Posts in Activists
The Importance of Preserving Nature in Real-Estate & Valuing Connections more than Ownership
Photo by Christopher Brown (Studios)

Photo by Christopher Brown (Studios)

Over the last few nights, I had the honor of staying at the fantastic Palacio Belmonte while in Lisbon, Portugal.

Overlooking the tile roofs and the Tagus river.

Sleeping in one of the top ten most luxurious suites in the worlds and certainly the most exclusive private guest house I’ve stepped into.

Arriving on the premises right after a superstar singer and leaving just before an awarded actor.

It was a surreal experience, to say the least.

The cheeky and approachable owner, Frederic Coustols, welcomed us and I quickly got interested in knowing him more.

Frederic is someone who’d rather read a good book and have a one on one conversation than attending mundane dinners.

All that is not given is lost
— Frederic Coustols, landscape collector

He’d rather share his home with guests, than owning an immense property alone and looking through the window.

He mingles with people from all walks of life, smoking cigars with a world-renowned artist in the morning, and talking about life with passers-by in the afternoon. It’s about human connections.

He’s seen both sides of the coin. Making his way up to becoming a multi-millionaire, losing it all and back again, he understood that happiness is within. And in accepting ourselves for who we are, and others.

Taking action by focusing mainly on vernacular architecture (a style that reflects local traditions) and starting ecological initiatives of environmental restorative projects rather than sitting still and watching the capitalist and consumerist model destroy the planet.

Frederic’s project, DaST, Develop a Sustainable Tomorrow: http://designasustainabletomorrow.com/about-dast/

The DaST projects value the relationship and connection with the local landscape, architectural history, traditional activities and social habits, introducing a new sustainable and contemporary way of life.

Find you way in the episode:

1.30 - Finding harmony in architecture, preserving its beauty and quality

3.30 - Happiness has nothing to do with money, still we want more

9.00 - The happiest people don’t travel

12.00 - From “my house” to the house of many

14.00 - Dream your life rather than living it & be lazy to succeed

19.00 - All that is not given is lost

Get Your KEYS - Keep Educating Yourself
will.jpg

EPISODE #1 - WILL LATIF LITTLE

In this first episode, I have interviewed an ex-prisoner and cold-blood killer turned motivational speaker on the topic of empathy.

 

Find your way in the episode:

02:00 Father figure and self-identity

09:00 Moving away from bullying and fear

11:00 Street life & hustling

18:00 Turning point

20:00 Education and spirituality as an escape

24:00 Behind the scenes in jail

31:00 Forgiveness and creativity as an outlet

 

References:

His TEDX talk - How to Become the best Version of Yourself

His website: www.willvlittle.com

His book: Inner City Youth

 

Go further:

Subscribe to Lives/Disrupted on Apple podcast

Subscribe to my newsletter to receive exclusive motivational content & pre-order the free e-book on "How to Disrupt Your Life"

 

 

Get your KEYS: Keep Educating Yourself
— Will Latif Little
It's not About Virtual Reality, it's About Recreating the Real World
Estimated reading time: 7'

Estimated reading time: 7'

I met Isaac at a house-party at my place last year.

We did not have the most usual conversation on a Saturday night as he was telling me how unhappy he felt at work, and that he was considering quitting and going on a trip.

I encouraged him, as I always do with people who want to follow their heart, but you how it is, a lots of people dream of doing that and never actually take the step.

Isaac wasn't one of those.

The second time we caught up, he had quit the same day and was leaving the following week to Europe and Asia, on a one-way ticket. He was literally shrieking and jumping up and down, of excitement. Obviously, champagne was on me!

The third time we met up, he had just gotten back from his trip and was visiting LA, so he had to tell me the whole story over lunch.

 

“I’ve been passionate about programming for as long as I can remember.

At 13, I became obsessed with Scratch*. I really loved that you could make shit out of nothing, I was like that’s awesome, I can build my own world!

