Asking

I think it’s important to ask. This is hard for me too, but the worse that they can do is say no, or reject your offer. Again, the worst that they can say is no, and words are very cheap. Literally, you move your mouth, and spew out a few words, and go from there. At the very least, if they say no, don’t you gain information on what you could have worked on? It’s all good practice and sometimes the stakes are so low that you should go for it.

Kind of unrelated, but when my dad taught me the basics of tennis, this is what he told me:

Do not give a shit about where the ball going outside the tennis court. Don’t worry son, I’ll pick it up. NO WORRIES. HIT THAT BALL AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. IT’S OK IF IT IS OUT OF BOUNDS.

I recently got to go home and play with him, and it made sense! You want to push yourself and hit the ball as hard as possible, so you know your limits. Similarly, throw a couple of words out there and see what sticks.

Here are a couple of stories where I’ve had some success. And also failures:

Insurance Claim

I once called up to file an insurance claim, where the estimate seemed to be significantly lower because of how they calculated the amount for the claim. I told them that their method seemed flawed, and within then minutes they raised my claim amount by $500. So within 10 minutes I was able to save $500.

Internet Bill

2017

Last year, their promotional rate was at $40 dollars a month. However, since we’ve been in their service for a year, they decided to hike the rate to $63 dollars a month. So I called them up the first time and threatened to switch to an alternate service provider. And they told me that the best they can do is to lower my rate to $53 and told me to get lost.

I accepted and a month later, I saw an ad for an alternate service for $40 dollars a month. I called my ISP once more, and told them unless they were willing to lower my rate, I would be switching. And that I just got off the phone with the other ISP(which is true, I was fine with pulling this trigger)

They put me on hold and 10 minutes later came back with $43, which I accepted.

I’m happy they did this. I could now avoid staying at home and monitor the service man setting up internet!

In the grand scheme of things, this 20 dollars isn’t much. But in terms of absolute savings percentage wise, it’s closer to 30%. It leads me to wonder - how many opportunities and things are we missing out, just because we’re a bit afraid to be a little more assertive, and ask?

2019

However, the following year, they jacked up the prices again. I lowered it by 5 dollars, but didn’t have the strength to dance between them. Plus, my parents might end up making the move, so I wasn’t sure if I could aggressively bluff and say that we’re going to switch to another provider since the other provider requires a 2 year contract. Maybe I’ll take another stab next time I’m home.

Job Negotiation

OK, this is the one where I bricked. But it’s fine, I learned a hell of a lot from it.

Basically, I got a job offer, and the starting salary was a lower than expected. I gave the recruiter a legitimate reason why my salary should be increased. But I asked for too much - way too much considering the original amount. He told me to take the original offer or leave it.

I called them a day later, and asked again. But this time, I talked to the company I was contracting part time and they were considering bringing me full time when I told them I was about to accept a full time job.

When I told the first recruiter about this, I suddenly noticed a chance in the tone of his voice. He became very interested in what the other company was offering. But I didn’t have any concrete numbers, and I wasn’t willing to bet on losing the first job offer, so I screwed up and played the situation wrong. The best he said was he could move it up 5k. I got tired of playing the game and was in a bit of a rush so I said I’ll take the original offer. In retrospect I should have pushed for that 5k. Sure, 5k is nothing but a couple of dollars per week and it’s not a lot on a grand scale of things. But if it’s such a small amount, then why shouldn’t you have it as well?

I learned two things: First, it’s always good to have alternatives and a counter-offer. I think this is fundamental. It shows that you have an out, and are desirable. Without this so called alternative, I don’t think any company would budge on their price or be flexible.The jump from 1 to 2 offers is huge, and the minute you have 2 offers, you signal there is competition for you!

Second, if the recruiter said something like, “Hey Mr. Panda, I think the most we can do it 5k. But I’m not sure. Let me do my best and get back to you.” IF he got back to me and said something like, “I’m really sorry panda man. I couldn’t get the management to approve 5k, but I fought hard and got us 2k!” If he did that, I’d think - man this guy is great. And if I knew any other friend that was interested in joining this company, I’d hook this guy up even if I left. So - he’s playing the short term game, and that’s fine by me.

