Today, I attended UC Berkeley’s Korean 10A class. Korean 10A is the 3rd level Korean class in UC Berkeley, and would normally require you to take 2 semesters of Korean classes at Berkeley (Korean 1A and Korean 1B), but I blew through both level’s material through the course of summer.

I started learning Korean at the beginning of summer. I had started taking classes at the local Korean community center in San Francisco. I started out in the introductory course, Introduction to Hangeul. By the end of summer, I had skipped four levels and finished the fifth level of Korean. How did I do it? Simple, I spent over 200 hours studying Korean.

During my internship in the summer, I lived in Berkeley and commuted to San Francisco every day. Commute takes about 40 minutes one way, and during my commute, I worked through a spaced-repetition flashcard deck on the BART instead of browsing my Facebook news feed or Reddit. In 60 weekdays of commute I have accrued 80 hours. Korean class is three hours a week once a week for 15 weeks, giving me 45 hours of practice. The rest of the hours I completed in my own time. It took about an extra hour a day, and a lot of the time was completed by eating Korean food and practicing Korean with my Korean friends.

I’m not any smarter than any other Berkeley student who has spent two semesters studying Korean nor any other fifth term Korean Center student.

The Berkeley Korean class is five days a week for an hour. Class is 15 weeks, and you can expect three hours of homework a week. Do the math:

(5 weekdays/week) * (1 hr/ day) * (15 weeks) + (3 hrs/week) * (15 weeks) = 120 hours of Korean

Double that number for taking Korean 1B class and you end up with 240 hours of Korean, within the ballpark of the amount of time I spent learning Korean.

The KC Student takes an “Introduction to Hangeul” class that spans two hour sessions over 12 weeks. Subsequent classes are three hour sessions a week for 15 weeks with half an hour of homework every week, and there are four of them that span the topics roughly covered in the completion of the Korean 1B class in Berkeley.

Again, do the math:

(2 hr/wk) * (12 wk) + (4 classes) (3 hr class/wk + 0.5 hr hw/wk) * (15 wks/ class) =  234 hours of Korean

As you can see, they all roughly land in the same number of time spent studying Korean. Of course, there are differences. Because I studied more on my own, I probably have stronger command of vocabulary, reading and writing, but have more trouble listening and speaking.

So where can you dig up these 200 hours? Easy! According to my RescueTime stats, I have already spent 80 hours watching Youtube, 80 hours watching Netflix and cartoons, 130 hours on Facebook, amongst other distracting things this year. This doesn’t count the amount of time I spend on my mobile phone, since I don’t have activity tracking on my mobile device. I’m sure 200 hours is not difficult to dig up.

I didn’t intend to write this to teach you how to learn a new language. I documented my progress to illustrate 2 main points:

1. I believe it is unmotivating to measure progress by any other measure. Our modern generation is extremely impatient, and extended periods where no progress is made frustrates the modern man, even when that frustration is often part of the learning process. Measuring progress by time prevents people from wasting their time trying to find the “best” learning methods and resources when usually those methods and learning processes are discovered and refined as you work through sub-optimal solutions.
2. “I spent X years doing Y” gives me little information about how skilled someone is at something. Three years of Spanish could mean once a week for two hours or living in a Spanish speaking country for three years. Yet we expect two people with “three years of Spanish” to reach the same level of fluency. The best way I can think to measure skill level is the number of hours people spend.

Some other things I bought with time:

• ~200 hours of swing dancing lets me feel comfortable social dancing and teach swing classes at Berkeley.
• I’ve spent about 150 hours for every computer science class I’ve taken at Berkeley so far.
• According to this Quora answer, to reach fluency, you would need about 600+ hours studying a language to reach fluency. “Not hard, but long.”

I started a “Hobbies Calendar” spreadsheet that will help me keep track of new skills I learned. I would suggest something similar to track your own progress.

I just started this this summer, but I’ll start adding more hobbies as I pick them up.

To find out how you can put in the time to make your goals happen, read my Productivity Hacking Guide!

