Closing 2018–Opening 2019 in reflection and setting intention has been a tradition for me since 2013. I’m writing you from the southernmost point in the Americas and the closest place to Antarctica–Ushuaia, Argentina. Read through what 2018 was for me and what 2019 will be or skip below and checkout my 2018 photos and people. 🙂
In a few days I’ll start an adventure that wraps up one of the longest held goals I’ve ever had–getting to all seven continents by 27 years old. When I set out to do it it was the wildest thing I could think of. I called it 7 by 27. This time 10 years ago I didn’t think it would be possible–nor did I think it would/could go down 2 years ago. I feel grateful, humbled and floored all at once.
The universe works its magic.
What we can do is, “wish things into the universe and let the universe conspire in our favor,” The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho.
Moments may not be what we want them to be. People will let us down. We’ll let ourselves down. Things won’t be exactly what we wish them to be, but we’ll get what we need and life will work itself out.
The opposite is also true.
Moments will be worlds greater than we ever dreamed they could be. People we never expected to play a role in our lives will lift us up. We’ll show up in our own lives & for ourselves like we’d never imaged. We’ll get exactly what we need and life will work itself out. I hold that optimism today as much as my mom held for me as a kid.
Que será, será. Whatever will be, will be.
I spent the last few years experimenting with this, creating situations where I had to figure things out–low-risk playing with fire. This month I revisited it—I left New York for Buenos Aires a few days ago with no more plans than a mission get to Antartica. No housing booked, no flights from where I’d land in Baires, borrowing my friend Justin’s Osprey Bag because the bag I bought earlier this year in Delhi burst at the seams (thanks, Lajpat Nagar Market..).
I landed in Buenos Aires to beautiful people and an invitation to lunch. I made buddies with my taxi driver–Ignacio. Ignacio offered to take me back the the airport when I return for less than he cost me to get to the Airbnb (which I booked at the airport.) Before I left Buenos Aires for Ushuaia, he sent me an audio message on how to get the cab, how much to pay and how to not get swindled. Last night, Jan 31, he sent me a video with NYE wishes.
Sometimes my risks burned me. I ended up on a side of them that I didn’t like, that I didn’t plan for nor could have planned for. By in large, these adventures and experiences have learned me that people are complex. They will be to us what we allow them to be/do to us. Other times, it’s out of our hands.
In short–we’ve got no control.
People can be beautiful if you let them. People can be less than great too. It’s usually situational.
Later in the same night someone tried to break into my Airbnb via the window. It was like likely an opportunist but it was my window the robber was opening. My time in Baires was filled with stories of people being robbed at gunpoint. I thought, thishas not happened in new york but it’ll happen here. here goes. Luckily scolding them in Spanish and the words la policía was enough to shoo him away, after their second attempt. Buenos Aires is in the middle of an economic crisis that has far reaching social impact. Social-Economic mobility is something near to me and how it’s playing out in Buenos Aires is disheartening, but as another cab driver shared with me an evening prior, “Things can be worse. They suck here, sure, but look at Venezuela–they don’t even have food to eat. People are starving. So this isn’t too bad.”
Context is a wild thing. That driver hasn’t made his first trip out of Argentina. He’s 57.
We have no control of the outcome, but our inputs are our choice. What we can do is be our authentic selves, practice love and dive all the way deep. Anything can happen, but anything worthwhile requires you dive in. Don’t expect good thing if all you’ll do is dip in your toes. Have courage. Shoot your shot. Whatever happens, the sun will rise again.
Life Happens. You’ll pull through.
We can smile or we can frown. Everything is a choice, but the first step is surviving. For a long time my family had been catching life; surviving. Some call them curveballs–life throws you curveballs. I feel pretty good at catching curveballs, but seeing my window open up on the wee hours of Sunday morning had me reconsidering how prepared I am. Every curveball is unique and responding with numbness and nothing to lose is not the same as squaring up and being prepared.
There are curveballs our situations create and curveballs we create. I’m not throwing us curveballs. Im here to uplift, support and catapult. If I spend my time with you, trust I want the world for you. Now, if you’re throwing curveballs I might need to let you chill out for a second and catch up to yourself. I’m no messiah. Like in the airline with Oxygen–help yourself first.
