For the Sake of Shakespeare, Cross Speedreading out of Your Resolution

Anyone who has tried to build their reading habit has had this one thought, “What if I can read it faster?” and then your mind launches into this dreamy fantasy of you breezing through War and Peace as if it were a boring celebrity magazine with a huge library of books that you’ve finished in the recent years.

It certainly is a sweet fantasy because to be completely honest, reading takes time, a lot of time, the same time that can be spent sleeping, earning money, or hanging out with your family at your back porch.
But should you entertain this fantasy? Should you want to read faster?

I think not. I mean, some things should be sped up for the sake of your sanity, i.e., reading assigned textbooks that were actually written by your professors, but meaningful activities should not be sped up! Do you wish to be at the end of your life, and say with a self-satisfied smile, “Phew, now that’s a quick life. I’m glad I got that over.”

If you have the urge to speed read through your current book, then either you’re reading the wrong way, or the wrong book. It takes time to dig depth and forge intimacy. It doesn’t matter how soon you can breeze through a book, it’s the impact of the book upon your life that counts. Books are not trophy for you to hang upon the wall.

“But I can actually remember the essential information from the book I’ve speed read, so speed reading is not that bad” you said. Well, does that matter? Information can be looked up pretty easily in this age. Books are supposed to make you think, to make you evaluate your life, to see things in a new light. Information gained from books might be enough for you to survive final exams, but to add flavors to your life? That requires more than a few simple hours of leafing through pages. It demands digestion, comparison, and explanation. It demands that you should have an intimate dialogue with the author through the work and ask questions, life-changing questions to your assumptions. And that simply cannot be achieved through speed reading.

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Don’t fall into your ego’s trap and try to surf your way through reading just to increase the amount on your “read” list. And if you’re halfway through the trap already, well, ask yourself, of all the hundred books you’ve boasted of having read, how many can you really recall? How many still emits a warmth in your heart just by thinking about it? Because great books? Great books that you’ve thoroughly read on the pages and between the lines? They stay with you. They might not always float through your consciousness, but just like a beautiful childhood memory, they will visit you from time to time and leave a trail of perfume scents on its wake.

“But.. but, this book is too long. It’s 700 pages! How can I possibly enjoy reading it slowly?” you ask. Well, if it’s a great book, you will have to bear it. Great lives have boring period and great books have boring sections. Would you rather read 3 mediocre, plot-driven books that you are likely to forget 2 months from now instead? That’s like wishing to have 3 acquaintances whose names you will only remember for a week instead of a close friend who knows all your woes and happiness. A deep friendship takes lots of time and struggle to form but once it’s established, it adds so much more value to your life than three acquaintances whom you occasionally party with. Books are the same. If you really wish to gain wisdom from the compacted thought of a person in the form of a book, to savor the enjoyment of pacing a new world, then I’d suggest you to not speed read. Take your time. Look at the cover. Spend time with the characters. Study their motives. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Appreciate the author’s way of constructing a new world through a dozen squiggles on the page. Soak in the sunshine of metaphors. Now, even if you’re not big on fiction, you can do the same with non-fictions. Don’t just pace through the book. Read it and spend some time turning the concept over. Prod it from several different angles. Draw your own examples. I assure you, reading is much more satisfying and helpful in the long run that way.

The irony here is that, as you spend more time soaking up books in the appropriate pace for you to comprehend, you will actually increase your reading skills and be able to read faster. Don’t believe me? Read a few of these blog posts about the flaws of speed reading techniques and do your own research!

https://www.wired.com/2017/01/make-resolution-read-speed-reading-wont-help/

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2015/01/19/speed-reading-redo/

http://lifehacker.com/the-truth-about-speed-reading-1542508398

Say Hello to Ambiversion

Although I hate being labelled as much as the next 90’s kid, there come times when you discover a word and find yourself hugely relieved and validated- as in, “I knew I was not the only one to miss winning ឆ្គិះសត្វ and watching badly-translated cartoons in the morning this much”. *Hint hint*, the label, 90’s kids, anyone?

