Nov. 9, 2020

10 : Living Intentionally in a World Full of Uncertainty with Valerie Poon

“Anytime we connect with others, if we're open to the possibility, we can find ways to benefit each other” - Valerie Poon Welcome to the Mindful FIRE Podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond....


“Anytime we connect with others, if we're open to the possibility, we can find ways to benefit each other” - Valerie Poon

Welcome to the Mindful FIRE Podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond. I’m your host Adam Coelho and I’m glad you’re here. 

On this episode I’m joined by my friend Valerie Poon, who I met through a Grow with Google coaching session a few months back. Val and I connected about our shared interest in mindfulness and financial independence. 

After our conversation, I knew I had to bring her on the podcast to share her perspective on FIRE and mindful living as a young person. The concepts and practices surrounding mindfulness and financial independence are powerful at any age but starting early makes an incredible difference. I often think how powerful it would have been for me to have the knowledge and practices of FIRE and mindfulness early in my twenties. 

Val is currently a student in her last year at OCAD University where she studies design. On top of her studies she’s keeping herself busy with exploring social innovation, emotional intelligence, community building, sustainability and youth empowerment. 

In this episode Val and I dive deep into living intentionally amidst a world full of uncertainty. 

In this episode we explore: 

  • The concept of uncertainty, including what the ocean has to teach us about it as a part of life.  
  • That there is power in trusting in the uncertain nature of the world.
  • What a 10 day silent meditation retreat taught me (Adam) about uncertainty and the constantly changing nature of experience
  • How Val attempts to infuse her life with intentionality, from how she starts her day to how she approaches her time at university and with each person she interacts with
  • My thoughts on living intentionally as a practice of making the most of each moment and this one life I have to live.
  • How Val sees being a student as a tremendous amount of opportunity to experiment, learn and grow and fail with a supportive safety net while being surrounded by other people who are there to learn as well.
  • How Val is working on a design project to explore how we can make our relationship with technology more mindful.
  • How Val approaches networking or rather “connecting with curiosity” and how she aims to add value to everyone she interacts with, especially mentors. 
  • How Val thinks about pursuing financial independence as a 23 year old student
  • My (Adam) thoughts on pursuing financial independence mindfully

This episode was a great reminder to me of the simple ways we can all choose to be a bit more intentional to make the most of each moment and this one life we have to live. I learned so much from this conversation and I hope you do as well. 

Full show notes at MindfulFIRE.org

Each Tuesday I release a guided meditation or inspiring interview on the topics of mindfulness and financial independence. Subscribe for future meditations and episodes!

Transcript

Adam Coelho: [00:00:00] Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond I'm your host, Adam quail. And I'm so glad you're here on today's episode. I'm joined by my friend, Val Poon, a student in Toronto, who I met while doing volunteer work at Google through a program called grow with Google.

We connected on mindfulness and financial independence and intentional living. So I thought I'd bring her on the podcast. And in thousand words, she is a human being, not a cyborg. And she has endless curiosity about awareness, possibilities, impact, and consequences of the world we live in now. And in the future, currently, she enjoys exploring and bringing ideas into reality by problem solving and collaborating on cross-disciplinary projects.

These are all things that matter. And that motivate her as a student and as a designer to wake up every morning, make a hot cup of coffee and take on the day. She strives to create ways to bring the best out in people. That's her purpose. And currently she's keeping herself busy with exploring social innovation, emotional intelligence, community, building sustainability and youth empowerment.

And in her free time, she enjoys cooking for friends and family and her dog, as well as watering plants and trying new things on today's episode, Val and I explore a whole wide range of topics, including uncertainty opportunities, intentionality, community, building the financial independence, retire, early movement, and so much more.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Val today. And I hope you do as well. Let's jump into today's episode,

Val. Welcome to the mindful fire podcast. 

Valerie Poon: [00:01:45] Thank you so much for having me today, Adam, I'm so excited to dive in. 

Adam Coelho: [00:01:48] So I'd love to start by having you share with our audience a little bit about who you are and what you're up to in the world. 

Valerie Poon: [00:01:55] So hi everyone who I am, I would say currently my identity does STEM from being a student, as well as an aspiring designer from a philosophical point of view.

I would say my identity doesn't really draw from the past. I'm more now and future oriented. I love thinking about what we do now and how that does lead us to the future. And I go back and forth in between whether it's creating who I am, designing my life and what I create. I always think about these two relationships.

Very cool. In terms of what I'm up to for the past year, I've been just questioning my interaction with technology as a designer, as a creator, as a human being, that has been my focus. And even though that question has been on my mind for the past year, it wasn't until post COVID that I had to sit down, slow down and reflect.

That now I'm taking action to figure out the answer for this big question that I have. And I'm sure we all have right now. 

Adam Coelho: [00:02:56] Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about that focus of yours, of looking at your relationship with technology, I guess 

Valerie Poon: [00:03:02] right now it's interesting that even though we've never met in person.

The person, we now connect with each other things to technology, but post COVID, for example, things got amplified in terms of our entertainment, socializing, productivity, all is happening in this one space. So I finally took action to start investigating this problem, a problem in terms of quantitative and qualitative research, reading up stats and research paper, talking to people putting out a survey and then.

