June 21, 2009

Fighting v. Debating

The best relationships in my life are those founded upon the principle of debate. 

Debate is an art very different from that of argument, which is more closely tied to the idea of fighting, of two opposing sides. Debates are conducted by two intelligent people -- intelligent about the value of relationships, that is -- who are able to open up to each other and not necessarily agree upon things, but can politely and genuinely agree to disagree. 

Fights/arguments are conducted by two (not necessarily UNintelligent) people who have probably lost touch of what they are discussing and where they are hoping for the discussion to lead, and hence, it becomes a fight.

We're all different, and that's something we'll eventually have to acknowledge in every relationship. No matter how close you may be with someone else, you have disagreements in small, petty matters and in larger matters such as lifestyle habits and whatnot. Often times, I witness these disagreements turn into dysfunctional relationships that simply cannot stand because one or both of the individuals can't reach a mutual consensus. Why? Because they're fighting, and when you fight, the tendency becomes to (1) tune the other out, (2) ramble on and on about your point, (3) lose much of your own sensibility.

Debates work a bit better in that you realize there's a disagreement, each person expresses him/herself fully without interruption, then you look for some common ground or simply try to understand the alternative perspective. It sounds a lot like a formal set up for discussions, but it's really not. It may be methodical in a sense, but it really does work. It's not frustration-proof, but then again, no disagreements are. 

Hold onto your relationships, and don't let unnecessary arguments create dents all over them. Debate a little more, and you might just notice bonds growing stronger as a result of disagreement. It's a beautiful thing.


May 30, 2009


It might be weird that the first place I learned about semantics was in my chemistry class of all places, but it created a bit of a domino effect where I thought a lot about how I say things and what exactly I say. I'm not talking rhetoric or aestheticizing my language, but rather, how I use my words in day-to-day conversation.

Simply by changing your habitual vocabulary, you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live.
- Tony Robbins
Some words that have caught my attention are "but," "maybe," and "kind of." They all give this sense of uncertainly and doubt. "I'll do it, but if this comes up..." "Maybe I'll come along." "I kind of want to do it, but I'm not sure." All statements we make pretty regularly; however, the word "but," when creating a conditional," makes things a lot more complicated than they need to be. When you say "maybe," chances are you mean "no." When you say "kind of," chances are you're trying to cushion the blow of what you really mean to say.

All of these things create layers between what we are thinking and the message we are actually sending. If you actually say what you mean to say, you don't have to think nearly as much. People appreciate your honesty sometimes, and sometimes they will wonder why you're so definitive, but it's okay. The point is that you walk away from conversations with a clear conscience, knowing that you said what you needed to say.

Lately, I've been saying "no" when I would have otherwise said "maybe," but I will follow it up with a disclaimer, something like, "Just being straight up," or "I don't want to ruin the plans, so it's almost definitely a no." Now, I do not like to provide disclaimers, but I am still in a bit of a transition phase in shifting my semantics, so it's tough, but that's not to say I'm not trying. It's not such a big change in language, but when you make it a habit, it makes all the difference in how you present yourself and how you feel about it.

When you say yes or no, you're able to create a definitive stance and be done with it. If you say yes, you know exactly what you need to do, and you just do it. If you say no, you can toss the thought from your brain and never worry about it again. When you say maybe is when things get fuzzy and the thought remains in your head but no where near the front, but not quite in the back. You know what that does? It takes you away from being present. You can't be where you are, in the moment, if you have all these "maybe," "kind of," thoughts in your head.

Just another example using words like "could" or "would." If you could, then DO IT. If you would, then DO IT. Instead of could/would, just say you're going to. The words you use determine whether you create your plan of action now or whether you say you'll make it later, which most likely means you're never going to get to it while keeping the thought in your head the entire time.

Live awesome,

P.S. I've always been saying "yes" a lot more when I would have otherwise said "maybe," (which would've inevitably led to a no), and it really opens me up to the opportunities in life a lot more. Try it. Say yes.

May 26, 2009

Fail With Purpose

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
- Winston Churchill
Yesterday, I realized the truth of that quote. With a bunch of fantastic people, I did random acts of kindness in Central Park. We set up a table with a giant Smile Card poster in front of it, hand out cookies (as our random acts of kindness) and direct people towards a board with ideas of how to pay-it-forward. We present ourselves as just a group of friends trying to create a bit of a ripple effect with the random acts of kindness. Now, compared to what people in New York are used to, this is a totally radical idea -- giving away free cookies? No organizational affiliation? Real kindness? Believe it.

Because it was so crazy, only one of every ten or so people actually stopped to hear us out and receive us (which is actually a lot considering the hundreds and hundreds of people that walked by). It is hard to really be open to strangers when there is so many underlying intentions and relative corruption in the world, but those who are open and do stop to hear us out are our successes. We won them over and were able to produce the domino effect from the idea of paying it forward.

Now, the message here is to continue trying. Especially in the beginning of the day, when we're setting up and before the momentum starts to create itself, we fail over and over as people blatantly ignore the offers for cookies and tune out our introductions -- "Hi! We're doing Random Acts of Kindness today, and [walks away]." We can get upset over our failure, or we can keep the smile on and try again. Of course, we chose the latter, and that's what made all the difference.

