How Successful people become successful?

Today a colleague of mine told me how upset she was with her adult child. According to her, her child was very smart but just couldn’t get through college courses. She was talking about someone who would be 30 years old next year. After getting back home, I read something about how successful people go about their daily lives. I thought it helpful to share these here.

1. They make SMART plan. Execute their plan immediately. Take action. No procrastination.

2. They know how to rest well so that they work with efficiency and high energy.

3. They know how to prioritize and categorize things.

4. They are laser-focused. They are 100% involved in what they are doing at the moment.

5. They don’t seek perfection at the first try. They won’t stop doing something because it is not perfect.

6. They work with rhythm, busy when there dealing with urgent matters; relax when dealing with trivial.

7. They have both vision and well-laid out program to reach their goal. Plan->execution->check their plan and summarize.

8. Good time management. Do the must-to-do first.

9. They are good at delegating to others.

10 Principles for problem solving

Continue note sharing.

I know there are many ways of attacking a problem. Here’s something that I wrote years ago. I think they still help.

1) Don’t underestimate
2) Don’t exaggerate
3) Don’t wait
4) Don’t aggravate
5) Do illuminate and describe what it is
6) Do motivate
7) Do set date for keeping problem under control
8) Do communicate
9) Do insulate and isolate
10) Do Divide and conquer

Never think of yourself as failing…no matter how badly things are

Continue from sharing my notes.

Have a self you respect.
Turn disappointments into strength.
Enjoy life’s process, not just life’s rewards.

Marx’s favorite maxim — “Nothing human is alien to me.”
His favorite motto — “One must doubt of everything.”

Become involved in something bigger than yourself.

Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade…Never think of yourself as failing; never doubt the reality of the mental image…always picture success, no matter how badly things are.

If your mind tells you that you are tired, the body mechanism, the nerves, and the muscles accept the facts. If your mind is intensely interested, you can keep on at an activity indefinitely… By supplying attitudes of faith to the mind, it can increase energy.

Do what you love; Focus on what you do. But be detached from the results while you are doing it.

According to your faith in yourself, according to your faith in your job…this far will you get and no further.

The greatest factor in any undertaking is one’s belief about it.

Keep calm. Tension blocks the flow of thinking power. Your brain cannot operate efficiently under stress.

Find a second, grab a book and read

I like this article, “The One Thing Successful People Constantly Do.” Believe it or not, here’s part of the article.

The most successful business people read.

They read way beyond their business field. They consume poetry, fiction, science, philosophy, science fiction, science fantasy, religion, psychology and then some. Without these references, you are doomed to lose prestige when your product knowledge is no longer at issue.

Consider whether you have an education deficit, which is more of a liability than you might think. Consider what subject areas would expand your point of view, like anthropology, fine arts, sociology, physical science, biology, mathematics, linguistics, political science and the whole host of topics that enliven the world with different perspectives.

You can be an autodidact, a MOOC-addict or at least a casual reader in these other fields. However, nothing comes close to being engaged by a teacher or mentor who is dedicated to challenging you on a new subject.

Successful people actively widen or deepen the shallow areas of their education. They never stop learning — really learning, not just apprising themselves of a topic with a Buzzfeed style list.

Read and learn to get a richer framework for life, and life brings you greater riches.”

Now, find a second, grab a book and read.

One way to help you on the right track

You can define your own tracks. I define it as my personal agenda or goals I have in mind. It is not easy to be on the track all the time, especially when you are at work and exposed to all kinds of events, positive or negative, happy or unhappy. They can, to certain degree, grab your attention or make you lose focus.

One way for me to not lose focus is to have reminders, like pictures of my children, or images of people having special meanings to me.

You can find your own ways to keep yourself on the track, regardless what happens outside. The key is you must have some mechanisms to block outside forces, if you find yourself struggling to keep your mind away from trivial.

Always remember the most important things in life.

Keys to a child’s success in life

key factors to a childs success
I will translate it into English later.

This is what I wrote to my children today,
“Today is the first of the second half of the year. New Year seems like yesterday, but we are already on the way to finish off this year! Cheer up.”

Holding no opinion on anything? Easy said than done for all of us

“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”
— Charlie Munger

“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.”
— Charlie Munger

“The ability to destroy your ideas rapidly instead of slowly when the occasion is right is one of the most valuable things. You have to work hard on it. Ask yourself what are the arguments on the other side. It’s bad to have an opinion you’re proud of if you can’t state the arguments for the other side better than your opponents. This is a great mental discipline.”
— Charlie Munger

Think outside the box, realize and break your mental set

We all tend to have a certain fixed way of thinking, which is often rigid, settled, anchored, or rooted. Call it our established mental set or a mental box. The box is made of our past experience, knowledge, prejudice and almost everything we have learned in the socialization process.

