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  • Four Stoic Virtues to Guide Our Lives

    "Virtue is how we live happy and free lives. It’s not grandiose nor vague. That means our mind, which is the only thing we control, should always align with these four virtues: He explains that any virtue must follow the golden mean, otherwise it becomes a vice. Wisdom is the supporting foundation for the other three virtues. Conclusion A good, happy, and free life is one that is guided by virtues.

  • Protect People's Good Intentions

    Icon Sources: 1, 2 There was a renowned actor about to go on stage. His student passed by and told him, "Sir, your shoelaces are untied." The actor nodded and said thanks, then he knelt down and tied his shoelaces. After his student left, he knelt down again and untied his shoelaces. An observer saw the whole scene and was thoroughly confused. He asked, "Why did you untie your shoelaces again?" The actor replied, "Because I am playing the role of an exhausted traveler. Having my shoelaces untied shows how long and difficult the journey has been." The observer asked, "Then why didn't you just say that to your student?" The actor replied, "The fact that my student noticed that my shoelaces were untied shows that he is very observant. He also notified me, which shows that he is very considerate. I have to protect and encourage his goodness. Besides, there will be lots of opportunities in the future to tell him why my shoelaces were untied." (Story Source: Harvard Family Instruction, Chapter 1) Commentary This story reminds me of a principle for good relationships that I've been working on: See the intention behind their action. Most of us tend to over-focus on people's actions and forget to consider the intention behind the action. Sometimes, we get annoyed or upset at other people's actions, but the person actually had positive or neutral intentions. In such a situation, the other person would feel wrongfully treated if we get annoyed at them. I'm very impressed at this actor's ability to see his student's intentions rather than just focusing on the matter. Moreover, he used the words "protect" and "encourage". "Encourage" is not surprising; we want to encourage people to have good intentions. But the word "protect" caught my attention. Indeed, it can be hard to find people who always hold positive intentions towards others in our modern society. One factor is likely due to popular media promoting selfishness and self-centeredness a lot more than compassion and humility. Thus, if we encounter people trying to be good, we should try to protect their goodness. How do we protect and encourage people's good intentions? Well, it depends on the situation. First we have to see their good intentions, then we can affirm their intentions by saying things like "Thanks for your consideration" or "Thanks for your good intentions." Other times, we just follow their request, as was the case in the story. My Experience In my experience, parents might ask us to do things that we feel are unnecessary, but if we consider their good intentions more, we'd be more patient with them and more likely to listen to them. For example, I was recently fixing the grout in between some kitchen tiles. One tile had a crack, and my mom asked me to put some grout on the crack. I explained that the grout won't work on the crack because grout is meant for the area between kitchen tiles; it is not meant for a crack in the tile itself. Plus, it would look ugly. She still insisted. I asked why, and she said she's worried about safety. At first, I didn't understand how a crack in a kitchen tile constitutes a safety problem. But then I remembered she talked about how a neighbor's kitchen tile cracked and sunk into the floor. Although I still don't think a crack in a kitchen tile is dangerous, I could sort of see why my mother is worried. If I just consider the matter itself, I wouldn't put grout on the crack, but I considered my mother's intentions (safety), so I did what she wanted. This was my way of focusing on people's intention more than the matter itself. Recently at work, a fellow teacher invited me to teach his beginner English class because he wanted to learn from me. Although he viewed me as a senior, I still asked him to give me feedback on my teaching afterwards. He told me to be more careful with time management because I went a little overtime. I was going to explain to him that I actually paid very careful attention to time management throughout the class, and I wanted to explain how I made that judgment call to go a little overtime rather than skipping something important. But I stopped myself. One reason is because I wanted to cultivate humility. After all, overtime is overtime; his advice is reasonable. But I also remembered this story, and I saw that his intention was simply to help. Plus, it takes courage to give advice to a senior. Ultimately, I wanted to affirm his intentions and courage. If I explain myself, then he might not want to give me advice again in the future. Hence, I simply said, "Thank you, I will be more careful in the future." Conclusion Don't over-focus on people's words or actions. Instead, consider the intentions behind their actions. Most of the time, people have positive or neutral intentions, so we shouldn't get annoyed. We should also try to protect and encourage people's positive intentions because that is precious. After all, don't we all want a world with more good people? Weekly Wisdom #243

