Book Review, Books, Recommendation, Review

Great Gatsby: Worth a read?

The Great Gatsby. The book most read in primary school. Did I read it then? I actually can’t remember. But I’ve read it now. And what did I think? Well… Let’s first talk about what it is.

The narration is from the perspective of Nick, a classy, honest dude who moved East to New York. The book is set in the 1920’s or better known as the roaring 20’s in the US and at it’s heart sets up a great mystery. Early in the story Nick meets his neighbor Jay Gatsby, a mysterious individual who perplexes the relatively reserved Nick. Gatsby is a man who has extravagant parties and has a taste for the finer things in life.

As the book progresses, we learn more about Gatsby and his past, uncovering the mystery of why he’s called “The Great Gatsby”. Woven into the plot is a tale of unrequited love and really goes to show that it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Why you should read

The book is beautifully written. When you read the book, it’s as though you’re in the 20’s and right there alongside Nick. The book has plenty of twists and leaves you questioning if what you’re told is the actual truth. The book steadily ramps up and the climax does not disappoint when you finally reach page 180. The writing is easy to follow and it makes for a quick, enjoyable read.

My recommendation?

I give “The Great Gatsby” 4 out of 5 stars. While not perfect, it comes close. It’s a great book and certainly worth your time.


Thanks for reading! The next book on my list is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, which I’ve only heard great things about. Already read “The Great Gatsby”? Feel free to discuss in the comments below, just be wary to avoid spoilers when you post.

 

Advice, Meditation, Self Improvement

9 months of meditation: Has it been worth it?

The short answer, yes. The long answer, also yes, but longer. So full disclaimer; as much as i’d like to say I’ve meditated every day as I set out to do, I haven’t. In my defense however, progress is not a straight line. When you attempt a new habit, you will have your ups and downs but the idea is to stick with it until you set a new bar for yourself. without further ado let’s start with the most important question.

Why Meditate?

Let me set the scene. I had just come back from Germany, awaiting my kingdom upon my triumph return home. I had my head held high and was ready to seize the world. But as life would have it, my kingdom had turned to ash. My hero’s welcome was using all my available energy to put out fires and keep ships from sinking. In the first time in years, my journal failed me. You know things are bad when Mike Cole is carrying around a stress-ball at every waking moment. All my systems were collapsing and even my books couldn’t save me this time around. But if you know me, I carry on to the bitter end. So I rebuilt my old systems.

I started with 5 minutes a day and went from there. It was hard at first but got easier over time. When I was able to do 5 minutes on a consistent basis, I bumped it to 10, which I think is the perfect amount. But once again, why would you want to meditate? Couldn’t those precious minutes be put towards something more valuable? Well…

Imagine you have anxiety. Scratch that, don’t imagine; everyone has anxiety. What if I told you your deepest fears could melt away and that your clouded mind could become clear? Well, that’s meditation in a nutshell. The hard part is sitting down and making it a priority. As I’ve deemed it, meditation is kind of like hitting the reset button. Done right, it’ll clear the clutter and allow you to focus. Meditation in the morning can set your day up for success.

What is meditation?

Before I started, I looked up different techniques online. I couldn’t find a proper explanation and this frustrated me. Some people go to the extreme for meditation and when they try to explain the experience, it comes off as gibberish. If you look up mindfulness, you’ll get close but still it reads more like a self-help book more than anything else. So what I did, is simply combine the pieces I liked and then simply started meditating. After a few times, I got a feel for the experience and refined it to what is a mix between the spiritual and the mindfulness techniques your friendly neighborhood psychologist would tell you about.

My Techniques

So the idea behind meditation is not necessarily letting go of the negative thoughts inside your head but rather acknowledging them and moving forward. What most don’t realize however, is meditation is not simply an emptying of the mind, it’s a process of clarifying thoughts, much in the way we feel refreshed after sleeping. A good thought can branch out much like a tree and instead of trying to focus on nothingness, simply follow the thought and the thoughts thereafter. Think of yourself as a leaf flowing down a river, perhaps imagine a gentle breeze with branches gently swaying in the wind. A leaf in a river simply is and does not work against the current.