Following up with interviews, just to understand how aware we are with our relationship with technology right now and how it really has influenced our behavior and habits, 

Adam Coelho: [00:03:44] just tell me a little bit more about how you think about your relationship with technology and how you are exploring this as part of a project that you're working, 

Valerie Poon: [00:03:54] the projects I've been working on focuses on understanding, investigating Our relationship with technology and how it has affected her habits, behavior, and emotions and also reactions.

I think now that I'm aware of my reactions online in the digital space, I can not be aware of it. And learning, as I learned more about digital world designed, I just can't help, but want to urge other people to think before they react when they're navigating. So what I've been doing is interviews with people trying to understand like a day in the life with technology, right from the beginning, when they wake up to when they sleep, where is your phone?

And are you constantly using your phone and why is it for productivity reason? Or is it for social reason or is it others? I think a lot of times technology is still an new invention innovation and happened when I was like, for example, I didn't really get a phone until I was 10. So to think in retrospect, my life before that and after, and just spend time to reflect has really helped me become more mindful of my use of this tool, because I think we forget that it's a tool sometimes, and we forget that we become what the tool tells us to do.

So I, my mission and curiosity. Is it lies in how can we become mindful of technology as a tool and then become a good craftsman in terms of people who design engineers who make this, but also for people who are using it to know how to use, for example, a hammer wisely and not hurt themselves and others.

Adam Coelho: [00:05:35] That's a great point. Yeah, that's really well said. Tell me a little bit more about how you think about designing your life and creating the future that you want. 

Valerie Poon: [00:05:44] Great questions as well. I try to be mindful and intentional in whatever I do starting. I guess I can walk you through my day on, keep in mind.

My day is not like this every day, but this is what I intend to do. When I wake up, I take a good moment. I can't even put like numbers into telling you how long, but I think a deep breath and just feel, and I just put intentions and awareness into my mind and thoughts, what do I want to do today?

How do I want to feel today? What can I do today to make myself and my life and people in my life that I value better? So that's what I try to do whenever I wake up the first thing in the morning before brushing my teeth. Interesting thing is habits in our minds. I feel like they're in a loop.

So I've found that making my bed just perfect actually helps me start my day. Whether I think it comes in like funny reasons, but also just, a good start starting. That helps. But also it keeps me out of going back to bed because it's all made up in. Perfect. I just like the way it is.

And then moving on, I spend some time to make a good breakfast cause nourishment and recharging yourself is just as productive as producing work out there. So I've found that breakfast really does matter to me. I take my time to enjoy my tea or coffee and make breakfast, whatever I feel like that day.

And it really gets me going. And then I open my computer on. Now that we're talking about technology, digital technology. And I try to look through my calendar, check my emails. Make sure. I remind myself again, what do I intend to do today? And what do I have to do today with my time? Because time, as we know is certain in terms of there's a timeline from beginning to end, this is something that we can't escape.

And I think. Being mindful of that really does help me to stay focused and driven. 

Adam Coelho: [00:07:35] Good. Yeah. That sounds very interesting. Sounds like the structure of your day especially at the beginning, sets you up for a productive day going forward. I'm curious. Do you have a meditation practice? And if so, where does that fit in your day?

Valerie Poon: [00:07:47] Me and meditation. When I lived in the city, I moved back to the suburbs right now. But prior to that, my journey and meditation began, I would say a little over a year ago when I went to a yoga class, it was a Saturday morning. I wanted something to do. And in the city, there was a small yoga studio that would allow new teachers to practice.

And because of that, it made the other practice very affordable. And I went in and it became a habit of just starting my morning with a lot of awareness and like slowing down and just being aware of my thoughts and bodies and my feelings. So it started then, but then in around December, I left Toronto and went to California.

For an exchange semester. And so I kinda lost my track with meditation in that sense, but then I got into surfing, which even though it's not officially meditating, I felt the same state of serenity and just being aware and open in the middle of the ocean. It's interesting because the ocean is filled and goes with uncertainty.

You can't control it. You can't control wave. And when it's coming at you, you can't control the size, but when you learn to give in and lean it in into uncertainty and you find yourself centered in it, I find that a beautiful feeling that helps me again, stay focused. In the midst 

Adam Coelho: [00:09:13] of it all. Very interesting.

Yeah. I can relate to, having been out there in the ocean, trying to surf rather than surfing, but yeah, it's just so peaceful and yeah, you really realize that, you're at the whim of the waves, the universe, you're not in control. I'd love to explore this concept of uncertainty a little bit more.

I think right now we're in probably the most uncertain time we'll ever face. Hopefully it doesn't get more uncertain than this. But, with the pandemic, as we're recording this, it's the United States election for president and there's just so much uncertainty surrounding us, but that's always the case.

It's just heightened right now. So I'd love to hear how you think about that and how that influences your life. I've 

Valerie Poon: [00:09:54] been thinking about this word a lot in what it means to me. And how I can communicate with the world that it's okay to be uncertain at all times. I know it's human nature, myself included because I'm human worry and want to be in control.

