuming at me for even considering such a thing – I could do a lot with $1,000+ even book another trip – see more things.

Do it anyways: what to do when you just don’t want to.

I tell myself to: “do it anyways” when I just don’t feel like it.

For example, yesterday morning I almost did not get up early enough to go where I was supposed to go – but then I started thinking. I’d made a promise to drop something off before work, yes there’s extra effort involved, but I’ve already made the promise – so now, my laziness would not only affect myself, but another person, and cancelling on the last minute would require even more effort at a later time, because of hassle of rescheduling – we’re both very busy.

“You might not get another chance.”

Just do it anyways.

And so I did.

I got up, put on no less than six layers (yes it’s gotten ridiculously cold here) and headed out. The air was damp and chilly when I opened the door and because it was so early, I was surrounded by half darkness and half light – it would be easy to turn back then, but I didn’t. Why? Because, all that I’ve done before hand wouldn’t have made sense if I just turned around and slid back to the warmth and comfort of my home – it would’ve been counterproductive – undoing all my work from getting up in the cold to getting myself out the door – so I proceeded just to fulfill that little promise I made.

Afterwards, at work, I realized the little change up in my routine gave me an extra boost, because I’d already accomplished something small despite the resistance, rest of my day was more productive than usual – why? Because I already did something I didn’t really want to. I felt that I’d accomplished something – even though it was very small. I felt more open and ready for challenges that headed my way. So, really, the point of this blog post is not really celebrating I kept a promise – but more so that once you start by doing something small, you could eventually build yourself up to face bigger more daunting challenges.

the mind and body dualism of health and happiness

Without one, you can’t have another. Though I often wonder, which one is more important, the body, or the mind?

Before this get too chicken and egg, let me explain by saying that I believe in science.

I also believe that there are things science has yet to uncover. Things like, how positive thoughts and self love potentially influences the body (don’t quote me on this, but perhaps, your thoughts also influences the chemicals in your brain and visa versa). Or perhaps, it’s the will and decision to put yourself first that sets the stage for a healthy mind and body, or body and mind.

I find myself intrigued on this topic, as I’m always searching for ways to improve in every aspect of life. And of course, one of them involves happiness.

What is it?

What is happiness?

Is it the rush we get when we accomplish something great? Or is it the steady flow of contentment?

I think it’s both with the latter being more prevalent in life.

So how do I achieve this happy state more often? Here’s what I’ve noticed from my day to day and summarized.

Bodywise:

A healthy balanced diet: meaning, cut the junk, note to self: no more cocopuffs in the pantry. Focusing on protein, healthy fats, fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Shop outside of the grocery store and make your own meals. Keep things light, so you’re more energetic.

Get moving: do you know that numerous studies have shown that just by walking 20 minutes per day puts you into a better mood. And that exercise is the most under utilized anti-depressant? I also noticed that I become more alert when I go for a walk, so I do that often.

Get enough sleep: yes, unplug, unplug unplug! I used to get so nervous when those straggling emails flood my inbox when I’m not at work, do I reply, or do I sleep? SLEEP! Just because society has advanced and your inbox is exploding doesn’t mean we’ve evolved to handle all of that. Yes, you heard that right. Although we don’t live in caves anymore, we’re not used to this constant exposure to electronics and stress. Wait was that a bear or was that just a mountain of emails? Prolonged exposure can seriously disrupt your sleep cycle (and there’s been no study ever done on what the long term effects are, I guess they’ll know in twenty years or so when the millennial start to go grey, yup we’re all lab rats)… Radiation, light, and noise pollution. Sorry, you still need your sleep.

Schedule ‘me’ time: I like to pretend my day only has 23 hours instead of 24 hours and I give 1 hour to myself to do whatever I want, meditate, read, go for a long walk. Give your body the chance to relax. What I don’t recommend is being a zombie in front of the television or Netflix (c’mon this is 2015)…blue light, radiation, techno-overload.

