never aging

David Mould, Glasgow, UK

David Mould, Glasgow, UK

This is the second year where my birthday gets ‘lost in time’. I fly out on the 10th, and reach Singapore on the 12th, and at no point do I ever experience the ’11th of June’.  Now, I know it’s all about frame of reference, but I think it’s a great practical joke that’s played on me every year. Regardless though, my favorite birthday present is being able to see my family and be reunited with them after a whole year once I walk out of the Customs point. In some way, the practical joke redeems itself.

When I was young, birthdays were all about me. It was about celebrating my existence, and who I am. I’m glad I’ve moved on from that. Loving yourself is different from indulging in yourself, and I think I’m coming to that distinction in a clearer way as I grow up. Being 23 now, it’s interesting how much of the world makes more sense, and how much issues that seemed frustrating as a youth appear more realistic and clearer as a young adult.

So as a 23 year old, let me share some of the lessons I’ve learnt. This is a combination of lessons I’ve learnt from traveling the world, starting my own company, mixing with celebrities, serving in the military, being in a fraternity and going to college in Chicago. These lessons are in no way final and ultimate – in fact there may be more nuances that I have to discover but I feel like I’ve reached some form of an opinion on all of them.

  1. You cannot disregard a person’s experience. Someone’s experience is deeply personal and tied to their identity, and to attack any aspect of their identity means to reduce their lives, which goes against any aspect of equality. Physics follows laws, but social laws and rules are constructs that serve the purpose of their society, and we all know societies change and evolve, and so must the laws and rules.
  2. Rape Culture is a thing. Laughing at the use of the word ‘rape’ and being an apologist for rapists is all too common in communities I’ve been around, and it makes me sick that laws do not recognize the violence that is rape in completely scarring a person’s version of reality and taking away the agency of a person over their body. Getting drunk is not the same as raping someone. Blacking out is not the same as raping someone.
  3. Humanity has immense potential to move forward. We have made amazing strides since our primitive societies, and can continue to move forward, but we must believe that every life is important and that there is a need to believe in causes beyond ourselves. Yes, we must take care of our careers, our families, our health. But we exist in an ecosystem that gives and takes, and if we want change, we must be the agents of it.
  4. Money solves 90% of all problems. So be smart, make money smartly, and use it well. Invest, show value by spending your money on the right people and right priorities, and using it to challenge the norm. Everything ca be tied back to how the money flows, but if you control the money, you have a say in how the future is shaped.
  5. Develop people. People are absolutely amazing in what they can do with a little bit of investment. Build leadership, and they will bring back cities. Train them in skills, and they will carry your work further. Appreciate and affirm, and they will surprise you with their effect on the world.
  6. Privilege is real. In all societies. In forms of patriarchy or the dominant race, we have an obligation to recognize the systems we benefit from and ensure that it is not at the expense of someone else, especially if its without reason other than systemic control. Challenging one’s privilege is difficult, it means recognizing aspects of your life have essentially been handed to you on a platter, but it doesn’t necessarily mean taking away the platter from you – it means making sure the platter gets to everyone.

There’s so much more fundamental lessons I’ve learnt and I’ve been grateful for constantly being challenged by the situations I’ve been in. Keep throwing yourself into difficult situations and wrestle with the pains, and you will come out flexing with new perspectives and stories.

Because what is life, but a grand story. A story of how we seek to find utopia – the perfect state of being – and fail so much along the way. But we must keep believing, because if not, we cannot move forward.

hooah.

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i eat giants for breakfast

be absolutely ludicrous.

Somewhere in my life, a fire erupted …. no, an explosion occurred inside of me causing me to be always craving adventure. Nothing was ever going to be enough but I was not going to sit down and eat brunch every Sunday. I was not going to waste my breath on a life mediocre.

So I wrote, I built my adventures in my head. I explored made up worlds, with lives of characters that represented  ideals of mine. I was a mercenary, and then a old sage on the brink of death. I was death, and then I was life. I built the Last Saloon and recreated the Moment of Revelation.

And then I couldn’t just write. I had to see, I had to touch, I had to be. No one was going to tell me what I could or could  not do. I had enough of that in school, especially in an education system designed to “assign” people to the lives they are supposedly fulfilled to live. So I began eating giants for breakfast.

