The diligent nature of a leader

A leader is always at the front. As the day comes, he gets up the earliest. As others go to sleep, he is awake thinking. He is the hardest working person among all. He never stops.

Those who admire the achievements of leaders, be it wealth, fame, or exciting products, forget the simple fact: None of these comes easy. There may be people who find fast way of accumulating wealth by speculating. There may be people who gain fame by sheer luck or notorious act of crime. But these people fade quickly. What last are those true leaders who keep growing their wealth and increasing their reach. Behind such people’s achievements are constant innovation, unyielding attention and countless hours of wrangling. Thus their achievement captures our imagination, simply because it is very hard to duplicate their efforts and devotion. As Steve Jobs, “It is really hard. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of worrying, constantly.”

A leaders work longer hours than anyone else. Such long hours are not necessarily in the office. It is in all the activities he does and all the thinking he does.

Diligence is both mental and physical. A leader thinks far ahead and creates unassailable position to win.

Here are Steve Jobs’ words at All Things Digital (D5) in 2007, in response to an audience’s question:

“People say: You have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing. It’s totally true. The reason is that it’s so hard that any rational person would give up if he doesn’t have passion. It’s really hard. You have to do it over a sustained period of time.

If you don’t love it, you’re not having fun doing it. If you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up. That’s what happens to most people, actually.

If you look at the ones that ended up being “successful” in the eyes of society and the ones who didn’t, often times it’s the ones that are successful love what they did so they could persevere when it got really tough. The ones that didn’t love it, quit.  Cause they’re sane, right? Who would want to put up with this stuff if they don’t love it?

It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of worrying, constantly.

If you don’t love it, you’re gonna fail. So, you’ve to love it, you’ve got to have passion.”


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.

In Memory of Steve Jobs

He came to this world for only 56 years. But he left us with such a rich legacy. He revolutionized computer industry as it first pioneer, he revolutionized music delivery industry with iPod and iTune. Then he moved on to revolutionize the mobile phone industry. Not to mention his company also pioneered computer animation, and he created a new Tablet market.

For those of us living in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs seems not far. His house in Palo Alto is not far from where we live, Apple headquarter is just a few streets away, and many Apple employees are our neighbors and friends. Yet Steve Jobs is also a mystery and a legend. He started the company in 1976, when most of engineers at Valley were not yet born. For the next 35 years, he stays at what he loves to do: build great computer products and ship them to people.

Steve Jobs defies convention, but he is also an excellent marketer. Above all, he is a consuming technologist, who loves every part of his product. He is handsome, charming and quick wit. But he did not squander his energy on easy social gain. Instead he poured all his passion in building the real innovative products. He is a creator, an inventor and a pioneer. Deep in his heart, he is pure and passionate about building digital product that can make fundamental impact.

While others retire and go into public limelight, he stays at the peak of his creation, chunking out amazing new products one after another. He has no vanity for public limelight. Instead, he uses them solely for the promotion of his product.

He has devoted his life completely to his work. He is so deeply passionate and devoted to his work that it is unimaginable how he can announce his own retirement. We should have known better, that the candle light was burning out. We did not realize how closely he came to the end of his life. From his retirement (August 25) to his death (October 5), it took only 1 month and 10 days. However, Steve Jobs put on such a brave public face in his retirement announcement, we all believed him as if this is his personal choice. When death comes to deal his hand, even Steve Jobs had no choice.

In the age when people live to their 90s and 100s, 56 seems like middle age. How unfair life is for Steve Jobs, to have to leave this earth so early after such a short stay. But life has endowed him richly with sheer determination, vision, and powerful drive. What life takes away, it has generously given to him beforehand. How can we measure a life by its simple length?

Steven Jobs is an inspiration to all of us. He showed us what is possible, when you dare to try, when you stay firm with your vision, and when you are passionate about what you do.

Life renews itself. New generations will come, and new products will be created day after day. But Steven Jobs stands out with his singular impact. He will be forever remembered as a man who changed our lives.

