Self Help Destination

Thoughts, Uncategorized

If some of you are like me, then you probably have gone through a phase of soul searching, purpose finding, self helping… whatever you’d like to call them (or as one of my friends has called – averting midlife crisis). I am 39 years old and at a ripe age for this kind of phase. The role switching from a young lady to a mature mother/wife, the rosy fairy tale story fading into a cold hard reality of surviving, the once healthy and carefree body becoming fragile and full of scars and wrinkles. It made you wonder…

Once upon a time, I thought, I am searching for an answer, a destination, a purpose, and at the end of the journey it was those shiny words of wisdom, glowing with the comforting lights waiting to calm my soul. And now, I want to declare that my journey is abandoned, quit and given up on. For I realize now that life is about living in the moment, instead of chasing some unknown into the darkness of future.

I can’t say that I didn’t gain any insights from the past year of trying to find the meaning of my life. A lot of time, I caught myself thinking about it so hard that I totally ignore a question from my daughter, or a beautiful scenery passing by, or a deliciously decadent meal I was having. I was so wrapped up in figuring out right and wrong that I forgot to enjoy the people around me, even in retrospect, those included a few of my favorite and incredible persons.

I went through quite a few painful moments, both for myself and people around me. There are times that I feel that I was ready to give up living, there are times I feel so hopeless in humanity. Just as I thought things had hit rock bottom and that I bounced back, I hit another lower point, and laughed at myself, “Did I say that I hit rock bottom? Then what is this?” I finally decided that I needed to see a doctor, otherwise I may lose sanity/life. The doctor told me that I had depression. I was thinking to myself, really? How can someone like me who has always been bubbly, happy and if mad feisty go into DEPRESSION? I didn’t quite believe it. But I took the advice to take some medicine to make myself happier, and to take some time to focus on myself.

Then I got comfortable – being depressed. Using it as a universal excuse for anything I feel like doing or not doing. I didn’t like how that is going but didn’t know what exactly to do with it. Then one day I went to see my doctor after another argument with husband sent me into a deep sense of sadness, I told her that I couldn’t go to work the next day. To my biggest surprise, she told me: “I want you to go to work, even if you don’t do anything and just stare at the screen all day.” That advice instantly shook me out of my self pity and magically made me much calmer. I came home in the afternoon and picked up one of the many self help books that I have purchased – a bright orange one: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Should I say I feel that the book was a godsend? It answered/resonated pretty much every answer to every question I had about meaning of life, relationship, love, death, etc…  In my own words, some points are:

  • Be selective about what you care about, you can’t care about everything in the world. What you care about defines who you are.
  • There are values that are better choices to care about than the others, such as honesty, nonviolence and generosity vs money and fame.
  • Pain is an inevitable part of life, embracing the pain will only make you stronger. Constant happiness is probably a mirage.
  • We should take full responsibility for our actions, regardless what happened to us, because we have a choice in how we react. We shouldn’t take responsibility for other people’s actions, because we have no control over other people.
  • I am not special. Truth be told, similar to the belief most of us have during childhood, I believed that I was special, and I had magic power to bring happiness to people around me. But as I grow older, I realize that coming to terms that “I am not special” is essential. When we admit that we are not special, we become more human, more humble and empathetic to other human beings.
  • Everyone is wrong to some extent, in some aspects. It’s just that, sometimes the question becomes whose wrongness is right for the other person’s wrongness in the right way? And maybe we could correct our wrong to be less wrong if we choose to.
  • Doing something sometimes is the most straightforward answer to a question. E.g. Question: how to live my life? Answer: just live it already! Question: how do I improve my piano skill? Answer: just play it already! Question: what if I want to publish a book? Answer: why aren’t you writing yet? Etc, etc..
  • Unconditional love means you accept the others as who they are and it’s not about what you want from them back. You don’t have to like what they like, don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you give the acceptance and support in them being who they are and pursuit of their growth and happiness.
  •  Beauty of commitment comes from the limit of choices, persistence in your choices, concentrated focus on the highly important items. The sticktoitness will carry you through the hard times and bring greater sense of success in contrast to aimlessly chasing new opportunities and experiences, only to be left with the feeling of boredom and shallowness.
  • Reminding yourself of possibility of death is the way to achieve the full living. When measured against death, life’s meaning becoming clear. Personal priorities and values become evident. I have been living my life asking myself “what would I do today if I die tomorrow?” ever since I lost my dear aunt to ovarian cancer. With this question, how much money is in my  bank account seems unimportant, whether or not I feel fulfilled on that day becomes much more important – whether I said “I love you” to my loved ones to let them know, whether I gave the hugs to my daughters before they leave for school, whether I enjoyed the sunshine and smelled the roses, whether I attended the volunteer event that I am passionate about…I want my gravestone to say “No regrets…”

So my friend, I hope you can find your set of answers and peace of mind along your journey of self discovery. It is invigorating once you realize that the art of living is living itself. Wish you well!



