Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hello Friends

I wanted to take some time and write out some thank you's to the homies.

Julia -- the #1 homie.  doing life right.

Blu -- my dog.  my favorite.

Jah Bruduhs -- the spirit of jah is alive and well.  i'm lucky to have both of you.  best homies.

.d, Dglats -- mad love.  best homies.

Nicolay, Ders, Jesse -- my main dudes.  you guys make SF fun.  we frolf hard.

Jonny, Suz -- i love coming to work every day because of you.  mad love.

Kiva Crew -- nothing but love.  we're an army for good.

DJ -- you're the fucking man.  i'm stoked we're homies.

Flan -- i look up to you.  you're mysterious and awesome.

Nick and Jenna -- i like hanging out with you.  you're funny and cool.  we're going to be homies for a long time.

Mateye, Raines, Fu -- high school homies.  butts loads of good memories.

Wix, Segal -- you put life in perspective - it's made me better.

B & E -- feel my swagger, feel my gangster.  you're mighty good at watching sports.  i enjoy our talks a lot.

Sir Lev -- come back to san francisco already.  i need someone to go to baker beach with.

Boss -- i think about our epic basketball games constantly.  i miss you all, we need to be back in touch.  you were the 1st homies in SF.

Horen -- the funniest dude i know.  we need to hang out more.

Mark, Brendan -- true homies.  mad love for you both.

Hawk -- tons of respect for you.  you're doing it your way and i love that about you.

Nelly, Kelly, Sam, Cygs -- I miss all you clowns.  What I'd give for a boring summer in Tucson with you clowns.

Other Prep Dudes -- mad love for all of you.  

Mom and Dad -- the true OG's.  you are both cool now.

50 Years From Now

"I won't care about this 50 years from now"

It's a great way to put stupid into perspective.  Traffic, an annoying conversation at work, a 10 minute delay in my day, the clippers lose, getting a ticket, riding on public transportation, cold and fog in the middle of August -- the stupid stuff in life that doesn't matter.  The stupid stuff in life that can so easily bother you.  Life's easier if you let the stupid stuff slide.  One helpful way to put the stupid into perspective:

"I won't care about this 50 years from now"

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Conversation With My Dad

Yesterday I had one of those conversations that change you.

I see three primary pillars in life – physical, emotional, spiritual.  One that’s always created tension for my dad and me is around the spiritual.  I’m an atheist, he’s a Christian.  The ability to really discuss this in an open way has always been limited – emotions can flare up easily, there’s tension, it typically ends very quickly. 

It took some time to find the forum for an open and honest conversation and it wasn’t easy but I’m glad we got there….because there’s far more similarities than differences.  Being spiritual is important to both of us – we both credit a strong spirit to our successes and happiness in life.  We both find our spirituality in sunsets, in the ocean waves, in the sky, the clouds, in our family, our friends, our colleagues, those random aspects in life that inspire us.  We both believe that our spirituality is really important.    

He channels his spirituality through the Christian faith -- the trinity – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  He finds comfort in having a book, a God to talk to, a tangible. 

I channel my spirituality through something bigger that I can’t understand – the universe -- nature, energy, and my surroundings.  I find comfort in nature, in obscurity, in the intangible. 

I hate the notion that religion is off limits.  Nothing should be off limits – especially a topic that’s a fundamental component of a happy and healthy life.  Something that’s really important to father and son but off limits to discuss – makes no sense.  It was nice to finally get to a point of understanding despite the differences. 

The conversation evolved into something more insightful for me – it focused in on passion.  I’m a man of passion in all aspects of life and in this conversation I was very passionate…but it was counter productive.  When I should have been coming from a place of acceptance and love I was leading with the passion I had around the topic.  My dad called it 1st gear – a “mode” I get in that is fueled with passion and enthusiasm. 

I lead with energy and enthusiasm.  I thrive in first gear – it’s a good thing that’s helped me attract awesome friends, grow professionally, and driven Stay Positive.  All in all, I see my passion contributing to my life in a very productive way. 

But this was different – it was if my passion drowned out the similarities that were waiting to be discovered.  My 1st gear “mode” prevented me from coming from a place of compassion – with my dad.  In an instant, I was able to make a connection that I hope will change my life for the better.  Seeing the importance of taking a step back, relieving control, putting that passion in the back seat, making an honest effort to bridge the gap – focusing on compassion. In that moment I saw applications all over my life – with Julia, at work, with my family and friends. Not having that need to win, approaching the conversation with love, listening to find common ground.  

