Don't Have Time? Make It.

Time is surreal. It’s a manmade concoction with which we rule our lives. Some people say time is money, time is life, life is money. Some people never have enough time to finish a project, pursue their dreams, or spend with their loved ones. I say that if you don’t have enough time in your life, it’s your duty to make it.

Time is Surreal

Making time is probably easier said than done. (Remember, this is coming from someone with infinite lists of timelines and to-dos, so I completely sympathize.) Although you can’t physically make “more life,” “more daylight hours” or “additional hours of the day” what you can do is budget the time you’ve been given and manage that to achieve your goals. (Remember, time is relative and only holds as much clout as you give it.)

For instance, I could probably stand to budget 2 hours every Sunday to go to the Buddhist meditation center. I haven’t done that lately — for almost two months! — but I know that those are the best spent 2 hours of every week I could spend. I know that if I make the time to spend 2 hours meditating at the center, instead of doing whatever it is I do on my Sunday afternoons, the rest of my week will fly by smoothly. If I give myself those 2 hours, for the rest of the week I become hyperaware of problems before they surface. My productivity shoots through the roof. I sleep better, I eat better, I exercise, and I become a happier and more peaceful person overall. I solve problems quickly and efficiently. So what’s gotten in the way of me making the time to go? Unfortunately there is no one else to blame but myself.

In Ivanka Trump’s book, The Trump Card, she said it best — When you don’t have the time to do something, that is when you need to do it most. You’re completely stressed out at work and it’s driving you up a wall. You need a break from it all but you can’t afford the time. That is the time when you should make the time for yourself. Simply put, the time that you should exert the most effort is when you can afford it least. That is how you truly achieve excellence.

When you put your foot down and discipline yourself to make the time to take a break or to pursue your goals, you will immediately feel empowered and in charge of your life. Fed up with your current job? Send out some resumes. Having a fat day? Go for a run. Feeling under the weather? Take the day off of work. Have the courage to stick up for the person who needs it most — you!

The Day I Cheated Death

Let me preface this entry by saying that as a child, my death was foretold by a Buddhist monk. It was predicted that I would die in some sort of vehicular accident. I’ve carried that premonition with me for as long as I could remember in an effort to cheat death.

Memento Mori

* * *

It was a beautiful day on campus, a spring afternoon. It was May 3, 2007.

The heat wave had started to pick up a bit and as I wrapped my design studio workshops for the day, I had about an hour to kill before heading in to my marketing lecture. In classic Amara fashion, I thought to myself — Hmm! Ice cream sounds really good right about now. So, I did then what I would pretty much do now. I hopped into my car and decided to go into town and get some!

The drive was not very far. I had made it hundreds of times before. I only had a few months before graduation, and I’d been driving these roads for a little over two years. As I turned the corner, I clicked my blinker and waited for the road to clear. As the cars started thinning out, I made a left turn across the street onto the main drag. The little ice cream shop was only a minute away. The sun was shining bright above. Skies were blue and I was near graduation. And then things abruptly changed.

I remember making the left turn onto the street and suddenly, a car came out of nowhere, and was gunning towards me. I couldn’t maneuver out of the way fast enough. A part of me just froze and screamed. I raised my arms to cover my face and to brace myself for impact. I was terrified that my life would be taken from me so abruptly, over something so innocuous and mundane. I didn’t want to die and I didn’t feel it was my time quite yet.

The white Honda Civic was speeding at me, going about 50mph in a 35mph zone. The entire driver’s side had crushed itself in. I was pretty much trapped in a giant metallic fortune cookie of a vehicle. The door was stuck and between the passenger side and the sunroof I climbed out relatively unscathed. (Or so I thought.) No broken bones, no blood, nothing. Just a damaged car. A ton of people got out of their vehicles and ran to see if we were okay. The dean of the arts and letters department — Mr. Connolly — seemed to recognize me from my work as he rushed by my car to help me to the curb. He told me not to move as he summoned the university police on his cell phone.

All I could think of was calling my father. I whipped out my cell phone and dialed home. My father immediately answered and I told him that I had just gotten into an accident and that I needed him there right away. He arrived in only fifteen minutes. The drive usually takes forty.

I came out of it with some nightmares and physical pain in my neck, shoulders, and back. I went in to the University Health Center a few weeks later and they gave me a cocktail of meds to calm my brain and my muscle spasms. To this day I am still affected by what happened but I seem to be pretty good at distracting myself. And, even though on nights like these — when the pain in my neck is so unbearable that it makes me nauseous just thinking about it — I think back to that afternoon when I was given a new lease on life and suddenly, all of my worries seem miniscule compared to that split second when I thought it’d all be over.

