Luck, Skill and The Gambler

My friend, Brandee, says I’m a gambler because I love to play poker. Although there are elements of luck in poker, it’s most often seen as a game of skill by the professional players.

When I think of poker, that famous song by Kenny Rogers always pops into my mind. When I first remember hearing, The Gambler, it was sung by my Uncle Jimmy, who was a traveling musician. The 2nd time I remember hearing it was on, Sesame Street. The animated puppets were sitting with Kenny Rogers in a train car. The scene always haunted my memories because I was in love with ghosts as a kid.

At the poker table, I would share that memory of Kenny Rogers on Sesame Street, but everyone thought I was just kidding around and cracking jokes. This morning I discovered that yesterday. Kenny Rogers passed away at age 81. I did a quick google search and discovered that he really was on Sesame Street. Rewatching the video segment below, I saw that dancing ghost I remember from my childhood. Hmmm… Did that dancing ghost influence me in becoming a dancer?

This week a ran across 2 poker quotes which intrigued me. The first one is from, Jesse May , “Poker is a combination of luck and skill. People think mastering the skill part is hard, but they’re wrong. The trick to poker is mastering the luck.”

In his book the, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, talks about how 10,000 hours of practice and honing one’s skill can create mastery. Some other theories about mastery have challenged this “10,000 hours” idea, but it seems to ring true in my life and my observations.

The best guitarist I know, is a master of his craft. He has been practicing over 3 hours a day for several decades and it shows when his fingers effortly caress the guitar strings creating beautiful music which stirs my soul.

Personally, I can see the progress I’ve made as a singer in the past 5 years. I’m nowhere near 10,000 hours, but consistent, weekly practice has made it easier to navigate any curve balls which are thrown at me during a performance. With my continued practice, I can focus on other aspects of the music besides just singing the correct notes at the right time. My subconscious brain is now handling the technical aspects, like breathing, so I can free my mind to focus on the creative elements which include singing with my heart & soul.

Mastering a skill isn’t hard, it’s more about dedicating quality time to consistently practice, practice, practice and guess what? More practice! Whether it’s writing, designing, dancing, golfing, yoga, poker, juggling, cooking, baking, singing, playing an instrument, learning a new language, (insert your passion), all you need is TIME. Now, finding time in your busy schedule might be a challenge, but then again, what are your priorities?

Many of us may find ourselves with EXTRA time on our hands during this Covid-19 quarantine. What better time than NOW to pick up a new skill? Or, set aside time to practice an existing skill? Or if you’re up for the challenge. BOTH! Skills are an asset you can carry with you for life.

In the 2nd part of Jesse May’s quote, he talks about “mastering the luck.” If you’ve played any poker at all, there is an element of luck which comes into play. Sometimes, you’re on a hot streak, and sometimes, there are no good cards coming your way for hours. That’s just the nature of the game.

One of my favorite quotes about luck comes from the famous golf legend, Gary Player, (who I’m sure spend way more than 10,000 hours honing his craft). He said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

This quote makes me smile, because I’ve seen it to be true in my life. After practicing dancing for years, I was asked to become a dance instructor for an event. That event led to many other events and I’ve been lucky to travel around the world, as well as land several steady teaching gigs over the past 20 years. Was that luck? Maybe?

I started in church choir as a teenager, then started taking voice lessons for many years. I was asked to audition for another choir, which then led to other opportunities as a paid musician. Was I lucky? Maybe?

Kenny Rogers was an influence in my life because he shared his mastery of storytelling and singing with the world. In fact, one of my go-to karaoke songs was made famous by Kenny Rogers. I will do my best to honor him when I sing it from now on.

What do you plan to share with the world? How will you influence other people’s’ lives with your craft?

I hope you start and/or continue your journey to your 10,000 hours in your craft! Along the way, as you continue to work hard, I hope you get “LUCKY!”

Cheers!

