The 4 agreements

I know about “The 4 agreements” around 3 years ago, in a cab. I was leading a private tour to Ha Long bay and on the way to airport, I asked my guest:

“Can you tell me what is the book that changed your life?

He smiled at that question and suggested me one and only book. “It sounds so simple”, I thought. I was looking for something more sophisicated so I decided to ignore his book recomendation and never actually read the book beyond a summary.

Until today. :). It’s still a simple book that can’t compare with the philosophy shelf, yet there’s nothing I can oppose.

Below are some extracts from chapter 2 – “Don’t make assumptions“.



How to best share what happened

Everytime a friend joined an interesting event and simply said “it’s cool”, I get frustrated.


“What do you mean when you say it’s interesting ??” I asked

The conversation afterwards soon turned into an interview that, in turn, frustrates my friends. It seems difficult to transfer all those things he/ she just absorbed not long ago into something comprehensible. Details and sensations overwhelm us, and only choosing what to say seems difficult.

In this post, I will share my personal experiences in telling stories. Specifically, it’s a how-to for event journals. I will structure this as a casual Q&A write-up by imagining which questions you might have in mind, but do let me know if there are other questions. 🙂

WHY should we write about an event? Why not just use videos/ pictures?

Ideally, a good recap is a smooth combination of these media tools. Pictures help us have an impression and videos show the whole thing. However,  a succinct write-up will help:

  • forming stories

By choosing to write (aside with using other media tools), we have the capacity to not just presenting what happened, but elaborating it. In the process of being a conduit, we reshape reality and have the capacity to zoom in and zoom out, focusing on details that matter and leave out things that do not. This process is quite close to creativity and will give us a sense of flow, as well as autonomy.

But here comes the difficult part: HOW? Is it difficult? Is it time-consuming? How do we stay as objective as possible? How to we compress so much details into a short recap? What details to focus on? What details to leave out? How to open and end a story?

Writing is the best way to learn

Writing is the best way for us to reflect on certain things and people. Even when we don’t aim to share stories with people, writing will help forming a magnet for lateral thinking as well as archiving for future reflection. In this article in Medium a few years ago, this guy shares quite elaborately about his experience on writing

stop consumption

Personally, I chose to write about events because that process will force me to pay more attention in the first place, as well as fuel deeper reflection in the future. Therefore, even when I don’t care what others think or have no particular audience in mind, I will learn something in the process. A win-win situation based on a selfish standpoint.

Subjectivity versus Objectivity

An event journal resembles journalism, in a sense that we try to capture what happened but in the end, it’s not about us. It’s not only how we feel but how things actually unfold. Let readers/ audience decide for themselves how they should feel about those moments.


That task is definitely difficult. I myself still struggle to balance subjectivity and objectivity. Deleting “I feel” is the first step, but we can’t help developing feelings to certain people and incidents. When that happen,  It’s okay to embrace our own perspective and weave that into the structure. In event journal, I balance this by

  • Being subjective about people (how a presenter makes me feel, what do I think about him/her, what do I think about his/her mannerism).
  • Being subjective about the vibe of the event (casual or formal, open or clastrophobic, free-flowing or tight)
  • Being objective about activities (what a presenter says, how audience react).

In the process of journal writing, you might find youself reacting differently. It’s OK.

Is it time-consuming?

Writing is a time-consuming process, but in a good way.  When we are immersed and attentive, time becomes elastic and relative.

When you first start, it might take around 4 hours to properly write a journal. Gradually, this will become a skill/ habit and take less time.

Anyway, don’t do it in the first place if time is a problem since writing can be a pain in the ass literally and metaphorically 🙂

chỉ mục

How should I structure the journal?

Ideally, we should structure a journal. Having this frame in mind will help us gather details more easily even without emotions. I have tried several personal templates and currently, this is what I stick to


By having a certain structure in mind, you can write even when you don’t have enough emotions or even when you don’t have deep understanding of the subject. The frame you prepare will be an anchor to help you gather enough information as well as presenting it in a comprehensive style.

FINALLY – Words 🙂

Don’t worry if you don’t have enough vocabulary. Journal writing is a combination of description and reflection so you only need to have a set of vocabulary on

  • Descriptive writing (adjectives about people/ places)
  • Reflective writing (how you feel about certain things)

Using therasus dictionary is a big help in the process and don’t forget that writing is a continual editing. What you end up after writing will be different (and better than what you have in mind).

For descriptive writing, check out my previous post:

For some of event journals, check out my other blog:

Thank you for reading. If you feel ready to try writing an event journal, PM me 🙂







Wassup my imaginary friend?

