Here are 10 life lessons I’ve learned over the years and which has proven to be very helpful in my personal development journey:
1.The ability to accept who you are – Accept your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t compare yourself to others because it is not possible. Everybody is unique so don’t duplicate others. You can learn from others but be yourself.
2. Your strength can be your weakness and vice versa. This was one of the lessons my father taught me and he illustrated this point with the following fictional story : There was a war going on between two camps.
One of the generals in charge of one of the armies was a very filial person. He was very strategic and smart when it comes to leading the army but he always make sure to pay annual tribute to his late mother at her grave (there is a Chinese custom to pay tribute to ancestors during certain days every year).
So during the war he makes no exception and plan to visit soon. This character trait of being filial got picked up by his enemy and the enemy plans to ambush this general when he is visiting his mother’s grave. As expected, they found him at the site and as a result the general and his army was defeated. The point is that being filial is a very positive character trait (strength) but in this story it turns into a weakness because he let his filial piety overthrow his sense of caution.
3. Be open and adaptable to Change – I moved around a lot. When I was studying in university I change residence ever year (4 times) and change jobs 4 times in 2 years. In my earlier years, I also change country of residence. The downside of this instability is that I have a hard time making long lasting friendships but the upside is that it broadens my life experience and outlook of life.
The most recent change for me was getting married and moving to a new house and neighborhood. All these changes and moving make me realize that I shouldn’t get too attached to people, places or things. The only real constant is Change itself.
4. Don’t look at the surface; look at the root cause. – Be aware that sometimes the problems you see on the surface have a deeper cause. If you have problems losing weight or becoming wealthy, it is possible that it is related to a self worth issue: do you see yourself as being thin? wealthy? Figure out if you have subconscious fears before you start tackling the tangible issues like exercising or finding ways to earn more money.
5. Listen to your gut/heart – it never fails. – I lost count of how many times I dismiss my feelings and go with my logic instead and the end result is always that I regret not listening to my gut. It is very easy for me to sense a lot of things around me, particularly feelings from other people. The hard part is to actually listen to it rather than let logic dictates my decisions.
Thanks to my mentor from Hong Kong (see #7), who is a very accomplished professional yet possess extraordinary intuitive skills, I am more accepting of the fact that your own feelings are much more accurate than logic and I should trust them with faith.
6. Having firm boundaries. Set boundaries for yourself and allow others to respect and honor that. For example, your goal for the new year is to cut down on your expenses and focus on achieving your financial goals. That also means that you are going to cut down some social and entertainment time.
If your friends keep asking you to go out, party or do activities that lead to a big outflow of expenses (it adds up!) then communicate your goal to them. Don’t let their goals become your goals. Rather communicate YOUR goals to them and let them respect you for that.
7. The value of having mentors. The value of a mentor is truly immeasurable. Since university I have mentors. I used to join all the mentor ship programs at University of Toronto that were available to me and the mentors I had then were very helpful and instrumental in developing my career skills and abilities.
Currently I work with three mentors on different aspect of my life: career, intuition and business insights. My mentor C from Hong Kong was truly instrumental in helping me to accept my strengths. As mentioned in #5, I don’t really listen to my gut feelings and rather let logic dictates my decision.
But I ends up regretting a lot of decisions because of that. C is an interesting mentor: she has a Stanford MBA and used to be a former TV show host in HK and Taiwan. She is a author, columnist, former magazine editor-in-chief, a former CEO and befriend a lot of the elite members of HK society.
I was very shocked when she is willing to answer my questions on a lot of things and she advise me that she use her gut a lot in guiding her decisions and that I should do the same too. She also give me a lot of business insights and strategies. Thanks C!!
S is my second mentor who guides me in learning to deal with the changes that I am currently facing. A is currently my career mentor. He is a very successful businessman, a Mensa menber and have a great sense of humor. (A, if you are reading this, I won’t reveal your identity until I have your permission 🙂 )
And don’t let physical distance prevent you from getting the right mentors. Two of my mentors are not in Canada; they are based in Hong Kong and Singapore. Let your heart guide you to the right person. My advice? Ask!! Don’t let their titles and achievements intimidate you.
If you want to learn from them, send them an email and let them know. The worst thing that can happen is that they ignore your email. But if they reply let them know why you contact them. That is how I got to know 2 of my mentors.
8. Don’t underestimate your own power. You never know what impact your words can have on your friends and others. Let me illustrate with a experience of mine: During my last year of university I worked at the university call center.
I befriend a couple of people there and one of them is M. M was a life science student and she was in her second year. We were chatting and I reveal to her that I used to be in life science too and my goal was to apply for pharmacy school. Yet I didn’t get into that program so I decided to switch to business instead.
M was very interested about my story and we chat a lot every time we met at our night shift. After graduation I reconnect with her and she told me that as per my insight, she apply to pharmacy and she got in!! She never was considering going into that field until I mention my own story.
I am very happy for her but I was shocked that she actually follow what I told her.
Another incident I have was in first year of university. At that time I joined a small group community of life science students and we got a biology professor as our mentor. The goal of this program was to create a like minded sense of community among the first year students.
As the semester is going to end and time to say goodbye, we decided to write a thank you card to the professor for his help and guidance during the year. But then one of the group members ask me whether a card is enough. The rest was unanimous about only giving a thank you card but then an idea pops into my mind and I said: It would be nice if we can give a together picture (we took that during Christmas) and frame it for the professor.
Also giving a card is nice but it would be better if it is a giant one with everybody writing something funny on it.
As per my advice, she went ahead and did exactly what I told her! Another shocking surprise. And the nice thing is that she did that by herself and we only need to chip in the money and wrote our funny stuff on the card. Of course the professor was very surprised with all the gifts he got! He was a new prof at U of T and recently came back from Oxford University. I am sure we make him see how nice U of T students are :)!
9. Kindness and Gratitude is connected to the “luck” factor – There is a correlation between kindness and your “luck” factor.
Being kind and being grateful for what you have almost always attract a lot of positive things to you. If you are always interested in helping others or using kind words, you are bound to attract good things. C, my mentor is a philanthropist herself and she credits her charity efforts and kindness for her phenomenal career success: being always at the top of her career and her ability to meet many successful people in HK, China and Taiwan.
She always tell me to do a lot of good things: not necessarily donating money, but being helpful to others and not participating in gossip and badmouthing others.
10. Your Attitude and Outlook is going to shape your life experience. I recently watched the movie” The Shawshank Redemption” and this movie illustrates my point very clearly. This movie is about Andy, a banker who got thrown into prison for life at Shawshank State Prison despite his claim that he is innocent. The outcome of this movie is a result of Andy’s outlook and attitude towards his depressed situation. Very inspirational.