Unprofessionalism

Unprofessionalism

Halfway through the article, my brow furrowed — the following paragraph was telling me that in this world of constant connectivity and personal branding, the qualities I value most in life (well, save for that last one) are not “professional”.

The behaviours that make us human are not professional. Honesty, frankness, humour, emotionality, embracing the moment, speaking up for what you believe, affection, sincerity. Quoting extremely offensive trolls. These are all things that will make some people love you and others hate you.

 

Then i got to the end, and I grinned in complete agreement:

This year, I’ve been more myself in public, and taken more opportunities to be unprofessional. Unprofessional in the best possible sense: taking my humanity just as seriously as I take my profession.

 

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p>That line of thinking is why I have no issue writing about certain personal matters and posting them to the web. My weaknesses and failures are just as important and as much a part of me as my strengths and accomplishments, the unpleasant but necessary aspects of my own human experience. I refuse to accept that professional and social success is contingent on denying the negative and distorting reality. 

Reconciliation: Recovering From a Mid-Life Crisis at 27

In migrating my self-hosted installation to my previously-abandoned wordpress.com blog, I’ve found myself re-reading past entires as I’ve been going through and changing the visibility on past posts I’d forgotten were still on the web; I archived everything when I was self-hosting, and you know…consistency. One entry that stood out at me was one that I composed back in August of this year regarding my personal journey in isolation throughout 2012. I can vividly recall my mindset when I wrote that: I felt unburdened and free, yet lost. I’d been a highly self-critical introspective mental-emotional train wreck for so long that when I allowed myself to let go and move past that, I didn’t feel like I had an identity of my own. So I wrote about the circumstances, the inspiration behind my decision, and the result (which, admittedly, is something that I’ve done many times before, each one feeling like I failed to capture all I really meant to say). Though the writing was on the wall throughout the entire length of that post, the one thing I didn’t touch upon was what the core issue was: I had been recovering from a conflict of identity and lack of self-esteem — a “midlife crisis” in my 20’s. This is what working through that has been like.

Depression

I tried to work these things out at the age of 25 when I first identified and acknowledged them, but it was like working a math problem that just didn’t add up. How could someone who’s constantly told that he’s capable and produces great work still be wading in the shallow end of the career pool at college-graduate age? How could someone who grew up knowing a large loving family turn out to be a person whose family is his greatest source of emotional anguish? Why, if I’m as smart as I think I am, have so many of the choices in life I’ve made turned out to be costly mistakes? Every day felt like I was trapped, confined to an contradictory existence. Day to day life felt like I was trapped behind an invisible screen, watching some meaningless life unfold. I remained functional; I went through the motions — went to work, hung out with friends, spent time with the little family I still had an active relationship with — but at the end of the day, I felt hollow and worthless, a pitiful jumble of inner turmoil and self doubt.

Resistance

In 2011, things improved financially to where I was finally able to stabilize myself, and could afford more time and mental energy to really focus on self-improvement. Though I’d been trying for quite some time to sort things out alone, convinced that I could solve my own problems by myself, I finally caved and decided to seek out professional assistance. So I started seeing a therapist.

I’d wager most people picture a patient lying down on a couch having a cathartic emotional breakdown when the subject of therapy comes up. I’ll admit, that was part of what encouraged me to give it a shot; maybe if I just loaded someone up with all the details and have him systematically hit me with each one, I could just cry it out and move on. The reality (which is much better than what I’d been secretly hoping for) was rather ordinary. It was like paying to have the conversation I needed to have. To discuss my innermost truths with someone of an objective and analytical mindset, not with someone who’d be quick to feel sympathy or validate my opinion as friends are prone to do. Someone who would carefully listen to what I was actually saying, and know the right things to say and the right questions to ask. That helped alleviate a fair amount of the pressure, and for awhile, things were looking up. Then things in the then-present personal life took a steep nosedive. I hit a breaking point, and I snapped. So I made my decision to have my 2012.

Self-Exile

In that year alone, I put a distance between “me” and myself. I stopped seeing my past as a linear history, and more like a collection of different people that I’ve been. It was partially externalizing all the chaos in my head, and partially an invitation to escapism. I put serious consideration into the idea of leaving all my social media accounts deactivated, getting a new phone number, disappear and head off to the opposite end of the country, and just completely start over during those first few months. While this approach helped me in getting some needed distance to get a better perspective on my sense of self, there was an unintended consequence. With every day restricted to absolute minimum social interactions and lots of time with my thoughts, there was nothing to really trigger emotional response or engagement. Day after day without the company of friends of the comfort of family to look forward to. No love, no happiness, no sadness, just…me. I stopped processing emotions, and was still in a detached state, only without the saddening pull of depression.

