31 December, 2010

New Years' Resolutions Are So "Last Year!!!"

You're never going to get me to answer that question.

"What's your New Year's Resolution?"

That question is probably perhaps the most counter-productive question for the majority of humanity seeking change and growth. Every month of January, I fight for parking spaces en route to the gym, and once I'm there, I'm salvaging what space is available for the workout class. Come the middle of February the attendance returns back to the normal regular gym attenders. That's just the physical resolution.

Please don't call me a cynic. I'm not. I'm sincerely into the growth for myself and other people. In fact, I'll be the first in line to support anyone and everyone who desires to make a change for the better in their life. So why am I so against the notion of making a new year's resolution? For starters, they don't work for the majority of people who pledge a resolution. I only use the gym as an example because I've observed this at the same gym for the past 5 years.

I am not ashamed of the fact that one of my past mentors was a 12-steps practitioner. Actually there were a couple of my mentors who regularly attended 12 steps meetings for one reason or another. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from their example was the value of TODAY. They didn't make bold, long-term resolutions, they simply made daily goals, one step at a time, one day at a time. From them I learned how to understand that expression:
So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
They lived it, they practiced it. It was from them that I learned to make "daily resolutions."

For the past two years of my pursuit of personal development, there was never more of a time where I had an appreciation learning from my 12-stepping mentors than during the time I "played" a "game" called PLD (Pacesetters Leadership Dynamics) What this was in a nutshell, 90 days of personal coaching, relationship building, accountability, and goal setting within a "team" setting. Throughout the 90 days, we reported in doing numerous challenging team and individual exercises to learn not only leadership, marketing, and relationship skills, but also to take a deeper look within. There were moments during those 90 days where I wanted to quit and walk away. However because of what I learned from my past mentors in taking things "a day at a time," I was able to complete one of the most challenging three-months period of my life. In that time frame, I went from 187 pounds to 173 pounds. (I'm currently at 175-77; PLD was almost 2 years ago) I invited and brought 12 people to church with me. Prior to that, I was a "lone ranger" church attender. I went on 22 dates with 8 different young ladies after putting myself on a 4 year dating drought. (2005-06 no dates; 2007 3 dates; 2008 2 dates) I contributed directly to 3 local charities in fund-raising and direct volunteer work, contacted my sister whom I had not spoken to in three years, became the first male student of the S Factor pole dancing course, and introduced over 17 people to the concept of personal development, 10 of them eventually signing up for taking a Basic course.

Now if I had looked at all that I did during those 90 days and was told that over the course of three months, I was going to do all of that, I would've went after it for maybe a week or two, then eventually gave up. However, I didn't because I took it a day at a time, and eventually 90 days came and passed.

The main disadvantage of the New Year's Resolution is that once most people fall off their respected path, they tend to stay off until the end of the year to re-commit themselves over again. A lucky few will fall off the path and eventually return to the path, but for the most part the majority won't. With a daily resolution, if you fall off the path, you only need to wait to the next morning for a new opportunity. It's less wait for that clean slate. Granted if your new year resolution was to drop like 25 pounds, you won't be able to drop 25 pounds in one day. But what if your resolution for the day was to jog 45 minutes just for that day. Then your next day's resolution was to eat chicken, fish, veggies, fruits only, and do a body sculpting class that lasted an hour. Let's say the next day, you overslept so you missed the scheduled body sculpting class, then you gave in and ate the fresh batch of cookies that your client dropped off at your office. Guess what? You have the following day for another opportunity to actually follow-through on the previous day's resolution. The bottom line is that with a daily resolution, you don't have to wait until December 31-January 1 to start over.

Just remember that for each new day is a new opportunity for a daily resolution. Don't forget to be thankful for that new day. The reality is the fact that there is no guarantee for tomorrow. So be thankful for today, and go all out with your resolutions. So what if you fall short. Just do your best.

So once again remember not to ask me what my new year's resolution is...OK, OK, my arm's twisted...oww...OK, here's my resolution:

My New Years' Resolution is to make today a great day!!!


24 December, 2010

Grandma Loves You, But Take Some Dancing Lessons!

It's been 9 Christmases since my maternal grandmother was alive. Oh boy did she lay a major guilt trip when I saw her that Christmas day. And the thing is when she lays a guilt trip or gives a sob story, she tells it in the 3rd person. She put guilt-tripping into an olympic style art-form. She is constitutionally capable of getting things done her way. Talking about intention; she's all about 100% intention. She's also a story-teller to a highest degree.

