“The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”
― Michel Foucault
It is this time of the year when we both look back and look forward. On 12/17/2011, while my daughter and I were at the Barnes & Noble’s bookstore, I shared with her Foucault’s word. I said, “In other words, you are a different person from the one you start with.” To be sure, these few words are open to interpretation.
Still, I find his statement very much fitting for this occasion, that is, if you can re-word it like this — the main purpose of New Year Resolution is to become, in some way, someone at the end of the year that you were not at the begining of the year, or a better version of you.
My son wrote this when he was half way through his third year of college life on the New Year of 2010.
1) Get at most 1 B next semester, raise GPA to 4.4
1) Run & workout consistently again every day, 4 times a week on average.
2) Eat healthier, cook more for myself
1) Raise incubator/angel money for a startup idea and/or become ramen profitable ($2000/month)
1) No more set and forget
2) Cut living expenses to below $800/month
3) Start using Mint/Tracking finances
I dug it out on 8/29/2011.
Here are some memorable moments of the year in my life…
My son graduated and we all went to Boston to attend his graduation ceremony on 6/3/2011. And he came back for a few days before heading back east.
My daughter went to a summer camp on 6/25/2011, first time being away for so long. I went back to China the next day.
My son started working in New York in mid July 2011.
My daughter became a National Merit Scholar for her high performance in PSAT.
My son came back home for Thanksgiving break on 11/23/2011.
My son came back for Christmas with his girlfriend on 12/22/2011. So delighted to have more people in our house.
My daughter went to New York yesterday to spend a few days there.
We had a few gatherings with friends either at our house or theirs.
I am happy and grateful.
Continued from yesterday’s posting, well, an attempt at interpreting that piece.
Money functions like medicine. It can taste sweet, but it can make one feel hot or become toxic if one abuses it. Money can relieve a person from hunger, pull him out of hot water. On a large scale, money can help build a strong country. If taken well, corrupt officials will implement equal distribution of wealth. Otherwise, social unrest would arise.
If one accumulates money without spending or sharing it, one is prone to being robbed; if one spends all without saving, one is likely to suffer in time of urgent needs.
A taoist person (dao) both shares and saves his money;
A virtue person (de) does not view money as topmost important;
A fair person (yi) does not get more than what he gives;
A righteous person (li) does not ask for what is not his;
A benevolent person (ren) uses his wealth in charity;
A trust-worthy person (xin) takes care of his debt;
A wise person (zhi) is not impacted by money.
The above practices are the medicine to longevity. A person will live a long and healthy life if he follow these practices. Otherwise, one will suffer from weak will and poor health.
On 12/18/2011, when I talked to my mother over the phone, she shared with me this article from one of her readings. I will try to bring out English meaning tomorrow.
My definition: news consumer is one who reads about or watches news. New creator is someone about whom a piece of news is focused on or written. To be sure, news consumers make up over 99% of the population, while less than one percent is news-worthy enough to be the center of the news.
On 12/12/2011, when I asked my daughter what she was doing, as usual, she said she was reading this. Very often, she was reading about this or that person, a celebrity or some VIP. I told her it was all a matter of how one spends one’s time.
If one spends a lot of time on learning about other people in the news, most likely he/she will remain a consumer of news media and will never rise to the status upon whom a piece of news is created and centered.
Of course, it takes a lot more than time to transform from being a news consumer to that of news creator. First and foremost, one needs time to bring about this leap. As always, it is easy to fall into the 99% rank.
In early December of 2009, a relative of ours came from China to stay with us for her son’s graduation. When she went through my closet, she made this remark, “Throw away these old clothes. They are so old.” I told her, “No, they are still good and still fit me. There is no reason to throw them away.” She shook her head. I guess I had confused her or she couldn’t understand why.
Throwing away good old clothes and buying new clothes do not make me a happy person. On the contrary, the thought of wasting tortures me. I didn’t tell her this. If she understood me, she would not say these words in the first place.
In the evening, another adult in the house often took her out shopping. She came back telling me it was so much fun. For me, I try to get all shopping done on weekend so that I don’t have to go out during week day.
Nearly two years have passed since her visit. Amazing people are so different.