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received is to fail, but to fail with purpose. Succeed from failure. It's the only way to get it done.

Happily failing,

May 25, 2009

The Art of Conversation

As humans, we are blessed with so many different things, and most of them are rooted in our ability to think and express ourselves. Think about it -- that's why we're (unfortunately or not, depending on how you look at it) as high up on the food chain as we are. Livestock can't express themselves the way we can, and that's why it's "okay" to eat them. Primates are close, but they don't have coherent languages the way we do (they could whoop our butts though, and that's why we don't eat them). Simply put, we should be grateful for our ability to express.

So why do we waste so much of this wonderful power by expressing discontent? Expressing the gossip we heard the other day? Expressing all the drama we're exposed to on a daily basis, whether it be from our friends, business partners, the media, or whatever other source you might get your daily fill from?

We are so addicted to all those things, but most of the time, they all share one similarity -- that they completely dump the potential for precious conversation. Conversation is a very powerful thing -- it fuels diplomacy, it creates connections, it sparks the ideas that keep the Earth spinning (that is, if you were to forget about that whole gravitational force thang).

I'm not recommending we try to make all conversation "serious," but I do think we could better outlet our verbal energy into conversation that does all those things. Find common ground over interests instead of disinterests. Spark relationships through a common desire to improve rather than a common desire to put the next person down.

Think about the content of your conversations. Are you wasting your energy? Kill the drama, the gossip, the negativity. Start creating.

With purpose,

May 20, 2009

Captain Obvious!

Think about what you do with your life. How many of these do you have?

Yesterday, I was called "Captain Obvious" after pointing something out. Sometimes, things become so ingrained in our nature and obvious to us that we don't think about the intricacies behind them. One of these things is what we do with ourselves on a daily basis -- the people you listen to, the ideas you make yourself permeable to, the things you naturally say to people.

When you step back and ask yourself, "Why?" there's a high likelihood you realize a little something about what you're doing. You learn that some of the things you do might not be so worth it, that you're wasting your energy on something that doesn't really go somewhere, that you could better outlet your energy somewhere where it could yield results, whether those results impact you or the people around you.

I guess what I'm saying is that prioritizing is important. It's obvious, but then again, we forget the obvious sometimes, and I am Captain Obvious :)

Some things' purposes that I wasn't really aware of until I really thought, "Why?":
  • Friendships I found myself in that yielded nothing but pointless, gossip/drama-filled conversations
  • Foods that I ate just to put something in my mouth (get your minds out of the gutter)
  • TV shows I watched that I did just to feast my eyes on something
  • Classes in school that I didn't really extract much from
  • My poking fun at people around me for little things (really, just displays of my own insecurities)
  • Things I'd buy and not use and later realize that some material things only last so long (read: a few minutes, an hour tops)
That's not to mention asking yourself why you don't do things. If you're holding yourself back from doing something, figure out why you won't do it, and see if you're really going to let a hurdle of that magnitude stop you.

Just a thought. Don't waste your time on things you have little reason for. If the reason is sheer intuition, that's legitimate. I'm not saying everything needs to be logical.

Stay good,

UPDATE 5:00p: I spoke to a good friend of mine, and she worded one of the ideas of this blog better than I did, so I'm going to quote her to make this point a little clearer:
The thing about stating the obvious is that sometimes it's totally unecessary, but sometimes, it may only seem unnecessary, but it actually reminds us about things that we allow to slip to the back of our minds, things that may be important -- even if we knew them already. For example, your blog is full of things that people may never have thought about, so they learn from it. There are also things that people have thought about though -- the "obvious" things; you just help them reinforce the idea.

May 18, 2009

To try new things?

One of the best things about the world today is that you can pretty much do ANYTHING, and I kind of just realized that this weekend. So many times I notice, both in myself and in others, that when we're exposed to new experiences, we respond something like, "Oh my gosh! That's so cool! I would love to try that some time!"

Now if you just said, "I would," when would you do it? Would is the past tense of will, making it somewhere between the past and the future, but certainly not the present. I think it's time for a shift in semantics. Screw the "would" (haha screw the wood - I'm still five years old) and just do it. Try, "Oh my gosh! That's so cool! I'm going to find out how I can do it and do it the soonest chance I get." A good friend of mine put it well when she said, "We're all really good dreamers and planners. Not executors."

That shouldn't and doesn't have to be the case. I think our time here is too short not to be exploring what the world around us has to offer. I don't really know many other ways to express it, but just take a look at this list of things you might want to check out, and actually pick a few and explore a bit. Don't think so much about how something won't work for you. Try it and then figure out whether or not your expectations were confirmed or invalidated. You never know until you try. The essence of life is experience:
  • Try Bikram yoga (or any type of yoga, for that matter)
  • Do a charity walk
  • Raise money for something meaningful
  • Go to a sports event (if you're going to do it once, make it excellent -- try the US Open [golf or tennis], the Olympics [how often are the Olympics ever going to be within 1000 miles of you? Make an effort], the Superbowl, or something of equal magnitude)
  • Meet someone random and do something they want to do within the first three hours of the encounter
  • Go to a botanic garden
  • Go somewhere scenic and be a photographer for a day
  • Buy front-row tickets to a concert and really rock out/sing along like you mean it
  • Listen to some classic rock music
  • Go rock climbing
  • Run a local race (whether it be a 5K, 10K, or a marathon -- whatever suits you)
  • Go skydiving
  • Go hiking
  • Be in a movie (even if you're just that guy crossing the street in the background)
  • Tell the truth
  • Plant something
  • Write a letter to a politician or celebrity
  • Handwrite a letter of appreciation to someone who's really made a mark on your life
  • Learn how to dance (even if it's just the basics)
  • Play around at the foot of a waterfall
  • Sleep outdoors
  • Go pedal-boating
  • Build something with your own two hands
  • Speak to a telemarketer. Seriously.
  • Go to a driving range
  • Learn how to ski
  • Keep a journal for a full month of your life. Update daily.
  • Act carelessly, in a "childish" manner for a full day.
  • Smile in the face of humiliation
  • Live.
I know some things cost money, but really, when else will you have a chance to enjoy life except when you're actually living? Feel free to post some more ideas in the comments or email them to me and I'll throw them onto the post.

