“If You Can Make It Here…”

Why I Left NYC To Travel

Frank Sinatra’s cliche line is true up to a certain point. Yes, New York City is one of the best cities in the world. Perhaps it is also the best place to grow your career, regardless of the industry you are in. Yet, how do you know for certain that it is the best city? How can you be certain that you can make it anywhere if you are only successful in NYC?


The best way to know if you can make it anywhere should be to leave the Big Apple and see if you can. New York will always have a special place in my heart. I lived there for almost 24 years. It was (and still is) a source of hope for my family, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic, seeking a better life. After more than two decades in one place however, I have to wonder, “Is this all that there is?”


There is an argument to made for leaving NYC. It certainly is the best method for appreciating the experience of living there, which is a great privilege. I do find myself constantly comparing everywhere I have seen to the unique life I had in my hometown. These comparisons also show me that NYC isn’t as perfect as I thought it was.


A city doesn’t need to be a visible rat-infested slum of a subway system, for example. In two of the most populated cities in China, Beijing and Shenzhen, the subways are so clean that one could sit on the floor while waiting for the next train. Without diving into the complexities of exchange rates, a city doesn’t have to be so damn expensive to live in either!


You could live in Chiangmai, Thailand for under $1,000 a month. This is impossible to do in NYC, even in the Bronx. One of the fanciest condos I have ever lived in charges 6,000THB or $192.80 a month in rent. And one doesn’t need to leave the United States to see how ridiculously expensive NYC is. A quick visit to Florida, Georgia, or Texas can also highlight why living in New York is an unnecessary expense and burden on one’s pockets.


Because of my current experiences gained while traveling, I will only be in NYC for small moments at a time now. A week or two is enough for me to visit family and friends. This is all because my suspicions were correct. If I could make it anywhere, that meant I didn’t need to only make it in New York City. I could leave and actually set out to make it, all across the world. And if I find that after traveling, New York City is the best place on earth. Then I will have an even deeper appreciation for the place I grew up in. I suspect it isn’t though and there is only one way to find out.

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When Childhood Ends

July 2016 was a very stressful month for me. My mother had told me that we were getting evicted from our apartment because she was overdue on rent, by several months. A month before I received this news, I had graduated from college and was hopeful of the future. Those hopes seemed to disappear instantly at the thought that things were not going to be as smooth as I’d envisioned.


We ended up packing our bags and moving back to my grandmother’s old three-bedroom apartment, where my cousin and her boyfriend were. I suddenly found myself cramped in a bedroom with my mother and my dog. Everything was happening rather quickly and I didn’t have the time to sit down and process everything.


A month later my mother found a new apartment and told me when we were going to move. When I told my cousin the news she told me not to go with my mother. I was so confused. “I shouldn’t go with my mom? Are you slow in the head?” I had thought that my cousin was giving me irrational advice. She explained to me the this was the perfect moment for me to finally become independent and that I shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity.


I could continue to stay with my mother, where it (relatively) safe and secure and comfortable. I could also try living without her. After telling my mother I would not be moving with her, she was sad at first but, relented and ultimately supported my decision. Once she left, I had the room all to myself. When I began to start paying rent for my room is when it dawned on me, “my childhood is over.”


Now I was officially an adult. Prior to this moment, I had never considered that becoming an adult had nothing to do with age. Adulthood occurs at the moment when you are responsible for your own well being. Now sure, I could have taken the easy route and continue living with my mom but, that would also be self-limiting.


I finally noticed all of the things that stressed-out my mother and every else that I saw as an authority figure; as an adult. The rent, phone bill, groceries, cleaning supplies, clothing — you name it. I had spent twenty-three years ignorant of all the ways that my mother had supported me since she was only seventeen years old. Now it was my turn to take care of myself. This was the point that I truly understood the value of a dollar and a day of hard work.


There may not be an appropriate and universal age for leaving your parent’s home. However, I do believe that the longer you take to do this, the more jarring the moment will be when it does happen. I would rather leave by choice rather than be forced out. I suppose the proactive approach doesn’t completely prepare you for adulthood but, you do go through the growing pains faster. Adulthood is inevitable. We all might as well take it head-on, no matter how scary it is.

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What Idea Would You Die For?

This question first came to mind while I was reading Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires by Tim Ferriss. In the book, he interviews writer and journalist, Sebastian Junger. Sebastian poses this question to anyone who lives in a modern, first-world country.


It is important for us to at least think about this question on a regular basis, for as Sebastian puts it, “Who would you die for? What ideas would you die for? The answer to those questions, for most of human history, would have come very readily to any person’s mouth…In modern society, it gets more and more complicated (page 423).”


The answer to this question doesn’t come easily for me. Of course I can quickly answer, “who would you die for?” I would die for my family. Who would I die for outside of my family? I suppose that, if necessary, I would die for anyone younger than me. I would sacrifice my life to save a child. Although, this thought brings into question the ethical “age limit” for sacrificing your life. I could go into a philosophical spiral of questions when it comes to dying for other people. So instead, let me try to think about ideas I hold dear.


“What ideas would you die for?” Well if I had to answer Sebastian, I would have to choose only one idea. That idea would be that we should have the freedom to learn. The thought that even today, some people around the world still do not have a decent education or complete access to information truly scares me. I try to imagine a life where I am restricted in what I can learn about, either because of a lack of finances or because of restrictions placed upon me by some religious institution or government.


