Tag Archives: life

Do Things That Make You Thrive

A friend recently showed me that I could borrow audiobooks from the local library, so I have been on an audiobook kick.

The latest book I finished was Oprah’s “What I Know For Sure”. In it, you’d find the typical Oprah feel-goodisms and wealth of quotable lines, but one passage in particular resonated with me. In one of the stories about her struggles with dieting, her trainer gave her a piece of advice that stuck with her: Eat foods that make you thrive.

I like this line not because of any relationship I have with food, but that it can be generalized and applied to life: Do things that make you thrive.

Whenever I’m considering eating something I know is unhealthy or will make me feel bad later, either physically or mentally, I try to find an alternative that can satisfy what I want (usually something sweet) but is still relatively good for me. This can be applied to finances, social activities, career choices, etc. My problem, however, is being too cautious with everything. Perhaps the “thrive” part is the missing benchmark against which I can use to take worthwhile risks.

2287 Characters for 2287 Days of Zynga

Dear XXXX,

After more than six years at Zynga, I have decided that it is time for me to move on and pursue other interests. Please accept this message as my resignation from Zynga as a Senior Experience Designer. My last day of employment is Friday, December 18, 2015. I plan to spend a period of time after my departure to explore my options and career paths.

I want to thank you for the support you have given me already in the short time that we got to work together. I am also grateful for the guidance you have provided to the design team to continue to be motivated and inspired in doing our best work and delivering the best experience for our players.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Zynga for the incredible experience I have had for the past six years. During this time, I have learned an unbelievable amount, not just for my skill set as a designer, but also with product management, data analysis, game design, engineering frameworks, market research, business strategies, teamwork and collaboration, production processes, culture building, vision- and goal-setting, startup mentality, work-life balance, and so on. I am leaving this company with a lot more life and career experience than I could have ever imagined.

I am also thankful and amazed every day by the amount of talented people who work at this company. I have witnessed many times that when the right talents come together with a clear, common vision, greatness and success follow. I’m immensely honored to have worked with so many of these talented individuals in my journey through PetVille, Studio Platinum, ZDC, MSC, and the With Friends division. But I think I am most grateful, fortunate, and inspired to have the privilege to work for and with my direct managers throughout the years, all of whom have been unbelievably kind, approachable, smart, and enlightening, a combination of which I believe is rare.

For the remainder of my time here, I plan to continue my role and workload while preparing for a knowledge transfer with the design team. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to ensure the smoothest transition.

It has been an honor, a privilege, and a thrill to work at Zynga.

With endless gratitude,

Ivan W. Lam
Senior Experience Designer, Words With Friends

Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend

9/16/15 9:53pm

Just found out from an email that Scott Dinsmore of LYL just died.

He died from falling rocks on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The email was sent yesterday 9/15.

It’s quite ironic that I learned about this the day I am considering pausing on reading the LYL posts to work on my LBT blog. I don’t think I’m going to unpause it, because my priorities haven’t changed. In fact, it may magnified them. I want to get the LBT blog posts out as a way to make a difference in the world.

I just feel really sad for this young man and his young wife, who had so much left to do.

I requested to join the closed Facebook group and saw that there are already 4000+ people in the group. This suddenly made me realize the impact this person has made.

I hope this motivates every one of them in the group (and more who have probably yet to hear the news) to carry on Scott’s message and live their legends and change the world. If anything positive that can come out of this, I hope it’s that.

9/17/15 7:41am

It seems too much like a movie that he died so young, motivating his Living Legends to continue their passion. I still have to ask myself if it’s real or if I just dreamt it.

I’m a Living Legend beginner, and I haven’t met Scott, like so many people.

I can’t imagine how Chelsea, his wife, feels. I want to know how it actually happen, but I kind of don’t, and it doesn’t matter. Part of me hopes Chelsea knows the impact Scott has had and could somehow find peace and comfort through this, maybe by continuing and expanding his work to reach more people.

In a few days, then weeks, and months, the sting will ease, and life will be back to normal for most of us. The drive in us from this incident will still be there, and to use that drive is the best way we can do to honor him. At the end of the day, or at the end of time, with no intent at all on being morbid, death is inevitable. I remind myself through Neil deGrasse Tyson that we’re just star dust, and none of this really matters.

23

img1395

Always Keep Learning

Good Advice

By my senior year of college, I was beginning to keep up with the graphic design industry through blogs and podcasts. Occasionally, I would come across interviews of well-known designers talking about their design philosophies, including advice for new designers coming out of college. One advice that kept coming up from different designers was to always keep learning, even after school.

