Tradition vs. Superstition

April 3rd, 2009

tradition-1Fight Over a Check?

It’s a common scene in a Chinese restaurant here or more so in China that people fight vehemently over a check to pay.  I’m sure many Westerners would be baffled by this.  Why on earth fight to pay when you can relax and let the other party take care of it?

Deep down, it’s a cultural difference between East and West.  In Chinese culture, people want to be perceived as “giving” and “generous” when it comes to pay for a diner. “Go-dutch” is more of a contemporary notion and it may be practiced among some younger people in China.  I know for sure that it is a common practice in the West regardless of the ethnicity and age group.

Responsibility of A Good Host/Hostess

The other similar tradition is that the host/hostess should be picking up the tab for dinner.  For example, if I go to Seattle to see my friend, my friend should pay for  dinner or better yet, invite me over to her house for dinner.  In return, when my friend comes over to my place, I should repay her hospitality.

With thousands of years tradition, I can’t begin to attempt to outline the different social etiquette.  Of course, with vast geography in China, each province and region would overlay additional aspects of their traditions and sometime superstitions.

Superstitions? Enough Already!

Admittedly, some of the traditions and customs are just gestures of hospitality and kindness that may be observed and practiced anywhere in the world.  Other customs, in my own assessment, are just absurd.

For example, in 1991, when I was getting ready to come to the U.S. for graduate school, my aunt asked me to pack a red thread of yarn in my suitcase.  I didn’t understand why then, but I was guessing that she meant to leave a thread of my hometown so that I would return promptly.  The reality is that I never returned after school.

Watching over Chinese’s practice of so many superstitions, I sometimes wonder why bother with all this.  Can we simplify life to eliminate all the burdens by everyone?

I don’t have a simple answer. Do you?


Image credit to Shiyahi “Tradition Chinese Temple” @dreamstime.com

Struggles Faced by Working Moms

March 30th, 2009

mother-daughter-1How many working moms would have a dull yet persistent pain in your hearts because you have to work full time instead of being able to stay at home to attend your kid’s needs?

I was certainly one of them constantly torn between providing for my daughter financially and being there for her emotionally.

First Major Milestone Achieved

On May 22, 2008, on one very rare occasion, my husband and I both took time off from work to attend my daughter’s graduation from elementary school.  The ceremony was very well organized by her teacher and the Principal.  Kids were all lined up in front of the gym. Parents and other family members were all gathered to witness a major milestone for some 10 or 11 year old.

The ceremony began with a video production created by the kids in the class.  Everyone started off with a collage of pictures to show a personal history from birth/childhood to where they are.  Those innocent faces, beaming smiles, life is so grand for them.

In the mid of the show, my daughter’s turn came up.  I didn’t get a chance to read every word of my daughter’s “Thank You” letter to us and to her teachers due to the fleeting speed.  However, one sentence caught my attention and stirred up a well of emotions in me.  My daughter wrote something like “I’d like to thank my parents for making money to support me although I have to stay at home by myself after school…”

Remorse and Regrets

I should have felt thankful that my daughter is mature enough at age 10 to recognize our efforts to make a decent living for all of us.  On the contrary, my heart was full of remorse and what-ifs. Tears filled my eyes with joy and regrets.  Regrets prevailed coupled with series of lingering thoughts and questions.

What-ifs?

What if I have had stayed at home full time when my daughter needed me?  What if I could have participated in every school activity?  What if I could have volunteered at my daughter’s class/school?  What if I have had minimally created a perception of always being available to support my daughter?

Do you have similar struggles?  How would you resolve the conflicting priorities?


Image: Mother Daughter Elephants by Iklein@dreamstime.com

Mind vs. Heart (Part 2)

March 27th, 2009

If you recall in my previous post, I listed what a mind wants.  Here is to refresh your memory of my definition of “mind vs. “heart”:

Mind:

  • Thinking faculty of a human being.
  • Mind is operated on logic, rationalization and reasoning.
  • Mind can be applied best when conducting scientific research that’s factual and data-based.
  • Mind tends to be linear and single-dimensional.
  • Mind has the tendency to exclude intuition, instincts and soulful thoughts.