  • I'm a PhD

    A recently graduated PhD just got hired to be the lab manager of a prestigious research lab. What's more, he is the only PhD on his team; the other two team members only hold a Master's degree. Since he wanted to get to know his team members better, he asked them if they would like to do something over the weekend. The two team members said they usually go to a nearby pond to fish and relax and invited him to join this Saturday. He happily agreed. On Saturday, they met at the pond, fished, and chatted over some drinks. Suddenly, the first team member said he needs to use the washroom. The PhD thought the team member would walk around the pond to reach the washroom across the pond. To his surprise, the person hopped across the pond as if he could walk on water! After the person came back, they started chatting again. Soon, the second team member said he needs to use the washroom too. Amazingly, this person also hopped across the water to reach the washroom! The PhD was baffled, but he was too embarrassed to ask these Master's students how they did it. Not long after, the PhD also needed to use the washroom. He looked at the water, then he looked at his team members and thought to himself, "I'm a PhD. If they can do it, I can do it too!" Image Source He hopped onto the water. SPLASH. The two team members pulled him out and asked, "Why did you jump into the water?! You should walk around the pond!" The PhD said, "But I saw you guess hop across the water, so I thought I could too!" The team members said, "Oh that's because we are very familiar with this pond. There are stones across the pond that lead to the other side. Since there was heavy rain the past few days, the water covered the stones. But we know where the stones are, so we can hop across." Commentary There's a Chinese saying that goes, "Arrogance brings harm. Humility brings benefit." This story is a light-hearted example. If we think about it, people can become arrogant from so many things, such as fame, wealth, position, appearances, and even educational background. Perhaps some might argue, "What's wrong with being proud of these things? I worked hard for them!" Firstly, when we think we are great, we become less careful, and that’s when it’s easy to make mistakes. The PhD in the story was so arrogant about his PhD status that he thought he could hop on water! Secondly, when we think we are great, it becomes hard to improve. If we are not improving, then we will fall behind. If that PhD is very complacent with his PhD status, then he might not spend enough effort keeping up with the changes in his field, which would result in him falling behind. Thirdly, when we think we are great, we give off an air of arrogance, and other people will dislike us. I can imagine that PhD giving orders to his team members without considering their feelings, or pointing out every little mistake that others make. Indeed, when there's an arrogant person in the group, all the other people know it, and we all try to avoid that person. Once we see the harm of arrogance, we are much more willing to practice humility. A humble person is someone who is always seeking to learn from others, no matter if they are an expert or a child. If you are trying to learn from them, you would naturally be respectful and polite towards them, and that leaves a good impression on others. Since a humble person is always learning and improving, they wouldn't fall behind in their field. Finally, a humble person is very careful in all matters because they are always trying to improve themselves through even the small things. My Experience I usually teach high school students in Canada, but recently, I had the opportunity to teach some elementary school students in Malaysia. Initially, I never thought that I could learn from such young kids. One day, two brothers had a fight in my class, and I couldn't make them happy. Later that day, they got happy on their own. I was baffled at how they went from angry to happy so fast. I asked one of them, "How did you become happy?" He said, "I don't know. I went to do other things." Another teacher told me, "They are kids. They don't make a big fuss about things after the fact like us adults do." I realized in some ways, little kids are better than me, and I should learn from them. Indeed, anyone can be our teacher if we are humble. Another time, a colleague told me, "Don't give suggestions in front of that person. She is very arrogant and always asserts her own opinions over others." It's a shame that people are not willing to give her suggestions and point out her problems. What's worse, her arrogance makes others feel uncomfortable around her, which means people are less willing to help her. She is a very enthusiastic and well-intentioned person with great ability, but without humility, it will be hard for her to improve and get better opportunities in the future. These past couple of months, I've been tutoring someone English. Since I have experience in this field, I used my usual method. Later, I found out from a friend of the student that my method was not as effective as I thought. Although my method worked well for previous students, every student is different, and I realized I needed to make some adjustments. If I had been more humble from the beginning, I wouldn't have assumed that this job is easy and that I can just do what I've always done. Moreover, I shouldn't just teach English for the sake of teaching, but rather try to improve my teaching abilities with each class. Conclusion Arrogance is a very subtle but harmful trait that we all have. The minor consequences might be thinking we can hop on water…The major consequences might be offending the people around us and continuously making the same mistakes because no one is willing to advise us. As D.L. Moody said, "Be humble, or you'll stumble." Weekly Wisdom #233

  • The Farmer and The Ghost

    Commentary When life is tough, people often cultivate virtues like diligence, frugality, and humility But when people gain wealth and power, if they lack virtues, then vices like greed and arrogance may What makes them good or bad depends on whether or not we have enough virtues to handle them. If a person understands the virtue of humility, he is the person who also understands the importance Conclusion In bad times, cultivate virtues, and fortune will come.

  • Faults Are Like Poop

    Recently, I was talking to my mentor about some conflicts I had with people. Essentially, they think I'm wrong, and I think they're wrong. Being the wise person that he is, my mentor didn't side with anybody. Instead, he said, "Faults are like poop. When it's your own, you don't care. But when you see other people's, you're absolutely appalled. Isn't that hypocritical?" Icon Sources: 1, 2 I understood his analogy and stopped complaining. Indeed, instead of arguing who's right, the conflict would be easily dissolved if I simply tolerated the other person's faults. After all, we all have faults and bad habits. If we could tolerate others' faults the same way we tolerate our own faults, then there'd be no conflict! This isn't to say that their behavior doesn't need improvement, but I should focus on improving myself first because that's in my control, and only when I improve myself do I have the right to ask others to improve. Moreover, using a blaming attitude towards others just makes things worse. If we can tolerate and accept them for where they're at, then we can approach them with patience, tolerance, and encouragement. As I reflected on this analogy more, I found other similarities between faults and poop. For example, some people have very negative and critical self-talk. If a person talks to oneself harshly, then she will probably talk to others harshly as well. I certainly have had this experience, and I've had to work on my self-talk to become more positive, loving, and respectful. We can remember the poop analogy again. No one scolds themselves saying, "What's wrong with you! You pooped again!" or "You're such a horrible person for needing to poop every single day!" or "Wow, your poop is so stinky. You're such a failure." Similarly, we shouldn't scold ourselves every time we make a mistake. We should encourage ourselves the way we would encourage a little kid learning to walk: with a loving tone and strong belief. We can tell ourselves, "Making mistakes is a normal part of being human and a natural part of the learning process. The important thing is that I learn from my mistakes. I should judge myself based on my ability to correct my mistakes quickly as opposed to not making mistakes. I can definitely do better next time!" Another way faults are like poop is that we shouldn't hold on to them. If we have lots of faults, others will avoid us as if we smell like poop. If we keep holding on to our poop, it will hurt us. Similarly, if we don't eliminate our faults, whether it be anger, laziness, arrogance, or carelessness, those faults will keep hurting us. Unfortunately, a lot of us have gotten used to "fault constipation", so eliminating mistakes doesn't come as naturally to us as eliminating poop; it's something we have to consciously work on. To continue this analogy even further, both faults and poop ought to be studied. Studying our poop gives us clues about our digestion, which is why doctors ask us about our poop! Similarly, our faults and mistakes give us clues about our mental and emotional health because all mistakes stem from the mind. If we can study our faults and mistakes and correct them, then we will become better people. An important principle in medicine is to treat the root cause as opposed to the symptom. For example, if a person has constipation, eating laxatives is treating the symptom. As soon as you stop eating those pills, the constipation returns. Oftentimes, the root is in the person's diet. Perhaps if the person ate more fiber in their daily diet, the constipation might go away. That's thinking in terms of the root as opposed to the symptoms. The same is true for studying our faults. The bad action we do is the symptom, but the root of the problem is in our mind and deep inner beliefs. For example, I have a bad habit of complaining. The act of complaining is the surface-level result, but the cause is in my mind. My mind is too entitled and arrogant; I believe that everyone should think like me. Hence, I can fix the root by changing my thoughts. Instead of telling myself, "What! This person is so unreasonable!" I change my thoughts to, "No one tries to be stupid or bad on purpose. Everyone is doing what they think is right, or they are acting out of habit. Either case, I shouldn't be judgmental towards them because I am the same." This is just one example of getting to the root of a fault. Everyone has different faults and bad habits, and we all need to find the root of our problems. After we figure out the root problem, we'll have to undergo a period of training to unlearn an old thinking pattern and learn a new thinking pattern. I previously wrote about my 21-Day No Complaint Challenge, which was a great kickstart to my training. But even now, I still catch myself complaining, so we need to persist for a long time to change an old habit. Even though it's hard work, it's certainly better than being full of poop/faults! These are just some of my realizations from the fault-poop analogy. The next time you get annoyed at somebody's fault or problem, try to treat them the same way you would treat yourself when you see your own poop. And of course, we all need to work on eliminating our poop and faults! Weekly Wisdom #252

