Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Stockdale Principle

Frantically trying to finish reading a book for my business class, I paused in awe at this applicable principle:

The Stockdale Principle

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties.

AND, at the same time

Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.



Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in a prisoner-of-war camp in Hanoi during the Vietnam war. During his eight years in captivity he was tortured over twenty times and never given a hint as to when he would be released. In the prison, he dutifully led the other prisoners, secretly creating codes of communication and working for the highest possible survival rate.

When Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, asked Stockdale how he managed to survive, he replied: "I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."

From the book:
"Who didn't make it out?"
"Oh that's easy," he said. "The optimists."
"The optimists? I don't understand," I said, now completely confused.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Another long pause and more walking. Then he turned to me and said, “This is the important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can not afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
To this day I carry the mental image of Stockdale admonishing the optimists: “We’re not getting out by Christmas; deal with it!”

“Life is unfair--sometimes to our advantage, sometimes to our disadvantage. We will all experience disappointments and crushing events somewhere along the way, setbacks for which there is no “reason,” no one to blame… What separates people, Stockdale taught me, is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Acceptance

Tonight found me seated in a plush little theater between my ex-girlfriend and a nine-year-old half-Chilean boy named Kevin watching a modern dance performance. I was naturally leaning away from the ex-girlfriend. I was a little surprised when Kevin took my leaning as an opportunity to grab my arm. He explained to me that he was afraid of the dark and that the music reminded him of the movies "The Grudge" and "Son of Chucky." He confessed that sometimes when he's alone in the dark he gets tears in his eyes. I told him he'd be safe with me. Warm protective feelings swelled within. My ex-girlfriend poked at me and laughed. I kind of liked that she touched me.
As Kevin buried his head in my arm my ex whispered "oh, I want him." She was referring to Kevin of course. When smoke started to fill the stage and the dancers filed off into a glowing orange door reminiscent of the portal to hell in Ghostbusters, even I started to get scared. Luckily I was able to hold back tears in the interest of looking tough for the women and children.
We went outside at the first intermission to enjoy the reassuring fluorescent lights and I barely convinced Kevin to go back in for the next two acts by promising they would be less scary--thankfully they were. Even though Kevin was calmer, he was still worried about mysterious shadows, apparent faces in the background, and the fact that the theater seemed "the perfect size for the phantom of the opera." This kid was hilarious. I was happy to realize I wasn't one of the many things he was scared of. At the end Kevin told me he wanted me to be his friend cause I was "a good listener" and my ex told me I'd be a good dad. In moments like tonight I really, really want to be a dad.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Because I know you care

Because if you all jumped off a bridge I probably would too, these are a few of my favorite things...

My favorite colors...


- Green
- Brown
- Black
- Orange and yellow (but not for clothes)

Favorite meals...
1. FreshMex burritos, chips and salsa, and lemonade with good music.
2. Lasagna, salad, and warm breadsticks.
3. My mom's broccoli soup in bread bowls.
4. Rice, beans, and anything.

If I had free time, I'd...
1. Run
2. Read
3. Fix a good meal
4. Clean
5. Go shopping
(I didn't want to say blog, but it really should be on the list)

Favorite ethnicities..
1. Latin American
2. Jewish
3. Pioneer-stock Mormon

Languages I wish I spoke
- Arabic
- Hebrew
- Italian
- Thai

Movies I try to get other people to watch...
- Children of Heaven
- Hotel Rwanda
- Promises (a documentary about the Israeli-Palestenian conflict)

I don't really have favorite actors, but I do seem to like movies with these guys in them (and no, I don't find them attractive)...

  • Tom Hanks
  • Ben Stiller
  • Nicholas Cage
  • Matt Damon
  • Hillary Duff (Just kidding.... kind of)

But I do find attractive...

  • Oliver James
  • Hayden Christensen
  • Elijah Wood (but not in LOTR)
  • Durval de Lima Junior

    And...

  • Thalia (Latin American superstar and Pepsi spokesgirl)
  • Sandy Leah Lima (her brother made the other list)
  • Virginie Ledoyen (French actress)

My favorite male voices...

  • Josh Groban
  • Alex Ubago
  • Tiziano Ferro
  • Eros Ramazzotti
  • Ricardo Arjona
  • Obie Bermudez

Female voices...

  • Amaia Montero (of La Oreja de Van Gogh)
  • Sandy (of Sandy e Junior)
  • Celia Cruz
  • Sarah McLachlin
  • Alanis Morisette
  • Shakira
  • Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries)

(Now to feel manly again) If I had a big garage I'd own...