I have heard people say something like “Don’t get into the box in the first place.” I am not sure if you can do it since the mental box is an inalienable part of our growing up experience.

The undesirable thing about this in-box thinking is it prevents us from thinking creatively and successfully. It binds our hands and feet and issues a virtual order on what we can and cannot do. Haven’t you met people who are likely to say “It is impossible” even before they try it? This is the effect of in-box thinking.

The first step to think creatively is to be aware of the mental box that you are in. Once you realize the retriction, try to challenge yourself and see how many different ways you can think on certain issues.

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.”

“What motivates you…” weekend reading

The tire pressure indicator light came up on the dashboard of my black highlander when I was driving to west clinic last Thursday. On the way back home that day, I stopped at a gas station to check tire pressure and fill some air, all by myself. Still, the light would not go away. So, last Saturday morning I drove to Firestone’s car care station at the corner and 95th street.

I was reading some magazines while they checked my car. After getting back home, I found myself missing bookstores. So I allowed myself to drive to Barnes & Noble’s, where I spent some time reading the magazine that I wasn’t able to finish at Firestone’s.

On March 2014 issue of magazine, there is a short piece called “What Motivates You: Calling or Ego” by Shelley Prevost. Here’s part of it.

“Do you have a real vocation for your work or are you in business for egoistic reasons?
(1) Ego leads to burnout. Calling leads to fulfillment.
(2) Ego focuses on the result. Calling focuses on the process. Without a satisfactory result, your ego feels that all your work is pointless. A calling, however, comes from within. It can handle the stress of ambiguity.
(3) Ego wants to preserve the self. Calling wants to affect others. A calling may begin with the self, but it moves toward the needs of others. Author Frederick Buechner describes it as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.'”

I know ego and calling are two different sources of motivation, but I don’t believe in Prevost’s conclusion on them. I would say calling is more other-oriented and tends to last longer than ego. I also don’t think calling does not care about result as much as ego does.

“When there is no target date, no goal, it targets to fail”

Today, 3/28, we had our monthly CTO meeting. Normally I only pay attention when there is something that strikes me as enlightening or that gives me some ideas on my personal agenda. Such moment came today when a newly appointed person talked about the problem with lengthy IRB approval period.

When she first came to this office, she asked her team “How long does it take for a protocol to be approved?” The answer was “I don’t know.” Next she asked “How long shall it take?” Same answer. What a typical bunch of idiots!

Of course, that’s not the way to run business. She commented, “When there is no target date, no goal, it targets to fail.” Well said! She then dissected the approval process to find out why it took so long. Under her management, the length of approval time has now been cut short by nearly half.

Don’t we need the same attitude toward whatever we target in our career?

Volker Bertelman and his album “Abandoned City”

On 3/23/2014, while I was taking my lovely weekend morning walk and listening to NPR, the story of Volker Bertelman and his album “Abandoned City” caught my attention. After that, I couldn’t forget his words and feel that I must share it with my readers.

When they talked about experiment with prepared piano and why he did it,

Prepared piano: “…explored the possibilities of the prepared piano by wedging pieces of leather, felt or rubber between the piano strings, wrapping aluminium foil around the hammers, placing small objects on the strings or joining them together with guitar strings or adhesive tape.”

he said something like this, “it [prepared piano] leads to a lot of questions about myself.

Are you able to actually jump over habits? Are you able to actually work on a bigger scale than you normally think and feel that things that seem to be impossible are actually possible?”

That’s rather thought-provoking. How many of us think of questions like these in our every day life?

We succeed or fail by default, or rather by our default activities

What are our default activities? They are the ones that we start doing by default, without thinking. We do it when we allow ourselves to follow our habits down the path of least resistance, when we follow our daily auto-pilot to automatically reach our default location, wherever it may be.

Day after day, year after year, following the same process, same pattern, people become the end products of their habits. There is no miracle if people succeed or fail. They succeed or fail by default, depending on the habits that drive their days and that dictate where they spend their time and energy.

A serious person should examine his/her default activities at least on a biweekly basis to avoid the formation of any examined default behavior. Catch yourself when you start drifting aimlessly, before you are seized by unsuccessful habits.

What is the question that could change your life?

