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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wealth Unleashed

The ability to be financially free dwells on my mind constantly these days like a never ending daydream. Recently there has been so much talk about how our generation is the least likely to own a house and live with the comforts of past generations. The double whammy of high student loans and high unemployment has crippled people in their twenties and their ability to start their lives.

I have several thousands in school loans from my days at USC and for me it represents a significant hurtle to jump over if I ever want to own a home close by Palo Alto, one of the wealthiest place to live. It is not impossible to pay of my loans and save for a house but, doing so would require the better part of a decade, just by myself. I could marry into money and have my wife pay for it, seeing how it might actually take less time than saving it myself. But I suspect that pool of candidates just got a bit smaller with this post and definitely not the girl above. :)  For the time being, I am myself shackled in loans that I feel are like anchors to my feet while the currents are sweeping me underneath. I am paying it off as much as I can each month, while having virtually saving little. It I don't pay it off in a reasonable amount of time then I risk extending the loan and paying more interest over time.

I am one of the lucky ones that got a job relatively quickly out of school, so I can pay it off quicker, but most are not as fortunate and have to really struggle to pull together money so they can live paycheck to paycheck and pouring everything that they have into feeding themselves and their loans. How can they possibly save up for a house and a car if so much money is going to paying for their student loans? It amazes me that we are hammering the youth for every cent that they have and transferring that wealth to people that do not have lives to build. 

I for one, believe that we should protect and safeguard the young people from a money debt that is almost inescapable because as we get older our ability to drive the future economy is at stake. If everyone in the future has massive debt and an inability to pay it off, who would buy stuff anymore? Well maybe just the rich.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The unexamined life is not worth living

"The unexamined life is not worth living"
Socrates, in Plato, Dialogues, Apology
Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC - 399 BC)

I spend a lot of time reflecting upon myself and how I do things in the world. It has always helped me clear my mind by setting goals and priorities for me to achieve. By looking back upon what I did or didn't do I can find things that help me improve my overall life. For example, if I did something well and got praise from it, I would go through in my mind the event once again and visualize everything that I did well and learn from the experience, vice versa, I would also look at the things that I didn't do so well and try to remember to work on it. This kind of mental exercise has helped me to continue to grow and refine myself as I get older.

I think people on a whole nowadays do not properly have time to reflect on what they have done and how they are doing things. I see people doing things for the sake of doing them and not really knowing why. Such is the case with people working at jobs that they don't like or being pressured by friends and families to do things that to them doesn't make sense. People are very reactive to their environments and others, not many are sure of themselves and their path in life. I believe that if people took a step back and really analyzed why they do certain things in life, they would make changes and better their own lives.

I contribute a lot of my personal success in life on my ability to tune others out. By ignoring certain people and their beliefs about me, I was able to grow beyond what others saw in me. I looked inward to myself and what I had accomplished and used that information to determine who I am. People have a really nasty habit of taking one look at a person and judging them at first glance. It is as if people are writing a personal narrative of who you are as a person in their own head and the rest of the time they are trying to make you fit their story.

For example, my parents has always believe that I was this shy introverted person who loved computer games and had very little outside interests.  I achieved very average grades, so they thought that I was going to average and make somewhat of a decent living. They thought that I couldn't get a high paying job without excellent grades and a Ivy league education. Every chance that they got they tried to reaffirm their beliefs in who they thought I was. They were always telling me that I didn't like books and that I should read more, despite the fact that I did all my reading away from my parents in silence. The point is they were more than surprise with how I ended up and where I am going in my life, but it wasn't possible had I just believed what they thought I was.

I had to examining my life and understand who I was and who I wanted to be, myself. There was no consensuses on what my life should be or who am I based on my past. I determine who I am and what I do with my life, not others. It is empowering to be in control of your own destiny, regardless of what others say. Let's all try and ignore the naysayers in our lives and people who try and fit you into their story of who you are. Write your own story.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great Entertainer

I always wanted to be an entertainer, early on as a child I was very comfortable being on stage and performing. Whether it was through singing or acting, it was a place that I felt safe and most comfortable and natural. I never pursued it seriously because, my drive to be an engineer was greater than a performer of the arts, but I never forgot the feel and rush on stage. As much as I wanted to be in both worlds it was incredibly hard to split time and effort into both realms. I chose engineering because I felt that I had a higher chance at making a successful career out it. Now that I have a relatively secure job, I am starting to yearn for the stage more and more.

I am always amazed entertainers and how they can mesmerize countless people with their talents and skills. It is like an invisible power that can capture the hearts and minds of others. I want it. I want the applause and adoration of a roaring audience as they celebrate my talents and skills. I think the need to be accepted in society is a big driver for me to do what I do. We all want to be accepted for who we are, and some are more showy about it than others. I derive a lot of pleasure from the process and going through the hard work to put on a great show.