  • A Late Night Hospital Visit

    This past Wednesday, my grandpa had a tooth pulled at 3:00PM. At 9:00PM, he told me that his gum is still bleeding, and he needs to go to the hospital tonight. Image Source I have been immersed in ancient philosophy this past year, and I remembered just this past week, my Chinese philosophy teacher said, "If you are a learner of Chinese philosophy, the first effect you should have on the people around you is to be able to calm them down. To do that, YOU need to remain calm in difficult situations." Then I reminded myself to calm down, to take some deep breaths, and to speak slowly. I told my grandpa, "Don't worry, I'll call an Uber and accompany you to the hospital." My mother also wanted to come along, but she was worried and said, "If we go to the hospital emergency room, you're likely to wait all night. I think all he has to do is bite on some gauze to stop the bleeding." At this point, the Uber was almost here, so I said, "Well, grandpa is worried. Going to the hospital can calm his worries. If he is calm, we will be relieved. If he stays worried, how can we be at ease?" Arrival When we arrived, there were lots of people in the waiting room, and the whole environment was rather tense. Many people were complaining that they've been waiting for hours. One person who was on a wheelchair even collapsed to the ground after waiting for hours, and nurses had to come and carry her away on a stretcher. We had no idea how long we'd have to wait, and I could tell both my grandpa and mom were a little anxious. My mom was obviously tired but still pacing around. I told her she could go home first and rest, but she wanted to stay. My grandpa joked, "I don't know how long we have to wait, but I'm afraid that I'll wait many hours just for the doctor to say, 'Just keep biting on gauze.'" My mom replied, "Exactly! I think all you need to do is bite on more gauze and the bleeding will stop in a while. I had this problem before too, and that's what I did to solve it." My grandpa replied, "I don't know. I've been biting on gauze this whole time and it still keeps bleeding." At this point, I was kind of tired too, and I didn't know what to say. I remembered this quote from the Dalai Lama: "Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." Since I was tired, maintaining my calm is about all I could manage. I don't have the ability to help calm their nervous energy, so the least I can do is to not add to their anxiety. Hence, I remained silent and did some work on my laptop. At midnight, the nurse finally inspected my grandpa and allowed us to proceed to the next room. I thought that meant he would be seeing a doctor, but it turns out it's another waiting room! Moreover, only one person could accompany him, so I told my mom to go home first because she is very tired. My body is stronger, so I can handle pulling an all-nighter better than her. She agreed, so I called an Uber to send her home. Vending Machine Incident At this point, I was kind of hungry, so I went to the vending machine to buy a snack bar. Guess what happened? I paid for a snack bar, and it got stuck before it could fall to the bottom. (Snack bar 511 got stuck halfway) My first thought was, "Are you serious? I already paid for this snack bar and this machine didn't keep its promise!" I tried shaking the vending machine, but it didn't work. Then I thought to myself, "OK, I've been doing fairly well maintaining my calm tonight. Don't let a vending machine break your momentum! I am here to solve my problem of hunger. This snack bar is stuck. Getting angry and leaving is not going to solve my problem. That would make my mood bad and influence my grandpa's mood. I should buy a second snack bar to solve this problem. It only costs $2. Any problem that a little money can solve is not a real problem. The problem is me demanding this vending machine to keep its previous promise, but this vending machine is not a human being, so my demand is illogical." Then I bought the same snack bar again, and two snack bars came out. Problem solved. Seeing the Doctor After I returned to the second waiting room, I waited another two hours with my grandpa. While waiting, my grandpa said, "Last time I had a tooth pulled, I stopped my blood thinner medication three days beforehand, and the dentist stitched up the hole after. I don't know why this time the dentist said I don't need to stop the blood thinner and did not stitch up the hole after." After hearing this, I better understood why he wanted to keep waiting all these hours to see the doctor. He needed to hear a professional tell him, "Don't worry about the blood thinner. Don't worry about stitches. You will be fine." My grandpa added, "It would be a pretty big waste of time if this doctor says 'You just need to keep biting on gauze.'" I replied, "Well, I would be relieved! At least you wouldn't need to do surgery!" At 2:00AM, the doctor finally saw my grandpa. My grandpa explained that he got a tooth pulled at 3:00PM, and it's been bleeding for 11 hours now. He also explained his worries with regards to the blood thinner and lack of stitches. The doctor had a look inside his mouth, asked which blood thinner he took, and then brought a bunch of gauze over and said, "It's okay. All you need to do is bite on a lot of gauze really hard. I know it sounds simple, and I know you waited a long time for this, but this really is all you have to do. You are not biting hard enough. Bite harder, and the bleeding should stop within 15-30 minutes. No need for stitches." Then we went home. My grandpa said, "Wow, we actually waited 5 hours for 5 minutes with the doctor." I replied, "At least you don't have to do any major operation! We are way more fortunate than most of the other people at the hospital!" Next Day Reflection The next day, I told my mom what happened. She said, "I told you guys! All he had to do was put more gauze there and bite." I replied, "Yes…but you are not a doctor, and we could not have been 100% sure yesterday night. So even though your guess about the final result was right, waiting 5 hours at the hospital was still the right thing to do because we can't take any risks when grandpa has been bleeding for hours." My mom said, "OK sure, but if you ever get a tooth pulled, you should know what you need to do now. Don't go to the hospital on a whim. Don't you remember when you were young and had kidney stones, I took you to the hospital, and we waited all night, and by the time you saw the doctor, you were already fine." I felt like my mom was not getting the point, so I explained, "Yes… but mom, even if the problem got solved before I saw the doctor, we cannot say it was a waste or time or the wrong thing to do. People's feelings are more important than matters. This time it's bleeding gums. Next time it will be a different matter. The problem is not just grandpa's bleeding gums or my kidneys hurting. The bigger problem is our WORRY about the bleeding gums and kidneys hurting. You do not have the ability to calm that worry. Only a credible doctor can calm those worries. Therefore, waiting all night in the hospital is the right thing to do, and if we understand that it is the right thing to do, we won't be annoyed by it." My mother considered my logic and agreed. Conclusion Adversity reveals our moral training. To be calm and kind when things are peaceful is nothing special. To be calm and kind when others are flustered and worried is to be truly cultivated. Since I've been studying philosophy all year, I viewed this whole situation as a test of my cultivation. While I can't say I did a great job calming my grandpa and mom's worries, I can at least say I did not add to their suffering. I also reflected on some important lessons from the whole experience: 1. Don't deny other people's suffering. Sometimes we think others are exaggerating, so we deny their feelings. That's not kind. We are not them. We don't know how they feel. If they tell us they are in pain, then we should believe them and try our test to help. If we cannot help, at least do not belittle them or make them feel worse. 2. Don't trust vending machines. Just kidding. 3. Don't fall prey to sunk cost bias (being attached to the past). Just like when I needed a snack, I should not let what happened in the past stop me from solving my problem. 4. Don't judge yourself based on the outcome of your decision. Judge yourself based on making the right decision. 5. Take care of your health. Going to the hospital is not fun. 6. Although being at the hospital is not fun, it doesn't have to be terrible either. It's all about how you view the situation. I remained positive by being grateful that our hospitals are free and that my grandpa did not have a serious problem compared to others. That's all for this story. If you have any other lessons, I'd love to hear them. Thanks, and have a great week ahead! Weekly Wisdom #215

