Know Yourself, know your pitfalls

This is one of the articles that I published on LinkedIn. You can leave comments there, if you have any.

When my son was small, he would make a face-losing scene at the store if his wish was not met. The remedy for this was not to take him to the store until he could behave himself in public.

Sometimes, while I am in the middle of a task, I find the need to get on the internet for a brief search. Very often that 5-minute sidetrack quickly runs out of control as I click one link to another and then I forget what my initial intention is. This is what happens when time flies by without getting things done. The cure is, instead of stopping for each search, write on a paper notepad what you want to search. Do it at the end. If you need to get answers now, set a timer.

Sometimes, I feel very lethargic after eating too much. The cure is to avoid heavy food intake if I know I still have work to do.

Some people lose focus and become distracted when they get bored sitting in a not exciting classroom or meeting. The trick is how to keep them intrigued.

When I related the story to my daughter, she totally got it because that’s what happened to her, too. Most of us have our particular pitfalls or traps that lead us to the opposite of where we want to go, and to the waste of time and life. The question is how to hold yourself from falling into these pitfalls. I told my daughter this. You need a self-check mechanism.

To act proactively, you need to know yourself, know your pattern of behavior, know when you have your peak hours in a day so that you get serious things done in those hours, know under what situation you are most likely to lose focus. This way you can foresee what will happen in certain situations and proactively avoid getting into that situation, just like what I did with my young son.

The earlier in life you know yourself, the better.

What should young college graduates look for in their first job

Of course, readers here have read this article before, perhaps not under the same heading but having the same content.

When my children were at home, I often lectured to them on any topic that came to my head at the moment, so much so that by the time my daughter was in her senior year high school, she would put on her earbud when I got too boring. It was quite funny.

I remember talking to them about their first job upon college graduation. Number one, the decisive factor is not the paycheck. No matter how attractive your first paycheck is, if you don’t have strong expertise, your laughter won’t last longer than the snow flakes under the sun, and your tangible paycheck is as insecure as the delicious cheese in a rat’s mouth. Even worse is this, a big paycheck might intoxicate you and allure you to forget your own dream about your life.

Number two, don’t choose a company because of its world-class benefit. The more comfortable the comfort zone is, the harder it is for you to break away from it. To be sure, comfort hugging is in most of us. But when you are in your early 20s, you are too young for that.

What you should look for is something intangible, that is, an opportunity to learn and grow, and to enhance your skills and broaden your network. You might say, “I don’t know if there’s room for growth before I get my foot in the door.” Of course you wouldn’t. But this is the things you look for once you are on your first job. Your first job matters only in so much as it serves as the step-stone to the next one, hopefully a better one.

If you already know what you want to do with your life, find out if the company fits your plan. If you still don’t know where your passion lies, explore and learn as much about the company as about yourself. Like when I started with China Daily, a hugely fantastic place. I found myself unreal and uncomfortable when I had to extract information from people, sometimes a bit unscrupulously. Then I realized there was a mismatch and the rest is history.

If you enjoy yourself and find it rewarding at office, don’t just bury your head deeply in the assignments every day. Keep your eyes wide open and be mindful of on-goings around you, for your first positions should always be seen as the opportunities to something better, way better than anything currently under your nose.

You will laugh last if you can double or even treble your intangible assets on your first post.

What will you do when you are under-appreciated and under-utilized?

I have shared this article on the LinkedIn. Please leave your comments there.

My daughter started the first day of her fall unpaid intern at this new place after Labor Day. Of course things always go slow on your first day, no matter where you land. No rush at this moment.

I shared with her this. While you are a college student, it’s OK to accept unpaid work as long as you get what you need. You actually buy work experience with your time and money. If, say after two weeks, you sense that they don’t appreciate your talents, that is, they won’t involve you in anything above clerical nature of work, you really need to take some actions.

Take initiative.
Take actions.
Propose new ideas.
Nothing will happen before you do something.
It’s you time, your life, your responsibility.
Nobody cares but you.
It’s nobody’s business but yours!

One big SECRET about Young People

I thought of outpouring more articles this year. But I have not kept my plan so far. My birthday reminds me of time running away and I need to do something. Writing is one of the things that I will keep doing. Here’s one article published on LinkedIn.

I learn this from the conversations with my children.

Let me share with you one big secret about the wealth of young people. Most people do not associate assets and wealth with young people, especially when you think of college graduates with huge loans and unemployed. Instead people tend to think of many senior folks with millions of savings under their mattress.

The fact is both young and the old have their own resources. With the old, theirs is money; with the young, theirs is TIME.

Right. Time is the resources of the young, which the old don’t have. With time, the young are not afraid of learning and trying new ideas, venturing out on a thousand-mile journey. They are not afraid of making mistakes. If one idea doesn’t work out, they have time to start all over again. That’s OK as long as they learn from their experience and keep moving ahead. The old do not have this luxury.

The sad reality is many young people are not aware of their resources. They have not fully utilized their resources while they are young. Some become a lifer at one place, like Robert Frost’s poem, “being shore to ocean –Holding the curve of one position, Counting an endless repetition.” For some, they don’t even realize they were once rich in their lives.

Yes, young folks are rich in TIME. Keep in mind TIME is something money cannot buy and TIME has an expiration date.

What will you do when you are under-appreciated and under-utilized?

My daughter started the first day of her fall internship at this new place after Labor Day. Of course things go slow on your first day, no matter where you land. No rush yet.

I told her that if, say after two weeks, you sense that they don’t take you seriously, you really need to take some actions.

Take initiative.
Take action.
Propose new ideas.
Nothing good will happen before you do something.
It’s you time, your life, your responsibility.
Nobody cares but you.
It’s nobody’s business!

Work, career and calling…

I wrote down these notes sometime ago on the difference between a job, a career, and a calling. I don’t remember where and when I read it. I just remember I must share this with my children.

What you are doing everyday defines what you are.
The ideal life is this like. Your life blends seamlessly with your work.
Work is not the place where you get your paychecks.
Paychecks should be the last thing that you should think about when you go to work.
It is the place where you spend one third of your day.
It is where you are supposed to generate value for yourself and for he who pays you.
It is the place that defines who you are.
It is where your biography is written.
Have a dream of your own.
Don’t live your life trying to realize other people’s dream.

Gaming the system– a shortsighted approach to education

Many college applicants try to game the system by being over-achievers. They try to impress the admission officers with perfect SAT and AP scores, perfect class ranking, and a wholesome spotless extracurricular activities. In other word, the applicants look more perfect than real, so perfect that there is no believable life in these perfect metrics.

In their effort to beat the system, they behave rather shortsightedly and forget who they are and what they want to achieve in the long run.

I know someone who didn’t have perfect SAT, without even making to the top 10 class ranking, no collection of admirable AP scores, and who was admitted by some of the top universities. On the other hand, I know many with perfect everything still were denied by the school of their choice.

Make no mistakes. I don’t mean to say that grades are not important, that good performance does not count. They do. Decent grades show that you are a responsible student, that you are smart enough to handle tough courses, and that you dare to take challenges.

But one needs much more than that to tide one up to a higher level. People want to see the character, the potential of the applicants, and the whole person, perfect or imperfect.

The applicants should at least dare to be himself. Not afraid of showing their human side, that is, mentioning moments of weakness and how they have grown and got stronger over time.

Parents need to help their children to develop a goal in life, a strong character, a healthy attitude, and an upbeat approach to life. This seems a less straightforward approach to college application than simply gaming the system. Yet, in the long run, it works better in helping your child than any other way. Knowing what he wants to do with his life will benefit the child during and beyond college campus.

Try to learn more skills in one activity

I was asked to teach a group of children how to make origami. I want them to learn more than just origami making skill. I hope they can get the habit of trying to learn more skills from one activity or see the activity as a project that involves problem-solving skill.

Below are the questions that I have prepared for the children before class.

(1) Why do you want to learn origami?
My answer: have fun; gift ideas for classmate’s birthday; Xmas gift for teachers; donation; sell it among your friends so that you will have some money for your parents or friends’ birthday gifts and you don’t have to ask your parents for whatever you want to buy. I hope children will feel motivated if they have a big plan.

(2) What would you do if you forget some part of what we learn in class?
My answer: this requires your problem-solving ability. You can make friends with those who have learned it in class or who show special talent here, ask these friends for help. Remember nobody is good at everything. We are all good at something. You can help others with what you are specially good at. The key is we need to help each other. Asking help is the best compliment to your friends.

