The Big Picture

Now imagine the pitter patter of little toddler feet bumbling down the hallway. A baby out on a journey! Everything about that journey is glittered by the newness and amazingness of everything around us. This carpet feels funny. That wall makes a sound when I touch it. But that feeling fades with time, unfailingly, as we begin to conquer the tasks that hadn’t once seemed so easy. To maintain that amazement state we crave to conquer more and more difficult tasks. And with time our mind aligns with the way we spend our time, climbing higher on the staircase than ever before or learning how to roll forward on the floor. A wonderful process blossoms as we make our way through a system designed to both challenge and represent our desire to continue learning. But for some reason this blossom’s loss of color begins when we decide in our minds to get a job. What is a job? Is it a socially decided upon way of converting human energy into economic energy? And economic energy for the sake of what? To provide us with more presents? Presents, we all know sometimes, just don’t cut it. What we’ve always been looking for lies behind the only place one would never consider looking for. The place behind the Irises is indicated by the entrance to the now. Only in the now do presents become presence, an all becomes a one.

 

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Your Life is a Reflection of You

Dear you,

As a young boy, I was extremely curious. Everything about the world around me facinated me because there seemed to be a reason for everything. There was a reason for the stop sign on the corner just the way there was a reason for the expiration date on the milk carton. For some reason or another, that made me so excited that I believe, even then, I set out to find all the reasons – the reason for everything.

Fittingly so, I learned to ask a lot of questions. I loved that behind every question, there was an answer too! How cool! All I had to do was connect the dots. And so I set out on my life’s adventure trying to connect all the dots. Well… a few days ago, I finally stopped trying; not out of exhaustion or frustration, but out of peace. That peace, is what I wanted to give you today.

Everything happens for a reason… right?

Not really.

Everything happens for many reasons. Which reason you see depends on you.

Every event in our lives thus far has had many many reasons for why it happened. I got into a car accident when I was 17 in which my younger brother and I could easily have died. I still remember the resistance of the steering wheel as it was spinning out of control. I can even remember trying to keep the car on a straight enough path to crash into the divider instead of rolling down the freeway. The car that hit us drove off. Why? Maybe the driver was taking his wife to the hospital and wasn’t thinking. Maybe he had just ended a 30 year marriage, couldn’t stand to deal with another traumatic thing, and so made the choice to drive off. Or, to pose another question, why did I survive? Maybe it’s so that I could meet my current girlfriend and one day have a child who is going to be the first president of the moon. Maybe its so that some child somewhere could see me playing basketball and decide to spend their life playing it too. Or maybe I survived so that the next day, when the man who hit us checked the newspaper, he would see that no one had actually died and he could go on living a life of service to others. One person survives, another serves…..

THE TAKEAWAY:

There are literally millions of reasons I survived – one of which you are reading right now. So which one is the real reason? Well, the answer is they all are. The only thing that is different is the person looking at the reason. We see whatever we want to see. And since wants come from inside of us, all we ever see is a reflection of what is already there. Although that may be scary or overwhelming at times, as long as that wisdom is inside you, you will always have all the answers you ever need. To those of you who read this, thank you for reading these blogs and listening to me. In doing so you have helped me to see into myself. You have helped me to see who I really am.

With great appreciation,

Chad

If we can only see what is already within us, the more you have inside of you the more you can see in others.

If we can only see what is already within us, the more you have inside of you the more you can see in others.

You Are a Child

Giggling to yourself when someone farts, playing imaginary games, and allowing yourself to get utterly excited over the simplest of things are just part of everyday life for a child. When I was around ten years old, me, my younger brother, and a few of our friends found a small orange pipe tip that had been cut off and left somewhere as garbage. We, on the other hand, saw it as the greatest thing that had happened to our lives thus far. We picked it up and rolled it down the hill, watching it to see how long it stayed up. After an unusually long roll down the hill, we decided that this piece of PVC pipe had a personality of its own and therefore deserved a name; Orange Wheel we dubbed it, ever so creatively. And for the rest of our lives, all of us will remember the stories of our times together in great detail.