She loved her gambling lifestyle. No she wasn't a professional gambler by any means, but she would be the type who'll know the high-rollers on a first name basis. A social bug. When I was in my first year of college, I moved into her flat because of the close proximity to school. I worked at a movie theater at that time, so I often worked late. She'd come home even later. I think it was her gambling tendencies which enabled her to take risks and chances. When I was growing up and we had our family outings at the amusement parks, it wasn't my sister or my parents who'd go on the roller coaster with me, it was grandma.

My 2nd cousin is a lot older than me to the point that she was considered to be the "niece" of my grandmother. (as opposed to the technical "grand-niece") According to the both of them while my grandmother was visiting my cousin, they decided to road trip from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas. Apparently my cousin was a regular at one of the casino/hotels there and offered my grandmother to use her line of credit on the tables. In gratitude, my grandmother told my cousin in 3rd person, "don't worry, Aunt Elma will share her winnings with you!" In due time, my grandmother was sitting on the blackjack table in an $8,000 hole. (I'm averaging out the accounts of the numerous versions of the story. The "hole" was as low as $4000, peaked at $16,000) Somehow my cousin was able to secure another couple thousand dollars in additional credit for the table. My grandmother played aggressively from that point, betting on "double downs" every other hand. Bottom line, she made that line of credit back with a couple thousand ahead. My cousin immediately stopped her from playing once she came out ahead.

She was a fitness buff. She regularly participated in "dry swimming." People often asked her what her workout regimen was, and she'd replied with a very straight face that she "dry swam." What exactly was "dry swimming?" MJ or "Mah Jonhg."

During the wedding reception of my other cousin, my grandmother grabbed me immediately after dinner because she wanted to dance and was not able to find anyone else to dance with at that moment. After two songs, she escorted me back to my table, gave me a kiss on the cheek and went, "Grandma loves you very much. You need to take some dancing lessons!"

I have to say there was no one like her. She was the second youngest of 5 sisters and one brother. (Technically there were 6 sisters, but my great-grandfather gave one of the sisters away for an unofficial adoption) She kept her Chinese ways, yet she was as much American as anyone else. She ran a takeout restaurant until she retired as a formal dining hostess. She dressed appropriate for the occasion as expected. She spoke her mind...often!

I remembered her especially during Christmas because of a Christmas dinner years past. I was in my mid 20s while my younger cousin was either turning 21 or 20, and he "discovered" drinking. So my cousin and I sat around the snacks table exchanging drunk stories when our grandmother came up to us and went, "oh Grandma knows how to drink better than you two." So my cousin in his youthful bravado decided to challenge her into a drinking contest pulling me in.

She won! She out-drank us. I'm not so sure if she out-did each of us, or both of us put-together because, well I was pretty out of it after awhile. We did know for sure she won. Her and her champagne cognac. She never settled for less than the good stuff.

Maybe this Christmas in her honor and in the honor of my grandfather, her husband, I should take a shot of Remy. (They both loved their cognac) Ah, a Christmas toast for her, and a Lunar New Year toast for him!

24 November, 2010

Ode 2 Da Biggity "O"

I practically wear my "Oaklandness" on my heart and my sleeve. No bones about it. Even a couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed on my tandem skydive by the staff who asked me in the interview where I was from. Without thinking, I immediately responded, "Oakland." Nevermind the fact that I've been living on the West side of the Bay during the past 5 years. (Menlo Park, South San Fran, and Colma) I make an effort to visit my parents who are buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland on a weekly basis. I used to get my hair cut in the Rockridge area until my agent sent me elsewhere. I attend at least one Raider game during the football season no matter how poorly they been playing this past 7 years. I've supported my high school alumni association bearing the city's name. Even during the World Series run, my SF Giants gear was in silver and black.

Five years ago, I attended a pool party located in Hillsborough. The artistic director of the theater company I was associated with at that time invited me to his house out there. It was crashed by local Hillsborough teens who simply showed up in their swimming gear and mingled. One of the young ladies mingled with me at the hot tub. She was impressed that I was an actor working with one of the theater companies in San Francisco, and then she asked me where I was originally from. Conversation went like this:
HER: So where are you originally from?
ME: Oakland
HER: Um, which Oakland????
ME: Uh, how many Oaklands have you heard of?
HER: You don't mean that Oakland?
ME: I guess so. I'm from that Oakland.
She promptly got up from the tub and left. I then proceeded to tell the hosts which group of folks didn't belong to the actual party. They were eventually asked to leave, but less than an hour after they left, the police came by because of "suspicious characters were reported to have attended the event."

