The Irony of Strength (and thoughts on Donald Trump)

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence. Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star, to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”
– President Donald Trump

A Strong President

I don’t quote those ridiculous tweets in order to bash President Trump. I am not on that train; I support our president and I hope he succeeds and makes this country a better, safer, more free place. But those tweets got me thinking about something… ironic. They got me thinking about strength.

In those tweets (and in much of President Trump’s public discourse), we see a man who is completely unwilling to let his ego be touched. He is unwilling to come under criticism, and feels his image of greatness and strength must be protected at all costs. But, and I think it is lost on no one, that very tendency is perhaps his greatest weakness. By fighting to preserve his image of greatness, he reveals a character of weakness.

The Irony of Strength

I didn’t want to write this in order to criticize the President. His words were simply the catalyst for these thoughts. We can now speak in more general terms.

The irony of strength is this: the man who appears strong is often weaker than the man who appears weak. His strength betrays his weakness and the weak man’s apparent weakness is a sign of true strength.

Perhaps more specifically, it is the man who feels it necessary to preserve his image of strength that is truly the weak man. It is the man who can never show weakness that can never be truly strong. You see, the very act of ego preservation… the things we do to show our unshakable independence… these things betray a myriad of dependencies. They reveal that we are dependent on the praise of others; that we are too weak to be content in our own thoughts and the thoughts of our God. He may appear to be strong, but inwardly, his foundation is feeble.

But the converse is also true: the one who can admit his weakness and stand to not defend his ego is truly strong. He may never appear that way; the world may think of him as weak, brittle, malnourished. But the very admittance of weakness is the first step to overcoming it. And the ability to allow the world to see your fragility requires immense strength.

We Are All Weak

The truth is, all of us are weak, and without admitting our weakness, we will never even step foot on the path to strength. And without a God who loved us in our weakness, and stooped down to give us strength, we would never even have a chance to overcome it.

And I’ll let it be known / at times I have shown / signs of all my weakness. / But somewhere in me, there is strength. / And You promise me / that You believe / in time I will defeat this. / Because somewhere in me, there is strength.
– “Let it All Out” by Relient K

In the midst of weakness, I believe the strength in me is not a thing, but a person: Jesus.



Consistency: the Key to True Success

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert J. Colier

The Consistency Pattern

All success seems to have one thing at its foundation: consistency. The regular, habitual, and repetitive practice of something smaller that pushes toward your ultimate goal. Here are some examples:

  1. Building wealth and investing
    If you start investing a small (relatively) portion of your income at age 25, you are pretty much guaranteed to be a millionaire by age 65. (Investing 5,000 a year for 40 years would, from 25 til 65 with a 7% average annual return, get you above the one million dollar mark).

  2. Getting healthy and exercising
    Regular exercise is pretty much guaranteed to make you healthier. There are so many variations, but regularly lifting heavy weight will get you stronger. A novice can often go from squatting 45 lbs to 270 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps in just around four months by doing it three times a week and adding five pounds to the bar each time. (I did this).

  3. Getting healthy and dieting
    Making a consistent choice to prepare healthy food and portions is guaranteed to help you stay on top of your weight(you have to know what your body needs; everyone is different!). When Zoe was born in September and I started prepping my meals and weighing my portions, I lost about 14 pounds in 6 weeks. When I don’t do this, my weight fluctuates.

  4. Creating
    Whether you are creating music, poetry, YouTube videos, or whatever, consistency is the key to mastery. Consistently practicing your craft hones your skills and gets your closer to where you want to be; consistently releasing content helps you gain visibility and grow your audience.

  5. Professional Sports
    We talk a lot about talent, but I tend to believe that that’s just a word we throw around to excuse ourselves from trying. Or to truly try and compliment someone, when in reality, we are watching the culmination of years, even decades or consistent work. If you are 6’4″, you may have a better chance of making it to the NBA than I do at 5’9″, but there are plenty of 6’4″ people walking around who aren’t making millions shooting a ball in a basket. I’m not sure that anyone works harder than professional athletes have and do over such an extended period of time.

  6. Relationships
    Consistently reaching out to those you love, kissing your wife goodnight, giving your child the attention he/she needs improves the quality of your relationships and brings deep satisfaction in your social and personal life.

A Personal Example

I began learning web development and programming in the summer of 2015. Success to me was to eventually make a full-time living doing web development. First, I was just doing my own small projects. Then I completed Udacity’s Front-End Developer Nanodegree. Then it was finding some sort of work… anything. Eventually, I got some freelance work. And finally, in June of 2017, I landed my first (and current) full-time job was a web developer.

With this career change, I more than doubled my income (actually, quadrupled it since I had cut down to part-time and couldn’t work much because of an injury). Beyond the money, though, success for me was this: I had envisioned learning a completely new skill and becoming good enough in a completely new field of work for someone to want to pay me a living to do it.

It took time. A lot longer than some stories I heard about people “getting paid to learn to code” after doing it for six months. I was discouraged at points. I felt that I wasn’t good enough. But almost every day I took steps to get me closer to my goal. I learned new technologies. I studied algorithms. I pushed code to GitHub. I built things, broke things, and fixed things. If there was one thing that I was during this whole time, I was consistent. And it paid off.