Now let’s consider for a second how strange that story would sound coming from an adult. That person might be in danger of being forcibly checked into a mental institution and yet, if a child says it we encourage it. Why are we, as a society, so two faced? If a little girl wants to imagine she is a magical wizardress, with her spoon as her wand and her breakfast cereal as her magic potion, we think its perfectly fine! But if you’re boss came into work one day and told everyone that from now on her pen was a magic wand and anyone she waved it at would be transported to another dimension (insert “department” for a more realistic scenario) then what? The employees would literally have a LEGAL standing to get her fired. Where’s the disconnect?

On the contrary now, lets think about how ridiculous two people who are madly in love seem to outsiders. They make ridiculous nicknames for each other like smoopy woopy, rub noses together, and stand to make people around them either jealous or sick to their stomach. Well children do these things all the time, and once again, we don’t see it as ridiculous. In fact, we usually smile instead. You see, it is that love, and therefore feeling of fulfillment, that we lack in our adult lives that holds us back from expressing ourselves in our truest form. When we were children, we knew nothing about cars, expensive watches, sexuality, or weight loss. All we knew was all we had, and in that, we were fulfilled. So is it no wonder that when two adults are in the thick of love that they, inspired by that long lost feeling of fulfillment, are not afraid to display their childishness and thus, show themselves in their true form.

THE TAKEAWAY: The first step toward solving any problem is being aware of it. And if by now you are aware that you rarely allow yourself to act like a little kid, then that’s good – that means you have already taken the first step. Now that you are aware, you can pay attention to your actions – watching them as if you were someone else looking back at yourself – and actively ask the following questions: “Why am I being so serious right now? Does this situation really have to be this stressful? When was the last time I let myself have fun for the sake of fun?” The reason I wrote this blog today was to remind you that you’re natural state of being is that of a child. Child is to still water as adult is to white water. So if it is stillness in your life you are seeking – if you feel like there is room to add some more happiness and fun in your life – then start asking the little kid inside you what they want to do. I promise you, whatever it is, it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

It’s nice to let go sometimes

Fresh Eyes

Have you ever been digging through your closet and found an old jacket you used to love, only to put in on and instantly remember why you stopped wearing it? In the time that you hadn’t been wearing it you aged, your style changed, and it just didn’t suit you anymore. Well, that is very much how I feel now that I’m back to the same routine. Although this time, its not that the sweater doesn’t fit me, it’s just my style that’s changed.

When I was living in Korea, almost EVERYTHING was different. It was hard to get used to anything really. From the cute little jingle my school used for their bell to the way people cram onto the subway, everything was a chance to change my perceptions and attitudes. Take this situation for instance – where I lived, pretty much everywhere you went was about as crowded as Costco on a Sunday. Now remove the shopping carts and that’s how I felt every time I went grocery shopping or walked through the streets. There were so many times where I got frustrated with a person walking in front of me because they were too slow or taking up too much space. And this frustration turned into anger – anger which had no reason to be there. It was my own doing.

But slowly over time, I got used to it and realized that we were all sharing that space. I wasn’t entitled to any more of it than anyone else. Eventually, I didn’t even get angry anymore, no matter who was in front of me. And now that I’m back home in America, I’ll be honest, I don’t even mind going to Costco on Sunday! But of course, there are still other places I’d prefer to be.  😉

THE TAKEAWAY: Human beings are habit forming creatures. We do this because it helps us to improve ourselves and our surroundings and it helps us learn! But the downside of that is that there may be problems in our life that are a direct result of our routine – and we don’t even know it! I was causing myself stress for absolutely no reason. And it just took stepping outside my comfort zone and breaking my routine to change that. These types of changes allow us to see more clearly what benefits us and what doesn’t. And then, from there, we can choose what we want to keep. Sometimes it just takes a pair of fresh eyes to see what you really want out of life. So go out there and get some for yourself! Happy trails.

Photography by my wonderfully talented girlfriend.