In their experience, sometimes newly graduated designers have the tendency to assume they know everything just because they completed their training at school and thought that they could take on any project and immediately excel at it. Even with just a few years of real-world experience myself, I would agree with the general sentiment as well. There is already so much I had discovered and experienced between graduation and now that I look at new grads the same way, sort of like how most adults feel about teenagers: foolish and naive. At the same time, I’m still relatively young (fortunately), so I’m sure more experienced professionals would probably feel similar about me (and rightly so).

So Many Things to Learn

Regardless of what stage you are in life, the important thing is to always have the appetite to learn. The subject matter could be an extension of what you studied or what your job needs, like new software and tools, or it could be a side passion of yours that you now have more time to explore, like cooking or new sports. It could even be as simple as consuming information, like following certain blogs, podcasts, or talks. Whatever it is, I believe that learning new things helps one become a more well-rounded member of society.

For me, since the last time I had been in school, I continued to teach myself programming languages, partly to set up my website for my career and partly for fun; I continued to work on improving my health by finding the right exercises and diet for my goals; I started learning new sports like surfing and snowboarding; I tried out different language learning programs in an attempt to be fluent in more foreign languages; and I explored my dancing abilities by joining local flash mob groups and performing in public spaces and planned events, including a wedding.

New Opportunities

The benefits of learning something new goes beyond just that thing you’re learning. It opens you up to opportunities to learn more things. Earlier in my college career, the teacher from one of my design classes shared with us a student discount for the subscription to the graphic design magazine Communication Arts. Subscribing to it led me to an article about the online personality Ze Frank. I became a fan of his creative, multimedia work, particularly his year-long vlog The Show. One of his episodes mentioned attending South by Southwest (SXSW), so I subscribed to the SXSW podcast and discovered a session covering the productivity methodology Getting Things Done (GTD). It revolutionized the way I work, and I now approach life with a better sense of purpose.

Also through Communication Arts, I encountered the article about Stefan Sagmeister’s class that focused on emotional connection through design. This helped shape the idea for the “thesis” project “Why Don’t We Care?” for one of my senior design classes. In the project, I also referenced Ze Frank and The Show.

At a higher level, I probably would have learned about some of these things in other ways, but it’s the progression of discoveries and the potential for serendipity that make this experience special and exciting. It also probably would have taken longer to discover.

Learning is Ongoing

It is worth noting that learning is always ongoing. New content may surface, existing information may become less important, and longstanding opinion may change. This is overall a good thing, because it usually means whatever you’re learning is improving itself, and by keeping up with it, you are improving as well.

This is important to me because 1) I often feel like I know the least out of everyone in most situation, and 2) I’m naturally curious and want to learn as much as I can about things that have the most of my attention. The fact that learning is ongoing sort of levels the playing field so those who are behind can try to catch up, and it helps satisfy my curiosity and feed my mind with more and newer content.

See

2, 3, 7, 11.

22

img900

Complaining is Silly. Either Act or Forget.

Stefan Sagmeister

Near the end of my college career, I learned about the designer Stefan Sagmeister. He quickly became one of my favorite designers, as his work was bold, thoughtful, emotionally rich, and perfectly radical. It was practically the opposite to my approach and sensibilities in design, which is why he has since been my inspiration and motivation to experiment and to think outside my own little box. In 2008, he published a book (or a volume of booklets) called Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, creatively illustrating and writing about his life learnings. One of the learnings that really caught my attention was “Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.” It made a significant impact in how I react to external events. Paired with the goal to be positive (both in my post-college job search and just in life), I managed to take back the energy and time I wasted passive-aggressively tweeting and Facebook-posting rants and cynical notes, and used it proactively to resolve problems in my life.

When to Forget

Whenever I feel the urge to complain or vent to someone or via social media, I pause and ask if 1) it’s worth telling someone, as in whether telling that person or the public would realistically change the situation, and 2) the thing I want to complain about really matters to me or if it’s just a momentary frustration that would pass in a few hours or days. First of all, I rarely post anything negative on social media anymore because I believe that when a person is being negative, it affects the mood of the people around them. So I try to avoid doing that unless it’s absolutely necessary or urgent. And since social media is rarely a medium to express absolutely necessary or urgent information, I’ve made it a rule to only post neutral or positive things.