After 3 months, I built up a word-search game that got featured on the front-page of a website.

I wanted to do more of that, but back then in 2010-11, I didn’t know it was possible to do this for a living, I wanted to build websites and apps were not really a thing yet.

My parents didn’t know any of this shit so they couldn’t help me, they were like follow your passion but to an extent, and live a normal life after that aha.

A couple years later, I investigated and found a programming summer-college at Harvard that taught me a little more, though was very isolating because we were basically running a computer inside a computer, which took a lot of memory and slowed down the whole thing, preventing us from being able to actually build stuff.

Fast-forward to my first programming meetup in NYC. I dropped a note on the group and asked if somebody wanted to go with me since I was a high-school kid and didn’t know anyone.

A girl responded and we hung out over pizza. She did not go to college, so I was like “Wow is this something you can do?” It blew my mind. At the time, I was going to private school in NYC and everybody hated school, period.

A few months later, I participated in a coding boot camp over the summer. It cost a fortune and my parents didn’t want to pay…

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 1:

I contacted the founder and asked if I could do an internship there. I kept emailing him till he finally said yes. Hustling my way in!

I love that when this guy wants something, he makes it happen and takes chances.

This internship was life-changing because it was still school, but everyone was coming from all these different backgrounds and actually wanted to be there and learn. These were real people, older, not just high-school shitheads… One guy was in the army, another one was a baseball player, one was a surgeon, etc.

We had this thing called “Feeling Friday”, where everyone would stand up and share their feeling of the week, and one time I started sobbing and say, “this is my home”.

When the summer ended, I had to go back to high-school for a final year. It was brutal. I had had a flash of how my life could be over the summer and it certainly wasn’t school.

I got in trouble all the time because at this point I couldn't care less. The principal thought I was crazy so I got hooked up with the school psychologist, and I was able to skip the worse classes I had to chill with her and chat about our common hatred of the place.

Eventually, I managed to get an internship to skip all the other classes I hated.”

This is what happens when the educational system insists on putting people in boxes rather than trying to understand why they misbehave…

“At that point, I had to apply to college as my parents were pressuring me so I did this for a year, but I was dreaming of San-Francisco, the geek heaven.

I asked the founder of Flatiron for contacts and he helped me get an internship in SF. My plan was that they’d love me so much they’d hire me, but of course, none of that happened. They were giving me no responsibilities whatsoever and at the end of the internship I had no plan B, but I still had a place so I decided I’d just figure things out and it would work out.

I spent a year doing freelancing, being a Postmate-career, using my savings, but at some point, it just wasn’t going to pay my rent".

I could totally relate to this…When you sign up for a place on a long-term, it says a lot about your intentions and commitment, and it gives you a push to make things happen.

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 2:

"I did a lot of networking, went to hackathons and ended up being approached by this guy who was looking for an engineer to launch his start-up. That was a month before I’d have to go back to college for want of anything better.

His app was pretty cool so we decided to give it a shot. We moved to the Tenderloin (NB: the worse neighborhood of San Francisco, frequented by drug dealers, criminals, and prostitutes).

After we got fundraising, I became a co-founder, we used the money to get a better lifestyle, we hired people, tried to make it work but it just wasn’t going anywhere.

I was in a social cage, it was a mindset thing, all I could think about. As things were going downhill, I met this cute girl, and we literally lived together for an entire month. I was craving social interaction at that stage. On a Friday, she came home (which also was out office) early and we started to hang out. My co-founder freaked out as he saw that I was phasing out, asked me “do you really want to do this, you’re not focused?!”, and he let me go the next day."

It happens SO often that when you don’t want something, you fail it on purpose so that somebody else takes the decision to end the situation, and sets you free.

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 3:

"I left and chilled on my friend’s boat in Sausalito. It sounded like a dream but it was pouring every day and there were no bathrooms…

So I got a job in a startup.

