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Every Friday is Wisdom Friday.  It’s just a way for me to share with my readers the little gems of life that I’ve learned either during the week or living life in general.

When was the last time you say “Thank You” (either verbally or mentally) and really mean it?  I know I personally don’t love and appreciate my life as much as I should.  Often, I find myself counting my blessings during specific occasions throughout the year — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, New Years — but I really should be more thankful for my life everyday!

Becoming aware is the first step towards many things in life, so starting today, I am going to spend one minute everyday to think of all the things that I am thankful for in my life.  One minute is all it takes.  If you have one minute to spare, you can start the ritual too, and we can all enrich our lives that way!

Note:  This is the third of a series of posts I am writing about online dating.  If you’ve missed the previous two, be sure to check them out before reading this one:  Your Expectation, Your Profile.

As I stressed in the previous two posts, first impression is vital in dating.  It is especially so for online dating because of how efficient it is to meet people over the Internet.  Efficiency translates to high volume, and the best way to stand out from the noise is to create the best first impression of all the people in the dating pool.

The absolute first impression is, of course, your profile but that’s static.  It is important to follow up with a second, more fluid first impression, and that’s the very first email you send to a potential date.  Contrary to the advice I gave on how to write a great profile (lengthy but packed with punches), a great first email should be short, sweet, and enticing.

Why the difference?  Let me answer that with a couple of questions.  Have you ever received an email from a total stranger, and the email reads like a novel?  What do you usually do with the email after skimming a few lines?  I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t give my time as generously to reading emails from people I don’t already know, and I tend to hit the delete button more often.  The same is true for emails I get from people on online dating sites.

So what constitutes a good opening email?  As always, an example speaks volume, so here is one that caught my attention immediately:

“Hmmm. You seem challenging and provocative. In my book, that’s good. We may share a few things in common, particularly an interest in snapping photos and a degree of intellectual snobbery. Let’s swap photos; or trade barbs; or just have a cup of joe.

There are several reasons this email caught my attention.  First, he was able to convey a lot in less than the minute it took for me to read it.  Second, he showed that he paid attention to my profile by highlighting a few things I had written in my profile (photography, intellect, and coffee).  Third, he established some commonality between the two of us, and that automatically triggered interest on my end.  Fourth, the email conveyed a sense of mystery, and that’s enticing.

On the other hand, here is how NOT to write the first email:

“I am looking for a special friend, someone who can be really close to heart. Someone with whom you can talk and discuss your problems. Someone who is there for you when you need emotional support, and someone whom you can always keep happy and smiling. Problem is its too tough finding good people these days.

“I don’t have lot of friends in the Bay Area. I saw your profile and thought it over, and I really think we can be great as friends for a start. Do you think we can try and be friends??”

Why is this email so bad?  First, it’s long and whinny!  Second, there are grammatical errors all over the email!  Third, the email reeks of desperation — women are definitely not attracted to men who don’t have friends!  Fourth, he basically restated the obvious — many people on dating websites are looking for that special someone — so the words are basically wasted space!  Fifth, the email was all about what that person wanted instead of what I want or what interests me.

In summary, the opening email should be short yet thoughtful, expressive and inviting.  Remember, just as the first impression in the offline world is made within the first 90 seconds, the first impression in the online world is made in even less time!  So make every word count!

If you missed my other posts on online dating, be sure to check them out:

Part I – Online Dating 101: Your Expectation
Part II – Online Dating 101: Your Profile
Part IV – Online Dating 101: Your First Meeting

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.  I’ve never been much of a long distance runner myself, but I thought finishing a marathon is a worthwhile goal.  If nothing else, it proves to me that I can do it!

So I started running just as everybody was making their new year resolution to lose weight/get fit.  But I’ve been down this path before.  Almost ten years ago, I made a pact with a friend who lived 500 miles from me that we would train for the Boston marathon “together”.  By together, I meant we would call each other and keep each other accountable to train everyday.  Well, she made it, and sadly I didn’t.  But I learned valuable lessons from my failure.  I am applying what I learned to give myself a better odd of succeeding this time around.

Just what did I learn?  A few things:

  1. Routinize it. I am very much a creature of habit.  While it’s true that I am an adrenaline junkie, I really like my life to fit a routine otherwise.  So to minimize the chance of failing again this time around, I run everyday!  It hasn’t rain yet, but I am mentally prepared to run in the rain!
  2. Stick to a plan. The first day I started running, I committed myself to run three miles.  I didn’t quite finish the three miles that day, but I forced myself to walk the rest of the distance.  By committing to a distance, I did not have any excuse to stop short of my goal.  And the surprising thing was, I was running 3 miles straight in a week’s time whereas it probably would have taken much longer to reach that goal if I had not committed to it, run or walk.
  3. Identify and defeat the giant. Although I have never been a long distance runner, I’ve been relatively fit most of my life.  It became painfully obvious to me after the first day of running that my challenge is not physical — it’s mental!  So now when I find myself wanting to stop short of my goal, I concentrate on the internal conversation I have with myself and talk myself out of quitting.

