How I Found One of My Callings

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A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find. It’s much more dynamic. Whatever you do—whether you’re a janitor or the CEO—you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.
— Angela Lee Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

When I was in the third grade, my English teacher made us participate in a comparative study of the Cinderella story across multiple cultures. I was an introvert at the time and found an undying interest in reading novels well above my grade level. At the end of the quarter, my teacher had us auditioned and performed a version of a Cinderella play in front of the class. As a Leo, I knowingly auditioned for the lead role (Duh) but ended up getting selected to play the Fairy Godmother (aka the narrator) instead. I remembered being so disappointed with the outcome and telling my mom I wished things would turn out differently.

During one of our dress rehearsals, my teacher told us to stop running our lines and then she called out my name. "Uh-oh," I thought to myself. "Did I do something wrong?" 

She smiled and turned to my fellow peers and said, "Did you see how Khanh performed with so much conviction? Now THAT is how it should be done."

When I heard those words, I felt time stand still and my entire body — including the hair on my arms and the back of my neck — bristles as if called to attention. I felt liberated and alive. When you experience something similar to this in your own life, slow down and listen attentively to the universe. You're onto something and that something is called "your calling." I've only shared this story with a handful of people and my best friend Steven is one of them. So every time I'm in a crossroad in life, he always reminds me to think back at the very moment I feel the most alive. 

This "moment" stayed with me all through my teenage and college years. I did the morning announcements on the intercom at my high school, participated in class skit performances, was the lead speaker of all school assemblies, did a graduation speech in front of my school district, graduated from the top communication and journalism school in the nation, and now I have the opportunity to MC several weddings every month.

I'm listing these things out because they all have one thing in common: I am really good at telling stories. But here's the thing, we're all storytellers. Whether you're a musician or a UX designer, you have a narrative you want to convey and we're all artists in this world. 

When I made the decision to move from Los Angeles to pursue a career in technology, I was told not to make the leap and that I'll be joining a boy's club. I was also told to stick with what I was good at and that was to be "the pretty token Asian in my department." Well, knowing me, I did it anyway because I don't like being told what I can or cannot do. I went from telling real-life stories to helping thousands of business owners tell theirs. 

In my humble opinion, doing things you enjoy is a gift you give yourself that continues to echo through the course of your life. I hope you all find your calling, whatever it may be, and may you continue to share your gift with the world. 

 

 

A Short Film: The Fall *Must Watch*

A short film based on the works of David Cortez

Director: Xerxes Sangco
Assistant Director: Antonio Espino
Starring: Khanh P. Duong

Edited in Adobe Premiere
Color Graded in DaVinci Resolve

*Shot on RED Scarlet-W*

The premise of this short film should invoke a sense of confidence within the audience. As our hero had previously fallen, we now catch a glimpse of her at a stage where she has overcome her demons. She is now ready to conquer the world.

Overcoming Your Anxiety and Stress

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Here are a few things I wish we talk about more when you and I talk about success:

  • Mental Health - How are you currently dealing with your acute stress? 
  • Physical Fitness - What are you putting into your body? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you depriving yourself of proper nutrition? Are you binge eating? 
  • Emotional Stability - Who are you surrounding yourself with on a daily basis? 

All of these things are important for you to maintain...if anything, I value these things just as much as I value your hustle, your enthusiasm, and your perseverance. And I say this with the greatest empathy because I know what it's like to not have these three things but today, I'm going to talk about something I've only shared with one or two people in my life.

I have anxiety.

Major anxiety.

So much so that I wake up at four in the morning every day, sweat down my back, tears in my eyes, heart racing. It's bad. And it's gotten worse over the past few weeks. From dreading Sundays to being indecisive about everything (By the way, this is very un-Khanh like) it's not just my mental health that has been affected but I found that my productivity has also decreased. It is very difficult to explain but all I can tell you is that I feel hypersensitive. It's like having a dialogue with yourself 24/7 where you say all of these unkind things to yourself that you would never let anyone else get away with saying to you.

Earlier this week, I did some research on this and found that psychologists say that when we are in a state of fear, "We compromise our ability to process thoughts and events rationally. Our brain wants to protect us by sending us in a direction away from the pain point."