한국어 말하기 연습하면 연락해 주세요~

# Lessons I Learned While Solo Backpacking Abroad

## Context

Instead of attending my 6th semester at UC Berkeley. I decided to take a semester off to travel abroad. I have had whims of this nature every spring semester now since I’ve entered Berkeley. My freshman spring I did rejection therapy. My sophomore spring I decided to hit the gym. However, this year my sporadic nature came early. By mid-way of my Fall semester, I’ve already yearned to do something new. I’ve highlighted some of the reasons in a personal note I wrote in November.

I started my journey in Taiwan. I went with two of my best friends. We explored Taiwan for 10 days before my friends headed back. I went to South Korea next, followed by Japan, taking a brief stop in Hong Kong, explored Southwestern China, journeyed through Vietnam, took a pit stop in Singapore, and eventually returned to Taiwan to relax for two weeks before heading back home. Besides Taiwan, all portions of my travel were solo backpacking, which meant I kept all my belongings in a 55 liter backpack. I stayed in hostels through the duration of the trip and booked transportation on the road. I made friends on the road but spent a large portion of my time alone. Now that my 111 days worth of traveling across Asia is over, here are some reflective points I came across.

## Lesson #0: No one knows that you’re gone

Nor do most people care. I wasn’t intentionally being secretive about my plans. I told my travel plans to friends who asked what I was doing that semester. Yet, I still had many friends assume that I’ve been in Berkeley all semester now that I’m back.

People move on, and everyone has their own lives. It’s not to say that I’m unfriending every person who didn’t realize I was away. It’s just that it’s too selfish to expect everyone to be thinking about you all the time and miss you when you’re gone. A lot of things have changed while I was gone, and the world moves on without you. I’ve stayed in touch with a few friends from back home, and that’s been heartwarming to keep in touch. But even they have their own lives, and it would be self-torture to miss me this whole time. Sorry Anna Kendrick, you won’t be missing me when I’m gone.

After all, I didn’t intend on traveling to impress my friends or anyone. Traveling was a choice I made for myself.

“You climb to the top of the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” – David McCullough Jr.

## Lesson #1: Tourist attractions get boring really quick.

I remember taking a trip to Kyoto. I had purchased a one week rail pass that granted me access to all the high speed rails of Japan. I was hellbent on making the most of it, so I decided to explore 5 cities in that one week. I had allocated 2 days in Kyoto. For those of you who don’t know, Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan. It has all the fancy temples and museums and monuments that are iconic to Japanese history.

I only had 2 days. If I don’t do these “must-do’s” now, I wouldn’t know when my next chance will be! So I rushed through everything. 2 hours for each attraction, with a shortest-path route from each temple to the next.

Except after the 3rd temple, it all felt extremely boring. Temples merge. Sceneries become dull, and I felt largely disappointed in every subsequent temple visit. In fact, my highlight of the two days there was meeting and conversing with a man feeding stray kittens next to the river when I got lost.

My point isn’t necessary to avoid tourist attractions. I’d say I would have mitigated the boredom had I had someone explain some history to me. I realized through my journey that I really do like history. These visits would have been more enjoyable had someone explain the narratives behind them. Most plaques on the displays don’t do the history justice. Lots of context is needed. I’ve read many wikipedia pages in museums just to scratch the surface of what is really going on.

My other point really is that short term travel is very different from long term travel. When you have a week to explore Taiwan, it’s what a lot of Chinese call “Hurricane traveling.” You’re like a hurricane, and you’re just trying to get everywhere at once, and all you’re left with is a mess, and exhaustion. Trying to do short term travels for long term vacations is just unsustainable.

## Lesson #2: Take pictures of people, not places

“Take pictures of people, not places” was an advice I read somewhere, perhaps Reddit or Quora. I was thought it was true, but never really understand it until I started getting lonely. Solo-traveling is a lonely experience, especially for my first solo-destination — South Korea. I met an English teacher in Korea who phrases it best. “In South Korea, being single is a fate worse than death.”

I felt so too. There’s a lot of social stigma for being in public places by yourself. I didn’t see anyone who wandered on the streets by themselves except me. Couples are easily spotted with their matching outfits. Good luck eating Korean barbecue by yourself. I got lonely and homesick real quick.

So, I spent most of my free time going to language exchange cafes to meet folks. And it was super fun. It might have even been the highlight of my trip in Korea. I feel like I understand cultural composition better through the people rather than scenes. After all, the best memories I want to photographs are those with the people I meet.

