Two-Week Self-Employment Trial | A Curious Reflection

Continuing with the music career experimentation series, I tried to work on my own for 2 weeks this time.

“A self-employment trial?”, you may ask.

Yes. We try a trial before we buy a software, before we register for a class. Why not a trial to a much bigger life decision, like, a career choice perhaps? I like music. I want to do more music. But do I really want a music career? A career shift is certainly intimidating, so I want to make sure that: 1. I can endure it, 2. I will be content with my decision.

Good things is I’ve been dutifully writing journal everyday, so I can look back into my notes with details of the ups and downs between those two weeks. I use Daylio app, by the way, great app! It pops a reminder for me to write a journal entry everyday and rate my current mood. It’s mind-boggling how writing can help clarifying out thoughts. I’ve been having a better sense of what activities I enjoyed and vice versa after I write more! Mentioned similar thing back in the July reflection.

Sat 11/2, Sun 11/3: Organize priorities. Meditate and think about what I want for my career. Organize computer. Think about platforms to upload music. Decided to create a YouTube channel since that platform support easier navigation between songs. The blog will focus more on philosophy of life and music discussion.

Mon 11/4, Tue 11/5: High-performance. Write a lot of music, do MCG work. (even with different timbre, if the melody is not the top voice, and the top voice (not melody) is also moving, actual melody will sound muddy). Noted that I accidentally paid for something but stay calm, learn, and move on.

Composed Clash of the Clans and a short jazz-influenced piece.

Wed 11/6: Exhausted from composing, so read book and watch cowboy bebop, jazz jam at night. Thought of balancing between working alone and working with others in music (ie: film) Learn that if I improvise random things, I will soon run out of ideas, but if I stick to an idea and gradually develop it, I have more material to go on.

Thurs 11/7, Fri 11/8: try singing, practice for an audition. Realize that there is so much to singing that I have yet to master. Followed through with going to the audition even though I tried to chicken out at the last minute. Confronted my fear. Even I suck, nothing happens.

Composed a meditative music piece inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

Sat 11/9: Give myself time to relax after one week, watch a movie, do some low-key tutorials of a Ableton.

Finish composing Dante The Doubtful Detective.

Sun 11/10: Workout, try Tai Chi Chuan, decide to try Brazilian jujitsu. Decided to stop going to beginner band practices. Actively think about priorities in life and things to say yes or no to.

Mon 11/11: Frustration from thinking I’m not able to write music after sitting for quite some time in front of a jazz-influenced piece. Took a break to walk and got out of the negative mindset. I’m not good yet, but I can train to be better. Realize that I will face this in more ways and different forms in the future if I follow this career. So beside the ups, I start to catch glimpse of downs in a self-starting career.

Tue 11/12: Jot down idea for a longer music piece. Tried Brazilian jujitsu. Experienced chicken-out effect at the last minute again but pushed through and happy that I tried it.

Wed 11/13, Thu 11/14: Balance doing work on my own and go to places to hang out with other musicians. Went to SVL open mic on Wednesday and SFO and jam on Thursday. Realize that there could be different groups and activities to join for different purpose and different level of commitment as well as skill, I should choose to spend my time wisely, not just go to any meeting. Realize also that I have the tendency of sleeping ever so slightly but progressively later during the day if not monitored tightly. Some people recognizes me from performing at the open mics in both SVL and SFO, probably because I pour my heart into the performance and do something unique of my own. Should apply this philosophy to any type of content creation if I want to be a distinguishable artist among others. Solid time of being in the music community.

Finished composing Something Romantic, Something Ruined.

Fri 11/15: Should prioritize time of what I do and who to hang out with. Out of politeness yes or fun. Should practice politely decline.

Finished revising Dawn with A Crescent Moon.

Sat 11/16, Sun 11/17: Organize things and focus on the business side of music. Adding videos to my old musics and upload them to YouTube to potentially reach more people. Workout. Read. Doodle some music. Find out about music workflow, administrative stuff.

The goods:

I have learned from the last time and be more content with myself for reaching my exhaustion limit and not able to produce constantly. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to take time to relax and do other things, take care of myself. Music is a communication device, so while learning music theory is necessary since I’m still a novice in music, but having a story to tell with music is essential, so get a life, do other things we enjoy as well.

I realize the importance of balancing between music craft and music business. If I want to work in the music industry and make a living, being skillful is good, but not enough. I need to be recognized as a skillful individual as well. That brings in exposure with the music communities. Beside, I need to hang out with people and do projects with other people as well since working in isolation is not healthy in the long run.

The bad:

I realize the self-destructing tendency to doubt myself along the way. When we are doing something with an unclear path. There will be times when we question ourselves at a profound level, is it worth it at all, is this all a joke. I will need strategy to deal with those times. We think and feel differently under those times, which can lead to outragous decisions, so it’s best to plan ahead.

I need to plan ahead which tasks to do at which time of the day. Between the areas of music that I need to learn (composition, ear training, playing piano, singing), music business, reading, writing, general self-improvement, I cannot let instant gratification decides which one to focus on at the moment. Building a routine habit is the best way to make sure I tackle everything with enough time intended.

