Creative lifestyle and generous leadership

Being creative is a lifestyle. We all start with the urge to express, to be heard, to hear, to communicate, to feel, to love and be loved. Then we choose a way to do that, be it writing, painting, taking photos, writing a play, cooking… anything, really.

Another thing important that I learnt this week is about how we should balance “creating for ourselves” and “for others”. Creating for ourselves is to answer the urge we have to express ourselves, to be heard. Creating for others in mind, to count on the power of empathy, is to lead.

When the productive artist (opposite from a failure) does work for themselves, has internalise the genre and culture, they are also doing it for other people. That’s why an important aspect of a creative’s practice is to internalise genres and cultures, so that she is able to do the work for herself, and do it for others at the same time.

Being generous and having the people we want to serve in mind while creating and producing make us happier and more fulfilled. Leading with generosity makes leading not just easier but also fulfilling.


The secret to success – what “Better Call Saul” teaches solopreneurs

I’ve been watching “Better Call Saul”. Currently at the beginning of season 3.

Jimmy Mcgill is the odd piece that doesn’t fit anywhere in a law firm.

Doing bits to rip people off in bars and the streets for many years, he entered law with an already established value system – he doesn’t play by the rules. When he’s “being himself”, people who are traditional lawyers who hold things seriously and the law sacred dislike, even despise him. Considering he’s capable to be a good lawyer, this value system makes him perfect for flying solo – starting with entrepreneurship. 

But what he has that is considered “useless” among the serious lawyers – showmanship – is what makes him successful as a solo practitioner of the law. 

When someone is good with people, she understands what other people feel. She knows what they want and what they desire. She knows what they need.

That’s why she can say the right thing to get other people’s attention and trust.

She will get their business.

But don’t ever forget, if the ability to empathize and “showmanship” is all she’s got, it’s not enough.

Saying the right thing and doing a good show can only get her this far.

Only when she’s able to DO the right thing and DO it well and KEEP DOING it, can she keep these people’s business. 

Jimmy Mcgill has the work done. And he got it done well. 

Again and again. 

That’s why the elderly love him. If it’s not Jim’s own change of business direction, I don’t think his clients going anywhere.

(Well, I will keep watching. Of course, his business clientele changed… as we all know…

Don’t tell me what happens next…)

I’m learning so much from Jimmy’s experience so far.

Empathy, showmanship, real ability to do good work, AND good customer service are equally important for entrepreneurship — especially for solopreneurs.

You are a bucket of water from the sea

“Babies are all born as a blank paper.”

Well, we’ve got proof now that it’s wrong.

How are person is since birth, and how she/he is becoming after that, is a combined effect from both nature and nurture.

Does it mean that we are born “as papers already have something written on them?”

I don’t resonate with this metaphor. I think how we are is more dynamic and multidimensional than drawings on paper.

Like… a glass of water. Or a bucket, a cup, or a bathtub of water… Pick your own container.

In her book Untamed, Glennon Doyle said to her daughter that we are buckets of water who came from the sea. We were one. You were in me and I was in you. We are going to be one again someday.

I can’t remember how exactly she said it. But that metaphor stuck in my head.

“But, what’s the point?” I hear me asking myself.

“What’s the point of being in a bucket just to be later poured back into where I came from?”

We are not born with a purpose. We are born with the things we are naturally capable of.

Just like water. We are similar in many ways — even the same in most ways. But there are many, many ways can water be used. 

There are many, many different paths for water to find its way back to the ocean, where it came from.

The purpose is not to go back to where it came from.

The purpose is the journey, the circulation, the individual path to get to the start and endpoint.

For most of us on this earth, we are not born to be who we are. In which family we are born, on our physical features are, in which area or community we are born into… none of these things say who WE are. 

Because from that moment on, all we do is “becoming”.

Becoming who we are — something we can say, not as a static but a changing definition, that only holds true at the point of our lives when we are looking back.

And especially, at the moment when we get to go back to where it all started.

Like water, with every step forward, it becomes a little different than before. It’s always “becoming”.

Water can be anywhere. Even the desert has a certain amount of water somewhere in its air or way deep down its ground.

Where do you wanna be? Where do you wanna go?

What path would you choose?

Standing where you are, how do you want to define yourself at this moment?

