Monday, July 30, 2018

Day Nine: Only 3 Weekends Left

Why do I do this?

Why do I wake up in the morning and sit down for three hours writing about something that has happened over a month ago? Why did I record each day I was in Beijing? I have pictures, more than I’ll ever need to remember the experience and the people that have changed my life forever.

But why did my experience change my life?

I speak a lot about Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why because I’ve learned so many things about myself and the people around me because of the lessons I read. I learned how to communicate or WHY I communicate in the first place. I learned how to make a difference or WHY I want to make a difference. I learned where my passion for travel came from and WHY I wanted to travel and still want to travel today.
Simon Sinek-Author-Start With Why

There are many lessons that can be learned from Simon Sinek’s book, but reading a book—any Non-fiction book—will open our minds to scenarios we’ve never experienced but want to learn from. Simon Sinek was like most of the today’s leaders where he started with nothing, failed a bunch of times, felt lost and incomplete, and then had an “ah-ha” moment that changed his life. His experience is something we can relate to.

Therefore, I write every other day and allow three hours to disappear, so I can continue to inform the public about my trip, not because I want to show off and advertise the non-profit I went through, but to inspire people to take a leap of faith and travel to a third world country that is in its mist of total economic advancement and development.

China is an economically booming country with the housing market exploding. Yet, there are advantages and disadvantages to this.   

For every good thing, there is something bad. For every bad thing, there is something good. China is a communist country and in my blog post about individualists and collectivists, I mentioned that I’m an individualist person and live in an individualist country but wish I was slightly more collectivist. This doesn’t mean that I want the U.S. to become a communist country or that I agree with nationalistic views. I love my country and I love my freedom, something many Chinese don’t have.

But I must go back to WHY. WHY am I doing this? WHY did I go to China?

If China is so different from the U.S. wouldn’t I have found living there difficult? I did struggle at the beginning of my trip and even nine days into my trip I found myself wondering WHY I was doing what I was doing.

Instead of enjoying the intense heat, something that I rarely experience in Northeast Wisconsin, I found myself barracking myself in my bedroom waiting for something to happen. My experiences so far had been only with my host family and I didn’t know anyone outside of the apartment complex I was living in.

As I contemplated my options I found myself thinking about how long I had left. As the title of this blog post suggests, I was counting down the days and the weekends. I was waiting for a response from a potential employer and I was waiting for Dora to return later in the evening. I was waiting for my host mom to wake up so I could eat lunch instead of exploring outside and seeing what the market, right around the block, had to offer. In conclusion, I was just waiting.

So, WHY was in China? At this point, I didn’t have an answer either.

Even with the encouragement from Dora’s Spanish teacher, Anna, a woman from Portugal, I found myself reluctant to take the leap. In Simon Sinek’s book, I read a lot about finding my passion and being willing to fail. For years, I failed to travel overseas. I felt part of my soul rip away each time I failed. I felt like the picture of the woman holding a cup of milk while her hair, head, and hands started dissolving into thin air. I was dissolving into thick, sticky, hot air of Beijing, China.
Dora and I
However, I need to back up, again. This day, day nine, was only one day before I started exploring the surroundings that eventually led up to me meeting other World Explorers through CHI. Once I started exploring, I couldn’t stop myself and I got comfortable in my surroundings. I left the apartment alone. I rode a subway for the first time. I took a bus without getting lost. And I found a way to communicate with people who didn’t understand or speak my language.

Yet, for me to get to the point where I turned my adventure around, I need to speak about the hard times. I need to speak about when I felt lost and not in control of my life. Because of all of these things, as hard as they may have been, are what changed me and helped me as I continued living in Beijing.

I was dealing with culture shock. I didn’t want to admit it when I was there, but I was dealing with more than the thirteen-hour time change and language barrier.

I spent my ninth day like the eight days before. When Dora returned from school and was done with her extracurricular activities, I tutored Dora in English. And this is what I’m good at. I’m an academic girl. I’m not athletic or energetic, but if you throw a book at me, I’ll aggressively snatch my new treasure and disappear for an extended period. (It’s like I was never there.)