## Lesson #3: The way into people’s hearts …

I know my travel companions tend to make fun of me for my travel preferences (I’m looking at you Alice Yuan). I’m always saying “I want to meet locals! I want to talk to folks!”. It’s a personal truism I learned for myself. I love people, and I believe it’s the best way to understand a place’s culture by meeting natives from the place. You would be surprised how easy it is to feel at home abroad. Just talk to some of the bros you meet on the road. Their idea of travel is to go a city, visit tourist attractions during the day, and party at expat bars at night. Hence, you could spend all your travel time never truly feeling like you’re experiencing a new world. Natives also tend to stay away from the tourist-y area, as they have their own lives far removed from the tourism industry. So, actually it’s pretty natural to get a packaged experience in a country abroad if you stick to the usual routes and places.

I’ve seen a few patterns that might get you more exposure to meeting local people.

### Common Language

From my experience the easiest ways to connect with natives abroad is through common language, common interests, generosity, and children. Common language is by far the most immersive in meeting a wide-spectrum of folks. I’d had my fair-share of amazing conversations meeting individuals from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China since I was able to speak Mandarin. It was harder to have those conversation with citizens from other countries. I’m sure there are equally interesting folks in other countries that would have made good conversational partners had I had the ability to speak fluently with them.

## Nothing Works? Want to do something else?

Let me know if you still want to hang, I’ll see if I can move things around or set future plans :D I’m open to all sorts of activities! Coffees or meals are fine as well!

Note: I’m speaking from a personal standpoint. You can choose to interpret this material however you want. This is not intended to be one of those articles pitting schools against each other and comparing which one comes out on top. Everything is my opinion and my observations. Which also means that I will be speaking for UC Berkeley, and most of my generalizations is only under the assumption of UC Berkeley. Also, you don’t have to read my story, after 3 pages in, I realized it may not be as relevant or excited to you as it is to me. Jump to the reflections part if this is too long of a read.

I remember almost exactly a year ago when college decisions came out. I was devastated. You see, at the college I attend now, UC Berkeley, there are a variety of students who get admitted, but generally fall into 2 categories. There are students who are happy to make the cut, and then there are students who fall from grace from the Ivy’s. Last year, I fell into the latter half of the population.

After fumbling to get everything together, I made a last-minute decision to attend UC Berkeley from the pressures of my parents. I actually never considered going there. It was always kind of a safety school for me. I’ve done mental calculations in my head, which I would evaluate myself against my peers, figure that I was in the top 10% of my school, and assume, yes, statistically speaking, coming from a rich and well educated school like Palo Alto, there is somewhat hopeful chance that, yes, I do deserve to go to the Ivy’s.

But that acceptance letter never came, and I dreaded my eventual defeat. I was forced to face the reality — I was not in the top 1% of the world. I was repeatedly told through numerous emails that despite all my struggles, my accomplishments, my friends, and my existence, that I was not special enough. Furthermore, I was going to attend a school that would theoretically be surrounded by thousands of students who look exactly like me.

For the first couple of weeks when I attended UC Berkeley, I socialized, I tried out as many clubs as I could, and I made damn sure that I wouldn’t be like any other Asian there. I was confident, but I was also arrogant as hell. I prided myself knowing that I was better than everyone else because I wasn’t part of the system and because I belonged at a higher-ranked school.

I’ve done things that were immature and were lashing outs from my bruised ego. One of them was that I chose comfort over uncertainty. To me, Friday nights were not interesting enough for me to go out and venture. People were either spending Friday nights partying or staying indoors studying. I chose to not associate with either stereotype and just lounged in my dorm. I would surf Reddit sometimes, play guitar on others, but generally, I felt too suffocated to do homework, but too repulsed to go out and party.

I also didn’t expend the effort to make close friends. My schedule is packed. I’m busy, how would I have time to make friends? Another consideration was that it was hard to find someone as intellectually stimulating as me. People talk about how excited they are to be at UCB, about how difficult single variable calculus was, and I just sit there, thinking, “Wow, how did I end up with people like them?” It was an immature thought, but it was understandable in hindsight.

