The Bruce Lee quote I hated the most...

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In honor of the 44th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s passing, I wanted to share a quote from him that I absolutely HATED as a kid.

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

Bruce, what do you mean? I just spent my whole childhood idolizing you. Took off my shirt, pretended to be a nunchaku master, and screamed Watahhhhhh just like you! I did pushups, sit-ups, punches, and kicks just to try to duplicate your physique and agility.

However, when I got older, I realized that I completely missed that first part of your quote. “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself...”. As I continued the journey of learning who I am as a human being, I understood what that meant. I learn more about myself everyday, and I couldn’t have done it without your philosophies influencing my life.

I can’t lie though, that second part still bugged me for the longest time. “...do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it”. So, I simply modified it to be inspired by you, rather than trying duplicate you.

Forty-four years later, and more to come, your inspiration will always be a part of me. Here’s to you, Bruce!

Home Made Sausage

In 2012, I took one of the most fun and tastiest classes ever. Usually, when I think of class, the words fun nor tasty comes into mind.  However, this was a sausage making class with a beer tasting at the now defunct Living Social 918 F Street Building (RIP). It was taught by Kyle Bailey of Birch and Barley, who taught us how to make a breakfast sausage patty and also spicy sausage links. It was a great experience and one of my favorite cooking classes I've taken.

Fast forward to three years later. It's 2015, and in those three years, I haven't attempted to make a single sausage at all. This is mostly due to the fact that I didn't own any of the necessary equipment for it, which seems to be a pretty good reason. Well, it was finally time for a good reason to come. This past Christmas, I got my girlfriend, Vanessa, a KitchenAid Mixer.  Vanessa loves to cook, and I knew she would love it. But, maybe, it was subconscious gift for myself as well? It probably was, but she doesn't need to know. *Prepare for evil stare from, Vanessa.*

Shortly after purchasing the mixer, I decided to buy the attachments for it too.  I bought a KitchenAid mixer attachment pack from Amazon, which included a food grinder, slicer/shredder, and fruit/vegetable strainer, and also a sausage stuffer kit.  She knew that I had taken the sausage making class before, and started to look up some other recipes.  She found a spicy Italian sausage recipe from Bon Appetit with a handy video.  I didn't remember all the steps from three years ago, so the video was a great refresher. 

Vanessa bought all the ingredients necessary, and it was time to get started. I won't go over every step of the recipe, but here are some quick visual key points to the process.

So, here are some things that we learned.

There was one time where the sausage bursted as we were stuffing it.  This was due to us not paying attention and it got over stuffed.  It was an easy fix, as we just had to remove the excess and tie off that link and start a new one.  So note to self, pay attention.

As I was twisting the sausage into smaller links, there were a couple of times where it bursted. There are a couple of reasons I can think of why it happened and how to fix it.  It could have been due to it being to thick due to over stuffing.  Also, it could have been due to not pricking the casings beforehand to relieve some pressure. So, for next time, we're going to try to make links that aren't too fat, and to twist them into links while it's still coming out of the stuffer instead of at the end.

Overall, it tasted pretty great. The process was a little long, but I'm sure we'll be much faster next time.  We're already looking forward to cooking some new sausage recipes, and I'll keep you updated on what we're trying out.  So if you're attempting this for the first time, good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

 

 

Movember. More Than Just A Gimmick.

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Ah yes, it's that time again.  It's mustache season. Last year, I decided to grow a mustache for the first time during Movember. Movember is a movement to help raise awareness for men's health issues, such as, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues. 

Honestly, while I was a part of helping raise awareness for men's health issues last year, I did it more for the fun of it.  While it should be fun, I don't think the movement impacted me as hard as it did this year. Why? Well, I felt young still.  I couldn't imagine that I nor any of my friends would have to worry about these issues for quite some time. However, one day out of the blue and quite suddenly, one of my best friends, Jacob, found out he had testicular cancer.

All of us stood by his side and were fortunate that he eventually became cancer free. You can read about his journey on his blog at www.jacobkskim.com. This became a wake up call to me and made me realize that it can happen to any one of us.  So this year, this mustache means so much more to me. The fear of it looking creepy or silly doesn't phase me one bit, as I know this will bring more awareness to the cause.

This year, I've joined Jacob in raising funds for Movember.  You can join us or donate at http://www.movemeber.com . And if not, I hope you will also join in on the movement in any capacity. But if I were you (and male), grow a stache', have fun with it, and help raise awareness!

