Thoughts

Movember. More Than Just A Gimmick. by Admin

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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! by Admin

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 by Admin

 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
— Bruce Lee

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.
— Bruce Lee

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
— Bruce Lee

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
— Bruce Lee

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.
— Bruce Lee

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.
— Bruce Lee
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The Universe Is Beautiful. by Admin

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.

 

Introducing, Meet Inspiration. by Admin

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. by Admin

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 by Admin

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!

Transitioning by Admin

Transient

This is what most of my mornings have been like. Starbucks, wifi, and working remotely. It's been different and nice at the same time. However, I do miss being in an office and seeing my fellow coworkers.

I've still been working on my future digs, and it's been a fun project. It makes me wish I watched HGTV and DIY network more often. Stay tuned for future posts about that!

Technolgy In The Kitchen by Admin

One of my goals this year has been to cook more often.  And so far, I've been doing well and really enjoying it.  It's relaxing, fun while learning new recipes, and challenges my creativity in the kitchen. And because I've been cooking more, I felt like I needed just the right gadgets to aid me in my journey.

So what gadgets have I invested in?  Nope, it's not a mixer or food processor or dehydrator. Actually, I did get all of the recently and it's been great.  But there are other gadgets that are way more important for me in the kitchen.  And thats.... wait for it..... Apple gear!

Ahhh yes, Tom the Apple nerd. One of the most recent things I've bought is the HoverBar for my iPad.  It's a flexible bar that can attach to the back of your computer or a kitchen counter or cabinet, and holds your iPad in the direction you may need.  I have my iPad hooked onto the HoverBar which is attached to my kitchen cabinet.

iPad 3 on a HoverBar

This setup is great whenever I need to follow a recipe via a youtube video I'm watching, a recipe app I'm using, or just when I need to jam out to some streaming music while cooking.  Which leads me to the next gadget, the Airport Express.

Apple Airport Express

An Apple Airport Express is a small device that can act as a router or even extend your wireless network.  It also has a USB port and a 3.5mm audio port where you can even connect speakers so they can be accessed wirelessly via Apple's Airplay.  I've had one for my bedroom speakers for awhile now, but recently picked up a couple more inexpensively on Craigslist.  I have that hooked up in my kitchen with just some basic speakers I got at Microcenter.

Basic speakers hooked up to my Apple Airport Express

So when I get home and start cooking and want to groove to some music, I just use my iPad or my iPhone and start streaming away.  I highly recommend creating an atmosphere where you can truly enjoy what you're about to be doing. This apple ecosystem has definitely been vital to my cooking journey. But if you don't have any of this, a good ole portable radio will easily do the job.  Be creative and have fun setting up your kitchen environment!

A Foggy Washington DC by Admin

Last weekend, my cousins from California and Australia were in town visting. I was playing tour guide, and took them to see all the touristy spots in DC.  However... that day was the dreariest and foggiest days ever. 

 A barely visible Washington Monument by the World War II Memorial

A barely visible Washington Monument by the World War II Memorial

The photo above, if you didn't notice, is a picture of the Washington Monument.  Not too scenic eh? I was feeling pretty bummed out showing my cousins all these barely visible monuments. It then got closer to dusk and we walked towards the Lincoln Memorial.

 The Lincoln Memorial glowing on a foggy night in Washington DC

The Lincoln Memorial glowing on a foggy night in Washington DC

I've been by the Lincoln memorial numerous times.  On sunny days, cloudy days, and also in the evenings. This time though, I've never seen it so mystical and as beautiful as that night.  The glow of the memorial from the lights bouncing off the fog made the trip worthwhile.  It just made me remember... sometimes we need the dreariness and darkness so that we can appreciate the beauty of the light.

Make It Monumental by Admin

A monumental racket signed by the 2004 US Olympic Table Tennis Trials participants.

You're probably thinking, "DANG! That's a huge table tennis racket!".  Well, you're right. And here's the story behind it.

My last year of college, I had a 3D arts class.  Its focus was to teach students how to open their minds and use different materials to create 3D art.  At that time, I was a pure digital designer, so everything in this class was new to me.  I spent so much time in the art studio working on projects and it became one of my all time favorite classes.  One of our projects was to take a normal, everyday common object, and make it monumental.  Of course, the ping pong nerd in me decided to monumentalize a racket.

I took plywood to create the blade, and used insulation foam to create the handle and the sponge for the rubber.  I spent a lot of time sanding the handle down by hand, and created tons of insulation foam dust!  For the "rubber sheet", I glued cardboard onto the "sponge".  I then painted everything, and BAM, it was done!

Fast forward to the start of the new year of 2004. Our coach, Hank McCoullum, was at that time the chair of the elite athlete committee for USA Table Tennis.  The trials was originally to be held at the University of Pennsylvania, but for some reason, it fell through.  Luckily for us, it was then held at Penn State!  Naturally, as one of the leaders for the school's table tennis club, I was heavily involved with setting up the trials.  

Hank hired North American Table Tennis to run the event, and thats how I met my future employer for the first time.  For a beginner, who never saw all the pro's all in one place competing, it was table tennis heaven for me!  I was a complete nerd about it and brought my art project to the trials.  I had the participants sign it and remember cheesing hardcore.  I'm sure all of the players were probably thinking... who the heck is this nerd? What's funny is, throughout the years, they have become great friends of mine.  

2004 US Olympic Table Tennis Trials Oversized Racket

That racket is now sitting in my office at work, and I look at it and remember the humble times of how I started.  During that competition, those players were trying their hardest to make a tournament turn into something monumental for them, a chance to represent the US in the Olympics.  As a new year approaches, I hope everyone can take a simple thing in their life, and remember that, it too can be monumental if you make it.  Cheers, and let's welcome 2013!