The mixed-bags: How to prioritize my time

There was some good highlight from the week where I spent much needed time on organizing things, administrative tasks of maintaining my blog, my YouTube channel, and the MCG. These tasks can be mildly uncomfortable and seems like wasting time at times, but this is important to pave the way for creative times.

I took the time to try out some nice new activities, give me different perspective on what else is going around outside of my esoteric world (voice audition, jazz jam, Tai Chi Chuan, Brazilian jujitsu), choose what to continue (I’m sticking with jazz jam and Tai Chi Chuan for now), what to discontinue (beginner band, “polite yes”). These should be planned ahead more and stick to the plan.

The up-lifting:

Still not beaten (Telltale’s The Walking Dead reference anyone?). I’m currently back to my 9-5, but this trial has been informative. And I plan to continue pursuing this career path, which may include some more extended trial periods.

October 2019 – A Curious Reflection

Hello, it’s Thien The Nguyen. We have much to catch up on.

I took off in October to focus on different music activities. I think the model of alternating months of blogging and not blogging is working for me so far. That means one month of intensive writing and composing (and sharing them on this blog), following by one month of pressure free studying and reevaluating my goals.

I believe that deadline is helpful, especially in art to produce and move on to creating the next thing. If the artist is sucked into the black hole of perfectionism, he will not able to move on to learn the next thing. I’m been there. I’ve been so afraid of churning out a bad product that I let it catch mold in my computer for forever. Deadline definitely help with that, it helps us move on, to quit working on the previous project when they are good enough. This way, we will learn, and be able to churn out gradually better stuff day by day. Just have to accept that sometimes we don’t do well, but it’s important to push them out anyway so we can move on to the potentially better one.

And we should not be concerned with whether this recent product met the expected quality that other people expect of us based on past performance. This is exactly why the movie sequels stuck in a rut of repeating the same thing again, they don’t try to experiment with new things, but stick to the old formula that works to please people.

The month off is still necessary, first to avoid stress of constant deadlines, and to dive deeper into things that require more time investment upfront. For example, I tried out a new notation software and a new Digital Audioi Workstation, That requires time of not being able to produce music. But because of this time investment, I can potentially make better music in the future.

Ok, so what did I do in the October?

In October, I pushed a local music composing group into reality. The group is where people compose to weekly challenges, share, and critiques our work, so we can learn from each other. It takes place every Monday, hence this quirky audio I made for the group:

The music composing group is now the reason I enjoy Mondays.

Throughout this, I learn that consistency is key to starting something, when we know there is a need. I know that there isn’t a composing club or group in my local community, so I stick with it. I only do this for my own need of making more friends who share the same passion as I do. The by product is I organized something, figure out the logistic of making music, sharing music, and commenting on each other’s, at first offline, then online.I take the hard work of organizing so I and other people can have a good time only worry about making the best music we can. I’m by no mean the leader of the group, but I did lead in willing this group from an idea into existence.

Then it dawns on me, I tried so much in high school and college to join club leadership positions, but they all feel bland and I didn’t enjoy it. But now, I see this as necessary to get what I want (a music composing group) since no one else is willing to do it. So wanting to lead is the incorrect desire, incorrectly wanting to do something and, if required, lead people in the process is the correct desire

In October, I went to music jamming sessions for the first time and join a beginner band. It was fun, and eye-opening at the same time. I thought I’m decent at music performance until I’m at the band stand, struggle to jump in at the right time for my part.

While improvising, I learn that if I approach it randomly, I will soon run out of ideas of things to do, I’ve already run up and down the highest and lowest notes of my vocal range and varies tempo, what I’m going to do next? When I tried to approach it like a mini composition, which means I established a core idea and gradually expand on it, introducing new idea one thing at a time, saving my vocal range for later iterations of the idea and keeping it slow at first, so I can make it more exciting later on during my improvisation. Improvisation is still composing, but on the spot.

In October, I tried a Cubase (a DAW or audio software), not liking it a bunch, though, due to the complexity. I find myself enjoying writing notes on the staff paper than arranging sounds. I later discovered Dorico, from the same developer as Cubase: Steignberg. I’m loving it. The ease of writing notes on the staff plus the great sound library available meaning I can create better sounding music. Comparison of Every Journey Ends in the old software and the new software.

Audio from Noteflight (old software)
Audio by Dorico (new software). The violin sound is a bit more smooth. But of course, still nowhere comparable to a real performance

In October, I started to transcribe the music pieces of the level that I want to achieve. Transcribe every single sound. This way, I can learn how the great composers arrange different instruments in their piece, how it all fit together, the dynamic of them, and understand the harmonic structure as well.

In October, I started to train my ear so I could recognize different notes in the Major scale so I can potentially identify the chords in split seconds after hearing them, and not necessarily have to replay the same portion many times. It’s definitely slow, but I can see some progress. I can start to hear the different qualities between I IV and V chords while jamming blues.

What’s next, then?