“Life Lessons for Busy Mom
(1) Make time to nurture yourself
(2) Take charge of your parenting rules
(3) Implement creative solutions
(4) Feed your soul
(5) Keep an organized home
(6) Solicit help
(7) Make time to slow down”
I dug out this piece right befor Thanksgiving break when I was cleaning some old clusters in my house. That was before my son left for college in August 2007.
Rush, rush, rush everyday and make time for this or that. Time is exactly what a busy mom needs most. I have felt strongly all these years, especially when I was crazily busy. A mom is forever busy as long as she has her children in her heart.
On 10/16, about a month ago, I was cleaning the room and found this happiness factors paper. I am sure I have posted something similar to this long ago. Still, I see no fitting topic than this one during this holiday season. I divided them up based on their points.
Add 0.5 to your happy equation for each of these qualities–
sunshine, community spirit, contact with nature, gender (f), money, beauty
Add 1 point
extrovert, vitality, curiosity, luck, humility, acceptance, emotional intelligence, education, sharing good news, creativity, mental well-being, lifelong learning
Add 2 points
adaptation, forgiveness, coping well, positive illusion (dream positively), make music, playing, getting things done, go to church, owning a pet, high self-esteem, appreciate excellence, job satisfaction, feeling healthy, good nutrition, vocation, volunteering, matching values and actions
Add 3 points
positive time perception, dancing, gardening, visit art gallery, personal growth, have children, hope
Add 4 points
resilience, have a hobby, smile, laughter
Add 5 points
feeling good, optimism, gratitude, finding the flow, keep a diary, savoring, love, successful in marriage, close friends, acts of kindness, have a goal, use your strength, religion, meditation, finding meaning
I am not sure if you can substitute five 1-point qualities with one 5-point quality, making it less efficient. And I am also surprised that the unselfish community spirit only earns you half a point.
I guess being unselfish won’t make you as happy as we have been told. Hmmm… makes me wondering if I have done my children an ill justice when I have over emphasized on their being unselfish.
This is from a friend of mine back in Ohio years. Here’s my translation.
“My heart is filled with joy when the festival is drawing near and the days are full of parties, with year end bonus, colorful gift box, and the children coming home. I feel nothing but content and grateful when we all sit around for family dinner, when we play ping-pong or games, when I hear children’s footsteps going up and down the stairs or their laughter in their chasing around…, even though everything is pretty much the same as last year.”
Now when my son and his girl friend came back, I feel exactly the same simple content and pure gratitude that she feels over her children’s return.
Too often we equate gifts with materials;
Too often we ignore the spirit of Christmas;
Too often we forget the meaning of giving;
Too often we are trapped in this sense of entitlement;
Too often we measure the depth of love or friendship by the amount we receive;
Too often we fix our eyes on what we want even though we don’t need;
Too often we choose to ignore those really in need;
Too often we forsake an opportunity to serve and to reach out;
Too often we overlook the long lasting value of the intangibles;
To the world of shallow, materialistic life, I say,
Enough for this madness of Christmas shopping
All in the name of celebrating the birth of Jesus!
On 10/25/2011, I received an email from a friend of mine. I thought it so true. Here’s my translation. I am not sure if my translation brings out original meaning. I do hope my children could read Chinese, one of the hardest things for me to do.
The hardest thing to keep is time;
The hardest thing to seize is opportunity;
The hardest thing to do well is detail;
The hardest thing to deal with is human relations;
The hardest thing to get rid of is habit;
The hardest thing to obtain is heart;
The hardest thing to distribute is interest;
The hardest thing to control is mood;
The hardest thing to conquer is self;
The hardest thing to find is true friend;
The hardest thing to resist is temptation;
The hardest thing to enhance is one’s inherent quality.
Yesterday, I felt like all evil forces aligned with one another against me. First, the desktop computer would not start. The recovery effort failed, which meant I had to reconfigurate the system, which in turn meant everything stored in the hard drive will be gone. So insanely unreliable.
Then, the apple laptop my son left to my daughter suffered from broken fans. If I don’t replace them, it will get burning hot and damage other part of the laptop. My son bought the fans from ebay.