Naturally, when I read this, I wanted to put my fuzzy socks and bathrobe on and snuggle in my bed with my heated blanket. It's always so much easier to hide away from fear then to overcome it but I figured if I wanted to continue to live this way, I'll eventually be someone I wouldn't like. So I decided to do three things that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Analyze the root of the stress and identify exactly what is holding you back (For instance: Is it your career? Do you feel like you are behind everyone else? Is it your relationship? Are you afraid to walk away from a relationship that no longer serves you?) You cannot face something if you don't know what you are up against. For me, my anxiety stems from my ambitions. As someone who is extremely analytical, I get the jitters and preoccupations during times of transition. I'm always going through daily motions, anticipating for the grand milestone I'm about to cross. The "not knowing what I'm going to be doing with my life" kills me. 
  2. Create a small action plan. Talk to your mentor or someone you trust about your goals and objectives. If it's your career, write down things you enjoy doing and things you'd never do again. I'm a very big proponent of writing things down on a notepad rather than typing it down. If you don't have a plan, how are planning to reach your destination?
  3. Work on your physical, emotional and mental health. I work out four times a week. Twice on the weekdays and twice on the weekends. After my 50 minutes work out, I spend the last 10 minutes meditating and practicing better breathing techniques. This has been life-changing for me. Need an app to help you meditate better? Try this one: https://www.headspace.com

I just want to reiterate that this is not a comfortable nor has it been an easy process for me but if it's between succumbing to my anxiety or be proactive about it, I think I'm going to go with the latter.

What I can tell you is that I think it's important for you to celebrate your day-to-day progress and small wins. That's what success is about. Having mini victories and giving yourself the permission to feel proud of your daily grind. 

If you're going through this, I would love to hear what you're currently doing to overcome your anxiety. 

 

 

A Productive Sunday Morning Routine - Deliberate Reading

Happy Sunday, loves! I love my weekends, but I particularly have a bias for Sundays. It's just a great time to reflect on the week, relax, and enjoy some you-time. I'm going to walk you through a typical morning with me.

7:00 AM - Wake-up, make two cups of coffee

7:30 AM - Watch a morning motivational video 

This morning, in particular, I watched a 30 minute video of Kim Kardashian's Key Note interview at the BlogHer Conference 

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRpQE9gCeaI

8:05 AM - Read an ebook on my iPad (During my lunch breaks at work, I like to bring a physical book, but when I'm at home, I enjoy reading from my iPad)

Personal Recommendation:

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

This is an AMAZING BOOK---- For anyone who loves professional development kind of novels, this is the book I would recommend. The author has a great sense of humor, drawing from personal experiences to giving you insights on how pattern recognition, trial, and observation can eventually lead you to success.

I'm a big pusher when it comes to mentally stimulating your brain through two channels:  1) What you hear (i.e. audio books, from a conversation you just had) 2) What you see (i.e. reading articles, observing others) This is why I choose to watch videos and read every day. Aside from news outlets and online articles, reading actual books inevitably goes hand-in-hand with gaining more knowledge, which correlates to increasing your odds of breakthrough success. I call this process: the art of deliberate reading (learning) 

Some fun stats: 

  • Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports.

  • Bill Gates reads 50 books per year.

  • Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks.

  • Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother.

  • Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours every day.

  • Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours a day.

  • Billionaire entrepreneur David Rubenstein reads six books a week.

  • Dan Gilbert, a self-made billionaire, and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, read one to two hours a day.

(Source: Michael Simmons, Medium)

Instead of overloading myself with difficult reads, I try to balance it out by choosing two (very different) books at a time - 1) a professional development book/career-related 2) a leisure novel

9:00 AM - Study training notes for work

I don't do anything on Saturday that's work-related; however, to prepare myself for the rest of the week, I go over all the notes I've written throughout the week to ensure that I stay on top of my industry

10:00 AM - Eat breakfast

11:00 AM - Gym

I love working out on the weekends. The gyms are less crowded and it's just a great way to start the rest of my day.

12:00 PM - Relax/Spend the rest of the day with family 

Hope you're having a good weekend!

XO,

Khanh P. Duong