On 4/19/2012 issue of Time magazine, there is an article talking about supply and demand of lawyer. As job market for lawyers is shrinking, number of people taking law school admission tests declines, too. The “$150,000 they would have to invest in a law degree might be better spent elsewhere.”
Yet, in the time of economic downturn, college graduates might want to go to law school when they cannot find a suitable employment. The bad news is when they eventually reach the market, they will depress wages, which could set them back for a long time. It is called “cobweb model.”
The technology advances also threaten to lower the cost of legal services. The article raises the question of the value of a law degree.
I thought of two of my friends whose children were considering this path. If people go into the law for big earnings, it’s better to think twice.
On my way back to Kansas, I was lucky again to have an aisle seat. The man sitting by the window was heading for LA where his 24-year-old daughter was in a Ph.D. program at University of South California. He thought I was a visiting parent, too.
The girl sitting to my left was a 19-year-old ABC from Seattle. She was a sophomore at a small liberal art college in Colorado. She majored in political science and sociology, planning to work for some NGO. She said she would work with the poor people to narrow the inequality in the world. She realized she would be poor all her life as she would work as volunteer most of the time.
I asked her what her parents thought of her choice. “They are not happy about it, but they know once I made up my mind, they would have to accept it.”
I told her, “You might not be rich, but you shall be happy doing what you enjoy. Good luck.”
I have a sense that the girl must have had some rough time with her parents. She might also have some kind of prejudice thinking all Chinese parents are the same, defining success as top earners, including me.
If the mountain won’t move, build a road around it; If the road won’t turn, change your path.” — Master Zheng-Yan
This is what I read on 7/8, Sunday morning. I think the message is be flexible and resourceful. When a huge mountain blocks your path and won’t move out of your way, build a road aroud it; if the road won’t turn, take a different path.
Finally, if you are unable to even change your path, just transform your mind to accept reality.
Lu Xun, the famous Chinese writer once wrote, there is originally no road in the world. A road came into being after many people trod on it.
Be flexible also means to break your own ground instead of following the beaten track. Be the first one to tread on a path.
Around the end of April, I read an article from Medscape on comparing Compensation Across 25 Specialties. There are some interesting facts.
The 2012 physician income:
$315,000 radiologists and orthopedic surgeons
bottom-earning specialties in 2012’s survey were pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine.
Male physicians across all specialties earned about 40% more than female physicians. In primary care, men earned 23% more. Those figures are fairly consistent with Medscape’s 2011 survey data. However, the gap in income is narrower in some specialties.
As in Medscape’s 2011 survey, the highest-earning physicians practice in the North Central region, comprising Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and South and North Dakota; the mean income of physicians there is $234,000.
The idea of checking this cost hit me when I learned two friends of my daughter’s expressed the intention of becoming a doctor. There are two types of cost: real cost like tuition and living expenses and potential or implicit cost.
To be sure, medical training takes at least eleven years — 4 years undergraduate, 4 years medical school, 3 residency, another 3 years if you want to get into a specialty.
The potential costs include the cost of time and the lost opportunities during these years. Imagine if you put to good use these years after college graduation, instead of devoting them to medical training, how much monetary value you could have accumulated in 7 to 10 years? The extreme success example is Mark Zuckerburg. If you add this unrealized monetary value to the actual cost of medical training, the total cost of becoming a doctor could run up to over a million.
The opportunity lost means you give up the opportunity of doing something else when you dedicate a decade of your life exclusively for medical training. As some people say, “Life is a buffet,” you taste a bit of everything. You could live a richer, happier and more interesting life.
The sad truth is most people have neither taken the time going through medical training nor put to good use of the time they saved for not having that training. That’s why most of people end up being financially poorer than a doctor.
On 5/6, after I sent my daughter to her teacher’s home for a class party, on the way back home, I was listening to NPR interview of Ira Glass, host of This American Life and other NPR programs.
I was very impressed by the way he got his foot into the door of NPR 30 years ago when he was about 19 years old. He practically talked his way into getting a position for himself there.
This reminds me of a person who graduated from college majoring in radio broadcast, but was unable to find a job using his education. He ended up working as a salesperson and stayed there permanently. While listening to Ira Glass story, I remember how my acquaintance used to complain about the difficulty in finding a job with his major.
Thought of the day: Originally, there is no road. The first person ventures out and beat a path, then more people follow his footsteps. That first person is the most courageous and admirable one. Of course, also the successful one.
5/8/2012 saw the passing of Roman Totenberg, a violin instructor from Poland.
What is remarkable about his life is his 9 decades of violin teaching career. He started teaching when he was 11 and he had a student who was 10, until the day before he died at age 101.
I told my daughter of his long teaching career. “The man must enjoy what he was doing,” she said. “Absolutely,” I said. “It must have given him tremendous joy doing what he loved everyday. I hope you can find something you enjoy and keep doing what brings you joy as long as Totenberg.”
Sometime I heard this explanation when I talked to some young people, as if this could explain why they had not done what they should have. This often occur among young people who are used to having everything well arranged for them or receive instruction for every step they take.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I don’t like this explanation! What does this mean to me?
(1) It means not taking initiative.
(2) It means not taking personal responsibility
(3) It means lack of independence
(4) It means inertia, waiting to be pushed
(5) It means following orders instead of leading the way
(6) It means mental laziness, allowing others to do thinking for you
(7) It means handing over the control of your life to others
(8) It means anything but success.
Don’t wait for others to tell you what you should do. In fact, you should resent this idea in your bone. You should ask yourself why I should listen to us when I have my own ideas. If you think your idea is not as good as that of others, ask yourself why.
Last weekend, a friend of mine came over with her child. She mentioned a boy whom we know of. He was admitted into UC Berkeley, which is an accomplishment in itself.
As my son was out of college last year and my daughter is going to college next year, the talk of college reminded me of so many things that children need to consider.
It would be nice if the child can get into a top-notch college. But if the child cannot make full use of this to advance his/her career, it is like wasting the opportunity.
