that old, familiar, mucky pond

Some people are unable to leave their painful past behind, to live freely and at ease among the wonders of life in the present. The moon and stars are glowing brightly, the mountains and streams are delightful, the four seasons reveal themselves to us by turns; but some never get in touch with any of that. They feel more comfortable hanging around the cellar of their painful memories.

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Liberation means, first of all, breaking out of the prison of our past. We need to summon the courage to pull ourselves back up out of the rut of our old, familiar habits and comforts. These things don’t really bring us happiness; but we’ve gotten so used to them, we think we can’t let them go.

Why must we, as the Vietnamese expression goes, always come back to swim in the same old pond, even though it’s mucky, simply because it’s ‘ours’? Why deprive ourselves of the crystal clear lake, of the refreshing blue sea with a beach stretching all the way to a new horizon? The joys of life are no less ‘ours’….

(Thich Nhat Hanh)

That Fail Moment

I’m sure everybody has some or many of their fail moments in life. Today I’ve been thinking of the three big fail moments that had happened to me when I was a child. There was one coincidence in all those three moments for me was that I always had mum with me in every single story (and because dad was hardly ever home).

#ThatFailMoment01: When I was about 5 years old, at the age that every person’s biggest love was either with candies or cookie or ice-cream or chocolate or ALL of them. One day, mum came home from grocery store and bought me something, could be either of those sweet things which I can’t remember what she bought anymore. However, I remember how she bought and left them home when I was playing with the neighbour kids, then I decided to share some of the ‘goodies’ with them. Mum came back when all the goodies were gone and she got really mad. I couldn’t understand why. I thought sharing is good. Then she told me (in an angry tone) that I was not allowed to give food to ‘those’ kids while we didn’t even have enough… I guess it was difficult time then…

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#ThatFailMoment02: I was 6 years old. I still remember my first writing lesson on my first day at primary school. I still remember how other kids’ parents were watching us from the window (Well, it’s kind of a big deal – it’s the first day of primary school that you’re talking about. All parents showed up very earlier to watch the kids – except for my parents but I didn’t even think of that for a second – not that my parents did not care about me but dad was away and mum was super busy). The teacher taught us how to make a line on the paper with a ruler and a pencil. I did it perfectly well. I knew it because I sat next to the window and one of the parents told me that I did well. And that fail moment started when I decided to use my extra-skill with an eraser to undo all what I did with the ruler and pencil so that I can do it over and over and over again… My paper got dirty and I got grade 6 (out of 10) but I didn’t even feel upset. I think what I did was to ‘repeat’ the ‘right’ thing only. I ran home to see mum and happily made an announcement that I got grade 6 for the writing lesson. Then one second later I realised how angry mum was. She even asked me if I was out of mind and how could I even stay so happy to tell her that I got only grade 6. She also said that I should be ashamed of that instead and I surely got with me some some of the unforgettable moments and I would never repeat-that-right-thing again.

#ThatFailMoment03: Hmmm, 7 years old, I was practicing to ride a bike with one of my cousins. I just remember how I finally ride it…for real, an ‘adult’ 2 wheel bike – not the mini 3 wheel bikes like when I was a little kid. I was riding it and I saw mum. I turned my head and reached out for mum and said: “Hey mum, look at me, I know how to ride a bike!”. Then all of the sudden, I hit a rock in the road and I fell off the bike. And I could hear her shout again. End of story.

What are the flowers thinking beneath the snow?

The first book ever that actually brought me to tears while reading was the “Christmas Shoes” by Donna VanLiere. Back in 2011, I found “Christmas Shoes” in a bookstore in Civic (Canberra, Australia) while I was taking my ‘walking meditation’. I still remember how I immediately grabbed a pen and a piece of paper to take notes as soon as I opened the very first pages of the book:  …time to find out what the really important questions are, the ones that matter. Not How am I going to make enough money? or What can I do to get promoted? No, more like What are the flowers thinking beneath the snow? When do birds make reservations to fly South?. What is God’s plan for my life? What are my wife’s dreams?

The piece of paper has always been in my wallet – I think it is priceless so I will keep that forever 🙂

What are the flowers thik What are the flowers thinking beneath the snow? “The Christmas Shoes” – Donna VanLiere

I was born in a way that as soon as I learned how to speak my baby’s first words, I started to sing, to tell stories and to perform in front of many people in the most natural way as possible. And most of the time I do feel like I am an artist.

So when the guy told me: “You can only see things which are black and white. You cannot see the colours”. – I did not get angry at all but whenever I think of this, I feel pity for him and I find his words very much like an insult. Who the hell does he think he is? (I thought to myself) – A pure bottom life manager who was trying to give me an advice on how to live my life more colourful? Yes, this is me, to tell me that I am colour blind is obviously like giving me an insult because I’ve been living most of my life like in the most artistic way as possible.

I think what makes us (me and a number of friends that I know) feel so glad after all is no matter how tough this life can be and how much people are trying to tame you – you know you can’t be tamed. I’m not saying I know the Art of Living, which I really don’t… I am like the majority of people on this planet, we all need to work to make a living – and I understand the fact we all need to become a Bottom Line Manager of our lives to ensure all our needs are satisfied.

At the end, I always think that I am still one of the luckiest in the world to live such an amazing life that I am able to feel like I am an artist. At the same time, I know I need to be more down to Earth as well to see through things and people to understand what their true values are behind all the expensive or average looks. We except the fact that everyone lives differently and thinks differently. We appreciate different things and admire different people. And I think what actually makes huge differences between people from one to another is when we are all asked to answer even one single question: “What do you want out of your life?”. Or another interesting friend of mine often pops out a question that he thinks he will be able to tell a lot about someone’s personality: “What would you like to do if you don’t have to worry about anything in life? What would you like to do?”. I think that so, too.