There is also another label that recently made its way into the cold bottom of my heart and snuggled in close. And that label is ambivert.

For those of you who are not sure, an extrovert is defined as someone who actually get energy (mental and physical) from being around people. They mostly get their inspiration from interacting with things/people outside of themselves.
In contrast, introverts get energy from reflecting. Large social gatherings sap their energy, and they think best when they’re left alone.

But then there are people, like me, who like to spend time alone (very much) but also have no problem getting excited for a huge event. And those people are called ambivert.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s obvious no one can be strictly extroverted or introverted since it’s a continuum. We’re all ambiverts, somewhere in between, to a certain degree.

However, if you, like me, who like parties, but also have down days. Who like to talk to new people, but sometimes would rather binge-watch a show for three days straight. If after several attempts at the 16-personality test, and you still get like 52% extrovert, then you, my friend is quite strictly an ambivert.


Here are some social life hacks I’ve found that suit the ambivert personality and can hopefully give you some ideas:

1. Seasonal fog:
There are times when you just want to get out and party every single day. Then there are times when you want to wrap yourself up in a big blanket and not meet a single soul for a month. That’s what I call seasonal fog. You just have to let go and accept that it’s part of your cycle. The moon has days when it’s full and days when it’s not. You’re also part of nature; it’s only normal to have your own cycle as well. I find it very helpful to just accept and go with the flow. Feeling social? Let’s click “going” to all those Facebook social invitations. Feeling introverted? Time to lost yourself in the glories of shows your friends have been nagging for you to see for months.

2. Social quota:
Apart from the seasonal fog, most of the time, you are both introverted and extroverted in the same freaking day. You might get up, full of energy, ready to socialize. Then 6pm comes, and suddenly the thought of you rotting in your coffin is more tolerable than running into an acquaintance and having to make small talks.
And that is perfectly acceptable. Try to observe your daily social energy pattern and you’ll come up with a quota time soon enough. For me, it’s mostly at 6pm. Schedule dates and meetings when you know your social quota will be full. And put all those writing, and reflecting activities when your social quota is down! Win, win.
3. Gathering with a large group of strangers:
When you are contemplating if you should join a new social gathering with complete strangers, it’s helpful to ask yourself if you’d have a common goal/interest to discuss or not. I bet if it’s just a casual party where everyone is there to get drunk, then you might not find yourself all that comfortable in repeating the same “Hi, how are you?” to ten different strangers. Make sure the group of strangers have a common purpose. Maybe it’s an art gathering, or social politic café. I find myself extremely charged whenever I get to talk to strangers who have the same concern/common interest. Also, if the place has a dog, you’re good to go.
4. Party:
Maybe, I’m being in my comfort zone here, but sometimes it’s great to be comfortable, you know. Parties can sometimes be your best goddamn time, or your worst cringe fest because you will be meeting all these beautiful, interesting or down-right crazy people, and what should you do? For me, I like to make it absolutely sure that I either have a close friend with me, or that more than 30% of the attendants are my acquaintances, or again, that there’s a dog there.

Well, there you go! Small tips that have made it much easier to not judge myself for my crazy social energy spikes and fall. Would appreciate it if you could also give me some of your coping strategies as well!

Worshipping Idols

“You’re so cool, idol. I love you.”

“I’ve seen you in that video today. So idol!”

“I. D. O. L.”

“អាយដូល!”


Here are just variations of how people have been jokingly employing the term “idol” repeatedly for about 300 times to me now. I know it’s all a trend and show because honestly? I’ve done it to quite a few handful of unsuspecting victims too. You have to admit it’s refreshing to be creating this culture of admiring and shamelessly admitting your respect and pride for someone. I mean, what sort of people DO NOT want to be praised for their efforts and hard work? However, just like with many things, if done wrong, this mere idolizing can mean serious trouble because if you have not noticed already, idol doesn’t just mean someone whom you have considerable admiration for, it also means this.

