About the Wiser Next Week Series: These entries will involve posting my book, Wiser Next Week, chapter by chapter, freely available to the public. Additionally, I’ll be recounting a story about something I’ve learned based on the chapter’s topic since the months that have past when the book was published in December 2018.
Being A Sneaky Twerp
When I was in the 11th grade , I really wanted to get a job to get my career going. There was a youth program that helped high school students like myself get a job.
Besides needing to go through all the workshops, another thing they required was a letter of recommendation. Kinda hard for me as I kept to myself all through my life up to that point. I eventually asked the teacher of my favorite subject, history.
Luckily for me she said yes and wrote a letter of recommendation for me on my behalf (eternally grateful).
The day I went to go pick up the letter from her, she put the letter in an envelope and sealed it with her signature on top of the sealed section.
“Darn” I thought to myself, “I really wanted to see what she wrote about me.”
She handed the letter to me and I took it home to hand it the the youth program the next day. I was fingerling the seal, wanting so badly to break it like a child with his hand in the cookie jar…
“Got it, I have a brilliant idea!”
I grabbed my flashlight and ran into the bathroom. All the lights were off so it was pitch black, I turned the flashlight on and put it up against the sealed letter. I was able to see through it and read part of the letter.
I was so pleased with myself as I read it. And then I got to the part about me needing to “come out of my shell.” I scratched my head, I didn’t get it. I was happy with who I was. I didn’t pay too much attention to this and turned in the letter to the youth career office and got in to the program. Grateful my teacher wrote a letter and vouched for me (thanks Ms. Tang)
When Lightning Strikes Twice
Fast forward to after college, I had been an accountant for a year in the work force and it was December 2018, time for employee reviews. They were happy with the progress I made since the rough patch during the beginning of the year. One thing the CEO brought up was that I (again) needed to “come out of my shell.”
I’ve said before that lighting don’t strike twice. Well that refers to coincidences, if it does happen twice its likely because other people know something you don’t.
This was my old behavior of keeping to myself. I knew I had to do something different. I relabeled,
If there is something you want to change, take note of our similarity to frogs. If you put a frog in a boiling kettle, it will jump out instantaneously, but if you put it in a warm kettle and slowly turn up the heat, it will stay and cook. Most of us are like that frog, we’ll idle and idle, waiting and hoping that circumstances will change in our favor on their own, praying that things will get better with time. With this course of action (inaction rather), it never will. Pure hell forces action, while anything less can be endured with rationalization.
I needed to associate pure hell with the way I lived as an accountant with no friends, no woman, no social life, basically a loser. It was okay because I was 22 and was still figuring it out. But I would imagine my 60 year old self in the same exact situation and immediately thought to myself, “ah, screw this.”
My new motto I would eventually coin “seek discomfort” as I worked towards pushing my mental limits. Some of the things I did since then,
- Randomly asking girls in SE Asia if they wanted to go out on a date (they all said no, darn)
- Became a bumbling English teacher in Thailand
- Asked 500 Thai college students if they would take a survey (people stared as they were taking aback by me [I’m Asian and could pass for Thai] approaching them and speaking American English)
- Knocking on the doors of 100 professors in Bangkok asking if I could teach their class (taken aback as well)
- Cracking jokes during my father’s Eulogy (all appropriate)
- Recording myself and putting it on YouTube (oh god)
- Having heated words with people that tried to cut me in line in Mexico City (“Chino hablas Inglis”) I was ready to pounce if they didn’t back off.
- Being interviewed on podcasts
- Drawing attention to myself by singing along to English songs on my headphones in Mexico (more stares)
The point is if you want to make a better you, you need to go after it and take the initiative. Nothing worth having in life falls on your lap. In the immortal words of Michael Jackson,
“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Here is the “On Change” chapter of Wiser Next Week. Take it and implement it into your own life.