I first took it to Bestbuy store and was told only Apple store fixed Apple problem. Next I headed for the Apple store in town and learned that they would not use any part brought by the customers. I would have to use their parts. They suggested I go to Microcenter.
I went to Office Depot on my way home. A futile trip.
Before I headed for Microcenter, I called to make sure they took the job. This they did. But when I got there, a service girl told me they would replace the fans with my part but without warranty for the work. And the ridiculous part is the labor there would cost more than labor + parts + warranty at Apple store.
Now I have decided to go to Apple store next weekend if I have time.
While at office hearing people talk about Christmas shopping, I mentioned getting some books for Christmas as I believe books are gifts of ideas and wisdom… Before I finished my thought on books, my colleague was hurriedly letting me know that everybody in her family read and read a lot as if reading was a cool thing to do and that she was not un-cool.
To be sure, I also emphasized reading to my children, not because it is cool though and definitely not read for the sake of reading.
While reading opens a window to the world larger than your physical surrounding, it both entertains and enlightens the readers.
I have told my children to always engage dialogue or argument with the author, or pick one author against another, to learn, to distinguish, to grow, and to become wiser and better… because of reading.
It may make you feel good when you scream out your frustration.
It may make you feel good when you throw out hurtful words without any regards toward other people’s feeling.
It may make you feel good when you smash at something hard to let out your anger.
It may make you feel good when you always have the last word in quarrel.
It may make you feel good when you solve your problem with a powerful fist.
It may make you feel good when you indulge yourself in your favorite unhealthy food.
It may make you feel good when you smoke as you are so addicted to.
It may make you feel good when you drink as an alcohol does.
It may make you feel good when you lie in bed instead of venturing out in the morning.
It may make you feel good when you are just purely selfish.
But you know what, do the right thing always, because, by the end of the day, doing the right thing will make you a good person and that should make you feel good.
If you ask why I write this piece, it is because I am fed up with too many selfish persons.
I told my daughter task alternation might reduce mental fatigue and enhance productivity. That is, you work on one subject for an hour and another one for the next hour instead of dragging on for hours on one subject as she often does. Even though she knows its benefits, she often resists alternation. Actually she is not alone here.
I have also found myself having this tendency to stick to one task as long as I can and any slight change seems a challenge to me. Call it brain inertia. I think this inertia originates from our aversion to change.
Because change means we need to put in more energy to get started and become familiar to the new task. We like to be energy efficient mentally and biologically.
That’s why I set a timer when I was cleaning around in kitchen. I pack it up and go once time is up. When I check email, I set timer. This way, I don’t get hooked on one task and let a whole chunk of time pass before I realize it.
On 10/18/2011, a monitor from Little Rock, Arkansas came today. She was excited when she saw patient’s paper chart. She told me she had been to many clinics; most of them used electronic medical records (EMR).
Nearly all of these electronic system have many problems, either it is not clear where things are, or documents are not available or even worse she is exposed to more data than she is allowed to, which is a violation of HIPPA. Morever, it is difficult for monitors to view patients’ medical records and clinical report on the same laptop.
The EMR is so remotely away from being perfect now. This monitor wished we could all go back to paper eventually, which doesn’t seem likely.
When I asked her if there was a user manual. “None” was the answer. It seems there are so much that needs improvement and that means many opportunities. When we go electronic with our medical records, I will create a user manual especially for the monitors, which will definitely make life easy for all.
“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” — Francis Bacon
Yesterday, I had a nice long chat with an old classmate of mine back in kindergarden years. She spends most of her time reading non-fictions in Chinese. Books certainly have kept her company and made her a wise and happy person.
While I don’t have as much time as she does, I try to read whenever I can. At office, while people are chatting over the most trivial matters, I turn to my books. I make a point of not wasting my time on small talks.
I know my books always leave me thinking. And I am a happy person as long as my mind is actively engaged. One only needs to remember Francis Bacon’s word on reading.
On 10/7/2011, I read this article from Mayo clinic, “Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier” by Mayo Clinic staff. As always, I shared this article with my children, even though I am not sure if they ever pay any attention to it. I can never over-emphasize the importance of a good health, as I once said, “All things being equal, the person with a strong body and mind will win the race.”