I’m creative and I understand that kids don’t want to be lectured. Believe me, I understand. I’m in college and I get the occasional instructor who likes to lecture from a PowerPoint presentation, word-for-word. Now, this works for some people and I don’t necessarily dislike this type of teaching method. I utilized this when I first learned how to speak in front of an audience, but this kind of teaching is bothersome. I knew I wasn’t going to bore Dora to death.

My lesson on the ninth day was an art activity (since she loves art and drawing) and a game that required Dora to wear off some energy. Running around the courtyard while playing Stop and Go Light while teaching about different types of plants and animal life worked well with Dora. Afterward, we sat down in the courtyard and drew some of the plants and animals we saw on our adventure.

Stray animals are everywhere in China.
The gated community I lived in had many stray cats and dogs roaming the courtyard. Many stayed away and hide whenever they saw us, but a few got the courage to sniff and lick us begging for some of our ice cream and snacks. Dora gladly gave her ice cream away and found a small dish to fill with green tea.

Even though I was struggling, my host mom had me pick up Dora from school by myself. She came with me in the taxi but let me find my way to the school and figure out a way to say that I was picking Dora up. This pushed me past my boundaries and I wanted to refuse, but I didn’t. And it helped.  

For all my trouble, I was rewarded with a sweet pancake—my favorite street food!

This concluded my ninth day in Beijing, China. Have you ever felt like I did? What was your experience like? Leave your comments below and share this post with friends and family.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Which are you? An Individualist or Collectivist

I recently took a test. This isn’t what’s interesting. We all take tests, be it state standardized tests in middle and high school, ACT and SAT tests for college, or the Civics test all high school students are now required to take and pass to graduate. Test taking has been universally known as a nuisance. This is a problem I’ve had in the past and still deal with today and for all my students I’ve worked within the school systems and while tutoring.

The anxiety, depression, nervousness, and helplessness are common feelings and emotions many people feel before taking a test. And these emotions aren’t made up. I struggled all through primary and secondary school with tests and quizzes. The thought of filling out another fifty-questioned multiple-choice test makes my skin tingle and sweat to start forming on my clammy body. My hands start to twitch, and my breathing picks up. I’m in panic mode.

Luckily, for me, I didn’t take a test that caused any of these emotions. I was excited and learned a lot based on the answers I picked. I took the individualist and collectivist test in the book Figuring Foreigners Out: A Practical Guide by Craig Storti.  

I found out many things about myself including:

  • How I perceive the world around me.
  • How I see other people.
  • How well I work in groups.
  • And how little I understand about my own culture and the world around me.

Before I get into my results and tell you which type of person I am—Individualist or Collectivist—I want to explain the difference between these two terms. In the book, Storti mentions that there are two types of cultures:

  • Individualist Cultures
  • Collectivist Cultures

Instead of using these terms, I decided to see if I could figure out which culture or group I fit in best.

As Storti stated, “No culture will be exclusively individualist or collectivist—all cultures will have elements of both poles—but cultures do tend to be more one than the other.”

Individualist Culture and Group

An individualist culture or group is about oneself and being self-sufficient. This culture or group values personal freedom, independence, and self-reliance.

“Individualist cultures believe rewards should be directly commensurate with one’s level of effort.”

Collectivist Culture and Group
A collectivist culture or group is about family and ensuring that a group is successful. Success in a group guarantees the well-being of every other individual in the group.

“Collectivist cultures believe that their own security and well-being ultimately depend on the well-being and survival of their group.”


Though not surprising, I fit in one group better than the other. I’m an individualist individual and I believe that I live in an individualist culture. I believe that if someone is in a group and another person doesn’t pull their weight that he or she shouldn’t be given the same result or reward.

Yet, I like to think that I’m a collectivist individual and live in a collectivist culture. When I tutor my students, I treat them all the same and give them equal opportunities to learn and grow. I don’t pick and choose who will succeed or who I’ll help more often.