“On the first day you enter the college, you should think about and prepare for the day you leave it. Believe me that date comes sooner than you expected.” This much I have told my son. This I will also tell my daughter.
P.S. my daughter is going to Wichita today with her school team, right after school this afternoon.
This is what I gave to my son on his birthday on 3/22. The literary meaning is “Don’t just pull the cart without looking at the road.” I know it is a good one for my son, but I was not sure if I have pulled the true meaning out of it, so I asked a friend of mine.
That friend told me “vision is the key for how far a person will go. With short sight, a person will never reach the high point to see the best picture in the world.”
I agree that vision is the key. No matter what we are engaged in everyday, we should not lose sight of our vision. This is how people like Jeremy Lin won in life.
“Thousands Of Doctors Don’t Get Residencies, Competitive Field Leaves Many With Degree But No Practice” By Dr. Anthony Youn Special to CNN. I read this news on 3/19/2012.
The author first tells the story of a man in his early 30s, who “obtained his medical degree from a school in Eastern Europe prior to immigrating to the United States. Now he spends his days cleaning surgical instruments and his nights working in a restaurant.”
He dreamed of becoming a surgeon when he told the author “Someday I’ll be a surgeon, just like you.”
The author writes, “I watch Sam meticulously clean and rinse the surgical instruments, his hands moving steadily and purposefully. There is not an ounce of unused motion. The fluidity and grace in his hands remind me of my surgical mentors. Then the sad realization hits me. It doesn’t matter how much Sam wants it. He will never be a surgeon.”
Without residency, an M.D. cannot be a practicing physician. For those who cannot find residency for a few years either end up working in a research lab or quit medical field completely. It is sad to see them giving up the dream of being a doctor after going through years of training.
On 3/10, the weekend before the start of spring break, I spoke with a friend of mine over the phone. She was worried about her child’s summer intern and I told her I was concerned with my daughter’s, too.
To be sure, one should start looking at the beginning of the spring semester for a paid summer intern position. It is too late if you have not found one by the beginning of spring break.
Her child is in third year of college and mine third year of high school. For college graduates, a good internship is extremely important in landing a good job upon graduation. The third summer is the last chance for this activity. That’s why my friend is so worried.
For high schoolers, a good summer intern experience provides many opportunities for enhancing one’s resume for college application. If you cannot find a paid intern, you can always find an unpaid one, which is practically the same thing as volunteering. Volunteering is a good experience, but it has to be a different kind of volunteering, not the one in which you simply put in your time.
I hope my daughter can learn a lesson from this experience and avoid this last-minute anxiety.
My daughter and I went to Barnes & Noble’s again on 1/29, Sunday morning. Since the end of last Christmas, there has been a pile of clearance stuffs at the bookstore. In fact, there seems endless of them from time to time, either out of season or no longer marketable.
I often stopped by, trying to see if I could help the store by picking up some of them. On that day, as usual, I stopped and took up some books. There were novels, travel guides, some theory books, even some Christmas season stuffs. I could see myself throwing these books somewhere in my house if I bought them, and the idea of bringing more books back took me to the boxes of books that I already have and I have planned to donate.
Enough for that. I have decided that I am not really interested in these books and better off without them. As I walked away from the clearance corner, I couldn’t help thinking of the future of book industry, with so many books, so few buyers, and so many people like me who spend more time on the Internet reading online than book-reading. While bookstores are great place for people to study and to do some reading, it shudders me when I think of Border’s and the not-so-bright future of the existing ones.
On 1/5/2012, a monitor from Portland, Oregon came. As usual, we chatted a little bit before we started getting serious on our work. We talked about jobs and college major. She asked me if my children would consider medical major. There seem plenty of jobs in healthcare.
I shared with her my view on going into medical field. During gatherings with friends, I heard some parents also talk about their children being doctors.
I believe becoming a doctor implies a strong commitment. It normally takes at least 11 years to get through the basic training and residence, not to speak of the huge sum of money to go into medical school. For one thing, without a real passion for it, it will be a real torture to go through such a lengthy period. For another, it would be a colossal waste if, half way or by the end of the long journey, you change your mind and change the direction to something unrelated to medicine.
I have tremendous respect for those in the medical field. Still I would not recommend this profession unless one is genuinely committed to it.
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.
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.
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.
What is the purpose of school? Learning? Socializing? Getting ready for a job? I believe school is relevant to your future success at least in one aspect.
With the absence of other records of accomplishments, people normally judge you by your school performance, that is your grades. Hence, if you want to impress people with your smartness, do well in the test, as if you are as smart as your test shows.
Unless you have some publicly recognized achievements like having hatched a product like facebook, you are trapped in the position where the judgment of others does matter.
Personally speaking, I like school but harbour an opposite feeling for teachers. Because I once suffered at the hand of teacher’s tyranny and injustice.
I wish I had met a teacher who inspired, encouraged, and guided me through the course of knowledge transferring. But then, there is no direct test on this. Hence, teachers only teach what is on the test. Beyond that, not many teachers care.
Yesterday I read an internal circulation with a list of employees who have hit 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 or 25 employment milestones. I know three people who have been with the company for 10 years, one hit 15 years milestone, another 20 years.
It is amazing that one person has made a leap forward from receptionist to managerial position in a decade, while most people stay the same throughout their employment years. It is very dreadful to picture myself doing the same thing when I hit 10-year milestone. I will make sure the horrible thing won’t happen.
The day before yesterday when I talked to my son over the phone, he revealed his intention of moving on to a new company with a new challenge. He has been with the current one for about four months. He thinks he has learned what is needed to get the job done. When the daily task ceases to be a challenge, it’s time to move on. For him, the job provides a platform for individual development, a stepstone to something better, and the preparation for a higher order…
I am a proud mom.
Thought for the day.
On the surface, the daily trip to the office is never as glamorous as an epic event. It can be very banal and mundane. It can wear away your life quietly before you notice it. For me, the trick is coming to the office everyday and thinking of the changes that I have in my mind and the day when I don’t have to come or I come as a different person. The terrible thing is stopping or forgetting to think.