The article states, “Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program.” Here’s the brief list of benefits.
(1) Use it or lose it. Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age.
(2) It helps develop strong bones.
(3) Control your weight.
(4) Reduce your risk of injury.
(5) Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily.
(6) Manage chronic conditions.
(7) Sharpen your focus.
A few weeks ago, my daughter bought Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I read a bit of it. To me, the most heart-wrenching episode is in part 5, chapter 29-30 when Anna went to see her son, Seryozha, on his birthday and when it was time for her to go.
“…he cried in despair through his tears, and, clutching her by the shoulder, he began squeezing her with all his force, his arms trembling with the strain.” He had no idea that this would be their last meeting.
The episode reminds me of the moment when my son was two years old and just started his first week at daycare. He was crying most miserably the whole day and the whole week until he got into fever.
I didn’t genuinely hate Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, Anna’s husband, until this moment. He intends to punish Anna and make Anna miserable by taking her son away from her. What a sad and depressing book!
Yesterday I called my son, thinking he must be relaxing in his NY apartment. But from the background noise, he seemed to be in a large gathering. It turned out he went to Boston on Friday and will go back to NY today.
I can imagine he must have a good time back to Boston meeting his old friends there. Most important he really enjoys the freedom of his bachelor’s life and his well-earned financial independence.
My son reminds me of someone here in America, who has turned 27 and still lives with his parents. I bet he must have had too much good time at high school and has not earned enough freedom when he is approaching 30.
During the last weekend of October, while I was at Barnes & Noble bookstore with my daughter, I picked up a NY Times bestseller called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, 2009. I must be bored and tired then.
Before I opened the book, I was wondering “Why would a person write this book?” The author must be insanely unhappy and in dire need of happiness. It turns out the opposite is true. I believe she wrote it because she was a writer and must find something to write about.
Here’s a tiny bit from the book,
“A ‘happiness project’ is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse.
Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. …Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions.”
I like this one — “The days are long, but the years are short. Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.”
Everybody has his/her limitations, but few people realize it, even fewer attempts to go beyond it. Expect to outgrow your limitation.
Throughout the book, the author asks readers to count their blessings, putting things in perspective. A great message for this Thanksgiving and holiday season.
I have a Bible sitting on my office desk, the safest object there, as I assume no one can accuse me of reading something not related to work.
This is my favorite quote from Bible, Philippians 4:8. It gives me such a warm-fuzzy feeling when I read this. I go back to this quote when things do not go well, as if these things did exist and I had been to the place where these things prevail, as if I were back to this imagined place filled with truth, honesty, justice, … Keep this in mind. After all, whatever makes you feel good works.
I shared with my daughter the notes from Gregory Berns’s book, posted yesterday. She totally agrees with the view and is fully aware of the role fear plays in the making of a loser.
Fear holds you back from taking any actions when you know you should, like speaking up in class, like talking to the principle about your project, like singing out loud, like starting something new, like venture out alone, like doing something nobody is doing, like being different from the rest of the crowd; like being a minority…
If you allow fear to control you for a long time, you will never open your mouth so much so that your self-esteem touches the bottom and you are even afraid of hearing your own voice. How pathetic that can be!
I told my daughter ultimately the only fear you should have is the fear of wasting your life as a total loser. Guess what? It is the accumulation and the burden of one’s daily trivial fears that contribute to a life of loser.
On 12/4/2011, as with many weekends, my daughter and I were at Barnes & Noble’s again. While she was doing her homework, I was reading Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently by Gregory Berns.
At one point, the author mentions “three functions and the circuits” that distinguish iconoclastic brains from others — perception, fear response and social intelligence.
“Iconoclasts, …, have a preternatural affinity for new experiences. Where most people shy away from things that are different, the iconoclast embraces novelty.
“The problem with novelty, however, is that, for most people, novelty triggers the fear system of the brain. Fear is the second major impediment to thinking like an iconoclast and stops the average person dead in his tracks. There are many types of fear, but the two that inhibit iconoclastic thinking are fear of uncertainty and fear of public redicule…
“Fear of public speaking, which everyone must do from time to time, afflicts one-third of the population. This is too common to be considered a disorder or mental illness. It is simply a common variant of human nature, but it is one that gets in the way of many potential iconoclasts.”
