Whirling Thoughts

Chewing, swishing, and spitting thoughts out. Personal blog of Nicholas Chan.

Month: April 2017

How This Introvert Learned to Talk to People

PC: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thriftylook/9675591155

Recently, I sat down for coffee with someone, and we had a really good talk about philosophy, investing and everything in between. While that sounds high-class and fancy, it really wasn’t. We were inside a McDonald’s. McDonalds — the land of greasy food and loud, greasy, crying children.

So as I’m eating my Fillet O Fish, and he’s scarfing down some pancakes, it comes up how we are both very introverted people. Isn’t that weird? Two introverts decide to meet for coffee and… talk?

I mean, we’re always told that an introvert is someone who becomes drained by being with other people. That an introvert doesn’t like talking to strangers. That an introvert would much rather be at home reading books.

So since what I was doing (talking to a stranger in a loud location without books) flew right in the face of being introverted, I had a really proud moment! In my mind it went something like:

“WOW! I’M DOING IT! I AM OK AT TALKING TO PEOPLE!”

I can safely say that this wasn’t always the case.

One of my most vivid elementary school memories was being a completely awkward, social loner. I was sort of chubby and never really liked to play sports either. Since I hated being trash at soccer and basketball, what I would do to sort of “fit in” and be socially accepted was be a coathanger.

Prime business season was when it was spring, the sun was coming out, and all these kids started to get sweaty with their coats on. But coats should never be left on the ground, right? So every time someone needed to take their coat off, I would grab it for them, hang them on my arms, and go run around looking for someone else who needed the services of the coathanger. I took pride in my ability to hold ten coats at once, and always find and return them when recess ended.

They say societies have defined roles. Some have the hunters. The cooks. The healers. I was the coathanger.

ME

That social awkwardness followed me all the way until around Grade 9. I would excuse myself from long conversations. Be intimidated and suspicious of any stranger who wanted to talk to me. Aha, if a girl decided to talk to me that meant she likkeedddd me.

Ugh.

But here’s the thing. Even in Grade 9, I knew that I was really interested in the field of business. Another thing that I knew in Grade 9 was that in business, I would have to talk to a lot of people and make those connections.

So this has actually been one of my little secret personal development goals through high school. If I couldn’t learn how to be good with people, then I might as well go into computer science. There’s less of a need to talk to people when you’re coding.

In my mind, there were a few key lessons that I learned along the way, that really helped me get better at the art of talking to people and being more “social”. These include my need to read up, the art of asking questions, lots of online chatting, and just forcing myself into social situations.

Reading About Talking to People

This is probably hands down, the nerdiest possibly way to learn how to be better with people, but I found it important for a few reasons. I always wanted to understand what is it that amkes people tick? What are some of the best tips and tricks that I can use in order to connect with people and make friends?

The fact that I felt that I needed to read a book speaks volumes about how introverted I am and how much I struggle with all of this, but I think that is actually a blessing in disguise. Having to work so much harder than your everyday extrovert, understanding some basic human psychology, and constantly thinking about how to interact with people has helped me get to a level of confidence and where I am today.

So what are the books? The ones that had the most impact on me were “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. They both teach a lot of small and practical lessons that helped me get through a standard conversation and leave a good impression.

Here are some of my favorite lessons from these books! If they’re super obvious to you already, then congrats, you are better at talking to people than I am.

  1. Be Vulnerable: Are you having a bad day? Do you have some worries or concerns? Sharing those makes people trust you, and usually leads to them opening up too. After a few minutes of looking deep into each other’s eyes and confessing your soul, I’ve found that I can walk away having made a new friend
  2. Body Language: This is one of the most common and obvious ones, but there are some interesting subconscious tricks that I picked up. The oft-repeated one is “NEVER CROSS YOUR ARMS”, and always stay open. One of my favorites is that when someone is talking to you (or you to them), then lean forward! It shows interest. Hands down, the most interesting one is being a copycat. If you mirror their actions, people apparently seem to take a liking to you! If they’re doing a hand gesture or something, copy it when you talk! The easiest way to do this is actually just repeat something that they just said right back to them. “I like potatoes”…”Huh… so you like potatoes… that’s super cool man”
  3. Show Genuine Interest: Make someone feel special! If they’re talking don’t let your eyes just glaze over. Find a common interest, ask questions, sympathize, at the very least look really serious and nod you head. Show some interest and it goes a long way. If you find yourself falling asleep, then just change the topic of the conversation (or just politely walk away)