As an American, I have not really considered how lucky I am when it comes to my education. I never had any restrictions on what I could learn, even though I went through New York City’s public education system. Even today, I am extremely fortunate to have the ability to continue learning. I have constant access to the internet and I am not restricted in what topics I can research.


For someone who grew up with the privilege to be curious, the thought of being restricted on what I can and cannot know also angers me. So I would certainly give my life to defend the idea that everyone should have the freedom to learn anything they want.


The one idea I would sacrifice my life for is my ability to be curious without restrictions. What would you die for? Take a moment today to think about the answer to this. It isn’t often that we encounter a question that helps clarify what is truly important to us.

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The Power of a Post-it Note

A piece of paper can bring a lot of value to your life.

As is the case with all tools, it is how we use them that determines their usefulness. There are hundreds of productivity applications online. None of them have seemed to actually help me, so I recently decided to try using a simpler solution.
That simple solution was using a Post-it Note. These sticky squares have been around long before I was born. Yet, because I used to associate them as something that only teachers needed, I had written them off. After listening to the audiobook version of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss, I discovered how he uses a simple piece of paper to accomplish his critical tasks for each day.
This practice can be done with any piece of paper, I choose to use a Post-It Note. Each morning you write down one to three tasks that need to get done for the day, in order of descending importance. Then you put the piece of paper in your pants pocket. I have been putting my note in my wallet so that it doesn’t get wrinkled.

The paper workers as a reminder you cannot swipe away. You are forced to look at it and feel guilt at the end of the day when you don’t finish what you promised to yourself. This simple piece of paper gives you a sense of accomplishment when you actually do complete a task and cross it out with a pen or pencil. I personally like crumbling up the paper at the end of the day once everything is done because it makes me feel like I literally crushed my day.
It is often the simplest habits we adopt that are the most useful. If the productivity hacks we are experimenting with are too convoluted, we will most likely not fully adopt them. There are so many tools already available that can help us increase our productivity. Just keep things as simple as possible and don’t even use a phone or computer. Try using a piece of paper instead of an app. It will work wonders.


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How-to-Get a-Job-People-Get-Paid-to-Think-Kenny-Soto

How to Get a Job in 2020

People Get Paid to Think

People pay you to save them time, make them money, and ultimately for your thoughts. Getting an employer’s attention is the main challenge to getting any kind of job in the knowledge economy. How do you stand out amongst a sea of other competitors? How can you stand out when these candidates may be more qualified and better connected than you are?


Speaking from my experience as a marketer, I have found that the primary factor for getting a job is mainly one of presentation. The way that I approach how I present myself starts with one question, “What thoughts am I sharing that are unique to me?


Everyone is unique and some of the ideas we have are also unique. However, that doesn’t mean that every idea we have is a good one. In order to create an impressive and presentable resume/CV/portfolio/profile that showcases your best thoughts and ideas requires experimentation. These experiments in how you present yourself can be done both in-person and online.

So let’s get specific. Let’s create a scenario for the budding marketer, which will have a lot of similarities to the average first-time knowledge worker. Suppose you are about to graduate college and you are seeking employment in an ad agency or a start-up. How do you get hired with no experience?


Finding a solution to this problem is the first challenge to tackle. The fastest solution is through using your connections. Utilize your network to find your first gig. However, this option isn’t workable for most people during the early stages of their careers. Quite often we really don’t understand the value of having a well-established network until we first start searching for our first job.


An alternative solution to, “How do you get hired with no experience?”, would be to hire yourself. Remember, as a knowledge worker you are ultimately going to get hired on your ability to think. You will be hired for your ability to use your thoughts, to save your team time and make them money. Why not try doing this for yourself first?


Now being very frank here, you shouldn’t seek to make money online or gain a million followers on a social media platform. The practice of hiring yourself is for two purposes.

  1. To see if you like doing the type of work that you are seeking to do.
  2. To get experience doing the actual work by marketing yourself, as the primary example.

The best way to measure your success when hiring yourself is by first figuring out if you are having fun. Then you must showcase what you are learning from this experiment in hiring yourself.


For the budding marketer, this can be done through content. A blog, vlog, or podcast will work. Additionally, you don’t need to make this content specifically about your craft (the job you want to be hired for). The content can be about anything.


In marketing specifically, an employer will want to see your ability to grab people’s attention. When creating something for yourself, when hiring yourself as your own marketer, consider what topics already grab your attention. As Naval Ravikant put it, “What are you obsessed with?” Start by creating content around a topic you love and then try promoting it.


You will begin to encounter the daily challenges that all businesses face. If you can figure out how to gain the attention of your own tribe, you will be able to showcase how you can do that for others.


Lastly, there is another way to gain experience when you are starting from ground zero. This approach works for anyone, especially if the idea of self-promotion puts a bad taste in your mouth. If you want to get experience, you can always become a volunteer.


Volunteering your time is the fastest way to get experience. Volunteering to do work for your local small businesses or a nonprofit, free of charge, will give you the experience you want. Also, it will show you if you like the work and it will build your network. With the three solutions mentioned: using your network, hiring yourself first, and volunteering, take note that they can also be done simultaneously!


Finding work can be hard but, it isn’t impossible. You just need to take the time to consider how your unique thoughts can make other people successful and how you can show them this, by working on your own obsession. Figure that out (or at least begin to try) and you will be well on your way to getting any job you want.


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