Thoughts, Uncategorized

I came across an article by Jeff Haden today titled The First American Woman to Win the NYC Marathon in 40 Years Needed Just 3 Words to Reveal the Secret to Success. When I first read the title, I challenged myself to guess the 3 words. Is it”Never give up”? Or “Don’t ever stop”? Or “Have the courage”? As it turns out, the three words are “Patient” and “Hard Work”.

I have started to appreciate the power of patience greatly in recent days. If there is one word to describe me, it would be “impatient”. If I want something, I have to have it and I want it NOW. If I can’t have it NOW and if it requires too much work, forget about it. I will move on to work on the next item and cross the last one from the list. What I lacked was the “stick-to-it-ness”.

When life is rosy and easy, I coast along, when it gets harder and more serious, I break at a certain point and want to flee from it. Along the way, I don’t even own that fact and then come up with all the excuses for myself for why I can’t take the challenges. But there was a moment in my life, when what’s at stake is serious and important enough for me, I finally woke up to see how I was trying to avoid my challenges. I crashed, and then picked up the pieces and decided to embrace the challenges.

As I passed that stage, I felt stronger, wiser and more grown. I felt confident, that I will be OK, I will be happy and I will be successful. And no one could shake that belief.

When you find your core and learn to be patient and not afraid of hard work, then you start to radiate love. “Love is patient, love is kind”. When I become patient, I become a kind and loving mother to my children, who is willing to spend 30 minutes to a temper tantrum with a silent stand by and gazing at my daughter with gentleness. When I become patient, the mundane work doesn’t seem so boring and it becomes meaningful. When I am patient, a flaw in another person is not the reason to ridicule but just a flaw you believe that it can be corrected given time and will. When I am patient, I know it is OK if I can’t get to a certain result right away, and it is OK to keep on trying.

Here is a quote from Pele “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

Here is one of my favorite songs from Harry Belafonte, We Are the Wave, it says “Patience gentlemen, we move closer every day. Patience gentlemen, the stone will soon give way. Patience gentlemen, the flower can grow up through the stone. Patience gentlemen, its a truth that we have always known”.

Happiness Is…

Thoughts, Uncategorized

Charitable donation to my happiness jar

As we know, happiness doesn’t depend on how much money you have, it depends on your commitment to be happy with whatever life throws at you. Happiness is about knowing what makes you happy and put the hard work into reaching that goal. With your kind donation, I may just get to my goal a little bit faster...


The story goes like this – as I approach the age of 40, which in Chinese culture, is the age of “no puzzling”, I found myself feeling more and more lost with the meaning of life, then with some only-god-know-how-it-happened chain of events, I finally found my meaning for my life and my happiness.

What is the meaning of my life? I have been asking this question for a while (see this meaning of life post from Feb). When I was little, I had this belief that I have some super power and my purpose of life is to make the people around me happy. So bringing happiness to others was my meaning of life back then.

As I grew to the age of adolescence and was facing the career choice I felt clueless, I was told by my uncle who was deemed the most knowledgeable person in the family to study Computer Science. My mom had planed out my life path which is to go to a graduate school in US and then stay in US as she strongly believed that it would be the brightest future. I had no interest in GRE and Toefl tests and could care less about coming to US. I had applied to a Master program in International Business in Beijing and was accepted. However growing up being the only child who didn’t dare to say no to my parents, I reluctantly went through the application process for graduate schools in US and gave in to my mom’s plan.

I remember I cried so hard when I first started my graduate program abroad, because I felt so lonely and out of place. I felt no motivation, but simply heavy burden on my shoulders as I was told by my parents they could’t pay for my tuition and I was on my own. I worked at dining halls, and participated in medical research programs to make money, eventually I got a graduate assistant position and finished my Master program. Then to stay in US, I went on to enter the Ph.D. program at the same department, only to find out that I have no motivation to finish the dissertation.

My aunt who was the closest person to me passed away in Feb, 2008 after fighting ovarian cancer. I was angry and I lost faith in God. If there was a God, why was he blind for taking her away? After the grieving period, I made the decision to give up on my Ph.D. degree and pursue my own interests. With the support of my husband, I started a photo studio and retail store that specializes children’s products. It was a struggle to generate income stream doing those things, but I had so much time on my hands to be totally focused on learning the photography techniques, it was then when I realized that following my passion is part of what makes my life meaningful.

