A Letter to 35-Year-Old Me (2020)

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Bill Gates (1955 – )

Dear 2030 Chris,

This is 2020 Chris and right now I’m 25 years old going on 26. I’m writing this letter for a few different reasons.

1) I’m writing a blog post every week and the other one I’m working on is taking too long, so I’m writing this to publish in its place.

2) I wrote A Letter to my High School Self a little while ago and I thought it would be fun to write a letter to my future self.

3) I know how intensely and harshly we can judge our past selves for making idiotic calls and I want to make it perfectly clear that 25-year-old Chris is trying as hard as he possibly can.

4) I want to provide a list of hopes I have for us and you can let me know if they happen.

First off, I just want to say that I hope I’ve made you proud and we are enjoying the life we are working so desperately hard to get. For the first time in my life, I feel as if I’m finally doing things on purpose. I think it’s because I’ve been around long enough to see the consequences of my actions play out over the medium-long term. I feel like I finally understand the importance and value in delaying gratification, working diligently and consistently, focusing on skills and learning, and dedicating my energy to myself and my own work. At 25 I started taking myself seriously and began working on what I hope to be our life’s work. I’ve finally dedicated myself to making our past selves proud as opposed to other people.

18 to 24-year-old Chris would have definitely let down 12-year-old Chris, but 25-year-old Chris would have blown him away. My thriving relationship (that other people are openly jealous of), my music portfolio, my writing, investment portfolio, and my tech collection are all something 12-year-old Chris would have been way too excited to have and they’re all things that help me feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to. That being said, I hope you are still making 12-year-old Chris proud, not because the 12-year-old version of us is our God, but because staying true to ourselves is what will give us the deepest life satisfaction.

Right now I feel like I’m doing everything I can to make our life as full and beautiful as humanly possible, but I also feel like I’m spending much of our valuable time cleaning up the mess of not only the carelessness of 18-24-year-old Chris but also the carelessness of others. I hope this doesn’t prove to be detrimental. In some ways, I hope I learn to be easier on myself without sacrificing everything that our life could be. I know there’s no way of knowing if that’s the case, but I want you to know that I’m trying really hard. Other people can see it too. Some people think we have it all figured out and our life will be an effortlessly beautiful story, but all versions of ourselves know that the challenges we deal with privately are more than adequate payment for all the blessings and gifts we receive. I know we don’t see past versions of ourselves as wise or intentional and I’ve learned the futility in setting up life timelines, things never go as planned. (That was made glaringly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still going on as I’m writing this.) However, 35-year-old Chris I want you to be proud of who I am now, who you were then, because he is a beauitful and special person who is trying to make the world a better place for himself, his future family, and his community. I’m not sure what things are like 10 years from now, but I hope we stay strong, happy, and healthy.

I know creating timelines for life can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering, but I still think it’s fun to project my hopes in the future. After all, we do need to know where we’re going.

I hope we have a beautiful home. Trust me, you are busting your ass to get that. If you have it, please don’t take it for granted man. If you don’t, I hope there’s a good reason for it.

I hope we have a loving family of our own. Bro, you are working just as hard, if not harder, to get this. Right now, it seems like I’m on the right track for it. I hope we don’t mess that up or fortune doesn’t decide to give me a bad hand. I’m not sure how things will change, but I’m planning on being the best father in the whole fucking world and I will bring my level of intentionally, intelligence, and intensity to that.

I hope we have finished at least 1 book and sold a few copies. We don’t need to be an NYT bestseller or anything, we just need to honestly change the life of at least 1 person. If the books aren’t written, you NEED to get back to it. Literally nothing is more important than our works, but I’m sure you know this. If it’s written but aren’t successful, push it. What you have to say is life-changing and worth the attention of others. If everything has worked out as we planned, then I hope you are enjoying it wholeheartedly. I would be very happy if we finished the 2 books I’m working on right now. What would really impress me is if we were writing our 3rd book, but I don’t even know what that would be about right now. I’m just throwing things out there. I’d also be impressed if we kept up doing a blog post a week for this long. I’m sure this can go without saying, but I hope you’re still reading too. Reading has been the #1 best decision I made in my life so far.

