Turning 30 means I get to give you advice

leslie

  1. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve finally figured “it” out.
  2. Everything is always easier said than done.
  3. Nothing beats a face-to-face chat.
  4. Anything can become an addiction. Spend some time learning how to deal with addictions, it’ll come in handy.
  5. Walking can be a pleasurable healthy exercise if you do it often and long enough, and in good company.
  6. Shame is a human waste product. When we use it as a tool to control people, we’re just piling shit on top of each other.
  7. The closer you are to someone, the more capacity you will have for joy.
  8. And also more opportunity to experience deep misery, sorrow, and suffering.
  9. Which goes to show, everything has a consequence.
  10. Spend some time alone with nothing but your thoughts, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy your company.. or not.
  11. Good posture will save you years of constant agony.
  12. As society becomes faster, it becomes counter-intuitively more imperative to increase focus and patience.
  13. Put weight on your heels more than the balls of your feet, you might still be able to squat without groaning by the time you reach my age.
  14. In this path of life we share with so many others, some are lucky to have paved roads while others rocky terrain. It’s just how reality is. Life isn’t easy, but it’s not trying to be extra difficult for just you.
  15. Don’t expect feelings to last, even though the circumstances are the same. But that doesn’t mean that certain feelings can’t be rekindled.
  16. In fact.. don’t expect anything to last.
  17. People usually pay more attention to what’s wrong than what’s right. It’s the easy thing to do.
  18. The more you wash your hands, the less likely you’ll get sick.
  19. Only action changes reality.
  20. Try not to eat till you’re full, you’ll be happier that way.
  21. If you really want something, be prepared to fail and fail till you get it.
  22. There will always be someone better than you, so get over your insecurity some other way than trying to beat everyone.
  23. MOST of the time quality is better than quantity.
  24. Question everything, especially the things no one else ever thinks to question.
  25. When you chase power, you are ruled by power. When you chase happiness, you’re ruled by happiness. Which would you rather serve?
  26. And whatever you chase will flee from you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chase it, or else you will never catch it.
  27. There is a right and a wrong.
  28. Eating colorful natural foods feels better.
  29. You gotta work really hard before you can achieve a life of luxury where you don’t have to work at all.
  30. Just knowing any of this will make no difference. You have to live it.

Chalak

GodfatherIn Bangla, chalak denotes a person who’s able to pull the wool over someone. This person knows how to manipulate another person, or a group of people.

The term manipulation automatically makes me feel like it’s immoral. Manipulation is a bad thing to do. So I want to detect any tendencies I have to manipulate something and stamp them out.

But is this the right way to go about things? If you think about what separates us from animals, you’ll realize that the only fundamental difference is our ability at manipulation. We manipulate our minds into thinking of things that don’t exist, such as the past or the future.

Don’t be such an animal

Animals constantly live in the present, the past is just a tool to learn from to apply it to the present. A mouse that finds a safe haven once, remembers the safe haven when it needs it again. A man turns that safe haven into home. We create constructs, fabrications of reality that aren’t necessarily true, but they are true to us.

So it’s ok that we manipulate ourselves into creating useful fantasies. But it’s bad to do it for others, right? Especially for the benefit of your own gain with, possibly, loss to them. If you manipulate others to steal from them, of course that is obviously immoral.

But it’s also obviously stupid. Because if you were to manipulate everyone around you for their loss and your gain, then you’ll obviously have less to gain from them each time you go around manipulating them. That’s why something like “protection money” and bribes never work out in the long run.

The looters keep getting less and less because other’s keep having less to loot from.

Corporate CEOs

But if you were to manipulate people so that they gain and you gain, that is noble. But it’s not seen as noble, not in the mainstream. It doesn’t matter how much a person has contributed to millions of people’s lives, that CEO is still a greedy manipulative bastard.

But that’s only 2/3rd  of what they are. CEO’s are greedy manipulative bastards that:

  • Manipulate others so that they gain, and other’s lose. Or,
  • Manipulate others so that all gain, especially themselves.

