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ten gifts you deserve to give yourself

12/29/13 1 Comment


another great piece by marc of marc & angel hack life:

1.  An open mind in full acceptance of life’s changes.

You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay.  Sometimes the changes we don’t want are the changes we need to grow.  Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.  The bottom line is that you can’t reach for anything new if you’re holding onto yesterday.  You may think holding on makes you strong, but often it is letting go and starting anew in the present.

2.  A meaningful path and purpose.

If your life is going to mean anything, you have to live it yourself.  You have to choose the path that feels right to YOU, not the one that looks right to everyone else.  It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t.  So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition.  Every morning, ask yourself what is really important, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.

In the end, it’s not what you say, but how you spend your time that counts.  If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  The time to do what truly matters.

Identify what’s most important to you.  Prune nonessential commitments.  Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.  No wasted time, no fluff, no regrets.

The mark of a successful person is the ability to set aside the “somewhat important” things in order to accomplish the vital ones first.  When you’re crystal clear about your priorities, you can painlessly arrange them in the right order and discard the activities and commitments that do not support the ones at the top of your list.

4.  The space to BE, without needless worry.

If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  Stop over-thinking everything.  Life is too short.

Your biggest limitations are the ones you make up in your mind.  The biggest causes of your unhappiness are the false beliefs you refuse to let go of.  You are capable of far more than you are presently thinking, imagining, doing or being.  You will, however, become what you habitually contemplate, so clear your mind and let your hopes, not your fears, shape your future.  How?  Meditate.  Run.  Set your mind free.

5.  Permission to be imperfect as you grow.

You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you think about it, you’re no longer where you once were either.  You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward.  Not because you’ve always made the right choices, but because you survived the bad ones, and taken small steps in the right direction.

Focus on the right things and just do the best you can.  Don’t allow yourself to be crippled by stress and self-loathing.  Everything is only as it is.  There’s no reason to let it destroy you.  Breathe.  Let every moment be what it’s going to be.  What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away.  And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

6.  Reassurance of being ENOUGH.

Tell yourself, “I am ENOUGH.”  Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you. The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

You are YOU for a reason.  Ignore the distractions.  Listen to your own inner voice.  Mind your own business.  Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day.  Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it.  Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.

7.  The right relationships.

Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.  You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.  If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong relationships, or on too many activities that force you to neglect your good relationships, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place, chasing affection.

Choose yourself rather than settle for those who treat you as ordinary.  YOU certainly aren’t.  Never settle for being someone’s “option” when you have the potential to be someone’s “first choice.”  You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self.  The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by – that’s what you need to look out for.

8.  Self-education.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Life is a book and those who do not educate themselves read only a few pages.  When you know better you live better.  Period.

All education is self-education.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.  Those who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own time are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

9.  A chance to touch your dreams.

Everyone dreams, but not equally.  Too many people dream only at night in the quiet of their own minds, and then awake to find it was all an illusion.  Don’t be one of them.  Dream by the day instead.  Be one of the people who dream with their eyes wide open, and who works to make them come true.

Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.  You never know what’s just around the corner.  It could be everything you’ve been working for, or it might be just another mile marker on your journey.  Either way, when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day the next step you take will be the one that carries you to your goal.  (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)

10.  The freedom to express your whole truth.

The greatest and most gratifying experiences in life cannot be seen or touched.  They must be felt with the heart from the inside out.  There’s nothing more inspiring than the complexity and beauty of human, heartfelt feelings.  Sadly though, many people let the fear of judgment numb and silence them.  Their deepest thoughts and feelings often go unspoken, and thus barely understood.

Do NOT let people invalidate or minimize how you feel.  If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever.  No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes.  No one else has lived through your exact experiences.  And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel.  Your feelings are important.  Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.

related: 7 questions you are too scared to ask | 7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential


in the video above, sci fri explores the amazing camouflage techniques of octopi, squids & other cephalopods.  featured in the clip is marine biologist roger hanlon (and yup, that first part of the video had me buggin out too, roger).

related: can you find these invisible animals? | an invisible man | idyllic noise

what made this marine biologist scream?

