A few thoughts about Taiwan before I head to bed



Will blog more once I get some rest, but I fell in love in Taipei when I was there. A few key things that I’ve recognized:

  • I enjoy hearing the sound of the Mandarin language and being able to interact with locals about a variety of things. I think living in a foreign culture excites me and represents who I really am.
  • Being away in a foreign culture by yourself, while not changing yourself personally, will definitely change how you view the world and really teaches you to figure out what your true values and interests really lie because you are away from the rest of your home country and you are out making decisions on your own, without thinking about what people think of me. For me, this is in illustration and design, with some interests in urban planning / design.
  • Travelling by yourself doesn’t seem that adventurous, despite what people think. In fact, going out on my own, I felt completely normal and learned a lot in the real world about what I should do rather than being in school. I felt completely safe in Taipei, for example, and felt like a local. Granted, while Taipei is a developed city, and there might be other places that might not feel as safe, I don’t see traveling too scary yet and it seems to be going to be a normal part of life as I move on.
  • In this tough world, where you are expected to follow a “specific path of success” in order to be successful, it’s really important to stay true to yourself and your values despite a lot of animosity, fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

WSJ Column: How we lose in the race to win

And here’s what I’ve learned: the leaders are not the highest IQ people in any organization. They didn’t get the highest grades, they didn’t score the highest exam scores.

They got to the top because they have the ability to attract the best people to work for them. And at the root of that power of attraction is empathy.

Empathy is the ability to truly connect with other human beings. It’s life’s hardest but most important skill. And it’s the #1 skill required for leadership in a changing world.

It’s all about relationships

Nothing important ever has been accomplished by one person alone. The far greater value-add is in the relationships between people. That’s why it’s only through learning how to relate effectively to others that we achieve success in career and life.

An organization is shaped like a pyramid. At the bottom are a large number of worker bees. Above them are the people who manage the worker bees. Next are the people who manage them. And further on up, until you get to the CEO.

The reason why many people never rise above worker-bee status is that their skills are worker-bee skills. They know how to work really hard, all by themselves. That’s what they’ve been trained to do.


As we are moving to a fast paced world, I’m a believer that we need to learn how to work cross-sector, cross-collaboratively, and be open minded, empathetic to different ways of life, in order to be able to solve our world’s most toughest problems. (See Peggy Lu’s talk on Cultural Bridges)

If this is the path I wish to take in life, maybe it matters less what I pursue as a career/job and more about how I can contribute to society in bringing people together. While I like art/design/music, I value it as a form of expression and less as as a career (although it could be a potential career).

My definition of success has evolved, realizing that it doesn’t matter as much as how good you are as a certain area if the intention is to only make a lot of money. First, I’m far from a perfectionist (I’m lazy and I don’t really aspire TOO MUCH about going to grad school or moving up the corporate ladder, although it could happen, but I’m not putting too much emphasis on it).

In life, it matters more for me that I can create healthy, strong relationships, enjoy life, but also be able to understand/empathize with different cultures and perspectives. Respect and get to know people individually. However, I think we should all work together as a team to figure out how to make the world more healthier for our kids and our future, because in a fast-paced society where everybody is competing for things, we have to find a way to balance our own ambitions as humans (that give us self-ownership in life), while balancing that we have to live, enjoy what we have.

I think it matters more that we rely the strengths of everybody around us (including our own strengths), and work together collaboratively.

It’s time to change the way we talk about sustainability

Sustainability is dead. Or at least the entire language we use to talk about it should be buried.

Sustainability messaging must shift hard from a focus on abstract responsibility to one that helps people make subconscious choices that make them feel good about themselves. We need to speak to the heart, not to the head. From Peggy Liu, JUCCCE (Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy) (link)

So, I have a question for you guys:

How can you talk about saving the planet in a way that relates to the people you are talking to?

For example: getting people out of cars, walking/biking to work, living close to transit in order to reduce greenhouse gases, is not only too abstract, but it creates a very negative vision, a sense of fear, a very unrealistic vision (at least in the US) that may not work and seem idealistic.

What about…

Creating a lifestyle that allows parents more time to spend with kids, save money for the experiences that matter such as vacations, exercising/playing in the park, hanging out and watching a movie nearby.

Sustainability needs to connect with the emotions, people’s actual needs, not abstract concepts that come from our professions simply that is based on us telling what people should do.