So I’ll reform my judgement on manipulation. Manipulation itself isn’t immoral. It’s how you’re doing the manipulating, your ultimate goal for manipulation, that is what determines immorality.

Manipulation is ok if everyone gains something.

What’s so great about Steve Jobs?

Steve JobsIn Derek Sivers Ted talk about how to start a movement, he outlines the importance of the first follower. Before the first follower, a leader is just a nut. The leader is an outsider, a weirdo, a person to be held in contempt and ridicule. But as soon as the first follower comes into the picture, the leader is instantly transformed into the trendsetter. The visionary. The leader.

I don’t believe that Steve Jobs was a leader in that way. There’s nothing very special and unique about him. He didn’t have any great technical skills. He wasn’t a visionary in that he created something new that no one else has ever seen before.

What Steve Jobs was instead, was a genius at being the first follower. He was the best cheerleader that a weirdo can ever have. He believed, and he put his entire life on the line for something, and someone, that he believed in. It first started with Wozniak, then the animators at Lucas Inc, which he helped turn into Pixar, then NextTel, then offshoots from Xerox into Adobe. (not in any chronological order because I’m too lazy to do the actual research)

But he wasn’t someone who stupidly bet all his chips into some lame unique technology. He also wasn’t lazy or inept. He was a genius in recognizing the value of something and then he had the courage to lay his entire career on the line for it. Over and over again he bet it all for what he believed in.

He had courage. But also importantly, he had compassion and understanding. He had compassion to be able to be the only support for people who knew that they were doing something great.. but no one else believed in them. And he had understanding to realize the value of what those people were trying to do, what they believed in.

He might not have been the greatest leader.. but he was probably the greatest follower these two centuries have ever seen.

Problem solving

My high school physics teacher once gave us an analogy to describe how physicists figure out properties of things that they nor any instruments can see, such as atomic structures and Earth-similar planets in other galaxies.

SoccerImagine that you’re an alien species who can’t see the “colors” black or white. And the alien species are watching a game of soccer and wondering why the hell we humans are running around on a grassy field for no observable reason. After watching how and when we move, they conclude that there must be some thing that is being passed from one person to another and the point was to get that object past the enemy and into the net. They can even tell certain properties of this object by how the humans “kick” it and how they seem to “bounce” it off their body parts and how it “rolls” on the ground.

All problems that need solving are not problems in the ethical sense. There’s nothing morally wrong. But that’s how we approach ALL the problems in our lives. A “bug” in a computer isn’t a problem, it’s designed that way, maybe my mistake, maybe by lack of foresight. It’s not something that shouldn’t be there, it’s exists and it’s a problem because what we want isn’t what is occurring.

This distinction is key when problem solving because emotions are the first barrier to overcome. Once morality and ethics is out, all that is required is to collect facts and let your natural human instincts connect all the dots.

And before you know it, the soccer ball becomes clear. And the problem also disappears. You haven’t solved it yet, but because you now know why it’s doing what it’s doing, it’s not a “bug” anymore. But instantly you have a new problem.

The new problem is to figure out a solution that doesn’t cause more “problems” in the future, while behaving exactly the way you want it to behave. This problem is a lot bigger and more complex than identifying why the “bug” is occurring. Again you have to dive into the system and collect more facts. Facts that, at first, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the original “bug.”

After figuring out why humans are running around on fields kicking some invisible ball, the aliens have the bigger problem of why we’re doing that. And to solve this problem, they need to leave the stadium and find out more about human beings and their behavior. They look at how humans are born and raised, what they want, how they cope with loss or gain, etc. Some alien executives might come by and look over the shoulders of their subordinates and wonder why their employees are goofing off watching these humans give birth and die while there is this incredible problem of this game with the invisible ball.

