Inspiration

So last year, inspired by the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness” I entered a photography competition in which I could win $50,000 which I could travel the world with and do a project. Here was my entry: Link

Random Acts of Kindness

The powerful message coined by peace activist Anne Herbert: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” has spread like wildfire across America and the World, which has inspired movies such as Pay it Forward, Amelie, and even the “Free Hugs Campaign” on Youtube.

In this individualistic and self-centered world, people have become suspicious of one another and have become turned-off by the idea of helping one another for no personal or material gain. Furthermore, people don’t believe that they can make a difference or an impact in this world as they have been disillusioned by the idea that their one vote in an election or donating a dollar to a non-profit foundation can make any difference. They believe that they have to either find a cure to a disease or donate a million dollars to change the world. However one little act of kindness can change the world by spreading love to the lives of others, which can multiply and spread almost infinitely.

My dream photo assignment would be to travel the world and ask strangers: “If you could do one random act of kindness for anybody else in the world, what would it be?” I would then take a picture of the person and then travel to a random spot on the globe and do that act of kindness for another random stranger. I would show that stranger a picture of the initial stranger and then do a random act of kindness for him or her. To show proof of that random act of kindness being fulfilled, I would take a picture of it. After doing so, I would then ask that person what act of random kindness he or she would like to spread to another stranger. I would then continue this cycle until I have exhausted out my funds and resources and open up a gallery to show and explain this concept.

The gallery would have the pictures of all the strangers and their random act of kindness printed on the walls as well as the photographic proof of the random acts of kindness. The gallery would have all the pictures lined up, encircling the gallery, and ultimately making a “circle chain” to show how people from all different walks of life who are total strangers have affected anothers’ life through a simple and random act of kindness. And hopefully this gallery could help inspire people to do these little small acts of kindness to one another, and hopefully change the world one person at a time.

I paraded this idea on facebook and even got close to 2000 members to join through the help of many friends: Facebook Link. In the end, I got very close to becoming a finalist, getting around 800 votes. Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut and didn’t win the competition.

However in the end I didn’t get disillusioned or disappointed from not winning. If anything, it inspired me more than ever to continue photography as a passion of mine as well as championing the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness.” I think that a younger, more cynical version of myself would have extremely disappointed in the fact that I didn’t win the competition to do something extremely great. But the older, more optimistic me realized that it wasn’t about winning some big contest to go out and take amazing photos or do random acts of kindness. It is the stuff I could do anytime, whether in LA or in Paris.

Seeing all the people that voted for me and convinced their friends to vote for me touched as well inspired me. The thought of all the loving people I had around me spreading this idea of kindness and hope in this often selfish world made me all warm and tingly inside. These people could have been doing other things with their time, but even though they dedicated a minute or so to my cause, it really meant the world to me. We must always look forward with optimism, or else how can we truly live and continue to get things done in our everyday daily lives?

But skipping forward to the idea about inspiration. When I entered this photo competition on “Random Acts of Kindness,” I was highly inspired by Cindy, who started a Free Hugs Campaign at UCLA. (Youtube Link for original idea, and  Free Hugs at UCLA Facebook Link). I also watched the movie with her: “Pay it Foward” in which a young boy uses the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness” to help out a number of strangers in his life, paying the ultimate price in the end. The idea seemed seemed so fresh and compelling at the time, which burned through my body like an ember. Anyone who has been truly inspired at a time can relate to this… but what brings me to my next point…

Finding inspiration can often be difficult. Life can seem so mundane and boring sometimes but we must really find beauty in the little things in life. But I feel that to truly find inspiration, we must break out of our routines and have new experiences. I notice whenever I am inspired, it is an idea somewhat foreign to me or an idea that I had never really thought about. How can we have an epiphany about life if we just do the same old thing everyday? We must take that road less taken or go off on that random path we don’t know where it takes us. It is an exhilarating feeling as we can be so use to comfort and predictability. As much as we love stability, it is the times when we step out of our comfort zone do we truly see the world in a different light and find inspiration in the little things such as seeing a sunset or looking at a child give up his seat for an elder.

We can also find inspiration through others. When we only think about our own thoughts, our ideas can get extremely one-sided and boring. However by reading the thoughts and ideas of others, we can fuse them with our own ideas in a great and refreshing new way. I have been constantly finding new sources of inspiration from reading posts from others on blogs, reading books, or even exploring on my own. Seeing things from the other side of the fence really helps me get a better view from my side.