Asking Good Questions

The magical thing about learning how to ask good questions is that the total time you spend talking ends up decreasing significantly. A question takes 30 seconds. The answer takes 3 minutes. That’s a pretty good 1: 6 ratio, and my secret to getting through those conversations. Just let the other person talk 🙂

Asking good questions is just a matter of listening very closely to what the other person is saying. I like to think of it as chaining words and ideas together. Are they talking about how they love art? Ask them why? Is it because they enjoy expression and creativity? What’s their favorite medium? Why? How do they deal with a lack of creativity like writer’s block? Hmm writing, books, hey do you have a favorite book? Ew that author is nasty, why do you like him?

The word “why” is my new best friend.

Lots of Online Chatting

Talking to people in person doesn’t really give me enough time to think or get better. It’s sort of like practicing for a sport right? You never start sprinting or going all out right away, you have to start with the basics, or else you’re going to get screwed over later.

So what I did was a lot of chatting on Facebook messenger with friends and people that I had just met. Online chat gave me a few seconds to think of a good response, and practice keeping a conversation going. You do it a few times, start seeing patterns with what works, and what gets your r-bombed, and you just take whatever you learned and apply it to real life conversation.

Where I learned my craft

Forcing Myself Into Social Situations

There is no better way to get better at something than just going out and doing it. So that meant forcing myself to go to all these get togethers, events, and just putting myself in a situation where I had to talk to people.

Some examples are

  1. Post competition lifeguard party
  2. Pitch competitions
  3. Get together with a bunch of jocks. Jocks? I am definitely not a jock, and prefer reading, but I had loads of fun
  4. Local community and cultural showcases
  5. Talent show both with and without talent

For me it was just a matter of making sure that I left with at least one good conversation before I left. On good days, that takes like 10 minutes max. On the bad days, after lots of stuttering, weird looks, and polite excuses to run away from me, it never happens.

I have lost track of all the super awkward conversations that I’ve had over the past few years. The worst one involved someone I worked with at the pool before, and went something like:

“Hey ____, what are you doing here?”
“I go to university here…”

“Oh”

****silence****

“I gotta go! BYE!”

What can I say? It’s a process.

If you’re an introvert, I hope you identified with a few of my struggles and picked something up along the way. Extrovert? Please teach me how to be better with people, I still need help.

If you enjoyed the post, do you mind pressing that little green heart? It helps spread the message. You can find more of my stuff at blog.project5k.ca

High School Has Really Changed Me, But I’m Still The Same Person


Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about high school. How have I grown? How have I changed? What has stayed the same? It’s a time of deep reflection about how a period of four years can really change a person.

So to really play out this scenario, I had to reconstruct what Grade 9 Nick was really like. How he acted, what he liked to do, and what he wanted to do with his life. So consider this a fun “before and after” post, sort of like the fitness post where you see a really fat guy before and a 6-pack shredded monster after. Except in my case, I think the fat guy is still sort of there.

GRADE 9 NICK

Grade 9 Nick loved video games. He wasn’t particularly good at them, so he would always lock himself up in his room, play some Team Fortress 2 against bots, and kill the entire morning and afternoon trying to be a good sniper. In English class, he would run an emulator on his computer and pass boring lessons by playing Pokemon Emerald or Fire Emblem. Grade 12 Nick vividly remembers one time where Grade 9 Nick brought his computer to DECA Provincials and played Team Fortress in his room instead of talking to people or studying. The only reason that Grade 9 Nick did not start playing League of Legends was because it would have taken more than a day to download it, and his father was already annoyed that we had hit the monthly download limit with our internet provider.

MINI SENTRIES!! ROCKET JUMPING!! MEDICCC!!!