With the slightly better sound quality, I decided to start uploading my music to YouTube. First, this platform makes it easier to look for and jump between my different music pieces, rather than having to look for specific related blog post on the blog. Second, YouTube is more geared toward sound in compare to a blog. But why not Soundcloud, for example? Each social media platform has its own ettiquet. I’m using YouTube pretty much on a day by day basis and know how to navigate it. Also, YouTube is kinda big, if ya haven’t heard.

And of course, I will keep writing, composing. Prepare thyself, especially, thy ear.


What Does Music Mean? – A Curious Reflection

Does music mean something? If so, what does it mean?

Let’s go down to the fundamentals a bit. Music is just good sound. Sound is some waves at a certain frequency that human perceives by ear. When the waves have certain property, they harmonize, and human ears and brains perceive that as something nice. With that, music is the type of beauty that human experiences from nothingness, from the symmetry of the universe. That’s what music is.

But what does it mean? Music is a collection of sounds that is good. It serves as a way for human to enjoy ourselves. It, together with other form of beauties, means the joy of existence, utilizing the weird way that our bodies perceive and makes sense of sound. Music means the mastery of ourselves over our bodies, using it to pleasure ourselves, creating emotions, invoking memories. It’s similar to paintings, perceiving good things by eyes, by senses, to serve our purpose in life.

But what does it mean? Like, what’s the meaning of it being used to pleasure ourselves. The reason for its existence.

Hmm… I see your point! Let’s take a detour a bit. All the questions of what something means assume that it was created with some intention. Intention implies that those things have certain intended function. A car’s intention could be something along the line of bringing people to places. The Sun’s function could be to shine the Earth. An idea’s function could be to make people contemplate, or to push innovation. Or if you believe in a religion, that religion function could be to enlighten human, to guide them to the right path.

With that logic, the question “what the meaning of life is”, for example, assumes that life has some intended meaning. And similarly, the question “what does music mean” assumes that music is created with a certain meaning to it. We visited the fact that music only consists of sounds of certain frequency that sounds good to the human ear together or in sequence. It has no meaning. We exploit our way of perceiving the sound (the waves in nature) to our advantage. We realize that hearing sound in certain order or fashion makes us feel good, happy, sad, or dancy. So, we exploit this to our advantage and continue using the proven technique of producing sounds in a “good” way to continue enjoying this type of beauty.

But why do we have a certain type of response physically or emotionally to a certain type of sound sequence or sound combination? Here’s an unsatisfying answer: I have no clue. It’s similar to the fact that I have no clue why human ear picks up waves at a certain frequency as sound, waves at other frequencies as light, waves at other frequencies as pressures. That’s how we adapted to survival through evolution, and there happens to be some “bugs” or “features” of the human bodies that help us exploit it for our happiness. It’s like a flower has a certain function in the nature, but it also happen to look nice at the same time (well, there are two question embed in there: first is why people think flower is good looking, and second is why flower takes that shape). The answer to both are I don’t know. I can tell you that I know the intended use for flower is to attract bees and other insects, so they must look nice and smell good. So maybe that’s the meaning of flower? It fits into the ecosystem of both plants and nature.

Ok, counterpoint (not Bach): if all things in life has meaning, does life also have meaning? Why does “meaning” apply to some things but not others? Why does something have intended use, but not others?

Hold yer horses! Let’s take a look at a waterfall (beautiful! I know). What’s the waterfall’s intended use? Well, I’m not entirely sure, but certainly it wasn’t intended to be turning turbines and generating electricity for a long long time. So should we say that a waterfall is meant to generate power? Or would we say that it has many intended use, and as smart living beings come round, they/we come up with different ways to exploit them, then we give them more meanings. So if we constantly give things new meanings, that opens up the possibility that in the beginning, they have no meaning to begin with.

Ok, back to the meaning of music, or the intention of music. Waves that sound good in combinations or in sequence to the human ears may have no meaning from the beginning. But we exploit that fact to make “music”. Music has no intention when it comes to how we experience it. But the way that people have gradually learnt to exploit this weird perceiving feature of us has intention, to convey emotion. Since we know that music has certain bodily response from the human, which we have in common, we can use that to communicate with others, use it as a language. People have been obsessed with communicating with each other. That’s why we developed many language system. Meanwhile, music already has certain bodily response and can be transcended between cultures. It’s similar to the body language of opening up, hissing, making a face, or appearing big to scare off enemies. Since it’s embedded in the human package as a whole, we don’t necessarily need to learn to know what that means. Heck, we can even detect body language of other livin beings.

I’m pretty sure you don’t need to understand some lion’s language to know that it’s about to have you for dinner here.

Exploiting the fact that we perceive music in similar ways, people use music to communicate in the more primal level, the level that cannot really be explained by words. Take a listen to the music in this scene from Star Wars.

Urgg! I feel… feelings. How do we even come close to replicating that feeling by using words in a similar period of time? We can say we are hopeful, but the feeling elicited from the listener is no where near hearing this.

So here’s my conclusions: Music doesn’t have any innate meaning, but since human discover ways to enjoy it, and use it to communicate, we infused it with some meanings. If you feel like my explanation is not satisfying, that sucks! Jk, try Adam Neely’s explanation of the meaning of music. He made some interesting points.