I began by saying yes to more things. I was kayaking on the Saturday, and training for a marathon on the Sunday. Is that for me? Yes? I’ll do it. No? Who says so? I’m still doing it.

And then I started dreaming. I started seeing friends explore lands I had only seen on the television. I saw friends championing causes; making the world better. I also saw people complaining about their lives, how they wonder how they got stuck where they were.

So I ate another giant and asked What If? I asked What If I made this a priority. What would I need to do? I put it on a piece of paper, stuck it behind my door and saw it every morning I woke up. I’d do push-ups while looking at it – I was getting mentally synced to achieve my goals. This was happening – this was not a wish, this was a desire and that’s something that’s derived deeper. A desire lives in the depths of your soul, it claws at you from the inside till it can be realised.

I broke away from the  people that said “Let’s stick to what we know” and started hanging out with the dreamers and believers. These were the people who said “We can build something”. I valued the people who kept me grounded, but I was not going to around the people who kept me floundered.

And one day, I started “winning” the game. Fruits of the seeds were starting to show. I was able to open doors to meetings with people of influence and convince them to support me. I was able to learn how to play the game of life; how to navigate some of the pitfalls that open themselves up to the wayfarers. I was able to build teams, share my vision and bring them on the journey with me. I was building on past successes to achieve more.

I failed many times too, but every fail was a fail forward. I stood up, dusted my knees and ran on (I imagine my marathon taught me a lot about that) .

My lifestyle changed. I was high-octane. Testosterone and adrenaline are concentrated in my blood stream. From the music I listen to, to the sports I participate in, I’m living a life of energy.

I stand here, a veteran of stories. I’m only 21. Let me say that again. I’m 21. In the past 3-4 years I’ve probably seen more than some people can afford.

I’m more privileged than most, and I recognise that privilege. But the money I spent was all money I earned. I used my stories to make money by adapting them. I made my life a story – a manuscript of a journey tirelessly threaded.

Having said that,  I have a lot of people to thank , my family especially, but I also want to recognise that a lot of this process was started from that explosion. That was something internal. One morning, I woke up and just decided to eat a giant.

Giants still roam this earth. Giants still intimidate people. But I want others to start waging battles against these giants. I want to ignite that explosion in others. I want people to travel, to start organisations and companies, to go on YouTube , to convince world leaders to take on a policy stance, to live extraordinarily.

Find your giant, look it straight in the eye and then begin to chew at it. It’ll wriggle, it’ll try to run away from you, but you know you’re stronger than it. Why?

Because now you’re larger than life.

geronimo.

breathe, and then take it away. seventy seven times

#77breaths – a challenge I gave myself for two main reasons. One is private and the other is public. The public one is of course more important (the private one was more of an impetus) ; I simply wanted to escape the college bubble. When I was still in between the military and college, aside from doing stuff for The Hidden Good, I also went around encouraging people who were my age to not get trap by doing things that were thought to  be “expected of them” instead of doing things that actually interested them.

I faced that same challenge when I came here. I saw myself falling into the habits of a typical student ; and while that’s a completely normal way to live and exist, I’ve always wanted to amplify aspects of my life. I want to live large, live adventurously and live with gusto. I made a promise to myself years ago when my friends went to college and I went to Basic Military Training on Tekong, that when I went to college I’d make everyone jealous. I’d show them how to do college. That was arrogant, but it still fed that desire to live a meaningful life.

I’ve categorised the lessons I’ve learnt from this whole challenge into 3 main points (cliched but effective) :

1) It’s an exponential path

One of the first things I did with this challenge was to tell people around me what I was doing. I shared the reason behind the challenge and got generally really good feedback from everyone. In addition to that though, I had friends who would want to either join me in completing my breaths or even come up to me with opportunities for breaths. Going to the Bulls Game with Jacob was definitely one of my favorite breaths, and also hanging out with my close friends in Central and Eastern Europe. But with every additional breath, I was setting a new baseline for myself. I wanted to do more, see more, experience more. If you saw the beauty of life in one environment, you were excited to continue discovering that beauty in other environments. I forced myself to go out of my comfort zone, visiting monasteries and the Baha’i Temple to understand without prejudice how other people live. I wore suits, track pants, stayed overnight for a hackathon – the list doesn’t end. But by the time it all ended, I chose my last breath to  be this – a reflection of all the moments past. Because all  is nought without thought. Even the simplest of impulses require retrospection. And the largeness of this reflection, probably defines the exponential progression at its very best.