Everybody is so lonely in this neither big nor small world. It is when you stop a moment to think that you know everybody, and as many as the number of people who know you – How many people are there for you when it comes in to the need of emotional stability?

Filtering

My friend Tracy used to say this every time she saw me: “Camellia is sillier than a coffee filter. You are sillier than a coffee filter…” Yeah right, I just laughed, unconsciously, what was that supposed to mean anyway? zevro-incred-brew-direct-immersion-coffee-maker-1 Honestly speaking, I cannot find a word to explain my feelings at this stage. It’s kind of full and empty at the same time. I guess this is the result after having tried to filter my brain with too many different sources of information: positive, negative, scientific or whatever in between. I had started to follow/subscribe a number of companies, groups, influencers or whatsoever that I thought I could learn something out of it… Then I got tired because I realized too much of anything could never produce any good. It’s like how you can either soon enough get tired of someone who is full of ‘negative’ energy or get fed up with some sort of positivist/ scientist who really knows how to tell you what you SHOULD do… You don’t always need that many advices…

So yes, now I agree with Tracy that I am sillier than a coffee filter because a coffee filter will obviously do a better job to drag out all the coffee waste and residue. Meanwhile, my brain is full of messy thoughts. The way I see it: Yes I am happy that I have a number of things to look forward to. And at the same time, I also agree that you don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.

Namaste

I know this is just the beginning of 2015 but I’ve just had one of my best moments of the year catching up with some amazing friends and people, this includes the Sajus…

I met Saju in back in 2010 when we were at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra. He was ‘the Chef’ and I worked in Food and Beverage as well as Sales and Marketing department. Except for the fact that he is Indian and he cannot swim – he admitted in front of everybody when we were playing the ‘Who’s Who game’ at the hotel – we knew nothing about each other until we both came back to Vietnam…

In 2012, he got a job promotion at a five star hotel in Saigon and by that time I also left Australia for home in Hanoi. I took the occasion to meet my old colleguage again in one of my trips to Saigon and got to know his family, his beautiful Croatian wife Mirjana and his gorgeous daughter plus personal assistant Kylie.

We met again in Hanoi yesterday and the day before as they went for a trip in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Oh my god, Kylie surprised me as she is a lot taller than she was before… Kylie loves winter so she seemed to enjoy it very much. However, the Hanoi weather has not been very pleasant as we’ve been experiencing to the extreme of the unpleasant days with cold wind air and too much of winter rain.

I enjoyed my time spending with them as well to get to know the ‘insights’ of how it’s like to get married with a Chef and got to know a bit of here and there… Europe, India, Australia and Vietnam… We literally include almost everything in our conversions and sometimes they even went up into becoming some ‘big’ husband & wife arguments but I guess this is just how life’s supposed to be. Mirjana was like: “Camellia, don’t get married and don’t have kids”. I just can’t help smiling looking at how happy they are and I could not see anything which is more lively and more beautiful than that…

I had one of the best Indian meals in my life at Namaste Restaurant in Hanoi… I just tried everything that I was advised by ‘the Chef’ and they were all so good.

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It must have been not so difficult for Indians to become vegetarians they have such a wide variety of choices when it comes to vegetarian or vegan food. I told the family that I wanted to become a vegetarian. Just got this feeling recently… And perhaps 80% vegetarian is a better target as it is not easy to be a vegetarian when you are part of the food and service industry and especially when you live in the society where people show absolutely no respect for animals as many of them still think dog meat is a type of food to eat…

Despite of the cold and rain, the Hanoi trip was good for us, I still feel like I am a ‘tourist’ sometimes – it happens when you travel with people coming from different cultures who look at your culture in a different perspective…

Life is full of coincidences. And I think I must have made Mirjana super happy as well. She might probably thought that she was the only Croatian in Vietnam. We were walking along Nha Tho street where the St Joeseph’s is and I suddenly realised that I knew someone also from Croatia who lives in Hanoi. Coincidentally, they were all at the same place at a perfect timing and just good enough for me to get everyone from the small little Croatian ‘community’ to get introduced to each other in a short period of time. Mirjana was so happy that she couldn’t speak a word after the encounter with not only one Croatian guy but also another one and another guy who is Croatian’ son-in-law. She asked me as if I knew everyone in this city which just made me smile… I took a step back to think of another coincidence, it was about an Austrian man who I’ve got to know for quite some time and once we went for dinner together at Da Paolo Westlake, he was so surprised that he could hear the ‘Austrian’ sound from another man who was dining in the table right next to us…

I said to the Chef: “Hey Saju, I think just maybe, if someone thinks he/she is the only person who has ‘unique’ nationality in this city, they should come and see me as I will be able to help them find a friend who comes from their own state of origin…”

The Artistic Me

cropped-because1.jpgIf I were not a business woman, I would probably be an artist – like a musician or a singer.

I still think I am an artist and I’ve been somewhat living an artistic life. I very often think in music and just like what Albert Einstein said: “I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.”.

The only difference would be: I don’t do music for a living. I hold no degree in music and arts nor having a professional work permit to become a professional singer. But I started to sing since I was two – I was able to sing almost everything that I listened too, whether it was in Vietnamese, English, POP music, Rock or Country Folks. This often makes things a little more interesting while a seeing a Northern Vietnamese like me is able to find a sing a song that represents a region of Vietnam with a very local accent.  And I guess the most exciting part is when people start to question whether I originally come from a region where the song that I sing belongs to…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a particular talent in anything and absolutely not that I had a great voice or a great vocal (My vocal is down to Britney Spears’ level…), but I do feel like music turns me up whenever I feel down, but not every time in the most positive ways but I’m sure without it, my life will not be easier.