If you can’t meet their initial demands, you should partially meet some of their demands. They’ll appreciate you for it.

It’s also said in the Book of Proverbs too - if a friend comes to you asking for an absurd amount of money, and you turn him down, the friendship is dead right there. Same thing happened with a distant family relatives. Their relationship never fully recovered.

Instead of doing that, meet their demands to the best of what you think is reasonable. Something like, “Hey, I really can’t give you the amount you’re asking for. But I can give you this much - no strings attached. Don’t have to pay me back.Hopefully it all works out pal.” You save your friendship because at the end of the day you still helped!

So yeah, I’m not going to be recommending that recruiter, or have a high opinion of him. His loss.

Gym membership

I went to a boxing gym workout at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, and the owner said it costs $50 dollars to train per week. I went up to him and asked him for a discount. He asked me for a number, and I gave him $35. Thought it was reasonable since the group lesson was a bit pricy. He was down with it, and I got myself a discount. Ask.

Eye Exam Bill

I got charged $250 for an eye exam. It was ridiculous. They didn’t even get me conclusive results after the exam - they referred me to another hospital. I got another bill from the other hospital, and they charged me $178. I thought this was reasonable, so I didn’t call them up fighting for more dollars. I could have, but I felt like the price was fair.

Anyhoo, I didn’t think the first $250 exam was fair. I sent them an email, saying how I enjoyed being at their establishment, how they’re doctors were nice. They were. But I told them I had a problem with their bill, and I couldn’t recommend them to my friends or leave a honest to God positive review. I told them that the fair price for the exam should be $150.

They called me and said they’ll refund me $100. I thought this outcome was reasonable, considering that I didn’t have any powerful leverage. The transaction was already done, and it was more of a courtesy. That or they care about their long term prospects and online reviews.

Yet another tangent, but here’s what would be an interesting experiment. I go to a ton of stores, and try is variations of the above sending different emails to lower the original invoice. So maybe I should only mention reviews. Maybe I should not have started out with the compliment. Or maybe I could vary the extravagance of compliments. It would be fascinating to quantify the effects of what I’ve written and see which strategies are most effective to reduce costs.

Summary

Here are a few key takeaways:

Likability

I read this from a book. It’s an amazing exercise. Here we go: Imagine a person you hate. You can’t stand this person. You want to hurt them…

Now that person is asking you do pay you loan you some money.

Will you do it?

HELL NOPE.

The principle behind this exercise is that - if you hate the guy, then you will not help them out. Similarly, if the other party hates you because you’ve been rude, and selfish, they will not help you. At a fundamental level, they have to like you to match your demands. I think this is key. The more they like you, the more they are willing to help you out.

Consideration for the Other Party

If you throw out a number that will screw over the other party and treat them as an idiot, they will not be kind to you. They will not like you. In fact, they might end up hating your guts. So for example, if you know that a price good is $100, and offer them $10, you are downright insulting their intelligence. People on eBay do this shit all the time, and it ends up just pissing me off. Because it’s insulting my intelligence. Why?!

Have some consideration for the other party.

Last updated 8/9/19, originally drafted 03/01/2018.

Teachings from a Bee

Sometimes the littlest things in life can teach us great things. I believe that no matter who it is, there’s something valuable we can learn if we challenge the way we see things.

Here’s one that I saw when I was meditating that latched itself onto my mind. I’m constantly thinking about this.

A bee(or wasp) was trapped in the window while I was meditating. As it way trying to escape, it was doing the same thing over and over and over and over.

It tries to climb up, and then fly out. Over and over and over and over. If this isn’t the definition of insanity, then I don’t know what is. As Einstein said - it’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. What the hell. I was so fascinated by this, that I took a video of it:

20190627_141448.mp4

Yo. If you want to accomplish stuff, but you continue fail to make progress, then you need to change your strategy.

