Mexican Brother or How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Actually Need?

“Hi, Sir, how are you?” I said waving and approaching him.
“Good. How about you?,” the Mexican man asked smiling back to me.
“Hot!” I said.
“I bet! Hahaha!” he laughed.

“My name is Abdu. I am a college exchange student all the way from Europe,” I gave a big smile.
“How can I help you?”
“I am the one who has been sitting down with all of the educational focused parents and teachers here in Modesto, California… [I made a pause here and smilied looking into his eyes] showing educational tools for high schoolers all the way down to little toddlers.”

“My kids are all grown up and gone. Even my grandkid is already in college.”
“I am on the wrong spot, then.” I said.
He laughed and said “Yes, you are!”

He had three cars beside his large house: BMW X6, Toyota Camry, and an old Crysler.

“That is a very nice car,” I said looking at his dark red Crysler and moving towards it into the garage. I started inspecting the car with big opened eyes, walking around it.
“Yeah, this is Crysler of the year 1946.”
“Wow… this is so awesome.” I said.

When I looked at him at this moment, he had the facial expression as if conveying the message “I am so proud of this car.”
“How much would it cost?” I asked.
“$40,000,” he said, routinely.
“Forty thousand bucks? Are you kidding me?”
“Haha… yes, forty thousand. If I manage to fix it, it will cost $100,000 or even $120,000.”
“What? Does it even move?”
“No,” the Mexican said, still keeping his smile.
“And people buy such cars for that price?”
“Yeap. Collectors do”

Some people buy cars [which do not even move] for this whopping amount of money.

“If I had $40,000, I’d love to spend it for studies at Cambridge… and some people buy toys for that money ”

“Well, this is California,” he said, kidding. “Money is the only thing we have. We don’t know what to do with it.”
He looked down, kept silence for 3 seconds [pondering about something] and then told an old Mexican story as if critiquing himself:

If you have TWO pairs of shoes, then you are RICH. Because you don’t need the second pair. We [most of the time] use only one pair of shoes, right? So the second pair is NOT A NECESSITY.”

Now think about having 3 cars in a garage. One of which cost $40,000 and it won’t even move. Is it a necessity?

The only reason some people buy “the second pair of shoes” is because they want to look “rich” in the eyes of other people [that’s what the ols Mexican man told me today].

How many pairs of shoes do YOU have?

Money Is Important

“It sounds cynic, but usually you are happy when you got money.” — I remember how one woman told me that in my childhood.

When I was on the 9th grade in school, there was one girl with long hair in our class. She was the most beautiful girl in the group and there hardly was a boy who did not like her [there is almost always such girl in any class].

I remember one day two of the boys got into childish fight, one of them shouting “How dare you sit with my girlfriend at one desk!?”. Each of them claimed that she is his “girlfriend.” [now it makes me laugh when I remember that day].

She never noticed me. Of course she wouldn’t. I was kind of “a loser” in the class. But one day…

One day my uncle presented me an iPhone 3GS as a gift [it was a super fancy phone at that time]. And I brought that cool phone to school. I showed it off to everyone. In the entire school there were only two kids who had an iPhone. One of them was me.

Guess what. The girl with long hair started noticing me, smiling at me, talking to me about homework. One day I even dared to text her “Привет! Че делаешь?” [“Hi! How is it going?”]. And we started “dating” [sort of “dating”] for whopping two months. And then in summer holidays we stopped it.

Notice that this “success” came to me AFTER I got that fancy black iPhone. Is it coincidence? I don’t think so. Is it cynic? Absolutely. But that seems to be how this life works.

The more life experience I get, the more I realize — money really matters.

To be honest with you, I don’t want to believe in that. I don’t want my relationships with people be based on finances. Yet, I can name only a few people with whom we have the relationship that is pure from any money matters. With everybody else money is involved one way or the other.

Sometimes we just need to accept the reality.

Get rich [if you can], but don’t get arrogant. Earn a decent living, but don’t forget about your past. Work hard and make money, and spend it on your family.

Get rich, but don’t get arrogant.