I don't think that I will every quit my day job to go work on Broadway, but I think it is important enough to me that I want to pursue it as a serious hobby. Now is the time for me to go out there and show people that I am more than a engineer, I am also a great entertainer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Poverty Sucks

Recently, I have been watching a lot of documentaries on the poverty and the poor people of the world. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the world and how we all live on this planet and how many of us are suffering from life's basic needs. Not having to confront this daily, it is too easy for me to just ignore the problems that are plaguing the rest of the world and take shelter in a wealthy enclave. 

I moved to very wealthy area of SF, and as such, I am living comfortably and relatively removed from having to fight for my basic needs. My life is nothing less than royalty comparatively, with basic needs met I usually have abundant time to focus on other things that further my creative and intellectual pursuits. One of those pursuits is to study who we are as humanity, mainly why are there so many unfortunate people in the world and how can others help them.

So watching these documentaries is incredibility sad and heartbreaking. These people who were born disadvantaged usually stay disadvantaged for the rest of their lives. If you were born into a life of an African farmer, chances are high that you would likely stay there and not have the ability to get a good education and gain upward social mobility. One example is of a rural chinese family, whom barely has enough to survive on and was struggling to get their daughter to a private university. Tuition cost easily ran several multiples of the family's income, but they did it anyways to ensure that their child had a proper education. What the family didn't know was that the university was a scam, made to get the parents to open up their wallets and send their child to get a useless degree from uncertified school. I can't say that I am surprised to see that people taking advantage of others to try to get themselves out of poverty, but is this the only way?

If I was born in another country or my parents had stayed in China, what would I be doing now? I am so grateful that I was born a US citizen and that I never had to suffer through the worst kind of poverty. I was privileged that I had the ability to make something of myself and not have to worry about starving and find a place to sleep. I am thankful for the ability to focus on studying and being able to work at a job with great benefits. My parents never had that and they always hope that my life was better than theirs, it was their sacrifices and hard work that has taught me grit and persistence so that I would never be poor.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows the true horrors of poverty and its consequences. There are those whom have never seen how bad it can really get, they never understand the fear of having nothing. We cling to our 1st world problems and wear it with a badge of honor, never knowing there are those in the world that both envy and despise what we have. I see too much selfishness and ignorance in the world around me.

I know how hard it is to raise oneself up from the ground. I see the struggles that my parents have to go through everyday and I vow to do better. I will work as hard as can to ensure that I am as far away from poverty as I can, because poverty sucks.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Love and other drugs

I've always wondered if there was one person for each of us in this world. Out of 7 billion people, you would think that there statistical would be an ideal match that would "perfect." I believe it to be true, although the likelihood of you meeting them is next to impossible throughout a lifetime, never mind the fact that both people have to be available and relatively close in age.

In the past I've always kept with this attitude in meeting people, even if I knew that it would be worse than finding a needle in a haystack in the middle of America. I would always try to find better and hold out for the best person that I could, passing on those that I thought weren't what I was looking for and even to go as far as avoiding certain people that I thought weren't worth my time. By always thinking that over the next hill there will be something bigger and better, I kinda shielded myself from others and them from myself. It was a cold and shallow way of finding love. Pursuing those that were only based on looks and first impressions certainly had its allure and glamor. But for whatever reason, they rarely had anything in common with me, and soon fizzled out.

I would say I missed out on a couple of opportunities that could've been more had I been open to the idea. But the past is past. The point is, I used my past history to cloud my present and make decisions based on what I thought was just and fair. Now that I look back and think back on some of the choices that I made, I truly feel a bit foolish. It is never easy to admit that as logical and as reasonable one can be, they are not immune to the pressures of society to think and behave a certain way towards people. But I for one can say that I have committed stereotyping and shallow behavior to impress others.

The past couple of months have really been an eye opener for me and my previous beliefs. I never had to think too deeply about them or the consequences about what I believed about love and romance. I always had people to shelter me from my ideas and how I go about doing things, they were used to my way of doing things and never really questioned if they were morally correct. I guess that is one of the biggest lessons being on your own in a new place with no social network. People you don't know can call me out on my bullshit without hesitation, since there is no prior history. Seems like common sense, but it is really interesting to see it in action. Having a zero sum attitude is a one way ticket to realizing that you are a little fish in a big pond.

