Today I banged up the side of my car. Which super sucks given that it is an Infiniti G-35 coupe and the 90% of the point of having a sporty car is that it looks good.
But surprisingly (even to me), when it happened, I wasn’t very upset or angry. It’s just a car after all.
Which brings me to share this article about “Why We Buy Too Much Stuff”. And for those of you who would like a summary:
“The alternative to measuring ourselves by the stuff we have is to measure ourselves by the stuff we do. Moralism is the only other game in town. And God is it scary. The thing about materialism is that it always allowed for a degree of dissociation. “I bought this thing and it’s part of me but if you don’t like it I don’t care it’s just some thing it’s not part of me.” Materialism is the mother of dissociative irony. It’s soul-protective — the only game in town, but after all, only a game.
The alternative has no escape-hatch. We are only what we do. The ego suffers for the difference between the facts of who we are and who we want to be. But it’s for the best. It’s for the best because only here will we see our blind spots — the hole in the ozone, the dry river in Colorado, the starvation in the tropics. Only here will we realize that caring about “stuff” makes these problems worse. Only here will we realize that moralism was always the only game in town. And here, only on that day when moralism is rampant and ascendant, only here is our chance to save the world.”
As a follow up to my last post, I am deeply DEEPLY humbled by the response and care I’ve received (both in magnitude and depth).
From personal phone calls from close friends to anonymous messages from readers whom I barely know (and every form of communication in between), thank you to everyone who reached out. In my time of vulnerability, I fall onto a supportive crowd.
In particular, an acquaintance whom I knew not so well, shared with me her darkest hours and her grand victorious emergence:
“I felt so lost ‘—-’ months ago, not knowing what my future was going to look like. I call it “doldrums,” referring to parts of the ocean where there is no wind. Sailors used to panic if they got stuck in doldrums because there would be no direction. This is not so practical. But it is so good to be lost, because the fear makes you consciously aware of what is meaningful to you… that when all the glory, prestige, and praise from everyone else is stripped away… you can really find what values still stand true to you, who is still there for you, and how you can re-invent yourself to be an even more excellent person.”
They say “when you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” Thus…
What I learned from my recent failures:
- Solid candidacy is not enough, you need flash. Something that makes the rest of the world notice you above solid GPA and stable work experiences. Make your flash bright enough to blind people of your weaknesses.
- Instead of trying to pretend to be THE man, learn how to be A man. In the battle of ego, pride, and image, against friends who make $300K+ salary, drive exotic cars, hooked up with more girls in a month than you have in your life, it is easy to lose yourself and your values. “Create a life for yourself that feels good from the inside, not one that just looks good from the outside.”
- Push back to your boss, don’t solve the problems he wants you to solve, solve the problems you think need to be solved. You drive your own purpose in your work, not someone else.
- Life is a series of sprints, it’s about short bursts. Do short burst of great work and once you feel your productivity declining, just stop. Continuing will make you lose your passion. Instead do something else and come back. Which leads me to…
- Never make your passion your chore. Whether it is work, activities, or relationships. Once your passion becomes more taxing than motivating, it is time to take some time off. Right away, don’t delay. “Burnout” is usually not simply a result of physical fatigue, but rather a lack of aligned purpose.
- Don’t listen to all those “famous” quotes you read. While they may be true, it may not apply to your life, and it might detract from your purpose. Those articles that say “your twenties are not the time for love” are wrong. It is always the time for love. You can maybe argue that twenties are not the time for commitment, complacency, serious relationships (I don’t know). But it is always time for love.
- For the most of us, it is not a lack of talent that bars us from our goals. It is the lack of conviction and ability to follow through long term. Personally, I lack the patience to await long term reward; I seek instant results. “Lovers always outwork workers,” and although I am capable enough, I have not yet found work that I love.
Coincidentally, I will be going to China and Philippines for the next 3 weeks. Not to party, but for family. The trip was planned way before any of this happened. The village I am visiting in China is super under-developed, meaning putting myself into solitude. I have been hiding from solitude for so long, but alas I am forced into it. I don’t know if the timing of this is God’s plan/fate/destiny or maybe just a coincidence, but I will use this time to really reflect on my life and its purpose. The next 3 weeks will be my pivotal point.
I’m actually writing this at the airport.
In the past few months, I have faced a series of failures.