The last thing I want to think about when I'm older is, "What if?" or "I should have..." If you can resonate with that, start living.


May 16, 2009

Don't Stop

I was looking back at my older posts on this blog the other day, and I saw a comment from my cousin, Arpit, on a post in 2007 where he said something like, "Keep doing what you're doing kid. There's obviously no stopping you." I didn't think much of it at the time, but I look back. It's that kind of thinking that has led me to any success I've ever noted in my own life and the kind of success I see in anybody that has had a hand in revolutionizing our way of thinking in this day and age (think Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, Evan Williams, the guy that started Twitter, etc.).

If you want to make something happen, you have to actually make it happen.

There are so many people who are just waiting for your idea to fall apart, and there are just as many people trying to get you to stop just so you can fall back into the pit of the norm (anyone that points out the flaws of your actions and criticizes without construction). The rut that most of society is stuck in, away from ideas that are more progressive (often mistaken for ideas that are more radical), is only improved upon by people who don't let down when they're criticized.

You might have an idea that's awesome to you, ridiculous to others, and the goal might not be clearly within the range of visibility, but that doesn't mean you stop. If you follow through with it, there's a much greater chance that something worthwhile comes to fruition than if you let go of it just because you met some resistance.

And moving on with it doesn't mean that you accommodate all the proposed changes and then move on. Moving on with it means that what you're doing was essentially your idea in the beginning and stayed essentially your idea in the end. If you take suggestions, fantastic. If you absorb suggestions to the extent that your project BECOMES the suggestions, you've lost the point altogether. This is your work -- whether it be a material project, a personal development project, your own life, a recipe, whatever. When I say project, I mean anything that you put time and effort into.

One of the best signs of a great developing idea is the presence of an opposition. Find your opposition. Stick to your ideas. Then stick it to the opposition.

Much love,

Jason Mraz - No Stopping Us

May 9, 2009

Love yourself, and love others

I don't know if it was the Dalai Lama that said it, but I couldn't find the quote on Google so I'll just paraphrase:

To love others, you must first love yourself.
Think about that. Pause. Okay.

I've slowly come to the realization that there's no other way to love than by loving yourself. It falls in line with the idea that your positivity radiates to those around you. When you appreciate yourself, knowing that you're doing what you think is right, knowing that you're doing what you want to do, you shed that layer of insecurity that surrounds so many of us, and you can look at others with a clearer mind and appreciate them and what they have to offer to the world the same way you appreciate yourself.

There's a difference between narcissism and self-love. Narcissism refers to the superficial appreciation of oneself (i.e. "I love myself because I look damn good today"). Self-love is a true appreciation for what you do. For example, I love myself because what I eat treats my body well. I love myself because I take care of myself in the sense that I make a conscious effort to keep myself educated with academics and current events. I love myself because I do what I can to help those around me whether it be through direct contact or through this blog. I love myself because I surround myself with amazing individuals each of whom offer so much to my life. I love myself because I always have a reason to smile (refer to the four reasons listed above).

Because of this love for myself, I find it a lot easier to see the light in the character of each of the individuals around me. I know each person has his or her own flaws, but I think we stop at the flaws too often and don't really take the opportunity to find the positives because we're so wrapped up in the negatives. When you love yourself, you know you have flaws, but you look passed those and learn to appreciate yourself for what you do have going for you. That mentality essentially trains you to do the same when interacting with other people you meet. You love them after realizing that everyone is flawed.

Try this exercise: during the next week, keep a little notebook on you. Whenever you do something that you look back at and react happily like, "Huh. That was pretty great," write it down. Keep a little log of these things, and after the week. Write anywhere from one to five general reasons you have to love yourself. Remind yourself of these and smile a bit more. If you're ambitious, keep that list with you. Post it up on your wall. Do whatever you need to to remind yourself of why you should be loving yourself and maybe, just maybe, you'll stay to love the people around you a little bit more.

Love (or at least try to),

May 8, 2009

What is this blog even about?

A common misconception I often see about this blog and others like it (I guess you'd call them personal development blogs, but I stray a little bit every so often) is that the readers assume that the writer is this guy who does everything he preaches. I couldn't imagine a thought more untrue than that when it comes to my writing. I am so far from the ideals I write about here, but I write this blog because all I can truly say about myself is that I've raised my awareness to these different things, whether it be the excessive nature of complaining, the need for some positivity, the lack of individualized action, why we need to live, or anything else.