This isn’t how the U.S. works, though. Big corporations and the government many times follow an individualist system where it’s “every man for themselves”. Look at Walmart. Michael T. Duke, the new CEO, who came in after many scandals riddled the company, decided that the best way he can change the situation was to first give himself an annual salary of $5.43 million.

Suddenly, the Bible makes more sense.

In 1 Timothy 6:10, it states, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”   

Politicians and big corporate leaders follow an individualist system that many times are flawed. This is one of the reasons so many people can’t feel a connection to politicians anymore. Politicians goal is to get your vote and to do that they will tell you what you want to hear (or tell WHAT they’re going to do) instead of telling you WHY they are going to do it. (This idea is expanded on in the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek).

Even with all this information, I need to back up a bit to explain what I try to get at.

China vs the United States of America

This blog is meant to share the story of my time spent living in Beijing, China. How is China different from the U.S.? Does China follow an individualist system?

The answer is yes and no.

A map of China
China is such a large country, with more than one billion people living within its borders, that labeling China as one specific culture or group won’t make sense. I met many people who fit in the individualist group while my host family and their friends fit in the collectivist group.

Many Chinese citizens look out for themselves. Family is very important though and a father may even get violent with someone if he thinks his family is being threatened. This isn’t very different from American families. Though the family structure in America is sometimes stretched thin and families tend to spend more time away from each other than together.

I only live a mile away from my paternal grandparents and my father’s brother (Uncle) and his family. Even though we live this close, I rarely see them and many times we don’t communicate with each other unless it is a holiday or birthday. It’s a fight to get everyone together to enjoy a family meal or to host a family reunion. The family connection is very much lost and each of my extended family is an individualist person.

My new friends and host sister, Dora
My host mom and host dad are collectivist individuals. Sharing food and the rewards from accomplishing big tasks are shared equally within the family unit. Being considerate to friends is also common as eating out at a restaurant meant every one is sharing a meal. There is a conversation happening the entire time we eat, and the meal usually lasted close to two hours.

Figuring Foreigners Out

No one is the same. We hear this in school and we see it when we walk down the street. Different cultures dominate the United States of America. America was built on foreign ideas and from people from every walk of life and corner of the planet. Instead of insulting or passing judgment on foreigners that visit America, we should be learning from them.

So, what type of individual are you? Are you a collectivist? An individualist? Or do you fit in both? Leave your answer below.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Day Eight: New Day, New Beginnings

Online Tutoring
Online tutoring. It’s the next best thing that helps students find academic success in subjects like mathematics, English, and science. The job is flexible as many tutors pick their own hours. The job can be a rewarding experience and many of the tutors, who I have met, tell me that they plan on visiting their students one day.

The best part about living in Beijing was that I wasn’t going to be bored. The second day in Beijing was when I met Dora and Scarllet at Bridge for Education and International Travel in Chaoyang District. This was a required meet up and orientation that all new World Explorers go through. It’s beneficial to listen and to take notes in this orientation. I learned etiquette and some Chinese before I was shipped off to my new family.

In the orientation, I was told that I could tutor online and earn $15 an hour. My interest was piqued. On the eighth day in Beijing, I had been accepted for an interview with an online tutoring service. At the time, I thought this opportunity was going to work with my schedule and Dora’s (host sister’s) schedule. In the end, I couldn’t become a tutor, not because I didn’t pass the interview or because I didn’t want to, but because the hours conflicted with the time I needed to be with Dora.

It’s a Tuesday and I’m once again left to figure out what I wish to fill my day with. Since, at the time, I had just been accepted for an interview, I was practicing answering common job interview questions. In America, back home, I usually don’t practice as I find myself becoming more stressed and nervous about the interview.  I’ve learned that if I’m going to a job interview, the best thing I can do is to look confident and speak with confidence. This helps potential employers to see that you aren’t afraid and that you’re willing to take chances that can help their company. I’ve been hired for jobs that I have no experience in but get hired because I present myself in a certain way that makes people think that I’m confident.

And this is what today’s blog post is all about.

Finding my confidence while being in a foreign country that is quite different from the US was difficult. Living in a foreign country that is currently fighting with my home countries government was also a difficult aspect to get over. I felt as if I needed to be quiet and to stand in a preverbal corner when I was introduced to new people because I didn’t want to seem as if I was some intitled American that could butt into conversations and social groups.

