Category Archives: purpose

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Life!

Since childhood, I have had a gift for working with computers. For a
while, this seemed like the perfect fit for my life. My grade school
teachers were not surprised to find me interested in computers in high
school. My high school teachers were not surprised that I took
computer science in university. One of my university teachers told me
I’d do well in “hard” computer science and encouraged me to go for a
master’s degree, maybe even a PhD.

But I am also awakening to a gift I have with people. I want to reach
millions and millions of people over generations and generations. I
want to lift them up, inspire them, share my experiences with them.
I want to tell their stories and help make their dreams come true.
This is what I want to do with my life.

I don’t want to wait until I’ve made my money before I do good. I want
to get out there and live and love and do and write and speak and
share. I will keep my needs simple, my schedule flexible, and my
overhead low so that I can spend as much time as possible developing
myself and other people.

I belong to the world not just as a mind, but also as a heart, and I
will make a life that allows me to express both.

So, concretely, how can we make this happen?

  • I want to repay the trust the university has shown in me by finishing my master’s degree and doing well.
  • I want to set up a newsletter and topic-focused blog that inspires people and shares tips with them.
  • I want to write best-selling books. The second book will be easier than the first, so I should really just sit down, pull out material from my blog, do more research, and make this happen. Hey, maybe even before I’m 25. ;)
  • I want to be a totally awesome professional speaker. That way, I can reach *lots* of people with not only my message but with my communication style. It’s also a good reason to meet people around the world.
  • I want to set up an organization for generous connecting.
  • Lots more!

How can I make this self-supporting? I want to get as quickly as
possible to the point where I don’t have to worry about my expenses so
that I can follow these crazy ideas for free. Then I can build up my
crazy idea capital, and then we’re off!

The best way for me to do that is not to plan for retirement at 60
with a slow-and-steady savings plan, but to take advantage of my crazy
ideas, train my intuition, and get better at going from crazy idea to
reality.

If I open my mind and look for ways I can create value for other
people (like my networking business cards that list my favorite
networking books!), then I’ll probably be able to create enough value
to make the kind of life I want.

(Crazy idea! Trust in coincidence by having business cards with random
stuff on the back. Moo cards does this with Flickr photos. Why not do
that with whatever you currently want/have? I think business cards
should be short-run and current. That way, they’re more than just a
static piece of contact information, and you’ll have reasons to keep
giving people your cards and for people to keep reading yours! Maybe I
should start date-stamping my business cards… Ah, now there’s a
great idea…)

Right. That’s the ticket. I should keep a notebook of all these crazy
ideas. Probably a blog page *and* a paper notebook. Probably part of
my Moleskine. And I should go and make those crazy ideas happen, like
advertising on my laptop or tweaking my business card, etc.

I don’t mind giving the ideas away. I get terrific feedback. In fact,
if other people pick up the idea and run with it, that means I get to
train my crazy-idea sense for free!

Remember the movie Phenomenon? I want to be that guy, overflowing with
lots of ideas and improvements! I want to be someone you tell about
the cool stuff you’re working on because I’ll be enthusiastic about it
too, and I *might* just go “Hey, what do you think about trying out
…?”

Simon’s fantastic at designing systems from scratch. I’m good at
thinking about how to improve something that’s already there, finding
things to smoothen, noticing things that are missing… Come to think
of it, even my computing background points to this. Why do I love open
source development? Because I can build on what’s there! Why am I
totally addicted to Emacs? Because it indulges my crazy-idea thing!
Whee!

So I want the ability to explore all these crazy ideas even when I’m
working. I have lots of options in terms of the type of job, too.

  • A high-margin job that will train me up and take advantage of what I can do well and the crazy ideas I can come up with – marketing and sales, maybe?
  • A job that develops my skills even though it requires more work and concentration, such as writing. But not for long.
  • Something that pays for my expenses without demanding any mindshare, such as waiting tables ;) (Can’t do that on my work permit, though!)

Right. Getting a better sense of what I want in life. There we go. Does that sound like a plan? Let’s make it happen. =)

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The Secret

On the walk back toward Greg’s Ice Cream for post-sushi dessert, Simon received an invitation from Shane to join him and a few friends for The Secret, a motivational video about the power of positive thinking. Although I had been looking forward to getting to know Richard and the rest of the folks over ice cream in
the continuation of Quinn’s birthday party, I also felt that it would be good to join Simon for this. It was a good decision. Not only did I have the unexpected pleasure of reconnecting with Bryan Pickle (whom I had met at one of Mike Fletcher’s parties), but the video was thought-provoking.

