The beautiful PayPal Campus

Everyday it is such great pleasure to walk toward the main entrance.

Ever evening I came  out of  building with deep satisfaction.

One “green building” on PayPal campus, with solar panel.

This is a photo taken by David Marcus a few months ago, before he became the president of PayPal. 20120424-033548.jpg


Play at Level 3

Tony Robbins told us there are 3 levels of relationship: The lowest level is Level 1, which is all about “me”. People at this level are only interested in satisfying their own needs. They are not interested or not aware of the other’s need. A higher level is level 2, where you give in order to get something back. The relationship is treated as an exchange.  People at this level are considered good community members, but they are unhappy when others do not return their favor.

A person at level 3 puts his partner’s needs above his own need and does everything to meet that need. He tries to meet the other’s needs in every way: Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He expects nothing in return. That’s because he has internalized his partner’s need. He is happy when his partner is happy. There is no feeling of “sacrifice” as it is pure joy to give.

When two people play at level 3, they will find ways to help each other. They will go out their ways to make each other happy. The relationship gets better and better. It is exactly as described in this Song:

   “Standing here beside you, want so much to give you This love in my heart and I feel it for you

   I’m so glad I found you I’m not gonna lose you Whatever it takes I will stay here with you

   Take it to the good times See it through the bad times Whatever it takes is what I’m gonna do

   Let the world around us just fall apart Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart”

With such love, a person will do “whatever it takes” to make another happy and make the relationship work. Level 3 is the level of pure giving. You do everything you can to meet another person’s need. Play at level 3 is the key to a wonderful relationship. It solves most of the relationship problem, as often times it is not because “incompatible” but failing to meet another person’s need.

Playing at Level 3 applies to intimate partner, family, and friends. It also applies to your work relationship, with your supervisor, colleagues and subordinates. It further applies to the organization you work for, and everyone in that organization. Ultimately, it applies to everyone you interact with in this world. It is easier to play level 3 with your boss or important family members. But it is harder to play level 3 with those who are remote. For us to truly step up to be a leader, we must play level 3 with everyone. This means having the patience to understand another person’s need. Be extremely patient and take time to know other people’s need. It is remembering no matter how important your own need is, another person has his agenda. At level 3, you should be keenly aware of this fact, and support others as much as you can. Playing at level 3 means we give ultimate respect to every other person, trying to understand and support at much as we can. It is not taking anything for granted and seek to fully understand another person’s motives.

When you play at level 3, magic things start to happen. Your kids start to respond to you, your colleagues are happy to see you, and your relationship with everyone gets better. As a result, you are much happier.

How do we play at level 3? First, it requires true appreciation and gratitude for people around you. This is the starting point of playing at level 3. Whenever you find yourself resentful, you cannot truly play level 3. You are much less willing to meet another’s need when you feel resentful. Second, we must deeply understand what others need. Then we do everything we can to meet that need.

W Mitchell

This is a man who was burned beyond recognition, losing all fingers and a normal face, then became paralyzed in a second accident. But this man went out to the world, became a mayor, an entrepreneur and a millionaire. He served in several boards of directors, and got married with the woman he loved. If W Mitchell can do all of these, what more can other people do?

The power of human will and the power of taking control of your life are fully demonstrated by W Mitchell. What a life he has lived! When he made the mental decision that he will be as normal as anyone, he learned every move to get around, to open the door with a fingerless hand, to dress and to live independently. With a disfigured face, he decided he will go out to the public and face whatever out there. He then settled in a small city to live where his inner beauty can be recognized by others through deep interaction. He was fun, friendly and passionate to help others. He learned to fly airplanes with his fingerless hand.  In W Mitchell, life is a sequence of doing, sharing and boldly taking risk.

How can we complain about our life when we don’t take full actions to control our own destiny? How can we allow others to belittle us and drag us down when we have so much to give? How can we wander around aimlessly, but still complain?

The true lesson is that life is in your own hand. If you decide to go for it, you will get what you ask for. Dare to ask, forget about any limitation. Simply push yourself, have no self pity and have no self limitation. You have to behave and act with greatness if you aim for greatness.

How can we not live a full life when W Mitchell has seized life by its tail? How can we make half-hearted attempt when W Mitchell went all the way and succeeded in everything he set out to do?

W Mitchell’s story demonstrated the power of love: the around-the-clock care of the hospital and the nurses, the caring and support from his friends, his girlfriend and her mother. He rose up in the loving care of all the people around him. When he got paralyzed, people drove for 5 hours to visit him in the hospital. People encouraged him with his own words. In the process of fighting a mining company and preserving the environment, he got help from lawyer friends and many others in remote places of this country who came to help.