12/18/13 2 Comments

how to fall in love with math

09/21/13 1 Comment

written by manil suri for nytimes:

EACH time I hear someone say, “Do the math,” I grit my teeth. Invariably a reference to something mundane like addition or multiplication, the phrase reinforces how little awareness there is about the breadth and scope of the subject, how so many people identify mathematics with just one element: arithmetic. Imagine, if you will, using, “Do the lit” as an exhortation to spell correctly.

As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is the way infinity is harnessed to deal with the finite, in everything from fractals to calculus. Just reflect on the infinite range of decimal numbers — a wonder product offered by mathematics to satisfy any measurement need, down to an arbitrary number of digits.

Despite what most people suppose, many profound mathematical ideas don’t require advanced skills to appreciate. One can develop a fairly good understanding of the power and elegance of calculus, say, without actually being able to use it to solve scientific or engineering problems.

Think of it this way: you can appreciate art without acquiring the ability to paint, or enjoy a symphony without being able to read music. Math also deserves to be enjoyed for its own sake, without being constantly subjected to the question, “When will I use this?”

Sadly, few avenues exist in our society to expose us to mathematical beauty. In schools, as I’ve heard several teachers lament, the opportunity to immerse students in interesting mathematical ideas is usually jettisoned to make more time for testing and arithmetic drills. The subject rarely appears in the news media or the cultural arena. Often, when math shows up in a novel or a movie, I am reminded of Chekhov’s proverbial gun: make sure the mathematician goes crazy if you put one in. Hanging thickly over everything is the gloom of math anxiety.

And yet, I keep encountering people who want to learn more about mathematics. Not only those who enjoyed it in school and have had no opportunity to pursue it once they began their careers, but also many who performed poorly in school and view it as a lingering challenge. As the Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin argues in his book “The Math Gene,” human beings are wired for mathematics. At some level, perhaps we all crave it.

So what math ideas can be appreciated without calculation or formulas? One candidate that I’ve found intrigues people is the origin of numbers. Think of it as a magic trick: harnessing emptiness to create the number zero, then demonstrating how from any whole number, one can create its successor. One from zero, two from one, three from two — a chain reaction of numbers erupting into existence. I still remember when I first experienced this Big Bang of numbers. The walls of my Bombay classroom seemed to blow away, as nascent cardinals streaked through space. Creatio ex nihilo, as compelling as any offered by physics or religion.

For a more contemplative example, gaze at a sequence of regular polygons: a hexagon, an octagon, a decagon and so on. I can almost imagine a yoga instructor asking a class to meditate on what would happen if the number of sides kept increasing indefinitely. Eventually, the sides shrink so much that the kinks start flattening out and the perimeter begins to appear curved. And then you see it: what will emerge is a circle, while at the same time the polygon can never actually become one. The realization is exhilarating — it lights up pleasure centers in your brain. This underlying concept of a limit is one upon which all of calculus is built.

The more deeply you engage with such ideas, the more rewarding the experience is. For instance, enjoying the eye candy of fractal images — those black, amoebalike splotches surrounded by bands of psychedelic colors — hardly qualifies as making a math connection. But suppose you knew that such an image (for example, the Julia Set) depicts a mathematical rule that plucks every point from its spot in the plane and moves it to another location. Imagine this rule applied over and over again, so that every point hops from location to location. Then the “amoeba” comprises those well-behaved points that remain hopping around within this black region, while the colored points are more adventurous and all lope off toward infinity. Not only does the picture acquire more richness and meaning with this knowledge, it suddenly churns with drama, with activity.

Would you be intrigued enough to find out more — for instance, what the different shades of color signified? Would the Big Bang example make you wonder where negative numbers came from, or fractions or irrationals? Could the thrill of recognizing the circle as a limit of polygons lure you into visualizing the sphere as a stack of its circular cross sections, as Archimedes did over 2,000 years ago to calculate its volume?