Fast forward 9 years, I found a corporate job that pays well as a Software Engineer, had 4 daughters and moved to a fast growing city, living in a red brick house. Life seems to have settled into a much better and happier state. But deep down, a hole is developing in my heart, a question lingering in my mind, an itch to find out the answer keeps me on my toes. Have you ever experienced that feeling?

The life that I have seems to be in an autopilot mode, you get up, get the kids ready, drive to work, sit in front of the computer all day long, then leave work, pick up the kids, get the dinner ready, spent night time with kids, then go to bed. On weekends, it is the kids activities, parties and chores that would fill up most of your days. You would have a few vacations throughout the year, be it beaches or cities or cruises. Life is comfortable, not too hard, predictable, nothing wrong with this picture, except that, there is something missing in my heart. It’s like I am approaching the edge of the “being dumb and happy” stage and need to get into the “being wise and happy” stage.

Several months ago, I asked my husband, “what is your purpose of life”? He said “Love, that’s all that matters. To love and to be loved and finding the happiness in the process.” I remember saying “Really?” At the moment of the conversation, I thought the purpose of life is “finding out about yourself and knowing yourself and living the way you want to live to be fulfilled”.

Then I met someone, and got to know him, a friend who understands me so well that we can talk about things all day long. He was there for me through some really tough time.  I started to think that the purpose of life is “finding love and the deep human connections”. Learning how to love myself, how to love other people, despite all the flaws and quirks we have was an important lesson for me.

There was a day that felt like the rock bottom of my life. It felt like the closest people in my life have betrayed me, and I couldn’t love myself for who I am, and the physical pains in my body reminded me something has gone wrong, the old me was dying. The miracle was that on the night of that day, as I thought I may slide into some prolonged stage of depression, I decided to cook a full meal for the family. Then things started to look better and feel better for me.

I started to receive those little signs like there are some god sent messages from a conversation with a friend (she told me that her husband had left her being afraid that their newborn baby had brain damage and she had been taking care of two kids all on her own), from reading an article in a magazine, from hearing the words of appreciation from my children…They gave me the strength, and taught me the power to choose to be happy. I then understand only after you hit the rock bottom, can you make that choice of standing up high, or lying there moaning.

As I read Tony Robbins’s book Unshakeable today, this paragraph resonated with me

“What I’ve come to realize is that the single most important decision in life is this: Are you committed to being happy, no matter what happens to you? To put this another way, will you commit to enjoying life not only when everything goes your way but also when everything goes against you, when injustice happens, when someone screws you over, when you lose something or someone you love, or when nobody seems to understand or appreciate you? Unless we make this definitive decision to stop suffering and live in a beautiful state, our survival minds will create suffering whenever our desires, expectations, or preferences are not met. What a waste of so much of our lives!”

I am so grateful for my journey to find my answer to my question of purpose of life:

To know yourself, and love yourself, do what you love to do…

To love others, without asking for anything back, despite their flaws and quirks…

To choose to be happy, no matter what life throws at you, as long as you are living…







Life is short, no time for not knowing yourself

Thoughts, Uncategorized

Recently I have been thinking a lot – on the way to and from work, while driving on “autopilot” – what is the meaning of my life and how should I spend it?

I have followed quite an unconventional and windy career path. I was a PhD student studying computer science for quite a while, taking my time to care for my first born all the while. Then I opened a children’s boutique and photo studio from the expanded garage of my home. I then worked in the IT department in my university, after that I worked as a contractor in a small IT consulting company, now I work for a large insurance company. I still wonder if I am making the right career choice, but I know that I need to put the bread on the table for my kids so I know that current choice is necessary.

The reason I am racking my brain so hard recently is because I increasingly feel that life is too short and I really need to figure out what I should do with my precious time.

I opened my photo studio after my aunt passed away. A bold move – considering I had no formal training in photography and had only started to do it for not long because my daughter was born and I wanted capture all those cute moments as much as I could. But having witnessed my beautiful and smart aunt in a rapid decline of health, succumbing in the end to ruthless cancerous growth inside of her body, I realized that people are mortal and we don’t really know what our tomorrow will be like. I asked myself: if I die the next day in an unexpected event what would I be most regretful that I spend my time on? The answer : dragging my feet in the PhD program. I had already passed the candidacy test, all that’s left was to write my dissertation. But I could not find a topic I was interested in and motivated enough to work hard on. I saw no light at the end of tunnel but was too chicken to give it all up. It was at that moment when I determined that it was time to call the quits. A fresh new start, doing what I WANTED to do.