It made me think about why the hell we keep doing that won’t work without changing anything. Part of it is probably because people in general are super-resistant to change after their teenage years. I think this is the time when you crystallize most of your thought processes and value systems. Also, think about it - instead of a bad habit, what if you had an amazing one? Wouldn’t you want to maintain that and continue to ride the gravy train? The same mechanism that prevents you from changing is also the same mechanism that maintains great things about you. So yeah, change is hard but not impossible.

To get back on track, don’t do stuff that doesn’t work. Again, you need to change your strategy. Not losing weight? Don’t say I’m going to lose weight this time and go for that run tomorrow. Hell no. You need to change your strategy. You say I’m going to for that run. Now. In the middle of the night at 2 am. If it’s dangerous outside, fine - run in place. Or maybe you’ll put a scale in front of your door before you go to work to keep in mind of what you measure. If you don’t go for that run tomorrow morning after you put a scale in front of your door, you’re definitely going to feel guilty. Maybe you should start counting calories - you optimize for what you measure right? Or give up the control of getting groceries to a more sensible human being. Or sign up with a trainer who will make sure he will gas you to Mars. There are so many different options. Don’t just do the same thing expecting different results.

Sidenote: My biggest problem is losing stuff by letting my room devolve into compete chaos. One way I’m thinking of mitigating this is to build in cleaning break while I’m working. Take a break, instead of watching some stupid YouTube video, maybe I can turn on some tunes and spent 5 minutes cleaning to reduce clutter. Or maybe I should do this before I go to sleep and think about how to build a trigger into my routine. Maybe put like some sort of stuffed animal or something to remind me? Hmm.

To get back on track again, don’t be like the goddamn bee. If the bee went in an opposite direction, then - done! Escape! It’s a legitimate strategy is go to the opposite direction - a direction we’ve never considered before.

One more thing - this bee here also teaches about local minimums. From a complete, localized view of the bee, you are making the right decision at every step. However, if you zoom out and see the world from my point of view, it’s a completely wrong way to approach the problem. It works both ways - it’s a duality. It may be making the wrong move locally, but globally it’s actually on track.

In life, you may think that you are going in the right direction from your localized point of view, but it’s the wrong way to go. Similarly, you may think that your life is completely screwed up and your current situation is a dumpster fire, and you’re completely off track, but if you look at the global perspective you’re actually going in the right direction.

So what happened to the bee?

I got back to my room later in the day, the bee wasn’t there. There’s a lesson in that too - keep trying! You’ll be able to make it!

Now, the bee, free from the grasps of my evil window, continues his quest to obtain the finest nectar the streets of New York City can offer. Our bee braves this journey so one day it can give offer his nectar to his beloved queen, who is dying.

Dying in an oven. Also known as New York City.

Family and Fourth of July 2019

I had the pleasure to go back home for the Fourth of July holiday. My brother was coming in from Seattle for a wedding. Around this time is also mom’s birthday!

It felt like the right time to come back home for a bit. I needed a health checkup. I also had to dump off some of my stuff(including a lot of books), and build a computer for dad. There were a bunch of other paperwork that I needed to do. Ugh -.-.

I had a really good time with family. We ate a ton of Korean beef, ordered our usual sushi platter, caught up, and my parents gave me advice as usual. I don’t think we did anything other than… talk.

My dad gave me his talk on life - the things that he usually says to me when I come by:

“This is why life is hard.”

“I’ve found that even if I try do have something happen, it only happens when the stars line up and heavens will it.”

“You always try to go too fast - take it slow and take care of yourself.”

For my mom, it was always to focus on spirituality and pray.

My brother on the other hand seems to be enjoying life on the West coast. He’s learning a lot on his new job, although his side venture is on a bit of a downturn. Hopefully it will swing back up.