If the answer is yes, then math appreciation may provide more than just casual enjoyment: it could also help change negative attitudes toward the subject that are passed on from generation to generation. Students have a better chance of succeeding in a subject perceived as playful and stimulating, rather than one with a disastrous P.R. image.

Fortunately, today’s online world, with its advances in video and animation, offers several underused opportunities for the informal dissemination of mathematical ideas. Perhaps the most essential message to get across is that with math you can reach not just for the sky or the stars or the edges of the universe, but for timeless constellations of ideas that lie beyond.

martin scorsese on “reading the language of cinema”

07/28/13 3 Comments

in this multimedia-driven age, schools should place the same emphasis on visual literacy as they do written.  we need to be able to parse through the latest breaking news report or the latest breaking bad episode to the point where we can both grasp what’s being said (audibly & visually) and appreciate/understand what exactly the directors/actors/reporters are doing to convey their messages.

director martin scorsese provides a solid argument for this stance in his new essay “the persisting vision: reading the language of cinema”.  in it, scorsese also touches on what he loves about movies and scatters in some great bits of film history.  check it out below (via ny review of books) and respond to it in the comments:

Robert Donat in "The Magic Box", 1951 (Everett Collection)

Robert Donat in “The Magic Box”, 1951 (Everett Collection)

In the film The Magic Box, which was made in England in 1950, the great English actor Robert Donat plays William Friese-Greene—one of the people who invented movies. The Magic Box was packed with guest stars. It was made for an event called the Festival of Britain. You had about fifty or sixty of the biggest actors in England at the time, all doing for the most part little cameos, including the man who played the policeman—that was Sir Laurence Olivier.

I saw this picture for the first time with my father. I was eight years old. I’ve never really gotten over the impact that it had. I believe this is what ignited in me the wonder of cinema, and the obsession—with watching movies, making them, inventing them.

Friese-Greene gives everything of himself to the movies, and he dies a pauper. If you know the full story of his life and its end, the line in the film about the invention of the movies—“You must be a very happy man, Mr. Friese-Greene”—of course is ironic, but in some ways it’s also true because he’s followed his obsession all the way. So it’s both disturbing and inspiring. I was very young. I didn’t put this into words at the time, but I sensed these things and I saw them up there on the screen.

My parents had a good reason for taking me to the movies all the time, because I had been sick with asthma since I was three years old and I apparently couldn’t do any sports, or that’s what they told me. But my mother and father did love the movies. They weren’t in the habit of reading—that didn’t really exist where I came from—and so we connected through the movies.

And I realize now that the warmth of that connection with my family and with the images on the screen gave me something very precious. We were experiencing something fundamental together. We were living through the emotional truths on the screen, often in coded form, which these films from the 1940s and 1950s sometimes expressed in small things: gestures, glances, reactions between the characters, light, shadow. These were things that we normally couldn’t discuss or wouldn’t discuss or even acknowledge in our lives.

And that’s actually part of the wonder. Whenever I hear people dismiss movies as “fantasy” and make a hard distinction between film and life, I think to myself that it’s just a way of avoiding the power of cinema. Of course it’s not life—it’s the invocation of life, it’s in an ongoing dialogue with life.

Frank Capra said, “Film is a disease.” I caught the disease early on. I felt it whenever I walked up to the ticket booth with my mother or my father or my brother. You’d go through the doors, up the thick carpet, past the popcorn stand that had that wonderful smell—then to the ticket taker, and then in some of the old theaters there would be another set of doors with little windows and you’d get a glimpse of something magical happening up there on the screen, something special. And as we entered, for me it was like entering a sacred space, a kind of sanctuary where the living world around me seemed to be recreated and played out.