How are you?”

He asked. In a moment, I shiver. Of course it’s not a simple “How-are-you“. It will be a certain task to be done, or a query for a listener. And I am ready for neither of which.


“what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I am tired”

“Oh, ok. sorry. Take a rest and let me know if you need anything”

“Okay. Talk later”

I answered abruptly, trying to remember the last time I have a proper two-sided conversation. I am trying to remember why I bring myself to this dead-end when I have no one to trust and share deepest feelings with. My friendships are built based on this “engage-and-retreat” strategy when I dig extensively for a while and stop when I feel sated. Needless to say, it’s not sustainable. After a while, humans are the same: a mixed bag of messy emotions. Not always a site to marvel at. Well, okay, sometimes :). Sometimes they are cool but not right now. At this particular moment, everyone is BORING ! BORING !! EXTREMELY BORING THAT THEY SHOULD FREEZE !! FREEZE !!

Yet this feeling churns inside me and in a moment I have this fierce combination of a headache and stomachache. I have to vomit my mental trash somewhere. Yurkkk !!!

How to vomit that mental trash? It must be very gross. yes,

gross, gross, groooossssssss


Haiz. Not quite ….. Not gross enough….



Scattering sentiments

“An overly sensitive mind can lead to insomnia out of thin air, twisted imagination, weird self talk, hyper enthusiasm followed right away by stark oblivion.

All of these cause a civil war inside me, playing with self-esteem as if it is a ball on the beach.

The only cure to this is probably intense sports. Yet, the physical poise gained from training seems to create a wall itself-your body tries to tell your mind to put a brake on emotion whirlwind, as if it is easy as pushing a bicycle.

And then all of these words lose their appeal with a broken screen and a cat jumping on your face. Very romantic. Off. I mean, wait, where is the button?”

(Saigon, Grasshopper Adventures Office)

“I am organizing my blog which forces me to look at various pictures and memories. In a way, it exhausts me and makes me want to do nothing. Now I understand why my grandparents just wanna do nothing but looking at cats and dogs or walk around in the garden. They immerse in a space of overwhelming loneliness, which can only be consoled by nature and the basic elements of life. Loneliness not because there is nothing to share but the volume of what to share far exceeds capacity of daily interactions. Inner mental reservoir is able to live by itself, provides the owner a seclusion, a sweet retreat, a flow irrelevant and at the same so connected with the world out there”.

(Internet Cafe, Saigon, 31/12/2016)

When cool junior becomes too materialistic

Cool junior: Hi sis, I will drop by the office to give you the jersey I borrowed you.
Me: I am not there this afternoon. Just drop by and leave it there to me, okay?
Cool junior: Do you need it urgently?
Me: (thinking thinking) Yes. Just drop by and give it to me.
Cool junior: Hey, by the way, did you get tip in the tour we went a few days ago (which we suppose to share)?
Me (sign): Nope. If I were given tip, I would have let you know.
Cool junior: arhhh…okay.”

(Saigon, 31/12/2016. Tourism high season)

On a side note, hospitality industry may rip real hospitality out of you. Be careful

“Sitting at fishing port and have a strong urge to sketch and write something. Two amateur fishermen are patiently waiting for some lost animals while a father and son untangle yellow lines of a big boat. Life is so abundant around me, whether I ignore or pay attention. Around 20 minutes later I will detach myself off this organic setting to delve into some trivial stuff/tasks and feel something. Sadness, happiness, excitement? Right now none of that matters”

(Catba 18/12/2016, after my lover came back to Hanoi)

“She is about to go to the fishing port, then a voice inside urges her to turn over. Roamed the motorbike, she heads towards the most expensive resort in town.

“Give me the menu”, she says firmly, poised posture. A rational voice jumped in at the right time for her to choose iced coffee instead of some fancy cocktails. 45k for a beach-side sports bar drink, not too bad. She will sip it while waves entertain her. She will imagine this must be Pina Colada though her sense of cocktail review is nearly zero.

Then she laughed her head off. She walks by this resort nearly every single day and knows that she will drink here just to check it off the list of “been there, done that”. The bar girl looks like she is a mix of Japanese and Chinese with a timid lovable smile. She checks that girl out intensely as if there is no second chance, because she will be back to her usual non-luxury lifestyle tomorrow.

Even in here (or especially in here?), Alan Walker still invades her ears just to remind her that Catba, after all, is a tourism hub.

AND she did dig that girl out. Mission accomplished.”

(Catba 14/12/2016. Catba Sunrise Resort)

Now I understand why ppl want to kill themselves or their partner after breakup.