(3) It will involve a lot of work and time. What would you do if you need help to get more done and you don’t have enough time?
My answer: this again requires your problem-solving ability and other skills. You can teach your siblings, parents or friends, so that they can help you. You need to realize one person’s ability is very limited. It often takes a team to get something done. The best part of this is you can form a team with you being the boss.

(4) How do you get others’ help?
My answer: you can promise something, depending on what your parents like most. Such as, practice piano for one extra hour, do laundry on weekend, share with them your proceeds, etc. You will need to enhance your ability to convince people to work for you. The key here is to keep your promise.

Based on what we just talk, you can see that potentially you can learn both soft and hard skills, which are a lot more than origami making. How much you can learn from this activity depend totally on you.

College and your future job — Don’t have to be related

For most of science and technology majors, such as biology, chemistry, etc., students often use what they learn in classmate on their first job. Still, with these majors, college graduates don’t have to use what they are taught at college. Like you don’t have to work in a lab with biology or chemistry major.

You might be wondering: what is the use of college education if you don’t use it in your future job? Also, if you don’t use it, you forget it, like you have not learned anything. Well, if you forget, that means you don’t need it. If you need it, you will always be able to pick it up.

Number one, you form lifelong friendship and important connections during those college years.
Number two, you learn different ways of thinking, which should be critical one.
Number three, you learn lot of general theories, which you can apply to your life in general.
Number four, you get a college degree, which is still valued in many places.

Of course, there are a lot more than this. The bottom line is don’t restrict your future self with your college majors. If you do, you are very much trapped down and never rise above.

One thing you need to watch out during your first five years fresh out of college, that is, don’t be a lifer in one place.

Startup, Baby, and Responsibilities

I heard someone referring his startup company as his baby. You have to babysit it or watch it closely at its early stage. Like a mother who is thinking of her baby all the time or whenever she is free, a startup founder thinks of its company all the time, too. This is a good strategy to keep teenagers occupied.

If you want your teenager to steer away from trouble or to do something more meaningful other than wasting time on gaming or social media or if you want your teenager to take advantage of his extra energy and time for something potentially beneficial, engage him in a startup and assign him the full responsibility for its survival.

Kids love responsibilities. They see it as a heavy dose of respect and trust in their ability. In fact, parents can start this as early as the teen is ready for it. It is also great for resume building.

Remove mental blocks, never say I can’t, Think how you do it…

This I always encourage my children. That is, there is something called mental block, which is self-inflicted obstacles, restricting us from trying new realms, stepping out of comfort zone, or opening mouths asking for an opportunity. I want my children to totally liberate themselves mentally when they think what they can do. Remove all forms of mental blocks. Focus on how to do it. The sky is the limit.

Never think that I can’t because I don’t have proper training for doing this or I don’t have experience in this area or I don’t have a degree majoring in this field. It doesn’t matter what your major is or what your background is. Apply for the position or share your enthusiasm, your passion when you think you can do it.

All you need to do is to show your work, if you have or to ask for an opportunity to prove yourself.

On 3/25 post, I mentioned that I applied for the position left vacant by one RN colleague. I applied for that at the beginning of 2014, which I was rejected on the ground of my lack of nursing background. I know I can do it even without nursing background in this healthcare environment. So I applied again. Last Wednesday, on 3/30, the hiring manager came over to inform me that I got this position. At first, it sounded so unreal.

I believe once a person is given the opportunity to prove him or herself, nothing is impossible.

You have to take a risk, get out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve big in life

I read this piece some weeks ago, “8 things I learned from The Martian as a young entrepreneur” I forgot if I have shared them here. The list is not long. I will post it again even if I have already.

1. One thing at a time
2. Keep an eye on all the resources you have and try to manage costs effectively
3. You have to take a risk and get out of your comfort zone, go big or go home
4. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together
5. Others can help you but you are still the one who takes all the responsibility and face the difficulties
6. Whatever you do, be the best at it, know what you do
7. Only work with the best
8. Don’t afraid to try something new, don’t afraid to fail and never give up

Cover letter for a job application

This is what I wrote when I applied for a position today.

“Nine years ago when I applied for my current position, it took the hiring manager a giant leap of faith to give me an opportunity to thrive and contribute. At that time I did not have any experience in research and in the world of healthcare. I have realized this is a huge trust not only in my ability to learn and grow but also in my attitude and work ethic. I have proved to be worthy of this trust. Today, I apply for this position, hoping to be conferred the same trust again.

While I cannot guarantee that I will be error-free in this position, I can guarantee that I will bring the very best of myself to honor this position.”

I know the hiring manager, so I basically tell her that this is a matter of trust. If she doesn’t give me the job, it means one thing to me, that is, she doesn’t trust me, which is the key. In the beginning of 2014, I applied for this position and was turned down by her due to the fact that I didn’t have nursing background. Then later that year she offered another person, without nursing background, the same job that she denied me.

As with everything, man proposes, God disposes. This is all I can do. I will do my share and let fate take care of the rest.

How to be a great employer

I don’t remember when I saved this article and where I read it but I remember that I am going to share it here for people like my son who is the head of his company. It is as well-said as it is rare in reality. I wish I could send this to the management team in my workplace. But I know better than that.

7 Proven Ways to Genuinely Connect With Your Employees
Communicating openly with your employees, recognizing them for good work, and giving them room to grow will vastly improve their engagement and your company’s bottom line, by PETER ECONOMY
What kind of difference would it make for your company to get every one of your employees excited about solving problems, making recommendations, expressing their new ideas, and taking care of your customers?

Every company today needs employees who are enthusiastic and who bring the very best of themselves to work. Companies need this not just from top performers but from every employee, every day, in order just to be competitive and survive, let alone thrive. The single element that distinguishes one company from another more than anything else is its people and the effort they exert.

The secret to unlocking this unlimited source of energy for your company is to build and strengthen the bonds between you and your employees. When you trust and respect your people–and really connect with them–they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm. Give these seven strategies for connecting with your employees a try and see for yourself how your organization will benefit.

1. Put people first.
All employees–no matter what their positions are or how well they perform their jobs–want to be respected and valued for their contributions. Respect comes in many different forms: respecting opinions, respecting time, respecting culture, and more. And respect is a two-way street. Employees also need to respect their employers and their own careers instead of viewing their jobs and salaries only as entitlements.

2. Create a safe haven.
In many organizations, bosses rule their employees through bullying, threats, and intimidation. Unfortunately, over the long term, fear causes employees to contribute less to their organizations and to disconnect both mentally (checking out, clamming up) and physically (absenteeism, resignation). Employees must feel safe when they take the initiative to try something new, whether or not the idea works. It’s your job to provide your people with a safe haven to bring forward their ideas, and to tell the truth–no matter how hard it may be for you to hear.

3. Break down barriers to information.
Information is power, and bosses have traditionally wielded this power by selectively granting information to employees or withholding it from them. Organizations today can no longer afford the practice of selective communication. Employees must be informed–through constant, complete, and unfettered communication by their co-workers, managers, and customers–about what’s going on in the organization and their place within it. Only when they have complete information can they and will they give all they have to their organization.

4. Create golden opportunities for personal growth.
Owners have an inherent interest in ensuring that their organizations get the biggest bang for their buck, that is, that revenue is maximized, expenses are minimized, and customers are consistently delighted with the products and services they receive. The granting of stock and other financial incentives is one way to develop a sense of ownership in employees. But there are many other nonfinancial ways that leaders can instill an owner’s mentality in the workplace, including giving employees real responsibility and authority to make decisions that affect their jobs and their work.

5. Undo the organization.
In the past, rigid, bureaucratic, and rule-bound organizations were the model of consistency, dependable results, and steady if not stellar profits. However, this old model of business is now officially extinct, and a new model of business–a lean model built on speed, flexibility, and the active involvement of frontline employees–has taken hold. When you give your employees the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs, you and your organization will be successful because you’re depending on them to do the right thing on their own instead of depending on policies and procedures that force them to do so.

6. Engage your people.
Although many organizations have spent a lot of time over the past few years developing and installing elaborate employee suggestion systems, few have made them a permanent part of the way they do business. Even fewer actually implement the good suggestions they receive. This is a mistake. Employees are a tremendous potential source of organizational improvement, and you should make it a point to regularly tap this wealth of ideas.