  • A Compassionate Lie

    Image Sources: 1, 2 It was a quiet afternoon in a small American town in 1848. Everything was peaceful, when suddenly, there was the piercing sound of a gunshot. The chief of police immediately rushed to the scene with his new, young police assistant. When they arrived, they found a teenager lying in a pool of blood on the ground of his bedroom, his right hand loose with a gun next to it. Beside him was a messily written suicide note, which explained that the girl he was deeply in love with went to church with another boy the other day. Outside the room, a big crowd was forming, all eager to see what had happened. The dead boy's relatives stood silently in the room, staring blankly at each other. The young police assistant couldn't help but give them a sympathetic glance. He could feel their hurt and hopelessness, not only because of this boy's death, but also because they are all Christians. In Christianity, committing suicide is a big sin, and the deceased person's soul will suffer severe punishment in Hell. Moreover, all the people in this conservative Christian town will view this family as heretics. From that day on, no decent young man would invite a girl of that family out, and no decent young girl would be willing to marry a boy from that family. This whole time, the policy chief remained silent, frowning in observation of the whole scene. Finally, he said, "This is a murder." He squatted down and carefully touched around the dead boy's body and arms. Suddenly, he turned around and said in a serious tone of voice, "Has anyone here seen his silver watch?" Everyone knew that this boy always carried around a silver watch. It was the only gift that the girl had ever given him. He would often look at that watch, and his heart would be filled with warmth as the sunlight reflected off it. All the people in the crowd talked among themselves, but no one had seen the watch recently. The police chief then stood up and said, "If none of you have seen the watch recently, then that means the murderer must have taken it. This is a classic case of murder to steal valuable possessions." The boy's family members immediately started crying as their feelings of shame quickly turned into sorrow. The neighbors and onlookers who were originally judgmental towards the family also came forward and expressed their condolences. The police chief confidently said, "As soon as we find this watch, we know who the murderer is!" The sun outside was still bright on this clear afternoon, and the villagers all left the scene to search. The young police assistant was utterly amazed at the police chief's detective abilities, and he asked, "Where should we start searching for this watch?" The police chief let out a slight, almost undetectable smile as he slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver watch. In shock, the young assistant said, "Could it be…?" The police chief looked around and remained silent. The young assistant said, "Then, he must have committed suicide. Why did you convince everyone that it was a murder?" The police chief replied, "This way, his family doesn't need to worry about where his soul went. Also, after their period of sorrow is over, they can continue living a normal life with all the other Christians in town." The young assistant said, "But you told a lie. Lying is against the Ten Commandments." The police chief stared sharply at the young assistant and said, "Young man, believe me: The lives of six people are much more important. Besides, I trust that even God would turn a deaf ear to a lie told from a compassionate heart." This was the young police assistant's first case, and it was also the most meaningful one in the course of his career. Commentary Rules are important, but we must not blindly follow rules without understanding the reasoning behind them. If we blindly follow rules, we might end up using them inappropriately. Trustworthiness is extremely important for our relationships and success. Naturally, not lying is an important commandment in many religions, not just Christianity, but we have to understand the reasoning behind it. If your friend asks you if she looks nice in that dress, and you think she looks absolutely horrible, would you say, "To be honest, you look absolutely hideous in that dress"? Of course not! The principle behind not lying is to not hurt others. Usually, people lie to hurt or cheat others, to protect their own reputation, or to gain something for themselves at the expense of the other person. If you are telling a lie to protect them, as was the case in the story, then that is not considered breaking the rules. For example, I am working abroad, and sometimes my parents will tell me to sleep early. I assure them that I will, but realistically, I occasionally have to sleep late due to work. If I blindly insist on telling the truth and say, "Sorry I cannot sleep before 11 because I have too much to do," then that will only cause them to worry. The whole point of telling the truth is to ease their worries. The Buddha also gave an example: Imagine you arrived at a fork-road, and you see a rabbit pass by. Soon after, a hunter comes and asks if you saw a rabbit pass by. What should you do? According to the Buddha, you should lie and tell the hunter to go down a road that the rabbit did not go down. Why? Because this way, you save the rabbit's life, and you also save the hunter from committing the sin of killing. Therefore, we must understand rules to avoid using them ignorantly and inappropriately. Weekly Wisdom #231

