#236 Be a visionary & be a doer!

And no it’s not by me! I am not that inspirational. In a feel-like-blogging mood today so I decided to blog about this talk by Dr. Sachiko Kuno at my company the other day. If you don’t know who’s Dr. Sachiko Kuno, she is one very successful Japanese lady in America and she’s on Forbes list places #41 for America’s self-made woman. And she owns two very pretty houses Halcyon house and Evermay in Georgetown (I got this info from google and the houses are really very very very very nice!!!).

But anyway, she was invited to give a talk and I thought she sounded really successful and cool so I went. The talk was mainly about her success story, like what she did and what she thought and I guess I wasn’t able to get much from that part cause I thought a huge part of her success came from her personality (like she’s a risk taker and she’s very confident and very adventurous) but I got some new insights about life itself.

So first she talked about her past and how she took risks and stuff. And then she moved on to talk about why she wasn’t afraid to take those risk and that’s when she mentioned about self efficacy (which is this term that I haven’t heard in a while). I guess I do have abit of self efficacy but maybe I lost a part of it after staying in Japan cause I don’t feel as smart anymore. I guess although you might be born with more self efficacy or less self efficacy than others, you can work on it by gaining knowledge, polishing your skills and practicing. So in a sense, back then when I was back in Singapore, I did well in school, worked hard, studied hard so I had some level of self efficacy. But after coming Japan, cause the education system is so slack here, I slacked and become stupid?/or stayed at the same level and that’ why I lost the self efficacy I gained back then. But anyway, I guess it’s time I try to get it back again cause I do agree that it is very important when I comes to overcoming problems and facing new challenges.

After that, she also talked about innovation, about how innovation is not only about making/creating new things, but also making a social impact what that new invention. I didn’t know that and thought invention and innovation were the same thing lol. Apparently social impact is becoming more and more important and so as compared to discovery/seed driven innovation, people are more focused on problem/need driven innovation now. She also mentioned about disruptive and sustainable innovation (which I am still not very sure of what they are except that disruptive is like making a brand new thing as compared to sustainable being making improvements from current products).

The next interesting thing she said was that risk and return are not equal. So instead of high risk = high return and low risk = low return, it should be high risk — if you succeed —> high return and low risk — even if you succeed —> low return. I guess it’s common sense but people rarely put it down in words like this so I thought things seem alot clearer when written down.

The thing that hit me the hardest was when she mentioned how life is a game, where you get to choose how you want to live/choose whether you want to take high risk or low risk. And as a very science person, she said if you think of your life in units of 10 years, if you have 40 years, you get to choose 4 times. So if you want to play safe, you can choose low risk for all 4 times but why not choose high risk for 1 time and even if you fail, all that happens is that you get back to the starting point again. Although it might be making things too simple (by taking high risk you might lose more than just getting back to the starting point), I thought it was interesting to divide your life into units of 10 years and think about what you want to do in that 10 years and try your best to reach that goal for the 10 years. I don’t exactly have a clear aim in life yet but I hope one day I can have one and try my best towards it.

During Q&A, somebody asked about how to develop self efficacy and she mentioned setting small attainable goals (which reminded me of the kitchen timer method) and about not striving for perfect score (so that you have less inertia to challenge new things). Sounds like something I can try and hopefully even if I cannot reach the level of being a visionary/doer, a part of me can improve a bit so that I won’t continue to be as useless as the current me.

Feeling a bit inspired to make a little change in myself.





#199 Culture and perception

Taking a short break from my kitchen timer session by blogging here. I have been speaking to my colleagues quite often recently and I have observed that there’s really something like ‘Japanese perceptions’/’Japanese way of thinking’. Ok, it obviously exists, but it’s just that recently I have been feeling it stronger than last time. It’s probably cause I have been thinking more into things and that I am going into my ‘rebellious’ mode where I just judge everything that is different from me. But anyway, there were 2 conversations I had that left very deep impressions me.

The first one was when I asked my colleague about the newcomer who was entering the department in June cause the newcomer is his lab junior. So I was asking like what kind of person he is and my colleague replied that his junior has a gf. So I was like ‘huh?’ (what’s the link between what kind of person he is and him having a gf???) and he told me that since the junior has a gf, he should be a normal guy. And I was like oh I see. In Japan, it’s like a norm for people my age to have a gf/bf, so if you don’t have one, they see it as either you just broke up or you are just too weird to get one. And in my case, I think I am being judged for being the latter. Lol. It’s really amazing how most people around me are attached. (But come to think of it my sg friends are mostly attached too lol.)

The second one was when I told my mentor I wasn’t going to the drinking party (nomikai) and he started interrogating me about why I wasn’t going and preaching me about how I should not skip nomikais (cause they are so goddamn impt in his opinion). He started saying about how people will start thinking what’s wrong with me (and to make it not so harsh he said people will start worrying about me (like wtf he think I 3 year old kid what people worry about me <- sorry a bit too emotional here)) if I keep skipping those nomikais. To them, not attending nomikais (even with a(n effing) valid reason) = something wrong and it’s amazing how they cannot think that there might be a possibility of someone not liking nomikais. I was ranting about this to my sg friend (who also works in a Japanese firm) and she told me that she faced a similar situation today at work. #woesofagaijinworkinginjapan

I would like to emphasize the fact that we are not obliged to attend outings after work cause those outings are not listed in our job scope. If it’s a must, please write it down in black and white and don’t expect me to ‘read the air’ or ‘teamplay’ or whatever they like to call that.