Some people like to talk about their problems – I would choose a song to sing then I solve mine:

22

One friend of mine gave me this book as a gift once we went to a bookstore together, by the time I was 22 years old and a few months.

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I did not believe in this book – like many other cases I often read on the newspapers as I think the authors simply select some special cases and coincidences then trying to relate them into reality. Brad Dunn’s When They Were 22 tells stories of many famous celebrities and their fateful events and choices that they made at all important age of 22. It was when Oprah Winfrey dropped out of college to become a newsreader in Nashville, and at 22 she moved to Baltimore to work at a station where she started her own talk show. Or like how Jack White had his own upholstery business at age 22, but while practicing the guitar he asked his wife, Meg, to try the drums and because he liked her playing so much, they began performing as a two-piece band, the White Stripes.

Brad concluded that most of us can point to one or two moments in our lives when everything changed, when a stroke of fate forever altered the future, or a single decision sparked a lifetime of consequences. It happened to many of those famous people when their lives changed forever at 22 than any other age. I did not want to believe in that, however, I am here today, one day before I turn 23, I have proved myself wrong and yes in the 22nd of your life, there is so much to talk about.

It’s the age that I realised there is no right – no wrong – no rules for me, I will just live, learn, work, love and experience. And I realised that: 

Everyone crosses your path by a mean, not by accident. And I am so glad that they’ve come to be part of my life – Many have cherished me with joy and love – I think of them as the greatest gifts and some gave me the lessons.

It is so important to have faith in life and in people just to make it easier every time you breath. I know it is not easy to trust people and trust is not something that you can easily give to everybody. But I also know, if you don’t trust anybody, never expect yourself even once to be trusted by other people, either. It was the first thing I learned from my Business Ethics class: Treat people the way you want to be treated, it’s simple as that.

I learned that escaping is never a solution. It has come to time that I think I needed to walk away from my home country; from the company that I am working at; from all the dramas and chaos of life that I have created myself. I just need to face it, every single one.

I don’t need a master’s degree. I know it’s always good if I have one – but what if I don’t? I guess it doesn’t really matter. It will only be dangerous when you stop learning… On top of that, I’ve still been applying almost every single lesson that I learned from my bachelor studies into my work & life and still have not been able to use them all yet…

ROE (Return On Experience) can be far more important than ROI (Return On Investment), and I am at the age that I will just need to learn, travel and experience.

Always tell the truth, so that I won’t have to remember what I said yesterday or the day before…

Everybody can be replaced so don’t ever take things for granted.

Breathing is important. Sometimes I know people are too busy and forget to breath.

At the age of 22, I am proud that: 

I can live in almost entire areas and I know I will be fine no matter what I do. I accept me for who I am, and I am glad of the person I have become. I don’t compare myself with anybody, I don’t compare my job to other people’s jobs. I know I am beautiful the way I am.

I might not be the smartest one in love, I’m not sure if we could find someone who is, but I do believe that no matter what decision I make in life, as long as I am an independent person and have a good will to live, I am always going to be okay.

I have decided what I wanted to do when I am 23, 24 and maybe for the rest of my life:

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Once Upon a Cow

Once I went to the bookstore with a good friend of mine who I have known for over 2 years. We often meet up once every few months to talk about work, life and to keep each other updated of how we do.

I don’t read much and this is why I remember every single book that I have read in my life. I’m not sure if it is a good thing. My friend and I coincidentally bought the exact same book for business called: “The Blue Ocean Strategies” as both of us think it could be very useful and because we both work in business development.

Me was looking around the bookshelves again to make sure I would not miss anything. And not too far from the ‘Blue Ocean’, I found a book with bright orange-cover and there was a milk cow. It’s called: “Once Upon a Cow”. I decided to take home both the “Cow” and the “Blue Ocean”.

During the next few months, I have seen a couple of times that several people were reading the “Blue Ocean” book. I met my friend again on one beautiful day and we naturally came back to the reading topic.

“So did you read the book? The Blue Ocean Strategies?” he asked. “Well!” I replied: ” I had started with the very first pages to understand the tittle of the book and I got so bored.

But now I know it is called the “Blue Ocean” because previously in business speaking terms, they have the “Red Ocean”. They are all about market competition. However, the difference is in the “Red Ocean”, competition means ‘killing’ each other in order to survive. In contrast, in the “Blue Ocean”, we focus on their own competitive advantages, focus on our ‘piece’ of the pie when it comes to market share and everybody lives happily ever after”. “How about you?” I asked.

 “Same”. He smiled.

“But I finished the other one, “Once Upon a Cow” and actually I found this is, in fact, a must-read”, I added.

The story starts with a quotation by an author named Anthony from Seattle, Washington:

I felt like most of the failures I had experienced were the direct or indirect result of other people’s actions. I always found myself blaming my spouse, my boss, my team, my parents, or anybody else for my setbacks. To this day, I think, in some of those instances I was correct. Maybe in others, I was just making excuses to cover my own mistakes and indecisions. However, what the story of the cow taught me was that whether they were at fault or not was completely irrelevant. I can’t go through life saying, “Honest, I wanted to succeed but it’s his fault I didn’t”, or “It is her fault for not doing her part”. I think accepting 100 percent of the responsibility of our own success is one of the greatest challenges we all have. The great thing is that once you do it, you don’t have to live with the constant torment of thinking that your failures and mishaps are somebody else’s fault. -Anthony, Seattle, Washington-

And here is the Story of the Cow:

Once upon a time, a wise and experienced teacher wanted to instruct one of his pupils on the secrets to living a happy and prosperous life. Knowing of the many unnecessary hurdles and difficulties most people face in their search for happiness, he thought the first lesson should be to explain why so many people live average and ordinary lives.