And what do you want your inner water to be “becoming”?

Take a moment to look around.

Where is your water right now?

Which path is it on?





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Visualizing Cultures Controversy and Beyond

In October 2014, I visited an exhibition entitled “War and Propaganda 14/18” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG). Shocked by the elaborated details of the depictions of both visual and textural, I was feeling a little bit of terrified when seeing some of the images of Germany in posters and postcards produced in Britain, France and the U.S.



Upon first seeing pictures on Visualizing Cultures, I was immediately reminded of the images at “War and Propaganda 14/18”. For me, the brutality of the German and Japanese soldiers demonstrated in these images was almost disturbing of a parallel amount. Yet there was a bit more of this feeling of me about the Japanese paintings. The reason for that, I would like to call “national sensitivity”. Simply put, it is something triggered by seeing the image when one’s own people being slaughtered — a reinforcing process for the erection of an individual’s nationhood.

However, the national sensitivity of mine did not cause me strong rejection of this online presentation. For as far as we know, given the fact that the Chinese have been trying every means to show the world the cruelty and ruthlessness of the Japanese during the war, these images, made by Japanese themselves, providing exactly how barbarous and inhuman the Japanese were. Through further browsing the website and reading the texts, I realized it was less upsetting how the images of the Chinese were butchered (although they were), but more disturbing because of the texts written by the professors, which contain words like “exhilarating beauty”, ” a beautiful, heroic, modern war” and etc. This use of language might play with the fire of beautifying or even glorifying the war. According to Wong, this misleading usage of language is the main reason for Chinese students’ protest.

Image and literary text function primarily in a inter-complimentary way. Decoding image and decoding text are controlled by different areas in the brain. Image interpretation is essential for human survival and is derived from our ancestor; while language, especially literary creation came into being much later comparing to the ability of image comprehension, for to immediately percept images is one of essential animal instincts. Therefore, it is reasonable to deduct that image stimuli receives faster and stronger feedback from human brain than literary text. Images provide something that cannot be documented by words. Certain extent of emptiness that leaves out certain details stimulates imagination, further creates much complex emotional and perceptional effects on readers. On the other hand, literary texts that accompany the images serve to direct the readers to a certain understanding perspective, which generates certain emotion or rational thinking, as expected by the exhibitor (the professors, in this case), resulting in fulfilling the exhibiting purposes. Therefore, the “misunderstanding” of the Chinese students in this controversy seems to be caused by the lack of proper instruction of viewing the provided by the professors. What about the “brainwashed” Chinese students who were misunderstood by Chronicle, for whom it is rather merely an “understanding” without “mis-“? Were these students being overly national sensitive? Why on earth would they being so “narrow minded” and “overreacting”? How would the Taiwanese react to these images? How about Hong Kong people? Accept it or not, they are to some extent related to the people who were depicted as “weak”, “humiliated”, and “killed” in these paintings. How much does an individual’s nationality/nationhood matter here?

The Falling Man – a photograph taken by the veteran photographer Richard Drew on the worst day – recorded a man falling from the north tower of World Trade Center, with his hands at sides, his legs bent, facing forwards. This photograph caused a huge furor right after its appearance. Readers were outraged and asserting the image for being “distressing”. It is so controversial since it represents a series of trauma: a theme of trauma (9/11 terrorist attacks), a national and an individual trauma. it gives the reader “a punch in the stomach”, causes them filled with severe psychological discomfort.


But The Falling Man is not the first photograph that “punched in the stomach” of readers so hard that caused huge public debate and discomfort. On February 1, 1968, during the opening stages of the Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, photographer Eddie Adams took his most famous photograph — a Vietcong prisoner, Nguyễn Văn Lém, was being executed by police chief General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan.