Reconciliation

When you spend that much time with a person, you inevitably have to make peace with them. This year, I focused on filtering out all the negative “programming” I’ve picked up through life and reconnecting with all those “past selves” I turned my back on. Around the same time I wrote that post on 2012 in August, I read an article on artofmanliness.com that analyzed the quote “the child is father to the man,” and described something very similar to what I’d been feeling in regard to my own history. This November, I toyed with the idea of partaking in National Novel Writing Month. As I did some research on story structure, I read about the “Hero’s Journey”. I tried translating my own experience into the monomyth model, and realized why it is I’ve been having such a hard time writing about this all. I thought I would find myself at the final stages in the model. Ultimately, I placed myself towards the beginning, at the step labeled Atonement with the Father. Since then, I’ve reconciled myself with the child I used to be, and hold in such high regard. I accept that he’s gone through some heavy ordeals in life that have led him to a place of unhappiness, and that his story is mine. The grief I carried for so long is not a result from an inability to meet societal standards or the expectations of others, but simply in having failed to deliver on the promise I used to hold, like I somehow managed to make all the wrong choices in life for myself in spite of my better qualities.

Redemption

Things now are, for the most part, in a pretty good place. I’ve got a laundry list of things that I need to get done in the near future – namely, developing a second income stream and finding something to replace my current primary – and some financial hurdles that I’ll be carrying over into the coming year. Those details aside, I feel whole and in complete control of myself, something I’ve been struggling to regain for a very long time now. I’ve rediscovered my inner warrior, that part of me that is fearless and thrives in adversity. I’ve been actively exercising, running 5+ miles on a regular basis. I’ve also been buckling down and pursuing mastery in the various areas of interest I’ve acquired over the years, my present focus placed on writing and getting to know computer programming by learning Python.

When I was a child, I envisioned my adult self to be someone who is genuinely interesting to meet, one of those people who are knowledgeable and proficiently skilled in multiple disciplines. Now, after so much internal struggle, I’ve remembered who I really see myself as, and have belief in “me” to give myself the chance to become that person.

Bad Decisions Were Made Last Week

Last week had a really strong start in regards to fitness — I ran my usual 5 mile route on Monday and Tuesday, and managed to complete both runs at a constant pace without slowing down or stopping. After that, things went downhill. I took Wednesday off since I started feeling some aching in my left knee. Thursday, San Diego was visited by rainy weather, and without a gym membership, I gave myself another day off. I easily could have offset the inability to take to the streets by doing a workout at home, but it’s really easy to give into other distractions at home. Once the weekend hit, I caved and gave into lethargic tendencies, and did a whole lot of nothing, in a manner similar to the last time I did this last month around Thanksgiving. I’d be inclined to chalk this up to the holidays and the winter season if it weren’t something of a trend that’s been present throughout the second half of this year.

In my efforts towards attaining physical fitness, I’ve had to evaluate and redefine my “relationship” with food. I recognize that I’m no longer growing and am now simply aging and that my caloric requirements have drastically reduced in turn, as well as the fact that my metabolism will continue to gradually slow down as time passes. This is the reality that fuels my motivation. On the other hand, dealing with all the financial hardships that have presented themselves this year has negatively impacted my dietary decisions. In the “better” times, I’ve been able to eat well and moderately healthy by doing a great deal of cooking at home. In the “not so better” times, which account for the majority of this year, I’ve been running off of convenience, availability, and affordability as my primary determinants. For example: at the start of the month, I had the car break down on me and demand a replacement battery and alternator, which cut into my budget for many things, most relevant of which being my allocated dollars for food. Shortly after, my roommate planned a tailgate party at a Chargers game for his company, and brought back a lot of the leftover supplies and ingredients that weren’t used. So, up until this past week, hot dogs and turkey franks have been a main part of my diet out of sheer necessity. Even when finances have allowed for options, my decision making hasn’t been the most sound. When you run an entire month eating minimally throughout the week and mainly going with whatever’s available, you end up developing a sense of scarcity in relation to food. My response to date has been to, when possible, indulge and gorge on the things that I deny myself throughout the rest of the month.