My Fear – A Curious Reflection

This is my thoughts, this is the thoughts that would help me be safe, I will embrace these fears, because they would help me become a more cautious person, to plan things more carefully, to be true to myself, don force anything. Fear is an important factor for a human. It helps keeping us away from danger. Some of the time, it can be quite primal and no longer apply to the today society. For example, if we get outcast by a group of people, we will not get left behind to be killed by some wild animals, or we can still get food because our food source is not independent on the group or small tribe that we live in.

It is worth analyzing nonetheless, so that I can understand, formalize into words what I fear, and have concrete plans.

Enough skirting around the subject.


I fear that I will not make it in the business world. The word making it kinda stuck to me from Ari’s book. But as he points out, making it means differently for different people. So what does making it means to me.

Deep inside, I want to make a living,I want to have cool friends, I want to show off to the people I know that have been doubting me that I can excel in the music environment.

But why do I need to show off? My parents only want the best for me anyway that’s why they pose hard situation for me, I don need to prove anything to them. The people who wouldn’t care about my career choice either way, like my roommate, he care about his paycheck and when he will get a girlfriend more than whatever I’m doing with my life. People who doesn’t care just doesn’t care, whether I make it or not. The people who cares about me will be with me whatever I will be, what ever situation that I find myself in. So I won need to prove that I had made anything to them.

Am I trying to prove it to myself, then? Why do Ii need to prove it to myself. Is it because I think that I don have any value. Is it because I think that I couldn’t follow the more technical career, I am somehow worth less?, or even worthless?

Of course not! I know that I choose to do this because (this being a music career) because I love music, love using music to tell stories, I move to tears so easily listening to great music that emotionally touches me, I swoon before great human emotions, I swoon before beauty. That is the reason I want to go into a music career. I learn the language of music so that I can use it to express myself.

Now, is it not enough to express myself through other mediums? like writing, as I’m doing now? Or talking, giving a speech, like I have been doing in Toastmasters? I think music can say things that words cannot describe, music is a thing that all humans can somewhat understands, in contrast to not understanding anything when listening to a foreign language. Music can enhance the experience of reading or listening to a speech, can bring the emotions to a higher level.

Ok, so that is the decision that made me come to and stick with music. I want to express myself and can express myself in this way.

Come back to the question of making it. Making it means that I can afford a living to continue doing what I love, music. I need to make music work as a living source for me. I’m afraid I will not be able to make that. But that’s just silly. I can always come back to my parents house. Living in Vietnam only costs $500/month. I still have that fear that I couldn’t even make $500 a month. what will I do? That just means that I have to try my absolute best. Do or die. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I die? Well, I would die even if I have the best case scenario anyway. That actually lifted my spirit.

Interesting how that works. Next time I feel anything remote to self doubt, I should remind myself that nothing actually matters, remind myself of my mortality in this funny life, and that I can do whatever pleases me. As of right now, I know I will enjoy music, or the greater beauty until the day I die.

The Meaning of Life – A Curious Reflection

This article is inspired by some recent discussions with my close friends, and by Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is song:

Such elegance, btw!

So I believe life is inherently meaningless, we attach a meaning to it. Is it simply because we are afraid of dying so we create a meaning to continue living? Is it because we are afraid of the alternative so we keep on deceiving ourselves?

Anyway, I know that I’m afraid of dying, so I created a meaning for myself to enjoy life to the fullest. Personally, that means seeking beauty and knowledge (duh, that’s the tag line of my blog), mainly through music at the moment for its ability to express emotions words cannot come close to describe.

Back to the point! To be fair, I don’t know what will happen after death, no one ever came back to tell their experiences. Now, is that because nothing exists after death, or is it because it is such a heavenly place that no one ever thinks of coming back, or is it just a different experience of continuity but dead people can’t communicate with the people who are still living about it: it is just disconnected without actually being scary? We don’t know. But I know one thing: Since nobody ever goes back from death, we may enjoy whatever life has to offer, since there is only one chance (at least that we all know of) of doing “life”.

When people ask the question “What’s the meaning of life?” there is often another underlying question: “So what am I supposed to do? So what is the right way to live?”

Since I believe that life is meaningless, we simply live because we don’t want to die. The answer to what we supposed to do is clear to me: We should do whatever the hell we want! Or put nicely: We should do whatever that maximizes our happiness during the process of living. It’s that simple! If you are bored of living, trying dying. If you are scared of dying as well, well shit, try living better, then. I went deeper into living or dying in this article on death.

There is one hole to my reasoning so far: what if death is inherently better than life and we just don’t know it (yet). Maybe there is value to dying sooner, rather than living as long as possible, and it is only our brains being irrational with the fear of death. That is the question for us to continue pondering, but until we gather more concrete evidence on that, I know that I’m scared of death, so I will live to the best of my ability.

So Yes! Yes, Peggy, that is all there is to life! In fact, life is so meaningless that nothing actually matters. So what if we achieve fame, wealth, science discoveries for future generations when we become nothingness without conscious (assumption alert!) after dying? We can either perceive the “nothing matters” in a positive light or negative light. When we know that nothing matters, we can sit in the corner of the room waiting for death to creep up on us, or we could do anything to satisfy ourselves, since we know our destinations will always be all the same: death.