  • Land Rover Defender 90 (for adventures and UN peacekeeping missions)
  • 1966 Pontiac Parisienne Convertable (for sunny days)
  • 1984 Chevy Silverado (for listening to country music and loaning to ward members)
  • Honda Civic Si (for urban hauling butt and gear changing fun)
  • Audi A8 (for respectable occasions and occasionally letting loose on open roads)

Favorite Mountains...

Mt. Fuji, Japan

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington

Volcan Osorno, Lago Llanquihe, Chile

Favorite cities...

  • Hong Kong, China

  • Seattle, Washington

  • Rio de Janiero, Brasil (Ok, I've never actually been there, but I feel like I have in spirit...maybe in a past life or something)

  • Provo, Utah, USA (but only in the fall)

Favorite weather...

  • Dark like night at noon. Thunderstorms. Wind. Everybody's running cause they don't want to get wet.
  • Cold, damp, smells like chimney and leaves. Blankets and fireplaces are the only escape.
  • Northwest summers for pretty much any activity.
  • Arizona or Vegas-like summers when you have a pool.
  • Crisp autumn evenings in Provo.

Favorite places to pretend I'm from...

  1. Mexico
  2. Argentina
  3. Brazil
  4. Israel
  5. Iraq
  6. Italy

Favorite spanish accents...

  • Chilean
  • Argentine
  • Spanish (like from Spain)
  • Colombian


My I-Tunes Top 10 Most Played
1. Reggaeton Latino - Don Omar
2. La Tortura - Shakira with Alejandro Sanz
3. Work - Jimmy Eat World
4. Como Pudiste - Obie Bermudez
5. Such Great Heights - The Postal Service
6. Best I Ever Had - Gary Allan
7. Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional
8. Na Na Na (Dulce NiƱa) - Kumbia Kings
9. Yo no quiero trabajar - Los Autenticos Decadentes
10. Untitled - Simple Plan

Favorite Candy
1. Reese Peanut Butter Cups
2. Sprees
3. Starbursts

That was harder to make then it looks. It was more fun than homework though.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Dias Melhores

History has shown that my life tends to be like a rollercoaster with high highs and low lows and an incredible ride in between. When I sometimes hit those lows I take comfort in knowing that I'll soon be clicking upward again to yet another, even higher summit and another thrilling dive.
The problem is my high highs have been far outnumbering my low lows in recent months. Maybe my hormones have calmed with age and I’m now riding a metaphorical kiddy ride or something. That could be. Or maybe this car is just going to keep clicking on upward to some ridiculously high apex where it will then plummet me toward hell in a terrorizing fall that slams me against my seat, leaves my heart and stomach behind, and moves so fast I can’t even scream—I sure hope not cause I’m not a big fan of those kind of rollercoasters. I’m more a fan of Disneyland than Six-Flags.
Yet again, this weekend was awesome. I went to that sweet wedding, spent a lot of time with one of my best buddies and his friends and mine, met tons of new people, met the girlfriend of my good friend and felt proud of him, played Cranium, bonded with my roommates watching a very late night movie, ran around a grocery store with three 12-year-olds, ate at a very expensive restaurant, saw a play, didn’t do any homework at all, had a nice church meeting, read a bunch of The Catcher in the Rye, took a long nap, and ate dinner tonight with a bunch of friends where two Americans shared company with guests from Canada, France, New Zealand, Peru, Colombia, and Korea. We played mafia and I dominated--seriously. I'm very good at lying and at detecting others’ lies. I’m happy about being able to discern others, but it kind of freaks me out how easily I can make others believe my lies. No one accused me. I can almost make myself believe I’m not mafia.
Maybe this whole euphoric rollercoaster ride in my head is a lie too. Maybe my life is miserable and I just do a really good job of pretending everything is swell. Maybe it’s just the fall weather, or the spirit, or all these Starbursts I’ve been downing, but I really feel happy.
In any case, I know everything isn’t always going to be good, but I also think something has fundamentally changed in me. I’m not scared anymore. I don’t wake up sweating at night worrying about my future. I kind of feel bad I wasted so much time worrying in the past. Today I would love to pause time and be able to get stuck in this moment. At the same time, I’m kind of excited to let time pass--there’s a lot to look forward to.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The big fat Brazilian/ Samoan/ Hawaiian/ Korean wedding