A glimpse of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is back on stage. Just three months after annoucing the new hit iPad. This time he is announcing iPhone OS 4. As I watched the thin and frail-look Steve Job deliver his usual talk, I cannot help feeling sympathy. Afer all, he has had three successful major hits. It seems unnecessary for him to come personally to announce new features on an existing product– iPhone. Such things can be easily handled by his subordinates.  As he held up his frail body on stage, I wonder why he has to do this.

Listening to Steve Jobs’ familiar enthusiastic voice to explain a folder feature, I realize how much he loves every part of this. He is in the trench with the products. He is not just a salesman who promotes Apple product at MacWorld event as we usually see him, he is also deeply involved with all the feature design of these products. In that sense Steve Jobs is more a technologist than a promoter, negotiator or other things he seems to do well.

In the biography book Icon, we see a Steve Jobs flew to Los Angeles, negotiated tough deals with record companies that started a new era of digital music. We learned Steve Jobs forced out Disney CEO Michael Eisner, then sold Disney his company Pixar with high price, and he himself became the largest shareholder of Disney. We also learned the story how Steve Jobs grabbed the power in Apple after he came back in 1991, and forced out former CEO. Steve Jobs presented in the book is a tough negotiator, a fighter who is determined to win. But the book missed the most essential part of Steve Jobs: His love for technology and the products he creates. It is only this love and the resulting products that define the true greatness of Steve Jobs.

On stage, Steve Jobs looked so frail, but he stood upright and gave his best to describe the new OS features in detail. It gave me a glimpse on how Steve Jobs works. This is someone who works very hard. Despite his illness, he poured his energy and passion into every Apple product he helped to create. He gave it all. Other famous people may think about retirement or having cheered tours around, Steve Jobs is still working in the trench of his products. He breathes and lives in what he creates. That is his life and his true love. 

For every product we hold in our hand, be it iPod, iPhone or iPad, we are holding a great man’s passion and love. They are the manifest of his vision, wisdom and willpower. These products are built by thousands of engineers who followed this man’s dream and shared his vision. We are lucky that he is still leading this group of people, and keep giving us so many stellar products year after year.

Today I finally understand the greatness of Steve Jobs. It has nothing to do with glamour, showmanship, or business skill. It is simple devotion. Devoting to your passion, seeing it into fruition, and bringing all resources to make it happen. Such simple truth is inspiring to all of us.

Isaac Newton

As he sat at the side of bed, watching out moonlight showered window, he was immersed in the beauty of a theory that unifies the universe. One single law, the law of gravity, explains not only what happens on the earth, but how planets and stars interact with each other. The power of intellectual thinking of human beings is manifested in Newton’s theory. We are animals with medium height and small built. We roam around the earth to search for food and shelter. Yet, our intellectual capacity allows us to see beyond the earth.   

The penetrating intellectual power of Newton comes from his focus, exclusive of anything else. In such deep concentration, he is able to create beautiful theories that revolutionize the field of physics and mathematics. He was so devoted to his study that he had no time for drinking, playing or dating women. Could we have such luxury or should we create a life that allows us absolute concentration? It is totally possible. If we simply buy things without worrying about price, selecting phone companies without price comparison, or getting a larger apartment or house without worrying about squeeze some space. The wealthier we are, the less daily worry we have, and the more time we have for intellectual creation. On the other hand, we can also live a simple life, throwing away most of our belongings, put aside any social responsibility, and live a very simple lifestyle so that we can devote to thinking. 

Newton said his achievement was made through “spending a long time thinking about one problem”. This is the secret of success in any field and on any subject. Anthony Robbins kept thinking about how to achieve peak performance. Martin Luther King was thinking about how to acquire equal rights for black people. Henry Ford focused on building better cars. Tiger Woods keeps thinking about how to make the best shot in golf. In other words, if we are obsessed with a problem and spend a long time (sometimes our lifetime) thinking about solutions, we will achieve good results. Our results can then benefit the society. This is the power of specialization.

The Passion for truth and Justice – An evening with Amy Goodman

(On April 16, 2009, Amy Goodman gave a speech in Palo Alto, as part of her book tour that was co-sponsored by Peninsula Peace and Justice Center.)

