11 things I was completely wrong about in my 20s


MY TWENTIES ARE ABOUT TO COME TO AN END. I turn 30 in 2016, just as I’m starting to get the hang of this whole “being an adult” thing. I would’ve made it here quicker if I wasn’t working off of some really terrible ideas in my 20s.

1. “Good things will happen to you if you just wait.”

In the words of Louis CK, “Why the fuck would anything nice ever happen?”

Waiting around for good things is a waste of time. Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who get up and do something that’ll get them good things.

2. “Great artists are all depressed or addicted to something or both.”

Hemingway wasn’t a good writer because of his drinking. He was good in spite of it. It wasn’t drugs that made Jimi Hendrix fucking rad, it was the fact that he practiced all the goddamn time. It was drugs that killed Jimi Hendrix, though.

Art is not inspiration, and it is not a lifestyle. Art is work and commitment. Don’t go out and get drunk thinking it’s going to make you into Hunter S. Thompson. It’s just going to make you into a drunk poseur weirdo.

3. “Just get a job. Most people don’t work in their degrees anyway.”

I knew, before my 20s started, that I wanted to be a writer. I majored in journalism during college and began a weak and half-hearted blog, but that’s where my efforts stopped. I was listening to too many “get a stable job!” types who were telling me that journalism was dead, and that I had no chance of making a living as a writer.

I spent the next few years working anywhere that would pay me. The worst moment was when, after a single day of working as a garbage collector, I was let go because “it’s not a fit.” Yes: I got fired from the job that everyone tells you is the rock-bottom, last-case-scenario job.

I ended up becoming a writer anyway. It just took 5 years longer than it should have.

4. “Travel now — you won’t have a chance after you settle down.”

Travel is a habit, not a luxury. If you settle down and stop traveling, then it’s because you’ve become boring and incurious about the world, not because you had to ease up the pace.

5. “I don’t need connections. I can make it on talent alone.”

You’re not that talented. Meet people who can help you.

6. “My opinion must always be heard.”

Nope. Sometimes, it’s best to just shut up. Even if you’re right.

7. “Sow your wild oats.”

You don’t have wild oats. You have sit in the corner of the bar and drink while talking to a single friend oats. You have read a book in a strange cafe oats. You have set aside a little money for travel or an emergency oats. You had these when you were 20, and you still have them now. All that time spent forcing wild oats led to way more hangovers than you needed.

8. “I don’t want to be in a relationship. I’d rather be single and enjoy myself.”

Are you stoned? Constant rejection, crippling anxiety, bad sex, and a life lived in desperation is better than love, snuggling, having an always-there friend, and halved rent costs? Nope. Nope nope nope.

9. “Anyone who doesn’t think like me is a complete moron.”

The human experience is immense, and if everyone thought the same way, it’d be incredibly boring. Also, there’s a decent chance that literally everyone, including yourself, is a complete moron.

10. “Exercise isn’t worth the discomfort.”

Yeah, being fat and depressed is way more fun.

11. “I am a total piece of shit.”

Chin up, kid. You’re not that bad.


11 Filipino Inventions and their Inventors

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Thomas Edison has always been a person I have admired. So much genius stuck inside an ordinary human life. What else could he have invented if he could have lived over two life-spans? I was watching a reality show on the BBC, a competition for inventors to market their products, and I got to thinking: What everyday things were invented in the Philippines or by Filipinos? Despite all the publicity about labor and jobs and so on, there MUST have been some Filipinos who, through their own ingenuity, invented products to fill a need.

Well, the answer is that there have been MANY Filipino inventions, most of which have proven significant, either to history or quality of life. I have limited this list to the eleven I feel most important… You may disagree, or, please share if you think that I’ve left something off. I left off the “Water Car” and Fluorescent bulb because they are disputed. These are the guys that every Filipino or foreigner living here should remember whenever they hear those tired old clichés.

1. Karaoke: Invented in 1975 by Roberto del Rosario. I really thought this was a Japanese invention, despite its’ popularity here, and I was completely wrong. A brilliant guy, he invented many other musical devices, but Karaoke will always be remembered as his greatest triumph (or bane to humankind, depending on your point of view.)

2. Medical Incubator: Invented in 1941 by Fe del Mundo. She was the first Asian student in Harvard’s School of medicine. Countless young lives were saved by her invention and genius.

3. Moon Buggy: Invented in 1968 by Eduardo San Juan. He was the project leader for NASA in the buggy development: An underfunded and underappreciated engineering success. This one has special significance to me, due to my Grandfather working at the Cape in the early space program. The moon buggy allowed greater exploration of the Moon, yet Eduardo San Juan’s contribution has been relegated largely to status as a footnote.

4. Erythromycin: Invented (Discovered) by Dr. Abelardo Aguilar in 1949. He sent a sample to Eli Lilly, who promptly stole the idea and patented it, and later marketed it successfully. Remember kids, this is why the great inventors always go to attorneys first… He never received a single peso from his product, that saved millions of lives (Thank him if you are allergic to penicillin!).

5. Yoyo: Invented as a hunting weapon by the ancient Filipinos, probably in the Visayas. “Discovered” when Magellan landed.

6. Video Phone: Invented by Gregorio Zara, in 1955 no less! When James Bond was using one in Dr. No, it had already been in existence a number of years. This is the predecessor of the camera in your mobile!

7. Computer Microchips: Many types were invented by Diosdado Banatao, beginning with the world’s first 16-bit chip in 1972, which he invented while working at Commodore. This led to the development of GUI (The thing that makes the graphics on this page…). Why should you care? Without GUI, you would now be looking at a page filled with nothing but a bunch of ones and zeroes.