Yes, I'm from that Oakland. Oakland, California. Recently crowned #5 as the most dangerous city in the U.S. We have the Oakland Athletics, an NBA team who aren't ballsy enough to say that they play here, and of course the prodigal sports franchise, The Oakland Raiders. If L.A. is considered to be the West Coast hip hop capital, then Oakland comes a close 2nd. Original home to the Black Panthers, and in the wake of the Oscar Grant justice scandal, a much needed resurgence of the Panthers could (hopefully) come under way in Oakland.

It's ironic that I was recently added to the Yelp Elite group representing Oakland considering how long I've been living in the Daly City area. Yet it seems there is really no voice coming from Oakland on behalf of Oakland. I read and saw what other people on Yelp and Facebook are saying about Oakland, and their observations are either one-dimensionally inaccurate or it was coming from a P.O.V. of a non-Oakland native.

People often ask me why not return to Oakland if I have such a high regard for it. If I still consider it "home," why not "return home?" For one, I don't need to sleep there on a regular basis to still call Oakland "home." I'm there almost every week. I dine there. I spend time with my friends who are still there. My parents and grandparents are rested there. Even if I were to fulfill my home ownership goals within 5 years, (Home in Hawaii, Singapore, Vancouver, and SF) Oakland would still be considered home to me. No matter who I choose to marry, I will make sure SHE not only steps foot in Oakland, but will get a feel of what Oakland is about. The same goes for my children in the future. So the question is, how can I return to Oakland when in reality, Oakland never left?

18 October, 2010


According to Merriams-Websters Dictionary, experience is defined as:

1a : direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge b : the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation
2a : practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity b : the length of such participation
3a : the conscious events that make up an individual life b : the events that make up the conscious past of a community or nation or humankind generally
4: something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through
5: the act or process of directly perceiving events or reality

So in other words two people can go through the exact same event, yet there are two different experiences.

Why is this so important? Because in this down economy it is important and imperative to know what people are pursuing and avoiding from an experiential standpoint. In other words, what experience are people pursuing and/or avoiding and at what cost are they willing to pay.

Personal development courses always include a section on building material wealth. The top two foundational wealth books Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles say the same thing in that people will be compensated according to the value added to the goods and service they provide. Hill calls it "definite terms of service" while Wattles refer to it as "use value vs. cash value." They basically state the same thing. However I remain struggling financially confused over those statements.

Finally while studying from personal development pioneer Stewart Emory recently, it finally clicked. He theorized that people don't necessarily pay for goods and service per se as opposed to the experience they personally experience while using that product or service.

What does that mean?

Going back to Wallace Wattle's "use value vs. cash value," he used an example of trading for fur: a person could barter with a fur trapper a rare piece of art appraised in the millions of dollars for a hundred pounds of fur, but the fur trapper will not experience a use value for that trade. However if someone else bartered a $200 rifle for that same amount of fur, the fur trapper would experience a higher use value for that gun. If that piece of art work (sculpture or painting) does not add to the trapper's livelihood, it's unlikely that the trapper will consider that trade a positive experience. On the flip side, though the gun was less in cash value, if the gun adds to the livelihood of the trapper, then his experience of that trade will be more positive from his/her perspective.

Human beings spend their entire existence either avoiding or pursuing an experience. Even if we break it down to the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, is there not some form of experience associated with even that basic need? Take no look further than a Yelp review. Restaurants are rated according to the reviewers' experience. What did they experience when they tasted the food at restaurant XYZ. What was their experience from the service level of the staff at XYZ.

The same thing with advertising. Are the products and or service really being sold on the commercial or is there a specific experience being associated with a particular product or service in that commercial being watched? Take a look at any fitness product. What's really being sold, the product or a possible experience of feeling attractive or more attractive?

Even as an actor. My job isn't just to create an authentic character based on the writing of the playwright or screenwriter and my personal physical and emotional attributes. I'm also responsible for the experience of not only my audience member, but that of the production staff and my other fellow actors involved.


To create forms of entertainment that educates and enables the audience members to create an experience of self and community empowerment.

