don’t be afraid to be an amateur.

Go Listen To:

the new alt-j single. wow.

“I just want to love you in my own language.”

-alt-j (3WW)


 

Today’s about something that’s helped me grow more as a person in the past few months than I have in my entire life. It’s changed how I view myself and how I view the world. It’s changed every thought I’ve had about what my career should be and how I will be going about the rest of my life. All just personal realizations, but maybe it’ll help you too.

Some guy said it on a podcast (big surprise I can’t remember who) BUT I do know who he was talking about. He was saying, if he could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, it would be Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin. And his reasoning was because….

“he was never afraid to be an amateur.”

Ben Franklin. One of the founding fathers of America. Just a quick recap for everyone else who never listened in history class – he was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and a diplomat. He fucking helped discover electricity. He made the bifocals. Literally life as we know it wouldn’t be the same without him.

[If you’re wondering if I actually remembered all of that or if I just wikipedia’d it, I wikipedia’d it.]

Basically, this man created just about everything, and could have been the most pompous, big-headed motherfucker – and would totally have the credentials to back it up. But no. he was humble as hell, and was never scared to be an amateur – never afraid to be the inexperienced, never afraid to be the new guy to a subject. And because of that, he literally accomplished 100 people’s lifetimes in just one.

This hit me in so many ways, I don’t really know how to start.

 


 

My entire life, I’ve always tried so fucking hard to be cool. Growing up as a young, nerdy Korean kid with all white people in suburban Orange County, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I think that’s all I really cared about growing up. Being cool, being popular. Not even being smart or good at stuff, like I think I only tried to be smart and good at stuff to be more cool and popular.

To the point where I never asked questions, when I needed questions to be answered. I always wanted to be the guy that already knew how to do everything, never needed help from anyone – just the cool guy who didn’t need anything. Again I’m ashamed to admit I think I’ve been like this my entire life, up until a couple months ago.

Man, what a fucking waste of time that was.

It only took traveling to the other side of the world to realize that being open to being an amateur at things is really just the first step to EVERYTHING good – ANY kind of growth that you want to experience. There are so many things in my life that I just refused to do because I would be the noob. I’d be the older kid in the class.

Another kid I met on my travels said it in pretty clear way. “I fucking hate being bad at things.”

yeah me too. But more because I just don’t want to look like I’m bad at things.


 

I’ll give one example. probably the scariest thing for me to do. This blog. Starting this blog, putting myself out there, was insanely scary to me. I’ve been saying I was going to start a blog for years. But I kept putting it off, because I didn’t want my blog to be shit, I didn’t want people to judge me, I was just scared to be new to something. I already knew people who had a blog, so I already wouldn’t be the best. So why even try. (such a stupid way to look at life)

But I finally did it, and it was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know how to emphasize that any more. The most liberating thing I have ever done in my life. I discovered a way to express myself more than I ever have before. Even more than music.

After hearing that, and going back to my original reasoning for not starting this blog – how fucking stupid do I sound? I was scared that I wouldn’t be as good as other people. Fuck that. No one’s as good as other people. If you really care about your own personal growth, you’re not comparing yourself to other people. You’re comparing yourself to the person you were yesterday. That’s the only person you need to be better than.

One conversation I always have with people is how I started playing guitar, instruments, yada. And the conversation ALWAYS starts, “man, I wish I could play the guitar.” and then they say “damn, you started so early, and I’m already [however many years] old.” And every fucking time I tell them, “its not too late! It’s never too late to fall in love with something new. Also, when I started playing, I already thought I was too old. And than I found out that Jack Johnson (the reason why I started playing guitar), was even older than me when he started.”

Like what, you’re too old to be as good as who? Fucking Eric Clapton? Yeah no shit, you probably won’t be as good a guitarist as Eric Clapton. But you’ll be a hell of a lot better at guitar than the you that couldn’t play guitar a year ago. And that’s all that really matters right? Do what you say you want to do – it’s what you want to do. It’s only going to make you better and happier.

When I was in college I always really respected those people in my classes that were in their 40’s or 50’s or 60’s, taking the same classes as me, learning the same things as me. Fully putting your ego aside to better yourself.

If you really care, it’s not too late. It is literally never too late.

If you DON’T really care enough to start – stop talking about it. You’re just stringing yourself and whoever you’re talking to along. Don’t be that guy who keeps saying he’s going to do something and never does.

OR do it. Ask tons of questions to people who already do it. Research how to start. Be an amateur. Be the little kid, asking how to do something.