I read this article —A Question That Can Change Your Life by Peter Bregman — on August 12, 2013. Again, I was thinking of sharing it here but didn’t have the time. Wait. I might have posted it but I forgot. Still, here it is.

“So here’s the question I’d like to propose you ask yourself throughout your day: What can I do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment? What can I say? What action can I take? What question can I ask? What issue can I bring up? What decision can I make that would have the greatest impact?

Asking these questions — and answering them honestly — is the path to choosing new actions that could bring better outcomes. The hard part is following through on the answers and taking the risks to reap the full benefits of each moment. That takes courage. But it’s also what brings the payoff.”

Woody Allen famously said that 80% of success is showing up. Maybe that’s true. But, if it is, then I’d say the other 20% is the most important. Simply showing up and watching TV on a treadmill — that’s not enough. Your greatest opportunity is to use your time in a way that will garner the most productive return. To take risks that will shake things up.

What can you do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment?

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.

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”

I read this article on 7/19, The One Thing These Crazy Successful People Do Every Morning, which starts with a quote by Benjamin Franklin — “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Fast forward to today and rising early is still considered a common quality of highly successful people.

“Much has been made of the benefits of being an early riser — we’re told that morning people are more proactive and get better grades, and that many of the most powerful CEOs wake up by 6 a.m. Early-risers, the experts claim, might also sleep better and feel happier.”

And much more…

Tips fighting procrastination

I bumped into this article around 4th of July holiday. A Step-by-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating by Gretchen Rubin. Immediately I shared it with my daughter. I am not sure if they work for you, but some of them sounds good to me.

1. “Put yourself in jail.” The explanation is: “If you’re in jail, you have all the time in the world. You have no reason to hurry, no reason to cut corners or to try to do too many things at once. You can slow down, concentrate. You can take the time to get every single detail right.” Not sure if you buy this.

2. “Ask for help.” That is, if you are hopelessly and helplessly procrastinating. You are always better off when you ask for help instead of allowing yourself to rot away your life.

3. “Remember: most decisions don’t require extensive research.” Well, that’s not an excuse to rush through a decision without a good research. The point is not to delay this research.

4. “Take a baby step.” Do something even if it is a small step forward, which is always better than doing nothing. If the task is too formidable, divide and conquer.

5. “Suffer for 15 minutes.” I am not sure if that’s a good idea. I would put it the other way. See the bright side of completing the task, no matter how undesirable the task might seem. Think of the good things that come out of this accomplishment, which is a better incentive than treating it as a suffering.

6. “Do it first thing in the morning.” Get rid of the hardest task first thing in the morning. I like this one. In fact, this is what I have been pushing all the time.

7. “Protect yourself from interruption.” Shut down or put aside cellphone or any possible interruptions.

8. “Remember, work can be one of the most pernicious forms of procrastination.” This is to say: don’t use other work as an excuse for yourself to avoid doing the hardest one. I remember a relative of mine would spend a lot of time cleaning the desk and the environment, delaying starting until time ran out for the serious work.

This is one of the best line, “Pay attention to the amount of time you spend working on tasks you dislike.” That’s why I keep telling my daughter to use a timer when she does something she dislikes, knowing she can take a break when the timer rings instead of beavering endlessly on something very dreadful to her.

“If you feel like your life consists of nothing but going from one dreaded chore to the next, you might be better off figuring out a way to avoid some of those tasks altogether.

On the other hand, novelty and challenge, as uncomfortable as they can be, do bring happiness. The chore that feels onerous today may give you a huge boost of satisfaction tomorrow, when it’s behind you. Keep that in mind, too.”

“Excellence is not an act, but a habit”

We are what 
we repeatedly do from Aristotle

Here it is, in case the image doesn’t show up — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Keys to high performance, Part II

Continued from 4/21 posting.

(1) Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.

(2) Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

(3) Practice Intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break.

(4) Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments.

(5) Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning.

(6) Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them — build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

Keys to high performance, part I

“The 6 Keys To Being Awesome At Everything” written by Tony Schwartz, 11/6/2010, published on Business Insider. I read this article before, but dug it out before 4/8 as I was doing cleaning up to get house ready for another adult to come back. Here are part of the article.

“We’ve found, in our work with executives at dozens of organizations, that it’s possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past your comfort zone, and then rest. Aristotle had it exactly right 2000 years ago: “We are what we repeatedly do.” By relying on highly specific practices, we’ve seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing.

“Like everyone who studies performance, I’m indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world’s leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we’re willing to work — something he calls “deliberate practice.” Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.”