After all, thought the old man, too many men and women seem incapable of overcoming the obstacles that hinder their success and end up living unfulfilled and barely tolerable lives. The teacher knew that in order for the young man to comprehend this very important lesson, he would have to witness himself what happens when we allow mediocrity to rule our lives.

To teach these important lessons,  he decided to embark on a trip with his student to one of the most impoverished villages in their province. Misery and desolation prevailed throughout the region, and its inhabitants seemed to have resigned themselves to their lot in life.

Soon after they arrived, the teacher asked the young man to help him look for the poorest home in the area. That would be their refuge for the night.

After walking for a while, they reached the outskirts of town. And there, in the middle of nowhere, the two men stopped in front of the most dilapidated little shack they had ever set eyes on.

The structure, at the point of collapse, sat on the farthest edge of a small group of homes in the countryside. It belonged, without a doubt, to the poorest of families. The walls stood as if only by miracle, threatening at any moment to come tumbling down. Water filtered through an improvised roof that looked powerless to keep anything out, and all kinds of rubbish gathered against the walls of the house, adding to its decrepit appearance.

The owner, alerted by a small child to the presence of the two strangers, came out and greeted them warmly.

“Greetings to you, my good man” replied the teacher. “Might two tired travelers find shelter in your home for the night?”

“The place is crowded, but you are welcome to stay if you don’t mind”.

When the two men stepped inside, they were shocked to see that the miniscule space, not more than 150 square feet, was home to eight people. Father, mother, four children, and two grandparents did their best to concede each other a bit of space under the very cramped conditions.

Their unkempt and painfully tin bodies and ragged clothes were clear evidence of the scarcity that defined their everyday existence. Sad faces and bowed heads left no doubt that indigence had not only taken over their bodies but also taken root deep within them.

The two visitors couldn’t help but let their eyes wader around, questioning whether there was anything of any value in the midst of such destitution. There was nothing!

But as they stepped out of the house, they found they’d been mistaken. Curiously enough, the family had a most unusual possession – quite an extraordinary one under the circumstances. They owned a cow.

The animal was not much to look at, but the family’s everyday life and activities seemed to revolve around it. “Feed the cow”. “make sure the cow’s had enough water”. “Tie the cow up tight”. “Don’t forget to take the cow to pasture”. “Milk the cow”. You could say that the cow played a prominent role within the family, although the little milk she produced was barely enough to keep them alive.

Nevertheless, the cow seemed to serve an even bigger purpose: It was the only thing keeping them from complete and utter misery. In a place where everything seemed to be scarce, having such a prized possession had gained them the respect, if not the envy, of their neighbours.

And so it was there – among the grime and disarray – that teacher and student lay down to spend the night.

The next morning, before the break of dawn, being careful not to wake anyone, the two travelers set off to continue their journey.

The student looked around as if trying to take a mental picture of the grim conditions. To be perfectly honest, he was not certain why his teacher had brought him here. However, before starting out along the road, the elderly teacher whispered: “The time has come for you to learn the lesson that brings us to this dismal place”.

During their shot visit, they had witnessed a life of almost complete abandonment, but the young man was not at all clear on the cause of this family’s dreary existence. How had they allowed themselves to get to that point? What could have kept them there?

The teacher walked slowly toward the cow, which was tied to a wobbly fencepost no more than twenty yards from the house. When they were but a step away from the animal, he slipped a dagger from the sheath he carried. The student was puzzled. When the old man suddenly raised his arm, he was shocked by the realization of what was about to happen. He watched in disbelief as the teacher sliced clear through the cow’s throat with one swift movement. The fatal wound caused the animal to drop silently to the ground.

He was in a state of complete disbelief. “What have you done, Teacher?” he said, anguished but whispering so as not to wake the family. “How could you have killed this poor animal? What kind of lesson is this that will leave this family in certain and complete ruin? This was their only possession. What is going to become of them now?”

Not at all perturbed by the young man’s distress and ignoring his queries, the teacher proceeded to leave the gruesome scene behind, apparently indifferent to the fate awaiting the poor family at the loss of their animal. Still confused, the student followed a step behind, as they resumed their journey.

And so it was that this poor family was left to face an uncertain life, full of predicaments and the possibility of even greater misery.

During the following days, the student was haunted time and again by the frightful idea of what without their cow, the family would surely starve to death. What other conclusion could he possibly draw from the loss of their only source of sustenance? In the months that followed, he was often troubled by these thoughts and by the events of that dreadful morning.

A year went by, and one afternoon the teacher suggested that they return to the small village to find out what had become of the family. The mere mention of the seemingly long-forgotten episode was enough to reawaken in the student the vivid recollections of a lesson that, even after all this them, he had not yet fully understood.

Once again his mind was swamped with thoughts about the poor family and the role he had played in their fate. What could have become of them? Did they survive the heavy blow? Were they able to start a new life? He face them after his teacher had done? In spite of these upsetting thoughts, he reluctantly accepted on a journey that would cast new light on the previous year’s disturbing episode.

After many days of traveling, the two men reached the village. The searched in vain for the house. The surroundings appeared to be the same, but the shack where they had spent the night a year earlier was no longer there. Instead, a newer and much nicer house had been erected in the same spot. They stopped and looked past the structure in all dictions to make sure that they were indeed in the right place.

The young man feared that the death of the animal had been a blow far too difficult to overcome for that simple family. Perhaps they had been forced out of their property, and a new family a bit better off on their luck had taken over their land and built this new home. What else could have happened to them? Maybe the same had forced them away.

While these thoughts raced through his mind, he waved between wanting to find out what had happened to the family and simply continuing on his way, avoiding the unpleasant task of confirming his worst suspicions. He chose to find out – the needed to know – so he knocked at the door and waited.