I literally freed myself from trying to be cool. How fucking corny does that sound? I already have a list of all the things I’m going to start learning or taking classes in when I go home. (elliott, when is that….?)

I feel like society kind of teaches us to specialize at something. Oh you’re good at math? Be an accountant. Oh you’re good at science? God forbid you be anything but a doctor. Tunnel-vision in on one thing, cause if you try too many different things, you’re spreading yourself out too thin, you’re wasting time.

Honestly if someone asked me what I specialize in now, no way I’d have an answer for them. I’m like kind of okay at a buncha things, but I’m not really great at any one thing. And honestly right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m trying to experience all the things I can – eat everything I can – see all the places I can – meet all the people I can; because how the hell am I supposed to know what I’m most passionate about – what my favorite food is – where I should live for the rest of my life – who my soulmate is – if I’m only tunnel vision’d onto one thing instead of throwing my fishnet out to the entire world?

I don’t know anything about things I don’t know about. I only know the things I knew before. Before I learned the new things I know now. Does that make sense?

Listen, I know everyone doesn’t feel like this – it’s just a personal opinion. I understand if we’re just different people and with different opinions, and I respect that. sorry if I step on toes, if you disagree, let’s chat about it.


 

But here’s the personal revelation that this whole “don’t be afraid to be an amateur” thing led me to. I think it will surprise a lot of people that are close to me, because it surprised me.

My entire life, I’ve been passionate about music – grew up playing piano, drums, bass, guitar, vocals, was in a band, still write music to this day, am obsessed with music culture and festivals, yada. So my entire life, the dream has always to be a successful musician or someone successful in the business. Big surprise, I wanted to be a rock star.

But my dad always used to tell me, “don’t put all your eggs in that basket. Learn business properly, and you can always have music as a hobby.”

MAN that used to always piss me off. “THIS IS MY DREAM, DAD, YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.” [hair-flip over my eyes]

Never understood it, never even considered not having music be my profession. But listened anyway. I did study business, and hospitality, and event management, and actually did gain a serious love for all of them. So at that point, I did really thank my parents for pushing me towards them, because now I really enjoy all of these things, and have skills in different fields. So the next step in the plan was combining the new skills with old loves. So leaving college, I reached for the first festival and music-related jobs I could, because, y’know, those are what (I thought) I was meant to do, or those were my only skills and such.

But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like the music industry as much as I thought I would. The festival industry either. Fucking hated the nightlife industry. It’s so funny to me how whenever you start to work in an industry, you kinda start to see the dark underbelly of it.

I think that’s what happened to me. I kind of lost some of the magic of music, seeing how the industry worked – how so many amazing, authentic musicians and people in general got swept under the rug, how so many disingenuous people made it to the top for shitty, superficial reasons. That’s as far as I’ll go about that.

I realized….

I never want to lose my passion for music. I never want to lose my child-like wonder of the music industry. So my big revelation was…I don’t need to work in the music industry. I love it so fucking much. And that’s why I don’t need to be a part of it. I don’t want to attach money to it. I just want to share my music and my love for music with people, no strings attached, no responsibilities.

[sidenote to all my friends crushing it in any of the industries I mentioned – im beyond happy for you. and shouts to my old drummer David Delaney, who actually is a rock star now – go look up Them Evils. So much respect to everyone who pushes through the bullshit to make it.]

wow. actually writing that just now made it so much more real. And some people might think its sad – like somehow I’m giving up on a dream, but I don’t see it like that at all. I think it’s really liberating. Like I’m preserving one thing I love, and getting a second chance to discover other things I never would have imagined before. Back to the amateur thing. There are so many things I don’t know how to do! I’ve spent so much of my life tunnel-vision’d on just a few things, just a few careers, cause that’s what I was supposed to do, that I never even considered all the other things I could be doing. I mean I just discovered how much I love writing like five seconds after I quit my jobs. Who knows what I’ll discover if I give it like, ten seconds.

So silly to think you might be too old to try something new. It’s never too late.

So to sum up this whole little section in a short few sentences. I’ve honestly never heard of someone else going through this, so it might just be me, but in a way, my “dream job” was kind of a form of shackles for me, in that it limited me from trying other things. I still have all the love for it in the world, but me saying that something was my only career choice when I hadn’t even experienced a tiny fraction of what the world offers, was just a bit naïve of me. I haven’t experienced nearly enough shit in my life. Does that make sense?