After coming back home for winter break feeling somewhat defeated and unaccomplished, I took a self-reflective time-off to re-evaluate my trajectory. I was not happy with myself. I was a resentful being with little going on with my life. It seemed I could either be resentful or defeated for my circumstances.

At the beginning of my next semester, I managed to get dinner with some of my personal mentors, two UCB students who seem to have more of life figured out than me. They offered me solid advice for some of the difficulties I was facing.

One of the more memorable advice came from my friend Carl, who told me that “It’s not about the position you are in life. It’s about the velocity at which you are going.” This struck me viscerally. Most of my life I’ve been trying to get to point B, and always felt like I’ve been shortchanged or I’ve been staggering behind. The regrets of the past and the worries of the future bothered me so much they’ve made me miserable and helpless. Everything was outside my control. It took Carl’s words to understand the only thing I should focus on was the present and how I was continuing to develop.

I decided to adopt several changes my next semester to see how everything would work out.

Instead of combatting my lost sense of identity, I decided to try to embrace the anonymity it gave me. I tried rejection therapy in Berkeley for 30 days, which entailed me getting trying to get myself rejected at least once a day to overcome my fear of rejection. I didn’t have to worry so much about my fears of rejection in Berkeley because if I screw up an interaction, it’s not like the other person could recognize me the next day, and it’s also not like I could recognize them either. There was a very liberating sense of freedom associated with this revelation, and the whole therapy has taught me how to differentiate myself.

Speaking of friendships, I’ve also made more time to make and nurture friends. Luckily, I still had several friends that stuck around long enough to see my change, and I was able to become closer friends with them.

I also dedicated time trying out new things (no drugs). Swing dancing? It sounded interesting, so I tried it out on a Friday night (while I thought most people spent this time partying), and I love it! I regularly attend the swing dancing group now. Recently I’ve found out I have too many meal points, so I asked the community if anyone would like to grab lunch or dinner with me. Overwhelming responses, my week is filled up with lunch and dinner dates now.

Now that I’m almost done with my first year here, I feel a new sense of excitement and adventure in my life! I’m heavily involved with the most amazing computer science group in the world, Hackers@Berkeley, I have a supportive network of friends around the world (not just in Cal), and I’m learning so much from my school, my peers, and myself. I keep an active blog keeping track of all the exciting things that are going on from day-to-day.

### My Reflection

I was having lunch a couple of weeks ago with my friends Mark (Stanford) and Daniel (Cal) and we were discussing some of the complaints Stanford and Cal students were having over their classes. Mark said (some serious paraphrasing here), “Some of my classmates were complaining to the professors that the midterm had material that wasn’t explicitly covered in lecture. Students would grumble, ‘Wait? You want us to extend our knowledge? Outrageous!’” Dan recounted a similar experience in Cal which students complained to an economics professor who put a midterm question that asked students to infer the answers. The point I want to make is that it seems that students seem to rely too much on institutions for their educations. They seem to adopt this kind of reasoning, “It’s not my job to learn. It’s your job to teach.”

Academics only serve as a microcosm of a bigger problem at hand. I think there is a growing trend of students who rely too much on letting their colleges define who they are. The effect permeates from the bottom most schools to the top tiered Ivy’s. The lower-tiered students feel disenfranchised, “My college sucks, and therefore my life will suck as well.” The top-tiered students feel entitled, “My college is good, therefore my life will be good as well.” Though statistically top-tiered colleges on average fare better financially than lower-tiered colleges, it has been shown and demonstrated that the discrepancy is not due to the college. In a study cited by my friend, researchers have determined that if you compare the average Harvard student and the average UMich student, there is a discrepancy in financial well being. However, if the researchers took away factors that separated individuals like outgoingness, people skills, optimism, and confidence, then each individual’s schools makes almost no contribution to an individual’s income. Because we let our college define these attributes of ourselves (e.g. Harvard students are outgoing, Stanford students are entrepreneurial, MIT students are intelligent. Berkeley students are hard-working. And at the same time if Harvard rejects me, that must mean I’m not outgoing enough), we fall into the grooves the educational system.

