Dear Js,

I’m an idiot. Wait til you hear how I hurt myself… you’ll be amazed. Here’s a clue: we went to an indoor trampoline park last Saturday. It’ll be fun, mama said. What could go wrong? It started out innocently enough:

You didn’t jump. You weren’t sure what was happening. The floor was weird! It moved! You didn’t want to fall. You told me not to bounce near you. I monkeyed around and assured you it was safe. I said it’s okay to fall here because the floor is bouncy. You didn’t believe me. The only thing you liked was the foam pit. But you didn’t jump in it. You rolled onto your belly and slid into it. Then you threw all the foam cubes out:

No matter what I did, I couldn’t get you to jump. But then you met your friend, and you copied everything he was doing. Including running and jumping. Then you said, “Daddy, don’t follow me.”

Can you guess how I hurt my back? With all my shenanigans above, you probably think I was an accident waiting to happen. I would have deserved it. But NO. I didn’t hurt myself doing anything cool. I wish I did… because then I’d have a good story to explain why I can’t bend or lift, or jog or run. Yesterday I tried to cross the street, timing the gap between cars thinking I could zip across like I normally do. After two steps my back cramped up, the muscles spazzed out and locked my legs and I had to hobble the rest of the way like a kangaroo with a peg leg to avoid becoming roadkill.

So how did I hurt myself? By jumping up and down. “What?” you must be saying. I know. Just straight up and straight down. It might be because I didn’t warm up. I got excited. And I think the problem was even though I was straight, when I came down the trampoline decelerated me, stopped me, then shot me back the other way, effectively applying 2G to my lower back. It didn’t help that I haven’t really been exercising my core. The warning signs around the trampolines said “land with your knees bent” but why would I want to do that? Knees bent means you get no bounce. Legs stiff means higher bounce!

Anyway, I can’t even sit up to get out of bed now. I have to roll to my tummy and slide off the bed onto my feet, carefully tip my torso vertical to put the weight on my legs and stand up such that my back isn’t involved in the entire process.

And then mama broke her pinky toe. How? Maybe we’re getting old. I don’t remember it being this easy to get hurt. Let her tell you what happened herself: “I just decided to kick the corner of the door frame in the bathroom as I ran in to get Joshua’s toothbrush this morning. It looked like just a nasty bump but it has been hurting all day and when I got back home and took my shoe off it is super bruised, swollen and pointing in a bit of a different direction lol.”

She called the nurse hotline and the nurse asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does it hurt?” Mama thought for a long time, then said, “You know, after giving birth, it’s kind of hard to tell where on a scale of 1 to 10 something like a stubbed toe would be.” The nurse laughed and advised her to RICE it, as well as buddy tape it to the toe beside it. Mamas are tough.

Our neighbor’s baby is here! One of the problems we humans face today is we don’t get to be around many families with children. Humans used to live together and raise children together, so mothers would learn skills like breastfeeding by watching other moms breastfeeding. But now that we live individual lives, something as natural as breastfeeding has become taboo. We’re okay with kids drinking a cow’s breast milk and eating cheese made by a goat’s breast milk but somehow people wince at the idea of a baby drinking his/her mother’s milk. So moms never get to learn to be comfortable with it.

Luckily, mama and our neighbor are good friends and they spent much time together while she was pregnant and mama was nursing. She hugged mama with tears when we went to visit her baby and she thanked mama. She said she feels comfortable nursing from watching mama and talking about it so much. She nurses her baby every two hours without thinking, and she had been doing this from the very beginning. Mama was happy.

You’re my son after all. Sneaky, cheeky and a master of optimization. You’re pushing the limits we set. You’re always trying to cheat the system. We try to contain you one way, you go another. Whatever “rules” we give you, you can always find a loophole.

Here are a few examples:

Mama’s made a new rule after you guilt-tripped her into reading til her throat died: “I need a break after reading each book.” How you cheated: You would pick the longest books and ask even more questions per page. So each book would end up taking 30 minutes.

At bedtime, you don’t want to sleep. So you’re always trying to make me read more bedtime stories. So I made a rule: “One book on the couch, one book in bed.” How you cheated: you’d ask 100 questions to stall the last page, or hold the second-last page and not turn it, or just leave the last few pages open and say you’re not done and you don’t want to close it.”

Oh you think you’re so clever. I know what you’re doing. My counter: I yawn and say, “I’m falling asleep. Do you want me to finish the book or not? If you don’t, I’ll just go to sleep.” And you’d say, “OK OK I want you to read the book. Daddy! Daddy! Don’t fall asleep!” Checkmate.

You’re just too smart.