7. Make recognition a way of life.
Despite years of research proving the overwhelmingly positive effect of employee recognition on the bottom line, few bosses take the time to recognize and reward their employees for a job well done–and even fewer employees report that they receive either recognition or rewards at work. The amazing thing about this is that the most effective forms of employee recognition cost little or no money, such as verbal and written thank-you’s for employees who do a good job, and publicly celebrating team and group successes.

It is so easy to get trapped down by your surroundings

I don’t know what happened to me last Friday when I wrote to one of the upper management of going to conferences. I don’t mean that I shouldn’t have written that email. I should. And I should feel good after sending it out. After all, they don’t know and don’t care what you think. It is up to me to make myself understood.

What actually bothers me is I should not feel upset at all. Why did I feel so upset? The fact I feel upset shows that I got myself trapped down by the workplace surroundings. I should always keep myself above and beyond what is going on around me, instead of allowing it to disturb my equilibrium.

Now think how not to get myself trapped down by the going-on like last Friday.

Job Hunting needs tons of courage and Persistence

I keep telling my daughter how she goes about looking for interns and jobs. Meanwhile I try to prepare her for the challenges ahead.

For one thing, not getting the job you have applied means rejection, which can mean many other things. Like they don’t trust you have the ability to hold the position you apply, they don’t believe in you, like they don’t see your value, your potential, like they might even have prejudices, like all sorts of negative thoughts that surge up in your brain, and that’s enough to ruin your day and your mood.

You need to amass a large chunk of energy and will power to repel these negative thoughts. You need to keep in mind that the only person that is being hurt by negative thought is nobody but you. So, regardless what happens, stay upbeat. And that takes great efforts.

You also need to keep in mind that hopelessness means when you give up trying, that there is hope as long as you keep trying. Don’t give up. Don’t despair.

Of course, I cannot tell my daughter that you are only 20 years old, that you still have time, etc. She would not buy that. She knows too well time and tide wait for no one.

Do your best but don’t aim at perfection

I read this from Harvard Medical School newsletter. “Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety.” Below is the article. I shared it with a colleague of mine today.

“No one is “perfect.” Yet many people struggle to be, which can trigger a cascade of anxieties.
Perfectionism may be a strong suit or a stumbling block, depending on how it’s channeled, as clinical psychologist Jeff Szymanski explains. Dr. Szymanski is an associate instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the International OCD Foundation.

“The core of all perfectionism is the intention to do something well,” says Dr. Szymanski. “If you can keep your eye on intention and desired outcome, adjusting your strategy when needed, you’re fine…. But when you can’t tolerate making a mistake, when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that’s when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction.” In its most severe form, perfectionism can leave you unable to complete any task for fear of making a mistake.

To help you prioritize the projects and activities that mean the most to you and keep your personal strategy in line, Dr. Szymanski has shared the following exercise:
What do you find valuable in life? What would you want 50 years of your life to represent? If that seems overwhelming, think about where you want to put your energies for the next five years.

Think about your current goals and projects, and assign them priorities. Use the letters “ABCF” to help you decide where you want to excel (A), be above average (B), or be average (C), and what you can let go of (F). For example:

• A (100% effort): This is reserved for what’s most important to you. For example, if your career is most valuable, your goals might be to impress the boss, make sure clients are happy, put out good products at work.

• B (above average, maybe 80% effort): Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis or want to learn a new language. You enjoy these activities, but have no plans to go pro.

• C (average effort): Perhaps having a clean home is important, too. But how often does your home need to be cleaned? People aren’t coming to see it every day. Could you just clean up on the weekends? Or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic?
• F (no effort): Time-consumers that don’t advance your values or bring you pleasure — for example, lining up all your hangers or folding all your clothes in a specific way. Do you have any tasks that, upon reflection, don’t really matter — you’ve just done them one way for so long that you’re on autopilot? These deserve to be pruned.”

“Where do you see yourself five years down the road?”

A young colleague of mine, one year younger than my son, came in for a short while today. She was in a hurry, saying too much work and too much stress. She is a smart one and has a high aspiration. I once told her to look out for her own dream and her own agenda. I shared my son’s word with her — “Life’s too short to live other people’s dream.” It’s been over a year since that conversation.

She started working here at the end of March 2014. It’s been nearly a year and a half. I wish she could start something seriously instead of toiling on here. Really this is the place where people like me are hanging on and waiting for retirement. Today I wrote on a thick piece of paper — “Where do you see yourself five years down the road?” and gave it to her, telling her to keep it as a reminder. She said I always gave her good advice. She will keep it with her all the time as a reminder.

This reminds me of my advice to another colleague of mine back in 2007 when both of us just started at research. She was in her early 30s then, now pushing towards 40 with two young children.

At that time, I asked her if she wanted to be like the then CRC in our team by the time she was their age. She said no, with an emphasis. Now after 8 years, nothing has changed. It is harder to initiate changes now than if she did it, say 5 years ago, even though she still can. Time and tide wait for no man.

10 ways to ruin your career

I read this from CareerBuilder. It was written by Kate Lorenz. Here are the ten ways that you could damage or even endanger your career.

(1) Poor people skills
(2) Not a good team player
(3) Missing deadlines constantly
(4) Conducting personal business on company time
(5) Isolating yourself at office
(6) Starting an office romance
(7) Fearing risk or failure
(8) Having no goals no plan
(9) Neglecting your professional image/reputation
(10) Being indiscreet. Remember office is not your private domain.

Your office is a platform for something bigger than a paycheck

I went for my first interview of the year on 1/6/2015, Compliance and Monitoring Specialist position. No news so far, which means a gone case. I should not feel too bad about this lost one, even though being rejected is always a bad moment to endure. Yes, I don’t like the idea of being rejected. I like rejecting others, not been rejected by others.

After all, taking this job means (1) driving around the town to all the five clinics — Lee’s Summit in the east, airport up north, and of course far west clinic, and much more. It is almost dreadful when I think of all the driving, the stress, the risk associated with it. I always find it hard to focus on driving for a long time. (2) it will keep me super busy, leaving zero free second for what I enjoy doing, like what I am doing now, thinking and writing. (3) I have to glue my eyes to the computer all the time verifying data like monitoring job, which means havoc and long term damage to my aged vision. I used to take pity on those monitors for their boring and eye-ruining work.

I almost hate this job even before taking it. The most thing I like about this job is its title. Well, vanity plays a role, I should say.

For now, I want to remind myself of this: your work or the office provided by your employer is at best the platform for something bigger than a mere paycheck, something of your personal agenda. You define what your personal agenda is. You must have something of your own all the time. You can never build your happiness on the unreliable whim/mood/like/dislike of others. This is also the message that I want to share with my children.

You are your own savior. Remember the song The International?
“No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver”

Man proposes, God disposes. Don’t wait. Take initiative

Last Friday, 10/24/2014, a position was announced at our monthly meeting. I was excited over the news. I wrote to someone saying that I would like to write to the hiring manager to express my interest, even though the job has not been posted. I was advised not to appear too eager and that I should wait till it was posted online. So I didn’t do anything until this morning when I decided to go ahead and do something. I don’t think appearing eager can have any impact on the hiring. This is what I wrote to the hiring manager.

Hi …,
I have been thinking of writing to you since last Friday’s CTO meeting that announced the opening of a protocol writer position. I am greatly interested in this position and would like to know more about the responsibilities and challenges involved.
Thank you,

If nothing ever comes out of it, well, my bad luck and I am not going to lose sleep on this bet. Life just moves on and so am I.

Man proposes, God disposes. I have to take initiative to make things happen. Nobody can help but myself. It is already the end of October. Hopefully, there are some changes before year ends. Only two months left for this year!

I recorded this piece for my children. Don’t wait. Take initiative.

Whatever your goals are in college, do something to make it happen

Reading Time magazine, 9/22/2014 issue, “10 Questions, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.”

Q: If you are stuck picking up dry cleaning, what’s the best way to ask your boss to take you more seriously?
A: Say, “I love this company. I love this job. I am willing to do anything, because I am that kind of person. I do want to make sure I am progressing and taking on things that are going to challenge me more. Can you walk me through the things I need to demonstrate so I can earn more responsibility?”

Q: Why do you think women are so afraid of making mistakes?
A: When men make mistakes, they don’t internalize it as their fault, so it doesn’t hurt them as much. Because gender makes us overestimate male performance and underestimate female performance, we have more tolerance for men’s mistakes.