That’s only the first half. The second half is focusing on your body. It can be as simple as breathing to start but eventually you’ll want to focus on nerves. Find the tension in your body and simply be aware, massage, wiggle your fingers, pay attention to dexterity, etc. If you’re uncomfortable, adjust yourself. Listen to the wind blow, the sound of your breath, the gentle trickle of water from a fountain.

There are few ways to do meditation wrong. However, if you want more guidance, here’s a few suggestions. Buy a sleeping mask. If you find yourself reaching for your phone, this will prevent that. It will also block out light and should you open your eyes you will simply see darkness. If you have raw emotion and simply can’t get comfortable, let your meditation posture reflect that. Try leaving one hand open and clenching a fist. The open hand should relax and the clenched fist should control. Over time you’ll most likely end up with both hands open, pressed together in the center.

If you’re looking for a spiritual aspect to meditation but don’t want to turn into a monk, try going into meditation as your time to connect with nature. Sit outside under a tree or leave a window open. Simply learn to appreciate the present moment.


Thanks for reading! It’s been a while since I’ve done a self-improvement article and it feels great. I hope you find the advice helpful and feel free to share and comment below. If you have your own technique or a personal story, I’d love to hear it!

reflection, Travel

The life of a Traveler

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust


As I currently plan out my future from now till my death bed, I thought it would be fun to talk a little about travel. A year ago come August, I left for my study abroad experience in Germany. I forced myself to go. College was a time for stepping outside of my comfort soon and becoming the person I always wanted to be.

As it currently stands and as I will say many times, I am making my way North. Portland is a fantastic city and I could live a happy life here but it would not be a fulfilling one. I would wake up one day and ask myself, “is this what childhood Mike would’ve wanted?” The answer would be no. The kid who would dress up in a suit with a clip-on tie for school photos, the kid who, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up would reply, “successful.”  It would be a dis-service to every dream I’ve ever had and dreams yet dreamt.  Call it cabin fever, call it wanderlust but the world is meant to be explored.

Life is not measured in the things we own but rather the experiences we have. And as it would come to argue, it is much easier to create new experiences when you’re on the move.

I lived 5 years in Corvallis, Oregon for College so Portland is a nice change. Yet imagine Seattle. Then Vancouver, Canada, then Quebec. Spend a few years in France, then Germany, Austria? That’s the life people envy.

And perhaps we can broaden our definition of traveler. Why limit it to the scope of a geographic location? The reason I love travel is the immersion. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s eyes and am sure many have felt the same, if only for a fleeting moment.

If you’re in Germany, you drink beer. France, you drink wine, smoke slim cigarettes and eat snail. Jokes aside, there is a reason I still practice German. There’s a reason I started learning French. It’s a connection through language.

There’s literally no point in staying put. Take a good friend of mine for example. He majored in chemistry and minored in dance. Guess which degree he uses the most? Dance. I envy him. That’s fulfilling. To go against the tide of others expectations and do what you love. Some spend a lifetime searching and even then…

I think we could all use a little more dance in our life. I’m not talking about black-out drunk, making questionable life choices dancing. I’m talking about something a little more elegant, a waltz. Or perhaps a tango, cha-cha, etc. A little spice, a little fire. Travel fulfills. No one became great from staying exactly who they were. They might become good enough, but does that really sound like a life worth living?

So go travel. Start with a country and then evolve. Through a dart at a map and buy a one way plane ticket. Terrified of a country? Pick a city, a town, a new friend. Start somewhere. Who knows, life might just surprise you.


Thanks for reading! If you like what I write, be sure to follow and tell your friends. Feel free to comment below. Talk about travel, bestow wisdom, anything.