2) Breaks from Breaths – a Logical Decision

It seems ironic but one of the most important things this challenge about having my breaths taken away from me has taught me is to actually learn how to breathe. I’ve never been the kind of guy who can sit by the beach the whole day.  I’ll want to surf or play volleyball, but I can’t sit in a place for too long. So when I started doing this challenge, I started becoming exhausted.  I started wondering after a while whether I was forcing myself to do something I didn’t like just for the sake of doing the challenge. So I gave myself breaks, every 11 breaths or so I would take a day off to catch up on my studies or just sleep in. It didn’t compromise the spirit of the challenge and more importantly, after every each rest day I was excited for the next breath. I actually learnt the important of rest and pacing from this challenge, and became so much better at having patience.

3) Creating a Legacy

Documentation and Social Media have been strengths of mine for a while now. I love using it to inspire others and also to share my thoughts and ideas. One of the advantages of doing #77breaths was that I created a topic that people could follow, and visually be involved with either through Instagram or Facebook. Some of my friends picked up the challenge in their own variations while others kept looking forward to the next breath. It was a very involved process and I enjoyed having everyone follow the trail. And this will last. The skills I’ve gained through this challenge such as DJ-ing, Squash, Chess etc. or even the friendships I’ve gained will always last beyond the challenge and I’ll hold on to them more than the victory of actually completing the challenge.

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It has been an absolutely amazing journey. I put myself out there and got so much back. What are you waiting for?

geronimo.

 

why you should do #77breaths

So for those who have been following the #77breaths challenge I’ve been doing, you would notice i’ve modified certain aspects of the challenge.

For one, I’ve involved a break-day every 11 breaths, to give myself a chance to actually breathe (punny ain’t it) . It’s absolutely phenomenal to be able to have an extraordinary experience every day consecutively, but it is also both mentally and physically exhausting, and so breaks are necessary.

I feel like i’m a much better version of the person i was. Granted , the challenge cannot cover a lot more events that happened in the sidelines, whether they be personal or external events, but the challenges have honestly played the primary role in my decision making the past few weeks.  I know a lot more about the world, I know new skills and also have made so many more friends.

Is it worth  it? Yes, without a doubt. Everyone should embark on some variation of this challenge, whether it be a 7 day streak or even a weekly variation. Force yourself to see the world for what it is.

I’ve had a handful of friends who have picked up the concept and are now excited to do the breaths in their own way. Doors have opened for me simply because I said yes a lot more than I used to, and now I’m seeing things I never dreamed I would ever see as a freshman.

If you recall my mantra on creating instead of consuming, this is a great way to get involved. Life doesn’t start after school, life is already  ongoing and you have to get into it. Because when you do, you realise how small your world used to be.

geronimo

#breath1 – the bastille concert

Pic1

Breath 1 starts with this ticket of course. As a sort of spontaneous gesture, when I saw people on Facebook asking for people to accompany them to a Bastille concert , I jumped at the chance and bought myself a ticket to a proper Chicago concert.

You see, they’ve said that Chicago is a beautiful city – and most people miss out on truly embracing the culture of music and arts Chicago has to offer. While this is certainly not the end, it  certainly was a great beginning to my journey in discovering this city. Bastille has always had a place in my heart because of the fact that we used their song (shhh) in our first ever episode of The Hood Factory

It was definitely a thrilling moment when Pompeii came out as the final song and I joined the crowd in dancing to the chorus. Songs that hold special places in your heart because of their significance at a certain time in your life are the most meaningful things you can across – even the slightest semblance of the melody can rush the feelings to you.

Pic2 Pic3

 

I love the concert atmosphere and its ability to bring you to a zone where you’re comfortable. I wish I could upload videos of some of the stuff they did, but Bastille is definitely a great band to see live. They’re really interactive with the crowd.