I wanted to be respectful. So, I decided to be quiet unless spoken to and to be as helpful as possible, even though I do this at home anyways. Many times, after eating a meal, I would TRY to collect the dishes and hand wash them. I was never able to do this as my host family and their friends would always take care of these kinds of chores.  

I didn’t know it then, but my host family and their friends were respecting me and showing me kindness by taking care of tasks like cooking and cleaning. In the Chinese culture, it is common to eat dinner (or what I call supper and YES I’m from Northeast Wisconsin, calling dinner “supper” is normal) with the entire family and to spend extended periods of time eating and communicating with each other.
My family and a friend

I’ve written about this is another post about how I believe Americans have lost the art of communication, especially within families. I’m used to eating alone at a table and the guys basically inhaling their food so they can continue doing whatever it was they were working on. Many times, the women are the ones who cook the meal and clean after a meal. Though this isn’t the case for every family, I haven’t been around many families that sit down for supper together and talk with each other for more than ten minutes.  

It was common to be eating supper and talking for about two hours each night. Granted, Dora and I were the slowest eaters known to man! My host mom and host dad used to play a game with Dora and me to see who would finish their meal first. I’m happy to report that I did win a few times, but Dora would come out of nowhere and start shoveling in her food to beat me. It was all fun and games. This easily became something I looked forward to. This simple act of eating as a group, communicating with each other, and racing to finish my meal was what made me feel connected to my host family.

But this was the day that I met someone who changed my life. On Tuesdays, Dora has Spanish lessons. Her teacher, Anna, who is from Portugal, came to the house to practice Spanish with Dora for an hour while my host mom and I relaxed before our meal.

I learned that Anna had been in Beijing for four months and was working with Dora’s dad as an architect. She’s very outgoing and isn’t afraid to do things that make her uncomfortable. Anna was the one that convinced me to not be such a scaredy cat and get out of the apartment to experience Beijing.
Beijing, China

Anna told me that when she first arrived in Beijing in February, she was alone. She was alone for an entire month. I wish I could’ve recorded my reaction to this because I could feel all my blood leave my cheeks and a sinking feeling settle in my gut. Anna didn’t know Chinese when she arrived, and she knew nothing about the area. Yet, she still went out and got lost and experienced the culture.

While playing an intense game of Uno with Dora, Anna and I continued to talk. She wanted to know why I was not going out. After explaining that I was too scared and that I was shy, Anna lectured me. I needed this strict and straightforward lecture to break me out of my funk. I wasn’t going to experience anything if I was going to be a hermit.

For four hours I spoke to Anna and told her all my concerns. With her help, I was able to download a VPN and get Baidu and Microsoft translate on my phone. Since my phone is a Google phone and Google products and services are blocked in China, Anna and I had to struggle around security credentials to finally be able to download apps.

Baidu became my best friend and guided me home more times than I can count on both hands. Baidu is a multi-functional app that has a detailed topographic map, service for taxis, and is a search engine. The only problem is that the app is only in Chinese.

Before Anna and I knew it, it was 11 pm. The subway was now shut down.

Anna returned home while I enjoyed watching Westworld with my host parents until 1 a.m. Staying up until the earliest parts of the morning was normal and watching American TV shows was very much appreciated. Surprisingly, I had never heard of any of the American TV shows my host parents liked. Yet, I’m now a fan of Westworld and Legion.

This concluded my eighth day in Beijing, China. This was the day that made the biggest difference in my life because it was the day that encouraged me to start exploring my surroundings. Because of this, I met up with another World Explorer a few days later and started experiencing the Real China. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Day Seven: Understandings and Misunderstandings

Beijing, China
It’s days like these that make me the happiest. Early this morning, 4 AM, I received a voice message on WeChat from my host mom, Vera or Vereda. Not surprisingly, the voice message was from my host sister, Dora. Not only did she say that she missed me, but she wanted to know when I was coming back. My heart has shattered. I may need some stronger adhesive to keep my heart together.