Seize life with both your hands. Live life with all its possibilities. Do not settle for less. Give abundant love and cherish all the friendship. Take full responsibility and full control of everything that happens in your life. Then you are just one step away from your dream.

Plunge yourself into life, and take your destiny into your hand. Life is yours to make. No one can determine your fate except you.

The magic feeling

The first week after I came back from Tony Robbins’s week-long seminar Date with Destiny, I was in deep sense of joy. As I walked on the beautiful sidewalk on quiet streets, I saw magic in every tree and every flower greeting me.  What I felt was exactly as Henry D. Thoreau described, “life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal”. It is the feeling that you have arrived. Life is here and now, and there is no more destination to go to. Every day is magic.

The success we chase, be it fame, money, or love, is an attempt to reach that blissful land of contentment.Yet it can be illusive to us: As we reach our goal, we find another goal still ahead. Thus life becomes constant striving. The real reason is that we have not made peace with ourselves. We need to prove to ourselves and others that we are worthy or lovable.

When you have finally made peace with yourself, knowing that you are already worthy and lovable, you stop chasing that illusive state called “success”. You are no longer defined by what you do, what you get, or what you look like.  You are precious simply as a being. You are already successful simply for being here today. You are a miracle of God.

With such deep love and assurance, you can finally enjoy what is surrounding you: the sunset, the morning air, the jogger, and the mother with her baby. In your joyful moment, you are deeply connected with everything on the earth. You feel so content and happy that you have no fear of death any more. That’s highest form of existence: Void of fear of death. You have no regret, no wish list and you are experiencing the full magic life offers. What more can one ask?

Here is the full quote from Henry D. Thoreau:

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success.

All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man.The true harvest of your my life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”

Eternal Hope

(Review on Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl)

Frankl’s narrative brings me face to face with Nazi concentration camp: the abhorring degradation of fellow human beings, mass murdering, barbaric treatment of prisoners. Yet, human souls were able to seek comfort in natural beauty in such unbearable existence. Ultimately the book is about triumph, particularly spiritual triumph despite all the suffering one went through. If a person can emerge from such experience: being stripped naked, taken away all possessing, being beaten and starved, doing harsh labor in the bitter winter, facing arbitrary death in every moment, later learned that his parents and wife were all killed in gas chamber, but coming out compassionate, forgiving and becoming a successful doctor and author (publishing 30 books afterwards), how can we not marvel at human resilience?

The eventual survival of Frankl may be due to luck (not boarding the last train), his own social smart (avoiding offending prison guards, befriending the foremen), and kindness from fellow prisoners (extra bread saved, joint escape attempt). But it also crucially depended on his spiritual strength and holding on to the final hope. He called this search of “meaning of suffering”. By assigning meaning to his suffering,  he then would not fall prey to bitter disappointment when liberation did come at an expected date, while a fellow prisoner lost hope and died. In other words, Frankl found a way to maintain eternal hope. It is this hope enables him to stand strong despite any suffering or disappointment.

In the last chapter,  Frankl offered an invaluable explanation on logotherapy. Its methodology is enlightening, much similar to what Anthony Robbins has preached all along in his seminar. Humans need “meaningful goals” to feel happy.

Each of us goes through life with unique experience. No one can repeat that experience for us. Even our suffering is unique. Thus the meaning of our life is put upon us instead of us searching for it. It is how we answer life, in our unique way.

The bare truth of concentration camp, the honesty and the compassion deeply touches me. There is no self pity or hatred. Instead you experience a deep sense of beauty in this writing. All you feel is a much larger understanding for human existence and the ultimate triumph of human spirit.

How can we feel despair when men endured and survived concentration camp? Even if the world problem is daunting, Frankl said, “the world may be in a bad state, but everything will become worse unless each of us does his best”. As horrible as Nazi concentration camp is, Frankl lived to tell the story, to share his experience. All those who died did not die in vain. Ultimately good and justice, and human spirits triumph in this world.

Embrace life and its risk

Even though we all have the same length of life, the amount of information and content can be dramatically different. To live a great life is to enrich our content, expand our circle and dare to go after our coveted prize.

Ernest Hemingway lived for only 61 years, yet he had such a rich life. He lived in Paris, Spain, and Cuba, and he actively participated in two World Wars. He went through 4 marriages (not necessarily a good thing). He flourished and created more masterpieces. He has lived a real life.

The same thing can be said about Da Vinci, who worked out so many design and scientific drawings. He has investigated every aspect of nature. Even though he lived for only 67 years, he has well lived his life.

To embrace life is to experience all we can and to do all we can. Our life is so much richer when we put our heart and whole effort into things we believe in. It means dedicating ourselves and disciplining ourselves to stay with a project and get it done successfully. It means creating stellar performance with all the resources we have. It means taking risk and embracing the potential consequences.