Fall in Love with Yourself

These days you really don’t see too many romantic comedies where the main character has this long drawn out battle with him/herself and at the end of the movie, stands in the middle of a bridge on a rainy day and says, “I love myself!!!” with an orchestra playing climactic music in the background. Maybe it is for this reason that there aren’t many of us who ever really come around to loving ourselves. Recently my brother and I have been discussing a book called The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz and we came to a few conclusions I’d like to share here:

1. Virtually every relationship problem is caused by a lack of self love. When we are not in a relationship, we fantasize about finding the person that will one day make us happy because we don’t know how to be happy on our own. Then if we finally do find someone we eventually start to depend on that person to make us happy, but that’s not fair. Our happiness is our own responsibility, no one else’s. As soon as we start to depend on them, we place expectations upon them and set them up for failure. Then, when they finally do fail, we get angry at them, blame them, hurt them, and maybe even end the relationship with them (I know I have done this a few times in my life). And the saddest part of this is, this doesn’t just pertain to romantic relationships, this goes for all types of relationships.

2. The economy doesn’t want your self-love. As sad as it may seem, it is not in the best interest of mainstream media to help you learn to love yourself. The only thing that makes the gears turn in this capitalistic society we have are the dollars and cents that we put into it. If we suddenly all became perfectly content with two different outfits of clothing, a small home, and a garden in our backyard, then the economy would collapse almost immediately. Perhaps this really is why we don’t see any romantic movies about self-love. These days true self-love seems far more rare than its dual counter part.

3. You cannot love another until you love yourself. If you do not love yourself, then how is it possible to expect another person to do that? In essence, you are starting off the relationship with a MAJOR disagreement if you do. I think that this is the reason why true love seems to be so allusive for so many people. If we never learn to consider the concept of self love, then true love seems almost mythical. For me, I had to learn this the hard way. I had to make many mistakes, date the wrong people, hurt others, and learn that I must first love and accept myself before I can accept another. And it’s no coincidence that my soul mate learned to do the same at the same time in her life.

4. You are NOT your mind. You are not the internal monologue in your head. You are not your clothes. You are not your job, your friends, or your political beliefs. For a moment, please look away from your computer screen and consider the question, “Who am I?”

**********

If you started by saying something like, “I am a happy, loving, outgoing, man, friend, construction manager, scientist…” then you were not answering the right question. You were answering the question, “How do I define myself?” And these two questions are very different. When we use certain qualities, roles, or words to describe ourselves, we are limiting ourselves to what we believe those words to mean. For instance, if I say that I am a happy person, then does that mean I am never sad? If I say that I am a man, then am I implying to myself and others that I do not do feminine things? If I say that I am a writer, am I saying that that is the only talent I believe I have? Everyone is different in terms of how they define themselves, and that defining is the problem. The solution to this is not to define ourselves at all. We are nothing and we are everything at the same time. We are many and we are one. We are not our thoughts because we are the producers of those thoughts, we are the window through which they are shown. Ruiz beautifully depicts this point here:

 “You are life itself passing through your body, passing through your mind, passing through your soul. Once you find that out, not with logic, not with the intellect, but because you feel that life,  you find out that you are the force that makes the flowers open and close, makes the humming bird fly from flower to flower. You find out that you are in every tree, every animal, vegetable, rock. You are the force that moves the wind and breathes through your body. The whole universe is a living being that is moved by that force. And that is what you are. You are life.”

THE TAKEAWAY: I wrote this post today because I was sad. When I learned about how simple self love can be, it deeply saddened me to know that so many people live their entire lives without ever truly loving themselves. For most of my life, I disliked so many things about myself that sometimes I would even punish myself. “You don’t deserve a friend like that Jeremy, what are you thinking?” or “You’re probably going to screw this all up Jeremy, you might as well not even try,” are a couple of examples of things I can vividly remember thinking. If you can remember thinking something similar in your lifetime, then it is my sincerest hope that you ask yourself, what have you done for yourself lately? Do you love yourself? Your mind? Your body? If not, then maybe its time to take yourself out on a date and get to know you a little better. As for me, here I am after a long drawn out battle in my life, sitting on a bridge at the climax of my personal romantic comedy, saying (** romantic background music***) “I LOVE ME!!!”