Will power, teach children to use it to get stronger

Part of a good parenting is to teach children how to have a strong will power, which is the key to his future success. One way of teaching them is to tell them what they should do and do it themselves. Such as, do your homework first right after you get back from school. Tell them this,

“I know you want to play and it is hard to do the right thing when you don’t want to. But guess what? this is the occasion to practice your will power. Don’t you want to be strong both physically and mentally? Will power is like muscle, the more you use it, the more you have, the stronger you are.”

By the way, if you give in every time the child asks for something, the child never learns to accept no.

The guts, the heart and the passion to ship

From Seth Godin Poke the Box1

Here are the words from Seth Godin, in case the image won’t come up.
The Seventh imperative
->The first imperative is to be aware–aware of the market, of opportunities, of who you are.
->The second imperative is to be educated, so you can understand what’s around you.
->The third imperative is to be connected, so you can be trusted as you engage.
->The fourth imperative is to be consistent, so the system knows what to expect.
->The fifth imperative is to build an asset, so you have something to sell
->The sixth imperative is to be productive, so you can be well-priced.

According to Seth Godin, you can do all of these things and still fail, because you need the seventh imperative, which is “to have the guts and the heart and the passion to ship.” Read his book Poke the Box.

Your dreams, goals and their functions in motivating you

Reading Sonia Sotomayor
This is the book that I was reading on 2/13/2013. I was thinking of copying the following here, but it is easier to copy this way.

Take pride in your accomplishments and others

My colleague’s 22-months-old granddaughter already shows competitive traits — when she is doing puzzle or some challenging task, she keeps telling herself “Do it.” When she completes a task or a challenge, she proclaims “I did it!” with a proud smile on her face. I must mark this down.

Two of my daughter’s Vietnamese friends are going to major in pharmacy in college. I told my daughter they are mostly interested in making a living, that is, getting into something that can get them a job upon graduation and then hold on to that position until retirement.

For some people, education is all about making a living like this, For some others, it is for making a career. Of course, one could say that people still need to make a living even if they chase a career. I hope people can see the difference between the two.


The making of a genius… Part IV

Fast-tracking talent from one of the articles:
(1) Abilities matter. They are malleable, however, and need to be cultivated.

(2) Society needs to provide opportunities for intellectual enrichment to all students to ferret our hidden talents.

(3) Psychological strengthens such as persistence, social skills and strategic risk taking are determining factors in the successful development of talent.

To achieve greatness in many realms requires extraordinary creativity, grit, passion, and social skills. Creativity, the ability to come up with novel, useful and elegant ideas or ways of doing things, has a long historical association with giftedness. …at the essence are mental processes such as metaphorical thinking, tolerance for complexity, and flexibility in problem solving.

We read so many times words like motivation, persistence, hard work, strong will and efforts. The trick is how to get a person motivated and move on at high speed toward a set goal without any supervision. Where does this motivation come from?


The making of a genius… Part III

Again on the relationship between genius and motivation.

“Giftedness has long been associated with high levels of intrinsic motivation–that is, engaging in a task for the sake of learning. They enjoy extrinsic factors like trophies, scholarships and other forms of recognitions.

“High achievers may have exceptional task commitment, meaning they are willing to engage in study and practice that, though not necessarily enjoyable, is instrumental to improvement.

One again, one author mentions the importance of devoting hours of hard practice. Research has shown it takes about 10,000 hours of guided study or practice to reach levels of expertise in most domains. In other words, there is no other tricks but only hard work.

Another author laments that Americans do not denote as much value to learning as to sports. “There are cheer leaders for athlectic greatness but seldom for academic achievement.”

On the other hand, becoming Olympic champion requires much more than just athletic prowess. To succeed in any field, people need the strong will power to focus, mental toughness, drive, optimism and emotional control.

The making of a genius… Part II

In an article inside this issue of Scientific American Mind— “So you want to be a genius?” the author, Daisy Yuhas emphasizes a person’s motivation in his/her success. He argues that when it comes to cultivating genius, talent matters but motivation may matter more.

Without it, the long, difficult hours of practice that elevate some people above the rest of us are excruciating. But where does such stamina come from, and can we have some, too? Psychologists have identified three critical elements that support motivation, all of which you can tweak to your benefit.

(1) Autonomy–you gain motivation when you feel in charge
(2) Values–motivation also blossoms when you stay true to your beliefs and values
(3) Competence–as you devote more time to an activity, you notice your skills improve, and you gain a sense of competence.