If you try to solve the problem locally, only focusing on the soccer stadium, chances are extremely high that you’re going to create several more problems outside of the stadium due to ignorance. You have to follow the connections out of the “stadium” and make sure that changing things isn’t going to end up causing something else from breaking.

To the followers of my blog

I’d like to thank you for deeming me worthy enough to add me to the list of emails and notifications you get every time I have an idea while I’m pooping or showering (Now you’ll start noticing how erratic my bowel movements and my hygienic dispositions are, I’ll let you guess which one induced the inspiration for this particular post).

Because I’m usually more intimate with the contents of my mind rather than the contents of my activities, I thought that maybe I should formally introduce myself, and let you know what I’m up to.

Hi I’m Mohammed

I recently got laid off from a company that I was, and still am, loyal to. It was a wake up call in a lot of ways. No matter how great a job is or how great the people you work with are, a job is a job and it’s not yours and someone can come up to you one day and say “We don’t need you here anymore. Please leave and don’t come back.” And you usually have very little control over it.. or even forewarning.

I’ve known this for a while. Since reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad and going to seminars such as Millionaire Mind, I’ve known how tenuous a career really is. But I’ve never been that hard up to have my own business that I’d decide to quit a great paying job I enjoyed doing. But now I’m suddenly unemployed, and I can choose to go find an even better job with better co-workers and better employers and maybe a better shot of not getting laid off..
or not.

So I decided to just hurl my body into the void of time and space and see where I’ll land.

I had enough money saved up to hold me over for 2-3 months, granted that I reduce my lifestyle down to a spartan hermit. It wasn’t that difficult to do considering how cheap I’ve always been. I thought I’d do some contracting for people on eLance or something. A cursory look through some of the postings made me slightly disgusted with the entire idea of it.

Most people usually have no idea what time and effort it takes to create a product so they want amazingly complex projects in absolutely no time and for little money. I realized that even in a more formal setting, like with some contracting firm, I’m going to come across a similar mentality. Maybe they’ll be more reasonable because they know just how much time and effort it takes. But even knowing that, they’re gonna try to skin me alive.

PinPinChineseBut I only took a cursory look at contracting, because a very good friend of mine asked me to help him in a side project that he was working on. He had developed a Mandarin Chinese learning app, Pin Pin, that would help people to train their pronunciation of a complex language. It was a beautiful app and I was glad to be a part of it.

He developed and released the app, but sales were dismal and he had no idea how to market it. And neither did I. But I wanted to learn. Marketing, business, human behavior, those are all things I’ve always wanted to learn more about. And so I agreed to help him sell the app.

And I began to take my first steps down the world of marketing.

KungFuMovieIt also happened that this same friend and I were also working on another app that we were hoping would make us “MILLIONS of fractions of pennies!!” As we would joke. We both knew the realities of making money in the mobile world, it was a hard business to do. But we both also had a small naive hope deep inside that maybe this app was going to be a surprise and become big.

The idea was to add kung fu sounds to videos on the iPhone. My friend was the master engineer and he did all the design and development, and it was up to me to market Kung Fu Movie and take care of everything on the business end.

FartMovieWe also realized the opportunity we had to just swap the sounds and images and have a totally new app in a much shorter time. Everyone, including us, would instantly think about about a fart version of the app as soon as they heard of the idea. Hence Fart Movie came out only a few short weeks after the release of Kung Fu Movie.

With Pin Pin, I tried my hand at understanding how to design ads, write copy, emails, websites etc. I did a lot of writing and thinking, but nothing really got done with it. It was my first tip-toed attempts at what marketing was all about and I spent more time on thinking and defining things and researching and learning things than I did on implementing.

But with Kung Fu Movie, I jumped right in. I began to work hectically to setup and understand as many of the social platforms there were on the internets. I was already a modest user of Facebook. Now it became my main dashboard for social networking. And as I learned, I refined my techniques. Some social networks weren’t working so I dropped the use of them. Some were great and had a lot of tools to offer and they became my favorite.

