On Gift Giving (Enhancing It)

Today is Christmas Eve and everyone is grabbing their last minute items for friends, family, and relatives. Christmas celebration is a time to unite together by enjoying the people closest to us.

However, it feels like we lost the interpretation of the Christmas spirit somewhere along the way.

It’s great to see people buying gifts for one another out of tradition. Unfortunately, it feels as though many people stress out over trying to find the “perfect” gift for each and every person.

Here are some ways we can reclaim the art of gift giving:

Accept the fact that you may get the wrong size or item for a particular person. This is why they made return and exchange receipts for a reason.

Enjoy the process. It’s fun to think in another person’s shoes to figure out what they enjoy.

Most importantly, we can give year round. During Valentine’s Day we hand out Valentine’s cards to those we want to date. On Halloween we hand out candy to strangers. On Christmas we share gifts with others.

Perhaps we can do way more. We can build new traditions.

Give gifts year round with these ideas. Give out high fives for an hour. Compliment strangers to brighten their day. Give monthly donations to charity. Share deep conversations with your close friends over coffee or beer. Hand out novels to people to help them acquire more knowledge. Send your favorite websites to those close to you.

Make gift giving a permanent part of your life instead of waiting for a particular day to do it out of obligation. Do it frequently and you’re making a difference in the world. Even if the difference is microscopic in relation to the world’s magnitude and scope, every gift is a blessing.

Ask (Small Stories with Small Victories)

An old friend liked one of my recent statuses on Facebook yesterday.

I asked myself, “What is holding me back from catching up with this friend?”

Nothing is holding me back.

I wrote a Facebook message and asked to hang out. The old friend agreed.


The vending machine ate my two dollars. I waited for a couple of minutes to decide what to do.

Someone else put their two dollars in the vending machine.

They ended up receiving their drink of choice and my drink.

I quickly asked to get the other drink since it was actually mine. They gave it to me right away.


I was at the bookstore and one of my favorite books had $7.50 written on its inner cover. I looked at my wallet and there was only $5 inside.

I brought the book up to the cash register and the cashier rang it up. I asked him politely, “Hi, I’d like to buy this book for $5. It is the most I am willing to offer and I feel it is reasonable enough to gain a profit. I know you got this book used and I know you’d like someone like me to buy it. I need to drive home as well.”

The cashier stared at me for a couple of seconds and told me, “If you sell your soul for the other $2.50 then we have a deal” as he changed the price to $5. I gave him the $5 and thanked him. He smiled back.


I asked a girl on Twitter if her soul animal was a tiger. She had that feisty personality. She also had Tigers all over her social media accounts. I was curious to see what would happen when I asked based off of curiosity.

She replied and sent me a Tiger picture. We continued talking and she asked me in return to help me with a particular project. Who knew asking about Tigers creates an opportunity.


I asked a friend about one of their friends who ended up going to my university. She was writing on her friend’s page. I figured I could network and sent a message over to the other friend who was going to my university. We still keep in contact to this day because I asked.


Every single event happened because I asked. The world isn’t going to hand you small victories. Just like any vision or cause, the small victories take some effort as well. Asking is a small task that allows clarification, opportunity, and fun. It lets positive randomness in. Go out and ask. The benefits can be small or large. Asking lets those benefits happen.

On Belonging (Or the Realization at Starbucks)

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” -Sir Cecil Beaton

March 22nd, 2012. Davis, California. 3:15PM.

Maybe I’m fooling myself.

I say to myself, “I’m probably sure that’s another flake” as I sit down on the counter.

I’m seated inside a Starbucks. There’s a line of ten students that crawls through the tables. There’s the counter I’m sitting at. There’s a sofa as well. To my right, around five folks are waiting to receive their drink.

I hear, “Next!”

People are studying for their exams. Some of them are eating food and sipping on their Starbucks drinks. There are around thirty folks in the area. I don’t want to bother any of them.

“Caramel Macchiato!”

I just finished my exams and I was going to meet up with someone. I give her a call. No luck since her phone is dead. “That’s alright.”