I Found My Purpose

For the last few weeks I have been mentally preparing myself for the hospital bed I sit in now. By no means should this be alarming, because it was an elective tonsillectomy I chose to do based on my American Doctor’s recommendation. Last year I had strep throat far too many times to be considered normal, and since I have been here in Korea I have come close a few times if it had not been for my immediate action and regiment of excessive sleep. Nonetheless, this surgery represented something to me in my mind; it was a physical representation of the mental transformation I have been going through as of late.

Two years ago I held a position in my business fraternity under which I decided to get a team together to start a charity golf tournament. At first, many people advised me against it, saying it would be too difficult and was likely to fail. Regardless of what they said, however, I could not shake the feeling deep inside me that told me it was what I was supposed to do. Thankfully, the people whom I had selected for the team were the right ones, and if it weren’t for them, it was not have been as successful as it was. Fittingly so, one of the members of that team, Alla, went on to plan the second tournament, and one of the active helpers from that tournament, Megan, now happens to be planning the third. All things are connected.

Now, when I first decided I wanted to go to Korea after I graduated, I received a similar reaction from those around me. Lots of skepticism, some anger, and disappointment from those close to me. Many people advised against it, thought it would hurt my career in the long run, and saw it as a risky experience at best. However, there was a very similar feeling deep inside me that told me it was what I must do. It felt like my heart was telling me I needed to go. And since I have been here, it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my whole life. It has been both humbling, spiritual, eye-opening, and enlightening. And now, I have that very same feeling again… My heart is telling me what I must do.

A wonderful friend and mentor of mine, Alex, was the first person I mentioned this feeling to a month or so ago when it came to me. I told him that I wanted to be a public speaker. He has had extensive public speaking experience himself and gave me some great advice. One of the way he suggested I start, once back in San Diego, was to speak to kids. The teachers are usually open to having speakers, and the kids are usually a very challenging audience. He said, “If you can speak to kids, you can speak to anyone.” I mulled his advice around in my head for the following few weeks but it wasn’t until last week’s lesson about self motivation that I realized the connection between his advice, and what I am doing now. Not only am I speaking to kids… I am speaking to tired, over-worked kids in a language that most of them don’t understand about a topic many of them don’t even want to learn about! And yet, it has proven successful thus far.

So, from this hospital bed that I sit in now, I was compelled to sit up and write this. Perhaps again it was my heart that told me to do so, and forever I will heed it’s call. I never could have known what this experience had in store for me before I came here, and in fact, I certainly never guessed it would have been this. But now that I know, I will follow this step until the next step becomes obvious. When I get back to San Diego, I will start public speaking. I don’t know how or about what, all I know is why. Because I have learned to listen to the language of my heart, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Why do we sleep on the same side of the bed every night? Why do we spend so much time on Facebook? Why do we read the kind of books that we do? I’m sure we all have different answers to these questions… but it is my answer to this question that motivated me to write this blog today. Yesterday my brother and I were discussing his music and my writing, and asked each other, “Why do we do it?” Well, here’s what I came up with:

At first, I started writing this blog because I thought that I had somehow figured out things that other people hadn’t. Hearing a lot of people older than me say, “Wow, you seem much older than you are..” and “You are a very wise person,” gave me a sort of superiority complex. Said complex compelled me to start writing as a way of sharing what I had learned with others, and therefore receiving their endless praise for such help. But this didn’t happen the way I thought it would, and the problem was reflected in my relationships. I was always the advice guy, hence the name, but too much so. I pushed people away by shoving my advice down their throat and asking questions after.

The aftermath of these actions eventually became very obvious to me when my friends started telling me that people didn’t like me because of it. I couldn’t understand that at first. It didn’t make sense that something I was trying to do for them, would make them dislike me… Then it dawned upon me. I wasn’t doing it for them… I was doing it for myself. I was selfishly seeking their gratitude and thereby the confidence boost associated with it. Essentially, I was giving others advice because I didn’t know what to do myself.

