Bar Girl

“Sleep” (female, early 20s, Vietnam)

Three friends from Singapore came to visit me in Saigon. I took them to a bar in Japan town, and asked the bartender about her perfect day.

“Sleep.”

“On your perfect day you’d just sleep?”

“Yes.”

Cô Phúc, Vietnamese Language Teacher

“In my 20s it was love, 30s money, 40s family and 50s and 60s my health.” (Cô Phúc, late 60s, Vietnam)

I take private Vietnamese  lessons every Thursday afternoon. I was surprised to see Cô Phúc in the classroom. Cô Phúc is the oldest teacher at VLS. She’s lived in Saigon since 1957, and witnessed the city’s dramatic change during war and peacetime. During the war, her family had to share one toothbrush. Even as a government worker, she was only allowed 500 grams of pork/month for her entire family.

I was supposed to spend this day with my regular teacher learning curses and insults. Feeling rebellious, I broached the topic with Cô Phúc and she said, “language should be fun to learn, so ask me your questions. But never use any of this language again.”

Gulp. Cussing someone out was not something to be discussed with elders. 

So I chose to use our hour to discuss my new side project instead, a podcast asking people about their perfect day.

Of course I asked her how to ask such a question in Vietnamese.

Theo bạn, thế nào là một ngày hoàn hảo?

And covered likely answers in Vietnamese:

  • Health – sức khoẻ 
  • Money – tiền bạc 
  • Relationships – quan hệ
  • Family – Gia đình 
  • Career – sự nghiêp
  • Love – tình yêu 
  • Friendship – tình bạn

What’s most important to you? Điều gì quan trọng nhất?

According to Cô Phúc, the priorities of her perfect day changed over time. In her 20s it was love, 30s money, 40s family and 50s+ her health. 

Today, in her 60s, her perfect day priorities would be: 1) health 2) family 3) friendships and 4) money. She could care less about her profession.

Health to her means: 1) having a balanced, peaceful mind 2) eating healthy 3) exercising and 4) a day full of social activities. To her, health means balance. “A healthy person with no friends is not balanced.”

Convenient Store Clerk

“Every day is perfect because I am alive.” (female, early 20s, Vietnam)

At 2am after a night out we stopped by a 7-11. I asked the cashier about her perfect day.

“Every day is perfect.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m alive.”

Matt, F&B Chain Franchisor

“Jiujitsu is a spiritual activity that keeps me in line physically and mentally. Jiujitsu is therapy and healing… You need a feeling of daily improvement, validation that you’ve achieved something.” (Matt, 37, USA)

Over bún đậu mắm tôm and Bia Hà Nội Matt and I discussed the perfect day.

Matt is a Hawaiian-American who has lived in Saigon for 10 years. He owns a food franchise in Vietnam and runs Saigon jiujitsu.

His perfect day: 

  • Jiujitsu
  • Gym
  • 5 healthy, clean meals
  • Beautiful nature
  • Shared, elevated experiences with loved ones
  • Single-malt whiskey

“The most important things to me in life are family, friends, jiujitsu and business. Everything I do for work and business is for friends and family.”

Dwight, Retired Accountant

“I can’t waste time, I can’t waste my life. Most people are like this as they evolve over time: they have lots of time cause they have their entire life in front of them and don’t have any money so they spend their entire time making money. And that’s what I did certainly throughout my career. What I am in short supply of is time, I can’t buy more time. If I was to earn no additional revenues I could live 180 years at my current lifestyle.” (Dwight, 68, USA)

Dwight is 30 years older than anyone else in our basketball group. I remember him for his sharp elbows and tenacity. Over time we became friends, sharing book recommendations.

Dwight’s perfect day:

  1. Maintain his health
  2. Learn Vietnamese
  3. Take care of his portfolio
  4. Relearn high school math
  5. Reading

Part of Dwight’s perfect day has to be dedicated towards living a perfect life. For Dwight that’s “maintenance tasks,” the most important of which is daily exercise. Whether that’s walking to Vietnamese class or bicycling 30 minutes to basketball, that physical maintenance allows him to pursue his 3-4 most important daily tasks.