Musing, Tips and Tricks

The rule of simple

Over the course of 5 years at Oregon State University, I developed the rule of simple. It’s the idea that you can boil down most ideas, most tasks, to their core essence. That is, the main meaning. It revolves around the idea of asking the question “why” as often as you can and “beginning with the end in mind” taken straight from Stephen Covey’s 7 habits. Once I embraced this mindset, all else became, for lack of a better word, simpler.

What is the rule?

The rule, as mentioned above, is simple. If you find yourself becoming frustrated with a task, simply ask why you’re doing the task and what you want to get out of that task. That’s step 1. You then write down two to three main objectives (step 2). Once you ask the why, you then simply ask the how. And from the two to three bullet points (main objectives) you made, you can write two to three (or more, even less, it really doesn’t matter so long as you have a base) quantitative ideas for each of the three objectives. That’s step 3 and then you’re done.

Does it work?

Yes. Take my blog for example, I use the rule of simple for writing. I’ve always struggled with focus and for me, this was the missing piece of the puzzle. If I find myself becoming overwhelmed, this is what I fall back on. It has not failed me yet. Sometimes less is more. If I go on a date, I can use the rule of simple. Step 1 in that situation is understand the other person, so I start the date with listening. Step 2 involves relating my interests to hers. Questions like, “what makes me interesting?” (humor, intelligence, openness). From there I can talk about speaking German, how I got kicked out of Oktoberfest, etc. (step 3). As you can imagine, the rule of simple works because it forces you to focus.

Why use the rule?

I will say this about the rule; it does not make the world any less complicated. So what does it do? It creates a filter. The appeal of the rule is that, depending on the situation, you may not have to use all the steps. If I say “love yourself”, that doesn’t always need a why. If people ask, I can go through the steps. I can have a thousand different simple rules and use them at a moments notice. The rule “two people can both be right” has served me well or “smile more”. Easy, simple, and you’d be amazed with how much they accomplish. Instead of being paralyzed with how big the world is, now you have a way to simplify it.


Thanks for reading! I have a lot of great ideas for upcoming posts. If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, just let me know! I’ve spent 5 years studying business and the Human Psyche. My topics are meant to inform and spark the creative bug, so if you have a question that needs an answer, I can try my best! Feel free to comment and share!

Musing, reflection

The curious case of Michael Cole: A tale into the art of being stuck

So it’s time for my evolution. Like a Pokémon, I’ve leveled up enough to become someone else, something else. But what is that something? That’s what we’re going to explore today because as of right now, I’m stuck and yet I’m free. If I were to take from 1984, I would call this doublethink, the idea that I can be two seemingly contradictory things at the same time. I got my degree and my tunnel vision has been lifted. And while I’m happy right now, I’m not satisfied, I’m not fulfilled. Call it a quarter life crisis where I must choose my future. I have knowledge yet I don’t know where to apply it. Call this my therapy, writing words on paper (so to speak). A public brainstorm if you will.

Goals

What goals do I have? As a newly graduated college student, it’s tough. I was so eager to hit the reset button that I didn’t realize what that meant. It’s one thing to think, it’s a whole different story to live. My goals, as ambitious as they have been, have been achieved and now I can create a set of new goals, both short term and long term. Short term is easy, catch up on Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. But long-term? Oh my, that’s much tougher. I think my main issue is assembling my team, my inner circle if you will. My most trusted, most competent friends that will follow me as I build my empire. I never thought I’d achieve independence yet here I am. The problem is now I must seek interdependence. The collaboration of brilliant minds, to create ideas that I cannot even fathom at this moment. That is the dream, yet how do I get there, that is the question. This is a new challenge. A college degree was the ticket to my future and now that I have that ticket, now I have to figure out what train to board. Sales, marketing, management, research, writing; I want to do it all. Yet how? I am great at answering the “why” yet the “how” is always something I’ve struggled with. I want stability yet I also want the unpredictable, the exciting moments that come from branching out.

Can we have it all?

