The wonderful music video above is from Canadian artist, Homeshake, for his new single, "Every Single Thing". In case you didn't notice, Homeshake never appears in this music video. In fact, we aren't even in Canada. Instead, we are in Taiwan with my two incredibly talented friends, Wen hao Chang, and Ning Han.
The back story:
Wen hao Chang and Ning Han originally uploaded a dance video on their Instagram 4 months ago just as a way to remember what they practiced. And just for kicks, they hashtagged the artist #homeshake.
Here's the original video:
Well, Homeshake saw the video, loved it so much and decided to have the both of them create the official music video for his latest single, "Every Single Thing".
I love this.
It's a simple, yet inspiring example of the great things that can happen when you put yourself out there, and share your gifts with the world, regardless of imperfections.
Thank you, Wen hao Chang, and Ning Han—
For inspiring us to not just continue pursuing our passions, but to share it with the world as well.
"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." —Pablo Picasso
by Jason Lam
I think it’s a beautiful thing to share your work with the world. To go out on a limb and create without inhibition. I know it’s scary. But I also think it’s worth the risk. Because you never know how your work can benefit others. In the worst case scenario you can be completely ignored. But in the best case scenario you could save a life, or the entire world. You need to keep going.
I need to keep going.
by Jason Lam
If you feel yourself evolving, it is in your best interest to let it happen and take you where it will. Be it a new hobby, a new hairstyle, moving to a new country, or simply buying new clothes. I say follow your evolution wherever it goes because no matter how odd, embarrassing, or out of the blue it may seem, this is your body exploring new lands and reaching beyond its comfort zone in order to grow into its highest potential.
Those who love us most may think the new horizons you’re exploring are too weird, out of the ordinary, or even irresponsible. They may feel compelled to stop you and keep you right where you are. Our environments act very much like the clothes you wear on a daily basis. They hold your identity in place, and remind you of who you are and the role you play in society. But when the time comes to shed your skin and evolve into who you must become next, you must have the courage to stay true to yourself, even if that means leaving the people that care about you most.
Take into account all the things you’ve collected throughout your journey and reassess whether or not those things still serve you. Often times you will find many of the things you hold onto have already achieved their purpose, and you are more than ready to let them go and move on. Like an old sweater, I encourage the disposing of old items, ways of thought, and surroundings to make room for things that better suit who you are now and who you are to become.
I have been feeling an immense change in myself. I realized I have been clinging onto negative thought patterns that have only served to hold me back. I was, in a way, addicted to my own self-loathing. I was never good enough, and therefore, not good enough for others as well. I didn’t love myself, and as a result, I also never allowed myself to be loved. I expected and accepted disappointment with open arms. Opportunities came my way, and I’d push them away. People came my way, and I wouldn’t let them in. Happiness was constantly beyond my grasp. I was convinced life never gave me a chance, when in reality I just never gave myself a chance.
These thoughts no longer serve me.
Nor do the physical manifestations of these thoughts.
In order to move on, I had to go through all the emotional baggage I collected in my life. I shone a light at all the problems I’ve been running away from, the terrible coping habits I’ve formed, to the dystopian world I built around it. I began breaking down these walls by forgiving those who hurt me in the past. I also forgave myself for the mistakes I made, along with the mistakes I will continue to make in the future. I let go of notions of having to be flawless and began acknowledging the possibility that despite all my imperfections, I am enough.
This wasn’t easy, but avoiding my anger, my damage, and my grief wasn’t getting me anywhere. I had to face them head on. I had to spend time in the dark. Alone. Asking questions I couldn’t find the answers to. Feeling helpless. But it was only by acknowledging the pain that I was then able to finally let go and move on. Perhaps you, too, will have to spend some time alone to make sense of all your disappointments and upsets in order for your metamorphosis to truly take shape.
Nobody else can do this for you.
When you sum up the courage to face your demons and let go of the things that no longer serve you, a new space will be created. And it is in this space where you will grow into the person you were always meant to become.
Your body will begin to react.
As I began growing into the greater version of myself, my body began to form a different relationship with the physical world around me. My clothes. My hair. My car. The conversations I was having. The weather. The food. The way I rolled out of bed. The way my feet hit the pavement. Everything began to feel different and that was because I was now operating in an environment associated with a world that had a sadder, more insecure and fearful me that no longer exists.
I was evolving.
I donated my old clothing, sold my furniture, and redesigned my entire living situation. With this new space I created for myself, I began taking photographs the way I wanted. I began dancing the way I wanted. I began wearing the clothes I wanted. Most importantly, I began allowing myself to be myself and live the way I’ve always wanted to live.
Letting go is not wasteful, nor is it neglect or giving up. Letting go can be a powerful act of acknowledging all the invaluable lessons you’ve learned from the people, places, and things that have come into your life. Let go with pride. Let go with confidence. Let go with the understanding and respect that though you may have outgrown certain things in your life, these very things, even the darker periods in your life, are what prepared you for this very moment to grow and prosper.
We are ever-changing and evolving in more ways than our physical manifestations can perhaps keep up. Evolution is not about finding a final resting place where we can finally sit back and relax, but about cultivating a habit of allowing oneself to change as our mind and bodies call for it. Sometimes these changes may feel difficult because we’re forced to face inner demons that we’d much rather avoid or it requires physical changes that might clash with our immediate environments. There is a reason why we fuss over little details like the color of our bathroom walls; it’s because deep down we know the greater impact our physical environment has further down the chain of events from mind, to body, to our entire lives.