Don’t worry, if you’re interested in the things I’ve learned, I’m going to write posts soon when I feel like I’ve gained enough proficiency in something to say useful things about it.

So I’ve been keeping myself busy.. and a little disoriented.

I now had all these apps to manage, all these new concepts and ideas to learn. Things were jumbled and all over the place. My financial future, the lack of one, was looming over me. The apps were making the fractions of pennies that we would joke about expecting. People weren’t climbing over themselves to recognize me for all the great things I’m doing. Their eyes weren’t bugging out at the apps and using it 24 hours and telling all their friends about it incessantly. I was a failure, I was useless, I’m ineffective. I should just go back to that office and do what other people tell me to do for the rest of my sad, mediocre existence.

I’m not as smart as I thought I was. I’m not as capable. I don’t have what it takes to make it. And when I’m 50 with wrinkles on my old sad face, hopelessness darkening eyes, I’ll face my child and try to tell them wearily that they can do anything that they put their hearts and minds to. But they won’t be convinced because they’ll see that their dad is a pathetic loser.

Calm yo self man.

Nothing was really wrong though. So I naturally got over myself in a couple weeks.

I hate to be one of those people who take a series of fortunate circumstances and say “God is smiling down on me,” that isn’t how I believe things work. And I’m just as suspect of that whole “you created these opportunities to occur in your life through the power of intention” mysticism stuff as well. I know that God is always looking out for me, and everyone and everything else too. So I’m not that special. And I know that my intentions drive me in ways for circumstances to coalesce into opportunities that present themselves for me to grab or not.

And that’s what happened. My first company had some retirement pension thing I forgot about that matured a week after I got laid off from my last company. It’s ironic because I quit the first company because I fell in love with the second company, but the first still continue to support me lovingly while the second dumped me on my ass without any warning.

KanjiTouchIt was enough money for me to survive on for the rest of the year. My friends came out of the woodwork and began to help me out. One of them I already mentioned, we’ve created a set of beautiful and entertaining apps that I’m very proud of. Another got me a small contracting opportunity he wasn’t that interested in, as well as handing over to me an unfinished Japanese flash card app, Kanji Touch. We were taking Japanese classes together before I got laid off.

So where does that put me now?

I found that the things I’ve always loved doing as a hobby can become something I can potentially make a career of doing. Watching documentaries and learning, writing blogs about the things I’m realizing and finding out, spreading the word about the apps my friend and I are developing, and being an ass on social networks.

Now I’m busy learning how to become known on the internet, creating a user base to launch apps and just about anything else that I’ll do. If I work hard enough, by the end of the year I hope to be able to sustain the rest of my life doing what I love:
Writing, programming apps, marketing, and just about anything else I can think of while I’m pooping or showering.

So it was very nice to meet you.

Please comment back and say hi. Let’s get to know each other better. Once I figure out how to find the list of my followers on this blog, I’ll visit you and see what your’e up to in your neck of the woods. In the meantime, thanks for dropping by and I hope you come again.

Update:
I’ve found out how to see the list of my followers. Let the stalking commence.

Why am I a Muslim?

MuslimI was born a muslim.

That’s always been the answer to why I’m a muslim. But very soon I realized that there’s very few things that bind me by birth to something. I’m bound to groups of people who are brown, have dark hair, and who are male. Besides these and a few other genetic qualities, I had no other ties to this world when I arrived.

And they tell us often in mosques that we’ll exit this world the same way, with nothing.
Well, almost nothing. We will die with our souls being muslim. And this soul will remain floating around somewhere till the day of judgement.

Then maybe there is the same ephemeral tie to me as a muslim before I was even born. But that’s so ludicrous that no muslim will seriously say that you’re born a muslim, with a muslim soul. Unless they’re wacko, most would agree that it’s the practice of Islam that makes you a muslim.