8. Isolated Rice Breeds: In 1966, Dr. Rodolfo Aquino isolated nine specific breeds of rice for the International Rice Research Institute. His discoveries helped prevent famine in much of Asia, and were nearly solely responsible for Thailand and Vietnam becoming the world’s leading rice producers (A spot once solely occupied by the Philippines.).

9. Drug Detection: Dr. Enrique Ostrea developed the method for detecting drug use by pregnant females by detecting traces in the baby’s stools. His method is used by doctors worldwide in diagnosing drug dependency in infants.

10. Jeepney: Immediate post-war, and the most common form of transportation in the country today. A Filipino invention, though born from necessity, ingenuity, and thrift.

11. Patis: Love it or hate it, I was surprised that it has only been around for the last 60 years! Additionally, the Filipino Patis was the basis for the Vietnamese and Thai fish sauce industries, and not the other way around. (If you think Filipinos use a lot, after a week in Thailand or Vietnam. ) It was invented by Tantay Food and Sauces after they discovered that their dried fish were turning into liquid when stored with salt in earthen jars.


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Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I Learned

I was their church consultant in 2003. The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning.

The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me.

I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious, the solutions were difficult.

On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.”

I was wrong. The church closed just a few weeks ago. Like many dying churches, it held on to life tenaciously. This church lasted ten years after my terminal diagnosis.

My friend from the church called to tell me the news. I took no pleasure in discovering that not only was my diagnosis correct, I had mostly gotten right all the signs of the impending death of the church. Together my friend and I reviewed the past ten years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are eleven things I learned.

  1. The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
  2. The church had no community-focused ministries. This part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.
  3. Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently funded a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
  4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
  5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
  6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent, business meetings became more acrimonious.
  7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
  8. The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.
  9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
  10. The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.
  11. The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simple stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”

Though this story is bleak and discouraging, we must learn from such examples. As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, perhaps less than ten years.

What do you think of the autopsy on this church? What can we do to reverse these trends?


3 Things People Get Completely Wrong About Vitamin Supplements

Supplements have made headlines for being mislabeled, tainted, and even linked to cancer. So do you need them? Here are common misconceptions that could lead to more risks than benefits.

You may have seen a concerning headline recently about dietary supplements. Research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting suggested that taking supplements doesn't curb cancer, and taking more than needed may actually drive up cancer risk. Specifically, researchers concluded that "taking more than the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, Vitamin E and beta-carotene were all shown to increase cancer risk.

The interest in research on supplements and cancer began 20 years ago, when scientists observed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables tended to have less cancer. Researchers wanted to find out if taking supplemental doses of vitamins and minerals would further reduce the chances of developing various forms of this disease.

They found that in some human studies, cancer risk actually increased while taking supplements. For example, beta-carotene supplements tended to up the risk of both heart disease and cancer in people who smoke or drink heavily, and folic acid–which was thought to help reduce the number of polyps in a colon–increased the number in one trial.

Scrutiny has also been directed at supplements recently for findings about products being mislabeled or even tainted. So what does all of this mean? Should you chuck your supplements? I don't think so–at least not across the board–but there are common misconceptions that may translate into incurring more risks than benefits.

Here are three biggies I see, and my advice about how to be sure the supplements you take are right for you.

Supplements aren't a fix for a bad diet

Optimal nutrition is multifaceted. It involves getting the right balance and amounts of protein, good fats, healthy carbs, fiber, fluid, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and timing is also key. Simply popping a multivitamin or other supplements can't possibly make up for an inconsistent diet or unhealthy habits, like regularly skipping meals or overeating. To really protect your health, it's all about the big picture. Here's an analogy I sometimes use with clients: if your car's engine is overheating and the transmission is shot, pumping in premium gas won't make it run smoothly.

More isn't always better

If vitamin C helps support immunity, it may seem like megadoses would offer even more protection. But the truth is overdoing it on nearly any nutrient can lead to health risks. Large supplemental doses of vitamin C can cause cramps and diarrhea and under certain conditions, this antioxidant may act as a pro-oxidant and thus trigger DNA damage. Nearly anything you consume in an amount that far surpasses your body's needs may create risk. While it's rare, this is true even for water (it's called water intoxication). Balance–no shortfall and no surplus–is always optimal. For more nutrients you can get too much of, check out my previous post 5 Surprising Nutrients You Can Overdo.

Natural can be harmful

One myth I hear often is that natural substances can't possibly be harmful. Clearly excess can be dangerous, but natural substances can also carry risks even in moderate doses. For example, kava, often used as a sleep aid or to reduce anxiety, has been linked to liver toxicity, St. John's wort, used for depression, interacts with several medications including birth control pills, and can decrease their effectiveness, and yohimbe, touted as an aphrodisiac, has been tied to high blood pressure, anxiety, dizziness, nervousness, and sleeplessness.

The bottom line

I don't believe that all supplements are a waste of money. But I do believe that they should be used, as their name indicates, as supplements to an overall healthy diet, or when it would difficult to obtain the amount you need from food alone, which is often the case for vitamin D, probiotics, or omega-3 fatty acids. I also believe that a supplement regime should be highly personalized. There should be clear benefits without unnecessary risks, which means careful consideration to how much and how often they're consumed, as well as any potential interactions with existing health conditions, personal and family medical history, over-the-counter and prescription meds, and other supplements. How do you figure all of this out? Talk to your doctor, or consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist. For supplementation, one size definitely does not fit all.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's Health's contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


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