After a short while, a very pleasant man came to open the door. At first the student did not recognize him. He couldn’t hind the shock on his face when he realised this was the same person who had given them shelter a year earlier. This was clearly the same man, but something was very different about them. He wore clean clothes and was well groomed. He had a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye. It was clear that something quite significant had happened in his life.

The young student could scarcely believe his eyes. How was this possible? What in the world could have happened in a year’s time? He rushed forward to greet the man and wasted no time in questioning him about the good fortune that had obviously come upon him and his family.

“Just a year ago, in our brief stopover here”, said the young man, “you seemed to be living in the most unfortunate and hopeless conditions. Please tell me what’s happened since then to change things so much. What was the cause of your good fortune?”

Ignorant of the fact that the two travelers had been responsible for the slaughter of his cow, the man invited them in and began to share an incredible story – one that would change the young man’s life forever.

He related how, coincidentally, the very day they had departed, some villain, probably envious of their scarce fortune, had savagely butchered the poor animal.

“I must confess”, said the man, “that our first reaction was one of complete desperation and anguish. For a long time, the milk from that cow was our only source of sustenance. Besides, that animal was our only possession; our lives depended on it. That cow was the centre of our everyday existence and, frankly, just owning it had given us a sense of security and earned us the respect of our neighbours.

“Shortly after that tragic day, we realised that unless we did something, we were very quickly going to go from bad to worse. We were at rock bottom without that animal. We needed to eat and feed our children. So we cleared a little patch in the dirt behind the house and planted a few seeds to grow some vegetables. That’s how we were able to survive those first months.

“After a while, we realised that the little garden was producing more food than we needed for ourselves. If we could sell the rest to our neighbours, we’d be able to buy more seed. So we did, and not long afterward, there was enough food for ourselves and plenty more to sell at the town market.

“Then it happened! Said the man almost cheerfully. “For the first time in our lives, we had some money for food and clothing. There and then we knew that there was hope for a new life, a life we had not anticipated or even dreamed possible. Last month we were able to build this small house. It’s as if the loss of our cow opened our eyes to a new and prosperous life”.

The young man was astounded by the story. Finally he understood the lesson that his bellowed teacher had meant to impart. It was suddenly obvious that the death of the cow had not, in fact, been the end of them, as he had feared, but the beginning of a new life full of better opportunities.

At the end of the story, the teacher told the student: “That’s what happens when you convince yourself that what little you have is more than enough. That thought alone becomes a heavy chain that prevents you from looking for something better. Complacency begins to rule your life. You learn to accept your circumstances in spite of being dissatisfied with them. You know you aren’t happy with where you are in life, but you aren’t completely miserable either. You’re frustrated with the life you’ve been dealt but not disturbed enough to do something about it…”

Once Upon a Cow: Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing but Success - By Camilo Cruz Ph.D
Once Upon a Cow: Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing but Success – By Camilo Cruz Ph.D

The moral is:

We all have cows (excuses and justifications) for not doing what we really want to do. Our comfort zone becomes the chain keeping us attached to a life of mediocrity. So find the cows and kill the cows, which is to eliminate excuses and setting for nothing but a better version of yourselves.

Chiếc Lá Đầu Tiên

“Mình sẽ quay trở lại trời Tây vào một ngày nắng đẹp hoặc tuyết trắng nào đấy để ngắm nhìn phong cảnh nơi đấy nhưng có lẽ chưa phải bây giờ”.

Hôm nay lại như bao ngày khác mình trở về nhà và thấy sự mệt mỏi hiện lên một số gương mặt quen thuộc. Vì cuộc sống ở nhà theo mọi người là quá mệt mỏi và mình thì không chịu nghe lời. Nhiều người nói mình không muốn sướng. Và vì nhiều lý do. Dù sao thì mình cũng có rất nhiều dự định muốn thực hiện chính tại nơi được sinh ra như thế này nên bây giờ phải nói thế nào nhỉ, chắc là “khổ quen rồi, sướng quá không chịu được đâu”. Mình sẽ quay trở lại trời Tây vào một ngày nắng đẹp hoặc tuyết trắng nào đấy để ngắm nhìn phong cảnh nơi đấy nhưng có lẽ chưa phải bây giờ.

Lý do mình viết blog này, thực sự muốn truyền tải một thông điệp tới…càng nhiều người càng tốt. Rằng ở đâu cũng sẽ như vậy cả thôi, nó hoàn toàn phụ thuộc vào suy nghĩ của mỗi người. Mọi người ở “Tây” hay ở “Ta”, kết hôn hay còn độc thân, giàu có hay là “nghèo bình thường” thì miễn người ta thấy vui là được. Nhiều lúc, ví dụ như bây giờ, mình đang thấy rất vui và hào hứng, vậy thì chỉ mong ít nhất những người xung quanh, đừng chỉ vì những ý kiến chủ quan của mỗi người mà khiến mình phải đánh mất luôn cả niềm vui mà bản thân mãi mới tìm thấy được…

Trong suốt hơn 2 năm về nhà, mình hỏi bản thân đến cả chục lần, có thật là đã về nước rồi không? Nếu giấc mơ của hàng chục ngàn người là “thoát ly” khỏi cái đất nước này thì mình về làm gì nhỉ? Xây dựng đất nước à? Xa xôi thế, chắc chẳng đến lượt đâu. Hay là đi học thạc sĩ? Hay là thế này? Hay là thế kia? Thôi kệ, mình quyết định dành thời gian trải nghiệm, làm việc, học tập trên chính quê hương của mình và nhận thấy rằng cuộc sống này đâu đến nỗi tệ như mọi người vẫn nói. Mình có dẫn chứng mấy câu chuyện ở dưới đây:

Câu chuyện thứ nhất: Cô chú hàng xóm

Không những ở cùng một tòa chung cư mà còn ở cùng một tầng nữa nên do chơi thân với bố mẹ, hai nhà vẫn qua lại rất thân thiết, thỉnh thoảng tổ chức ăn uống chung. Chú “hàng xóm” này hầu như tối nào cũng qua chơi với bố. Cô chú ấy quan tâm đến bố mẹ mình chẳng khác nào anh chị em ruột. Nhiều lúc mình cũng biết là bản thân thực sự vô tâm và không giỏi trong khoản quan tâm chăm sóc bố mẹ thì chính cô chú ấy lại giúp động viên bố mẹ phần nào. Thực sự ngoài bố mình ra thì chú ấy cũng tuyệt vời chẳng kém. Thường thì mỗi người có một ưu thế riêng. Mình nói với vợ chú ấy là: ” Cháu thấy chú nhà cô là tuyệt vời nhất rồi đấy. Thực sự là cháu rất ít khi gặp được một người đàn ông Việt Nam nào như chú ấy, lúc nào cũng làm chủ mọi tình huống…” Nếu chú ấy biết chú ấy phải lái xe thì nhất định sẽ không để mình bị say rượu. Cơ bản là vì chú ấy cũng không uống được nhiều rượu và cũng chẳng thích uống rượu hay tụ tập chỗ đông người. Vợ chú ấy nói là “Điều này thì cô đồng ý, nhưng nếu thỉnh thoảng chú nhà cô mà được như bố cháu, ăn nói nhẹ nhàng hơn thì tốt quá rồi…” Nhưng tất nhiên, chẳng có ai là hoàn hảo cả. Mình thích cô chú ấy ở nhiều khía cạnh dù là trong việc duy trì cuộc sống hôn nhân hay trong vai trò dạy dỗ con gái. Đặc biệt là đối với “cô hàng xóm” này, lúc nào mình cũng coi cô ấy là một người bạn lớn, ngoài sở thích về thời trang, thỉnh thoảng hai cô cháu ngồi tâm sự và động viên nhau, dù cuộc sống nó có khó khăn như thế nào thì vẫn nên tiếp tục suy nghĩ tích cực hơn về cuộc sống.

Câu chuyện thứ hai: Bạn thực tập sinh

Có những thời điểm mình nghĩ, hay là chuyển vào Sài Gòn sống nhỉ nếu ngoài Hà Nội này ngột ngạt như thế? Xong rồi nghĩ lại, Sài Gòn hay Đà Nẵng, Mỹ, Anh, Úc hay Phần Lan… thì giải quyết được cái gì? Mình không thích chạy trốn kiểu đấy. Cũng chẳng phải mình cố gắng cứng đầu cứng cổ làm gì. Nhưng không phải sao? Chỉ cần mình thấy ổn là được. Thì ngày hôm nay, mình lại gặp lại một cô “em gái”. Bạn này trước đây do chính mình nhận làm thực tập ở công ty đang làm. Em ấy tốt nghiệp từ một trong những trường đại học danh tiếng bậc nhất Việt Nam và đã từng nuôi dưỡng niềm đam mê “Big Four”, nhưng không hiểu lý do gì lại đầu quân vào thực tập một công ty “bé” như công ty mình. Bây giờ em ấy lớn hơn nhiều rồi, được đào tạo để trở thành “cán bộ nguồn” từ một trong các chương trình đào tạo “danh giá nhất của ngành ngân hàng, em ấy nói là: “Em thấy có nhiều cái không ổn, em chỉ cố gắng để không bị cuốn vào vòng xoáy của những người có cùng hướng suy nghĩ theo lối mòn. Nhiều lúc em cũng nghĩ là sẽ bỏ cuộc, nhưng em nghĩ là em không nên từ bỏ chỉ vì em chán, như thế thì không đáng, ít nhất em cũng phải đạt được một thành tựu gì đấy trong chương trình đào tạo này vậy nên em sẽ không bỏ cuộc đâu…”.

Câu chuyện thứ ba: Lớp học viết Tiếng Anh của thầy Nam (Mr Nam’s writing class) 

Thầy Nam này thì mình nói thật là chưa gặp bao giờ. Nhưng nghe học trò của thầy ấy kể lại và mình cũng thấy ngưỡng mộ vì chẳng mấy khi gặp được mấy người cá tính. Nghe nói thầy này học ở Mỹ về, ngoài việc dạy Tiếng Anh thì còn dạy học sinh uống rượu bia và đi club… Nói cho vui vậy thôi, anh này chắc chắn là thích pha chế rượu và đồ uống nên thỉnh thoảng có truyền lại một số bí kíp để truyền lại cho học trò, đặc biệt là các bạn đang học tiếng Anh để rồi “đem chuông đi đánh xứ người”. Vì không rõ về tiểu sử của thầy này lắm nên không dám bàn bạc gì nhiều nhưng với những người thay vì được xuất hiện trên TV và kiếm được bội tiền từ những chuyến đi quay phóng sự lại dành thời gian ngồi sửa mấy bản sơ yếu lý lịch của “bọn sinh viên” xong ngồi hướng nghiệp cho bọn trẻ – những cái chẳng có liên quan đến công việc của thầy thì cũng chẳng có mấy người…