But I think just the other day, when you, after you invited me on the podcast, I started really. Thinking and diving into what it means to be uncertain and why it's okay. And then it made me realize the moment that we were born, we were depending on uncertainty, we didn't have any control. We were just a little baby coming out and we just had to trust and give to the world.

So thinking about the very moment of birth we had absolutely. Lean no control of the outcome made me realize it is a natural thing after all, to trust a world and let it guide you. So we should lean in really, even though fear and all the other drivers, external drivers always wants us to not trust uncertainty.

I think it's important to remind ourselves that we were born in uncertainty. And as long as we're breathing, we are breathing uncertainty and it is. Okay. And we will be okay. 

Adam Coelho: [00:10:57] Yeah. That's really interesting. And I guess just to put a fine point on it, how would you define uncertainty? 

Valerie Poon: [00:11:04] I define uncertainty, a lack of control in terms of external, but also I think internally, sometimes it is hard to control our reactions and our emotions and our thoughts, but I think just being mindful and aware of it and letting it low instead of trying to be a certain way, whether it's presenting yourself.

Or feeling that could be helpful when you just let go a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: [00:11:28] I liked that. The way I think about it is just not knowing, not knowing. And also just this idea of impermanence things are constantly changing within our bodies. Cells are dying, reproducing, growing, even in how we feel in our body from moment to moment is constantly changing and everything around us is constantly changing, right?

To expect that not to be the case is just a recipe for suffering. And it's interesting. A couple of things came to mind, a real acute example of this idea of impermanence and uncertainty came up for me when I did a 10 day silent meditation retreat and the whole point of it, as far as I understood it is just to sit there and observe the changes.

Experience of being human. And when all the thoughts and distractions are dialed down, it really becomes apparent that everything is changing all the time. And the more that we resist that, right? So let's say I have a pain in my shoulder, the more I resist that pain starts to flare up in all other areas of my body.

And it's just bounces around like when you have an itch and then you scratch that itch. And now you've got a niche over here and,  And it's funny, it made me realize that like even unconsciously we're constantly reacting to the changing landscape of experience, resisting or craving all the time.

And another thing that kind of came up for me as you were talking about uncertainty is just in the working world few years ago, I realized that no one knows what's going on and. That's just the way it is and things are constantly changing. My team was reorganizing all the time. Every couple of months we'd have a different way of doing things.

At some point, I thought, Oh, I'll go on vacation for three weeks and I'll come back and it'll all be figured out. I don't know why I thought that because when I got back, nothing was figured out. It was exactly the same. And at that point I started really easing up being like, okay, it's fine.

Everything's uncertain, everything's changing. It's okay. And I feel like there's a lot of freedom. In that we'd love to hear your thoughts on all of that. Yeah. 

Valerie Poon: [00:13:24] In terms of you're talking about work and social dynamics, relationships with people, it's a work in progress for me as well, but I always think about our social relationships and how we communicate.

When we communicate and have built relationships, we always expect a certain things. It's just human nature. We want to know what's up and we want to know how we can have somewhat of a control of the situation. But I think as I grow every day I try to remind myself that.

We are all reacting and feeling differently at all every moment. So to have compassion and empathy for others, when things don't work out in terms of your relationship and current situation, I just always act and think with empathy. And that helps me gain freedom for myself, whether or not it's a relationship that went well, or didn't just being open-minded I feel can help you gain freedom.

Adam Coelho: [00:14:17] So I'd love to hear if there are any practices or ways of thinking that have helped you ease more into being okay with uncertainty. 

Valerie Poon: [00:14:28] Oh my God. I love this question. I would say to be okay with uncertainty. How do we embody that? My advice for myself and everyone is to lean in. To when uncertainty does challenge you when it upsets you and when it ruins, you just lean in as hard.

But I say, when you recognize, and you become aware that you're reacting to uncertainty in a negative way, just stop for a moment and just. Breathe in. And then you'll realize that at the moment that uncertainty, that problem might seem big, but once you take a deep breath and you zoom out, you realize it might just be a small little point and you can always move forward.

Adam Coelho: [00:15:12] Yeah. I think for me, it's been really helpful to just notice when I'm feeling overwhelmed. It's usually I'm reacting to uncertainty. And if I find myself trying to control things, then I can just. Notice that without judgment, just be mindful that I'm trying to control and then choose to just ease up a little bit and let things unfold.

And because yeah, to your point, like when we're challenged by uncertainty, it's usually in a time where things are really difficult and big changes happening, but perhaps it's happening for a reason. And most of the time in my life, most difficult times have been. Also the times when I've made the biggest leap forward in my life and my career, my relationships, all of that.

And so just remembering those past times when I find myself caught up in uncertainty and could theoretically be helpful, right. Easier said than done, but it's good. Be aware and to choose to respond instead of just. Reacting to blind emotion. Beautiful. 

Valerie Poon: [00:16:12] You can always choose how you react. You can't choose or control anything else, but you can always choose your own reaction to things.

And I really try every day to embody what you just said. 