Q: How should college women balance exploring different interests with focusing on career goals?
A: It can be either, but you have to be explicit. Maybe you want to use college to …. But don’t let life happen– make it happen.

In other word, no matter what your goals are, do something to make it happen.

College “should be preparation for a thoughtful, well-examined life”

I read this article not long ago, “Ivy League miseducation,” by By Anthony Zurcher. Here’s part of it.

“In a lengthy article in the latest issue of the New Republic, former Yale associate professor (and Columbia graduate) William Deresiewicz says that the prestigious private colleges dotting the US, particularly in the Northeast, are creating a class of entitled ‘zombies’.

The author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to Meaningful Life, writes:

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.’

‘The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them.’ William Deresiewicz The New Republic.

Ivy League colleges and their ilk, says Deresiewicz, have created an education-industrial complex that processes the children of privilege from cradle to diploma and beyond.

‘The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them,’ he writes. ‘The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk.’

College shouldn’t be this way, Deresiewicz writes. Instead of four years of career training, it should be preparation for a thoughtful, well-examined life.”

It is a very good article, much worth reading and thinking…

Labor surplus in the US, good or bad news for the coming generation?

I read this article on 7/2/14, “U.S. Will Have Something Other Countries Want: A Big Labor Surplus.” This is from the article.

“Over the next 15 years, the U.S. will have a problem that plenty of other countries would love to have: too many workers for the jobs available. That’s according to a report released today by the Boston Consulting Group.

Idle labor isn’t a good thing, especially for the unemployed workers. But you could argue that it beats the alternative, which is having so few workers that jobs go unfilled and economic output falls short of potential. That’s the problem that most other major nations, from Germany to Brazil to South Korea, will face between now and 2030, according to the BCG report.

A relatively high birthrate and liberal immigration policy give the U.S. an advantage in labor supply.”

It seems like a bad thing when you have many people competing for a limited number of jobs in the market. Still, I would say there is always market for really skilled people, people with needed expertise.

Yes, the key to the problem is to be above the average. When you rise above the average, you will face less competition and more opportunities. Go ahead and meet the challenge!

Re-read the article “Build a career worth having”

This article was posted on 8/5/2013, by Nathaniel Koloc, on Harvard Business Review blog site. When I recently talked about this article with another adult in the house, I said we actually belonged to the great majority of people who, as the article describes, “wait until they are unhappy, look around for opportunities that seem better than their current job, apply for a few, cross their fingers, and take the best option that they can get. Then, they toil away until they are unhappy again, and the cycle repeats.”

The author offers this as the solution to “this dismal cycle.” — “Let go of the idea that careers are linear. These days, they are much more like a field of stepping stones that extends in all directions. Each stone is a job or project that is available to you, and you can move in any direction that you like. The trick is simply to move to stones that take you closer and closer to what is meaningful to you. There is no single path — but rather, an infinite number of options that will lead to the sweet spot of fulfillment.”

Here are his advice:
1. See your career as a series of stepping stones, not a linear trajectory.
2. Seek legacy, mastery, and freedom — in that order.
Legacy. A higher purpose, a mission, a cause. This means knowing that in some way — large or small — the world will be a better place after you’ve done your work.
Mastery. This refers to the art of getting better and better at skills and talents that you enjoy using, to the extent that they become intertwined with your identity. Picture a Jedi, or a Samurai, or a master blacksmith.
Freedom. The ability to choose who you work with, what projects you work on, where and when you work each day, and getting paid enough to responsibly support the lifestyle that you want.

3. Treat your career like a grand experiment.
“The faster and cheaper that you’re able to validate your career hypotheses, the sooner you’ll find fulfillment. You don’t have to take a job in a new industry to realize it’s not for you. You can learn a ton about potential lines of work from reading online, having conversations, taking on side projects, and volunteering.”

Envision yourself five years down the road

I once shared with my children this, one year or five years or 10 years will come and go, regardless what you do or what you not do. If you don’t take initiative and do something, you will find yourself in the same spot, no change, say five years down the way.

I encourage them to imagine where they are five years down the road. If you want to see a career leap, take these actions.
1. Have short-term and long-term goals
2. Have a clear road map to reach your goals
3. Have an open mind to new things and opportunities. Let nothing go by without your close scrutiny
4. Keep constant self-pep talk as morale booster and also as a reminder not to forget your goal. Nothing can come true without your believing it. Be your own cheerleader if nobody’s around
5. Learn from your failures. Move on regardless of all the setbacks.

These unpleasant tips on getting the job you want

This is from Money magazine, June 2014 issue, “Get the Line on Unlisted Jobs.” It gives some tips for job hunters. Without these tips, “the job seeker who waits to be tapped on the shoulder might be waiting awhile.” I truly hope my children won’t feel the need to use any of them, that is, they have skills strong enough to get whatever job they desire without having to even think of them.

(1) Talk to the top recruiters. Higher-up HR reps tend to be gate-keepers for higher-level positions, so identify recruiters with sway at the businesses you admire. Write to them or send your resume… “They may not look at it, but they’ll remember your name…” I wish my children have better ways to make themselves known to others.

(2) Make a friend on the inside. Since upper-level jobs are often revealed only internally, it can pay to establish relationships with peers at companies on your wish list. Use LinkedIn to find a second-degree connection then request an introduction from your mutual pal. The trick is how not to make people feel like they are being used.

(3) Impress the C-suite crowd. For you to be identified as a candidate, the companies need to see that you are a known commodity.” “To capture the attention of those with hire power, you must steal the spotlight. This sounds uncomfortable to me.

(4) Get the boss’s buy-in. Not me.

How I dislike these tips, even though deep inside me I know they are useful. In fact, the dreadful fact that one is put in the situation in which one has to resort to these tips.

Do we need to be told again that dream needs actions?

This message is as old as I can remember. That is, dreams need actions, plenty of them, for them to materialize. Dream without actions remain forever a dream.

I can’t believe we still need to be told of this ancient message today and even get celebrity like Shonda Rhimes, on the list of TIME magazine’s 100 people who help shape the world, to repeat it at Dartmouth’s graduation speech.

I don’t feel comfortable reading these words of hers — “Dreams Are for Losers…” I am wondering what Martin Luther King, Jr. would think with his “I have a dream” speech. And don’t forget my favorite piece by Langston Hughes,

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

For me, I still hold my dreams and work steadily toward whatever I fancy to hold.

Revisit New Year Resolution as we approach mid June

As I turned the pages of 2014 calendar, it dawned on me that the mid month and also mid year is approaching quickly, faster than I’d prepare. At this point, I thought of my New Year Resolution and realized that I have somehow moved away from my resolution, not totally though.

At the beginning of the year, I was very determined to move on in my life to another post, to leave the work place that I have been with since 2005. It is rather dreadful to see myself in the same position for a decade. In fact, I still don’t like my work place, more so now than before. But after a few attempts of job hunting and a few interviews, I became disheartened, because the process has been exhaustive and completely fruitless and time-wasting.

I don’t want to keep looking any more. This does not mean I will stop making efforts. Nor does it mean I will give up my personal agenda, totally dedicating myself to my work. That will never happen.

I am glad I revisit my New Year Resolution now as I need to revise it in order to channel my energy and time toward some new goals for the rest of this year.

Help your youngsters cultivate these great habits

I read this piece during the weekend of 6/7/14. I like it so much that I shared it with some of my friends today when I went back to the office.

I told them “I just shared this article with my daughter. I told her ‘You are not twenty-somethings yet, but they are good habits to start having.’ Not sure if she will read it. Still. There is only this much that parents can do with their children. We’ll just do as much as we can while they listen.”

The article “Effective habits to cultivate as enterprising twenty-somethings” lists the following good habits. Below is pretty much a copy of the article.

(1) Read every day
(2) Experiment & launch every week
Get something out the door once every few days. Build and launch, do it quickly while using some intuition to guide you.

(3) Explore your areas of talent
Are the businesses you involve yourself in within your range of passions and talents or are you beating away at something you won’t be able to continue with when things get hard. Working within your element is important not only because you know more about what you’re working on but also because you will feel excited every day to get to work.

(4) Keep your house in order
Stop putting off the small things. Every hour of the day shouldn’t be devoted to business and working. Spend time to clean up the house, keep track of your finances, your relationships and all of those other things you’re building a business for in the first place. If you don’t take care of the little things, they pile up and come back to haunt you, and potentially kill you.

