life lessons

Lyrics as life's reminders

Hey there. Happy January almost February. Any revelations or new beginnings since 2017 kicked off?

I’m working on a couple of writing projects and continuing to practice things that I had mentioned in my last letter when it comes to self-care. 

As always, music provides solace especially throughout this time of transition I've been writing a lot about. In today's letter, I'd like to share some of my favorite songs as of late based on lyrics I've gravitated towards: 

Theo Martins - Bad Tendencies

“Don’t focus on the wrong energies, dishonest energies, meaningless energies...”

This line stood out to me because I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about emotional energy. Energy is real. When you let negative energy overtake you, your energy flow becomes blocked. Keep your energy channels open to let in light and positivity. Keep your heart open. As Theo raps, don’t get caught up focusing on the wrong energies that don’t serve you.

The Theo Show is brilliant and funny, and he has an awesome clothing line called Good Posture. Theo’s also the first person to notice and remark that I text from my phone with both hands–I use my left thumb and my right index finger to text lol. I appreciate fellow observant people. 


Little Simz - Doorways + Trust Issues


"I don’t trust anyone apart from who I came with
Is that bad of me?
Don’t be mad at me
Know my imperfections make me who I plan to be
Though what's slowing me down is trust issues"

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of personal boundaries lately. It can be overwhelming meeting a lot of new people, and the line gets blurred sometimes in terms of what's okay to share and agree to and what level of trust there is. Being vulnerable with people is the foundation towards building a connection and embodying empathy, but you can't show all your cards with everybody. Choose what you share with whom wisely. 

I’ve mentioned Little Simz before and "Doorways + Trust Issues" in particular in a previous letter; the whole album Stillness in Wonderland is great, but this song is one of my favorites. Little Simz is also one of my favorite rappers because her pen game is so damn strong. Her Stillness in Wonderland tour has kicked off and she just announced dates for her US and Canada run. Go catch her show because she's an amazing live performer.

Syd - All About Me


"Take care of the family that you came with
We made it this far and it’s amazing
People drowning all around me
So I keep my squad around me"

"All About Me" is the first release from Syd's forthcoming solo album Fin and the lyrics are an ode to her gratitude for her day ones (from the groups she's been a part of, from Odd Future to The Internet). It's a confidence-boosting song for me. It also makes me think of the importance of fulfilling your individual journey but also supporting and elevating those around you who've supported you from the start. 

Syd also released a second track from her album today called "Body." Looking forward to hearing the full album once it's out.

Digital Nas - One Year


"Working so hard just to make sure that when I’m on top I will not fall
How are you trying to walk before you even learn how to crawl?
All this new money I'm making I should just throw up in the air
Crazy how much can happen and so much can change in a year"

This song by producer and rapper Digital Nas serves as a personal reminder for me that a lot has changed within a year and to not rush the process towards moving forward and upward. Don't skip steps, work hard and establish your foundation as solidly as possible first.

Digital Nas is a talented producer and rapper who has worked with Lil Yachty since his early days and has produced for Playboi Carti, PnB Rock, Keith Ape and more. He's poised to have a great year ahead so stay tuned for more from him.

Sylvan LaCue - Best Me

"I sip slow, think slower. Cause people love to judge, when they barely even know ya
All I want to do is be the best me"

This entire song is A+, but my favorite lines are the intro and the chorus ("all I want to do is be the best me").  This song serves as a reminder that ultimately, I gotta do what’s best for me to be the best me. 

Rapper Sylvan LaCue has been in a variety of situations in the music industry throughout the course of his career, but he continues to keep it moving as an independent artist today. 