What was it about cinema? What was so special about it? I think I’ve discovered some of my own answers to that question a little bit at a time over the years.


classroom portraits from across the globe


classroom-2012 for the photo suite classroom portraitsjulian germain traveled to schools from england to argentina to japan with the hope of providing an intimate look at education around the world.  as you visit each class through germain’s lens in the gallery below, pay attention to:

  • the nuances of the classroom.  room size, # of students, dress code, decorations, etc.  think about the portraits both independent of each other as well as juxtaposed against the others/your own school experience.
  • the students’ expressions.  while germain painstakingly positioned each kid in clear view of the camera, he didn’t tell them how they “should look.”  interesting then to think about how much of the looks/mannerisms are in response to the long-exposure photo experience or to some other aspects of the students’ lives.

for more pics + some background on the students & their country’s education system, check out the book.  spotted @ brain pickings.

related: see what a week’s worth of groceries looks like around the world

“i have the right”: an animated look at malala yousafzai

06/13/13 1 Comment

on the website zen pencilsgavin aung than blends two of his interests: cartoons and inspirational quotes.  gavin animates the words of people like muhammad ali & helen keller, giving them an extra dimension.  below is the one he did on malala yousafzai, the pakistani girl who last year was shot in the head by the taliban for supporting a girl’s right to an education:

related: a link to the malala fund, which “supports the education and empowerment of girls in pakistan and around the world”

if you were offered $100K to stay out of college, would you take it?



a few weeks ago, billionaire peter thiel announced the 2013 class of theil fellows.  the 22 winners, ages 18-20, will receive $100,000 + 2 years of mentoring in their desired field in exchange for staying away from school (click here to learn more about the program).  here’s background on some of the chosen via co.exist:

Ritesh Agarwal (19, New Delhi, India) is one of the youngest entrepreneurs from India to raise angel investments. He runs OYO Inns, a chain of affordable, tech-enabled inns, and Oravel, a rising popular alternative to hotels in India. As a Thiel Fellow, Agarwal will leverage technology to bring affordable and standardized accommodations to emerging economies across the world, starting in India.

Zach Hamed (20, Holbrook, NY) originally from New York City, was a junior at Harvard studying computer science before joining the Thiel Fellowship. The son of a teacher and a computer programmer, Hamed is a first-generation American who hopes to apply his interest in user interface and experience design to K-12 education. As a Thiel Fellow, Hamed will focus on developing a suite of beautifully designed tools for K-12 teachers, saving them time, providing them supplemental income, and helping them do what they do best–teach.

William LeGate (18, Marietta, GA) is an entrepreneur and computer scientist. He taught himself programming at age 14 from online Stanford lectures and has since created more than a dozen mobile apps which have been downloaded more than 5 million times and are now used by 1 in 16 U.S. teens. During his fellowship he plans to change the way that we discover apps for things around us.

Maddy Maxey (18, San Diego, CA) began interning in the fashion industry when she was 16 for companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Ricco, Peter Som, and Nylon Magazine. After founding a popular fashion blog while in France and then winning a scholarship from the CFDA & Teen Vogue for her work, she started a clothing company of her own. As a Thiel Fellow, Maxey will focus on optimizing the clothing patterns and the enterprise software that make our current garment industry inefficient. Her goal is to make domestic production profitable through better integrating software, not just hardware technologies, into our manufacturing system.

Kevin Wang (18, Vernon Hills, IL) began developing games and applications when he was 9. Since then, he has moved into entrepreneurship, applying his highly technical background to solve bigger problems. As a Thiel Fellow, he aims to simplify the world of law and open source software to end the wasteful litigation epidemic.

while thiel’s motivation for starting the fellowship comes from him seeing college as overrated, the scholarship itself doesn’t sully the overall importance of going to school.  instead, it supports the fact that there are different paths to success in life and not all of them include a university.  also of note here is that the winners of these scholarships showed drive & initiative toward specific goals at an early age (some people can go through grad school without knowing what they ultimately want to do with their lives).

returning to the title question, if you were offered $100K + mentorship to stay away from college, would you take it?  why or why not?  and if you would accept it, what would you do with the opportunity?

