Unfurl yourself to new beginnings

Around my third year anniversary in SF, I started to feel like things were flatlining a bit, stagnating a bit, and just settling down. The rush and allure of a new city wore off. So instead of moving to New York as a jaded San Franciscan, I tried to fall back in love with my life in this majestic city. If you can’t change your surroundings then change your perception and response to it, right? These were the steps I took to fall back in love with SF:

Learn new stuff:

1. Improv — taking my first improv class helped me get out of my structured, process-driven mindset. As an introvert by nature trained by society to be an extrovert, I find it very hard to break out of my comfort zone. However, it’s so refreshing to find yourself in a situation where you can’t anticipate or expect a certain behavior or code of conduct. So much of daily interactions are based on some implicit premise, structure, modus operandi; improv throws all that out the window. My favorite exercises in improv are the most cathartic ones. In a circle, we practice our samurai screams, raising our katanas to kill each other, and slicing the other person to pieces. In another exercise, we go around saying “Zip, Zap, Zop” in a randomized, rapid-succession. If someone messes up, he/she has to start up the alphabet with “Bip, Bap, Bop”etc. It’s a lot to keep track of but also a great brain exercise flexing muscles you didn’t know existed.

One thing I learned from improv is the power of the agreement clauseIt’s a lot easier to keep a conversation flowing with someone when you agree with their remarks first saying,“Yes, and…”. This I found to be particularly helpful engaging in lengthy UX and product decision-making dialogue. First you agree with someone’s point of view, acknowledge that you’ve heard them, and then expound my own opinions by incorporating their stance. This technique has worked out well in ironing out and reconciling diverging points of views and vehement opinions.

2. Practice applying principles from books — oftentimes ideas don’t always translate to reality. Reading is a great way to exercise to test that disconnect. I picked two books to translate to reality—Nudge and Law of Simplicity. A lot of the decision architecting principles from Nudge apply well to user research, usability testing, and understanding user habits. So much of our daily decisions and habits are subconsciously driven by smart decision architecting where there is a clear default nudging you towards a dominant option. I began seeing more anchoring in my daily life e.g. Trader Joe’s putting the $3.99 Fage yogurt next to the $2.99 Trader Joe’s greek yogurt so you end up buying their trademark yogurt. It surprised me how much selection bias and confirmation bias influenced my daily purchasing decisions.

Law of Simplicity, similar to Enoughby Patrick Rhone, preaches great design principles and thought processes to mitigate the clutter and complexities in life. I’m a big fan of Maeda’s mnemonic devices for simplifying processes. Also, his love for fitting MIT into words like siMplIciTy and CoMplexITy is adorable.

3. Cooking — taking some time once or twice a week to cook helps me feel human again. I like to think of it as building domestic IQThere is no Wikipedia for Mom + Dad so you have to learn by doing certain things. This applies to cooking and housekeeping. I made apple cobbler for the first time this weekend only to find out how therapeutic it is. There are certain nuances, tips, and tricks you pick up like making homemade whip cream with the right tool— a whisk not a batter mixer! Chill the heavy whip cream first otherwise it won’t fluff. These things you learn from experience.

4. Ayurvedic Medicine — morning rituals are so important to start your day right. I started studying Ayurvedic medicine this month when a friend told me about the health benefits of pairing the right diet to your body type (dosha) and starting your day off with a meditative ritual. Every morning I wake up and rub Melvita’s L’Or Bio Oil (not patchouli mind you) on my wrists, temples, shoulders, lower back, navel, and soles of my feet like a hippie. It’s a self-pampering way to start the day. This practice actually increases the circulation around your pressure points similar to massaging and acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine. Afterwards I make green tea and add slices of lemon and ginger. Having a ritual helps mitigate the Pitta (fire) in my mind and resets my equilibrium.

After making minor adjustments, learning more, and changing my default mode, I started falling back in love with SF. This love is now a deeper, more grounded, and mature one. Gone are the honeymoon, infatuation, and lusting days. By delving deeper into myself, expanding instead of contracting, I started to see the layers of urban strata, renewed sense of possibilities, and appreciation in my surroundings. Guess learning something new just helped me see what was there all along.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

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unknownskywalker:

Tidying Up Art by Ursus Wehrli

Wehrli takes everyday scenes of disorder and rearranges them into neat rows, sorted by different attributes such as color, size, shape, and type, etc.

