Chasing After Flow

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Yearly Archives: 2013


Traveling with Strangers

MARTA N3 (North Avenue) station

MARTA N3 (North Avenue) station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work in downtown Atlanta and take public transit (MARTA) to work everyday. It’s a straight shot for me on the train so I don’t have to switch lines or anything like that. Very convenient and cost-effective (I fill my car up with gas once per month). I also enjoy listening to podcasts or music while I travel. Another thing I like are my fellow routine passengers. These are the people I see everyday and yet I know nothing about them.

I never speak to them nor will I. I don’t want to start something with them and then feel committed to doing so again in the future. There seems to be an unwritten rule of public transit that you don’t talk to anyone unless you already know them or need help with something. But I like to think that even though none of us have ever spoken a word to each other, I still know them and they know me.

There’s this one guy who I think is business professor at one of the colleges nearby. He’s always dressed nice, carries a bag that a business school logo on it, and he’s always marking papers or reading business magazines. I like this guy. He seems very polite and takes his time getting off the train to allow others to go first. He also walks the stairs instead of the escalator which is a herculean task to do everyday.*

I remember the first time he didn’t get off at our stop and stayed on the train. I wanted to ask him if he knew what station he was at but realized he might have something else to do that day. The experience shook my core though. It was at that moment that I realized I had a connection with this people and I had slowly been trying to piece together their stories.

English: Trailer title shot for Alfred Hitchco...

English: Trailer title shot for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 Strangers on a Train. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some other strangers I travel with frequently:

  • Clean-cut Mexican Guy: This is a short little guy who is always clean-shaven, has his hair trimmed, and very well put together. Judging by his outfits, I think he’s in cleaning services but at one of the nicer places in town. He never sits down even if there are plenty of seats. FYI: I know he’s Mexican because I speak Spanish and recognized his accent.
  • Mustache Guy: He’s a newer person. He gets on the train before me and gets off 2 stops before me. Don’t know much about him yet except he likes to read and always wears a plain white undershirt. He shaved his thick red mustache today so I’ll have to come up with a new name for him.
  • Prima Donna: She is this prissy looking girl who’s on the train once or twice per week. She comes off as conceited and hoity-toity. I don’t like her very much but she adds to the dynamic.
  • Vanilla Guy: He’s this plain, old average Joe. There is nothing inherently distinctive about him. He justs blends in and looks boring. He gets on and off at the same stop as me. His favorite flavor of ice-cream is probably vanilla, hence his name. I bet in reality he’s like this rock star adventurer who loves a good adrenaline rush.
  • Old Make-up Lady: She’s this older lady who gets on one stop after me and gets off two before me. She doesn’t have a long trip on the train but she uses that time to put on her make-up. She seems nice and is still attractive for her age (I peg her around 55-60).

As I travel each day with them I like to think we grow closer. As I write this I wonder what it is they think of me? Who am I to them? Am I the good-looking guy with nice shirts or the creepy guy who’s always playing FreeCell on his phone? For all I know they’ve never even noticed me or I’m the plain Vanilla Guy.

*To give you an idea how many stairs we’re talking about, I just stood on the escalator one day instead of walking up it and timed how long it would take: 1 minute 42 seconds.


Quote of the Week

A book tightly shut is but a block of paper.

-Chinese Proverb

You know you have a problem with curiosity when…

…your computer starts running slow because you have 10+ tabs open in your browser. This usually happens to me when I’m reading something interesting and they have a link to a related article. I keep clicking on the links and opening them in new tabs because I have this unquenchable desire to read them all. My flow starts kicking in.

Click here for more information about Flow and what it is

This is all fine and dandy when I am at home, but its happened a few times at work where I needed to then address something immediately that was work-related but was delayed because so much RAM was being used by the Internet. My intellectual interests are preventing me from being a productive employee. I blame my work for giving me access to the Internet and two monitors to work with.

It also happens when I’m going through my twitter feed and it seems like everyone is sharing something worthwhile to read. Again, this is great, but can become a distraction and prevent me from doing something that I had originally scheduled to do. Why does this never happen to me when I have plenty of time and nothing to do? Why does it only occur when I should be busy with something else?

All this boils down to one basic dilemma: why can’t we seem to "schedule" our creative juices or intellectual curiosity?

I Hate the Word Cancelled\Canceled


I really hate the word cancelled/canceled. I was typing it out one day at work and couldn’t remember if it had one L or two? Spellcheck wasn’t counting either one as wrong so it was of no use. I turned to the trusted Internet which provided with the answer so either spelling was correct.


No. I need to know one way or the other. I would even settle for its spelled with one L in the United States with two in the United Kingdom. I can live with that. But don’t tell me it can go either way.

English: Blending of the flags of the United S...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I find myself vacillating back and forth between the two. One week I’ll write it one way and the next it will be the other. My problem now is that neither one looks correct! For the sake of efficiency though, I think I will stick with the one L approach because it takes less time to write.