Have a sit down meal with your loved ones: or cook them a healthy sit down meal and enjoy it with them. This borders on the mind aspect of health, but social connection, even simple things like hugs and human touch are overlooked. When’s the last time you hugged your loved one? Told them how much you appreciated them? I’m not big on hugs, but hugging releases oxytocin, the human bonding hormone, and releases stress. So okay, maybe this should’ve read. Host a home cooked dinner party and hug the guests when they leave. Remind them how much they mean to you and remind yourself how lucky you are to have them.

Mindwise:

Choose your thoughts: I think this is the most important, rather than letting whatever in your outside environment ruin your mood, or cloud your judgement. Be clear with yourself that somethings are out of your control no matter how things turn out. And rather than worrying for something you can’t control. Act on what can be done and do a good job on that instead.

Become curious about everything: I’m not a big fan of kids (say what?! But that’s story for another time.) I do admire one thing about them though, they’re curious about everything! To the point they ask about how things work to the point their parents get annoyed of answering. There’s only so many time you could sagely go, “Well you see,”  before you run out of answers. I’ve done that too when I was a kid. And I remember my parents telling me I was being annoying and I should learn to be quiet. Especially, when they found their knowledge base insufficient for my curiosities – but I suggest, be curious, about everything again, like you’re a kid again and what you find might surprise you!

Feed the mind with thoughts from great thinkers: I’m currently reading up on philosophy in my ‘me’ time, something I’d never thought of in the past – but why not? It’s probably the only way I’ll get to time travel. And although I can’t agree with everything they say, since they too are products of their time.

Pick up a new hobby: Or learn a new language, a new skill, pick something you think you’d enjoy, even if you haven’t tried it before, try it – this protects against the aging brain. Really, the only way to stop those neuron from dying off fast is to seek out new experiences. And then you end up with a new skill you could brag about too.

And finally, “Don’t forget to love yourself.” or as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard puts it:

  • Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself; do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superflous in the obtruse eyes of a busy world, above all, do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself, as if your life, if lived in inwardness, did not have just as much meaning and worth as that of any human being in the eyes of all-wise Governance, and considerably more than the busy, busiest haste of busy-ness – busy with wasting life and losing itself.

So there you have it, my honest guide to happiness. 

the ultimate success is freedom

I’m a person with high expectations. Not only for myself but for those around me. I’m stubborn, a perfectionist and just a little rigid when it comes to standards. I’ve been told to be a little unrealistic in terms of expectations, but also knowing me, I don’t let naysayers bring me down anymore. I push boundaries, not because I want to pick fights, but because I believe there’s so much more we could achieve as a species.

I’m direct and some would say uncompromising. Though, I don’t see this as a bad thing, at all.

It was all impossible before it was done.

Think about it.

The reason why we’re here.

It’s purely accidental.

The assembly of subatomic particles making up matter, forming the universe, the planets, then somehow, with the right collision of the particles under the right conditions, pre-eukaryotic cells, then eukaryotic cells – singled celled organisms with a nucleus, then multiple celled ones which eventually led to more complex organisms, to which human beings are classified under.

13.8 billion years later, I’m typing away on a product called the MacBook Air.

All of which is absolutely unthinkable a mere century ago and will cease to function within the next century.

So, what isn’t possible?

If we looked past the day to day. Social structure and society and norms that holds us. We are essentially free agents, not that much different from the particles that just happened to make us up.

The paradox of human existence is that, we’re all so insignificant but also important at the same time.

On average, each of us has 25,000 days on earth.

I find that number more sobering than the approximate 70 years that translate to.

And given that average, I presently still have 16060 days.

385,440 hours.

If you ask me, that’s quite shocking, as I had predicted the number being closer to 1 million, before I did the actual calculation.

We’re free in the sense that permanence does not exist, except maybe in our minds.

Everything you are, everything you own, everything you do – will be undone in due time.

When I think about life this way, in the grand scheme of things.