Part of Dwight’s perfect day is the absence of sexual frustration and minimization of his biggest time-wasting activities: online solitaire and porn. 

When I asked Dwight whether he was okay with me recording our interview, he exclaimed “As you get older you become less embarrassed.”

Sadly I accidentally deleted our 13 minute conversation and couldn’t recover it

I asked Dwight to summarize the feeling of a perfect day. His answer: “progress”

What Dwight is reading at the moment:

  • One Thousand and One Arabian Nights
  • On Liberty by John Stuart Mill 

Vera, English Language Teacher

“Every day you can find something perfect” (Vera, 28, Russia)

Vera

Across from my apartment there’s a small Japanese-owned burger joint. A Volkswagon bus sketch adorns the wall, with the motto Keep it Simple, Surf More. Ume, the owner, makes delicious burgers, but his favorite thing to do is to DJ street parties. Returning from a late night walk I saw a small crowd bopping to Ume’s beats. I decided to start this project, grabbed a microphone and approached Ume’s girlfriend, Vera. 

Vera teaches English in District 1, the center of Saigon.

I tell her about The Perfect Day and she’s uncomfortable being recorded. But she loves the idea and she’s happy to talk.

Her perfect day is to meet people from all walks of life and to hear their stories. Just the other day, in the Japanese part of Saigon, a foreigner told her and Ume stories about his 5 wives, which she found fascinating. 

She notes some days are better than others but that “every day you can find something perfect.”

We bobbed in silence, looking up at the stars, feeling Ume’s last song, Call Me by Aretha Franklin.

Darren, Host

Darren

“I’ve been lucky to live nearly 40 years, and through trial and error, come closer to an understanding of my perfect day.  What is the good life? How do I want to live my few days on earth? Wouldn’t life be amazing, meaningful, a gift, if we were to repeatedly live our perfect day?” (Darren, 38, USA)

My perfect day:

  • Wake up well-rested and with a prayer of gratitude
  • Wake up early to the sunrise, get outside and walk through crisp air, breathe, break a sweat
  • Ideally surrounded by nature, close to a beach, a mountain, a river
  • Early morning yoga, tai chi, or gym to improve my conditioning and circulation
  • Time, space, silence to visualize my perfect life and a fulfilling day
  • Healthy, nutritious breakfast in a comfortable, minimalist living space. Any media consumed is inspirational or related to my biggest goals. No news or social media.
  • Mornings (3-4 hours) dedicated to creative “deep work:” writing, recording, brainstorming, creating new products, new value propositions, marketing plans, hiring strategies. This work or skill development pushes the mission of my life forward. I am in an expansive space and surrounded by objects / cues that minimize distraction and inspire deep work.
  • Healthy, light lunch with inspirational people, masters of their craft, adding value to society
  • Early afternoon – finding great talent, and developing, coaching and unleashing their gifts, whether that’s employees, customers, partners, mentees, mentors, investors, partners, students; building organizations, cultures and systems that free people to do their best work. Also, time spent building networks – looking for ways to connect and help people and add value
  • Late afternoon / early evening I am playing sports I love – basketball, tennis, frisbee – or practicing a physical skill like salsa to enter the flow state and leave the mind behind
  • Being outside as the sun sets
  • Delicious dinner with close friends, family and loved ones, sharing stories, struggles and laughs
  • After dinner entertainment – movies, music, dancing, games, exploring new worlds, people, and interests
  • 10 minute reflection on day and planning tomorrow’s schedule and MITs
  • Reading, drinking in wisdom of a great book
  • Close connection with significant other
  • Prayer and water seeds – good things you’ve done for others – before sleep

What it DOESN’T have:

  • Administrative tasks like paying bills, going to post office, cleaning, booking trips, house maintenance
  • Mundane, repetitive work that I have been doing for years
  • Negative energy, from junk food or pollution or people

What it FEELS like:

  • purposeful
  • focused
  • exciting
  • generous
  • valuable
  • connected
  • helpful
  • clean energy
  • clear mind
  • thankful
  • peaceful
  • laughter
  • end day spent – in a good way