Grade 9 Nick was really scared of talking to and meeting new people. Mostly because he was terrible at it, awkward, and really appreciated the thought of staying home and reading instead of going out and talking to …people. Especially if they were girls. In front of them, the sweat would break out, the tongue would start tying itself, and the only words that could choke their way out of his mouth were “oh….cool”

Grade 9 Nick was really set on being an accountant or CFA. Even in Grade 9, Nick was a business nerd who would pass his time reading INvestopedia, playing virtual stock games, and pretending like he knew something about stocks and investments. During summer school, in his Careers project, he picked the Chartered Financial Analyst as his dream job. It was stable, prestigious, and parent approved, and perfect for a poorly designed infographic slapped together in Microsoft Publisher. Waterloo AFM and coop was the end goal.

Grade 9 Nick worshipped the “gods”. Those people in Grade 11 and 12 who just seemed to have everything so together. They were smart, knew what they were doing with their lives, and were role models that I wanted to be. Grade 9 Nick was blessed whenever they deigned to talk to them and respectfully silent whenever they happened to walk by him. Respect had to be shown in their presence.

Grade 9 Nick loved to read and learn new things. Since he didn’t really go out a lot, he had a lot of spare time to read a lot of interesting books. He fiddled with code in his spare time to entertain the dream of being one of those cool “coders”. For fun, he would go to the library and borrow a huge stack of DC and Marvel superhero comics, sit down, and read all of them in a day. Batman, Green Lantern, Spiderman, X-Men, and Wolverine comics were the best. Superman and Thor comics always got boring, because they were both overpowered gods who smashed their way through everything. Yawn.

Before the movie ruined everything for me, Green Lanterns were the coolest

GRADE 12 NICK

So after writing all of this out, I think it’s safe for me to say that a lot has changed, but I can see how the basic Grade 9 Nick really laid the foundation for the person I am today.

Grade 12 Nick still loves to play Pokemon, without shame. You can find him relaxing or destressing on Pokemon Showdown playing pokemon battles with randomly generated teams under the username “someguy123p0” (which he borrowed and took over from a friend). He gets real proud about his expertise and 1700 ELO. Occasionally, if it’s a real bad day, he’ll make a temporary account and go beat up the newbies near the 1000 ELO rank. Sometimes these guys don’t even understand the basic concept of momentum, sweeping, and super-effective moves. Amateurs.

Grade 12 Nick has gotten over his fear of meeting new people, mostly because he just threw himself out there and had a million awkward conversations with strangers. Of course, he still has the preference of being at home and reading a book than go to stupid networking and “meet new people” events. Networking events are the source of all evil.

Grade 12 Nick is still a complete business nerd. He follows Gary Vaynerchuk, continues to read up on investing and finance, and has deep conversations about personal branding and marketing strategies. On the other hand, Grade 12 Nick does not want to go and become a CA or CFA, because he wants to live the exciting life of being a marketer or entrepreneur. Part of this has to do with his constant struggle and lack of ability to sit still and stare at numbers for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Grade 12 Nick is still constantly blown away by the people who have so many accomplishments. Fortunately, he’s realized something that was unfathomable to his Grade 9 version. That even the most successful entrepreneur, writer, artist, CEO, or athlete is, at the end of the day, human. Which means that they all have their struggles, are usually willing to talk and have a good conversation, and are really not too different than you or me.

Grade 12 Nick continues to read too many books. You would think that they are all businessy and everything, but there’s always time to read some good comic books. Calvin and Hobbes, Old Man Logan, Lone Wolf and Cub, and really, any superhero comic. Comic books are timeless treasures that more people should read, a world of fantasy that is soooo much cooler than daily life. I constantly wish that I could shoot webs out of my hands. It would be a cool party trick.

Conclusion of the day? Grade 9 Nick would think Grade 12 Nick would be a real cool guy.

Grade 12 Nick should remember never to look down on Grade 9 Nick.

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How I’m Dealing With Senioritis


It’s the Easter Weekend! Midterms are over, university acceptances are starting to roll in, and everyone is starting to enjoy the nice warm weather. But beware, because the warm weather and stress-free environment is the perfect breeding ground for one of the most potent high-schooler diseases of all time : senioritis.

