On 26.

When I turned 25, I was exactly where I wanted to be in life.

You see, I’m a planner. But not those cool, healthy, mentally well-adjusted ones. I’m more of a “write down your goals, tape it to your wall, and work to the point of obsession” kind of planner. I love making spreadsheets for the most inane things in life (like my churning hobby), I write through packets of 5×8 legal pads every month, and make ridiculous to-do checklists every day. Without them, I can’t function.

It all started when I graduated from Notre Dame back in 2013. With my Film, Television, and Theatre degree in hand and no real-world experience, I quickly found myself to be unemployable. No matter how hard I tried or how many interviews I took, nothing worked.

After nearly a year of unemployment and incredible frustration, I sat down on my 22nd birthday and wrote down my goals on a piece of paper. It went something like this: “By my 25th birthday, I want to be working in Silicon Valley earning six figures at a job I love. I want to travel to 3 foreign countries. And I want to be in a fulfilling relationship (for once).” Pretty generic, admittedly. But the goals became a target to strive for each day, unwavering until they were accomplished.

And by the time I turned 25, I had accomplished almost all of it. My story was even covered in the New York Times. But it left me with a question that lingered, which was, “okay now what?” I had placed so much focus and energy on this 25 goal, I never wonder what I wanted on 26, 27, and so forth.

Because at 26, I have none of the things I wanted at 25. But to my surprise, I’m happier than ever.

Since coming back from #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016, I started my own UX Agency. And almost every single waking hour have gone towards building the company. I’m not making any money, I’m back living at home, but there’s this renewed sense of purpose. This burning desire to make great work really propels me forward every day.

Building Apical Design from scratch has bee overwhelmingly stressful. It’s really a 24/7 commitment because there’s always something that needs to be done. As a few of my friends know, I’m constantly stressed nowadays. But the high of signing our first customer was unlike anything I felt before.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to 26, since now I’m considered to be “late 20’s.” But as I found out this month, my anxieties sort of vanished with a renewed purpose – much like my 22nd birthday.

I don’t know where I’ll be when I turn 27, but I hope I can say I built Apical Design into a company I’m proud of.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes,
– Ben

How the “points game” saved me $4300+ on #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016

When coming back from a big trip, the first question I get asked is, “what were your highlights?” Immediately following, most people ask, “if you don’t mind answering, how much did it all cost?”

 

It’s a fair question and a question I answer openly, because I love the planning, the organization, and the optimization of traveling. I can go on for hours talking about the minutiae of each planning decision I make. I’m one of those weird people who enjoy being at the airport since I see it as one of the most remarkable feats of human progress. In fact, the #1 match from a Job Aptitude Test at Notre Dame recommended I become a travel consultant. While I normally think these tests are garbage, this one nailed it.

 

In this post, I will talk about the “points game.” It’s a controversial topic that many people are skeptical of, because it sounds too good to be true and it seems like a lot of work (both false). But it’s a hobby that feeds my love of travel and organization, so I relish it. I even got a few friends hooked!

 

This is meant to be an informative post that highlights how I afford almost all my travels. By no means should you rush off to apply for a bunch of credit cards now. But if by the end you want to learn more, I’m happy to teach you!

 

The game is simple: sign up for promotions from banks through credit card sign ups and other offers, earn points, then redeem them for trips. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

 

But wait Ben, wouldn’t signing up for a lot of credit cards hurt my credit score?

 

Yes, and no. You can read about how credit scores work here. Since I started this hobby back in 2015, my credit score has gone up 100+ points. I never carried a balance and always paid my bills on time. If you use credit cards like debit cards, you should be fine. Discipline in this hobby opened doors to traveling like never before. I used these points to redeem for $20,000+ of travel expenses in the past 20 months.

Continue reading How the “points game” saved me $4300+ on #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016

5 Things I learned about UX in SE Asia after speaking in 5 countries

Some of you are aware I held my “Foundations of UX Research” talk during my travels in Asia. Within three months, I spoke in the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In total, there were 8 talks in 5 countries. I did it because I absolutely love talking about UX and the product development process as a whole. Plus, sharing my experience working at UXPin while traveling was immensely fun. And in general, I have a deep curiosity for UX outside the United States, so I had a mission to meet as many tech professionals as I could.

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Manila, Philippines. Organized by UXPH and PWDO. Sponsored by GlobeLabs.

Continue reading 5 Things I learned about UX in SE Asia after speaking in 5 countries

On why I believe Donald Trump won the Presidency

We often talk about privilege purely in the sense of race. But I believe there’s a different kind of privilege that nobody really talks about, which is the privilege of choice and mobility.

A vast majority of us (in my network) have had it pretty good in life, whether we want to admit it or not. Most of us went to great public schools, went to college, traveled to different countries, and live in a nice area where we have jobs. Those of us who are unhappy with work can make the effort to transition into different careers relatively easily compared to the rest of the world. We understand some jobs will not create a future for us (like manufacturing), so we have the choice to do something else, which is why most of us are working in white-collar jobs. We’re not rich with money, but rather we are rich with choices. Continue reading On why I believe Donald Trump won the Presidency

Why I Broke Into An Abandoned Hotel in Korea [Part 1]

I caught a glimpse of a black cat sleeping on a metal blockade stretched alongside the countryside road.

As I walked closer, no movement.

“Here kitty.” I said, in an attempt to get its attention. Still no reaction.

Upon further inspection, lifeless.

Never mind that, I thought. Behind this tall blockade lied an old abandoned hotel, “Ganghwa World,” named after the small countryside island in South Korea, Ganghwa-Do. Ganghwa-Do is anecdotally regarded as the birthplace of the Korean people, as many historical artifacts can be found within its vast fields. I found myself in Gilsang, a small rice-farm town within the island, home to Jeondeungsa, one of the oldest temples in the entire country. What was once a thriving destination is now merely a minor tourist stopover struggling to sustain a rapidly diminishing town where students are trained to leave and never come back. On weekdays, Gilsang is visited by a handful of elderly Koreans and Chinese nationals. And me.

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Ganghwa World: a long-abandoned hotel.

Maybe the cat, laying with its eyes and mouth wide open, was foreshadowing what was behind the blockade: remnants of life that existed years ago, but have long passed. Much like this town. Whatever happened that left this building abandoned, I didn’t care. I just knew one thing for certain:

I need to go inside.  Continue reading Why I Broke Into An Abandoned Hotel in Korea [Part 1]

On Manila

Photo Album of Manila

I started my first week of #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016 in the city I initially visited back in 2014 – Manila, Philippines. Before venturing out into unfamiliar territories, I thought there would be some level of comfort in starting this long journey in a familiar place with some familiar faces. I have fond memories of Manila, especially because of one of my best bros, Kristoff, played an amazing tour guide and host during my initial visit in 2014.  Continue reading On Manila