“Nobody tells t…

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

From Ira Glass


Why I Am Permanately Leaving Facebook

I fear a generation when we are so connected to an internet lifestyle that we’ve lost the quality/depth of our social interactions. We’ve made it easier to sacrifice quality face-to-face interactions and created a false sense of connection over many friends, without making an effort to maintain true relationships. Creating true relationships takes work. 

At the same time, creative quality work (and projects) takes a lot of work; this level of depth is forgotten easily when we sacrifice quantity: we want to know more people, we need to know what everything is going on, we need to do more things, that we’ve become passive consumers, thinking technology will make things easier.

As of today, I’ve permanently deleted my Facebook. This also means that people will have a difficult time contacting me for those who have used Facebook. I will lose connections with people, but at the same time, I am focused on creating quality, time-developed relationships and work. Getting to know the person one on one, making an effort to know somebody deeply: this is a far more productive use of time than going online.

For those who still want to keep in contact with me, email, skype, phone, Linkedin, this blog, work best for me.

The process of thinking in the present

I always here a lot of self-improvement blogs who say “in order to remove anxiety, one must think in the present. Don’t worry too much about the future or your plans, etc.”

But, logistically, step by step, what does that really mean? I think in practice, in reality, it’s hard to be 100% in the present. You’re going to be thinking about the future to some extent (i.e. how much $$$ will I make to pay off the bills, what school I will go, what will my career will be, how will I contribute to society).

Let’s talk about what the PROCESS of thinking of the present. I experienced an aha moment today, actually,

So, for me, I like city planning and I always wonder what I will be doing with it in the future. However, the more thinking one does, the more ambitious one gets. The more one thinks about the future, the more expectations one gets, and the more stressed one gets; hey, if you want to do so many things in life, you will eventually have to work more harder because you’ve built up a value system of working your butt to meet those expectations.

That’s what I consider future thinking because your mind is in the PROCESS of building expectations. I’ve been there before, thinking about grad school, my contribution to society. Future thinking – to a certain extent – can be good, but if left unbalanced, can be really bad for your health. You forget to reflect on what you are currently thinking about now, and whether what you’re currently doing now is FUN/worthwhile versus the future.

I realized this in two situations today:

I was walking down the street to do my morning walk, and I started to listen to a YouTube video on successful language learning strategies. All of the sudden, I’m already immersed with the process of learning a language. The tips: attitude, motivation, time, making mistakes, deeply resonate with me and I am listening to the speaker; I break away from thinking about city planning experiences and expectations, and I start to think about what I could be doing to improve my language learning today (ok, a little bit of future thinking here, haha, but at least it’s focused on today rather than five or ten years from now).

Another experience I have was this Friday, I was doing some sketching/drawing at a nude model session. While a lot of people have told me that it’s hard to draw, I personally believe with a little practice, you can become very comfortable with drawing (I am not an art major, nor did I did drawing extensively in high school). For me, just the process of drawing a person multiple times, carefully, sketching out the proportions, getting the face, arms, legs right, making sure the shading on the back, the arms, legs were all careful – I find this process a lot more productive then any other thinking/pondering of the future.

If I am not using my hands, my voice, if I am not drawing, if I am not building something, if I am not physically movement, if I am not doing something specifically tangible to a lot of people, I don’t think thinking will get you far about the future.

Why: it puts you in the process/control of what you can do right now, at this moment. You are practicing your craft, honing your craft. You’re also experiencing something rather than looking forward. When you are experiencing something at the present, you have the ability to evaluate, reflect, piece-wise, step-by-step, whether the thing you are thinking about in the future is worth thinking ….. or not.

I guess another way to put this question into perspective: what can you do today to make your experience in life better rather what can you think about from five or ten years from now. Why? Life is too unpredictable, and things will change. You cannot hold on to your plans so easily.

I think this also raises some lifestyle questions too: what about your lifestyle you can change now versus the future lifestyle you want years from now? Is the lifestyle you want to live in the future better/worse than what you are doing right now (this will differ from person to person)? Being present thinking requires you to reflect on experiences today rather than 10 years from now.

Thus, this really means: your experiences now and how you react to those experiences today will reflects what next steps you should do. And yes, those experiences will be hard work and won’t be easy, but only you yourself can reflect whether to continue based on  how you feel.

In our Facebook time, YouTube time, LinkedIn era, social network, information overload time, it can be really easy to be passively dreaming and admiring others rather than making a big decision or making small steps to experience the present.

I guess, for me, this realization makes me conclude: your intentions should be clear (and always honed as time goes on), but you really shouldn’t ponder too much about where your future or what can you do later; it will be more stressful in the long run. Think what you can do today, break it down to little steps. If you realize your experience doesn’t work out, reflect  on your experience, see how you react, and decide today what next step to take the next day.

Let go of your future ambitions, and see what you can do now!

Art + urban planning + cultural bridges

I think I’m finally seeing these bridges come together:

1) I like drawing, and physically designing objects with my own hands.