TofuAlan

Coronavirus, Hand Washing And Developing Good Habits

Happy Monday! Lately, I’ve been living my life with fewer distractions from social media & television, (and when I say television, I’m including Netflix, YouTube and other similar streaming services). Is it my Lenten sacrifice? Maybe by accident. In truth, starting the new Merchant Service Business doesn’t leave much time for distractions.

Although, I do limit my screen time on my phone during most of the day, some things still sneak through like the meme above. In conversations with friends over the weekend, the coronavirus seemed to be the topic most referenced in my various circles of friends.

I am starting to notice the impact the coronavirus is making in my everyday life. I’m seeing way more people wearing face masks while out in public. Fist bumps and elbow taps are being used in lieu of handshakes. I’m intrigued to see how business meeting culture may change in the coming months.

The churches I attend made announcements and recommendations at worship services regarding greeting each other and how distribution of communion would be modified to prevent potentially spreading germs. When I went shopping for supplies for last Thursday’s Burrito Project, I checked with several stores and they were all out of bottled water. There were large empty spaces where I would normally see several pallets of bottled water stacked case upon case 4 or 5 feet high.

As you may or may not know, I teach dance classes. Dancing is a very high touch and close proximity activity. Several of the dance studios I work with have added hand washing reminders and antibacterial hand sanitizer is within eyeshot in almost any direction I look.

Today, I received 3 seperate emails announcing the cancelation, or postponement of upcoming events during this coronavirus scare. I wonder how many business trips and vacations will be interrupted over the next few months. I know of 2 recent brides who are contemplating cancelling their honeymoon plans. Wow! I’m sure the travel industry will be taking a big hit over the next several months.

Except for the newer addition of face masks, there really isn’t much change in my normal, daily habits. I’ve always been a germaphobe, so handwashing has been an ever present ritual spaced throughout my day. I wash my hands frequently at amusement parks, dance venues and events like the burrito project and networking luncheons. I did notice that earlier today and at a wedding I attended this weekend, that I asked for permission before I gave someone a hug. (That’s probably going to be happening a lot more often over the next few weeks).

As a germaphobe, I’m ecstatic that people are washing their hands so much more. Just a reminder, like they preach on cruise ships, wash the tops and bottom of hands with interlocking fingers for at least the time it takes to sing a verse from Happy Birthday. =)

I pray your health is great and your immune system is strong. I think if we follow common sense, this will soon pass within a season. If it lasts longer, at least we as a community will be more conscientious of proper sanitation, cleanliness and good hygiene habits.

Cheers!

TofuAlan

Marching Towards Spring And Wonderful Things

Today, was a beautiful Sunday! It was such a hectic week that I realized I never reviewed the sheet music for the 2 church services I was singing at this morning. Normally, the music is emailed to me on Wednesday so I can review and rehearse during the week. With the crazy week, it was never emailed to me and I was so busy with twice daily conference calls for the Merchant Services company that I never followed up regarding the missing email.

I was early on my ride to church, so I was hoping I would have time to quickly review my music before the service. As luck would have it, there was no more than a moment for a quick glance. I’m happy to say we had a wonderful morning of music. My brain was hyper focused and I impressed myself with my improved sight reading skills. I’ve had this position as a music minister for over 6 years and I’m so blessed to work with such amazing musicians. Plus, my spanish has improved since taking a job where I get to sing in espanol.

I have a fun cryptocurrency project I’ve been working on this past week. I was able to collaborate with my partners on the project today. I think tomorrow will bring some great results. Of course, I’m not a financial advisor, but crypto is on sale right now. So is most of the stock market. If you’ve been thinking of investing, this might be the perfect opportunity to go on a buying spree. =)

I didn’t get my walk in today, but I did get a great afternoon with my family. I saw my baby niece. She’s walking and starting to talk. It’s amazing how quickly kids grow up. I spent time with my dad and my brother at a birthday barbecue. I was able to see both of the LA sisters. I helped my dad with some paperwork and emails to kickstart his week. We talked some business and prioritized our current architecture projects for the week; ADU (1) , Dance Studio, ADU (2), Restaurant, ADU (3) & 2nd Story Addition. That’s a project a day. This is going to be a productive week for us.