For the majority of people, they face the dilemma of coming to work physically but not wanting to mentally, the need to be here and the reluctance of doing so. You seldom hear people talk with enthusiasm about their work, instead you hear people ask “Is it Friday?” on Monday morning and hence we have the restaurant TGIF — Thank God It’s Friday.
The challenge is to enjoy the process of doing or pretend enjoying without losing sight of the large picture and a bigger goal. I know it is so easy to say or think about it than the real action.
We all know what elimination means in sports competition, it actually means the same thing in economic competition. To be sure, downward economic turn will eventually generate downward movement for some people, which will lead the way to being eliminated in the competitive job market. A friend of mine sent me on 5/8/2011 a list of people that are at risk of being thus eliminated. Check it out for yourself.
(1) Do not learn anything new after work. A famous Chinese scholar said something like this — the difference among people lies in the way people use their time after day job. I like this one.
(2) Slow or negative reaction to new events and phenomena. This tests your adaptability and willingness to learn and understand the new.
(3) Venture out alone instead of teaming together with others.
(4) Fragile psychologically, that is, feeling hurt easily or unable to stand any setback.
(5) Possessing a single skill.
(6) Near-sighted, no long-termed goal, unable to see an inch beyond their immediate interest.
(7) Low emotional intelligence. People with low EQ lose temper easily, often over a minor matter, which eventually lead to the loss of control over their own destiny.
(8) Hold fast to outdated concepts. The new concepts tells us success means not how many people you have conquered but how many you have helped. You win by helping others to win. You succeed because of the good qualities in you, fail because of lack of them.
Last week, on 10/14, a colleague of mine talked about our former manager who met with another colleague of ours in another clinic. Our former manager left us first for one big company in town, then she moved to another one, a much smaller one.
They talked about job security in a small company and whether or not she had made a wise move. This reminds me of one small company that I used to work for around year 2000. At that time I thought it more secure to be with a big company like Sprint. Within one year of the move, I got laid off during Sprint’s third round of force reduction and the outsourcing drive.
I remember one colleague of mine who tried to get certified for “job security.” But her certification has not saved her during our latest round of job cut. Oh boy, she was extremely upset.
Now I no longer count on any company for job security. The only security that is worth seeking is one’s indispensible skills.
A doctor recommended to me his acquisition editor on 3/23/2011. I sent my book proposal to this editor the next day. I was hoping I could get an update from this editor but was told by the doctor that “It is best to wait for him to contact you. It is a long process. He will contact you when he has something to tell you.”
On 4/7, the doctor told me again not to write to this editor, “…it is a slow process and you must be patient. You will not accomplish anything by writing to … I would suggest you let at least 6 weeks go by before you inquire.”
So I waited for two months and still heard nothing on this regard. On 5/31, I contacted this doctor again about my book plan in China. He told me to contact his editor first. Finally after two long months!
This I did, but no words came from him after two days. I asked this doctor what if I had not heard from him by the time I was leaving for China? All the time I was hoping he could jump out and say something on my behalf since he has the connections and could move things faster. No, instead, the nice doctor told me, “Then assume he is not interested,” which means, well, you can imagine how I felt about it.
The next day, the editor wrote back, full of apologies, because he had forgot all about my book proposal. I know he has not trashed it, as he promised me that he would discuss the book with his colleagues and get back to me.
I was pondering upon the words of the doctor, the two-month’s waiting and the forgetful editor, from hopeful to hopeless and to hopeful again, from doctor to the editor. As with everything in life, it is never a good idea to pin down your hope or your chance of success on others.
On 8/10, when I was in Leawood library with my daughter, I saw a book called Save the Assistant: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving the Workplace by Lilit Marcus. The book cover shows a woman whose head is almost buried by all kinds of paper documents. The sight reminds me of my workplace.
I picked up the book and only went through the introduction. I told my daughter I like the author, though I don’t have the time for the whole book.
The author went to New York City after earning a bachelor degree in English from a state university. She applied for “every job that was even loosely related to what I wanted to do. In other words, I spent a lot of time tempting.”
She ended up being an assistant at a company, definitely not her dream job. The wonderful part about her is she could parlay her experience as an unwilling office assistant, start a website, write a book, and eventually rise above from ground zero. In a word, she finally got her dream job.
This author towers over those college graduates who fail to land on their dream jobs and eventually hold on forever to their temperary jobs.
Yesterday was the first day of my daughter’s tutoring job. It was also her first job. She tutors algebra 2 to a high school junior in her school. The tutoring took place in a local library.
She knows that she would gain tremendously through this experience, in terms of tutoring, responsibility, interactions with others, which no money in the world can buy.
She was tired after school and even more so after tutoring. We both knew in the long run it was better than without.
The new upper management that we will work under has a rather impressive title behind her name because of her PhD in pharmacy and an MBA. When we talked about it, a colleague of mine told me that she planned to take that path in the beginning, but too late now.
That colleague of mine has earned a BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences. She joined the research team about the same time as I did. To be sure, she is a very dedicated employee, devoting 200% of her time and energy to her work, trying to prove to all of us that she could do it all by herself. I once advised her on how to improve her personal intangible asset, like getting a high degree and developing her portable skills, which she had not listened. Now with the arrival of a new baby and herself moving into late-30s, she sounded regretful that she had not climbed higher than her bachelor degree and felt like a lifer in her current position.
Seasons come and go, then back again, but not your opportunities and your prime time in life. I told my children that they should try to get all the degrees that they intend to in their 20s. Don’t wait till they have a bunch of kids and responsibilities saddled on their shoulders.
On 4/6/2011, I received a resume of someone from China. The sender asked me to polish this resume. I sent it back with some unfriendly comments because I felt a bit annoyed over the problems that I identified with it.
