Kenji Hasegawa

coffe date #15 with kenji hasegawa

favorite C2 tutor, coffee-holic, Columbia grad, the calmest human ever

me: strawberry acaí refresher | kenji: nitro cold brew
location: starbucks, new jersey

Kenji was my C2 tutor 4 years ago.

I used to walk into the SAT sessions and he’d always have his iced black coffee placed on a napkin at his seat. I’d judge him for drinking plain old black coffee because how can one not pour packs of Splenda and milk in their coffees? Well, here I am 4 years later, drinking black coffee on a daily basis. My sincerest apologies Kenji for the judgement. I now understand and accept your coffee choices 😂.

Kenji was the calmest and most composed person I’ve ever met. He’d wear his checkered tops and khakis as he patiently sat and answered all of our ridiculous SAT questions. And then we’d manage to get distracted to have conversations about the most random things.

Kenji was my tutor, but would also act as a built-in life coach during those sessions. In fact, he actually concocted a plan to convince my parents to let me go to after-prom (which actually ended up working btw 🙈😂). Clearly, Kenji is a genius.

Obviously, after Kenji made SAT classes so pain-free and actually fun, I had to have a coffee date with him. Also, I’m so hyped to actually sit down with him for the purpose of talking about life because we’ve never done that before.


  • You don’t need to have a plan.

Imagine walking through life without every single day planned out. I cannot! I am a huge planner – an avid bullet journaler with numerous calendars, planning out every hour of every day. Not planning is one of my main sources of anxiety.

So when Kenji said that everything that has happened to him so far in life was somewhat accidental and something he never intentionally planned to do, such as going to Columbia, I was shocked.

His life motto is to walk into things knowing that he most probably will fail. Instead of completely demolishing his self-esteem, this mentality helps him catapult into the unknown without fear.

“Don’t be afraid to be dumb.” – Kenji Hasegawa, 2021

It’s okay if we walk into a situation – just for the sake of curiosity and the opportunity to experience life – and end up being absolutely clueless. We need to ask for help. We need to ask questions or else we’ll just be stuck the whole time. So, in simpler words, we should not be afraid to be dumb because who tf cares.

“Pride makes people want to hide from themselves.” – Kenji Hasegawa, 2021

People who have a ton of pride tend to limit themselves from experiencing things in life because they’re scared of the possibility of failure. Acknowledge the pride. Accept the failures. And keep going.

Morale of the story: Don’t have a plan for every little thing. Catapult. And live.

  • Learning to say no.

We actually spent quite a bit of time talking about this.

America runs on productivity. This can lead to a cycle of self-destruction because productivity can trump our own well-being.

For example, universities, some more than others, are one of the biggest supporters of hustle culture. Think about it. Most professors act like we only take their class and assign a shit ton of work – sometimes work that isn’t even meaningful. Based on our majors and future careers, we’re also required to have extra curriculars, some work jobs, others take care of family members. Thus, in essence, college is such an exhausting mental load.

One of the biggest challenges in college is learning to say no. Saying no to completing homework way too late into the night. Saying no to skipping meals and lacking sleep to keep up with classes. Saying no to overworking yourself.

Kenji said this one thing and it shook my mind:

“It is harder for us to say no to people who we think have our best interests.” – Kenji Hasegawa, 2021

This came up when we diverged from college to jobs. During the pandemic, so many people have decided that they are not returning to their jobs because they are no longer willing to be treated for any less than they deserve.

More and more people learned how to say no to their colleagues, bosses, managers, etc.

We know our limits and we know how far we can and should go. So, we need to be able to say no to things AND people who do not align or fit into our lives in that particular moment.

  • Appreciate the moments of greatness.

Okay, this was beautiful.

“Appreciate the moments of greatness because there are far and few of them.” – Kenji Hasegawa, 2021

Whether it be you who was blessed with a moment of greatness/inspiration or someone else, appreciate them. How amazing is it that we human beings have the ability to feel inspired and actually create change?

I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and she too says something similar to what Kenji told me. She talks about how ideas are alive entities and they find that one right person who will bring them to life. This is a rare and beautiful occurrence, so we have to appreciate them when the time comes instead of sitting in a pool of self-pity, envy, or guilt.

  • Kenji’s 2 Life Rules

I had to ask the calmest person I know how he manages to be so calm all the freaking time.

As a Columbia student, Kenji mentioned how the amount of work he had was just plain impossible. It came to the point where he had such bad Imposter Syndrome due to the immense amount of unhealthy competition and expectations.

Through his time as a student and as a graduate, he shared his 2 life rules with me.

  1. Do not work while eating.
  2. Take off from work if you’re sick.

These were big because how many times have you or someone you know shoved their lunch down their throat while they were working to save time or had a terrible headache and a possible fever coming in, but still went to work because they were unable to put their health and wellbeing before the superficialness that comes with having a job.

And I understand that it takes people with certain privileges to be able to tap out from the work that provides them with money to care for themselves and their families. Not everyone has the luxury to stay home if they are physically and mentally not feeling well. So maybe instead of focusing on individuals and educating them about the importance of breaks, we should focus on the “big guys” – universities, corporations, even K-12 schools.

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