I also find much inspiration through exercise. I strongly believe in this philosophy of a strong link between a body and mind. If our body isn’t stimulated, how can we expect our minds to be stimulated as well? Some of my most inspired moments have been when I have been exercising through a really grueling workout. By pushing my body to the limit, my body is overwhelmed with a sense of euphoria by the sense of accomplishment of really doing that extra pushup or pullup when my mind doesn’t think I can. By pushing past our mental barriers that restrict our physical movement can we really unlock the keys to the mind. As people say… “mind over matter.”

So really try to find inspiration in your everyday lives! Even though we might have these rigid routines, by making small adjustments can we find the beauty in the mundane. Read a book, go for a jog in an unknown area, or take a second to appreciate the weather. It doesn’t take much to be inspired, we just need to know the right places to look.

Detachment

When I first read “Tuesdays with Morrie,” I learned about Morrie’s idea of “detachment.” What it pretty meant was that there is a certain point that you must detach yourself from situations that you have no control over, and simply let go and “let it be.”

For example, lets say you studied your hardest on a test and you ended up getting a B instead of that A you wanted. Many people will feel frustrated and disappointed by this, and constantly beat themselves up and stress over it. They might then start worrying that they won’t end up getting that A in the class which spirals into other worries about not getting into a good grad school which might prevent themselves from getting a good job, dooming them in the end.

However there is a point where we must learn to detach from our situations and simply accept things for how they are. Once we learn how to detach from these situations are we able to truly live without restraint.

The feeling of detachment is an incredible one. It is like that exercise that many groups do in which you get people to cross their arms, close their eyes, and fall down backwards with the other members catching you in the end. To get over that initial fear of actually letting go and falling down backwards is a really difficult one. “What if they don’t catch me?” and “what if I fall and I break my spine?” are some common concerns that come to mind. However that second that you are truly able to trust in the other members, let go, and fall back freely without restraint have you truly learned how to detach.

Life is tough. Everybody encounters trials and tribulations which adds to the stress of everyday life. If we always hold onto every little thing that bothers us or stresses us out, we will always live life restrained which prevents us from living to the fullest. If we fail to get that position that everybody is applying for and can’t detach from our disappointment, how can we expect to further succeed in the future without having that disappointment holding us back?

Sometimes we have difficulty seeing past people’s flaws and truly loving them for who they are, not what they aren’t. Nobody is perfect. We might have that friend who is extremely forgetful or that parent who is constantly nagging us. However if we can’t detach and take them for who they are, we often forget or can’t see their positive side. We should remember the time that they called you when you really needed them or the time they gave you company while you were lonely.

Human society has become incredibly pessimistic and the art of being optimistic is becoming long-lost. So really try to put it upon yourself to live life to the fullest, and detach yourself from situations that you cannot control.  Look beyond the negative words that others may say to prevent you from achieving whatever it may be. Humans thrive on the future and hope, not on the past and despair. So look beyond the fence of restraint and detach, because the grass is truly greener on the other side.

It is not what you say, but what people hear.

I am currently listening to a great audiobook called “It is not what you say, but what people hear.” Link: http://www.amazon.com/Words-That-Work-What-People/dp/1401302599

So pretty much the premise of the book is exactly what the title says: It is not what you say, but what people hear. So meaning regardless of how good your message is and how eloquent it is, if it is misunderstood by your audience, it looses all effect.

So his core message is that you must try hard to put yourself into the shoes of your listeners, and make sure that you deliver your message as concisely as possible with them being able to understand yourself. If you are not able to connect and reach out with your audience, the meaning of your message can be misunderstood, and at worst, misinterpreted.

He suggests 11 rules for effective communication:

1. Use small words.
2. Use short sentences.
3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.
4. Consistency matters.
5. Novelty: offer something new.
6. Sound and texture matter.
7. Speak aspirationally.
8. Visualize.
9. Ask a question.
10. Provide context and explain relevance.
11. Visual imagery matters.

Now these are all supposted to apply more to the corporate, political, and advertising world, but I feel that it carries much everyday value as well. Communication in today’s society is one of the most important skills, and many times we can be misunderstood by who we are talking to. Whether it be our friends, our family members, or our loved ones. How many times have you heard someone say something that is misunderstood and later say… “That’s not what I meant!”