My good friend Ryan once told me that, "Your goal should be, go out there and meet people, and not just women." At the time I heard this I was very skeptical about his words and thought that this was inefficient. The more I think about it, I realized that it made perfect sense and it wasn't inefficient it was very efficient and practical. The more people you know the more chances of meeting more people in general and probability go up that you'll bump into your future mate. But what he was stressing was that you must show that compassion to everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from. It's about karma. Ultimately, all we have in life are the people and the relationships that are formed.

Perhaps there is no perfect person for any of us. Maybe there is a bunch of close enoughs, out there that with a bit of work and persistence can be "perfect." I've always thought that, all I needed to do was to find the perfect person and they would solve all my problems and be happy in the end. If they were pretty enough or smart enough, then maybe they can mask enough of my own issues, that my problems wouldn't matter. I guess it is the simplest solution rather than look deeply into ourselves as the one that needs a fixer-upper. My problems are mine alone to fix and shouldn't be relied upon others to mediate them. Hence, this blog has allowed me to be accountable and reflect upon myself in a very personal way.

It is always a long journey to change oneself, but the deciding to take the first step is the hardest of them all. We have to accept that we ourselves are flawed and require change. Hopefully, the end result will be a warmer and fuzzier Steven for all to enjoy.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The future

Every time another year ends, I look towards the future and think about then next couple of months. It is a way for me to try and reinvent myself for the new year. I see big things happening in the year 2013, that hopefully can translate into reality. Here are some goals that I'll put down that will in some way hold me accountable.

1. Start a second side job
2. Develop Growth Unleashed into a semi-popular blog with stable visitors
3. Buy a bow and go hunting in the wild
4. Learn a foreign language and go visit the country

Modest and achievable goals for the new year, I might add to the list before the year is out.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

End of the world or just beginning?

Well, its that time of the year again with another end to the calender year. This year it is a bit different though, with the end of the Mayan calender and a whole bunch of people claiming that the world is going to end and that the apocalypse is forth coming. We have just a couple of weeks left to absolve ourselves of sin and repent before all of us are doomed.

Out of context it is a great way to capture the fear in all of us that something we don't know will come in and save or kill us all. I believe that the world will not end on that day and that business as usual will persist like it always has before, which leads me to why I posted today. If the world were to suffer a massive calamity, could we as a nation, a world, rise back up?

As a person that wants to grow both intellectually and spiritually, I seek out the novel and the interesting to populate my life, whether it is through people, writing, or reading. If the world were to end, how many of us could retain life saving skills and carry the knowledge of the past to others? There are those that seek to enlighten themselves about the world and those living in it, but on a whole I see people that simply could not care less about the learning and just want to have fun. Everything that we have known throughout history have now been placed in vast digital storage for preservation, but what if the power is off, or worse records wiped out? Will we be able to keep our history through stories and writing about what we know?

I see my peers and the world that we all grew up in and it frightens me to no avail. Essential skills like hunting and foraging that has persisted for thousands of years are slowly whittling away, to only a select few that participate. Many do not know about our rights as a people to clamor for change or resolve. Fewer still can be called upon to rebuild the government if it were to collapse. Morals and ethics are, what I believe to be in decline, questionable at best within people in America today. Could we as a people build a community of kind heart-ed and helpful society or divulge into chaos and madness, like we see in post-apocalyptic movies. 

I don't have good reason to believe that the new generation will be able to handle the rigors and the stress of a massive or semi-major disaster, but maybe I am wrong. Hopefully, there are enough people in the world that care and can really make a major positive difference in the world, all the others need to get out of their way.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Just Do It

Of all the advice I have ever heard, "just do it" was the best one. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and its always the hardest one. Hesitation is the feeling that I struggle with the most on a day to day basis. There has been several times in my life that I have hesitated and I lost out on the opportunity to do something great or even experience something new. I am trying to rid myself second guessing decisions in my life that has really no consequences if I do it or not do it, but the psychological consequences are dire. I believe that most of us have been brought up in life to no do things out of the ordinary and not take chances and play it safe. Overtime that kind of thinking can control a person's life and make him or her incapable of taking chances when necessary and beneficial.

I often think about all the missed opportunities that could've been, had I not been second guessing myself. These opportunity ranges from meeting new people, going to new places, and trying new activities. I had a standing excuse of not have money or time to do something new, but in reality I was just scared of new situations that I knew nothing about and didn't really want anything participate in things that I was not good at. Looking back on those times, I could have gained more life experience and started on my transition to be a better holistic individual.

The power and confidence that grows from being able to make a decision quickly and willing to deal with the consequences is great. It allows you to think of the world very differently, from a meek follower to a strong individual with the ability to deal with any situation that comes along. My life has changed bit by bit as I have grown to fully believe in "Just do it." I certainly still have times where I doubt myself, but now it is more of a gentle whisper than a harsh yell in the echos of my mind.