My Battle With Honesty and Personal Gain

A few years ago I attempted to create an online business. It was a website called Smart Archery. In it, I reviewed crossbows. It made money through affiliate links.

I went through many challenges during this project. I had to learn how to make a website, then how to write, how to sell, how to SEO, and more. The biggest challenge for me, however, was the fact that I had to lie. I had to pretend I was an authority in a niche that I had no experience in.

I only chose this niche because, through my research, it seemed like a good one to enter — the products were expensive (which means high commissions) and the competition was low.

I saw so many people in the affiliate marketing space become very successful even though they had no previous knowledge or interest in their chosen niche, so I thought “why not me?”

At the time I was only thinking about that sweet, sweet passive income. I didn’t realize how much I would have to pretend, and subsequently, how much it would discourage me.

Every time I finished an article, I felt like my soul had died a bit. Yes, I did tons of research to make the review as accurate as possible. But the people that read about the products want to read from an authority, from someone who actually tried the product. They want social proof. And if they knew who had written it, if they knew the truth, they wouldn’t take it seriously. And rightly so.

Because every step took a lot out of me, I was never able to get out of the “valley of despair” that entrepreneurs speak of. Eventually I passed the website to someone who had more expertise and passion in the niche.

From then on, I decided that I want to honor my need to be honest. That’s why I decided to be an open book in my blog. I have this rule where, if I don’t feel comfortable disclosing something here, then I shouldn’t do it.

Although I may have done the wrong thing by pretending I’m someone I’m not, I’m extremely grateful for what I learned by doing the project. There’s the technical knowledge, but the biggest thing I learned is about myself: I don’t want to be part of anything in which I need to lie to either get ahead or keep things from falling apart.

Was moving to the U.S. worth it?

I recently got the chance to visit Mexico for the first time in 15 years. This is the place where I was born, and where I spent the first 10 years of my life. As you can imagine, I was very emotional during this trip. 

To get reacquainted with the places and people that used to be part of my life was such a special experience. So many thoughts and emotions (both negative and positive) finally resurfaced. It was overwhelming. Throughout all of this, there was one question on my mind, a question that has been bugging me ever since I set foot in America: was it worth it? Was moving to the US worth leaving behind everything I cherished at the time? 

That’s what I’d like to explore with this post.

I remember very clearly the day I left Mexico. I remember because I desperately didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be far away from everything I cherished: my extended family whom I was very close with, my neighborhood which was filled with kids to play with, the Sunday gatherings with my dad’s side of the family, and more. 

That night when I arrived in Minnesota, I remember crying myself to sleep. And many nights after that. In those early days, I would have done anything to go back. 

But as time passed, I slowly became numb to that desire. I started to forget what Mexico meant to me. Call it a coping mechanism. I also grew accustomed to my new environment and culture. So much so that I eventually started saying “no” to the question, “would you like to go back to Mexico?” I guess I stopped valuing the things I used to value. My 10 year-old self would be very sad about this. And for a long time I felt a great amount of guilt for it. 

It’s clear that I’m not the same person I would have been if my parents never took me here. Whether that’s for better or for worse I honestly don’t know. If I stayed, would I still gain an interest in philosophy, or would I be less of a critical thinker? Would I be the shy person that I am today, or would I be more outgoing? Would I still believe in the importance of peaceful parenting, or would I have continued the tradition of threats and violence once I have kids? It’s hard to say whether these things that are core to who I am today would still be here. 

Then there’s the question of what kinds of opportunities and freedoms I would or wouldn’t have if I had stayed in Mexico. I think it is safe to say that in those terms I’m better off in America. However, I wouldn’t say it’s by that much. In fact, this visit opened my eyes to the fact that Mexico wasn’t the underdeveloped country I previously thought it was. I was actually surprised at how modern the cities were and how much flourishing is going on.

By the way, I highly recommend visiting Monterrey — the combination of skyscrapers and mountains make for such a beautiful city. I definitely wouldn’t mind living there. 

Sure, there may be more poverty in Mexico, and you do have to be more vigilant of thieves, but when I look at the lives that my cousins lead, it is honestly not that bad. In many cases it’s indistinguishable from life in America. As I got to know them, it’s clear that they have a great life ahead of them — one with plenty of opportunities, but more importantly, a great family that they love.

Before this trip I would have said that I was better off living in the US, but after seeing my cousins, and seeing how happy they are to be surrounded by their family, I’m not so sure anymore. If I had to answer the question right now, I’d say that losing the relationship I had with my family was not worth it. And then there’s the fact that I lost the opportunity to see certain family members again before they passed away, something I deeply regret.