Adam Coelho: [00:16:24] To choose. So I'd love to dive in a little bit more into this idea of living intentionally, right? When you were describing your morning, it sounded very intentional. And you sounds like you think more broadly about designing your life in a very intentional way.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on just what does being intentional mean to you and how do you put it into practice? 

Valerie Poon: [00:16:47] I think it means to be aware of your surroundings, aware of this moment to be aware of it, of your internal feelings. That's what it means for me to be intentional also means before I react, I think how do I want to react?

And I wouldn't my reaction create a domino effect, right? I like to be intentional before I react. Very 

good. 

Adam Coelho: [00:17:09] And are there other areas of your life that you try to be 

Valerie Poon: [00:17:12] intentional? Some good examples would be, I'm a student right now and I'm in my final year of school. I will constantly be intentional in what I'm trying to get out of it, whether it's when I have conversations with my professors or with my peers, or even with myself and my goals and my vision, I try to be intentional and always.

Think before I moved my body and my mouth, because words are powerful. What you say, what you hear can really guide you sometimes on your decision-making and your reactions. So I try to be intentional whenever I interact with everyone, I meet 

Adam Coelho: [00:17:49] something you said there really stood out to me, just being intentional about your.

Time in university. That's something that I didn't realize till very late in the game. I was just like taking, like the easiest classes I could take to put it on this Lake. But then I realized like, why am I taking all these BS classes? Like, why don't I take something that I'm interested in?

I'm here. I might as well make the most of it. For me like thinking about living intentionally, it's like making the most of the moment. And the life that I have to live right in the situation that I'm in. Like I've had times where I'm working at Google and I get very jaded, like I'm overwhelmed and I'm stressed.

And I'm like, man, I, I just want to be an entrepreneur. I just want to do my own thing. And then I realized, wait, I have this amazing opportunity that most people in the world would love to have. And how do I make the most of this opportunity? How can I find like-minded people? How can I learn? How can I grow?

How can I expand my skills, my network, et cetera, to make the most of this. It sounds like you're trying to do that. Are there any ways that you would advise somebody to make the most out of their university experience or just their life in general? 

Valerie Poon: [00:18:55] Let's try with university. Cause that's where I am. I would feel like an imposter if I told someone yeah.

That's all there. What to do in terms of my advice for being intentional or university students, I would say, think beyond your marks. That's something that I had to break out of mentally because I think quantity really does splatter judgment sometimes. In terms of the real value that school can bring to us, like what tuition.

It comes a strong supportive system. From my perspective, anyways, my personal experience, I feel like school is a very safe environment to grow. And when you enter the real world, I don't think you still have that safety net and being aware of that safety net and just really dive in and. Spearmint not be caught up with your marks and just exploring and asking questions, knowing that there are no bad questions to ask.

I think that's one thing that really has shifted my experience in the educational world. Not being afraid to speak up and ask questions with intentions. Like not just asking any questions, but when you have something that you're curious about that you think can benefit everyone in the room, say it that's the benefit of beauty of.

The educational system, you are here to learn. And so is everyone. So to have that intent in mind, when you navigate, I feel like can transform your whole. 

Adam Coelho: [00:20:14] Yeah, that's awesome. And I think that can carry over into life in general, right? You may be a student, but you are a human being, living your life.

And how can we all think of this in our work environments, in our relationships? How can we approach with that? Beginner's mind and really just say, can I try this? Can I learn? If I fail, okay, that's fine. But let me just move forward and take action and see what happens. This is one thing that really stood out to me about you for the audience, Val and I met completely randomly through a program that Google does called grow with Google.

And we just had a coaching call, I guess you took an online course or something that they put out there, and then you were able to have a coaching call and happened to be me. And, in our conversation and then being connected on LinkedIn, seeing how you interact with people and network, and seems like we have several mutual friends, because I imagine you've somehow connected with people that I know I'm very impressed by how you just take action and put yourself out there.

And. Take advantage of opportunities. I'd love to hear a little bit about how you think about taking action learning, putting yourself out there. I would love to hear about that in 

Valerie Poon: [00:21:20] terms of networking. I it's like the word of the year. It's a very interesting topic to talk about. I think the label. That action as networking has really stopped people from connecting with one another.

I don't really see the action of networking as networking. I feel like that's a very official professional title. If you think about it, we're all just human beings trying to navigate and learn. And connect with the world and build values within ourselves, but also we're the ones around us.

So when I connect with people on the internet, thinking about tech and intentions, now in our relationships, I try to interact and connect with people, always with courage, curiosity, first. For example, if someone is doing a cool project or someone reaches out to me, I always just begin with curiosity.

Who are you? What are your outcome? And this big wide world we are here together trying to connect. So I always just connect with curiosity over focusing on that terminology of networking. I think that has helped me get over uncertain feelings, fear of rejection, 

Adam Coelho: [00:22:24] right? Yeah. I do agree that like that term networking feels very weird, right?

Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. I don't know how to put that into words, but that feeling right. I found that too. It doesn't have to be that right. Like I'm not reaching out to you or something one else, because I want something from them. That's like the worst way to go about it. But rather just I'm curious.

