December 12, 2020
Reading time: 3 mins
As a kid I lived in an Asian society where school grades were everything that mattered, and my B+ was always compared to the A+ someone else got.
It was never the poorer grades, the C’s and D’s, that someone else got.
When I wanted some new toy cars to add to my existing collection, I was denied and asked by my parents to think about kids whose parents couldn’t afford any toys at all.
It was never the kids with a bigger and better collection that my parents asked me to think about.
Everything you and I perceive in life, in a sense, involves perspective. Your house is pretty big if you compare it to a tiny apartment. Your house is pretty small if you compare it to a mansion. So, is your house big or small?
The answer to that question is of course, subjective. It depends on what you compare it to. It’s what I believe is the answer to our happiness – if we condition ourselves to wake up every day and take a moment to think about how we woke up with a roof on our heads and not next to the entrance of a random McDonald’s, and really believed that to be the ‘otherwise’ scenario, then I think we would be reasonably happy with what we have and where we are.
But for most of us it’s hard to always think that way. As humans, we all naturally strive for growth. We are forever in Point A right now, and forever trying to get to Point B. No matter how much we notice it or how consciously we think about it, we are always growing, at the very least physically. To not grow physically means death. In the days where I was schooled in Asia, to grow meant one thing: the relentless pursuit of achieving 100 out of 100 in all the semester exams for all subjects. To not ‘grow’ in grades only meant one outcome: you’re falling behind because, well, you’re either getting the exact same grade you received last semester, or even worse, you went backwards. Honestly, Kumon’s entire business model relies on that.
So the question is: to get the most out of life, should you be comparing your B+ to the A’s or the C’s?
I believe the key is to develop another layer of perspective within it. Being in front in life should be a blessing – most of us have never experienced days where a single piece of bread is consumed for lunch and dinner, have never experienced wartime years, and have never experienced hopping on a boat destined for a new country and hoping for a miracle. Being behind in life at the same time, should be a source of motivation – there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to achieve what the frontrunners have achieved, if all of us have two arms to operate, two legs to walk, and one brain to think.
This is the essence of what my parents wished to instill in me – be grateful of where you currently are, and look in front to be better. This message really got lost in the translator when we were kids. I was nowhere close to being the bottom of the class, but I would always question why criticism often took first dips before praise rolled in, if they were offered at all. Being children, we wanted the attention, most often from our parents. We wanted the new collection of toys that replaced our existing collection. The day I understood the true meaning behind the words of my parents, I started to flourish. Criticism made me excel and surpass my peers; thinking about kids with no toys made me grateful of what I had.
There are times when we feel sad and lost because of who we are not, what we are not, and why we are not. Feeling down every now and then is part of the human equation, and being aware of that is crucial. It doesn’t mean we’re being ungrateful; if we just dig deep to the roots of ourselves, it just implies that we want to be better. As long as we know to recalibrate after the downs and feel good of the fact that we are not lying in the hospital, but on both of our feet ready to face the challenges and reap the rewards while journeying to the next destination, then happiness is within our reach.
Whatever your pursuits are, be thankful that you are on that B+, and give it everything you got to get that A+.
March 24, 2021
The world is grieving.
They were mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, cousins.
Though some 15,000 kilometers away from the United States, the recent tragedy in Atlanta has had a profound effect on all of us in Australia, especially within the Asian community.
What's the one thing we can all do to make the world a better place to live in?
November 28, 2020
What does it mean when our typical Asian mothers stay up until 1am just to make sure we come home in one piece?
What does it really mean when no single soul in the household mutters the words “I love you” and when you do say those words, they think if you’re drunk or in some sort of accident?