You may be grunting: “That’s cool and all, Thien! But you are really the black sheep here, everyone else is against death, against wasting life on meaningless fun.”

Well, a lot of individuals believe in preserving and prolonging human as a species. They would prefer other humans living rather than other humans dying. They would prefer reproducing rather than killing. They would prefer other humans being productive for the society (read: take part in the process of prolonging human species) by creating products for humans, doing businesses with humans, building houses for humans, etc. Again, that is the prolonging-species meaning they made for themselves, the thing they pursue to achieve their satisfaction, whether they admit it or not. People could point to either their religions or the evolution theory or any other explanations to backup their actions, but the very reason they chose to believe in those reasons, which then leads to their actions, is because it satisfies them intellectually. I’m not saying it’s wrong (In fact, nothing is wrong, and nothing is right, those are also just meanings we created for ourselves). Human collectives (read: societies) decided that cooperative is good, and killing is bad for preserving the species. Cool thoughts, let’s formalize it, write that down into some piece of paper, and make sure other humans follow it (read: make that into laws). They are all just glorified beliefs.

What fun! All the rules that you ever know of are fundamentally just suggestions of ways to live. When living in a society, some suggestion can be ignored without much consequence (inside that society), others are not. Those suggestions that comes with punishment otherwise are ways of living that some human force other humans to adopt in order to live in the same society. I’m not saying that I don’t agree with laws against killing, theft… I don’t want to have to watch out for every person who I walk across could murder me or rob me of my properties. But if someone disagrees with those laws on the philosophical level, they either have to suck it up, or have pretty much no place to live in the world at this time.

Side note: I’m actually fine with people doing drugs or indulge in their personal favorite “taboo” activity until they die, if that’s what they want in life. It’s only when they go around under drug’s influence and harm other people, or their favorite activities involve harming others that it becomes a problem for me. Though, it’s quite hard to allow the former and control the latter. I’ll experiment more with that thought at some other time.

So, at a society level, all rules are mere suggestions; at a personal level, all barriers are self-imposed barriers. We accept living in a society, accepting its rule because we either like those rules or can tolerate those rules, in exchange for the benefits we gain from that society. Recommend reading Finite and Infinite Games for more on this topic. It’s a game changer.

“Ok, that’s some deep stuff, Thien. But how does it apply to me?”

I’m not telling anyone what’s the right thing to do. You are the one who decide what’s the right thing to do for you, stressing the right thing to do for you and yourself only. This is because you and I both certainly don’t know what the others want and need in life. Now, that right thing could be continue living just the way it is now, living better, or discontinue living. I’m in no place to judge. Plus, knowing that all rules are just suggestions, all barriers are self-imposed barriers, you are absolutely free to pursue that life meaning you decided for yourself.

Tada, now you have as much knowledge about life as I do! And if you so choose, go enjoy the beauty of life! I can’t resist taking the opportunity, haha. Throw tomatoes at me if that pleases you, but I’ll just catch ‘em and eat ‘em.

A Blogging Expedition – A Curious Reflection

Thien “The Nguyen” here. As mentioned in the welcome post, this blog was used as an expedited writing course for me in the past month, July 2019. Well, writing, among some other things. I have stayed true the promise to myself of publishing at least a post everyday. Though, the “at least” part proves to be quite ambitious. I only published more than one post per day during some of the first few days of the month.

So what did I learn?

Road to Mastery

In the past month, I was a blogging professional. What do I mean by “professional” is a person who consistently produces result in a particular field no matter what, rain or shine, tired or not, feeling like it or not. As Seth Godin mentioned in a podcast with Tim Ferriss, it is expected of a writer to write, of a musician to play music, of a composer to compose music. People often hide behind the excuse of writer’s block and that they have nothing of quality to produce. But more often than not, something doesn’t have to be of highest possible quality, but only of better than average quality to be published. And you wouldn’t need a math degree like I do to know that adding something above average to a set, the new average will be increased.

I’m not saying let’s aim for something barely above average. I’m saying that when the ultimate goal is mastery, we need to plow through a lot of average’s along the way. It’s part of the learning process. Learn to be comfortable with the fact that extraordinary is not always guaranteed. And gradually, the very fact of forcing ourselves to do more, to produce more will help us get more necessary practices and produce better results time after time. In writing, specifically, writing out my thoughts would help me understand the mumble-jumbo in my head better and make more sense of what I have to write in the future. In music, I explored what I haven’t done before, like telling a story with music, experimenting with rhythmic changes, writing lots of tunes using the same chord progressions, writing different authentic cadences… As you can see those posts, I drew new ideas musical rules for myself from these experiments.

How to Be Effective

To be effective is to do the things yielding the most return for the resources we put in.

I realize about half way through that between my day job, writing philosophical articles, playing music, and composing music, I effectively work on a main job and several part-time ones. So I remember what Tim Ferriss has hammered people again and again: focusing on more than one thing at once is the sure fire recipe for a bunch of half-ass done job (the core idea from 80/20 and The Effective Executive). Might as well apply them.