Maybe writing is what I’m supposed to do. Who knows. I’ve only tried like 4 things in my life. The possibilities are endless.

[life update – I signed my first freelance writing contract a couple weeks ago, and got my first paycheck today. Am I allowed to say I’m a writer now?]


 

These are the main points I learned from “not being afraid to be an amateur.”

  • ask tons of questions. about everything. even the stupid ones. I think our teachers were lying when they said “there are no stupid questions.” there are tons of stupid questions. who gives a fuck, I’m still going to ask them anyway.
  • I don’t personally think you should have to specialize in just one thing, but everyone’s different. Shit, Ben Franklin did a lot more than one thing.
  • things you’ve never done are scary, but are huge opportunities. You literally could be amazing at something, but never know because you didn’t try.
  • You gotta drop your ego. You gotta be a little vulnerable to start something new. No one likes fucking up because of inexperience, but literally every person you look up to did at some point. Everyone was an amateur at one time or another.

My entire life, I’ve been told, “wow, you act so mature for your age” or something along those lines. That had always been my favorite compliment. And now it’s literally the opposite. I feel like I spent so much time trying to portray that image to people – that I didn’t even spend the time trying to just be a little, new, amateur kid at things. And now that I’m doing it, I feel like a brand new person.

Right now, at age 23 – this is the youngest I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I feel like a little kid, with bright, shiny eyes, looking at the world with the hope and wonder of a 10 year old who has just been told “you can be anything you want to be.”

I’ll end it with saying none of this shit is easy. It was really hard for me. Jumping off cliffs is terrifying, until you actually jump off, and then look back, and go “wow, probably shoulda done that earlier.” But…

fucking glad I did it now.

 


 

Man, it was really, really, hard to leave Cambodia. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to leave somewhere less. But I said my goodbyes to many great friends, both locals and travelers, and headed over the border to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam. The city is wild and beautiful and busy. Great food. But another very sobering day today was going to the War Remnants Museum here – basically a museum of all the atrocities and war crimes American soldiers did to Vietnamese civilians. Horrifying. But what’s even more horrifying is how little I learned about the Vietnam War in school. I don’t know why I remember this so clearly but in one grade, in one of my history textbooks, there was literally 2 paragraphs about the Vietnam War. WTF? In Germany, every student learns about all the horrifying things that happened in ww2. So why aren’t we learning about all the horrible things we did in Vietnam? I really hope I was just not paying attention in class, instead of our school system not teaching us about our own fuck-ups.

Anyway, Saigon was fucking awesome, I already miss it. Now I’m in a nature-y forest city in the higher altitudes called Dalat. Fucking beautiful. First time in ages I’ve been out of the heat. I wore jeans today.

The little things, man.

Cheers.

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real talk vs. small talk.

Hello hello hello. Another thing I’ve been thinking about recently, again inspired by something I heard on a podcast a while ago, can’t remember who or what, because my memory is shit (thanks State). It’s pretty simple I think. Guys, I think it even works pretty fucking well as a pick-up line too.

The topic is about….when you meet someone new. Usually you start by saying your name and stuff. Correct?

Usually next is…

“What do you do for a living?”

We all do it. We all have our answer queued up too, trying to make our jobs sound as cool as possible, just ready for every person that walks off into that bar, cause for some reason they have to know what it is you do to make money. I personally hated it this past year, not because I didn’t like my jobs (I actually really enjoyed them), but cause I had two jobs, and they were really a fucking mouthful to explain. I was getting to the point where I was asking people if they actually seriously cared about what I did for a living – if they did of course I would tell them. But if they were just making small talk I told them what I did wasn’t interesting at all and I’d save us both some valuable minutes we’d never get back.

That’s not the point. That’s me being lazy and annoyed because I’m a lazy and easily annoyed person.

My point is…how many of us really actually like to be defined by our job? Like…if you had a nametag, and we got to find out one thing about you, and basically judge you on that one thing – would it really be an obligatory chore that you do every day to put food on the table for yourself and your loved ones? would you say that’s just straight up who you are?

*Now I realize there is the small percentage of humans who absolutely fucking kill it, and get to do what they love every single day, waking up with a smile on their face, yada. And I straight up applaud you guys so much…you made it. But I’m talking about the rest of us, who are still just figuring our way through life….who can’t leave our jobs because we need that paycheck, or that stability, or don’t even know what we want to do with our lives?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you don’t want to be labeled by your job.