07 August, 2010

Tales of Two Photographers

When I was accepted to be represented by Mary Tonry of Tonry Talent Agency in San Francisco, I was stoked. I auditioned for Stars 2 years ago and was not accepted. I didn't bother pursuing any other representation afterwards. I focused on my personal growth which didn't necessarily had to do with acting, but I needed to work and I didn't want to work doing a 9 2 5'r. I had an agent in Singapore through Fly Entertainment.

May of 2010, I finally took the plunge and sent Tonry a cover letter with my (very old) headshot and resume. Went in for the audition, and had a very encouraging conversation with Mary Tonry. To my surprise, I was already being sent out for auditions the very next day. She gave me a list of photographers so I could update my headshots.

Note: when your acting coach and your agent recommends a photographer or two, narrow it down to them. I went ahead with a different photographer on my agent's list. I called and made an appointment with her. We met in Union Square on a rainy day, and took care of business under an awning of an upscale jewelry store. I'm sure the sales folks were amused as I switched from one outfit to the next. For the price I paid, it was to be an hour and a half shoot where she'd photoshop and retouch 5 shots. A week passed after the photo shoot. Then another week passed. Then I called her about when I'd see the proofs en route to an audition. At the audition, I was tapped on the shoulder by someone. It was the photographer. Turns out not only was she a photographer, she's also an actor represented by the same agent. No biggie, she simply said, she'll have the proofs mailed to me later that week. Once I received the proofs, I narrowed them down to the top 20, 5 shots, 4 outfits. I took them to Mary to have a look at them and she wasn't too thrilled with them. I took the shot Mary liked and listed it along with 4 other shots and told my photographer the final 5 to be touched up. Three weeks afterwards, I received an email with 5 high pixel digital proofs of shots that I ended up retouching on my iPhoto. Yup, she did a very half-assed job retouching them. I eventually took the proof of the one shot Mary picked to a printer and had copies made with my name. The copies were completed in July even though the initial photo shoot was in May.

Couple of weeks later, I dropped off the copies of my headshots and asked Mary about getting a haircut slightly different from the photos. She warned that it was a possibility that I'd have to redo my headshots. The next day, I had my haircut and sure enough, it was different from the headshots I took. This time I was smart to contact a photographer who both my agent and long time acting coach recommended.

At the photo shoot, this photographer came about 20 minutes late. Turned out he remembered the conversation we had over the phone about a jazz pianist Keith Jarrett (Keith is my middle name) and he ran late because he was busy burning a cd for me of Keith's music. Then our photo shoot was interrupted as the photographer looked at my outfits. We went to the nearest CVS Pharmacy with a clothing department to find a "suitable" commercial wear. Finally after a thorough makeup and hair run through, we were down to business. This photo shoot was more physically challenging as this photographer was more demanding from me.

Less than 24 hours later the photographer emailed me what he felt were my top 18 shots. I disagreed with him passionately such that he had to call me directly to settle matters. Within 3 days, I received the entire proofs. My biggest challenge was finding the best out of what was a high number of excellent shots.

The top photo is from my second photographer last week. The second one is from the one I took a couple of months back. Can you see the difference? I sure as hell can. I can't say you get what you paid for because there was only a $60 difference.

16 June, 2010

On the Recent Release of The Karate Kid

Having pursued acting for the past ten years, it's no secret that coming from an specific ethnicity has both advantages and disadvantages. As someone who's on a continuous journey on personal development, focusing on the negatives and disadvantages is considered counter-productive. However as a member of a specific ethnic community (Asian American descent) and as an actor, I've been exposed to many sides of the arguments in response to the recent release of the Karate Kid remake. I also would like to note that I've been practicing a traditional form of Chinese martial arts for the past 20 years, so I'm also familiar with the martial arts community.

Ethnicity and stereotypes issues aside, I personally chose NOT TO attend any paid screening of it because I'm more of a purist. I love original versions of films and television shows. Call me a hypocrite since I love seeing different versions of staged productions. Now having said all of that, in no way am I endorsing or supporting any boycotts of the film.

Those who support a boycott argue that supporting such a film sets identity issues back a generation or two because of the title itself. Though the title is still "The Karate Kid," the martial arts featured in the current version is Wushu, Kung Fu, or simply a form of Chinese martial arts. It is well known that Karate is a Japanese martial arts form. The concerns of those supporting the boycott is that the commercial success will encourage producers who are unaware or unconcerned with the distinctions to continue producing such works with little to no regard to the community they're portraying. Over the years, I've heard numerous comments or a variation of "Chinese, Vietnamese, they're all the same." Now here's a film with a title that'll reinforce, "Karate, kung fu, same thing."