  • Dealing with Rudeness

    Image Sources: 1, 2 Have you ever dealt with really impolite behavior? Recently, I had a student complain to me that his group leader was very irresponsible during their team project. He sent her his work early, but she did not send her work back on time. Later, she submitted the rough draft without even telling him, and she did not share the teacher's feedback with him. He was really angry and told me: "I did everything right. I don't care if you make mistakes in your work, but at least communicate with me! I don't care if you are smart. I'd rather work with a not-so-smart classmate who respects me." He was fuming, and I listened to him vent for quiet a while. Afterward he finished venting, I told him: "I can see you are very upset that she treated you disrespectfully. I know you worked very hard to be a good team member, and I know you always try to be a good person. That is great. You said you did everything right, but let me ask you: If you did everything right, why would you be angry? If you truly did everything right, you should be at peace with yourself." He said, "I am angry because I did everything right and my group leader acted wrongly." I told him, "OK, but are you responsible for your feelings or other people?" He was quite for a few seconds, and then said, "I guess I am." I replied, "Exactly. So there's your first mistake: blaming others for your feelings. Secondly, do you think your group leader is purposely trying to make you angry? She is a good student. You guys were good friends before. Do you really think she is intentionally ignoring you and trying to make you angry? I remember she got sick recently, and we are near the end of the semester, so I imagine she must've been really busy recently. Maybe that's why she didn't reply you." He said, "OK, I guess she is not trying to make me angry." I said, "So there's your second mistake: assuming negative intentions without confirming first. Let's take this a step further. Have YOU ever made someone upset by accident? Maybe you did not mean to upset them, but they interpreted your actions wrong and got angry at you?" He said, "Yes." I said, "So how would you want to be treated in that situation? Don't you wish they would come and ask you your intentions rather than just blaming you and being angry at you without even giving you the chance to explain?" He said, "Yes. But sir, I don't want to create any unhappiness or conflict between us, especially since this is the end of our course." I said, "Well, as long as you forgive her in your mind, then it's fine. It's not like she feels upset towards you. Do you still feel really upset towards her?" He said, "No you're right, my anger is my problem. I want to leave a happy memory in this course, so I will forgive her and improve myself." Commentary Although I was able to help this student resolve his anger, the irony is, I have the same problems as him. I get upset when others behave unreasonably as well, so when I heard him complain, I thought of all the advice I keep repeating to myself whenever I feel upset. For example, when I see rude drivers changing lanes to speed past me and then change back to my lane, I think, "Wow that is so rude. I am driving at the speed limit, and you are speeding shamelessly!" Then I remind myself, "OK, chill out. Instead of assuming they are purposely trying to be rude, why don't you just assume that they are rushing to an emergency? After all, you don't know what they are thinking, so why do you have to automatically assume a negative intention? You always complain that others assume negative intentions of you without checking, and here you are doing the same thing to others! That's pretty hypocritical, no?" Sometimes, I have misunderstandings and even arguments with others. I get upset and think, "Why does this person have to be so illogical and unreasonable?" Then I remind myself, "OK chill out… Even if they are illogical, who is responsible for your feelings? Not them...You are! You don't HAVE to get upset here. If you truly care about them and want to resolve this conflict, then YOU need to calm down and be kind first. Don't make your happiness dependent on other people's behavior. Furthermore, no one tries to be wrong or stupid on purpose! Just like you think you are right, they also think they are right. So instead of thinking they are so illogical, why don't you try to really understand their perspective first?" Other times, I see people not keeping their word, or shamelessly breaking rules, and I think, "Seriously? Don't you have any sense of shame?" Then I remind myself, "Their actions are their actions. Why do you have to keep thinking about them and criticizing them in your head? Why are you putting their garbage in your mind? You could be using your mind for much better things! Besides, they did not learn about the importance of ethics and morality, so you shouldn't blame them. You write about ethics and morality all the time, so obviously you will follow the rules. You are the abnormal one, not them. Blaming them does not help anyone. The best way to help this world is to just keep setting a good example with your own behavior." Conclusion We will all encounter rude and unreasonable behavior from others in life. What matters is how we respond to them. Getting annoyed or angry hurts ourselves the most. Instead, we should Assume positive intentions or ask what their intention was. Remember no one is purposely trying to be stupid or wrong. If I think they are illogical, then I do not understand their perspective yet. Recognize that rude behavior is common now because there is a lack of good role models in society. If I want a better world, then I should set a good example regardless of how others behave. Not only will we be happier this way, but we will also contribute to a better world! Weekly Wisdom #227