In response to this, I decided that I must change… and write about it as I go along. In my previous post, Some Advice for Chadvice, I started on a path toward true understanding. I started writing for myself. My blog became my accountability partner.. If I wrote about something, then I damn well better follow it in my own life. And if I faulted, I could reread my own words and help myself stay on track. In fact, I still go back and read them at random. But when I came here to Korea, the mental and emotional strain in my life steered me in a different direction.

Instead of writing just advice, I started writing stories. I realized that is it not the simple logical advice that makes its way deep into the hearts and minds of people, it is other people’s stories that make it there. And when I wrote about my first day of school, When Korean High School Students Give You Lemons, I realized that it was not only more profound for me, but also for anyone who read it. Sharing my experience throughout this adventure I’m on has proven greatly beneficial to me already. Now, I just hope that it can do the same for others.

Writing this one

THE TAKEAWAY: So why do I do it? I still don’t really know… My reasons for writing have changed already so many times that I don’t really know what this blog will become. So I’ve resolved to embrace this uncertainty, and let it grow naturally into whatever it is meant to be. It’s not about the destination, its about the journey. So why do any of us do what we do? Who knows… as long as it feels right deep down in your heart and gives you some happiness, then do it. Not everything is a problem that needs to be solved… sometimes, we just need to let it be.

America: What’s Mine is Your’s… But Gimme My Stuff!

What would happen if one day the words my, mine, I, you, yours, his, hers, and theirs were completely deleted from the English language? I can only imagine how confusing Christmas morning would be… and public parking lots would be absolute CHAOS! Now, all jokes aside, I’d like to ask you to take a second to consider what you categorize as “mine.” I’m sure we can all think of a quick list of at least 10-15. My car, my home, my friend, my mother, my hat, my shoes, my watch, my lunch, my idea, my heart, my mind, my day…. You get the point. But it’s valuable to consider that the English language, and thereby our life perspective, is such that we apply some kind of ownership to literally everything around us. I mean, when I was a child I used to pluck leaves off of plants that I thought were pretty just because I wanted to take them with me… Only to throw them away 15 yards down the path.  Have you ever wondered how such a perspective shapes who we are? Or how it shapes the lives we live?

Well, as I have said before, I have been studying the Korean language quite hard since I arrived here in Korea. And since then, I have come to notice a very interesting difference between their language, and ours. Instead of saying something like, “Is that your pen?” Korean’s would say the equivalent of, “Pen exists?” And instead of saying “Your hat doesn’t fit my head very well,” they would say, “Hat doesn’t fit.” At first this was super confusing to me, I mean, how did anyone have any idea what was going on? Then, in a recent discussion with a Korean friend, we thought about how this country is very much like one large family. When we eat together, no one orders their own food. We order one large dish and everyone eats from that, something western cultures fittingly call “family style.” When I play basketball with my team, someone brings a bunch of big bottles of water and everyone shares. When I am on the subway, everyone stands close to one another if they need to, and bumping into one another is not an offensive gesture. No one ever says the equivalent of “my house,” even if they live alone. You just say “our house” instead.  With my family, the Brinkerhoff’s, I do all of these things. We share water and sit close to each other and share food without hesitation… and of course, we all live in our house. But outside of that house is a different story. We look at those we don’t know with hostility or naive trust. We must always keep mental stock of what is ours and theirs. And we are born into this mindset that “I must claw MY way to the top if I want to make MY life a success for ME and MY family.” Isn’t that the motto of anyone living the “American Dream?”

THE TAKEAWAY: If we live our lives constantly applying ownership to everything we think feel and touch, we will begin to see the world as something that was put here for us and us alone. But that very mindset is so limiting, so narrow, that it actually prevents us from seeing the vastness that the world has to offer. “Giving that which you wish to recieve,” hardly seems difficult to do when nothing you have is really yours. The money you make will be someone else’s someday when you spend it. The shoes you wear were at one point owned by factory workers, creative designers, rubber plantation owners, and  will one day be owned by someone else if you donate them or throw them away. So today all I’m asking is that you take a second to question what you consider to be “mine,” because if you claim too much, you might be hurting yourself in the long-run.        

