Easy Phrases to Learn Before Traveling Anywhere

Learning a Language Can Be Simple

The best investment decision I ever made while living in China was getting a language teacher. It took me a whole year living in China before I decide to take the plunge into seriously learning the language. Once I started my lessons, I started to understand random conversations overheard in the street, at work, and in the media much more! However, it took me way too long to realize the value and impact that a language teacher would have on my life here.


So you may ask yourself, how did I get by during my first year living in China? I often wasn’t lucky enough to encounter locals who spoke English and started learning Chinese mainly through listening. Below is a list of the phrases I used the majority of the time to communicate with people who didn’t understand me when I speaking English.


The ideal scenario is that you take some online courses with a language teacher before traveling anywhere. Although, when you are pressed for time these phrases are the best to use and not just for China.


Greetings & Goodbyes

Hello (Nǐ hǎo 你好)

Good morning (Zǎoshang hǎo 早上好), good afternoon (Xiàwǔ hǎo 下午好), and good evening (Wǎnshàng hǎo 晚上好)

Goodbye (Zàijiàn 再见)


When starting any perceivably long interaction

Sorry, my [insert language] is not good.  (Duìbùqǐ, wǒ de zhōngwén bù hǎo 对不起,我的中文不好)

I am American.  (Wǒ shì měiguó rén 我是美国人)


Finding the essentials

Where is the [insert location/object]?  (zài nǎlǐ 在哪里)

Where is the bathroom?  (Cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ 厕所在哪里)

Where is the train?  (Dìtiě zài nǎlǐ 地铁在哪里)


When you’re out shopping

How much is it?  (Duōshǎo qián多少钱)

What is this?  (Zhè shì shénme这是什么)

I don’t need. (wǒ bú yòng 我不用)

I don’t want. (Wǒ búyào 我不要)

Thank you  (Xièxiè 谢谢)


When you want to learn or clarify

How do you say [point to object]?  (Nǐ zěnme shuō你怎么说)

What does [word] mean? (shì shénme yìsi 是什么意思)

I don’t understand. (wǒ tīng bù dǒng 我听不懂)


The last three sentences are the most important phrases and the main ones to remember. If you can learn these three sentences during your stay in a country, you can get a contextual understanding of most conversations within a month’s time.


I would recommend learning these phrases as locals tend to be more open and kinder to foreigners who are trying to learn a language. Additionally, the best way to learn about a culture is by learning the language.

If you want to see an extended version of this article on Youtube (and me trying my best not stumble on both Chinese and Spanish) click on the video below.



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Fear Setting vs Goal Setting

I quit my job

As of January 17th, 2020 I will be self-employed. I am leaving my comfort zone to travel the world with my girlfriend. I’m planning on sustaining myself through remote work (copywriting and online teaching to start).
How did I get here? How did I decide to make such a frightening change? I credit fear setting as the main catalyst for this big life-changing shift.
Fear setting is a mental exercise I learned from Tim Ferriss. Instead of defining your goals for 2020, I recommend defining your fears instead. Tim describes the exercise in far greater detail but, simply put:
Fear setting is a mental exercise where you define your fears, how you could repair them if they occurred, and how putting off the decisions that may change your life are affecting you and the people closest to you.
I did the exercise in my journal (pictured below) and it helped to bring clarity to my whole situation. After speaking to my girlfriend about it, it turns out all of my responses to the questions in this exercise are highly accurate.


Once I had established what I was really afraid of and the cost of inaction, it made more sense to take the risk. I have been an English teacher in China for a year and eight months now. The experiences I have had in this country will always stay with me and I will be forever grateful for what I’ve learned here. However, it is time for me to continue my journey around the world and challenge myself to grow more.
My suggestion to anyone reading this is to sit down after reading Tim Ferriss’s blog post or watching his TED talk and do this exercise. If your life seems boring or unfulfilling, it most likely feels that way because you are postponing an important decision out of fear. Do not be afraid of failure.
After doing this exercise, you’ll realize that the failure you fear isn’t fatal and even if you fail you can always start from square one and try again.
I have no idea if this new change in my career will be a successful one. What I do know is that if I don’t try to do this now, I will end up losing out on a big opportunity to see the world and growing my writing skills. Most of the people I admire have done something similar to this. It would be a great disservice to myself if I don’t try taking travel more seriously.

Below is a quote from author Sebastian Junger that I often revisit — found through one of Tim Ferriss’s books. It sums up why fear setting is so useful.

School programs you to always succeed which makes you safe. You have to learn how to fail in order to learn.”

