The Truth of Who You Are

You don’t know who you really are until you’ve been tested. Not just a hard check, but a true test by an adversary that is stronger, more talented, and more ferocious than you. To fight against something or someone that won’t back down or be intimidated. They will put relentless pressure on you because they believe that you can be defeated. What kind of person will you be when you have no wind left? What kinds of decisions will you make? Who will you become? What will be seen as the truth and the real version of you?

These are the challenges that ask us to reach deep within to choose a path—to run and hide, or to become the fighter. The samurai. The viking. The warrior.

The truth is, there is no physical difference between the warrior and everyone else. They feel the same fear and the same pain. They have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else does. The difference lies within the choices that each individual makes.

The warrior chooses to keep pushing forward, when the odds are dire, through exhaustion, and when the body is beginning to shut down. This is a mentality that cannot be bought, inherited, or taught. To keep pushing forward takes heart, and that in itself is a choice.

This is not to be mistaken with survival instinct. Survival instinct gives us the initial adrenaline for fight or flight, but it’s an autonomous reaction that we get for free. And just because someone is good at survival, it doesn’t make them a warrior.

What separates people is their choices. What choices need to be made in order to defeat an adversary that has unfair advantages? Yes, one will need a strategy, a plan, a team… but at the end of the day, it takes heart. It may be hard to believe, but you can choose to have more heart than your adversary, long after the adrenaline is gone.

And, the real test is when we inevitably have to lose. This is life—it is impossible (and futile) to win every fight and have a flawless record. Life is about learning how to handle the Kobayashi Maru (the no-win scenario). Eventually one day, we will have to lose… it may be losing a job, it may be losing a loved one, it might be losing to cancer… but in the end, will our spirit and heart be defeated?

One day, our legacy will be defined by how we inspire others to understand that they have choices as well—to stand up to the tyrants, to shield the ones that can’t defend themselves, to make sacrifices for others. Our choices will be truly measured in the darkest moments, where we are most vulnerable, and our integrity and true intentions will be revealed when others are not looking. In time, the sum of all your choices will become the truth of who you are.

Renewed for 7 more years

I was debating whether I should renew my domain. It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything on my blog. I’ve been spending most of my time posting on instagram instead.

My site domain was supposed to expire in another week or two, and I was very tempted to let it die. But for some reason, I decided to renew it for another 7 years. Maybe it’s because it’s a good platform for me to continue sharing. I’m not sure who’s watching anymore, but for those of of you who continue to check now-and-then, thanks for coming back.

My goal is not to generate a ton of traffic or go viral. I think this acts a personal journal for me to go back and review things from time to time of my journey. It gives me a chance to reflect on things, on myself, and about the people around me. Perhaps that’s enough purpose for now to justify keeping it around—to simply put some of my experiences and thoughts into words.

For now, I’ll use as a whiteboard to share my unabridged stream of thoughts.

Hiking at Mt. Tamalpais and using a GoPro 5

An amazing natural stairs, hiking up Steep Ravine Trail

Last weekend, my buddy Hugh swung by to visit and we went on part of the loop, going down hill. We tapped out and took a Taxi back to the Pantoll parking lot (where I originally parked). I decided at the last minute that I wanted to do the entire hike this this week.

Photo of a dried up flower, unfortunately out of focus.

This time, I wanted to snag some photos as well, and I decided to take the Go Pro because it was much lighter than my DSLR. I didn’t feel like lugging an extra 5lbs of weight, though I’m sure the photos probably would have come out better. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with the results. It was challenging to use the GoPro because the field of view is so wide. So where I could, I tried to take advantage of it.

A part of the trail that wrapped around a fold in the mountain side.

Quick story: Two older guys (in their 60’s) were hiking the opposite direction. I stopped and let them pass by, and then about 5 seconds later, I hear some dirt crumble and a guy yell. I turn around and run back immediately and saw one of the guys had nearly fallen down the side of the path. He had nothing to hold on was at the verge of tumbling down the side of the mountain, which was really steep. I managed to grab his arm and pulled him up with one giant thrust.

The poor guy was so flustered because it happened so quickly. I don’t think he knew how much danger he really was in because if he had tumbled to the bottom, we wouldn’t have been able to get him, nor call for help–I literally had no cell phone reception.

Anyway, he survived unscathed. Kind of crazy.