Whatever it was, I just felt a overwhelming flood of thankfulness and appreciation. As a family, we’ve been through a lot - more than most. But it’s my firm belief that for some people, there are extreme lows as well as extreme highs. If there’s a surprisingly low point that brings you despair, maybe there’s a equally high point that brings you ecstasy. Hopefully this applies to us.So it seems like I’m a trajectory up, and hope to ride that wave up and prepare for the eventual cycle downwards.

I laughed to my heart’s content - at times I couldn’t stop smiling. I enjoyed the time I spent with my family a hell of a lot. It’s nice to know that there’s people in life - bounded by blood that will always be there for me through thick and thin. So I’m thankful.

But there’s a tint of sadness. At the back of my mind this phrase lingers:

This too shall pass.

Probably, 30, at more 40 of everything.

30 more birthdays for mom and dad.

30 more Fourth of Julys.

30 more Thanksgivings and Christmases.

It could not ring any more true. I know that one day I have to say goodbye to my parents and my brother. It will come. Eventually. This is why moments like this are so precious.

As it says repeatedly in the book of Ecclesiastes - eat, drink ,and be merry. Enjoy work under the sun. Sure, but I’d like to add the following - spend time with loved ones. Cherish fond memories. Let laughter and hugs fill your home.

Side note: I had a chance to read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. It’s so well written. What I learned was that - dang, the colonies had a LOT of things that made them unhappy.

We tend to focus strictly on the beginning of the Declaration. But I found the ending to be equally, if not more powerful as well:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Sounds like a brotherhood of men bounded by a common purpose!

Fluent Forever (2019 Book #2)

Summary: Fluent Forever is a book about how to effectively learn new languages quicker. My review is that - it’s a good book, but I wouldn’t recommend. One thing that would be an interesting metric is the number of times you will re-read the book. Some books are so good that you need to reread it. This book’s reading count is 1. I would not recommend a buy unless you need a light read before bed time or need a break from other things. The book should be cut to 50 pages.

Naval Ravikant warns about books of this type. Books that talk about the same thing until cows come home. Effectively, it’s a book that can be summarized into one sentence. Here it is: use your visual system to learn the language.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn Pronunciation First
  • Don’t Translate
  • Use Spaced Repetition Systems(Anki)
  • Never settle for safe when you can have fun instead - something to think about.
  • More accurately you learn pronunciation, the better you remember it.
  • ** Don’t use 1-1 word to word flashcards. Try to put an image and even better, if using computerized SRS systems, use sound as well.
  • Recalling is more effective with learning than reviewing.
  • Take advantage of the forgetting curve. There is an optimal point of forgetting, and you should review when you are just about to forget.
  • Whenever you are under stress/performing, your brain will act in gear. Put yourself in test/rating mode.
  • Images are more powerful than words. Hmm. But don’t we not see until much later? Are sounds more powerful than images? I found out from an HCI book that vision accounts for 80% of information content people absorb - so yes! This is true!
  • ** You need to look at mouth positions, and also try to emulate the mouth position when you are saying words.
  • Try to have a list of most frequent words and study them first.
  • The minute you get bored, your mental filters come back. You need to be able to spice learning up, to not get bored. This is very important.
  • Masculine nouns - fire. Feminine sounds - exploding. Assign attributes to gendered pronouns.
  • The fastest way to learn another language, is to ignore all other languages and absorb an insane amount of the language you’re trying to learn at the maximal rate. At least, that’s what kids did right?
  • You should use a grammar book as a shortcut to train yourself on how grammar works before diving deep into other territories.
  • Google Images is your friend.
  • Need around 15,000 - 35,000 words to be fluent in a language. That’s around 41 words per day.
    • Question 1: I wonder what the range of words that people use in a given country would look like? Would there be a correlation between the number of words used to gdp?
    • Question 2: One experiment I’d like to do is go nuts in one language. So study Japanese for 1 month, but you don’t speak English to anyone else unless you really have to. No english music. No english text. Only Japanese. You can’t think in English either. Japanese only. So you want to optimize just to learn the language I also wonder how many words you can memorize per day. You need 30k - 45k words to be fluent in a language. But how many words can people memorize per day? If you want to memorize a thousand per day, that’s 42 per hour. Maybe this is doable if you practice?!