Life takes so many twists and turns. Evolution can feel like a filthy mess. But when it comes to growing into our most authentic selves, I truly believe that deep down, our body already knows. We just have to listen to it.
by Jason Lam
For me, the process of writing is very much like trying to capture a glimpse of a dragon. I’m patient, I allow it to reveal itself where it may, and then I follow its scales as far as I can see. But often times I lose sight of where it begins and where it ends. My thoughts and my words disappear as they soar into the mist and the clouds, and I am left to pick up the pieces. It’s all a little frustrating but exciting at the same time. It is the fact that I have never seen these dragons in its entirety that keeps me going.
by Jason Lam
Much of writing is like moving furniture into a new house. The open space excites you. You have a bunch of ideas, and you want to cram everything in. But we soon realize that no matter how great our ideas are, too much of a good thing can also be problematic.
I often try to put too much furniture in a given space – so much to the point where I end up having to waste even more time figuring out what to take out. But as I continue writing I realize this is not necessarily a problem, it is simply part of the process. It is a way of working in which you try to see how much you can get away with, – realizing you’ve gone too far, and then dialing it back a notch. It’s a practice and lesson in fearlessness in our work – to go farther – instead of doing less out of fear of making a mistake. Sure, moving all this furniture in and out can be a lot of work, but at least it’s an honest attempt at creating something that is uniquely yours versus taking half-steps and cheating yourself as an artist.
The left over ideas can be used for later – for other rooms perhaps – and the left overs from those can yet again be used for other rooms. Do this enough times, and eventually you will have created a brand new home with a collection of spaces unique to itself.
Some ideas will suck. Some will work but won’t necessarily fit the overall theme of what you’re going for. Some simply don’t fit through the door no matter how hard you try.
Some rooms are welcoming. For guests. Others are just for yourself.
Some are purely aesthetic. Others are more utilitarian. The best are a little bit of both.
Good writing is like a well-furnished home. There is just enough furniture to feel welcoming – no more, no less. Each room has a clear focal point, coupled with a neat balance of little accessories and trinkets to cushion your every step. The beginnings are clear, and so are the endings.
Bad writing can be like a cluttered house – there are so many things that you can’t even find the entrance, and even if you do, you get lost soon as you step through the door. Bad writing can also be like a barely furnished home – where there is not enough seating for everyone, or the transitions from room to room are jarring and harsh.
When writing a new piece, expect the clutter. Embrace the explosion of new ideas with open arms. Have the courage to plow through it all, yet practice, the discipline to keep only what you need. Do this, and you will build a home that comes with it a personal flare that is uniquely yours – all of which is only possible by first allowing yourself to go through the shaky beginnings of any new work of art.
by Jason Lam
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been feeling like I have to be more selective with the things I want to do and stopping myself from following my impulses. When I was younger, I had no inhibitions about uploading silly videos of myself onto the internet for the sake of sharing it with my friends and having a good laugh. Now? I have to consider all these things like, OMG, it’s going to be on the internet forever. How will this affect my professional career? Does it align with my current brand image? How will everybody think of me? Everybody’s going to judge me! And so what happens? I don’t let myself make spur-of-the-moment videos. I don’t let myself follow my intuition. I don’t let myself have any fun. But it’s all for a greater cause I say to myself. Because by not wasting time and energy on the inessential, I get to focus all my energy on one goal -- and I get to be that much more effective.
This is a rather widely accepted notion. Famous quotes like, “Jack of all trades, master of none” seems to run quite rampant in the motivational quotes arena, but I think there is something missing here. There's this idea that it’s bad to have multiple interests. Because someone is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, we make the false assumption that this is all he will ever be -- at that very moment at least. We neglect the fact that this is precisely the path one takes when discovering mastery, and some people just take a little longer than others.
“All knowledge leads to self knowledge.”
- Bruce Lee
The more you get to explore, try new things and follow your curiosity, the more you know and the more capable you are of being fully equipped and ready to tackle that one thing in life. But if you pigeonhole yourself too early on, you end up learning less about the world and less about yourself.
Energy has the capability of feeding back into itself, but when you don’t allow yourself to flow, that energy is never used. It is not recycled or redirected toward your ultimate goal; it is simply sitting there, holding you back, and growing stale.
Let it all flow. Keep everything in play. Don’t cut anything out. This is how you live a rich life, and this is how you maintain your momentum, progress and growth.
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only
be changed from one form to another.”
Your interests, impulses and intuition manifest themselves in different forms. Energy can feed back into itself, get stronger, and eventually morph into something absolutely beautiful -- but not if your energy is blocked.
If you look at how rivers form, they do not start as giant streams. They start as a collection of tiny segments – a master of none, if you may – but if you look closely you will find that these seemingly tiny streams start to build momentum. The flow becomes stronger, bigger, faster, all the way until they naturally find their way together, raging with power and becoming a force to be reckoned with. This is made possible because the individual streams explored other avenues and strengthened on their own. By following through with each individual path, the collective whole of the river is made stronger when they finally join forces. Your interests are not as disconnected as you think.
You need to trust that all your seemingly disconnected interests will lead you to somewhere great. If not, believe that it will at least make you a better person with every step you take. Don’t cut anything out because when you do, you are cutting yourself out.
I make fun little videos, and I do it because I get a lot of joy out of them. I also take design classes, swimming lessons, and even started taking voice lessons recently. They do not align perfectly with who I am as a professional. Some of you might even think it’s a waste of time. I admit that it’s very much a sidetrack to what I’ve become known for – photography. It’s random. It’s unedited. It’s raw. If anything, it’s much closer to the real me.
These seemingly random hobbies feed into each other. It doesn’t take anything away. In fact, it makes me feel more alive. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn to trust all the pieces in play, and to let my interests take me where it will. I let myself be free. I believe that life has something far greater and brighter planned for me than anything I could ever imagine, but first I have to be open to it, and it starts by allowing myself to take these chances.