We can go with the Google definition of senioritis being the “affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance.” So what does that look like?

The most obvious statistical measure of senioritis would be the sharp decline in test marks. Harder to measure but also very obvious is the complete lack of motivation by students in the classroom. You can measure this intangible statistic by counting how many people are playing mobile games, sleeping, or skipping class at any given point in time.

I am the first to say that I have been severely affected by senioritis. Having accepted my offer to university in mid-March, this tryhard 90+ average student has received a 60% on a math test, 77% on Econ, and is confronting the looming AP Math exam by going outside to play basketball.

*swish

Having always been a hardworking student, senioritis has brought up a lot of confusion into my life. I have this little angel on my right shoulder telling me:

“It’s school! You should be working hard. You’re a good student! Don’t let your teachers down”.

On the other side I have this tiny devil whispering:

“But your marks don’t matter anymore”

It has been a real moral dilemma, full of internal conflict and many deep life talks with friends, but I actually find senioritis to be a really fascinating topic, because it says a lot about our education system and motivation.

So as the resident expert and being a uniquely qualified individual on this topic, I just wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on senioritis, and some of the steps that I’m taking to make the best of a real lazy situation.

On Our Education System

“AGHHH F*** SCHOOL”

That uncensored and NSFS (not safe for school) scream escaped the mouths of me and my friends as we desperately searched for a basketball court after midterms.

That little outburst says a lot about student attitudes towards school. We think that school is:

  1. Stressful
  2. Frustrating
  3. Occasionally Useless
  4. Tiring

No matter how you frame it, school is a huge mental drain on teens. In a study by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, it turns out that 68% of teens report that academics stress them out. But you don’t really need a survey to tell you that if you pay close attention.

If you had listened to a few student conversations a few days ago, and you wouldn’t have been able to avoid the topic of university acceptances, the pre-test all nighters, and unfair teachers.

If senioritis tells us anything, it’s that students have been mentally exhausted by this constant grind of test, study, test, study, rinse and repeat.

Does anyone remember having fun in school? When you could go to class and play with tiny lego bricks, or sit down in front of a teacher for story time, or go outside for class? I remember learning French through a play about three little pigs and pretending to blow the house down.

good ol’ days

School used to be fun. Learning used to be fun. Why can’t school still be fun and enjoyable? Sure, it’s hard to make subjects like titration, derivatives, and net force as fun as pretending to be a little pig, but at the very least, there has to be a way to make school a lot less stressful and engaging. A good starting point might be teachers coordinating and planning so that one student doesn’’t have 5 assignments and tests due in a single week.

Senioritis is just a natural release of all the pressures that students had to suffer through the last 3 and ¾ of a year. Some of my own friends have gone through all-nighters, stress sores, stress breakdowns, and intense anxiety over the course of high school. Is that healthy? Is that what our education system wants? Don’t all of our teachers and parents realize this? Who wouldn’t want to run in the other direction?

So F*** school.

Finding Motivation

SO. I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT MY MARKS?

Midterms are in, acceptances are rolling out. Most students now have the luxury of cruising and turning off the jets a little.

Now a lot of teachers and parents think that this is a bad thing. Your marks are going to drop! You’re not going to know the material!

To them I say. So what? If you do a rational analysis here, most of the stuff I’m learning in school is not going to be particularly life changing or necessary. My marks are locked in and don’t matter. By spending excessive amounts of time on something that I’m a) likely to forget and b) don’t enjoy, c) has no meaning, I just end up feeling frustrated and unhappy.

This realization is obviously the key cause of senioritis. There’s no real external pressure or extrinsic motivation to do well anymore. And there’s really nothing that parents or teachers can do to change it.

Great, so let’s slack in school.

You might need one of these to help find your motivation

But taking a long term view, senioritis and this two month period is actually the perfect time to start setting yourself up for bigger and better things.

I mean doesn’t everyone have something that they wish they had more time to do but “never had the time?” Did you ever want to start writing more? Designing more? Coding more? How about meeting more people or starting something cool?