If I determine that complaining about something leads to very little change in the situation, I would drop the topic and “forget” it. For example, on my commute to and from work, unpleasant things occasionally occur, whether it’s a conflict between two people or it’s the way certain passengers behave differently from the social norm. In the moment, I would come up with scenarios for how I would respond if I was in the conflict. Then I would want to share that with my friends and coworkers at the next possible opportunity (ex. “Good morning! Oh my god, these two people were fighting on the bus on my way to work. One was being really rude, and the other person was trying to reason with him. If it was me, I would’ve told that person off…”) That’s when I would pause and realize how sharing this piece of information results in very little benefit for my friends or coworkers, for me, and for the public transportation system. Ultimately, what we would get is another story about negative experience of riding the bus. Unless I plan to lead a reform or awareness campaign in social etiquette on public transit or something, I believe it’s better to just drop the subject and move on to talking about things I care more about.

When to Act

When things actually do matter, like at work, it’s harder to “forget” them when they bother us. Working in a fast-pace environment, I encounter a lot of changes in plans, much to my preference instead to set a simple goal and work straight towards it. So when a project direction shifts or a deadline is shortened, my immediate thoughts would generally be negative, and I would want to vent to my peers. But instead of complaining or ignoring the problem (“forgetting”), my inherent drive to do well, especially in my career, suddenly leads me to be very pragmatic (“act”) and run through the list of potential questions to solutions in my head (“Are we sure we need to do this?” “What have I already done that I can salvage for this?” “Can I even take this on?” “How should we reprioritize to make it work?”) This helps me stay ahead of the situation and gives me as much control as possible.

Now and Plans for the Near Future

Of course, this is all work in progress. I am still learning and trying to become better with this approach every day. It may actually be nice to bond with friends and coworkers over a trivial story about a bus ride. And it may literally be a life-changing move when someone begins a conversation with a friend after seeing their cryptic tweet. Would complaining be considered silly in these situations? There are still fine lines I need to discover and learn about.

But for the most part, so far, it’s made a positive impact on my life; I find that I have more pleasant and stress-free moments, simply by reducing the number of times I let myself get angry and worked up over something I should have forgotten instead. As a result, I have more time and energy to act and focus on things that I enjoy.

This philosophy has worked out so well for me that I would love for others to adopt it. But another philosophy of mine is preventing it: I believe that how I live is my business and mine alone, and the same goes for other people. So as annoying as I find other people’s complaints to be, telling them to stop complaining disrespects their personalities. Until I figure out a way to act respectfully, all I can do now is to distance myself from them as much as I need, hide their posts from social media, and make my philosophy available in my space (here) and hope they stumble upon it.

Practically speaking, it can be more tough to actively tell people about “my approach”, especially when I have yet to fully prove that it works in normal social environments. For example, there are many complicated and controversial issues in American culture. It is sometimes said that silence to a social issue equals agreement with the status quo, while any action from sympathizers and supporters may mean detracting from the goals of the movement and worsen the situation. What’s left is the dissent, loudly and angrily pointing out the issue. But since acting and forgetting are out of the question, who am I then to advocate for suppressing the dissent?

See

18, 25, 26

19

img450

Movies are Awesome

I love movies. They do a much better job at conveying emotions and experiences to me than other media like music or prose. And it’s almost magical how they can tell so many different types of stories (action, drama, comedy, romance, documentary, etc.) just by arranging images and sound in a certain way.

For me, I particularly love movies that are inspirational, are philosophical, and/or use time as a major element in the story. Two of my favorite movies (franchises) are The Matrix and Back to the Future. Most people would say they like “the original Matrix” or “the western one” (Back to the Future, Part 3) and dismiss the other two. I, on the other hand, must consider all three movies together as one unit and appreciate how each movie help make the entire franchise great.

This past year, I watched two Richard Linklater projects: the “Before” movies (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight), and Boyhood. They tell two different stories, but they both explore the intricate complexities of how people change over a long period of time. It fascinates me because it’s the core of how I view my life.

Special Me

When I was young, I thought I was special. I thought that because my thoughts and ideas were the only ones I know about and I also happen to agree with most of them, I was a genius and a very important person, worthy to have my life written about and a movie made about me. I conducted my life with this belief in mind, being particular about everything I do, sometimes narrating in my head, imagining scenes using my eyes as camera lenses. I collected and documented my things along the way so researchers and historians can dissect them like archaeologists, making educated guesses about what I was thinking at the time, and constructing timelines based on these findings.

