Has been slow. Not being as productive as I should be but I really am only taking breaks to exercise and socialize. Don’t think I should cut all that yet!

Omg forgot to post yesterday because I worked until I fell asleep…

This week feels like I’m making sacrifices left and right in order to have enough time to do the things I need to. Something I really relied on heavily was my set of priorities: Health, family, board exams, school, research, etc… It allows me to plan correctly each day and make sure I’m making schedules that align with my greater goals. 

It’s going to be a long day again, but I think I’ll pull through!!



Sunday. Fun day. Next week is going to rock. I’m going to try planning and executing my 4 hr work block schedule. I definitely feel motivated again to try and work better. Happy valentines and cheers to tomorrow. 

Till then,


I’m a persevering quitter. Each time I quit, I start over so I can quit again. 


 (Cool picture I took today)

Failure can be a very motivating force. So can the desire to prove something or to spite someone else. When we take failure personally, it means we deeply cared about the outcome and expected ourselves to achieve it.

I liken the energy from negativity to a firestorm that blazely  fiercely but eventually burns itself out. Negative energy can help us accomplish tremendous tasks of willpower, but at the price of our happiness. While pursuing our goal, we are fixated with the singular thought of not failing again or proving ourselves. These thoughts engulf our passion for the task at hand, and we end up forgetting why we wanted to succeed in the first place. 

On the other hand, energy from consistency and discipline provide a constant river of motivation for tasks. While not as flamboyant as negative energy, it provides a steady flow of motivation. It’s easy to lose sight of how much positive energy helps us in the short term. Progress appears slow, quickly boring us and sends us to seek “greater efficiency.” While not as flashy, this energy is definitely more sustainable in the long run. 

Till tomorrow, 


It’s easy to talk about happiness, wellbeing, and productivity when I’m happy. It’s a whole different story when my limits have been crossed.

Today, nothing seemed to go my way. It’s like everything important in my life got together and took the day off. It’s been a long day, but I think in the end, I have to hold fast to my values and wait for the feelings to pass. Frustration is quite a powerful feeling. I used it to exercise and clean today. 

 Now I’m mainly tired… 

Till tomorrow,


Last night I made some decisions that I regret, or should I say, failed to make some decisions. Since I couldn’t play video games and didn’t plan any relaxing activities, I stayed up till 3 AM randomly browsing the internet. Going to sleep early on some nights has always been a challenge. On one hand being motivated to turn in for the night requires willpower. On the other hand, being able to stop myself from my late-night internet craving requires wontpower. Both of these are quite low at the end of the day. I think the best way is to form some kind of evening routine that is both enjoyable and non-tempting. Tonight I’ll try playing piano and reading right before bed. I’ll also set my alarm clock instead of using my phone so I can keep all electronics out of my room.

I learned some new ideas and practical tricks today in the WIllpower Instinct. Turns out, that our reserve for willpower can be measured physiologically! Our heart rate varies depending on whether we are stimulated or relaxed, something motivation-scientists call .. heart rate variability (not terribly imaginative). People who are stressed chronically are at naturally elevated heart rates that vary less. This happens to correlate directly with their ability to motivate themselves and resist temptations. In one study, psychologists actually predicted which recovering alcoholics would succeed in their rehabilitation programs by measuring their heart rate variability.

So how do you increase your heart rate variability and reserve for willpower? These are a few quick fixes to jumpstart your willpower.. [Adapted from the Willpower Instinct]

  1. Get a good night’s rest! Take a nap! Sleep is the best way to recharge. It clears away neurotoxins and helps you normalize your metabolism.
  2. Take five or six deep breaths right before you want to do something or want to stop doing something. This activates the pause-and-ponder pathway (opposite of fight or flight) which helps you increase your heart rate variability temporarily.
  3. Exercise! Contrary to common sense, exercise actually charges your willpower as you do it. You may feel tired, but paradoxically you are actually more able to focus and accomplish things.
  4. Lie down and completely relax. This is similar to meditation, except you focus on flexing and relaxing every muscle in your body. Willpower is a whole-body physiological thing, not just a mental thing. It makes sense to recharge both your mind and body.
  5. Get 5 minutes of fresh air. Going outside to take a breather will refresh all your senses to help you start working again.

Before you decide to take a Facebook or Video Game break, consider doing one of the above exercises to more effectively fill your willpower reserve.

I’ll let you know how my evening routine goes!

Till Tomorrow,


PS: I played one game of Rocket League today.. Abstinence Pledge = BROKEN. I plan to control my video game addiction by only using it as a way to connect with my friends.


Today I built more on my morning routine. It currently consists of brushing my teeth, making breakfast, reading, and meditating.