Well look at this! Now that you don’t have to pay attention to school anymore, you have a lot of time to start doing all the things that you’ve wanted to learn or do.

So going into the next 2 months, that’s the mindset that I’m adopting. I’m going to be working at 10% in school, and 100% in everything else in my life. I’m going be writing more, learning about sales and marketing, becoming more fluent in Spanish, and running around interviewing people for the Project 5K podcast. Of course, I can’t forget to mention that I’m starting to go hang out with friends 10x more than normal.

If you’re a student trying to deal with senioritis, I say just forget about school. Do the work it takes to maintain your mark and acceptance, but start shifting your focus and energy towards the more meaningful and important things in life. That’s probably where you can find that long lost motivation and enjoyment that school sucked out of you.

Personally, I think it’s really important to find that intrinsic (internal) motivation to do something. Eventually, in life, I think that there will always be a time where you don’t have a boss, teacher, or parent telling you what you do. Then it becomes so easy to slack, start a Netflix marathon, and binge on ice cream.

But if you really want to reach for the stars, make an impact, or be “successful”, you need to be able to dredge up some motivation to start taking action even when there is no one telling you to.

So go out there and start dancing / learning a language / drawing / coding / whatever floats your boat. There’s no better opportunity to start than now 🙂

PS. This is really bad advice for finding motivation to do well at school. If in need of academic motivation, having a long, honest conversation with your teacher is probably the better route to go…

I apologize if I just infected you with senioritis. If you enjoyed the post, do you mind pressing that little green heart? It helps spread the message. You can find more of my stuff at blog.project5k.ca

The Magic of Podcasting and Interviewing People

One day, I might have a setup like this 🙂

Today’s reflection is about the magic of podcasting and meeting people. As I write this right now, I’m actually sitting on a bus heading to downtown Toronto to interview someone for the Project 5K Podcast / Interview Series. I’m perching my laptop on my legs, jamming out to some Chance the Rapper, and trying to keep everything stable as the bus lurches its way downtown.

I actually have a lot of different motives for running this little thing. Neither reason has anything to do with money. Much to the disbelief of someone I interviewed, I don’t get paid to do any of this (call it a passion project).

You can actually boil down my reasons into three key points.

  1. I’ve always wanted to interview people.
  2. All these high school students kept asking me for advice, and I got slightly annoyed because it started taking up a lot of my time. There were also a lot of students that I thought could benefit from some insight and advice, even if they didn’t know it themselves.
  3. Finally, I figured that I just wanted to meet a lot of people! This one is a little selfish, but hey, I think it balance out with item number 2 🙂

So let’s dig into it a little more, what was bouncing around in my head when I decided to start a podcast?

I’ve Always Wanted To Interview People

Unless they have lived under a rock all their lives, everyone has had a few crazy experiences here or there. Everyone has a story to tell.

These stories are a little like candy for me. When I was young(er), I would always love hearing my parents and grandparents tell their stories of travel, adventure, and random mundane mishaps. I could never get enough of it (and I still can’t.)

There’s this one story that my dad always tells, about how he and my mom once went travelling in Japan. Being on a bit of a shoestring budget, they couldn’t afford nice hotels and ended up staying in small hostels.

There was one hostel in Hiroshima that he remembers vividly.

The bus they were taking had been really late, and they ended up arriving at the hostel late at night. It was pitch black, the hostel was on top of a steep hill, and because the bus wouldn’t drive up the hill, they had to hike up with all their luggage.

Oh, and as it turns out, to get to the top of the hill, they had to go through a cemetery!

So after hauling their luggage in the dark through a cemetery, they finally reached the hostel, only to be greeted by a group of surly, old, Japanese men. Normally, this isn’t that big of a problem. I mean, elsewhere you just go to your room, shower, and never see them again.

Unfortunately, in Japan, they have something called public baths, you know the type where you strip down in public to shower? Creepy old men, run down hostel, public baths, it was a formula for a scarring experience. Scarring experiences make the best stories :p

While I don’t think everyone has some crazy story about Japanese public baths, I know that everyone has something to share and a story to tell. Podcasting and interviewing people is my way of getting sheer joy and entertainment, and satisfying that desire to just sit down for story time.