This blog is filled with things that everyone already knows. You don't need to read this blog to gain insight on any of the things I write about, but I do offer a perspective you may or may not have considered previous to reading this, and that's why it's here -- for your use, to provoke your thoughts.

This might be totally weird, but I even read my own material, watch my own vlogs (which is kinda creepy watching myself talking to myself), and learn from my thoughts even if I wrote/recorded the post a week ago. The way I see if, if someone can resonate with something I'm posting and they might think it's something that they could incorporate in themselves for the better, then humanity might have improved a little bit. Even if I'm not the one improving by incorporating my own words, someone else is, and that's really all that matters right (after you look past the whole personal gain thang).

Someone once called me out on acting totally out of character with my blog, and they saw that as a reason to act blatantly against everything I stand for through the blog. It fell on them like a rock when I told them that the blog isn't about me and my actions. It's about how you might be able to improve yourself with a new perspective.

Love you tons,

May 3, 2009

Expectations? Psht.

People often tell me my ideas are too idealistic. I believe too much that everyone is going to do what works best, that people will take account for their own actions, that people will understand that complaining doesn't make sense, that people will take control of their health, that people will LIVE. Society doesn't work that way. I know society doesn't.

However, just because society doesn't function a certain way doesn't mean I don't have to. I do what I feel works best. Too often I see people just do what they're "supposed" to.
Society works this way. It's too crazy to think people will (eat the way their supposed to / maximize their lives / live in the moment / stop spreading so much negativity).
People will never say, "What's the point of trying?" but without realizing it, that's essentially the message they convey. Don't fall into that category. Be progressive. Be radical. Be YOU. If you want to take control of your life, defy societal expectations.

Much love,

May 2, 2009

[Vlog] Receiving Criticism

Vlog: Receiving Criticism from Ankit Shah on Vimeo.

- My '90s teen TV star look (and my pubescent acne/facial hair)
- Our love for criticism, only if it's positive
- How we tend to respond to negative criticism (i.e. nitpicking at fallacies in the opposition's argument, failing to actually consider the criticism as a whole)
- That all criticism is constructive, whether that's the intention or not; there is always something to learn from the criticism.

April 26, 2009

Happiness: A State of Being

There's a big difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure stems from immediate gratification of something that tends to be superficial (i.e. new clothes, gadgets, a successful hookup, whatever). On the other hand, joy, which I personally prefer any day, comes from a sustained happiness that occurs as a result of a good life -- usually from appreciating little daily happenings that might typically run by you without you taking notice (a good friend, quality weather, the trust and respect of your colleagues).

I don't know if there is an answer to which is better (except I thought I did when I started writing this post), but what I do know is that for more people than not, pleasure is not sustainable. It often leads to lows that might not need to be dealt with if the focus were more on overall happiness (aka joy).

The thing about pleasure is that it's nice, but only in moderation. In excess, it loses its ability to be thoroughly appreciated. Unless you're someone like Tucker Max, chances are, pleasure won't do IT for you (whatever it is) all the time. Funny enough, though, it's what most of us seek more than anything. We want new clothes. We want more girls/boys. We want more skin-deep relationships.

It might be a redirection of focus that could make all the difference. The thought, "Will this actually fulfill me? Will I be joyful after this?" might sway many decisions. It's one of the reasons I practice a primarily raw foods lifestyle. Sure, fries, ice cream, bagels and all that jazz provides me that pleasure, but in the long run, I will be happier with myself if I eat healthier foods.

Consider your lifestyle. Are you seeking pleasure OR are you living joy?

Love you,

April 15, 2009

Stoic Appreciation

Most times, I'm all about experiencing life in abundance -- not in the sense of overindulging, but always believing that the joys of life are infinite. Sometimes, though, I forget these joys. Not that I'm not enjoying them, but I forget to embrace them. I won't smile when the weather's really nice. I won't realize how great it is to be surrounded by so many people and be involved with so many beautiful communities online and in person. Basically, I'll take life for granted.

Shifting back to my continually smiley, overjoyous self isn't as simple as a flick of a switch, though. It might be for some of you, but for others, it might take a more Stoic approach. I often find that to appreciate the little things that go right over our head on a daily basis -- that is, after realizing that I'm totally living sans thanking -- I have to experience the opposite of what I'm used to. I have to take a freezing shower. I have to stop wearing socks around the house. I have to surround myself with less pleasant people (I hate acknowledging it, but I would just interact with some people that don't really help me grow, to say the least).

It's not so much regimental, but whenever I am more conscious of little things I don't appreciate so much, I'll train myself to do so. Today, it was really cold in my house. I was about to get in bed with a sweatshirt and blanket and do my work there. Instead, I walked around my room shirtless, sockless, and with shorts. Some call it stupid and sickness-inducing, I call it appreciation (and I don't really get sick much so whatever).

Now I'm going to take a hot shower and love up every moment of it.

