Trust Me You’re Not Missing Out On Anything

You’re reading this instead of watching another funny video, reading Trump’s latest excuse for tweeting or continuing your Netflix binge. Thank you. I appreciate you investing time to read something that might make you think and reflect a little. Hopefully the return on your investment is enough to offset the opportunity cost of your time.*  

You simply can’t do everything. Compromise is a reality of life. Yet we still find ourselves wondering if we’re missing out on the fun our friends are having at any given moment… without us. There’s even a term for this now: FoMO (fear of missing out). OK fine, so you are missing something. Hopefully, it’s because you’re doing something else of value – or in other words something that you chose to do. Value doesn’t always equal fun or immediate gratification, but as long as it’s intentional why sweat over whatever else is going on in the world?

Take the Long Term Perspective

Are you studying right now? Good, it’ll pay off in the form of knowledge or a credential or more money (hopefully all of the above). Are you working out? Good, it’ll increase the number of years you can remain independent. Be happy you’re making that choice. Going to sleep early? Great, you’re going to wake up rested tomorrow and probably extend your overall lifespan. Watching Netflix? That’s cool too, you can discuss it with coworkers tomorrow.

But what about that one friend who never sleeps and still excels at everything? Whooptidoo. Not everyone is born with the same body and health. What about all those friends who are traveling the world and seeing every cool thing there is to see on the planet? Good for them – enjoy their pictures and get back to whatever it is you decided to do with the time and resources you have available. Or, stop doing what you’re doing and invest your time and money to go on a trip. It’s really up to you. You can dwell on your network’s curated versions of themselves or you can get up and go do stuff.

More Extravagant Doesn’t Mean More Happiness

This is where I want to revisit the ROI concept. Bhumi and I drove down 5 hours and spent about $300 (hotel/gas/food) and a vacation day to see something that was only going to be visible for 2 and half minutes (and the clouds blocked out the middle 1 minute 30 seconds of it but I’m not bitter @#%!). But, for that relatively small investment, we have a lifelong memory of the absolute coolest most spectacular vision you can have while on earth with us to cherish. The excruciating 12 hour (yes twelve, one-two hours instead of the five that it should have taken) drive back home will just add to the memory.

Was it as cool as the week diving in Belize? No, but diving cost 10x this trip. Will remembering the dives bring us 10x joy in the future? That’s hard to say, but I’d put my wager on “no.” Both will bring smiles to our faces. Both were vivid enough to steal my thoughts away from the present with little effort. What more can you ask for?

I often think back to the genuine happiness of villagers I’ve met in India for perspective. They lived in tiny homes (without the bells and whistles of those featured on HGTV), have minimal possessions, and are unencumbered by what everyone else is doing in the world. But, they’re enjoying the life they have.

There are unlimited experiences to be had, unlimited concerts to go to, unlimited Broadway shows to be seen, unlimited sporting events to do attend, unlimited hikes, unlimited movies, unlimited restaurants, unlimited sites to see. You can’t do it all. No one can.

Just Do It

If something is THAT important to you, consciously decide to pursue it with all your energy and forget about everything else because the rest of it matters less [than what you’re pursuing]. Last year we spent the most we’ve ever spent on a single sporting event, $300 a ticket for a Cubs playoff game. That may seem preposterous to some of you reading this. Others may think that’s insignificant. To us it was worth it. Some of you may decide that money is better spent on a plane ticket to visit a new city or on several nice restaurants (or at Taco Bell for an entire year). That’s because everything is relative. Remember that.

You can’t look at what everyone else is doing to decide if you should be there instead of where you are. Look at what you’re doing now and accept that you’re doing that because of choices that you made. You decided to be where you are at this moment. And that’s what’s cool about what you’re doing. That’s what makes what you’re doing and who you’re with and where you are special.

I missed out on a lot of short-term fun and probably too much sleep when I was working on my t-shirt business. I also missed out on a lot of short-term fun during my last 1.5 years of college because I tried to have too much short-term fun the first 2 years. I made choices that put me a bad academic situation, and I made choices that helped me get out of that. Missing out was never part of the equation when I was focused on increasing my GPA. Missing out was never an issue when I was making designs for RAAHI. And I never worried about missing out when I was pursuing my MBA. Missing out is not a concern when I’m at XSport swimming laps present day. These are my choices, and my choices will get me to wherever I want to go. Or they won’t. Either way it’s on me.