  • The Pavilion That Was Destroyed Twice

    President Fox of Mexico garnered the respect of his citizens due to his sincerity and trustworthiness. These two words were his life's guiding principles. As a result, he went from being an ordinary salesperson to being the country's president. Once, President Fox was invited to speak at a university. A student asked him, "Political platforms have always been full of deceit. During your time in office, have you ever lied?" Fox replied, "No, never." The students in the audience all whispered amongst themselves, and some even smirked. They knew politicians always assert their innocence and vow that they are not liars. Fox did not take offence. He said to the students: "In our society, it might be hard for me to prove that I am a sincere person, but you should believe that this world still has sincere people. They are all around us. Let me tell you a story. Perhaps you might forget this story soon after, but it has an important lesson for us. There was once a father who was a farmer. One day, he looked at the pavilion on his field and felt it was too old and broken. A Pavilion (Image Source) Hence, he arranged for some workers to come and remove it. His son was very interested to see the workers tear down the pavilion, so he said to his father: 'Dad, I want to watch the workers tear down this pavilion. Can you wait until I return home from boarding school for holiday to remove the pavilion?' His dad agreed. However, after the son left home, the workers soon came to remove the pavilion. When the son came home for holiday, he saw that the old pavilion had already been removed. He sulkily said to his father, 'Dad, you lied to me!' The father looked at his son with surprise. The son continued, 'You promised that you would wait until I came home from boarding school to take down the pavilion." The father replied, 'You're right son, I made a mistake. Let me keep my promise.' The father got the workers to re-make a pavilion similar to the old one in the old place. Afterwards, he brought his son over and said to the workers, 'Now, please tear down this pavilion.'" President Fox said, "I know this father. He was not wealthy at all, but he kept his promise to his son." After hearing this story, a student in the audience asked, "What is the name of this father? We want to meet him." President Fox replied, "He already passed away, but his son is still alive." The student said, "Where is his son? He must be a very honest and trustworthy person." President Fox said, "His son is currently standing right here in front of you, Mexico's President Fox." President Vincent Fox (Image Source) He added, "I want to tell everyone that I will treat the country and every citizen the same way my father treated me." The audience gave a roaring applause in response. (Story Source: Harvard Family Instruction) Commentary We've probably all made the mistake of forgetting to keep a promise. Oftentimes, people will find an excuse. "Oh I was busy…Oh I was going to do it, but then something came up… Oh I forgot…" What makes this father so admirable is that he did not make any excuses. He took responsibility for his mistake and promptly corrected it. Hence, he improved his moral character from his mistake. Not only him, but his son also benefited greatly from his role modeling. Not only his son, but the whole country later benefited. We would do well to learn from this father's role modeling and correct our mistakes without making excuses. I talk about my experience doing that in this article. Essentially, I practiced doing the opposite good to make up for my faults. For example, I used to criticize a lot, then I changed to praising others. I used to complain a lot, then I changed to being grateful. Improved behavior is the best apology. Moreover, we should not underestimate the impact we can have on the world. If we can positively influence one person, that person will influence more people, those people will influence even more people. But regardless of how many people get influenced in the future, the most important thing is that we have a clear conscience because we always do our best to be a good person. Weekly Wisdom #220

