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Archive for the ‘Contemplations’ Category

Everyday Counts

“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Albert Einstein once explained his theory of relativity: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” So our perception of time is dependent on what we are doing.

When we were kids, even the trip to the theme park took only an hour, we were impatient and kept asking when we would arrive. But when we grow up, we are not that sensitive to time. We are busy to earn a living, we meet deadlines after deadlines, chase goals after goals. Days become weeks. Weeks become months. Month become years. And years become life.

Did you ever experience sitting at you desk whole day but nothing was achieved? This is unrelated to how much time we have, it depends on how focus we are. We are all regular time traveler, we always wander in the past or the future. We lose ourselves in things that we can’t change or worry about things that won’t happen. Your life is right now. So live your life right now. The quality of our time is determined by whether we can live in the present. Time heals. Things change. It will pass.

Your family, your friends, your colleagues, people around you, they will die one day. This is a brutal truth. Will this change the ways you interact with them today? Be kind and compassionate, be forgiving, say thank you, give them a hug. Love is why we are here. It is the force for good in this often random, painful and harsh world. Share it freely. Express it daily. Use it as your lodestar. At the end of the day, what matters most are the people in our lives.

There is an ancient Roman phrase: “Memento mori” – meaning “remember you have to die”. All life will come to an end, only to embrace the uncertainty of reality can make our time more valuable. Imagine someone told you that you only have 87 times in the rest of your life to eat your favorite food. What will you do? Avoid your favorite food? Or simply enjoy every bite from now on? If you can live to an age of 90, how many days do you have left? Remain conscious of the value of every single day. Ask yourself every morning, “What can I do to make today count?”


The Value of Work

A blur of businessmen rushing to work in downtown Manhattan New York City near the location of the old World Trade Center warm

I counted the other day – my current job is my 7th job since I moved to Australia. In average, I changed job every 3-4 years. The main reason of my leaving is either my contribution was not recognized or I wanted a change and new challenges elsewhere. IT jobs match my creative mind, just need to keep updating myself with new technologies.

I had worked with lots of talented people and experienced different organizational cultures. I even worked part time in my cousin-in-law’s restaurant when I first arrived Australia. May be this is why I understand every role in the business has its value and I respect everyone at different job positions. In the current company, I can share jokes with the Director, managers, engineers and cleaners.

If you feel your current job is not important, remember each position has its worth of existence, no business will spend money in something that is redundant. Your achievement may seem little, but normally big things cannot be accomplished without the little things – there are numerous components to make the whole system work.

You also may not see the prospect of your job ahead, but if you cannot handle a low level job well, how can you deal with a more prospective job later? Every role has its own purpose, there is always skills that you can learn. So do the job in hand well, even you are not interested or can’t see its prospect, this is the attitude that people will respect.

Job can be viewed as a tool for earning a living, but it also gives us a purpose of living. Instead of complaining, why not try to understand the value of your work? Every job has its value, unless you make it to be no value. If you want to run fast, you need to run often to build a solid foundation. A marathon starts with one step, so just run each step well.

Recover Yourself


Coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, fever, headaches, diarrhea … I’m sick, seriously!

When I sick, I feel depressed and helpless. Other than suffering, my normal life is interrupted and there is nothing much I can do except taking rest. “Why me!?” I will regret why I did not eat healthier, have more rest, avoid those high risk areas and persons that get me infected, and wear sufficient clothing to keep warm. We only treasure those that we lost.

My boss may think that I applied a day of sick leave for job interview, but I don’t feel guilty about lying on my bed in the middle of the day. I can hear my neighbors next door talking, people walking outside the driveway, birds singing on the roof, dogs barking in a distance, rain falling on the ground, and trees swaying in the wind. Those sounds we normally do not pay attention as we are busy. Just like in a movie, I’m sitting still in the middle while everything in the background is moving back and forth rapidly. I’m hiding from the world, or I’m the world. And I’m drifting away.