For the past 10 years, I've been to more than my share of auditions thrown by aspiring producers and directors who's convinced that they "get it." They really believe that how they portray certain ethnic group is not only "realistic," but also "sensitive" to that specific community. There's an saying from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa:

Nothing about us, without us, is FOR us.

That said, expect no changes coming out of Hollywood. It's up to the community to bring forth solutions.

My biggest concern about this film is the target audience. This is aimed to the younger teen and pre-teens. The stereotype of the Asian male villian, though was told through hearsay was watered down, potentially holds a larger impact to the audience because they are younger and more impressionable.

As I stated earlier I will not pay to view this film not because of the concerns of those boycotting the film, but because as a performer and as a writer, I want to send a message to Hollywood that they're dropping the ball when it comes to creativity. Yes, I'm aware that there's really no such thing as a new story, but to recycle previously done plots, characters and titles is to me unacceptable. On the flip side of it, I would not encourage anyone to boycott viewing any sort of work without having seen the work.

So how does one stay true to their personal boycott, and yet be able to view a piece of work so that they could solidify their stance? Thank God for pirating. As much as I need to be paid for my work, I do think that there is a legitimate place for pirated items. This is one of them. What better way to avoid rewarding a producer financially and yet be able to view the piece to substantiate your argument and concerns?

So for those of you who still choose to support and/or honor a boycott of The Karate Kid, VIEW THE MOVIE FIRST

12 June, 2010

My Goto Restaurants Aren't Necessarily Yelp 5 Stars

When I first started on Yelp a couple of years ago, I rated this one spot in Oakland California as a 5 Star location because of the wonderful food, and awesome service. However I don't frequent that place on a regular basis. On the flip side, there's a restaurant that I only gave a 3 Star to and I'm there at least once or twice a week.

Since I do not have the space or opportunity on my Yelp profile page to explain how I rate the local Bay Area businesses on there specifically on the food places, I decided to explain further here in this forum: First off, I rate each restaurant or cafe according to the specific format of what they serve and the price range. I do not categorize all the restaurants under one lump sum of places for food. Taquerias are rated differently from taco trucks though they basically serve the same dishes. Likewise Chinese or other Asian restaurants are broken down to different categories. Otherwise restaurants are rated according to different price ranges.

For example, the restaurant that I mentioned at first in Oakland is Lukas. The place averages about a three and a half to four stars. I personally rated them at 5 Stars. The reason being was because all their drinks that I tried, their appetizers, entrees and salads were tasty, and their service was consistent and top notch. The reason why I did not frequent there is because the cost of their meals averaged above $17 not including drinks, and it was out of the way from my route whenever I was in the Oakland area. This was one of those "plan ahead" type of places for me.

When I'm in Oakland, my default spot for food is St Anna's Cafe. The format of the restaurant is "Cha Cheng Tang" or "tea stop." It can be considered a Southeast Asian style "diner" or "coffee shop," with tea instead of coffee. I'm there for one and one reason only: their milk tea. It was the first time that I was ever introduced to milk tea when I first met my biological mother and we'd often met there for lunch. (Meeting my biological mother and the issue of adoption is another future topic here...) Common dishes at the "tea diners" are baked entres over fried rice with a tomato sauce gravy, basic wok fried noodle dishes, and spaghetti meals. Of course this is served with tea or other varieties of beverages and dessert beverages. I'm there on a weekly basis because of my milk tea craving and their macaroni dish which is prepared "chow fun dry style," or their baked chicken steak over rice. In fact, I rate the different "tea diners" based on the tastiness of their hot milk tea and their baked chicken steak over rice. Then I average in the service level.

Another place that I frequent is a place called Shooting Star Cafe in Oakland also. Their place has a higher service level and their food taste quality is hit or miss. I gave them an 3 Star overall rating. This restaurant borders on the "tea diner" category but their specialty is actually late night Asian desserts. We go there often because of the variety of the type of food available on the menu. This is definitely one of those "something for everyone" type of stops, but they're one of the lowest rated Yelp places where I'm there regularly.

