Arriving in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

I’m writing the beginning of this on the plane again; a wise man once told me that he only reads during the first and last 20 minutes of plane rides. Not his wisest words but it’s a pretty funny concept. We just left Dubai and Oman. I really liked the beginning of our travels. It was a good mix of spending time with family, meeting new people, discovering the city, and enjoying it. While I was there I took a lot of time to read, reflect and meditate, probably because the internet wasn’t working (which is almost always a blessing in disguise)… I’m probably on my computer too much for my own good. Anyways, I got really enticed by an idea and as usual I assumed that my whole life would change overnight if I implemented it into my day to day life (it don’t work like that keed). It was a mix of inspiration from Haseeb Qureshi (ex-poker player’s) blog www.haseebq.com, and my interpretation of concepts from meditation and this book I’m reading called Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I recommend both of the those.

Haseeb wrote on the subject of “trusting in the process” in poker and in life. Making the best decision over and over in the moment and then just trusting without gauging or checking that you will be rewarded in the process. He compared poker to climbing a mountain and wrote

“You start climbing, scrambling, kicking and scraping your way up this treacherous mountain with your eyes fixed on the peak, because that’s where you want to be in the end. But that’s not how you climb a mountain. The only way to climb a mountain, as any climber will tell you, is by looking where you are. By finding a rock to reach for, another for footing, and one by one, moment by moment, to climb. To climb, and to throw yourself into climbing. Looking up or down is irrelevant.”

Haseeb’s metaphor is drawn up for poker but I think the concept is good for everyday life and general happiness. Sometimes I find myself going through things and focusing on the finish line instead of the stretch of concrete in front of me, and it takes me out of the moment, making me susceptible to being resistant or irritable when the flow leading up to an event is interrupted or different than I expected. Sometimes consciously or subconsciously, I think we project what the memory of an event is going to be before we even fully experience it. But that isn’t how good memories are made. It’s best to be focused on the present, moment by moment and let the rest flow naturally.

I was reminded of all of this while I played a game of golf here a couple of days ago, and I think I like it better as an example than the one about climbing a mountain, especially because it focuses on a target that you want to hit over and over rather than a goal that you can either reach or not reach.  Let’s say you’re golfing and you’re teeing off on the first hole of the course. If you want to play your best, you can’t look at the hole while you shoot, even though that is the target you’re aiming for. You should know where the hole is but you really need to shift your focus to hitting the ball right in front of you now and getting closer to where you want to be. Now let’s say that you made it on the green in x number of shots. It’s not going to do you any good to think about how many shots it took to get there or how many it might take to get in the hole. The only thing worth focusing on is putting right now. Now let’s say you’re teeing off for the last hole of the course and you want to know your score. It does you no good to check your results and avert your attention. You might see your score and think, “okay I just need to make par on this next hole and I can still tie” or something of that matter, but the way to play your best and score your best is to be focused on doing your best in the present moment, and to trust in the process along the way.

Poker forces me to think about stuff like this, which is probably one of my favorite parts of the experience, but for anyone completely uninterested in poker I hope this helps with your putting.

Banana Day

It’s been a strange Christmas day. I woke up this morning at dawn, after a short one-hour nap, to the thought of spending the next 15 hours dressed up as a banana, surrounded by people I didn’t know and would likely never meet. This thought actually energized me to get out of bed, probably because it was so out of the ordinary.

Last night, as Asad and I were getting ready to pack up and fly to Dubai, I jokingly brought up the suggestion of wearing a banana costume for the duration of the trip. Pretty standard for us to joke about something like this, most of our humor revolves around absurd ideas and imaginary situations. Asad responded, as he sometimes does, with a wager or self-sacrifice in an attempt to make this imaginary situation into his future reality. He offered to buy my flight from Dubai to Malaysia if I went through with it and never took off my banana hood (unless it was mandated for security reasons). I barely thought about it and snap accepted, it was clearly a great deal.

Here’s Asad’s documentation and captioning of the whole event:

Excitement

Excitement

Boredom

Boredom

Fatigue

Fatigue

Shame

Shame

Success

Success

Looking back, I might have done it for free. This is fun. I use the present tense “this” because I’m still sitting in my banana suit as I write this (the plane is about to land). There are a couple of nice and unexpected lessons to take away from today. Firstly, on the surface, I learned that there’s no reason to not do silly and dumb stuff like this. It cheers people up and surprises almost everyone and reminds you that there’s no reason to not do silly and dumb stuff. To go a bit deeper, I learned that it’s nice to be put into a position where you get looked at differently. It reminds you that you can always be yourself without having any sort of reaction to the thoughts or reactions of others. You don’t even need to react to the thoughts or reactions of yourself. I was confronted with a lot of positive, negative, and even neutral reactions to the way I looked, and I found it especially easy to remember that other people’s immediate thoughts, and your own, are just thoughts. They are snippets of brain activity that are constantly springing up all over the place about a million different topics. There is no need to do any more than to observe them with a half smile.

My favorite parts of the experience were that I frequently forgot I was in a banana suit, I easily disregarded the fact that I might look ridiculous to some people, and I constantly felt that I could act naturally and have fun while wearing a banana suit for no reason other than to have fun while wearing a banana suit. Ain’t nothin wrong with that.

Merry Christmas (or Chrimbus) to all.