What words out there do you hate?



Now this is just getting ridiculous…

20130513-140518.jpgI came across the following headline the other day: “Split-second movie downloads a reality as Samsung achieves 5G breakthrough.” Didn’t 4G just become a thing? And don’t the vast majority of people still not even have that but we’re already moving on to the next big thing?

It seems technology is exponentially increasing at a faster rate that the market at large can adapt to. How are we as consumers supposed to have confidence in the products we’re buying if it’s obsolete and there’s something better within the next year. Sure, early adopters will migrate with glee and quickly empty their pockets, but others who sense the trend will wait and sit on their money.

Should I update my iPhone? Here’s why you should wait:

This same article also makes reference to something call Ultra High-definition (UHD). What the heck is that and how is possibly better than what we have now? I remember the slow transition from VHS to DVD and we’re seeing the same with DVD to blu-ray. But even as more and more are adopting blu-ray as the preferred and standard content, there’s 4K TV sets coming out. When will the insanity end!?

Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these new advancements, I just wish I could catch my breath and enjoy what we have for two seconds before the next new thing comes along. Sigh.

What’s your calling in life?

I recently an article from the Stanford Graduate School of Business entitled The Power of “Noble Experiments” which focused on Chip Conley, who is is the founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels, California’s largest boutique hotel collection. The link to the full article is here.

What stood out to me though was this one particular comment:

Fundamentally in work, there are three relationships: You either have a job, a career, or a calling. For 22 years my calling was the founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre and growing it to the second-largest boutique hotelier in the U.S. A calling can deflate so that it becomes a career and then a job. When the calling starts to deflate, the anesthetic wears off.

I love this because it is so true. Those people who thrive in their work and truly enjoy what they do see it as a calling, not a job or career. I think this is what we are all searching for. I see these TV shows where people work in a hospital or at a law firm and put in 60+ hour weeks without a second thought. I know they’re just characters on a show and don’t reflect the real world, but they illustrate this point well. These people enjoy what they do and don’t really see it as work. Leaving to go home at the end of the day or having the weekend to do something is not necessarily a break from them.

I also think back to shortly after my wife and I were married. I was still in college and working as a Manager at Chick-fil-a. Not the best job in the world but I enjoyed it and it was flexible with my school. Plus free food so you can’t beat that. So one day my wife makes the comment that one day I would have a “real job.” Now I knew what she meant by that but it took me aback for a moment. I know she wasn’t belittling what work I was doing, but we both recognized something that this article brings up: it was just a job, not a career or calling.

Right now I have what could be a decent career but I’m still looking for my calling in life. Or at least my calling for this time of my life.

What is your calling in life?

Quote of the Week

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

—Will Rogers

The Unexpected Antidote to Procrastination by Peter Bregman

I came across this article earlier today via twitter and liked the analogy used with the surfers. I should acknowledge a slight bias with anything related to the beach and coastal living. Below is brief excerpt from the article and then the link to read the full thing.

A recent early morning hike in Malibu, California, led me to a beach, where I sat on a rock and watched surfers. I marveled at these courageous men and women who woke before dawn, endured freezing water, paddled through barreling waves, and even risked shark attacks, all for the sake of, maybe, catching an epic ride.

After about 15 minutes, it was easy to tell the surfers apart by their style of surfing, their handling of the board, their skill, and their playfulness.

What really struck me though, was what they had in common. No matter how good, how experienced, how graceful they were on the wave, every surfer ended their ride in precisely the same way: By falling.

Some had fun with their fall, while others tried desperately to avoid it. And not all falls were failures — some fell into the water only when their wave fizzled and their ride ended.

But here’s what I found most interesting: The only difference between a failure and a fizzle was the element of surprise. In all cases, the surfer ends up in the water. There’s no other possible way to wrap up a ride.

That got me thinking: What if we all lived life like a surfer on a wave?

The answer that kept coming to me was that we would take more risks.

“It’s not you, it’s…my cellphone?”

I was perusing my twitter feed the other day when I came across this little gem:

Do you ever wonder how many couples have never met on public transport since they were both too busy looking at their phones?

I laughed and then almost carried on my merry way, but the deepness of the tweet (which I’m sure was unintended) hit me: this new age of social media and digital connectedness is really harming our face-to-face interactions. This is something that has been slowly building over the years with the greater adoption of cell phones and particularly smartphones.

I remember my days as a Manager at Chick-fil-a. Great company, great job, and wonderful co-workers…but horrid customers. I cannot express to you the utter disdain we had for customers who would come through the drive-thru or walk-in that were talking on their cell phone. We just wanted to slap the thing right out of their hands! If we struck them in the process then all the better. Seriously though, it was a major annoyance and a lack of respect for people trying to serve them. Whenever I got one of these customers I would do one of two things depending on my mood: I would either not say a single word to them the entire time or I would say everything really loud to disrupt their conversation. Sure some people got mad, but what were they going to do? Complain to the manager? That’s me, dufus.

