It’s hard talking about myself. In fact, I don’t love doing it. So I’ve gathered a bunch of questions from readers of some of my columns. I hope they will give you some ideas “About Me.”
1. You are a father, husband, and educator. Which of these roles do you enjoy the most and why?
I enjoy being them all.
Anybody is usually ready to start a family and bear children when he is willing to sacrifice his time caring and being unselfish for another human being. Things also get a lot easier when one is secure financially. I know, I know... Nobody wants to talk about money, but we all know financial problem is the leading cause of divorce around the world. Financial problem leads to failed health and ultimately, failed relationship.
So let’s get you wealthy, internally, first.
Remember: money is only part of the whole equation.
An educator is not a mere teacher. They are much more than that. Most teachers come out of a cardboard box, manufactured, unauthentic and lack a real voice. Authenticity is where every teaching exposes 100 levels of hypocrisy in the world and brings us all the way back to see Reality.
True educators have their own voices, their own experiences, their own pains, and their unique ways of expressing them all. It is not easy being a true educator. I’d give anything to be 1/10 as good as any of them out there.
2. If there is one more word that could describe you as a whole person, what would it be?
I am a wanderer. I like drifting without knowing where I would end up. To explore with no goal. To love without expectation.
Eight years ago I wandered through the streets of Shanghai for the first time. Since then I’ve moved to different places several times. Today, that aimless roaming has yielded a new life—and a good one. But, I have no permanent address.
I have a family. A beautiful wife (Sandra) and one gorgeous son (Wesley).
Still, I have no home. At this exact moment, I am writing this while sitting on someone else’s bed and Wesley is sleeping next to me.
Am I a homeless person? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t like that word. I live the way I like to live no matter what label it has.
I have very few possessions. A few months ago, I threw out most of my stuff and pledged to keep no more than a hundred things. Maybe that’s too much for some. Or maybe too little for others. But I live with having as little as I require. Of course, that means different things to everyone.
Personally, for me, having little means I don’t have to think about things I own. It’s very enlightening to be able to run fast. Faster than the algorithm, faster than Alibaba and the government, get to know myself before they do, and retain some control of my personal existence.
To run fast, I don’t take much luggage with me. I leave all my illusions behind. They are very heavy.
The other day I had lunch with a fascinating guy. He told me that Sandra would not be so interested with me being enlightened. He added that she’d only want to know how much longer I need to stay in China. Whether I’m going back home and then afford a big house and then a nice company.
I realized that may not be the life that I am meant for. People cannot get attached to a country even though it’s what everybody wants. That said, my family and I can always go back anytime. The only issue is whether or not I can find something that is right for me there. After all, I am the one who puts food on the table.
Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. And employment is, also, not for everybody.
Whether I have a small one-man business, or freelance around the world as a consultant, I don’t care. I care about the one that works for me.
For now. Maybe not for tomorrow. But certainly not yesterday.
3. How long will you stay in China?
I don’t know. I really don’t. Because I stopped planning.
Not knowing and not planning are not necessarily good ways to live. Or free ways to live for many people. They’re just the ways I like to live.
Don’t follow me. Please.
Life is novel, like a book filled with unwritten chapters. People can do anything they want because the world is full of opportunities.
Accumulate wealth for a decade. Take care of your kids and travel the world for another. Take up a new hobby the next. Live on an island the rest.
A few years ago, Sandra and I bought a small patch of land in the beautiful island of Bali.
Perhaps, someday we will go there, and start a new life. It would be a good place for Wesley to immerse himself in nature and enrich his understanding of life.
Someday. Or maybe never.
But our place is there. All we have to do is GO.
Maybe something will come up between now and then. For me, it’s best to keep a beginner’s mind and not plan.
Things are changing every day. You change, too. The more you allow things to change, the more you shall discover.
4. Do you have a life mantra to inspire you every day?
Remember when you were kids, you would wake up every morning to watch the sunrise, to see new things for the first time, to see what the world will give you today?
I, myself, miss that moment every single day.
When Wesley became increasingly perceptive and was able to keep his eyes open longer and longer with each passing day, I realized I’m the happiest father on Earth.
A child is always free, because he knows nothing.
A child is not burdened by the self; the “I” and the “me.”
A child is disconnected from patterns, from concepts, from conditionings.
A child is not tied to a specific profession, nor social status.
It would be wonderful to maintain a child’s way throughout life.
When a child starts off in life, he looks at Reality for the first time with wonder. As the child grows older, wonder disappears, and it is replaced with boredom, with conflict, with suffering, with unhappiness.
How sad it would be if we pass through life and never see things with the eyes of a child. That doesn’t mean we need to become children. Rather, we need to be LIKE children: to see things fresh and anew in each and every moment. So we easily slip into Enlightenment.
That is my mantra.
5. You’ve recently been promoted to fatherhood and you’ve also taught many other children, too. What’s the best way to deal with them?
Kids don’t need to be dealt with. The only reason adults deal with kids is because of expectations.
Expectations stem from comparing one child to another. When parents compare, they become confused. They do not know who they are and their children.
Drop the expectations.