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 6.07.34 PM Yeah, that’s right. It also means something that you pray as part of your religion. If there’s one thing I know for sure about this implication, it is this, you think of someone as FAR, FAR above you- this enlightened know-all being who’s leisurely hanging out in the clouds spewing one genius work after another without so much as a sweat. Lowly earth-worms like you can never aspire to be half that successful.
So what do you do? You idolize them. You say, oh, he’s born a genius. That’s why. She’s been doing it for 10 years; of course, she’s fluent in it. I can never ever be that committed. Oh, you know, his mind is extraordinary. It just can’t be explained.  No, of course, he doesn’t have any flaw. There’s nothing that she can’t do; maybe save for being a failure.

You call them gods. You do whatever it takes to convince yourself that no matter how much you work, you, a chanced mortal can NEVER achieve that level of excellence.

You know what you’re subconsciously doing by practicing this sort of idolizing? You’re setting a huge air cushion ready for your future fall. Instead of crawling your way to success, you’d rather label that success unattainable; thus, relieving you of any blame for not attempting. And the result? Without the goal of achieving success, instead of practicing, instead of putting in the work and time needed for improvement, you waste your life burrowing from one hole to another, convincing yourself all the way that you can never be a god after all, so why try?

Besides demotivating you to achieve greatness, this idolizing of humans also means you are effectively removing yourself from their friend list. there-are-two-ways-to-dehumanize-someone-by-dismissing-them-and-by-idolizing-them

By idolizing someone, you’re choosing to see them as immortal instead of blood and veined humans with flaws, biases, emotional distress, and childhood trauma (everybody has those; especially artists). That’s why many fans lament about being disillusioned after getting to meet their favorite idol (mostly celebrities).
“I don’t know who he thought he was. He was not all that impressive.”
“She didn’t even know what piece of writing I was quoting! And I’d thought she was smart!”
Well, can you blame them though? You set up this perfect standard for someone, and then blame them for not fitting into the cloud-pacing goddess image that you’ve created for them?

And without leaving room for them to be flawed, to be irrational, to be dumb, you’re effectively cutting all bridges to connect with them on a deeper level. You may be able to hold a decent small talk with them every once in a while, but without giving them the chance to be vulnerable, good luck getting close to them.

Conclusion? I think what I’m trying to get across is this: it’s very tempting to put labels on people, to give them a two-dimensional mask and write them off as perfect or dumb, but humans aren’t nearly always so neat, are they? Before calling someone your idol again, ask yourself, am I merely respecting one aspect of their life, or am I effectively shining their statue and putting it on my shrink?

How to Start a Blog?

How to start blogging?

Now, one of the most frequently asked questions I’ve got after young people found out I’m a blogger is,
“Jeje, how do I start blogging?”
And I almost always jokingly tell them to just start. In hindsight, maybe they only needed a technical guidance, or some practical advice. And my answer definitely was not enough, so at them is this article aimed.

Now, I like to keep things simple, so if you are full of hot blood, wanting to get your voice echoed around the void that is the internet, then just follow these two very simple steps: first, you have to have SOMETHING to say, and second, well, SAY it. Easy peasy.

  1. Have something to say

You can have the prettiest verses, the ability to string the most beautiful sentence, but if the content is hollow, I’m sorry but your writing will not stick in the minds of people for more than three days. Iconic work of art is not just praised for their execution, though it plays a big part, it also has to tell something memorable.

Well, then, how to have something to say? You’re on your own here, pal. It’s both the magic and the curse of writing (or of any creative pursuit, really). Yes, you can write about anything and everything you want, but there’s no guideline life support to drag you through the void when you are hit by a solid writer’s block.

If you want some practical suggestions from me, it’s this. Look into your life and your environments. Find an issue that is bugging you or your community, analyze it and write about it.

A word of caution, though, I personally don’t like to just put forth a problem without offering a tentative or proven solution to the issue unless it is made to raise awareness. So again, it’s up to you. Do you wish to raise awareness to a particular issue, or do you want to share practical tips you’ve gathered on how to combat one? Again, your call.

  1. SAY it

Now, after fleshing an outline for what you want to say, it’s time to get down to the business and just write. It. Down.

There are literally courses, books and blogs dedicated to make your writing better. Find some of them and read if you must. For me though, what helps shape my writing skills the most is reading and actually paying the utmost attention to how authors write.

