10 things I learned from my wise sage and badass of a brother Tony

A few days ago, my brother Tony texted me asking what I wanted for my birthday. Given that HIS birthday (WHICH IS TODAY) is a day before mine, three things crossed my mind: 

  1. Is it weird to ask your brother to buy you car insurance for your birthday?
  2. Oh, no. I forgot to get him something for his birthday — I’m the worst.
  3. What would be a good present for someone who seems to have everything he needs?! 
After futile attempts to think of something material to get him, I decided to instead write a little piece about my incredible brother and share a small subset of the things I’ve learned from his direct advice or just being around the dude over the years.

… before we get to business, here’s a picture of Tony clearly stoked for his violin lesson and wearing a Scottie Pippen jersey.

10 Things I've Learned From Tony

1. Don’t compromise your happiness for life choices that don't align with your passions.

  • Tony thrived at McKinsey for two years, took ownership of critical projects as a leader of a startup for another couple of years, but in spite of his success, he realized he wasn’t doing work that aligned with his dreams. He recently quit his startup job to find out what matters to him most, subsequently started a podcast, and is in the middle of writing a book about finding happiness at work.
2. When you do things that are useful and valuable to others, people will follow you (not just on social media).
  • I asked him how the hell he had so many Twitter followers. He told me to not worry about getting more followers, and that once I offered things of value to others, they will have no choice but to NEED to follow you. Following his lead, I've recently found enormous satisfaction in being able to offer value to others through my love of music. You can never get tired of seeing the joy of people appreciating something you poured your heart into.
3. Don’t try to please everyone. Make yourself happy, first and foremost (unless your happiness is drugs).
  • The most successful people exhibit the most extreme behaviors. Steve Jobs was notoriously known for being the biggest hard-ass in Silicon Valley. Warren Buffet spends the better portion of his day reading book after book. Kobe Bryant wakes up before the sun rises to practice his shooting for hours. If you do anything out of the "norm", you will have to deal with haters.
  • Tony definitely fits the definition of someone with an extreme personality. He thinks through his decisions very thoroughly, and is steadfast in the face of unwarranted opposition -- and I respect the hell out of that.
4. Don’t try to find a hero to emulate. Everyone has their strengths and faults. Learn earnestly from everyone's good parts.
  • I’m naturally pretty cynical, but Tony’s positively has slowly rubbed off on me. He’s the type of person that will surround himself with people he admires, while simultaneously working to make sure to see the good in everyone.
5. Learn important things on your own.
  • Tony constantly makes me feel guilty about not being productive all the time. The dude wakes up at 6am... But then I realize I’m a second semester senior and feel less bad! But seriously, Tony is teaching/taught himself how to code, start a business, publish a book, cook good food, snowboard, and probably a million other things. Tony definitely made my own desire to learn things feel cool.
6. Don’t just love others, show them.
  • Chinese culture is a one of amazing traditions, but also one that glorifies emotional reservation and sometimes disingenuous humility. In spite of that, Tony is one of the most open, honest, emotionally confident people I know, and you won’t find many friends that are better than Tony. He’s one of the most supportive people I know, and knowing how much of a f*#kboy I have been so many times, I’m just really glad he’s had my back all these years. He surprised Mom for her birthday last year, hosted me and my parents for an awesome Thanksgiving, and legend has it that during Coachella one year he hooked up 10 of closest friends up with suites in Vegas. Not saying I want anything for my birthday, Tony, but… http://www.wynnsocial.com/calendar/ *points at March 16*
7. Don’t expect things to just happen. Get off your ass and make them happen.
  • Put down whatever you’re procrastinating with, sign up for that yoga class you keep telling people you’re about to attend. Tony GRINDS for what he gets. I don’t think I’ve grinded half as hard as he has ever, but I’m trying to follow his lead.
8. Figure out the values you stand for, and go to the ends of the earth to defend them.
  • Tony inspired me to put my thoughts online, and just generally just be a person that knows who he is and knows what he wants. Tony taught me to love people that have conviction, and avoid those that are nothing but wishy washy. Even in a room full of people saying YE, if Tony believes NAY, you will know it — I absolutely love that. Tony recently became vegetarian after learning about the atrocities of the meatpacking / livestock industry, and finds a way to maintain his diet even surrounded by meat-eating fiends. While Tony is off worrying about the future of world and sustainability issues, I'm just (admittedly happily) over here eating a food that starts and ends with BACON. I'll come around one day.
9. Buy clothes that fit you, in terms of both style and size.
  • Thank you for killing the fashion game from day one, Ton. Thank you for not buying graphic tees. Thank you for fostering in me a deep distaste for stores that smell like horny middle schoolers at their first Friday night dance.
10. ENJOY THE RIDE.
  • Tony taught me that when you’re partying just to party, stop giving UNNECESSARY F*$KS. I still remember vividly the first time I saw him party for real; He not only went way harder than everyone else at a club, but also subsequently came back to the hotel to pass out in a hot tub, failed to get out, whispered in my ear “I’m just fine right here”, and then stayed in the tub all night. From Coachella to EDC to Lolla to RL Grime to Kaskade, from NY to LA to CHI to SF, there are few people I've ever met that enjoy life more and are more fun to party with than Tony.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, Tony also taught me when you’re working your ass off, be happy knowing you’re pushing yourself to your limits. He believes you should enjoy everything you do one way or another — even the stressful stuff.
While this is contradictory to #4, Tony, you were the first hero I had not named Usher Raymond. Love you, and sorry if I said anything embarrassing. Don't puke from how cute you know this post is. Good luck one-upping this, dude.

Happy 26th! You’re old as shit!!!