Luckily instead of getting angry at such frustrating situations (I mean the second one cause I have no probs at all with the first one), I get my dose of amusement from them. #becoolandtreatthemasjokes


#198 Putting into words

Had this recurring conversation with my mentor again about how there should be proper explanations about how I plan my expts. I used to think that some stuff are just based on feeling (凭感觉) and I always say ‘somehow I just feel that way’ and ‘I don’t know why buy I just think it will work that way’ etc. But recently I started thinking differently and leaning more towards the ‘there’s always a reason for everything, including how you feel and there’s a high chance that the feeling can be explained by an experience, some fact and figures or other sources of information’ kind of mentality. It makes more sense to live this way cause you will be very clear about what’s happening around you or, more importantly, to you. It’s part of my journey to search for some sense in/to life.

I was thinking and I thought there are two main reasons why people resort to vague explanations their actions/plans.

  1. Cause they don’t know the exact words to use (inspired by djd’s post on imprecision) to convey their thoughts (I always face this problem cause my vocab is v limited).
  2. Cause they still haven’t sort out their thoughts (I get this v often too cause my thoughts are always all jumbled together and v messy).

I guess I should do something of these two points like building up on my vocab, training my brain to auto-sort my thoughts and maybe even banning myself from being vague (is this possible? lol). But anyway, I have always been a bad researcher and have always been recording my results ambiguously and today I though I should learn to quantify everything and make everything clear so that other people can also understand when they see my notebook.

Points to take note on from now on:

  1. Be more precise.
  2. Sort out my thoughts.
  3. Provide reasoning for actions/plans.

Maybe I need more time to sort out my thoughts on this topic. I am still a little confused.

#192 The meaning in life

This is something I have been thinking about for months already, ever since I went back to Singapore last Dec. I see friends around me grow up, do what they want to do/know what they want to do, be successful in life, have some kind of achievement in life, go forward in the stages of life, etc. But I find myself still in the same spot as I was 8 years ago. Still so lost, so confused and still doing meaningless things. So since then, I began desperately trying to find some kind of meaning in my life but I am still quite clueless about it.

Anyway, I chanced upon this TIME article on facebook (looking through facebook does have its good side) and thought that it was quite useful/enlightening so I decided to add it here for future reference. Hahaha.

(source: http://time.com/4524909/4-ways-to-find-more-meaning-in-life/?xid=time_socialflow_facebook) <- oops from the link you can tell I got it from fb.

The title is very clear and the article is simply about the 4 ways to find meaning in life. The photo they added to the article really fits it imo and hopefully I can be like that person and be enlightened soon.

The first method they gave was to belong to a group. And true enough, over here in Japan, I never really felt like a belonged to any groups. With my classmates/batchmates, I feel some kind of distance between us because of the different background, like there are often times I don’t get what they are saying (cause of both the language and the culture barrier). Things got better as time passes (likely due to the decreasing language barrier), but the difference in background will always be there. And by background, I mean a mixture of habit differences, music preferences, shared experiences and so on.

Next they mentioned is giving purpose to your work.

Purpose is less about what you do and more about how you see what you do.

Sounds like a psychological thing to me very similar to brainwashing. But to think about it, since purpose is now something tangible, we have to define it ourselves and I guess in this case, you decide the purpose to your work instead of having others define it for you. To me, naming the purpose to my work isn’t something that difficult since there’s an aim written down for me for my research. What’s hard is to look at the bigger picture and to feel that I am doing something bigger.

Next was about storytelling, about how we should ‘end it (our story) with redemption, not contamination, and become the superhero of your life’. I didn’t quite get this point and now I still don’t but I guess it’s about doing something about (negative) events that happen in your life instead of just accepting it and moving on. To me it sounds like it’s trying to tell me to make a change/be more active/to have more control over my life, and not just be a passive person and follow life as it is. It might be hard to accept that bad things have happened but to me it’s much harder to accept it and then do something about it so that you can change your future (even if it’s not a big change) for the better. I will learn to be more in control and stop being one who just goes with the flow.

The last point is about transcendence, to feel awed about the vastness of the world. It’s true that when you see the bigger world out there, you find yourself knowing how small you are (like what people always say), but I don’t really get how it links to finding meaning in life. Seems a bit contradicting to me cause if we are small, our lives would not be meaningful? (Or is a just a fallacy on my side?) Or does it mean my problems on being not about to know the meaning in my life is actually a very small problem so I should just move on with life and do things that I want to? I am still a bit confused about this point.

But anyway, to conclude, I guess this article has triggered me to think a little deeper into things and hopefully I am one step closer to finding the meaning in my life. (And I am secretly very happy that the fourth point actually justify my desire to travel – to look at how big the world is.)