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September 24, 2009

“Secrets to Success” in Grad School

Filed under: Personal Development — Fei @ 5:30 pm


About two months ago, a friend of mine asked me my secrets to succeed in grad school, because she’s going to a top university for grad school (one of the big three). That really flattered me, coz I don’t really have any secret, and I don’t do well anyway…. (considering many of my colleagues are professors of distinguished universities, and/or are successful in business and become multi-millionaires.) Still, I wrote her a few emails regarding how I think of the topic (mainly from books… as many of you know.. I’m just a book worm :-))

With her permission, I’m copying some of our email correspondence (her identity removed), because I feel that what I told her is exactly what I should tell myself… over and over again. I should always remind myself of all these points…. regularly, frequently… sometimes it’s easier to tell others what to do than telling myself… I think the most interesting parts of the conversation are the “three circles” from “Good To Great”, and her elaboration on American confidence (she’s a white American).

In my response to her first email, I recommended the “three circles”:

I recommend a book called “Good To Great”. It’s a great book. I like it a lot. In the book, the author talked about three circles. One is what you are really passionate about. One is what you are born to do. And one is what makes economic sense. It is best to work in the intersection of the three circles. The key is “understand”. To understand your passion, to understand your strength, to understand the economic engine. If you understand your three circles and work in the intersection, your life will be brilliant. Oh well, I’m still in search of my three circles :p

In her response, I noticed that she was not a very confident person, which quite surprised me, because in my mind, Americans are in general confident. Oh well, at least that part she’s pretty much like me. I could feel that she was worried about grad school at that point (fortunately, she’s very happy about the school now). Going to grad school is a great change and challenge. I had a lot of doubts and issues at that time, and many people helped me at that point. So I feel good that I can pay back and help others. Then, I wrote an elaborated email to address her concerns, from my perspective.

WOW! You sound like a Chinese. Maybe I have stereotypes on Americans and Chinese. I always feel that Chinese are not that confident on themselves, while Americans are very confident on their capabilities, sometimes too confident. I was a typical Chinese and always felt that I was not good at this, not good at that etc. etc. which made me a quite pessimistic guy, which now I don’t think is good at all. I’m still not that confident on many things (it’s so deep in my subconscious mind), but consciously, I always try to encourage myself. You know, it is real hard, conscious mind only accounts for 10% of our brain, and subconscious mind accounts for 90%…. Anyways, that’s why I want to read some motivational books again and again, to change the attitude. I actually highly recommend one book for you. It is called “The magic of thinking big”. It’s so good that I planed to give talks on the findings of the book. I’ve already finished my slides and given some try round talks, but still not to a broader audience.

You heard of the book: the secret, or the law of attraction? Basically, the book says that you will get what you want. If you want success, you will get success. If you want failure, you will get failure. Whatever you want, you only need to think think think think really hard, and it will come to you automatically. It’s quite mythological, and it goes to some extremes, but it makes sense in some aspects.

Since you are born and raised in American culture, it’s natural that you have confidence inside you. You just need to uncover it. You have a Princeton degree, and it’s priceless, and you are NOT going to mess up <university>, it will be another shining diamond on your resume. Think about it, how many people can get both Princeton and <university> degrees? Not that many.

It’s really nice of you to think for your parents. The degree is expensive, and I know it. Instead of worrying this and worrying that, just make up your mind that you ARE going to excel at <university> and it will propel you to study harder. You can pay your parents back after you get your degree, maybe with interest. You can also work part time in libraries at <university>, just like what many Princeton students do at Princeton. But it’s not the your major concern. Your major concern now is your <university> degree.

I would agree with your parents that even though <university> may be expensive, it is the right choice. You will be emerged in a very prestigious culture that <another university> will never give you. Use me as an example, I had my undergraduate education at Peking University, which is one of the best universities in China, and I’m really proud of that.

Then I had my PhD. at Princeton University which we all know it’s prestigious level. Having attended the two universities, the people around me, the friends I make, are all different, and they in turn encourage me to do better. This is a positive feedback. If I went to a ordinary university in China, the odds that I would go abroad would be very slim, and life would be probably very different for me. However, it doesn’t mean that a graduate from a second tier school won’t do well. On the contrary ,some are doing exceptionally well. The inside strength, not the outside environment is the dominate factor. I don’t know how they did it and I can’t speak for them. But I do respect them a lot.

