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.

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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.