I suppose that is why I approach my work and my life with such fervor. I did before, but that accident is really what catalyzed all of the plans I had ever made for myself. Things could’ve ended so quickly but they didn’t. It was as if the universe was telling me, “memento mori.”

As a side note, after the accident, I was taking some video footage of the accident scene. Right before my eyes the exact same accident almost unfolded itself in front of me. Fortunately the other driver stopped right in time. Check it out. I still can’t believe that I have all of the footage after all of these years.

Surrounding Yourself With The Right People

I had this great blog entry planned out, but then I decided I was too tired to write a post and edit it. Instead I decided to vlog and it took just as long…but at least it exercised a different part of my brain and I feel as though I’ve learned something new. Yay iMovie!

Here we go…

So, what are your thoughts? How will you strengthen your support network?

My Theory on Reincarnation

On a cold afternoon one day, I sat down in my car with my mother and had a heart-to-heart with her on the concept of reincarnation.

Samsara - The Concept of Continuous Flow

In the traditional Buddhist teachings, reincarnation was explained as the afterlife. After your physical form passes, your spirit transcends that physical form and takes place in a new vessel. That could be as a new person (moving up) or an animal (moving down). Your karma dictated your ascension or descension and it seemed limited to only the physical being. It was as if you were living your entire life for the possibility of a “refresh” button or a chance to start over.

For me, reincarnation happens the minute my spirit dies. I’ve had a few instances in my life when I’ve felt a spirit-crushing pain so strong that there’s no other way to put it but true spirit-death. When that happens I usually feel that I come to some sort of breakthrough. I vow to make a change that will never allow myself to feel said pain again. Perhaps I resolve to do things differently next time. Maybe I choose to forgive but never forget. There’s been a myriad of instances in which I’ve experienced this spirit-death and was able to reframe my perspective instantaneously. It’s freakishly powerful, usually uncontrollable, and probably one of my subconscious survival mechanisms.

In addition to this emotional pain, I can actually feel a physical sensation as well. You can actually compare it to an adrenaline rush coupled with a mental high: my heart and mind races, my skin begins to feel flush, and I become hyperaware and sensitive to everything around me. It is usually in that moment that I begin to make changes in my environment — physical and/or mental — and it is only in retrospect that I realize that I am doing it.

So, in short, reincarnation isn’t limited to the passing of your physical form. It can happen everyday. The instant you decide that you want change in your life, close your eyes. When you open them again, it’s your chance to make your world right.

The Wish Box

The Wish Box

This year I urge you to hold yourself accountable to your aspirations. Write down what you wish for!

I took a small box and filled it with a handful of strips, each one with a different wish for changes I want to see in my life. When I am unsure of what to next set my sights on, I’ll reach into this box and revisit one of my many ambitions. Pretty neat, huh?

Try it out. It’ll take just a few minutes, get you thinking, and might even change your life.

Finding Inspiration When You Need It Most

When I find that I am low on patience and inspiration, I usually head towards the water. It’s humbling to be surrounded by something so majestic and grand as the Pacific Ocean. After all, the oceans covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water. And, at any moment it can swallow me up whole and make me disappear into nothingness.

If you are finding yourself low on inspiration, I find that these usually help:

  • A change in environment: Sometimes you just need to change your location. There might be something in your current surroundings that is stifling your ability to think. Either address it or change it, but don’t ignore it — this type of frustration will fester.
  • A change in perspective: You might have unnecessarily pigeonholed yourself. Try to see the problem from a different angle and your perspective should change. If you’re a designer, put on your photographer hat. If you’re a service provider, try seeing it from a client’s point of view. Be honest and don’t include your own projections. Truly try to see it from the other side.
  • A change in activity: Some of the best ideas percolate while you’re doing something else. Give it a rest and refresh yourself. Chances are you will find some inspiration in something completely unrelated.

It’s sometimes difficult to put our problems into perspective. Just remember that you are one small piece of a very, very large puzzle…and that things are never really as troublesome as they seem. Don’t get caught up in the minutia of life! Just enjoy it and go along for the ride.

Finally…I'm Undergoing a Redesign

I’ve been working on a full-life makeover here the last few months and with that comes a redesign of my personal website! For those of you who care, I actually modeled it after my favorite hat. It was kind of like that Kohler commercial where a couple asks a fancy architect to build their house around a sink.