He has his own label and academy called WiseUp: "WiseUp is an idea & state of mind that promotes awareness & the sharing of information between people in order to better our individual lives." I'm all about that. Sylvan is also joining Chicago rapper Saba in March on his Bucket List Tour so make sure you catch both of them live. Some of the most positive energy and presence from a live show I've experienced has come from these two artists.

meltycanon - Thankful

"But I've got faith in myself, and all of the things I do.
I don't need no one else, to tell me what I can do.
If you don't realize, all of the things your life can do.
You will be left behind, swept up by the storm of those you knew."

meltycanon’s music is lovely and dreamy. He recently put out an EP called soft & wet and produced rapper Father's track, "Heartthrob." "Thankful" is a year old, but I hadn't heard it until a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon it through fashion model Irene Kim's Instagram Story. It's perfect rainy day weather music. It's hopeful, inspiring and bittersweet at the same time.

You can listen to all of them through at the playlist I created here. I'll continue to add more tracks that spark inspiration through lyrics. 

What songs are on rotation for you? Any lyrics that you’ve been picking up and using as your anthems or personal reminders?

Talk soon,

p.s. You can also find me on TwitterSoundCloud and Instagram.

Notes on Essentialism

Hey! How’s everything on your end? Happy November to you.

I recently finished a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.  

Essentialism is about "making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at your highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential."

In other words, it’s not about how to get more things done or doing less for the sake of doing less. It’s about meeting your highest level of contribution, aka the right thing the right way at the right time.

Since reading the book, I’ve tried to make greater efforts to honor my true feelings and decisions, to be more comfortable with starting small, to celebrate progression, to learn about my deal breakers and set boundaries. That’s what I often struggle with–I pride myself on being a resourceful, helpful person, but sometimes I stretch myself too thin that leaves me feeling like my own time has been snatched from me.

We each have a set amount of energy and time to dedicate towards making the highest level of contribution to our work and craft, whatever that is for you. 

It might be helpful to ask yourself:

  • What do I feel deeply inspired by?
  • What am I particularly talented at?
  • If I could be truly excellent at one thing, what would it be?

Once you’ve defined what it is, you can’t compromise on your ability to make it happen for yourself. That means making tradeoffs and saying no more often than not to increase the chances of achieving the outcome you want. 

I thought it would be helpful to share some key notes because I’ve been having conversations with old and new friends that fall on some of the concepts presented in Essentialism.

  • We have the right to choose. If we forfeit that right, someone else will choose for us. Don’t let go of your ability to choose for yourself. “I choose to…, not I have to…”
  • If it’s not a clear yes, it’s a clear no.
  • If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
  • Many problems and challenges will accumulate when you try to take on every task, request and opportunity that comes your way. Ask yourself, "Which problem do I want? What do I want to go big on?"
  • Don’t fall for the status quo bias which is the tendency to continue doing something simply because it’s always been done.
  • Space and creating space for yourself is important to figuring out what really matters to you. 
  • Stop making casual commitments. Pause for five seconds before you agree to something. Remind yourself that the more you think about what you’re giving up when you say yes to someone, the easier it is to say no.
  • Have a clear understanding of what you give up when you say yes to things that may or may not ultimately matter to you.
  • Boundaries are empowering. They protect your time and energy to avoid letting other demands or distractions get in the way of your needs and priorities.
  • Make a list of your deal breakers–types of requests and activities you refuse to say yes to unless they align with your priorities.
  • Every use of your time, energy or resources has to justify itself anew. If something no longer fits with your current agenda, get rid of it.
  • Create your own clear overarching intent that enables you to always be in tune with yourself. Regularly compare activities or behaviors to your personal intent, and if they don’t match or are incorrect, edit them or let them go.

Did you find these helpful? Have you read or heard of the book? 

Wherever you’re at in life, grinding away, pursuing your passion, taking a leap, plotting your next moves: keep going and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

In other news, I'm headed to Vancouver tomorrow for a few days. I'll be speaking on the music panel at the 20th Vancouver Asian Film Festival. The founder Barbara Lee read my post on leaving SoundCloud and invited me to be part of the panel. I'm grateful that the post has reached people I never imagined I would connect with at this point. It will be my first legit speaking opportunity, so wish me luck.

Much love,