  • Busyness Is No Excuse for Bad Attitude

    Have you ever been impatient with others because you were really busy? Icon Sources: 1, 2, 3 Recently, I got annoyed at my mother for something dumb. Basically, I was going to cook lunch, but because my mother saw that I've been very busy recently, she offered to cook instead. I said, "OK, if you have time, that would be great. Oh yeah there's that pack of vegan chicken that I kept forgetting to cook. Please cook it all." Later, she told me lunch was ready. I came downstairs and saw that she only cooked half the vegan chicken. I got annoyed and said, "Why did you only cook half of it? There isn't that much. Didn't I say to cook all of it?" She said, "Oops. I forgot you said cook all of it. I cooked a lot of vegetables so I didn't think we need all of it." I said, "But we already defrosted it. Putting it back in the freezer might mess up the texture. And you already put water in the frying water so I can't fry it now. What are we supposed to do with this remaining chicken?" I was clearly annoyed. My mother calmly said, "Well, if you want to cook all of it, then just take out the water and cook it. It's no big deal." I was really surprised by her response. I thought she might say something like, "I already cooked lunch, and you're still complaining?" But instead, she practiced the quality of water that I admire so much, which is that water does not butt heads with rock, water flows around rock. In this case, I was like a rock because I was stubborn about my desire for efficiency, but she remained soft and flexible. To not get affected by others' negative emotions is very hard, and I have to admire her for remaining calm in the face of my annoyance. Reflection Later, I reflected on why I got annoyed over such a small and frivolous thing. I think there are a couple interrelated reasons. First, I have been really busy recently, and I always feel like I'm in a rush and that there's never enough time to do all the things I need to do. When I'm already in this agitated mindset, then every small little thing annoys me. Second, I over-focus on convenience and efficiency, which only got exasperated by my busyness. The problem is in me, not in the outside circumstances. I think this is a really common problem that I see in lots of people around me, and it really impacts our happiness and quality of life. Below are some solutions I'm working on. 1: Make peace with the present moment First, I should remember this quote from Confucius: "If you seek speed, then you will not arrive." (Original Text: 欲速则不达) One interpretation of this quote is that haste leads to mistakes, which delays you from arriving at your destination, completing your task, or achieving your goal. For example, when I rushed cooking before, I cut my finger, then I had to spend extra time to stop the bleeding and put on a bandage, then try to finish the cooking. If I was calmer, I would have prevented such a hassle. Another interpretation is to avoid the Arrival Fallacy, which is thinking that I will be happy once I get what I want. In this case, I think I can be happy and peaceful after I finish all the things I need to do. In reality, we can never live in the future, we can only ever live in the present moment. Therefore, if I cannot be calm and at peace with the present moment, then how can I be calm and at peace later? When I finish all my things, I'll end up thinking about more things to do. The problem is not my present moment, the problem is my habit of wanting to live in the future, which is impossible. If instead, I can slow down and calmly do whatever I need to do right now, then I will also be able to remain calm and peaceful in the future. 2: Value relationships first Additionally, I should value relationship harmony more than convenience and efficiency. I know that my personality type really values convenience and hates inefficiencies. So when I saw that my mom only cooked half the vegan chicken, I was thinking, "What is this illogical thinking! It would have taken the same amount of time and oil to cook all the vegan chicken. Why only cook half of it? Now we have re-freeze it, re-thaw it later, heat up the pan again, put in new oil, wait another 10 minutes to cook a second batch. What an unnecessary waste of time!" The matter sounds trivial, but it's the principle of not wasting time that really bothered me. But this is precisely what I need to fix in myself. Next time, I should tell myself, "Relationship harmony is more important than convenience. The key to a happy life is happy relationships, not convenience or efficiency." Icon Source If I had remembered this, then I would have been able to calmly and nicely tell my mom that she can save a lot of hassle by cooking the whole batch at once. In other words, the content of my words were not the problem, my annoyance was the problem, and the root of that annoyance is my over-focus on efficiency. Moreover, if I had remembered that relationships with loved ones should be my priority, then despite my busy schedule, I would still take the time to check in on loved ones and help out wherever needed. To redeem myself, I later took initiative to help my mom with some laundry even though I was busy working at that time. 3: Manage my priorities and time better The above two solutions address the problem from the root: the mind. But I can also make adjustments at the action level. For example, I should carve out some time every day to reflect on my time management and to choose my priorities more thoughtfully. As the saying goes, "You can do anything you set your mind to, but not everything." I need to be focused on my one or two priorities and let go of the rest. When facing interruptions or new requests for my time, I shouldn't get sidetracked so easily. I need to ask, "Is this important? Is this urgent? Must I absolutely interrupt my original plan to do this thing right now?" In my experience, when I have crystal clarity on my priorities, I can be more disciplined in my time management and resist distractions. This prevents me from wanting to do more than what is realistic, which prevents the feeling of not having enough time and getting annoyed as a result. I also learned that when planning my time, I should give time to others in order of gratitude because this aligns with our innate sense of right or wrong. Since I am more grateful to my family than my workplace, I should prioritize them first. If I'm doing work, and my family needs some quick help, then I'm happy to help out immediately. If they need a big favor, then I can calmly communicate a more suitable time to help out. Conclusion We are all busy people, but we should not let busyness be an excuse for a bad attitude towards others. After all, the key to a happy life is good relationships, not convenience. Do you have other solutions? If so, I'd love to hear them. Weekly Wisdom #245

  • Do You Have Anyone Else In Your Heart?

    Image Source This past week, I heard a story from my mentor that really left a lasting impression on me. The story seems normal at first, but there is a plot twist at the end, and I love the story's morale. Below is the story. Mr. Qiuyu Yu (余秋雨) is a well-respected contemporary writer in China. When he was working on a book called “Searching for Germany”, he actually went to live in Germany in order to deeply experience life in this country. He found a room on the fifth floor of a rental apartment from a friendly old German landlord. After he inspected it, he liked it a lot and wanted to sign a long-term rental contract immediately. The old man smiled and said, “Yong man, you haven’t lived here yet. You don’t know for sure whether or not you will like it. Why don’t you sign a short-term contract first? After you personally experience living here, you can decide whether you want to sign a long-term contract or not.” Mr. Yu agreed and signed a five-day contract first. The room was very cozy, and even though he lived on the fifth floor, he didn’t need to bring the garbage down. All he had to do was leave his garbage bag outside his door, and the cleaning staff would pick it up every day to ensure the corridors were clean. The landlord is a very trusting person, so he made any surprise visits to check on his tenant. On the fifth day, Mr. Yu was thoroughly satisfied. He called the landlord and told him he wanted to sign a long-term rental contract. The landlord said, “Sure, I’ll come over later today with the contract.” Mr. Yu was excited. Then, something terrible happened. He accidentally broke an expensive-looking glass vase in the room. He was worried that the landlord would rescind the offer due to his clumsiness, so with a heavy heart, he called the landlord and told him what happened. To his surprise, the landlord said, “It’s alright, I know you didn’t mean to do it, and at least you didn’t get hurt. The vase is not that expensive. I’ll bring a replacement later.” Mr. Yu was relieved and eagerly awaited the old man to bring the contract. In the meantime, he decided to clean up the broken glass, put it in the garbage bin, and put it outside the room. Soon after, the old man arrived. Before Mr. Yu had a chance to speak, the old man asked, “Where are the broken pieces of the vase?” Mr. Yu said, “Oh, I cleaned it up and put it outside in the garbage bin.” The old man hurried outside, opened the garbage bag, looked inside, then came back into the room with a gloomy face. He told Mr. Yu, “You can move out tomorrow. I will not rent this house to you anymore.” Mr. Yu was stunned. He asked, “Is it because I broke your favorite vase?” The old man shook his head and replied, “No, it’s because you don’t have anyone else in your heart other than yourself.” Hearing this, Mr. Yu was confused. Then he saw the old man get a broom, tweezers, pen, and garbage bags, went outside to the garbage bin, and re-organized the garbage. The old man carefully picked out all the glass fragments, put them in a separate garbage bag, and wrote a label on that bag saying, “Caution: Glass Fragments Inside.” He then put all the other garbage in another bag and labeled it saying, “Safe.” Mr. Yu finally understood, and he felt nothing but admiration and respect for this old man. In the following years, he frequently shared this story with others, and each time, he couldn’t help but sigh. Commentary: Who would you rather be friends with, Mr. Yu or the old landlord? Yet, who are we more similar to? If we want happier relationships, more harmonious families, and a more peaceful world, we need more people like the old landlord, people who are always considerate of their impact on others. The best person to start with is ourselves. If we can be more like that considerate old man, we will certainly influence the people around us, just like how that old man inspired Mr. Yu. Lao Tzu said, "View others' gains as my own gains. View others' losses as my own losses." At first, I thought, “Why should I bother about other people’s happiness? That’s their business. I should just take care of my own happiness.” To which my mentor replied: "If only you are happy, but the people around you are unhappy, how long will your happiness last? If only you are healthy, but all the people around you have the flu, how long will it be until you catch the flu? Therefore, caring for others is caring for ourselves." I then learned that a person who has a considerate heart will show that consideration with every action, whether it be Sorting the garbage (carefully) Speaking (kind of beneficial words) Eating (food that is healthy so that loved ones wouldn’t worry) Sleeping (early so that loved ones don't need to worry) Wearing clothes (that are appropriate for their position and situation) Cooking (food that others enjoy and is healthy) Buying groceries (that are local or organic to benefit the environment) If everyone used a considerate heart in their daily life, imagine how much happier and more harmonious our relationships would be. Not only would we be happier, our society would be more peaceful too! So let's do our part to cultivate a considerate and kind heart in our daily actions. Weekly Wisdom #212