— Quote from Sebastian Junger, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss, page 422


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The “Friend-Zone” is Your Friend

I am not an expert in relationships, so to make this more digestible I decided to make this post a letter to myself at the age of 13. This was my first year of high school and it was during this time that I first heard of the term “friend-zone.”


Dear Kenny,


Don’t be a jerk. Your friends are going to tell you that women like jerks but, please don’t listen. In the long run, they will all be wrong.


It is acceptable to be friends with women. Contrary to what you will believe during high school, girls are going to like you. However, constantly expecting something in return for being kind to women will backfire. Be nice because you’re nice. The biggest assholes are those who expect something in return for being polite. No one owes you anything.


This doesn’t mean that you should not express your feelings. If you’re attracted to someone and see through your friendship that things may work out in a more intimate setting, shoot your shot. Just learn how to be friends with a woman even after they reject you.


This is something you’ll still struggle with even during college but, you’ll eventually see the benefits. One example would be that women oftentimes are great at introducing you to other women. The best way to meet a potential partner is by being introduced by a mutual friend.


The friend-zone should be the very thing you seek. It makes no sense to avoid friendship with anyone, especially someone you like. The friend-zone is the best place to get to know someone and see if you enjoy their company. Even if the friendship never evolves to anything else, having friends of the opposite sex helps you gain a bigger perspective on life.


Try to take the advice from your male friends with a grain of salt. Yes, you should never be taken for granted and you should know your worth. And yes, you shouldn’t waste your time pursuing someone who does not like you or see you for what you are worth. However, don’t cut someone off from your life either — just because they don’t want to date you.


In the future, you will meet some amazing women who you will actually prefer to keep as friends. This approach will be the best for you, as having deep connections with women will be more important than following the competitive race to be the “ladies man” that your other friends will pursue. That race is exhausting and not for you.


Through the friend-zone, you will meet the love of your life. You will see her for all that she is because there won’t be the initial filters set in place when you are meeting someone for the first time and immediately start dating. There is a certain intimacy that you share with someone that can only be gained by building a strong friendship first. We often create images of ourselves that aren’t real when we are dating a stranger.


When you are friends with someone, you see them for who they are and can make a better prediction of how a potential relationship will turn out.


Don’t be a jerk. Be a friend. The quality of your life will change drastically when you stop chasing women and simply live your life being a friendly and kind man. It makes almost all of your interactions with women lighter; there’s less pressure.


Also, not being constantly focused on trying to be in a relationship someone will deepen the one you have with yourself. That relationship should take top priority more than anything else. And when you have a strong relationship with yourself, you’ll get the added benefit of becoming more attractive to others.


Enjoy the friend-zone, some of the best memories are made there.


If you’ve read this far, thank you. I often don’t publish the letters I write to myself in fear of criticism but, with the encouragement of my girlfriend and because of a quote I recently read (see below) I decided this was worth sharing.


“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
Cyril Connolly
New Statesman, February 25, 1933


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Owning Your Distractions

“The distractions holding you back from achieving your goals today should be seen as the rewards for completing those goals.”

There is a struggle with working on any project by yourself that is often never mentioned. The hardest part about starting anything by yourself is that you are doing it by yourself. There’s no one to help you figure out when’s the best due date for a specific task, your goals oftentimes do not show immediate results, and you’re solely responsible for staying focused.
This applies to any type of hustle where you’re the sole boss and employee. Even if you eventually plan on growing a team to help you manage your project, you are in most cases starting from a team of one.
If you’re trying to become a business owner, a part-time or full-time freelancer, influencer, blogger, Youtuber, etc., you will eventually run into a wall. This “wall” is your own waning productivity.
As you work on your project, you’re going to have your doubts. Even worse, each day you work you’re going to begin distracting yourself in little ways.

Distractions plague everyone which is why systems are important

There is a whole list of professions that focus on the singular task of optimizing a company’s processes. Chief Quality Officer, Vice President of Quality, Vice President of Quality Improvement, Director of Process, Quality Systems Manager, Process Owner, Process Engineering Manager, Process Control Supervisor, Director of Quality Systems, and Global Process Owner are some of the vast titles out there for people who work on making teams faster and more effective.
The great news is that just as there are professionals who dedicate their lives to creating techniques and methodologies to improving the processes within a company, there are also people who have dedicated their lives to helping individuals create systems for optimizing their own productivity.
Now with all the information online about self-development and self-improvement, you can spend a whole three months to half a year figuring out which list of habits work for you. I have spent a lot of my time falling into the trap of consuming productivity hacking videos on Youtube as a form of entertainment, rarely adopting anything to see if it actually works.
Whenever I do adopt something I’ve seen on Youtube or read in a book, I seldom commit to it after two weeks.
Perhaps the best approach to finding the right system that can overcome your daily distractions is by first creating your own system first.

