Throwback: Calling myself out

This is part of a series called “Throwback” – where I revive journal entries and blog posts written/posted on this very day, years ago.

Written on June 30th, 2016 (one year ago), I found myself being super irritable with everyone around me and almost all circumstances that day, and there is a simple reason why.


I can always tell when I have not been seeking God. The cares of this life, the urgent over the important, and the petty irritations – these are the symptoms of a life that has not been in the presence of God.


“Success” in YOUR dictionary – not Webster’s

Philosopher Alain de Botton said this in a past TED Talk that made me reflect:

“One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.”

This is so incredibly true. OMG.

Success to me used to mean that I had nice things, had money in the bank, and owned companies. They were definitions formulated by:

* All the business books I read (unnoticed brainwashing is so scary!). Nothing wrong with knowledge – and obtaining it is encouraged and necessary; but like authority, money, or most other vehicles – I used it for the wrong reasons.
* My immature/undeveloped/limited mind and ego – which is always the enemy (right, Ryan Holiday?). And
* Lack of experience. I am a stubborn person who needs to learn the hard way. And divorce, re-marriage, having kids, health issues, strained relationships, and the absence of God in my life are what it took to change things.

The last sentence in Alain’s quote above hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve been fortunate to experience my Version 1.0 of success – and have been let down. It left me disappointed, underwhelmed, and asking WTH.

So…what’s my Version 2.0 look like? What is the definition of success that truly belongs to Paul Thien Tran?

It means that I’m in great health. I get to play with my kids, run with my dog, am building muscle, am enjoying food in moderation, and I’m in the same shape or better than I was when my metabolism was doing all of the work.

It means that I am serving others in a Godly way, and changing their lives – whether through my life experiences, things I care about deeply, or pure love. The last two mean that there is no experience necessary to care about people – so there are no excuses.

It means that I spend more time reading, writing, and traveling – my absolute favorite things to do, and something I aspire to do all day.

It means that I am always inspired, curious, taking risks on scary and/or “hell yes” ideas, and growing.

It means that I know myself.

It means that God is involved in the beginning and throughout every little thing I do; that I’ve eliminated my ego, my agenda, my own power, my own limitations – and have opted into His plans, His compassion, His operating manual (the Bible), His infinite power, His love, and His unlimited capabilities.

It means that I am enabling my family to achieve all of the above for themselves.

What’s success look like to you, (insert name here?). Are you making sure that success belongs to you and no one else’s?

Flip-flop: Letting my kids be distracted in order to stay focused 

This is part of a series called “Flip-Flop” – explained here.

I just finished listening to an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show where Tim interviews Ezra Klein – founder of Ezra was sharing his discovery that he could only retain information at meetings and phone calls by fidgeting with something.
His reasoning for it is that he’s a very ancy person, and if he doesn’t have anything to channel this constant movement, he’ll be very distracted and can’t focus on the conversation or education at hand.
Just because something doesn’t apply to me, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. I don’t believe I have this problem myself, but my son Ethan does. Every night when I read him a bedtime story, he’d always try and grab a toy and play with it while listening, to which I grew up believing it was a sign of non-attention and disrespect.
I’d tell him to put the toy down and explain respect – or at least, my idea of it – and he’d do so obediently…but sadly.
My wife is more in-tuned to our kids’ needs than I am – and for this behavior she bought them these bouncy seats to help them move around while doing schoolwork so that they could get their fidgeting out of the system. I’ve been dumb and slow to jump on this train, and I regret not appreciating this sooner.
I need to appreciate that everybody learns things differently. I was unintentionally shutting down my son’s uniqueness and his ability – and enjoyment – of learning…totally against why we are homeschooling in the first place. I also risked creating a gap between “getting” my son and losing ground in strengthening and maintaining a good relationship with him. I know I’m being hard on myself and we learn as we go as parents, but it’s easier said than felt =)