It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener at war. – Chinese Proverb
My mom says I have a guardian angel
She thinks somebody is watching my back from above. I think I’ve got a sQuad of support. A community of angels that are very real, but I also feel the universe bending in my favor. Not recognizing that would be wild on my part. I’m about to wrap up 7 continents–I’m the kid that grew up off Eckerson Rd rolling my backpack through Kakiat with a home broiling in pain and a heart that has spent life mostly broken and confused–not to mention a bank account that was never above par.
Life is different today.
I’ve played some role in it, but these angels *looks towards the heavens*are holding it down. I benefit from the shoulders I stand on.
I want to write an unorthodox story. Log Kya Kahenge –What Will People Say means less to me today. Moments, impact and authentic living mean more.
As a kid I watched crazy things go down. As a teen I thought crazy was normal. As a young adult, destruction and unhealthiness was so much still apart of my life that its only as a young professional I could clear the fog and take note.
Abandonment, lack of trust, violence–these were just things we grew up with and we’d wear badges, proud of navigating them.
I called it a new york thing. I’d speak to travelers and they’d jaw drop surprised at my life. I’d laugh it off saying that every other kid in my football locked room had a similar story. Abusive-absent-missing dad, bright-hard working mom burning the candle at both ends, tough bullies. I started speaking to adults in New York about these stories and they were floored.
This year I definitely thought: Okay, maybe we grew up with violent and less than normal situations and need to spend some time processing this.
It is a process.
I’ve been on the journey for years. This year it was especially important to me. I cane home after 18 months of working and traveling around the world to replant my roots in New York. I want to build things.
“Family trauma is passed on until someone is ready to feel it” Akshay Kapur
I don’t want the future to suffer the past. 2018 included a great deal of effort to unpack and observe the past.
I want to go from surviving to thriving.
I think in 2018 we started to thrive. My family. We. Our Unit. Do you know how powerful that is?
I don’t want to thrive alone.
My friends are thriving too–starting businesses, making lists, making life. I’m in love with this. Your joy gives me joy. Your wins are my wins. Your pain, lets share that cross.
Sometimes things sting. Sometimes things suck. Sometimes I sting. Sometimes I suck, but this is a net positive life.
Everyday above ground is a good day.
That is a big deal.
Everyday above ground is a good day. Going from surviving to thriving means unlearning some of what we learned in surviving. Some of that means leaning into the we over the I, but be smart: the people around you need to take care of the you and you have a responsibility to take care of yourself. That’s how you can show up best. That’s when the We is strongest. Steven Covey calls it
Okay, you’ve read a lot. Let’s sum up where we’ve been in this long read,
the kid [me]
- is knocking out a goal he’s long set [and had no idea he would be able to do]
- believes in serendipity, but also the hand of community/God/the universe [mostly because stuff happens that he doesn’t deserve]
- recognizes experience as the best teacher
- is working on going from surviving to thriving
Where are we going from here?
- big questions are worth way more than goals
- tools matter. a lot.
- do big things. have fun.
- grace exists in abundance. you, in your existence, are qualified to experience
- more serendipity & a little 411 on Antarctica
- there’s no need to wait
A few years ago questions became my highest goal. The biggest questions I asked stemmed in:
- How my actions can positively motivate my grandchildren?
- Impact—will it make a difference?
More recent questions look like
- Do I absolutely want to do it?
- Can I do it quietly?
- To not call for attention
- to serve in silence
- to achieve through hard work
- What does it look like to do it while happy–in abundance, compounding?
- What does it look like to lead good, healthy abundant things whereas most of our learnings have been to lead things out of a place of despair and challenge? Does leadership look different then? How?
I’m hyper focused on microactions, microdecisions and microdoses of courage. I want to write an unorthodox story. It is writing itself. I’m a vessel. Fin.
Is this real life is my default right now-I’m writing you from the southernmost part of the americas–literally the place closest to the south pole, in all of the world. There’s a sign nearby that says ‘Welcome to the end of the world.’
On October 15th, a new comer in my life asked me If you died today would you be content?
“no,” I replied. I started to live más to inspire a specific set of children and I wasn’t sure I’d done my job, but as I write these words and consider this life, my story has been writing itself. I’m just narrating it. I wanted to show those kids who hurt, a kid like us moving through pain into hope. To give them some light in their tunnels. To lite little fires of hope.