Even work breakup feel the same way. Scary.

The more u love & hurt, the more u want to destroy, as if some wound on other can heal the wound inside you.

Just that it is not true at all. And u have to accept it without causing more destruction.”

(Catba 14/12/2016, Little Catba)

“I parked my bike in front of the beach. The hotel guard approached and started to ramble about how boring (bored) he feels. He probably has no one interested in his ramblings and I don’t mind stories, so we started to communicate. My listening order is predictable “ah u are boring (bored)? How? Why? Why not?”.

The conversation went well until he asked if I have a boy friend. After hearing my answer he stepped aside as if I am a sharp glass piece.

_I am sorry, just asking, he said.
_Sorry for what?

He did not answer and walked away. Above me hawks are flying all over, as if they are chasing something important. That guard comes back and hides inside his usual compartment, thinking something God knows what is”.

(Catco beach 1, 14/12/2016)

I parked the motorbike anxiously while “grandma” greets me

“Why didn’t you come back for a visit? We waited for you”.

I did not answer, probably because I did not know what to say. “I was shy”, I said upon her surprising look. Shy?

In spite of whatever going on in my head, the vibe here does not change. The external harmony that is not affected by internal cognitive dissonance which I need to solve. Cats, dogs, flowers and people relaxing within garden like setting. None of that has to do with my inner conflict. In fact, it even overwhelms my inner conflict and makes it even harder to share.

(Little Catba, 18/12/2016)

“After a food binge for no reason in central market followed by 2 cups of instant coffee, I scrolled all over and saw those – pictures of a friend – a beautiful poised girl speaking in a conference on Vietnamese studies after her post-graduate study. An incredible envy feeling surged inside me which makes that coffee even more bittersweet. I cannot help relate to my desire to fulfill my academic pursuit. I wanted to be that girl for a moment.

I thought by reading Bernard Russel’s book on happiness, my envy will be cured. Instead, It is intensified by an overdose of caffeine at midnight. Between envy and admiration, I just feel envy – strong and acute than ever. For a moment, I want to escape into an illusive digital world where keyboard warriors can save the world, where the game becomes real commercial battleground. I miss my nights in Saigon in super speedy internet cafes.

Actually, forget about that girl for a moment cause this animated song is so cool. E-sports is such an interesting topic”.

(Little Catba, midnight)

The puzzle of commitment

In a short time, I have been involved in different projects in which there is very little clue about my role in the big picture. Stepping from a state of emotion saturation, people say “Hi, let’s do this” and I cannot keep saying NO then doing nothing anymore. I need to step out of mental paralysis. Driven more by curiosity than purpose, my main goal is to satisfy the curiosity of how things turn out, how people create something from nothing. I don’t really care what that thing is. Out of many things that none matters to me, I still need to pick a random one to get in the game.

In the ideal scenario, a person will be pulled by an internal drive formed by 3 factors – autonomy, mastery and purpose. You feel a momentum doing something you are good at with enough flexibility to manage yourself, something that more or less matters. The ratio of these factors may not necessarily be as even as 3 neat pieces of pie.


When I lack purpose, I have to ask myself – Do I like people I work with? Do I enjoy the place I stay? Instead of looking for a perfect ultimate meaning which may never come, one gotta find smaller motivation in small things or perks to be grateful about.

People want solid commitment. How long are you gonna stay here? And with that they need an immediate answer. They are ready to dive in water with 100% certainty and commitment, while I am just an observer who soaks one foot in and one foot out. Like peeling different layers of an onion, I get to the core to realize the core is no different from the exterior.

People ask how much do you want? I don’t know since I am not sure how much I am willing to put in. People throw a lump of money in front of you and you are set. Now, do it, since you take my money already. You are already in debt. The relationship between a worker and money is one full of lust and pain.

So I end up working with people whose higher motivation that me in everything. They set up some business plans which I can read. When I read that business plan, my reaction was looking up this part right away.



Yet, knowing clearly that planning is just guessing, there must be the willing to dive in and embrace the uncertainties which revolve around it. Business Plan or any kind of “Master Plan” is often built up to predict future while information is lacked and many criteria is not included, which can only be seen in retrospection.

And it is okay. It is okay to have no grand purpose or passion. It is okay to step in something being totally aware that it will change.

Wait a minute, is it really okay? In the process of finding resolution, I am faced with even more questions.


