So, what are you…

As I stretch and settle into this blog, I’m still searching for my voice. This post is maybe a bit more story-telly & me-centric than the tone I’ll strive to hit. Or it could be the magic right here right now. Regardless, it comes straight from the heart, as the first has and the rest will. So, I post – in all its imperfect glory. A day not challenged is no way to live.

My recent past has been filled with conventionally-questionable activity. A quarter-century into this adventure we call life, I am not in school, nor am I working full-time – both of these by choice, and much to the chagrin of my well-meaning South Asian parents. (Don’t get me wrong: I love them, they love me, and they want what’s good for me. I know this and am so grateful; it’s just tough to negotiate that gratitude with the challenges & tensions that come from me going off the beaten path and not quite having a satisfactory answer on lock.)

So what am I doing?
I ask myself this question sometimes every morning now. (I should have been asking it more often before this little adventure started, but that’s for later.) A snapshot of my life as of today looks like me living, learning, and working by:

Ÿ Reprogramming many of the habits & personal scripts that had historically held me back – proudly doing some major damage to my bucket list & life goals as a result.

 Following a cross-disciplinary, self-curated curriculum consisting of online courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, events, books, scholarly articles, websites, videos, TED talks, blogs, conversations with incredibly intelligent people… learning more diverse content than ever before and honestly just becoming a big life-nerd.

Ÿ Doing lots pro-bono work with some great organizations.

Ÿ Getting creative (e.g. bartering) to keep things I value in my life during a time where my budget is quite… exclusive.

Being better to my body than maybe ever before, by making sure I eat, sleep, and sweat – well, and enough.

Ÿ Nurturing relationships with countless ridiculously amazing people who I’m somehow blessed to have as friends, family, mentors, thought-twins, tribe members, co-conspirators…

Ÿ Having many barrier-shattering, candid conversations about the stuff that really matters, with people I used to have my “Everything’s fine! I got this!” facade on around – and realizing that true strength lies in being really vulnerable & vulnerably real.

So, the more fitting question would be “what am I being?” since the common theme has essentially been “figuring out this thing called life & learning how to BE.” Specifically on the career front (the thing on the front-burner of my obsessive mind), I’ve been:

Ÿ Honing in on that sweet spot where my passions, knowledge, and skills intersect. (I feel like I’ve figured this out for the time being. The fun part is – it’s always going to change. Consider it a never-really-checked-off item on the life To-Do To-Be list.)

Ÿ Quieting the voice inside that keeps nagging at me with “you think you can actually do this?” and to just go out there and DO, guns blazing (having researched proper firearm use & safety precautions; I’m nothing if not thorough).

That last little point has been my biggest hang-up. I roughly know the steps I need to take. I’ve got a solid skill set to start with, a good foundation of knowledge, enough sense of direction to forage forward; I have value to offer. I just need to put myself out there, occupy my right-now niche, and find my audience (oh you elusive bunch!).

For better and for worse, this is one of the most important parts that my reprogramming hasn’t quite addressed yet: undoing ~20 years’ worth of training that helped me be a little too good at being loss-averse, at minimizing risk & avoiding failure – the exact things that need conquering to really live life out loud. Blazing a trail and creating something new – in relationships, in work, in life – is equal(?) parts romantic and terrifying. I’m still living somewhere in the negotiation process, as I have been for a few months now. When getting disheartened or frustrated, I remind myself that things worth doing are rarely easy, or quick.

Luckily, I also have the love and support of many wonderful, intelligent, no-nonsense (WINNing) people that push me to see myself as they see me (you know who you are, and you should know that I can’t get enough of you). They are my champions, who hold me to greatness so that I can reach my true potential.

[If we overestimate and overrate man, we promote him to what he really can be…] (Idealists) are the true, the real realists… If we take man as he is, we make him worse. But if we take man as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be. – Viktor Frankl quoting Goethe, circa 1972. Check out the video – so spot on.

I am an instigator. I strike up conversations about passions. I catalyze people getting to their “point B”. I share everything I know with anyone open to hearing it. I feel like the conversations I’ve been having with said WINNing people, and the mutual lessons we’ve shared and reinforced, are just too important not to broadcast so I’m just bringing real-life me online. If this brings you, questioning & pondering the same things, into the conversation or acts as a starting spark, then I’m a happy puppy. I’m certainly not the only one creating community around this, and maybe not the all-round “best”. But this is as selfish as it is selfless, and is uniquely m; that’s enough for now.

Humbly, ~ H

Ps: In writing this big post, I found (of course) that specific phrases sparked giant thought tangents that could easily fill up entire other entries. Adopting a sane method, I will thoughtfully package & post each in turn, rather than turn this one into an encyclopedia (losing my 3 readers in the process). So, look out for the future postings that I know will inevitably link back to this one.

After all, thoughts are dots; the connections are everywhere.

The big dots of the post

Regularly checking in with yourself and asking the “What am I doing / being” question should really be mandatory of everyone. Personal opinion.
Letting go of ‘should’ and being really vulnerable & vulnerably real is one solid path towards success. Being held to greatness is another. (Once you get over the little – or HUGE – hurdle of terror at the prospect.)
Great ideas are timeless.
Struggling with putting ‘work-in-progress’ and ‘imperfect’ out to the world is still a vice. I stare right at that fear and charge along anyway.
There is not a chance that I could do any of this without much support & encouragement. No man is an island, and I owe oceans to countless; my cup runneth over.

Where do you think you fall on the un/conventional spectrum? Is there something about yourself that you’d love to reprogram? Thinking about your own champions… have you told them lately?

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Here, now. Go.

Deep breath. Calm yourself. Now: go.