A year before I started blogging, I’d thought my writing skill so hopelessly mediocre that I almost decided to just give it up altogether if it weren’t for this quote from the lovely Virginia Woolf.a7481e7cf51fe1ed61c09622883aba34

Since I respected her and loved her writing dearly, I struck a bet with myself. I would set myself up to read 1,000 books and if my writing is still crappy by then, I would just give up and be a goat farmer in the rural provinces or something.

It’s been 5 years since and I’ve read a few more hundred books and believe me when I say reading (and actually GENUINELY paying attention not just to the content, but to how authors employ words and twist phrases) have helped me tremendously in becoming the author I want to be. So, my not-so-practical tip to you if you want to improve your writing is this, literally read a thousand books.

Quotefancy-52168-3840x2160There’s also another pitfall that hangs upon the minds of anyone willing to try anything new, this doom cloud that veils the will and makes it extremely easy to just procrastinate writing the first sentences down. From what I’ve learned through personal experiences and reading about other authors’ writing lives, they all have this one advice: write. Write even if you don’t feel like it. Once you have an idea, write it down. Shitty first draft makes a less shittier final draft.

 

Now that you have your article on the go, here are some blogging platforms you can try and see if they suit your needs! (Personally, I use WordPress and am pretty content with it.):

 

Welp, that’s all. Happy blogging, and if you wish, send me your first articles in the comments!

លែងលេងលេង (Stop Half-ass-ing Yourself)

Don’t get me wrong; I quite appreciate the fact that our society permits us to fail without being bombarded with too much shit. Try talking about your failures to anyone willing to listen and most frequently than not, you would be showered with a bucket-load of the “you-tried” stars (hopefully un-sarcastically) and an abundant pats of sympathy.
However, like all well-meaning actions, this one comes with its own double-edged effects; among them, which will be the focus of this post, is the perpetuation of the culture of “lengleng” (literally translated as play play from Khmer language which metaphorically means half-heartedly).

Instead of committing seriously to a subject, a student would use lengleng as a pretext for not exerting enough efforts. I mean, you can’t really fail, if your declared intention was not to exceed in the first place.

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“I’m just doing this course lengleng.” Followed by missed-classes, one-night-policies, and half-assed papers written literally 24 hours before the deadline with the help of the Muse of Caffeine and sleep-deprived brain cells. But you won’t feel guilty for barely making a C+ in that course; oh no, because you were only doing this course lengleng, remember?

There are only two possible results here. Either you end up getting a little over the average grade, which means you’re a genius, or you end up failing which is sort of what you were aiming for in the first place.

See? No loss, only gains.

Lengleng becomes this trusty cushion for anything risky in your life.

Not sure if you’re gonna get that part-time job as a dancing Panda on the weekends at the mall? Never mind, you only applied lengleng, anyway.

Insecure about your future with that cute girl who’s just accepted your date request? I’ve got you covered, just commit with only half your ass. Either she’ll dump you (you didn’t really want to try in the first place anyway, so nope, not your fault), or somehow, miraculously, she will stay (which just shows you’re just one helluva lucky bastard).

Scared that you will not live your life to the fullest? Stop your worrying once and for all by floating along the river of life with half your ass submerged, yelling “lengleng” once in a while because God (if there is one) certainly won’t be able to put the blame on you for not giving the river your all because hey! A person cannot be held responsible for what they had no intention of accomplishing in the first place! You didn’t intend to be happy in life, so it’s not your fault you’re discontented, sad and alone at the end!

Humor and petty goals aside, do you really wish to wake up one day, gasping for breath on your deathbed, just to realize, in your eighty years of life, you’ve never fully applied yourself in anything, not even a dramatic eco-friendly burial that you’ve always dreamed of having?someone-once-told-me-the-definition-of-hell

 

There’s this interesting anonymous quote which says maybe the worst punishment one can receive is to meet the person one could have been on the last day of one’s life.

 

 

Do you really wish to meet the person that you could have been, had you not lengleng your way through life just because you fear failure?

