Long Time, No Update

It’s hard to believe that the last time I updated this personal blog was 3 years and 5 months ago! A lot has happened in that time. The biggest thing was running a successful Kickstarter for my fashion brand Sefu.

I guess launching Sefu was also something that happened during that time! I was developing protective outerwear that looks sexy and is appropriate for hot weather. I built a design studio and workshop to develop fashion. We had a full-time seamstress, a staff photographer, a production manager, a marketing intern, and myself, the creative director and CEO. During that time I developed 20 some unique pieces of exceptional functional fashion. Then I put it all on hold to focus on The Switch Bag (which was what the Kickstarter was for).

I made this here video to pitch The Switch Bag on Kickstarter. Please subscribe to my youtube channel! 🙂

After meeting our funding goals I entered into the hell of production and logistics that was to follow. We prepared so much in advance, knowing that producing and delivering on a Kickstarter is super hard, but even with preparation, it was grueling. Assuming the production would be finished by October of 2018 I signed up for the AltMBA. Production was delayed so I went through the AltMBA and mass production with a factory at the same time. I wouldn’t recommend that!

With the production and QA complete, I left Vietnam, my home of 8 years, and moved to Japan to be closer to my son who — goddamnit — I missed so much.

It was time to start shipping. Between Amazon UK mislabeling our SKUs, Canadian Customs holding our shipment for 3 weeks, and the USPS losing 15 customer orders, there was no shortage of challenges. My biggest goal was to get everyone their bag before Christmas. Being in Japan made it difficult since every phone call to the UK, Canada, and the USA had to be made sometime between midnight and 6 am.

We made it. But I was burnt out. I rarely left the house, except to spend time with my son. I had lost most of my momentum for Sefu, and without me watching over our design studio, things began to unravel. My business partner checked out too and started her own brand.

This brings me to the spring of 2019. My friend Brandon Sheffield visited Japan and that got me out of the house. We went shopping for suit jackets that I could wear to my Japanese divorce hearings. I started to pull myself out of a funk (post forthcoming). I decided I wanted to start a podcast and went down many rabbit holes of researching equipment. I began recording episodes in May of 2019. At this point I’ve recorded 18 episodes but I haven’t released any of them yet.

My podcast is an interview style podcast, inspired by The Joe Rogan Experience — though in terms of my setup it’s based more on the Tim Ferris podcast. I’m always bringing my kit with me in my backpack, have podcast will travel. I try to interview my guests in their natural environment — their office, their studio, or their favorite bar or cafe. Most of the people I’m interviewing are my friends, they are creative professionals living and working in foreign lands. What I love most about recording these interviews is that it forces me to get out and socialize with some of my favorite people. I live for the magical moments that happen about halfway through an hour-long interview, where we stop being so self-conscious and just start to share a moment of wisdom, inspiration, flow.

The reason I’m recording new episodes of the Design Exchange Podcast, despite the delay in launching the first episode is that you never know if this might be the last time you get to meet someone. It could be anything from moving to a different country, death, or just mismatched schedules. So I think it is best to seize opportunities as they present themselves. In fact, five of the 18 episodes already recorded were with people who have since moved to new locations!

I haven’t released the first episodes yet because I’ve been learning about audio processing and testing out many different audio editors. I’ve also been developing the branding for the podcast and learning a variety of new software as I’m transitioning away from Adobe products. Many of my episodes are not recorded in ideal sonic environments either, making it take a lot longer to develop my audio effects chain. I’ve also had mic handling noise to deal with:

My experiments with dynamic handheld mic handling noise.
The Shure SM58 vs the Shure Beta 58A.

All that said, the goal is to get a system down. Develop a workflow so that ideally I will be able to edit an episode within a day or two. And hey, if I can grow an audience and get some sponsors then I may even be able to hire someone to help with the productions.

What’s next? That’s really a great question. I’ve been at a crossroads for all of 2019. The larger question is whether I should look for a full-time job or continue to be my own boss and grow a company again. I could bring my protective outwear to market, there’s a backpack that I’ve been designing, and some brands I’d like to collaborate with. I also need to figure out my Japanese visa situation.

Ideally I’d like to do some consulting, let’s say 20 hours/week, so that I still have time to produce my podcast and youtube videos, as well as work on collaborative projects with brands. I have a bit of a super power — I can go into a project, or look at a product, and give expert design advice. I can see where the pieces are not fitting together and what small changes could be made that will result in improved product quality or process effectiveness.