How to choose a University? For me, it’s mainly the culture. I like Princeton’s culture a lot. I believe <university>’s culture is equally good. I remember in one year’s reunion, the 40-year graduates did a survey and most of them were no longer working at the same major they got their degree, and over 50% of them did not even remember what their college major was. To me, school life is to be enjoyed, and it’s the culture of the school makes it unique.

Don’t be discouraged since nobody makes money in your area. One important aspect of schooling is to enjoy the culture. Just think about the 40-year graduate example. If it doesn’t work for you long term, just change major. No big deal. However, think cautiously when you do. I do really believe your major has a super bright future. Nobody makes money now (and I really suspect this) doesn’t mean you won’t make money. It doesn’t mean people won’t make money two years, five years down the road. For me, proliferating the findings from your major is the only way to sustain economic growth for mankind. Think how important it is.

Currently, people pollute the environment all over the world; people excessively focus on non-renewable energy such as gas, coal; people have formed the habit to waste everything. Those are big problems needed to be solved. Many people are aware of the issues now. Renewable energy is a really hot topic now a days, but was it hot ten years ago? Probably not. I’m sure people will aware of other environmental issues soon. And you have a real good start, because at that time, you will be an expert in the area.

Still, think about inter-disciplinary. Now a days many hard problems are solved by combining the wisdom from multiple areas. You have your niche, which is environment, you can talk to people in other areas and maybe you can find some BIG ideas. Just keep in mind, whatever you do, whenever you do things, always think: “is it efficient; is it effective; would it be better if….” You don’t need to figure out the solution.

Just identify the problem is one big thing. I’m actually very interested in talking to you to learn more about your area and probably we can sparkle some ideas together 🙂

It is common to have doubts sometimes. Maybe it’s because you are so into it that you lose the big picture. Maybe it’s because you tend to think from the same angle. A second opinion may be good sometimes. I actually have doubts all the time. I need people to remind me regularly.

The encouragement among friends are real important. I feel really honored that you ask me those questions. Hope my perspective can help you in some way. I’m also learning many things. My points may be incomplete or even wrong, so use with discretion. Maybe I will consult my problems with you someday :p


PS. sorry for my tongue if you find it too pushy. I hope you don’t mind.

And her response to the confidence part (other parts are omitted).

It was very interesting to me what you said about American stereotypes.  Maybe American culture rewards (and glamorizes) confidence more than humility and so from an early age here people learn that to be the “best” they must be confident in themselves, have confidence in their abilities, and be confident of success.  But, I think this is just the ideal, I think most people really aren’t that confident at all.  Especially younger women and girls.  There are a lot of problems in that regard in American culture.  Some Americans really are as confident as they seem, but I think for most people, it’s just a show.  They don’t feel as confident on the inside as they act on the outside.  But they know that’s how they have to act to get anywhere.  It takes a lot of energy!  I’m usually pretty good at displaying a lot of confidence for an interview or first impression, but then I have some difficulty maintaining it over the long term.
(That being said, not all Americans like overly confident people.  My Dad, for example, both my parents actually, are often suspicious of overly confident people because they think they are hustling people and putting on a show to trick them into something.)

I should indeed remind myself regularly……. and YOU, my friend, please remind me too….

P.S. my friend gave me more explanation on “American confidence”.

I just thought of something. It occurred to me that what I said about my parents not liking overly confident people might not be representative of the entire country, that might just be true of people in the Midwest or middle America. I’m not sure, I don’t know if there are also a lot of people on the coasts who share the same view or not. Anyway, I just wanted to disclose this possibility to you.

September 9, 2009


Filed under: 往事如风 — Fei @ 7:42 pm

Bride Groom今天是09年09月09日,一个好日子。黄历上也说“宜嫁娶”。今天结婚的人挺多的,我也第一次in a wedding,而且是个超小的wedding。


昨晚突然想起这事,赶快给朋友打电话。她也好,不紧不慢的,告诉我时间地点,而且她还没有网,只好让我写下来。我问她应该穿什么衣服,她也不在乎,说随便。我是打定主意要穿suit的,但groom自己不穿suit,那我是不是over dress了。。。过会她又打电话过来,说她们没有相机,要借我的相机。。。好吧,我那老掉牙的300D又有了用场。