(5) Work out
Exercise, and the lack of, has a huge effect on your health, ability to think clearly and how happy you feel overall. Not to mention, it will improve many other areas of your life… In short, working out will give you the state of mind to stay balanced and clear about what you’re doing.

(6) Save every cent you can
Some day you’ll want to quit your job and work full time on your business. When that happens there is no guarantee you’ll be making mad cash or totally financially stable. Save every cent you can. Set up a few accounts, investments and start throwing money in there every week. This changes your overall outlook on how much you actually need your job and if you can take the risk of pursuing your business full time.

(7) Find more reasons for what you’re doing
Money is a great motivator. But what will that matter if you’re too old or busy to ever enjoy it and explore your life while you’re still fairly young.

My motivator is money as well. However, maybe even more is wanting to travel, be free from a job and enjoy more things while my wife and I are young. Nice cars and big houses don’t need to even be a part of the picture. More than anything, I’m looking for freedom to do what I love while making money and creating value for other people.

(8) Be a strategy builder and problem solver
Just launching random crap without thinking will cause you to run into the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe without learning anything.

The world pays problem solvers everything. Everything we pay into is to solve a need, problem or urge. Problem solvers make life easier and, if they’re smart, get paid for it.

(9) Don’t waste your youth
Maybe another motivator to work hard, get things done right and set yourself up is that twenty years makes a big difference. More importantly, what you do with that time.

My parents are going to retire with almost nothing. A small pension and an outstanding mortgage. How different would things be if they would have saved a little more money for those forty years, gotten better careers and knew what they actually wanted?

Doing these things now saves you a lot of pain later. So many twenty-somethings waste the most critical decade of their lives doing absolutely nothing that they’ll care about five years, months or even weeks from now.

Be smart and work hard.

Do something everyday and make it a habit

I read this article “Write Code Every Day” by John Resig before my daughter came back. I was going to share with her after she came back. This is once again written by someone who, apart from his day job, has side project or hobby or something he dreams of pursuing but it is not without a heavy dose of will power to make it happen.

“Last fall, work on my coding side projects came to a head: I wasn’t making adequate progress and I couldn’t find a way to get more done without sacrificing my ability to do effective work at Khan Academy. There were a few major problems with how I was working on my side projects. I was primarily working on them during the weekends and sometimes in the evenings during the week. This is a strategy that does not work well for me, as it turns out. I was burdened with an incredible amount of stress to try and complete as much high quality work as possible during the weekend (and if I was unable to it felt like a failure). This was a problem as there’s no guarantee that every weekend will be free – nor that I’ll want to program all day for two days (removing any chance of relaxation or doing anything fun).

There’s also the issue that a week between working on some code is a long time, it’s very easy to forget what you were working on or what you left off on (even if you keep notes). Not to mention if you miss a weekend you end up with a two week gap as a result. That massive multi-week context switch can be deadly (I’ve had many side projects die due to attention starvation like that).

Inspired by the incredible work that Jennifer Dewalt completed last year, in which she taught herself programming by building 180 web sites in 180 days, I felt compelled to try a similar tactic: working on my side projects every single day.”

Illustration by Steven ResigI decided to set a couple rules for myself:
I must write code every day. I can write docs, or blog posts, or other things but it must be in addition to the code that I write.

It must be useful code. No tweaking indentation, no code re-formatting, and if at all possible no refactoring. (All these things are permitted, but not as the exclusive work of the day.)
All code must be written before midnight.
The code must be Open Source and up on Github.

Some of these rules were arbitrary. The code doesn’t technically need to be written before midnight of the day of but I wanted to avoid staying up too late writing sloppy code. Neither does the code have to be Open Source or up on Github. This just forced me to be more mindful of the code that I was writing (thinking about reusability and deciding to create modules earlier in the process).

Thus far I’ve been very successful, I’m nearing 20 weeks of consecutive work. I wanted to write about it as it’s completely changed how I code and has had a substantial impact upon my life and psyche.
With this in mind a number of interesting things happened as a result of this change in habit:
Minimum viable code. I was forced to write code for no less than 30 minutes a day. (It’s really hard to write meaningful code in less time, especially after remembering where you left off the day before.) Some week days I work a little bit more (usually no more than an hour) and on weekends I’m sometimes able to work a full day.”

We all need to get started everyday

Getting Started Is Everything” by Adam Pash, someone who has a day job and a plan to work on his hobby after work but seldom puts his plan to action.

“Nothing’s better than sinking your teeth into a satisfying after-hours side project—or what I guess most people may just call a hobby. But after 10 hours at work, it’s not always easy to muster the energy to switch off your TV and go to work on your project. The trick I use is simple, self-evident, and it works. Getting started is everything.”

Sound familiar? Yes, like you and me, he takes forever to even get started, finds all kinds of excuses to postpone starting the project he has in mind. Thus, with each passing days, so passed whatever dream that we may initially have, till having no time and energy left for anything but cooking, cleaning and resting. Well, not he, but many people. That’s why I share his article here.

Key factors that help you land a job

During the last holiday season when I was chatting with the young folks at my home, I was further convinced of the factors that are crucial in career development, that is, your skills, network and experience.

To certain extent, having a marketable skill, a wide network and related work experience help you far effectively than a degree from a top ranking college.

Yesterday my daughter and I talked about this and the value of a college education. It is true that these key factors work better for you than a college degree, considering the exorbitant cost of college education now. In the long run, however, I told my daughter, it is better to have a college degree, expensive as it is.

On the other hand, if you go to college just for an education without building your network and gaining certain work experience, you are pretty much limited in your career development.

Keep in mind learning is a lifetime endeavor. You can always learn in or out of school. But network helps you build a wide career base. I hope young people today can understand this key point.

There is no shortcut to success…

What I read recently once again confirms what we all know about success, that is success always entails hard work — “The Big Secret to A Successful Career

“there’s one trait that always comes through among the highly successful: Hard work.” “In fact, I’d agree with the statement above: ‘Hard Work Beats Talent.'”

“six simple things that help in your quest to be a success.
#1. Get up early.
#2. Focus on what matters. Each day.
#3. Pay attention to detail.
#4. Do more listening, less talking.
#5. Develop yourself. Learn to use the tools around you.
#6. Practice mental toughness.

Final thought. Have fun. Then hard work is easy!”

Don’t be a permanent fixture in your company

I read this article by Alex Kecskes on 12/13.

“If you’ve been working at a job for several years and seem to be going nowhere—no promotion, no challenging tasks, feeling like a drone—it’s time to re-evaluate your situation and get out of your rut. Being stuck in job limbo can happen to even the best employees. And the sooner you take steps to move beyond this career roadblock the better.”

Being trapped and stuck in a dead end job. This is exactly how I feel now. He offers some suggestions.

(1) Don’t stop at job descriptions
Many workers fall into the job description rut. They get so used to performing the perfunctory tasks outlined in their job description that they never “go for gold.” …

(2) Don’t stop “connecting”
This one can be particularly tough for introverts. If you are one, break out of your shell and talk to more people—people outside your “drone zone.”

(3) Don’t stop being creative
Offering creative solutions to problems at work can be a real career booster. …Focus your creativity on solutions that improve productivity using existing resources. To improve your creativity, check out Start Being More Creative at Work.

The pay difference between a food prep and a software developer

I share this article with my children a few weeks ago. “New study reveals fastest-growing occupations through 2017” by By Susan Ricker. I want them to notice the pay difference between the highest and the lowest among the list:
The lowest is food prep and serving — $8.75,
The highest is software developers — $47.64

While the field that will see the highest growth is personal care and home health aides, but sadly to say, their pay is so indecent.

The following list, adapted from the report, spotlights the fastest-growing occupations that are projected to see at least 8 percent growth and 30,000 jobs added from 2013 through 2017.