There Is No Such Thing As Missing Out

Make conscious choices and forget about missing out. Missing out is a B.S. concept. The opportunity cost of worrying about the fluff on Facebook is too great. Invest in the right things to get the return you want and deserve. Give more weight to what you value. Give yourself permission to forget everything else.

End main rant.

Peace.

*SIDE RANT: we really need to be teaching people ROI and opportunity cost at a young age. I don’t know that I heard those terms until the latter half of high school. And I certainly didn’t understand the long-term opportunity cost of using debt for college and the significance my short-term choices could have on the return on that investment.

Find Comfort In The Only True Constant In Your Life

They say it’s smart to fear nothing but fear itself. Similarly, it is prudent to expect change as the only constant and face it proactively. Instead, we try so hard to resist it.

change-to-gainPart of what makes this difficult is the acceleration of change. We are advised to go harder/fasters/stronger because if we don’t hustle we’ll be left behind. The scary thing is that it’s partially true in the professional world now. You’re competing against your peers both in your company and those working for your competitors. Either you’re just smarter and more talented than them – or – you work so hard / long that it’s hard to keep up with you. Of course, none of that will matter if automation and AI take over your job.

But that’s one aspect of life.

The more time and energy you put into your profession, the less you have available for other things. It’s a matter of balancing earning money and doing stuff. You need the former to do much of the latter. But if you ask people what they regret on their deathbeds, “spending more time at the office” isn’t likely something you’ll hear.

Change Isn’t Supposed to Be Easy

What else makes change hard? Part of it is wiring. Your personality or temperament might just make it difficult for you to deal with changes (e.g. Guardians). Order and routine are positive things. Structure helps you accomplish more in the day. Others may find constants boring and actively seek out randomness and the unknown.

If dealing with change is hard for you that’s OK! Change isn’t supposed to be easy. In algebra, we dealt with a finite set of variables (x, y and sometimes z). Life is full of unlimited variables. As much as we want to control things, we know we can’t.

290 will be full of @)#*!% who drive slow in the left lane 8 out of 10 days, or there will be a fender bender in the middle lane, or a stray bullet that will close down the entire express way (that’s actually happened twice in the last year!).

The Ultimate Reminder of Change

And finally, there’s the one change we absolutely can’t change (even though we’re trying): aging to death. Sure we’ve increased the average lifespan – which is great. But we’re all working against a clock that leads to the same conclusion 100% of the time. I am going to die. So are you. You know this.

Let’s pause and take that in: the one thing we all know for sure is that our bodies, life and the world around us will keep changing until all of us die. We know this.

Isn’t that nice – to be 100% sure of something?

I take comfort in that and have made it a habit to regularly check-in with myself with one simple question: “If you were to die today, would be happy with how you’re living?” If the answer is “no,” then I change something. 😊

That’s the beauty of change. Use it to your advantage. Enjoy the present, and make adjustments to reach the future you envision.

Down Time – The Necessary Good

Down has a negative connotation. Is that why we try to avoid down time? We constantly want to go up. Up is associated with progress. Move up the career ladder. 99.9% up time is standard expectation from your website host. God is somewhere up there.

But what if believe He’s right here… inside. Then would it be more okay to sit down? So we can download our thoughts and understand ourselves better. Get closer to the real me… and God?

Our minds are always running, with an up time of nearly 100%. But thankfully we are gifted with this necessity called sleep. Sleep encourages – no forces us to lie down, to take a break. We have to turn down the lights, reduce the noise, and stop everything. It is in this time we learn that peace is found in detachment. We are worry-free when we shut down for the night.

Without this down time, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to wake up, rise and take on the day. And without the down time for reflection, we wouldn’t know why and how we are going to make our way up to the goals we have set for ourselves.

Life is full of ups and downs. Both are equally important. So let’s not ignore down time – the necessary good.

Scuba Diving is Like Visiting Another Planet Where You Can Fly

On March 25, 2017 the only Indian couple on Caye Caulker walked back to their hotel with smiles on their faces. They felt a sense of pride, satisfaction and accomplishment having just completed dives number 10 and 11. This walk marked the end of their week of scuba diving in Belize. They were divers now.