These attributes, whether it’s confidence, people skills, resourcefulness, or creativity, could be obtained sans a good college, and even without any college. You yourself are accountable for your own education. If the school isn’t teaching you what you want to learn, you should be seeking other avenues for learning. You should be in the driver seat of your education, and your life.

I think it’s a legitimate question to ask what would happen if you strip a man away from his possessions, his material wealth, and his history. What would be left of him? What will he have left to prove himself? That should be a question that you should be asking yourself, “Without my college degree, what will I have left to prove myself?”

A couple of weeks ago I was pondering about the influences my external environment have on me. It would be foolish to deny that college has no tangible effect on an individual, but at the same time how could I mitigate the various pressures around me that ask me to be someone who I am not? After all, I still had homework to do, grades to earn, and a living to make. After discussing my problem with my floormate, Patrick, I jokingly mentioned that “Yeah… I think I should go read a book about self-confidence or something” (I have a small-obsession for self-help books). Patrick pauses for a second, and he respond, “You know what? You should learn karate.”

“What?” I asked. “How would that solve my problem?”

“In Japan there is a form of karate named [insert Japanese karate name] that asks a student to enter into an empty room to train by himself. A student would enter, throw punches and shout. The idea is that if you can create a sense of self in a vacuum that will defend itself, you will be able to stay in control of yourself. You will have created a sphere of control around you that no one can touch.”

What I found very fascinating about the practice was the vocal yells of the student. To shout into emptiness is something we rarely do for the sake of ourselves. It always feel awkward to speak into the world and receive no feedback or acknowledgement of your presence or existence. This lack of external confirmation and contradiction also allows us to be who we really are. This practice deconstructs the external influences of ourselves and allows us to build our own sense of selves, from ourselves.

I think it was only when I was stripped away of my past and put into a vacuum did I get a better sense of who I was and allowed me to define myself. It was only when I didn’t have anything to hold onto when I decided to stand up for myself.

Some people never grow out of their attachments to external objects. Many college students (including UCB kids) become complacent in the school of their choice and invest their identity and ego in the institution. They are promised financial security, a higher quality standard of living, and a more fulfilling life. Granted, schools could provide the artificial presence of these desires, but it is a fragile construction that could collapse anytime.

You see the examples of this every once in awhile. We call this the “mid-life crisis.” It is the moment of many people’s lives when they feel like they have no significance or meaning in themselves, despite their college degrees, their six-figure salaries, and their double-sided resumes. Then, their flawed paradigms tells them that the solution to their loss of self is to invest their ego’s into material objects. They buy midlife-crisis sports car, marry midlife-crisis trophy wives, take midlife-crisis vacations, and do other reckless things in hopes something will fill the void that was their sense of self.

If you feel happy getting into the college of your choice, great! Just remember that you’re still in the driver seat of your life. If you still feel bad for attending a less-desirable one, that’s fine. Just know that it’s usually only at the time of uncomfort do we ever feel the need to extend past our comfort zone and re-innovate ourselves.

A lot of you guys (referring to high school seniors) may not viscerally understand what I am saying right now, and that’s ok. If you have to be upset, be upset, but don’t let it dwell. Go enjoy your summer vacation, do things that will challenge yourself (whether physically or mentally), and look forward to a awesome new school year in college!

### Conclusion

I’d like to conclude with an offer to help and to listen to anyone who seeks my help. If you want college or life advice, or just want to contemplate the existence of the universe, ask me! I’d be happy to spend at least 15 minutes helping a fellow friend (or even stranger) out if it could help them make a better decision or ease their worries. My email is jmaa@berkeley.edu. In the meantime, I recommend this video of a commencement speech titled “You Are Not Special.” It’s one of my favorite speeches that kind of relates to what I’m talking about.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I have way too many meal points than it is necessary for a first-year individual. Usually around this time of the semester I try to think of ways I could spend some of those extra points. UC Berkeley has this policy over meal points to try to promote spending in which if you don’t use all your meal points by the end of the semester, you lose the points. It’s the use it or lose it policy. Under these guiding principles, I bought a yoga mat, a coffee tumbler, several minor sports equipments and packs and packs of candy. But now that it’s the second semester and I already have every fulfillable want fulfilled (along with taking on a low-sugar diet), I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to spend my meal points. There is a finite amount of space in my stomach. As my floormate Patrick Truong has said, “I’m just sad that the Golden Bear Cafe doesn’t sell XBox 360’s.”

