On deciding to become a genius at 27

This is not in reference to me… I am neither 27 nor have genius-level ambitions.

I visited (finally!) the Van Gogh Museum while in Amsterdam last week. I dislike most things touristy, and pretty much all things expensive, but this is well worth the 17‎€ entrance (but reserve a ticket online to skip the long lines).


It’s quite an interesting concept – that one can become an expert through dedicated study and 10,000 hours of practice, that so many greats were late bloomers. On the one hand it is a bit of a cop-out to oneself…. “greatest comes at all ages, my time must not be now yet so let’s wait and see.”

vangogh museum in amsterdam

This painting is a result of Van Gogh’s careful brushwork and color studies. On a very basic level… red and green are on opposite ends of the color wheel. This painting effectively leverages their contrast to emphasize the apples in the foreground and blues in the background. Each element also includes detailed brushstrokes of the opposite color, bringing the entire still life together cohesively.

But it is also encouraging, especially for someone with a busy-bee personality like me – that most of these things are indeed attainable through consistent and sufficient work. Van Gogh’s work and learning style echoes the martial arts philosophies of slowly, carefully mastering small movements and positions before being dazzled by the impressive totality of the art. The devil is in the subtle details and the mentality behind them.



Innovation Around The World

14 days humid, sweaty days with 25 MBA classmates visiting 20 companies across Seoul and Tokyo. Our diverse visits ranged from SKK Entertainment (K-pop media conglomerate) to Sparklabs (start-up incubator), from Thyssen Krupp (German elevators) to TEPCO (Tokyo Power Co) to SAP Japan.


busy, fluorescent streets of Shin-juku, Tokyo

This deep dive into East Asia work cultures, combined with the past half year exploring Berlin’s start-up scene and Germany’s traditional economy, has shed light on how unique America’s entrepreneurial culture is. While the attitudes, trends and buzzwords of Silicon Valley may seem ubiquitous, they are actually quite contained within North America.

(these are all general stereotypes of course, just initial impressions from little ‘old me)

North America:
Now I may be biased since I come from large metropolitan U.S. cities, all buzzing with start-ups, VC’s and “disruptive innovation”, but these are the trends and attitudes that dominate start-up media. Rules don’t exist until the lawsuits come …and even then it is still up for debate. The goal of most start-ups is to grow fast, scale quickly and be acquired by an existing tech giant. The culture is much more risk-friendly, and intelligent failures are credible and valued.

Germans value stability. Their Mittelstand economy historically comes from a lot of large family companies, and the goal of many businesses skew more towards steady, sustainable profits rather than exponential growth. On the start-up side, in general Berlin’s scene is overshadowed by Rocket Internet and the famous, ruthless Samwer brothers. Their style of duplicating U.S. start-ups, aggressively growing the business, and selling it back to their U.S. counterparts has been unapologetically forceful (and thus far, successful).

East Asia:
Asians act within established guidelines, as opposed to North America’s “act now. ask for permission after” attitude. Traditional Asian culture emphasizes team work, respect for elders and a clearly structured hierarchy that dominate work habits. These attitudes of course, affect how innovation is sparked and creativity fostered. We spoke with many executives and leaders in Korean & Japanese companies who spoke about the blurred lines between work and family life, since employees do not leave the office until their boss goes home. Or about the decreased levels of productivity overall, and needing to turn off the electricity at 9pm to force employees home.

This is in stark contrast to North America, where most employees do not have a sense of duty this strong to their work, or have the privilege of flexible work hours/location. And drastically different to Europe, where 6 weeks of holiday are the norm & employees drop their pencils to clock out at 5’clock.


inside Hyundai’s main showroom & HQ in Gangnam, Seoul


What’s in my bag? Morocco

14 days. From chilly Oslo to Marrakech, all around Morocco – to coastal Essaouira, the vibrant Sahara desert, chilly Atlas Mountains, and then back to Los Angeles through Copenhagen. Temps vary in Morocco from extremes day to night, and since it’s a Muslim country I packed in light, covered layers. Shoving it all into my Osprey & trying to save room for the invertible souk shopping tempting me there.

morocco packing

Clothing: 4 pants (jeans, yoga pants, nifty warm weather running pants), 6 tops/tunics, 1 sweater, 1 jacket, my vacation-hair-cop-out fedora hat, thick socks, light gloves, a scarf (for weather, for conservativeness), 3 shoes – ankle boots, running shoes, sandals.

Electronics: NO computer! (hah take that, work), phone, charger, external battery, iPhone Olloclip, Bose noise canceling headphones

Misc: snacks (duh), book, sunnies, cross body, meds, toiletries, a lock, and a necklace to dress up those 6 plain tees.

Ma’a as-salama… See y’all in Africa!


Yosemite: A Land Frozen in Time

When life hands you lemons, and your mind spins into a tizzy about leaving your beloved home state before you’re ready…. you hop in a car and go on an impromptu adventure.
<insert cheesy John Muir quote here>

Glacier Point Yosemite Valley phyllthis

Land of towering cliffs, iridescent mountains, fields of Sierras, and sparkling lakes. Birds soar and hum overhead while hikers ascend switchbacks, pausing every so often to catch their breath and take in the view. The infamous landscape transforms throughout the day as the sun & clouds drift, kissing the mountains with their soft rosy hues.

Tenaya Lake Yosemite phyllthis

It was an completely spontaneous trip (but aren’t those the best ones?) within 36 hours we went from zero to out the door. And it was a short – a 2.5 day shotgun mission, where it seemed like we managed to do almost everything wrong.

So here are my notes – a brain dump of tips and advice for my future self. And pretty pictures (duh)

Panorama Trail Hike in Yosemite Valley phyllthis

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Cartagena’s Doors

phyllthis in Cartagena Colombia

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I was here… living life’s been getting in the way of writing about life… but, c’est la vie.

phyllthis fruitstands in Cartagena Colombia

phyllthis walls of Cartagena, Colombia

Anyways, Cartagena – located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is better told through photos anyways. It’s mainly an old colonial city, the Walled City, that is probably the most touristy city of Colombia. Next to the Walled City lays Getsemani – a grungier sort of more hipster area of town.

phyllthis murals of Getsemani in Cartagena Colombia

Getsemani street art

phyllthis street art in Getsemani, Cartagena Colombia

Don’t expect to lounge around any beaches in Cartagena… they’re all pretty crummy, but luckily there are many tiny boats that will take you out to the islands (main one being Isla de Rosario). Of course, you should head over to Santa Marta & trek out into Tayrona National Park to beach it up properly (longer post on that later.. plenty of logistics there).

phyllthis in Walled City of Cartagena, Colombia

But mostly Cartagena is full of beautiful chalk-colored buildings, local ladies selling fruit, so much humidity & THE best door knockers ever! Seriously guys, I should’ve taken more photos of them & just made a coffee table book out of them or something haha.

doorknockers in Cartagena, Colombia phyllthis

phyllthis walls of Cartagena, Colombia Continue reading