RETRANSMISSION TO RESIZE FILE--FILE--South Vietnamese National Police Chief Brig Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes a Viet Cong prisoner with a single pistol shot in the head in Saigon Feb. 1, 1968. Nguyen died Wednesday, July 15, 1998  at his home in Burke, a suburb of Washington, D.C., after a battle with cancer, said his daughter, Nguyen Anh. He was 67. This photo of Nguyen aiming a pistol point-blank at the grimacing prisoner's head became a memorable image of the Vietnam War. The photograph, by Eddie Adams, won a Pulitzer prize for The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)
RETRANSMISSION TO RESIZE FILE–FILE–South Vietnamese National Police Chief Brig Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes a Viet Cong prisoner with a single pistol shot in the head in Saigon Feb. 1, 1968. Nguyen died Wednesday, July 15, 1998 at his home in Burke, a suburb of Washington, D.C., after a battle with cancer, said his daughter, Nguyen Anh. He was 67. This photo of Nguyen aiming a pistol point-blank at the grimacing prisoner’s head became a memorable image of the Vietnam War. The photograph, by Eddie Adams, won a Pulitzer prize for The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

This photograph shares some effects to the audience as “the Falling Man” does. Each of them records the very last moment of a person’s life. Both of them were at the very moment of their death. In fact, even the bullet exiting Lém’s head was revealed in this photograph if one takes a closer look. But unlike the public’s reaction of great anger to The Falling Man, American public’s reactions to Adams’ photograph of war execution were much less fierce and without much resentment. In Adams’ photograph, the Americans are the spectators of this trauma while the Falling Man makes the American people the receivers of this trauma, for they see the person falling down as a possible self, or a possible/real person in their own lives. In this way, it is understandable that a immense rejection of the Falling Man was received from the American public.

The example of different reactions of American public to The Falling Man and Adams photograph of execution sheds light on the role of “national belonging” in responding to a certain historical visual representation. It can certainly justify the emotional reaction of some Chinese students to the paintings and the way that the paintings were displayed on a website. Accordingly, the scholars, who failed to understand this universal nature of human, are standing on an absolutely uneven ground, despite how righteous and just they claim to be.

So was the response of the protest a result of PRC’s excessive patriotic education and brainwashing? Unlikely. The national sensitivity of a person depends on his individual nationhood, which is built up in a complex way, which varies from nation to nation. The Sino-Japanese war is not the past only for the Chinese, certainly not only for mainland Chinese people; it is also the past for the Japanese. Invisibly but more importantly, it is the past for all the non-Chinese and non-Japanese, who imagine they do not “take a side”, but they did for a century .

The main difference between the war propaganda at MKG exhibition and the woodblock paintings on Visualizing Cultures is that, the German’s brutality was depicted by their foe, while the Japanese’s slaughtering actions, despite the “heroic poses”, were illustrated by themselves. Any human would naturally be disgusted by ferocious scenes. How would today’s Japanese react if they see these paintings? Given the equal human nature, I’m certain they would feel disturbed to see them today. As for the Germans, when I and my German friend walking through the “War and Propaganda 14/18” exhibition, he was not only as shocked as I was by the brutality of the war, (although the poster/postcard nature of these images means the use of high-exaggeration, animalization, and fantasizing) but kept filling me in with more historical details that he learnt in school about how brutal the war was for both sides.

Buzzing 20150108: The Unchallengeable Freedom of Speech

What happened in Paris at Charlie Hebdo is an absolutely horrible terrorist attack. Violence is a brutal way to defend Islamic holiness. The al-Qaida terrorist cell in Yemen, according to British media, is involved. This bloody attack has been condemned by the international. Not only the western media is reporting the ruthless murder, they are somehow also conveying additional sentiments to the public. Something provocative, radical, hateful, and worse.

By reading through Weibo feed, I noticed Chinese people’s attitude towards Islam. Some show their fury and some show their fear. What is even more shocking to me is that, some well-educated and renowned journalists/writers, who advocate for well-spread western values (democracy, human right, equality and freedom), all voicing from the same and only term “press freedom”, as the same in almost all western media. Not ANYTHING ELSE. Is this really only another tragic conflict of terrorism and freedom of speech? In China, people never say ill of the dead. (逝者為大) Because they are, well, dead already. What’s the point to talk about if there’s anything that they have done are questionable. But it seems that, since I have devoted to train myself as a qualified journalist from western training, I should of course take the responsibility to tell THE TRUTH, of mine, which is to say of their misbehaviour.

pencils symbol

Have Islam ever enjoyed sarcasm on their holiness?


Why not?