My boss was difficult and I could not deal with it anymore – to be honest, when I quit, I first one to leave but since then almost all my coworkers walked the walk.

I was planning on traveling to Europe and South-Asia with a friend but on the first night, she got a call from her boss and had to go back home right away. She ditched me.

 

“What do I do now?” moment nr 4:

Isn’t it interesting to notice that every time you face an obstacle, and things don’t go the way you planned, this actually gives you a chance to level up?

Well, I had no return flight and had gotten rid of my apartment in San Francisco so there was no way I’d turn back. It was slightly exciting and slightly terrifying.

I went to 9 countries in 5 months (Prague, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan…), did some freelance, traveled and taught kids some English. Even though I originally wasn’t planning on coming back, it felt very temporary because the language barrier made it difficult to have meaningful conversations. So I came back.

Now, I’m switching my career to Californian politics, housing, local stuff. It is more meaningful. I’ve had to live in unsafe and uncomfortable places and areas during my life, and I want to make a difference for others. 

Also, housing really is a centerpiece of understanding America’s decay. Once you understand that America’s problems are totally made up and we’ve brought this on ourselves, you find ways to fix it.

We don’t have to be in a shit show.

Our environment doesn’t have to literally burn in front of us. We just need the courage to say that we failed and it’s time to try something new.

In fact, I’m not really switching from programming at all. I see these things as tools — as means to an end. It just happens that programming and creating apps are a great way to reach people.

Before having to face all those "What do I do now moments", I think I was afraid of what was going on around me. You look around and it’s hard not to be scared. But that’s how they get you. That’s the only way Trump will win, is if we become scared and desperate. I’m not afraid anymore because we’re screwed by our inaction. 2017 was a year of roller-coasters, 2018 is a time to act. Go do whatever you need to do!

____

(*colored blocks that you drag & drop like puzzle pieces instead of typing codes)

Would you rather build your own virtual reality or recreating things on the real world?
— Isaac Rosenberg
Curiosity Doesn't Kill the Cat
Estimated reading time: 6'

Estimated reading time: 6'

I met Ruhana at a concert organized by common friends.

One of the biggest secrets she rarely discloses to anyone is her age. And when we became close enough, she told me she was 18. You could not tell by the way she speaks.

She can talk about any topic for hours.

She has this talent for connecting with people and connecting people: you put her alone in a room and she will leave with five friends.

She studies, has two jobs and multiple side-projects, and is part of various ethnic, feminist, spiritual and artistic communities.

As we were chatting about her involvement with minorities, I asked her where it all started.

"Far back. I come from a highly disciplined and traditional family in New Jersey. I studied at a preppy private school. Money was never an issue. People's family name and size house represented their status. One of my friends owned a jet, another one had a monthly $500 allowance; that was normal. Naturally, my friends and I selected people to hang out with based on level of intellect and status. Kids from public school were considered 'improper and unsheltered'. We also would select friends according to their ethnicity. There was only one African American in my school and no Hispanic students. Even as a first generation Bengali American, possessing fair skin was the standard. I always made sure to hide my darker hands under the table, or in my pockets. 

One of the core values that was instilled in me since attending that school was practicing discipline to earn respect.

At home, my parents were expecting me to know everything about all sorts of topics (physics, politics, conspiracy, etc) from a very young age. And at school, I'd get a fine if I wore grey socks instead of white, for instance. We were all expected to go to Ivy leagues and land a 6-figure salary job. The GPA determined my entire life and my worth to society. The "A" defined confidence, and I would beat myself up for anything less than that".

I tease her about her current 4.7 grade on Uber.

"Yeah I don’t understand why Uber drivers are judging me so hard...!" We laugh.

"On the other hand, everything was granted, including the teacher's behaviour. Students would have their parents make appointments with the principle if they were unsatisfied with their fixed grades. To be honest, I never realized I was entitled to good treatment until I went out of that situation. I never even learned how to register for my own classes or find classrooms on my own since we were given designated point of contacts to find classes for us on the first day of school. 