The key take away here for me is best described by this (thing I just made in powerpoint):

If I can find the right mix of passion and compassion - where they compliment each other - I will be a better person.  Knowing when and how to switch gears will create massive opportunity for growth both personally and professionally.  

Game changer?  I hope so.

Thanks for the conversation dad. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mi Me Tuleah

"I'm Chillin"

The past two weeks I’ve been traveling around Kenya and it’s been totally rad.  This is a breakdown of the cool stuff I did.  Please excuse the excess of the epics, awesomes, beautifuls, and amazings throughout -- they are words that represent my epic journey!

Week 1 – Work

My first week in Kenya I was lucky enough to be with my good friends Matt and Daniel where we stayed at a really nice hotel in the middle of Nairobi.  This hotel is where Kiva was “conceived” back in 2005 which I thought was pretty cool.  Matt and Daniel are starting their own company in Nairobi and it was fun to see them in action, but just being around them was fun enough.  We had a blast.  I’m super excited about what they’re doing and it was cool to be in the mix. 

Matt, Daniel, and I -- my first hour in Kenya.

For me, it was a “business week” which meant loads of meetings with Kiva Zip borrowers and trustees.  It was crazy how many I was able to meet in five days of meetings.  I probably met 40 borrowers and 15 Trustees and it was really inspiring to see Kiva Zip in action in Kenya.  After so much focus on the US it was a very welcome change of pace. 

Three Trustees were particularly inspiring for me to be with.  

Safe Spaces

Safe Spaces was a really cool organization that uses basketball to teach young women life skills.  I obviously loved every second of it.  Daniel joined me on this visit and we were chilling with two of their program coordinators who showed us around.  Apparently every employee at the organization is on a club basketball team, which I thought was totally awesome.  I shadowed them all day and it was a blast.

We walked around their area and met a ton of borrowers.  It was cool how we would walk a block and they’d point out 7, 8, 9 storefronts that were Kiva Zip borrowers.  This was true for every Trustee I met with.  Incredible. 

I ended the day in a pick up game with the Safe Spaces girls.  It was full court, 5v5, high school boys vs. club girls team.  It was so fun – it was just great to be out there playing.  You form a connection with sports that is a special unspoken bond.  It was great. 

I'd been looking for a basketball court from when I first landed.  This was my celebration.  I love the graffiti on the wall!

Apparently they call restaurants "hotels" in Kenya.  It's weird.  Anyway, this was a borrower that made bomb chapati at a restaurant near Safe Spaces

Our tour guides knew how to ball!  They were super cool, couldn't have asked for better guides!

Meeting one of the Safe Spaces borrowers that makes cool stuff with beads.  I got to go chill in her apartment which was a really cool experience.  

Shining Hope

Shining Hope was another great Trustee, located in the biggest Slum in East Africa -- Kibera.  They focus on education and life skills for young girls and they have a ton of different programs.  They had a huge plot of land and I met a ton of Kiva Zip artisans making jewelry, bags, and clothes – loads of cool stuff.  Shining Hope has endorsed over 100 borrowers in Kibera.  Walking through the slum, again, it was “here’s a borrower, here’s a borrower, here’s a borrower”.  Incredible. 

Kibera -- 10 square miles of slums – and it was a powerful experience.  Walking around on dirt streets, people everywhere, all sorts of activity.  There was so much to consume, it was overwhelming but a good kind of overwhelming.  One of those experiences that really puts life into perspective.  I’m thankful. 

A picture from the roof of Shining Hope, tin roofs as far as you can see in Kibera.

Me and the representative from Shining Hope in front of their school for girls.  

Walking in Kibera -- it basically looked like this everywhere we went.  That's our fellow Manny who is a great dude!

Slum Codes

Slum Codes was the first Trustee I met with in Kenya and my favorite.  Their leader, Albert, was an incredibly positive, proactive, and generally awesome guy.  Everyone I met had that spirit and vibe that I look for in people.  In no other place did I feel more welcome and comfortable.  I felt I was among true friends.    

The first borrower I met was a young woman, Rose, who sold candy for 1 schilling (.01 cents).  She used a Kiva Zip loan to expand her product line to hot dogs and hard boiled eggs (a random combo if you ask me!).  Understanding her business model, her cash flows, her evolution as an entrepreneur was totally awesome.   She was a special person. 

As the name implies, Slum Codes is in a slum of Nairobi and they had loads of really cool programs to keep young adults productive.  They had an Oracle / CISCO training certification to teach kids about computers.  They had a huge library where I was chatting with students, artisans, parents – but most importantly some guys my age who were super cool – Simon and Chadrick. 