 

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today, I want to wish my dad a happy birthday. It's easy to remember the date of my dad's birthday because it's October third. But when he told me this as a kid, it sounded like October "turd".  Now, you'll always remember my dad's birthday as well ;)

Growing up, I remember feeling like every other kid I knew, was living that perfect movie like family life.  You know, where that dad would be playing catch with his kids in the yard? Where the dad would be cheering his kids on as they were playing soccer? I didn't really experience too much of that. My dad never had the time, and was usually working odd hours.  

I remember feeling angry about the whole experience growing up.  I was upset that my dad wasn't there participating like other dad's, and also for being super strict and never letting me do too much.  However, as I grew older, I understood why, and I just want to thank him for everything.

It took me awhile, but I had to put myself in my dad's shoes. My dad grew up without a mother, as she died when he was pretty young.  He grew up in Vietnam during the war, and had to learn to survive. As he courageously was able to escape Vietnam after the war as one of the many Vietnamese boat people, he ended up in America and had to learn how to survive once again.


Imagine coming to a completely new country, without knowing the language at all.  What about the culture and customs of that new country? And even the food? This was all new to him. I actually made a video once, where my dad hilariously recalls his first American meal, "Salagna". You can watch it below.

While my dad didn't get to play catch with me, and other things, he showed me his love by doing only the things he knew, which was to provide for me and the rest of the family.  He didn't have time to pursue an education, but worked hard at his job.  He rarely let me go out with friends, as that was his way of keeping me safe, and making sure that I was focusing on school.  He wanted to make sure I worked hard in school, get a college education, and also a great job. A great job not to only be able to provide myself, but to be able to fulfill his advice to me, which was "No Money, No Hunny." (I hope you said that in your head with my dad's broken accent)

And one of the biggest lessons he taught me with his strict discipline was respect.  Respect for your elders and respect for anyone who has helped you along the way. And for this, I want to thank my dad. I love you, Ba!

I hope this post will make you think of the sacrifices that our parents have made for us.  Give them a call, and let them know how much you appreciate them. 

Turning 32 And The Impact Of Bruce Lee

With Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee's Daughter

With Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee's Daughter

Today, I turn 32; a milestone year that I've been looking forward to. If you're wondering why, let me explain. 

Anyone that knows me, knows that I'm one of the biggest Bruce Lee nerds they have ever met. On July 20th, 1973, 5 days and 41 years ago, Bruce Lee passed away at the age of 32. 5 days and 9 years after his death, I was born. Somehow, a man who passed away 9 years before I even existed, became one of my biggest inspirations in life.

At such a young age, he accomplished so much, and left an impact that will be felt by future generations forever.  I could go into details of why and how I became such a fan, but I’ll leave that for a future post. In the meantime, I want to share some things I’ve learned from Bruce that have made an impact in my life.

"Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself; do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it”

I love this quote, but I was always annoyed with the last part of the quote. I wanted to be exactly like, Bruce Lee! However, as you get older, you learn that you can be inspired by others, but you need to let go of the idea of who you think you are, and just become who you really are.

"Ultimately, martial art means honestly expressing yourself...
I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky...
Or I could show you some really fancy movement
But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself
And to express myself honestly--
Now that, my friend, is very hard to do.”

When you’re in your 20’s, you just graduated college, you just got a full time job, and it’s the first time you truly have some money to play with. You start to go crazy, become materialistic, and party it up. Deep down, the original you is still there, but you’ve added a facade to the people around you. There is a good probability that your friends have done the same.  

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

Eventually and hopefully, you grow out of it.  You start focusing on life even more and how to improve oneself. It will always be an ongoing process, but I’m constantly trying to hack away at the unessentials to reveal who I really am.  

"Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one's potential.”

But even as you simplify your life, don’t lose the drive to better yourself. Don’t become stagnant. Know that you have so much more potential in life.

"If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

We’ve all doubted ourselves and our capabilities. But, push yourself and know that if you work hard, you can do it.  So as I turn 32 today, I am reminded by Bruce’s life to keep it simple, honestly express myself, and to constantly grow as a human being. I plan on making this year, the best one yet.

"The Key To Immortality Is First Living A Life Worth Remembering."

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The Universe Is Beautiful.

Last Friday, a meteor shower was predicted to occur.  Initial estimates of 400 meteors per hour were to appear throughout the night.  My friends and I were excited for the opportunity to witness this, and also to capture it on our cameras as well.  After some research, we decided that the Shenandoah National Park was the best place within our vicinity to escape the light pollution.

After a 2 hour drive starting at midnight, the cost of gas, almost hitting some deer on the road, freezing our butts in the cold, and getting neck pains from staring at the sky, we saw only 4 or 5 meteors.  FAIL! Whatever happened to the 400 meteors per hour?