The person who has ridiculously silly bar stories of their teenage part time job as a mall Panda.

The person who’s married their college sweetheart and lived to have a life full of petty arguments but never run out of love?

The person who’s grabbed life by the tits and milked every single ounce of milk out of it. Who’s not afraid to face God (again, if there is one), and say, “I’ve used everything you gave me. Now just let me rest?)

Do not build a leaden life full of regrets for the fear of making a fool of yourself in front of your peers

because I’ve heard regret is the worst sound a person can hear.

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For me, I find it helpful to think of any life endeavors as a friendship. (Credit to this dude. Seriously, read his posts. He’s just a bowl of awesome-sauce).

Now, back to the friendship metaphor thing.

When you treat any project/studying/anything really of yours with a lengleng attitude, it’s like you’re being friends with someone, but not really putting the efforts to develop a deeper friendship.

We all have friends of that kind. You know, the ones that post on our walls, parroting “we should hang out soon”, but never really make the plan to. The ones whose hangouts involve taking selfies and posting about how happy we’re to finally meet each others. The ones that are not aware of 90% of your true self because they never bother to ask, or listen carefully when you talk anyway. The ones that you restrict to the weather-talk level because there’s no way someone like that would want to and/or be able to empathize with your deeper woes.

For a friendship to flourish, everybody knows one needs to invest the time and efforts, and the willingness to. Lengleng attitude just won’t cut it. Well, at least, I know for sure I won’t want a lengleng best friend. Acquaintance? Yes. But seriously nurturing friendships that will certainly last for a long time? Get that shitty attitude out of my swamp and go leng somewhere else!

For you to achieve something, or well, to put your best in something because we all know success is quite dependent upon luck (and at the end of the day, nothing really matters much but your efforts), it’s helpful to remember to:

  • Put the appropriate time and effort into the work of anything you deem worthwhile because growth needs time, dude, growth needs time.
  • It’s okay to let go: just like friendships, when it is not working out anymore, you can let the goal go. Friendships come and friendships go. Goals are the same.
  • Results are important, but like most healthy friendships, you’re just friends with that person because you like to hang out with them. What you get from them are only awesome byproducts of your amazing time together. Commit yourself to stuff because you like doing it, exploring, learning from it (even though you look like a fool for doing so).

Now, say hello to that goal of yours, and make yourself comfortable because you guys are going to be talking for quite a long time to come.

My Mindful Week- Day 7: Dealing with Materialism

It’s a lazy Sunday evening and you’ve just finished a great movie with your friends. You intend to go home but something sparkling caught your attention from the shop window on your left. You turned around and there it was, lying so gracefully, a wristwatch you’ve been drooling all over ever since it was out.

Why are we so attracted to things, especially if they are expensive? It’s one thing to want to own something because it’s practical, but it’s another thing altogether to hoard 2 closets full of brand clothes that you don’t even have the occasion to wear.

Why are you slaving your days away just to get yet another new iPhone just for internet and calling like your last iPhone?

Why should you spend 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer like a zombie just to afford a brand new hybrid car in 8 years?

The thing is that we chase these things because we think they might give us happiness. While I do agree material comfort does give us happiness to a certain level (I mean, you can’t be exactly happy without food in your mouth and a roof over your head), but materialism is just way too much.

You know in the deepest crevices of your brain that it’s not the right thing to spend 2,000 bucks on a bike, but your heart gives a flutter when you see it.  When there’s a conflict between the mind and heart, that’s when mindfulness comes into play. Here’s how I’ve learned to deal with the urge to splash my paycheck for things I don’t even need using mindfulness:

