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.