Modern Communist-trained Chinese people all know the following: I won’t offend others, if they don’t offend me; if they do, I will offend them too. (人不犯我,我不犯人;人若犯我,我必犯人。) The words from Mao has become a principle of Chinese diplomatic behaviour. The West has tried for many decades to understand it, and tried to deal with the Communist China.

The West are quick learners in terms of dealing with China. However, dealing with Islam from the beginning of seventh century, the West seems to hardly learned. Learning not how to submit, but to understand, and further, respect, if possible.

If someone has fatal allergy to nuts, another person, who’s playful and is aware of this person’s condition, comes and gives him a nut to eat. He would be furious and think if this guy is trying to kill him and “better kill him before he manages to kill me with nuts”…

image of islam in the west

What can be laughed about, and what should remain serious? Is there a limit of this so-called “absolute and holy” freedom of speech?

The Critical Whisperer for Intellectuals

Criticised for being the voice of the Communist Party, China Central Television (CCTV) starts to lose viewership in- and outside of the country. The 90s of 20th century was considered as the booming period of Chinese media. Many current distinguishing figures in Chinese news TV embarked their career during that time. Bai Yansong, one of the most influential, well-known news reporters and commentators in China, learnt his first lesson in college in the department of journalism — bottom line of being a journalist: always telling the truth. After the first decade of the 21th century, some left CCTV for various reasons, from “inappropriate behaviour on air” to “less freedom in personal performance”. Bai is still there, doing current news report and commentary in a professional style.

Bai Yansong teaches in Class

Bai sees journalism as a marathon. “It has no ending, down the road. But when you got to know what’s down there so just stopping trying? Giving up is always easier than carrying on.” he said.

Confronting with the harsh media restriction environment, many choose to leave, while others stay and try to dance with chains. Bai is one of the latter. “Up till today, CCTV is still the best platform in the whole country to conduct press supervision.” Bai believes. Questioning and interrogating local government in misconducted political and social cases, Bai said that he has already come to a time in his journalist career when he stands at the opposite side to the powerful. He has to keep his critics within certain level in order to hold the right to the microphone. “It’s like walking on thin ice.” he said.

Founding “East-West United University” (东西联大) fulfilled one of Bai’s life-long dream. Born into a family with 3 teachers, “I always wanted to be a teacher since I was little.” Bai said. 11 students from 4 of most prestigious universities in Beijing are selected every year to Bai’s private “university”. Twice a month, class locates once on the east side of Beijing and the next time at some place on the west side. Reading list is assigned for each week, and reading report is compulsory. Every time, Bai sits down with his student, discuss various topics from rural workers in urban area to social changes in terms of time periods of the 70s, 80s and 90s. “Most of journalism majors at our universities do not cover practical interview training.” For Bai, how to conduct an interview is one of the crucial skills of a journalist. On practical interview class, students raise their topics which display their different focuses in the society. Many of the topics are inspiring.

Nonetheless, some of the topics from students also represent certain left-behind features of this particular society. One popular topic was “If I was a Homosexual”. The topic itself implies discrimination against the homosexual community to a certain degree that the students might not be able to realise it. This sentence pre-set the discussion from a perspective that “I” am not a homosexual. But what if “I am”? What if one of the students were a gay or a lesbian who was too frightened to come out? This topic puts every participants to the position that is definitely NOT a homosexual , which indicates that a homosexual is one of “THEM” but not one of “US”. This is a subtle discrimination which is unintended, and in the social context of China, understandable.

Anyway, for the world community, even in some “advanced countries” like Germany or US, it is still a long way to achieve their full understanding of homosexuality and embrace the fact that is supposed to be natural and universal. And it is even a longer way for societies like China. Bai’s classes represent the advancing step by young intellectuals. Social change goes gradually. What matters the most is some one is on the way.

Bai’s career as a journalist and a news commentator inspires Chinese young people to take the society with more serious attitude. He described himself as a “most optimistic pessimist” who has hope for the future and believes in people, although “there will be nothing in the future”. He is loved because he is critical, skeptical but never cynical. The endeavour to nurture young people to take more responsibilities like he does will not be in vain. “When I pass on the torch, I will just forget about all this.” Bai talked about retirement one day. But who knows? Not only as a committed journalist, a voicer of intellectuals, but also as a citizen with strong sense of responsibility, could he never stop caring.


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