What is love?

I have this friend who I met very early on in my Freshman year in college, in the USA, and over the years, she's become one of my closest friends, even to the point where I would call her my sister and she would call me her brother.

And during those years in college, some of my other friends would push me to ask her out. But I never did. And I don't regret that. However, I was curious as to why I never did. She is this fun and loving person and really, there is no good reason for not being with someone who is that great.

Anyway, after college, I came back to Australia and wasn't really in contact with her. We do have social media and email and other ways of communicating, but it's not the same as being with someone face to face. And so, we never really tried to contact each other and kind of moved on.

But then, two years later, I got the opportunity to go back to the USA and managed to see her again. We had dinner together, caught up, went back to her place and watched Netflix. And as we were sitting there, watching episodes of Jessica Jones, a realization came to me. And the realization was that we didn't need to be together. We didn't need anything. We could just be. And really, that's what love is.

It seems that so many of us make love about something, whether we make love about dating, or sex, or marriage, or about having a family, or about having anything else that we might make love about. And in making love about something, we become selfish because we have turned love into needing to get this thing that we make love about. We become selfish because we feel that we need to date, or need to have sex, or need to marry, or need to have a family, or need to do anything else that we might make love about.

But making love about something isn't love.

Love is surrendering to another person.

Love is about letting go and trusting that the other person will hold you up.

Hence the term "Falling in love." We don't "Force love." We don't "Manipulate love." We "Fall in love." It's about the fall. It's about letting go.

And the irony is that once we let go, once we love, love comes back to us.

We decide the consequences that we receive.

And in that way, it is by letting go, by loving, that we can attract another with the same attitude. And that is when magic happens.

My friend and I might never be together. We might be with different people for the rest of our lives. But that is secondary. And what really matters is that we love each other.

What matters is that we love. Everything else is secondary.

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The Art of Asking

One of the many difficulties that I have had in my past was asking for help. And it wasn't really because I felt vulnerable. I'm a pretty sensitive guy and feel vulnerable all the time. I even laugh at how I always feel that I'm on the brink of tears.

Note: I don't believe that being sensitive or feeling vulnerable are negative qualities. I even believe that sensitivity and vulnerability are positive qualities, as explained in the below quote from my favorite movie, Stalker (1979):

"When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death's companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win." - Stalker

And I believe that life should be lived to the point of tears, as Albert Camus was once quoted because to live life any other way would be either inhuman, boring or both.

But back to asking for help:

The reason why I used to have trouble asking for help was that I didn't like to bother anyone. I didn't like to feel that I was taking away someone else's time and energy so that they could help me, especially when the very least I could do was learn what to do in order overcome the challenge that I could have asked for help on.

But despite still feeling this way about asking for help, what I have recently realized is that by not asking for help, I am starving the opportunity to really bond with others.

See, when we put ourselves in a vulnerable place, we give others the opportunity to help us and for them to feel appreciated. And by not asking for help, we take that opportunity away from them.

But at the same time, being vulnerable can be difficult for many. Many fear that they might be taken advantage of in some way. And there is always that possibility when we make ourselves vulnerable.

So, how do we know when to ask for help and when not to ask for help?

Well, we can never know the outcome of any decision, so we can never know when to ask for help or when not to ask for help.

But as I continue to defend, how we feel determines how we live. And when we're faced with the choice of whether or not to ask for help, the best we could do is feel which decision will give us the best outcome.

This is very much why asking is an art.

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Facing Negative People

Note: Before getting into the heart of this blog, I'd just like to mention that this blog is a general response to facing negative people. It is not specific to anyone's situation and shouldn't be seen as 'The Answer' to dealing with negative people. If there is an idea that I consistently repeat, it's that there is no such thing as 'The Answer', and I won't pretend that there is. And what should matter with this blog, as with everything else that I do (all the content that I create and the ideas I share), are the realizations that you come to, as those realizations will be what'll help you to grow your fulfillment in your life. I just wanted to make this clear for this blog.

Now, to facing negative people:

There are two options that I'd like to present to you when it comes to facing a negative person. And here they are:

Option 1: Leave them.

This might seem against what I've written before about how we're all responsible for everyone and I still defend the idea that we're all responsible for everyone. But that is also why leaving them is a viable option.

Think of it this way, both you and this negative person are in a negative situation and as much as you might have tried to inspire this person to change, they won't allow themselves to; and so you're both stuck in this negative situation that isn't serving either of you and you'll continue to remain in this negative situation until something drastic changes (i.e. you leave them). And by not leaving them, by remaining in the negative situation, you are responsible for the negative situation, even if this negative person is ignorant to the idea that they are also responsible for this negative situation.

But by leaving, the negative situation gets broken and that might spark something in this negative person and they might finally allow themselves to change.

Option 2: Grow.