Heart:

  • Heart is a very important organ in a human body.
  • Heart functions as the artery of blood supply in order to sustain one’s life.
  • Heart has the capacity to feel, sense, empathize.
  • Heart is holistic and multi-dimensional.
  • Decision or conclusion based on “heart” may not be explained all the time in pure and simple logic.

Remember a partial list of what one’s mind craves in Part 1 of the post?  I don’t blame you for concluding it’s very superficial and materialistic.

The Magic of Translation

Surprisingly, if you dig deeper, there are some common themes out of the earthly possessions to be translated into what a heart really, really yearns:heartmind-2

  1. Freedom: If you group all the money and materialist things one wants, they are all pointing to one  thread, i.e., the ultimate freedom to do what one wants, when one wants, how one wants and with whom.  This will apply to all key areas of a growth map in a person’s life such as intellectual stimulation, spiritual growth, pleasurable hobbies and any worthy cause to the society or a community.
  2. Security: This, once again, encompasses all fundamental areas from physical, emotional, financial to spiritual.
  3. Connection: Peeling off the crusty onion layer of the material possession, deep down, there is a crying hunger for connection and for intimacy, not only with the loved ones, but also with those that are, by default or by design, have become part of one’s life.
  4. Self-acceptance: A tout/sexy body and a healthy glow are disguises shouting for self-acceptance.  Accept who one is and what one is capable of; celebrate the few excessive fat cells that tend to show up in the not-so-perfect places.  Be proud of one own distinct DNAs and be comfortable in his/or her own skin.
  5. Significance and contribution: With all the financial and time constraints out of the way, a person really wants to give back and become a key contributor to the society.  This could be manifested in leading a worthy cause, contributing financial means to education and to a medical research.

What’s Next?

The follow-up question would be: How would one really feel and what the state of being looks like?

Here are some of the adjectives and phrases that could be used to describe the state of being:

  1. Self-referral (vs. object-referral, i.e. not to be measured by the material possession and what other people may think/or judge)
  2. Free
  3. Confident
  4. In the Zone
  5. Worthy
  6. Connected
  7. Joyful
  8. Blissful

Would you like to take on this challenge to start a list of what the heart is longing  for FIRST and THEN create a list of actionable items to strive towards the end goal?

Mind vs. Heart (Part 1)

March 25th, 2009

brain-14Lately my thinking has been centered around what one’s heart yearns vs. what the mind wants in life.  Although I haven’t had a conclusive answer to either, I’ve attempted to start an initial list.

Before I rattle off on a preliminary list, let’s spend a minute or two in defining “mind” vs. “heart”.  My crude definition of mind and heart is:

Mind:

  • Thinking faculty of a human being.
  • Mind is operated on logic, rationalization and reasoning.
  • Mind can be applied best when conducting scientific research that’s factual and data-based.
  • Mind tends to be linear and single-dimensional.
  • Mind has the tendency to exclude intuition, instincts and soulful thoughts.

Heart:

  • Heart is a very important organ in a human body.
  • Heart functions as the artery of blood supply in order to sustain one’s life.
  • Heart has the capacity to feel, sense, empathize.
  • Heart is holistic and multi-dimensional.
  • Decision or conclusion based on “heart” may not be explained all the time in pure and simple logic.

Chances are, based on our upbringing and social influence, we often times start a list with what our mind wants.  Here is a rendition:

What Does A Mind Want?

  • Gazillion amount of money
  • An opulent house with vacation properties in the most desirable destinations
  • An impressive vehicle or two or three
  • A fine wardrobe
  • Loads of jewelry
  • Some farmland with wild animals roaming around
  • New appliances and new furniture
  • New linens and bedding
  • Perfect body and good health
  • Luxury vacations

After seeing this partial list of my mind’s imagination, you may be naturally wondering that this is probably based on one of the most materialistic driven individuals who is money-hungry and status-conscious.

I suggest that you hold on to your thoughts and judgment until you see my next post on how this may be translated into what one’s heart yearns.