About what you're up to and you seem like you're doing cool things. I'd love to hear about it. That's like what this podcast is all about, right? This idea of connecting with interesting people, creating opportunity for them, if possible, like those are my main values, like building connection, creating opportunity.

And I find the podcast to be a perfect Avenue for that. It's very interesting. Like you invite people to be on a podcast and everyone wants to do it, even if no one's listening to the podcast. So just a little tip that you can try as well, if you want to connect with people. But I find most people are generally pretty open to it unless they're like super famous and get hundreds of thousands of messages.

It's pretty easy, especially if you're authentic and like coming from a. Place of curiosity and even potentially given 

Valerie Poon: [00:23:28] yeah. Is really important. I do always have that in mind. What value can I provide to people that I come across? Because healthy giving is like a loop. That's something.

I think about a lot. I just think empowerment, right? Power to the people you can succeed on your own. There's no doubt whether it's to cook a dinner, you can cook for yourself, but when you can cook for others and then you see their reaction and then in return help you out with something else or if they don't, you just get to see the joy of helping others.

I feel like it's almost a purpose of life because at the end of the day, we are social beings. So it is important to give. 

Adam Coelho: [00:24:05] And I'd love to just explore for a moment, this idea of curiosity, right? This has come up again and again, and for me, it's something that I really am trying to cultivate in my life.

So I'd love to understand, how you think about it and how you really cultivate it as a practice in your life. 

Valerie Poon: [00:24:22] I'll have that cultivated. Curiosity, I think the best way I can put it to help you think with your situation would be to think about your son, how he opens his eyes in the morning and he just wants to touch and grab everything and make noises.

And when he's, on the, or has he, does he walk yet? Oh, how exciting wonders into different places that he's not supposed to think like a child, We forget. Sometimes we are so caught up in bound of our responsibilities. We forget that we are all exploring this world and exploring comes from curiosity.

So just think like a child think like your son 

Adam Coelho: [00:25:02] Very well said when you said giving is like a wheel. What do you mean by that? I got distracted by a text message from my wife. Just wanna make sure everything's okay. Yeah. Our son's sleeping and basically it's someone's got to get him when he's done.

So 

Valerie Poon: [00:25:14] you're giving. Do you feel 

Adam Coelho: [00:25:16] great? What do you mean like parenting? 

Valerie Poon: [00:25:17] Yes. Now, like I know there are tough times, a lot of tough times, but just seeing his face right. The reward of giving value to a life. I think that's what we all try to do, as human beings. Yeah.

It's 

Adam Coelho: [00:25:29] interesting. The parenting thing that you bring up, this idea of giving in parenting that you mentioned, parenting is all giving, but you're also receiving love and subtle appreciation. Very subtle, but it's interesting because we were all on that other end. As children, as babies, we were receiving all the time and now we have the opportunity.

If we choose to have kids, we have the opportunity to give to the next generation and also to our parents as well. If our parents and us are fortunate enough to live long and grow old, we're going to have the chance to give it right back. So it does create that cycle. I never thought about that. But I was like putting my son down for a nap today and he's so tired.

Cause he woke up so early today. It's like the best part of my day to put him down for the nap, cause I get to basically cuddle with him and give him a bottle. And today he just fell asleep, like right after he had the bottle, I just fell asleep in my arms. It was so cute. Yeah. So I'd love to hear how building these connections, reaching out to people or asking people, to connect you with others has allowed you to create opportunity in your life for yourself. And for, I say, 

Valerie Poon: [00:26:35] it's how I see it, and life we're all always trying to climb mountains, whether it's we're goals that we have or values that we're trying to build things that we're trying to establish.

And so when I. Next with people. I try to connect in a way that we can both help each other, keep going up, keep climbing up. So I think when I connect, I try to find the people that feel the same, so we can both empower each other to make what we want to make happen. And a good example would be. I haven't really explored the realm of product design before, but it's always been an interest in aspiration of mine.

And for example, post COVID, we're all trying to stay at home. I started exploring the internet space in terms of finding like-minded people who are passionate about product design, social impact. And community and youth empowerment. For example, just thinking about like LinkedIn, there's so many posts out there so much noise, but when I'm intentional while navigating through the space, I find people that are like-minded that value the same as me and I just reach up.

I ask them what they're doing, if they need help with anything. And then, that led me to joining like a student initiative right now. Basically it's a small community where office, or trying to learn product design from all walks of life, but also all different disciplines. Within university and within that community, we also have amazing people that volunteer as mentors to help us out, help us navigating together, keep moving up.

And at the end of the day, I try to be intentional and respectful and mindful of everyone's time. So for example the relationship between a mentor and a mentee, right? The obvious answer would be, A mentee needs help. The mentor comes in and help, but I always try to be intentful and mindful of my mentors time.

How can I make it valuable? How can I ask the right questions? Not just any questions that I can find on the internet on my own, and maybe technically speaking, I can't really help them yet, but. Emotionally, I'll ask them, how's your day. What have you been up to? Because, we're all human.