However, if you were to ask me if it was worth going through all that trouble, I would have to say, ABSOLUTELY. Being able to see the stars and the night sky so clearly made me feel in awe of the beauty of the universe. But made it even better, was being able to spend that moment of time with great friends.

I'm looking forward to returning to Shenandoah to do some stargazing, with our without a chance of meteor showers in the future.

 

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

Today, I was headed on a trip to Napa with my friends Kevin and Sarah. A last hurrah before I head back to the east coast. I took the Caltrain to meet up with them in San Francisco for the first leg of my trip.

The Caltrain is quite easy and convenient, but I wouldn't say I'm an expert at it. Today, I went onto the bike car, just because it so happened stop where I was waiting in line.

I was excited because the bike car had an upper deck, which i've never been able to sit at before. I plopped down on one of the empty seats and started to enjoy the view. A couple of stops went by, and naturally, the train became fuller at each stop.

At one stop, there was so many people that a huge crowd of 20's to 30's came onto the bike car. There was no more seats available, so they had to stand in the bike aisle. After hearing their conversations, I found out they were on a scavenger hunt.

The group was joyous and was chit chatting about the items they had to find. A Caltrain employee was even kind enough to help them figure out where to find items on their list. "Do you know where we can find a tattoo if a baby?", one passenger asked. All of a sudden, another passenger on the train yelled out, "I have one!"

The atmosphere of the car was fun for everyone, except for one man, which just so happened to sit right behind me. As the laughter and conversations were in the air, he was venting under his breath, "This is a bike car, get out of here!"

I understood where he was coming from, in the sense that the bike aisle should be reserved for bikes. However, not too many bikes were coming on board at each stop, and if there was, the group would move for them. And even the Caltrain employee on board was ok with the group being there.

The guy kept venting throughout the whole ride. As he was approaching his stop, he went down to get his bike ready. As he was doing so, he started his snide remarks to one of the members of the group, who kept it classy and was smart enough to not add more fuel to the fire.

After that guy finally left, an older gentleman who witnessed everything, slid over and told the kid, "Hey kid, don't sweat the small stuff." The kid smiled and thanked him.

I smiled immediately after witnessing a complete stranger passing on wisdom and encouragement. It gives me hope, that one day more people will have the courage to be a positive influence to others, no matter who they are.

Transient

Introducing, Meet Inspiration.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to meetinspiration.com.

Ever since I was young, I've been inspired by many that I've come across, and by heroes I've never met. I've been inspired by their good hearts, their struggles, their accomplishments, their discoveries, and so much more. 

When  I was living in DC, I naturally gravitated towards people of this nature. I was so amazed by the amount of young professionals who were spending their extra time in pursuit to make the world a better place. 

As I started to connect with so many, I realized that there was so much potential for others to work together. One night, I setup a dinner, just so that I could introduce friends to each other, in hopes that their goals would align. Everyone talked about their passions that night, connections were made, and future collaborations were in the works. That night, my friends Jennie, Joe, Jacob, Tu-Anh, & Julienne, dubbed me Tomprah. Basically a mix of Tom & Oprah. They even made a graphic for me. Prepare to start your laughter now.

After that night, the idea for meetinspiration.com was born. I wanted to share inspiration. I wanted to feature groups and organizations that were doing great things, in hopes that maybe a viewer would be inspired to do something similar or decide to help out that group. Just like the purpose of that dinner, but now, virtually. I also wanted to feature everyday normal people that were willing to share what inspires them, in hopes that others too could be inspired. I had so many different ideas, yet it's taken me over 3 years to really get anything going.

"If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done." - Bruce Lee

And that's exactly what happened. So, I decided to start small.  Everyday, I post a graphic image with an inspirational quote for the day, that can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and the website.  This daily routine has been simple enough for me, and gets me into the swing of things. I know that at some point soon, those ideas I had before, will come to fruition.

So please join me, as I continue this journey for others to "Meet Inspiration."

How life brings people into our lives.

When I think about the lives that we live, I find it fascinating how fate brings people together. I often ponder if there is a predetermined path that aligns complete strangers together. This question came across my mind again on a recent visit home.

At my parents house, there is a wall that displays photos of family members who have passed away. This wall has remained the same for quite some time (thankfully), however this time I noticed a new photo.

Grandma Sholly

Grandma Sholly

I stood staring at this photo trying to figure out who it was.  It was pretty easy to be baffled, as the rest of the photos on the wall were of my Vietnamese ancestry.  Who was this fashionably chic white lady in this sepia toned photo? I asked my mom, and found it was my American grandma, Ruth Sholly.