First, the resume is 8-page long. So inconsiderate and arrogant! I advised her to cut it down to two pages. Nobody has the time for or even interest in 8 pages of her life, unless the writer is some type of VIP like the president of the United States. Who does she think she is, as if she deserved that much of other’s time and attention? In fact, it turns me off by page two. Pick the few highlights in her life. Leave to her grandchildren the whole inventory of what she considers her past glories. Who cares!
Second, keep it professional and leave out any personal information, including DOB and picture. She is not looking for a boyfriend or anything of that nature. It is rather misleading and damaging to put out so much personal information. Is she trying to impress people with her look or what?
Third, the order of the layout should be (a) work experience and award (b) education instead of chronological one.
I felt impatient over her resume because I expected something better than this from a college professor of English in China. Yes, my tolerant threshold is rather low when it comes to the incompetence of supposedly competent professionals.
During the month of March, I have been working at another location the central business office. One colleague of mine is taking belly-dancing class and has successfully reduced belly fat. She told me of her belly-dancing teacher, who is rather exemplary.
That teacher came from a third-world country. When she first started the lesson many years ago, she gave it free of charge. She only wanted good reference and her first small group of students functioned as her advertisement. They have been her most loyal customers ever since. Some have graduated and became belly-dancing teachers.
Sometimes, people complain of no job or no opportunities and end up staying home doing nothing. Look at this immigrant with language barrier. If she can do it, anyone with some skill can do it, too.
On the weekend of 4/9, I told my daughter one of my childhood aspirations. At that time I read many great novels and learned that most of these books were based on authors’ own experience. So I figured one must have an interesting life experience in order to write an interesting novel.
Hence, young as I was at that time, I longed to lead an interesting and adventurous life, so that by the end of the journey I would have something worthwhile to write.
I told my daughter that so many years and decades have passed and my life, if anything, is as boring as you can imagine and I am not even doing something that I enjoy everyday. It is somehow sad that you cannot go back to the beginning of the journey and re-take it.
For her, it is still the beginning, she should learn something from others’ experience and make most out of the limited opportunities that life has to offer.
P.S. my daughter came back from the summer camp yesterday afternoon.
On 3/20/2011, I have adventitiously become acquainted with a doctor. He is not simply a doctor but an author of seven popular books on diabetes and other related health issues. One would wonder there are so many doctors specialized in diabetes, how could he be able to get his diabetes book published?
Well, the story behind his first book is like this. His medical school friend invited him to a party in which a publisher and the founder of IDG books was also present. He shared his idea about a book on diabetes with this publisher who connected him to a health editor. With that came his first book. Then, one thing leads to another. Now he is a prolific author of seven.
Of course, his above-average writing skills helps. Still, sometimes, I am wondering aloud, “Would he be so successful if he had not met this publisher or any other publisher at a friend’s party?” Maybe yes, maybe no, depending on his determination to get his books published. As it stands now, it is easy to see the tremendous advantage of one’s connections and network.
This was sent to me by a friend of mine on 3/15/2011. This seems a common sense that if we set a higher goal, we will outperform ourselves in order to reach our goal. In the meantime, we raise ourselves to a high level. Here’s the translation.
When setting a goal, always set it 10 percent higher than our reach. At first, you might have to take more efforts, but after some practice, you will improve yourself. After you got used to this goal, you raise your goal by 10 percent and go extra miles to reach it. This way, before you realize it, you will become an extraordinary individual.
Today is the last day of our company’s legal existence. June 20th marks the first day of our employment with KUMC. I will also start working at another location next Monday.
The KU buyout does not make as much impact on us as it does on the physicians. With our company, the physicians were independent partners. After buyout, they become employees like us, losing their independence. No cry. This seems to be the trend among physicians if they want to stay profitably employed.
When I was wondering about their status, I thought of the conversation with another Chinese parent last Saturday when I was waiting for my daughter’s drawing lesson. She asked me about taking medical field. I told her we must let the children decide on this and the decision must be this: they must have passion for medicine, nothing else worthies the effort and the sacrifice. There are two key factors involved: the number of years that must be spent on medical education and the shrinking salary of future physicians.
On 4/22/2011, I was at our SW site working with a monitor from Ohio. This monitor from Ohio has a PhD in microbiology and immunology. He also has a long and colorful career full of ups and downs.
While listening to his career change history, I was impressed by his diligence and unremitting efforts. On the other hand, I feel bad as it means some kind of waste if he learned microbiology and ended up doing monitoring work. An ex-colleague of mine without a college degree was thinking of becoming a monitor, which is totally possible.
These two people make me think about career and education and how to avoid wasting time. I myself have made two career changes rather involuntorily. I wish I had known better to avoid these changes.
Back to Kansas today.
Some people might be wondering why these five points on 6/3 posting, instead of something on how to be successful in life.
While these points reflect what I value most in life, they were also written specifically for my son. First of all, I have no doubt that he will be successful in life. Hence, there is no need to further motivate him.
Secondly, success tends to go to one’s head if people forget the virtue of being humble. I also see the pivotal role of this virtue in maintaining great relationships.
Thirdly, success also means you are in the position to give, to reach out to those less fortunate, and to make diference, which will truly realize your true value to others and to society a whole.
We are in Boston today, attending my son’s graduation commencement.
I told my daughter that I was going to write a short graduation commencement-speech for her brother. She has the following for her brother.
(1) Be happy
(2) Be kind to all
(3) Less is more
(4) Read children’s books
(5) Live everyday like it were your last day.
I know I could drag on for many pages and frighten away all readers. Not this time. I told my son, “You won’t go wrong if you can follow these five points.”
(1) Above anything else, be a good person, all the time, which is defined as being kind, honest, unselfish, and ethical; and link your efforts to a higher calling than a mere self-serving one. Thus you will not be easily deterred by any temporary setbacks or loss. This is the moral foundation of your success and happiness.
(2) Life is an epic journey. While treading steadily each day, never lose sight of the grand scheme of things.
(3) Learning is a lifetime endeavour. Find your own role model; always have a goal to pursue. Make a point of learning something new everyday.