Stay curious. Keep looking. Keep changing. And let life flow through you.
by Jason Lam
I have this unnecessary burden – when I feel like what I’m doing isn’t bettering humanity in some way, I start to stress out. I feel like I’m not good enough and deal with many sleepless nights because of … Well, nothing, really.
It’s quite stupid when I think about it. You know, stressing over the fact that maybe the words I write aren’t good enough, or the YouTube videos I make aren’t funny enough, or the fact that I am just not a superhero despite my superhero intentions.
If I could, I would free all people from unhealthy relationships, make sure every child grows up with positive role models, and release the shackles of all those who slave their entire lives away in these obnoxious things we call cubicles. But I can’t. And it stresses me out because I can see the fatigue and loneliness in the faces of my peers. It pains me that I can only do a little, but maybe I should let up a little.
I watched Deadpool a couple months back (awesome movie). I was enlightened by the ending, when Deadpool finally has his archenemy, Ajax, in his hands and is ready to kill him for all of eternity … Until Colossus steps in with an incredibly insightful speech.
“Four or five moments. That’s all it takes to be a hero. Everybody thinks it’s a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true.”
That struck a chord in me because I felt like I had to be good all the time. I felt like I had to do good all the time. I felt all these feelings of good intention, only to hate myself because I realize how much of a flawed human being I really am and, unfortunately, will probably always be.
But I realize there’s nothing wrong with that.
And when I accept how I will never be the superhero I’ve always wanted to be, I will finally get to be free and do simple things like go about the day not saving the world and not feel bad about it.
Because superheroes don’t have to be good, all of the time.
In fact, I’ve come to believe that this makes for a better superhero. One that allows an individual to give into one’s inherent vices every once in a while for the sake of doing better when he needs to. It’s a part of my journey that my inner perfectionist left out of the final screenplay of life, but I’ve now penciled it back in.
I stopped being so hard on myself.
Nowadays, when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I say to myself, “Relax, you don’t have to save the world… all of the time.”
by Jason Lam
The thing about insecurities is that we don’t ever grow up thinking there’s anything wrong with us. It’s not like we come out of the womb, look at ourselves in the mirror and then make a checklist of, “Things I should spend the rest of my lifetime worrying about.”
No. Insecurities are placed on us by other people and always without our consent. I, for example, never thought of myself as skinny, slow, or stupid. These were all things others have told me. But oddly enough, when harmful comments are repeated enough times, we somehow make them come true. There’s a false train of logic that says, “So and so has told me these things before, so they must be right.” We neglect the fact that we’ve also come across tons of other people who have never mentioned these aforementioned insecurities. I guess it’s easier to notice when people hurt us than to remember when someone simply accepts you for who you are.
And these things happen at such a young age, before we’ve had an opportunity to build up our mental defenses. We were vulnerable. And as we grow older, it’s almost as if these insecurities become embedded in our DNA. It becomes a part of our lives, like a checklist of things to do whenever we wake up in the morning. Take a shower, brush our teeth, worry about insecurities, overcompensate, and pray that nobody says anything about it. And when we try to deal with our insecurities, it gets even harder. It’s like trying to peel off an old sticker, only to find that it’s near impossible to do so without leaving some residue. No, Goo Gone doesn’t work on our emotions.
It sucks. There are days when my insecurities still manage to creep up past my defenses and make me feel absolutely pathetic. I guess we just have to deal with it. But that’s a little too somber for my tastes. If there’s anything we can do, it is to remind ourselves how silly it is to live in fear of who we are due to how other people see us. It’s such a waste of time. Instead, keep your head up high and keep marching forward regardless of the naysayers. If there’s anything to fear, it’s to fear allowing such meaningless comments become permanent excuses for why we are not living a life that is true to our authentic selves. Do not die with your song unsung.
by Jason Lam
I still don’t like the word “passion.” I still think it’s a loaded word, but everybody still seems bent on finding it, so here we go:
1) What conversations do you enjoy having? The types of conversations we want to have determine the types of friends we make, the work we do, and ultimately, the person we become and the contribution we make to the world. I particularly enjoy having conversations about why people do the things they do and how a greater understanding of the self can lead to a better life.
2) If you were stuck on Mars with 30 days left of food, what would you say to everyone? Funny how a life or death situation can remind ourselves what truly matters. What would you say? And how could you apply what you are saying to your own life?
3) What topic could you read 1,000 books on? Take a look at your bookshelf. Are there any reoccurring subjects? Maybe you’ve already read 1,000 books on a certain topic without even knowing it. What topics do you find yourself returning to and wanting to learn more about?
4) What’s the overarching theme between all the things you’ve been doing and all the goals you’ve been making? Take out a piece of paper. Write it down. Create a map. How does it all link back up to each other? Look back far enough and perhaps you’ll find it all connects to one overarching goal. Mine = Inspire Others.
5) What would you regret not pursuing when laying on your deathbed? I know. A little hard to imagine. This question is even a little borderline cliché but only because it’s very helpful. What would you regret? Maybe that’s precisely what you need to do.
6) What do you want your future self to look like? Take 10 minutes to fantasize what a day in your perfect life would look like. Start from the morning, and describe it in detail from the moment you wake up. Where are you? Who are you with? How are you spending your day? Now, read over what you wrote. How does this future self differ from who you are now? And what can you do today so this future self can one day become your present self?