- My (now ex) girlfriend and I broke up
- Tested a less-than-impressive score on my GMATs
- Rejected from Stanford Business School
- Applied to a job at Facebook and was rejected
- My family is in disarray
I do not claim to be successful in every endeavor, and I will not put on that façade. It is disappointing to face failure time after time again, and it does make me think that there may be something wrong with me, something I’m lacking, that I’m not enough.
But there is no shame in failing, and no shame in trying.
There is only shame in giving up too easily. There is shame in not dreaming big enough.
Failure is a sign that we aimed for something beyond our current capabilities. And there is no shame in that. What determines us is how we recover from failure. Whether it is resilience or defeat.
Having being said that… I am going to get my shit together and end this failing streak. I will not allow myself to continue to fail.
Only recently did I start saying “I love you” after phone conversations with my mom. It was hard at first, and kind of awkward. But I’m trying to make it a habit and it’s getting easier.
A few days ago, I was stressed about meeting a work deadline, so after the call with my mom, the thought had slipped my mind. I immediately called her back and said “oops, sorry! Forgot to say I love you!”
My mom was shocked at first, but then laughed at me for the next 2 minutes straight while I just sat there dumbfounded.
For my entire life, I’ve been trying to make my mother proud by getting good grades and making lots of money. While it’s easy to quantify things like my salary and GPA, I cannot measure the value of a simple comment and what it might mean to my mom.
It really is the little things, the expressions of love, that fills the void in a person’s heart. And these are the things that really make life worthwhile.
I don’t do this enough (in fact, this is the first time I’m ever doing it), but often in the midst of always striving to be better, greater, happier I forget how great I already have it.
I’m currently applying to Stanford Graduate School of Business and I’m a little flustered because the application is due in 2 days and I’m not even close to done yet. But while up at 2AM freaking out about deadlines, I suddenly thought: “you know what… I’m already very happy where I am right now. I don’t desperately need this.”
- I live in a VERY nice house, where I pay a VERY low rent because the house owner is a GOOD friend.
- I work at one of the TOP companies in the world, and I make MORE than enough to cover my cheap rent and my frivolous spending.
- I’m in GREAT health, getting a little chubs but I can work that off. I am an athlete with no limiting injuries.
- I am surrounded by AMAZING people. Smart, talented, funny, good looking (I’m shallow), kind-hearted people (most of you anyways, just kidding).
- Above all, I don’t have ANY worries!! I don’t worry about money, I don’t worry about my job, I don’t worry about my health, I don’t worry about my family. I don’t worry about violence. The only thing I worry, is whether or not I have something to GAIN with this business school application. I do not have to worry about any possibility of LOSS.
And then I look back to where I was 10 years ago, and what I naturally should have been. And I’m SO thankful for how my life has changed and for the people who helped me change. I’m so thankful for the people who believed in me and gave me a chance.
I actually don’t need any more. I’m happy where I am.
(…although just for the record, I’m still going to finish applying)
(this is a little cheesy, I know… and SO cliche, blah blah blah appreciate life. But we spend so much effort wishing things will happen to us, that we don’t appreciate all the things we wish DIDN’T happen to us and DOESN’T)
“You know what’s the difference between you and me? You’re so ambitious and driven, and I’m just happy to be here.”
I grew up thinking being successful was the key marker of someone’s “worth” and the surest way to be happy.
But there is a dark side to success. The side where you forsake passion, fun, and family for money, glory, and status.
It’s called “sacrifices” and we’ve all done it. But when is the “sacrifice” for “success” too much? Why do so many of us work in jobs we don’t like, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t love? Where we trade away actually living our lives so that other people would think that we have “the life”?
Life is not about chasing after promotions and big salaries. Many people are not as “successful” not because of inadequate talent, but because of a lifestyle choice.
5 years ago, I spent 2 months in Shenzhen, China for a summer internship. I had no family or friends there, but I soon found a taekwondo school taught by an ex-university team athlete. The masters accepted me into their school and I would train there every night after work. Soon, those athletes became my friends.
After a month, the head-master wanted to gift me with a black belt from his school which would display my name in Chinese. This was a symbol of acceptance into their taekwondo family; it was a gracious gesture and I gratefully accepted.
Unfortunately, the belt did not come in time, and I had to return to America. One of my new friends told me: “When it arrives, I will hold onto your black belt and one day, I will give it to you. I promise you.”