I heard of this saying regarding raising a boy when I was in China. In English, it means something like this — “Don’t spoil a boy” or “Raise a tough boy.” The belief behind it is a boy should be raised in such a rough manner so that, when he grows up, he can shoulder life’s hardship, either physial or psychological ones.
On 12/3, after her SAT test and upon hearing her complaining of the temperature at the test center, I told my daughter this. She said it was such a sexist view as if boys and girls were different and should be raised differently.
“Well,” said I, “I’m not a sexist. That’s why I have raised both you and your brother in the same way and expect both of you to tough it out instead of complaining over minor physical discomfort. She got my message.
Many people equate good college to better job opportunities. If job is your only concern, you miss a huge point and you are better off going to a state college and work hard from there, instead of slaving yourself through four years of high school for the preparation for college admission.
I believe top ranking colleges are the gathering ground of the most brilliant people and the main reason for going there is the opportunity to meet and befriend with these people and to form a powerful network for your career development. It makes sense when you think of the fact that a person is judged by the group he is associated with.
One advantage of being surrounded by brilliant people is the abundance of ideas, intellectual stimulation and high aspiration. All this promises a gold mine for one’s future.
I read an article on 11/21/2011 — “How Israel turned itself into a high-tech hub” by Katia Moskvitch. It is one of those efforts that attempt to explain how Israel has become so successful. But it turns out to be no more than a description of how successful Israelis has become without offering any plausible explanation of how.
“Tiny Israel, a country embroiled in conflicts for decades, has managed to transform itself from a stretch of farmland into a high-tech wonder. Israel currently has almost 4,000 active technology start-ups – more than any other country outside the United States, according to Israel Venture Capital Research Centre.
The result: high-tech exports from Israel are valued at about $18.4bn a year, making up more than 45% of Israel’s exports, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Israel is a world leader in terms of research and development spending as a percentage of the economy; it’s top in both the number of start-ups and engineers as a proportion of the population; and it’s first in per capita venture capital investment.”
My understanding is this– the key to Israel’s success is Jewish culture, the one that value education, achievement, professionalism, a purpose-driven life, and above all, religion that give them the belief that they are the chosen ones and that they are chosen for a purpose in this world. That purpose is to be the best you can be in the world.
My daughter is going to take SAT at SME today. We have spent plenty of time at bookstore preparing for this.
Yesterday evening we were at Barnes & Noble’s till 10 and drove home back wet and dark. We talked about SAT essay section. The trick is you need to have a plenty of ideas and present them in a clear, fast, and well-organized way.
I mentioned my suggestion of practicing writing a little bit per day and everyday. By now she realized its importance. Same can be said of other activities like piano practice, drawing, etc.
It may be a cliche to say “constant dropping wears away a stone,” still we must admit the huge effect of constant tiny efforts.
Continued from yesterday’s topic. Here’s what I have learned from this event.
Number one: when SME prinicipal Karl Krawitz succumbed to the pressure from above, to me, he shows no backbone. Emma Sullivan needs not apologize to anyone on this matter. Krawitz knows this.
Number two: governors and high school principals are looked upon as leaders. It me gives a sad feeling when I realize how hopelessly trifling and ludicrous these men are, as if nothing’s more important than a negative comment from a teenager. A man with a broad vision cannot be this trivial.
Number three: be careful what you post on the internet. There are plenty of people who are more petty-minded than the sum of Brownback and Karl Krawitz and who can get you into bigger trouble than this.
Last Monday, 11/28, my daughter told me of the news about a Shawnee Mission East (SME) student. Emma Sullivan, SME senior, tweeted some unflattering comments on Kansas governor Sam Brownback. The governor’s office got in touch with the high school. The SME Prinicipal Karl Krawitz ordered Sullivan to make a written apology.
My daughter thinks politicians should focus on major issues instead of chasing after a negative comment made by a high schooler. “Can’t believe they are so petty-minded!” she said.
I agree with her on this. I can’t believe the governor wastes tax dollar on hiring people to monitor social media for trivial like this. Apart from this, I learn three things.
To be ontinued tomorrow…