Thailand: Money, Happiness, and Spicy Food

For the past two weeks, I have been in Thailand with my girlfriend and some other friends. Our time there gave me a great perspective on where I live now, Korea, and where I have spent my entire life, California. For this blog, I’d like to address them individually:

Money:

For perspective, in Thailand, a one hour massage costs somewhere between $3 and $7. One plate of delicious food at a restaurant? $1-$2. A 12 hour first class, VIP bus ride that includes snacks on the bus, reclining seat, and a meal at a restaurant halfway through the ride? $8. Another perspective, taxi drivers in Bangkok are notorious for trying to overcharge tourists for the rides. With this in mind, when we arrived in Bangkok I approached the taxis near the airport and asked them how much it would cost to go to our hotel. Each of them shrugged, or looked straight ahead and answered my questions with, “Yes, I know. Let’s go.” To which I responded, “I asked you how much!?” I then proceeded to the next taxi. Once we found one that seemed to speak English better, he told us he would use the meter (the cheapest and safest option) and so we got in. He then proceeded to drive us down a couple streets, make U-turns, and continue in another direction until finally he stopped and said, “What was the name of your hotel again?” I showed him again, and he acknowledged, and took us there in 3 minutes. After ALLLL of that effort he went to, the taxi ride ended up costing $1.50, and I’m sure he felt accomplished.

On the island of Koh Samui, we spent about 5 days relaxing on the island and doing some of the usual tourist things. One evening we stopped in a Lebanese place for dinner, and I got into a conversation with the owner. I asked him how he liked living on the island and how business was going. He said very bad, and he wanted go home to Lebanon soon because he wasn’t making enough money. When business was good, he was able to save about 1000-1500 Thai Baht per month. That translates to about $30 or $40 per MONTH.

Taking all this into account, I realized the true value of the life I was lucky enough to be born into, and furthermore, the lives of my students here in Korea. The simple fact that our money carries weight around the world makes it POSSIBLE for us to travel. People who live in Thailand have to work twice as hard, for 5 times as long, just to take a short trip to a neighboring country. In fact, is it safe to say that many of them will never get to travel for this reason alone. By no means am I saying that anyone is any better than anyone else here, I will get into that next, but what I am saying is that if you haven’t thought about how lucky you are lately, maybe its time to think again.

Happiness:

Many times throughout the trip, I found myself compulsively feeling sorry for some of the people I saw. Houses made from slabs of metal. Virtually no earthly possessions. Two legs their only means of transportation. And yet, at the same time I also noticed something else. Whenever I smiled at someone, they smiled back from ear to ear. And then it dawned upon me: less money, less problems. The more money we have, the more things we seem to have to worry about. Mortgages, credit cards, interest, investments, college funds, health insurance, fancy cars, the newest TV, how we’re going to afford our next… blah blah blah. For many people in Thailand, there’s no reason to even think about these things, and therefore no stress. The most stressful decision of the day night often be what time to go to sleep, or how much to charge someone for something. But even that, by comparison, provides very little stress. With this in mind, it is actually rather sad to see the western influence on their society. Shopping malls with manikens wearing polo shirts with their collars flipped up. TV commercials with Jennifer Lopez in some sexy outfit boasting the “sexiest fragrance in the world.” It is almost sickening to think that such influences are moving this culture further and further away from the simple, happy place at which they started. We think we have it figured out, but if life is about happiness, it is clear who’s really got things figured out.