There is a reason why I talk about China the way I do. I didn’t just enjoy my time and learn about China, no, I lived my time in China being part of a family and making lifelong friends. It’s hard to explain the intensity of my situation because none of you were there with me. I can show pictures and show you through my writing of the things I’ve learned, loved, and still love today.

I find myself shutting down when I don’t dream about Beijing. I miss the skyscrapers, the noise from the cars (car horns), the people, and the food. The first couple of days were difficult. Getting used to my new surroundings was a task and learning that virtually no one spoke English was only the start of my concerns. Yet, I speak about China as if it is a holy place with no problems and endless opportunities. This isn’t necessarily true.
Dora :)

It’s day seven of my adventure in Beijing, China. I’m not only too chicken to walk out the door of the apartment complex; I’m too chicken to even leave the apartment. I even feel weird leaving my room without being around someone I knew. I was frightened and the more I sat looking out my balcony window, the more I became withdrawn. Was I going to spend my 33 days looking out a window and wishing I had done things or was I going to do them? The answer may not be obvious if you haven’t read my other blog posts, but for those who have been sticking with me since the beginning know that I had such a fun time that China is now my second home.

There are many things that I could say that I didn’t like about China. I could list them out as if I have a right to. I could write a 1,000-word blog post about the things you would hate too, but I won’t. My experience in China is never going to be like anyone else’s. I went to China with my roommate from college and we had such different experiences that I will be going back and my roommate most likely will not.

I went on this trip because I wanted to see if I could handle living in another country and teach English to an audience. My roommate came to China to experience a new culture for the first time. My roommate had never flown before or left the country. It was a big leap to leave America for a third-world country like China. We both experienced our first international flight and stepped foot in China as our first foreign country.

Waking up at 6 AM because I was drenched in sweat was not something I like to remember. No matter how tired I was, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with as hot as it was. So, 6 AM, on Monday, turned out to be my wake-up call as I knew instantly that the day was going to be a scorcher.

To pass my time, since Dora was awake, and I shouldn’t have expected anything else, I worked with her on an English worksheet I printed off from one of the many trusted websites I use when I tutor here in America. Drawing and coloring were involved as was learning how to pronounce new vocabulary. After the short lesson, Dora became the teacher and started teaching me Pinyin, the Chinese writing system. I quickly learned that I struggled with pronouncing “Qs” and the “er” sound. Now, these don’t sound the same as in English as much of Chinese is spoken in the front of the mouth and sometimes through the nose.

Before I knew it, Dora was rushed off to school, taking a taxi with her dad, Evan. I was now alone, and I felt the sinking feeling in my gut telling me that I was now on my own. For three hours, I sat in my room trying to decipher a Chinese character book my host mom had given me. Apparently, the book was supposed to make learning Chinese characters easy, but, with as nervous as I was and as hot as I was, I found myself forgetting everything I was reading, and nothing was sticking. I guess this put a whole new meaning to “In one ear out the other.”

I think I was starting to understand how to do one thing though. I was able to scare my host mom every morning when she woke up without even trying. I guess I was too quiet. I needed to change that, and I did some ten days later.

Instead of wasting the rest of my free time before Dora came back from school, I decided to pay a visit to the family pet, the dog, Lu Lu. Lu Lu is eighteen-years-old, blind and deaf. She’s one of the smallest dogs I ever saw, but also the most loveable. Even with her disabilities, she recognized me and always wanted me to scratch her neck. Quickly, she became my favorite.
Lu Lu

My day went like most of my early days (day 1 until day 10). I did little in the daytime and worked with Dora at night. This process made me feel as if I was still in college, even though I had just finished the year three days before I jumped on a plane and spent over 24 hours to arrive in Beijing.

But this day was a bit different as Dora had gotten in trouble at school for hitting a boy. My first reaction was to scold her and to explain that it is never OK to hit someone. I never got a chance to say this because my host mom, Vera or Verade, told her daughter that it is OK to defend herself, especially against boys. She also said that she needs to be independent and that she doesn’t need a man to be successful.