(4) Our life journey is a humbling one. It takes a great heart to be able to always see the greatness in others and find improvement in yourself. This is the key to building great relationships with anyone and an essential ingredient to your personal happiness.
(5) Keep in mind by the end of the day you are valued not by how much you possess but by how much you give.
Finally, take good care of your body and soul.
Today, we will fly to Boston in the afternoon to attend my son’s graduation ceremony. I was excited over the trip and the thought of the event. After getting the ticket on 4/6, I began looking forward to it. The excitement that I felt about the trip reminds me of the goal that we set for ourselves.
To be sure, people set different goals at different time in their lives. In order to be energized by your goal, you need to set a high goal. e.g. you won’t feel anything if you set your goal at your Neighborhood Wal-mart. If your destination is some place far away like San Francisco or Paris or Boston as in my case, you will feel more excited about getting there.
Similarly, if you target at a local community college, you won’t be as highly motivated and excited as targeting a top-notch institution.
In order to get excited, you must constantly aim high in your life. This way, you will always take out your best and bring out your full potential instead of fooling away your life.
Wesley Yang expresses more hatred of Chinese upbringing through the mouth of Daniel Chu, “When you grow up in a Chinese home,… you don’t talk. You shut up and listen to what your parents tell you to do.” This is a grossly overgeneralization. My daughter commented, “At our house, almost the opposite is true. It is I-talk-you-listen.”
Yang through Chu further said, “I’m trying to undo eighteen years of a Chinese upbringing.” Is Chinese family upbringing so horrible? He further challenges reader — “How do you undo eighteen years of a Chinese upbringing?” as if Chinese upbringing were so pernicious that one had to uproot it. Is he trying to instigate an uprising against Chinese family and the values it stands for?
By the way, I consider my Chinese family a normal one, in which my children sing and whistle, hop and skip as they wish. I encourage my children to seek out friendship with whoever they like, black or white or yellow. They go through normal adolescent awkwardness but survive without the “social deficiencies” or “Asian alienation” that Yang assumes all Asian-Americans must be plagued with. And I don’t consider my children’s upbringing experience an exception.
As far as I can gather, Yang is trying to purge out from his system any traumatic childhood experience from his Korean family through this writing. Safe catharsis. If that’s the case, write a personal memoir instead of projecting all the evils on AAA– All Asian Americans!
P.S. the main reason that I have reacted so strongly to Yang is I don’t want to see any people burdened with so much self-hatred. My daughter said I have been talking about the same thing over and over again. That put an end to my relentlessly chewing out of Yang’s writing.
In fact, Wesley Yang hates not only the mainstream Asia values but most of all, he hates his own face. I must say Yang seems to be suffering from some kind of hard-to-named mental illness. He starts his article with a derogatory self-description and with a very unflattering picture of himself, more like someone from a state jail house or more pessimistic than that.
“Sometimes I’ll glimpse my reflection in a window and feel astonished by what I see. Jet-black hair. Slanted eyes. A pancake-flat surface of yellow-and-green-toned skin. An expression that is nearly reptilian in its impassivity…” trying to tell readers, “Look, how repulsive I am…” He certainly has succeeded so far. He must have kicked his face millions of times behind the scene, which he believes deserves no better than this.
He reveals his mental illness when he says “Here is what I sometimes suspect my face signifies to other Americans: ….” I mean why do you care so much of what other Americans think about your face, as if they care to think about it? Your face is your business. Beauty or ugly is your judgment. Don’t flatter yourself as if your face ever deserved anybody’s attention.
Obviously, Yang presents an extreme case of low self-esteem, originated from his inability to accept his physical appearance, the stage that teenagers tend to go through but rarely seen among healthy adults. Of course, it is common among psychologically unhealthy adults.
He then goes on relating his feeling of estranged to that of millions of Americans as if he were not alone in finding his own image so unacceptably disgusting. Such a preposterous assumption!
Here’s what I have to say about your face: You may not be able to choose your race or racial features, but it is entirely up to you as to what facial expression you want to put on and what message your eyes and your whole face want to convey. We all like to see people showing confidence and sunshine in their faces, black or white or yellow. Look at the lovely face of Yo-yo Ma and millions of his like.
Not done yet…
On the value of your culture…
Yang suffers from two major crisis: identity crisis and self-image-hating crisis. He identifies himself as one of the whites but sadly he is not; he loves the physical features of the white and hates his own.
This is his personal problem. To me, the real damage is he speaks on a major magazine and talks as if he were the voice of millions of Asian Americans. Nothing is more hideous than this!
Yang knew he would be able to get it published if he could cater to the popular taste by lashing out this extremely self-disparaging piece against his own race–a popular trick. Yes, he did find his own voice by spitting on the face of his mother and all people she represents. Wonderful job!
If Yang hates Asian values so much, he has the choice of rejecting every bit of them, without having to attack these values across-the-board.
We all came from somewhere and have to move on in life from where we came from. Number one rule is: accept and acknowledge who you are and where you come from. Number two: improve and make change at wherever improvement is needed and changes can be made. To those, white or black or yellow, self-hate is a huge burden on life’s journey. It only serves a hastened self-destruction.
Not done yet…
I recommended to my daughter Wesley Yang’s article “Paper Tigers: What Happens to all the Asian-American Overachievers When the Test-taking Ends” May 8, 2011. After reading it, she made one comment, a rather pertinent one, “He has lots of anger.”
Exactly so. In fact, he used one single word to summarize his feelings toward Asian values on filial piety, grade-grubbing, Ivy-League mania, deference to authority, humility and hard work, harmonious relations, sacrificing for the future, and earnest, “striving middle-class servility” — that one word being an F-word. I try to understand why he chooses to use an F word here. My feeble brain fails here. Maybe he thinks it can grab global attention as Amy Chua’s book has obtained. So vulgar!
He must have been severely traumatized by these values. After going through his long writing, I still cannot figure out what is wrong with these values. Why does he hate them so much? Something not right with this writer. What is it?
