I recently purchased a Glock 22 handgun. I had never purchased a weapon, nor was I even that interested in weapons. I recently made an investment in a concealed-carry company, and I just felt as if I needed to become much more proficient with weapons given the nature of our society today.

I found something I did not initially expect as I have gained proficiency shooting - I find it incredibly relaxing.  Shooting the bullet through a target (hopefully I’ll never have to use it in a combat or self-defense situation) is intensely peaceful.  Initially, I thought, how strange - how could that be? How could firing a loud and powerful bullet through a trigger be peaceful?  And then I realized the answer.

Shooting well requires intense concentration. You cannot be distracted when you are shooting. You focus on the front sight, breathe, and pull the trigger. For that instant you are firing, you have to perfectly present in that moment.  That second you are placing all of your energy in hitting the target. That is it. There are no other thoughts - no friends, no family, no work, no thinking about anything other than executing the simple motion of the trigger. Every round. Every time. The second you lose front sight focus, you miss. 

That extreme presence in the moment is something I only achieve in three scenarios: mediation, intense workouts, or shooting. And of those, only shooting provides instant feedback. The others, although equally beneficial, take time to see improvement.  

Life with No Safety Net

"Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
— Earl Nightingale, American motivational speaker and author (1921-1989)

What I want to do in life. This is the first time I’ve ever written something like this, for public or for private consumption. Some of it will be rambly, so I apologize in advance.

There’s a lot of specific accomplishments I have for my life. But those specific accomplishments are irrelevant, as once something is “accomplished” its done. What’s more interesting, what I think about is the journey. The year, the month, the week, the day, the minute. The present, that which I am in now, that which I am doing later, the individual steps that eventually get you to the finish line.  

I found the quotation above, which really resonated with me.  In general, I do not like short quotations - I am of the belief that almost nothing can be said in 140 characters.  For whatever reason, the above from Earl Nightingale was different. 

When I think about what I want in the world, want for my life, want to do, my philosophy on things, it is simple: I want to enable great people to be great.  I want those who have potential to be great - geniuses, if you well, to have the freedom to do what they do.  I want great artists to make art, musicians to make music, politicians to do politics, investors to invest, builders to build, athletes to sport, scientists do science. 

What does that have to do with me? Why does enabling others have any impact on my life?

I find all of these activities intrinsically beautiful.  I receive the same intense pleasure from listening to Kanye West as I do reading Warren Buffett or watching LeBron James observing a Mark Rothko or watching Obama campaign (politics aside he is an excellent campaigner). There is no difference. It is a feeling of intense pleasure, unlike any other experience for me. It is beautiful. It makes me happy. It makes the world better. There is nothing more beautiful to me than watching those who reach the pinnacle of achievement in their field do what they do.

I want to enable people to do that. Reach genius status. Allow them to produce what they produce. It has nothing to do with fame or fortune - even though the greats often receive both.

How do I enable people to do? I don’t want people to be limited by money and other concerns. I want that amazing singer in the church choir to just focus on singing. Live for her passion. And improve. And not have to worry about paying the bills singing - it will be purely for at least mine, but hopefully the whole world’s enjoyment.  Or that great artist or photographer. I know some people who are incredible artists in their free time, but are forced to slave away behind a cubicle to pay the bills. They probably will never be able to make a living from their art, but it makes me happy to see it. And they hopefully will be happy doing not only what they are great at doing, but doing what they love. 

How do I do this?  Money, for one. It is an expensive proposition, as I would essentially be paying people to do what makes them - and me - happy, with no expectation of a financial return.  Infrastructure, for two.  I’m not sure what form it will take, but each person will need very specific infrastructure to succeed at their project. A great investment mind is simple - you can setup a hedge fund, give him money, and run. 

A singer, by contrast, will be much trickier.  Voice coaches, concerts, recording studios, complementary artists, etc etc…it’s not something that I know well offhand, but I can create it for someone. It’s actually funny, in a way American Idol is a beautiful show at its core. It gives people that built in infrastructure through a competition format to succeed when before there was no chance.  The winner receives money, a record deal, and more. Now, naturally it has been muddled by the reality show format and all its silliness, but the core idea is wonderful.