Cause for me at least, I personally think I am way more of a person, way more personality, way more ANYTHING than any job I have ever had has ever defined me. So I often question why that is always the first thing we ask people we’ve just met.

So I’m just gonna say what your new, semi-aggressive-pick-up-intro line should be, instead of dumb-ass “hey, who writes your paychecks?”

“What are you passionate about?”

Sounds simple enough. But go to someone in a bar, and just straight up ask them that. It’s weird, it’s flustering, it’s maybe too personal. Maybe they know what they’re passionate about. Maybe they don’t. But I guarantee you it’ll lead you down a weird rabbit hole of realness.

Realness. Damn. Imagine that! At a bar!

(haha I just pictured some dude at a club screaming at the top of his lungs WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT! at some girl on the dancefloor and she’s like I LIKE HELPING ANIMALS!)

I was thinking though. What if that was the norm? Everyone asking each other what our passions are, instead of what their job is or other shallow layered things. Imagine how much deeper we could connect with people? Or even just weed out the people we don’t have stuff in common with? Like if I could just meet someone, and instantly find out they’re passionate about cooking seafood, or 90’s rock, or studying maps… – I’d be like holy shit, did we just become best friends?!

And it goes the other way too. I’ve met tons of people with passions where I’m like I have no fucking idea how. Like how?!?! Like I’m so lost on what they are passionate about. Like anything medical related (how?), or math (how?), or science (how?), or fashion (how?) related, or any number of things. But when I meet someone that is passionate about something I’ve never had the pleasure of being into, honestly it’s fascinating. Like hearing the little facets of why someone really loves architecture design. It’s awesome! I never would have known. You really get to see the world through a new pair of eyes.

And I mean we don’t have to all get along right? I’m not the type of guy that’s going to tell you unrealistic shit like lets all hold hands and be friends with everyone or whatever the fuck. It’s not gonna happen. I’m just saying, if we found out each others true aspirations and passions and fears real quick, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time bullshitting and flexing for each other, you know?

Just real talk – bypass all the small talk bullshit.

And going back to trying to make our jobs sound as cool as possible when we try to flex for people. if you’re saying something you’re not – you’re kind of just living a lie. That’s a bit harsh but that’s how I feel. And I’ve definitely done it in the past too. It’s just a straight up waste of time, trying to write more about what we aren’t, instead of learning about who we are.

First off, no one should have to feel ashamed about what they do. We all have to make money somehow. Yet people do get ashamed, and its because society really wants us to put on these nametags with our fucking job on it. I can’t really imagine anyone getting embarrassed by something they’re passionate about. It’s physically impossible I think. How can you be embarrassed by what you love?

Passion…it’s like the whole-end game. Finding what you love, and finding a way to make it sustainable in your life. Idk bout you, but that’s what I want people to think about when they think of me. Not the fact that I was a locker room attendant at a hotel picking up dirty towels. And listen, I definitely do understand that a lot of people don’t really even know what they’re passionate about yet. But its all part of the journey…and maybe starting the conversation will help you get there.

—-

I want to know what you’re passionate about. What scares you. What your fears are. What the craziest thing you’ve ever done. Why you do that weird thing that you’ve been doing since you were a kid.

You know when you have those amazing connections with someone? Where you find out just the most awesome shit about each other, or talk philosophy, or you stay up all night laughing, or you discover their deepest fears? Doesn’t it fucking rock?

Doesn’t it fucking suck that you usually have to befriend someone for like a hundred years to get to that point? What if we could just get there quicker. Like….

Hey blog reader. I really fucking appreciate that you are actually reading this. I’m Elliott. I’m terrified of snails. They’re fucking gross and useless and weird and should all be salted whenever possible.

(Cue Gail the Snail from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Yes yes I don’t like snails. They suck. Lets all have a good laugh about it. But straight up, if someone came up to me, and actually asked me about something deep like that, guarantee you we would be in a weird, deeper relationship right off the bat. We’d be laughing. Or they’d be laughing at me probably.

Now I feel like I’m just being wishful. Basically I’m suggesting the world tear down their barriers and instantly become best friends with people. I know it’s not gonna happen. I’m just kinda saying, what if. We can at least try to cut out the small talk bullshit.

Now this post doesn’t have much to do with my travels. Other than the fact that, I’ve been forced to share rooms with a LOT of people. And when you’re forced out of your comfort zone like that, you find shit out about each other REAL quick. For better or for worse. But man I got inside jokes I’ll remember forever with people I hung out with for like half a day. Still snapchat them from the other side of the world whenever I think of it. I’m making relationships with people on this trip that feel like I’ve known them forever – but in reality its been like two days. To the point where it hurts to say goodbye. AFTER TWO DAYS.