7) What would you do for free? You may find that you’re already doing what you’re passionate about without even noticing it. This often happens because some of us might think that passion must be a burning desire you feel when you wake up every morning. It doesn’t have to be. It can just be something you enjoy, and that’s it. Maybe you really like baking, offering words of advice to friends in need, or telling stories. So ask yourself, are you already doing it?
8) What work were you doing the last time you forgot time altogether? In psychology, there is a term called “Flow.” Or in other words, “being in the zone;” a state of complete absorption in an activity where time flies. Right off the top of my head, it’s when I’m writing, performing and teaching. How about you?
9) How do you want to feel when you wake up in the morning? Much of how we feel in the present is determined by what we have in store for the future. What do you look forward to? What do you want to look forward to?
10) What do you miss? As we grow older, there are more and more things we let go of for the purpose of becoming an “adult.” Sometimes, this type of thinking forces us to let go of things we otherwise would have very much wanted to hold onto. I miss high school band. I miss playing music. I miss being part of a team. I miss the camaraderie. I miss having a coach. And I’ll share a secret, when I was a kid, my dream was to be a rock star.
If it makes you feel any better, whatever you’re searching for is also searching for you. Sometimes you just need to open yourself up to the things that are already trying to find a way into your life.
by Jason Lam
1) Research later. I’ve noticed in my attempts to write well, I would sometimes let my research get in the way of my actual writing. For example, I would come to a point where I don’t know enough about an example or analogy I want to use and stop everything to research for way too long. This often leads me to a point where I don’t even remember what I was even writing about. When writing, don’t worry too much about factual accuracy, just get it out there and keep moving. Focus on fixing the little bumps and grooves later, otherwise, you risk never even finishing your first draft.
2) Good writing is rewriting. This is not to say you need to overhaul your initial draft. I’ve noticed a complete overhaul often eliminates the original raw integrity most 1st drafts have to start with. Think of rewriting as a trimming your garden. Take out the fluff. Leave the essentials.
3) Show up. Keep on writing. Even though it may feel as if you’re writing complete garbage, it’s probably not as bad as you think. If anything, getting through the garbage is what’s required to get to the goodies in the first place. But you won’t know if you don’t show up.
4) Write for just one person. In my attempts to be as helpful as possible, I’ve tried to turn my writing into something that everybody can identify with, which not only weakens my work, it’s impossible. Sorry. Some people will just have to be left out. You’re not any worse of a writer or a person. It’s a simple understanding that watering everything down to the lowest common denominator leads to ineffective and mediocre work.
5) Don’t be afraid to abandon bad work. Sometimes your stuff really is crap. You may spend days and days on a piece and still can’t get it right. In fact, you might have rewritten it so many times to the point where it’s lost any element that appealed to why you wanted to write it in the first place. Sometimes success is knowing when to quit.
6) Creating and critiquing are two totally separate activities. Creating is letting your heart spill onto the page. And yes. It’s supposed to be messy. Critiquing is the slow process of combing the sand. Picking out little things and deciding if you want to either keep, improve, or throw it out completely. They both serve a very important function, but they work best when done separately. Don’t mix the two.
7) Take a break. Go out and enjoy the sunshine every once in while. As writers, we can easily turn into hermits and not go out for days on end, but eventually you’ll run out of things to write about! It’s essential that you set time aside to live your life. Consider it a chance for you to recharge your batteries and gain inspiration. In fact, most of my ideas when come when I’m out for a run or folding laundry.
8) Done is better than perfect. As a writer, your goal is to make sure you’re putting out content that is beneficial to your readers. Don’t let the fact that your grammar, syntax, or diction is less than perfect prevent you from spreading good ideas. Remember, you’re not writing for your teachers anymore.
9) Finish your pieces as soon as possible. Don’t let anything sit for too long because they will grow stale and at worst, neglected and unfinished. I admit I have many pieces that will never see the light of day because I left them alone for way too long. The moment you start a piece is when you should try your best to finish it, even if it’s an ugly first draft.
10) Be part of the solution. We’re all a little incomplete and broken in our own way. Try your best to benefit your readers with every word you write. Whether it’s an inspiring story that calls them to action or simply poking fun at the absurdities of life, strive to add to the human experience. Language is powerful. Your words make a difference.
by Jason Lam
I don’t know Marie Kondo, but she changed my life.
For those of you who don’t know, Marie Kondo is the author of, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” It’s a book about tidying up your living space, but little did I know, it would lead to a clear sense of self and my purpose in life.
How it works:
Discard anything that doesn’t spark joy.
Spark Joy = Basically boils down to whether or not something contributes to making you feel good.
If you feel nothing, or even worse, negative feelings, then you throw it away.
The process took a while, but I forced myself to dedicate an entire month to it and do it all in one go. She has a step-by-step process that goes a little bit like this:
- Miscellaneous items (CDs, electrical equipment, stationary)
- Sentimental items
Clothes was easy, I only wear a couple of pairs pants, shirts, and maybe two jackets. Everything else has just been collecting dust in my closet. Sadly, some of them still had their tags on them. I took out several garbage bags of old clothes and sold them to second-hand shops and donated the rest to Goodwill.
I did the same for my books.
The money I made from selling the used items were funneled back into tidying up my room. Fortunately, with her system, I didn’t have to spend much, as she encourages working with what you have.
I made my way slowly down the list throughout the month and eventually got to a point where I was stuck. My bedroom was empty at this point and I spent about two weeks in limbo trying to figure out what to do with the remainders. The main question = To keep? Or not to keep? Most of these things were old notebooks, pictures, and other sentimental items that were harder to let go.
Marie says to hold every item in your hands and notice how you feel with each item. If it doesn’t provide good feelings then perhaps it is time to let it go. This even applies to things that once made you feel good, but not anymore.