  • Four Pieces of Candy

    Image Source In the 1930s, there was a great educator named Xingzhi Tao (陶行知), who was the principal of a middle school. One day, he saw a student about to throw a rock at another student. Mr. Tao immediately told that student to stop. The student was shocked and embarrassed that he was caught by the principal. Mr. Tao told the young boy to see him in the principal's office at 3:00PM. Then he went to investigate the situation to make sure he got the facts right before deciding on a punishment. At 2:50PM, the boy was already waiting outside the principal's office. His mind was full of thoughts about so many things: the rude classmate that he wanted to throw a rock at, the guilt for his wrong behavior, the fear of the principal's punishment, the embarrassment of being laughed at by his classmates, and the worry about his parents finding out. The principal was pleased to see that the boy arrived early and called him in. He then gave him a piece of candy and said, "You are very trustworthy. Not only were you not late, but you are actually a little early! Here's a piece of candy for you." The boy was quite surprised. The principal then said, "When I told you to not throw the rock, you immediately stopped and listened to me. That shows you are very respectful towards elders. Here's another piece of candy for you." The boy thought he was going to get scolded, yet the principal was actually praising him! The principal continued, "I also investigated the situation and found out that you were throwing a rock at a student who was bullying girls. This shows you are a kind person with a sense of justice. Here's another piece of candy for you." By this point, the boy was very moved by the principal's kind encouragement, and he said, "I'm sorry. Even if my classmate was bullying girls, I shouldn't throw a rock at him." The principal was pleased and replied, "It is rare for a person to be able to admit their own mistakes, so I'll have to reward you with one more piece of candy. Alright, that's enough for today's meeting. You can go back." In the future, this boy's behavior improved significantly, and he was inspired to become a middle school teacher thanks to Mr. Tao. Commentary I heard from motivational speaker Dr. Alan Zimmerman that one of the most common complaints in the workplace is, "You can do 100 things right and not hear a single word of praise or appreciation. But you do one thing wrong, and management is all over you." Similarly, I imagine one of the most common complaints in all relationships is, "I do so many things right, but you never notice, praise, or encourage me. I do one thing wrong and you criticize me right away." The Guide to a Happy Life says, "Praising others' goodness is a good act in itself. When others hear this, they will be inspired. Speaking of people's sins is a sin in itself. When resentment accumulates, disaster will eventually come." Indeed, we all like people who say good things about us, and we resent people who speak bad things about us, especially behind our backs. If we want to accumulate good relationships and avoid bad ones, then we ought to look for everyone's good points and praise them, just like how Mr. Tao looked for the good points of that young boy. If Mr. Tao had instead scolded him, the boy's future might be very different. The Gottman Institute found that happy couples have at least a 5:1 positive to negative interaction ratio. That means for every negative interaction they have, such as criticisms or conflict, they have at least 5 positive interactions, such as praise, encouragement, and acts of kindness. Excellent marriages have a 20:1 ratio. The takeaway? We need to praise people more and not scold them with anger or resentment. But this does not mean we ignore their bad deeds and pretend like we don't see them. Mr. Tao did not ignore the young boy's bad behavior. We still need to communicate with them about their bad behavior, but we do it in a calm and caring way, without anger or blame. For example, if the other person did not wash the dishes well, we should not get angry and say, "What's wrong with you? You can't even wash the dishes properly?" This kind of criticism kills relationships. The other person might think, "I am so tired today, and I still did the dishes, and the first thing you do is criticize me for one dish that was not fully clean? Why do you always look for my mistakes instead of appreciating my efforts?" Instead, we can say, "Thank you for doing the dishes, especially when you look so tired already. Wow this dish is so clean! Oh this one still has a spot on it. Here, you should rest, I'll clean that one." If the person often does not clean the dishes properly, we could say, "Thank you for always doing the dishes. I am lucky to have you. I noticed that some of the dishes are not fully clean, and I am concerned that maybe you are doing things with a very rushed attitude. With dishes, the consequences are small. But with bigger things, the consequences would be big, so I am telling you this to help you avoid mistakes in the future." From that above example, we can see the person is coming from a place of care and respect, not from a place of blame and anger. Naturally, the receiver of the message would be more appreciative and less defensive. Conclusion: Good relationships are key to our happiness and mental health. Relationship conflicts are also a major source of suffering. A simple and free solution is simply to praise the other person more! If they truly made a mistake or had a bad behavior, then we should communicate with them in a calm, caring, and respectful manner, and not scold them with anger or annoyance. Weekly Wisdom #228

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