So kind of a left turn, but that’s another short cut to creating amazing relationships. Meeting people way the fuck out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s traveling through hostels, going through some sort of tough training, or going through some horrible disaster, those relations stick REAL well.

It’s kind of insane how the thing that our body’s most naturally want (comfort), is a main obstacle in personal growth.

When I think about all of the most memorable, greatest moments in my life, just about all of them involved me having that terrified, about-to-jump-off-a-cliff, heart-on-fire feeling. I’ll name a few,

  • moving away from home for the first time and going to university.
  • my first time backpacking alone. Actually every time I backpack alone.
  • going to interview for a new job and crushing it.
  • getting lost in new cities.
  • running with the bulls in Pamplona.
  • hitting on girls that are way out of my league.
  • eating weird shit.
  • giving public speeches.
  • dancing my ass off on an empty dance floor.
  • actually jumping off cliffs.

Getting the fuck out of your comfort zone is going to be a recurring theme in this blog, so I wont beat it over the head right now but seriously… fuck your comfort zone.

All the good things are out here. I promise.

So back to the pick up line thing. Maybe I’m way out of bounds here. Maybe it doesn’t work.  It’s worked a bit for me, I guess it has to be kind of organic. Maybe if someone I didn’t feel comfortable with asked me, idk maybe I’d dodge the question. It’s just another one of those get-the-fuck-out-yo comfort zone things. Who knows guys, maybe that one girl will think you’re a creep. But you’ll make ten other good friends.

Or they’ll all think you’re a creep.

Fuck it dog, life’s a risk.

Go ask someone what they’re passionate about. Maybe one of your new friends you don’t know much about. Or if there’s an awkward silence on your first date or something. Or maybe you’ve never even asked your best friend the question.

Anyway. Reader. I do want to know what you’re passionate about. If it’s not too scary, shoot me a message. Let’s talk.

—-

  • I’m passionate about socialization. I like bringing people together and networking. I like seeing how relationships work.
  • I’m passionate about music. I can play a bunch of instruments but I’ve never considered myself to be good enough at just one of them to just be labeled as a guitarist or a drummer or something.
  • The thing that I’m most passionate about music is how it soundtracks people’s lives. I want to soundtrack a movie one day. Someone told me that they got ready for school to a song I wrote once. One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten. I just want to help soundtrack people’s lives.
  • I live for music but I fucking hate music videos.
  • I’m passionate about writing stuff like this. Idk if this introspective, motivational stuff is my style or if its just a phase I’m in. I think I could do some good comedy writing too. Maybe even script a movie one day.
  • I don’t know what I want to do for my main career, but one day, after I’m successful, I want to write a book.
  • I want to teach a class at a university after I retire.
  • In another life I would have pursued being a chef.
  • I don’t just “like to travel.” I think it’s a vital part for every single person in life, and the importance of it is not emphasized enough in the States.
  • One of my biggest fears in life is having to say I didn’t have the courage to do something. And trust me I’ve had to say that way too many times already.

I just did that to lay some of myself on the line. So you can’t say I didn’t.

I was serious when I said I want to know what you’re passions and goals and fears. Please Hmu.

——

Background info: I think the last time I posted I was in Singapore? Or I was about to leave for Singapore? Well Singapore has come and gone. And it was fucking awesome. Very cool architecture and skylines – only way I can describe it is pristine. After that I traveled to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Amazing place, amazing culture, amazing people, extremely sad and terrifying history. Please, if you have a chance, research what happened in Cambodia in the 70’s. Literally a third of their population was wiped out and tortured in the most disgusting ways, for the most ridiculous reasons. It’s as bad as the Holocaust, except it was even more recent, and I think very few people know about it. I didn’t know about it. I had the opportunity to go to S21, an old school that was turned into the main prison and torture facility – it was fucking awful. So eye-opening though. I won’t lie, I’m not a very emotional person but I cried. If you get the chance, go there. Also just went through Siem Reap, primarily known for its temples, just left there and took a claustrophobic 12 hour bus ride down south and now I’m in Sihanoukville, waiting for my water taxi to take me to Koh Rong Samloen – a very undeveloped island that has no wifi. So I’m serious about wanting feedback, but if I don’t get back to you quick, its because I don’t have wifi! I’ll try and talk as soon as possible.

See ya my friends