And the truly freeing element to our existence is our consciousness and the power of choice. We could chose to be settled in the cubicle life where everyone is standardized in solid coloured shirts and grey, blue, black slacks and dress shoes. The minion type of lifestyle – or we could choose to get out there and discover the unexplored way of living a full life.

Essentially, after writing in this blog and reflecting on life in this way – I realized what I wanted out of life is ‘more’ but not in monetary terms, or the overnight success everyone else seems to be after – I just want to be busy with something that occupies my time, something I enjoy and create something decidedly unconventional but still making it work.

Even though I’m still presently stuck in the city I absolutely will leave one day, I’m more inclined to go and seek novel experiences, experiment – just to see, what sort of happy accident I find in the process, so by the end of my 385,440 hours, I can say that this journey was worth every day, hour and second.

And that would be my ultimate success.

truth behind the struggle

The struggle is not where we falter in success.

The real pain is struggling with no end in sight. 

Imagine, a drowning swimmer, wildly flailing their arms in hopes of grasping onto anything other than the depth he is trapped in. 

Without a plan, a pattern, his flails will eventually end in his demise.

It is much like fighting a war you don’t believe in.

If you already think you’re going to drown…

Going through the motions without purpose is one of the biggest hindrance to success.

You have to believe in what you do.

Of course, as I sit here, I’m eavesdropping on a conversation in Starbucks that has a guy going on and on about the new product he’s trying to sell to buyers.

And the product couldn’t get more mundane.

Water.

He’s marketing water.

But as I sit here, for the past hour, surfing the web. He’s been going on without much of a break to catch his breath about his ‘product’.

Water.

Although I honestly don’t believe all the glamourized benefits of what he’s selling – since you could easily get it in the tap – I do admire him for his efforts. To be able to do what he’s doing requires effort and time, I do wonder, if he didn’t believe in what he was doing, would he sit down with people for hours at a time and talk to them about his spin on ‘water’?

Probably not.

He probably already envisioned something greater than what he’s ‘pouring’ out verbally, but really, I find myself relating to him in a way, although other people might disagree, given my current circumstances, overworking is essential.

In order to acquire what I desire, I must put forth time and effort to something I believe in.

In the past, I faltered in this department, for it was a numbers game – I believed in, to achieve a happy life you needed ‘x’ amount of ‘currency x’ in the bank account and how much would I be compensated for my efforts, instead of focusing on what I can contribute to the world. What do YOU have to offer that coincides with what you really want to do, and not what others want for you for the next X amount of years – what kind of lifestyle do you ultimately want to achieve? What sorts of people do you want to have in your life? Are you going to be happy with your eventual set up?

These questions are so much more important than the ‘how many zeroes do you expect on that paycheque?’ These questions are something I asked myself since I returned from Europe. Success is not a numbers game – humans beings are too complex, there are experiences in life that cannot be swapped in or out with ‘x’ amount of dollars/euro/pounds/yen. Regrets can’t be washed away with currency. I’d rather have a priceless existence with no regrets – and that’s the only way, I’d know that all my effort and struggles have been worth it.

how to harness your awesomeness

Who wouldn’t like to be more efficient in their day?

I would definitely love to.

With weekly expectations and daily targets set for myself, it took trail and error to figure out what works for me. These are some tips I’ve found helpful in my day to day life that I’ve gathered through either research or trial and error. So this is my own little guide to general productivity. I hope these tips help!

Make schedule.

Time yourself doing each task.

Race yourself.

And that is the secret to getting more done, or at least my way of getting more done in less time and make more time for other things. In my opinion, it’s ‘fun’, though I know others would rather take their time, but this practice keeps me on my toes and I don’t get bored when I end up doing something for an extended period of time. So it really helps!

Oh and bottom line.

You gotta love what you do!

Yes, yes, I’m sure we’ve all heard about this one before and too many times in the past six months I’ve asked hounded myself with the question: ‘so, what’s your passion? What are you truly passionate about other than spending hours on Tumblr?’ As I discovered however, the answer to this question doesn’t have to be a grand  eloquent answer of ‘I want to change the world through XYZ’ while it’s good to have an idea of where you want to be and do, most of us can’t really scramble up a concrete action plan to actually get there. So many factors are variable as life is unpredictable, hence, do what you can!