1. Personal care and home health aides
Projected growth: 21 percent
New jobs: 473,965
Median hourly earnings: $9.77

2. Market research analysts and marketing specialists
Projected growth: 14 percent
New jobs: 60,889
Median hourly earnings: $29.10

3. Medical secretaries
Projected growth: 14 percent
New jobs: 76,386
Median hourly earnings: $15.17

4. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics
Projected growth: 13 percent
New jobs: 30,234
Median hourly earnings: $15.28

5. Software developers (systems and applications)
Projected growth: 11 percent
New jobs: 110,049
Median hourly earnings: $47.64 (This must be entry level pay for)

6. Medical assistants
Projected growth: 10 percent
New jobs: 60,109
Median hourly earnings: $14.35

7. Registered nurses
Growth: 9 percent
New jobs: 256,703
Median hourly earnings: $32.04

8. Network and computer systems administrators
Growth: 9 percent
New jobs: 34,825
Median hourly earnings: $35.14

9. Pharmacy technicians
Growth: 9 percent
New jobs: 31,975
Median hourly earnings: $14.29

10. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
Growth: 9 percent
New jobs: 111,444
Median hourly earnings: $11.07

11. Social and human service assistants
Growth: 9 percent
New jobs: 34,411
Median hourly earnings: $14.02

12. Computer systems analysts
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 40,462
Median hourly earnings: $37.98

13. Management analysts
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 60,157
Median hourly earnings: $35.80

14. Cooks, restaurant
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 79,364
Median hourly earnings: $10.63

15. Insurance sales agents
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 52,565
Median hourly earnings: $23.20

16. Nursing assistants
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 117,400
Median hourly earnings: $12.01

17. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 63,320
Median hourly earnings: $20.33

18. Combined food prep and serving, incl. fast food
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 237,192
Median hourly earnings: $8.75

19. Receptionists and information clerks
Growth: 8 percent
New jobs: 85,035
Median hourly earnings: $12.64

Add to your wealth not just money

I used to tell this to my son. Pretty soon, I will have to constantly pound this idea on my daughter when she lands on her first job.

Always keep in mind this — increase your wealth not just your money. Wealth is more valuable than money.

Money does not always equal to wealth. Money comes and go monthly, a rather transient object. Without wealth, you constantly have to sell your time, your life and skill for money in order to have food and shelter.

Wealth include your skills, your connections, your social status, and many intangible and tangible assets that you can amass.

Without money, a CEO of a big company or president Clinton or his wife, even after white house stay, can still generate tons of money to buy a mansion of their dream.

The former manager of our research department left us in 2011. In less than three years, she changed job four times. She has this luxury and the freedom of hopping from one position to another because of her wealth — network. I wish I could have one of the jobs that she left behind, of course I am over-qualified for that but still cannot get it!

When we go to work everyday, most of us think we go to make money, on the surface at least. That’s it. But this is not what the higher level people think everyday. They think of increasing their wealth, making connection, achieving larger goals for their record, and how to make small potatoes like us serve their needs and help them toward achieving their goals.

It is such a shame that we spend our lives helping others realize their dreams, like an IOWA — an idiot out wandering aimlessly. Don’t just being instrumental to people above you. Don’t just be a small dispensable cog in the larger machine.

Make it your high priority everyday to increase your wealth, your intangible value, skills and connections, in whatever way you can think of, and get ready to fly higher. Seek opportunities to grow everyday and let go of nothing that you encounter in your daily life.

Watch what you post on the internet. Never know when it will come back

Sometimes it will hurt you when it comes back. This happened to a high school senior.

“Perhaps she hadn’t realized that colleges keep track of their social media mentions.

“It was incredibly unusual and foolish of her to do that,” Scott A. Meiklejohn, Bowdoin’s dean of admissions and financial aid, told me last week. The college ultimately denied the student admission, he said, because her academic record wasn’t competitive. But had her credentials been better, those indiscreet posts could have scuttled her chances.

“We would have wondered about the judgment of someone who spends their time on their mobile phone and makes such awful remarks,” Mr. Meiklejohn said.

People do make judgement based on what they read about you and your footprint on the internet. So, be careful what you utter or twitter on the supposedly free cyber space. You never know when it will come back and hurt you somewhere some day.


Whether or not you should pursue a master’s degree

During last weekend, I bumped into an article that discusses the good and bad of various master degrees. This reminds me of the question that many of my friends asked, “Is your son going to graduate school?” I believe you have to have some good reasons to invest another two years and plenty of money for that gain. I am glad to read this part below.

“Bardaro says there are three good reasons to obtain a master’s degree (not including those required for a given career path).

One is the desire to increase your knowledge in a given field, which includes obtaining new skills not taught in many undergraduate educations;

the second is to make valuable alumni connections that can prove useful in today’s tough job market;

and third, to set yourself apart from those with only a bachelor’s degree.

‘However, more education can sometimes hinder you more than help you with certain job openings. In lean economic times, some companies may prefer the less educated cheaper employee than the more educated more expensive one.'”

Successful startup habits

I read this one during this past summer when my daughter was home and I tried to spend some quality time with her while she was home. It was written by Shane Snow, Chief Creative Officer of his company.

1) Systematizing Repeat Tasks –Entrepreneurship, by definition, is the art of creating systems that generate more value for less effort. Startups realize that the opportunity cost of doing mundane tasks adds up quickly, preventing them from doing the high-impact work they have set out to do.

2) Great Storytelling –Those who tell the stories rule the world.”

3) Carving Out “Heads Down” Time — Interruptions eat up a huge amount of the average person’s work time. Great startups have the habit of finding ways to protect their people from needless distractions. And smart managers block off swaths of their calendars for “productivity time.”

4) Split Testing And Iterating — A hallmark of the Lean Startup movement, entrepreneurs are wont to constantly pit two or more approaches against one another and let data inform their decisions. What should the home page call-to-action say? Split test two different sentences and see which gets more clicks. How do I get more people to respond to my emails? Test different subject lines, lengths, and endings like “Thanks for your help in advance” versus “Warm regards.” What kind of outfit makes me look more professional? Try two different styles and keep track of the compliments.

5) Looking For 80/20s — There’s a strange phenomenon in work that almost always holds true: if you examine your life, you’ll often see that only 20% of the things you do account for 80% of the results you get. Being productive and being busy are two different things. If you want to quadruple your productivity, focus on the 20% first, and if you can, cut the other 80% that just makes you busy.

6) Rather Than Planning, Doing — Too many of us have meetings about meetings, and end meetings with lists of follow-up conversations to be had later. But startups, for which every second counts, have a habit of taking on-the-spot action. Instead of promising to email an introduction for you, a startup founder will pull out her phone and write the email while you sit there. Then the issue doesn’t have to take up future brain- or calendar-space.

7) Ditching Meetings… But Taking Every Networking Meeting —Most meetings are worthless. They usually have too many people, who feel obligated to talk because they are there, and they’re almost always too long.

8) Asking “Why” Like A Five-Year-Old –Entrepreneurs aren’t satisfied with the status quo. They ask “why” over and over again until they get to the bottom of things, rather than ascribing superficial blame on people, or worst of all, accepting the explanation, “That’s just the way it is.”

9) Seeing Every “It Can’t Be Done” As An Opportunity–This is the mindset from which innovation springs. To an entrepreneur, convention means average, and impossible means profit potential. People who see the opportunities in the can’ts in their work—and seize them—create positive change, get promoted, and work happier.

“We are all in sales” business

I read this article from Psychology Today “Strategic Thinking How to Get Your Way? New research dispels three common myths that prevent us from moving others,” 3/7/2013 by Nick Tasler.

The author tries to expose “three common misconceptions” about sales. Whether you know it or not, you will sell something today. “We are all in sales,” insists Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human.

Myth#1: saying more sells more. The “fast-talkers and light-listeners were hardly better at sales than extremely introverted wallflowers. The top performers were actually ‘ambiverts’—those people who are smack dab in the middle of the introversion/extroversion bell curve. ‘Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening,” Grant explains, ambiverts come across as “more conversational and authentic.’ They express appropriate levels of excitement without being in-your-face pushy or in-your-space creepy.”

Myth#2 empathy is the secret weapon. “This is a dangerous half-truth. It sounds good, but empathy by itself is not strategic enough to be effective. You must show some heart, but you can’t lose your head.”

Myth#3: optimism beats realism

A good writing skill is far from enough if you want to make a living

While I have been talking about the difficulties of writing over reading, this might not be entirely true. As I read more, I got the impression that writing comes really easy to some people. They can write naturally and of course with ease.

I have found many young people pouring out quality articles instantly, contrairement à moi. They are like the author mentioned in yesterday’s posting, well-educated in humanities yet living in poverty.

This makes me think about writing and college major. What’s the use of a good writing if you cannot make a living with that skill? I would say a good writing skill is just an instrument or even a healthy hobby. You really need something more, that is, some more useful skills or tools in order to make a living.

