It's the beginning of the school year, early September and I'm seventeen. I had just got my first Off-White shirt and I remember cutting the tag off right before I walked out the door to school. My mom took some corny "first day of school" photo of me, she probably put it on Facebook.
First period I had AP Psychology. The main reason I took it, well, was to learn more about how people think, but also because we had this teacher Mr. Hopkins.
Imagine the smartest man you know, like older guy. Then imagine him with a beard like santa, but seemingly darker color. Then imagine him twice as smart as the smartest man you know that you're imagining. Then imagine him being a retired lawyer and teaching high-level high school courses at a public school for fun. That's Mr. Hopkins.
It had to be like seven thirty in the morning, first day of senior year.
We got to AP Psych that day and there were two words on the board -- and the reason I gave that intro was to emphasize how much this simple little lesson meant to me.
I had class with four of my best friends. High school was (as I always stand and say) the best time of my life. I'd do anything to be back there, but that's because our school had the atmosphere where everyone wanted to do well. All my friends took all AP classes with me, so we all traveled in a pack. "What the hell is Fung Shui and how do we even pernounce that?" my friend said to me as we threw our bags down.
We all talked for a few minutes before the bell rang. You know, catching up with everyone's summer stories.
Mr Hopkins stood in front of the classroom, two-sided attendance sheet in hand.
He called everyones names off, from the A's down to the Z's. Now, this is when it gets good.
"Why did you sit where you sat?" Mr. Hopkins asked us. At that point, I had never really been asked why I positioned myself where I had. But I knew why - I was next to my friends and I was in the middle of the room, perfect sight of the board but not directly infront of the podium.
"Everyone get up" he told us. We all grabbed our bags and sent us to the back of the room.
Grabbing the attendance sheet in one hand and a red marker in the other, Hopkins drew a diagram of the classroom on the white board wall.
"How long do we spend in this classroom?" he asked us.
My now-eight-in-the-morning mind was kind of like "uhhhh - a long time??"
Quick math solved the question though.
180 school days - 7 classes in total but one drops every 7 school days means 25 drops, 155 classes. They're all an hour each.
"155 hours we spend together, guys" he said. One hundred and fifty five.
That means that you're going to sit in a seat, surrounded by 3 others, for 155 hours. Those 3 others will act as your lifelines, your best friends, and your competitive enemies. But those 3 people will teach you how to learn, think, and execute in three unique ways that you don't currently have. And you'll teach them your personal ways.
The diagram covered the left board and the two bold words still stood alone on the right board.
"You see those words?" he asked. "That is what we're focusing on today".
(It's pronounced Fung Shway )
By Wikipedia definition
Feng shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.
Mr. Hopkins read us this definition as we stood in the back of the class. He then pointed to the diagram on the left.
"You have 155 hours here. That means you have 155 hours surrounded primarily by 3 people, then secondarily by a class of 23 others. Choose wisely."
I sat there and I'm thinking to myself "this man has six degrees and forty years experience in the smartest professional decision making fields in Massachusetts and he just told us.... Choose wisely." What the hell does choose wisely even mean.
He then went on to describe the idea of environment. And environment, as he expressed that day, is something I take into account every single day of my life. And that's the point of this story.
Finding your Feng Shui, to me, is finding your environment.
Mr. Hopkins told us something that day that I'll never forget.
"Look around the room. You are 25 of the smartest kids in this town. Each of you will go off to do something extraordinary one day. Now look again. Find 2 people you think are smarter than you. Point to them.
We all kind of laughed, since we knew everyone in the class and knew who was grade-wise smarter than who. We all competed for grades, so it was kind of a good laugh. But it made me think "why are we ranking on another".
"Now go sit next to them. Fill in the diagram"
We all sat down. A few people got up and traded seats with one another. I sat next to a best friend of mine - Jack, who got an A+ in Hopkins' law class without even opening the book. One of those kids that just sponges up the lessons and understands how to study. To my right sat our friend Kevin. "You guys get all A's. I'm more of a B kid, but I'll do your homework for you" he said as he threw his bag down.
Behind me sat our other friend Zach. Zach was the type of kid who was naturally smart, but didnt' care to apply himself. He got a 2240 on his SAT.... drunk.
Infront of me sat Lexie, the #2 spot for class rank. She said she needed to be front row to listen to the lectures properly.
Zach kicked the back of my chair and laughed.
"Chris, I'm sitting here so when we take exams I can see your answers, cool?"
"Cool, Zach. That's what friends are for" I replied, laughing a bit too.
Each of us had to go to the board and fill in the diagram. As we did, Hopkins was at his desk drawing it on a white sheet of paper, which he later scanned and used as our new attendance sheet.
"My professor at Harvard told me this my first day of senior year, and I'm here to tell it to you guys -
If you're not the smartest person in the room. Find who it is. Stand next to them, sit next to them, become their best friend. The next room you enter, that'll be you.
And that stuck with me from that moment on. And that's something I had been doing my entire life, I just never heard it in a sentence like that. But it makes so much sense.
That's kind of the reason companies like WeWork exist, to offer creative space with curated feng shui to allow their customers to work in the same creative space as other
Any time you go anywhere, you should rank yourself. Know what you're good at, know what you don't know. Understand what the room has to offer. Find the people who have what you want and go get it from them. Learn from what people know. And bring people onto your mental team and learn from them as well as teach them.
The more you know, the smarter you appear to be. The smarter you appear to be, the more likely you are to meet people as smart as you. The more smart friends you have, the closer you are to taking over the world.
And that's the main point of this. That small lesson meant so much to me. I think about it whenever I walk into any classroom, meeting, creative space, or party.