Now, if leaving them were not an option that you'd like to cross, either because the negative person was family, or a close friend, or a partner, or for whatever other reason, then growing your fulfillment in your life is a viable option.

By growing your fulfillment in your life, you'll be able to counteract the negativity that the negative person is eliciting and in that way, you won't have to suffer from the negative situation that both you and this person are living through.

Now, this begs to ask the question, "How do you grow your fulfillment in your life?"

And there are a number of ways in which you can do this. You can:

1) Improve your health.
2) Learn a new discipline.
3) Grow spiritually.
4) Any combination of these ways.

And really, it doesn't matter which way you take. What should matter is that you feel growth, that you feel progress. Because by feeling that growth, you'll grow your fulfillment in your life.

Growth and fulfillment make the best couple. They both complement each other and value the long haul.

And what makes growth amazing is that by growing, you might be able to inspire this negative person to change.

Let's take an example.

Let's say you decided to take an aerobics class to lose weight. So, in secret, you take some classes, lose a bit of weight and feel really good about yourself because you've set out to achieve something and done it. And then, on top of all that, this negative person in your life sees that you've lost some weight and that you're happier than usual and proceeds to ask what you have been doing. You tell them that you have been doing some aerobic classes and recommend that they should join. They might be reluctant at first, but you don't push them to have to come along and continue to just do the aerobic classes without this negative person. But as you continue to improve your health and become happier, this negative person slowly edges towards asking to join this aerobics class, only to eventually ask if they could attend a class to try it out. You then bring this negative person to the class and gradually, as they go through the class they feel good about themselves for doing something different, inspiring them to go to more aerobic classes and slowly, their negative attitude dissipates and they can become happy, just as you are, and the negative situation isn't visible anymore.

This is why, in my opinion, option 2 is the better option and is why I defend the idea that if there is any good solution to any problem, it's to grow, i.e. work on yourself.

But the big take away that I hope you get from this newsletter is that just because this negative person is negative doesn't mean you have to suffer. You have options. And as hard as this negative person might make your situation feel, there are ways out of it. So, if you happen to be in a negative situation with a negative person, please, don't suffer at their expense and do something to change the situation. It'll help you and this other person.

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Greed

There is an ad going around for a new TV show that has the quote:

"Money is the root of all evil."

But this quote happens to be one of the biggest misquotes in literature. The original quote is:

"The love of money is the root of all evil."

And there is a big difference between the two. The former, "Money is the root of all evil", blames money for all of the evil in the world, while the later, "The love of money is the root of all evil", suggests that we are the cause of all of the evil in the world. The former denies responsibility, while the latter takes responsibility.

And I feel that this misquote is quite fitting because what seems to be one of the main characteristics of those who are considered to be greedy is that they deny responsibility for their actions. They blame external factors, such as money, and they don't realize that they are causing all of their pain and suffering.

And the joke of all this is that we can only be responsible. We can't not take responsibility because in believing that we are not taking responsibility, in a complicated way, we are really taking responsibility for believing that we are not taking responsibility. We can only ever be responsible.

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Opportunities

There's this guy that I work with (because I don't want to compromise this colleague, I won't be using his real name and will instead call him Sam) and Sam is the type of worker that always does the appearance of work. He walks around, not really doing any work and would sometimes disappear on us for long periods of time. Sam's attitude does frustrate some of my other colleagues, but there is another way to look at this that I believe we can all learn from.

It's obvious that Sam doesn't like his job and what he has opted to do is to do the bare minimum in order to keep his job and earn his money without exerting too much effort. But what would happen if Sam did the opposite? What would happen if Sam went beyond what was required of him?

The answer: Sam would develop newer skills, or at least develop his current skills at a faster rate, learn lessons that might not have been learned and opened up opportunities (a raise, or a higher position, or a job opportunity somewhere else) that might allow him to get out of this job that he so obviously hates.

And it seems that many of us do this. When we are in a job that we hate, we fall into complacency and complain about the job that we hate, when we could instead do more than what is required of us and escape our situation.

And often, when I address this with those people who hate their jobs, the excuses come up: "I'm not lucky enough", "I don't have enough time", "there's already too much for me to do", etc, etc, etc. And here is my issue with that:

Potential is infinite. When we only feel, life feels infinite. But when we think, life feels finite. It's not that life is limited, it's our thoughts that limit life. And since potential is infinite, then there's no reason why one can't do more than what is expected of them. And any reason that one might come up with is just an excuse.

And what I hope you take away from Sam and his attitude is that Sam has closed himself off to opportunities that can help him to grow his fulfillment in his life because he has decided to, not because that is how life is. Sam has decided to do the bare minimum and that is what he'll receive, the bare minimum.

So do you want to be like Sam and do the bare minimum or allow yourself to realize the opportunities that are in front of you?