I believe the answer to this question is yes. That’s the “why”, the question is the “how”. And it is OK to say I don’t know but personally I like shortcuts. People say there are no shortcuts in life yet that’s not entirely true. We have so much information at our disposal that answers are simply a google search away. Yes, you’ll still need to work for what you want, but we save a lot of time nowadays with our connected world. So this is an exploration topic. If we can have it all, what are the right questions? Depends on the situation. Yet there has to be a standard and with all the books I’ve read, I still haven’t found a universal law or standard. Yet this is the wild west, the exploration of the human mind. Understanding what makes us human. So what does? Love, human connection. That’s all fine and dandy yet it’s easy to implement. It’s a necessity, not a solution. Altruism? Giving more to others than you give to yourself? Noble, but unfortunately is not a philosophy that will lead to long-term happiness. Creativity? Yes, perhaps, but how? People say creativity is lost and yet I don’t think that to be true. I believe creativity to be ever present and that people have simply closed their minds (whether knowingly or not). So let’s start there for the rules to set in place.

The Rules

And perhaps the rules don’t have to be in chronological order. So how does one spark creativity? I recently experienced burnout. I love learning so I didn’t think one was possible for me. Yet towards the end of College, I couldn’t seem to keep myself engaged. I was successful and it bored me, who would’ve thought? And now I search for more answers. The creativity question just recently popped into my head. That perhaps my problem isn’t in what I can do but rather in the fact that my mind is dry. Interesting concept. At this point I would be considered incredibly smart, handsome, and funny (sarcasm, I’m not that much of an egomaniac) and yet it’s not enough. Why? The creativity, or diversity of ideas problem. If you keep achieving you have to constantly improve otherwise you risk being trapped in The Void. You reach a new level of being and if you cannot stretch the mind, you cannot innovate and you cannot create. The solution? The rules? Oh, that is the question! And I’d say it’s as simple as acknowledging this fact. That creativity is always there and that all you simply have to do is take the plunge, the Great Dive. And that you do not dive once but you keep diving until the day you die for once you fear the plunge… Then you cease to live and forever remain in The Void…


Thanks for reading! Hopefully you enjoyed my musing and exploration in today’s post! As far as the coming weeks, months, etc. I am looking for ideas. Eventually I want to have a team of writers but for now it is still just I, with all the intimacy you’ve come to expect. In the next week or two I might start pumping out reviews and recommendations or I may not. I need to refine my writing process and I’m starting to develop systems to do so. Expect better content as the blog grows and I’m glad you could join me on this journey! Questions, thoughts, ideas? Feel free to post below!

College, journey, love, personal

Journey’s End: The End

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” – Bruce Lee


So the grand experiment is finally over. Next week I start my celebrations starting with the Management Club Banquet. The weeks following will be a College of Business banquet, an International Studies banquet and then graduation. As far as my College journey is concerned, this is crossing the finish line. It’s making sure my grades are sufficient, my assignments are done, and my debts are paid. So the question is, “how do I want this to end”? Writing every week is not an easy feat when you’re only one person and as much as I love writing, I think a proper break is in order.

The goal was to express my vulnerabilities and for the most part I accomplished that. To be honest, this was more of a personal assignment than anything else. To challenge myself one last time, to see if I could apply my strategies and use it to help rewrite my script. I’ve put up so many walls over the years, so this has helped some with easing my burden.