The Hindu priest who married Bhumi and me told us that I would be the practical one and she the dreamer. We weren’t surprised as it was Bhumi who brought up sky diving first, and my practical self had already determined how it would work well for engagement proposal: you go up and come down on a designated landing area which makes for a perfect situation to sit and wait for the surprise, and you already have the option to have the whole thing captured on video. And so that led to this:

When the discussion for what we really wanted to do next came up last year, Bhumi decided to continue on the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara adventure package and said “I’ve always wanted to go scuba diving” – pretty much out of nowhere. I had never considered it. I’m pretty sure I assumed it would be too expensive and honestly I thought it was a dangerous (and a little scary) undertaking. Those types of things don’t seem to bother Bhumi until well after the idea has already taken a hold in her head. Still unsure about how practical this idea of scuba diving was, I figured I’d give it a chance with a Groupon for a Discover Scuba course.

Discovering Scuba Diving and Its Costs

After 2 hours in a pool with Learn Scuba Chicago dive instructors, I was in. Just floating around 6 to 12 feet under water in the diving pool imagining doing the same with fish all around helped me envision what this scuba thing could be like. Bhumi on the other had was just now beginning to think about the potential dangers. Just the fact that everyone dives with 2 breathing hoses attached to their air tanks in case their dive buddy runs out of air illustrates how serious things can get. Diving is a serious undertaking, and it was now Bhumi’s turn to ask, “do we really want to do this?”

Thankfully, the scuba diving world understands the value of experiential learning and has certification courses to help you prepare you. You have to pass a multiple-choice test after learning about things like your buoyancy in salt water vs fresh water, how depth affects pressure and breathing, how long it’s safe for your body to remain under the sea. Then you practice hands-on skills in a diving pool including assembling and disassembling your equipment, clearing your mask in case it floods with water, and sharing your buddy’s regulator (breathing device that goes in your mouth).

Unfortunately, it’s not very cheap. The ideal way to get your PADI Open Water certification is to do your classroom/online learning and pool sessions (3 to 4 days) at home (assuming you don’t already live in a dive-friendly location), and then completing your 4 open water dives at the tropical destination of your choosing. We chose Belize. It was $300 each for the Chicago-based coursework, and another $400 each for the Belize-based coursework including rental equipment. We also spent about $250 each on masks, fins, boots, and other odds and ends like lights, knives, bags, etc. That got us to certified. Then to continue diving for 3 additional days to see the variety of sites Belize has to offer it would add another $600 each bringing our total scuba diving investment to about $3,000.

Making Dollars and Sense of the Investment

Now here’s where our practical approach helps make this work. We were lucky enough to have 100,000 points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card this year. We were also lucky that Southwest started flying to the Caribbean recently because we can transfer our Chase points to Southwest (where bags also fly free!). After researching a bit on the best diving sites in the Caribbean, lining up dates with Bhumi’s spring break, and finding a hotel that would fit in our points budget, we landed on Caye (pronounced “key”) Caulker – a small Belizean island that’s a 40 minute ferry ride off the coast of Belize City. Not paying anything for the flight and hotel made the scuba expense a lot more feasible. It also enabled us to go with Belize Diving Services, the best (and most expensive) dive shop in the area. It was worth paying extra to feel secure during our first diving experience – and I would highly, highly, highly recommend this shop! Ilya was an awesome instructor, and the entire crew was a fun, attentive and thoughtful bunch (special shout out to Walter for ensuring we saw an eagle ray on our last dive!). They also had larger boats than others (important for the 1 to 2 hours rides out to the reefs), great equipment, and a very professional approach to everything.

We focused on investing in the experience of diving, and the rest didn’t matter. I would take the same approach if I were to do it again. The diving was magical. And being on an island with nothing planned and nothing really available to do was a pleasant break from the real world.

Do Your Open Water Certification Dives in the Ocean

The reason you want to do the open water certification dives on site (especially if you’re from somewhere in-land like us) is because you get to spend the 45 minutes in the ocean for each dive, where all the fish and sea creatures are instead of a local quarry where there is nothing to see. After spending the first 25 – 30 minutes practicing specific skills, you get to spend the last 10 – 15 minutes practicing your “trim” aka swimming around efficiently instead of flapping around like a fish out of water. It is during this time when you get to enjoy the sights and really start appreciating your new ability as perfectly described by a colleague of mine: the ability to fly on an entirely new planet (aka 71% of earth).