Not that the ideas proposed in the video were new to me. I take it practically for granted that you see what you’re looking for. The video was flashy and fast-paced, although you’ll probably want to skip the pretentious first sequence and mentally edit out some of the more over-the-top effects. Despite the distractions, though, I managed to still my mind enough to attend to the video, collecting stories, gleaning insights, and reflecting on my own experiences.

There was a short lull after the video ended, then everyone else dug into the almost-forgotten fruits. I stayed still, turning the thoughts over in my head, permitting silence to fill in the gaps and listening to how I felt instead of immediately putting things into words. This was perhaps strange to the friends who were there. Shane asked me if I
didn’t like the movie. Lara agreed that everyone could probably find examples of experiences that fit, and the conversation went on – but still I kept quiet, reflecting.

A few hours earlier and I could have channeled the energy of passion and excitement into the discussion, matching the tone of Shane and Lara’s voices, but I was in a serene mood. I haven’t yet connected with either Shane or Lara on that level, when the silences are comfortable and one speaks when moved to. I’ve been that way with Quinn, and Jed, and Simon – yes, Simon has his calm moments, hard as that may be to believe. <laugh>

Serenity. Those who know me primarily for my enthusiasm and who have mainly seen me on the sugar-high I get on life usually worry the first time they see me in one of my calm moods, and even those who know me well often ask me if I’m feeling down. (Trust me, if I were feeling down, you’d know!) Serenity is that quiet stillness within me and the space I create in order to discern.

And now, hours later, I have a better understanding of how I feel.

I agree with the gist of the video: the mind is powerful, our attitude shapes our life, and our feelings and intuition give us a good way to sense how well we’re doing.

However, thinking about it, I’ve come to realize that it is not the full secret of my life. What thesecret.tv describes is not my philosophy or my way of living. There is something different, something missing…

Ah. Here is a gap. The video focuses on receiving, but does not describe the great joy I have in giving. The video describes visualizing a goal, but I also love discerning a path. The video talks about uplifting the self, but my desires go beyond myself.

In order to serve, I must take care of myself, of course. I can’t help people if I am miserable; joy comes from joy. But I am confident that if I listen and extend myself, the universe will nourish me. It always has.

I do not need to manifest anything into my life. Happiness is not something that is in my future, a puzzle with jigsaw pieces that I have to find and assemble. It is simply now. I have an abundance of opportunities, and my job is to explore them. It’ll be *tons* of fun!

I ask the universe for some things, but in general the I come across opportunities before I even know to ask for them. If I am to receive anything, I ask for the discernment to see the best things to do at a moment, the beauty in each instant, and the ways to help people explore their potential.

More thoughts on what I want to do with my life

The Labour Day weekend gave me an excellent opportunity to reflect on
what I can do with my life, and I really appreciated being able to
bounce ideas off Simon.

I have a lot of options ahead of me, and I want to think about this
carefully. My first job doesn’t have to be perfect, but it would be
good to understand what my values and priorities are. I want to be
extraordinary. I know, I’m 23 and my direction in life will change as
I discover more about myself and about others. =) But it’s good to
think about it every now and then…

So here’s where I stand, so far:

Technical: Social systems: Improving a social system such as
LinkedIn or
OpenBC would probably be the best fit for
me in terms of technical work. I would enjoy listening to users and
figuring out things that can make the tools easier to use or more
powerful. I’m more interested in systems that help people connect in
real life or in one-to-one relationships than in things like social
bookmarking, where the social aspect is often secondary. I’m also more
interested in facilitating introductions than I am in supporting
groupware, although I can do that as well. I would love to help build
systems that make it easier for people to keep in touch with lots and
lots of people (attention-based aggregators, etc?), introduce people
to others, move online connections into the real world and vice versa,
and so on.

Management: Outsourcing: The Philippines has a lot of talent,
and there are plenty of opportunities to outsource. I want to learn
how to help people set up outsourcing relationships, specify and
manage projects, and manage and train people.

These are the two prospects I feel most passionate about, and I may be
able to pursue them both. I don’t want to be so heads-down in tech
that I serve a narrow audience—only the users of my system—nor do I
want to be so heads-down in management that I lose touch with my
technical side. I think I can make this happen, though.

So, how can I go about doing that?

For social systems, there are all sorts of little things that I would
like to build for myself or suggest to other people. I can learn good
design through exposure and experience. I can write about features and
systems I would like to see. I can even prototype them. I should spend
some time learning how to make better user interfaces (a proper mouse
may help!) and prototyping things on Rails or some other quick
platform. Easy enough for me to get into.

For outsourcing, there might be a good opportunity to help set up a
relationship between Direct Leap and either QSR or Exist. I know a few
people who want to help me learn how to do this. I’m all for it!