Five years passed and in that time, I’ve had the privilege to train with several well established teams with very prominent athletes.
A few days ago, I received a message from a Chinese email address which I had originally assumed to be spam, but upon opening the email, I realized it was the old friend from the old school. She tells me that the school has grown substantially and several athletes have passed and gone, though she wishes I could visit one day. She also told me that she still has the black belt that was gifted to me.
Me: After all this time, I’m surprised you still remember!
Friend: Of course, you are my friend and I had promised you. I always remembered
Five years later, she fulfilled her promise, and delivered the black belt to my home, and now, I have a black belt with my name in English, Korean and Chinese!
A few days ago, I was asked to interview an intern for the Google diversity program, aimed at providing diverse students with relevant work experience for a better future.
I have seen many resumes for this program, Harvard 4.0’s Stanford 3.8’s etc. All with very impressive previous internships. My assigned candidate was a boy from Detroit. His resume was mediocre at best, but overall, unimpressive. No evidence of analytical skills or critical thinking abilities. When I interviewed him, I grilled him with some relatively difficult questions, and while his answers were satisfactory, I was by no means impressed. I recommended a “no hire” in the evaluation.
The recruiter followed up to ask why I had recommended a “no hire”. I explained that the candidate was not qualified - he did not have previous relevant experience and he did not show ability to think strategically. The recruiter confirmed that this is all very true. In terms of his past, the candidate did not have any shining experiences that would match our standard.
But he never had the opportunity to shine.
The candidate comes from a family of “diversity.” The family size is large, and the family income is low. He is the first of his family line to ever graduate high school and attend college. He is the oldest of his siblings so he works two jobs to feed his family. He pays through tuition all by himself, takes care of his family, works two jobs, and still maintains a 3.8 GPA. These qualities do not (and should not) show up on his resume, but it does speak to his ability to fight through adversity and overcome hardship.
The morality of affirmative action and the positions large companies should play in equalizing the playing field is beyond the scope of my blog. Nevertheless, this was a lesson in humility:
I’d like to think that I worked hard for my success and I developed into who I am today through my own choices, values, and talents. But the truth is, I was given many opportunities to shine. And unlike the boy I interviewed, nothing was holding me back. By no means were my parents wealthy or well connected (I was actually quite poor growing up), but I never had to make sacrifices to make ends meet.
I was provided all the opportunities in the world. I just had to be good enough to seize it. For some, even if they are good enough, they will never have the opportunity to shine.
My family is proud of me for what I was able to accomplish. I can’t imagine how proud his family must be of him :)
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that not everyone in this world has had the advantages that you’ve had.” — The Great Gasby
I was having dinner with a fellow Google colleague. She wants to work with the Google team that goes to Africa to provide the local residents with internet access. She believes that having access to the world wide web would improve their lives.
Her boss asked her, “why would providing the local Africans access to the internet improve their lives?” After a few rounds of “information exchange,” “connection with the rest of the world,” “idea sharing.” her boss told her the story of the businessman and the fisherman.
He told her this story, which she shared with me, which I am now sharing with you.
The Businessman and the Fisherman:
A businessman took a vacation to a small Brazillian village to escape from the turmoils of his busy job. He woke up early and went to relax on the beach.
As he sat, he saw a local fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few large fresh yellowfin tuna.
The businessman was impressed and complimented the fisherman on his catch. He asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“Well I have a Harvard MBA in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to New York, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches. Soon you can manage a whole corporation.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “How long will all that take?”
The businessman replies, “Well about 15-20 years.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by a small village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
Recently, lots of friends have been asking me that they don’t know where they’re going with their lives and they feel lost.
Truth is, no one REALLY knows where they’re going. We’ve all been engraved in the idea that success is landing that prestigious job and earning butt-loads of money. Then, you work your ass off to be in a high level position for a fancier car or a bigger house.
There is the concept of success where you comparing your achievements with those of others, and then there is the other concept of success where you are happy with yourself.
One of my closest friends recently just had a baby.
When I have MY baby, I’m either going to take embarrassing pictures and make famous memes out of them.
Or I will take super cute pictures of them that even when they’re old, they can impress hot chicks (or boys) with their baby pictures.
…not like MY baby needs any help impressing hot chicks…