Now, this may seem OK for some of you and wrong for others. Dora was defending herself as she was hit by the boy first. But in America, children are taught to never hit each other. It’s wrong, right?

The delicate balance between doing something right and doing something wrong is clearly different in China. The one thing I had to learn, especially at the beginning of my trip, was that my host family was non-traditional. What does this mean? A lot. I don’t think I could write all the things down to make you understand. I still struggle, at times, with understanding what non-traditional Chinese families are because they are all different.

My host parents are not married. They’ve been together for over thirteen years. They love each other as much as my parents love each other. The only thing that is different is that my parents are married. My host mom doesn’t believe in marriage because, in China, if someone gets married the female’s parents pay for the car and the male’s parents pay for the apartment or house. Vera, my host mom, doesn’t want to be held down by these standards. Though this isn’t the case for every Chinese couple, the male usually works to the bone to earn enough to buy a car and a house or apartment, because this means they are ready to start dating and looking for a wife. A man’s worth is determined by how much he earns. A woman's worth is determined by if she can give birth to a son or children. 
My family (from right to left) Me, mom, dad, and Brooke

On a lighter note, I enjoyed learning these things from my host mom. She was open about situations that had happened in the past and she understands that she isn’t like everyone else. This conversation led us to my first street market where I tasted a sweet pancake. From this day forward, I asked for a sweat pancake every day. Dora enjoyed this because she always got one with me.

It had been seven days since I arrived in Beijing, China. I got used to the thirteen-hour time difference immediately after I arrived, and I was sleeping significantly better than I had ever done back home until this night. I wonder if it was because of the heat? I’ll never know, but this fact is worth noting because, for the first time since I was sixteen-years-old (seven years ago), I was able to sleep without taking medication. I took what I could. Successfully sleeping without medication for six days is now a record. I hope to break this record within a year.

How was this post? Did you like it? Was it interesting? Did you learn something new? If so, leave a comment below. Until next time, “Keep your head held high and keep following your dreams.”  

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Feeling Successful vs. Achieving Success

First International Conference—PTK
Consistency. This is something I had to learn myself. I had to learn to stay consistent with the path I was taking to become successful in my chosen career. It isn’t easy as I find my mind and passion pushing me in every direction without a clear way to get there.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been reading the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I’ve discussed part of Sinek’s book in another post about culture and if YOU fit into the culture you were born in. Surprisingly, Sinek’s book isn’t about different cultures, but about the leadership culture and how some of the world’s leading leaders are making a difference in their communities and how they got there.

I’m nearly done with the book, about twenty-five pages away, and I'm continually learning new ways that I can better my life by following and utilizing the Golden Circle. Instead of telling people WHAT I am doing I’m telling people WHY I’m doing it. There is a reason for everything I’ve done since I’ve graduated high school in 2013.
High School Graduation—2013

I didn’t know it then but working at a tax and accounting office was going to be the first step in my ultimate plan for success. No, I’m not in the accounting field and no, I’m not interested in the field either. I’ve never been interested in bookkeeping or taxes, but I have always been a passionate person who likes meeting new people and helping people with their struggles. The tax and accounting office was a great place to practice and learn the skills I needed to become a helper.

For the next five years, I transitioned between four separate jobs, some I was working at the same time, learning and advancing my skill set so I could figure out what I wanted to be. It wasn’t until 2015, when I took my first three college classes at Fox Valley Technical College, that I started to understand what my future was going to look like.
Fox Valley Technical College—Appleton

Becoming certified in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) in May 2015, pushed me to follow a separate path than what I had originally set for myself. I’ve written about this before, about how I originally planned on being a computer animator, and how my career path and passion quickly changed to education. To learn more about this story visit this link.

As I was achieving more and more through school and work, I started to notice that I was still feeling unhappy. I many times felt lost and as if I wasn’t doing enough. To alleviate this feeling, I started to push myself harder and further than ever before. I risked my wellbeing to make sure I was being someone that could be considered better than the average joe and my health continued to decline.

