The $1 Negativity Experiment

One of my favorite financial authors, Ramit Sethi, sent one of his free e-books to me 15 Little “Life Hacks” That Can Change Your Life, and it has inspired me to come back and reinvigorate BreakingNorms with a journalistic feel to document my pursuit of BreakingNorms.

As November is coming to a close, his e-book could not have come at a more perfect time for me to kickoff December with an experiment taken from his e-book. For the sake of giving it a more catchy name, I have decided to call it The $1 Negativity Experiment.


To paraphrase Ramit’s description of the experiment, here’s an outline of the experiment:

Goal: Improve the quality of life for myself and the people around me by eliminating negative comments (about myself or anyone else) from my daily conversation.


#1. I will go to the bank tomorrow and take out $50 in single dollar bills.

#2. Every time I make a negative comment, I have to give a dollar to the person I’m speaking to. If I am speaking to the person over the phone or online, then I will ask that person who they would like me to give it to (whether it’s a stranger or whomever).

#3. If I run out of single dollar bills, I will go to the bank and withdraw another $50 in single dollar bills.

#4. At the end of the month, I will record how much money I have remaining.

#5. I will continue this experiment until my monetary ratio of money withdrawn to money given out is 1% or less.

This may sound crazy to many of you, but I’m with Ramit on this one when I think that this will have a dramatic impact on my life if I’m successful. So here’s to the first of many crazy experiments to not only breaking the norm, but living a fuller and richer life.


The Rain

Today’s post is an inspirational email passed on from my uncle.

Unknown Source

The Rain

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80’s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb.

 He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat,  knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health.

He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease.

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.”

I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, “That is the kind of love I want in my life.”

True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.

The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything they have.

‘Life isn’t about
how to survive the storm,
But how to dance in the rain.’

I hope that you’ve found this post to be as inspirational as I did when I first read it. And if you did, please pass this along to anyone else who you think would benefit from this post’s message. Till next week.

My New Hero Named Jiro

Today’s post is inspired from Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

It was regular weekday night when I was perusing through Netflix and happened to see this documentary show-up. Documentary? On sushi? Yes please! (Did I mention I was getting ready to eat dinner?)

From Jiro Dreams of Sushi

For those who haven’t watched this, it was a phenomenal insight into the workings and thoughts of a man and restaurant that I will probably never have a chance to visit or experience. And even though there are some people out there who think documentaries are boring. Well, that’s the thing about documentaries, they let you see a perspective of the world that you would never have seen otherwise.

Aside from the fact that it was a documentary about sushi and made my mouth water for the delectable sushi on the screen, it was quite an inspiration for me as an individual who is also looking to devote my time and energy to the right things in life. Throughout the documentary, the touch upon this term, shokunin, but never quite explained it fully.

Shokunin is translated to essentially be “artisan” or “craftsman.” While seemingly ordinary, the documentary portrayed the term to be more of an honorary title that is simply not given to any random person who happens to be an artisan or craftsman. Instead, it is more of a demonstration of extreme dedication to an art that has allowed you to transcend the ordinary and begin to step into the world of masters.

This whole notion of becoming a shokunin really struck me. After all, how many of us can say that we’ve committed even 10% of our energy and devotion to mastering a craft. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that most of us know what it’s like to work hard. It’s just I can only really think of a few moments in my life where I may have pursued something the way that Jiro pursues his craft of making the best sushi in the world.

After watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I have decided to find aspects of my life that I would aspire to become a “shokunin” as much as I possibly can. As of right now, I have decided that I will focus on: user experience, go, and cultivation.

If you were to be a shokunin, what area of expertise would you choose?

The True Meaning of Poverty

Today’s post is inspired by John Scalzi’s post – Being Poor – Whatever.

Here on BreakingNorms, my number one goal is to provide an alternative opinion, a different perspective, a slightly new spin on something that we think we know so well. Today’s post is on something we all know how to define: poverty. The mindset of those who are poor however, is something completely different entirely.

I normally ask those who have time to go visit the blog post, but this time I implore you to visit his post.

These twelve (in no particular order) were perhaps the most eye-opening ones for me:

  1. “Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.”
  2. “Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.”
  3. “Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.”
  4. “Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.”
  5. “Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.”
  6. “Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.”
  7. “Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.”
  8. “Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.”
  9. “Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.”
  10. “Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.”
  11. “Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.”
  12. “Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.”

I think we all forget how luxurious the word choice is. To be able to choose to do something different is a luxury that some simply do not have. It is not up to us to scorn them or judge them for the position they are in. To think that we are better because of a lucky break or being born in nurturing environment is a travesty and is a thought we should all do well to eliminate from our minds.

I hope that you’ll take a moment to really let this sink into your mind and carry it with you the rest of your life. We may not all have grown up with hardship, but we all should do well to treasure and appreciate everything we have because it would be a shame if we waited until it was too late to do so.

Finally, I leave you with his final statements, which in my opinion, stand alone as if it were a poem.

“Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.”

What were some of the most eye-opening statements for you?

It’s Time to Step Things Up

In conjunction with last week’s post on the illusion of busyness, I thought it only be appropriate that we talk about “stepping up our game.”

Joel Runyon’s post, An Unexpected Ass Kicking, did exactly that to me when I happened to stumble upon it one day.

For those of you who do not have the time to read the post in its entirety, it is essentially a journal entry about how Runyon was sitting in a coffee shop working on his new Macbook Air when the the guy who invented the computer (Russel Kirsch) decides to bestow his time and wisdom to Runyon.


In their ensuing conversation, the following statements will forever stick out in my mind:

1. “I guess, I’ve always believed that nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do. Most people think the opposite – that all things are withheld from them which they have conceived to do and they end up doing nothing.”