This week I have 5 leads and 2 appointments for the merchant services company. I’d love to book 12 new clients this month. That’s 3 new clients a week. I know that’s ambitious, but I love challenging goals.

Cheers to your success this week too!

TofuAlan

Leap Day, Fitness Routines and Merchant Services

Leap Day has always been interesting to me. I had a friend in high school who was born on February 29th. When I turned 16, he turned 4. Who gives a 4 year old a driver’s license? When I turn 48, he’ll ONLY be 12. His children are older than he is now. maybe even twice his age? =)

Routines are another interesting thing . If we aren’t consciously aware of it, we fall into routines without even realizing it. This year I want to focus on implementing conscious routines into my life. I’ve limited my screen time on my phone. I’ve added more walking into my daily life and even started running again. Lap swimming is next on my list. I renewed my gym membership, so now I can get started swimming in March.

I plan to start journaling too. I hope to blog more often here, and on my other websites. Once a week seems reasonable to me. I’m excited to improve my typing skills. Oh yeah, did I ever mention I never took a typing class in high school or college? One reason I’ve been putting of writing is because it takes me so long to type with my hunt & peck method. Although, I must admit, typing “properly” is taking even longer, but it’s fun to see the letters “magically” appear on the screen.

March is going to be a fun month. Along with starting my swimming routine, I’ll be launching my new Merchant Services Company. Yes, this is not a new business for me. but now I’m going solo with my own office. I had a heart to heart with my former business partner and he encouraged me to go solo. He’s going to keep all of the customers I brought to the table, so this will be a complete new start for me. As of last Friday, my application was officially approved and I’m ready to start saving my fellow business owners and entrepreneurs on their merchant credit card fees.

Some of you might be wondering what a merchant services company does, so I’ll happily tell you more about it in a future blog post. I’m still thinking up a name for the new corporation which will house the merchant services business, so I might be running some names by you. Of course, I’m open to suggestions.

Cheers!

TofuAlan

Bitcoin Musings, Getting Things Done and Stacking Sats

On October 20, 2019, the 18 millionth bitcoin was mined. It took 3,935 days to mine 18 million bitcoins. That’s just a few months shy of 11 years. As you may, or may not know, there will only ever be a maximum of 21 million bitcoin in existence. More than 85% of all bitcoins have already been created. It is estimated to take over 120 years to mine that final bitcoin in the year 2140.

Bitcoin was born on January 3, 2009 when Satoshi Nakamoto mined the genesis block, which created the first 50 bitcoins. Every 10 minutes a new block is mined and a bitcoin reward is awarded to the successful miner. The bitcoin reward for the first 210,000 blocks was 50 bitcoin, then it was cut in half to 25 bitcoin.

When 210,000 blocks are mined, a “halvening” or “halving” occurs, which cuts the block reward in half. On average the block reward is cut in half every 4 years. On November 28, 2012 the reward was cut from 50 BTC to 25 BTC. On July 9, 2016 the reward was cut from 25 BTC to 12.5 BTC. The next halving is estimated to occur in 7 months on May 20, 2020 when the bitcoin reward will be cut from 12.5 BTC to 6.25 bitcoin per block.

As bitcoin gets closer to reaching its maximum mined capacity, the difficulty gets harder and harder to reach the final finish line. I’ve noticed this is the same with many of my projects.

Yes, getting started may be the most difficult step for most people, but once you get started, the initial rewards usually come easily. It’s reaching the final pinnacle which can require the most energy and resources; the final mile, the final paragraph, the perfect finishing touch.