There certainly are people who have succeeded without this consistency:

  1. People have become millionaires by investing early in Bitcoin or Ethereum, or otherwise timing markets and stock prices.

  2. I’m not sure what the exercise shortcut is. Maybe steroids? Even then, they aren’t magic and you still need to be consistent.

  3. People get surgeries to lose weight, or go on crash diets.

  4. Some have gone viral by accident (or purpose); people have gotten to the top of the charts without as much musical skill as many others.

  5. Michael Jordan played baseball, but that was actually a result of his hard work and consistency in another sport. (He sucked anyway). Maybe Tim Tebow is another example to look at with baseball right now, though maybe he’s better than MJ was?

  6. Men with money essentially buy themselves trophy wives. Confused or lazy parents spoil their children in an attempt to placate them.

Some may view those things as success. But these examples aren’t always the best for the person who experienced them, and they don’t show you anything positive about their character. These “successes” are often despite them, not because of them.

Most people who try to time the market are wrong. That’s why the few who do it well get rich. Is it skill or just the luck of the draw? Going viral might show that you’re capable of making a funny video, or that you have lots of influencers as friends. There is nothing wrong with this at all, and no one would be mad at getting a big break, but it’s not typical. Maybe men with plastic wives and spoiled kids are happy; I don’t know. But I do know that those relationships aren’t what we were made for; they won’t fulfill us, and they certainly won’t help your children.

Work smarter, but remember what’s most important

Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t smarter ways to work. Or that there aren’t ways to increase your likelihood of success or decrease the time it takes you to get there. But I would wager that most of us will never get there without consistency. In fact, I would propose that consistency is the most sure way to increase your likelihood of success.

Consistently fail

Oddly enough, consistency is also the most sure way to increase your likelihood of failure. But those two things aren’t diametrically opposed: they go hand in hand. Every failure that we encounter in an attempt to succeed is experience gained, a lesson learned. It’s knowledge that we will keep for a lifetime that we wouldn’t have otherwise obtained. It’s an obstacle waiting to be overcome; an opportunity for us to show resolve in the midst of conflict and in the face of an easier choice: giving up.

Every time we fail to be consistent in pursuing our dreams and our goals, we are robbing ourselves of an opportunity to fail and thus decreasing our likelihood of success.

What is success, anyway?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

It’s such a subjective concept. It’s all relative, isn’t it? I mean, I may retire a multi-millionaire, but there is always someone richer. I may squat 650 and bench 405 (I don’t), but there’s always some stronger. I may gain a million YouTube subscribers (check out my new channel, 5-Minute CSS! I currently have three) but there’s always a channel that’s more popular.

A warning

As you can see, we can’t measure success through comparison. It has to come from somewhere else, and I can’t really tell you what it is in regards to your dreams and goals. For me, I want to be able to help and spend time with the ones I love, and I want to honor God in everything that I do and how I do it.

But ultimately, I would wager that the character and the ethic born of making frequent, good choices that better our lives and the lives of people around us is success in and of itself. So let’s consistently try to do that.

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” – Stephen Covey



2017: A Year in Review

Here we are, on the first day of a new year. One of my big growing points over the past few years has been learning to accept failure as not just an okay but a necessary part of growth and achievement. In light of this, I want 2018 to be the year where I just kind of “do things,” so when I thought about writing something a little bit more involved than a Facebook post about the past year… I decided to just do it.

2017 started off like most other years I’ve experienced: it was January 1st, the sun rose, and I was still alive. But 2017 would also have some major events and milestones, and was probably the best year of my life because of one of them. I also ended the year experiencing loss in a way I hadn’t before, and it still hurts.

A New Career

The first big milestone in 2017: getting hired full-time as a software engineer/web developer. It’s hard to overstate how much of a milestone this was for me. Since 2015, learning these new skills and heading down this direction has easily been the most significant source of personal growth for me. A job that didn’t let me live the life I wanted forced me to realize that the ability to change my life was in my hands, and that no one else was going to make it happen for me. Struggling to understand basic concepts made me realize that it was okay to suck, at first. Or, in the legendary words of Jake the Dog:

“Dude, sucking at sumthin’ is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”

It showed me that I had gotten discouraged in so many things in my life and given up, simply because I didn’t feel I was good enough. It helped me to throw aside the notion of talent and replace it with the fact of relentless persistence. The journey to where I am now in my career (an extremely entry level software engineer) taught me so many things, and it’s hard to explain how the pay-off felt in the moment when I received the offer.

I had a baby on the way; I was unable to work at my current job because of a recurring knee injury; Claire’s income was going to stop because the kid she nannied was going to school. In fact, it ended the week I got my job. There would have been no way of knowing that we would be in this situation in the future, but I am so thankful for the switch that flipped in me and the decision I made in 2015 to see this thing through to the end and not accept no for answer. And I am so thankful for God’s incredible provision that He has always shown us, time and time again.

A New Life

Truth is, though, I usually forget all of that stuff above when I think about what happened next: On September 5th, 2017, at 09:21PM, my life changed forever. My beautiful daughter, Zoe Claire Nicole Nagatani*, was born.