One of the philosophies that I believe in is “less is more.” So it is unnecessary to say what you can say in three sentences that can be said in one. By adding frivilous flowery language to our words, our listeners can often lose sight of what we are trying to say, whereas SAT words can confuse them as well.

Now I’m not saying never use advanced words or thoughts when speaking to your listeners, but always know the context you are in. If you are talking to your professor or fellow college friends it will probably be okay, but if you are talking to a random person on the street or an aquaintance don’t assume they know what you are talking about.

Which brings me to five more points said by the author:

1. Never assume knowledge or awareness.
2. Get the order right.
3. Gender can obstruct understanding.
4. It’s about the children.
5. How you define determines how you are received.

Trying to condense this entire book into a single blog post is near impossible, but I will tell you what I took out of it:

To be an effective speaker, you must be even more effective as a listener. If you want to get your intended message across to whoever you are talking to, you must really see things from their side of the fence. And to really put yourself into the shoes of your listener, you must know what they are thinking and how they are feeling.

So be a fervent listener and don’t be afraid to ask questions. By asking questions, we let our listeners know that we actually care about their concerns  which puts both parties on a more even playing field.

And never assume that the other person know what you are talking about or trying to convey. You might have thought about a certain idea for hours upon end or studied a certain concept, but not everybody will be as well-knowledged about it as yourself.

For example, I sometimes forget that not everybody is as technical about photography as myself. So I sometimes find myself using extremely technical terms such as “aperture” when another word such as “lens opening” can work much better.

So really try to pay attention to what you say to other people and know the strength and power of your words. The power of words should never be underestimated as the power of listening shouldn’t be underestimated as well.

So another assignment for you guys. Speak less, and listen more. Ask questions and really figure out what the other person feels.

Just do it.

Just do it.

Coined by Nike, it has become the most effective slogans in the world out of any other company. These three words carry so much strength and energy without having to be long and complicated.

Just do it.

How many times in our lives we wanted to do something, but somehow never got around to actually doing it? It is funny, because we always find reasons why not to do something rather than finding reasons why to do something. Exercise is a common one. Everyone wants to exercise and lose weight but few people actually do it. They will always make up excuses and say that they’re “too tired”, that they don’t have a gym membership, and that exercising is boring. People give up without even actually trying.

I know that the first step is always the hardest. It does take a lot of energy and will to actually go out and get something accomplished. But how can we expect to get things done without actually taking action on our thoughts and aspirations?

Sometimes we get so caught up in the details that we miss the point. I had a good friend named Susanne who really wanted to start up a blog, but she always told me how she didn’t know what exactly to write about or what to title her blog. I told her that those were the details that weren’t very important, and the most important thing was actually creating the blog and actually writing in it. She talked about making it for a while, and one day she finally took the plunge. She combined her passion of writing, photography, food, and makeup all in one refreshing blog where you can check out here: http://simply-susie.blogspot.com/

I had always wanted to make a blog like this for a while, but never got around to doing it. I would constantly tell myself that I would start it, but I never took the initiative in doing it. But I knew that the more excuses I made the less likely I was going to start it up, so I took action and actually created the blog, not quite sure what to write about. But definitely creating the blog was the first step in achieving my goals.

There is the popular phrase: “actions speak louder than words.” I always try to apply this to my everyday life and try to always “walk the walk” instead of “talking the talk.” If you always say that you’re going to do something but never do, you are going to end up disappointing a lot of people, including yourself.

So take it upon yourself and

Just do it.

No excuses.

No complaining.

Just do it.

The importance of sleep

Today we live in a very sleep-deprived society. Sleep is often pushed to the side in favor of “getting things done” and we often stay up all night finishing studying or working. It almost seems that nowadays sleep is seen as optional rather than a necessity.

I definitely know in the college scene, sleeping more than 6 hours a night is unheard of. When people hear that I sleep about 8 hours a night, they often look at me with suspicion and confusion. They ask me “how do you get so much sleep a night?” or “how do you get enough time to get things done?”

Often times people believe that you can only get sleep if you aren’t busy. But I am just as busy as any other student by working 20 hours a week, being active in my Korean Catholic fellowship, teaching Sunday School to High School students, exercising regularly, taking photographs, writing, while taking 4 classes.

So how do I find enough time to get everything yet still average 8 hours a night? Easy. I make sleep a priority in my life.

When I get enough sleep, I am more energetic, productive, and happy. I wake up feeling full of energy and ready to seize the day. And when I have to study or get things done, my brain is fresh and ready to get work done. On the other hand, when I am tired I can’t get anything done. The entire day I feel miserable and when I try to study nothing absorbs.

