gratification monkey

"So I read these emails and I had a little bit of an epiphany -- that I don't think non-procrastinators exist. That's right -- I think all of you are procrastinators. Now, you might not all be a mess, like some of us, and some of you may have a healthy relationship with deadlines, but remember: the Monkey's sneakiest trick is when the deadlines aren't there.

Now, I want to show you one last thing. I call this a Life Calendar. That's one box for every week of a 90-year life. That's not that many boxes, especially since we've already used a bunch of those. So I think we need to all take a long, hard look at that calendar. We need to think about what we're really procrastinating on, because everyone is procrastinating on something in life. We need to stay aware of the Instant Gratification Monkey. That's a job for all of us. And because there's not that many boxes on there, it's a job that should probably start today." 


"The sensorium is the supposed seat of sensation, the place to which impressions from the external world are conveyed and perceived. ... The term "sensorium" comes (as does the word 'sensation') from the Latin sensus, 'the faculty of perceiving.'"



"The supreme goodness is like water. It benefits all things without contention. In dwelling, it stays grounded. In being, it flows to depths. In expression, it is honest. In confrontation, it stays gentle. In governance, it does not control. In action, it aligns to timing. It is content with its nature and therefore cannot be faulted."

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 00.09.50.png


"Decision-making, number one ... needs to be done in writing, there's too much in your head.  Secondly, decision-making is just value clarification — when you know what's most important, you can make the decision. So what makes it hard?

Usually you have multiple outcomes you're trying to get, and it's sometimes hard to get all of them and you don't know your priorities. Your mind one moment wants one thing, and another moment, another. So, I created this 6-step process: OOCEMR.

O: What are your outcomes? In order to make a decision, you need to know what you want. Precisely what you want. Usually, you want multiple things when it's a hard decision. So you gotta put them in order of importance. 

O: What are your options? Write your options down. 

C: Consequences. Draw a graph. What is the upside and downside of each option? 

E: Evaluating. Evaluate the probability of those upsides and downsides, -10 to +10 (most pain to most positive). 

M: Mitigate. How can I mitigate the downsides? 

R: Resolve. Resolve what you're gonna do. 

– Tony Robbins, on Decision-Making

Fwd: Athens

After countless requests followed by forwards of the same email, here is the blog form of my to-see/eat/do/visit list of the beautiful and edgy city of Athens. Note that this first (and so far, only) version of this email of Athens recommendations was created in May 2017 and there are a plethora more that I would add to the list today (stay tuned). 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lucy Xu <>
Date: Mon, May 22, 2017 at 7:03 PM
Subject: Athens!
To: You, my friend

Greece is excited to welcome you! For lodging, I highly recommend Athens Backpackers & Studios. I stayed there during my first trip to Athens. It's a 5 minute walk to the Acropolis, and close to all the tourist must-see places & neighborhoods (Koukaki, Plaka, Monastiraki). The "Backpackers" building is a suepr clean hostel with great service and staff. They also have the "Studios" which is their hotel portion (private rooms), at competitive hostel rates.

I'm excited for you to explore Athens, and can't wait to hear about your adventures in the city. Here are some reccs / personal favorites broken down by category. Take a look and if you have any other preferences (e.g., cuisine style, bar type, sightseeing preferences, etc.) let me know! A quick note to add is that Yelp does not exist here, so more commonly used to explore places to eat/drink/see/etc. is TripAdvisor, Facebook, and FourSquare

General Notes

Neighborhoods — In general, the neighborhoods you won't want to miss are: Monastiraki (great for shopping, warning: very touristy), Plaka (right next to Monastiraki, with great historical sight views , Koukaki (right by the Acropolis), and my beloved Exarcheia.  I've also heard Gazi is pretty popular amongst tourists and some locals, though I personally haven't explored out there yet. 

General Tip — Keep an eye on your stuff! When you are on the metro, and walking around in high crowded areas (especially the touristy ones), pickpockets are abound and they are highly skilled. Keep your bags close on your person, and backpacks in front of you if you can. Greece is not dangerous by any means, but there are the small petty crimes (e.g., theft) that still happen. 

Bars & Coffeeshops

  • Mavros Gatos — Located in Exarcheia, a very hip local bar in a very hip/alternative neighborhood. The scene is mostly hipster locals, young students and people in their 20s who attend the surrounding colleges. Good music. 
  • Athens Sports Bar — Touristy/expat-filled bar, as it is owned by the awesome hostel next door (where I stayed for my trip). Come here for a much more American/touristy great time (they have Karaoke on Thursdays, which is a hit). If you go, let them know you're my friend and I say hi! I'm friends with most the bartenders there. 
  • Tiki Bar — Fun local bar with great cocktails located in the touristy neighborhood of Koukaki (right around the corner from Athens Sports Bar). 
  • Drunk Sinatra – Great jazz and cocktail bar, located in the more party/touristy neighborhood of Gazi. I've never been here myself, but it is high on my to-do list, and comes highly recommended by my Greek friends. 
  • Baba Au Rum & The Clumsies — Great cocktail bars, comes highly recommended by my cocktail expert friends. I've never been but I've heard good things! 
  • Taf — Suuuuper hip bar / coffee shop (great for day or night). They open the roof during the summer months, and the inside is part bar, part art installation.
  • Public Cafe — Public is the equivalent of their "Barnes and Noble" and they have a spot right in Syntagma Square, with a rooftop cafe with gorgeous views.  