In other words, as Runyon paraphrases quite nicely, “If you’ve conceived something in your mind, decide to do it, and are willing to put in the work – nothing can stop you.” Now there are clearly many exceptions to this statement, but why let personal or environmental obstacles serve to determine your reality? I’m not proposing that people be delusional, but stop with the excuses and get out there!

2. “Do things that have never been done before.”

I know that naysayers and Debbie-downers will always try to interject about things can’t be done, but isn’t what makes life so interesting the fact that we often have the opportunity to turn ideas only thought to exist in dreams into reality? Just as people do with the whole notion of busyness, we find that most often people’s usage of the verb “can’t” really should just be replaced with “won’t.” Because in reality, most things aren’t about capability, they are about the willingness to move forward regardless of the challenges that we are faced with.

So here’s to the improbable, and not the impossible!

Think You’re “So Busy?” Think Again.

Anxiety by Brecht Vandenbroucke

“I’m so busy… I never have any time for myself… Relax? What is that?”

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does, because at some point we all have probably thought something along those lines.

In the article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider, Kreider brings up some great points regarding the whole notion of “business” within our society.

#1. “The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. “

Isn’t this quite the interesting notion? Most people would probably argue that society has “forced” us to be so busy. Yet, Kreider is completely on target with the fact that the only person to blame is ourselves, not society. Society have provide certain environmental guidelines, but history has shown us again and again that it is up to the individual to abide by the conditions around them.

#2. “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

In The Shawshank Redemption, the famous quote from Tim Robbin’s character Andy Dufresne is: “Get busy living. Or get busy dying.” With our topic being about the whole notion of being “busy,” it’s kind of ironic that “busy” is the primary verb of the popular quote. Yet if we think about Kreider statement, it becomes apparent that many people do not realize that there are different types of busyness.

The type of busyness that Kreider focuses is on is the one that most people choose to occupy themselves with. It is generally full of noise and action, but very often there is nothing to show at the end of the day.

The type of busyness that Andy Dufresne talks about is one that is full of purpose where each action has an overarching goal behind it. This is the type of busyness that we should be occupying our time with, not the normal busyness we so often find ourselves spending time on.

#3. “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Case and point. Sleep.

Even the most brilliant minds of our time require space and time away from their work. In fact, just as Euclid leapt out of his bathtub and went running naked down the streets when he discovered a new physical law, these times of peace and quietness are often where a good deal of our inspiration and innovation comes from.

In the end, do you want to recall your life as one gigantic blur of actions? Does it not strike you as odd that we work so hard for a “successful” career in hopes that we can “one day” actually “live” our life? I think the Dalai Lama summed it up the best when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

The word “life” is akin to the word “live.” So why not live your life with a purpose that transcends the whole notion of being “so busy.”

The Best Solutions in Life

In anticipation of Labor Day Weekend, I’ve decided to release the post early since I’m sure everyone will be off having fun on Monday. So, to kick everything off, I hope you’ll take five minutes to watch the following speech from Kenneth Cole – “The Birth of a Shoe Company.” This lecture is different from the typical TED Talks in that it is only a few minutes long and is an anecdote about how Kenneth Cole created a successful company amidst a recession.

If I were to select the single most memorable moment in the entire lecture, it is the following statement:

“Invariably, we remind ourselves that the best solutions are not the most expensive but are the most creative.” – Kenneth Cole

Although it seem incredibly obvious, it still blew my mind as to how simple and true his statement was. Yet, when I looked at myself and the others around me, I couldn’t help but wonder why so many of us seem to purposely avoid the creative solutions.

Let’s take the following example:

In the pursuit of the idea of entrepreneurship, I thought that it might be a good idea for me to get an understanding of marketing. After all, how can I make a successful business without an understanding of marketing? So with that in mind, I immediately hit Amazon to find all the best books in marketing I could find. Before I knew it, I had about $100 in books that I was ready to order. Then, on top of that, some of the books mentioned some brilliant marketers who were selling courses online. Next thing I know, I’m waist deep in online course material from people who’ve “made it big” and created “viral online products” that “generated thousands of dollars in passive income.” 

If we take a step back, I’m sure it doesn’t take a scientist to notice that my immediate approach at the solution was to spend money. Perhaps it is because that in my mind I equate spending money on something with obtaining something of value. To some extent, it’s not completely invalid. For instance, by purchasing a credible and informative book on marketing, I will have obtained the value of marketing knowledge in the form of a book.

Here’s where the problem occurs:

A. Most people who buy the book feel satisfied in simply buying the book, and the next thing they know the book is collecting dust on the bookshelf.

B. The 10% of people who actually read what they buy will then decide they need more knowledge and go purchase more books or even enroll in a some seminar or class.

C. The cycle repeats itself and no one gets to where they originally intended: obtaining the skill of marketing.

While there are some people who go through Situation B and actually obtain something of worth, let’s be realistic with ourselves in knowing we are not that 0.01%.

So the question is how we avoid these types of common pitfalls.

#1. When approached with a problem or goal, your first solution should NEVER be to spend money.

#2. Once you’ve suppressed the impulse to spend money, do your research online. Let’s not forget everyone, the chances are extremely high that someone else has already encountered your problem and posted about it online. So why don’t we just take a minute or so to see what the vast internet has for us?

#3. If it seems that you need to purchase something, make sure you’re well aware of what you already have and see if you can re-purpose anything you have instead of spending more money.

#4. Roll your sleeves up and dive right into the problem. Don’t make excuses for why something can’t done. Just take action and by doing so you will progress forward.

At first it may be a little difficult to be creative with what you have and make clever use of your time and energy, but the great thing about starting this process is that it will get easier and easier over time. And before you know it, you’ll be coming up with things that seem common-sense to you; but brilliant in the eyes of those around you.