I kept the book on my couch the entire month, referring back to it several times throughout the process. What really helped me was the idea that many items in our lives may have already served its purpose, and if they have done so, then we must have the courage to let it go. Not only does this apply to the physical objects we keep, but it also applies to the relationships we sustain throughout a lifetime. We don’t have to hold onto all the things that come into our lives forever.
Realizing this, things picked up again and I was able to tidy everything up by the end of the month. What helped was finding items that I really loved. It’s easy once you feel that surge of happiness, because then you have a reference point of “joy” you can work off of. I discarded old gifts, postcards, pictures from the past, holding onto only a few items that really made me feel good… things I loved: My very first trophy when I played soccer as a little kid, foreign currency I have left over from my travels, and a handful of my favorite books.
As stated in the book, what I discovered is when you begin to tidy up, and free yourself of clutter, you begin to get a clear look at yourself. It was a bit daunting, because you clean up your living space expecting to feel 10x better after it’s all said and done, but there’s still a part of you that feels a bit cluttered, a part of you that still needs a little bit of tidying up… and you realize that it’s no longer about the space, it’s just about you.
For me it was an issue of being too much of a perfectionist. The two week limbo period made sense. I couldn’t figure out a way to put everything so my room would be perfect. It symbolized my life; and the detrimental effects of having unrealistic standards and being too hard on myself. It became a lesson in allowing my life to be a little bit messy, and to be okay with that. Funny how cleaning one’s room can help you make these personal discoveries.
The most powerful part of going through this process was not just having a tidier room, but noticing the things I missed. During the tidying process, I completely emptied my room. What was once a reflection of who I was suddenly became a blank canvas. And with that, I started noticing the things I wanted to bring back into my living space… back into my life. Reading. Writing. Photography. This blog. I wanted it back, and like a shining light at the end of the tunnel it all became so clear what it is that I must do. It’s simple really. Just keep pursuing the things that interest you and eventually you will have an entire life that sparks joy. My room is a reflection of that now, surrounded only by the things that I love, absent of the things that no longer serve me, and open space for the person that I am growing into.
If you have been going through some difficulties in your life, as odd as it may sound, perhaps tidying up your living space could be of help.
Thank you, Marie Kondo.
by Jason Lam
Staying in touch can be difficult. Sometimes we want to reach out those we rarely speak to but care deeply about beyond typical holidays like Christmas and birthdays. But how do you do that without appearing a little cheesy? Random? Weird? Or at worst, sounding like you want to get something out of them when you really just wanted to say hi and let them know you’re thinking of them?
Send something useful.
This could be an interesting article, a unique object, a cool event, a fun fact, or a picture that you know the receiver will appreciate.
Why This Works:
Utility. A look at anyone’s everyday life will present a universal pattern. We all want to be happy, but it’s not that simple. Sending along a useful tidbit of anything that helps them ease pain, solve problems and live better is always greatly appreciated.
Clarity. When you reach out to someone you don’t normally keep in touch with, they’ll be met with a bunch of questions: Why are you calling me? Why now? What do you want? It’s confusing. People don’t like that. Avoid the uncertainty and get straight to your point. Thought you’d find this interesting + thinking of you + P.S. don’t forget me!
Appreciation. Sending an item you know they like is an indirect way of saying I like you just the way you are. This will make you stand out in a world where we’re constantly made to feel less of ourselves due to the things we lack or the way we look. By sending something that aligns with their interests, you encourage them to continue being who they are and to keep kicking ass. Who wouldn’t want that?
Special. We’re individuals of self-interest. We’re constantly asking ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” And if we can’t find an immediate answer, we’d rather focus our attention on something else. Sure, you’re the one who wants to reach out to your loved ones, but don’t make it about you, make it about them. When you shine the spotlight on others, the spotlight shines back at you.
I read a lot, I also love checking out local events and exploring the city. Whenever I come across something that makes me think of someone, I send it to them immediately. No expectations. No second thoughts. It’s become a habit of mine and it’s a nice and easy way of keeping in touch.
A few examples:
- My brother loves video games, so I sent him this website with all the original Nintendo games
- My friend Zach loves cycling, so I sent him this cool video of an invisible helmet
- My boss Laurent was trying to come up with a name for his new company, so I sent him this naming book
Recently, I created a monthly newsletter I send out to my friends just to tell them what I’ve been up to and to share a few things I think they’d find interesting. You’re welcome to join the newsletter at the sidebar on the right.
Next time you reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time, take an extra second to come up with a little extra something you know they’d appreciate. When you do so, you position yourself as someone who adds value, and you’ll be delighted to find that your kindness will encourage others to keep in touch with you as well.
In short, give and expect nothing in return.
by Jason Lam
I absolutely love learning. I’m a self-proclaimed student of life, and if I could, I would be in school forever learning seemingly random things such as Greek mythology, interior design, acting, and even massage therapy. I’m a bit of a hoarder, though I like to consider myself a collector of rare items – rare knowledge, if you will.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had many bad learning experiences that discouraged me from pursuing a topic any further. I’m not alone. I’ve noticed many people decide not to learn certain things not because there’s a lack of interest, but because the subject wasn’t taught in the right way. That’s sad. Too often, potentially life-changing ideas are left to die because no one found a way to teach it properly.
Bad teaching is not a reflection of bad content. It is simply bad teaching.
In an attempt to prevent the further inhibition of spreading good ideas due to bad teaching, here are 10 tips teachers can utilize immediately to help us all learn a little more and live a little better:
1) Care. If you don’t care. Your students won’t care. In fact, if you don’t care, you might as well be doing something else because we can smell your lack of enthusiasm from a mile away. And it stinks. Care about the content you are providing. Care about whether or not your students are actually benefiting from your class. Care about us. At the very least, try to remember our names.