Parts of four distinct races came together in matrimony earlier today and I was blessed to be a part of the kickin' fiesta to celebrate--Probably the biggest and most exciting wedding reception I've ever seen in a stake center. There were Korean characters on the wall, Hawaiian table settings, men in lava lavas, straw mats, some Samoan prince, polynesian meat (and lots of it), Korean noodles, Brazilian dessert, Capoeira, Hula dancing, and that New Zealand dance where the dudes stick their tongues out, grunt, and slap themselves. There were also hoards of people throwing money onto the stage and stuffing it down the top of the bride's dress (right between her breasts). The cultural hall was alive with culture and danceable energy. The guests came in every shade of brown with the Samoan guests ranging in size from XL to XXXXL.
In the undeclared culture war for who would dominate the evening, I have to say the Samoans won--they were the biggest, brightest, and loudest. Not even Brazilians know how to have as much fun as these people.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Such a dork

“Do you want me to leave, would that help?” my roommate asked desperately. I could see that he was becoming just as nervous as I was.
“No, I’m fine.” I responded in a voice that revealed quite the opposite. My thumb trembled over the green call button on my open flip phone. I took a deep breath and closed the cell phone. My breathing pattern began to return to normal. I went to the kitchen and devoured a bowl of Raisin Bran. Staring at the wedding announcements plastering the fridge I wondered who turned on the A/C and why I'm such a dork.
As I placed my bowl in the dishwasher I resolved to call her. Back in the room, my roommate smiled wryly as I picked up the phone again. I could just imagine him telling this story to someone at work tomorrow. I put the phone back down right away. It felt heavy.
“Come on man, you can’t wait much longer. It’s already 10:30. She’s gonna be in bed soon.” Yeah, I know, I guess that’s kind of what I was hoping. I picked up the 25 pound weight on the floor and did a few curls. Another deep breath. “Ok, I’m ready.”
I put my knit beanie on as I often do when its time to get serious. It’s brown and orange and has two ties that hang down on either side like pig tails. I like how the frayed ends of the ties tickle my face when I move my head. My track jacket was lying on my bed and also happened to be brown so I put that on too. The polyester on my skin made me feel smooth. My breathing was normal again. My roommate had me run through what I was going to say one more time. This time it came out smooth and sultry. “Ok, I’m ready.”
Cause I was already wearing the beanie and jacket I naturally went outdoors to make the call. Besides, I couldn’t find anywhere in the apartment where one of my roommates wouldn’t hear the embarrassment.
I dialed her number before I even got out the door. No turning back. “Hey, is Intimidating Girl home?” “Yeah, one second.” “¡$%#@!” I was praying she wouldn’t be home. I was praying her roommate would be like “Oh, she’s out with her boyfriend.”
When Intimidating Girl came on the line and I told her who’s calling she didn’t sound too disturbed. I tried to make small talk at first. That failed pretty fast. “So…..” When the awkward silence couldn’t go on much longer I asked her out for Friday. She said she’d love to but she already has plans. Oh. I feel strangely relieved. This means my Friday is now free to go help my friend serve (and eat) food at a very multicultural wedding. It also means I won't have to empty my checking account this weekend.
Still, just to be sure it wasn't flat out rejection, I asked her if she’d be willing another day. Maybe that was a trick question--I mean it would have been very hard for her to say no at that point. Oh well, it worked. Now I get to worry for the next week and a half about the upcoming date for next Friday.
My roommate had the proud father look on his face when I got back to the room and I told him I had done it. Apparently somewhere hidden away there I do have balls.
Funny, as I just wrote this I listened as my other roommate and his buddy both called girls and asked them out for Friday night. No sweat. That’s all right. I think my way is more fun.

In other news, I can’t throw. Without fail, whenever I throw something those around me observe that I throw like a girl—not making fun or anything-- just an observation. So naturally I try to avoid throwing. I always thought the one exception was Frisbees. In our intramural ultimate Frisbee game tonight I realized I’ve only been kidding myself. I even throw the Frisbee like a girl. At least I can run.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Shifting gears

The clutch in my car was especially smooth today, the weather especially nice, and the music especially upbeat. On days like today it sure would be nice not to have to go to class.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

reality

I finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower today and decided to participate more in life and to see a counselor, and the whole story about Charlie and the girl he loved named Sam made me change the way I think about some things. Sam said: "Its great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder? What if they need the arms or something like that? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things... like take their hands when the slow song comes up for a change. Or be the one who asks someone for a date. Or tell people what you need. Or what you want."
I guess you'd have to read the book to have that make sense. The whole conversation is great and really laid out what I was trying to say in a previous post when I said my whole idea about love and romance was flawed and that I knew it but wasn't willing to give it up. I think I'm ready to give it up now and that's pretty liberating even though it means I'm going to get hurt.
My other favorite quote is where Charlie says "I don't know how much longer I can keep going without a friend. I used to be able to do it very easily, but that was before I knew what having a friend was like. It's much easier not to know things sometimes." I can really, really relate to that.
There were lots more awesome quotes, but one more just came to mind so I'll write it and that will be the last (for today at least): "I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why." Genius!
I don't want to give away the end of the book, but it makes me wonder if maybe something traumatic happened to me when I was a kid or something that makes me like this and maybe I've just forced it out of my memory. Could I just remember that and would everything suddenly be better? I don't think there is something like that in my past, but in a way today I don't think anything even has to get better cause I feel just fine.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Wallflower on campus