how much do you know about bitcoin?  i first heard about the digital currency around 2009 when it was just starting up.  in the years since, it’s grown to the point where today 1 bitcoin is worth over 150 us dollars (also, fellow wordpress users might’ve noticed that you can now pay for site upgrades with it).  to get a better grip on what bitcoin is all about, check out duncan elms‘ cool informational video on it (some of the info is a little dated so supplement it with the bitcoin website, its wiki page, & your favorite news sites).

do you have any experience with acquiring/using bitcoin?  if so, share in the comments.  for those who haven’t used it before, would you consider investing in it in the future?

bitcoin explained


see the alphabet sculpted into crayola crayons

04/04/13 2 Comments

z is for zebra

z is for zebra

crayons are one of the first tools given to us to create art.  diem chau flipped things a bit by making art out of the tool itself.  chau sculpted the alphabet into a collection of crayola crayons.  she also paired each letter up with a vivid example (“a is for armadillo”, “h is for handstand”, etc.).  click on the pics for captions and for a better look at her intricate work.  via colossal.

(for a soundtrack to your pic browsing, here’s india arie & elmo singing the alphabet song):

related: the banana is but a canvas to our imagination

atomic lemon drops #8: package for my teacher

03/24/13 3 Comments

this atomic lemon drop isn’t the first poem i wrote, but it’s the one that kept me writing. check it out below along with some background. per usual, feel free to share any questions/criticisms about the poem as well as any other comments.

Package for My Teacher

Teacher, Teacher, remember me?
3rd Grade, front row, Susie B?
Shared my dreams of
flying through space.
Looking for support,
your doubts came in its place.
“But you’re a girl,
and even worse than that,
too short,
too Black,
and way too fat.
Astronaut? Something I cannot see.
How ‘bout assistant manager at Mickey D’s?”
but spirit stayed intact.
Too determined to get off track.
Your vision has improved by now, I hope.
If not, you can still see me
through this telescope.

dr. mae jemison, 1st woman of color in outer space

dr. mae jemison, the 1st woman of color in space


senior year of high school, ms. bodnar gave my ap english class the option to write two poems instead of an essay (one had to be love-related since we were near valentine’s day; also had to recite one in front of the class).  i don’t remember writing any poetry beyond the red rose-blue violet variety before that.  at the time though, churning out a few verses seemed easier better than slaving over some paragraphs so i went for it.

the first poem, simply titled i love youwas about a girl i had a crush on in that class.  reading it aloud introduced me to leg-trembling nervousness (thinking back, the jitters were due to exposing myself and wanting to be accepted, both not just on the love tip but with the poem i birthed).

the second poem was package for my teacher.  i didn’t have the same emotional investment in the story as in i love you (not a girl named susie, didn’t have my dreams stepped on, etc.) but it was cool to ride out the poetic freedom (which was especially good for me since i was missing a creative outlet).  beyond that though, what really kept me writing poetry was what ms. bodnar said when she gave the poem back to me:

you should enter it in a contest.

it was a little comment that i never acted on but still managed to mean a lot.  after that, i began to write poems on my own.  i kept a notebook in my pocket to write lines & topics for potential pieces.  later, i was accepted into poetry workshops that helped me learn more about the craft.  i started performing my poems in different settings and eventually got to the point where my leg doesn’t shake anymore.  i’ve also sent other poems to contests & i’m working on a poetry manuscript.  again, all from a little comment that i never acted on.

part of package touches on the impact parents, teachers & other adults can have on the youth by being willing (or even unwilling) mentors.  the teacher in the poem dropped the ball, but salute ms. bodnar and all others who inspire goodness in people that would’ve been left buried otherwise.

think about someone who had an impact on your progress.  if you were to send the person a package inspired by the role he/she played, what would be in it?  share in the comments.

previously in atomic lemon drops: a confusing two minutes and four seconds | barbershop | grim reaper | dear leader | weekend in jamaica | rehearsal for “when doors slam shut” | a poem called lauryn

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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