To be continued…

The making of a genius… don’t we already know that?

During the weekend of 10/27 and 28, I went to Barne & Noble’s bookstore to buy a book for my daughter. There I stayed for some times to read Scientific American Mind magazine, Nov 2012 issue.

As you can see from its cover, this issue is dedicated to the topic of genius, the making and predicting of a genius. Many studies either repeat or confirm what we already know, that is genius is 1 percent inspiration plus 99 percent perspiration.

“Many researcher have argued that exceptional achievement can be boiled down simply to hard work — about 10,000 hours of it. Studies of eminent scientists in the 1950s supported this view by underscoring the individual’s capacity for endurance, concentration and commitment to effortful practice.”
To be continued…

One Needs both Extraordinary Talent and Persistence

On 5/13, my sister told me over Skype of this Chinese saying. The main idea is this. Since ancient time, a successful person possesses not only extraordinary ability but also strong will that enables him to persist in spite of all the obstacles.

She meant to tell me that strong will played as crucial part in one’s success as talent. I took it as an encouragement to my children, as I believe both of them are rather average in their ability. In fact, people with extraordinary talent are hard to find. For most people, the key to succeed lie in this second factor.

S is for Self-Esteem: Essential for all the other Secrets

This is part of the notes taken on 1/14/2008. I know it was four years ago. It was from The Psychology of Achievement — Six keys to Personal Power by Brian Tracy. The author uses the acronym SECRET to summarize the six keys of success.

S for Sense of purpose, having a mission in life, setting clear specific goals.
E for Excellence, a commitment to superior execution in life and in whatever you are engaged in.
C for Contribution, good performance, make your working self more valuable to others.
R for Responsibility, you are the master of your life and fate, dare to take responsibility.
E for Effort, the basic rule of life, sowing and reaping, no pain, no gain; focus and concentrate
T for Time management, using your time, talents and abilities efficiently, getting more things done in the limited time.

A seventh bonus key to success is to realize that high self-esteem is essential for all the other secrets. S is also for self-esteem. How good you feel about yourself depends upon you. It is the basis of your effectiveness in all areas of your life and impacts all the other keys to personal and career success.

Of Fame and Fortune, Which Do You Want?

I once asked my children, “Of fame and fortune, which do you want?” One said fortune, the other fame. It is interesting to see they came out with different answer, even though with the same parenting. I certainly hope they will eventually get what they want, though I am not sure if they will want the same thing as they grow old.

When a person from the PR department learned of my being selected on the Midwest Voices panel, she immediately noticed related PR section, thinking she would do me a huge service by posting my name and picture on the intranet and on our internal circulation. Upon learning this, I told her I preferred not. She realized she did it without my permission and hurriedly took back her request.

Publicity always means extra attention and different interpretations.  It would be naive to assume all will be of kind intention. At least, I have not cultivated a love for too much attention.

Still, for most people, of two pursuits, fame will outlive fortune.

Adversity: You Can Either Rise Or Sink

Samantha Garvey, once a homeless high school senior and living in a shelter, captured people’s attention when she became a semi-finalist for Intel Science competition. She was admitted by one of the top schools and was invited to attend State of the Union.

I think of thousands of well-provided kids and their lack of achievements. What matters in the end is not material conditions but the will to achieve.

In face of life’s adversities, one could either rise or sink. She has conquered this adversity and provided “an example of perseverance in the face of adversity.” I hope my children will remember this real-life story.

Fear Effectively Traps People Down

On 12/4/2011, as with many weekends, my daughter and I were at Barnes & Noble’s again. While she was doing her homework, I was reading Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently by Gregory Berns.

At one point, the author mentions “three functions and the circuits” that distinguish iconoclastic brains from others — perception, fear response and social intelligence.

“Iconoclasts, …, have a preternatural affinity for new experiences. Where most people shy away from things that are different, the iconoclast embraces novelty.

“The problem with novelty, however, is that, for most people, novelty triggers the fear system of the brain. Fear is the second major impediment to thinking like an iconoclast and stops the average person dead in his tracks. There are many types of fear, but the two that inhibit iconoclastic thinking are fear of uncertainty and fear of public redicule

“Fear of public speaking, which everyone must do from time to time, afflicts one-third of the population. This is too common to be considered a disorder or mental illness. It is simply a common variant of human nature, but it is one that gets in the way of many potential iconoclasts.”