Câu chuyện thứ tư: The Note Coffee – Post-it Love

Mình biết anh Tiến với chị Huyền từ trước cái ngày tận thế. Nói như vậy là vì hồi đấy hai anh chị ấy đang tìm kiếm các đối tác và nhà cung cấp để mở một quán cà phê và bánh ngọt và muốn mở cửa đúng vào 21/12/2012 (mỗi tội là đến lúc mở thì bị chậm hơn so với dự kiến nên có thể coi là may mắn sống sót sau ngày tận thế). Nói đến đây thì chắc phải đi xin lỗi hai anh chị ấy vì ban đầu do không biết ý tưởng kinh doanh cụ thể ra sao nên cứ nghĩ trong đầu là “chắc chẳng có gì đặc biệt đâu”. Xong đến lúc anh chị ấy mở The Note ra rồi, mình thực sự rất chi là…thích cái quán đấy 😦 Thế nên là cứ mỗi lần có bạn từ đâu xa đến là mình lại đưa vào Note. Một phần vì nó nằm ngay tại trung tâm thành phố (Hà Nội Km0), và một phần nữa là, khi vào đến đây rồi, người ta thấy yêu Hà Nội hơn. Mình thích làm cho người ta yêu Hà Nội – nơi mà mình đang sống, và kể cả sau này có không sống ở đây nữa thì mảnh đất nào cũng đáng được yêu. Mình nghĩ thế. Nếu ai chưa có cơ hội ghé qua The Note Coffee, 64 Lương Văn Can, Hà Nội thì mọi người ghé qua thử xem nhé. Quán này không lớn, nếu không muốn nói là nhỏ xíu, có 3 tầng. Đồ uống cũng không thua kém bất kỳ quán cà phê nào tại Hà Nội mà dịch vụ thì cứ phải nói là… tốt hơn nhiều. Phần đa ai cũng nói được cả Tiếng Anh và đặc biệt là ai cũng biết cười mới sợ chứ. Rất nhiều người thích đến đây để “trút bầu tâm sự” qua những dòng Note đủ sắc màu mà thỉnh thoảng đọc cũng thấy hơi sến nhưng mà nhìn chung là vui và thấy đẹp. Nhiều người còn biết đến “Note” qua các hoạt động “1 giờ học tiếng anh” tại câu lạc bộ Tiếng Anh thứ Hai hàng tuần tại đây hay các buổi dọn vệ sinh quanh khu vực Bờ Hồ vào các buổi sáng cuối tuần. Mình tin chắc là “Note” không chỉ đặc biệt với mình mà còn với rất nhiều người nữa.

The Note Coffee

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Có bạn gửi nhầm địa chỉ cho bạn Camellia Dinh thì phải 😀
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Bị bắt quả tang ngồi…viết Note. Câu này có nghĩa là: Mọi chuyện rồi sẽ đều sẽ kết thúc ổn thỏa, nếu bạn vẫn chưa thấy ổn, vậy là vẫn chưa phải hồi kết”.

Câu chuyện Tòhe: Chuyện của những người lớn thích làm trẻ con!

Nếu có ai đã từng đọc “Hoàng Tử Bé” thì sẽ biết được Antoine de Saint Exupéry đã cẩn thận đặt lời tựa cho cuốn sách của mình là “Viết cho những người lớn từng là trẻ con. Mặc dù thoạt nhìn câu chuyện này không khác gì một cuốn sách thiếu nhi có hình minh họa kể về cậu bé tóc vàng du hành qua các vì sao, đi tìm kiếm một người bạn và ý nghĩa thật sự cho cuộc đời mình. Sau khi đi qua các hành tinh và cảm thấy mệt mỏi với việc gặp gỡ quá nhiều “người lớn” vì họ rất kỳ lạ. Người lớn có lúc là một ông vua trên một hành tinh nên luôn cho rằng quyền lực của mình là tuyệt đối. Người lớn đôi khi thật hợm hĩnh chỉ nghe được những lời tán tụng mình. Người lớn được quyền uống rượu nên uống để say, uống để quên, quên là mình xấu hổ, xấu hổ vì mình đã uống rượu. Thật là một vòng luẩn quẩn. Tự làm khổ chính bản thân mình. Người lớn là một doanh nhân luôn cho mình là người bận rộn, hàng ngày ông đếm những vì sao và cho rằng chúng là của mình. Người lớn đôi khi là một nhà địa lý, luôn tự cho rằng mình biết tất cả mọi thứ nhưng thật ra lại chẳng biết gì. Bởi lẽ, “nhà địa lý quá quan trọng để đi đây đi đó, ông ta không bao giờ rời khỏi bàn làm việc”.Người lớn luôn cho rằng mình biết tất cả mọi thứ thế nhưng “Những người lớn chẳng bao giờ tự họ hiểu được cái gì cả, và thật là mệt cho trẻ con lúc nào cũng phải giải thích cho họ”.

Từ nãy đến giờ mải mê kể chuyện Hoàng Tử Bé mà chút nữa quên luôn chuyện Tòhe. Chuyện Tòhe cũng đơn giản và dễ hiểu thôi. Chuyện là anh Nguyên và chị Ngân nhà nọ mặc dù lớn rồi có đến hai đứa con (nếu lấy tuổi hai bạn trẻ cộng vào cũng được đến tính bằng một đứa tuổi “teen” rồi) nhưng không lo làm chuyện người lớn mà suốt ngày đi sưu tập tranh của bọn trẻ con xong rồi mang đi in ấn thành sản phẩm rồi đi bán. Một lần nọ khoảng hơn 2 năm về trước bị mình bắt gặp ở Tô Ngọc Vân vì mở cửa hàng ngay gần công ty mình. Mình có chụp ảnh để làm bằng chứng về sự “rảnh rỗi” của hai người này và cả một nhóm người thích làm trẻ con kia nữa.