I often hear my peers having to stay up late or pull all-nighters to finish their assignments. I understand that sometimes unexpected things occur in which we have no choice but to pull an all-nighter, but the majority of the time we are just wasting time when we stay up like chatting or being on facebook.

When we are sleep-deprived the work that we can do when we are well-rested in an hour can take twice or even three times that long. Sometimes when we are sleep-deprived, we can’t absorb any information at all.

We also feel miserable when we don’t get enough sleep. How can we enjoy life when we constantly feel fatigued and like we’re going to fall asleep?

Some easy ways to get more sleep:

1. Reprioritize your life

What is truly important in your life? Anything that isn’t, cut it out. I used to love playing computer games and would stay up all night playing them but I get so much more sleep after I have cut that bad habit.

2. Exercise regularly

I know a lot of you guys out there have insomnia and feel restless when you get to bed. Regular exercise can cure that problem. By getting good workouts daily, we expend all that extra energy we have cooped up in our bodies which tires us out when it is time to sleep at night. It can also make us happier, because when we exercise our body release natural endorphins which make our body feel good

3. Set a regular sleeping schedule

We can’t expect to get regular sleep if we sleep at 10pm one night and at 3:00am the next. Set a certain time for going to sleep (mine is 11pm) and try to get to bed 30 minutes before. So when I see the clock at 10:30PM I shut off my computer, brush my teeth, and hit the sack. By having a regular sleep schedule, our bodies will know when to go to sleep and will thus become naturally tired at that certain time.

4. Make sleep a priority

I said this is my secret to getting enough sleep and it could be yours too. Realize that you can’t just put off sleep and expect that your body is going to be okay. Try to get all your work done early, so you can get enough sleep at night. Realize how much more productive and happy you are when you get enough sleep, which will compell you to get more sleep.

5. Look forward to the next day

Whenever I go to sleep, I am always excited for the next day. The feeling of waking up to the sun, getting my morning workout and the refreshing shower afterwards. I look forward to the people that I am going to see the next day and the new experiences I am going to encounter. When you thrive off life, going to sleep early will help the next day come sooner.

So hopefully these tips help out! So don’t stay up on Facebook all night stalking that one cute girl you met at the party or watching those Gossip Girl reruns. Go to your beds, they are calling for you.

Unplugging pt2 (unplug your iPod)



So in my previous post “Unplugging” I talked about the importance of unplugging from technology as it can be a distraction to our lives. So I decided that I would give a very easy and simple suggestion that is easy to implement into our everyday lives.

Unplug your iPod.

Sounds crazy right? With the huge success of the iPod, you rarely ever see anybody walking around the streets without those famous white earbuds. Although iPods are great to listen to our favorite jams, it is just another thing that disconnects and distracts us from the REAL world.

Now I know that there are a lot of music lovers out there who might feel outrage at this. However let my clarify my idea. I’m not suggesting to ditch music alltogether but rather to unplug your iPods ONCE IN A WHILE to get back in touch with the everyday world.

When we are walking around with our iPods, it is easy to get rid of the distractions in our everyday lives and to relieve ourselves of boredom. However by constantly avoiding these distractions, we lose the ability to actually DEAL with them when we have to. We start losing patience and the ability to pay attention if something simply isn’t entertaining.

When I stopped listening to my iPod on my way to and from class, I started NOTICING the world around me. That random couple getting into an argument or the random person asking you to join their club. Although I started to notice these “annoying things” I started noticing things I wouldn’t have ever noticed had I had been distracted by my music. For example the soft breeze of the trees, or the sound of my feet crunching over leaves, or the innocent chatter of children.

So your assignment for today is to go an entire day (maybe even a week) without listening to your iPod (or mp3 player).

Start noticing what you start really HEARING and EXPERIENCING. After your assignment, come back and leave a comment about your experiences!

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand



There is a happiness paradox nowadays. Life has gotten much better for people in terms of convenience, technology, and general standard of living, but people aren’t any happier than people from 50 years ago. This is quite a conundrum. Wouldn’t it be natural that people should be getting happier if their lives are getting better on a scale?

On average, people are living longer, healthier, with having more luxuries. Fifty years ago it was rare for a family to have two cars, but now it is a given. The average age of living is now around 80 years old, while around 50 years ago it was 60. With the internet everything is so much more convenient; 50 years ago nobody would have imagined that you could pay your bills or even order groceries online.