We had a blast together – we talked about music, sports, jobs, school.  It was great.  We made a real connection and I went back to hang out with them a week later.  We hung out at Chadrick’s house, played basketball and soccer, walked around their town, talked about life – it was great.  I love those dudes – they were the highlight of “business week”. 

Me and the Slum Codes crew.  Albert on the far right with our fellows, Kunal (next to Albert).

Rose, her mom, and kid at her candy shop.  She was awesome.

Me, Simon (right), and Chadrick (left) chillin hard.  Throwing up the "K" for Kenya.  They were not good at basketball.

Ended the day with Simon and Chadrick playing soccer on their turf at sunset.  They were very good at soccer and it was a total blast!

Week 2 – Play

Daniel and I had one weekend of fun and I carried on solo for an additional 6 days.  It was great – being with Daniel and being solo. 

View of the Rift Valley on the way to Lake Naivasha

Clouds, clouds, clouds, clouds, clouds for days.

Walking Safari -- Crescent Island

If there’s one thing you have to do while in Kenya it’s this.  Seeing animals on foot is the best way to do it.  We walked around for 5-6 hours, just us, no rush, no agenda – it was perfect.  The views and scenery was unmatched and we were literally walking next to all of the non-dangerous animals in Africa – wildabeast, zebra, water buffalo, warthogs, giraffes, monkeys, gazelles – no paths, just walk around and soak it in. 

The highlight was following around this group of eagles that were massive and totally epic.  

I tried my best to get a picture to capture the epicness of the eagle and this was the best I got!

Biking Safari -- Hells Gate National Park

Daniel’s last day in Kenya was one for the record books.  We had the chance to eat some magic candy prior to our epic adventure and it was one of the best days of my life. 

First – anything with biking is likely going to be one of my favorite things.  But this was on another level.  We biked 20-30 miles in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been – all day long – loving every second of it.  Once again – animals everywhere, perfect weather -- just pure bliss. 

There was a beautiful gorge that was created from Mt. Longonot thousands of years ago.  It was a really adventurous trek that required a guide.  It was awesome.  Layers of rock, tons of color, hot water spouts coming out of the rock, quick sand – so beautiful and epic.  

Inside the gorge, the walls and surroundings were beyond epic.  That's Daniel.

Hiking a Volcano -- Mt. Longonot

So begins my epic solo adventure!  Daniel highly recommended this hike and it was first thing on my agenda after he left.  My expectations were way off – it was super challenging – 15 kilomters that was either a) very steep going up or b) very steep going down.  I had to be pretty cautious, as I saw exactly 0 people in the 5 hours I was out there (and wearing basketball shoes was just dumb). 

I climbed to the edge of the volcano and then hiked around the entire 7 km edge.  It’s the highest point in this area and the scenery was amazing – epic 360 views the entire trek.  While challenging, this had the best views of the entire trip. – totally worth it. 

Boat Safari -- Lake Naivasha

The boat safari came about on a total whim.  It was amazing!  I saw dozens of hippos with birds everywhere.  The scenery on the lake was epic – especially because I went at sunset, which was the best call.  The sky, the clouds, the mountains, the lake, the animals – to die for.  Amazing vibes. 


Camp Carnelliess and Jon

I stayed at a place called Camp Carnellies and got around through a guy named Jon who had a bike.  These two played a huge part in my experience – especially when I was solo. 

Camp Carnellies was $8/night and the best bargain I got on my trip.  They had cold beer and water, amazing food (the spicy crawfish was the best dish I had in Kenya!), and a beautiful plot of land that had amazing birds, monkeys, and trees.  It was sitting on the lake and was the most peaceful place I stayed (by far). 

And Jon…..Jon was my dude.  I met him randomly in the main town of Naivasha when I took the public bus from Nairobi.  He was my partner in crime for three days and we spent hours driving around Naivasha on his motor bike.  Biking is generally unsafe, especially in Nairobi, but Naivasha was so quiet and uncongested that it wasn’t an issue.  Seeing Kenya on a motor bike was an activity in itself.  I wouldn’t have had the experience I had without him.

The ol' pizza swoop.  

Motor Bike -- Crater Lake

Crater lake was super beautiful.  Jon and I went on a safari on the back of his motor bike which took a few hours to complete.  On the way there were a number of beautiful mini-hikes that had epic views of the lake. 

The highlight for me was walking along the top of this ridge that overlooked the lake.  Down below three giraffes were just staring me down the whole way.  There heads turned as I walked and they followed me on the 2 mile trek – it was awesome. 

The Giraffe scoping me down in the valley.