I’m currently working through several projects which I intend to complete before the end of the month. I was thinking about the project on my desk. I completed most of it in the first week I worked on it, but it takes a second week and sometimes a third week to complete the final 25% of the project. If I stay on schedule, I will finish this one tomorrow and then I can complete the final 2 projects over the next 8 days in time to pass out candy on Halloween.

I know I am a perfectionist, so I’m acutely aware of my internal battles with procrastination and perfection. This year has been a struggle, but the philosophy of done is better than perfect has been my guiding light.

I am aware that 85% perfect is usually more than enough for most of my projects to pass with flying colors. Only a small, select few would notice the difference between my 85% and 90% perfect. In the time it would take to go from 85% to 95% I can usually complete a new project in that same time period. So, for the sake of completing additional projects and keeping my clients happy, I will celebrate 85% perfection.

So, how will I celebrate the completion of my next project? I’ll continue “Stacking Sats” and buy some bitcoin. Bitcoin is on SALE at the moment (hovering at $7,400 per BTC as of October 23, 2019).

What does “Stacking Sats” mean? A bitcoin can be divided into 100 million units, the smallest of which is called a satoshi, in honor of Satoshi Nakamoto. Just like a penny is the smallest unit of a dollar, a satoshi is the smallest unit of a bitcoin. I’m stacking my pennies, so I can stack sats. Bitcoin, here I come!

Cheers!

TofuAlan

Ride Sharing is Caring

My mother was in town for 3 weeks. It was a fun experiment in getting around town.

As I mentioned before, I was recently in a car accident and my car was totaled. Instead of replacing my car right away, I thought it was the perfect time to try a travel experiment in my life.

A couple years ago I heard about someone who decided not to drive for a year. It seemed like an impossibility for someone living in Los Angeles, but with my current circumstances, it seemed like the perfect time to try this for myself. 

Pre-Birthday Musings.

I always thought I would die before I was 21 years old. In fact, I thought I might die before I was 18. When my 18th birthday approached and passed, I was bewildered that I was still alive. I then presumed I must have made a mistake and 21 was my new expiration date.

I had a near death experience at the beach when I was about 9 years old. I was a very confident and strong swimmer, but I was ignorant of how to respond when caught in a riptide. If it wasn’t for a fast-acting uncle, who was also a trained lifeguard, I might have been swimming with the fishes. Or is the expression, I would have been fish food? After that experience, I had a vision, or more likely a dream, or maybe a waterlogged hallucination of future me dying very young.

I have survived 3 major car crashes. All 3 occured while I was at a standstill. The 1st car accident was a hit-and-run which occurred when I was a teenager. I was waiting at a red signal light and a car speeding down the hill didn’t stop in time and knocked me into the intersection where 2 other cars just barely missed me. The car that hit me, backed up and made a right on the cross street to get away from the scene of the accident.

Once I got my bearings and restarted my car, I chased down the car that hit me in an exhilarating car chase and we were finally able to exchange contact information. As it turns out the driver didn’t have car insurance, but my uninsured motorist policy kicked in. My 1966 Ford Mustang was fully repaired after the accident and it was better than new with a shiny new paint job! My advice, always spring for the Uninsured Motorist Policy.

The 2nd car accident occured on the newly opened 105 freeway while I was on my way to teach a swing dance class near the LAX Airport. I heard and felt something out of the ordinary while driving and thought I might have blown a tire. I safely pulled over to the right shoulder of the freeway to inspect my front tires for damage. While I was looking at my front right tire, I felt a wave of light brush over me and I heard or maybe felt a familiar voice say, “get back in the car and put on your seatbelt.”

I’m not one to argue with preternatural voices and feelings, so I did what I was told and got back into my car. As I was inserting the strap into the buckle, I looked up into my rearview mirror and saw an opalescent white Lexus attempt to illegally speed past a slow moving car by using the left shoulder. The driver realized too late that I was already parked on the shoulder blocking his way and he attempted to swerve back into his lane.