I found myself in a cinema complex. The red LED display on top of the entrance of Cinema 1 showed, “Drama – Guarantee 8 Hours Sleep”. I turned and found the one for Cinema 2 that read, “Horror – Wake up Every Half an Hour and Scream”. There was a Cinema 3, its sign was, “Action – For Insomnia”. In a normal day, I would pick either Cinema 2 or 3. But as a patient, I thought it’s better to keep calm and have peace. So I entered Cinema 1.

The theatre was actually led to an outdoor running race and I was suddenly in my singlet, short and running shoes. The long road stretched to the front and I could not see its end point. I looked back; the road was symmetric but just stretched backwards. I then followed other people and kept running. If I was sick in real life, I might also sick in my subconscious. After a while, I felt tired. I slowed down to catch my breath. At this time, I saw the leading Kenyan runner in front. He turned, looked at me and smiled. “What the …” That’s when I woke up and soaked with sweat. Did I actually exercise in my dream?

Life sometimes can make us lose our confidence. Did your heart start to pound, your throat become dry, and your knees turn to rubber before the exam, the driving test, the job interview, and the presentation? Did you hope that the time will freeze at that moment? On the contrary, life moves on no matter we are healthy or sick, happy or sad, success or failure. Sunlight of tomorrow morning will still come and people including us will tend to forget.

Part of living and growing up is experiencing unexpected troubles in life. People lose jobs, get sick, and sometimes die in car accidents. Tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger. Struggling with problems is a natural part of our life.

Just like our hero in the movie – defeated, lost confidence and wallowed in self-pity until renewed dedication brought him back as a mature, more kick-ass version of himself. If this was a nineties Hollywood film, it would star Tom Cruise. So, I believe I will get well soon and become stronger. For my leading Kenyan runner, I will try to run up to you next time when I feel better, no matter it’s in the dream or not.

– Originally posted in July 2012

Letters to Myself


Dear future me,

This letter is inspired by a question asked in today’s personal development workshop: “How do you see yourself in 10 years?” So, I think it will be interesting to write a letter that summaries my current thoughts and predicts what will happen to us in 10 years. In case you remember this letter, you may contrast your situations with what I guess here and reflect on those years that have passed.

For work, you know I’m a workaholic. I work hard and completed a number of successful projects. I have the qualifications, experience, and skills to get the jobs done and make everyone happy. A promotion is promised for next year and the future looks prosperous. So, I guess after 10 years, you will be in senior management and simply oversee the business side and command people to do the work instead of get your hands dirty in developing software.

Although I have no girlfriend now, but I think you will eventually meet the right girl, get married and possibly have kids. As you need to raise your own family, you will move out from your parents’ house and finally escape from that little bedroom. As a family man, you will not have the time to exercise. You will properly gain weight and have a beer belly in middle age.

Like other elder people, mum and dad will enjoy life and travel overseas occasionally. Your nephew and niece will grow up and start the university. Based on my closed relationship with them, they will see you as a mentor and ask for your opinions along the way. Although you won’t play hide and seek with them anymore, I believe you will be very helpful to them.

That’s all I can think of. I hope everything will work out in the next 10 years. Good luck and all the best.

Yours faithfully,
You in 2002.


Dear me in 2002,

By chance I opened your (or my) letter that was written 10 years ago. Well, thanks for reminding me the good old time and I was once a confident and aggressive person. However, I need to tell you that life doesn’t go as planned and we have a problem – may be this is what people call midlife crisis.

Firstly, you won’t get that job promotion. On the contrary, you will lose your current job soon. You will never forget the day when you see your colleagues leaving one by one. Be prepared for the downturn of your career. I’m disappointed to tell you that I am still getting my hands dirty in development work. I still work hard and get a minimum pay rise each year to fulfill my basic needs of life. However, when you experience more, you will be grateful with what you have. For those you haven’t, they are not that important anymore.