What bliss it is to take part in this.
Core to these posts, my stories and these years-in-review is optimism.
Optimism in the midst violence, failure, and hopelessness. My writing has believed that the future can be different than the past. My writing is a tool that pulls me into the present. My friend and big sister, Radiris Chichi Diaz, teaches me that someone’s achievers like us go into machiene mode. We become Human Doers rather than Human Beings. I’ve definitely run on autopilot.
Truth is, the last decade has been filled with achievement, wonders and big wins. Sure, there’s been a ton of failure, sadness and grief. Overwhelmingly today I feel happy. It is a reminder to work hard, but also to check in and be kind to self. We’re amazing-it is okay to say that. You are made in the image of God. Do you not believe that you are amazing? Some days I don’t either. I’m with you there.
Tools–these are all tools.
This year I spent a lot of time dancing with the idea of achieving 80% of our work with 20% of effort. That working smart takes us further than working harder or longer. I associate these with discipline, diligence and kindness.
My new friend, Eden (she’s working on a really dope QA Automation Company) taught me a new tool for calendar and planning. She plans to be productive around 70% of the year and plans to chill about 30% of the year.
I kid you not. She schedules it in. Qué fuego, kya? I’m stealing that this year. Tools are bountiful. Here are some of other tools I lean into and want to keep leaning into.
Last year I wrote about what I aim to achieve in the decade:
2017 is in the context of 2021. As is 2018. This is my decade of learning. I can improve with daily diligence.
It is some matter of luck and the universe plotting in my favor which has me able to share that I am directionally positive. Progressing on my aims of growth, financial soundness, instilling purpose [a healthy loving relationship, running a team/org effectively.]
These are my aims for the end of the decade. The remainder of this decade is towards work, experiences, journeying.
My central thesis, “We’re a blimp in a big universe of possibility and history. I’m hoping to make it count while making it fun.”
Goals! I’m crushing that goal.
I literally sing through the streets, dance in the kitchen and work hard to lift myself and those around me. Blessings have found me in abundance. The hand of God and the universe is at work. The universe conspires in my favor. By grace alone, fam. I haven’t done anything to deserve this.
This is not by me, but it is for me.
I cry a inside writing these words. Feeling emotions overtake me and this life. What is it about this middle-class kid from outside new york city that is different? Perhaps nothing. We are all sorted for a life worth living. Perhaps all it takes is a positive attitude, a few strokes of luck and a bit of hard work. Lord knows I’ve had more than that in my favor: A kind, loving and superhuman mom. A loving community of people who go out of their way to show up for me and support me. A lifetime of lessons on what type of dad/man not to be. A lifetime of mistakes and missteps to learn from–burns, scars and bruises–that I’ve been able to live through.
I’ve been blessed with an abundance of experiences. Some good. Some great. Others not so awesome.
My ultimate aim is to make experience available to other people. Ideally positive ones. I work in business because I believe industry has the widest reach and my ability to impact social & economic mobility starts with my ability to put money in people’s pockets. Though, my ability doesn’t end there. I have power in my being. On a hard day, my highest goal is to seek to understand, to help put a smile on faces and to engage strangers with bliss and joy — because if I can give it to them, I can give it to myself.
Bill Clinton calls it enlightened self interest. Michelle Obama talks about service like it’s a duty. It sure damn is. #MichelleForPresident
To serve is to live. Service is the rent you pay to live on Gods earth. -Francis Hesselbein
Find yourself in service to others. -Gandhi Ji
Service isn’t about sharing the work. It’s about doing the deed. The deed doesn’t have to inconvenience you, but Carl Lentz at Hillsong Church once said Your greatest contributions will come from your greatest pains. I am a deep believer in this.
While I won’t be spending this year building service programs, I’ll continue to support friends who are. A majority of my service will come in direct action and service to others. Don’t forget that service is a small action: step in, step up, support someone. That’s how you serve them. Serve your ma, your pops, help an old lady up when she falls–lift a mom’s baby carriage in the NYC subway. Do something to show love. Even to a stranger.
Okay. You’ve read a bunch. CHANGEUP—Antarctica.