Israel, Culture, and Success

I read an article on 11/21/2011 — “How Israel turned itself into a high-tech hub” by Katia Moskvitch. It is one of those efforts that attempt to explain how Israel has become so successful. But it turns out to be no more than a description of how successful Israelis has become without offering any plausible explanation of how.

“Tiny Israel, a country embroiled in conflicts for decades, has managed to transform itself from a stretch of farmland into a high-tech wonder. Israel currently has almost 4,000 active technology start-ups – more than any other country outside the United States, according to Israel Venture Capital Research Centre.

The result: high-tech exports from Israel are valued at about $18.4bn a year, making up more than 45% of Israel’s exports, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Israel is a world leader in terms of research and development spending as a percentage of the economy; it’s top in both the number of start-ups and engineers as a proportion of the population; and it’s first in per capita venture capital investment.”

My understanding is this– the key to Israel’s success is Jewish culture, the one that value education, achievement, professionalism, a purpose-driven life, and above all, religion that give them the belief that they are the chosen ones and that they are chosen for a purpose in this world. That purpose is to be the best you can be in the world.

“Creativity is connecting things” — Steve Jobs

Last Sunday I read The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo, 2011, while waiting for my daughter at Barnes & Noble’s. Here are some of the notes that I took from the book.

“The more diverse our experience and knowledge, the more connections the brain can make. Fresh inputs trigger new associations; for some, these lead to novel ideas.” p. 83.

“…they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was they’ve had more experiences than other people.”

“If you don’t have diverse experiences, you don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” p. 83

Veteran day, Seeking Glory Without the Flag

Last Friday, 11/11/2011, was Veteran Day in US. For some reason, I thought of those soldiers who gave their lives for what they believed to be the just cause or the cause of their motherland. They were, according to Jose marti, the glorious ones who had in their hearts the cause of their motherland. On the other hand, Marti believed, the vain ones are those who watch their names.

Throughout my education and socialization process, I was taught it was a shameful thing to seek personal glory. Individualism got a bad rap when we were supposed to strive for the cause of our country.

In spite of those early years of indoctrination, for me, seeking personal glory and rugged individualism still create a stir in my heart and motivate me to go above and beyond.

Be it vain or glorious, I see it a matter of interpretation. By the end of the day, only the life of a seeker is a worthy and glorious one, whatever interpretation one is inclined to give.

Gold Digging and Life’s Major

On 7/7/2011, I went shopping with my relatives in China. I was looking at gold jewelries and that made me think of life and gold-digging.

Life is a gold mire with very few gold nuggets buried among countless grains of sand. When we spend a large part of our lives chasing the endlesss grains of sand, our eyes get used to the sand and we are more likely to lose sight of the gold. Isn’t that horrible when our minds are locked in trivials and our visions are no farther than our arm’s length?

I keep reminding my children — don’t major in minor. Eye on the big prize.

Early Bird Catches All

On 8/10/2011, during our daily early morning walk, I mentioned to my daughter the book that she was going to read, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss, and the fact that Feynman started a radio repair shop when he was a child.

I told my daughter the earlier you started doing something, the better, something that your peers are not doing. You would get more praise when you can tie shoe string at age 3 than at age 13. Similarly, you get more credit when you set up your own company in your teen’s years than during adulthood. Look at the President’s Volunteer Service Award, its requirement on gold level, the old you are, the more hours you have to pour in when you don’t have as much time as you once had.
Kids (Age 5-14): 100 hours or more
Young Adults Age (15-25): 250 hours or more
Adults (Age 26 +): 500 hours or more

That is why I have advised her to set up her own company at age 12, keep it running all through her college years. By the time she emerges out of college at age 22, she has been CEO of her own company for a decade. Whether or not you have customers is an irrelevant question. What matters is the world may have tons of college graduates but very very few 22-year-olds with a decade of work experience, even less as manager and CEO.

For parents, the most tricky part is to get your youngsters listen to you. Good luck!

Dog, Meat and Reflection: Aesop’s Fables for Us All

On 8/9/2011, during our daily early morning walk before work, I mentioned to my daughter one of Aesop’s fables–“The dog, the meat and the reflection.” We all know that the dog with the meat in his mouth lost his meat when he saw his own reflection in the water and tried to snatch that one.

I asked my daughter about the meaning of this fable. She said, “It teaches people not to be too greedy and how they should be content with what they already have.” Since it is a fable, it is written for children’s comprehension with an obvious message for them.

Yet, for adults, there is more than that. We can interpret meat as the substance of life while reflection as anything insubstantial and insignificant. When we waste our lives on the insubstantial and lose sight of our substance and by the end of the day, when we end up having nothing in our hands, don’t we behave as foolishly as this dog?