If you know of a business or team that could use my help, please let me know!

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New Song: Needspace

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UX without UI

I gave a presentation at the local UX Meetup about creating user experiences in action videogames.

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An Ideal University Education

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My friends at Barcode Vietnam asked me to describe an ideal university education for part of their latest issue. What they picked out to include in the issue was something like “You can strike a balance between your own interests and meeting your parents’ expectations” but that quite sanitised from what I intended to say (see below).

My photo appears just two pages after that of Tim Ferriss, so that’s pretty cool 🙂

barcode-tim-thomas

 

 


 

I think my idea about the value of University must be very far from the idea of most Vietnamese.

For me the value was in living far away from my parents, and having the freedom to explore my own interests, learn how to do things like laundry and cooking, make new friends, do drugs with other intelligent kids, and of course take some interesting classes too. It was about striking a balance between meeting my parents’ expectations (graduating, not failing my classes) and having fun.

I attended a liberal arts school, which means you must take a wide variety of subjects. So even though my major was film, I took classes in classical Chinese poetry, anthropology, engineering, philosophy, performance art, and Japanese language too.

During the opening day orientation the department chair even said: “This is a list of your required classes, take two of these per semester — and two other classes that look interesting to you — and you’ll probably meet your graduation requirements.”

So university for me wasn’t about developing one particular technical skill that I could use to land my first job. It was more about self discovery and forging myself into an interesting person who is able to enjoy life. After graduation I discovered what I really wanted to do for a career. I then enrolled in a technical school to learn some specific skills that I needed to get my first job.

My advice:

  • Don’t pick a career to make your family happy, pick a career that you are actually interested in.
  • Don’t live with your family, you must become a mature adult and you can’t do that if mom or grandma keep over protecting you. You must be free to learn from your own mistakes.
  • Experiment: this is your time to discover what your interests are — try different classes, clubs, and social activities.
  • Surround yourself with people who are talented and passionate and use them to motivate you.
  • You get out of it what you put into it. Make efforts in whatever you do.
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Latest Track: US Route 395

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Gamelab

I’ve been consulting (as dxSaigon) for a project called Gamelab. It’s a medical research themed game jam where we’ve paired Vietnamese research scientists from OUCRU (Oxford University Clinical Research Unity) with Vietnamese game developers into seven teams which are competing, at this very moment, in a 48 hour game jam. The production crew primarily behind the project has been producing a lot of videos. Here are some of me talking about the project, game design, and game jams.

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A New Year

I’m back in Saigon after a three week trip that I’d rather describe as a pilgrimage than as a vacation. It was pretty transformative. I am feeling really confident about 2015 — and I’m really excited to build dxSaigon‘s new products, and just excited to be alive really. It’s been a while…
Some of the highlights included:

  • Getting to see my son (and of course the rest of my family but seeing my son is especially important to me)
  • Having some conversations with my 94 year old grandmother
  • Skiing for the first time in 4 or 5 years — I’ve still got it and I might even be better than ever before! I just had some really nice confidence; I was able to point my skis straight down double black diamonds, launch off rocks, do jumps in the middle of mogul fields, and generally just carve gracefully. This is all stuff I could do as a kid but it was qualitatively different now; all with a sense of calm and ease. The revelation I had was one of trust — just trusting that I’d be able to react to the unexpected and stay relatively in control despite unforeseen conditions. Once you feel this trust, or accept the situation, you can let go of worry and be free to experience the innate rhythm of the circumstances.
  • Getting inspired by my friends who are up to really cool stuff and getting words of encouragement from them. They are all fighting so hard to make their dreams come true and I’m really lucky to have their respect and friendship. They were able to see good things about me and my situation that I had lost sight of, and they reminded me of ways of doing business that I had long forgotten.

All that being said, it’s great to be back. Saigon feels like home again for the first time in a long time.

Let’s do this! Ganbatte! Co Len! All the best to everyone!

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Latest Track – Flying

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New Song: Dalat44

 

Sketched while riding on a bus back to Saigon from Dalat. Is the primary genre Electro or IDM? The “44” in the name is because the original time signature that I wrote it in was something really weird like 6/6 but I later reformatted it to 4/4.

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Working in Binh Dien Wholesale Market

I was asked by a friend to host an episode of Living Vietnam in a Day, a show where they take a foreigner and have them experience a job that will probably be unusual for them. For me it meant working as a porter at BÌNH ĐIỀN MARKET in District 8.

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