Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Foster and acres.  §

As a matter of happenstance and being out-and-about, I met a man today—unshaved, in a hoodie and ragged jeans and red, unlaced, Converse sneakers—that fosters a dozen troubled teenage boys on a large ranch south of Utah Valley.

The guy had an interesting story. Former Fortune 100 executive from the west coast, retired with some cash but no wife, no family, no kids, and wanted to do some good in the world. Moved to Utah and went through the arduous process of getting the system to agree to allow an older single guy to foster troubled teens in the middle of nowhere. Now he keeps horses and helps the kids he takes on through their time in therapy.

Do I believe him? Yes. Why? Because he walked the walk. Simple, direct, blunt, authoritative, could talk about the industry intelligently, didn’t have time for bullshit. The large-company executive demeanor can’t be faked, it has to be earned. It’s a matter of battle-hardening. This guy was the real deal, and his story was inspiring to me.

We talked about the technology industry, the dot-com epoch and history, the culture of financials and enterprises, what it’s like to teach at NYU (he said he thought at one point that he might like to teach) and so on.

I don’t know that I’ve managed my life in such a way as to be able to buy a ranch, retire, and help young kids in trouble, ever. And I don’t know that I’d have the drive and determination to do it at his age (he said he’d been up all night trying to track down one of them, recently arrived, who’d run away). Plus, I’m a decade or two out from my time to make those kinds of decisions.

But it reminds me that people of all kinds are out there doing good in the world—even the ones that locals must imagine to be scruffy, bossy, and cold as ice. He belonged in New York, not in Provo. He knew as much.

— § —

I don’t know what my life is coming to just now.

I suppose it always feels that way in the moment. Periods of complacency are few and far between in life, and they’re almost always a bad idea—that’s why complacency gets the rap that it does. You’ve got to keep forward motion going on, always. Because only momentum can keep you from sinking under the waves that inevitably lap at the prow and threaten to knock you under.

It’s hard to keep that momentum, to keep your mojo, especially when you’ve been buffeted by particularly big waves or when you’re way out at sea and aren’t sure you’ll return. But momentum is the only thing. You can either reach the end of your life standing still and sinking or you can reach the end of your life racing the wind. I know which one I’d rather do.

— § —

The annual rite of car registration renewal is now past. This year’s cost? $2,400. Just under the $2,500 limit I’d set for myself that would have meant buying a new car.

Every year since buying new car(s) it’s the same. Stuff piles up. Then you have to address it in order to register. How I long for the days of a 250k Volvo 740 that always, always passed inspection and always, always started no matter what.

If you have one of those old Volvos and some minor thing goes wrong with it that might require a hundred or two in repairs… Stay strong. Do . not . give . up. Pay the dollars and fix it. Because those things will run forever and ever and ever and ever without the massive repair bills that newer cars routinely see.

A year or two ago, I had the thought of “downgrading” back to a late-’80s or early-’90s Volvo 240 wagon. They were cheap as dirt for examples that only had 100k or 125k. Like, $1,500 to $2,500. I told my wife I was gonna buy one of them recently and I took a look. They’re not out there at that price any longer.

Suddenly a 1989 240 wagon will run you the better part of $10,000 if it’s got less than 150k on it. Missed the boat.

Need to have the courage to act faster so that more boats aren’t missed. On a lot of things.

— § —

What is strength?

Strength is having impeccable manners and a solicitous comportment no matter how you feel, no matter what you’re facing.

When you can be your best person no matter the size of the difficulties that you face, and no matter whom you’re facing, win or lose, private or public, up or down, you know that you have finally grown up.

— § —

Strength is exactly the same thing as perspective.

Perspective is exactly the same thing as strength.

— § —

The Fiat I rented all week while the car was being repaired does not remind me at all of the Fiat I had as a teenager.

This thing was substantial, roomy, and “cute” in its idiosyncrasies.

The Fiat of my youth was brutal in its idiosyncrasies and built mostly out of construction paper. It had just enough room for me to sit inside of it, if I inserted myself with a shoehorn and kept my arms and legs tight against my body and didn’t breathe.

One odd thing—no gas cap. The Fiat 500 I rented all week had no freaking gas cap. Instead, the door to the gas tank had a plug that covered the filler hole when the door was closed. Not sure if this is a good idea or a bad idea. Not sure why it merits enough consideration for me to write about it, but there it is.

— § —

Still thinking about Mr. executive in the red shoes. Feel dumb for not networking and getting his contact information as I would have done had we met in NYC. I used to know how to do that kind of stuff. I’d like to pick his brain and learn a thing or two. Gotta remember how that works, now that I’m in Provo; otherwise, I’m the sort that could rapidly lose the ability to network.

That’s life.

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