Command and Maintain a Moral Height in the Battle to the Top

When I worked at DMR back in 1998, there was an Indian colleague who religiously go through a day of fasting every week. He was very hungry during one of these days, I told him just to sip something to keep him going. “Nobody cares.”

He told me this fasting was part of his religion. The busier he was and the more demanding his job became, the more he needed his religion, as if he were to maintain his moral height in the battle among mundane world breadearners.

I have no doubt that he will survive or even rise above the vicissitudes of today’s economic turmoils, not solely because of his religion but because the spiritual strength that he thus garners. He reminds me of Ursula Burns.

Advice on Teen Success

I read an article from Success magazine about teen success offered by SuccessFoundation. Here are key points.

(1) Little things matter. Yes, you can see life as a tall building made of thousands of little brick things.
(2) Attitude is everything.
(3) Everything starts with small steps.
(4) There’s no such thing as failure.
(5) You must use the moment. If you miss this moment, there is no going back.
(6) You are always learning. Keep an open mind and absorb knowledge like sponge taking in water.
(7) You can make your dream come true. Your future is in your hand.
(8) Habits are powerful. It is so powerful that it can control your destiny with its invisible hand.

For My Daughter, Dream, Determination, Plan and Action

On my daughter’s birthday in March, I shared this observation with her, trying to make her see that dream is only the first step. Other qualities are equally essential in the process.

Dreams are wings of your soul. With dreams you set your goal to the star. Without it you are chained to the ground.

Determination is the fire that energizes us and make a dream come true.

Plan is the road map to your goal; without it you are likely to get lost or feeling overwhelmed and despaired.

Action plan means following your well-laid out plan step by step. With an action plan, you will reach your goal as long as you make steady and persistent efforts, with each step getting you closer and closer.

Focus your time and energies. Get out of your mind anything that block you from achieving your goal.

Never say “I can’t” without giving it a try. Never give up too easily.

Movers and Shakers Make Things Happen

On 5/3, when I asked HR about an internal position that I had applied, I learned the person who left that position decided not to leave. That just dashed all the hopes that were lingering in my mind. I felt bad about it. HR person said, after the buyout, there would be plenty of opportunities for me. She said I was the “mover and shaker.” Whatever that means I am not sure at that moment, but I know it means good.

I checked the internet later and learned they are “Individual who has a dramatic impact on an organization or a series of events. For example, an individual may be known as a mover and shaker in a particular business activity because of his ability to get things done quickly and successfully.” That’s not me, though I do want to have more control over my own destiny.

I like this definition better, mover and shaker is the “person who makes things happen.” Most people have dreams and ideals, but only the few movers and shakers do something to make their dreams come true. What a lovely thought!

Adults Playing on Library Computers

For the past few weeks, my daughter has been working on her project with her school competition partner at library. They have made it to the state level and have to work hard so that they could reach to national. While I was at library waiting for her, I noticed many adults were there spending nearly all the time on the computer, either gaming or watching video.

Last Sunday, while my daughter and I were at library again. She directed my attention to an elderly person and said, “He was watching that all the time.” I asked her if she had noticed what many adults were doing on the computer. In fact, she has noticed that most of them were playing or watching video on library’s computers most of the time.

You would expect adults to know better than wasting so much time this way. What role model they are to the young children in the library! I admit that people have different views of life and have their right to whatever life they please to live. Still, I would rather not see my children grow up to be one of them. I placed this post in success category, simply because they stand opposite to success.

Art, Women, and Lack of Success

On October 3, 2010, a sunny Sunday morning, I drove my daughter to Michael’s, an art and crafts store on Metcalf. While she was at Michael’s, I went to the next door Microcenter, an electronics store. On our way back home, I told my daughter this funny thing.

Most customers at Microcenter are men, yet you seldom see men at Michael’s. From this, you can conclude that more women like art and shop for art supplies than men. However, from what we know of art history and of great art masters, we see an almost male dominance.

I asked my daughter how to explain this. Is it because men are more creative than women or because throughout history women have been deprived of equal opportunity to succeed? Or women at Michael’s are not really art lovers, they were there just for fun and entertainment as if they did not take it seriously?