Stay happy, stay real, stay you,

April 12, 2009

One-upping the next man

It's weird that sometimes, the things I think about most are those that I have least to say about, so I don't know how much this will hit home, but hopefully you can resonate with this in the slightest bit:

We have a very natural tendency of comparing ourselves to others in that we need to one-up the next person in most scenarios. It's not easy to get rid of this mentality. If someone's flattering someone else behind their back, people, including myself, will agree and add a small bit about how great that person is, then they'll throw in a quick, subtle word about something they're doing that's great too (which will often be followed up by a downplaying of that great facet of him/herself to seem modest and totally). If that was at all familiar to you (be honest with yourself), realize two things:
  1. That habit will not change any time soon. It's normal, but...
  2. You can start being more cognizant of the habit. Realize when you're doing it. Take note of it.
What will that do for you? Naturally, you'll turn it down. You'll realize that there's little to no beneficial reason to throwing in that bit about yourself because, even when you're trying to add a little bit of cred to your rep, you're not the focus during that portion of the conversation so either your two cents about yourself was overlooked OR it was noticed and the person who noticed is fully aware of why you threw in that comment.

It's not that you're uncomfortable flattering other people. You probably don't have anything against the person that's being talked up at the time. It's probably because you crave that positive reinforcement too. However, the more you're aware of it, the more able you'll be able to embrace the positives of everyone else around you without needing others to acknowledge you so much.

Just a thought. Not sure if it made too much sense, but if you didn't get it, chances are it doesn't apply to you. If you do though, definitely try to be more aware of it. I do it all the time. I would say, "I wish I didn't," but why would you regret anything? I don't like to waste my energy on ish like that :).

Love you,

P.S. Sample dialogue where the above takes place:
1: Yeah, I saw person X at the gym the other day. Did you have any idea they're in such great shape? I had no idea he was so fit!
2: Mmhm, he's in really great shape. He started talking to me about working out a few months back and I gave him some tips about working out and whatever. It's really great that he's doing so well now.

April 9, 2009


I love when people ask questions. So many times, they'll preface it with, "Sorry I'm bothering you, but..." and all I can think is how great it is that they're interested in whatever they're asking about. Most people hear about something, they'll ask one or two questions, hesitate, and then stop asking because they don't want to seem like (1) a nuisance or (2) they're obnoxious and interrogatory.

Now, there are situations when you don't want to ask too much, like if you're talking to a superior (in a formal setting), but conversationally with peers, it's the coolest thing to ask questions. Some people are trained to respond and think, "Why is s/he being so inquisitive/nosy? That's weird." But in situations like that, I think it best to think a little more of yourself than what others are thinking of you.

Curiosity is often regarded as a childlike quality, but really, it's the quality that connects people to their passions. Unless you ask questions, you're never going to know if you're actually into something someone else is doing or not. One of my good friends asks questions like its her job, and she gets that her understanding of something is cursory, at best, if she's not asking. She's one of the most thorough people I know when it comes to her thought process, and I would say a large amount of credit is due to the fact that she's curious.

I don't think curiosity is a quality that just some people have. I think everyone has it; it's just a matter of who is too self-conscious to ask questions versus who doesn't give a shit and just wants to learn. I prefer the latter. I was part of the former group before I got into raw foods, simply thinking that it was a crazy diet that wasn't worth my time. I don't know what sparked my interest, but I finally grew a pair and asked some people some questions, and that started a domino effect that would've never happened otherwise.

Next time someone talks to you about something unfamiliar, ask a few questions. It may or may not be worth your while, but you would never know otherwise.

Love you,

Socrates' bust was kinda ugly, but his method was pretty stellar.

April 6, 2009

Love Your Heart Out

A friend asked me if I loved her once, and I had trouble saying yes because in my head, the only people I loved were my family, my cousins, and a few of my boys that I held close enough to me to call them my brothers.

That was a stupid response. That was a trained response. That was a response that came from thinking that I was supposed to keep my love exclusive.

After some thought and some perspective from various bloggers (a lot of inspiration from Jason Mraz), I'v realized that all you can do is love. Having different magnitudes for how much you like someone and creating a line between "like" and "love" just makes appreciation harder. It makes it harder to connect genuinely. If you keep it at love (not to mention, staying away from "dislike," or "hate"), all you want to do is make the most of your relationships.

I'm slowly becoming a great believer in love. That love that Jason Mraz so effectively describes:

The greatest love imaginable: That Love that dwells inside us all,That Love that makes us so, That Love that makes us all connected whether we believe in it or not.
I'm trying to remind people of that love at the end of my conversations. Whether it be on the phone, on AIM, or in person, it leaves the person thinking - "Wait, did he just say, 'I love you'? Huh. That was kinda nice."

It's weird for me too, but I think it's kinda nice.


A heart? Kind of? It's the thought that counts. I'm trying!


I was talking to a friend of mine tonight about fitness and the more superficial results of it (i.e. defined bod and the like), and naturally, I got into talking about the pleasing consequences of getting back into a 5-/6-day-a-week fitness routine with track and got into the specifics. Then, I started drawing back from the conversation because I took note of the slightly arrogant air I was producing by talking about having a relatively cut figure.

To this, my friend responded: "I feel like we've all trained ourselves to preface everything we say with a disclaimer. Sometimes that's necessary, but I wish it wasn't."

I wrote about this in my moleskine in February and never ended up blogging about it, but true honesty comes in a form without disclaimers. Try to stop justifying yourself before you say things. Try to stop turning back after saying things. These disclaimers we put out there before presenting ourselves are a convenient and unfortunate method we use to to deny ourselves our true selves. In other words, we're lying to ourselves.