She looked frail and petite. In a flower-printed dress, she had an easy-going smile that softens her penetrating eyes. It is the familiar face you saw on TV or poster, but much softer and approachable. However, when she started to talk on the podium, she became something deeply powerful.

Amy Goodman started with a couple of contemporary topics: healthcare reform and war in Afghanistan. She pointed out how single-payer system was never formally discussed by Obama administration, and tens of thousands of troop were added to Afghanistan war. In her unflinching criticism of the current administration, I saw her familiar independent and truth telling spirit. That’s the hallmark of her radio program Democracy Now!, a program that is fiercely independent and always tells the uncomfortable truth. As Goodman dwelled on these public topics with no promotion of herself, you feel in the presence of greatness. From her radio program, I knew she was sincere and tirelessly promoting truth and justice. Only from her lecture, I started to know how devoted and passionate she was for the cause of justice.

Story after story, Amy Goodman told the heroic acts people made in history and are making today. She mentioned how a mother of a solider who died in Iraq spoke out, how that mother brought photographers and video man to meet her son’s coffin at the airport, shedding light on the death of a war. Goodman mentioned a courageous high school student who delivered a letter to George W. Bush, saying “We do not torture”. Goodman talked about her own experience of covering protest in St Paul for republican convention and was hit and pushed to the ground by the police, arm held back and arrested. That’s all because she stepped onto the frontline and be there to report the controversial actions.

Goodman retold stories of activists in the history, from Fredrick Douglas, the abolitionist to Susan Anthony, the woman rights movement leader. From Rosa Park to Martin Luther King, Jr.. Then all the way to contemporary heroes such as Noam Chomsky. She brought back the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. by recounting how King gave his mountain top speech the night before he was assassinated. She talked how King spoke out against Vietnam War a year before then and was ridiculed by news media at that time.

She talked about the responsibility of a journalist of speaking the whole truth and bringing all opinions to the table. She talked about how media is a big kitchen table around the globe where people share discussions.

Amy Goodman is gifted with incredible voice. It is musical, powerful and penetrating. You feel like listening to a great drama, or a theatre performance. There is not one moment you feel bored. Every story she recounted was deeply engrossing. The one-hour speech passed quickly with the whole audience listening quietly, broken only by occasional applauses for her speech.

We sat in a large church building, where every seat is filled by people coming to hear Goodman’s talk. As  she preached to this sympathetic audience, most of whom are members of local peace groups, I cannot help wondering if her topics have already become mainstream. Peace, truth and justice are principles everyone can agree on. People feel good about themselves by talking about these topics. However, it will be much harder to preach the topic of gun control, where this country is filled with noisy views and misinformation provided by NRA. When we stand against gun violence, it is much harder than standing for civil rights or women’s rights, where a group of people can identify themselves and come together. The victims of gun violence spread around all groups and there is no easy way to bring them together. This is why bringing sensible gun law to this country is so hard because there is no identifiable group to push the movement.

Amy Goodman says, “Democracy is messy”. Everything we struggle to bring to fruit will be messy. Social change requires constant fight, personal devotion and unwavering faith. As I start the journey of reducing gun violence in this country, I am inspired by Amy Goodman. Each of us can make a difference, if we only give ourselves.

Wayne Dyer vs. Dalai Lama

I have been a long-time follower of Wayne Dyer. When I was a freshman in college, I was captivated by his book Your Erroneous Zone (Chinese version). The book made me feel good and relieved me from mild depression. In later years, I read almost all his books and attended his lectures. I tried to apply his teaching to my life, and identified very much with his spiritual philosophy where there is a universal God that is loving. However, I found my personal life did not benefit from following Wayne Dyer’s teaching. In several cases, his teaching led to wrong actions and judgment.