And so after I lost my anchor to my identity as a muslim by birth, I latched onto being a muslim by practice. But the practices were so utterly BORING and monotonous and.. well.. easy. They try and tell you when you’re young that Allah made things easy for us. They’re wrong if they think that’ll entice any child to want to practice their faith more.

Kids love a challenge. They love video games and sports and winning. Or at least I did. And I didn’t see how mindlessly reciting memorized verses and moving our bodies up and down was a challenge at all. And I didn’t see life as a challenge either in my naive little mind. I didn’t understand then how having a grounded practice in meditation 5 times a day will accelerate basically anything that I try to achieve.

But the fact is that, even though it was so easy, I still couldn’t do those prayers fully for very long. It was a challenge but not in the way that I recognized then. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t try. I had great reverence for all of it. Why shouldn’t I? Everyone else had great reverence. So I didn’t tell myself I was bored. I didn’t accept the fact that the people around me were only telling me the more boring aspects of this 1400 year old faith. I didn’t realize that they themselves didn’t really know.. or if they did, they didn’t know how to communicate it to a bunch of 12 year olds.

What I did instead was tell myself that I was a bad boy.

And that worked out really well because bad boys don’t pray, and I really didn’t want to pray anymore. Maybe I had too much freedom? Maybe my parents should’ve pushed more. But my parents, God bless them, are good muslims. And unlike what most of the world and even some muslims think, a good muslim doesn’t force. They wait with patient compassion and always invites, but never mandate. We have enough mandated things in our own lives and our own struggles to worry about anyways. And my parents were good enough to not take their frustration out on their kids and force them to do things they themselves failed to do.

I’ve seen a few examples of what occurs when Islam is shoved down the throats of innocent children a little too hard. They choke, and become the absolute opposite of what anyone intended. I’m glad that I escaped.. most of that fate. Trust me though, my mom did try shoving a lot of things down our throats, so that’s why you might sense a tinge of bitterness in my tone. Just a tinge.

And she still invites me. Every single time, without fail, she invites me. And she’ll die on her death bed and use her last breath to tell us to pray.

It’s obvious that I’m not much of a practicing muslim.

So then am I even a muslim at all? I could always practice without belief or understanding. And that’s what I did for most of my life. I knew though that it was much worse to practice without belief. I thought that without real belief, practice makes no sense and I got the idea that I’d go on a “journey” to sow the seeds of true faith into my heart.

I have a good friend who was in the same situation that I was in. We began to delve into the deeper secrets of our faith alone. We both knew that something more than what we’ve been told exists. Maybe the secret to success (as they also tell us in the mosques) lies in these details we only suspect is hidden inside the books and stories. So we hesitantly took blind steps towards some greater knowledge about our faith.

WearyBuddhaThat was maybe 7 years ago, and I’m still on that journey. And I’ve gone a long way. I’ve learned a lot about my own faith as well as a lot of the other faiths in this community of faiths that exist on this planet.

I’ve had the privilege of developing a friendship with a deeply wise and devout christian who has taught me so many wonderful things about Jesus and how they view the world, existence, and life after death.

I’ve studied buddhism and meditated with Thai Buddhists in their monastery within the mountains. Afterwards we discussed theology and philosophy with the Ajahn over tea.

I’ve studied and practiced Tao personally over years of Chinese martial arts training.

I tried reading the Bhagavad Giītā, but only got as far as reading the introduction to Hindu theology, which was very interesting. I still have the book, I’m sure one day I’ll go over the entire thing.

I’ve even gone through training in psudoscience (no not Dianetics) and it was very helpful to my life and I still interact frequently with that community.

And a lot of other things, but always coming back to Islam and tying it back to Islam. And.. not to be biased, but Islam has yet to disappoint me. All of what I’ve learned fits so well within the message that the Prophet passed along to his ummah. But I don’t think it’s being biased because Islam is a rich religion, and so are a lot of religions and they all have something to offer and they all have a few little cracks and flaws.