Bookman or How I Sold My First Book This Year

“According to Eckhart Tolle,” I continued. “90% of the world population suffer from this disease. We have constant dialogues in our heads. We think without stopping about the events that happened in the PAST, and then we think about imaginary situations in the FUTURE. And those thoughts kind of take over our lives…”

I made a pause for a couple of moments and then asked my audience, “Have you ever found yourself in that situation?”

We were drinking coffee at a table in a cafe. There were 4 of us there: the old man [from Somalia], my friend [from Ethiopia], another friend of mine [from Kazakhstan], and me [from… you know where from].

The old man and the Ethiopian dude got so excited that they SIMULTANEOUSLY said: “Yes! It happens all the time.”

“How do you feel about that?” I asked.
“Bad, very bad.” the old man frowned. “One philosopher said that the life is only three days: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And the most important day is today. We should always try to live now… to be present. But it’s so hard to do.”

“That’s exactly what this book is about!” I said, smiling and looking into his eyes.

He kept silence for two seconds and then said:
“How is the book called?”
“It’s called The Power of Now. I actually have it with me. I can show you.”

I took a small blue book out of my bag and presented it to the people sitting around the table.

“The power of now?” the Ethiopian exclaimed with a voice that was as if conveying the message: “What a weird title!”

The old man took the book into his hands [while I was still talking about the content of it], opened the book, quickly looked through the text, then closed the book, and once again took a closer look at the nice blue cover of the book. Then he asked, without raising his eyes:

“Where can I get this book?”
“I ordered it from Amazon Germany,” I responded.
“Can you order it for me?”
“Sure I can.”

It is such a great feeling when you feel that you contribute to the personal development of somebody. That man will read the book. He will become smarter. Based on his knowledge he will do a couple of good deeds in his life. And you know what? I am the one who initiated those good deeds in the first place. It is amazing to feel that somebody starts reading a book BECAUSE OF YOU.

Read books more often. Talk about those books. Discuss them with your people whenever you have a chance to do so. Because eventually, you will feel that you are making impact.

My Roommate or 2 Reasons Why He Is Amazing

I was sleeping. Somebody opened the front door with a key and entered the room. It was my roommate.

“Is it you?” I said, with a sleepy voice, hardly conscious of what was happening.
“Yes, Abu, it’s me,” my roommate said with an enthusiastic voice [he always tries to be enthusiastic when greeting people]. He took off his shoes.

I put my hand onto the desk [which was right next to my bed] and took my phone. When I pressed its button, it showed “02:45 AM”.

After several seconds I fell asleep.

When at 06:00 AM the alarm clock of my roommate went off, I woke up again.

“Are you leaving?” I asked when I saw from the corner of my eye that he was dressing up, as if preparing for an important meeting.
“Yes,” he said, smiling. “I have a meeting at 07:00 AM. Sorry if I woke you up.”
“Bro, you just came back home. You hardly slept 3 hours,” I said.

My roommate said nothing and just smiled.
After several moments of silence I said, mumbling: “You are like a robot.”

He merely laughed at my words. Put his shoes on. Combed his hair. Perfumed his neck and wrists. Opened the door. Wished me “a nice day”. And left for his meeting.

His father runs a pretty good firm back in Uzbekistan [I mean, they got money]. Yet my roommate works at two jobs and says that he is old enough to sustain himself and he “is not taking money from home.” You kind of have to admire his personality.

Sleeping 3 hours and working two shifts per day? I could never do that. I’m so grateful to Europe Union that it gave me a full-scholarship grant to study Bachelors. Without this grant, I would probably die. I don’t have the hard-working personality that my roommate has.

Here are two reasons why I admire my roommate:
1. He is one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever known.
2. He is passionate about his job. Sometimes in the mornings he jumps out of his bed, saying “Я люблю свою жизнь!” [“I love my life!”]

[Sometimes I really think that I am living with a robot].