I came up with a pretty neat revelation last night. Here is  what I propose:

I will swipe anyone in Berkeley in for a meal. But under either of two conditions:

1. You have something interesting to say or are an interesting person

and/or

Let’s take these points to explain my motivations and your potential benefits.

1. If I could be grateful for any one trait or attribute about myself, I would be grateful for my curiosity  I love to learn and get to know more about everything I could possibly know. I also realized that from a personal standpoint, some of the best ideas I’ve gotten were from other people, and often over a meal. I’ll list two personal case studies among several.

One of them was swiping Carl Shan into the dining halls. I’ve been having a 1st semester slump and wasn’t too happy with my current trajectory. My friends recommended that I reach out to Carl, and almost out of a personal dare I decided to contact him. After swiping him into crossroads, we talked about different aspects about living a fulfilling life and he helped me sort out what I really wanted to do with my time here at college. I could not have been the same person without that dinner.

The other was getting lunch with Gerald Fong. I never paid for his wrap at Qualcomm cafe because he had his own meal plan, but it was the lunch date that counted. Gerald taught me what it takes to build a good network of friends and how to support this network through generosity and genuine interest in their lives and outcomes.

From these meals with other people, I’ve learned more about life than I ever did before, and it was certainly worth more than a coffee tumbler (or several). I want to learn more from you. Almost every UC Berkeley student I’ve met, I’ve had something profound to learn from, and in the end, we’re a really intelligent school! So if you have something that you want to say, let me know.

2. I am only human, sometimes all I want is someone to talk to. At the same time, I very much love making a difference in other people’s lives. Whatever it is you would like to know about me, I could tell you. If you want to talk about your problems, that’s fine too, we can figure it out together. I’ve made a personal commitment (from a good friend Alton Sun) that every person I meet, I’ll find 2 ways I could help them, either by giving advice, connecting them to the right person, or helping them out directly.

I have no particular expertise in any subject, but I do retain particular interests in psychology, sociology, philosophy, game theory, computer science, dating, and big ideas. So at the very least, if you ask me about something in these particular fields, I’ll have something to say.

In the spirit of the community, I also propose that other people who also have ludicrous amounts of meals points do something similar. As much as you would like to spend your exorbitant prices on yoga mats and sour patch kids, nothing is as rewarding as getting to know someone over a meal. Reach out to an old friend or help out someone in need. Buy someone late night, they will always be grateful for your generosity.

So reach out to me. Say hi, ask me for lunch and ask me to swipe you in, I’ll gladly do it! Let’s talk some time, about anything you want. I’m screaming here “I am an available resource! I am a free friend!” Because in the end, it’s either use-it or lose-it.

### Day 1: Ask someone to borrow \$20

I asked with my friend, Jessica Cox. She clearly picked the right person, because I knew this woman was going to hold on to her money like a snapping turtle  (which ironically is what her face reminded me of). I don’t dislike her, I lash out when I’m rejected. I’m going to iron this fear and insecurity out as I go.

She rejected me.

SUCCESS!

### Day 2: Birthday Freebies

I went to Baskin Robbins and asked the old Asian man there if I could have a free icecream cone because it was my birthday. He asked me if I had a certificate and I said no. He rejected me.

What surprised me was that I continued to press. I asked him if it was ok since I have my ID with me. I showed him the I.D. with my birthdate on it and I said, “wouldn’t that be enough?” His face was as stern as a botox patient, and I shamefully exit.

But not really. What I’m starting to understand now is that people reject the proposed situation, not you. So the man did not look at me with disgust or condemnation, he was just stoic…. woo

SUCCESS!

Then Justin Fang and I went to Town & Country to ask for freebies. Justin actually asked Coldstone creamery for me. Not that I wanted him to, but we were waiting in line to ask and he got impatient. He just went in front of the crowd and asked. The icecream person also said no, followed by a “sorry, but Happy Birthday!” I would just go to shops to get these Happy Birthdays, at least in rejections, you know people are honest with you. If their interests align with their actions, you know they’re being honest, which I find very comforting the the war zone of rejection

SUCCESS!