He was traveling too fast to avoid my car and as I was watching the approaching Lexus in my rearview mirror (strangely in what felt like slow motion), I locked eyes with him and I could see the fear in his eyes as he struggled for control of his vehicle. I took a deep breath to relax my body and slipped my car into neutral in preparation for the inevitable collision.

He clipped the rear left corner of my car while veering back into his lane sending my vehicle into a clockwise spin. The front right corner of my car (where I was crouched just moments before while inspecting my tire) crunched into the wall to my right. When the car stopped spinning, I was facing oncoming traffic. Several drivers pulled over to help me out of my vehicle and give me their contact information as witnesses to his erratic driving. My car was totalled, but I was able to walk away from the accident without a scratch.

I called my dance partner, who was driving separately, and she was on the scene within minutes. She was crying as my car was loaded onto the flatbed of the tow truck. We were only a few minutes late to teach our dance class, and our client was totally understanding of the situation. My dance partner drove me to the hospital after dance class and the doctor said the physical movement of dancing was probably the best thing I could have done to help calm my nerves and muscles, but I should take it easy the next few days.

The 3rd accident occured on Friday the 13th of last year. I was waiting at an intersection to make a left turn. As the signal light turned yellow and then red, I started making my left turn and a brand new BMW ran the red light and T-boned my passenger side of my vehicle. When my car stopped spinning, I was covered in glass from shattered passenger window and windshield. I remember thinking that it looked like I was covered in diamonds.

I was meeting a new friend for dinner and I was less than a mile from the restaurant. When I called her, she jokingly said the only excuse for being late was if I was in a car accident. When I told her what happened and she finally believed that I wasn’t joking, she asked where I was and was there within 10 minutes. She thoughtfully showed up with orange juice, some juice smoothies and snacks. She shared them with me and the driver of the other vehicle and said the sugar would help with shock.

She waited with me until the police took our statements and the tow trucks towed our cars away. She then drove me to an amazing Korean Restaurant where we were able to finally enjoy dinner. I’m so thankful for thoughtful friends and because I was able to walk away from another car accident I consider Friday the 13th my lucky day!

I am thankful to be able to journey yet another rotation around the sun. Many more than I ever thought I would be able to. I’m excited to add another candle to my vegan birthday cake and use this borrowed time to bring smiles and joy to everyone I meet.

Cheers!

TofuAlan

WDW, It Requires People To Make The Dream A Reality!

While walking through the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, my sight was drawn to this shield on a wall surrounding a construction site. It read, “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world… but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney.

As my birthday approaches, I look back upon this past year and the many years before it, and I am thankful for all the people who have had their hand in shaping my life. There were those whom I shall never know. The ancestors who built their lives and raised their children. Those children repeated the process and after generation upon generation, eventually my parents were born.

My parents meet in college, (I should really inquire about how they met and get the whole story). How much of their meeting was chance? It blows my mind to think about that. Eventually, they get married and several years after, I am born.

I am born into their group of friends, acquaintances and families and we are linked for life. My godparents come from this pool of friends and I see them throughout my life at all the special occasions, including my birthdays. They had children about my age and I wonder where life has taken them since we lost touch?

People flow in and out of each others’ lives. Some are there for a short time and some are there for decades. I realize that it also takes effort on my part to stay in touch. Late at night, I think about souls I have met and I am thankful for them in my life. Some have shuffled off this mortal coil. I think about them the most. Death had a huge impact on me as a child, and I carry those who have died with me in my heart, more than I realize.

I am very thankful for my teachers in preschool, kindergarten & elementary school. I was a rambunctious kid and they had more patience with me then I may have deserved at the time. Their patience really helped to motivate me in school and gave me a love of learning which I still have to this day.

I may have been a dream for an ancestor long past? Of maybe, I am just a link in the chain for a future which was dreamt ages ago? Either way, I strive to live true to the dream I have for myself. I know I can try to do it alone, but why go that route, when I have chosen friends who will walk, run, dance and skip along the road with me?