2) Teaching a class is like putting on a show. The classroom is your stage. Keep us captivated. Utilize your body, language, and speech for maximum engagement. Your mission impossible is to make sure your students are absorbing the content you provide, and you must take advantage of the tools available to make sure that happens. Like a great script, often times this involves keeping up the pace, deleting the unessential, and having some fun.
3) Inactive bodies = Inactive brains. Move around. Make us get off our seats or else we’ll fall asleep. Yes, you too. No lecterns allowed. Movement provides variety, prevents monotony, and sustains attention. Tracking movement is also a fundamental human characteristic we utilized back in the caveman days to identify the difference between a harmless tree and a lion out to kill us. Simply put, we’re really good at it. Use this to your advantage to maintain attention through movement and keep your class moving. Literally.
4) Show us who you are. Show us your fears and aspirations. Show us you’re human, too. As a teacher, you may be compelled to appear flawless, but if you have the courage to admit that you are not perfect and that bad things may still happen, you will create a level of honesty that will reflect back in your students. I once had a teacher who admitted to once being a heroin addict living out of his taxicab. Damn. As a student, what else can I do but to return that level of honesty? Be honest. An immense pressure will be lifted off your shoulders, and your students will become more receptive.
5) Share your point of view. Don’t just be the bearer of information. My most exciting times as a student were when a teacher went on a rant. Why? Because I knew for damn sure that he wasn’t just regurgitating the textbook. It was the textbook, and then some. Give us your interpretations. 90 percent of everything you teach can be found on the Internet in less than a second. How can you add any value to that? Your class should be appealing not just because of the topic it covers, but because YOU are teaching.
6) Let us make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities for teachers to pass on valuable information. When we make mistakes, it is your opportunity to explain how this problem came to be, and how to avoid it in the future. Since this is a problem we encountered ourselves, we will be more motivated to understand both the problem and the solution. Some teachers provide too much information in attempts to avoid as many mistakes as possible, but as a result, everything just flies over our heads. By embracing mistakes, teachers allow students to make their own discoveries. Your goal as a teacher is not to prevent mistakes from happening, it is to allow your students to understand their topic as much as possible, and mistakes are a great tool in doing so. Mistakes are golden.
7) Remind yourself that your students don’t know as much as you. It’s a bit sad, but I’ve encountered teachers who can’t help but to roll their eyes every time a student asks a question. You’re the teacher because your students don’t know as much as you do. It’s as simple as that. Remind yourself of this as often as you can. It keeps you humble. It also keeps you from being an asshole.
8) Take classes. This doesn’t mean you’re any lesser; it means you’re dedicated to a life of constant growth. Taking classes is an opportunity to discover new educational techniques you can use for your own students. Taking on the role of a student can also help you discover things that do not work. For example, the majority of this post is the result of being a frustrated student bored out of my mind. Taking classes reminds you what it’s like to be a student, and the best teachers are those who understand their students the most. In fact, the best teachers are students for life.
9) Students want to feel capable. Sure, there's a time and place for tough love but every once in a while you need to remind your students how well they are doing and despite the fact that they feel like shit, they are in fact improving. Encouragement creates a positive feedback loop, which motivates students to do more and more. The opposite only make students feel worse, do worse and at the worst, quit entirely. In that case, you’ve failed as a teacher.
10) It’s all an experiment. All people learn differently. What works for some students may not work for others. Teachers have the answers, but it may take several attempts to effectively communicate those answers to your students. Vary your techniques. Find out what makes your students tick and keep at it. To be a teacher is to be willing to dive into the unknown, figure shit out, and get everyone out alive. Sure, you may get a few bumps and bruises along the way, but you also get to share your collection of knowledge that will benefit others for a lifetime.
Being a teacher is one of the noblest things you can do, and if you are a teacher, then I hope you found this useful. Then again, the skills of a good teacher are not and should not be limited to just those who do it for a living; it can benefit all of us. Whether it’s explaining taxes to a friend, teaching your parents how to use the latest smartphone, or showing your children how to use the stove without burning the house down, everyone can apply the above principles to their life. I truly believe that by improving the way we share our ideas, we could really make the world a better place.
by Jason Lam
1) Stop waiting for permission. You don’t need a degree or certification to call yourself a writer, just start writing. English was my worst subject in high school and college, but that didn’t stop me.
2) Write by hand. While you don’t have to do this all the time, I’ve found the physical act of writing by hand often allows my thoughts to flow better. In comparison with pushing buttons on a computer, writing by hand allows for greater freedom to explore ideas and leads to better content.
3) Read. A lot.
4) Write like you talk. Don’t worry too much about grammar and use the first words that come to mind. Language doesn’t have to be so polished. Like the tools cavemen once used to make fire, your words just need to work. The object of writing is not grammatical perfection; you just need to be getting your message across.
5) Get a second pair of eyes. We’re terrible judges of our own work. Find someone who will challenge you and push you to become a better writer. This person should be someone who knows your limitations and is not afraid to call you out on it (gently, of course). Ideally, this person will also become your teammate and partner in crime who cares about your work just as much as you do.
6) Be honest. This may be a no brainer, but I find that my worst work always stems from a lack of honesty and love. I started writing as a way to express myself and explore ideas and topics I feel were relevant to the human existence. Often times, this involves letting my guard down and allowing myself to be seen, even if it’s a bit ugly at times. When you’re honest, you tell stories only you can tell and share perspectives only you can share. This makes you unique. And for your own sake, do try your best to be honest because you shouldn’t be lying to your readers, and you really shouldn’t be lying to yourself.