Then we went to Kara’s cupcake’s to ask them if they would give me a free cupcake. The only girl who was there apologetically said “sorry.” But what was awesome was she quickly turned optimistic and filled the gap “but Happy Birthday!” It was so sweet of her. I don’t even feel bad for being rejected. What a nice girl. If I had just walked by the store and assumed she would reject me, I would not have found out she was a kindhearted person

SUCCESS!

### Day 3: Photo with a Stranger

I asked a busy looking guy at the Apple store in Palo Alto. I only asked him because my friend Emma Sameroynina dared me to, apparently by his very introverted appearance. So I said, why not? And approached him.

He was on his iPhone when I interrupted him. “Hey,” I smiled. “can I get a photo with you?”

He face contorted in confusion “Why?”

“It’s for a scavenger hunt.” I blurted, a bit nervous.

“Uh…sure.” He said.

Photo:

I guess I kind of pussied out by fibbing (Samson’s word of the day) a reason instead of being direct.

FAILURE!

So I decided to ask another person. Thankfully this guy rejected me because he was busy. Otherwise I’m sure he would have said yes. What a close call.

SUCCESS!

### Day 4: I forgot :(

I was going  to go out and interact with people, but I mostly stayed home and played Just Dance with Catherine and Justin Robinson

### Day 5: Ask to Visit the Employee-Only Section of the Store and Ask If I Can Change the TV Channel at a Restaurant

I was at the Stanford Apple Store today waiting for my friend Emma to get her laptop fixed. The Apple store had a door that was practically sealed to the wall that was employees only. I wanted to see their stock of Apple products, and see what secrets lie behind the door.

So I asked an Apple employee if I could check out the employee’s only section of the store. I told that it would really make my day if I could go there. The person looked confused, but then replied, “Hmm…. I’m not sure. You should ask our manager.”

Then he guided Emma and I to the store manager of the store. The employee told the manager about my wish to visit the employee’s only section of the store.

“So you want to visit the employee’s only section of the store huh? Unfortunately, you don’t work for Apple anymore and rules are rules.” He said in the most sincere way that I didn’t even feel rejected. Wow.

“Can we please? It’s also his birthday today! Can you sing him happy birthday?” Emma interjected (also stealing my rejection therapy the day before).

“Oh really? Sweet! My birthday is this Saturday. Bro-fist Capricorn!” He bro-fisted me. I never felt so self-validated. Sweet, a bro-fist!

“Although I can’t let you see the back of the store, is there anything else I can help you with?” He asked.

I declined. We made some smalltalk about birthday plans before he had head off to help other customers. I thought he’s the nicest guy I met all day.

SUCCESS!

Later the night, we went out to eat dinner at a peaceful Japanese restaurant. There weren’t that many patrons but there was a sushi bar with televisions hung around the restaurant. It was playing ESPN, but I am not a big fan of sports. I wanted to watch Cartoon Network instead. Adventure Time all the way! So when the waitress walked past, I waved her down and asked her if she could change the channel of the television.

She apologetically said no, that they always keep the television on the same channel. I said that’s ok, like I’m forgiving her.

She seems to become friendlier as the meal went on, especially since she obliged my friend for an extra lemon (so we could have a lemon eating contest). She did protest a bit though.

“You need two lemons? One lemon isn’t enough?”

“Yeah. I need two.” Emma sternly said.

At least the waitress rejected me.

SUCCESS!

### Lessons Learned:

1. Like I’ve said before. Most people reject the situation, not the person. Unless if you’re patronizing or condescending, they won’t hate you for asking for things.
2. In fact, sometimes people will like you more. If you ask them as if they are a long time friend and ask like they are willing to oblige you, then they will like you more, whether or not they accepted or rejected your request. You interacted with them in a genuine and friendly way, and sometimes that’s all people ask for
3. Sometimes people are apologetic to rejecting you. They feel bad for rejecting you because they think they are hurting your feelings. You could use this to your benefit, like for instance the waitress giving us an extra lemon when she felt bad for not letting me change the television channel. But other times they try to make it up to you by being extra nice to you, like the Apple Store manager who gave me a bro-fist after rejecting me.