So far, by doing all three, I’ve been able to increase my distance to five miles.  I am sure there will be more barriers ahead as I extend my distance.  I will certainly blog about them as they come!  Meanwhile, I would love to hear from those who have successfully completed a marathon.  If you have great tips to share, please add them to the comment section!

Every Friday is Wisdom Friday.  It’s just a way for me to share with my readers the little gems of life that I’ve learned either during the week or living life in general.

One of the hardest struggles for me this year to date in trying to live out the advice in the Wear Sunscreen speech has been to let go of planning the many details of my life because I “worry about tomorrow”.  As the speech went on to say, “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

I believe one of the reasons I am hesitant to let go of my “planning” mindset is I am afraid of the unknown and the unpredictable.  What I should really do is learn to always embrace the unknown and follow the unbeaten path that makes me afraid, curious, excited, delighted, joyful (this also goes hand-in-hand with my other goal of living in the moment).

Truth is, in looking back I realize many of my life’s greatest moments were results of the curve balls thrown my way or the unplanned and chance encounters.  All of my closest friends were met that way; so were the people I dated, career opportunities that had come my way, wisdom I’ve stumbled upon, etc.

Now, I am not saying don’t plan for anything in your life.  Life is much more meaningful when it is deliberate.  What I am saying is don’t plan EVERYTHING; instead, strive to live a more carefree life and learn to embrace paths which outcomes are not yet known.  Trust that good things will come out of the unbeaten path.

Note: This is the second of a series of posts I am writing about online dating.  If you missed the first one, be sure to check out it before reading this one.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the rules that apply to offline dating is equally applicable to online dating.  Just because meeting people online is different and more efficient, doesn’t mean that it is governed by a new set of rules of engagement.  For that reason, first impression is just as critical even if the medium of exchange is casual.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it is worthwhile to mention that men are more visual whereas women are more verbal.  That is not to say men are not attracted to women who write well or that women are not attracted to nice looking gentlemen.  But as a rule of thumb, women are more attracted to men who have a way with their words, while men tend to gravitate towards women they find good looking.

Having said, that, I’ve confirmed the following with my small sample of friends: more often than not, the way a woman judges whether a profile is worth the pursue is how much information she can gather from the words on the page.  In general, the more the merrier.  So if you have a choice of writing one paragraph versus four, write four. But simply having more words won’t cut it.  The point is how well can a guy convey who he is in the space he was allotted to talk about himself, not how verbose he needs to be to get his points across.

Rather than talk about it, I thought I would show an example of a rich profile (note the number of words as well as the language this person used to describe himself — every word is deeply meaningful):

“Life for me is all about balance, being open-minded and trying everything once. You’re just as likely to find me at the theater, symphony or opera as at a crowded live show up front with ear plugs in. You might see me sipping Pinot at a gallery downtown, and then run into me gawking at fire-spewing art cars on the playa at Burning Man.

“I relish the comforts of home, but have been known to travel for months at a time with only my backpack, my camera, and antimalarial pills. I’m mostly a city boy, but love skiing off steeps, diving into bodies of water, and feeling sand on my skin.

“I can be cynical and sarcastic with the best of them, but those who know me well think of me as a romantic idealist with a soft gooey center. I can be independent and reflective, but have a wild side that comes out to play hard when the mood strikes.”

On the other hand, here is a profile that is sorely lacking in substance:

“i’m a pretty well-rounded guy – smart, athletic, and artistic. i’m into the outdoors. i can re-model a house.

i try to be conscious of how i live my life and how i treat people. i try to spread happiness when i can.”

The difference between the two profiles is how concrete a picture they each painted.  The first profile provided visuals using words; instead of just describing who he is with adjectives, he painted the kind of person he is with what he likes to do.  After reading the profile, I immediately got a sense of who he is without ever meeting him.  On the other hand, the second profile not only used very few words to describe himself, his description is hardly memorable or differentiating from most of the profiles out there.

Another aspect of first impression is how you choose to present yourself.  I’ve seen too many pictures of men drinking beer in wild party settings.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting pictures like that, but know that those kinds of pictures are mostly attractive to people who are like that themselves.  If that’s the kind of person you hope to attract, then by all means.  Since I am not a party girl myself, I tend to stay away from profiles blasted with party photos.  It’s simply not my cup of tea!

Finally, if the online dating sites allow you to choose your handle name, choose the name wisely.  Avoid words that convey pretentiousness or larger than life sentiment unless, of course, you are trying to attract people who like those qualities in a mate.  For example, calling yourself a “Prince” or a “SuperStar” is a big no-no, as is describing yourself as “sexy”, “freak” or “angry”.

Have more to add?  Please post them in the comment section!

If you missed my other posts on online dating, be sure to check them out:

Part I – Online Dating 101: Your Expectation
Part III – Online Dating 101: Your Opening Email
Part IV – Online Dating 101: Your First Meeting

January 2009
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