I hope we are still making music and people are still responding to it positively! Making music gives us vitality and allows us to connect with others in a unique way. I’d love to hear how good I get at making music with another 10 years under my belt. Our music is a really great thing we got going, it brings so much happiness to ourselves and other people. It would be a huge disservice to stop.

I hope you’re happy and fulfilled. I know that isn’t the meaning of life, but I hope you are anyway. I know high school Chris would have wanted 25-year-old Chris to feel weightless and unstoppable, but I can’t hold up that part of the deal. I’m definitely on the way and I’m doing what I can to make that happen, it’s just things are harder than I expect. But I guess that’s life. I hope we get better at this game with another 10 years of experience.

Finally, I just want to say that if some crazy turn of events happens I want you to know that all you need to find what you are looking for in within you already. I’ve just started meditating and the experience of being with myself can be comforting and warm. If you ever feel alone, know that you are a great company for yourself. I don’t mean that in a cocky way, I mean it seriously. Being alone can be hard, but being alone with ourselves can be enough.

I wish you the best and I hope you’re doing well,

Christopher S. Mukiibi, 2020

Recall the Kindness of Strangers

“Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”

― Buddha Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni

This idea was taken from Cheryl Strayed’s List of Writing Prompts. I found her list way before I started my blog, but I saved them for later for reasons that I do not have the vocabulary to express. I guess my best attempt would be to say that I followed my inclinations, God told me to, or the transcendence revealed itself to me in keeping the list. Part of me knew I was going to want to reference it later, and here we are.

I love the idea of prompts. I used to hate them, but over the past year I’ve learned the tremendous value in meditating on one idea for a while and writing it down.

I used to think this prompt was extra difficult because at the time when I found Cheryl Strayed’s prompt list, I could not think of scenario in which I can recall The Kindness of Strangers. Perhaps I was too cynical, but after reflecting upon the idea now, I have no trouble recalling an instance in which strangers were kind. Ha.

When I first found the prompt, I was wrestling with the idea that people could be kind, but that kindness was expensive in both energy and attention. So if people didn’t have to be kind, then they won’t. I foolishly concluded that kindness was a difficult and high achievement only to be obtained through righteous action and intense dedication. This was a issue because I believed that most people won’t voluntarily push themselves in this way and thus are not capable of kindness. This kind of thinking not only made it difficult to answer the prompt, but hung a slightly dark filter over my life.

So as a fun challenge to myself (and as a way to repent for my sins, so to speak), I’m going to recall a moment in which the kindness of strangers was obvious, but it will have to be during the time when I thought people were incapable of genuine kindness.

Before COVID-19 I was an event bag EMT, meaning I was the medical personnel on scene for various public or private events. I operated from my BLS (Basic Life Support) bag and would help patients in whatever limited way I could.

One day, I was an EMT for a motocross racing competition. It was one of my first events and I was nervous so I constantly ran through potential injuries and how to treat them in my head. The racetrack wasn’t that organized, so I had trouble finding the lady I needed to report to. After about 30 minutes of aimlessly wandering around, I encountered a lady who was frantically running around moving from one unfinished task to the next. I forgot her name, but for the sake of the story we’ll call her Peggy. She ended up being “in charge” of coordinating the competition.

I could tell she didn’t feel like he had an iota of control over anything. People who move quick and frantically do so because they typically feel out of control and beholden to everything and everybody around them. It’s subconscious and not something I would typically fault anyone for, but I like to keep that in mind when I’m helping patients in an emergency situation. I keep calm and try to make my movements as intentional and slow as possible without compromising the situation. It helps the patient feel like I have the situation under control, even if I don’t. Anyways, I digress.