Somehow I forgot the most important area for me - food. I will fund michelin level and near michelin level chefs so they can make interesting food regardless of restaurant economics.  Just let chefs be. Funding restaurants, food research labs, etc. Even food shelters.

I am striving for greatness in my own life. More to the point, I think my purpose to be physically and mentally unbreakable, brilliant at business decisions, multi-lingual, and a magnet for attracting interesting people.  I will achieve effortless perfection in all things I set my mind to.

I may never, I probably will never, achieve greatness, or effortless perfection. It is, in short, a form of self-mastery, which you never “reach.” It is not an end goal.

And it is frustrating difficult to achieve. Some days and weeks I am on fire, other days I feel the life has been sucked out of me. And yet, I have to find ways to continue on. Stay strong, stay positive. 

That’s me. That’s my life. I figured it out around January of 2006, when I was 19 years old. And that is what I will be doing if I am lucky enough to make it to 80. And at some point, I will die. And the world will keep turning. I will be gone, but the sun will still rise.

Death at Aoki

Halloween in Madrid was one of the most intellectually interesting nights I have had in the city thus far.  The Madrileno celebration of the day is in its early stages, and is just gaining momentum with the population there. (November 1st, on the other hand, is a National Holiday.)  Only a few stores sell Halloween gear and people generally believe that they must dress up as something scary, if they choose to wear a costume at all.  Whereas in the US, costumes are common and dress up as anything, as like a slutty unscary cheerleader.

My North American friends and I all dressed as Glam Rockers.  We went to a friend’s apartment for drinks before taking the metro down to the Madrid Arena, taking the blue line down from Cruzco to Lago, next to Casa de Campo.

The subway ride was an experience in itself.  At every top, more partygoers hopped on, drinking, smoking, and drugs on the packed train. It was filled to capacity, perhaps more than that, with youngsters.  Some in Halloween attire, others just in street clothes. All ready to party.

After perhaps the rowdiest, craziest subway ride I have ever been on. We arrived at the Lago stop.  The insane mass emptied onto the streets, drinking and partying away thousands strong - outside the arena.

It was an enormous street party, like teenagers who snuck away from home to have a wild Wednesday night on the town.  Of course, given the lack of bathrooms, people were urinating anywhere cover could be found.  A few police officers were there, but they weren't doing anything.

Eventually we decided it was time onto filter into the arena. It was a massive concrete box, with very inexpensive drinks.  Some DJ did a 3.5-hour opening act for Steve Aoki.  Mostly dub step and some harder house music.  The 10,000-person venue had around 3,000 people, which to me seemed like a good size. Die hard music fans and their friends huddled at the front of the stage and partied.  Spirits were high and people seemed to be having a great time.  

The random DJ's set kept going and going, until around 3:15 AM (Aoki was scheduled to come on around 11 or midnight).  In fact, the only reason I stayed was to see this mythical Aoki creature.

When he took stage, what was a fun party descended not chaos.  

Little did I know, but while I was enjoying random DJ's music, the crowd filled to capacity.  Or more. I turned around and there were 10,000+ people behind me.  Crazy.  Surreal, perhaps.

More importantly, groupthink and mob behavior were in full effect. A few people were enjoying themselves, but fights, shoving, wasted people and inappropriate behavior dominated the scene.  A female friend of mine was knocked over, and a few of our guys rushed to get her up before anything bad happened.  I am generally a very laid back person, but this was ridiculous, and for just a few instances I feared for a friends life. And this was at a concert. In my new home.  The scene was getting beyond ridiculous.  

I stayed for a little longer, but the overcapacity crowd lost the elements of fun and was on he brink of chaos.  I left. Got a taxi, and went home. Not true, actually. I wish that were the story. I actually was in the mood to go on a little run in tie-died tights and blue wig so I may have done quite a bit of running at 4:30 am.