We're more than our labels. So just trying to connect that way, I think it's meaningful and powerful and it goes a long way for both parties that are in the 

Adam Coelho: [00:28:54] connection. Yeah, I totally agree. I think that anytime we connect, if we're open to the possibility, we can find ways to benefit each other. I remember when we spoke on the grow with Google thing, we finished the call with you saying, Hey, yeah, that podcast sounds cool. If you ever need a logo, let me know. I didn't forget. Yeah. It's just, it's really interesting because yeah. When I invite people on the podcast there's things that I.

Can help create opportunity for others, right? Like I know about analytics, for instance, that's what I do for work. I know about user experience, things like that. I can help people. I've had a couple of people on the podcast I've done just like a free audit of their website, right?

Like an architect that came on, which will be on a future episode, I just went through and said, Hey, if you fix these things on your website, you might get more leads and things like that. I don't need, I don't need to do that, but it could really help him,  and I want people to have beautifully designed houses.

And those types of things are just easy to do and nice. And people remember them. I'd love to dive in a little bit on this idea of community building. It sounds like you're very interested in community building and I'd love to hear more about that. Cause it's really important to me as well.

Valerie Poon: [00:30:00] building, I think honestly, I'm new to this, but yeah, let's just dive in and talk about it. To me, what it means is to find like-minded people who. Wanting to take action, remembering that there are power to numbers at times, one person with their own thoughts can build with uncertainty and fear, but then once you share it with another person, you realize you're in this together.

And when you keep growing together in that sense and gathered together, you are realized. That you're all trying to navigate through a common value and uncertainty sometimes too. And it just makes it so much easier and rewarding when you all can go through a hurdle together rather than on your own.

Yeah. That's 

Adam Coelho: [00:30:46] very interesting. It sounded pretty cool as to, what you were doing with that product design group. It sounds like you found people who are interested in product design, want to build that skill and maybe are doing another. Major in university, but can bring everyone together and talk about it and learn together and bring in potentially mentors and speakers and things like that.

Is that kind of what you're been working on there? 

Valerie Poon: [00:31:08] It's been keeping me motivated because I come from. Design background in terms of visual communication. So illustration and photography, so that when I was trying to learn product design on my own, because there are so many free courses these days I did hit a lot of little hiccups and they would be motivate me.

But now that I have a community to express my thoughts and concerns. And worries and new discoveries with it just is that much more rewarding when there's another person or a few more there that can feel the same way as you did. Yeah. That's 

Adam Coelho: [00:31:39] awesome. That's awesome. When you say opportunities, what are you thinking about there?

Valerie Poon: [00:31:44] guess that brought me back to the ocean. Being in the ocean, taught me not every wave is the right way for you. And I guess since I'm new to surfing, I'll just be. Completely transparent of how I see the ocean and opportunity as parallels. I think the ocean is one giant opportunity space. You are in the midst of it as a surfer.

I'm new. So my ability was restricting me from every opportunity that came my way. AKA every wave, when a wave is too big, I was actually taught by my mentor to just hold on to the surfboard and float. Because I just could not catch that wave. I would get destroyed by it. And at first I was ambitious. I would go out with my friends and just catch every wave I can catch.

And I did not catch anyways. I got beat up. I came out and I thought I was Canadian too, so I didn't need a wetsuit. I came out the next day. I looked like I got beat up. Beat up. And that taught me that not every opportunity is your wave to catch. So I kinda try to embody that into how I see the world technology, digital space.

Don't get too greedy and know what you're capable of, even though your desires will always want you to go for more looking at it. Being intentional with it, studying a wave, the size of it, the speed of it. And knowing when it's the right time to move, because you can keep moving and paddling, but if the wave is not here yet, you're gonna miss it.

Time, mindset and right. Action. Not just. All those three sporadically can really help you conserve energy and be sustainable. 

Adam Coelho: [00:33:20] That's really helpful. Thinking about opportunity, it's abundant, right? It's one of the beliefs I have. It's an opportunity is abundant, right? But you can't take advantage of every opportunity.

You really need to know yourself deeply, both in terms of your skills. But also what you're trying to create. What's your vision, what's your purpose? What are your values? And then put those opportunities that come up through that filter of, am I aligned with this opportunity? Is this the right time to pursue it?

I've had times when I've tried to do too many things, many times probably right now, for me it gets overwhelming and then I don't do anything. And so if I can hone in. On the right opportunity or the one that feels good and just pursue that. Yeah. It can be in that can get me into that flow state, like surfing, surfing produces a flow state in many people for me, snowboarding does as well. But like with this podcast, I like stay up till three 30 in the morning. Like last week for the episode with my friend column, I stayed up until three 30 in the morning editing the final thing so I could get it out and time flew by.

Like I was really in it. And so like, how do we find opportunities that we feel like that in and let the other ones go, letting go? 

Valerie Poon: [00:34:30] It's a tough one. I'm trying very hard to let go. Even though I'm out here saying what I'm saying. It's still like a daily challenge that I try to be aware of and concrete in a way.

