This was originally written in June 2020 before I went back into the Taiwanese army in the summer, I was trying to understand myself better by pinpointing the values governing who I am up to this point in my life. Now looking back, I decided to publish it to keep a record of it and see if this changed in any way 5, 10 years from now!
After reading Now, Discover Your Strengths, I realized the importance of figuring out the innate qualities I was born with and the mental models that I’ve picked up as I mature in order to identify my strengths. Based on the themes in the book and some reflection, I’ve pinpointed a few mindsets that really guide how I live life and probably shape who I am as a person!
Introspection: Reflect & Improve
An unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates
I am introspective in nature, I like to think and exercise the “muscles” of my brain. I am always looking for new frameworks of thinking and ways to look at this world. This means that I rarely got bored because I could always notice interesting things and muse upon them (also why my time in the Taiwanese army wasn’t that bad).
Even though I love meeting new people and spending time with people, I still need a significant amount of time along to organize the buzzing thoughts in my mind.
I enjoy looking back things in hindsight to find out how the larger picture emerges and learn from the experience. Like seeing the seeds being sown in the past, I think the understanding brings me confidence and clarity in making better decisions because I am able to sense the underlying structure better each time.
The other side: Of course, another way of saying this is overthinking. However, over the years I’ve learned that instead of rejecting my constant brain activity, it’s easier to embrace it and channel it to my own advantage. So rather than overthinking and converging in a negative spiral of not getting anywhere, I’ve learned to channel the brain power in diverging my thoughts to find practical solutions.
Optimization: Making the Most Out of Things
Vivre sans temps mort. Live without dead time.
— from Ryan Holliday’s Ego is the Enemy
YOLO has been one of my life philosophies that I’ve picked up pretty early in life and what I’ve used to remind myself when making decisions. The immensity of the universe makes our lives as insignificant as a tiny little dot. This liberates me to live life freely, and I want to make the most out of life.
I have always been interested in productivity and the science of peak performance. How can I work smarter? How can I be more efficient with my time? How can I maximize my impact to the people around me and my community?
The other side: I’ve realized this worldview could easily lure me into the false dilemma of things being either “worth it” or “not worth it” to do and focus too much on myself. However, I’ve learned that you can’t really quantify the important things in life and it feels good to be spontaneous from time to time. Sometimes I should just listen to my heart and do what feels right and be more generous about my time. You know, go with the flow!
Yes, I got this one from Ray Dalio’s Principles, and it has stayed with me ever since. Being radically openminded has allowed me to learn so much about the different worlds, culture, people, and books that have crossed path with my life. I’ve learned to be accepting and not jump to conclusion so fast. How we judge others is how we judge ourselves. Through the process of learning new perspectives, I question, reflect, and refine on my own.
Being open-minded also means being open with criticisms that improve me as a person. A lot of my major growth/ reflection period in my life came from difficult yet honest conversations with my close friends and mentors. Without being open to these constructive feedbacks on who I am as a person, they wouldn’t be comfortable sharing their thoughts to me at the first place. With an open heart, we provide ourselves with a safe ground to experiment, fail, and iterate.
The other side: It has dawned on me recently that sometimes being open-minded prohibits me from being assertive and having strong opinion on certain issues. This is why I am hesitant to draw conclusion on things, being afraid of closing doors of potential interesting viewpoint. My way of coping with it is to identify if the topic matter at hand requires me to be opinionated or if I have the privilege and time to explore it a bit, before jumping into to any action.
Always Learning & Growing
As a huge believer in growth mindset (check out Carol Dweck’s Mindset on this), I am drawn to constantly learning new things and exploring new ideas. “The steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence,” that’s just the beauty and joy of life!
Growth mindset centers myself amidst any kind of tough situation, because I know I can eventually work my way through. It’s a shift from “I can’t” to “I can’t yet.”
Adopting growth mindset towards everything and everyone also makes life more fun, like learning random things and talking to people from different background. I especially felt this during my time in the Taiwanese army by having conversations with people from complete different social economy background.
Like a sponge, I am always absorbing what goes on around me, filtering, latching on to what I can hold, and synthesizing and sharing to the world (hopefully leaving some meaningful impact).
The other side: Hmmm… this is a hard one… Maybe since I can learn from anything, it has been a little bit hard for me to focus? But I think I’ve coped with it well by setting short term goals & long term goals, as well as doing life reflections regularly to make sure I’m progressing, getting at least 1% better every single day.