The most frequent word used when justifying ourselves is most likely "but." Chill with the but.

But while chillin', stay real,

March 28, 2009


I guess this post would serve as somewhat of a supplement to the last one. Complaining is one of the most common and most intolerable of negative expressions. The way I see it, there are two types of complaining: (1) complaining for the sake of complaining and letting out a frustrating situation, and (2) complaining about a situation that can be remedied but without much thought into what those remedies could possibly be.

To solve the first type, you need more sources of positive energy. It's key to understand that there is light in even the darkest situations and that things happen for a reason. Although not immediately apparent, the universe is functioning on your side. This isn't religious talk. This is understanding the goodness of the world as a whole. Sure, there are always the occasional outliers, but it's your job to look past them, towards the greater light.

For the second type, we need to start realizing that we drain our energy (while creating more negativity) by complaining. When you encounter an unfortunate situation, you've GOT to stop thinking "Aw, man." You've GOT to stop thinking, "Wow, fml." You've GOT to stop thinking, "Why does this always happen to me?"

What you actually have got to start doing is thinking, "Okay. I accept the situation as it is. I understand the past has passed, and the only time I have is the present. Now, what do I do?"

Only you have the ability to change a sitaution. In Kanye West's book of "Kanye-isms," Thank You and You're Welcome, he says something along the lines of "Stop complaining if you don't offer a solution," and I think that's the essence of what I'm trying to convey. Instead of complaining about all the flaws in a situation, offer fixes. Think about improvements.

While only you have the ability to change your situation, you're also the only person with the ability to choose whether or or not you complain.

Much love,

March 24, 2009

The Magnitude of Negativity

When I went to Spain on a school trip a little more than a month ago, I got in trouble for making mischief and a few of the teachers on the trip weren't entirely pleased with me. To an extent, I lost a bit of their respect, and for me, that was a very, very big deal. It hit me hard to know that it was so much easier to lose respect than to gain it, so this was a really rough ordeal for me. The result? The entire night at dinner one night, I was quiet. I didn't really say a word. All I could think about was how much I blew it and how things weren't going to be the same because I made myself look stupid. A great friend of mine reminded me that everyone noticed my upset nature, and he told me, in a totally straightforward and respectable manner, that it was making it hard for him to enjoy the night. He had no reason to be upset, but my negativity was radiating -- the same negativity that was stemming from fear of what was the come in the future instead of simply accepting things as they are in the present (and that any respect I was to redeem after the incident would only come with my actions, not thought).

I spent about fifteen or so showers since then thinking about negativity and what its purpose was. There's only so many excuses one can make for being negative until he realizes that it really doesn't make sense. You can be negative, but that's not improving a situation. Action and thought about positives and potential solutions improves situations. Not only that, but I've noticed, unfortunately, that negativity radiates with greater strength than positivity. I wish I could say that positivity was stronger, but we have a natural tendency towards negativity (whether it be in the form of complaining, gossiping, pouting, etc.). That said, it's important to make a conscious effort to remind yourself of the positives of a situation.

At the time, I thought there was zero positive in my ordeal. Then I thought a little harder, and this was really one of the first challenges I've ever encountered in regaining something intangible that I lost. If I saw it as an unfortunate struggle, as I did for a while, yeah, it would've sucked. Now, the positive interactions I have with these teachers makes me that much more grateful that I have the relationships I do with them.

As much as I like to embrace diverse perspectives, the one thing I have trouble tolerating is people who radiate negativity excessively. I try my best to avoid people like this so I don't have to condemn myself to what I put the people around me through at the dinner table in Spain. It's not worth my time. It's not worth their time. Out of respect for the people around you, smile a little bit.


Totally dominating her negativity.

March 23, 2009

We're all students. We're all teachers.

Often times, I’ll wonder what the purpose of some of my relationships are. For me, relationships are a mutual agreement of usage. I use you. You use me. It’s only logical (and I’d rather be useful than be useless). Occasionally, I forget what I’m actually gaining from a relationship. Lately, what I've realized, in all our relationships, no matter how evident it may be, we’re all teachers and we’re all students.

Now, I'm not into formal education. I like my learning process to be as liberal as possible with emphasis on experiential learning, which is why I like to extract as much from my day-to-day interactions as possible. For a good portion of time this past few months, I lost interest in some of my relationships with some of the people that once played a prominent role in my life. Blind to the fact that I lost this interest, I began to notice the quality of my life decreasing - not because anything was changing, but because I began to lose the variety of perspective I was usually able to incorporate in my daily doings, that same variety of perspective that allows me to maintain a certain level of levity.

It took me a while to notice that I stopped communicating with the diverse group of people that I typically did, and thus, I made a conscious effort to re-incorporate that wide variety of people -- from the ridiculously school-focused type to the relaxed type to the skeptic to the person that just loves life. I used to think there were some types of people I just wanted to stay away from, but come to think of it, there's a reason we are forced in the same space as the people we are. We're meant to create learning experiences from new types of people.

Everyone plays a role in your life, just as you play a role in theirs. Disregard the significance or magnitude of that role, and just be you. Embrace your role. Embrace their role. Understand that we're all students and teachers at the same time.