Be present. And see your kids for who they are. Then everything else will fall into place.
Other than that, I love Sandra and Wesley very much.
I see them every day. I promised Wesley that I would talk to him every day for the rest of my life. But, I’m trying not to be attached to them. Every time I have the urge to grasp, I step back. I observe myself. I meditate. Because I know they do not belong to me. Anyone can leave this world without notice.
But one thing is for sure: at any given moment, I am exactly where I want to be, for better or worse.
I know this life ideology sounds counterintuitive to many. Go ahead, judge me. I don’t care.
I do not care because I am different from mediocre people. Because I go wherever life takes me. And that allows me to pick myself up, run fast, and explore the jungle.
6. You are an educator, but you advocate that school is a waste of time. What about your son’s education?
What is education? I actually do not like that word because it is such a glandular abstraction.
I’m much in favor of learning.
I studied in confined rooms for more than two decades. About 95% of what I learned back then—I forgot today. I forgot them because I haven’t used any of them since I finished school.
I felt privileged to be able to attend good schools. But I’d also lament a lot because none of the schools had taught me anything about life itself. I had to figure everything out from scratch. Zero.
It’s obvious, school failed me.
Most of my learning came from wandering and roaming around aimlessly; from experiences by doing; from discovering through the pretense of accident.
I’d love to see Wesley become a curious wanderer like me. That way, we’ll be able to explore the world together and take everything as a learning experience. I’d resent to put him in a place to learn the same exact things as I did thirty years ago. From calculus to Shakespeare, from model UN to Academic Decathlon—you name it. I’d mourn to see him run and compete in order to fit in with others.
Let me tell you something: Children do not need to learn how to compete. Children need to learn what they are living for.
Check these out:
And, in particular this:
7. Why do you teach children and what is your advice for them?
Generally speaking, if you’re young and you want to have an ordinary life, it doesn’t take much pondering. Just make sure you stay out of trouble, go to school, and later, apply for jobs you might like—if you can. But, this pattern is already deteriorating in many parts of the world. One in particular: the United States. Jobs are getting more and more saturated to the point where one graduate is hardly any different than the other. So you must realize that what you learned in school about work hasn’t actually caught up with the new and exciting opportunities in the new digital era of today.
What’s the solution? If you want to be extraordinary, educate yourself early on things that interests you and then become an expert at them by practicing daily. How?
Here are two paths:
Become the best (top 1%) at one specific thing.
Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever score a high-budget movie role or play in the NFL. I don’t recommend anyone to even try.
The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.
You make yourself rare by combining two or more “unique skills” until no one else has your mix. For example, you should have at least one communication skill in your mixture, either written or verbal. It could be as simple as learning how to teach something more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. In my case, it is philosophy. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking, develop that too.
Everybody has their way. But we each have a responsibility to determine which way is the right one for us. We are all different and unique after all.
8. You claimed yourself not a writer but you write a lot. Why?
I like opposites. They attract.
I only write about things I either love or hate. It’s easier to write things I love. But that is not the case for things I hate.
When I write things I hate, I feel horrified. I want to be able to say something innovative. I want to say it in a pleasant way. I want to be terrified to hit publish. (If I’m not terrified to write it, nobody will be terrified—or scared enough—to read it.) I want to embrace uncertainty and take chances (else, how can I raise the bar?). I want readers to say, “What the F**k? I can’t believe he just said that!”
The world lives in a giant comfort zone. If I hate something, I like to take my readers outside of that comfort zone, and see something new inside of something old. I try to find an opportunity buried in the huge pile of stones so I can reach in when nobody is looking and put that opportunity in my reposiroty.
I love writing because every now and then that ugliness turns into honesty. That honesty helps my readers, and myself, see Reality. When I write, I’m not giving advice. Advice is autobiography. I write to tell a good story—not preach from a pedestal or give advice with no backbone.
9. What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
If I could start life all over again, I’d do everything exactly the same, EARLIER.
10. Your message to the readers?
Know your compass.
The majority of people have no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing. They simply imitate others without examining themselves. And they do things erratically.
They follow paths without making and walking their own because they have no idea what they want to accomplish over the course of their life on earth.
Instead of realizing what they want to do, people become mired in “life avoidance” by roaming around without a clear sense of direction and purpose.
Don’t be the old guy someday, having squandered all your life, full of regret because you’ve lived life based on other people’s opinions instead of yours.
You have a responsibility to determine your personal life philosophy of what you are living for and invest your lives with meaning that you find significant.
Here are mine:
Life is about making dreams come true for others, first, and then, for yourself.
Never do anything for the sake of money.
Your passion is moot. You have to start doing to know what the market wants.
Only answer the calls for help. You don’t want to pursue something solely for your own gain.
You do not need money to start helping people. If you can start something with just what you have now—without the long list of requirements—then you’ll always be able to do it no matter the circumstances.
Try to be 1% better every day, that way you are consistently improving and inventing yourself.
Keep in mind, you can’t please everybody, so proudly exclude people.
One last thing: the purpose of doing anything is to be happy. So do only what makes you happy.
That’s enough for now.