To tell a story… I’ve spent my entire College Career learning to weave stories, all in an effort to feel heard. This series in a sense has been a way for me to reconnect with my past self, that which I have spent a lifetime trying to bury. A farewell to the chaos, the crippling fear, and the darkness… Before this, my story was a jumbled mess. I have spent the last few years talking about my successes rather than failures, so it feels good to simply put it all on paper. Not in my journal but rather on the world stage…

Of course, this does not mean that I have simply wished away all that has happened. All I’ve done is face my demons. Of course there is one demon I didn’t talk about and as much as I wish I could talk about it now, I can’t. That’s a story for another day, perhaps another lifetime. For, as much as I tell, and as much as people would love to believe they know me, very few actually do. I wear many masks.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve worn a mask for to long… I’ve always been great at molding myself yet I’ve become unrecognizable. Who I once was I can barely remember… The more I change, the more I begin to shape my memories. What was once rotten is now ripe. And I have to wonder, where does it end? I love who I am yet that is the question. Who am I? As I’ve said, I see many doors. And I’m finally ready to pick one. With the end of College comes an end of an era. A degree is my Golden Ticket…

It is time to finally hit reset. I have no commitments, no obligations. I am finally free. If I choose Germany, so be it. If I choose Seattle, great. If I end up as Farmer Mike, hunky dory. Either way, I will finally be free. If I don’t like my job, I can quit. If I want to settle down, I’ll find a girl. My past will always follow me but now it will not define me. When I speak of the past, I can speak with confidence that it is not my future. For the first time in what feels like ages, I am finally happy. Truly happy. While I’m terrified and anxious, I’m also excited for what the future holds. I beat the odds. I didn’t become some statistic and fade away. I learned to love and to live. My present is now finally a gift. It’s no longer “let’s make it to tomorrow”, it’s “what can I do today”? Do you know what it’s like to smile after watching anger and sorrow erode your soul? It’s amazing. This has been a year of growth and while I thought I couldn’t top last year as “greatest year of my life”, I think I have. I am beyond grateful…

The End…

Thanks for joining me on this journey. It has meant a great deal just to express my last term of college on the world stage. I not only accepted my past through this series but have also embraced my future. More so, I was finally able to talk about my present. My College bucket list… One last bang before I turn the page to the next chapter. My time at College is at an end but with the death of an era comes the ushering in of a new one. My last item on my bucket list is to go to a little coffee shop I’ve walked past for the last 4 years… I’ve wanted to go in for the longest time but I’ve been waiting for the right moment… And I had always hoped I wouldn’t go alone.. Time is best spent with the company of others… And I’m glad I’ve spent the majority of my time in college in great company… My friends, my mentors… I love them all. I cut out the poisonous relationships in my life and saved the ones I could… I have few regrets… And a lot to smile about. So with that, cheers to the future!

journey, Musing, Tribute

Journey’s End Week 7: What’s Next?

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare


One month. As such, I feel it is time to talk about the future. And yet, how? It is rare that I find myself saying “I don’t know” and without a plan to find the answer. I seek answers that don’t yet exist. For all my wisdom I cannot escape the uncertainty of the unknown, the chaos of life. My entire college career has been finding ways to expedite growth. I’ve read book after book, performed task after task, with the goal of always moving forward. And yet now I stand. Where once any path would do, I now see many paths, each of which leads to its own rewards. And there in lies the problem. It’s not a problem of lack of choice but rather that there are too many choices… And perhaps more so, the crippling fear that if I chose one, a door closes, locked, never to be open again. What was once clear is now not so certain.

Any port in a storm will do… Life is a storm. From the day we are born till the day we die we are swept up in its majesty. Every storm has an eye and it is through that eye that we can see what might be safe harbor. In the far distance you see a lighthouse, its shining beacon beckoning for you to follow… Yet what do you do when you see thousands of different lighthouses? In one journey I see myself going back to Germany and traveling around the world for the next decade. Another I see myself climbing the corporate ladder with the hope of one day being a CEO. Another starting my own company. And another writing a book.