This led to serious doubt. Why is Dyer’s teaching not effective for me? Wayne Dyer speaks with such certainty, as if his teaching is universal truth. It gives a lot of comfort in the beginning because someone already figured out an answer to your problem. But you pay a dear price after finding out that answer is worse than what you can come up with by yourself.

dalai-lamaOn the contrary, Dalai Lama does not claim he has answer to your problems. When pressed by an audience on some specific issue, he simply said “I don’t know.” Then he laughed. His laugh was so simplistic and genuine that you feel for him. Dalai Lama understands the complexity of human problems. By not claiming that he has the answer, he empowers others to make decision for themselves.

Dalai Lama is one of the most humble and unpretentious person in the world. This is because he has an enlightened concept on his own importance. “In Buddhism”, he said, “We try to eliminate Self”. Therefore he has not a single trace of self importance. This is how he can laugh and joke with anyone he meets, be that a dignitary or a cleaning person. He lacks any pretense that most people have. Without the sense of “self”, Dalai Lama does not worry how others perceive him when he makes mistakes. Thus he can freely reach out and make deep connection with people. In this man, you perceive deep congruity and honesty. This is the healthiest state of human existence. By watching him and learning from his lack of pretense, we enable ourselves to connect with others. Thus we create more connection and more happiness in our life.

Dalai Lama has a realistic view on success or achieving goals. He views himself as simply doing small things to help others. He does not view himself as a deity but rather a “simple Buddhist monk”.

There are some similarity between Wayne Dyer and Dalai Lama. Dyer emphasizes meditation, and a generic God concept which he calls “the source”. He talks about the importance of love and compassion. He talks about dealing with suffering from inside. All of these topics are mentioned by Dalai Lama, and are part of Buddhism teaching.

Both are excellent public speakers. Wayne Dyer can speak in front of a large audience with lots of humor and stories. He can speak for 2 hours without showing tiredness. Dalai Lama can hold a 20,000 audience captive, with his humor, candor and thoughtful ideas. People are filled with joy and inspiration after his talk.

Wayne Dyer has a lot of compassion for others, and he generously gives that to others he meets. He raises funding for PBS, and donates proceeds to the public broadcasting.  After one of his lectures, I approached him to chat. Before I began my story, he gave me a big warm hug. After listening to my story of immigrating to US from China, he said, “Do stay. We need you here.” Tears came to my eyes. For many years, I was asked by so many Americans on when I will go back to my home country. Dyer was the first person who expressed his welcome.

However, there is fundamental difference between Wayne Dyer and Dalai Lama. While Dalai Lama is very worldly (besides teaching Buddhism): engaging in a real political cause for Tibetan people and meeting world leaders to raise awareness, Wayne Dyer limits himself only on spreading self-help messages: his main audience is his believers who read his book or attend his seminars. While Dalai Lama promotes the idea of no “self”, a true selfless giving to others, Wayne Dyer promotes the way to personal success and personal worthiness. While Dalai Lama proclaims that he has no real answer to complex human emotional problems, Wayne Dyer indicates he has the right answers. He speaks with such definiteness that leads to simplicity of dealing with our complex life.

Dalai Lama teaches by his own example. By projecting deep compassion to people, he calms you and frees you. Much of our energy is spent on chasing love, which is deeply needed in our life. Dalai Lama gives to people the true unconditional love through his words and interaction. He provides the ultimate answer to our worldly problems—love and compassion.

If you want to learn more about Dalai Lama, check out this documentary movie 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. It has actual interviews, and will give you a glimpse of Dalai Lama’s personality: Calm, loving, humorous, and free.

A Life of Service

Gandhi was originally a lawyer. He left India for South Africa to search for legal work.  If he just praticed law, he might be a good lawyer, but would never have his name known around the world. Instead, Gandhi found his calling by helping poor Indian people to sue their abusive employers, by organizing events to overturn the discrimitative law against Indians. He was selfless, devoting and hardworking in engaging the cause. In doing so, he found his calling and true enjoyment.

Combined with great personality: truthfulness, holding no grudge against individual, and rejecting wealth, in addition to his eloquence in writing and speech and tireless persistence, Gandhi became a leader of a movement. By giving himself to serving others, he arises to greatness.

