unbounded

Category Archives: Work

You get a purpose! You get a purpose..!

It’s been almost a year since I last wrote, as I haven’t been struck by anything in particular that inspired me. Then yesterday I was at Starbucks minding my own business, when I was assaulted by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is now selling her own branded tea, which includes putting her inspirational quotes on the insulating sleeve around my Americano. “Follow your passion,” she writes. “It will lead you to your purpose.” There’s nothing better than being reminded by a TV celebrity that you have a purpose in the universe, which is only knowable by following your passion, so that you too may someday become as successful as she is.  Continue reading

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Loafing toward salvation

The unbounded life is perfectly content is its pointlessness. It’s not a formula for any kind of traditional measure of success, nor intended to achieve any specific purpose. It’s defined by a spirit of infinite and cheerful uselessness that is found in all forms of play, and born from a desire to avoid the evils of work. When we embrace our laziness, we feel less guilty about the pursuit of leisure. We allow ourselves the time to dream and create versus being consumed by daily practical concerns. The leisurely life is an artful life, one that expresses the curiosity, humor and waywardness of our essential humanity. Continue reading

The happy nomad

Since I started writing on UnboundedLife, I’ve given a thought a lot to what freedom is and what it means in the context of human nature. One theme that I’ve come back to repeatedly is mobility; designing a life from a purposeful future, versus living out an extension of the past. It’s a lofty idea that is easy to talk about but as narrow as the razor’s edge to walk. Last month I was planning to write about how I walk it in terms of the life I’m choosing, but I found myself preoccupied with painful events of the recent past. I felt like until I had honestly moved beyond the sadness of re-experiencing this loss, it would be inauthentic to write about living into a self-chosen future. Kind of like an overweight personal trainer talking about losing weight. Continue reading

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Happiness by the numbers

During a recent meeting with a Hong Kong restauranteur whom I’ve known for many years, the question of business metrics came up. Actually, he brought it up and it really showed what different approaches to business we have. As we sat on the terrace of his popular cafe sharing ideas about a potential joint project, he began peppering me with questions. “So Chris, what’s your estimated return on investment timeline for your new hotel?” “I don’t know,” I admitted. “Well,” he continued, “How about your restaurant revenue per square meter?” “No idea,” I answered honestly. He became more insistent, “What about hourly turnover? Wine sales as a percentage of revenue? Gross margins on food items?” “Dunno,” I shrugged. I wasn’t being evasive, and it’s not as if I have no idea how my business runs, I just look at it more as a labor of love, rather than a game of numbers. Continue reading

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Once in a lifetime

This past week I was back in my old haunts around China and having been away for only a few months, I was still amazed at what had changed. It’s harder and harder to find a quiet back street where one can enjoy a few beers at a family restaurant. Every time I go back, I realize that I can never really go back. As Heraclitus said, “You can’t step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are forever flowing in upon you.’ Not only is the river never the same river, but I am never the same man. Continue reading

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Relaxed urgency

As an American with a type-A personality that can border on crusading, I have sometimes found living in Asia frustrating. 18 years in China, with its stultifying bureaucracy and a cultural aversion to decision making, taught me a lot about the power of persistence, as opposed to being forceful. In Northern Thailand, where everything seems to move in slow motion, instead of applying constant pressure, I find myself adopting the local mindset that things will eventually work themselves out. Yet the apparent choice between driving hard or sitting back and waiting isn’t really a choice, it’s a dilemma that we can transcend. Continue reading

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Are you being served?

I am a huge fan of HBO’s The Wire, and like The Sopranos before it, I was sad to see it end. While The Sopranos reminded me of a Greek tragedy, The Wire unfolded like a sprawling Dickens novel set in present day Baltimore, portraying its broken social, political and economic institutions with artful precision and depth. Each series provoked different thematic questions about our failures; our failure to end the cycle of poverty and violence in the urban black underclass, to address the ineffectiveness of law enforcement, to change obsolete drug laws, the inability of schools to address the social challenges faced by inner-city kids and the political influence peddling that dominates our democratic system. Continue reading

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