In fact, not only in art but also nearly in everything, not only in the past but also in modern time, women in general trail behind men in great achievements. For whatever reason or excuse people can come up with, it is still rather depressing to confront this fact that women in general are in great need of the drive, the tenacity, the motivation and the determination to achieve and succeed. It is a harsh judgement, but not far from the truth.

p.s. my daughter commented after reading this post, “Women have different priority in life. In some cases, after they got married, they placed their families before their careers.” This is true. That’s why we often hear of woman homemakers, not that of man.

A Great Life for an Armless Young Man

When life-changing misfortunate hit you, what will you do next? Do you allow it to break you or rise above? Your character determines your attitude toward it. In the case of Liu Wei, the armless 23-year-old performer, his misfortunate only made him tougher than before.

It is his character, stronger than steel, that wins him the first prize in China’s Got Talent show, held in Shanghai Stadium in August 2010. His life story provides the best material for a moving movie.

Long after I watched his show via youtube, I feel having a lot to say but no word seems enough to express how his accomplishment has touched us, challenged us, and made us think over our lives, our potentials, and what could have been achieved if we were as diligent as this armless young man.

Sometimes, we have this or that excuse for not having reached the level we aim at or we have this or that complaint. At moment like this, let this young man be our model and believe that nothing is as insurmountable as we initially think.

Steadfast and Consistent, you will Win in the End

On 9/28/2010, my daughter asked me for the pictures of her cousin in China. As I remember he posted some in his blog site, I got hold of its URL and visited the site that evening. For some reason, the young man has not been diligent in posting his blogs.

This somehow reminds me of the tale of tortoise-hare-race. This is what I often tell my children. You don’t have to wait till you are in the mood or you have something worth writing. In wirting and in many other activities, being assiduous and attentive on the daily basis, even if the output is not as great as you would expect, steadfast and consistent, you will see the accumulated effect in the long run. This is especially true in vocabulary building.

I told my daughter while steadfast and consistent will help one reach one’s goal, one will lose the battle with only fitful and sporadic efforts.

An Inspiring Song Performed by Jackie Chan

My daughter and I have been listening to the singing of this song by Jackie Chan and others. She has found it inspiring. Hence, I post both Chinese and its translation here.

Stand love is as high as a mountain
You can expect something when you start running…
While my future is written at the starting point,
There is no success or fail at the finish line.

Stand up.. my love is as deep as ocean.
Excelling goes beyond this moment…
The excitement of running is still here
Tears are the celebration of victory.

11 Rules and Tough Lessons for Young People

These rules are worth reading for both high school students and their parents. They will take you somewhere better than you are now if you can heed them.

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!
Rule 2 : The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 : You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

These rules are said to be delivered by Bill Gates during one of his speeches at a high school.

P.S. 6/19/2010. Today I discovered the following: Truth: Bill Gates spoke before a group of high school students and gave them his eleven rules of life. But these 11 rules are not from Bill Gates. It’s an excerpt from the book Dumbing Down our Kids by educator Charles Sykes. It is a list of eleven things you did not learn in school and directed at high school and college grads.

Seven Key Factors to School Success Part 1

In the book Enriching the Brain by Eric Jensen, the author kindly details “the seven golden maximizers” for excellent school performance. I think they make tremendous sense.

1. Physical activity
Exercise helps increase the release of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which supports learning and memory function and the repair and maintenance of neural circuits.

2. Novel, challenging, and meaningful learning
3. Coherent complexity (not chaotic)
4. Managed stress levels (not too boring nor too stressful)
5. Social support (at home, school, and community)
6. Good nutrition (balanced and healthy food)
7. Sufficient time (not rushed, plenty of sleep)

Rich and Famous — Not Without a Purpose

One can either read and hear news about wealthy celebrities almost everywhere in entertainment or in business world, about their extravagancies, stupidities and the slightest whereabouts, or who-meets-who, etc. Some are nothing but the highest level of stupidity with negative degree of integrity and social value, like Jon and Kate Gosselin, providing sharp contrast when we celebrate over 100 years philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish industrialist, businessman, entrepreneur, and a major philanthropist.

Carnegie’s life was divided into two major phases — (1) making money (2) giving away money. He devoted his last 20 years to philanthropy, the true lasting legacy to the future generation of humanity, without which he would not have been so much adorned and admired world wide. There are plenty of Carnegie quotes, of which the following are my favorites:

“Man does not live by bread alone… It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else. Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself… My aspirations take a higher flight… to have contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the spirit,… I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth.”

“The amassing of wealth is one of the worse species of idolatry. No idol more debasing than the worship of money.”

I want my children to always keep in mind — a person is a selfish nothing, if he/she is no value to the greatest majority of people.

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