  • Φουάρ — Amazing Thai food and cocktails!  
  • Thanasis Kebab — Famous in Greece for its kebabs and gyros. It's a bit on the pricier side (when compared with the local food, since it is so popular and also gets touristy in the summer, as its located in the Monastiraki district) but is a great bet and also one of my favorites.  
  • Falafellas — Amazing falafels, hands down. 
  • Καραμανλίδικα του Φάνη — A must-go!!! Classic Greek experience, famous and popular amongst Athens and Greece for its wide selection of meats from all over the country. Definitely get what they recommend in terms of meat dishes (there's one with spicy sausage + fried egg that's amazing) and I also highly recommend the eggplant salad (a bit garlicky, if that's your style). 
  • Seychelles — One of the most popular restaurants in Athens amongst locals right now. Great authentic Greek food, in a hip neighborhood. After dinner you can hop over to Blue Parrot for some great cocktails.
  • Axilleas — Local bar in Exarcheia, great and quick selection for authentic Greek cuisines (mousaka, pastizio, souvlaki, etc.) 
  • Saligaros — Popular local favorite in Exarcheia, with authentic and amazingly delicious Greek food from the north.
  • Cafe Veneti — Has locations all around the city... highly recommend their spanakopita (spinach pie). Also popular in greece are cheese pies ('pies' = 'pastries' here). 

Other Must-Sees

  • Acropolis — Obvi. Admission ticket is worth it. Go early in the morning to avoid lines (I went around 8:30 and it was perfect.) 
  • Acropolis Museum — Right next to the Acropolis (also obvi). It is newly renovated and now ranked as one of the best museums in the world, and admission is only €5. The exhibits are stunning, and you get great views of Athens. On the top floor, there's also cafe with amazing views of the Acropolis. 
  • Filipapou Hill / Aeropagus Hill — Just past the acropolis, a small hike on a hill that gets you amazing views of the Acropolisand the city. 
  • Palio Faliro — The west side of Athens, by the sea with a great marina filled with places to stroll and eat. You can take the metro straight here and come see the beautiful seaside and marina up close. Closer to the sea, there are also some seaside nightclub (although depending on where you're staying, getting back to Athens center can be a bitch.) 
  • Tours — If you're into walking tours, Athens Backpackers Hostel has a great one for €6. There is also Alternative Tours where you can learn about the city by way of its graffiti art amongst other alternative routes (sounds v cool). 
  • Gifts — Sure, all the kiosks and stands sell great souvenirs. But if you're looking for some authentic Greek gifts (by today's modern designers), check out Forget Me Not Athens in Monstiraki. They carry a very clever and well-designed brand called "Hommer" which is a beauty brand for men (named after the author of The Odyssey). 

This wraps up the Athens sightseeing brain dump. ;) I've linked a bunch of personal Instagram photos above, but you can also check out #AthensxLucy for even more up-close Greece reccs (Athens, Santorini, Thessaloniki).


"You see, muscle is created by repeatedly lifting things that have been designed to weigh us down. So when your shoulders feel heavy, stand up straight, lift your chin, hell, call it exercise. Remember that life is a gym membership is a really complicated cancellation policy. Remember we are never ever given anything that we can handle. When the world crumbles around you, you have to look at the wreckage and then a build a new one out of all the piece that are still here. Remember you are still here." 

Rudy Francisco, "Complainers"



“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”

— Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace


shut up

"... I learned that you actually have more power when you shut up, because at least that way people still start to maybe doubt themselves. When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it.”

– Andy Warhol, POPism


love story

"Marriages are impossible to predict. Fairy tales become broken tales, love stories turn into stories of love lost, initial euphoria into a wish for marital euthanasia. The trouble with love is that it comes with the guarantee of nothing.

The nature of it is risk, happiness and hurt in the same muscle of the heart. Maybe Serena and Alexis are too different. Maybe she won’t be able to give enough when she is giving to a baby even before the marriage begins. Maybe he will feel he is making too many sacrifices in his spectacular and exciting career to accommodate Serena, since her career is even more spectacular and exciting.

Perhaps the prospect of a continued love story is as realistic as Serena’s insistence that she will return to the pro tennis circuit as soon as January because “I don’t think my story is over yet.” But if she says she will be back in January, she will be back in January. Anyone who has met Serena for more than five seconds knows that.

The marriage? How can it not thrive when the first date was six hours in Paris—with no particular destination—where no matter how crowded the streets and alleyways winding through the city, there was no one else except the two of you.

Now that’s a love story."


"Goodbye to All That"

"I laughed with him.... but it would be a long while before I would come to understand the particular moral of the story. It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean 'love' in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and never love anyone quite that way again.

... this was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake every word, all of it. 