Honestly photography business was hard. Especially at a time most families can afford a decent camera and take their own pictures. Still I believed that we offered more than a snapshot. I had a great experience that allowed me to interact with many young families and document some of the most precious moments for them in an artistic sense. But as a business in a small college town in a rural area, the money was not great.

When my husband moved to a new job in North Carolina, it was not too difficult for me to also find a job in IT sector. It pays better than my photography and store business, and it requires less time on nights and weekends, which had become increasingly precious since I had a family with children. I told myself that I would still do photography, just in a more leisurely way, on my own schedule.

I ask myself this question a lot: “What exactly do I want to do with my life?” My answers at different time vary. Sometimes it’s “I don’t know”. Sometimes it’s “Start a company”. Sometimes it’s “Find a cure for cancer”. Sometimes it’s “Be a stay at home mom”. Sometimes it’s “Become a hacker”. Sometimes it’s “Travel the world and see different places.” But I don’t seem to be able to come to a definite conclusion, I am always wavering. 😉

The other day I read the book “When Breath Becomes Air” in one setting. It was brutal to read about a dying human being to come to terms with the knowledge that his life is ending soon. Reading about Paul Kalanithi seeking answer to his “meaning of life” question, I realized that a lot of times people don’t really think about how unpredictable and fragile a human life is. By the time you are aware, it is often too late. And we are constantly making compromises between ideal and reality. We base our actions on prioritizing short term and long term goals. But often times we are not conscious about how limited the days of our lives are.

I came across the essay “Life is short” by Paul Graham today. It was illuminating. It tells us to avoid B.S. and make room in our lives for those things that are important to us. It says that one way to figure out if something matters is to ask if you will care about it in the future. Because life is short, you should try to get more out of your life and savor what you do have in your life. I could not agree more.

I also think that it helps to find answers to following questions, to know yourself better, to figure out what are the important things in your life. Once you know who you are, it is arguably easier to live a meaningful life.

  1. What makes you happy? What do you like to spend time on?
  2. How to be well-rounded yet remain focused? What are your true interests, what are distractions?
  3. How important is money to you? How much money do you need to make in order to live the life style you want? When are the times you are just chasing money that you don’t need?
  4. How long do you expect to live? In each stage of your life, what kind of physical and mental states would you like to be in? What can you do to achieve that goal?
  5. How to be confident yet receptible to suggestions and criticisms?
  6. How do you assess your success and failure? How do you learn from your past to guide your future path?
  7. How to balance the needs to take care of yourself and help others that you care about?
  8. How to have a optimistic outlook of life yet be prepared to handle unexpected setbacks calmly?
  9. How to stay motivated by the things you want to achieve but be appreciative of the things you do already have?
  10. How to minimize the time wasted on things that are not important? Maybe it is not as hard or conflicting as you have believed to just stop doing them.


You see, life is such a brilliant paradox, it is beautiful and ugly at moments, joyous and painful, short and long, easy and hard, new and old, boring and exciting, unpredictable and foreseeable, selfish and altruistic. Life has so much to offer, it has so many levels, facets, corners, dimensions, we need the self identity to guide us through.

Life is short, know yourself, don’t waste it.



What’s wrong with Donald Trump? And why he should not be a president…

Politics, Thoughts, Uncategorized

I have been disturbed from day one when Donald Trump was elected President. The idea just didn’t sit well with me and now it is more and more clear to me why he should not be the president. The reason: he is A Narcissist. Right, narcissist, you hear me right. Let me explain…

Narcissistic are people who have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism. — Mayo Clinic

Does that sound familiar? No, still not so sure? OK, here is an easy checklist from Psychology Today to help spot a narcissist:

1. Unilateral listening

What he wants and what he has to say is all that matters. In a meeting there is no moment for “what is your opinion?” So when he discusses issues, his opinion is always important and right and others’ are always wrong or of minimum importance. He dismisses, negates or ignores other people’s comments and concerns.

Have you watched his first press conference as president-elect? He didn’t even give a chance for Jim Acosta from CNN to speak -calling CNN “fake news” – let alone to listen to what they have to say.

2. It’s all about me

I know more, I know better, I’m more interesting, When we talk, it’s mostly about me. In conversations, I take up most of the air time. Almost all of my chatter is about what I have done, what I am thinking about.