Tò He Style
Tòhe Style

Tò He Workshop - Nguyễn Chí Thanh, Hà Nội

world smile
World Smile Day 2014 @ Tòhe

Thực ra mình nói vậy thôi chứ các “cán bọ” của Tòhe ko rảnh như thế đâu. Để đạt được thành quả như bây giờ, là một trong những doanh nghiệp xã hội lớn nhất Việt Nam, các anh, các chị, các bạn ấy đã đi trực tiếp tới các địa phương và phối hợp với các nhóm tình nguyện tổ chức các lớp hướng dẫn sáng tạo cho các bạn trẻ em tại trung tâm khuyết tật, mồ côi hoặc các bệnh nhi mắc bệnh hiểm nghèo tại các bệnh viện để các em có cơ hội vui chơi và giao lưu. Các tác phẩm của các em sau này được các nhà thiết kế của Tòhe chọn lọc và sử dụng để in lên các sản phẩm như quần áo, phụ kiện và 1001 thứ mà các đồng chí ấy nghĩ ra được.

Mình thì yêu Tòhe chắc chỉ kém các anh chị và các bạn kia một tí thôi vì mình mới biết Tòhe được hơn 2 năm. Ban đầu lúc mới vào đấy nói thật là chẳng mua được gì mặc dù nhìn thấy cái gì cũng hay hay với tinh thần 100% hồn nhiên nhưng mà tính thực tiễn thì không cao. Về sau Tòhe cũng biết được điều này nên không ngừng điều chỉnh và đổi mới. Hậu quả là mình vừa là đối tác lại vừa thành khách V.I.P của Tòhe lúc nào không hay. Bị đánh giá là một trong những đứa “cuồng’ Tòhe, mình chắc chắn mình là một trong số ít các khách hàng có một bộ sưu tập các sản phẩm của Tòhe không hề nhỏ.

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Túi đi du lịch ưa thích của mình
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Áo Dài Tò He

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Nhưng tại sao lại là “Tòhe” nhỉ? Ngày xửa ngày xưa, người Việt Nam mình cứ nhắc đến tò he là nghĩ đến một loại đồ chơi dân gian truyền thống cho trẻ em được làm bằng bột gạo và phẩm màu tự nhiên mà sau khi CHƠI xong các em có thể ĂN được. Nhận thấy ý nghĩa của đồ chơi này rất gần với ý nghĩa của dự án đó là vừa tạo cơ hội cho các bạn nhỏ vui chơi vừa giúp các em hưởng lợi từ các hoạt động vui chơi từ chính các thành quả sáng tạo của mình, cái tên “Tòhe” cũng chính vì vậy được sử dụng để trở thành tên dự án và đồng thời trở thành tên thương hiệu cho dòng sản phẩm đặc biệt này.

Mình thực sự rất cảm ơn Tòhe vì còn quá nhiều điều cần học hỏi từ doanh nghiệp xã hội này. Cảm ơn “chủ tịt” Nguyên, “dám đốc” Ngân, “cán bọ” Ngọc, “cán bọ” Loan và tất cả các “cán bọ” Tòhe vì đã mang đến một sân chơi mới sáng tạo và bổ ích cho các bạn trẻ con và cả trẻ lớn như mình hoặc hơn mình nữa. Đối với các bạn theo học ngành kinh tế, các bạn có thể dành chút thời gian nghiên cứu về khái nghiệm về “các dự án kinh tế sáng tạo” (trong Tiếng Anh là “Creative Economy” từ các doanh nghiệp tương tự như Tòhe, sẽ thấy thú vị lắm đấy.

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Tập tành với bóng bay nghệ thuật tại làng trẻ em Thụy An, Ba Vì

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Tohe’s Kidstallation – Nghệ thuật sắp đặt tại Tò He Indo China Tower, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội

tohe

Câu chuyện Tòhe của mình vẫn chưa kết thúc mà mình bỗng nhận thấy là mình đã viết quá dài, đến tận 5 câu chuyện khác nhau rồi mà vẫn còn vài câu chuyện nữa để kể. Nói tóm lại là, cuộc sống này nó vẫn đẹp và công bằng trên một khía cạnh nào đấy. Người ta vẫn nói là có hai cách để suy nghĩ về cuộc sống này, một là sẽ chẳng có điều kỳ diệu nào xảy ra trên thế giới này, hoặc hai là, bất kỳ điều gì xảy ra trên thế giới này đều là những điều kỳ diệu. Mọi người cùng suy ngẫm nhé. Còn dưới đây là đoạn kết trong Hoàng Tử Bé:

Mỗi người đều có các ngôi sao của riêng mình. Với người đi xa, chúng là sao dẫn đường. Với một số người, chúng chẳng khác gì những đốm sáng. Với những ai thông thái, chúng là các vấn đề. Với vị thương nhân, chúng là một kho báu. Nhưng tất cả các ngôi sao đó đều câm lặng. Chỉ riêng chú sẽ có các vì sao không ai có được… Ban đêm khi chú nhìn trời, vì có cháu sống trên một ngôi sao nào đó, vì có cháu cười trên một ngôi sao nào đó, cho nên với chú, tất cả các ngôi sao đều cười. Riêng chú sẽ có các ngôi sao biết cười“.

Ngày hôm nay, sau khi chứng kiến những vẻ mặt lo âu, mệt mỏi kia, mình quyết định không giải thích gì thêm nữa và sẽ để thời gian trả lời. Cũng chẳng lâu nữa đâu. Vậy nên hiện tại vì có rất nhiều thứ để nói, nhưng không nói được gì nên ngồi nghe nhạc. Bài hát của ngày hôm nay là “Chiếc lá đầu tiên” của nhạc sĩ Tuấn Khanh, mình thích từng câu từng chữ trong bài này tuy nhiên có hai câu mà mình đặc biệt thích:

“Hỡi chiếc lá nào bay về trời, có gửi lời với tôi:

Hãy giữ lấy giùm tôi nụ cười, và đức tin ở con người”

Bản cover này mình cũng thích hơn bản gốc nữa. Chúc các bạn vui!