She saw my uniform and instantly dropped what she was doing, ran up to me and asked “Are you my EMT?” I say yes and she gives me the biggest hug ever and quickly introduces me to everyone involved with the race competition for the day. Everyone was extremely nice to me. One lady offered me drinks and another gentleman offered to carry my bag and brought me a chair. Another lady even thanked me for my service; I said thank you, but I really I wanted to say that people should save those for the ones who actually put themselves in danger. It’s easier to just accept the gratitude in situations like these.

Talk about an overload of kindness. These people didn’t have to do any of that. But those aren’t the acts of kindness that make me remember this particular memory.

During the briefing, Peggy tells me that the day should be pretty easy, unless I see her running and screaming for an EMT. I was hoping it would be a smooth day and I could get paid just watching the races with my VIP treatment. Then, she asked me if I’ve ever driven a stick shift ATV. I kind of knew how to drive one, my friend and I drove a stick shift ATV one weekend in high school and I did alright. I let her know my experience and she seemed excited. I guess most EMTs who came through there didn’t know how to drive one, which makes a lot of sense. Peggy said that the EMTs get their own ATV so we can ride out to downed racers on the course.

For the first few hours the day was relaxed as I could wish for, I have never been to a racetrack like this so I had a good time watching the races and recording the racers start their vehicles. There was a point when I honestly forgot I was the EMT on duty, but then I see her.

Peggy running full speed towards me, screaming “I NEED AN EMT!” My little fantasy shatters and I suddenly remember, “I’m at work. Someone needs help.” I instantly start recalling potential injuries and treatments, grab my bag, and hoped on the ATV. Turning the key took a couple tries, but I got the ATV started and drove it over to the cash site. Not gonna lie, I felt like a real badass riding the ATV with my BLS bag going to help someone.

The patient ended up being a man in his mid-fifties who broke his collarbone. I handled that situation and after I send him to the hospital, I had to go back to the racetrack to bring my ATV back to the starting line where I was originally posted.

I hopped the fence of the racetrack, got back on the ATV, but this time I couldn’t get it to start.

I kept turning the key in the ignition and after a few tries, it broke in the ignition!

This ATV was not going anywhere. It was in the middle of racetrack and I had to get it out of the way for the next race. I really didn’t want to be the reason why we fall behind schedule. So I got behind the ATV and started pushing. This thing was heavy and I had to push it up a few hills to get it back to the starting line. I got it up the first one, but the second one was another story.

I’m halfway up the second hill and my arms give in, the ATV starts sliding back down, and I’m facing the reality that I’m going to have to work even harder to make this happen. At this point, I’m extremely embarrassed. I’m in the center of the arena and everyone is watching me having a really tough time. I remember wishing I could just be relieved of this problem.

Suddenly, some guy jumps the fence and rushes to help me push the ATV up. Both of us together get it over the hill and back to the starting line. As we were pushing, we exchange glances and I could tell he saw the appreciation in my eyes. I would not have been able to do that without him, and he knew that.

That man was kind. He saw me struggle, and he would not let me needlessly struggle alone. He lent a hand not to demonstrate power or moral superiority, he lend it because he was kind and reflecting back on that reminds me that strangers can be kind if we let them. Perhaps strangers have to capacity to act as the saving hand of God if they are called. People may not typically voluntarily push themselves to reach demanding and difficult standards, but sometimes they do, and when they do we ought to pause and reflect at the awe of the miracle this person chose to create.

The terrible part of all of this is that it didn’t take place long before I found the prompt list. This guy saved my ass and chose to create a miracle right before my eyes, but I could not see it because of my bias and unfounded belief that people didn’t have it in them to be kind.

The world I know is bigger than the world I can see. Intellectually, I know the world is more than what I can perceive, but it is truly breathtaking to see it actualized in my life.