Not done yet…
At the bottom of social class are people with the least skills. They will be trapped down below as long as they remain unchanged in their skillset. Imagine what will happen to the person working as a janitor or grocery store when he asks for a pay raise. “I deserve to be paid more,” he complains to his boss. He will soon be disposed of and his position will quickly be filled by another person in similar situation. There are a large army of unskilled folks waiting for that paycheck, however meager it might seem.
Remember this golden rule: The less skill you possess, the more disposable and vulnerable you are.
The second rule to keep in mind is: the more people doing your job, the less valuable you are. With a plethora of high-quality IT professionals in China, your computer skill loses value as the market damand is surpassed by its supplies.
I keep telling my children that if you don’t want to be disposed and displaced easily and if want to be rewarded more than the average, you must have above-average rare skills.
On 4/29/2011, Friday evening, two unrelated things happened that shared one similarity. One is the phone chat with a friend of mine in town; the other is chat over Skype with a relative in China.
The similarity is the topic of jobs or rather job-hunting. For my friend here who was laid off two years ago, it is the scanty job market because of slow economy. For the young person in China, he refuses to accept anything that is below his salary expectation.
Both cases make me think hard of the skills that we need to have in order to land on a job. To be sure, the job market is both fair and relentless, in that your pay largely reflects the supply and demand of the skill you can possess. Your salary is the fair market value of your skill. No more no less. In most cases, you get what you deserve.
To be continued tomorrow…
On 2/17/2011, on the way back from my daughter’s evening piano lesson, my son called telling me of his job offer. This is his first one working for a company, though he has been working on his own company, being his own boss, since his high school years.
Instinctively, I started lecturing to him on what a job means, that it means trust, responsibility, opportunity, even though I knew he had heard of it many times before. Here are two things I hope he will keep in mind:
(1) A job is at best an opportunity to learn and gain experience, to build network and connections.
(2) A job is always a preparation for the next step, a bigger responsibility.
On the evening of 12/11/2010, a friend of mine called from out of town. While talking about job perspectives for coming graduates, he told me that many graduates from Harvard and MIT, no matter what majors they had, ended up working in Wall Street for some investment banks.
While it is a good thing that they end up with something that yields big paychecks, I think Wall Street is the ideal place only for those whose sole purpose in life is making lots of money. If that’s not your goal in life, stay out of it.
For some reason, banks always leave my mouth with bad taste. I strongly advise my children against taking this route, mainly because I think it too empty to live through one’s life with no other goal than making money. One got to have some higher calling than money.
Secondly, for a beginner working there, he practically has to invest 100% of time into his work, leaving no time for self-development and career advancement. The worst part is he does not learn as much as he should if he were elsewhere. In the long run, this is a short-sighted choice.
Ask yourself what you want to do with yourself, what is your passion? what really makes you happy, other than possessing tons of money. Next follow your dream relentlessly.
PS. put thing in a long perspective, this is a question regarding what you want to do with your life. After all, one-third of your day will be spent at work. You don’t want to just spend your life making money, as if money were the end of all means.
Last year Salvation Army started its holiday season donation drive earlier than previous years. I guess there are more hungry folks waiting to be fed. You could hear its asking-for-donation bell ringing outside the store in the midst of gusty wind. I met them outside HyVee on Saturday, 12/4/2010 while waiting for my daughter’s art class.
Sadly to say, I noticed not many people paid any attention to them. Some even seemed to make an effort to avoid them. I pitched in some, though I was very much tempted to tell them that they needed to be resourceful and efficient even when they are doing good things.
Normally people would not give out something for nothing. This is especially true during the economic downturn days when most people are short in cash.
In time like this, the Salvation Army should be innovative by adopting some new money-grabbing strategies? e.g. they can mobilize church folks to make crafts or bake pies and sell them outside a store. Look at the girl scouts who seem to be able to make more in a day than Salvation Army in a week.
No matter what you do, there are always better and efficient ways to reach your goal. Creativity and innovation are always a great asset.
Last Saturday afternoon, I talked to one of the visitors to our house, a 14-year-old girl, and learned that she was interested in art and in humanity course. “Because all humanity courses are easy, those in natural sciences are difficult” was her explanation.
I shared with her my thought. “If it is easy for you, it must be easy for everybody. If you are drawn to humanity courses because of its easiness, it must be the reason shared by many. Whenever there are more people in the field for a limited opportunities, it is like many people trying to pass a single-lane bridge. Imagine the competition for the limited resources! If you want glory, remember there is no shortcut to it.”
I am not sure if the idea has got through the teenager, but I know her mother understands it. Indeed, if the minor fails to grasp the future implication of her action, it is up to the parents to make the youngsters see the light.
Last Friday evening I heard of an interesting study on one’s income and happiness. The result of the study reveals that people with annual income range of $60,000 to $100,000 report the same level of happiness.
That is, the extra $40,000 has not made people any happier. You would expect people are happier with the extra purchasing power or a larger house or a fancier car or more dining out and fashionable clothes. But not so. Why?
I don’t have the answer, but the study suggests a few things for us to ponder upon in this holiday season.
(1) Extra $40,000 income does not make an overall substantial difference in one’s life.
(2) Material accomplishment alone is not enough to make one happy.
(3) In this case, is it worthwhile to fight for that extra $40,000, if it means more sacrifice of your time for that extra?
Admittedly, people going through their life’s journey seldom stop and think of these questions.
When my daughter and I talked about soft addictions, we realized it was so easy for people to develop some types of soft addictions, like over-spending your time on the internet or TV or something else.
I told her, “You know the good part about you is you own it up and ask for outside help when you find yourself wasting too time on some sites when you should be on your school work. Too bad not many people share your honest attitude.”
Soft addiction will hurt you if you don’t confront the reality of your addiction and your lack of self-control, and refuse to seek outside help, allowing it to take over your life, slowly and steadily.