I actually happened to finish reading chapter 1 of the willpower instinct. It spoke about things I mentioned previously, such as willpower being a finite thing and something that fluctuates throughout the day. The first exercise it recommended was to notice what activities throughout the day required willpower. For me, daily chores and tasks I dreaded (because I feared failure) required the most willpower.

One of the insights I learned today was the distinction between willpower and wontpower. When you need to complete a task, that’s willpower helping you out. When you need to stop or prevent yourself from doing something, that requires wontpower. This distinction is really just one of semantics that helps you visualize that both starting and stopping certain tasks require your will.

Probably the biggest change in perception I gained was the idea of two selves in constant battle. Our prefrontal cortex is not only the source of our willpower and wontpower, but also the source of something called wantpower. This wantpower embodies our long term goals, and what’s good for us. It’s what I called in the past, the “ideal self.” This is different from our impulsive self, which resides in our more emotional brain. Every time we face a choice that requires our willpower, it really is just a battle between our two selves. Say we need to get off the internet to start studying. Our impulsive self wants to continue enjoying the present,but our ideal self wants to do well on the upcoming exam. Only when our willpower aligns with our wantpower can we overcome our emotional selves. This might also be why it’s so easy to study right before an exam. Our fear of failing (emotional self) AND our wantpower (ideal selves) are both fueling us. It’s crazy to think that these two selves are actually located in different parts of the brain, and that they fight over our decisions throughout the day.

Another thing I realized was that for the past few months I’ve been living on autopilot. I shifted from task to task only with a general direction in mind. While being spontaneous allows for more adventure in my life, it really hinders my efficiency. Efficiency and effectiveness require rigid, consistent outputs of productivity. However, after scheduling productive, willpower-requiring tasks back to back, I also learned today that I shouldn’t overestimate my own pool of willpower.  I need a schedule that both empties and fills my willpower tank.

So now I’m not so sure that completely “quitting games” is such a great idea.

Ideal self: On one hand, I don’t know if I can control myself, and I might just slide down a slippery slope.

Emotional self: On the other hand, it may lead to burnout if I don’t find other ways to recharge myself. Also, how can I learn to control my addictions if I just eliminate them? ;)

Tonight I’ll let my two selves fight, and I’ll let you know who wins tomorrow.

Till then,



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I recently got rid of my facebook for the umpteenth time, and I think this time it might be for good. Social media creates a mental bridge between you and your old friends that gives a false sense of closeness. Sure there are tons of benefits to using it, but I think in general it is harming my capacity to make real friends.

Here’s a great article about how we can live a second life on social media. I can relate to a lot of the same experiences Madison went through and thought. I think things will get better in the end.

Happy New Year Everyone!

I know I haven’t updated this in a while. The truth is that it’s been rather hard adjusting to medical school. I’ve noticed that the more I play by societies’ rules, the more I do what ‘I’m supposed to,” the more I lose my way and lose my self.

Recently, life’s been a constant conflict of deciding whether to grow up or not grow up. I know there are points in life where I have to suck it up and work hard; that’s what being an adult entails. And yes, I’ve gotten better at pushing my work ethic, but the more I go against my natural inclinations, the more jaded I feel. In order to stay sane, I have to make up superficial goals, fool myself into wanting them, and then ignore all my inner protests as I push through.

Sure I do get inspired every once in a while. It doesn’t last as long as it used to. It feels much of the time I’m just going through the motions. Whether I study and do well, whether I put in those extra hours, what difference does it really make?

Perspective is important. Even though I’m pretty much in the “real world” now, I feel more constrained. There seems to be only three buildings in my life. My Apartment, The Medical School, and The Grocery Store. I have nothing to talk about anymore. My interests have dried up. I’m not interested in anything anymore. I have no meaning anymore. I’m also tired as I’m writing this.

Rationally Speaking, everything is going very well for me. But it sure doesn’t feel that way. .. Just waiting for my emotions to catch up any day now..

In the meantime here are 3 things I’m grateful for:

1. My Family. Best Family Ever. Always there when I need them.

2. Old Friends. The help me remember good times and remind me that better times are soon to come!

3. Jazz. I can’t get enough of it! Bedop boobop da ba doo da!

Hang in there! . HOORAH

Louie Cai

Update: 2/9/2015
It’s been a month and I feel a lot better.

I would say that I’m almost 90% my normal self again. I began realizing that a larger goal was missing in my life, and that I was just going through the hoops to a predetermined destination (doing things I was supposed to do). Recently I read a book on biodesign, and I think this might be the career for me. I’ve always admired innovators, and I’ve always imagined that maybe someday I’d dabble in it.. It never occurred to me that there really was no reason for me to continue pushing it off…

Well.. so far, deciding to potentially start a medical tech company in the future really has helped with my motivation. I’m learning my courses more efficiently- because I have a mission. I’m re-energized to shadow and go into clinic more. I also now better appreciate how the principal investigator runs the research lab I work in. I’m finally beginning to feel productive again..because I’m working for a greater objective.