Backstory: I’ve always had an appreciation for great advertising so I decided to take a similar perspective for this new design. Not only that but since I have a problem finishing personal projects — they’re never quite as PERFECT as I’d like them to be — it was a great shift in thinking: instead of trying to please my taste in aesthetics, I was suddenly trying to solve a design problem. So, in the end, logic trumped emotion. Sounds familiar…

New design pays homage to traditional forms communications via heavy block typesetting, fixed-width body copy fonts, careful use of organic hues, and textured papers/overlays. It marries new technologies with feed syndication from Twitter (tweets) and Yfrog (pics), my most frequented social notworking platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Vokle, Failbook aka Facebook, Skype), a tag cloud that lays out the essence of my thoughts in an easy to digest format, and quick links to my business ventures so that you can carry on an intelligent conversation about what I do when we meet in real life. WIN! Website Redesign 2011

Four Stages of Conflict Resolution

This morning I participated in a meditation and Dharma session at a local Buddhist meditation society and listened to a very thoughtful and provoking address on conflict resolution. In the past year I’ve noticed that my approach to conflict (and its eventual resolution) has dramatically changed. Be it a shift in perspective or different resources I have available to me, it has definitely changed for the better and I am beginning to be more mindful of when I am practicing meaningful conflict resolution. I hope that these stages will help you recognize your abilities to reconcile the differences that present themselves in your daily life and that you will be able to apply them as needed.

Stage 1 – Pacification. There is an attempt made at pacifying a conflict, otherwise known as a “heart-to-heart” or some sort of method by which one party attempts to address the situation. Usually done by “talking things out,” this step almost always reinforces a relationship by establishing a connection or bond that revolves around trust. It is in this stage that the relationship between the two individuals grow deeper.

Stage 2 – Mediation. There may be insufficient communication between the two conflicting individuals; therefore, a third-party mediator may be required to help both individuals address said conflict. This can be via counselor, psychologist, friend, clergy, arbitrator, etc, but it is preferred that mediation be conducted by someone who does not have a vested interest in said relationship. An objective point of view is necessary to help evaluate the conflict, but not place value on either individual’s opinion.

Stage 3 – Magnetization. One individual within the conflict changes the situation in such a way that compels the other person to take action. In this stage, ultimatums or interventions may reasonably take place. A drastic action that creates a schism in the relationship will push the resolution in one of two directions. Much in the same way that magnets work, this will either bring the two individuals closer together or tear them apart. In this case, it is safe to say that there is no middle ground.

Stage 4 – Destruction. Either one or both individuals choose to destroy the aspect of the relationship that causes conflict. This does not necessarily mean that the two individuals walk away from each other entirely. This stage of conflict resolution highly depends on both of the individual’s emotional quotient. The most emotionally mature individuals may be able to permanently separate their overall relationship from the root of conflict. In this case, the conflict is resolved but the relationship (either actualized or imagined) remains intact.

How have you been successful at conflict resolution? Do any of these steps apply to you?


Special thanks to Ken McLeod for the discussion after this morning’s guided meditation at Against The Stream.

“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

I don’t remember when I came across this poem but I’ve always found it to uplift me in times of despair and ground me in times of greatness.

Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser
persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

I Hate Networking!

A young up and coming star in the start-up world recently confessed to me that he hated networking. I sighed (with great relief on the inside) told him to join the club.

I’ve been to mixers, networking events, tweetups, meetups, etc — all in the name of being more social. When you’re tethered to your computer for most of the sunshiny day, you tend to gravitate towards being as social as you possibly can in the small bursts of availability that you have. Getting yourself “out there” is pretty nebulous for most people. “How do I meet new people?” “What do I say?” “Where do I meet these people?” Oh, the anxiety!

Well, I would not say that I am some sort of networking rock star but I happen to do perfectly fine at events. At first I hated going to them, but after a few events I realized why I disliked them so much. It was my fault. See, I was going into it with some sort of crazy notion that I would meet some fabulous people that I would be able to plug in to whatever my project was at that time. That was the wrong attitude to have!

Stop networking to gain business contacts or collect cards, and just get yourself out there to meet new people. Honestly, the best way to network is to do so with no intentions outside of just making friends. Some people are meant for “working a room,” and all the power to them. However, if that’s not your thing, I am sure that this rather innocuous five step plan can help you!

  1. Walk up to someone who is alone
  2. Acknowledge something about the event you’re at
  3. Introduce yourself
  4. Ask an open ended question
  5. LISTEN!

Are you familiar with the adage, “Only boring people are boring”? Well, if not you should burn that into the insides of your retinas because I find it to be very true. Learn to keep the conversation going and learn to be your true self, and soon, these events will be a piece of cake!