Life is messy. There is risk for everything we try. Even though a marriage can disintegrate, a business relationship can become sour, or a family member may leave us, we still fully embrace all of these adventures of life. As a biological being, each of us may die in the end, but we still live life to the full extent. For the heartache we will experience, we still fully embrace joy and love at this moment. That’s because joy and love is the highest calling of nature. In ecstasy, we create life and leave our legacy behind.

As our energy declines, we will depart from this world. But the ultimate triumph of life is experiencing our highest joy at every moment in life.

Embracing life is being the best we can be, and do the best we can do. We approach, acquire and fully embrace our treasured goal. We dive into things we love and give it all.

The Meaning of Life

(This is a comment on Movie  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.)

Despite its beautiful cinematography, elaborate story, and lovely actors (Brad Pitts and Kate Blanchard), this movie makes you feel sad and depressed. One by one people die off. Other people grow, age and lose their loved ones. It feels like life has no meaning at all.  To certain extent this notion carries truth. After all, all of us will end up in tombs. All of our laughter and hopes will be gone after us. But is that all life is?

As an individual, life is short-lived fanfare. When the sparks disappear into dark night, nothing will be left. As part of a group, a race or a country, Our children will carry on our dream, our colleagues will continue our endeavor. Our thoughts will be left on paper. The future generation and the whole human race will continue. This is the ultimate meaning of life: To build for the future generations, to lay foundations for enterprises long after us. Our life is a continuation of a long line before us, and will be the starting point for new comers after us.

Beyond feeling sad for short life span, we can do much to prolong individual lives. In the past century, human life span has increased from 50 years to 80 years in developed countries. This thanks to medicine and better living conditions human enjoys, which in turn comes from economic prosperity and development of technology and science. New treatment of diseases and new discovery of X-rays and laser, new invention of prosthetic arms and legs enable us to live longer and healthier. When people created computers, when wash machines are distributed to households, when Internet phone connects family members, our living standard is improved and we can aspire more.

Of course, even a 100-year life span is a flicker moment in the billions of history of the universe. Millions years from now, our offspring may discover the secret of living forever. They may have brain memory downloaded to chips. They may have regenerative medicine that grows heart and liver again. But for now, we live in the hopeless fate that we will eventually die as individuals. No matter how much scream and protest we have, we cannot avoid this fate. All we can do is accepting it and be graceful about it. There is no point in contemplating more about this fate because we cannot change it. Further contemplation only brings morose thoughts and useless sentiment. This is like a person who dwells on a past that could never be changed. No regret or sadness can change the fact that the past has already happened. from this viewpoint, this movie evokes useless sentiment on something we can never change. Instead of dwelling on something we can never change, why not putting our energy on things we can change, such as giving more love to people around us, creating more technology that will last, and sharing more experience we accumulated with others?

While we can breathe and hope, while we can laugh and shout, let us use our energy to create beautiful things for this world. Let us leave a legacy. Our monument is our children who prosper, our followers who continue our path, our enterprises that stand, and our software programs that live on across many computers. Existence does not just have one form. Biological existence perpetuates through offspring, social existence lives through culture heritage, language, and now computer programs. Even though marble stone or steels do not save the flesh from decaying, they can represent the passed to support a new building, to shelter the young.

When the day comes for us to leave this world, we can smile and feel contented. We have done our best in this world. We have chased our dream and we have left a legacy to continue. When we are engulfed by the darkness, we have the joy to know that our children are safe in the light, and our torch is carried on by others. There is no bitterness but gratefulness. We are grateful for we have had a life to live, to have experienced and have the opportunity to give.

The ultimate message is not self-pity and hopefulness, but triumph and defiance. We defy death by letting others continue after us. Part of us have already passed on to others. Martin Luther King Jr. may have died, but his ideal lived on and realized in Barack Obama. Benazir Bhutto may have died, but her dream of a democratic Pakistan is continued by her husband and her followers. Today, countless democratic fighters languish in the jail of China, but their dream will live on. One day, when the dawn of democracy comes on the soil of China, we will look back and remember them. Some people may never have their names known, but their cause is continued.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

The book How to Win Friends and Influence People was first published in 1936. It has become so popular that it was reprinted many times and still sold by contemporary bookstores. For once, my friends and I was captivated by this book. We practiced its teaching wholeheartedly.  That was 21 years ago. As I read the book again yesterday, I cannot help wondering: Why hasn’t this book fundamentally helped me to improve my social skill? I know all the techniques it teaches, but I did not have the desire to use them. I use them only when it brings substantial benefits to me, which are rare occasions. I still stumbled in my social relationship.