  • Spend some time just sit and breathe.
  • While breathing, think of how everything is subjected to impermanence and change. Your house might be blown away by a hurricane or bombed to dust in an air strike. Your beloved car might just be stolen tomorrow, and your clothes may all be consumed by a house fire. If these things are very unlikely, just think about once you’re dead, they are not yours anymore.
  • While meditating on the changing nature of ownership, continue to keep tap of your breathing. It is essential to not lose sight of yourself among all these imaginings. If you’ve strayed, don’t blame yourself. Gently nudge your attention back to breathing and imagining.
  • Realize that the only thing that you will always own in your life is your body, and subsequently your mind. That’s it. You don’t need a lot to be happy. Having many things actually generate more anxieties as you fret over ways you might lost them in the future. You just need to be a friend to yourself to be happier. Materialism is all about showing your worth and status to other people.
    Why so?
    You want validation from them.
    You want them to think you’re worthy. In a previous post, social validation has been promptly dealt with, so I will just tell you what I’ve learned here. It’s this: when you seek validation from people, you’re handing a key to them while locking yourself up in a cage. When you stop seeking acceptance from them, and be content with what you have? That’s when you break the cage and boy is it a sweet feeling.
  • Look back into all the stuff that you own. Which ones do you really need and which ones you wanted just to appear in a better light in the eyes of others? Maybe it’s about time to get rid of them.
  • Every time you are about to buy something, ask yourself the same thing. Do you really need it to fulfill your basic needs, or are you doing it to get accepted?

Well, that’s about it. I’m proud of you for making it this far! Again, you are going to struggle being mindful and it’s natural to feel frustrated (and yell about at yourself for being such a loser, or was it just me?), but please, realize that mindfulness is a life change! Be patient with yourself. When you’ve strayed, just gently come back. My posts will always be here for you.

My Mindful Week- Day 6: Listening in Relationships

I’m not sure about the past (since I was not around to witness it), but many people today listen just so they can retort. If they are not subtle about their self-centered tendencies, they would just reply back with most of the times irrelevant information about themselves.

  • “Hey, so my dog just died.”
  • “Oh? My pet lizard died ten years ago and till this day, I’m still hurt. I actually had her skin preserved. Do you want to see the pictures? I can even bring her the next time we meet.”

Maybe not this exaggerated, but you know the drill.

Even the most selfless among us have the habit of listening to give advice, console or comfort.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but some situations require not a wise pair of lips, but an understanding pair of ears. I’m sure you have had this experience, the feeling of a burden being practically moved from your chest just by ranting to another person even if that person did not give you any advice.

We all know the old adage of how communication is the key to relationships, but listening is the key to communication. Mindful listening aims to extend our non-judgmental listening of our own thoughts and feelings, to another living being.

The goal is to just listen, not to reply, to correct, or to give advice, but just simply listen. It’s extremely handy especially when one or both ends of the conversation happen to be emotionally charged. Rational approach of the situation can come later, but currently emotionally aggravated cases call for compassionate ears (pun intended).

Here is how to inject a bit of mindfulness into your conversations:

  1. Breathe in and out. This is the most important part. Keep tap of breathing even and especially when you are listening.
  2. Maintain a half-smile will help too (especially when the other party is sorta mad at us).
  3. Listen to the other person. Don’t try to come up with a reply. Just simply listen and imagine the things they are describing.
  4. Keep tap of your breathing the whole way through.
  5. Viola, you’re done.

I know it sounds very simple, but it works like magic. I remember being very mad at my students who decided to plagiarize in my writing class when the only rule I enforced was to not cheat their souls in writing. When I found out, I felt incredibly affronted as if they deliberately intended to hurt me! Thankfully, I could not express my anger right away because classes wouldn’t start until that evening which gave me half a day to cool down, so I decided to take a mindfulness approach in questioning them instead of ugly sobbing and yelling about artist integrity.

During the whole conversation, I kept my feelings to myself and sought to solely listen to their sides of the story. One was too stressed with exams; the other with homework. Just sitting there, listening to their stories have curiously made me happier. I can still recall the feeling; it was like having a flower bloom in your heart; you just feel so much compassion for the people in front of you, you know (God knows I’ve had enough stress with exams and homework too). Before the conversation, I only expected mindful listening to prevent me from lashing out; by the end of the talk, I was not only calm, but even a little happy.

It’s such a curious turn of events, and if you don’t buy it, try it out for yourself! In your next conversation, pretend to have lost your voice for a change and listen for the sake of listening only. You might just end up with an expected golden rose in your chest!