Yeah, it's counterintuitive. But once you practice it and keep practicing it, it just gets slightly easier 

Adam Coelho: [00:34:48] by day. Exactly. I'll tell you, that's the same thing, that's anything that I've made progress on. I can see that there's so much more room to go with all of this stuff that I'm talking about on the podcast, right?

I don't have it figured out. But this is a lifelong practice. And so the more we practice, the more we learn, the more we are compassionate with ourselves and just keep trying and learning and growing, it makes things easier. It's that relaxing into the uncertainty that we were talking about before, back 

Valerie Poon: [00:35:15] to the 

Adam Coelho: [00:35:16] beginning.

Yeah. So speaking of opportunity, I'd love to shift gears. Now into talking about financial independence retire early. When we met, you mentioned that you were already a fan and, given that you are a university student, you're getting a headstart on being aware of this. I only found out about it a few years ago, myself, and it's changed how I think about life.

So I'd love to hear. From you, as a university student getting ready to leave university, how are you thinking about financial independence and the potential to retire 

Valerie Poon: [00:35:47] early? Yes. It's still relatively a big question Mark, for me, even though I'm aware of this concept, just because there are so many ambitious.

Things I'm focused on, unfortunately, financial literacy wasn't really taught growing up. So even though I'm aware of this concept, I still put it on the back burner, which I know I shouldn't, but in terms of my financial literacy, I think what really has shifted my gears of how I spend money and save is seeing things and categorize them.

Just like every, when I say categorize, I realized like we just love controlling things. But back to when I when I try to characterize how I spend money and things, I buy a materials, I put them into two separate buckets and one is liability and one is assets, nothing complicated. You're just, asset as something that you can spend money on and we'll keep growing in the long run.

And then liability. I see it as something you pay for it. And then the value stays the same if not decrease. So just having those two intense in mind, whenever I spend money has really helped me with being mindful of how I treat my finances. 

Adam Coelho: [00:36:58] And in terms of thinking about the idea. Of financial independence retire early.

Do you have a goal in mind or is your goal to retire early or is it too early to be thinking about that? Like where are you at with regards to that? I did have to 

Valerie Poon: [00:37:13] be honest. I think it's a little too early for me to want to retire early, just cause there's so many things I want to do, even though I do have a loose timeline of my goals and ambitious in action.

I'm 23 now. I don't think I've thought beyond my life. I want to say 60. No, actually that's too big of a number. I would say I've only up till now thought about what my life would look like and be like, ideally. By 40. And what does that look like? What it looks like. It's just one simple image in my head.

Just me and another person in the picture, walking down the beach with kids running. That's it? Nothing fancy. Especial just sinful. I know that they, when that vision comes to life is when I've done everything else that I want to do in terms of social impact and career that has been done when that picture happens.

Adam Coelho: [00:38:07] Interesting. I think the financial independence retire early movement has a bad name to some degree. It's great. Cause it's easy to say fire, but it's the retire early pieces is the problem because I'm not planning on retiring early. And doing nothing, right? I'm I look at financial independence as a pursuit that gives me more freedom, both on the path to financial independence.

And once I reach it and after it to do what I want to create the impact that I want to create. To find ways to align myself more with my values more of the time. And so it's interesting to hear your thinking about this beautiful image of yourself on the beach with a partner and kids running around that.

Why does that have to come after you do all the things you want? Why can't those things happen at the same time? 

Valerie Poon: [00:38:55] You brought up a good point of why I have to think about it in such, I wouldn't say late, it's just midpoint of my life. I feel like. But, I think I like to think long-term and I want to give more room for myself to mentally take action.

If that makes sense. What I'm saying. So that number is just for the sake of certainty in a 

Adam Coelho: [00:39:16] way. Yeah. That's what I'm feeling. Yeah. So I'm thinking like I'm not talking about the number 40, you mentioned that, this vision of walking down the beach with a partner and kids running is your ideal future vision far into the future, that happens.

After you do all the social impact and career things that you want to do. And I'm wondering like, why do those things need to be in sequential order? Why can't they be ongoing together? I assume obviously no rush to get married and have kids obviously, but more like, how do you think about.

Your life's work, so to speak, right? This social impact that you want to have the difference and you want to make in the world. Do you think of that as like a lifelong pursuit or like more of a time bound thing, and then I'm going to be done with it and then I'm going to get married and then I'm going to have kids and then I'm going to retire like how do you think about all that?

That's 

Valerie Poon: [00:40:09] my life's purpose. I think that's why I'm almost putting my own selfish needs later on down the line, just because I care so much about social impact and what I can do about it that I want to put my own son needs later. It's interesting that you got me thinking. I don't think I ever thought about it in details.

I think, yeah, it is quite possible and more realistic to have those. Things going at the same time. Yeah. Maybe I should just spend more time in that space before answering your question. Next time. I'll get back to you on that 

Adam Coelho: [00:40:39] Sounds good. Yeah. Just, just wanna create the opportunity for you to think about it in perhaps a different way, because yeah, I've thought in my life a lot about Oh, if only when I get to.