It doesn’t help bedtime that mama dropped your bed rails. The idea was so that since you’re potty-training, you could go to potty by yourself if you had to when you feel the urge in bed. I don’t think she thought it through, because now every time I leave you in bed, you’d mysteriously appear next to me when I look over my shoulder. Also, I walked in to check on you one night and seeing how it was pitch black, I wasn’t sure if trusting your night-time aim or your ability to pull your undies down before firing was a good idea.

Anyway, you two helped mama convert it:

You said, “No, I can go into my bed myself. No mama I don’t want you to help me.” But then you’d say, “Mama help… I need a blanket.” You want your independence but you still need our help.

Make Miracles Project

If you remember, I started this “project” because I realized that the secret to getting anyone to listen to you is by creating miracles they care about. Sure, you can hunt people down and bludgeon them with persuasion, but the more civil way to attract people to you is through miracles. If you can do something that appears miraculous to someone, they will be curious to find out more about you and how you did it. Although I could shine up random facets of myself and pass them off as “miracles” (it doesn’t take much to impress people), I wanted to so something worthwhile.

Not long ago that I decided that the only way I want to get ahead in life is by lifting up the people around me. No matter what I do, I don’t want to be successful by stepping on others, or by taking something from them. I wanted to do it by lifting them up. The world would be better off if everyone did this, but I did it because I’m selfish. If you make the people around you more powerful, you become more powerful than you can ever be alone. And it multiplies. You impact 10 people, each one of the 10 you touched will reach 10 more, and so on. If you want jargon, there are many kinds of capital. I’m not caring much about financial capital just yet, but investing in relationship capital. I don’t expect to get any ROI for a few years (after the miracles happen and other people start begging to find out how they happened).

How am I doing with this silly plan? I have updates:

Make Miracles Project update #1 – “Uncle Jardy” is going for it!

After we worked on his sales page and strategy, he finally released step 1 of the campaign. The game is on! Most importantly, there are big benefits to making a public announcement like this. Do you know what they are? I’ll explain. First, now he doesn’t need to rely on internal motivation anymore. (Nothing is harder than working on something by yourself.) Because when you start a conversation with others and invite them to work with you, you’re no longer alone. Now there’s no way he can’t finish, not only because he put himself on the line by making a public commitment, but because his fans will be pushing him. Emails will arrive in his inbox asking him what’s up, along with IMs, texts, phone calls.

Success tip: Always find a way to commit yourself such that you become the roadblock to other people’s dreams. Put yourself on the line. If you’re working on a project, find the most critical piece where everything fails if you don’t succeed. See how you don’t need motivation when you put yourself in that position? And I don’t mean “critical” as in an emergency or something negative. Something critical could be the missing piece stopping someone from finding relief, or satisfying his or her desires.

Anyway, wanna know what else he did that was smart? Test. Instead of putting out whatever he wanted, by opening a dialogue, he will be getting a reality check when his ideas hit his first 10 people. But that also means that in a month or two when his program is released, it will have many kinks worked out and be almost bulletproof.

And guess how much time he spent making that 3-minute video? Two hours. I talked to him later and said most people might not realize how much thought and effort a video like that takes. But I knew how hard he worked on it. And I assured him that that is the difference between people with ideas and people who succeed. Work.

Make Miracles Project update #2: Mama scored a deal with the owner of the children’s boutique. She will be the editor of the new newsletter. Not only that, the owner was so appreciative, she wanted to help mama any way she could. So mama is now in their calendar for paid group workshops, and she wasn’t even going to charge rent so mama gets to keep 100% of her profits.

So, we have been working on marketing the workshops. Mama said the most expensive class anyone is offering is $80. The boutique itself had FREE workshops ran by a non-profit. I said you should make it $120. She thought no way! No one would pay that. So I challenged her with an exercise: How can you give $500 worth of value, such that $120 would seem like a bargain? And, “How can you position yourself as the “best expert” a mom can hire, if she wants the best for her baby and price was irrelevant?

See, that’s the funny thing about price. People don’t want a low price, they want a good deal. How often have you bought the cheapest thing only to discover how shitty it was and you wished you didn’t try to skimp on a couple of measly bucks?

Joe Sugarman said that you can imagine Value and Price to be two ends of a balance-scale. If you communicate zero value (and if your customer perceives zero value), any price is too expensive. They wouldn’t want it even if you gave it for free. On the other hand, the more value you build up, the more value you communicate and the more value you help your customer appreciate, the bigger the price you can throw on the other side.

But, the goal is not to create value where there is none. That is being dishonest. The goal is to help your customer see every ounce of value in the product or service. If you do this well, and you’re solving an urgent problem, price is irrelevant.

Anyway, I let my own challenge to mama stew in my subconscious for a day. It made me antsy, like all tough problems do. Then I wrote down some name ideas for the “workshop” and out popped an idea. I emailed mama and said “I got it, I’ll tell you later.” She replied “Nooooo you can’t do this to me.” I said OK I’ll give you the gist now. Here’s my solution to the “How to give $500 worth of value such that $120 is a bargain”:

I still don’t have a name, but I was thinking that you can package the workshop as a “program”.