As Sinek stated in his book, Start With Why, “The false assumption we often make is that if we simply achieve more, the feeling of success will follow. But it rarely does.” And I agree with this statement.

I’m a perfectionist, something I inherited from my dad. In college, I push myself past my limits to get the perfect 4.0 GPA. Each semester I break down more times than I can count on both of my hands with the amount of stress my classes put on me and the amount of stress I put on myself. I work as many hours as humanly possible while being a full-time college student, many times taking more than full-time credits. Yet, with every win and achievement, I find myself less and less happy. Therefore, Sinek was correct.

As I’m working through my summer classes and getting ready for the fall semester, I find myself reminiscing about things I’ve done this summer. I should be jumping with joy and happier than ever before because I’ve accomplished something on my bucket list. I went to China. I enjoyed my trip. And this may be the reason why I feel so lost.

In the section, Being Successful vs. Feeling Successful, in Simon Sinek’s book, he wrote, “Those with the ability to never lose sight of WHY, no matter how little or how much they achieve, can inspire us. Those with the ability to never lose sight of WHY and also achieve the milestones that keep everyone focused in the right direction are the great leaders.”

Have I lost my WHY? No. Has my WHY become cloudy and fuzzy? Yes.

There is a difference between achievement and success. Simon Sinek stated it best by saying, “Achievement is something you reach or attain, like a goal… Success, in contrast, is a feeling or a state of being.”

I can go on for days talking about how much I love Simon Sinek’s book, but you wouldn’t learn a single thing. I understand, after reading Start With Why, that many of today’s greatest leaders don’t feel successful. Today’s leaders have made achievements, but they haven’t found their success. Achievements are tangible. We can feel, touch, see, and hear achievements. Success is when we “have a clear path and understanding of WHY we want it.”

Many celebrities, musicians, and leaders all speak about how after achieving the fame that they are lonely. I’m a fan of K-pop and one of my favorite bands, BTS, talks about how they all have felt sadness and loneliness even after reaching international recognition and becoming popular and breaking into the American music market.

As stated in the section, Split Happens, Sinek said, “At the beginning, ideas are fueled by passion—that very compelling emotion that causes us to do quite irrational things.” Because of this, many celebrities, musicians, and leaders started their dreams with simple ideas and had a strong passion to change something. But as their passion, careers, and businesses grew, the passion and their WHY started to fade.

We have to understand that “Success comes when we wake up every day in that never-ending pursuit of WHY we do WHAT we do. Our achievements, WHAT we do, serves as the milestone to indicate we are on the right path.”

Even though my WHY has started to fade, I re-established myself when I was in China. Instantly, I knew WHY I was there and WHY I’m in college pursuing a degree. I know WHAT I want to achieve and WHY it’s important to me and my community.

Children's Day—Beijing, China
As Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, said, “Celebrate your success. Find some humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everybody around you will loosen up.”

I’ve learned so many valuable pieces of information from Simon Sinek’s book and from my trip to China. I understand that for me to achieve my life’s dreams and to feel successful, I’ll need to push myself outside of my comfort zone and to, most importantly, secure my path to follow my WHY.

Did you find this post interesting? If so, please share and leave a comment. I love hearing about other people’s adventures and stories of how they’ve overcome obstacles and have achieved their dreams. Until next time, keep your head held high and never give up. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Day Six: This Got Me Thinking

Park and Mall in Fengtai District
I was living the dream. I finally made it to an Asian country. Even though I was in China, I was still closer to my favorite musicians than ever before. In America, I was only able to see my favorite musicians on TV or YouTube. Now, while being in China, I was in the heart of K-pop territory.

Beijing, China is far closer to South Korea than America. Seoul, South Korea was only a two-hour flight away and I was itching to leave for a weekend to visit the place where the magic happens. There was no Mickey and Minnie Mouse there; no, the only thing I wanted to see was the musicians.