How I met a Harvard graduate

I was sitting on the fourth row of a lecture hall in the University of Economics. Dan Moore stepped up onto the stage. He was wearing a formal black suit and a green tie. He had round black glasses [similar to mine]. His grey beard was so perfectly trimmed that I almost said: “one day I will grow the same style beard.”
When he made a pause during his speech, I accidentally heard one of the girls sitting in the third row whisper “This guy studied at Harvard”, pointing with her eyes at Mr Moore.
He told us how he used to work as a dish-washer during his student life and now, because he worked hard for so many years, he has become the president of the big company [called Southwestern Advantage].
“Imagine you have lots and lots of money,” Dan Moore said facing the audience of students. “Did you imagine that? Now, I want you to take a piece of paper and write down what you would do for the rest of your life.”
If money wouldn’t matter, what would you do for the rest of your life?
When I asked Taia how she had responded to that question she said: “I would travel around the world.” Andrei, on the other hand, said that he would spend his life on “re-educating men and women about their role in this life.” [how interesting, I thought]
How did I respond to that question? [I’m glad you’ve asked 😀 ]
I would fulfil my biggest dream: founding a media company.
Just imagine… Our office is located next to a beautiful beach in San Fransisco, California, with a view on the Ocean. My team consists of bloggers and video producers.
What does the company produce?
3 types of products:
  1. Video content
  2. Podcast shows
  3. Blogposts
Who is our target audience?
Progressive society of the world [perhaps 10% of the world population].
What is the purpose of the company?
To change the way people think about certain things happening around us in our daily lives.
How are we going to generate income?
I don’t know [but I should figure it out].
Lately I started to think: perhaps my dream is “doable” and that it is just a matter of time and a little effort?
I’m 21 years old now. Can I reach my dream until I’m 30? Maybe until 40? Come on, I should be able to found that company at least until I’m 50 years old [30 years is pretty long time].
But wait a second… [scary thought crossed my mind] what if I don’t live up to 50 years old? [after all, nobody knows when death knocks on your door]. What if…
What if in several years, when I will be shopping for my family in a Christmas market, some terrorist will crash me with his truck. And I will die. Right there. At the age of 25. In the middle of the Christmas market. Does that mean that I spent my life on a stupid dream that didn’t yield any benefit either for me or for people? Was everything in vain?
Let me think… Well, at least I will DIE WITH A DREAM. Isn’t the dream worth it?
Anyway… Here is my takeaway from Mr Dan Moore’s workshop:
History proves us that dreams tend to come true. Make sure you have a dream. Make sure it is so big that you are even ready to spend your entire life on it. “And one day,” as Mr Moore would put it. “you will become the president of a big company.”

The girl I used to like

I fell in love with her at first sight. It happened at one of the Erasmus events last year. She had dark-brown glasses, which perfectly matched her long and thin face. The glasses made her look maturely elegant.

When I got acquainted with her, I asked “Do you use facebook?”. She kindly gave her facebook name to me. When I opened her profile, on the cover photo she was standing hand-in-hand with a handsome tall guy. So I thought: “she has a life-partner”.

Since then I totally removed her from my head. I forced myself to forget her. But one day…

One day I was standing at a bus stop, waiting for bus number 107, listening to a podcast about “creative business” in my headphones. Somebody came up to me from the back, and gave me a pleasant touch on my elbow with her soft hand. I turned around. It was her. It was she and her elegant round glasses.

“Hi!” she said, smiling.
“Hello!” I responded [I didn’t expect her to approach me that way]. “How are you doing?”
“Pretty well, thanks,” she smiled.

As we were waiting for our bus to arrive, we went on chatting. It would be awkward to stand there in silence.

“I had an exam today,” I started talking about general things to be polite, and kept ‘distance’ between us. “The exam wasn’t that hard, but I didn’t prepare for it properly. How are your classes going?”

She was looking at me with unnaturally wide-opened eyes and her head was bent down a little — the way a little child looks at you when she wants to get a lollipop, you know what I mean?

Then she suddenly said with a quiet and seductive voice “You are so tall…”, looking up at me.
I thought, “what’s going on right now?”.

In my country it is inappropriate to make “nice and seductive” compliments to opposite gender [especially if you already have a boyfriend or girlfriend]. So I felt a little weird and, as though I didn’t hear anything, I went on with my boring “talk” about university lessons.

When the bus arrived and we were about to get on it, she [all of a sudden] whispered “I’m so cold…” and grabbed my hand!

I flinched. But pretended that I didn’t [because cool guys don’t flinch when girls touch them, right?]. Instead, I took this move of hers as a joke and slowly pulled my hand away, smiling.

Later that day, I thought that I had to talk about this with somebody.

I ran across a person on the street in the evening, who happened to be my friend and luckily that girl’s friend too [a mutual friend, in other words], I told her “I need your advice.”