I.e., it’s not just a 3-hour a class, but the start of a program to help expecting moms all the way through successful breastfeeding after birth.

E.g., your ad can say:

Acme Boutique Boobie Bootcamp
for Mamas of March 2014 babies

That way, it will help moms understand that there is a time factor to it. I.e., if your baby is coming in March, this is the program for you so you will be ready by March.

Every month, you will update the “ad” to say “for April 2014 babies,” etc. That also ads some urgency – any mom who sees that sign will be like OMG my baby is due in April, so I don’t want to miss this April class.

And the “program” aspect to it is that you don’t just give them a 3-hour class and leave them hanging. You follow up all the way through, with courtesy calls, free email consults, and maybe even some credit toward their first home visit with you. And of course, transition to breastfeeding support group.

The name is all wrong, but she loved the concept. One tweak she made was to widen the range. Listing it as monthly is too narrow, since some moms are type-A boom-bing-bang get-it-done while some moms wait til the last minute. Also, it’s hard to predict exactly when your baby will arrive. So, something like “For Spring 2014 babies” is better. But the ball is in play and I’ll let you know how this unfolds.

Transformations at home

Julie – something strange is happening to you. Something happened in the last day or two. There’s a different look in your eye. You’re observing more fiercely. You look at me differently. You play differently. It’s as if you are behaving like a toddler, but a muted version because your speech hasn’t turned on. You even seem to understand most of what we say. You turn when we call, you stop when we say No. And you pull yourself to stand up next to me and babble gurgle like you’re having a conversation. There is the right cadence and the right context.

The other night, you even said “DADDY” so clearly mama thought it was your brother.

Speaking of your brother, now that you’re crawling, as much as he loves you, you’re giving him ulcers. He can’t play or read without you hunting him down like Godzilla and smashing everything and putting things in your mouth. You are also attracted to his potty because it makes a sound when the bowl gets wet. He pees, it says “Yay!”, he looks at us, we say “Yay!” and you come over to see what the excitement is all about. Then you figured out that the potty makes music and you learned how to make it make music too.

But man, J. You never stop talking. I have given up trying to talk in the evenings, even though I’m often excited to share many things with mama. I can never get more than a sentence out without you interrupting.

This week in pictures

Helping mama drop your bedrails

Helping mama drop your bedrails

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

Hammers for everyone!

Hammers for everyone!

You got bitten by the handyman bug after you helped me fix the dryer

You got bitten by the handyman bug after you helped me fix the dryer

Look at my pink dress!

I see the problem

Look at my pink dress!

Look at my pink dress!

Juliesaurus and dinosaur stacker:

Nothing is safe:


You were my sous chef tonight. I had to make dinner so I killed two birds by cooking and entertaining you with cooking. You were proud of the noodles we made and you ate everything… EVEN the chicken (you normally pick out the noodles):

Saturday park walk:

Eating sand

Eating sand

Mama had a rough night. I woke up with her groaning, J2 climbing on mama and J trying to copy. I couldn’t sleep through that so I took you two downstairs so we could let mama sleep in this morning. This is what I had to deal with:

It was way too early for a daddy to be awake:

But yet mama does this almost every morning.

Mama told me about your toddler logic, “So, apparently dinosaurs breastfeed and the milk comes from their tail, up the spine (these are spinosauruses) and then out the breast for the baby.”

Today is a new year in Chinese Astrology. This is the Year of the Horse. Happy Chinese New Year!



P.S. – I just discovered the tragic rags to riches to rags story of Nolan Bushnell. He spawned the following industries: microprocessor, personal computing, video games, arcade entertainment (while wiping out pool halls and the pinball industry, but replacing it with a cleaner image). The founders of Apple worked for him at Atari. It was the first “Silicon Valley start-up”, the first business with the “Silicon Valley culture” that now every Bay Area company has. It came from his fun-loving nature and the fact that he could only afford to hire people off the street at minimum wage. At its peak, Atari made more money than: all of Hollywood, all the casinos in Vegas combined and all of TV combined. But because of his addiction to gambling on innovations, a bad loan with Merrill Lynch sucked all his wealth away and almost destroyed his family over a few decades. But being a man of virtue, he never opted to file for bankruptcy and spent most of his life repaying the millions Merrill Lynch lawyers tortured out of him. Your homework this week is to find out more about him.

P.P.S. – Gung Hei Fat Choy


Still getting used to sleeping in your big boy bed. Mama couldn't stop laughing.

Still getting used to sleeping in your big boy bed. Mama couldn’t stop laughing.