Sometimes there are places that I've been to several times and never submitted a review. The reason being is because it's been frequented and reviewed by so many Yelpers that what I'll add wouldn't make much of a difference, or in the case of Papalote, not only were both of their locations had more than 600 reviews, they were also featured on the Food Network. Not only that, this was a location where I really found it to be a major head scratcher such that I really didn't know how to rate them. First off, they are the only place where I've had a "$20" burrito, ($19.95 actually) and though I enjoyed it, I just wasn't sure if it was actually worth paying $20. On top of that, I paid more for an order of their fresas (fruit juice-ade) and received less than any other type of taqueria. Yet I wasn't sure if it was even fair for me to categorize them as an actual taqueria even though they served the same stuff as a taqueria. So up until last week, I basically avoided Yelping them with a 20 foot pole. You could imagine when I tried their "Ode To Poleng" Burrito. This is a burrito made of authentic Filipino chicken adobo with garlic fried rice. It was also the best chicken adobo I've had in the Bay Area restaurants which was more confusing because Papalote is not even a Filipino restaurant.

It's not like I haven't reviewed anywhere that I wasn't able to place in a specific category. Capital is a Chinese restaurant where I cannot put in the same category as other Chinese restaurants. I rated them as simply a spot for food and service. Did I like their food and their selection of food? Yes. Was their service good? Overall it's OK. Across the board, 4 Stars. So why is it more challenging to rate a place like Papalote? It maybe not a challenge after all. It maybe something I need to deal with mentally first. So will there be a Yelp review on this place from me? We'll see...

11 June, 2010

'E' is for "EMPOWERMENT"

Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities.

Even after I've committed myself to personal development during the past two years, I found myself terrified of that word. Not on me mind you, hell, I've spent the past two years equipping myself with tools in order to empower myself in my endeavors. No, what terrified me the most about that word was within the context of my purpose in life. As part of most personal development courses, a mission statement or a statement of purpose is normally stated and declared. I spent a good amount of time avoiding the word "empower" in such a personal statement. It means my willingness and choice to accept responsibility in creating an environment for others to develop their own personal power, and that scared the hell outta me.

Whenever someone asked me what my mission statement or purpose was, I tell them "the 3 'E's: Entertain, Educate, and Empower." Through my entertaining and performance skills, my audience is simultaneously educated and empowered. The bottom line is that this past weekend, I realized that entertaining and educating was merely a tool for my true calling and purpose: to empower others. Of course I need to empower myself first. That's a given. I cannot give away what I do not have. It's a lot like Love. You're not able to effectively love others until you're able to love yourself. Funny how empowerment and love go hand-in-hand. No accident there. Yes, I acknowledge that. That's what frightened me in the first place. Who did I think I was to feel that if I empowered myself, I would in turn empower others? Then again, how can anyone NOT empower others when they empower themselves?

When I use the word "empower," I do not mean it in the sense that one must "squash" others in order to rise up. That's not empowerment at all actually. Stomping on others isn't a display of empowerment, it's a sign of fear and insecurity. I'm defining "empowerment" as "as I rise up, I will support you to rise up, and as a result, we BOTH have more to give not only to each other, but to everyone else around us." To go further I really believe that whenever someone defeats or stomps on the perceived competition and they develop some form of confidence, that form of confidence is false because it's merely masking their insecurity.

So why wasn't I convicted in utilizing the word "empower" in my personal mission statement. Well isn't it clear? Why else wouldn't I use that specific word, or utilize it within only a secondary context? It was obvious. I wasn't empowered myself to confidently place that word as a primary purpose. My initial primary purpose and mission was "to entertain, educate, and empower." Now my mission is "Empower others to develop their wholeness through the means of the performing arts, entertainment, and experiential education."Yes, I'll admit my mission statement is still a work in progress like myself.

One may wonder why I am so adamant about my acting career and where it fits in to my mission or purpose. Some even wondered if I truly have an acting career at all. I can say that acting was one of the means were I felt safe enough to give myself permission to truly be myself, and as a result, I was empowered. (There goes THAT word again!!!) Truthfully, acting was an art form where I felt enabled to become a whole person and I can still feel the growth of myself that acting provides. Can I walk away from pursuing acting as a career and still find outlets to act in order to grow and empower myself? Yes, it is possible. However, I've set goals in the field that I would rather give my all pursuing them rather than to merely walk away right now. I'm not ready to hang it up yet.

From this day forward, all that I do financially, performance wise, projects, ect, I will ask myself one question: How will this empower myself and others if I decide to do this. As long as I can be honest to myself with the answer, the sky is the limit.

29 May, 2010

On Education...

I lost count on how many groups I joined and how many pages I "liked" on Facebook. I could honestly say that in general, the types of groups and pages I support falls into four categories: acting/performing, personal growth/development, martial arts/lion/dragon dancing, and Oakland. Yes, Oakland California.