Ultimately, the fault lies nowhere else than with myself. All of these contributing factors are, at the end of the day, just excuses. They are merely circumstances, circumstances to which I’ve failed to respond to appropriately; if I’d been able to exercise the proper amount of willpower and self-restraint, I’d be writing a very different narrative right now. Having identified these pitfalls, I just have to keep a careful eye out for them moving forward and do some serious work to make up for lost ground over the past week.

A Brief but Earnest Human Interaction

Before I go off to bed for the night, a little something from my DayOne journal earlier today:

12-17-2013 Journal Entry

While I was out on my run today, I had something happen that, despite it’s seemingly minor nature, made me feel really good.

Lately as I’ve been going out on my running route down to Balboa Park and back up, I’ve been crossing paths with a blonde haired girl that runs through the area around the same time I usually go. The few times I’ve come across her, it’s been along the same path, one of us passing the other as we make our way through the park. Tonight, she happened to be coming in the opposite direction I was heading. As we drew near, she recognized me and stuck out her arm, open palm facing forward. I reciprocated in kind, and we gave each other a quick high-five as we ran past each other without ceding momentum.

Being able to get a feeling of camaraderie from a stranger you’ve never exchanged a single word with — isn’t life grand?

I’m Not Stocky, I’m Just…Fat

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine started joining me on a few of my 5+ mile jaunts. One night, we started talking about fitness, physicality, and our personal goals in relation to both. It’s not something that I usually talk about in conversation with other people, and I offered up more than I expected I would. I don’t want to run the risk of repeating in depth something that I’m pretty sure I’ve written about before, having been in the “large” body type camp since I was a child, so I’ll stick to the point: I’ve never been skinny or even physically fit for that matter, but I have always been comfortable in my own body. Even though I’ve wanted to change that ever since I hit my early 20’s, that feeling of complacency kept me from feeling an imperative need to implement that change. As we shared about our goals and experiences, I mentioned that my goal was to hit a target weight range between 165-170 lbs.

Full Length Mirror Shot
Took this pic at the end of November. People on Facebook said I looked good – but I know the truth underneath the shirt.

The few times that I’ve shared that tidbit with people, I’ve been met with surprise, as if going that low would be clinically unhealthy for someone with my build. This time was no exception, though the reaction was more one of curiosity rather than that of disapproval. To prove my point, I lifted my shirt up and pinched the excess fat around my midsection between my thumb and forefinger. That’s when I got the big reaction I had initially been anticipating; he was shocked at how much fat I was able to pull away from my body, to which I responded “see, I’m not stocky, I’m just…fat.” He told me he could see why I set my target as low as I have, and added that he thought it was really commendable that I was able to recognize and admit to that self-assessment.

Up until last year, I’m inclined to say that I bought into the line of thinking I’ve heard before, that I’m acceptably proportioned in relation to my body frame. I can’t say for sure whether it’s something that’s happened with age or whether it’s a result of the reconnection with my high personal standards, but since last year, I haven’t felt that feeling of comfort with being in my own skin.

Even if I were to take a photo of myself and include it with this post, I think most people would be inclined to think that I’ve developed a form of body dysmorphia. Yet, being the person that has to go through life in this body, I can confidently say that that’s just because I carry myself pretty well. If I were to take a photo framed to focus in on my abdominal body fat squeezed between my fingers, I’d then expect people to tell me to keep at my work and kill the extra weight for good. Last year when I started feeling daily discomfort in simply existing, I invested about $15 in a pair of body fat calipers. For anyone that doesn’t know what those are, they’re essentially a mix of a ruler and fat pinching tongs that help calculate body fat percentage. When I bought them last year, I could even fit them around the isolated mound of fat in the target measurement area.

Earlier this week, I found the set of calipers as I was cleaning my bedroom closet. In an uplifting sign of progress, I found that I can now actually use them on myself, even if the readout is still less than ideal. Presently, I’m astonished at how long I managed to go without this feeling of dissatisfaction settle in. And I don’t just feel it – I actually see it too. The more fat I burn off through my 5+ mile runs, the more my true body type begins to show itself. I’m not stocky or broad as most people seem to think. If I were in my target weight range and had a decent amount of muscle definition, I’d classify more along the lines of “average” or “athletic”.