So I sat down and give some thoughts to what I want to do, specifically. I want to compose music to tell stories with them. Learning music theory and write music will help me get there. Looking at sheet music will help me understand how the famous piece was composed so I could learn from the best. Playing music could be fun, but doesn’t yield as much result for the investment of time from my part. So I might as well focus more of my resources on composing music instead. How about blogging and music? What if I combine them? What if I start publishing the music related thoughts on this blog as well, and share what I learn in the process of composing and studying music. That’s hitting two birds with one stones.

Realizing this, from the middle of July, I put more effort in music theory, publish my compositions, and incorporated what I learn from my music study to the blog as well.

How to Be Efficient

To be efficient is to execute things faster through muscle memory or finding shortcuts. Be effective first, then be efficient.

Just get started, and everything else will fall in its place. I created an efficient working system and schedule for myself by forcing myself into a habit of working initially, then the work keeps coming out. Now, every time I get more than 30 minutes, I would grab the laptop and write something down, every time I have about 20 minutes, I would pull out my phone and read in order to get inspiration for new ideas. I also created a document in the work station at work to scribble down whatever thoughts I have even in the middle of work, because I know I might forget about it later. A lot of posts on this blog started with some thoughts scribbled down during work when I’m listening to a podcast or happen to have an aha moment.

I enjoyed seeing how I was able to carve out time from seemingly the thin air to write blog posts, and make musics. In the months before, I usually find myself on the bed by the time I drag myself home from work, barely able to do much. But as soon as I set myself a goal and plan ahead what I’m going to do with my time, I’m much more efficient and attentive and intentional with my use of time. How I listen to podcast and read books more attentively, looking for ways that I can branch off from and think critically about things on my own.

Happiness Is A Process

My baseline happiness for this month have been increasing, though ever slightly, increasing nonetheless. I keep track of my mood in the Dalio app and the average mood of this month is a bit higher than the average mood of last month. Although, my average mood has been increasing ever so slightly from month to month, so blogging is part of the reasons, not the only reason.

Maybe this is due to me increasingly thinking more and figuring out more where my passion lies, detaching from the materialism world, trying to do more of what I want to do instead of what I think is necessary, and embracing the uncertain future. I have been taking more music classes, improv acting classes, go to open mics, practice public speaking. Writing blogs and composing musics more this month are just cherries on top of the cake.

Maybe from the overwhelming amount of work I set for myself, I learned to be kinder to myself when I cannot produce with the quality or quantity that I set out for myself to do. Sometimes I try to aim above and beyond. But I also realize that I’m only another flawed human. My blog is nowhere near the quality of the blogs I look up to, but one: it incentivizes me to write more and compose more, and two: I have been producing more articles and musics than I have ever done in any same period of time, heck, even for years!

I don’t want to take the increase in my baseline happiness from month to month for granted. Happiness is something that takes constant work on, so any month with such a positive result is a month worth celebrating. Those droplets of happiness are hard earned.

So… What’s the future of this blog?

Hey, that’s a writing deceptive cadence I just pulled there. Please excuse my music theory nerdiness! Here comes the authentic cadence… or is it?

During the past month, my thoughts on some topics were interrupted because I had to get the articles done in only a day to move on to the next one. I’m considering trying another month of one post per 2-3 days to see if that really makes a difference in the quality of my content.

But then, some time to do triage work and reevaluate my priorities is called for, so I’ll give it more thoughts. In the mean time, The Nguyen Blog will continue staying on the internet.

Here’s to Beauty, and Knowledge!

Content That Stays – A Curious Reflection

What differentiates social media like Facebook and Instagram from blogging, Spotify, or YouTube videos? Accessibility through retrospective searches. Ehm, ok, so what? So the latter promotes content that stays.

People on Facebook and Instagram (I’m not sure about Twitter since I don’t use it), are programmed to be drawn to the newest thing that is happening, to the now and the now only. This is precisely because the main focus of the apps are what’s the most recent things people are posting or promoting. Or perhaps, what’s the most recent news, if anyone can argue for a case of getting authentic news from social media. But then again, we can’t get truly authentic news from the traditional news channel either.

I hold a certain disdain for the constant bombardment of ever newer content. They are mostly irrelevant information. This is because I value the uninterrupted focus in doing whatever we deem needed to be done. Those irrelevant information are at their best distracting, and at their worst producing unnecessary anxiety. But that’s the discussion for a different post.

I attempted at writing notes on Facebook, or making short videos on either Facebook or Instagram, but they don’t have much staying power. It’s hard to search for them from the search bar, even if I know exactly what I’m looking for. Usually, I would need to remember who posted it, search for that person, and dig down their feed. Such a work-around! Indeed, those website are intended as places for people-searching—and more likely, gossiping—rather than content-searching.

That brings us to blogging, podcasting, YouTube videos, or any types of content that are searchable on Google in general. Though YouTube as a content platform is a bit between the line now since they also promote the “Trending” *cough* Trash *cough* content, and unrelated Stories from YouTuber we don’t even follow.