Gandhi also mentioned how he nursed his dying brother-in-law and gave all his care to this man until his death. He had since discovered his enjoyment for nursing. This is another example of serving.

Later Gandhi devoted his life to the cause of India’s independence, going through all the hardship and scacrifice. But he succeeded. He became inspiration for all the nonviolence movement around the world.

We can all aspire that greatness by dedicating ourselves to the serice of others. It requires true unselfishness. It requires spiritual awakening that we are not on this world alone.

Charles Darwin and his Theory

young_darwin His famous book The Origin of Species was published in 1859, about 150 years ago. Yet, the writing is so lucid and prose so vivid that you feel like reading a contemporary book. Even more powerfully is the argument and evidence he presented. Darwin covered almost all kinds of species on the earth. From plants to pigeons, and to cats and dogs, he exhaustively studied their patterns, varieties and change. He collected the same plants from 18 different countries to check out their local patterns. He participated in pigeon society to study the domestic pigeons’ sub-species and the change of their body after selection. He carefully studied insects and their interaction with flowers in the natural world.

I am awed by the depth and breadth that Darwin undertook to prove his theory. No species is out of his scope, and no variety is beyond his perception. The theory he put forth, is not a casual conjecture, but a solid scientific conclusion. It is backed by his decades of data collection and evidence sifting, and summarized in this wonderful book.

Darwin wrote, “it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended from other species.” He started to ask the question in 1837 after he returned from a ship tour around the globe. He was not satisfied with the mere explanation of environment influence, but searched for a more coherent theory. He worked on his theory for 5 years, then gained more confidence. “From that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object.” His book was finally published after 22 years of dedication on this subject.

Today, the theory of evolution is pursued and enriched by geneticists, by behavior biologists and by epidemic researchers. Darwin’s theory fundamentally changed our view of the world. His thorough study created a scientific branch that withholds fact checking and becomes more powerful over time. How much we owe a man for his dedication, his deep and thorough study, and his breadth. His eloquent writing is still a joy to read today and a monument to inspire.

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Meryl Streep

times_cover When she was young, she was beautiful, radiant and sweet.
When she is older, she is graceful, elegant and calming.
Her beauty has that lasting grace, never decreasing with age. devil_wears

In every of her movies, her gives such outstanding performance that you are completely mesmerized. She can be a dying mother, yet still makes you feel her beauty (One True Thing). She can be a closed-up nun, yet you still care for her (Doubt). The talented Meryl Streep is such an unusual woman.

Among the Hollywood stars, Meryl Streep is the rare one who maintains an intact family and grow older with her husband and children together. He maturity is probably what makes a lasting marriage possible, which requires compromise and unselfishness.

Having the most nomination for Oscar and two-time Oscar winner, Meryl Streep is incredibly humble. She showed no vanity. She is funny, natural and at peace with herself. On the contrary Maddona is always trying to prove herself, her youth and her sexual appeal. All of these are external and can go with ages. It is sad that Maddona did not find her own peace and still chases the illusion of youth by dating younger man and recklessly breaking up her marriage.  On the contrary, Meryl Streep is fully grounded. She does not have to be “young” to be beautiful. She doesn’t have to be a sex icon to be attractive.

out_of_africa1 My favorite movie of Meryl Streep is Out of Africa, in which she played a brave European woman who set her foot in Africa and became an entrepreneur and pioneer. The woman in the movie is remarkably resourceful and courageous. She is also an excellent manager who leads her staff of household and employees of plantation. She built schools and created clinics. Abandoned by her husband, she finds her new happiness and fully enjoyed her life. Meryl Streep portrayed the heroine in such flawless way that you almost feel it is herself. As you watch her talking to the young African boy, as you see her overcome grief after her lover died, as you followed her in her ride to war frontier, you cannot help but deeply admire this woman.

Meryl Streep is my hero. She sets a standard for what is possible for professional achievement and personal fulfillment. She shows how a person can balance a family with an achieving career. With her remarkabe and consistent excellence in silverscreen through several decades, she brings so much joy to our life.