SPICY Food:

Spicy in Thailand takes on a whole new meaning. I’m not talking about your lips burning for a while after you eat, I’m talking about your stomach hurts when the peppers touch it. And its not just hearty foods that get the spice either. It’s salads, with fruit, that are some of the spiciest. While I was in Thailand, the spicy food reminded me of Mexican food, which of course was my main diet in San Diego. Whenever I would ask for extra hot sauce, I often received skeptical looks from the restaurant owners. Then I thought of the first question pretty much every Korean person I meet asks me here, “Can you eat Korean food?” And what they mean is, “Can you handle the spiciness?” It is almost as if spicy food is a sort of right of passage for outsiders to be accepted into these cultures. Why is that?

I think that it is because much of these cultures I’ve mentioned are centered around their food. In Mexico, for instance, families often take time off of work to have a meal together, eat their fill, then go back to work. Holidays are almost as much about the food as they are family. In Korea, you don’t even order your own dish when you go to a restaurant. The group orders something and everyone shares. I have almost forgotten the feeling of looking over a menu and choosing something. In Thailand, the culture is very similar. I often saw families and groups of people eating together, sharing various plates of food… Collectivist. What these cultures all share is a collectivist mindset – the we before the me. And yet, everyone cannot just instantly be considered a part of this collective, so there must be some sort of initiation… I guess if you can’t handle the heat, you better stay out of the collective kitchen.

THE TAKEAWAY: To this point, I have traveled to twelve different countries, or cultures rather, and seen many difference ways of living life. This trip, however, gave me a very different feeling… a much deeper and richer appreciation for what I have here in Korea, and waiting for me at home. Every way of life has its positives and negatives, of course, but in the end, it is up to the person who is living that life to choose their way. What will you choose?

Pai, Thailand

Prove Yourself to Yourself First

I remember in elementary school whenever it came time to do a speech, half of the class usually opened with a line like “Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘courage’ as…” As a 9-year-old boy I decided I never wanted to use that introduction in my speeches because it sounded too boring. Luckily though, this is a blog, and not a speech.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘prove’ as a verb meaning to establish the truth or validity of something by presentation of evidence or argument (I hope I got at least a chuckle out of a couple of you there). I wanted to provide this definition here because the wording is very important to the purpose of this blog. As people, when we work out everyday at the gym, or play basketball our entire lives, or study hard at school, or work our butt off at a job to get promoted, we are proving ourselves in some way or another. We are trying to prove to those around us that we are stronger, greater, better, faster, or more intelligent than most. But there’s a critical error here: THE WHO.

Over two months ago I decided I was going to take a beginner Korean class at a nearby university to help jumpstart my learning of the language. So, in the meantime, I put in about 50% effort into learning new words and phrases, and began telling people that I was going to take a class at a nearby university. Over and over again I caught myself saying the very same thing to new people and each additional time something felt strange inside me. I didn’t quite know what it was until my carefully built plan crumbled before my eyes. I found out one week ago that the class was cancelled because there weren’t enough people signed up. My initial reaction was one of despair… but then, it dawned upon me. As I walked to school the next morning, looking up at the bright sky, I realized that I wasn’t taking the class to help me learn Korean; I was taking it to prove to other people that I was learning Korean.

Then I thought of how often in my life I had done things simply to be able to say that I was doing them. It was almost as if the social validation I got from telling people that I was “going to” do those things was enough for me to feel like I had already done it! Then I remembered all the books on my shelf that had bookmarks only 40, 60, or 80 pages in. Then I remembered the piano that sat in my house for years, virtually untouched, and the single complete song I still know how to play. Then my whole life seemed to unravel. All that remained was one, solid and solitary thought:

All I need to do is prove this to myself… after that, it is true. 

It seemed so amazingly simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it for my entire life thus far. But now that it’s there, it’s not going away.

THE TAKEAWAY: I think all too often we get caught up thinking that in order for something to be true, those around us have to believe it. And so we walk around as an advertisement for ourselves, selling our qualities and beliefs to those we meet as if it were Black Friday. But in the end, we are never really satisfied. Maybe this is true for you, maybe its not. Nevertheless, it would certainly be beneficial to ask yourself, “What have I proven to myself lately?” Because when all is said and done, only the things that you have proven to yourself will have any real meaning.

Hiro from the show Heroes

Be your own hero.