This week I decided to tackle this question head on. This is the end of my College journey… College is a time to invest in yourself and that I’ve done. One of my greatest investments has been in spending time with my professors and the College of Business advisers. I used to force myself to go and talk to professors, back when I couldn’t hold a conversation. And over the years I’ve come to internalize the advice my professors gave me. Yet what advice is there to give when you know yourself? When I was a Freshman it was easy. Any advice would do. I had an idea what success was and I would simply listen. Whatever my professors/advisers told me, i’d do. At the time it didn’t seem like much. I went in not because I necessarily sought knowledge but rather simply because I wanted someone to talk to. There’s something comforting in listening to someone who has achieved mastery… A voice of reason in a world of chaos…

So the questions I asked when I went in this last week were “are you happy” and “do you have any regrets”? The overarching theme was “why”? “How do you know”? This was not so much a time to ask how best to live my life but rather to listen to stories. Imagine the future as a painting. A masterpiece has  many layers. Some use broad strokes while others paint with excruciating detail. Both are beautiful and while they serve the same purpose (expression), each is distinctly unique. That is life. A splash of color here, a splash of color there… What might look like chaos to some may hold beauty to others…

Perhaps the most powerful insight from talking one last time to my professors was that I do not necessarily have to choose. That I could be a CEO, travel, and write. While not a profound insight, I’ve often found that it is the simplest of things that make for great life philosophies. As much as I love to go with the flow and keep an open mind, I also like to nudge myself in the right direction. It can be easier to think it is this or that,  but life of course is never that simple…


A Proper Goodbye

As this chapter of my life closes and I begin a new chapter, I’ve been taking time to be grateful for the life I’ve lived. I’ve been taking long walks around campus and have taken a lot of time to reflect on my experience as a whole. I’ve learned to simply live in the moment and not let my past or future consume me. I’ve never been great with goodbyes so in general I avoid them. When my Aunt was diagnosed with cancer years ago I always thought that she would beat it. I watched from a distance as her health deteriorated and always smiled at the fact that despite the cancer, she always made sure everyone around her felt loved. She is the reason my family is so close and my time spent with her are some of my most cherished memories. The last few years of her life, when she was really sick, I refused to go see her in the hospital. Instead I’d have my Mom tell her what I was doing. It was easier than facing the reality of the situation. I remember praying and having the utmost faith in God that he would heal and make her better. I was angry when it seemed like the rest of the family had given up, that somehow by going to the hospital they didn’t believe she would recover… I would pray harder… Perhaps it was naive to think… Nothing prepares you for death… And of course I remember the night we received the phone call that my Aunt had passed away… It felt like a bad dream…

Then came the memorial service… I wasn’t quite sure how to react. I kept my head down and avoided eye contact. It was easier. I remember feeling shame, that tinge of guilt that came with not going to the hospital to say a proper goodbye. And yet my last memory of my Aunt will always be that of going to the zoo, a little before she passed. I don’t regret my decision as I’d rather celebrate her life and while I can’t say for certain that seeing her barely able to move, barely able to talk and in pain in a hospital bed would tarnish my memory of her, I’m glad that’s not my last memory of her. I tried to take the best of her and live my life in accordance. For me, that was her positive attitude, to look at a situation and find the good rather than the bad. And that was her message at the memorial service. Before she died, she had recorded a message telling us to smile, that her pain was over and that she was in Heavens Kingdom now. While I don’t remember the exact words I still remember that moment…

Last year I was the Service Chair for my Fraternity. One of our last events for the year was Relay for Life. We raised Hundreds of dollars and had an outstanding member turnout. I wanted to pay tribute to my Aunt then but it just didn’t feel right. Like I said, I’ve never been great with goodbyes. So come this year, I made it my goal that no matter what, I’d pay tribute to my Aunt. To find the perfect way to express my love and do a proper goodbye. And while we had fewer members this year and even fewer come to the ceremony, it was a special moment that I’m glad I got to share with a friend. It was the first time I’ve talked about my Aunt since her death. The mood was somber when we had the luminaria ceremony. We listened to a 17 year old cancer survivor and then heard some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in my entire life. After that we walked around, looking at the different tributes people had written for their loved ones. And after we found mine, my friend left and I took one final lap, stopping to say a proper goodbye before heading out into the night…

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That’s a wrap! Thanks for reading!