When I turned 13 years old, I went on a trip to a spiritual Islamic retreat in Tarim, Yemen, for 40 days. In that specific city, it is said that the sun purifies the dirt of your soul.

We spent the days praying in a sacred atmosphere, which opened up the doors to a spirituality that I had never been exposed to before. I understood that life was more than the materialistic things I was exposed to back home. Through a new perspective of religion, I discovered a deeper relationship with a higher being, and gained a new outlook on life and people.

Each Friday evening, a spiritual celebration was taking place where a congregation of women would be gathering, singing, dancing and playing instruments. Each person would play their own music, though somehow manage to all sync together. They were all living fully in the present, enjoying with what little they had. Their inner beauty and independence was glowing.

There were people from all parts of the world; Germany, France, Russia, Malaysia and so on. They had different ideologies, different upbringings. I figured that everybody's life is customized to bring up the best of themselves.

What happens in their lives defines their personality and crafts their motives for doing things.

 Once, a clerk at a store, a complete stranger, invited my family and I over for dinner during the stay. She hosted us in such a grand manner with a huge feast of kafsa, an enticing Arabian dish of perfectly seasoned meat and rice. The rest of her family members sat down to put henna on our hands. It seemed so unreal I got skeptical. I supposed she would be asking us for help after she hosted us. It was hard to fathom that she hosted us purely out of kindness. I asked her why she was feeding us in Arabic. And she responded with one word as if the answer was obvious, “Ya’ani adaab.” “I mean...it’s etiquette.” A sense of morality came to thin air and I wondered, “Why aren’t we this nice in America?”.

Again, this made me embrace and respect each individualities more, differences and viewpoints, as well as taking pride in my own views and values and learned to differentiate between the real and the fake. I became interested in understanding behaviours and people.

I redefined knowledge: I was not learning for the sake of learning anymore, because of peer pressure or for the best GPA, rather, I wanted to learn out of genuine curiosity. 

Obtaining supplementary knowledge rather than studying the American education system's redundant core curriculum seemed more important to me. So I decided to homeschool for the next 5 months upon my move to California at 15, unaware of the detrimental social consequences. Although the silently killing isolation drove me insane, I was able to learn more about myself and internalize everything around me.

In California, the state of liberalism to the max, I referred to myself as a FOE, fresh off the East. We’re pretty ignorant about racial diversity there. I re-evaluated how I saw people of color; taught myself how to humanize people based on John Locke’s principles of natural rights. I unlearned racist behavior and mentality.

After I switched over to public school, I also began to understand the importance of sisterhood, tied with female empowerment. Insecure but “popular” girls at Santa Clara High swooned over immature foolish boys. Subtle sexism was everywhere from high school to corporate employment.

From body gestures to language, gender discrimination became more prevalent as I started college. I decided to experiment with men; 21 men in the span of three months to be exact. I kept a mental report of my dates' different characteristics associated with races, occupations, ethnicity, their views of women and expectations. Getting hugged rather than having my hand shook in a group full of men; being called an attention seeker for dressing too “provocatively”; being asked why I come home late on the weekends; encountering mansplaining on a daily basis by bosses, colleagues, and friends; my 40 year old male roommate denying that sexual assault is even a real thing; being asked why I go to the gym because my figure didn’t imply it was necessary; friends not believing things happening to me non-consensually. Getting mistreated as a women subtly was something I could no longer tolerate. The values of self respect I learned at school were put in place in my childhood for this reason. Self respect implies the intolerance of bullshit. And in hopes of ending such patriarchal bullshit, I’m planning to start a nonprofit to empower young women in a few years down the line. I embrace my own self. I know who I am, what I like and what I want.”

By switching her focus from "having the best grades" to "real-life experience" through being confronted to different social, spiritual, artistic and ethnic environments, she has become exponentially more curious, open-minded and comfortable networking, and so can anybody,