Later, just a few minutes after my departure, a stampede killed three girls. Crushed them.  I can only imagine their last moments - falling, a drugged-out, drunken crowd rushing and crushing them with reckless abandon.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I wasn't. My friends, mostly harmless business school students, got in fights, were shoved, beaten, trapped in a chaotic mess.  And then there were the 10,000 or more others, some with less altruistic intentions.

My first month in Madrid has been wonderful. Few responsibilities, just the opportunity to make new friends, travel and explore the city.  But Halloween was an unpleasant reminder of the dark sides of the party life; that it can have its downsides; that it can be taken too far.

I'm glad, I'm lucky I got out, without a scratch to my blue wig. But I feel so sorry for those who lost family members, friends, loved ones. At a party. Unacceptable.

I look back on the evening, the first time people have died in my presence, and all I can do is hank God I got out.

Pouring out some liquor to all those lost in the struggle.

Living long is not as important as living well

I know that this is a dangerous post to write, simply because one day I may find myself the situation that I am about to describe.  Also, while I will often avoid formally commenting on emotionally charged subjects, this post is inevitable.  And maybe, when that time comes, my wishes will be different.  I don’t know.  I hope it never is a problem, but you never want to take anything for granted.

Living long is not important as living well.  I had this thought while I was in an elevator looking at the TV screen. It discussed the latest study where people who do X live longer than people who do not do X. 

I think the obsession with living longer and extending one’s lifetime at almost all costs is misguided.  Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with trying to live a very long life. That is not the point. In fact, I hope to be fortunate enough to live a very, very long healthy life.  However, living well is more important. 

I would rather live the best life possible and die at 50 than live miserably and die at 100.  The specific ages do not matter as much as the point of the argument.  I personally would like to experience everything life has to offer – live life to the fullest, as they say – rather than just live.

I already live very, very well.  Much (read: all) of that I attribute to having great parents. While I am not quite there yet, I live almost at my goal lifestyle.  I still get up every morning and go to work, come home and do more work for my other projects.  That said, I am healthy. I get to work out almost every day. I can sleep in when I want. I can drink when I want. I can eat (almost) whatever I want.  And I enjoy most of the work I get to do.  So, as far as I am concerned, I live well.  That is not to say I live as well as I like, but I have no real cause for complaint.

I want to propose a scenario I hope never happens.  Lets say I am in a horrendous accident, with no chance of a full recovery.  Either I am a vegetable, or paralyzed or something where I will never be able to be mobile again.  If there is ever a question about what to do with me, and I am unable to communicate, please just kill me.  Pull the plug.  Do whatever it takes.  I don't want to be stuck the rest of life in a non-functional position. No one needs to see me like that, and I don't want to be like that.  

Just be sure I really have almost no chance of recovering.  Otherwise, I’ve lived a great life already.  If something bad were to happen, I’d rather go out now than live the rest of my life in misery.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Sometimes I wish I could write my thoughts as I am walking, as certain things provoke just so many reactions in the moment it is difficult to describe the experience afterwards.  I recently had the opportunity to visit the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The perennially-packed exhibit was well worth the effort.  I entered the Met at 9:30 am, right as it opened.  Despite my early arrival, by the time I had purchased a ticket and gotten upstairs to the McQueen exhibit there was already a 10-minute wait. 

The line actually reminded me of New York nightlife.  The regular folks who don’t go out that much or who aren’t either pretty or wealthy enough to get in to the A-List places stand outside in long line like rope rats, while the well-heeled clients skip the line and head straight into the club.  Sadly, I was experiencing that rare occasion where I had to wait in line like a normal person.  All the while Met Museum members walked straight through with their entourage.

Nevertheless, after a few minutes in line I made it inside.  Given that I know little about fashion, I decided it would be worth the $7 to get the audio guide.  I had actually gone through the beginning of the exhibit before deciding to turn around and grab the audio guide, but it turned out to be well worth the purchase.