Now that I’m more removed from the customer service business, this has become less of an issue for me personally. But despite all the many conveniences and benefits that accompany the advent of the smartphone, it also has its ugly underbelly that is reaching pandemic levels in our society. Take a look at any break room in the workplace, any theater before the performance starts, a parent at the park, or people riding public transit*. The majority of the people have their eyes glued to their phone. Myself included many times.

One of the Joys of the Digital Age

One of the Joys of the Digital Age

Smartphones give us constant access to the world and what is going on. Want to know the score to the basketball game? Not a problem. Within 30 seconds you can find out how bad Lebron James is whooping up on the other team. Right at our fingertips we can access a near infinite amount of information and news. It also helps us stay connected with distant family and friends via Facebook, twitter, and other social media sites. But while this constant connection helps us keep in touch with those at a distance, what is it doing to our relationships with the person right next to us?

So going back to the tweet at the beginning. This growing concern is not just negatively affecting our current relationships, but it can also be preventing us from establishing new and worthwhile ones.** What opportunities are we missing right there around us because we’re too preoccupied in reading that latest status update or tweet? That post isn’t going anywhere, so why do we feel the almost compulsive need to see it right away? Why don’t we just check it later?

Now I’m not a neuroscientist by any means, but I know enough about how the brain develops and operates to know that this new digital age has to be directly affecting the physical structure and processes of that precious grey matter up there. And not for the better. Something I often say to clients is that our brain is a wonderful thing that is very good at what it does. One of its main underlying purposes to to continually be more effective and efficient. But that doesn’t mean what it does well is something good. An assassin is very effective and efficient at what it does, but that doesn’t mean killing people is a good thing.

The same goes for our brains and this constant connection to the digital world. Just because we can be connected doesn’t mean we should. We need to take time to cultivate the interpersonal relationships we have with those near and dear to us because there is nothing sadder than to see a couple during a romantic dinner out looking at their phones instead of each other. It  makes me want to slap the phones out of their hands.

What grievous infractions have you witnessed with smartphones and our interactions with others?


*Personally, unless I know someone on the train/bus with me, I have my headphones in and head down towards my phone screen so any of the crazy people who might be nearby are less likely to talk to me. But that’s just part of living in Atlanta.

**Those crazy people on public transit are not worthwhile new relationships we should seek out.


My Top Internet Sites

So I looked through the different browsers I use between home and work to make a list of the top sites I visit the most. I’ve listed them below along with a quick note to why it is one of the top places I visit on the Internet. Please note that the sites are not listed in any particular order.

Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator)

Photo credit: Aray Chen

Google: Google is my main hub as I make use of the majority of their services: gmail, News, Drive, Blogger, Maps, Voice, Calendar, Reader (previously), etc. The one thing I don’t use it for a lot though is Search (see Bing below).

Twitter: I maintain three different twitter accounts and prefer the main site for interacting (especially since my work’s firewall prevents most of other ones but not the main site for whatever reason). I usually have two of the acocunts open at any given time so I also have two browsers open too.

Facebook: I don’t think this one needs explaining.

Amazon: Great site that I couldn’t live without. I come here to price check items, read reviews, add things to wish lists, and when there’s some extra dough laying about I’ll order a thing or two.

Tweetdeck: Sometime you want to send a tweet out but in 2 hours from now or even 2 days or weeks from now. Tweetdeck lets you do that. (Hootsuite is blocked at work but I also use them).

Bitly: In the twitter world of short messages and character limits, you have to make every character count. Bitly lets you take long links and shorten them up to give you more room to work with. It has an added benefit of letting you see how many people are clicking on the link so you can see what works and what doesn’t.

English: logo.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bing: I use Bing instead of Google for one main reason: they give me points to search which I can redeem for items like Amazon gift cards. I have found very little difference in the two services so if I’m going to be searching anyway, might as well get rewarded for doing so. This is the main site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.* I have been a Mormon since I was born and served two years as a Missionary for the church in Mexico. I come here to read inspirational messages and search the scriptures online.

IFTTT: This acronym stands for “if this, then that.” The site allows you to create “recipes” that do something for you when a certain action is triggered. For example, I have a recipe that says when a new blog post goes up on WordPress, send that same post to my tumblr/blogger/whatever. Its a very useful tool for automating your online activity. I plan to write more about this later.

Wunderlist iPad

Wunderlist iPad (Photo credit: Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta)

Wunderlist: This is a to-do list service that has web and mobile versions. it allows for sharing lists with others and syncs seamlessly. Speed and overall performance has been significantly increased with a recent update. Wunderlist is an amazing service. Did I mention it was free?**

Honorable Mentions: WordPress, IMDb, Pinterest, Hulu, tumblr

*If interested in learning more about Mormons and their beliefs, please see This site contains a basic overview of main beliefs with personal stories from actual members. There is also an option to ask questions from those members and others.

**As a matter of fact, all the services and sites listed above are free.