因为今天是个好日子,city hall早就被人定满了,他们是找了一个notary,在一个旅馆里。我到那一看,第一个到。再一看,连喊糟糕。。。自己穿了一身西装,打了领带。。。但出门时忙中出错,鞋没有换成黑色的皮鞋,穿了平常的休闲皮鞋。。。心里一冷,这怎么办呢?好吧,那就脱了西装,除去领带,休闲的当证人吧。。。





notary突然叫“witness”。。。。把我吓了一大跳。。。发现是我填表时间。。。先是给我讲填表规矩(规矩真多)。。。然后我填表。。之后在结婚证明上签字。。。发现上面有bride’s witness 和 groom’s witness。。。但我只有一个人。。。不管他,签到正中间。。。


现在仪式也做过了,帐也结了,婚礼到此结束。。。。notary的小儿子突然把我叫过去,给我讲了一大通good bug,bad bug的事(他在看一本关于bug的书),然后在旁边的树丛中找bug。。。


此婚礼时间不到40分钟,客人就我一个。。。真是个mini wedding。

August 9, 2009


Filed under: 往事如风 — Fei @ 12:14 am












August 5, 2009


Filed under: Business,Readings — Fei @ 11:38 pm

Stanford University entrepreneur corner is a great source for entrepreneurs. Every week, an entrepreneur is invited to give a talk on his or her expertise, focusing on business and entrepreneur of course. An MP3 of the  talk can actually be downloaded from the website, which provides a unique learning opportunity for people who cannot attend the lecture, someone like me.

I have been listening to the lectures for a while. The quality of the talk totally depends on the speaker. Some speakers are not good communicators; some speeches are too specific on the product of the company. For them, I just browse through once.

However, some speeches are great. The speakers are very experienced, presenting a whole lot of information. In the future, I will list some good speeches that I consider worthy of listening again and again 🙂 Hope you will also enjoy them.

Today, I just list some podcasts I listened recently.

Innovation as the crux of entrepreneurship, by John Hennessy (4.0)

No wonder Hennessy is the president of Stanford University. He is such a great speaker. He is also a great entrepreneur, founded MIPS (which is unfortunately in my field). In his 30+ years of career, he has seen and tried enough things. He didn’t present a whole lot detailed lessons, but as a person being in both industry and academia, his point of view is quite unique.

Young at heart: how to be an innovator for life by Tom Kelley (4.5)

In the speech, Tom talked about many stories, vividly, which are very enlightening. I especially like his stories:  “every child is an artist”, “thinking like a traveler”, “kid’s toothbrush” . He also mentioned Jim Collin’s great book “Good to great”, emphasized the three circles, which I totally agree.

13 mistakes and 13 brilliant strokes by Hugh Martin (4.5)

Martin has been through many companies and has seen many mistakes in his career. Some of his experiences are quite eye flashing. Some of the key ideas are: the impact of CEO on the company; the importance of human resource; difference between one big player and multiple big players; don’t be afraid of law suite etc. etc.

July 16, 2009

Lean Startup

Filed under: Business — Fei @ 6:45 pm

www.mixergy.com is a nice website. The founder interviews a lot of successful entrepreneurs, and the interviews are very enlightening. I will post some interesting interviews in the future.

I listened to the interview with Eric Ries, on the lean startup concept. Eric explained the pros and cons of stealth mode, the separation of customer launch and market launch, and how to test assumptions using customers’ feedback.

Eric learned market testing the hard way from his startup IMVU. How he and his team developed a technology brilliant 3D avatar plugin of IM, but failed to attract any customers. How he learned the lessen that his basic assumption was totally wrong. He then scratched months of hard work and started all over again, turned the company 180 degrees, launched a new IM with 3D avatars and achieved great success.

Here is the interview: http://mixergy.com/ries-lean/

July 12, 2009


Filed under: 往事如风 — Fei @ 3:28 pm
By Darren Hester

By Darren Hester







July 11, 2009

Wells Fargo Sues Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo Denies Allegations

Filed under: Economics,Readings — Fei @ 11:00 pm

Court RoomI don’t usually do this, but this is so hilarious…

However, it definitely shows how rigid the American law is. Seems ridiculous on the surface, but the ridiculousness is based on a sound system foundation 🙂 I’d rather have this than making exceptions….

“Due to state foreclosure laws, lenders are obligated to name and notify subordinate lien holders,” said Wells Fargo spokesman Kevin Waetke.

Here is the link: http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/al-lewis-wells-fargo-bank-sues/

June 18, 2009

Why People Follow?

Filed under: Personal Development,Readings — Fei @ 5:40 pm

Read the book “Strengths Based Leadership” recently. I don’t specifically like the book. Most of the contests are not new. Here I just want to mention one interesting observation from the authors fo the book.

