Check out “Mulberry Stories: Conversations Between an American Daughter and Her Mother”

This month, my Mom and I were asked to write an ongoing series for Asian Fortune, one of the leading publications for Asian American news. We aptly called it “Mulberry Stories: Conversations Between an American Daughter and Her Mother,” and it will feature our ongoing conversations about cross-cultural and cross-generational conflicts.

We’re thrilled that  a week after the series launched, our story is currently featured on the digital edition’s front page.

MC asian fortune

These themes, of course, are those addressed in Mulberry Child movie, and will play central to our second book [a work in progress]. If you haven’t already, you can check out the trailer to the film below:

 

You can also check out more about the film on its website: www.mulberrychildmovie.com

Elusive happiness: On 27 and feeling like a failure

 

Adult
[From Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/life-in-your-early-twenties-vs-your-late-twenties]
It seems to be a perpetual theme—one that you almost smile in recognition of. You see yourself in the meme, and you feel a certain sense of relief. Thank GOD, I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who thinks that at 2_, I have not achieved what I thought I could; my days are not what I imagined it might be; and I feel like I’ve failed at life.

Yet for all the comic relief, the reality is less rosy. Just because misery loves company doesn’t mean it’s any less miserable. The doubts creep in: was I ever as smart as I had always believed? Am I really that unique, that talented? Are my parents the only people who really believe in me… well, because they have to?

The doubts are further solidified by people who seem to be put on this earth just to make you feel bad, to ensure that in case, just in case, you thought you were smart, funny, valuable, here was hard proof that you are only mediocre.

How did we get here?

We expect extraordinary to be the baseline: We live in a culture where extraordinary is celebrated: the best athletes, the best singers, the smartest minds, etc. Accomplishing extraordinary things is aspirational, and it is the inspiration these stories spark for which they are featured in newspapers, books and films. There is nothing wrong with admiration. But, the problem is that particularly in American culture, we believe everyone should be extraordinary. Ordinary may as well mean dunce, and scoring average implies you’re the village idiot. We cannot come to terms with the fact that perhaps, we are simply ordinary. And this fights against every ounce of us that has been told since we were kids that we can be anything we want to be, if we just try hard enough. When the bar is unrealistic, dissatisfaction ensues.

Digital peer-to-peer transparency is killing our sanity: Illusory superiority would also have us think we’re better than those around us, which makes not being as successful/happy/liked as the next chick all the more painful. What’s changed in the hyper-transparent and insta-world in which we exist is that we are bombarded with constant reminders of how we are measuring up to our peer set: minute-by-minute, second-by-second. If societal expectations weren’t enough of a stress factor—because let’s be honest, society tells us there’s more social equity in being a consultant than being a street peddler—we now have constant access to/reminders of how our peers, who we shared the starting line with, have more success or better lives. We’ve forgotten to even remotely understand, define and make peace with what actually makes us feel whole.

Fragmentation is splitting our minds on the direction of happy: I would argue there are two schools of thoughts to this—that fragmentation, gamification, multitasking, etc., are broken down into:

  1. Those who believe that this is the future, and therefore we must all adapt to the new reality and embrace it; and
  2. Those who believe that we are doing ourselves a great disservice by undermining the focus and discipline of yesteryear

Those of the latter opinion might say that our education has been drilled by an Industrial Revolution system (it has) and the same laws of focus and concentration on a solitary direction no longer apply. We need to embrace the future more than hold nostalgia of the past. Then, the opposite point-of-view might indicate that multitasking does not make us more efficient, but rather more fragmented, with shorter attention spans and inability to really process and understand. It drives us in a million different directions, leading us down the path of being a successful doctor, no politician, no artist and dentist, no… Shallow spurts, no informed point-of-view, which leads me to my next point:

We are unrealistic and impatient: I remember rolling my eyes at an older generation who said that Millennials felt entitled to all the benefits of hard labor without having to put in the work. No, I don’t want to be a corporate cog for 30 years in the hopes of being a CEO one day. I don’t want to do the grunt work for Washington pundits for 20 years in the hopes that one day, I can become one. The external landscape is concurrently changing, of course, as the media highlight the extraordinaires: A brilliant programmer becomes a millionaire at 25; a backpacker with a dream starts a global NGO. That should be me right?

I’m not saying that my parents were wholly right. After all, I believe that unless corporations hyper-evolve to meet the demands of a new generation—one that values life over money and purpose over paycheck—they will undoubtedly lose the best and brightest who are already migrating onto an innovative and empathetic start-up world. But there is a point here. Life shifts don’t happen in a day; they take investment and vision. We still need to put forth the effort to reap the benefit, and we’re disappointed when the easy wins don’t come.

We don’t #JFDIN: I’ll leave this one short. We procrastinate. We think we’ll get started with re-shaping the rest of our lives tomorrow. And then we go to sleep and tomorrow becomes today.

We are in a system that is programmed for dissatisfaction: My friend Kora, who I source all my worthwhile reading from, sent me an article entitled, “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed.” In it, the author writes: “We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have.” Truth.