Each of us has something amazing to contribute, even if you don’t know what it is, just take it day by day.

Maximum effort (maximum productivity) requires passion, so do it with passion or don’t do it at all.

But where do you find this ‘passion’ you ask?

From within.

Ask yourself how is this making you better, in the short-run, in the long-run, or if this makes you better off at all. If you can’t answer the first two, then re-evaluate the action so that you become conscious and excited about life!

what your boss really wants

You are punctual.

You get the job done well and in a timely manner.

Treat everyone in the office with respect.

There’s more to performance than just getting the ‘work’ done.

What more could I do?

Performance, like all things intangible is variable from day to day. While in a perfect world, everyone arrives to work fresh eyed and well rested from a restful weekend with the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, that in itself is highly unlikely. On top of that, with personalities in play – like a hand of playing cards, in a team environment it could get quite chaotic and hard to know where you stand. When you are at a loss for an answer for what your boss really expects, remember this:

Your boss expects the person they hired.

You know, the persona you projected when you sat across from them during the interview.

That is, the enthusiastic, capable, promising individual with zest and hunger for a challenge.

Now. Envision that person.

Is that person a quitter?

Does that person shy away from challenges?

Are they confident or insecure?

Where they all there, focused on the tasks at hand?

Now think back, are you that person now?

If not, take a deep breathe and try again.

Enthusiasm and positivity go a long way.

get out of the rut: 9 DAYS

You can’t sit still, can’t stop fidgeting, can’t stop thinking about if you’d locked the front door, or left enough food in the bowl for the cat…

The mind is wandering….yet it’s not an avenue you want to travel down upon since there’s emails to be answered and errands to be taken care of.

Targets to hit, get on the ball.

You’re up to your eyeballs at work – but your mind keeps wandering back to the bowl…

Then you get home, you cook and clean, sit in front of the couch and eat dinner with Netflix on, you scroll through Facebook, catch up on gossip, before you know it, you left the episode on pause and it’s already bedtime…

Yet…something just doesn’t feel right, you toss and turn, with any luck you get some shut eye but not before the alarm goes off and it’s the process all over again.

It goes on for a week, then two…

Then before you know it, your eyes are blood shot and your skin is dull and flakey. You begin to wonder if you’d caught some virus of some unknown origin that’d completely zombified you…cause that’s what you look like, staring back at you.

Finally, you admit it to yourself:

STUCK.

As in, stuck in a rut.

Yet again.

I need a vacation, you bemoan, but then realize, vacation is a good half a hear away.

Then you start lamenting over everything that’s ‘wrong’ with your life – ‘if only…’

Does this sound all too familiar? I’ll be the first to admit this had happened way too many times in my life and I’m no stranger to feeling deflated and completely ‘out of it’. For the first twenty or so years, I thought this was ‘normal’ or at least I should learn to ‘deal’ without question, because that’s a ‘part of growing up’, to become totally stoic and lacklustre – as if that’s the ‘goal’ of life.

But what if I told you, you have what it takes to overcome this and many other adversaries?

And the answer is simple and uniquely tailored to you.

You.

You are the answer.

Think about it, there’s no one else in the world that knows you more than yourself. Sure, friends and family can help us in determining that answer, but you alone has the answer to what kind of life you want, how you see the world, and where you want to be, what you want to do.

Think about it.

Even when you feel that nothing’s changed, or that life is ‘bland’ – perhaps, it’s not the environment you are in, perhaps what you are really experiencing is a lack of progress in some facet of your life, something important that you’d subconsciously put aside in favour of more ‘important’ tasks and responsibilities. You lack excitement or inspiration – then of course, after you identify this shortcoming, it is again up to you to do something about it.

People do amazing things.

It is all possible.

And the good news is, it’s all up to you.