It is better to make a horrible system of habits first than to adopt something you had no part in creating?

Trying a new self-help challenge, productivity hack, practice, or routine only to give up on the commitment thirty days later is something I have been guilty of for the past three years. Things only began to shift for me when I asked myself, “Are these suggestions made specifically for me? How can I make them work for my life?”
Sometimes a new experiment can’t work because it clashes with your commitments to others. My girlfriend recently got concerned when I lost almost ten kilograms while trying to see if intermittent fasting was for me. And sometimes a new practice you’ve adopted actually gets in the way of work and becomes another source of complexity; another distraction. I once spent 20 minutes “optimizing my calendar” every afternoon for a whole week, only to realize all I did was make it have 14 shades of blue, red, and green.
A system of best practices only works when you’ve created it without any outside influences first. Yes, you can and should seek inspiration and advice from people more successful than you but, their routines aren’t made with the nuances of your life in mind.
That’s why you have to start with your own system first.

“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”

The best way to begin creating your own distraction-killing system of habits begins with a diagnosis. I know that I can’t be productive if I’m listening to a podcast while working on a task. I also can’t talk to others while focusing on a problem. Other people don’t have the same issues as me.
Perhaps your main distraction is a mobile game that keeps nudging you to solve that next puzzle or it’s Instagram, calling you to see what your friends and family are doing right now. Regardless of the type of distraction, you have to write them down and acknowledge them before creating the rules to tackle them.
If most of your distractions come in digital form, one simple way to stop them from getting in your way is by simply turning off your Wifi for a set period of time. If your distractions come from being interrupted by others, your productivity hack can come from creating your own private space for work.
Sometimes an easier way to get better results is by discovering during what time of day are you most focused (I can’t do anything effectively until I’ve been awake for at least three hours).
Regardless of what you distracted by, it is important to focus on creating your own system of rules first. If not, you may fall into the trap of distracting yourself by learning how to be productive.
You have to hold yourself accountable. The next time you try something new, make sure it is something you thought of yourself. Do not take any suggestions from anyone. See if that idea is more effective than anything else you’ve tried in the past.
Odds are, it will be more effective because you thought about the idea built from your own personal circumstances. Only after you’ve made the idea on your own and you’ve tried it for at least a month, should you then seek outside advice and inspiration to improve upon that idea.
Lastly, you have to consider that some distractions shouldn’t be eliminated from your life. I like watching anime and it can sometimes get in the way of my work. I’ve used the desire to watch anime as a reward after doing my work rather than an excuse not to do it.
When you are trying to optimize your life, don’t accidentally punish yourself by eliminating the things that bring you joy. Not all distractions are bad, we just need to find ways to defer them for later while we focus on what’s important at the moment.
Work first, have later. It should never be: work first, find ways to work better, and only seek enjoyment in the work. Yes, you have to work in order to achieve your goals. Use the distractions holding you back from achieving your goals as the very rewards gained for completing your work.


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Kenny Soto Purpose of Blog

The Purpose of This Blog: Shared Learning

In 2015, my mentor Maurice Bretzfield had given me a simple task. He told me to start a blog.

When I created my own digital marketer for hire” website, my singular focus was to use it to get a job. While I was still in college, I was looking for any way to make my resume appear more impressive.

I thought that the best topics for me to write about was anything that made me sound smart. This approach didn’t give me fulfillment in my writing (nor did it actually help me in my job search). Additionally, no one would read what I was writing. Over time, writing and managing my blog became a chore. I lost my enthusiasm and could not see any reason to continue sharing my thoughts online.

After almost five years I’ve decided to archive my old posts from 2015 to 2019 on Medium and LinkedIn. I going to try writing again and do it better this time.

I want my blog and the time I spend sharing my thoughts to be valuable, not only to myself but, also to anyone who may stumble upon my writing.

I used to write about random topics. Although these topics were important to me, they weren’t portrayed in the right light.

I shared ideas I liked within the frame of, “look at how much I know about idea X.” Moving forward, my future blog posts will be written within the frame of, “look at how idea X can be useful in your life. Here are examples of how it has been useful in my life and the lives of those I’m learning from.

I want to use my writing as a vehicle for shared learning and I hope that the words I publish will be of use to you as well. I will share lessons that come from books I’m reading, people I encounter, or through my pondering. Hopefully, after reading any post I write, you gain a new idea, question, or perspective.

Let’s see if this time the writing can be more fun and the ideas shared more helpful.


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