2) I’m interested in urban development, with a focus on transportation and urban design.

3) I believe in developing stronger cultural bridges, particularly between China and The United States. However, not through the form of diplomats (IR), but rather through culture, through things people with relate with, such as food, music, language or art.

Career wise, this leads me to a lot of different opportunities that I’d like to pursue. However, I know for a fact that it is unlikely that I will be pursuing an entry level planning job initially after graduation. Reasons: high levels of competition and very little jobs available. However, if you’re aiming for a senior level position, while it’s harder to get the position, by the time I’m older I will have more experience and be more competitive. This is why I am open to doing non-planning positions as long as you can develop the following skills: reading/writing reports, public speaking, project management, and graphic communications.

However, let me rephrase my interests to a sentence that represents me better:

I am transitioning to be a graphic journalist with a focus on transportation, urban design, and environmental issues in China. My tools: illustration & animation.

Realistically speaking, this will have to be freelance (I’d like to contract my work for larger news agencies). Initially, I plan to be in Taiwan/Korea after graduation, likely teaching English, while on the side, honing my craft. Building up experience, working, enjoying life and really maturing, I hope to become an urban planner later in my life (i.e. early 30s), focusing on transportation planning / urban design, my medium is through expanding public engagement and civic awareness, after building up strong visualization and communication skills. (don’t want to plan to much, but this is my general direction)

Something I’ve also learned this week is the importance of work-life balance. (almost got burnt out a few times this semester) I want sort of an outlet to really get myself away from my work so I don’t get too stressed or hurt myself. Thus, in my spare time, I’m practicing my erhu, or learning how to cook Asian dishes.

Chinese dialogue on

Amy: 怎么来香港那么久, 都不打给我。(You’ve been in Hong Kong for so long, and you haven’t called me!)

Elizabeth: 没有。 我刚来,想自己先适应一下。(I just got here, and I wanted to get accustomed to the area myself first.)

Guy: Hi. 好久不见。 怎么样? 香港还适应吗?(Long time no see. So, are you still getting used to Hong Kong?

Elizabeth: 还好。 还挺适应的。 (Sure, I’m growing accustomed to it.)

Guy: 我还以为你失踪了。 (I’ve thought you’ve disappeared.)

Elizabeth: 怎么会了。 我就是刚来, 想先适应一下。 (Not really. I just got here and wanted to get used to here first.) 所以, 不过,我们马上就要经常见面? But, we’ll be seeing each other a lot soon?) 我刚拿下布兰顿的案子。以后还有请你多多指教.  (I just got an mandate on Brandon’s case. It looks like we’ll be learning from eachother.)

Guy: 恭喜你, 这么快就那到大项目了。

Elizabeth: 这还有感谢你。 制造出这么大一个收购案。 (For this I have to thank you for creating such a big transaction.

Guy: 别b客气.不过我这一次是有备而来,志在必得。 你要加油!(No problem, but this time I’ve come fully prepared. You should work hard!)

Elizabeth: 会的。那希望你不虚此行。(I will. I’ll make it worth the trip.) 对啊, 布兰顿已经同意合作。 (Also, Brandon has already agreed to work together). 欧文让我尽快安排一个正式会面。 (Owen has already asked me to arrange a formal meeting)

Guy: 最好能谈出个结果。(It would be best if this meeting led to results).

On being more comfortable with speaking Chinese naturally. Transitioning from English Chinese

That’s going to fall! Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTgtr2YziBo

I realized that while I understand this sentence:

我跟你说,上面的牌子快掉了, 你拿梯子 修一下呵。

I notice that I’ll translate it to this in English,

“I’m telling you, the brands up there are going to fall! Get the ladder to fix it.” (sort of literal translation)


“That’s going to fall! Get the ladder to fix it.” (This is how I would actually say this in English)

I notice that how these sentences are phrased in Chinese are very different than how I would speak in English.  However, if I were going to describe something to fall, I would have also said, in Chinese + English:

“这个掉了! Fix it!”

These subtle differences in English and Chinese are what distinguish literal translations versus native-like sentences.

Understanding these difference is key in trying to convey a specific emotion, feeling, or expression from English to Chinese. The way a sentence is structured (and conveyed) in Chinese, for example, is a form of communication, and can influence how the person you are trying to speak to will react to what you are saying.

The reason why I am trying to notice these subtle differences is because I’d like to be able to convey my feelings more naturally in Chinese, instead of using literal translations.

This comes from talking to some of my friends who are native speakers of Chinese. I will understand what they are saying, but because I don’t have the practice of QUICKLY creating native Chinese sentences (or confidence), I end up not responding quickly enough. At the same time, I feel like the meaning, feelings I want to use in Chinese aren’t accurately conveyed if I use really literal English to Chinese like sentences.

I’m not sure exactly how to practice this or work on this, but I think a key thing is being able to notice these sentence patterns differences between Chinese/English, and be able to transition quickly between the two sentence pattern.