It just took some time for me to address all those negative thoughts. I recently listened to a great podcast on “our thoughts.” It talks about how sometimes we might have disturbing thoughts, and how we should deal with them. It also talks about how a boy learned to cope with being “trapped” inside a body. Very inspiring stuff.http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/375927143/the-secret-history-of-thoughts?showDate=2015-01-09

This small vignette shows that although It might take a while, we’ll eventually overcome those low points in our lives.


Louie Cai

The Dave Brubeck Quartet is playing in the background as I sit in complete shock, mindlessly drinking juice and eating triscuits. I still can’t fully grasp what happened. Somehow we managed to cover everything from the specifics of human fetal development to how tension pneumothorax kills a person – your lungs expand and expand, strangling your heart.

That’s pretty much how my brain feels right now.

Usually in class, I’m that type of laid-back learner who casually looks at the slides, jots some notes, maybe asks a question or two.

Give me a cigar, and I’d look pretty much like Sherlock Holmes.  “ahh… fascinating. Don’t you agree Watson?”

Well Sherlock got shut down today.


Anatomy started alright,

“yeah, yeah.. saggital plane, frontal plane, distal, proximal, I learned this in AP Bio…. cake… I can do this..”

Then came embryology.

You know how usually courses begin with  introduction slides that have the syllabus or maybe a short biography of the instructor? And after those slides, you’d expect professors to maybe copy/paste some famous people’s Wikipedia profile pictures …and you know,  give some history? “….and then when Karl Ernst von Baer poured his thingamijit on his bobamatron 2000, KAZAM! Humanity realized that babies all start out looking like little tadpole fishies!”

Well, it ACTUALLY happened more like:

“Hello welcome to class. Let’s begin. Slide 1.”

I was smacked with so much new information that my brain just shut down. I stopped taking notes, and began meta-analyzing the process of taking notes and learning.

“What is the best way to take notes?” “What is the teacher.. actually doing?

“Fact.. Fact.. point at latin name… fact.. fact.. mention relationship to previous latin name… fact fact… next slide… fact.. point.. fact…”



After class, I headed to my very own locker and changed into scrubs, high school gym style, right in the hallway. “let’s make it quick.. hope no one’s looking”

With my new outfit and labcoat (which I always feel cool wearing – “man, look how official I am”), I wandered around with the other students, searching for the anatomy lab (I don’t exactly remember anyone giving us directions?). Eventually the TA’s herded us through a small doorway, where we broke off into groups, 8 people per table.

…Except the table turned out to be some elaborate cooler that stored cadavers??

While the TA’s were giving out instructions, our imaginations were running wild. What lay underneath these metal doors? Of course I wanted to open it and find out, but at the same time, I was actually kind of apprehensive. Was this going to be something out of The Walking Dead? Or would it look like a ‘normal’ person, just sleeping?

After the briefing, one brave member in our group (it wasn’t his first time) donned some gloves, pushed some fancy levers, began unzipping the body bag, and..


..Yes, there was a body in there, but it didn’t look like something out of a movie. it just looked.. like a real live.. dead body, carefully placed, and preserved in a tannish-yellowish color.  In that moment, I felt a solemn calmness and a deep sense of respect, and I suddenly remembered why I decided to become a doctor. It’s not about the grades, the money, or the prestige. It’s not because I have an insatiable thirst for only things medically related. I’m studying medicine and pushing myself as hard as I can so I’ll have the skills and knowledge necessary to help my family, my friends, and my patients live the fullest lives possible.


After lab, I stopped the by the university’s Rent-a-Skeleton to pick  up what turned out to be a 30 lb black box of bones, not actual ones (…thank God) but plastic ones. Still, I thought about how funny it would look carrying it through Airport Security. “Uh….sir… I can explain…you see..I’m a medical student…”While waiting in line with the other prospective bone renters, I also had the pleasure of browsing a comprehensive collection of jarred human fetuses…


It’s been an intense first day, but to be honest, I’m happy. I’m happy to finally feel challenged. I’ve got a long night of reviewing ahead of me, and I’ve still got to find time to  make dinner and go to the gym.

.. ..okay maybe i’ll go to the gym tomorrow…

I’ll definitely miss those lax, carefree days of summer, but  I’m excited to be in this slightly stressed, anxious, and happy state. I’m always able to do my best work under a little pressure.

Here’s to the beginning of my journey into medicine!