Nothing is guaranteed to you when you go to a college

On 2/14/2013, Valentine’s Day, I read this sad story about a college graduate applying for food stampts. “Young, Privileged, and Applying for Food Stamps,” by Karina Briski, 5/29/2012

She has a Bachelor degree in Sociology, which, according to her, “has fed many early curiosities, giving me the adequate chops for things like fighting cultural myopism, defending Marxism, and buying my professors’ books.” All these fun stuffs but nothing practical or nothing that could bring in paychecks.

After graduation, she spent over three years chasing entry-level work with nonprofits. She saw no success after some more years, though she has “gotten really good at scraping the gunk off of ketchup bottles.” Having failed on nearly all fronts, she turned to government handouts.

Her failure to make a decent living after a college education comes from the myth that many have held, that is, “the educated middle class as automatic recipients of middle class incomes” and “the assumption that college is some great equalizer (was it ever?).”

I hope college students keep this in mind, that is, nothing is guaranteed when you go to a college or when you graduate from a college. Your major, your hard work, your network, your connections, and your accomplishments during these four college years all play key parts in the outcome and in the life beyond college.

What do you want to do with your life

During Thanksgiving break, a friend of mine asked me about high school. “What should the kids do in high school?” To be sure, this is not the first time that this question was brought up to me. The answer is simple. Ask the kid “What do you want to do with your life?”

Why do I ask this question? Because high school is one of the transitional years during which a child tries to find out where her passion lies and what she wants to pursue in college. If a child cannot answer these questions, she’d better start thinking about them now

“What do you want to do with your life?” Nobody ever told you not to think or postpone thinking about this question during your high school years. In fact, if you don’t have any idea about how you want to live your life, chances are you are more likely to drift away beyond high school.

Personality makes a huge difference

On Thanksgiving evening, we went to a friend’s house for a small gathering, where I talked to two interesting young Chinese girls.

The first one came to the States at age 12. She merged into American culture and has made an excellent adaptation — graduated from a KU master program, has an American boyfriend and got a job three years ago.

The second one came to the States at age 16. After over 5 years here, she told me she planned to go back to China after college graduation because she was not used to life here. When asked if she had already found a job in China, she said no. She insisted she was too old when she came to the US and would never be able to assimilate into American culture.

On the surface, it may seem the age makes the difference, the younger you are, the easy it is to adapt to the new environment. As a matter of fact, age is not the decisive factor.

What really makes the difference here is their personality. While the first one has an outgoing personality, the second one is just the opposite. She is introvert to the point of not talking to anyone at all when we first saw her. During the party, she spent most of the time either watching TV or on her laptop.

Life might be easier and happier for an introvert person if she stays within her familiar zone without having to venture out. Then again, are we missing something out in life if we never step out of our comfort zone?

A good habit makes a big difference in a decade

The day before Thanksgiving a friend of mine emailed me this writing. I thought it rather thought provoking and a bit shocking. I shared the story with both of my children and my sister’s son in Houston. Of course, I have to tell the story to my children as their Chinese is not up to the task.

The article tells the transformation and life experience of three persons. In the beginning, the three of them are not that far apart. In a matter of a decade, the gap among them has glaringly widened. The article is rather long. I like the above part.

Some students think school grades are not that important. But they fail to realize that seeking excellence in whatever they do is a habit. Being lazy, making least efforts, coasting away each day is also a habit. The effect of this habit compounds daily.

It is like two persons starting at the same point and heading two opposite directions. Time will wide the distance. And eventually the day will come when you see this distance and realize it is this daily habit that creates the vast distance among people. Of course, when people look back, they will be amazed to realize that they were so close at the beginning. The tragic part is they cannot turn back clock and relive the lost youth.

The last thing one would do is to waste time

On 10/27/2012, we went to Kansas City Art Institute for the National Portfolio Day. On the way back, my daughter said she was not going to major in art or to be an artist.

At that time, I didn’t know exactly what caused her to change her mind. Later when I asked her what she wanted to pursue now. She has not decided yet, which is perfectly normal.

I have repeatedly told my daughter — “You might not know what you want to pursue now, but I want you to keep in mind one thing, no matter what you decide or not decide, you must not waste time, sitting around idly, without actively seeking and enriching yourself, waiting for the day when you find your passion.”

“All you have in life is time. You know time is the only thing that once it is gone, it will never come back. Always try to get most out of the time you put in.”

A general not fallen on the battleground but before a beauty

On 11/9, just three days after President Obama’s re-election, we learned the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus over an extra-marital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

These Chinese words came to my mind as I watched the news on TV. Of course, Bill Clinton’s affair surfaced in my head, too. He was full of remorse and penitence when he announced his decision to step down. I feel sad that a general ended his highly luminary career in such a disgrace.

Here’s the highlights in his career.
Graduated from West Point in 1974
Commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Feb 2007 to Sept 2008
Commander of International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, July 2010 to July 2011
CIA director in Sept 2011 to 11/9/2012

I cannot understand how a hero or a President falls before a beauty instead of his enemy. Here’s another lesson for people to learn and to remember.

Character and personality assessment, part IV

Continued from yesterday’s assessment. They reveal so much of a person if he can answer truthfully. Don’t you find it interesting!

31. If somebody is really disagreeing with me in a discussion: (1) that is okay, because people will not respect you if you readily give in (2) in between  (3) I will sometimes give in just to avoid the unpleasantness that goes with confrontation

32. When something is very important and others don’t understand the significance of it, I: (1) get a little irritated  (2) in between (3) am not bothered

33. In discussions with friends about controversial issues, I try to: (1) keep the discussions calm and orderly (2) in between (3) let people know for certain where I stand

34. For the most part I am not happy with my level of performance at anything I do and am striving to perfect myself in all areas.  Agree/In between/Disagree

35. When someone asks me a direct question on an uncomfortable subject: (1) I tend to be vague and indirect (2) uncertain (3) I give a direct answer

36. I tend to lose my temper from time to time but I get over it easily. (1) I don’t flare up  (2) in between (3) agree

37. In regard to arguments: (1) there is nothing better than a good, forceful discussion (2) in between (3) I don’t like them and even when not involved I may try to change the subject

38. When people try to make me do something I disagree with, I:  (1) tend to get a little upset  (2) in between  (3) know that everyone has to do some things they disagree with and it does not bother me

39. It is better to stay out of battles you know you can’t win than to pitch in and lose even for a good cause.  A/I/D

40. If a task I am working on becomes especially difficult or time-consuming, I tend to become frustrated after a while. A/I/D

41. If I am in a theater or movie and some people sitting near me are talking and spoiling my enjoyment, I would typically: (1) get up and move to another place (2) say nothing but glare at them (3) tell them to be quiet

42. Some people talk and think so slowly that I find myself suggesting words for them or finishing their sentences. A/I/D

43. The idea of going into a cave, like Carlsbad Caverns or Mammoth Cave, I find: (1) nothing to worry about (2) uncertain (3) makes me a little uneasy

44. It is true to say of me: (1) the ability to take occasional diversions and breaks is important in order to plunge back into work with renewed vigor (2) in between (3)  the ability to say no to myself is an important part of any long-term success

45. When I get a bill in the mail that I know has been paid, I: (1) call or write and set it straight (2) uncertain (3) let it go, knowing that they will catch their error


Character and personality assessment, part III

Continued from yesterday’s assessment.

21. In regard to showing my affection to my family and relatives, I: (1) enjoy hugging and am demonstrative  (2) in between (3) am quite reserved

22. If given the chance to compete in a contest against my close friends, I would: (1)  relish the opportunity (2) uncertain (3) prefer to enjoy the company of my friends in a more relaxed atmosphere

23. On occasion, I need to unleash built-up energy. Agree/In between/Disagree

24. One of the problems of our time is that people do not pay enough attention to the tried and established rules and values of our society. A/I/D

25. I prefer to have a few intimate friends to many friends whom I could get to know less well.  A/I/D

26. When those close to me forget anniversaries, birthdays, and other special dates, I: (1) find that it does not bother me (2) in between (3) find that it annoys me a little bit

27. There are occasions when I have to insist that those about me be quiet so that I can get some work done. A/I/D

28. When faced with a bureaucratic organization, I tend to: (1) try to see what rules can be gotten around  (2) in between  (3) follow rules as closely as possible

29. When I am in a social group and feel that I am being ignored, I will do something to call attention to myself. A/I/D

30. When somebody criticizes me: (1) it makes me uncomfortable (2) in between  (3) it has little or no effect

Character and personality assessment, part II

Continued from yesterday’s assessment.