While I can explain the changes that pursuing web development invoked inside me, it is much harder to quantify or put into words what having a baby did inside me.

People always told me that you can’t explain the feeling of having your own child… and they were right. All I can say is that I didn’t know I’d be able to experience such purity and innocence in this life, especially coming from me. I didn’t know that my heart could be stretched so wide and be filled so deeply. I didn’t know that one little child could completely dominate my thoughts, my feelings, and my life and that I wouldn’t care one bit. Zoe has completely obliterated our priorities, and it’s the best thing ever. At a time when I feel I’ve been trying to become more and more of a “doer,” she has slowed me down in all the right ways. (I’ve had to stop writing multiple times already just because her smile is so hard to look away from). I love it.

This child made 2017 the best year I’ve ever had, and she is showing no signs of slowing down this year.

Me and baby zoe

Smiley baby

*Zoe means “life” in Greek, Claire has to do with brightness and clarity or “light”, and Nicole is after my stillborn niece. We want her to be full of life, a source of light in this world, and also a reminder of a little girl that our family never got to enjoy but that we will always remember.

A New Loss

On December 20th, my family lost our Grandpa Jim. His death was actually the first that I’ve really experienced of that kind; someone that I had known my whole life, that I had so many memories with, that I had been so close to. When he passed, I really didn’t know how to deal with it. And the circumstances didn’t help, either. He had been in the ICU in Fresno for issues with his liver, and the doctor had given our family different reports throughout the week and half he was there. He was doing fine, he needed emergency surgery, the surgery went well, he would have lots of time… and then he was going to pass away in a few days. Upon hearing that news Wednesday evening, we were all able to get work off the next day so we could go see him. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few hours later.

I get it: grandparents pass away. It has to happen at some point, but it didn’t make it any better. I so badly wanted to see him again, obviously. And I so badly wanted my siblings to see him again who hadn’t in much longer. But much like with Zoe, there were feelings here that I hadn’t really experienced before and that I couldn’t explain well. It’s like desperately trying to reach out and touch somebody but knowing that you will never be able to again. It’s the questions of “Why, God?” and the anger and the sorrow and the confusion. You see, my grandpa was in a lot ways more than just my grandpa.

In fact, he isn’t actually my dad’s dad. But I don’t know my dad’s dad. The story is that has/had no interest in knowing me, and so he is my just that: my dad’s dad. Jim, however, was my Grandpa. When my dad reached out to his dad a few years back to see if he wanted to meet me and his response was “no,” the love that I experienced from my Grandpa Jim became even more personal, more real, more special.

And beyond that, he also represented so much of what I struggle with still: wishing my family was still the family from my childhood. Grandma and Grandpa’s house is home to so many memories of my siblings and I, in times before divorce tore my family apart. In a sort of selfish way, I guess I felt that part of that died along with him.

In it all though, there was a sort of redemption: we got to go see my Grandma and be with her during a time that I’m sure is much harder for her than for me. She got to meet her great-grandson Jace and her great-granddaughter Zoe. We got to reminisce about Grandpa and the old days together. Claire and I got to stay a bit longer and help her with some loose ends she had to take care of regarding my Grandpa’s passing. We got to eat lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, where we had just taken this picture one year before:

Picture of Claire, Grandma, Grandpa, and I

In front of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant in October, 2016

This experience was overall very hard, and very… negative. I’m not afraid to say it. Death sucks. But, I also know the hope that I have in Jesus, and I’ve learned even more now that time is our most precious resource. There isn’t always next year, next month, next week, or tomorrow. We need to take time for things that matter to us and make them happen.

The Nagatanis

A New Year

So yeah, this past year was pretty full. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. Claire and I got library cards. Star Wars was ____(fabulous? terrible? I won’t spoil it for you).

To begin this new year, I’d like to just list a few things that come to mind that I’d like to make happen. I’m not really trying to make New Year’s resolutions here… just things I want to improve on in myself, or things that I know will grow me as a person.:

  1. I want to read a lot more. Maybe a book every two weeks, which isn’t that much, but is a lot more than I’ve been reading.

  2. I want to see our net worth actually be positive. AKA, no more student loans + growing our investment portfolio.

  3. I want to just DO things. Try things. I have a lot of ideas, and it’s probably time I just started trying things and sort it all out as I go.

  4. I want to lose more weight. I’ve lost about 13/14 pounds since Zoe was born, which is great, but not nearly enough. When she was born, I weighed almost 221 pounds (I weighed about 165 when I got married….) I’d like to get down to about 180 and get back into the great shape I used to be in.

  5. I want to slow down. This night’s a perfect shade of dark blue, and I really don’t want to miss it. This might seem antithetical to number 3, but I don’t want dreams, ambitions, or goals to get in the way of what really matters.

  6. I want to honor God in everything. As I’m constantly trying to grow and become a more “effective” person, I also see the need to continually tether myself to the Anchor of my soul. Jesus said it best: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul?”

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Here’s to our best year yet,


Claire, Zoe, and Zach in reindeer pajamas

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