Friday, March 28, 2008

Having a dream vs 脚踏实地

Yesterday I had a chance to meet with a senior executive from my company. He was giving us advices and such; one thing really stood out for me was when he emphasized the importance to "not have an inflated ego, especially at your young age".

I couldn't agree more to what he said, and I consistently try to remind myself that 一山还有一山高. At the same time, I can't help but realize the often contradicting "statements of truth" in life. There're plenty of examples regarding this yin and yang of life philosophies. Here's one that I always struggle with: "Jack of all trade, master of none" vs "You can't do sketches enough, Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh" (a case of depth of knowledge vs breadth of knowledge). But here I want to talk about this thing about "not having an ego" or I guess more aptly, "脚踏实地" vs " having a big dream".

This senior executive is not the first "mentors" of mine who has advised me, out of good intentions, the importance of having your feet firmly on the ground. Yet, I often feel that true greatness, the kind that really changes the world, comes about because of certain men's willingness to ignore the conventional wisdom or in Google CEO Eric Schmidt words "have a healthy disregard of the impossible".

I always find it an inherently contradicting to be 脚踏实地 while at the same time trying to chase that big dream. It becomes even harder when you try to achieve your ambition without appearing egoistic. The very fact that you have got a big dream would mean you have to be ambitious, which in some context (probably more so in asian mentality) may mean that you "don't know your place".

I try to rationalize this contradiction using what Peter Senge described in his book Fifth Displine (and I thought he explained it very well). He coined the term "creative tension", that driving force that propels you to your dream from where you are now. He envisaged the concept like a rubber band between the dream and current reality. The greater the gap between the 2, the greater the "creative tension". You can have lofty dreams, but without a realistic check of one's current standing, an "inflated ego" would easily close that gap and reduce this "rubber band tension". Hence I always give myself out-sized goals, the kind that I think some people may frown upon as being "over-ambitious"; but at the same time I try to consciously remind myself everyday that I'm still miles and miles away from what I want to achieve in life.

So yes, it's good advice to always keep one's ego in check. But never surrender to conventional wisdom or what others may say "you'd have to wait for your time". Once again, I find that Steve Jobs sums it up much better and with much more authority than me:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Amazing! Elephant draws self-portarit!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dreams are for...fools?

Something happened at work today. Without going into the details, it suffice to say that it was a "wake-up" wasn't like I didn't perform or make a major mistake at work, but it reminded me of how little I really care about what I was doing. I knew I needed some direction, and naturally, I went to YouTube and searched for Steve Jobs' commencement speech again...

It was still as inspiring as the first time i heard it. One part stood out for me:

"When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

Then I remembered that little piece of paper I pasted on my office desk. I wrote it on my first day at work last year, as a reminder to myself..similar to the "Why am I here?" note I had during my 4 years of college...and it (the one on my office desk) read something like this:

"Why am I here?

1. To keep an open mind
2. To keep learning
3. To stay humbled
4. To do something for society
5. To live today as if it's my last"

I barely get a chance to look at that piece of paper nowadays. And when I do, I feel a sense of shame...that I'm short-changing myself...yes, i guess i'm learning new things...i try to keep an open mind but i realize it gets harder these days...controlling my ego is one thing that i'm managing so far but i feel that i've let down myself when it comes to point 4 & 5...and when I listen to Steve's speech..and his point on asking yourself in the mirror every morning about whether one would do what he/she's about to do for the day if this should be his last...i'm afraid this is a question i cannot say yes to for the past whole year...

the passion is is not healthy at all...something needs to be done...

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." - Steve Jobs

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jason Mraz's made my all-time fav artists list!

I've always liked to make list..list of my fav movies, list of songs, list of for my list of all-time fav went like this for the better half of my life:

1. Sam Hui
2. Bob Dylan
3. Simon & Garfunkel

I kept this list real short because I thought these guys really play a big part in my own musical journey, influencing the way I sing, write songs, think...of course there're many other artists or bands whom I really digg...but this list has largely remained the same through the years...until perhaps now...

I've been listening to more Jason Mraz's tunes over the last yr...i don't know why it took me sooo long before i discovered his music..i remembered hearing his "You and I Both" some years ago in the States..possibly in a cafe...and I thought it's just another bubblegummy pop song...well, fair enough that song has not really been my fav Jason Mraz's numbers...fortunately, i accidentally "discovered" his music again through some random searching on YouTube...and I have to say now, after listening to his stuff for a yr now...he'd made it into my all-time top fav artists list...

below is another video that shows this dude's genius:

Living high in France...

More "Multi-Touch Wall" goodness!

I came across Perceptive Pixel about a year ago after watching their demo at TED. Looks like there're more collaborations going between them and CAD software co stuff!

CNN also joins in the fun!

Awesome GapMinder-like data visualization

I wish I have a way to embed the visualization here, but here's the link.

A real-life application illustrating how write-offs and bank assets vary over the past 7 years on this blog post.

And I heard that Google has released a visualization API that's based on GapMinder. With cool visualization gadgets like these, I think I'm gonna have to really start messing with Google Doc more often now!

Jackie Chan's top 10 stunts!

I'm filled with respect for Jackie Chan after watching this video. It's been some years since he did one of these hard-core movies, so this is a great reminder..that he really does kick ass!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dog and his throwing machine

Amazing robot but extremely spooky

This looks abit scary, but some amazing technology at work!

Last message from Arthur C. Clark (on his 90 yr-old bday)

From the guy who brought us "2001: A Space Odyssey"....i think this guy has so much vision, full of imagination even at's a testimony that an open mind is hardly a direct correlation to age...i truly hope i can continue to "day-dream", the way he does...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Turning a dead heart to a pumping heart!

This is some amazing medical breakthrough ! The scientists created a beating heart in the lab!

House overlooking Bay Area

I want this house!!! Damn I miss the Bay Area!

Amazing pre-fab modular house

I read for a while that Vanke, one of the largest real estate developer in China is adopting a "factory-mode" concept of building houses in a bid to further speed up the turnaround time for a project. I was told it's a concept that has been implemented in Japan for quite some time now but I couldn't quite grasp what it means to fabricate "stuff" off-site and just put them together on-site. This architect (shown below) shows how you can do it, with class...

Ultimate Houses

Ever since I started this career in real estate, I've been learning ton of new things that's obviously a world of difference from my Carbon-Nanotube engineering days. While my job focus mostly on the financial aspects of the business, I also have the opportunity to become exposed to the wonderful world of architecture. As a guy who's always into design, I can't believe how long has it taken me to realize the great amount of human imagination or innovation that has gone into making buildings. It helps that my younger bro, Sam, is studying architecture and he's been showing me some really neat books on the subject as well as cool sites, one of which is Ultimate House. Here're a few clips from the site. (After watching all these clips, I hope I could some day become of one of these architects' "clients" :))

Modern living in Tokyo

This has gotta be one of the most delightful house I've seen!

The ultimate "Glass House"

Another cool house in the desert...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

10 mph across America (on a Segway)

How I miss the open road in America...this is a thought-provoking road trip documentary..with Brett Dennen songs!!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Flying without parachute

This has gotta be the single most stupid/crazy act i've ever seen...but this man also has balls!!