Secondly, I’m sorry to tell you that I’m still single and not even dating. In a nutshell, you messed up big time:

When she told you that she had 2 concert tickets but her friend was suddenly not available, you should attend the concert with her and shouldn’t give the ticket to your cousin. When she shared her stories with you when you drove her home, you should show more emotion instead of act like Vin Diesel in “The Fast and The Furious”. By the way, there will be another 4, or possibly 5 “Fast and Furious” movies coming.

When she asked you what you would do on the night of Valentine’s Day, you should be honest and tell her you have nothing planned rather than pretend you had a long list of names to pick from but actually home alone that night. When she suggested celebrating your birthday, you should just celebrate with her and shouldn’t make excuses and act as if you were busy.

When she asked whether you liked girls or not, you should tell her that you like girls and shouldn’t joke around and say you are bisexual. This would attract the interest from someone else who you wouldn’t want to deal with later!

You are not good at things that they didn’t teach you at school, right? In your programming terms, love is an abstract class and it cannot be instantiated to an object for you to analyze. It’s unfair to blame you totally for this as I should also take some responsibilities. At some point of time, you will get used to being single and enjoy the loneliness.

As I didn’t get married, I’m still living with mum and dad in that little bedroom. They are not as good as what you expected. Their health is getting worse and they seldom leave home now. So, just nod when listening to them, no matter how nonsense of what they say. One day, you will regret you did not spend enough time with them.

The relationship between you and your nephew and niece is also slowly falling apart. They are labeled as Generation Z and spend most of their time on internet, computers, mobile phones and gaming consoles. They just do whatever they like and ignore the rest. Your niece already got a boyfriend. Your nephew becomes an introvert and he mostly stays at home and has nothing to do. I tried to advise him to either find a job or apply for further study. But it seems that he feels there is nothing wrong with his life style.

Although things did not work out as you thought, for everything you have missed, you have gained something else. This year, you will be running your 23rd Half Marathon. You are regarded as healthy and fit at your age. Finally, a hint I should give to you: drive safely and be careful, you will have a serious accident on a Saturday night.

So get ready for the challenges ahead, but you will cope with those difficult situations well. Enjoy life and bye for now.

Sincerely Yours,
You in 2012

– Originally published in July 2012

Stop Comparing

It’s lucky that my parents didn’t have high hopes from me since I was a kid. They might foresee I’m not a doctor or lawyer material. Provided that I didn’t create any troubles at school and they were not invited to meet the teacher, they wouldn’t care much about my study. Their frequent advice to me are: Study hard. Have a degree. Find a good job. Be nice to others. Get a girl you love. Start a family. But sometimes it’s unavoidable to compete with my cousins who were around my age. I remember we would line up like a row of ducks in family gatherings and the adults would check who was taller than who. And our academic results were a popular topic being discussed in those meetings.

So we get used to competition from childhood. At work, we compete with our colleagues. In relationship, your girlfriend will compare you with her friends’ boyfriends. Our value is based on win or lose. We spend most of our effort to earn more money, get the top job, to be better than others. But ranking in class and the account balance are just numbers. They can be quantified but they cannot qualify you. One’s ability is determined by the courage shown in the face of adversity and the humility displayed when they are in the top position. There are so many things for us to manage in life, don’t spend time in comparing with others.

The one you should be compared against is yourself: Today, are you better than the you yesterday? Are you happier than yesterday? Are you more independent? Do you stay calm when dealing with setbacks? Our success is not determined by win or lose. No matter the outcome is good or bad, don’t care about it too much. Celebrate every success and learn from each failure. Like the advice from my parents: Study hard. Have a degree. Find a good job. Be nice to others. Get a girl you love. Start a family. This may be a common journey for everyone. But sometimes finding your own path and moving forward in life is not that easy, you should be pride that you have made it this far. Cherish what you have now is much better than fight for the things that do not belong to you.

A Little Change


I recently heard an IQ question: “What is the first thing you will do when you wake up in the morning?” Your partner may hope you will tell her or him, “Thinking of you.” Your mother may assume, “Tidying up the bed.” Your colleague may answer, “Turn off the alarm clock.” The right answer is – open your eyes.