I read from some magazine on a weekend, but I forgot the name of the magazine. It talks a little bit of the damages of soft addictions to our health. This is the first time that I heard of this term, but it sounds pertinent and thought-provoking. Here’s the definition from wiki.
“A soft addiction is a seemingly harmless habit—like watching too much TV, overshopping, excessively listening to music, overeating, or surfing the Internet for hours at a time—that takes up excessive time, money, and energy. It numbs a person from their feelings and mutes their consciousness. The term was coined by Judith Wright, an educator, author, and founder of the Wright Graduate Institute. Soft addictions can be activities, moods or ways of being, avoidances, and things-edible and consumable. Many soft addictions involve necessary behaviors like eating, reading, and shopping. They become soft addictions when people overdo them and when they are used for more than their intended purpose.”
Sometimes, soft addictions provide people with a channel of escape or an excuse when they try to avoid tackling something they don’t like. e.g. a child would not tear himself away from TV when he thinks of the alternative being his homework or he spends more than enough time on his favorite subject so as to postpone doing the subject he does not like. I have seen too many people whose lives have been negatively impacted by their soft addictions.
Obviously, soft addictions bring damage to our health when we overdo anything way too much. Yet, more hideous than this is — they can weaken us, devalue us, render us hopeless, and make any of our dreams irrelevant when our hours and days are aimlessly consumed while we let go of ourselves with our indulgence in our soft addictions. Once trapped by our undesirable soft addictions, we are left with nothing but an image, a self which we don’t like to see in ourselves.
When I shared this with my daughter. She was amazed to find that a high percentage of people were plagued with this or that form of soft addictions.
The other day I talked to a friend of mine about teaching her 7-year-old son how to make and sell origamis among his classmates. Some people may think it a small trick. How much money can you make this way?
If you think the biggest gain is money, you miss the point. The most important part is not money. It is learning and gaining ability. A little kid can learn tremendously from this process, which no money can buy for him.
The first thing that he will learn is this: he cannot make much if he does everything himself. He has to learn to be a boss, that is, mobilizing all the positive elements and make them work for him. Such as, he can make plenty of origamis and ask some of his friends to sell for him among their neighborhood children. Even better he can teach someone else to make for him if he doesn’t have the time. Of course, he has to pay them for their labor.
Secondly, the most important part of being a boss is to work with people. A kid can learn how to deal with people or rather his business partner or whoever helps him sell his stuffs. A kid will learn how to make profits and keep his partners happy and willing to work for him.
There are so much to learn while making money and having a fun time.
Below is the notes that I wrote down on 1/12/2009, while I was reading and thinking of some people that I know of. I planned to write to that person but thought better to keep it here, for my children and my dear readers.
A job is never just a job.
It is always connected to a deep and invisible process of finding meaning in life through work.
It is how you reveal yourself to the world around you and how you are evaluated by the world around you.
All jobs, large and small, contribute to your life’s work. Your labors are shaping your destiny for better or worse.
A job is an opportunity for you and for others.
A job is better than no job.
P.S. People may have different understanding of the meaning of job. I remember when I was given an offer by my current company, someone made this comment,
When I made some origamis for the children of some co-workers, I heard comments like this, “You are so talented. I can never make this,” etc. One doctor expressed the wish to learn. This is really no big deal for us adults, but it could provide some opportunities for children.
First, I remember when my son taught origamis at an elementary school’s kid’s club, about 7 years ago, and the seriousness on his adolescent face. With some fun skill like this, you have the opportunity to learn leadership skill at the little kid’s level or to render community service with senior citizens at some nursing home.
After learning how to make some origamis, a neighboring elementary school girl sold them among her classmates, one dollar each, earning up to $50, before she was stopped by her parents. I don’t see anything wrong with her activities. In fact, kids should be encouraged to earn with their skills and labor. They will feel proud and appreciate the money they honestly earn, much more so than if get them free from their parents. In the process of this, they will learn something valuable that no money can buy.
For adults, my origami has helped defeat the attack of afternoon drowsiness, and extended some good feelings, and much more.
I should call this entry: Never underestimate the power of your hobby. Back in Ohio when I was at Bowling Green State University working on my Ph.D, I met this case in which a Chinese boy whose English and computer skill were not one of the best. Yet he got a good offer.
What happened was during the job interview, the hiring manager learned that this boy was good at Chinese martial art and he himself was a martial art lover. So they spent a large part of the interview talking about this subject and continued the conversation long after the boy got into the company.
I believed the boy’s hobby had played a key role here. Of course, someone might call this a matter of luck. Well, luck favors those who are prepared. I often mentioned this story to my children, hoping they would eventually learn something from this case.
The same topic came back to me yesterday when I sent my daughter to a test center for a high school test. The first time I posted something similar is on 4/29/2010.
There are many tests that people have to take during their career preparation years — PSAT, SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, etc. I told my daughter, “Instead of thinking I can always retake the test if I have not done well, like singing the tomorrow song and waiting for endless tomorrows, keep in mind ren sheng neng you ji hui bo?.” That is, how many chances do we have to make it in this world?
The trick is if you believe there is always the next time and always a chance for you to make up, chances are mentally you allow yourself not to give your best shot because you know this is not your last and best one and consequently, you don’t try as hard as you should. With this attitude, you will have to suffer a few losses before you finally pass the required test or live with the not-so-perfect scores.
As a result, you suffer the loss of time and potentially more damage to your career as your options are dwindling with the passing of the time. It reminds me of something from the Art of War — soldiers will show their best if they are positioned in a desperate situation, like having no way out except fighting forward.
When I called grandma in Beijing to recap my weekend activities, she was saying something like this, “Hearing your list already makes me tired, not to speak of doing it.” She said this to me when my children were small and I had to work really hard to get many things done. I was good at making easy task difficult. But then I was young and never felt really beaten. Every time I look back, I see the hardest part has gone and I feel hugely relieved. I am sure many people like me have gone through similar experience, that is, there is nothing unique about mine.