The best route for cycling in Mekong Delta

Sorry but…cycling mood. I just wanna scream out loud and cycle straight for hours. I miss the feeling when I used to work for Grasshopper Adventures ^^


This is a charity bridge in Tien Giang, one of the most scenic provinces in Mekong Delta for cycling. The feeling is still very vivid , something I can recall anytime. Embraced by water coconut sprouting from gentle system of rivers in the Delta, it is the route leading to sensation. Something, of course, I did take for granted while I was doing it. Feel like missing an ex lover.

When u cycle your calf is gonna be big as mine. Just kidding, my calves are always big, cycling will make it toned and leaner and maybe a bit longer cause u need to stretch.

Motorbiking is another experience. You will need a badass bike with great mountain/ coastal route. Cycling somehow is less demanding.

A friend of mine said “I would rather spend time doing exercises than playing music”, but I disagree. If possible, a human should strive to do both. If you can be creative and active at the same time, u have the power to change your inner world in an immense way and even feeling a sense of bliss without much twist from external environment.

Next, if u can dance…ok I shall stop here.

So, happy cycling/ exercising friends !

First Tinder Experience

So that moment comes. 2AM, and I was still too bored and stuck to sleep. In the afternoon I already rode my bicycle to the park and jumped rope like a pro. I drank the best coconut juice ever. Looking at the mirror, I pat myself on the shoulder, thinking “You look great girl”.

And still here I am, 2 AM, rolling phone, feeling exactly like what Louis told in his hilarious interview that a friend sent me


So I thought “Hmm is there anything I haven’t tried yet?”. Tinder, yeah. For a moment I pity myself “Come on girl, Tinder is for desperate dudes”, but due to my personality, the more sb denies me for anything or the more I deny myself anything, the more I wanna do it.

So I set Tinder up. It required me to connect to Facebook and in a few seconds, a GPS was triggered, scanning people in the vicinity (you can change the area up to 80km, depending on how lazy you are).

I felt so powerful. In an instant images of different dudes popped up, varying from muscular sporty type to an Asian doing selfie or a classic guy in front of Machu Pichu. There are also Viet girls aging 19 and Viet boys either look very young or very smart. I can “like”, “super like” or just swipe  over, “Nanh, next. next”. It is very much like a buffet. Sometimes I have 20 matches in hand (and same with others), so when 1 candidate sends me a message and says something like

Hi. Nice to meet you”

I don’t answer anymore. I think it would take time, so I just swipe =)))

When  sb likes me back, we are “matched” and the conversation can be initiated.

I had 2 conversations last night in which my role was switched dramatically

In Tinder, you either neg or be negged.

The first guy was Vietnamese, 30 something, working in an enterprise something, and he started by asking me about my hobbies, then we moved on to talked about psychology – flow, workaholism.Hmm, my field. I dominated the conversation until he said


and I was like “WHATTTTT??????”

When I went to Tinder I expect to charm people you know, ha ha. Rejection is out of expectation. That moment I like Incredible Hulking screaming. No, two, two incredible Hulk screaming next to an active volcano. Hmm, Now I am not only bored but also angry, if that combination turns to something, it will be called revenge.


The next one is Belgium. He started by telling me

“You are an introvert”

What? Introvert? Me?

Yes, you are smart, but I am way smarter than you

Then he started to analyze my pictures (In Tinder, you are allowed to choose 5 pictures to represent yourself). This might be his 100th time doing this because words flow our of his mouth as smoothly as silk. After 2 minutes, I realize that I hate people, according to him.

“Now, analyze me. Impress me”

“Bla bla”

“Just that? I am so disappointed. I am bored. Bye”

I was left hanging after 2nd rejection, which makes me think that the app is super interesting. You might get a date, a conversation, a rejection, a great person (like me), or an asshole. It is full of suprises.

tải xuống

You know how interesting and ridiculous era we are living in? Love at first swipe.

Save me. Cloud Trifle.

teh cool character

I am here babe.

Kill them all for me.

Yes, ma’am.


Awesome article, as always from raptitude.

Uhmm, maybe not awesome. Aging is more complex than that, especially in a world which worships youth. It’s like running on a treadmill whose ever-increasing speed; eventually, we will be kicked out.

With age, expectations increase. When we are 20-something and stupid, we can use youth as an excuse (yeah, yolo, live while we are young, a stupid slogan considering end of youth as end of life), but when we are 40-onward and still stupid, there is no easy acceptance. Yet, the child whose curiosity and desire to explore still lives inside us, bewildering at what happening out there, amazed yet scared at the change in the blink of an eye.

Which is sad and inevitable for us all. Aging gracefully might not be mission impossible, but definitely will be mission super difficult. I am lucky to witness many senior friends who are fighting hard to age gracefully & healthily.

Which reminds me of the poem by Thai Ba Tan