As a city planner, I think we could learn something from the field of marketing/advertising; unfortunately, we’re so far off from people’s lives, focusing on really abstract concepts such as “urban design”, “transit-oriented development”, “form-based codes”, “getting people onto transit”, without really painting a picture of what sort of lifestyles that people can aspire to that is healthy to the planet and ourselves in the long run. 

The question is, what does a sustainable lifestyle really look like?

From the article:

Suzanne Shelton, an American pollster and behavior change specialist, talks about how humor may be more effective than education at breaking habits. She says, “Knowing a thing doesn’t mean you will do a thing.” Perhaps the biting wit of TV comedians Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert could be used to make fun of shameful unsustainable behavior.


In pointing out what makes a successful movie, Phillip Muhl, a major movie executive formerly of Disney, says that no one wants to watch a movie where the world is going to end and we’re all going to die. But we all love a good drama that shows us how screwed we can be, and yet the human race still perseveres. We go to movies for hope. How can environmentalists move from climate-weary white papers to magnetic box office–style stories?


The team behind the new Battlestar Galactica was brilliant in the way it allowed glimmers of hope in the midst of so much despair. Similarly, the human drama of everyday life on an Earth being stripped of resources must be told in a compelling way. Instead of the drama of polar bears or rising PM2.5 statistics, we must tell the story of us.

It’s time to start questioning not just what world we will leave behind, but what dreams we will shape for our children. To do that, we need to leave sustainability jargon behind and take up the language of hope.

What does a sustainable lifestyle really look like? How can we visualize it, understand it, and connect to it to start making small decisions today?

We have to be very craft-ful with our language, how we craft a story, that people can relate to and connect with. If anything, let’s start changing the way we can communicate sustainability.

Let’s start talking about lifestyles that is healthy for us as well as the earth.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Found this article from Tiny Buddha about not doing things that you don’t want to do.

I think in life, we always have to reflect, take our time, meditate, in our true intentions, and identify which things we know for a fact reflect our identity and who we really are, versus things that we are doing just because we have to.

However, I argue that there is a wide spectrum of what you want versus what you really don’t want to do, but you have to do; to pay the bills. This is something I’m still struggling to find balance within as  I go on in life


Drawing artistically versus drawing for city planning / environmental design

There’s something different being able to draw organically versus drawing for a very technical, functional purpose (for example, architecture or city planning). For some reason, there’s some sense of my personality imbued in my drawings, something that represents me and my personality.

For the past two years I’ve grown a bigger interest in art/design related fields; while I am an urban planning student by background, a lot of my internships have had some visual/artistic element in it that let me know more about my personality.  For example, policy is my biggest weakness because I don’t like dealing with long documents (I do like reading though… but not dealing with policy because I’m a strong advocate for strengthing physical planning, i.e urban design, but that’s another story).

Maybe it’s time for a transition…? I’m seeking a career that fits my personality/strengths, and right now using a combination of visualization, drawing, illustration, and design seems to be the direction I’m heading to.

Any thoughts?

Having a strong sense of trust among your peers is more important than how well you do

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been milling over organizational behavior, professional development and it surprised me is that it matters more that you are able to establish trust among your peers/co-workers rather than how well you do.

Let’s break this down into further detail; note, having some basic competency in an area/specialty will help, but if you are just starting out in an organization, you will definitely feel new.

People generally want to work with people or feel comfortable with people they can relate to. How do you establish this comfort? For example, common interests, easy-to-relate personality types, level of openness and confidence, experiences that friends can relate to, stories, etc.

As simple as this may sound, in a world where you have to work in interdisciplinary settings, meeting new people from different professions and backgrounds, the ability to establish trust makes me realize: 

You don’t have to be perfect at what you do.  You’re going to always going to make mistakes as you go along, but as along as you have your friends and co-workers network by your side, you guys can work together and learn from those mistakes, because they feel comfortable working with you.

As an Asian-American, I grew up studying a lot and my family focused a lot of my experiences on studying. For some reason, they felt like socializing a lot was bad for my academic career. Thus, this sense of establishing rapport, socializing, using your peers together to establish a vision, seemed to be forgotten.

Now that I look back at my youth, I think I’m embracing that sense of imperfection now (to the point I have major senioritis in college, lol!). You really can’t do things on your own, learn to trust the power of your own team. Look for your own team members for inspiration rather than yourself.