Listen to the speech Trump gave at CIA headquarters in Virginia on Jan 21st, 2017. It was supposed to be an assurance to the intelligence community that – despite the earlier inflammatory tweets he has given likening CIA to Nazis – he supports their work and will listen to what they have to say. Instead he went on to talk about his favorite topic – himself – analyzing how many people attended his inaugural address. He also went on about how he has the most appearances on the cover of Time magazine (by the way, untrue, Richard Nixon can claim that title).

3. Rules don’t apply to me

I can have affairs, cut into a line where others are waiting, cheat on my taxes, and ignore rules that get in the way of my doing what I want.. Rules are for other people to follow.

Trump has consistently filed appeals, petitions and challenges to lower the tax values of his properties all over the country that resulted in millions of dollars in reduced tax and hurt local governments. While you and I are expected to abide by tax laws, those simply don’t apply to Mr Trump the big guy.

4. Your concerns are really criticisms of me, and I hate being criticized.

If you insist on my listening and taking your concerns seriously I’m likely to get mad. I hear your concerns as disguised ways of criticizing me. Criticism hurts. I can criticize others, and often do, but if you criticize me you’re hurting my feelings so I’ll hurt you back. So if you say you are at all unhappy, that’s a way of indirectly criticizing me. Since “it’s all about me” your feelings must be about what I have been doing.

Instead of receiving daily intelligence updates, the president-elect reportedly only listens to it once a week, claiming that hearing such classified information would just get repetitive. “I get it when I need it,” he said. “I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”

When CIA released information with “high confidence” that Russia interfered with the election by releasing Democratic National Committee emails through WikiLeaks, Trump felt defensive. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said on Fox News. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.”

5. I am right. You are wrong. So when things go wrong between us, it’s always your fault.

I can’t be expected to apologize or to admit blame. I’m above others and above reproach. If you expect me to say how I’ve contributed to a problem, I’ll get mad at you.

On Jan 27th 2017, Trump issued an executive order to ban certain refugees, visa holders and green card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering US. As chaos, confusion and delays were experienced at the airports across the nation, Trump blamed Delta airline for all of this on Twitter, claiming their computer outage as the real culprit.

6. I can be quick to anger. When I’m angry, that’s your fault too.

If I’m mad, it’s because I’m frustrated by what you are doing. My anger is your fault. I’m only made because you … ”

On Nov. 21st 2016, when Trump met with television executives and anchors in a closed door meeting held at Trump Tower, he allegedly complained to NBC that the pictures they use of him as unflattering. According to New York Post, Trump is especially mad at CNN, calling CNN journalists “liars” and they should be “ashamed”. Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’

Now I hope that you see clearly as I do that Trump is a typical Narcissist. And the bad news is, because a Narcissist sees himself as grandiose he would seldom subject himself to the actions of overcoming the issues – after all he is too proud to admit he has any flaws.

A signature Narcissist fatal flaw that would disqualify Trump as a president is the inability to empathize. Empathy lies deep in a healthy human being, whilst sorely missing in Narcissist. When a Narcissist hurts another person, he could not understand the hurt and offer consolation, instead they see that reaction as a criticism and will deflect that criticism by blaming the other person. You see, he hurts the other more. You will see NO REMORSE and they will see their offending having NO CONSEQUENCES.

When a narcissist becomes a public leader, the damage could be devastating. He could be charming and offer empty promises to gain your support. He could even show a fake empathy fooling a group of people that he cares about you. However, when what you want is not what he has in mind, he would NOT LISTEN to you. NOR DOES HE CARE.

After the Narcissist establishes his control over his subject, the thin veil of empathy will fall and you see a person who you trusted turns into someone who just wants you to do what he tells you to do, not listening to what you want. You will feel deeply betrayed and unable to trust. After you experience the hurt from a Narcissist you would never look at anyone the same again. You would be cautious wondering if the next person you encounter is a just another well disguised Narcissist who in the end will throw away all your emotional investment relentlessly and hurt you without even acknowledging it. Those pure, safe and innocent feelings will be gone should we never encounter a Narcissist in our lifetime. We will be aware that such predators exist and they are forever looking for innocent people like us to not be savvy enough and SAY NO to them for their exploitation.

The suggestion for the course of actions is unanimous – end the relationship and RUN AWAY- as far as you can. You can’t fix a Narcissist. Many failed attempts may precede the painful realization the Narcissist does not empathize, they can’t feel your pains. Then, now free yourself with this knowledge.

We must recognize that the lack of empathy is a sign of a human being having the capability of hurting and damaging us greatly. Such people are unsafe and dangerous. We must escape! If you can’t escape, you need to learn to protect yourself from them at all cost.

I have warned you.