I was showering last night choking up–tears and emotions of joy.
I’m in Ushuaia, about to hop on a boat to Antarctica and take on my longest held goal: 7 in 27. Borrowing from a note I sent two friends who have vocally and by their action supported me towards this goal:
Antarctica is one of my longest held goals.
December 31st of god-knows-what-year had me fresh from watching a 2-year drawn out divorce, physically down an absent father who cleared out bank accounts and with a mom who had been through the ringer — a home ill capable to support the emotional needs of two teenage first-gen kids in a post 9/11 new york. The community wasn’t supportive of the idea of a divorcee Indian woman back then and neither were my pops or his very large family–it was a lonely time.
On the last day of that year I was at midnight mass in the cavernous St Thomas Mar Thoma Church in Yonkers, NY—a safe haven crafted by the first immigrants one generation ago other for diaspora Christian Indians–the lights were turned out, leaving us standing in the flickering lights of the candles we held between our hands. 250 or so parishioners ready to welcome the New Year and a young me standing above it all at the balcony admiring the soft radiance and deep sense of connection to a greater being.
Looking into that candle relieved me of the weight I carry. I found within those flames the courage to dream. The boldest idea I could come up with and the thing that I thought would take me the furthest away from my context was to getting to all 7 continents by 27.
Ambition and hope fed me in the years to follow.
Serendipity has played its part. A random thread led me to study abroad in the first semester of my senior year of university [unheard of] in Rome (Europe), a speech at the United Nations alongside the General Assembly in 2015 ended me up with the Royal Family of Morocco as part of a UN Delegation in Rabat & Casablanca (Africa), a friend that I met in 2010 on twitter via youth leadership took me through Australia (Oceania) on the back of an 18 month adventure around the world that led me through South America and provided new flavors for Asia with China/Asia/HK/Mongolia.
Antarctica is my last frontier.
The first day of 27 passed so my game plan is to do get to Antartica before my last.
I’m excited to step into adventure and uncertainty. Diving, even when I wished this, was to experience and live courage in small doses. I do believe that courage in micro-decisions lead to life changing realities. I feel that I benefit from that–more specifically the courageous micro-decisions of the people and communities that have brought me here today. My aim is to live these virtues and show myself that even a kid in a shitty situation can turn things around, making people smile and enjoying laughs along the way.
That’s the story. That’s why it’s important to me to get to Antarctica. It was important for me to share that with you.
That’s the full story. #7by27 has become #7in27. Iz hapnin’
What a wonderful journey life can be.
Even when it’s bad, rough and unkind. We have the opportunity to live it. Live más. If you need to take a break, do that. Feel your emotions. Do you, boo. There is no greater feeling for me than to feel. I spent so much time being numb to emotion and events—that the ability to feel: sadness or joy, is incredibly refreshing. These days I aim to find, experience and live in joy. Surprisingly, even in sadness you’ll find me chuckling. There’s always something of joy. By the grace of God we are here–the least we can do is feel. And in those feelings, let’s not feel ourselves or pity ourselves too much. [ps read Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology if this topic is interesting to you. Game-changing. I loved that book.]
In August 2016 I wrote this note on my phone. These were things I wanted to achieve by 30. Akshay Kapur helped me recognize that all of this is stuff that I can have today–no need to wait. I’ve had some experiences this year that really open me to the idea that all of this is possible–also, Shantae J reminds me that I’m DOPE.
We forget that message. We’re dope. Life’s dope.
What a damn blessing we’re living–I know, things suck. Lmk how I can help. But don’t get caught in the suck. Plan the escape. Work the plan. [Plan the work. Work the plan. -Greg Nance]
The future is nothing if not the work of the present. What’s the point in planning future work? GTS Done.
This year was amazing.
I loved hard. Traveled to multiple continents/countries. Learned new languages. Lived más. Learned a ton.
My aim is to dive deeper. To focus more.
I am to light the light of others–to be an ember that feeds their flames. Why are we a light if we are not lit to help others? #lightenedtilighten
I want to serve, learn and find a depth of humility. To make my kindness cheap and my anger expensive.
I am human. I want to treat others with kindness and treat myself with it too.