Again, the fundamental difference is in the very way those platforms work, and to be more precise: their aim. The way people discover things through a well-designed retrospective search engine is precisely looking it up from the gigantic library of everything that has ever existed from any timestamps. This way, the most relevant piece of information that has gone through the brutal quality trial by time will stand tall at the highest place in the search result. What an effective way of sorting through information! These kinds of content have been a round for a long time, and will continue being around.

Quick thought experiment: What would happen if Tim Ferriss stops pushing out new episodes for his podcast? Well, the existing podcast episodes will certainly stay around for a long time on iTunes, Spotify, and his blog. If Paul Graham stops publishing essays on his blog… Oh crap, he did! But guess what, the knowledge is there to stay and will continue to entertain, and most likely be of helpful resources to many people.

Though, as fun as it might be to trash a platform, it is not the determining factor for whether a piece of content will stay for a long time. Quality is! The platform that we choose to base our content on might enables the long-term thinking, but doesn’t guarantee it.

How many of the pop-corn styled songs from the 2000s do you still remember 10 years later? Songs that stood the test of time will continue to be listened for years to come: music from Mozart and the likes, or more recently Beatles’s, or specific songs like Can’t Help Falling in Love (do yourself a favor and listen to that one). They are based on the same platform, but achieved different results. Books like How to Win Friends and Influence People have been of great value since the 20th century while countless falls short.

Now, knowing that, what kind of content will you participate in creating? The kind that needs constant attention and newness, or the time-resistant one? The kind that fades away, or the kind that stays?

On Having Children – A Curious Reflection

Well, full disclosure: I don’t have kids. This could cause some ignorance on my part. But I’ll take a stab at it anyway. You can be the judge of whether the opinion in this article is ignorant or not.

I picked up from the recent episode of the Tim Ferriss Show: “It is a selfish desire to have children, because it’s us who wants to have children.” That makes me think.

I gave this some thought. It is true that the decision to have kids is purely self-serving. We create tiny humans because we want to have tiny humans to take care of, and raise them to be our desired big humans. The child does not, at all, have a say in this decision. That is, the child cannot decide whether he or she shall be born.

And since no one asked to be born, we owe nothing to our parents. Life is equally arguable as a gift or as a misery, like the good old wise Buddha claimed, or at least, many people claimed that’s what Buddha claimed. Parents may take care of their children out of love, or because of other obligations, or they might not take care of their children at all. But it is not horrible of a child to not love parents back for whatever reason, precisely because they did not ask to be born, thus need to be taken care of. If the parents ever assume that the children would love them back because they pour all their heart and soul into this relationship, that’s expecting something in return, and thus, not pure love they are giving.

Relationships are hard by themselves. The relationship of parents and children has another level of complication: giving birth and taking care of someone for a long time, or from the other side, being born and receiving care from someone for a long time. Lots of emotions get invested. It’s easy to lose track of the line between pure love and expecting something in return by the other party.

That said, for me personally, I still have an on going relationship with my parents. It’s not amazing straight out of a fairy tale, but it’s not in a burning hell either. We are trying to figure stuff out together like adults.

My parents had some plans for me as I was growing up. And as I grow up, I slowly migrate away from that plan. I’m working toward a career in music and storytelling. My parents, like most parents, want me to follow a safer path. Of course they mean well! But in the heat of our discussion, they probably associate me changing course with me no longer value their opinions. I did not do a great job of communicating otherwise, either. Emotions came crashing down, bustling left and right… After many conversations, we are now working toward recognizing each others as individuals having different values and goals. It’s slowly working out.

But then again, the fact that there is a problem to resolve in the first place is precisely the point. A tiny human, aka a child, have so many years of developing mental capacity. During this period, we are likely to be dependent on the parents, following the parents values and goals without much thought. Until we have the ability to give it more thoughts.

Some of the times, the children end up adopting the parents values as a way of life. Some other time, the parents are open to letting their children adopting different values. But some other times, it is emotionally hard for the parents to see their child having different values from them. There! Right there, difficult conversations take place, or conversation cease to exist at all. And that’s sad.

The line between good and bad is non-existent in philosophy. So as a avid philosophy contemplater, I should be careful in making any point related to this. Now, that aside, the children could go up to be a “bad” person in compare to the social standard, either because of heavy influence from the parents, or not enough influence from the parents. And these “bad” children creates a problem for the society.

I’m afraid of taking the responsibility for the entire life trajectory of another human being. I feel Tim Ferriss when he said he’s afraid to fuck it all up for his child when/if he has one.

So we have identified that it’s hard to raise a child, and having a child is a selfish desire. Let’s dive a bit into the reason that we might have that precise selfish desire.

We want to search for meaning in life. Again, the fact that I don’t have children will affect my ability to speak about this. Many people swear with their life that bearing child is the most meaningful things they have done in their life, my parents included. But is it because they cannot find meaning in other areas of life? Is it because they are not satisfied with their ways of contributing to humanity through their work? Is it because they don’t have other meaningful relationships? Is it because they don’t find happiness in searching for the Beauty or Knowledge that the world has to offer? Of course, I can gather all the opinions in the world, but I can’t get a sufficient answer until I bear a child myself. But isn’t that defeating the whole purpose of thinking critically about whether to bear a child or not?