This vision. And I do it all the time. Like even now I'm like, Oh, like when I get to the new house, everything's going to be great. I'm gonna have all this time. I'm going to meditate every day at 6:00 AM.  No, that's not going to happen. Like maybe it is if I make it right.

But like before, when I was like in my career and I'd be like, Oh, I gotta be an entrepreneur. Once I'm an entrepreneur, everything's going to be great. We always are living for the future. To some degree, it's good to have a plan and a vision for the life that we want to create. But also I think what financial independence has really brought to my attention is like, even just on the path, right?

Even just having an emergency fund gives you freedom to not have to worry so much about money and the financial aspect of things and allow you a little bit more space to focus on the things that really excite you. It's like going back to the university thing, right? Like in college, I was like, So focused on just like getting good grades and, getting the easiest classes I could do, but what am I rushing through this experience to get, to, to get to having a job?

How can I use the path as the curriculum? Yeah. Yeah, 

Valerie Poon: [00:41:55] leverage as the wave underneath your board. Not to, Oh God. I am obsessed with surfing. I missed California. 

Adam Coelho: [00:42:03] So let's shift gears into what I call the mindful fire final four. And so the first question is what is one thing that you're extremely grateful 

Valerie Poon: [00:42:12] for?

I am grateful for having this moment to reflect with you today. Right here. Right now, Adam. That's what I'm grateful for today. 

Adam Coelho: [00:42:20] Me too. So the second question is what advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence? Perhaps another university student. Who's just finding out about the concept 

Valerie Poon: [00:42:31] I'm also early on, so I don't know what good advice I can give, I guess should learn about it.

Be curious about it. Talk to your friend about it. I think that's one good way to get things going to help each other. Be more financially aware. 

Adam Coelho: [00:42:44] I think that's great advice. Just to start learning about it. Don't wait. It's not that complicated. I would recommend reading the book, the simple path to wealth.

That's an excellent one. And there's also another one from a great podcast on the topic called choose F I being financial independence. So both of those spokes are excellent, but the simple path to wealth is really what got me going on all of this. And yeah, just educate yourself. I think that's great advice.

So the third question is what advice would you give to someone. Getting started with meditation and mindfulness 

Valerie Poon: [00:43:14] you, if that's, what's holding you back multiple times, I brought a friend with me that was filled with doubts and there was not one single time that a friend I brought with me to go do yoga or just try breathing exercises with regret, doing it, try it out.

You might not like it, but you don't know until you try. So that's my advice. Excellent 

Adam Coelho: [00:43:34] advice. Yeah. It comes back to that community. Find someone else. Who's curious about it, interested and just bring them along. Maybe even virtually do play a meditation, a guided meditation. We have some unmindful fire podcasts.

There are others around. Yeah. Just try it out and bring a friend and share that experience and learning together. I really liked that. It's come up again and again in this conversation. So that's pretty cool. Final question is how can people find you online and connect with them? The work that you're doing.

That's a 

Valerie Poon: [00:44:00] really good question. I haven't been that active online in terms of having different streams of social media. I would say LinkedIn, if you feel like you're curious about the same things, reach out. Other than that, I have my own website with my artwork and that documents my journey creatively.

So maybe check out my portfolio. But other than that, I don't have any other social media, unfortunately. I hope being here today, we get to connect. Whoever is on the other side of the screen. And that's enough to get you going, whether it's with mindfulness, meditation, awareness, or fire. That's what I wanted to be here for today.

Just to get one more person to be aware of these important things or your own interests. If you're interested in art creativity I do have my own creative journey recorded on my portfolio website. It's www dot. Gallery poon.com. 

Adam Coelho: [00:44:54] Awesome. And I'll put a link to that in the show notes and also to your LinkedIn profile.

Val, thank you so much for being here today on the mindful fire podcast. It's been a real plus, 

Valerie Poon: [00:45:04] thank you so much, Adam, for having me. It's been a pleasure for me too. We'll catch 

Adam Coelho: [00:45:08] up soon. Thanks so much for joining me today on the mindful fire podcast. If you got value from today's episode, please hit subscribe.

This just lets the platforms know that you're getting value from the episodes. And you'd like to be here when we produce additional content. As a reminder, as part of the mindful fire podcast each week on Tuesday, I release a guided meditation or an inspiring interview like this, exploring the ideas of mindfulness and financial independence.

And so I'd invite you to subscribe so that you can get each new episode as it comes out. And if you're getting value from the episodes, please do share this with your friends and someone that could benefit from the content. And if you're getting value, I'd really appreciate. If you could leave a five-star review on Apple podcasts or iTunes to help more people find out about this message with that.

Thanks again for joining me and I'll catch you next time on the mindful fire.

 

Valerie Poon

Visual Design | digital wellness. bridge. seek humility

🔵 🔴 The question I have for you is– Are you aware of your reactions in the digital world?

I'm a serious goof who has the most fun getting some serious work done!

Who inspires me?—You. I love learning about people and in return I strive to design ways to bring the best out of you!
☕️ Design is a public domain! Let's discuss about social innovation, emotional intelligence, community building, sustainability and youth empowerment.

My New Year's Resolution: Less screen-time, more reflection time.