(via individualcontributor)

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matthoulemard:

First post of the year goes to an amazing friend of mine visiting Portland from San Francisco: Bo

Portland holds a special place in my heart. Whenever I am spent and burnt out from SF, I always recharge in Portland. It is my sanctuary. There is so much richness, talent, and creative energy in my hometown. In the last couple of years, Portland has evolved into a tech hub (see #TechTownPortland), foodie oasis, and most notably, Portlandia, where young people go to retire. 

Whereas SF has its bursts and bubbles, Portland has been on a steady but slow upward trajectory. I hope to return to my hometown one day and contribute to its growing tech hub in a meaningful way. That time will come when I’ve learned to reconcile two antitheses in myself. I yearn for what SF embodies—thrill and excitement of new ideas, “the next thing”, and possibilities— as well what Portland values—security and comfort of “enough”. 

Many of my friends who have left Portland believe it is too “comfortable” so you end up mistaking happiness for comfort. However, I believe there is a threshold for productive discomfort where the itch and the hunger does more harm than good. I wish to create an intermediary space between SF and Portland where you can bring the chutzpah, “hustle”, and sense of possibilities from the bay area to coexist and thrive with the wellness and comfort of Portland. 

Until that day when I am ready to return to Portland, keep hustling and be well. 

—bo 

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humansofnewyork:

"I was raised to blame myself instead of accepting myself."

This post truly resonates with me b/c I too was raised in a culture and family that told me to turn inward first and assess myself before turning outward. Sometimes you can’t internalize and accept all the blame. There are elements out of your control. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learned is to turn both outward and inward. Determine if you are in the wrong but also know you are not at fault. 
Find what you can control Jiriki (自力, one’s own strength) and identify what you can’t control Tariki (他力 meaning “other power”, “outside help”). Letting go is navigating the space between Jiriki and Tariki. It’s a delicious ambiguity where fault does not sit on either shoulders but both, vacillating. Once I started seeing the world as intertwined where both input and output are not down broken down to a 1:1 ratio, the weight lifted. 

humansofnewyork:

"I was raised to blame myself instead of accepting myself."

This post truly resonates with me b/c I too was raised in a culture and family that told me to turn inward first and assess myself before turning outward. Sometimes you can’t internalize and accept all the blame. There are elements out of your control. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learned is to turn both outward and inward. Determine if you are in the wrong but also know you are not at fault. 

Find what you can control Jiriki (自力, one’s own strength) and identify what you can’t control Tariki (他力 meaning “other power”, “outside help”). Letting go is navigating the space between Jiriki and Tariki. It’s a delicious ambiguity where fault does not sit on either shoulders but both, vacillating. Once I started seeing the world as intertwined where both input and output are not down broken down to a 1:1 ratio, the weight lifted. 

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On writing more…

Ever since I published my first Women 2.0 article and got invited to write for Medium, I’ve been afraid to write, afraid that I would unwittingly offend someone, afraid that my writing would just be another half-ass whiny ThoughtCatalog post, afraid that my boss or mom might be reading this. There’s analysis paralysis as well as consensus paralysis. I can’t please everyone much less my own mother. So, I’m going to write more. I’ve had a Medium post archived for weeks while I was afraid to hit the publish button. Now’s the time. The wait is over. 

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Embrace change and a good challenge.
humansofnewyork:

"If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?""When a wave comes, go deep.""I think I’m going to need an explanation for that one.""There’s three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”

Embrace change and a good challenge.

humansofnewyork:

"If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?"
"When a wave comes, go deep."
"I think I’m going to need an explanation for that one."
"There’s three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”

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10 Steps to Pulling Off a Life Pivot

You’re in your 20s, a couple years into your first corporate job and you feel stuck; you’re in a less-than-ideal living situation w/ a horrible roommate; you’re in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship but you just can’t seem to leave. Let’s be honest, life is pretty low, underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time, and downright shitty. Your post-college years are not what you imagined. You thought you’d move to NYC, go to grad school, meet that Mr. Right etc…Instead you embarked on a circuitous path full of unexpected twists and turns.

This was me at twenty five. Less than ideal.

After two years at a clean-tech start-up, I called my 20-something life malaise “one big de-bugging triage”. For some reason, ascribing a corporate, software, seemingly asinine name distanced my misery and unhappiness. How do you get unstuck when life is not what you imagined it to be?

You pivot.