Stories = Candy

Annoying Requests For Life Advice.

As it turns out, I’m not the only student in need of life advice. There were a lot of people who kept coming up to me asking questions like “What courses should I pick?”, “What should I do in this situation”, and my all-time favorite “I have no idea what I’m doing with my life”.

I mean, like I’m flattered that you asked, but really, I don’t think that I’m in a better position to answer those questions than you.

But you know who is chock full of experiences, stories, and life advice? There are actually two groups of people: the “old” and the “successful” (quotations because both those terms are really subjective)

So old people, why are they so good at dishing out life advice? Because in the span of their lives, they all have made a ton of mistakes, had crazy experiences, and met lots of different types of people. I would argue that even the most boring and mundane senior has something to teach us.

As for “succesful” people, the simple reason is just that in order to reach their levels of success, all of them have had to go through their own struggles. Through the podcast I have met a teen entrepreneur, debater and public speaker, who had a lisp that he struggled to overcome. I have met a man on his way to building a multi-million dollar marketing firm, who was bullied in high school. At one point, he had only a few dollars left in his bank account.

Success, no matter how you define it, never comes easy to anyone. And all the lessons that these people learn on their way to success mean that they are prime candidates for sucking out amazing and applicable life advice.

Aha, and not to forget, but I’m just some 17 year-old teen trying to figure stuff out, so whatever life advice I can absorb from interviewing people is definitely a huge plus.

Turns Out A Podcast Is A Great Excuse To Meet People

So on the topic of lie advice, one of the big things that anyone will tell you these days is that you have to meet people and “network”. That’s great and all, except it leaves us tih on big question.

HOW THE HECK ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT???

Don’t get me started on networking events… they’re like swimming in a shark infested pool of people. Some shark will come up with a smile plastered on their face, scan you over with their eyes to give you a score out of 10, and if you pass the test, you might be graced with a forgettable conversation, a business card that you throw away, and a hopeless wish that you could get the 10 minutes you wasted talking to this guy. Chances are, if you ever see them again, you won’t remember their name, and they won’t remember yours.

I would also make the argument that the people you do want to know, the successful go-getters, don’t spend as much time at networking events than we think they would. They’re probably busy actually doing things with their life.

So networking events are a tiny swimming pool full of sharks looking for a meal, and the only food they’ll find are measly small-fry that want to stay away from them. All the smart food decided to stay away from the damn pool.

How I see networking events

So! Podcasting and meeting people. I figured that hey, a lot of people like to talk about themselves, a lot of people like it when there’s someone who actually cares and listens, and there’s no way you are ever going to forget someone if you spent an hour talking with them. Plus, it’s on the record. Plus, by interviewing for the podcast, the interviewer is actually helping a lot of people.

So when people hear that I am doing a podcast, it usually becomes a matter of

Me: “Hey I’m doing a podcast to help give advice to teens, I think your story is really cool (because it is), are you interested?”

Them: “Yoooo, sounds so cool! I’m down. When and where do you want to meet?”

These aren’t your standard, run of the mill strangers either. Most of the people I ask for an interview are entrepreneurs who are up to their ears in work. If you give people a chance to share their stories and experiences, you would be surprised by how many people will jump for it.

You don’t have to start a podcast to apply those same principles. Whether you’re emailing, messaging on LinkedIn, or even just having a friendly chat, the best way to connect people is to ask them to share their experiences and stories.

Everyone loves story time 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this post! I also hope that you’re going to run out into this world inspired, motivated and ready to start your own podcast!

If you enjoy my writing, had a good laugh, or if you are just feeling really generous today, do you mind pressing that little green heart to show some support? It means a lot to me! You can find more of my ramblings and interviews at blog.project5k.ca.

30 (or 20 or 10) Minutes A Day


Being a self-professed “Business Nerd”, I’ve always been curious about how some of the concepts that you learn within say economics class, investments, and marketing can be applied towards one’s every day life.

One such area would be the idea of compound interest. It is well known that Warren Buffet reads a lot everyday, 500 pages to be exact. His explanation for such is that all this reading and knowledge layers on top of itself and compounds.