Flashback time. In 1975, my mom, uncle, and brother fled Vietnam at the end of the war and somehow ended up in good ole Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  There wasn't too much to do in Lebanon, but one of my mom's favorite pastimes, and still is, was bingo. Whenever my mom went, she took my brother along too. At the bingo hall is where fate brings Grandma Sholly into the lives of our family. 

My brother was probably 3 or 4 years old at that time, and Grandma Sholly found my brother to be super cute (Debatable. JK Jeff!). She would often sit next to my mom and brother, and overtime, they slowly got to know each other.  My mom said that at the time, Grandma Sholly recently lost her husband, and with my mom who was new to the country, was missing parental figures in her life, since they were still in Vietnam. And at that space and time, life brought a Vietnamese family and an American woman together. It was a perfect match.

As the years passed by, Grandma Sholly was a part of our family. She had children and grandchildren of her own, but somehow always managed to have time for us as well. From my birth, to family from Vietnam coming over, she was there for it all. Every family member I've talked to have all said the same thing, which was that she was the sweetest woman and that she was so good to us.

 One of my fondest memories of her is that she remembered everyone's birthday. I was always so amazed, especially till this day, as I still rely on Facebook for birthday reminders.

Grandma Sholly at my 9th birthday party.

Grandma Sholly at my 9th birthday party.

After seeing the photo, I dug up some old VHS tapes which had my birthdays recorded on them, just to catch a glimpse of how I remembered her. The last time I saw her, was when I was 11 before she passed away. She was my first encounter with a death in the family.  I remember being an alter boy at her funeral, and crying like a baby.  As the video played, water came to my eyes once again.

Remembering Grandma Sholly

Remembering Grandma Sholly

Tears didn't just come because of how much I missed her, but also of how grateful I was that she came into our lives. How did a family from Vietnam and an American woman, who were originally 8908.8 miles apart, meet and become intertwined in each other's lives? Was this fate? Perhaps with the next stranger you might meet, who knows what kind of positive impact you might have in their life. 

Big Brands Don't Always Win

Fresh Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts is a chain that I definitely enjoy. They have great branding, and of course, donuts! It's hard to resist stopping in for a quick splurge. Spread across the US, you can pretty much find them anywhere.  However, this is a story of how Dunkin' Donuts didn't win in my hometown of Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

In 1992, a family owned business named Fresh Donuts, opened their doors to the community.  I grew up with one of my best friends', Kim, who's family owned that shop. I can remember countless days and nights hanging out at the donut shop enjoying light, fluffy & flavorful donuts with a Swiss Iced Tea. Fresh Donuts eventually became my second home.

Donuts @ Fresh Donuts

Fresh Donuts Stamp

Their shop wasn't super fancy.  It was quite basic to be honest. Plain white boxes and paper bags, hand stamped with their business name and address, were used for donuts to go. It's still even used to this day! However, it always felt like home when you stepped in.  You could tell, as so many locals gathered there in the morning to start their day off.

A year after they opened, Dunkin' Donuts decided to move in right around the corner.  And when I say right around the corner, I really mean, right around the corner! It was less then 500 ft away.  As a teenager at that time, I felt quite scared for my friend's family and also very angry at Dunkin' Donuts.  How was Fresh Donuts going to survive against Dunkin' Donuts? How were they going to compete with a brand that had so much marketing power and recognition? I didn't think there would be a way!

Well, boy was I wrong! In a true David vs Goliath fashion, Fresh Donuts eventually came out on top. How did a shop with basically no marketing, beat out a powerhouse like Dunkin' Donuts? Let me clue you in on a simple secret first. Business, is all about people. It's about you and me. It's about how a business, product, or service, makes us feel. When we feel positive about something, we're more likely to do business, buy a product, or a use a service. And this is where Fresh Donuts won over the competition. Their genuine and friendly customer service, and of course their delicious donuts, was the key to their success. That Dunkin' Donuts location eventually closed down.

Kim @ Fresh Donuts

The last time I was home, I stopped by the shop to visit Kim.  I caught up with him and sat there for a little while and observed. And I noticed, nothing has changed in terms of how every family member treats their customers. Patrons would come in, and before they even got to the counter, their favorite donut and coffee was being prepared. Kim, knew everyone's name and even what was going on with their lives. It felt like all the regulars were just an extension of the family.

Years later, Dunkin' Donuts did reopen, however this time farther down the road.  I'm quite sure they learned not to be too close to a store they can't compete with!

Photo Credit: Eric Lindinger

Photo Credit: Eric Lindinger

This story has always been an inspiration and life lesson for me.  In personal and in business, do your best to be genuine and friendly, and you'll gain the most loyal friends and customers. So if by chance you're ever in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, stop by Fresh Donuts! Their located at 1202 Cumberland Street, Lebanon, PA 17042.  You can't miss it!