Image Credit: Brain Creativity by Cammeraydave@dreamstime.com

A Story from A Broken Heart

March 23rd, 2009

As a sequel to my previous post “Till Death Do Us Apart”, I have received a heart-felt recount from a dear friend who is still going through the agonizing process of divorce.  After reading her “diary”, all I can think of is that when one writes from the heart, the words could move mountains.  Please read on.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Never Thought I Would Become A Statistics

             Broken Heart by Hypermania37

2008 was a life-altering year for me – as I moved out of the marital residence to begin life on my own while going through divorce proceedings.  Like any other divorcee, I never thought this would happen to me. I certainly didn’t enter the sacrament of matrimony to just see it fall apart.  But it is happening, and it has brought and continues to bring surges of emotions I never thought I had.

Rainbow of Mixed Emotions

I was literally dancing on the streets the day that I moved out – to me, it symbolized the beginning of a new life.  But after a few nights alone, I wondered whether I made the right decision.  To compound things, I wasn’t sure what to do with the time I had.  People say one should learn new things, or do something you enjoy, reconnect with friends, make new friends – but in my case, there was a part of me that occasionally wanted to be alone in my thoughts.  There was a part of me that wanted to sit down and be lonely from time to time.  Time for mourning, they say.

I think everyone is a little lost after a divorce… There’s such a mixture of feelings going on; sadness at what was lost, anger at how it happened, a desire to rebuild, a fear of getting hurt again, a need to be loved and to show love, a protective instinct for our children… I think all that makes us confused and confusing to others.  There were times I thought I was emotionally imbalanced – as I found myself giddy one minute. then crashing without warning within the next five minutes.

Maybe it was a desire to be understood, or to compare stories, or to receive empathy, or to gather advice on post-life divorce – or maybe it was just to feel ‘normal’ and not ‘damaged merchandise’ — it was amazing how all of a sudden, I gravitated towards divorced or separated men or women.  I guess there is truth to the saying that “Birds of the same feathers flock together.”   I didn’t shun my married friends, but I do remember not wanting to be in a family or couple setting over Thanksgiving – and instead opted to hang out with a girlfriend who broke up with her boyfriend of 6 years at around the same time.

March Forward – The Only Way

So what went wrong?  There is really no one reason – it is a festering of words said and unsaid, actions taken and untaken.  And my best advice to myself right now is to count to 1 from 10,000 — backwards and twice.  This storm, too, shall pass.


P.S. You know the rule.  Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.


Broken Heart – Photo credit to Hypermania37@dreamstime.com



Till Death Do Us Part?

March 20th, 2009
Photo by Hannamonika

Photo by Hannamonika

2008 – A Year of Metamorphosis

2008 was a year of metamorphosis for many people.  In my limited circle of friends and families, we collectively witnessed or experienced the death of our loved ones; some lost their jobs due to the recession; others tied their knots with the love of their lives.  One theme stood out the most was couples who had vowed “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part” had to sever their ties due to irreconcilable differences.

Needless to say there are different variations of the divorce process and story.  To use the word “painful” is really an oxymoron.  The one question that keeps popping up in my mind is that how a couple’s relationship could deteriorate from loving each other to a state of despise and animosity?

Why Broken?

I guess the answer is not that simple.  These are some of the probable causes for divorce:

  1. Couples do grow APART.
  2. Having children has added another layer of complexity to a healthy marriage if not managed properly.
  3. Relationship with step-children poses a challenge for many second-time marriages.
  4. Financial stress definitely takes its toll.
  5. Stumbling upon a new interest of love or infatuation tends to be another cause.
  6. Complacency in the relationship can rock the boat “slowly”, but “deadly”.
  7. Middle-life crisis by men and women can drive people to make drastic changes and to transform their lives for better or worse.
  8. How about  rejection or denial by the hostile in-laws from the get-go?

Undeniably, divorce is a modern phenomenon in the Western culture.  Sadly enough, people in the Orient have caught on with this trend as well.  Long gone are those days when couples remained married for 50 or 60 years whether or not they were happy with each other.  In this day and age, I am not sure if remaining to be married based on formality is the right model to exemplify either.

At What Price?

In the end, what was the price to pay by all involved, especially those children? Is grass really greener on the other side?