So now, even though it makes me feel like utter crap some days, I’m glad that I started feeling uncomfortable with my body – it’s a constant reminder and motivator to physically get myself to where I should have been all along.

Marketing

When I revisit my headspace back when I was in my teenage years and early 20’s, I remember a paralyzing inability to come up with a response for the question of what I wanted to do in life. I’ve always been pretty technologically inclined throughout my life, so doing something involving computer science or internet technology seemed like a plausible career path. At the same time, I’d started developing a heavy passion for music and found a deep affinity for writing and research. I was pretty capable with image editors and html code as well, and as I kept learning of all the different types of specialized jobs people can have, I found myself facing countless possibilities without any concrete direction as to which vocation to pursue. Eventually I came across an opportunity with a marketing focus, through which I found something that I felt a genuine interest and passion for.

My Introduction to Marketing

In 2007, I was lucky to be part of a small startup that a close circle of internet friends decided to start. We a plucky group of kids in our early 20’s with a deep love of Japanese rock, a niche music genre that had started taking a modest foothold on the web. Right around that time, Japanese bands started probing for overseas market interest and started experimenting with touring the US. That summer, a supergroup comprised of some of the most prominent artists in the Japanese rock scene scheduled a debut performance in Long Beach at the Anime Expo convention. Though I decided to attend AX that year simply to catch the music show, a lot of the other people in the group were already planning on going for the anime focus of the con. Since everyone was going to be in the same locale, the idea of putting together a last minute street team to promote the event on site to maximize attendance was kicked around, and received with great enthusiasm.

Within a two week span, we generated promotional materials and devised an execution strategy. I ended up serving in a coordinative capacity, overseeing the on-site team’s functions and relaying all the operational information and live updates to our team director, who was pushing all the information live to the web. Social media and mobile phone technology were very rudimentary compared to the present day, but we still achieved a really strong response from fans all over the world who wished they could be present and were eager to get any sort of information on the event. The results of our efforts did not go by unnoticed, and a few weeks later we were approached by the group that had organized a Japanese Rock festival in Los Angeles the year before to serve as their marketing services provider. In the months that followed, our team rebranded the client’s project and set up an online community to promote fan engagement. We and traveled to Tokyo to meet with different artists in the Japanese music space to generate content as well as explore promotional opportunities with their respective management. In 2008, we were contracted to facilitate an international ticket sale for a major Japanese rock band who was reuniting for their first performance since disbanding in 1997. In an effort to promote overseas engagement, a pool of tickets for the three-night reunion show were set aside to be sold to fans outside of Japan. Using the web technologies and tools available then, we managed the sale of individual tickets as well as VIP packages that included tickets for all three nights, airfare, lodging, and tour guide services.

With the team being globally distributed, getting the necessary work done while working across multiple time zones required extremely long work days (on average, 14 hours a day) and an unprecedented level of commitment. Even though I was forced to take up an unforgiving sleep schedule and prioritize these projects above many of my personal commitments, I still got a high level of enjoyment out of it. In the mid-late 2000’s, finding information on Japanese music without the ability to actually read Japanese was near impossible. Being a part of a mechanism that allowed people across the world who felt passionately about this particular band to actually purchase tickets to the event and travel to Japan — essentially, eliminating the hurdles of language barriers — felt so motivating and empowering.

Beyond Japan & Music

Though we managed to accomplish so much with virtually no formal experience or training in marketing, the timing was unfortunately off. The music industry as a whole was still transitioning to digital downloads, and without the proliferation of the smartphone, was still desperately trying to cling to physical CDs. Working primarily with the Japanese music industry further complicated matters in this regard. Even today, Japan’s industry is still trailing the US adoption of digital distribution. The disparate nature of the both countries’ music industries backed us into a paradoxical corner. We were intended to promote Japanese artists and build interest in the US, but were limited by Japanese practices that directly contradicted successful domestic marketing strategies. Facebook and Twitter were seeing rapidly increasing adoption rates in the America, but in Japan, artists were barely starting to jump on the already dying MySpace bandwagon. Music artists in the US that had a MySpace presence uploaded promoted tracks in their full length; Japanese artists were only uploading 20–40 second clips to their profile playlists. These limitations became too cumbersome to deal with on an ongoing basis, and with our team transitioning into adulthood and focusing on our individual educational & professional goals, our startup gradually ceased operations in 2008.