After reading on Medium the notion of a live pivot, I quickly realized it was time for me to pivot. Unlike the Pinterest pivot, we’re not talking about a start-up—pivoting your life as a minimum viable product has a lot more at stake. We spend our entire life building this MVP, shipping it, and iterating it through time. We may have an idea or plan for where we want to be or what happiness looks like, we encounter unforeseen hurdles, readjust (iterate), course correct when necessary (pivot) to continuously ship the MVP called life. No one wants to claim a failed product especially when it’s your life. 

So began my life pivot over two months: ended an unhealthy relationship, moved out of an unhappy living situation, and quit my job. In that order.

Scared shitless sums it up pretty well. I was scared shitless and ridden with anxiety. Anxiety about whether I would find a new apartment by the end of the month. Anxiety about whether I would find another job. Anxiety about being single again. Anxiety about running out of savings. Anxiety about managing my anxiety. Free flowing anxiety seeped into every crevice of my life.

Making a decision to change is easy, persisting to make that change is the hard part.

These are the 10 steps I took to embark on a life pivot:

1. Quit being unhappy - staying an extra day at a job or relationship where you feel like there is no room to grow robs you an extra day from doing meaningful, challenging, fulfilling work. If your role is not the right fit, if you’re under appreciated and overworked, if you’ve outgrown your job—quit. Quit being a cog in the wheel, quit being unhappy, quit giving yourself excuses. Quit so you can devote all your energy to pursuing to new opportunities and embarking on a new journey.

2. Set yourself a timeline - give yourself  one week to sort out your angst, let go of the anger and the past, and start focusing on what you really want to do. Use this time to mourn, detach, purge, move on, and start exploring new options. 

3. Increase your luck surface area - talk to people about your passions, your experiences, and what you want to do. Broadcast yourself. Let people know you’re on the market for a new job or apartment through social media outlets. Look at shared LinkedIn connections with your existing network and ask for introductions. Don’t underestimate the power of friends of friends. Two of my four job opportunities were referrals from friends of friends. Your friends and old coworkers may know you well but it’s the tertiary connections of mutual friends that expand your horizons.

4. Take the plunge and find your flow  - you’re like a shark, keep swimmin’ or you’ll sink. Runners don’t look back when they’re sprinting ahead neither should you. Keep sending out new job applications, start interviewing, and gain traction. Once the momentum builds, you’re going to get into the flow. Work won’t feel like you’re working. Interviews will become conversations. Your performance becomes natural in the ebb and flow.

5. Fail fast and celebrate it - each interview that doesn’t work out, each demo presentation full of technical glitches brings you closer to what your ultimate goal. Learn from your mistakes early when it’s still cheap.

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6. Count your small wins - small changes occur a day at a time, ultimately, a lot of change accumulates within a month or two. Small things going right when everything seems wrong will make your life pivot more bearable. Some of my small wins: 1. avocados on sale at Trader Joe’s 2. free washers during the day at the local laundromat w/ pin ball machines 3. my Birchbox arriving a day early.

7. Don’t conflate uncertainty w/ risk - embrace uncertainty and risk but realize they are separate notions. Some of the best things in life come with risk. You don’t need game theory to tell you to hedge your bets and that high risk yields high return. Take calculated risks and accept uncertainty as a double edge sword. Uncertainty is also a sense of possibilities.

8. Embrace serendipity - talk to that random recruiter who messaged you, entertain a spontaneous last-minute chat with a start-up founder, say yes to unexpected things that come your way. You’ll be surprised by what the universe can conjure up when you become receptive.

9. Find side projects - learn to knit, fix a light bulb, frame your pictures…do something to preoccupy and structure your day while you’re waiting to hear back from recruiters and interviewers. Do things that you can’t do w/ a full-time job like attend a 9am vinyasa yoga class or go on a mid-afternoon urban hike. Career woman, it’s time to get in touch w/ your domestic side. Bake rhubarb pie, drink wine while doing so, and enjoy it!

10. Celebrate - when you get that offer, apartment, or find that special someone, don’t forget to celebrate. Congratulate yourself for braving through the shitstorm, for staying gritty, for not losing hope. Realize that you’ll undergo many life pivots throughout your twenties and beyond. Each time, the pivot will be different but after each pivot, you’ll become fitter, happier, and more productive (Radiohead yo). You become one lean, mean de-bugging machine!

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Happy pivoting!

—bo

 

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Keep hustlin' to keep happy.

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