“Yeah, sure, what happened?” she said.
“Take a look,” I said, showing on my phone some of the text messages that the girl with glasses had written to me earlier that day.
“Did she write these to you?” she asked.
“Yes, she did. Maybe I don’t understand the Western lifestyle, maybe I don’t understand women in general, but…”
“What exactly do you not understand?”
“Did she break with her boyfriend?” I asked.
“No. She is still living with him.”
“Abdu, you are so naive… You don’t get the hints.” she made a pause for a couple of seconds and then said, “She knows that you like her.”
“Does she?”
“She wants to date with you. Don’t you get it? She wants to experience something different. Because you are a complete opposite of her current boyfriend: he is harsh and you are a soft person.”
“Wait… She wants to have two boyfriends at the same time?”
She shrugged.

After all of this happened to me, I came back to my room. Lay onto my bed, without taking off my shoes. I looked at the white ceiling of my small dormitory room, and visualized the girl with glasses in my imagination. Her smiling face was flying above me. I looked into her charming blue eyes and told her in my mother tongue: “Sandaka xotindan Xudoni o’zi asrasin.” [“Let God protect me from such wife as you.”]

That is one of those moments when I feel proud to be Uzbek. Even though some Uzbek girls wear impossibly revealing outfit, use filthy words in their speeches, and smoke, they [at least educated ones] always stay loyal to their life-partners. Disloyalty is kind of unacceptable in my community.

Let’s say, hypothetically, I’ll start dating that beautiful girl. We will date for a long time [whatever “long” means to you]. What, she might want a “change” when she is bored with me? Then she’ll want to “experience something different” [not-so-soft boyfriend, for example]? Then she will find a not-so-harsh-not-so-soft boyfriend, without even letting me know about that? Is it the potential risks that I need to take? I have to say: this is kind of terrible and it’s not how it works. I have a different understanding of a serious relationship.

That being said, I am grateful to life that it has shown to me people with such mentality [so that I am careful the next time]. I pray to God to protect me from a disloyal girlfriend [especially from girlfriends with dark-brown glasses].

Always stay loyal to your life-partners!

A half American, half Bulgarian girl is ashamed to be American [possibly, because of Donald Trump]

I entered a Starbucks coffeeshop. Almost all the tables were busy, except a round two-person table at the corner of the hall.

As I was taking off my jacket to hang it on the back of the chair, I noticed a girl sitting at the table just behind me. Without blinking she was looking at the screen of her MacBook Air [“what a nice laptop,” I thought. “If I make enough money this summer, I will get one for myself”]. Her hair was brownish and curly, her glasses were black-framed, and her neck was long and thin. Her dress was dark green with white flower patterns on it.

I sat with my back to her. Put my tablet in front of me, opened in Google Chrome, and started solving GMAT problems.

After a while, when I was busy watching lessons on my device, I heard somebody mention with a clear American accent ‘Uzbekistan’: “…we have one guy from Uzbekistan and…” It was that girl, talking on the phone with somebody.

Although I got really curious [because not very often I meet the Western people who talk about my country], I didn’t turn around or ask anything from her. “It would be rude of me to do so,” I figured.

After around half an hour I looked at my watch and realized that it was time for me to go. I stood up quietly, put my devices and papers into my bag, and when I turned around to take my jacket from the chair… our eyes met. For a split second. Yet the eyes met. “This is the perfect time,” I thought.

She was focused on her laptop. “Excuse me,” I said to her, smiling. She had her headphones on, so she didn’t hear me. “Excuuuse me,” I said again, bending in order to catch her attention. She looked up at me. Took her headphones off. And said “I’m sorry?” with wide-opened surprised eyes.

“Can I ask you something?” I said, playfully.
“Yeah, sure,” she said, smiling.
“Where do you come from?”
“I come from…” she stopped for a couple of moments, looking down, as if pondering about something. “I’m half American, half Bulgarian,” she finally said, hesitating.
Then, she looked down again, thought about something and added [as if making an excuse]: “My mother is American, and my father is Bulgarian.”

Usually people don’t think long when you ask them where they come from. It is a simple question that doesn’t require pondering. Yet the curly-haired girl was hesitant.