The majority of my Oakland groups on Facebook are alumni related. There are several pages or groups reflecting the high school, jr high school, and elementary school I attended. I never switched schools. The elementary school was my elementary school from K-6 grade. Jr high was 7-9 grade, and high school was 10-12 grade. I switched around like crazy after high school to make up for not switching around. I'm proud of what I learned and who my teachers were over the years in the Oakland Public School system. I am able to read, write, and perform enough mathematics to be able to navigate my way through the annual 1040 forms. (*knock on wood*)

5 years ago, I worked as an academic enrichment mentor for the Oakland Public Schools before the state takeover. Within one academic year, I found myself jaded and determined to send my own kids (WHENEVER I decide to have kids) either overseas to Singapore for school, or home schooled. Teaching students was NOT a priority for the school. Rather it was a priority for a student to show up to school at almost any and all cost. I later learned that the reason was financial. The school receives money from the State of California when students attend the school.

The final straw was when we created a field trip for a group of the highest risk 8th grade students to an alternative high school. This high school won numerous awards and recognition for their innovations of teaching within an urban environment. As an academic enrichment mentor, I was there to create relationships with the high risk students and encourage them to continue on their education and support them on their endeavors. The students we took on this field trip were students whom we spent the majority of time persuading them to attend class and to do the class assignments. When they toured that high school, they were transformed into self-motivated students. We did NOT recognize them. During a visit to an English class, the teacher gave her students their class writing assignment and asked if the "visiting guests from **** Middle School" would like to participate. To my surprise, ALL OF THEM did. We left that school with a stack of applications for our students and their parents to fill out.

Several weeks later shortly before the application deadline. The mentors responsible for the field trip were called into the principal's office. She explained to us that the status of the alternative high school changed from belonging to the Oakland Public Schools to an autonomous charter school. Therefore we had an obligation to maintain attendance for OPS. She then took all the applications filled out by the students and parents and threw them out. They were to attend their default high school. I was in disbelief and attempted to explain how motivated those students were when they were there. The principal assured us that as mentors we did "an excellent" job motivating those students, but we were required to perform "within the guidelines."

I don't know the fate of the students who wanted to attend that alternative high school. I don't know if they continued to the default high school, managed to enter in the alternative high school, went to another school, or dropped out altogether. When the state took over the school district during the following summer, our program was cut and we were no longer able to follow-up on the students. Another year following that, the entire middle school was closed down.

I love Oakland. It is the city where I grew up in. It's where my roots are grown. I have been in the personal growth and development world for the past two years. I really feel that what I've been studying these past two years are missing elements to what SHOULD be taught in the education system: how to manage money, how to make money, how to change your attitude, how to set goals, how to handle adversity, how to achieve goals, how important is is to continue learning, how to effectively listen and communicate, how to value yourself, and did I mention attitude? That's just as important as cramming reading, writing, and mathematics down the students throats. Have you looked at the test scores? The school system isn't even doing a good job of cramming things down the throats of the students apparently. I donated a study course called Thinking Into Results developed by Bob Proctor who was in The Secret to my old high school. All I know was that it was delivered. The more I delve into personal development and human potential, the more I realize how gifted everyone whom I come across really is. The tragedy isn't that we waste our God-given talent, the real tragedy is the fact that we don't realize we had it in our possession in the first place. To me, that is the real purpose of education. The Latin root word educere means "to bring forth what is within." Education not only should create an environment of learning, it needs to create an environment to draw out and develop talent from within. The fallacy of the "No Child Left Behind" is the fact that it depends more on external learning and not much emphasis on developing the inner being of the student.

In times of changes, the learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
-Eric Hoffer

01 May, 2010

Well Versed and Fundamentals

Just how important are the fundamentals? Well ask anyone who relies on technique. Whether it be a contractor, mechanic, athlete, artist, dancer, singer, ect. There is always a fundamental technique that needs to be mastered in order to excel in that particular endeavor.

It's no secret that for the past 2 1/2 years, I've been immersed in this journey called personal development. It wasn't planned that way. At the end of 2007, beginning of 2008 I didn't expect to devote my time to take an in-depth look at myself and put forth all this energy and effort to change my thought and action habits. It was just that I approached my late 30s sick and tired of being sick and tired. I got sick of meeting and dating psycho bitches from hell while my other peers were happily married starting families or were in committed relationships.