Hi friends. I’m happy you’ve joined me here. After much thinking, talk, and hesitation, this blog now officially exists outside of my own head. Some may thinking “Um, starting a new blog? That happens about… 8 times a second?” The answer to which is: likely. But throw in a modicum butt-load of fear of doing things that make me feel exposed to ridicule (I won’t even start on perfectionist tendencies here), and an apparent baby step easily transforms into something much more. Thanks for leaping with me.

Past

I’ve been by-the-books and obedient of categories & authority more often than not throughout my life: – the product of a unique mix of eastern cultural influence / family dynamics / personality / societal dictations (among other things). So throughout high school and university, I got great at tapping into that to become a master of checking off the boxes, seeking definitions, meeting (or exceeding) the clarified criteria, figuring out what other people wanted and delivering… basically, I got very good at working the system, doing what I was told, and getting things DONE. These are great skills to be sure – but lacking as stand-alones.

Until a few years ago I feel I largely lived, studied, and worked as if business, sciences, design, computer sciences, engineering, arts, etc. were mostly independent disciplines. They have overlap of course, but big picture: they just don’t mix. I mean, they’re in separate faculties for a reason! A scientist has no business working with an artist in the real world… (sadly this false assumption seems to play out heavily in the actual ‘real world’). In the same vein: school, work, volunteering, family & friends, life – these were somewhat siloed categories that I struggled to juggle; they just didn’t fit together in a way that made good sense, and a couple of things always took the backseat.

I was somehow missing that crucial piece of knowing: the relatively recent overarching understanding that it all ties together, and that everything makes everything else make sense.

A lot of people… haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. – Steve Jobs on interaction design, 2005

The funny thing is, I had had plenty of diverse experiences throughout my life, giving me plenty of dots to play with. Doodle-potential like you wouldn’t believe! But I did what many kids do in high-school and onwards: cultivated an identity that fit in instead of standing out, that looked good instead of odd, and then worked damn hard to make that truth. This was especially salient for me as a third-culture kid as I tried to piece myself together from two often-conflicting “menus”.

And that’s the sad little catch-22 right there, isn’t it? In all our haste to conform, to fit into the mould & go after the big ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ pieces, we oftentimes sweep aside the very things that would actually make us successful. Packed away in a chest with the other frivolous things, in shoe-boxes under the bed – because now it was time to get serious, get in the game, and get ahead! So my dots stayed largely unexplored & unconnected; a treasure trove of incubated potential patiently waiting while I was off trying to conquer the world.

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say!— success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)

Recently

My unconventionally unconventional journey began somewhat accidentally. Allowing myself the freedom to step back and take a brief break, I slowly shifted from a focus of (over)”doing” to one of “being”. (This territory may include lots of introspection, thinking, reading, asking why until you’re sick of hearing yourself say it, etc.) In the process of pulling those dots out of storage and connecting with myself, the hazy silo-veil that I’d been perceiving the world through also began to lift away.

Now, progress is always incremental, sometimes so stealthy that we don’t notice, but always sprinkled with milestones that stand out in retrospect. An important event for me to recognize was a self-definition breakthrough I had in March; a seemingly innocuous exchange with someone at a conference made me really stop and realize: I’m seeing connections that some others are missing. Others with titles, with expertise, with insight. I have unique value to offer; I’m creative. (This event was a one-two punch in importance, because the ever-important event description didn’t include me as an invited type of audience; I thought it would be valuable and went anyways – a daring move to by-the-books me of yesteryear).

Fast forward >> this was my day just shy of three months ago, on April 18th: hit with such inspiration and drive that I actually felt it viscerally, I sat and started writing like a crazy person. Ideas were pouring out of me; cue cards were everywhere. It seemed to be the product of that incubated potential, unleashed. The phrase “jotting down thoughts; connecting the dots” flashed through my mind… and lazily hung around.

From the perspective of the brain, new ideas are merely several old thoughts that occur at the exact same time. – Jonah Lehrer on memory & creativity, How We Decide (2009)

thoughtsaredots was born to embody the constantly eye-opening, awe-evoking, knock-me-back realization that everything is connected. If this is a “no, duh” statement to you – beauty. I want to be more like you, and hope we get to chat one day soon. For those who didn’t roll your eyes all the way into your head, you’re closer to the space that I’d come from. Because when I say everything is connected, I do literally mean everything. Sometimes overwhelming, yet awesome in the truest sense of the word.

Here, Now

Thankfully, I’m still great at all those skills that my formal training helped me hone in. But now I’ve pulled back my lens to bring more diversity & potential into focus. Paired with a recent propensity to disregard divisive labels and bend boundaries – there’s really nothing stopping me but me (much more on that to come). I sometimes struggle now to to see things as parceled into separate entities. There’s not a single thing that I’ve experienced over the years – studying biological sciences & arts psychology, dance, event management, various leadership roles, acting, philanthropy, personal relationships, Bikram yoga – that fails to coalesce…

So here we are. This blog will be as I am: a work in progress. Part personal, part pondering, all genuine. Stick around if you’re curious – we can see where this goes together.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

Ÿ It’s always the right time to shift perspective, to change trajectory. I’m a 20-something born-again dreamer and reforming realist, mindfully overriding my old perfectionist & procrastinatory tendencies to make big things happen.
Ÿ There’s a place where life and diverse disciplines like the arts, sciences, business and technology intersect; I call it home.
ŸŸ My path is my own – not fully “conventional”, nor fully “unconventional”. I’m negotiating this as I have all the countless other in-betweens in my life, making my self-identity as a creative connector that much stronger.

What about you? Do you feel you’re stuck in silos  or do you draw diverse connections all the time?  Has any stealthy progress crept past your radar lately?