In high school, I fell in love with Japan. I started reading Manga and watching Anime. I quickly was learning common phrases used in the Japanese Anime and using them in my everyday life. Many of my friends were also anime lovers and we found ourselves communicating as if we were in one of the shows. I was, at the time, the biggest anime fan. I almost dyed my hair a platinum white color to match some of the crazy anime characters I saw in the shows. Luckily, I didn’t dye my hair any crazy color.
Mall and Park

After high school, while watching an FBE video on YouTube, I was introduced to K-pop. My first K-pop song and the band I was introduced to was Fantastic Baby by BigBang. To this day, my favorite K-pop song is still Fantastic Baby. There are many K-pop songs that have come close to changing my opinion, but BigBang has stayed in my heart since the beginning.

Walking through an open mall area in Fengtai District with my host family was a blessing. Between all the lights and shops and restaurants, I saw several bulletin boards, that could be seen from the highway, advertising several K-pop bands. If I didn’t know better, the one K-pop band that was being advertised more was EXO, which has subdivisions in the group called EXO-M, EXO-K, and EXO-CBX. Several of the members of EXO (past members and current members) are natives of China. It made sense that the band would be advertised there.  

I felt myself blush while watching the bulletin board display some EXO songs. I must tell you; South Korean musicians know how to pull on the heartstrings of women from all around the world. K-pop artists have mastered the ability to persuade and entice people with their body language. Though some people find these actions annoying, I find them cute and a reason why K-pop is becoming so popular in not just the east but western countries, too.

Moving on from the brilliant show from EXO, I experienced a first in the National Museum. What I thought was paintings, was embroidery. Embroidered silk sheets of famous paintings and people from history were what made this adventure something I can always remember. I’m an artist and I find myself intrigued when I find new types of art. I’ve never seen such delicate embroidered designs. And to make it even more interesting, I learned that the yarn the artists used to create the masterpieces were made of silk.  

The thing I enjoyed about my host mom the most was that she is an avid reader. Every time we went out as a family, she would stop at a bookstore and buy several books to add to her already massive collection. It was normal to spend over an hour in a bookstore, no matter the size of the store, looking through and reading the abundance of new books. Dora, my host sister, would fill her time with reading children’s books and looking at the trinkets offered through the store. Metal bookmarks in the shape of animals, clocks, do-it-yourself kits, and pencils and pens lined the bookstores in Beijing. We never left a bookstore without buying at least one trinkets the store had to offer.

Hungry and in need of some sweets, Dora’s dad, Evan, bought us ice cream and reserved seats in a restaurant. I will never forget how much I love ice cream in China. It is smooth and is filled with favors I’ll never see in America. My favorite flavor was green tea and mango. Dora loved chocolate or coconut flavor. Besides being obsessed with watermelon, Dora loved coconut. She drank coconut water, ate coconut flavored foods, and ate chunks of fresh coconut.

I’ve never been a fan of Pho, but I was eating Pho almost every week. The first time I ate it was when I with my host family at the mall area and park in Fengtai District in Beijing. Eating Thai food was unexpected, but I quickly learned that my host family, as they considered themselves non-traditional, broke away from the normal Chinese cuisine whenever they could. My host family had traveled to Southeast Asia many times and fell in love with the food. It also helped that my host mom, Verade or Vera, was from Southeast Asia. She knew all the good food to try. My meal consisted of Pho noodles with beef, sushi, and tofu.

As small as Dora is, she ate the entire bowl of Pho and sushi and tofu. I couldn’t even drink the entire bowl of soup. It’s hard to believe that Chinese people can eat so much and stay so thin. But the food they eat is very healthy, always has a lot of vegetables, and Chinese people are more physically active.

It was an enjoyable day. It was different as I’m used spending my Sundays sitting at home, watching TV or playing on my computer to pass the time. Sundays are usually days that I can relax and do whatever I want. My Sundays were always going to be packed while in China with activities and Dora time.

Although unusual for me, spending my Sunday with my host family is something I miss today. I miss the time we took to just talk and enjoy life. To take a break from work and the stress that surrounds it. I miss feeling free from life’s struggles and meeting new people on every street corner. Since I’ve been back, almost a month now, I’ve been keeping myself active on Sundays and making sure that I spend some much need quality time with my family.

This concluded my sixth day in Beijing, China. Leave any comments and questions below.