What purchase of $100 of less has most positively impacted my life in the last year? (2020)

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Pierre-Marc-Gaston (1764 – 1830)

This question was originally pulled from Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans in the Rapid-Fire Questions section. I thought it would be fun to answer it for myself, plus it’s an opportunity for me to take a break from writing research heavy content. I’ve noticed I’ve been feeling a little burnt, so I’m going to take the foot off the gas and change gears, at least just for this week.

When I first pondered this question I was thinking of just putting one item, but I couldn’t pick just one item and say this provided move value than anything else I bought (less than a $100). So I’m going to answer this question with a few different things simply because they gave me value in different and incomparable ways. This list isn’t going to include books, otherwise I’d never get this post finished!

The first purchase I’m going to name is going to have to be my Yoga Mat. I started doing yoga consistently at the beginning of 2019 and I’m so glad I did. I’m more flexible and I feel like I have more physical control over my body in a way I didn’t realize I could. It has been a way for me to practice holding my body in between chaos and order – to practice cultivating myself as an individual.

Someone once told me “You should never let my body figure out it’s dying” referring to working out consistently to slow the aging process. Stretching and practicing yoga has given me a whole new relationship to my body. I used to just feel generally okay/kinda shitty all the time, but now that my body knows what it’s like to not be tight, I actually notice when my body isn’t feeling right. One of my favorite things to do at the end of a long day is some yoga to stretch out all the stress and tension of the day. Most days I can’t believe how good it feels. Sometimes I think about people who haven’t stretched their muscles for decades and how stiff and rigid they must feel – their bodies definitely know they’re dying. Anyways, the yoga mat has been an invaluable purchase. I invested in a pretty pricey one so I had incentive to take it seriously at the beginning and it worked!

The next thing on the list would have to be my Kettlebell. I bought a 25-lbs one sometime last year to start doing some kettlebell swings because I read they are some of the most efficient and effective workouts. I have found this to be true! I love my kettlebell, it’s inexpensive and incredibly versatile. I can get a great cardio workout in if I do high reps, but I can also do slow and controlled swings for a more strength focused work out. I also use it to make my crunches more interesting as well as a free weight to target other muscle groups. I definitely want to get more once COVID-19 blows over.

The next purchase isn’t a physical product, but a digital one. Notability has been my personal #1 app purchase in the last year. It is a note-taking app made for tablets and it is phenomenal! I use it for organizing all of my tutoring sessions as well as a portable whiteboard and a sketch pad. I never buy paper anymore and I never lose any of my student’s work. It also makes online tutoring seamless! If you are someone who needs notebooks all the time, invest in a good tablet with a high quality stylus and get notability. I can go on for a while about it, but purchasing Notability has opened the floodgates (so to speak) to spending money on other digital products.

My Splice Subscription is going to be my next extremely valuable purchase. Splice is a website that has thousands and thousands of high-quality royalty-free sounds that are excellent for music production. For many years I was producing songs with whatever free sounds I could find online or from other producers I’d meet, but that limited me in ways that I couldn’t imagine. I had the toughest time trying to mix songs perfectly. I spent so many hours trying to become a better music producer by learning technique after technique, but I never could get them to sound professional. Finally last year, I found out why I could never get that professional sound. It was all because

garbage in, garbage out.

The sounds I was trying to work with could only sound so good, I needed to get better music quality at the source. Investing in splice gave me tons of high quality samples and just in a few short weeks, I was making mixes that sounded better than anything I could have made before. I was being cheap, but honestly for less than 10 bucks a month, I have been able to make my best music yet. Can’t put a price on that.

Honestly, I can go on forever, but I’ll cut it short here. Those 4 purchases we’re probably some of the best I made in the last year. They all give me something different and if I didn’t make any of these purchases, then my life would be in a very different place. The biggest changes in our lives don’t need to come from high ticket purchases or grandiose gestures, sometimes they can be a simple as a yoga mat or an app.

Something interesting happens when we are asked questions – we come up with answers. So I ask you now, what purchase of $100 of less has most positively impacted your life in the last year?