**

From psyche to societal structures and systems, it seems we were always set up to self-doubt and fail. I’ve said all this, and ultimately, I do not feel like a failure after all. Awareness is a first step. Ownership of the things I can control and peace with the external things I cannot are a second. The best I can do is live each day asking if I’m doing everything I can to make my personal dreams come true. And if I can say I am investing in the days, living fully, and working towards my own definition of happiness—can I… can we—ask for more?

The fine art of crack travel

I’m a bit upset that Expert Beacon decided that the Fine Art of Crack Travel wasn’t SEO optimized… sigh. [But it’s such a good title, I protested].

Here’s the next article in my series on travel:
Pack as much relaxation and sightseeing into your travel vacation [LAME… LAME title they picked….]

Belize sunrise

 

There’s the art of slow travel, and then there’s the art of crack travel. And for anyone with a full-time job (or full-time obligations) who harbors an equal passion for seeing the world, the latter is sometimes the best, or necessary, option. What is crack travel exactly? It’s the art of packing as much as you can into an abridged time period—call it a long weekend, a week or two weeks, or what most of the employed public might have to take off in a given continuous period. Here is some advice to make that time work hard for you.

Read the entire story here: http://expertbeacon.com/pack-much-relaxation-and-sightseeing-your-travel-vacation/#.UXQcdqJQHI4

 

The power of #JFDIN [Just F$%#!* Do It Now]

How I got here

Last week, while watching a Dan Gilbert TED Talk on why we make bad decisions, I heard a recurring theme: Human beings have a tendency to prioritize the present. Or as Esther Duflo says in a Challenges in Global Poverty Edx lecture, “We are thinking that today, the present is very important, but that tomorrow, we will start being reasonable people again. Now tomorrow comes, and tomorrow becomes today.  And again, today is so important.“ We fool ourselves repeatedly.

What unifies my everyday psychology with the one that propels a poor mother to put off immunizing her child because she is so busy today is that today, is more important than tomorrow. She will immunize her child later. I will do it later. That is the power of now, and to Dan Gilbert’s point, why we make bad decisions.

My human psyche has been working against me all along.

Let me elaborate: the secret, giggly joy I used to take out of procrastination is suddenly not such a point of pride or innovative. Performing well despite having waited until the last minute in college to write a term paper or study for an exam is all of a sudden not something that speaks to my brilliant mind [look! I tricked them! I don’t even have to study all semester like the rest of the students! I can slack off all year and still get an ‘A’]; rather it now looks like a crutch that speaks to a common fallacy of the human condition.

What a terrible thing. There’s little worse than, after all these years of feeling invincible, brilliant and special, understanding that this is not it.

Now and Later

JDFIN?!??!??!

I walked forth with a new resolve following my realization: later may as well be never; do it now.

Of course, like many things, this is easier said than done. No, I don’t want to respond to this email right now, I’m going to do it later. No, I don’t want to call Comcast. No I don’t want to call the credit card company to dispute the charge.

How much mental real estate does it take to keep remembering to put off these things, but reminding ourselves not to forget them? How many times do we say that we’re going to start studying for the GMAT soon, but not today, and three months later, we still see not one, BUT TWO GMAT books sitting in the corner gathering dust? How many times do we put something off for so long that it no longer makes sense to even do it anymore?

And the longer we put off doing something, the more we create a mental barrier to doing it. It’s so uncomfortable to now address that we put it off for even longer.

So over the course of a week, I had to continually remind myself to just do it.

No, you don’t want to do it, Lisa? That’s too bad. Do it.” Like pulling off bandaid, I had to keep reminding myself that a bit of discomfort here meant that an unpleasant task was done. Don’t want to have that uncomfortable talk right now? Just do it. Don’t want to write that quick memo. Just do it. Don’t want to write that blog post about doing it now? Just FUCKING DO IT ALREADY.

Results

The result has been a whole paradigm shift in the way I think after 27 years. This is what the new pride looks like. Doing it now is the new procrastination. Being a ‘do’ person is what makes you special.

And the unintended consequence is [speaking back to a conversation I was recently having with my best friend], you are more present. By not taking shortcuts, you don’t feel like you’ve cheated the system with your apathy and procrastination. There is pride in digging into something and finishing it now in a different capacity than the “duping delight” kind of pride [another TED Talk by Pamela Meyer on “How to spot a liar”]. There’s pride in being someone who just gets things done.

And as I get more things under my belt—as I dust the corners now, now now—the more delighted I am at the de-cluttering that naturally occurs. Things don’t get muddled in process; they move.

I never considered procrastination, at least by name, in this whole process until last night, while reading a brief about entrepreneurship and being an independent consultant. Writes Larry Hendricks about the considerations individuals should take when deciding if they’re essentially up to snuff on working independently:

(1) Are you self-disciplined enough to manage yourself and your business?

(2) Can you psychologically manage money well enough to operate your business (have and keep sufficient working capital to finance your airfare and living expenses until you receive your first payment) without getting stressed because you do not have a steady paycheck?

(3) Are you a procrastinator or a ‘do it now’ person?

I know in our American society, there is no better or worse, yet here it was articulated and staring me in the face. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’re sure not going to be successful as a procrastinator. So there’s more than just pride: this is what success looks like.

#JFDIN, just fucking do it now.