I feel sad about the many things I missed out on as a result of my parent’s decision to move and stay in America. No doubt this has shaped me into someone that’s more reserved. But I am happy for the things I’ve learned and the values I hold as a result of this journey. I guess it’s bittersweet. It may not have been worth it in my opinion, but I guess all I can do is make the best of it so that it wasn’t all for nothing. 

A Year of Blogging

Today, I just realized that I’ve been writing on my blog for over a year.

Writing publicly was something I had wanted to do for years, but it took me some time to get over the fear of being judged over it.

It’s remarkable how much I’ve grown as a result of this endeavor. A year ago I would have been deadly afraid of putting my thoughts and work out for anyone to see.

I used to be paralyzed by perfectionism. Now, I feel good every time I ship something out to the world, even when I know it’s far from perfect.

Well, at least this is the case when it comes to writing. I still can’t imagine shipping something in audio or video form.

At some point I’ll have to tackle that.

Christians and Me

Here's something that has happened a few times: I meet someone who is exceptionally friendly and helpful to me, then later on I find out that they are a devout Christian. 

By devout Christian I mean people that genuinely think about God every day, which you can see through the conversations they have or the stuff they post online. They go to church every Sunday and listen to nothing but Christian music.

Even though I'm an atheist, I think that I've grown to have a bias towards Christians. In many ways I feel "safer" around them. For example, I feel more comfortable talking to them than I do talking to atheists.

Perhaps because I feel less judged, or because they don't seem to worry about small stuff. 

It’s probably also because I hold a lot of the same values that they do: I'm not judgmental, I don't like swearing, I don't like tattoos and drugs, I strongly believe in the importance of tradition and having a nuclear family, and more.

The important thing I'm missing is the belief in God. 

It's too bad I don't see myself ever changing in that respect. 

This leads me to a tragic predicament, which is that I love hardcore Christians but because I'm an atheist,  I don't think a close friendship or relationship is possible. 

Growing Up Fatherless and the Importance of Introspection

Growing Up Fatherless and the Importance of Introspection

I remember exactly when I became keen on the importance of analyzing my past. It was when I was 18, just beginning my first year of college. I was listening to a podcast while I waited for my next class. The podcast was just a regular conversation between two intellectuals, but they touched on something very relevant to me. That "something" was the psychological effects of growing up in a fatherless home. 

As they described the ramifications, which were based on studies, I felt as if they were describing ME. I was floored. "How could they know me so well?" I thought.

Because of this conversation, I learned that growing up fatherless greatly contributed to my low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression. I didn't even need to look at the studies - once I made the connection, it made perfect sense. I just needed someone to point it out for me. 

The truth was that my father's absence created a deep feeling of unworthiness. This is a big reason why I was never able to form long-lasting relationships and why I did so much to sabotage my life. 

The most important thing that I learned is that I couldn't possibly expect these issues to disappear without doing a lot of introspection first. Because to permanently fix an issue, you have to understand where it came from in the first place. 

Looking back on this realization, it is really surprising how I didn't know something so simple. Before this, I was not aware of the factors that contributed to my issues. I knew that there were factors, but when it came to articulating them, I was completely lost. I was never given the mental tools to decipher them. 

Come to think of it, I remember consciously thinking that I was strong enough to be unaffected by the fact that my father left me. I was even proud of the fact that I never cried over it. I now realize I was being delusional. Gowing up fatherless did have a huge effect on me and being ignorant of the fact only prevented me from removing (or at least mitigating) that effect. 

How has the importance of looking at my past eluded me for so long? Why didn't my school or family teach me this? If the knowledge of the damaging effects of fatherlessness was kept from me, then what else?

The Importance of Clear Communication

I think nearly all of the world's problems wouldn't exist in the first place if everyone was able to perfectly communicate and interpret each other's thoughts and feelings accurately. Language barriers, misinterpretations, presupposed narratives, a lacking vocabulary, all contribute to most, if not all conflicts. Just look at almost any movie (especially romantic movies) - most of the problems in them could easily have been prevented if people just talked to each other properly. 

I think good communication skills are often the determining factor of whether a relationship is doomed to fail or not. I've seen firsthand how relationships slowly deteriorate because of a deficiency in communication skills. That includes some of my own relationships with my Spanish speaking family. Although I do speak Spanish, my vocabulary is not complex enough for me to be able to properly say what I mean. 