Our first open water dive was in the Turneffe Reef about an hour off the coast. The group of 15 people on the boat went from relaxed boaters to wet-suited divers in a flurry when the captain announced we were approaching the site. Everyone started putting on their equipment, checking their gauges, soaping their masks (so it won’t fog up), and getting their GoPros ready all at once. Then, we waddled to the edge of the boat with our fins already on our feet and with a long-stride off the boat we were in the ocean. We had to inflate the buoyancy control device (BCD) right away so we’re still floating on top of the water and then signal OK to the boat. This is it. We’re about to dive in the ocean!

After our instructor joined us in the water, we all descended to the sandy ocean floor about 35 feet below the boat using the rope attached to the anchor as a guide. The water was so clear, you could see straight to the bottom and see 100 feet out in all directions. I remember just watching all these little fish swimming around us that first time, just taking in the experience. We were inside a giant aquarium tank, and we were just getting started.

Besides getting to swim with all the coral and fish, we were actually spoiled by seeing a loggerhead turtle and a giant spotted eagle ray on our very first dive. Fortunately we would see several more rays during our stay in Belize, but this one was the largest by far. We were just in awe as it soared by us. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to bring your camera on your certification dives so we couldn’t capture that moment, but here is another one from later in the trip:

Over the course of the 4 open water dives we got to see 2 different reefs, reached a depth of 60 feet, met lots of fish, nurse sharks, a few more turtles, as well as eels, crab, lobster, and more. Had we skimped on the certification part and just done those dives in Chicago, we would have seen nothing.

Why Dive Belize? Because it’s Unbelizable!

Want to know why you should dive in Belize? This was my face after:

Bhumi and I got to dive 11 times in 5 days out of the 7 that we were in Belize (can’t dive the day after or before flying). We saw 4 different reef sites (San Pedro, Spanish Bay, Turneffe, Lighthouse) and the Great Blue Hole where we reached our max depth of ~85 feet. During those dives we went from apprehensive but excited land-folk to just plain happy mouth-breathers. I’m sitting here thinking about the experience 2 months later and thinking about how I felt, and there’s no better way to describe it. We were happy.

I can keep telling you about this experience, but I can’t do it justice. I will just describe the moment of elation after which everything in the world was grand and I began doing corkscrews under the water out of glee. Then you can get a better feel for the diving through our videos at the bottom of this post.

The Shark

I still remember when our guide put his open-palm hand perpendicular to his forehead and pointed over my left shoulder about half-way through dive number 7. I turned my head immediately and saw it. My body followed my head as my heart started beating a little faster. And without even thinking about it I was kicking. Kicking in the direction of the shark.

The thing about sharks is, they’re not really interested in you – and don’t even like how you taste. There isn’t a real reason to fear them (besides great whites), but having grown up watching Jaws and being conditioned to fear them, you’re naturally a little scared because of what they can do to you if they were interested in you (which they’re not). Either way, they are beautiful creatures that own their spot at the top of the oceanic food chain with their intimidatingly sharp, missile-like bodies gliding though the water.

Would I have hit my ceiling of joy if I hadn’t seen the 2 reef sharks during the trip – I honestly don’t think so. But the sharks were just a couple minutes of the 7+ hours we spent under the water that week. And the entire experience in total is what gave us the feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment and happiness.

We are divers now, and we hope sharing our story, pictures and videos will inspire you to pursue diving someday. It is one of the most incredible experiences we’ve had in our lives, and we are so grateful for it.

Pathik and Bhumi’s Belize Scuba Diving Videos





PS – These were filmed with a GoPro 4 Sliver at 1080p 60fps

40 Posters From Nasty Women and Their Friends in Chicago

This isn’t a post about the impressive size, diversity and broad reach of the post-inauguration march that took place on January 21, 2017. Please go to the official site to learn more about that and what you can do to help. This is simply an appreciation for those who took the time to use their creativity for something positive. More specifically, this is a post about all the posters at the Women’s March on Chicago and anti-hate (or anti-Trump) rally yesterday.

It was impressive. Good art leaves an impression. It makes you feel something. That’s what these posters did for everyone in attendance, and I’m glad that 1) my friends came in from the suburbs and inspired us to attend, and 2) that so many people made an effort to essentially create marketing pieces that will help increase the longevity of this protest.

In no particular order, here are about 40 posters and scenes from the march yesterday:

And I’ll end with this one…