Stress is hanging in the air. It feels like thick dread. Everyone wants this week to be over.

“Iced Coffee! Make it two!”

I decide to sit here for half an hour because my bus doesn’t come for another 30 minutes anyways.


Looking straight ahead, a girl is finishing her coffee.

Looking even farther ahead, many of the people in line have their iPhones out. One of the girls has been in line for about 10 minutes now. She’s next.

I wonder what she’ll order.

“Skinny latte!”

I doubt she’ll get that. She doesn’t seem like the type.

Everyone looks dazed or bored. Even the guy at one of the other tables is eating his gyro plate really slowly.

I wonder how everyone’s grades are. Will they get the GPA they want? Will they stress out when they have shortcomings? Will they bask in massive parties either way? What will they do for spring break?


Everyone marches one pace forward. The girl in front walks up.

She ends up getting a Naked juice from the prepared drinks area next to the cashier. I never would have guessed that.

More drinks are called out. I’m still here.

A girl glares at me for a second then attends her textbook again. I wonder if she’s bored out of her mind. That’s too bad. I’m not in the mood to approach. She’s my type but I’m not up for it. Not now.


The line marches another pace forward.

The line never really dies down. Another person or two fill it up once the cashier rings up one or two people. Interesting cycle.

I notice a clique of four people behind the line chatting to one another. I also notice another clique of three next to them.

I think, this is what I’m giving up. I don’t get to have that.

It’s nice for it to be in front of me most of the time I’m on campus. All the cliques and subgroups that people enjoy. The Chinese exchange students, the sorority girls, the hipsters, etc.

All of them can broadly understand one another.

“White Mocha!”

All of the previous times I’ve been here, I’ve heard the same conversation over and over.

“Hey, how is your x class?”
“It’s going okay. You?”
“Yeah it’s cool.”

Sure, the majors are different. The classes are different. The time is different. But is it really that different?

Maybe some majors have to work harder than others but everyone has a general pattern.

The days tend to blend into one another. Wake up, bus or bike to class, go to internship or job (if they have one), study somewhat, hangout with their group of friends, and if the weekend is on the horizon, go to a party or bar. After every few weeks, study more since the exam is coming up.

I do that too. Maybe I’m just bored.


To fight the boredom, I try to chat with strangers now. That’s the thing that keeps it fresh. It keeps college interesting.

I like making people smile. I like giving compliments. I like chatting for a minute about style. I like teasing and flirting just like a friend would.. I like talking about sports just like a bro would.

Yet nobody understands why I chat with them. They’re fleeting interactions and they’ll go on their way. They’ll go on with their lives.

“Caramel Frappuccino!”

Maybe I’m trying to slightly break their routine. Maybe there’s a moment where they can stop looking at their iPhones so much and talk face to face with a real human being.

I suppose it takes too much effort. Humans are well-known to take the easiest path. Why talk to that cute girl when the cute girl in your clique is easiest to flirt with and date?

Maybe it’s because people truly feel comfortable with themselves. They understand and like their identities. They enjoy the comfort that their clique brings.

It’s not comfortable to go up to somebody random and chat with them. It’s actually difficult, especially in the beginning. There has to be context usually. A friend of a friend or a common interest.

It comes down to the greatest disease of people my age: The fear of awkwardness.

People would rather pass that great opportunity to connect with a stranger than to feel awkward. It’s easier to grab their iPhones and read their Facebook news feed.


Maybe I’m the only one who randomly chats with people.

People don’t understand the openness of the world once you can potentially talk to anybody. It’s adding in the element of randomness. It’s free fun and enjoyment.

Why don’t people leave their cliques?

Because it means you won’t be understood. Belonging is an essential need.

The rush of sadness comes through.

The feeling of belonging and being understood is what I’ll have to give up.

Staying in one clique would be the safe play. It would make my life easier. Joining a club or group would make things infinitely easy.

But I chat with strangers. I enjoy meeting folks that look terribly different from me. I enjoy traveling through people.

It’s a challenge because you may not be welcomed. People enjoy their comfortable social bubbles.