I dawned on me that the real improvement on our social skill comes from internal change. It cannot be taught as some techniques that are used to manipulate others. It has to follow some fundamental principles that governs our relationship with others: True selfless and the desire to help. In other words, it requires an awareness that enables us to live in harmony with others.

Making friends is a long term endeavor. It requires input every day and in the continuing stream of your life. If we simply manipulate others, the friendship cannot last long. Even after we “smile”,”show interest”, “make others feel important”, we can only do that for a short time. If we don’t have genuine desire to engage others, if we don’t really think others are important, how can we continue to show our interest? Therefore the task is not to “win friends” but “keep friends”.

Influencing people requires more than just “not arguing”. It requires us to understand our own position and have deep knowledge to deliver. It requires personal initiative and leadership.

If we want to really teach people how to get along socially, the title should be, “how to build friendship and be a leader for others” . Relationship is not a sales trick. It’s long-term effort, genuine caring and higher demand on ourselves.

On Sickness

Being sick used to be distant history for me. The last time I was sneezing and confined to bed (by a mysterious flu) was more than 5 years ago. Since then I never missed a single working day. I pride myself in running everyday and having a healthy diet. However, this week I was hit hard by a flu. I have the bitter taste of sickness again, and it humbles me.

When you are sick, you body turns against you. You have burning pain in your nose, ear and throat. You chest is itching with congestion.  In your agony, you want to get rid of your body because it is your worst enemy. The virus that multiplies in your body snickers at you and you cannot do anything about it. Such agonizing moment made me even jealous of people who lost their legs. It seems the pure pain of having limbs cut off are much more tolerable than this inner suffering in your chest and head.

In sickness we lose interest of interacting with the world. All I want to do is to lie down, to rest, and not to spend energy to talk. Thus I never made a single phone call to others in this New Year’s eve, and only answered friends and family’s call with very short words. This is very much like a self-absorbed person. He or She is simply not interested in talking to others. Social interaction does not mean much to such a person because there is no desire.  I used to feel hurt by lack of communicaton from one of my relatives who is self-absorbed. How come she never calls me? Now I understand she does not have desire to communicate. The best thing I can do is to leave her alone. The danger of prolonged sickness is that we will lose our connection with the outside world as communication winds down. Our lack of response or outreaching will estrange our friends and family members.

When we are sick, we lose all the ambition and desire of doing great things. For the first time in 3 years, I missed the annual Run on New Year’s Day. There is simply no energy left to go out, to dream and to plan. If I ever doubted the connection between body and mind, now I know how much our body controls our mind. It’s a sad fact.

In sickness I think about elderly people and their deteriorating health. Sickness is a disabling factor. It must be fought against. In the US, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die from flu each year. This is the same number of people who died from car accidents each year, and the same number of people who died from gun shot in US each year. Fortunately the US government has a system tracking flu nationawide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a website specificly about flu.

Being healthy is a blessed state. Let us cherish every day when we are healthy and contribute as much as we can. When we are in a healthy state and being productive again, let us help those who are in sickness and lift them out of misery.

The Joy of Writing

As I put my thoughts into words, something magic has happened. The transient life has stood still. Our passing thoughts have gained new permanent life on paper (or on the compute screen). Suddenly life gained meaning. It is no longer random, dull or hopeless. Despite the unforgiving fact of getting older and eventually facing death, writing allows us to leave something behind in this world. My physical body may disappear one day, but my thoughts have escaped and stayed on the paper. In addition, writing captures the moment of joy and sorrow, and it preserved something previous when you look back.

Writing is a form of self-expression. Every person has different ways of expressing themselves. When asked why he loves acting, Tom Cruised said, “Because it is the best expression of myself.” Michael Jordan found his best expression in playing basketball, Obama found his best expression in politics, and Steve Jobs found his best expression in creating computers.

Writing is a form of creation. As you put your thoughts together, presenting the ideas, you bring forth invisible things and turn them into physical form—the words. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction, to general essay and scientific report. In writing a memoir or fiction, you put together people and stories. You create an environment, the feel and the suspense. It’s truly a form of artistic creation. Many times when I wrote a story of my past, I got so absorbed into the creation that I forgot night arrived outside my window, and I was way past mealtime.

Writing is also a form of communication. When I write, I feel like talking to a group of people, and I need to present my ideas in the form that others can understand. This connects me to the world. A person is no longer an island when he or she can connect with others with language.

The ability to write is a special gift. Regardless our body condition, able or disabled, we can always write. Christopher Reeve finished two books after he was confined to bed. Let us enjoy this gift and bring more joy to this world with our writing.