Later that year, I jumped on the smartphone wagon with the purchase of an iPhone 3G. As I became familiarized with mobile computing, I found myself becoming even more of a tech enthusiast than I already was, and started subscribing to various blogs on the subject and reading them regularly. As they do today, the tech blogs I followed covered the activities of the tech firms as much as the individual gadgets. Up until that point, my interest in technology had been focused on consumer hardware & software as an end user. Yet, as I read about the people behind the technology firms and how their decisions developed and drove the market, my areas of interest expanded dramatically. The more I read about marketing in relation to mobile computing technology, I began to draw parallels and identify the power of the marketing process in many other areas of life, and found it all extremely fascinating. In turn, I began to pursue communications with an emphasis in marketing as my primary field of study in vocational development.

In the Now

Admittedly, I considered abandoning marketing as a primary area of specialization last year. With all of the messages and communication channels available on the web today, it seems like anyone who has an internet connection can constitute as a “marketer”. Pursuing the knowledge that actually goes into the discipline started to feel like a waste of time, since the professional label is used so flippantly on the internet (and thus, probably not taken as seriously as it should be). However, given how integral legitimate marketing is to a successful business, I quickly abandoned that line of thinking and recommitted. One of the initial concepts I encountered in the first marketing textbook I read was the idea of ethical marketing. Living in our present day economy, it largely feels as if ethics in marketing are an idealist principle that’s ignored in favor of measurable results and the bottom line, which makes little sense considering the highly social interconnected online environment we deal with today. I want to continue developing my capabilities as a marketer, both online and offline, to contribute to the pool of honest and meaningful communications out in the world.

Weight Loss Project: The Big 100

After migrating from a self-hosted installation back onto wp.com, I’ve been tied up in other affairs (justifiably so, not just another manifestation of the productivity myth) to hammer out an update. Though I haven’t been on-point about updating, I’ve definitely been sticking to the work behind it. Thanksgiving week was expectedly gluttonous, and I ended up gaining about 3 lbs back, according to the scale. I also think I was weighing in less than I should have, since I wasn’t eating much the week prior because of all the stress. Since then, I’ve been trying to work on my running, but winter makes it a real challenge to push myself out the door once I get home from work. By the time I get home from all the traffic, it’s already dark out and the sunlit hours of the day have been cold lately. Still, I’ve managed to do a decent job at keeping the running habit going, and even set a new best personal time for the 5+ mile route I do down to Balboa Park a few days ago.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my logging process. I started writing about my fitness efforts as an accountability mechanism as well as a journal throughout the process. However, with all the social networks and fitness apps available on the mobile web, it’s so easy to outsource the logging to different services to where blogging about it feels redundant. While they all do a great job tracking activities and overall progress, they don’t provide the granularity that someone like myself who’s enamored with the idea of the quantified self would find sufficient. For that, manual logging is the tool for the job.

Going only by my weigh-ins on the digital scale was working fine for awhile, but the fluctuations in weight over Thanksgiving week made me realize how badly I need to get back to taking regular measurements. Though the fluctuations in weight were minor, the resulting physical sensation would have me believe otherwise (there’s more to be said on that, but I’ll save that for another post). So, here we go again:

MEASUREMENTS

Stats
Height 5’ 10”
Goal Weight 165
Day # 100
Date: 12/10/2013
Measurements
Neck  16″
Chest 42″
Upper Arm (Left) 11.75″
Upper Arm (Right) 12.5″
Waist 36.5″
Abdomen 39.4″
Hips 40″
Upper Thigh (Left) 23″
Upper Thigh (Right) 23.75″
Calf (Left) 16″
Calf (Right) 16″
Total Inches 276.9
Total Inches Lost
Weight 199.9 lbs.
Weight Lost to Date
BMI 28.7
Change in BMI
Goal Distance 34.9 lbs.

 

Update: 12/15/2013 @ 10:27:20 PM

I just compared these numbers to the ones I posted back on Day 1 in September. This is why logging is important. The story the numbers tell is that I basically gained weight in September, and slowly started burning it off again throughout October and November to break even. However, my running times and stamina have started to gradually improve and are much better than they were back in September. Physically, I feel much better now than I did then as well. That being acknowledged, I clearly need to kick things up a couple notches.