P.S. By the way, for those who are in the process of or had just gone through the major shift from marriage to being single again, please check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir entitled Eat, Pray, Love – A woman’s spiritual pilgrimage for an entire year in three diverse countries: Italy, India and Indonesia. These three countries represent her pursuit of pleasure, devotion and balance respectively.   It’s definitely an interesting and thought-provoking read.




This Is How Success Began

March 18th, 2009
 Photo by Crjphoto

Photo by Cjrphoto

Is it risky to give up on your cushy corporate paycheck?  Is it scary like hell to venture out something new on your own?  The answer is absolutely.

Last weekend, I joined 30 other people to attend a food tasting party of my friends’ new adventure into entrepreneurship and into the land of opportunity.  The new endeavor is to create a high-end and sophisticated cupcake outlet.

Given the numbers of recipes on the initial menu, all of us were assigned with a task to bake two of the recipes.  I forewarned my friend about how horrible I am at baking, I assume I got the easier ones.

Can’t Save My Life with Baking

My preparation leading to the evening party was worth noting.  I started my day with a list of ingredients to buy from the grocery store and came home to kick-off the baking of the cupcakes.

I have to admit that I am a very creative cook and can improvise some tasty dishes out of just about anything in the fridge.  But when it comes to baking, I am so hopeless.  My limited baking experience includes home-made bread (not too bad at that). But when baking pastry-type of desserts, my creativity was only reflected in ripping open a Betty Crocker box and throwing in some eggs and milk.

Any Hair Left on My Head?

Needless to say, my entire afternoon was extremely frustrating.  Batch after batch of ingredients were poured down the drain because I messed up the sequence of mixing the ingredients or the batch of muffins didn’t come out right.  My poor family had to witness a bitchy and moody version of me (which is very rare, mind you).

I was so shamed of my final products that I didn’t want to go to the tasting party. In the end, I went and held my head up high in the spirit to support my friends’ new endeavors.

The Tasting Party

The tasting party started off with a delectable meal prepared by my friend.  It was a huge hit and I didn’t even get to have some second helping.  Then it proceeded with the dessert portion of the meal.  All of us, with a spreadsheet in our hands, had to taste 30 different types of cupcakes with different ingredients and toppings.  As gentle as we could manage with the tasting portion, we were still comatosed with sugar and icing in the end.  They all blended in taste and our palette became undiscriminating.

But we had such a terrific time exchanging the “war stories” of baking that afternoon.  Many people had similar experience like mine attempted to pull all the remaining hair out of our heads.  One neighbor told us that his muffins came out “topless” because they decided to explode in the oven.

We congregated around the living room and cast our votes for each of the recipes.  We were not shy in rendering our opinions on what to add and what to subtract from the ingredients.

We Celebrated

In spite of our baking ordeal and undeniable fiasco in producing perfect final products, we were there to celebrate our friends’ courageous spirit to charter their own ship down the sea of entrepreneurship.  In our hearts, we all hope and pray that this new venture will be a huge success.



The Function of Chopsticks

March 16th, 2009
 "Confused by Chopsticks" by Lisafx

"Confused by Chopsticks" by Lisafx

Have you wondered how many functions a pair of chopsticks could perform?  If you guessed to be more than one, your answer was right on.

Creative Use of Chopsticks

Let’s count a few of the common uses by a typical Chinese:

  1. Silverware to eat food with
  2. Egg beater to scramble eggs
  3. Utensil to cook dishes
  4. Stir for mixing drinks
  5. A spoon when making dumplings

Comparing to multiple use of a pair of chopsticks, Westerners would like to use very specialized tools and utensils for each specific purpose when cooking and eating.  My husband is a classic example of the latter.  When he cooks, you could easily spot a counter full of mixers, grinders, electric carving knife, etc.  A man has to have his toys, especially those with power, noise and speed.

What Can Be Inferred about the Cultural Differences

What’s so intriguing from this simple comparison can be highlighted as follows:

  1. Chinese tend to live a more frugal life style vs. Westerners’ easy access to different gadgets and tools.
  2. Chinese is more resourceful in leveraging the use of a simple pair of chopsticks vs. Westerners are great at inventing different tools for different uses.
  3. Chinese are more inclined to adhere to the tradition handed down from generations whereas Westerners constantly challenge the status-quo and are trying to make the things and processes better.