11. I enjoy joining organizations and activities where I get to know new and different people and have done so.  Agree/In between/Disagree

12. It would be fair to say that I am: (1) a fairly excitable person (2) in between (3) pretty calm and relaxed

13. One must always keep to a bargain even when it works out very badly for you.  A/I/D

14. Considering my social position, I: (1) entertain and visit with people more often than most others at the same level (2) in between (3) get together with others socially less often than most others at my level

15. When you have people working for you it is: (1) best to maintain a distance to keep from getting too involved  (2) in between (3) important to make them feel friendly toward you

16. Compared to people I work with, I find that I need to move about more. A/I/D

17. In regard to deadlines I have to meet: (1) I meet them as required and don’t like myself very much if I do not  (2) in between  (3) people don`t expect all deadlines to be met and it is okay if some things are a little late

18. When I am going somewhere on a bus or plane, I prefer to: (1) sit and talk with someone (2) in between (3) sit alone

19. It is fair to say that I: (1) sometimes enjoy an emergency or task where I must work against time  (2) in between  (3) need occasional diversions to relieve the stress of my work

20. I admire a guy who can gain the advantage, even if it means deviating from the rules. A/I/D

Character and personality assessment, part I

On 10/6/2012, Saturday morning when my daughter went to take another SAT subject test at SME, a friend of mine came over asking us to help him fill an application for a HyVee job. After online submission, we were led to an assessment page. As I went through these questions, I realized they were to assess the personality and character of the applicants. It is very interesting. I am going to post them here today, tomorrow, and day after that.  You are supposed to choose one out of three possible answers.

1. I prefer work that allows me some mobility to that which requires that I remain in one place most of the day. Agree/In between/Disagree

2. It is more important to follow the laws and values of our society than it is to satisfy personal wants and needs.  A/I/D

3. It is fair to say that I am:  (1) quiet and reserved (2) in between (3) friendly and outgoing

4. When under stress at work, I (1) react to pressure only when it is intense (2) in between (3) tend to get irritated once in a while

5. Promises are made to be kept and nothing should interfere with making certain that they are carried out. A/I/D

6. When I apply myself to tasks, I (1) achieve by creative spontaneous bursts (2) in between (3) have self discipline and control

7. When working on a task, I find that I: (1) need to take periodic breaks to maintain ny concentration (2) in between (3) can fully apply myself for extended periods without interruption

8. In waiting rooms, such as the airport or doctor’s office, I find myself striking up a conversation with strangers. (1) almost never (2) sometimes (3) quite frequently

9. Any project worth doing is worth doing exactly right. A/I/D

10. My work habits are such that: (1) creative thought and action do not require order or planning (2) in between (3) my work space must be kept neat and tidy

When the monitor is an MD…

On 8/30, we had a monitor from San Diego. She handed me her business card which I didn’t pay any attention. But my colleague noticed that she was an MD. “She is an MD. What does she do here doing monitor work?” came the question.

We could tell from her foreign accent that she is not a native here, even though she sounds very smart. Next I heard some negative comments and gossip about her, like she got her education in a foreign country and is not good enough to become a doctor here, so she ended up doing monitor job. She is actually a senior CRA for early phase clinical trial.

She reminds me of a friend of mine who got her education and work experience back in China, came over, took the needed courses and passed all the exams to become an MD, but couldn’t find residency in three years. Last time I heard from her, she is a medical monitor for a clinic trial.

While I feel sad for people like this monitor and my friend, I can also identify with them in that both of us are over-educated for our position, which, in a way, is a waste of time and life. This is something I hope my children can avoid in their lives.

You do not really need a PhD unless you go to the world of academia.

You will get there as long as you don’t give up.

Last weekend, I went to Costco, where I met a Chinese couple. About two years ago, they were certain their son would be accepted by MIT, but that didn’t happen. The mother was very upset and the son felt hurt. The incident reminds me of this Chinese poem.

I didn’t ask them about their son as I was not sure how they felt about it now. Much as I was anxious to share with them some of my thought on college education, I did not say anything to them. I thought it a good policy not to offer advice when I am not asked to.

If the boy were my son, I would tell him to work hard during the first year of college at KU, then transfer to MIT with both your high school and college achievements. That is, if MIT is the place of his dream.

If that doesn’t work, get your bachelor in three instead of normal four years, graduate summa cum laude, apply for MIT graduate program.

I am sure there are more than one roads leading to Rome. You will get there as long as you don’t give up. In the long run, being resourceful, resilient and persistent will help you more than anything else.

Security and stability do not sit well with me

On 8/29, a monitor from Dallas said she would see me this time next year since our patient is in long term yearly follow up. I was thinking to myself “Oh mine, I would go crazy if I were still here by then.”

From my own experience and from what I heard at clinic level, it is getting somehow rather difficult for people to make internal transfer after the merger.

When I mentioned about my intention to move back to the IT field away from the clinic, I was asked if I would get paid more. “Not sure,” I said. “What’s the point of changing your job if you don’t get pay increase?”

I cannot even begin to mention this topic. This all ties back to the purpose of a job, which, to me, is much more than paychecks. I would move if I see no room for growth or individual development or no challenge at all. Of course, I would not accept a cut just for that extra challenge. For some reason, security and stability do not sit well with me.

The future is bright though the roads might be full of obstables

I sounded overly optimistic on my yesterday’s posting, as if I were not worried at all over my son’s decision to go on his own.

For the record, I do worry as I always do. There is no change on that part of me. Yet, I am more delighted and encouraged than worried and concerned. I try to see the bright side. And I believe you cannot expect to gain anything without losing something. In this case, he stands to gain everything at the cost of his job. Or you have to break your iron bowl in order to gain a gold bowl.

Still, I keep telling my son that he needs to prepare for any possible obstacles and setbacks, as the road to glory is always full of hardships, twists and turns. Keep alive your dreams, but never dream of smooth sailing in your searching for the bright future.

Life is full of risks and adventures, no risk, no gain.

On 8/9/2012, my son called home. He told me one of his high school classmates was in New York, looking for jobs. She told my son that she would move back to Kansas if she couldn’t find a job in New York.

Of course, many people were surprised over my son’s choice. That is, quit his day job at the time when many people cannot find jobs. Once again, I shared with him my thought on this.

Most people seek stability and avoid risk, the so-called keeping one’s iron bowl. That’s why most people remain relatively stable and unchanged throughout their lives.

Yet, life is full of risks and adventures. No risk, no gain. The higher the risk, the higher the potential gain. Venture out on your own legs, even if you have to give up your current position. In the long run, you will be much better off after you try out yourself. You got nothing to lose but everything to gain. Go your own way and you won’t regret.

Get into the habit of finding out the answer yourself

On 7/24/2012, my daughter told me of her finalist place in the essay contest. The next day I told a few of my friends. One of them asked me about essay contest. Over that weekend, a friend of mine called, asking what activities my daughter was engaged in.

Sometimes, the school offered information on contest but mostly the students need to do their own research on the Internet. My daughter was lucky in that she has a big brother who often fills in some information. This is how my daughter found all of her local and national contests.

Well, my ultimate message is this. Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do or show you how to do it. Get into the habit of finding out the answer yourself. Be proactive, starting as early as possible. Have initiative if you really want to rise.

Quitting when millions are seeking jobs

On 7/31/2012, my son called in the evening. He was going to tell his boss the next day that the end of August would be his last day with the company.

I asked him why he gave the company a month instead of normal two-week notice. He said it would take more than a month for him to transfer over his projects. It would be more responsible if he could hand over his work smoothly to the next person.

I applaud for his courage and confidence to quit a good-paid job and go on his own. Meanwhile, I wish him good luck.

Six secrets to your career sucesss

I read this back in 2006. I am not sure if I have ever written anything on this topic. Before I trash this piece of note, I am going to share it here.

“Six career secrets you won’t learn in school ” by Alexandra Levit.
(1) Develop a marketable corporate person. Think of yourself as a publicist with the task of promoting yourself.
(2) Establish profitable relationship. Business networking.
(3) Master transferable skills like goal setting, effective  communication and time management, like your emotional intelligence.
(4) Stay motivated despite trying circumstances
(5) Get people to cooperate.
(6) Be proactive about your career growth. After all, it is your career and no one but you should take care of it all the time

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