So if we are living longer, healthier, and more conveniently, why aren’t we living happier lives? The answer lies somewhere in human nature as well as society. As humans, it is difficult to ever be truly satisfied which may be rooted in our primal sense of “survival of the fittest.” However at the same time, society promotes the “dog eat dog” mentality which makes us to always want more and never be satisfied with what we have. If we have a car, we will want to have two. If we have two, we might want to add a third. If we have three, we might want to have a motorcycle on the side.

In Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” that he gave when he was dying of a terminal illness, he stressed the idea of working with what we have and in his most memorable quotes said: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” This quote has many meanings, one of them being that we should be satisfied with what we have, and make the best out of it.

Now I’m not saying to achieve anything in life and to lose all sorts of inspiration, but just not to become frustrated when your neighbor drives a BMW and you drive a Toyota. Materialistic goods never bring happiness or satisfaction. The feeling we get when we buy something new or expensive is a fleeting one. It is gone here for a second and gone the next.

I remember when I was 9 years old, my biggest dream in the world was to have this RC car which could drive itself even when flipped over. Flashy commercials with the RC car doing flips off stairs, driving in the dirt and water, and doing spins tempted me so badly. I wanted more than anything to get this car, and I decided that once I got it that I would be satisfied for the rest of my life. Therefore for my 10th birthday, I begged and pleaded with my mom and told her that this was the last toy that she would ever have to buy me. She shook her head and tried to talk some sense into me, but I refused to listen.

On the fateful day that I finally got the car, I was the most excited kid in the whole wide world. It was an exhilarating feeling tearing open the box and taking out my new toy. However after a few hours of playing with it, the appeal quickly wore off and I remember being shocked of how quickly I got bored by it. I then had a small epiphany as a child how material things couldn’t truly bring lasting happiness.

As elementary as this example is, I feel that it is an effective one. Even though we may look at children and say that they are foolish for wanting to have such useless toys, we could easily look at adults who buy even more expensive “toys” such as designer purses or expensive cars. Sometimes when people feel depressed they try to cure themselves with “retail therapy” by buying expensive things to make themselves feel better. However it never brings satisfaction, but rather wanting newer, better, and more trendy things.

Therefore we must learn how to stay away from material things, and be truly satisfied with the small and personal things that we have in our lives that we might often take for granted such as friendships. At times we forget how precious friends are that we often push away friends in lieu of work or even studying. Sure that extra hour at work or studying may earn us a few more bucks or even help us a little on our test the next day, but think about how much more precious that extra hour would be with our friends.

So to truly be happy in life, really count the blessings that you already have in your life. We are often distracted by what we don’t have which blinds us from what we already have in front of our eyes. The only way we truly realize how valuable something is until we lose it. For example, I always took my health for granted until I damaged my knee during a basketball game which put me in crutches for almost two months. During those two months just getting from point A to point B was a chore, and I remember looking with envy at people who had perfectly good legs who just took them for granted.

Being happy in life is not a goal or destination; it is a process. People often tell themselves that once they have that Mercedes or that 3-bedroom house with the white picket fence that they will be happy in life. And guess what? Once they get that fancy car or that big house they still feel empty which makes them constantly chase for bigger, better, and more expensive things. There is no reason why we can’t strive to be happy RIGHT NOW than later. Why make ourselves miserable in our everyday lives just to say that we will strive to be happy once we finish school or get that top-paying job?

I have many friends who often put schoolwork over their own personal happiness. They always tell me that by secluding themselves from their friends and from social events, that they will succeed and go to a top-school, where they will get a high-paying job from when they can start having “real fun.” But the sad fact is people with this type of mentality never end up being happy, because they will always have the mindset of putting work above everything else. One day they might get that high-paying job, but when they get that they will find another distraction. Working even harder to get that raise or that higher position.

I am not advocating just having fun and putting away all of life’s responsibilities. I am just stressing the fact that we must balance our lives and value our own personal happiness and well-being at the same level of school, work, and our responsibilities.

So really try to live in the present and value the things that we already have rather than we don’t have. Sure other people might be richer, taller, or better looking than us, but that shouldn’t distract us from all the other blessings we might have like our talents, passions, friends and family.  And really try to put happiness as one of the NECESSITIES in our lives, not something that are frivolous and unnecessary. And once we can learn how to focus on what we have we have than what we don’t have, we can truly be happy.