As you can tell from the above comparison, there are advantages and disadvantages of each culture and tradition depending on your own perspective.

Want to Know More about the Use and Etiquette of Chopsticks?

To end this post on a lighter note, in case some of you would like to perfect your skills in using chopsticks, please check out this video on YouTube by www.videojug.com.  The video also covers some of the basic etiquette in using chopsticks.

Remember, practice makes perfect.  Enjoy!


Getting out of A Recession Is Like Losing the Stubborn Weight

March 13th, 2009

recessionIf there is any keyword that has been used and overused these days, that would be the word “recession”.

The other day I was doing  house chores and incidentally heard CNBC news anchor, Tyler Mathisen talked about coming out of a recession is like trying to lose the weight we gained so easily over time.  I thought to myself that Tyler’s analogy was so true.

The Simple Truth about Gaining Weight

We all know or experience, to some degree or another, that gaining weight doesn’t take nearly as much effort as if we would lose the weight.  All we need to do is to gorge enough food, the fattier, the better and minimize our activity level. Voila, we will see very tangible results.

However, losing the weight we’ve just gained is going to be a long and painful process.  It requires motivation, focus and persistence.  It’s a known fact that in order to lose 1 pound of weight, we will have to cut down 3,500 calories.  So if we set our goal to lose 1 pound per week, we will have to cut 500 calories a day.

Surviving the Recession Like A Big Winner

So how could we apply this same principle of losing weight to survive an economic recession?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Patience is virtue: Economy has its own cyclical ups and downs and we should trust the capitalistic system to be able to self-adjust. Government intervention hasn’t been proven to be the golden key to crack the nut.
  2. Always live within our means (similar to not over-gorging tons of food in the first place): Perhaps one fundamental lesson many of us will learn is to live within our means .  Little bit thrifty won’t hurt anyone.  Saving some for the rainy days proves to be a valuable advice our forefathers had taught us.
  3. The rules are rules (1 pound = 3,500 calories): Leaders in the major corporations or banks will be held just as accountable like everyone else.  When they screw up the business and fail to deliver the business plans, they shouldn’t be holding their pathetic hands out for hefty bonus.  Instead, they should be standing up and facing the consequences.
  4. Appreciate what we have instead of what we have not: It has forced all of us to reexamine our lives and our life styles; what we can live on as bare essentials and what would be considered luxury or even extravagant.  It makes us appreciate what we have instead of lusting for what we can’t grab.
  5. Learn to be humble: It is such a humbling experience for all of us as a nation.  Maybe we will think twice before we wave our hands to tell the rest of the world what to do and how to do things in the future.

Would you agree with my “half a glass is full” philosophy?  Please comment.

Core Influence: Shell Identity vs. Core Identity (Part II)

March 11th, 2009

Following my previous post on Frank Kern’s speech on Core Influence, he continued to apply the same self-introspection process to your core customer in the market you serve.  The gist of Frank’s message is that for sure, you can serve your core customer relatively well if you are somewhat familiar with who they are, what they do, etc.  But the defining element for real success is to be able to communicate with your customer on a Core Identity level (heart-to-heart).

heart-1

Demographics and Psychographics of Your Core Customer

You may ask how could I do this?  Below are some suggested ideas:

  1. Start defining your core customer base with one individual in mind and give him or her a real name.
  2. Step into the shoes of your customer to really understand, feel and empathize with him or her.
  3. Ask a series of questions similar to the list you’ve asked yourself in my previous post when identifying your perfect average day such as: age, gender, occupation, marriage status, children or not. What is the spouse like? What makes your customer tick? What’s his/her biggest frustration in life?
  4. Draw a vivid image of your customer from his or her Core Identity (passion, purpose in life, what kind of life experience he/or she likes to live, what’s his/or her biggest fear, etc.)
  5. Communicate every and all marketing messages from Core to Core.
  6. Use every Marketing collateral to validate your customer’s Core Identity and to bring your customer closer to his/or her destiny.

Once you’ve completed these processes for yourself as well for your core customer, you will see magnificent transformation take place in front of your eyes and throughout your life.  Frank is the living proof that this works and works magnetically.

Would you suspend your judgement and give it a world?