I used to ignoring what my parents said from a young age and headed to an opposite direction than they suggested. This is recently changed due to their sickness. As they rarely go out now, I will make sure that they are fine in the morning and see what they need me to buy for them after work. I don’t know when it started, I get nervous when I receive a phone call from home, and then feel relief to hear mum’s voice on the phone: “Remember to buy milk today!” My life has changed a bit and their sickness has brought us closer – driving them to see the doctor, helping them to get in and out the car, pushing my mum on wheel-chair to go places.

When I was a kid, my mum worked in shifts. I hated she worked night shifts as she needed to work overnight and sleep during day time. This means I could not make any noise during the day. Turned on the TV, superman was fighting with aliens – but no sound. Turned on the radio – no sound is allowed. Are you kidding me? That’s the time when iPod did not exist and headphones were not popular.

Mum told me one time she made a serious mistake at work. She didn’t know what to do but thinking of me always smiling and waiting for her to come home after work, she got the courage and resolved the problem. Why was I smiling and waiting for her? Be honest, I was waiting for the food she bought home – dim sum if she came back from work in the morning, bread and chocolate milk in the afternoon, deserts at night. At one time of my childhood, I was over-weighted.

When I was studying overseas, my parents wrote letters to me occasionally. Reading their letters was liked what would happen in Dan Brown’s novel, I always found it difficult in decoding what they meant. They can create words from nowhere that are not in the dictionary. Other than numerous misspellings, my mum writes the characters ‘r’, ‘u’, and ‘n’ in the same way.

When a person grows old, some essential activities such as walking, eating, taking a bath, or even breathing may possibly be difficult to do. I used to be impatient with house works – mopping floor, vacuuming carpet, mowing lawn. Now my weekends are busy with these house works. I eventually understand that the hardest part is to get started, afterwards, I may just follow the flow and it’s just a game of exercising within a planned duration. Mum often says to me, “Get a wife and have kids! Just like us, you need to rely on someone when you grow old.” And I will shout back, “I’m going to be a monk and I’ll live in a temple by that time!”

There are something that we cannot change – getting old and being sick. When we can no longer change a situation, we change ourselves, whether we like it or not. Be helpful to your family and give them your smile, as they need it.

– Originally published in July, 2012

Life’s All About Making Choices

A duck set off a long trip and met a pigeon when it was resting in a pond. The pigeon asked the duck where it was going. Duck answered, “I don’t know, but people in my home town complained about my quack is too annoying and they don’t like me, so I left.” Pigeon listened and after a moment, it said, “If you don’t change your quack, everywhere is the same.”

You may feel empathy for the duck, it was discriminated because of its quacking sound. And the duck cannot change its quacking sound. But is it truth that there is nothing the duck can do to improve the situation? How about reducing the number of quacks? How about lowering its volume? If the duck doesn’t change itself, the same will happen even it moves to a different place.

We sometimes like the duck, when life is not going our way, we overreact and give up too soon. We don’t see the options we have, even we see them, we refuse to take actions. The world won’t change overnight to suit us. So why not change ourselves a little and see if things can be improved and leaded to a new direction?

Setbacks are essential in life and there is no shame in failing. Failure is failure, it doesn’t need any excuses. Shame is actually when you don’t learn from the mistakes but to blame others and complain the world is not fair. Remember you are the one who is responsible for the good or bad of your life. And in reality, the world is never fair from the beginning.

Growing up is like trying a chain of keys to open a door. You need to try them one by one before you know which one is the right key. Most people cannot open the door with the first key they picked; some will succeed after a few attempts; and some may need to try until the last key. Some even cannot open the door after all the keys were tried – they simply do not have the right key.

No one is invincible since birth, life is to keep making choices and success is an outcome from trail and error. Don’t envy those highly successful people, they were once naive like us. You will become them one day, but before that, take care and live well every day, improve your skills, make yourself interesting and have some goals to chase.

Life’s all about making choices. You’ve made the choice to pick up the pieces and keep going, even when you’ve been devastated over and over again.
– Heidi Marshall