Audio accompaniment! (What I’m listening to as I write this)

To an extent, we are all pretending or fooling ourselves in some way. We imagine ourselves to be different from who we actually are. On one hand, imagining an ideal self gives us a goal to strive for, but on the other, wouldn’t it be easier to just accept ourselves?

I read this very funny article from Science Magazine today. Adam Ruben makes some very candid confessions that anyone who has done a little research in their lifetime can relate to. Interestingly, by admitting our weaknesses and insecurities, we become more aware of who we actually are and what we actually like to do,  which probably puts us in a better position to improve ourselves.

It’s funny for me especially-  the only reason I went on Sciencemag.org was because I bookmarked it on my toolbar a long time ago when I believed that reading scientific journals for fun was a virtue.

In this blog post I’ve decided to make some similar confessions. It is surprisingly easy to write honestly.


To Be Honest…..

I love imagining great blog post ideas and then never following through with them.

I seem to have more fun daydreaming than actually doing anything.

I actually hate revising my own writing. I find it tedious. Actually I lie, it’s not so bad. I just added that sentence after deciding to revise my writing.

I like completing posts in one go and then immediately publishing it to get the satisfaction of completing something.

After I publish something, I read it over and over and over and over and over, making small changes until it is perfect. This is probably something I should do before I publish, but I like the feeling of visiting my own web page and seeing my post online.

I actually have over 10 unfinished blog ideas saved in my drafts.

This post actually was almost just a Facebook share, but I decided that it was about time I updated my blog.

I enjoy flagging important looking articles that I probably will just skim later.

I enjoy collecting and checking out books that I think are good for me, just to have them.

I enjoy socializing in school more than actually studying.

I hope no one important will read this and fail to offer me a position because of this post.

Actually I might just go back and remove anything that makes me look too bad.

Actually I just did that. Maybe I’m not ready to bare my insecurities for everyone’s mild amusement.

I’m tired of writing this blog post already.

I think i’ll just publish it as it is and ignore my own suggestions above.



Intermezzo from Cavalliera Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni

(This post has audio accompaniment! :D)

I remember playing this song in FYAO (Florida Young Artists Orchestra) many years ago. Mr. May, my youth orchestra conductor, loved it, and over the years I have become very fond of it as well. I have a lot to thank him for, but in particular I really want to thank him for showing me how beautiful and how spiritual music can be. He taught me that playing violin wasn’t just a technical skill, but a form of expression, a lesson I didn’t grasp completely at the time, but fully appreciate now. Today, music has become an inseparable part of my wellbeing. Mr. May, may he rest in peace, gave me a gift I will cherish for the rest of my life, and through this post, I hope I can share a little beauty with you.


An “intermezzo” is what opera composers write to fill in the space between two acts or two scenes, a transition point. In Cavalliera Rusticana, Mascagni uses this song to accompany the major turning point of the opera. Though I haven’t seen the opera yet, I do have my own interpretation of the song. See if you can hear what I hear. :)

“Louie’s take on Mascagni, unrelated to the opera.”

The song sneaks in almost timidly- with a tinge of sadness, actually with a lot of sadness. It’s telling the story of a traveler bidding a bittersweet farewell to his close friends. The stronger the bonds between people, the more difficult it is for them to part.

Just like in chemistry.


(Sorry for that joke. That’s what happens when you teach chemistry. Moving on…..)

After the nostalgic phrases, the song moves on to a strong, flowing melodic line (1:19). The traveler is now on his own, walking down the road, wiping away his remaining tears. He’s still sad that he’s leaving, but life demand that he moves on. As he pulls together his strength, picks up his head, and marches onwards, his resolve climaxes with a strong emphatic motif, a high F repeated four times (Da Da Da…DAA — Da Da Da….DAA). When I listen to this part, I can’t help but grit my teeth and pump my fist with him, haha. “Yes! Onwards!”

With a deep breath and a sigh of relief, the traveler blends into the horizon, and the piece calmly finishes.
Classical music grows with the listener, and like wine, becomes richer with time. Though the music never changes, the listener does, as he lives and experiences more and more of life. I’ve always particularly appreciated this piece, but today it took on a new meaning – for I’m at an intermezzo in my own life. My graduation in a few days marks the end of my childhood, and I am preparing to begin the next act of my life’s play.

To all the fantastic people I’ve met these past three years:

I’ve grown close with many of you, and I am sad we have to part, but really, we only part so we can the experience the joy of meeting again. You all are amazing individuals, and I’m glad we had these few years to make some really awesome memories that we’ll revisit for the rest of our lives.


Au Revoir and Hakuna Matata,


(PS I will reactivate facebook when I finish reorganizing myself)

Nagano Toyokazu takes some very fun and adorable pictures of his 4 year old daughter. Best father ever? I love how a few simple pictures have the power to brighten my day.

Want more? Check out his flickr stream!