Lake Nkuru -- Menengite Crater & the Caves

After five days in Naivasha I was ready to hit the road and see a new town.  It was a nice small quiet city that reminded me of Fayetteville Arkansas.  The city was bustling but it wasn’t overwhelming – where Nairobi is completely overwhelming. 

I stayed at a nice hotel for $15 that had wifi and cell reception which was really nice.  Getting the chance to Skype with the fam after five days off the grid was a nice moral boost for me.  I was told about a cool crater at the top of the town and headed straight there from the hotel, and I’m glad I did. 

The previous two days I had climbed Longonot and done the Bike Safari so I was pretty physically exhausted.  When they said it was a 5 mile walk to the caves I was up for it, but I thought it’d be round-trip – the 5 mile one way trek was a killer but it was worth it.  These caves were absolutely amazing.  Unlike any caves I’ve ever ventured into, these were MASSIVE.  Apparently people illegally post up there and use it as a church and there were “FEAR GOD” markings all over the caves which I thought was funny.  The last thing I was thinking in the beauty of those caves was fear – let alone fear of God! 

I ended the trek to a beautiful open meadow in a small community.  Kids were playing soccer and I joined them for a game of pick up.  The views from this spot were amazing.  It was a perfect way to end a perfect adventure.

SF is still the best city in the world.  The carvings in the trees confirmed.

This is where I played pickup with a bunch of kids.  The view was to die for.

Nkuru National Park Safari

At this point in the trip, I’d been traveling alone doing a ton of physical activity for six consecutive days – I was burned out.  Till that point I hadn’t done the “traditional” safari, so I wanted to check it out.  This one was unique in that it was a 5 hour drive around a massive lake.  It was beautiful and I was loving it.  The views and scenery were great.  I was literally feet away from huge populations of buffalo, rhino, zebras, gazelles, flamingos, pelicans – it was awesome. 

I had the safari driver take me back to Nairobi after the trek and I was ready to go home.  I had gotten everything and more from the trip and my adventure.  But after realizing I had another two days in Nairobi I had to figure out how to end my trip with a bang – and I did. 


Rhinos -- couldn't get too close to the baby.

Ngong Hills

Monday morning was great.  I slept in, got a great breakfast, and got my inbox down to 0 – an impressive feat after 6 days offline.  I was feeling great and decided to make something of my afternoon.  My friend Taylor, who spent 6 months in Nairobi, gave me a big list of stuff to do – most of which I checked off my hit list.  There was on that thing that was intriguing and it was a hike through the hills that bordered Nairobi. 

I got a cab to drop me off, wait, and take me back which was huge and I took my sweet time going through the vast scene that awaited me.  There was a newly developed wind farm at the top, which made things even more epic.  I would lie down and stare at the huge blades spinning above me -- it was so powerful. 

One thing that I haven’t mentioned that I need to – clouds.  The clouds in Kenya are epic – it’s the only way to describe them.  At Ngong I was in heaven, the clouds were the best – massive clusters that towered above the land for as far as you could see.  It contrast to the wind farms, it was life changing.  I LOVED it.  It reminded me of my favorite place in the world, Mt. Lemon (.d, do you hear me!).  It gave Mt. Lemon a run for it’s money.  Everything about it was perfect. 

Elephant Sanctuary

My last day in Nairobi was spent at a popular tourist attraction on the border of Nairobi National Park – an elephant sanctuary.  I’m generally very iffy on tourist attractions – I try to stay away as best I can – but this was great.  There were 30 baby elephants running around loving life and I was right there, feet away watching them play for an hour.  Elephants are incredible creatures.  I felt so lucky to be there. 


My Take Aways

1) I am lucky.  For anyone to experience this you’ve got to feel lucky.  I am so grateful to work at Kiva, to be where I am, to have the opportunity to experience all the things I have.  So thankful to the universe for giving me amazing, life-changing experiences like this. 

2) What Kiva Zip is doing in Kenya is really really incredible.  The hustlers spirit in Kenya is alive and well.  Seeing it first hand, talking to entrepreneurs, hearing the stories of our trustees – it was really special for me. 

3) Family means everything.  Julia and Blu.  Josh and Christian.  Mom and Dad.  I love them more than anything. 

4) Probably the most insightful for me – I like being alone.  I’ve never traveled alone, I’ve never really done anything alone for an extended period of time.  Being by myself, exploring my mind, experiencing the world alone was powerful and I loved it.  Solitude is bliss. 

5) I’m happier now than I’ve ever been and there’s nothing better than that.  I’m feeing very positive. 

Finally – a few songs that really hit me good at the right time over these past two weeks.