7) Find your sweet spot. Everybody has one. This is where you feel most comfortable to be as free and wild as you want with your words. It could be a time of day, a physical location or both, but once you find it, go back there as often as you can. This is your writing sanctuary, the one time and place in the world you know will always accept you for who you are, treat you with kindness, and allow you to be the fully-fledged writer that you are. Find your sweet spot – respect it – and let the words flow.
8) Keep a “Spark File.” This is a Google Doc with all your ideas, notes, phrases, analogies and examples you want to use, along with half ideas that have not fully formed yet. I normally had my ideas scattered all over my room in more notebooks and post-its than I can count. Needless to say, it wasn’t very efficient. Now, all my ideas are neatly organized in one place, and I can access it from anywhere in the world. That said, write your ideas down as soon as they come up, because you will forget them.
9) Find your catalyst. A catalyst is something that sets something in motion. For me, that’s music. I enjoy listening to Chopin, Shigeru Umebayashi, Debussey and the occasional deep house mix. I’m a very visual person, but somehow, whenever I listen to music I see the most vivid movies and stories all playing out in my head. Pair that with some coffee, and I’m good to go.
10) Say something. All good writing has an opinion. Say something that is true to the core of who you are and why you do what you do. The content you produce is simply the extension of your underlying story as to why you are here and what you plan to achieve with your limited time here on earth. Ideally, your opinion aims to be part of the solution that adds to our understanding of life. I write as a way to express myself, but ultimately, it is to serve the world and inspire people to live better. Try to be part of the solution. Express your opinion and say something… useful.
by Jason Lam
Following your dreams is not unlike having to get up out your bed and go take a piss in the middle of the night. You don’t want to do it. It’s hard. You’ve already gotten so cozy in bed, and you want it to last forever. So no matter how badly you need to take a piss, you fight back and hold it in. And it actually works. You hold it all in, but eventually you reach a point where pain and agony of not taking a piss is no longer worth the joy of staying in your bed. The threshold. So you finally roll your lazy ass out of bed and go. And as the urine spills out of your body, it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. It wasn’t so bad after all, you think to yourself.
The thing is, like following your dreams, you know you’re going to have to go take a piss anyway, so all this time and effort put into delaying the inevitable is just time wasted. And I feel like that’s just how life goes. You grow up with all these dreams and aspirations, but along the way you find yourself a comfortable hole to crawl into. Whether you like it or not, you stay there regardless of your true desires. Perhaps the trick is to never get too comfortable, and by doing so you allow yourself a fighting chance at getting what you came here for.
Luckily for you, your dreams aren’t just waste matter your body needs to get rid of. Your dreams are the good stuff, the nutrients our bodies yearn for and work hard to cling onto. And that’s what you need to do. You need to work hard and hold onto what’s good, not just what’s comfortable. Because if you don’t, you’re essentially flushing yourself down the toilet, and you know what else gets flushed down the toilet? Shit. And you’re not a piece of shit. You’re a fucking super hero that needs to get your lazy ass out of bed and take the midnight piss.
by Jason Lam
Having a blog allows you the opportunity to build credibility and trust. These are the two things that are hardest to prove, yet the most important and often are the deciding factors on whether or not someone wants to work with you.
I’m a photographer, but I also like to write, teach dance and travel the world. That’s already a mouthful, and in an increasingly fast paced world with ever decreasing attention spans, you’re not going to have a lot of time to show just how awesome you are in a matter of seconds.
So you have a blog.
Every time you meet someone, a potential employer, client or even just a new friend, all you need to do is make a good first impression. Make sure you trade contact information and make sure to point him to your blog if he decides you are someone worth developing further relationships with.
Because if you don’t, then you’re just leaving this person to decide whether or not to continue with you based on your one short meeting. While this may be good if you left a positive first impression, you’ve left him nothing to learn more about how awesome you are. And in the case you left a bad first impression, at least your awesome blog may convince him to want to be friends with you.
By having a blog, you essentially have back-up. You have strong work you can stand on for credibility. You have work that you can point to. You are showing that you are a professional, that you know exactly what you’re talking about, that you’ve done great work, in addition to your incredible personality (or lack thereof).
Personally speaking, I have wanted to attain a photographer, photo editor, photo art director role for a very long time. I haven’t had the luck, but I know that I increase my chances by putting in the work and having a blog that shows more about who I am and what I’m about. My blog not only showcases my knowledge in photography, it also shows more of my personality. I write about business, psychology, health and travel. My blog shows that not only am I a professional, but that I am also a well-rounded individual with strong values and opinions that will play well into any professional role I take on.
Blogging builds credibility. Blogging builds trust.
Now, you might be wondering. Well, what if someone reads something they don’t like and decides not to work with me? Sure, it sucks that you lost an opportunity, but the reality is that this is the real you we’re talking about. If a potential employer, client, or partner does not vibe with what you’re about, you’ve just dodged a bullet. In many ways, perhaps I have not heard back from so many companies is because I’ve been dodging a lot of bullets. And here’s the thing, the day will come when they will stumble across your blog, totally identify and vibe with who you are and what you’re about and you’d be in, just like that. Sure, perhaps you’ll get more rejections, but when the right one comes along it will stick, and you’d be so thankful for it.
Stay true to yourself.
by Jason Lam
Rejection makes a weirdo because every time he tries to come in and join the cool kids, he’s pushed out. Every time he is pushed out, he makes adjustments to better fit in so that next time he is welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately for the weirdo, he is only pushed out again and again. He keeps making adjustments, whether or not those changes make any difference at all is beyond him. He has just come to believe that who he is at that very moment is not enough to be invited into the club. So he tries to get in. Gets pushed out. Tries to get in again. Gets pushed out again.