Especially party actually.
I don't really care much for college partying, although every once in a while I get thrown in the middle of it. But there's some unique things that college parties have to offer, and it's smart people doing stupid shit. And to me, there's nothing more interesting than smart people doing stupid shit.
Walk into a party and instead of thinking "wow let me get blackout drunk" think "Who is the smartest person at this party. I want to get drunk with them". Find them, get drunk with them, and talk. Talk talk talk! See what they have to say, hear their secrets, pick their brain. And get their number, too. You never know when you might need their expertise.
And when you walk into class for the first time and you can sit wherever you want, think to yourself
"who is the smartest person in this room?"
If it's you, find the second smartest. Sit next to them and work as a team. Team learning is so important because when you get a job one day doing real life shit, it'll be working on a team.
A lot of things go into how my work process works. Ovbiously there's a flow of ideas and that streamlines from how I'm feeling and what I want to do, balanced by when I have the time to do it. But something I've really been focusing on lately is creating an enviornment to find my new Feng Shui.
Every year, I'm kind of in a new place. Both in life literally, and figuratively. Two years ago I was in Massachusetts for my senior year of highschool and I lived in my small town and adored every moment of it, then all summer i traveled the world then I moved to Chicago for school.
That was a huge shift in enviornment for me. That was the first time I was challenged in finding an entire new Feng Shui. I lived in a dorm with a small desk and no big computer, just my laptop and my phone. Everything i did came from my laptop and my brain. Which I'm incredibly glad about, becasue I've taught myself to work and create all remotely from my computer - which means I can do it anywhere. But that was my problem. Where could I be that I could actually focus and work? Like i had zero clue -- for months.
I eventually found a few spots. We have this ginormous library at school and it's kind of something from Hogwarts and I used to go to small rooms and play piano music and just write and draw out ideas and do my homework and that was where I could finally focus in.
But this year -- I've just lost a lot of the spart of creativity because I can't create a good enviornment. At my new apartment, it's kind of hectic and I can't find a perfect spot to create the enviornment. That's why I haven't been able to write much, because for me to do this I need the perfect enviornment.
I've found this coffee shop a few blocks from my house and they play really nice light music and everyone around me is always working on stuff and it's a really good scene I just feel like I can work well.
But that's exactly the point - finding and harnessing an enviornment to create and think effectively.
I've learned that if you force creativity, nothing original comes from that. And I've been in a big creative block lately becuase I've just had no inspiration because everyone around me isn't focused on the bigger picture, and just honed in on smaller less meaningful things.
All winter break I'm going to focus on writing and reading so that I can get better and start writing this book I've been talking about. But I know it's not going to be perfect and it'll take a while. I just need to find the perfect concept.
But the Feng Shui part. And the smartest person in the room part. Those all mean so much to me. Here's some things that are important to finding Feng Shui:
Lighting is everything to me. I had to buy 5 $50 bulbs for my house so I can change the color of my room to match my mood. Warm lights are good for darker rooms so you can think better. Cool tones fit perfectly in lighter rooms for colorful creative spaces. Find places in your house with good natural lighting and work there. If there are none, find a building that you like with big windows and work during the day. If you like the dark, learn to work through the night.
As I always say, I listen to soft ambient music or piano music with no words when I write. It allows me to cancel everything else out and just sit here and let my fingers race the kayboard to bring my ideas to life. If you listen to rap music all day, you're probably really stupid. If you listen to heavy metal, i mean i think you're a weirdo. But if you balance everything - between rap and light music and ambient tunes - then you'll see yourself working better. Finding the perfect playlists for certain moods is incredibly important and some people don't understand that music sets a tone and the lighting in the room sets the mood and together those dictate the vibe of the enviornment and if it's off, the work will be too.
Find the location you're familiar with. If you go somewhere for the first time and want to work there, look at every possible seat you could take. Analyze each one and see where you would work best. If you're doing computer work, make sure you're not at a desk too high or too low and make sure the chair is good too. Ovbiously ensure you have good wifi. If there's not good music playing in the room, play some. Headphones are chill but I think playing music out loud is sick.
Timing is super important to me. It dictates if I can do certain things or not. Ovbiously there's things like time constraints - like I can't go ship a hoodie at 2am because the post office is closed and I can't hangout outside at a picnic table at 10pm because it's too cold, but you need to find times of the day that you work best. I'm trying to become a morning person, so I wake up at 7:30 and try to get myself to read, because I don't like reading when it's dark out. I can draw and design clothes the best at night because I'm most creative at night. As for writing, it's more of a location thing and having the time to sit and think. I don't know, it's different for everyone.
But yeah, that's about it. It's so important to find a healthy work enviornment. If you're someone who wants to be a creative, these are all different tips that can help. I wanted to speak on it becuase I think about it every day. When I'm in a creative block, I try to go out and find new Feng Shui. When I find a good one, I work there all the time. When that one gets old, jump ship and find a new loation. The entire time I was starting this brand my feng shui was at my desk in my room in Danvers Massachusetts and I would sit there until 3am working on my DECA paper (which started all of this) and that taught me the importance of enviornment. When I got to school I started finding spots around the library where I could be creative, and at different studios and stuff. Now, i kind of bounce from coffee shop to studio and back, depending on what I'm working on. It's just small stuff like that. I hope this made sense, I know it was really like all over the place. I don't care much about organization. I just put my ideas out there. If you understand, you'll be able to piece the puzzle together and comprehend what I'm talking about. But yeah, as for that - find your Feng Shui.
If you've read all of this, comment below on what you use as your work enviornment. I want to hear everyone else's creative space. And like always, thanks for listening