Self Efficacy: Healthy Dose of Self Confidence
“You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.” — Henry Ford
I think this is kind of like having faith in yourself. Ever since embracing growth mindset, it has also given a source of confidence to believe in my own abilities. It helps in knowing I am capable, able to stake claims, meet new challenges, and deliver.
The other side: If the source of this isn’t coming from within, then it wouldn’t be healthy. Because that can easily be constantly seeking for external validation and being blindsided by what’s actually important. Making sure my confidence comes internally helps me in looking at my life objectively and keeping my ego in check.
Balance & Harmony
I’ve found that figuring out the balance and harmony is something that’s always recurring in life. Both Aristotle’s golden mean and Confucius’s middle ground overlap on the importance of finding that sweet-spot in anything.
This also taught me to not only look at one side of things. Every quality is a double-edged sword and we should not take things to the extreme (which is why I include what I’ve learned about “the other side” for each of these values).
The other side: Always seeking for the equilibrium may easily make me fall into a risk-averse mode. Because sometimes taking on a risk may be something on the far spectrum of things… Thus, it’s important to consider it legitimacy before wanting to find the middle ground.
My curiosity also plays a big role in making me amazed in finding out how things work and the interplay between different concepts. Being genuinely curious about the world has unlocked so many interesting conversations and perspectives that I have never expected, it also makes life fun & not boring because there’s always something that I’m exploring.
The curiosity fueled me in constantly questioning why things are how they are and trying to find ways to break out of the box and tell the narrative better. The pop culture that we consume, history we learn about, brands we buy, movies we watch… etc, they are all examples of how storytelling is being applied into our lives. For now, I am still exploring the realm of storytelling, as it has played such an important role in our civilization.
My inquisitive nature also attracted me in collecting things, tangible or intangible. I used to collect name cards and stickers when I was little. Now I collect good questions and mental models (ways to think) to help me better understand the reality and be able to do and discover cool stuff.
The other side: This curiosity also made me all over the place sometime, just look at all the tabs that are currently open on my laptop. My way of coping with it is to make sure I schedule “deadlines” to organize them (ideas, notes, articles) every once in a while.
Action: Show, Not Tell
I really believe actions speak louder than words, because a good idea without execution is only an idea. Besides our goals and aspirations, this is also important in interpersonal relationships. What standard am I setting for myself? Am I on the path to becoming the kind of person I want to be?
My best way of learning is also through action, so I try to constantly put myself out there and learn by doing. “Where can we start? How can I start?” The next step would then be being consistent and following my actions and commitments through.
The other side: The desire in jumping into action may sometimes be impulsive and impatient, so I try to ask myself if the action could be helpful or necessary before doing, kind of like stopping myself and “cooling” myself down before jumping into actions too quickly. Also, conducting “after action reviews” also helps in refining my default radar of sensing if I should jump into action now.
I am instinctive in understanding people and observing traits that people have: personality, motivation, body language, how they think, or how they interact with each other.
This has given me a keen observation of human nature, and I’ve been able pick up subtle clues that tell a lot about group dynamics in team settings. It has helped me to anticipate the needs of others and hear the unvoiced questions.
The other side: The other side of being empathetic is it’s easy to tell if someone is being genuine or inauthentic. I’ve learned that I only enjoy working with nice people that are really appreciative of who I am. But it’s not possible to always choose who I’m working with so I am trying to adjust myself so I am not effected by that.
Connection & Relationships
I love meeting new people and learning things like their worldview, life story, perspectives, dreams, feelings, fears, challenges, passion.. etc, meeting a new person is like opening up a new microcosm. Having crossed path with so many people, I know how hard it is to meet genuine and likeminded people that would stick around, so I really cherish the ones who do and try to make myself helpful and supportive!
The other side: Sometimes it’s hard to want both depth and breadth, because we have finite time, but it’s still possible if you stay genuine as who you are!
I first wrote these to try clarify what define me as a person and understand myself better, and a lot of these mindsets/values are still work in progress. I just want to share it with the world, remind myself, and own who I am as a person. Hopefully in a few years when I revisit this post, I will have new understandings and deeper thoughts on these!
Meanwhile, feel free to reach out to me if you find any of these resonating! I’d love to chat :)