Here’s the thing, every single time he is pushed out, he is being pushed exponentially further. And the fact of the matter is that trying to get in is a losing game because every passing second that this weirdo spends alone and outside of the group, the group is moving further along, sharing more experiences that further secure their bond, which create a bigger gap between them and the weirdo. And every passing second that he spends alone, he is also encountering experiences that further secure his identity that is unique and special from the group.
Try this enough times and one day, he will have made it once again through the arduous journey of trying to get into this one exclusive group he’s been working toward his entire life only to find that as he raises his fist to knock the door… His hands become weak. He doesn’t want to knock at all. He takes a step back, gets a good look at himself. He realizes he’s created an incredible unique self in all the time he’s spent trying to be part of this group that never wanted him in the first place.
That’s what makes a weirdo. Someone with his own unique experiences, experiences that you would never understand. And with these experiences are his ways of looking at the world, one that you would also never understand. And perhaps, you, as the cool kid, never wanted him in the first place because you knew that it would jeopardize the group identity. You were afraid that this exclusive group of yours would come crashing down. The weirdo is the oddball, the odd man out; the weirdo is the one that thinks differently. The weirdo is the one who thinks so differently that by rejecting him enough times, you have given him the gift of venturing on his own journey and becoming his own unrelenting true self.
Because he has no other choice.
What difference would it make to try and change himself again? What difference has it made? None. The weirdo thinks to himself. He’s been rejected his entire life. So much to the point where the pain of trying to fit into the mold of another man is no longer worth the potential joys it may reap. And so he stops. He reaches an epiphany and decides to never turn back and to keep going forward, forging his own path, a path that no one has ever been before.
If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed among the greats, the revolutionaries, the ones that really make a dent in the universe, is that they themselves were often the oddball. They were the ones that weren’t good enough. The ones that were never meant to amount to anything. But not unlike a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon, the weirdo, the rejected, takes this struggle as an opportunity to strengthen itself. So much to the point that one day he could fly. Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, even the Beatles. These people were never meant to make it, so to speak. They weren’t supposed to amount to anything, but to everyone’s surprise, they rose above and created a legacy of their own making. All because they were rejected.
If you’ve been called a weirdo, or a freak, don’t waste your time trying to fit in and be like everyone else. If anything, it’s a blessing in disguise, a struggle that you were meant to surpass in order to allow yourself the opportunity of maturing into the unique individual that you are.
This one’s for the weirdos.
by Jason Lam
How do you define yourself as a photographer? If you define yourself in terms of high pixel count, luxury cameras and expensive strobe lights, then you’re dead meat. That’s like if Picasso defined himself by the paintbrushes he used, if Ernest Hemingway defined himself by his typewriter, or if Walt Disney defined himself by the sketchpad he used to create Mickey Mouse. Are tools important? Damn right they are, but they are mere trivialities when it comes to who you are as an artist.
To all the photographers out there, how do you define yourself? Separate from the tools you work with; what is the content with which you fill your blank canvas?
On first thought, you may think to yourself: food, landscapes, portraits, dance, cats and sunsets. You may think that it is the content you photograph that defines you. Sure, but I invite you to dig a little deeper and to ask yourself this question:
What are you saying?
Your answer doesn’t necessarily have to be a statement; it can be a question or even a certain emotion. Whatever it is, I believe you are defined as a photographer not just by the content you are photographing, but also by what you are ultimately saying with that content. By doing so, you include a personal imprint which not only makes your work stronger, but also much more authentic and unique to you, the artist.
So I ask you again, what are you saying?
You need to have an opinion. You need to cut through all the noise and say something. Think about it this way: Are you defined as a human being by the vocal cords you use to speak? Or are you defined by what you are literally saying?
Perhaps you are saying nothing, but sometimes that’s saying a lot.
What are you trying to say?
When I ask myself this question, I have difficulty finding an answer because I also have to dig deep. Then again, the answer is always the same. What I’m trying to say is that there is beauty in truth, honesty and vulnerability. What I’m trying to say is that we don’t have to hide behind the façade of perfection. What I’m trying to say is that we’d all be a little better off if we let our guards down every once in a while and opened up – at least, that’s what I’m trying to say. Pointing at the fact that I use a certain type of camera, lighting equipment or pixel count is of no importance to me. They are mere tools, vocal cords, if you will, to get my message across.
I’m just trying to be honest, and I want to inspire others to do the same.
What are you trying to say?
by Jason Lam
Do Nothing Sundays.
That’s right, do absolutely nothing on Sundays. You’re not allowed to work. You’re not even allowed to think about work. All you’re allowed to do is relax and take a break.
I know. You’re a workaholic, and you’re proud of it. You find the idea of taking a day off ridiculous, but believe it or not, you will become more productive by scheduling breaks into your routine.
- Taking time off to recharge your batteries will give you the clarity of mind and energy to tackle the week’s activities.
- Knowing that you can’t work on certain days will encourage you to work smarter and more efficiently to get the same amount of work done.
Not unlike an Olympic athlete, or simply the engine of a car, if you don’t take breaks and allow time to recuperate, you run the risk of serious injury. You’ll start having trouble sleeping. You’ll start drinking more than you should. You’ll have high blood pressure, stress, depression, anxiety and possibly even premature death. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Action steps for you to take immediately:
- You’re allowed to work Monday through Saturday, but you are not allowed to work on Sundays.
- Once you’ve gotten into the habit of doing nothing on Sundays, extend it to Saturdays as well.
Take care of yourself.
by Jason Lam