It’s hard to argue with the results. Warren Buffet is one of the few investors in the world who has consistently beaten the average market return.

Not to mention he’s one of the richest and happiest men in the world. The reason for his riches comes from his investments and compounded knowledge. The happiness? Probably from his unashamed indulgence in Coke. As he self professes “I eat like a 6 year-old”

Coke and food aside, I’ve been recently trying to apply those self-same principles of self-improvement and compound interest in my own life. While I can safely say that it has not made me one of the richest men in the world, there has definitely been visible improvement all of the areas I started to apply these principles in my life.

Here’s a quick list of the areas, and how I tried to applied those principles to my life. 🙂 I hope you find some inspiration!

Spanish

Hola! Me llama Nicholas y yo no hablo espanol. Ahora, yo voy aprendo.

After visiting Barcelona this year, I have really fallen in love with Spain, Spanish culture, and Spanish! It’s a lifelong goal for me to go back to Spain, live there for a while, and become a fluent speaker of Spanish.

What I do everyday is try and set aside a few minutes to get my daily fix of Spanish. 
 This can mean doing one exercise in a Spanish textbook I got. One conversation with my fellow Spanish-learning friend. One session on duolingo or lingvist.com

Sure the conversations get awkward. There’s a lot of crashing and burning. But in the 4 months of slow learning that I’ve been through, I am definitely feeling much more confident in my writing and reading ability.

The speaking part is still crashing and burning.

Dancing

I dance like a flopping fish.

But since I was really young, when I saw someone doing the robot and “popping”, I’ve always wanted to learn that style.

So I did what every teenager should do and signed myself up for home hip-hop “popping” classes at the local dance studio.

I am being regularly embarrassed by 6 year-olds. Kudos to them, they’ve worked for it. But hey, I can’t afford to lost dance battles to little Adam every time I go dancing, my 17 (almost 18) year old pride can only take so much of that!

So instead, I go out of my way to practice popping. For those of you who don’t know what popping looks like, it’s sort of like you are having a very controlled, robotic seizure in separate parts of your body.

So whenever I’m standing and bored, I practice popping my legs! Whenever I’m sitting down and doing some work, I practice those mini-convulsions.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who see’s me thinks I’m crazy or have some form of epilepsy, but on the other hand, I’ve noticed that I’ve gained the ability to keep up with choreography, be more confident, and make a few of my friends go :O wowww.

I still don’t have anything on little Adam. It’s a work in progress.

Knowledge and Reading

I love to read and learn and just be an overall nerd? (Shame on me)

I actually make a very concerted and concentrated effort to avoid television shows. The main reason being that I know the moment I start watching a show, I will never stop. This happened to me when I started watching Daredevil, and I regret everything.

So I end up filling my time reading a lot of articles and blog posts. 5 minutes before bed? I’ll pull out Medium. Need to destress? Quora is great for that (it’s full of inspirational life advice). Professional procrastination? Bloomberg View!

I also have a bunch of newsletters in my mailbox that give me something new and educational everyday. Three favorite right now are Seeking Alpha’s Wall Street Breakfast, Abnormal Returns, and a really weird and out there one called MEL Magazine.

The latter has a lot of questionable content, but the writing style is so entertaining that I can’t resist.

So what’s happened? What are the results?

Every conversation, I’m a quote machine. All these random life advice nuggets, personal finance tips, and philosophy preaching have been internalized in my brain. I find that there’s a lot of perspective in my life now, and that I’ve begun to challenge a lot of assumptions I previously had.

As a side note, I’ve also recently been reading a Medium channel called The Ringer, which has a lot of articles about basketball and the NBA. As a result, I can hold my own in a conversation with the jocks.

I find a good trick is just to shout out a few names, reference really good players, and stake a claim on your favorite team.

Typical conversation:

RUSSEL WESTBROOK MVP. YO THAT WAS A NASTY CHASEDOWN BLOCK BY LEBRON. RAPTORS ARE GOING TO WIN.

What can I say, I’ve learned a lot 🙂

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