The decision is yours. And whatever decision you make, you'll be responsible for it.

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Recognizing Fear

I would consider myself to be more of an introvert than an extrovert. I am the type that would usually prefer to read a book than go out to any large social event where I had to small talk with strangers. I just don't like talking to talk. If I'm going to talk, I'm going to give some form of value.

However, earlier this week, I was invited to a networking event that I decided to go to. I had met a few of the people running the event and I believed it would be a good opportunity to meet more people that I could help.

But before the event, with my temperament, many thoughts gradually crept into my mind, trying to convince me to not take part: "You don't have to do this", "You could be reading a book", etc, etc.

But out of all the thoughts that were trying to prevent me from not attending the event, there was one that caught my attention. And this was the thought:

"You could be writing."

This thought caught my attention because writing is just as productive as going to networking events. If I had spent the time writing, I could have inched closer to finishing another book. But then again, on the other hand, I could have been using writing as an excuse to get away with having to small talk with strangers. And so, how was I supposed to discern between whether this thought was a genuine thought that was inspiring me to get work done or whether this thought was masking a fear of having to talk to strangers?

It's a dilemma. And it's something that I don't think anyone can know when they are confronted with this situation or this sort of a situation.

However, there is a clue in that. It's not something that we're supposed to know, it's something that we should feel.

See, when we make a decision, we always make the decision based on a feeling. One could have all the information in the universe, but they could never know what will happen and because of that, one will always decide what they feel will give them the best outcome.

And with that in mind, when we're confronted with an uncertain situation like the one I was in, we should listen to what we're feeling.

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What is loyalty?

There's this restaurant that I used to go to once a week, "The Four Frogs", in Randwick (which I recommend everyone should visit). And besides the great food, what I love about the place is the people who run TFF. They have gotten to know me over many years and there's a real relationship there.

But because I've recently started a second job as a barista, I haven't been able to visit TFF as often and it's made me rethink the concept of loyalty.

It seems that many of us see loyalty as showing up consistently, but times change, things happen and to consistently show up forever is impossible to ask of anyone.

And now, the way I see loyalty is about caring for those that matter to you, even if you can't be there all the time. I still drop by TFF from time to time and I still talk to the people who run the restaurant, but more importantly, I speak for them and encourage others to eat there. And to me, that is loyalty.

So for those who want loyalty in their life, instead of expecting others to consistently show up for you, just continue to remain faithful to your values and allow others to care for you.

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What is happiness?

When I was growing up, my Mum, Dad and I used to go to see the rest of our family in the Philippines every other year. And one year, when I was 10, we came out of the airport, saw my grandfather and a few of my uncles and cousins, got in the van with them and headed to the house we were going to stay in while we were there. And every time we leave to go to the airport, we always get stuck in traffic. (The Philippines is not the best place to get your Ls)

But this particular year, something extraordinary happened. When we were stuck in traffic, a child about my age, maybe a little younger, who was homeless, malnourished, missing several teeth and only had one arm and one leg, hobbled to the driver's window and begged our valet for some spare change. The child knocked a few times and our valet didn't roll down the window. But this was when the moment struck me. The child, instead of persisting or complaining, smiled and hobbled away.

And I was sitting there, seeing this, thinking, "What does this child have to smile about? This child is homeless, is missing teeth and is missing an arm and a leg. This child should be miserable, but the child wasn't. Why?"

And admittedly, it took me way too many years to understand why this child was happy. See, when I was younger, I was really into material things. I loved TV, video games, all the things that I believed a child needed to be happy. But as I grew older, I slowly realized that I didn't need any of these things to be happy. I became less interested in material things and, in turn, less attached to them.

And what makes me feel fulfilled now is being. It's being here now.

It might seem hard for you to accept this, but I believe there is a profound realization in this. When I share the story of this child, in the Philippines, like I did, do you think about everything that this child was missing? The house that the child was missing? The teeth the child was missing? The arm and leg the child was missing? If you don't, then the chances are that you'll find it easy to accept this moment for what it is. And if you do, then it's because you're probably focusing on what you're lacking in your life.

And that's the difference. When I was younger I used to focus on what was missing. And now, as I have grown older, I've realized that I don't need anything and I feel fulfilled because of it.

And the irony is that since I've realized that I don't need anything, the things that I believed that I did need are coming to me.

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Stress Can Turn Good People Into Bad People

So, there's this guy from work who we'll call John (I'm using the name John so that I don't compromise who I'm really writing about). John is a cool guy, someone who is laid-back, funny and personable.

But a few weeks ago, an incident happened. It was near the end of my shift and I was cleaning up my section of the restaurant with another barista, who we'll call Richard (again, I'm using an alias so that I don't compromise who I'm really writing about), when, unexpectedly, our section began to flood with sewerage. Our section was damaged, it obviously stank and we couldn't finish cleaning our section.