My master’s degree can help me with both. My research is related to
the former, and my coursework is related to the latter.

Hmm. Sounds like a good plan. I’ve got other plans, just in case, but
these are the two best plans at the moment.

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A passion for social systems – clues to my next short-term step?

Each day brings an opportunity for me to reaffirm my decision that
connecting with people is important to me and that I want to learn how
to be really good at building and maintaining relationships. I’ve been
spending a fair bit of time thinking about the tools for doing so,
from my extensive customizations of the Emacs Big Brother Database
to why I like OpenBC.

Every time I use Emacs+Gnus+Planner+BBDB, LinkedIn, OpenBC or even my
little black Moleskine notebook and fountain pen, I always find little
things to improve. I’m in that zone again, and I’m having *so* much
fun. Emacs and my Moleskine are nearly infinitely hackable within the
constraints of computer and paper, respectively. As for LinkedIn and OpenBC—that *itch* is making me want to write code for someone else.

The last time I felt like this was when I was in the thick of Planner
development, working with a fantastic community of enthusiastic users
around the world. It was *amazing* being able to make all these little
differences in people’s lives. I stayed with the project until I found
myself too content, and then I turned it over to someone else because
it was something that deserved passion.

Maybe I’ve found my coding passion again, something wider in scope
than the little ways I customize my blog or my e-mail client or my
contact database.

The more I think about it, the more attractive it is. How strange that
low-key services like LinkedIn and OpenBC appeal to me more
than the big names in the industry! I have the feeling that I’ll be
able to make more of a difference there (at least for now) than in
companies like IBM, Google, or Yahoo – although those three are
certainly exciting in terms of the other cool geeks I’d get to work
with…

… but oooh, imagine the opportunity to work directly with really
cool users? I could so totally rock. I’d *love* to be able to bring my
technical *and* social passions to the table. That feels like a good
short-term next step.

Figuring out my options…

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Three questions for success

Via the Business Opportunities Weblog comes this awesome story about Farrah Gray, who made his first million by age 14. Want to be a Millionaire? Ask Yourself Three Questions

“Ask yourself three questions. First, what comes easy to me, but harder to others? The second question is, what would you do for work for years and years and never have to get paid for it? And the third question is, how can you be of service and how can you give back?” Gray advises.

Same questions my parents taught me to always ask myself. =)

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Remembering my purpose; hooray for writing!

I tried to go to sleep earlier than usual last night, and I was hit by
a bout of existential angst. (I’m 22. I’m allowed to have existential
angst. ;) ) I started wondering what on earth I was doing here, etc.

I think I came to those thoughts because of various heavy things Simon
and I had been talking about over the weekend, like the senseless
tragedy of the war in Lebanon.

Looking around at my room, I poked fun at my inability to keep things
as neatly organized as people here have. I said even after a year in
Canada, I still hadn’t gotten used to it, and I’d probably make room
in my professional budget for managed housing or a housekeeping
service.

Reflecting on that further, though, I realized that that weakness of
mine wasn’t a core part of my identity and that it should never be. I
_can_ keep things neat if I take the time to, and if I can’t make the
time for that, then I should scale back my life until I can.

This led me to think about the difficulties people had around me, and
thus the existential angst. With all these problems in the world, what
am _I_ doing to help? Is what I’m doing with my research really worth
it?

Instead of ignoring it or lying awake thinking about it, I pulled out
a flashlight and one of my reflection books. There in brightly-colored
markers were all these diagrams showing how I felt about life and what
I wanted to do. (Thanks, Diane Lazaro, for giving me a creativity
kit!)

In large blue letters, one page read: “I WANT TO TELL STORIES!” With
that reminder, everything clicked into place again. I’m doing my
master’s research in social computing because I want to learn how to
effectively tell stories about technology, not just because I want an
excuse to stick around in Canada for a while. I’m part of Toastmasters
and I’m exploring writing because I want to tell stories.

I want to tell stories because so many people have such interesting
stories that can touch the lives of thousands and thousands of other
people. I want to draw people’s stories out and help them understand
themselves more. I want to tell stories that will help people imagine
what they can do with technology or how they can improve their
relationships with other people.

Maybe that’s how I can change the world. =)

I’m glad I drew those diagrams before. I love writing and drawing and
talking and thinking. I know I’m going to run into similar questions
again and again—I’m human, I forget myself—and having something to
go back to gives me great joy.

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Random Japanese sentence: 虎を大きな猫というなら、同じように猫を小さな虎といってもよい。 You may as well call a cat a small tiger as call a tiger a big cat.