I still live my life this way as an adult but in a more “grown-up” and realistic approach. Since biographies of great people in the world are still written, I continue to document and date my stuff “just in case.” Conveniently, this also proved practical when I try to remember why I make certain decisions at different times in my life. It’s like I’m my own historian.

Generally, movies are contained in neat little packages, starting with a goal or purpose and ending with some form of resolution for that goal or purpose. It certainly feels good to bring closure at the end of the movie, regardless of whether I agree with the ending. With life, however (and also in the movie Boyhood a little bit), the goals and purpose are more open-ended, and it’s harder to move forward when something still needs to be completed. That’s why I wish my life is more like a movie, and I set it up to behave like one as much as I can.

See

6, 17

One Month Until Start of (Little) Big Trip

I already did a progress update so I will keep it short. But there’s still a lot of stuff on my list that I’d like to get done.

In thirty days, I will be on a plane to Albuquerque. In forty days, I will have seen an ancient Incan site in person. In fifty, I will have stepped foot on six of seven continents. In sixty, I will have fulfilled my dream from half my lifetime ago and visited the City of Love. In seventy, I will have learned more about the ancient and current history of my people. In eighty, I will be back in my apartment wondering what just happened.

The constant switch between excitement and nervousness continues.

In a previous post, I mentioned how four months ago, I was so concerned with booking flights and reserving tours for this trip, and now, those things feel trivial. I sense that, if all goes relatively well, I will feel the same about this trip when I return. It will be another thing that I’ve done, and I will be ready for the next thing. This trip may not be, and I should not have any expectations for it to be, a life-changing experience.

Then why should I go on this trip? Because if I don’t, the idea of traveling around the world will still stay with me, and I will always wonder. Because if I don’t, I won’t be able to get to the next thing. Because if I don’t, I cannot grow.

(30 days)

4

img378

15 11 15 21 8 13 23 12 1 8 18 19 4 13 3 14 23 26 26 11 8 19

  1. I’ve always loved num_ers.
  2. They _onsistently make the most sense to me and bring order to my life.
  3. I love how such a simple concept creates so many _ifferent properties (Primes, Pythagorean, Pascal, just to name a basic few).
  4. Numbers equ_lizes _nd democr_tizes society.
  5. The more one understands powers, the more power and opportunities they get in li_e.
  6. Numbers connect with nature and science, like chemistry and physics, a_ain, to name the very basic few.
  7. It’s practically a universal language, as in a language of t_e universe!
  8. So is g_om_try, which is pack_d with numb_rs and probably how I got int_r_st_d in graphic d_sign.
  9. I’m a _unkie of numbers, and I’ve got time, quantities, rankings, lists, etc. on my mind.
  10. I group life’s moments in bus arrival estimates, the lunch hour, tabatas, wee_ends, seasons, birthdays, Olympics, anniversaries, etc.
  11. I design with screen reso_utions, tab_e ce__s, pixe_s, dynamic spacing, etc.
  12. I _onitor weights, sets, reps, percentages, and averages, etc.
  13. I ask i_ my head, “How old will I be/was I whe_ they’re my age?” a_d “How old do I _eed to be to be twice, or thrice, or half, or a third of their age?
  14. I com_are gains and losses against inflation and tax rates.
  15. _t’s an As_an stereotype that _ fully l_ve up to.
  16. Similarly, I l_ve puzzles.
  17. They work my brain and make me feel _uite smart.
  18. I enjoy the jou_ney f_om total myste_y to “It all makes sense!”
  19. Puzzle_ are ju_t a form of problem-_olving.
  20. Being a UI/UX designer is an excellen_ example of _ha_.
  21. And life is all about problem-sol_ing.
  22. I naturally try to solve life’s problems _ith numbers as much as I can.
  23. I often s_spect that I might be a robot.
  24. At the same time, I know that some things e_ceeds what math and formulas are capable of.
  25. And _et I still tr_.
  26. I just have to find the balance between numbers and pu__les.

See

11, 14, 15.

Two Travel News Stories from July 2014

MH17

http://mashable.com/2014/07/23/australia-parents-lost-children-mh17/

This one breaks my heart.

World Traveler Dies

http://www.newsweek.com/rest-peace-harry-devert-32-new-yorker-world-traveler-lover-life-261431

This one also breaks my heart but also makes me feel happy for all the things he’s done. I think everyone deserves the opportunity to travel more. I also think his travel style is unique to specific personalities, which is perfectly okay. However, I think everyone can still have somewhat similar experiences as most of what he’s done (from his lists in the article) in other ways if they so choose.

(61 days until start of trip.)