Now, this is where John comes in. John is one of the managers of the entire restaurant and is there to fix any problems that arise. And you can imagine, John was pissed. John had to stay overtime and call a plumber to clear the drains.

But after Richard and I cleaned as much of our section as possible, John comes along and tells me that I had to dump all the sewerage out the back of the restaurant, even though I didn't know how to and John was too heated to explain to me how to dump the sewerage. And in the middle of being given an order, Richard steps forward and defends me, explaining that I didn't do anything wrong and that we shouldn't have to drain the sewerage. But John wouldn't have it and so, John and Richard got into a heated argument, staring each other down, shouting at each other and calling each other names. The argument ended with John storming off, threatening to get Richard fired.

It was not a pleasant scene, but we can learn from situations like these if we decide to learn from situations like these. And here are a couple of my takeaways.

1. Context is important.

Our temperaments change dependent on the context we're in. This was the case for John, as is the case for the rest of us. But it seems that most of us don't realize this or forget this. It seems that most of us just judge others on their first impression of them and conclude that is who they are. But our first impressions of others never capture who others are, they just give us a glimpse.

Plus, I believe, with everyone, once we spend the time with them, we'll find commonalities. Some of my closest friends are African Americans and on the surface, it'd seem as if we don't have anything in common. But we do. And I only realized how much we have in common by spending time with them.

2. Those who can remain calm in stressful situations are leaders.

Even though I understand John's frustration, I don't agree with John's decisions. He shouldn't have berated anyone and he shouldn't have gotten into an argument with anyone. Doing so only ups the cortisol, creates resistance and makes it harder to solve the problem.

Ergo, those who can remain calm during stressful situations and work with others can create effective solutions to challenges. These are the real leaders, in my opinion.

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'I Am Not Your Negro' Documentary

Early last week, I had the opportunity to watch the amazing documentary, 'I Am Not Your Negro', which focuses on the unfinished novel by James Baldwin, 'Remember This House' and three prominent figures -- Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr -- who were all assassinated at different times during the Civil Rights Movement.

Just before I get into the heart of this newsletter, I'd like to create a bit of context as to why I was interested in seeing this documentary. Some of closest friends are African Americans and to be honest, with the current race issue going on in Middle America, I am concerned for their safety. A part of me believes that they'll be fine and that I'm just being paranoid, but another part of me thinks that they are living in an environment that just doesn't need violence, as does every other environment that is experiencing violence doesn’t need violence. And because of my friends and my concerns, I was invested in seeing this documentary.

Anyway, back to the documentary.

What made the documentary really compelling to me was not just how well it was made (story, cinematography, editing, etc), but what it had to say. Most documentaries of this nature, at least to me, seem to allude to how 'Whites' are selfish, greedy, inhumane pigs, who were wrong in enslaving African Americans. But 'I Am Not Your Negro' didn't say this and instead went on to say how 'White' and 'Negro' are mere concepts that the American people created and that past these concepts, we are all human, which is a refreshing and honest take on the race issue in America.

James Baldwin doesn't want to get into arguments with 'Whites' and blame them for what had happened hundreds of years ago. James Baldwin wants us to realize that we are all human. (P.S. This idea is recognized in the trailer)

And where the documentary leaves us (***Spoiler Warning***) is with James Baldwin asking us the question: Why did the American people feel the need to create the concepts of 'White' and 'Negro?' And I found this to be an interesting question to end the documentary, not only because this question could be applied to every issue that we're currently facing, whether that be immigration, marriage equality, sexism, etc, but also because it seems that many of us haven't yet realized or have forgotten their answer to this question, so we're left to contemplate.

But for this newsletter, I'd like to share my answer to this question. Here it is:

I believe that we create these concepts, 'White', 'Negro' and other concepts because we feel unworthy in some way. That could mean that we feel unappreciated, or that we feel that we don't belong, or feel useless, or helpless in some way. But it's this feeling of unworthiness that encourages us to create these concepts that divide us and allow us to believe that we may be superior to others in some way, even though these concepts that we've created are just concepts. They're just illusions.

And for those who argue against this, I ask:

Would we cause all the suffering that we cause if we felt worthy?

Would we cause all the suffering that we cause if we felt appreciated? If we felt that we belonged? If we felt useful? Helpful?

No. No, we wouldn't because there wouldn't be any incentive to cause suffering. If we felt worthy, why would we make others suffer? If we felt worthy, why would we make others suffer when that'll only distance ourselves from others and make us feel that we don't belong, make us feel unworthy? If we felt worthy and happy, why would we make ourselves feel unworthy and unhappy?

'I Am Not Your Negro' is a really inspiring documentary that I encourage everyone to watch because of the question that the film poses. And maybe, in reviewing this question, we can all look past these concepts that we made up, understand each other and feel worthy.

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