During my journey I learned really cool things about Islam, some historical facts about the times of the Prophet and after his death (versus the pre-school level “history” I was taught as a kid). I learned about the golden ages of Islam, the accomplishments of muslims, and how muslims and Islam is tightly woven into the quilt of human history.

And all of this is cool to learn, and I’m proud of muslim contribution. But I have lived my life in a world where Islam is seen as backwater faith, at best, by a lot of the world, including my own. Before I even graduated from Highschool, the spotlight of 9/11 was on Islam and what it meant to be a muslim and everyone had to re-adjust what they knew (and didn’t know) about Islam, especially the muslims themselves.

So I’ve been on my journey for a while now and I’m still slowly walking. I’ve learned a few things, so how about now I finally answer that question?

Why am I a Muslim?

Actually, I came across the answer fairly soon in my journey. And the answer is what has allowed me to expand my horizons and give all those other faiths and belief systems a look-see. The answer was actually in front of my face the entire time, as all great answers always are.

The reason I am a muslim is because of what Islam means. Islam means to submit, without hesitation or objection. Submit to what? Exactly. It doesn’t say. Islam as a religion has a lot to say about it. The prophet had a lot to say about it. People in my life always had a lot to say about it. But those are all the details, the crux of Islam is submission (period).

Some would say submission to Allah, but what is Allah?
*shrug*
We know that whatever Allah is, it’s supposed to be the truest of the true things. Similarly.. Allah is justice, ultimate justice. Allah is compassion, true compassion. Etc. All of these qualities of Islam are tied to the attributes of Allah, the 99 names of Allah. But they’re just pointers to the Allah. Or maybe they are parts of Allah? There’s a whole philosophy around this, the current leading view that is adopted by orthodox muslims is of Al-Ashari’s.

Jewish scholars, and later Christian and then Islamic scholars, seem to have a lot of fun with paradoxes and trying to make sense of the nature of reality. But they all seem to agree that whatever exists, God is higher than that. And thus, if we are submitting to this God, then we’re submitting to everything, the most perfect form of everything.

Islam means to submit to it all.

Submit to the reality around me and the reality I don’t see or know about. This is sort of jarring when I try to think about it. Why should I submit? How can I trust whatever it is that I’m submitting myself to? I don’t want to blindly submit. But Islam doesn’t ask for blind submission. Because you must submit to facts as well. Islam requires you to open your eyes and keep them open and face it all because it’s what is so.

After I’ve thought and experienced some of reality, after I’ve experienced some joy and pain. I find that there is truly nothing more wonderful than submitting to all of it. To fight is useless, I can’t hold myself back from reality. Islam means to submit to the currents of life, to recognize that we’re all in a big sea. We’re fish, not knowing what water is because we’re so immersed in it consistently and we can’t see the most vital element of our existence. We came into existence in this sea. And up to the moment of our death, we shall know nothing outside of the sea of reality.

So ultimately.. I’m a muslim because I was born as one.

But does that make you and everyone a muslim too? Yes, in the greater sense of the word. But like how the color of my skin and the color of my hair is different, yet I’m still a human being, so too does the color of your faith differ, but we’re all submitting to the same thing.

Work Ethics

What’s better? Doing a good job because you like to do good work? Or doing a good job because you feel passionate about something?

It used to sound obvious to me that the first is superior. This would ensure that you always do a good job, despite the job, and this will maximize your chances for success in the world. Simple. Straight. Easy. Right?

But living my life that way hasn’t gotten me anywhere really important. In fact it’s become one of the biggest hurdles in my life to get over. I’m finding that, where others with similar chances in life and now are doing GREAT work, I’m still just doing.. a good job.

The difference between me and those people is that they waited to find something that they’re really passionate about before they committed to doing better than just a good job. A commitment is a powerful thing, and while I’ve been blindly whoring my good work onto every other field I’ve encountered, I’ve never really felt the power of full commitment.

And now commitment, passion, and great work is missing in my life. How sad.

So learn from me boys and girls, sometimes a job well done is not its own reward.