 

 

Pic4

 

I tried taking my signature selfie in the concert but it didn’t come across that well so I took another one with the concert venue in the background:PPic5

 

All in all, Breath 1 was amazing. I asked my buddy today – if I have this much fun for 77 days, would my body be able to take it? I actually look forward to finding out.

geronimo.

#77breaths – the challenge to lose your breath

 

inspiration

 

i was talking to a friend recently about my current state of mind. i was sharing how I was incredibly happy – my social, physical, mental and academic life were going really well and I felt comfortable. and i also shared how i remembered when feelings like these didn’t come too often – when i actually struggled to find any meaning in life and when i was confronted with depressing moments. moments like these , where you cherish what’s going well with your life ; when you’re grateful for what you have – help keep you going in the tougher times.

this may sound too meta for some – but you have to be willing to enjoy life to actually enjoy it. even moments of sadness then become completely integrated into the human experience – you become okay with disappointment and loss; not to  the point where you don’t feel anything but where you can grieve successfully and move on.

i know there’s a hashtag that has made its rounds called #100happydays that teaches the people who subscribe to it’s plan to cherish small  happy moments for a span of a 100 days. i love that- i didn’t subscribe to it merely because i felt i was doing it already and didn’t need to add another hashtag onto it. but i also pondered on how this affected people.

and then i pondered some more (and that’s probably where you realise my ideas get crazy) and i decided that being happy with what you have is good for most people , but definitely not enough for me. you see one of my core competencies (and struggles) is the ability to never be completely satisfied. it seems to contradict what i’ve said so far , but listen – one can be happy with the way things are but always ask himself , is this it? maybe i’m weird like that- but that sense of discovery has brought me to adventures only imaginable by most people.

so i’ve decided to start a new adventure for myself. being in a college setting away from any sense of irregularity doesn’t mean you can’t add adventure back into your life. i’ll admit i’ve gotten slightly bored especially in the past few days , but this series should put things back in perspective.

i call this series #77breaths . they say that there are moments in life where your breath is taken away – where you’re absolutely astounded by magnificence, beauty or ability. our goal, is to get our breaths taken away 77 days in a row

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a lot of those who follow me on instagram know my addiction to storytelling and adventuring. and i’ve been asked many times for advice on what to see, how to put yourself out there and how to chase dreams sustainably. i would provide the following three (cos three is always a good number) guidelines to #77breaths to give yourself the best possible experience.

1) Say YES

Yes Man has many lessons to teach , but the most evident is to say Yes more. Let me quickly qualify by saying don’t put yourself in evident danger (ie overdose on drugs, commit a blatant crime etc.) but yes, say YES to things more. If you’re faced between option A and B, choose the option that you’re less likely to be able to experience again. Say YES to things – put yourself out there. You’ll almost definitely get hurt, lose things, be disappointed – but you’ll also be greatly rewarded with the treasures of life : wisdom, friendships and love.

2) If you’re not learning, you’re not doing it right

We are a collection of our experiences. Who we are today is a sum of the selves we used to be – a magnitude only achieved by accumulation of stories and ideas. the more we learn, the more we apply ourselves to our surroundings, and more importantly, open ourselves to be applied on. differences in cultures, upbringings and backgrounds teach us about humanity – they build empathy and also stretch our mind to accept new possibilities. always seek to learn from your adventures – it is one thing to be a thrill-seeker , it is something else to be an adventurer.

3) Remember to always love

it is a ruthless world out there. and we are given the option to be one with the world, or to be true to ourselves. in a world that rarely begets love in its closest form, we then have to bring love into the picture. love others, love stories, love quiet moments over drinks, love celebrations throughout the day, love music, art, theatre, film; even love yourself more. the true adventurer learns to love the unloveable – to appreciate that everything has a place in this world. that loss and suffering are part of the equation, but that same equations includes uncomparable joy and success.

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it’s day 0 so we’ll start #77breaths tomorrow. I’ll be using Snapchat (rovikthebear) for ultra-short snaps, Instagram (@rovikthedreamer) for short-form stories and my blog for long-form stories. i’m excited.

geronimo