We want to pass down our legacy to other human beings. This can be done by teaching people who has their own ability to think for themselves, aka able adults. What we had discovered, we can pass down to generations after by sharing knowledge, be a teacher. This way, we can pass down whatever we beauty or knowledge we discovered in life without the risk of messing up the life trajectory of another human being from the early age.

I hate to end on an ambiguous note, but I don’t have a conclusion to this. In fact, I don’t have conclusions to many things in life. No one does. But we journey on despite all the uncertainty. After all, asking the right questions is the correct first step in approaching the right answers, right?

An Unedited Rant on Being Weird

I mean I’ll edit this later, this is a thought vomit, a 0th (maybe -1st) draft, Why publish? Because.

What does it mean to be a normal person? Why do people want to be considered normal?

People want to be normal so they can fit in with others. They want to fit in a society

After all, it is a revolutionary requirement for people to do what others do, consider something that has never been done before impossible. But just like something never happened before can happen for the first time any time. Some thing that has never been done by any other people before can be made possible by some creative problem-solving skill, by some extraordinary optimization or effort by some relentless human.

But people decided to just fit in and do what is minimum of them in or der to get by day by day. People want to be comfortable. Afterall, if they don’t really want something and the safe option is to be good enough, what is the motivation to go above and beyond. The way of going above and beyond here is to invent ways that other people had never used before. This is to be a chef by Tim Urban definition.

In order to be a chef, one not only have to sit down and think of things. We must be active and work with everything from scratch, throw out every common convention way of doing things, for things that matter to us, think from the ground up. Common convention could work for 80% of the time, but in order to achieve something more extraordinary, we would need to goo beyond the rule. First, this mindset requires effort and even the people who are the best at this don’t always do it either. If every movement you make, whether walking or taking a remote to the TV, you think of everything, then it would take a whole day just to walk across the room or turning on the TV. People who do this only thing critically and creatively about the things that they care deeply about and the things that they want to improve to be the best at. The second reason and possibly the bigger barrier for people is that they don’t do it for fear of ridicule.

If they have not tried at all, they will have the certainty of never failing at it. If they do it however, all their friends and family member would know that you do, and if you fail. Oh, just imagine that uncle Kevin or ant Jane or Jake from work knows that you attempted at and failed at doing something a new way. It would be outrageous. Though the result might be nice, the potential downfall is way greater.

We have this tendency because we want to fit in with the tribe that we are in. In the old timey, no not the 20s 30s, I’m talking about stone age. Early human hunt together. They stay together to share the food and protect each other. It is required to be not very different, to fit in so that they won’t be left alone in the wild. But nowadays. There are so many options. There are so many ways that a person could go about doing things in life. If some one doesn’t approve of us doing something, we can always make new friends. If a country or a secluded society doesn’t like the way that we do something, we can move to a different place to live. There is nothing to be afraid of. Moreover, if you do something weird, people are not likely going to ask you about it, people who knows you, especially family member will react strongly to it, however. As if they are ashamed for you, ashamed to have you as an acquaintance. But people you don’t know won’t even bother to ask, they just give you a weird look and walk right by. Here is the time I tried to draw a square on my forehead to see how people will react. Maybe I will try to do something more outrageous next time.

So now we know that it is okay to do something unique. We are all weird, we can all be weird in our own way, as long as that weirdness benefits us. I don’t promote being weird just for the sake of being weird, but it’s okay to be weird along the way of achieving some goals.

People will gossip about you, try to stop you, try to bring you down. Others will admire you, just because you do something extraordinary. It is not extraordinary at all. Anyone can do this. If you have some basic education, know how to learn by yourself, know what needed to be done in order to achieve some goals, you are set to have a life like you want without any worry of ever ending up on the street.  You can budget, you can mange money, effort, time, cut back expense, take class, learn online, in order to achieve the goals that you want. I realize earlier that the unknown future is not that scary.

If you find yourself complaining about some aspect of life, longing for something. Go ahead and pursue it. Your goals are worth pursuing, your desires are worth pursuing. The only barrier is to try more and not be afraid to fail. So what if people perceive that you don’t fail when you know that you are still remaining in one place. So what if people see you fail and judge you if you know that you are learning something new from all of your failures and will gradually become a better version of yourself every day. By becoming better and better at something, we can see a bigger picture of what life has to offer, we can come closer and closer to our ideal self. And that process of pursuing our ideal self, of always getting better and better, is one of the highs of life. It is the very reason I pursue beauty and knowledge.

Being yourself, doing what you want most should be being normal, not whatever “being normal” is defined nowadays, aka do what everybody does and hope that recipe will magically make us happy as well.

On Hope – A Curious Reflection

It is the pyramid the of human emotion. This means even in the most difficult state of being, or the harshest of situation, if we have hope, we will persevere. We carry through with the hope that the situation will change for the better for us.

Stories/movies are expression of hope for an ideal reality.

Hope is the reason we pursue goals.

Hope wins a turtle war.

Hope is the reason we stand up after getting beaten down.