I thank you for being part of my life and I hope I can help inspire you as others have inspired me. Remember, you don’t have to build your dream alone. There may be more help available than you realize. Sometimes, though, all you need to to is look around and ask!

Cheers!

TofuAlan

Walt Disney World Adventures In January Two Thousand Nineteen!

I love to work! In fact, I consider myself a workaholic! But, several times a year, I book a trip out of state, to force me into another “state” of mind. This month, I’m in Orlando and I also booked a trip to Amsterdam to attend a friend’s wedding later this year in July .

I wouldn’t say I’m a HUGE DIsney fan, but I must say I have a great time anytime I’m at a Disney amusement park. Do I have a Disneyland Pass? Yes! Hmmm… Maybe I’m a bigger Disney fan than I thought I was? So, what am I doing in Orlando? Well, it just happens to be my birthday weekend, so why not travel across the country to visit the Magic Kingdom?

I usually work from sunup to sundown, and maybe a few hours beyond that. It’s coming to my attention that maybe this isn’t the norm for most people. I always, ALWAYS travel with my laptop, so I can sneak in some work when I have a spare moment. An extra bonus about traveling to the east coast, is that I’m now 3 hours ahead of California time. It makes me feel so responsible when I can reply to emails and phone calls 3 hours earlier than normal. It also makes it easier when I return home to hit the gym early in the morning.

I took the redeye from LAX to MCO. I was marveling at the ease of travel these days. In the past, I would beg a friend to drive me to the airport, but now a shared ride service like UBER or LYFT make it super convenient to travel around town.

A friend of mine in Los Angeles always complains about how hard it is to meet new people. I find it interesting that I always meet new people and it usually feels very spontaneous. As the saying goes, it takes 2 to tango, so I know the mathematical equation needs to start with 2 people. Or maybe, it just needs to start with 1 person, and that person is YOU.

I can rely on the OTHER person being open to meeting new people, or I can take responsibility and be in the “vibration” of wanting to meet new people. By taking the initiative, it makes it so much easier, because now I can just be ready to talk to anyone who is willing to talk to me.

Oh boy, this may sound like so much new age mumbo jumbo. I must say that it simply falls into place when I’m in the right vibration. Tonight, after taking the whole day off to wrap up a project, I was pleasantly surprised to meet an outgoing gal and her friends while visiting THE EDISON in Orlando, (which is modeled after THE EDISON in downtown Los Angeles).

My new friend, who shall go by the code name “J” approached me and said hello. We danced a few songs and then I met her friends, and then she met my friends, and it turned into a HUGE dance party. Now, I can chalk it up to coincidence, or I can give credit to my friends and our fun loving attitude and seizing the moment. =)

It’s still the beginning of the year and if you want to meet new friends, the first step, is to be open to the idea of meeting new friends. I consider myself an introvert, but I have learned to be more outgoing by practicing being outgoing. I took baby steps; talking to people in an elevator (which is always fun and potentially against the rules), talking to my cashier in the checkout line (as long as it’s not too busy), striking up a friendly conversation at a bar, or even volunteering time at a local food bank and talking to fellow volunteers. Sometimes, the conversation can be stilted at first, but it gets easier with practice.

Whatever you’re interested in trying more of this year, practice by doing more of that thing. I have found that www.MeetUp.com is a great resource, especially when I’m visiting a new city. If you want to explore the outdoors, join a local hiking group. If you want to start running, sign up for a 5K run. They can usually direct you to local training groups. If you want to explore new dining experiences, join a local foodie group, and if none exists, start your own and see what happens.

Many years ago, I had a dining club in my neighborhood and it was fun sharing my dining experiences with my friends and their friends. By special request, I’ll be starting up my dining group again very soon, so If you’re in Los Angeles, I would love for you to join me.

Good Luck on your adventures!

Cheers!

TofuAlan