Stay real,

(Follow me on Twitter @ankitshah. Tumblr @ankittt.)

January 27, 2009

Experiencing life, one sense at a time

I had a conversation with some good friends the other day, and one of them mentioned an idea of the Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh notes that most of us don't really embrace our sensory pleasures as we should, that we take them for granted (and I might possibly be citing his idea a little bit incorrectly, so if someone is more knowledgable than I am, feel free to correct me in a comment). I thought about it, and that idea resonated really well with my thoughts on single tasking, which I discussed in my recent post.

I thought about it, and I have a proposition: experience your day-to-day actions one sense at a time. It might not be practical if you're in an environment that's really busy, but when you're at home or anywhere by yourself, try it. When you're eating, close your eyes and turn off the music, TV, podcasts, whatever. When you're listening to music, close your eyes and stop eating. When you're viewing photography, stop everything else you're doing. Reduce all the other noise and stop eating. You get the point.

For me, trying this has actually amplified my sensory experiences. It has worked the same way people describe when you lose a sense (i.e. going deaf or blind), your other senses become more acute. Deactivate other sense as much as you can to really enjoy the one that you're working with, with purpose. Maybe it'll work. Just another idea to amplify that other sense we all have (I hope, at least) - the one of gratitude.

Persimmon perfection. (Just noticed how bad my haircuts usually are from this picture. Kind of grateful my most recent one didn't turn out as horribly)

Stay real,

P.S. If I'm drinking a really shit smoothie that I made or if anything I made goes bad, I'll blast the music, watch really action-packed movies, and smell everything I can. The taste practically disappears :)

January 20, 2009

Mr. President Barack Hussein Obama

I wish I were more familiar with each and every policy of Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of our United States. I do understand him, politically, to an extent, but I could certainly do more. Why do I love this glorious man so much if I don't even know his political views as much as I should to make an informed decision? What exactly does his message of hope even mean to me?

I'm proud to be a citizen under Barack Obama's presidency, not because I think he's going to incorporate policies that work magically to fix all our problems, but because he represents all I want to see in a citizen. Not only that, but he invigorates the people of this country to want to be him. He fills us with this love for everything that he is, and I think that's so key to his presidency. Whether or not he gets us out of Iraq, the economic crisis, or the 1,334 other pits we've dug ourselves into, he will undoubtedly inspire us to better ourselves as human beings.

Obama is the one of the few presidents we've ever had that stresses so many of the things that Americans should embrace but don't: exercise, reading & academia, loving his family, composure. Now, if we could all just take one thing away from him. We all see a bit of ourselves in him, but if we could just take a step further and really embrace his virtues to the extent that we live them ourselves, we'll improve the standard of not just the American citizen, but the global citizen.

We'll change the world.

It's important to not negate the effect of small changes. Never forget that a movement can never amount to anything if an individual doesn't put forth his one-man effort. Things add up, and that's how Obama was elected. We must never forget that. The second that happens is when we fail to act on the hope the world has worked so hard for in the last two years.

The nature of a change in our habits is also not to be forgotten. We don't need to be politically engaged to better our country. By reading more, we improve society with our knowledge. By exercising more, we improve society by encouraging healthy lifestyles and we improve ourselves by realizing the more important things in life. By loving more, we improve society by radiating our positive energy to encourage others to pursue all the things they fear.

Obama works out for 90 minutes daily. He is a bookworm beyond the beliefs of many of us. We all find ourselves too busy to incorporate these two habits into our daily schedule. If HE can find the time, can we really say that we can't? Get to work, ladies and gentleman. It's time.

Now is the moment.

Much hope,

January 17, 2009

[Vlog] Just Do It. Now.

Vlog: Just Do It. Now. from Ankit Shah on Vimeo.

- A sweet anecdote from the blood bank today
- The absurdity of words like, "soon," "later," "tomorrow," and "eventually"
- How cool is it to actually act on your word immediately, right now.
- My lack of drive but newfound influence to do volunteer work
- Another sweet anecdote about the most difficult of random acts of kindness, giving away one of someone's possessions, right now
- Nothing's guaranteed tomorrow and, thus, the importance of doing things now

January 10, 2009

Loving Yourself and Sharing

So my brother woke up and my parents came home, and I feel really weird talking to a computer screen when they're around because every time I've done it, someone has walked into the room, I've bugged out, and I've lost my train of thought because I keep thinking of being walked in on. The point is that I'm converting what would have been a vlog to a blog because I have yet to rid myself of that self-consciousness.

How often do we stop ourselves from fully sharing our thoughts, perspectives, emotions, or ideas? How often do we shy from wearing our hearts on our sleeves? How often do we think that doing just that would be a bad thing?

I think it's really important to share yourself with the people around you. It's more important to talk about the way you see it (whatever "it" may be) instead of other people, instead of absurd drama and gossip and other negative-energy radiating topics you don't really need to involve yourself in. Most of us are too scared of judgment because we continually think that our thoughts aren't mainstream enough or that they aren't good enough. It's crucial to (1) forgive yourself for whatever negative energy you've drawn to yourself by thinking that you're not good enough to overcome judgment and (2) love yourself.