It’s about how to be a good leader. To find out the answer, the authors did not interview the successful leaders and find out their common characteristics. Instead, the authors did a survey on the followers. The followers were asked two questions:

  • What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?
  • Now please list three words that best describe what this person contributes to your life.

Guess what the followers wrote? I would have guessed different people would write dramatically different words. but I was wrong. Followers seem to have a very clear picture of what they want and need from the leaders. Most people write the same or similar words.

The most commonly mentioned words are:

  • Trust
  • Compassion
  • Stability
  • Hope

hmm.. it’s indeed very surprising. What can I learn from this discovery?

April 2, 2009

Tim Ferrisss Blog

Filed under: Business — Fei @ 12:37 am


Like his blog… try it out: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/

Better subscribe his newsletter.. 🙂 I really learned a lot from reading the threads…

Try this:

Tim and Kevin from Glenn McElhose on Vimeo.

March 18, 2009


Filed under: Toast Master — Tags: — Fei @ 2:33 pm

Newspaper Thief
Thanks Mr. Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, and honored guests. Today, I’m going to tell you a story. As I tell you the story, think about it. Why I tell you the story.

Richard and Mary are neighbors. Every morning, a newspaper boy delivers newspapers to Mary’s house. Every morning, Mary has to read newspapers. Mary is DYING to read newspapers. She cannot skip reading newspapers.

One day, Mary went out to pick up the newspaper. But the newspaper was not on the ground, the lovely blue bag was NOT on the ground!!! Where is it? Where is it? Mary looked around… huh…. Richard… Richard was sitting on a couch in his yard reading a newspaper. It was exactly the same newspaper Mary was subscribed to. But he NEVER sits on that couch, and he NEVER reads newspapers…. Mary was furious. It must be Richard who took my newspaper. He is a thief!!!! But will Mary go to Richard and ask for the newspaper. No, Richard must deny it. He must say it’s all the newspaper boy’s fault.

But will Mary just stop here. NO. Richard needed to pay the price for being a thief. Because Mary was a real good web designer. She immediately went back to her house, spent 10 bucks to register a domain called www.newspaperthief.com. Spent 10 minutes to set up a website. It has Richard’s name, home address, weight, height…. all kinds of information about him. and he is a NEWSPAPER THIEF!!!! Mary wants everyone in the world to know, Richard is a thief.

But did Richard know that his name was on the internet? Did Richard know he’s a newspaperthief? No, he didn’t do a thing. He just sat in the coach reading newspapers.

Richard’s other neighbor, Scott, was in bad shape, he desperately needed to sell his house. He was a motivated seller. Fortunately, he found a buyer, Alice. They were already in contract stage. Alice had checked the house, it was good. Now just waiting for Alice to sign the contract. On that day, Alice decided to do a check on the neighbors, so she typed in the address on google. Because Mary just put up the website out there, it was one the the top few items returned by google. Alice looked at the address, it was the exactly next door. She clicked the website, and found everything about Richard. And he was a newspaper THIEF! OMG, Alice was going to have a thief neighbor! No way, Alice immediately tore down the contract, and cancelled the purchase. So what happened? Alice lost a great deal, Scott was even more desperate to sell his house, Richard lost a nice neighbor. And he didn’t even know ANY of those!

In the afternoon, Mary went out to the front yard again, and this time she noticed something, She saw a tip of a blue bag in the garden. oops, that’s a newspaper. Richard was not a thief. Mary was wrong. But Mary thought, I just spent 10 bucks on the website, let’s just put it up for a while. It doesn’t hurt… So the website still lives on.

After a couple of days, Richard was doing a multi-million dollar business deal with his first time partner, Bob. Because a lot of money was involved, Bob decided to do a background check. So he put Richard’s name in google. What did he get? It’s newspaperthief.com. Bob was stunned. He never expected Richard to be a thief. But Bob will never do a deal with anyone without integrity. Bob backed out from the deal, and Richard lost millions.

All those things happened behind the scene. Did Richard know any of these? No, he didn’t know. he didn’t do anything. He just sat in his coach reading newspapers.

Do you get anything from this story? Do you get why I tell you this story? Think about it. There are always different kinds people spreading different kinds of information in the internet. You can’t believe them all. Use your due diligence. Remember, whatever you are looking for, you will find it. It is very true both on internet, and in the real world.

Time: 06’07”

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