Not being able to speak my mind is one of my biggest fears. To me, it is a personal hell to live a life where you're never fully understood. This is why I admire authors and public speakers. They are able to express themselves the way that they want to, or at least to a better degree than the average person. Getting to that level is something I strive to do. This is a huge reason for why I'm blogging. Practice makes perfect.

Why I Love Podcasts

Why I Love Podcasts

I don't mean to sound like a hipster but I got into podcasts before they were cool. I got into podcasts in 2008. I don't really remember how I stumbled upon them. I do remember thinking how awesome the medium was. I instantly saw it as a great opportunity to both entertain and educate myself. Now I welcome waiting in long lines and getting stuck in traffic.

Ever since I discovered them, you would always see me with headphones on, even during school, which was a constant nuisance to my teachers. Podcasts have basically replaced music for me. 

I not only listened to purely entertaining podcasts such as comedy and storytelling, but I also listened to educational ones. Podcasts made learning entertaining again! Ever since I discovered them, podcasts have been my main source of education. Not books and definitely not school. 

What I love about podcasts the most, other than it being free, is that it is a great way to get to know people. (usually the host)

I have loved so many different podcasts and most of them have fallen out of favor over time, much like how friends sometimes fall out of favor. 

This happens mostly because I have changed my preferences and priorities. For example, right now I'm in a period where I'm looking to improve my life, so a lot comedy and political podcasts have slowly fallen off my plate as I add more self-helpy ones.

Here are the podcasts that I'm currently listening to on a weekly basis:

There's a few more that I listen to depending whether I like the guest/topic but those are the ones I currently listen to no matter what. 

Creating My Own Success Story

Creating My Own Success Story

Yesterday I listened to Isaac Morehouse's podcast episodes were TK Coleman told his story.  In them I got to hear TK's weird professional path, which was nothing short of amazing. Other than being entertaining, there were quite a few lessons that I learned from his journey. Things like 'you don't need to plan out your whole life to be successful - you just need to treat every opportunity you take with integrity.' He also reinforced in me the importance of constantly doing something creative such as blogging. 

However inspiring TK's story was, I couldn't help but think of how little I related to him. It seemed that he had a good amount of integrity, confidence, and resolve which are things that I'm currently lacking in.

Listening to the podcast made me wonder whether those intangibles can be newly created or whether they are something you need to have from the beginning in some way.

What if all of the qualities that make a person successful - integrity, confidence, resolve, resilience, curiosity, the ability to defer gratification etc. - have been killed inside of me due to the fact that they were neglected (and sometimes outright smothered) for so long?

I'm starting with a far from ideal family history, which has fostered in me immense self-doubt and self-hatred. Right now I'm in the process of removing all that muck from my system.

To this date, I have yet to hear stories that started with my specific deficiencies and ended up with happiness and fulfillment. Maybe there's a reason for that - because most of the ones that started like me didn't succeed. That's a really scary possibility.

Even if that's true I'm not going to let it stop me from trying.

Stepping Onto The World Stage, Me

Stepping Onto The World Stage, Me

So It’s been about a year since I’ve set up this blog of mine and I’ve yet to post anything.

The main reason of why I’ve struggled to put anything on here is because I have severe anxiety. Basically I’m afraid to put my thoughts and feelings into the world and potentially being judged for them. There is a lot to say as to why I feel this way, which will have to be a topic for a future post.

So why do I want to publicly write about my thoughts and feelings if I am afraid of doing so?

Well, precisely because I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to finally feel free to express my true self (though first I have to do some digging to see who my true self is). I think confronting it in the form of a public blog is a great way to work towards that goal. Even if no one sees my writing, as a person with constant self-censorship in his system, this is a big step for me.

Besides that, there are so many benefits to writing a blog. Benefits which include:

  • Putting my thoughts out will allow people that think alike to find me, thus creating the kind of relationships I want to create. This might also weed out the kind of people I don’t want in my life.
  • Developing writing skills and creativity
  • Finding my voice / learning about myself
  • Documenting my progress in life
  • Building a good habit
  • Gaining confidence in myself

So obviously there are many benefits, but just for the purpose of analysis I’ll list my potential hindrances:

  • I could say the “wrong” thing and be crucified by the internet Justine Sacco style
  • Since I plan on being personal and honest, I will be more vulnerable
  • My beliefs will be out in the open and I may be ostracized by groups that dislike them, including potential employers

That’s all I can think of right now though I’m sure there are more.

Anyway, I understand that this is a double-edged sword. After thinking about this long and hard, I am confident that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Besides, I think that privacy is dead in this age and this blog is at least a way to control my “image.”