Now the tide seems to have turned as it is my children’s turn to get busy, though not as crazy as I was in the old days, because they don’t have a family on their shoulders. Raising a family and trying to stand on your own financially at the same time is a hardship to say the least. I would advice my children against going this path. I wish they could complete their trailblazing and become somewhat established before they start the joy of a family. But then, it’s fine with me if they decide to switch this order.
This is a continuation on 10/2/2010 posting on getting ready for job-hunting. Here’s the whole list of “21 Secrets to Getting the Job” by Karen Burns. There are some good points here. You have to realize it is a serious job to find a job. Don’t expect an apple pie dropping from the sky.
(1) Become a decent public speaker
(2) Have reasonable expectations
(3) Do a little PR
(4) Look happy.
(5) Bring your resume into 2010.
(7) Be upfront about being overqualified
(8) Nail the food part of the lunch interview.
(9) Mirror your interviewer.
(10) Smile during the phone interview.
(11) Don’t freak out about failure.
(13) Blog it
(14) Scrap the functional resume.
(15) Try not to annoy your interviewer
(16) Find an outlet.
(17) Put yourself in the company of upbeat people
(19) Grow your network
(20) Change your resume-sending strategy.
(21) Ignore the unemployment numbers.
P.S. yesterday my daughter had no school and I took a day off. She asked me what we would do in the morning. Before long, it was 3:20 PM. We both realized time rushed by so outrageously fast.
During the weekend of 9/19/2010, while my daughter was preparing for a French test the next Monday, she thought it so boring. Three things came to my mind: French, one of my children’s violin teachers, and yes, intangible asset.
That violin teacher majored in musical instruments in college. By the time she was teaching my son, she had a job teaching French while giving private violin lessons. Obviously, she could not find a full time employment with her college major and had to exploit other assets that she could find in herself. From what I could see, she would find more future with this French teaching position than her violin skill.
To be sure, we want to avoid getting ourselves in such a situation in the first place. But you never know what will happen and whatever you learn today, learn it well. It will come in handy someday. Of course, I shared my thought with my daughter, which immediately lifted her spirit.
For most Americans, this is not a question at all — they will start working and paying on their student loans. Actually, they start job-hunting at least one semester prior to that big day. In fact, this should not be an issue at all.
Yes, it is an issue and a serious one for some Chinese college graduates, mostly in China and Taiwan. I have become acquainted with not a few of such graduates.
Nearly all of them have this or that excuse staying at home, out of school and unemployed. This is very undesirable, even if they are preparing for graduate exams like GRE or GMAT.
First, stay-home unemployed –it doesn’t look good on your resume. You want to make all your adult time accountable. Even better, you want to impress your future employers with some experience you are proud of, such as, internship or volunteer or affiliated with a real company or start-on-your-own-feet or anything to show you are a responsible, aspiring and highly motivated young individual.
Second, these stay-homes need to realize that eventually they will have to seek employment and they will be better positioned if they have some work experience in whatever form they can find. Upon college graduation, they have both knowledge and the time to garner valuable work experience.
Thirdly, it agonizes them more than anything when they see their college classmates have moved on while they seem to be wasting time.
Finally, do not waste time. They have no excuse, whatsoever, not to maximize their time upon college graduation, to write new chapters to their glorious careers.
My work is never boring when I have to meet, observe, and reflect upon monitors of all backgrounds. Sometimes, when I flip through their business cards, their faces flash back like a movie, vivid and interesting.
On the Monday morning of 7/12/2010, we had a study initiation visit from a monitor on behalf of a pharmaceutical company. This monitor majored in marine biology and had done tons of research in this area before he made the switch to the field of clinical research associate (CRA) five years ago. He looks sharp and sounds highly intelligent.
I imagine it must be interesting to study marine lives, with vast ocean of water to dive in. As I listened to him, I was wondering why he made a career change to that of CRA. Life of a CRA consists of the hardship of traveling and burying your head among patient’s charts and CRFs, an extremely boring one comparing to an exciting life among marine beings, the broadness of the ocean and the endless diversity of lives deep down there. It is fascinating even to think of it.
He must have the passion for marine lives when he first dived in it. Then why did he quit? The only reason that I can come up is money. To be sure, a senior CRA can easily make up to 6-digit earnings, which not many pure researchers can even dream of. Once again, this brings up to my mind the question of combining your passion and earning potential.
On 7/14/2010, we had another monitor who said part of her job was pure “torture.” But she said she could put up with it for now. I am amazed how much we have to compromise in regard to our comfort when we set our hearts on grabbing more and more.
I shared my thought on these monitors with my daughter during one of our evening walks. She agrees that it is a hard-to-find combination in real life.
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I read a piece of news from BBC News on 9/8/2010, by Sean Coughlan, “More than one in four of the entire population of England is now in education or training, according to figures from the government. There are about 14.5 million people in nursery, school, post-16 courses, vocational training and university. Tough jobs market has seen record numbers staying in education.”
To be sure, UK is not the only country that sees the rising number of people in education. It represents an international trend, as people everywhere face the challenge of bad economic time, a changed workforce, and most of all, fierce global competitions.
Two questions that came to my mind.
(1) The cost of this education with regard to money and time. Some of the bills are picked up by government, some are taken care of by parents. Most people get student loans.
(2) The job prospect of education, that is, how much we will benefit from enduring the heavy cost of education. After all, there is no guarantee of anything in terms of job or whatever you desire, regardless how high your degree might be.
I am sure most people go through this cost-benefit analysis when they decide to go through extra years and cost of training and education and believe that the benefits will outweigh the costs in the end. This must have motivated many who seek graduate education abroad.
I would like to share this view with the young graduates or would-be graduates —
If you don’t want to waste whatever it might have cost you to get your education, be genuinely active in job-hunting at least six months prior to graduation. After graduation, if you still don’t have an offer, keep searching or doing something until you find one. The longer you stay unemployed, the less valuable is your degree, and of course the more miserable you will suffer. Trust me, your hard-earned diploma depreciates faster than a used car. You have to seize the moment and face the global challenge.