At the end of 2006, I found myself in a hospital requiring amputation for my left hand due to a mysterious infection. 4 Days before Christmas, I left the hospital with my left hand intact miraculously. Several weeks after that in the beginning of 2007, while learning about green screen video editing, The Secret was utilized as an example of the green screen by my technical film friends. I really didn't pay any attention to what they were discussing in regards to video shots with a green screen in the background, I was mesmerized by the contents of what the panel of speakers declared. I'll admit that I wanted to hunt down Joe Vitale who was one of the speakers because I felt personally insulted that he insinuated that I "attracted" my mysterious infection and hospital stay. I was not able to completely view the entire film, but the message was still clear.

In May 2007, after ending a month long dating relationship which resulted with my car being vandalized, I sought help online. What the hell was I doing to attract such a bad situation? By chance, I was on Myspace where I located a guy who was working for a former mentor of mine, Marc Accetta. I contacted him and inquired about Marc's trainings. The next thing I know, I'm visiting Oklahoma City for the first time in my life. They were doing a 3-day personal development training there, and I felt urged to go. Upon leaving I thank the guy from Myspace for accommodating me so last minute and asked if they were opened to allowing me to their 5 day advanced retreat. In August, my personal birthday gift to myself was a 5 day retreat in Scottsdale Arizona. Now if you know how these retreats are ran, it's no surprise that I was having a little lighter step and stride when I returned home. When my friend from Denver visited me in the Bay Area a week after my return, I learned that she herself was en route to a retreat called the PSI 7 Life Success Course. Upon her completion of that retreat a week later, I found myself and her getting into a pissing contest on who benefited most. So we placed a bet on a specific event in January where the loser had to take a course from the winner's retreat.

I lost.

So in March 2008, I'm sitting at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco taking a 4 day course called The Basic Seminar taught by PSI Seminars. For some reason, this course not only made sense, but the two courses I took in 07 taught by Marc Accetta made more sense, and on top of that all the personal development courses I took 12+ years earlier back during my college drop out days made sense. (Just FYI, those courses taken some 12 years prior was taught by Marc Accetta and Marc's mentor)


Think about what the titled of the course was called: The Basic Seminar. It was. I make no apologies in acting where I'll take a beginning fundamentals acting class every now and then, and you should see me yell at the newbie lion dance/martial arts students about their horse stance. (Martial arts fundamental foundational position) Yet, I was pretty resistant to taking a personal development course called "The Basic." Think about it. Had I taken and applied the courses taken before The Basic, would I have needed to take the class at all? The Basic was really the core fundamentals of personal development. You see, the first time I took a personal development class was an advanced course called "The Millionaire's Workshop." I'll admit I remembered being emotionally fired up and mentally stronger, but if you asked me what exactly did I learn in the course, I'd couldn't answer you.

Earlier this evening, I was driving some students home and they inquired about my audio CD playing in my car. I was listening to Bob Proctor's Science of Getting Rich. They thought it was the same audio as the last time I drove them home a week prior. It was. So they were like, "aren't you tired of listening to the same course? You already heard it." My answer was that I keep on listening to it in hopes that the material will eventually sink in. They were dumbfounded. They weren't able to comprehend the idea of listening to a course over and over again until I fully understood it to the core. Their attitude like most students is study enough to get a good grade and if you remember it you do, but if you don't, at least you have a good grade. (I'll get into another discussion in the future of the state of education)

I received the Science of Getting Rich course a little over a month ago. Why I keep repeating it over and over is because it goes back to why the Basic Seminar made so much sense. There was a basic fundamental information that needed to be mastered. When I first pursued acting, I was taught 3 fundamentals: voice, movement, and acting technique. Work on the fundamentals of all 3 areas, and when you're exhausted, work on them some more. The same with martial arts and lion dancing. When I joined my first lion dance/martial arts studio at age 8, my first 6 months of practice consisted of learning the horse stance, the left bow and arrow stance and the right bow and arrow stance. They were the fundamental foundational positions. The mistake of personal development is that after a 3 day, 4 day, or even a 10 day course/seminar, people think they're completely changed. No, we just got introduced to the fundamentals, and sometimes the advanced stuff. It takes time to build your foundation. This isn't only true in just personal development, but in everything.

So what are you pursuing now? When was the last time you worked on the foundation? Maybe if you reviewed the foundation, you may come across a gem that'll enable you to take your endeavor to the next level.