I want to love and be love. To support and be supported. I spent so much traveling alone, exploring myself. I grow with someone who has lived their own journey and had the courage to build from the broken. I want to build a life of abundance and support others consciously, intentionally and with purpose. Healthy, wholesome, anointed love. Dancing in the streets. Singing in the subways.
[PS I’m back in New York. When I came home after 18 months of globe trotting I said that I’d stay for the next 3-5 years and not move. I’m committed to that. I’m home. I love New York. Llamamé friends. and stop asking me where in the world I am! Except today, I’m in Argentina…back after this trip!:) ]
I want to give without expectation, to serve with my right hand leaving my left hand blind to those actions. I want to achieve the unachievable–kid marv should be floored. Grandkid marv should feel invincible–capable of the world. When I started writing this blog it was for the little kid that looked, spoke, and felt the fear/anguish/and hopelessness that I did.
In reflection I find that so much of what I set out to is accomplished or I’ve had a taste of it. I have built the foundations of everything I want to be. I have found the space within myself to be a good friend, son and partner. As my friend Austin Volz reminds me, These things come by doing. I intend to do more of it in 2019 and beyond.
What a long journey, eh? I can see the journey traveled in reading my musings over the last years. This is from 2016:
This year I learned that I’m incredibly bright, talented and collaborative. For 24 years I looked at myself as less than. Teachers always told my mom that I had potential. But now I am learning how to exercise that potential. I spent this year focused on delivery and action. That’s helped me in this realization. But I won’t fool myself– it’s all about the right people, the right timing and a strong sense of self. Everyday we have a choice. There’s no such thing as too late or too far in. Everyday is another opportunity to start over or to build from the day before.
The past is behind me. The future is before me.
My plan is to keep laying the bricks over the foundation of experiences I’ve built. I’m going to keep building with consciousness, care and thoughtfulness. The best way for me to do that is to free up my mental space and time.
I’ll continue to lean on The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and pour into these select things:
- mental, physical, spiritual and financial health
- my work leading Product & Strategy at Bitsian, a values based Cryptocurrency company that I started with a few amigos after 18 months of travel upon returning from final rounds of interviews to represent the United States in Germany as a German Chancellor’s Fellow. [Yeah, 2018 was nuts.]
I’ve already begun the process of staying no to anything that doesn’t very demonstrably drive me succeed in any of these three areas.
I ended up finding a team I deeply vibe with, a brand that I think can make a difference and a role that allows me to learn/grow exponentially–exactly what I set out to.
To highlight the power of writing, in 2015 I wrote that I wanted to
- Find a mission I believe in; an amazing group of people & product. Be present and invested every moment.
Boom Boom Pow. Put it out there. & el universe conspired. Honestly, my team is amazing. I have so much appreciation for each of them.
Worth note, I also wrote that year that I wanted to
- Know your worth.
- Chase moonshots.
- Let things happen. Think less. Live more.
- Clean up your solar-system. Don’t play with people that don’t serve you. Serve others. Cut ambiguity. Practice Transparency.
- Be the person you’d want to be friends with.
- Light up the room. Keep it short, light, & happy.
- Be tactful in communication. Mind your tongue.
- Recognize how great people are; remind them.
- Think 10x before saying one thing.
It is crazy how the universe works, aye?
In the last two years I’ve I traveled to six continents. Lived in Colombia, China, Taiwan, India with a good friend, road-tripped Australia & Mongolia and did quickies in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. I speak Spanish with a higher degree of fluency and started learning Hindi. Also doubling down in my native tongues, Hindi and Malayalam. I’ve stumbled into amazingness.
In the next two years I want to create intention to be more present, prepared and kind. I know I can handle ambiguity, but if this is what life looks like without planning what can it look like if create more space for thoughtful planning?
I am writing the unorthodox story which I told you I’d write (2017). I feel blessed with the challenges of my past. Frances Hesselbein says Challenge is Opportunity.
Tell me about your journey.
Dígame about your growth.
What can I do to serve you, your family, your community?
I’m here to help; to smile; to serve: how can I help you?
onwards & upwards parceros
On the last day of every year I visit the year behind me and set intentions for the year ahead of me. These aren’t resolutions. These are about me setting my vision and direction. These help me tread towards the human I want to be. 2014, 2015, 2016,2017, 2018