A trail on the side of the mountain, entering the woods.

The entire hike was about 9 or 10 miles, and by the end I was pretty tired… and my feet were spent. I was pretty relieved that I didn’t bring any heavy gear with me. As much as I love my DSLR, I think it would have sucked to carry the additional weight. I think from now on, my just carry the GoPro around on these hikes.

It’s unfortunate that I accidentally shot all the photos in JPG instead of Raw. I think that I could have gotten better results. Doh! Lesson learned.

Gorgeous afternoon weather, around 70 degrees with a tiny ocean breeze.

One of my buddies asked how I got these photos, and he was surprised that they came from the GoPro as well. he asked if I used an ND filter… but I shot everything from the hip. No filters.

More gorgeous mountain side trails with the pacific ocean as a backdrop.

I mean, I did a tiny bit of post processing to bring out some of the details, but that’s about it. My goal was to make the photos feel more like a natural photo, versus something that came out of the weird over-saturated fisheye GoPro lens.

Log stairs next to a small water runoff on Steep Ravine Trail.

This trail was a great work out, and it’s filled with different landscapes. I was able to see some giant redwoods as well, which is always a treat. I bet this place probably looks incredible after a little rain. I can imagine small streams becoming enormous, rushing down waterfalls and bending around all the rocks.

One of several small foot bridges along the trails.

I’ll be out here again in the future. There are miles of trails that I still need to explore. Hit me up if you wanna go.

Mt. Diablo with Annie

Annie enjoying the wonderful view from Mt. Diablo’s summit.

The views here were similar to something you would see on a plane, from overhead. It’s also hard to tell from the photo that it was kind of hot (around 90 degrees), so we spent most of our time in the shade and out of the mid-day UV light.

A panoramic image stitched from 8 images of the same view

Another view from the summit

I accidentally brought my 35mm… but I guess it worked out since I took a bunch of photos and stitched them together to create the ones above. It’s really hard to tell, but it was really dry. I tried to color correct the images so that they reflected what saw naturally with my own eyes.

Annie enjoying the small museum at the visitor center

We discovered that Mt. Diablo is not an active volcano–instead, it is the result of plate tectonics pushing against each other, pushing a central mass of rock upwards millions of years. Most of the mass on the side of the volcano is part of the ocean bed. More info here.

Annie pointing at one of the highest points of Mt Diablo, 3,849 feet above sea level

Photo looking out of the visitor center

I actually forgot to change out my lens to the 24mm… but actually really pleased with how the photos came out. There’s just something so practical about the 35mm focal length. Since it’s so versatile, it’s easier to use for storytelling.

Photo of the GTI on our way up Mt. Diablo

On our way up, I managed to slip in a couple photos of my GTI. I just got my plates recently, so I’ll have to install them soon. I have to say, I’m really enjoying this car and how utilitarian it is. I have a feeling I’m going to put a lot of miles on it. It still has under 1k miles on it, so it’s still in the break-in period.

The endless panoramic landscapes on the side of Mt. Diablo

Annie snapping a couple photos on her phone

Annie with the backdrop of rolling hills in the background

I’m hoping to come out here again… perhaps with my bike next time.

Dim Sum with Hanah and Annie

Hanah and Annie eating dim sum at Dragon Beaux in SF.

As always, Annie orders way too much food when we go here. But, I can totally understand her excitement. The food here is great! Here’s an older post from a couple years ago.

Already, our table was already filled with food… and there was more coming out. Hah! But it was allllll good.

Annie and her cousin, checking out a sweet view on top of Hanah’s apartment building.

Hanah showing off the rooftop fire pits.

The view was pretty amazing. You could see an unobscured view in every direction from their rooftop.

It’s kind of bonkers how much you can see from here. Their rent (split between 4 roommates) is $5700 per month.

Hot Pot with Annie, Patrick, Hannah + BF

Sunday night hot pot with Patrick, Kevin, Hannah and Annie.

Annie’s over here for the next week, and we’re taking a little time off to do a stay-cation. We figured it’d be nice to get a small group of friends together for some hot pot. There’s nothing like eating comfort food in the company of good friends. And they surprised us by bringing dessert!

What’s wild is that Hannah and Annie are cousins, and they haven’t seen each other for over a decade. They’ve followed each other on instagram, but it was pretty cool that she’s in SF as well. I had met Hannah’s parents