Good Resources to Learn the Language:

Lang-8.com

Italki.com - conversation practice site.

** forvo.com -

Verbling.com

LiveMocha.com

MyLanguageExchange.com

Book Finished May 2nd, 2019.

Voice Lesson Notes

During the past month, I took 4 group voice lessons. It was a fascinating experience!

Here is how the format worked. We came in, and we sang the songs that we prepared. The instructor aka Mike would give us things to work on, and we’d take notes, practice, and bring our song back for next class.

Singing is hard. It’s easy to make fun of people on audition shows who flop, but man - it’s HARD. I practiced for a month and I have to say, I suck. Here are some of the things I need to work on:

REACH - I get hammered on this one. I don’t speak up. I was constantly reminded that I have to sing like I’m singing to the back of the audience.

Breathe control - Need to know when to breathe.

Dynamics - Lot of the music gets power from sudden chance in style, whether that be volume, tempo, etc. So when you’re going up a few notes, you need to emphasize the transitions.

Theme - There’s usually a theme or a message in one song. Usually the best movies are like that too. It’s important to focus on the theme or message of the song when you sing. I tend to focus more on the music and not as much on the mood or the lyrics.

Consistency - This is what I struggle with in general. I’m more a bulk kind of person, where I have sessions of intense focus. But I don’t think music practice works like that. Better to do 10 minutes a day than have 1 long session. Week leading up to my last class, I wasn’t able to practice as much. Yeah, ultimately they’re excuses. I went in to class on the last day. Mike heard me sing, and then he glared at me and said, “You’re back at where you were last week. You’ve been a very bad man.” =/.

Focus - If you try to fix multiple issues at once, you become super scatterbrained. Work on one issue as you sing. Similarly, focus on parts that you’re messing up. Because if you’re singing the entire song - especially the parts that you can nail, you’re wasting your time. Also, if your mind wonders when you sing, then the consistency of the sound becomes weak at certain times of the song. What should be happening, in my opinion, is you should be focusing on your vocal cords so that they always resonate.

Pitch Deafness - I don’t know. I haven’t been criticized for missing pitch, but it’s more on an intuitive level. If someone told me to start with an F, I might fumble around with a piano. Something to work on. There should be an app to help with this.

The songs that I worked on were:

Moonriver - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ-KPwD1eno

Stranger’s in the Night - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5h_EW4odWw

Fools Rush in - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBAkOQtuWMk

You are so Beautiful - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7VkSGqXdUU

It was a great time! But I decided not to continue for now due to other priorities that I want to focus on, and uncertainty in my living situations. But if I were to do it again, I would just focus on private lessons. Because marginal utility -.-.

Week specific notes:

Week 1:

No notes taken. First time.

Week 2:

Don’t get sentimental/lose focus.

Enunciate.

Try to pretend you’re singing to someone.

Focus on the voice.

Make one song perfect, incorporate the techniques into next song.

Overpronouncing vs. underpronouncing.

Week 3:

Voice should be crisp, not soft and flabby.

Focus on the voice.

Side note: Are uttered words without feelings and truth lies?

Get the thought, then sing.

Be on the look out for drop out.

Higher pitch -> happier. Lower pitch - sadder.

Work on one thing at a time.

Mike told me to drill a hole through a wall with my voice XD.

More mouth movement.

Always focus on throat.

Think character voice.

Emphasis on the word, also emphasis on vowels. Sometimes you want to each vowels faster in the word.

If you get hoarse, rest.

some parts need to be sang softer, some parts need to sing with more force.

my mouth needs to move more.

Week 4:

Tension/pressure ruins singers. This is the biggest problem singers face.

Concentrate on the beauty of the voice.

Focus on transitions.

A new person came to check out the class. When she made a mistake, she laughed. I don’t know - people who do that are amazing. There’s something so charming about that, and it just dusts off the seriousness of a mistake.

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