I will not recap the story of Alexander McQueen or discuss many of the details of the exhibit. That is not the purpose of this post.  What was most interesting - to me - was appreciating the work of someone who reached the pinnacle of their field.  Appreciating genius, regardless of industry, is always a transformative experience.  It represents many years of struggle, learning, failures, and dedication toward a singular goal.  The output - in this case clothing - was inspirational. So few people truly achieve genius in their field.  McQueen did. And for that, I am grateful to have been able to take part in the experience.

Life Goals

There are only a couple things I want to do in life.  First, I want to be able to repay my parents financially for all they have invested in me, and I want to be able to provide for them the lifestyle they deserve for their efforts.

Second, I ultimately, I want to be able to wake up and do whatever I feel, whenever I want to do it, regardless of cost.  Make everyday an adventure.

Simple as that.

The Downfall of Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms was once among my favorite food items ever. Was.  

There is a specific process for eating Lucky Charms.  First, you pour the cereal into the bowl.  Easy enough.  Secondly, you pour the milk on top.  You cannot pre-fill your bowl with milk for Lucky Charms, as the cereal needs a nice coating of milk to acquire the proper consistency.  Third, you wait.  That’s right, you wait.  A freshly milked bowl of Luck Charms is too crunchy.  You have to wait for both the little frosted oats and the marshmallows to soften.  After a few minutes, it is time to dig in.  

Now you don’t just eat spoonfuls of the cereal without discriminating a bit.  You have to begin by eating all the perfectly softened frosted oats.  They taste ok, but they aren’t great. At least they’re frosted.  However, the real treat comes in the end.  

Once you eat all the frosted oats you are left with marshmallows and sugary milk - pretty much heaven in a bowl.  The marshmallows are fantastic at this point - soft on the outside with a very light crunch on the inside.  Savor those marshmallows.  Finally, once you are left with just the milk, drink it.  It is the best tasting milk ever.  They should make Lucky Charms branded milk.  I would drink it over regular milk every day. It is that good.

Those were the good ol’ days.  Two things ruined Lucky Charms.  First, General Mills got greedy.  At some point a few years ago they decided to reduce the marshmallow to frosted oats ratio.  The number of marshmallows in a given bowl of Lucky Charms decreased significantly.  They started doing all of these variations of Lucky Charms to hide that they were lowering the marshmallow count.  They had miniature marshmallows, marshmallows that change colors when you add milk and all these other dumb variations.  At the end of the day, the result was the same: there were fewer marshmallows in a given box.

Second, the whole grain revolution messed up the texture of the frosted oats.  Something about the whole graininess tears up my mouth.  I am now limited to at most one bowl.  The grains strip away the first layer of tissue in my mouth and hurts for days.  If there were still a bunch of marshmallows, I would suck it up. But combined with decreased marshmallow count Lucky Charms fell from glory.

R.I.P Lucky Charms.

Thoughts on homelessness in the city

It is impossible to walk down the street in New York City without seeing someone begging for money.  After a few years living here, you would think that I have gotten used to it. I have not. It takes an emotional toll on me knowing I get up every day wanting for nothing while there are others who don’t know when the next meal is coming.

When I have cash on me, I try to give some money to those who I see begging on the street.  But I sadly admit, even I discriminate amongst the poor.  There are those who look so disheveled and unhealthy that I am even scared to toss a few dollars in their tattered cup.  It saddens me to even think about it.  Why am I to judge which of the homeless I pass deserves money?  

I try so hard to block out their voices.  The pleas for help, some spare change, some food, a place to stay.  I can’t ignore them – it just isn’t right.  Some people tell me the money I give them goes towards drugs and alcohol.  Or maybe that person is a criminal.  Honestly, I don’t know, and it is not for me to decide.  I just try to help when I can.  But I always want to do more, yet I know not what to do.  

I have more to say regarding homelessness in the city, but not right now. Just know this: If you are about to go spend $1000 on a table in a club, or just finished a nice dinner with friends, or  are doing some shopping and you pass someone who would benefit from a few extra dollars - give them a $20.  Will you really miss it?