Some may call it narcissistic, but I can't love anyone truly until I love myself, and right now, I love myself. You know what that allows me to do? It allows me to share myself with all of you, knowing some of you won't like what I have to say, some of you will love it, and some of you will not really care, but no matter what, I'll still be perfectly content with my state at the moment. Of course, I always aim to improve in one way or another, but that comes with great satisfaction with how I roll at the moment. That might not make much sense unless you actually experience what I'm talking about, but hopefully you can relate to it on some level.

With that love for thyself, you can understand a important concept -- that you are not your emotions. You don't identify with your ideas, perspectives, or thoughts. All of those things are temporary, impermanent. Upon that understanding, we can all truly grasp the fact that we should share these things, further confirming their impermanent nature. I think sharing is the easiest way to let things go/detach from them and also open others' eyes to new things. Who you are is not the way you feel -- your emotions, ideas, beliefs, whatever -- at the time. Those things just are what you're most present to at the given moment. Once you love who you are, generally, you can understand that all that other stuff is temporary. Share it, let someone else gain from it as you grow from it and become something better than what you once were, and love every moment of it. But don't, for a second, believe that you aren't good enough, that you are subject to judgment and should therefore not share. The moment that you believe any of that is when progress comes to a halt.

Love you (and myself),

Related links:

January 9, 2009

[Vlog] Single Tasking

Vlog: Single Tasking from Ankit Shah on Vimeo.

I don't know why I'm smiling so much, but enjoy!


  • That the ultimate goal is actually being truly happy
  • Single tasking and immersing yourself in what you're doing at the moment
  • Coming to a realization that multitasking doesn't exist. You can only do one thing at a time. "Multitasking" is an illusion of doing multiple things at a time; it is really half-assing everything you're doing by doing each for several moments.
  • That there's no need to plan out your schedule and set blocks of time for your plans; you only need to do what you're doing, and just that.
Love you,

Related Links:

January 8, 2009

Mental Burdens

Instead of wishing you all a happy new year, I wish you a good new day. It's really important to view each day as a turning point, for it is one. I'm sure we've all heard it several times by now -- that there's no reason to wait for January 1st to formulate your intentions and act upon them, but it really is nice to see that we still have some hope, that January 1st provides a stimulus for some of us. Eventually, however, I think it's important to trust in each new day's promise -- that it is what it is, a new day.

With that, I will briefly (seriously, I'm on a time limit here) talk about what I have been thinking about incessantly for the last few weeks. Now that I'm in college (oh yeah, I never mentioned that on the blog - I'll be at the Wharton School @ UPenn from 2009 - 2013 :), I have had a lot of time to really focus on myself, my living (as opposed to my mere existence), and I have tried thinking of what I could do to ensure that if I died any day, I would be totally at peace. This thought-process has recently been even more fired up as a result of reading Tuesdays With Morrie in my Philosophy class (great read if you haven't checked it out already; it's by Mitch Albom).

Now, I have always thought that I would be perfectly fine with dying at any moment in the last few months, but I really thought about it over my winter vacation, and I realized that I would not be. A few things have been holding me back from that peace, and part of my new intention with this blog is to resolve that peace. My character flaws are something I rarely acknowledge -- if I do talk about them, it is only how I used to make a certain mistake but now it's all cleared up. I really do think that part of resolving character flaws -- which could be a factor in being at greater peace with oneself and could very easily release mental burdens that one may have -- is acknowledging those flaws, not just to yourself, but to the people around you.

I am terribly arrogant. When I do receive honest flattery, I let it get to my head. That flattery allows me to think that a lot of my ideas and perspectives are "right," whatever that means. Then, I started reading the works of many people who have done much more than I have (which, really, is nothing. I just like to think I'm important), and I have realized that my arrogance, my inability to lay my feet flat on the ground and realize that I am but one of 6,600,000,000 people on this planet. This leads me to part of my intention for the rest of my life -- to acknowledge myself truthfully rather than simply the thoughts I consider to be more morally correct.

I just started reading Gandhi's autobiography today, and something he said in the first ten pages hit me hard:

I have gone through deep self-introspection, searched myself through and through, and examined and analysed every psychological situation. Yet I am far from claiming any finality or infallibility about my conclusions. One claim I do indeed make and it is this. For me they appear to be absolutely correct, and seem for the time being to be final. For if they were not, I should base no action on them.
Gandhi, a man who spent his entire life trying to step forward, trying to reach the ultimate goal, for him, of salvation, is so humble as to say that what he does may not be right. I, by no means, am saying that I am anywhere near him in moral standing, but I do think there's something to be learned from him, and that is that nothing is correct, nothing is final, and our perspective is always subject to change. I'm sure if you compared what I've written or spoken about in the last two months, it would be very different from a year ago. What I write about or share is what is most present to me at the moment, and because of that, it is always subject to change. Nothing is final.

Before ending the post before I go on for hours, I'll note a coming trend. Because my perspective always changes, and because this blog is, in strong part, for myself and my own experiments with life, I will be posting more frequently about what I'm thinking on an (almost) daily basis. I find that my thoughts are always shifting from one perspective to another, and I think it would be interesting to note a contrast in the lenses I view life through by posting on a more frequent basis rather than writing everything in a little black book that never really goes into much detail.

With that, I will take off. Enjoy your day, every day.

Stay real,