Some years passed, but I still did not lose that sense of wonder about New York. I began to cherish the loneliness of it, the sense that at any given time no one need nkow where I was or what I was doing. 

You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, hat it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.

I could not tell you when I began to understand all that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen... I no longer had any interest about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them.I had already met them, always. ... I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. ... I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and should see a "specialist." He wrote down a psychiatrist's name and address for me, but I did not go.

I talk about how difficult it would be for us to 'afford' to live in New York right now, about how much "space" we need. All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore. 

There were years when I called Los Angeles 'The Coast,' but they seem a long time ago."

Goodbye to All That (Joan Didion, 1967)

 Source: @xulucy

Source: @xulucy


"... It's understanding there are nuances to your life. And then designing the version of yourself that you want to be showing up at each of them. This is one of the great things that makes us humans; we have the capacity to design things, we have the capacity to create who it is that we want. I want to create a nuanced individual because I am nuanced.... we all take parts of ourselves, and in certain situations, we start to magnify a part of our personality. ... you already are doing it, now let's just be way more intentional about the person that we're creating so that we can truly get the results that we are looking for. "

"Mental toughness is your ability to flexible and adaptable, despite what the circumstances around you and situations are giving you. If you're firmed and fixed... on how the game is going to play out ... and then it doesn't start happening that way, because there's an ebbs and a flow to matches and games... then most people will start to respond emotionally in that moment. And that's mental weakness... you're not able to be flexible and adaptable despite what's happening in the game, so that you can continue to perform at your peak." 

— Todd Herman, on Amplifying Your Strengths


"... But look back to the dictionary definition of the word. But how does one teach 'luck' or 'chance?' But what if it is not chance or luck at all? What if being serendipitous is a skill? What then would cultivate it? Could you exacerbate the skill of 'discovering things by accident that you were not in quest of?' What a skill to master, if I could. And then, could it be taught, as it was to the three princes of Serendip? What do you think? And what do you propose?

I have always wondered about the idea of 'playfulness' as a strategy for increasing serendipity... 

... and remember that tourists only see 'sights,' but travelers and people on pilgrimages see 'sites.' As Barth proposes, 'Go in good faith, and prepare to lose your bearings.'”

— The Princes of Serendip

   Serendipity &nbsp; (2001)

Serendipity (2001)


Lorelai: I just flat-out panicked about the enormity of what we were getting into. And it clobbered me, and I clobbered Sookie … 

Luke: I don’t get it, you’re as ready as you’re ever been.

Lorelai: Oh, Luke, do not underestimate the complete & total lack of confidence i have in my abilities.

Luke: What? You’re the most confident person I know, obnoxiously so…. in a good way. You’re good at what you do and you know it. 

Lorelai: No, no. I’m good at doing what I had to do. But I don’t have to leave the Independence Inn … I don’t have to walk out on that limb and risk everything I’ve worked for. 

Luke: Then don’t, just stay where you are. 

Lorelai: What is this, reverse psychology?

Luke: No, just stay at the Inn. You’re happy there.

Lorelai: Oh, so you don’t think I can hack it?

Luke: Of course I think you can hack it.

Lorelai: Great, lip service, that’s what I need ... I couldn’t stay there if I wanted. 

Luke: You’re just scared. Just like everyone else when they’re taking on something big.

Lorelai Well then, what does everybody else do to get through this feeling? 

Luke: They run in the back, throw up, pass out, and then smack their head on the floor. That’s what I did on the first morning I opened the diner. Look, there is no button to push to get you through this. You just got to jump in and be scared and stick with it until it gets fun.

Lorelai: How long until the diner got fun? 

Luke: About a year.

Lorelai: Wow. And there’s no button? How about a lever, can I pull a lever? Turn a knob? 

Luke: Nope. 

Lorelai: I wanna do it.

Luke: You should do it. 




It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. 
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. 

It doesn't interest me who you know, or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.


"All the promises, explanations and asides in the world pale in comparison with what you do.

Too often, we forget that jargon and narrative exist to help shape our actions, not to replace them.

Words keep getting cheaper, which makes action more valuable than ever."

– Seth Godin

on love & metaphors

".... metaphors really do shape the way we experience the world, and that they can even act as a guide for future actions, like self-fulfilling prophecies.

Johnson and Lakoff suggest a new metaphor for love: love as a collaborative work of art. I really like this way of thinking about love. Linguists talk about metaphors as having entailments, which is essentially a way of considering all the implications of, or ideas contained within, a given metaphor. And Johnson and Lakoff talk about everything that collaborating on a work of art entails: effort, compromise, patience, shared goals. These ideas align nicely with our cultural investment in long-term romantic commitment, but they also work well for other kinds of relationships -- short-term, casual, polyamorous, non-monogamous, asexual -- because this metaphor brings much more complex ideas to the experience of loving someone.

So if love is a collaborative work of art, then love is an aesthetic experience. Love is unpredictable, love is creative, love requires communication and discipline, it is frustrating and emotionally demanding. And love involves both joy and pain. Ultimately, each experience of love is different." 

– Mandy Len Catron, "A better way to talk about love"