Maybe I’m fooling myself with this whole connectivity thing. Still, it’s worth a shot.

I must keep going to see if it’s possible.

To fall in love with this art form is something few will understand, but this imaginative vision must be attempted.

I smile as I walk out of Starbucks and towards my bus.

Even though I got flaked,


[Disclaimer: This entry is inspired from Sebastian Marshall’s The Million Dollar Question Post. With e-mail permission, I wrote in ode to that amazing piece.]

Fighting Cynicism (Or Why I Do Experiments)

“All I ask of you is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism- it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

A few people asked me, “Why do you want to create Awkward Moments? What’s the purpose?”


The problem:

I created five years (2006-2010) of extremely well-wired cynicism into my brain.

The cynicism ate me alive in the beginning of 2010 because my brain couldn’t turn off. It judged every moving thing. You know there’s a problem when you’re saying, “What a pathetic tree, just standing there, swaying with the wind.”

I had labels, judgments, and generalizations for everything much of the time.

I projected my cynicism unto others and ended up assuming they were thinking negatively about me. It was a feedback loop of self-destruction.

When you lack confidence, you end up becoming cynical to protect yourself from perceived harm. You’re trying to protect your own ego because it’s vulnerable.

The cynicism isolated me. I was sick of that.


The solution:

When I created this blog, I decided to see if people would react well if I talked to them.

-During Fall 2010, I talked to five random strangers to see how they would react to me talking to them. It didn’t feel so bad after all. In fact, it felt great. Even if it was incredibly awkward at times, I finally figured out that people aren’t out to get you!

-After learning about Rejection Therapy during Winter break, I got rejected everyday for 71 or so days. People were extremely polite. They wanted to talk because they were bored. I shared stories and energy with people. It was a humbling experience.

-Summer opened my mind to so many different bloggers going through all their challenges as well. I connected really well with them.

I opened my mind enough to stop judging people. Look what happened.

There has been so much connection with little downside. I’ve met people like Mark, Rhina, Abigail, Matt, Ken, Niall, Dena, and everyone else I didn’t mention because I opened up shop on this blog and gave them a shot.

In only 18 months, I went from keeping myself locked up to freeing myself to others.

I do things outside of my comfort zone to stop being cynical, welcome interaction, and to show everyone that going outside one’s own comfort zone can spice life up.

The Best Tip for Lengthy Challenges

When I woke up yesterday (Monday, Sept. 19), I could feel the nerves starting to come. I was about to say, “What did I get myself into?” Then I smiled because I remembered the best way to begin with challenges like this.

There’s a tip I want to share that always helps me when I’m having last minute resistance towards anything that’s challenging.


Day 1 of Awkward Moments

I looked at my schedule again and realized school doesn’t begin until later in the week. Now that’s hilarious.

Therefore, I decided to get my groceries and other essential things.

I looked at my orange shoes and knew what I was going to do.

Last month, I bought bright neon green shoelaces to complement those orange shoes.

I quickly changed the shoelaces and they looked funnier.

I decided to go out in my pajamas with oranges sneakers that have neon green shoelaces.

-A mint green shirt that has a faded logo.
-Blue shorts that are a bit short.
-The orange shoes + neon green shoelaces.

I went to three locations: The gas station, the convenience store, and the supermarket to finish all of my errands.

At the convenience store, I could feel the anxiety start to spread through my body. So I walked towards people. I didn’t have to talk to them but I decided to walk towards them to remind myself that they’re not a threat and their judgments aren’t a threat.

When I was close, I stopped for a second, smiled, and walked on.

-A family of three looking for soap.
-Ten girls standing idly by the exit.
-Anyone who looked at me and my shoes.

It felt awkward to my body and brain. My brain was like, “Go away Matt” but I kept walking towards people and smiling in the most respectful way that I could.


So the tip is: Start small, really small. If you try to do the most ridiculous idea you have in your mind on day one, you’ll freeze up. If you start small then you’ll actually do it and feel progress.

As you get more confident with actual progress then that’ll be the momentum you need for doing bigger and bolder tasks later on in the challenge.