[to be continued]

GMAT results

I paid $250 to take the test. “Please, follow me,” said a red-haired Czech woman walking towards a room on the right side of the corridor. We entered the room. There were five desks with a computer on each of them.

I walked to the end of the room and asked “Can I sit here?”, pointing at the yellow computer chair. I figured that nobody will disturb me there. “Of course,” said the red-haired lady [she was impossibly polite].

I sat on the comfortable computer chair. The screen was right in front of me. With a few clicks I started the test [which was going to finish only after four hours]. “I’ve prepared for this day for the past six months,” I thought to myself. “I gotta do my best.”

The test was divided into four parts. The first part was my favourite: Analytical Writing. The next 30 minutes I wrote an essay, criticizing the statement given to me by GMAT test-makers.

Right after the essay, the next GMAT section started – “Integrated Reasoning” [12 problems to solve]. Then the next section – “Math” [37 problems]. Then the next one – “Critical Thinking” [41 problems].

When 20 minutes left until the end of the examination, all of a sudden I felt that I needed to pee… badly… [it happens when I am stressed] But I could not leave the test room, because had I done so, I would lose 4-5 minutes from the test, in which every second is precious.

I finished the test. When I saw my results, I forgot that I needed to go to bathroom. I looked at my score depicted on the screen for a few moments and did not know what to think. Although I had already known that my score will be around 600 this year, and there was no surprise that I got 580, for some reason I felt bad.

I scored enough to get admission to the best business school in Germany [ranked 8 in the world, according to Financial Times]. However, this result is not sufficient for Cambridge. My target is not the best school of Germany; it is the best school of the world [what an audacity, you might think]. Therefore, next year I am going to prepare and take GMAT once more. If I don’t get enough score even in 2018, I will prepare and take the test again in 2019. What will I do if I fail it again in 2019? I will study even more and take the test again in 2020.

“Cambridge is almost impossible to get admission to. Don’t waste your time,” one guy told me once. He was right. It is the hardest challenge I’ve ever had in my life. Knowing that, I accepted this challenge. Nobody claimed that preparations to the best uni of the Earth was going to be easy.

The recipe for mediocrity is simple: “Do what everybody else does.” If you want extraordinary results you should take extraordinary steps.

I’m so stupid, professor, please forgive me

The lecture room was half-full with students. I was sitting as usual in the second row, next to my Ukrainian friend.

“Excuse me, can I ask?” I said, raising my hand in the middle of the lecture. Before this I had already asked two other questions.
“You want to ask again what Alpha is?” he said, mocking at me. His sarcasm was a success indeed. The class gave a sound of a laughter and you could tell from the lecturer’s smiling face that he was quite satisfied by his joke. It felt like everybody in the lecture hall had a great moment. Except me. I felt stupid.

In fact, the lecturer was really knowledgeable. He talked slowly, articulating each word clearly, making sure that everybody follows him. His voice was moderate – not very loud and not very low – which shows that he felt quite confident. The teacher is perfect, except this one thing, which compelled me to hate him today.

What do you usually do when you don’t understand something at lecture? I started appreciating my teachers at my previous uni [I studied at London school, which has a campus in Tashkent, Uzbekistan]. There, one day when I raised my hand and said “Sorry for a stupid question”, my programming teacher immediately interrupted me and said: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Since then I’ve sincerely believed that no question is dumb. Perhaps that’s why it’s become a part of my personality: when I don’t understand something I don’t hesitate to ASK.

Anyway… After the class had stopped laughing and the teacher had told me “what Alpha is”, I lost all the interest in studying that subject. Until the end of the lecture, it felt like a shaytan was sitting on my left shoulder and whispering into my ear: “Abdu, f**k this subject! Why in the world does a programmer need Statistics? Go out, have a walk, listen to Ed Sheeran, and forget about this teacher, who looks like a bad version of Jason Statham.” Filthy thoughts were boiling in my head.

My shaytan stopped only when the lecture finished. My ego was a little bit woken up, but I’m good. I’m good now. After all, I have a test on Statistics next Monday and I should prepare for it properly. I naively hope that after I pass this subject, I will never have to deal with such teachers again.

Oh, before I forget, can anybody recommend me a good movie with Jason Statham to watch this weekend?