Thanks to a suggestion in a comment from Pinetree on a previous post, I picked up a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower at the library today. I started reading it right there in the Juvenile section and kept on reading it the whole way home. I love walking with a book in my hand--especially a green, hand-sized book like this one happens to be. For one, reading a book on the way home means I don't have to look at other people. For two, it makes the walk home a lot more interesting.
Walking home on this sunny afternoon with that little book in my hand and my mind full of imagination my nearly empty backpack began to bounce on my spine and I felt like skipping. Actually, I kind of did skip when I crossed the roads and went down the stairs. I tried to make it look like a jog/shuffle/skip, kind of a man skip I think we could call it.
The first page of the book describes three friends in a truck listening to music and feeling "infinite." Its exactly how I felt that day in my truck when I posted prompting Pinetree to suggest I read this book. I'm glad he did cause this is my kind of book. I can relate completely to the main character. In a way, its like having a new friend--a small, green, hand-sized friend.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Clarity

Props to the creator of Labor Day Weekend. After a grueling (when compared to summer) first week of school, this weekend was exactly what I needed. Too bad the next vacation isn't until Thanksgiving. I should be in bed sleeping instead of sitting on my bed on top of this pile of clothes and books. I have to wake up for work in a little less than six hours. I was supposed to do homework this weekend--that didn't happen. I guess that's why I'm delaying going to sleep. Once I close my eyes I know that opening them will find me in a dark room swatting at a blaring alarm and I know that keeping those eyes open through the coming months of classes and work will not be easy. Another reason I just don't want to go to sleep is cause this weekend was so freaking awesome. If you'd asked me on Thursday or Friday what I expected for this weekend I probably wouldn't have had very high hopes cause at that point I felt all messed up. I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime between the football game, the late night run, the testimony meeting, the fasting, the chilling with roommates, the ice cream, the finishing first Nephi, the Mario Superstar Baseball and the lightning storm, the cacophony in my head of the past several days suddenly quieted. I wish I understood better why I sometimes have these lapses into fear, hopelessness, self-doubt, inner-conflict, and general emotional neediness. I also wish I understood what triggered the change.
All I know is Saturday was better than Friday, Sunday better than Saturday and Monday was the best day I've had in a long time. I woke up early today and watched the sun rise over this western town. Before noon I climbed a mountain in the company of good and entertaining friends. I ate steak, corn-on-the-cob, and garden tomatoes at my Grandma's for lunch and enjoyed listening as my Grandma conversed with my late Grandpa's brother who had come to visit. At my grandma's I picked up some of the things I had left there like my Confucius statue, a Mexican painting, and two bags of clothes (it was like Christmas). After lunch I went to the mall with my South American friend who is hilarious to shop with and we had a good talk afterwards back at his apartment as he showed me pictures from his summer trip. I got home just in time to get a ride to the ward activity with my roommate and his friend. They are cool guys--the type of guy who would normally intimidate me but today for some reason they didn't. I got to the activity and immediately sat down next to a cute girl cause it turned out we were early and she was the only other one there. We talked for at least 30 minutes and found we had a lot in common. Finally she convinced me to get into the pool. The water was refreshing and the pool games entertaining. Eventually, I moved to the hot tub and actually had a good time meeting my new ward members. I asked their names not because it was the thing people do but because I honestly wanted to know their names. I made friends with a cool kid who stuck with me the whole night. Later, I played ultimate frisbee, running barefoot in the grass. Somehow I ended up convincing two latinas to take me to downtown Provo to the Festival Latinoamericano where we drank Horchata and ate empanadas, pupusas, and tacos. I saw some friends from work there and met a kid who had recently returned from serving in the same mission as me. When I got home I talked on the phone to a girl I met this summer who is up visiting for a few days. We’re planning to hang out tomorrow night with some of our other summer friends.
Now it’s late and I really do need to get some sleep, but here's to hoping Tuesday's even better than today.

Friday, September 2, 2005