Being An Influencer in Previous Generations

I am SMH (shaking my head) watching my teenage daughter constantly watch YouTube, snap millions of pics on SnapChat, and perform on TikTok. She’s asked to purchase items at Trader Joe’s because they are amazing only to be disgusting once she has actually tasted it.  She was influenced by an influencer.  We are beginning the process of the college search, and there is a lot of information out there.  There was a university that she claimed was perfect for her because it was her style.  We briefly visited it, and the Instagram photo was significantly better than the actual.  She doesn’t want to go there anymore.

Since the internet wasn’t a part of my upbringing in the 70s or 80s and even the beginning of the 90s, I was contemplating who & what my influencers were.  I don’t recall being enamored with anyone on TV or in media.  I wanted Nike shoes, wore 2 Izods polos at a time, and wore Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans.  If I remember correctly, Tiger Beat magazine just showed multiple photos of teen boys for us to look at. I’m sure my parents were my strongest influencers typically demanding excellent grades, defining my social schedule, and approving & disapproving my behaviors.

Delving deeper, I was influenced by stories of my grandfather, grandmother, my father and his siblings leaving China during a difficult time and relocating to the U.S.  The stories vary between each family member based upon their memory, their individual situation during the period, and how that it affected their outcome.  I have mainly heard these stories in our home during family get togethers later in the evening when everyone was more relaxed.  Forced to give up everything that he built as an entrepreneur, my grandfather worked diligently to ensure each of his family members were taken care of, and started from scratch at the bottom in a new country with a new culture.  My father and mother believed in higher education although their parents did not so they both worked to pay their way through college.  It is those stories that I know influenced my life.

It is with amazement, yet obligation, that I have realized that this is a gift to me.  My family did all of this so that their future family could have a better life.  And although I have not felt persecution or even risked my life to survive, I feel the responsibility to honor this gift.  

I think sometimes this message gets lost in the day-to-day activities of our life.  Although we work hard, we are spoiled and very fortunate. We get caught up in the unfairness and irritation of trivial matters. BUT…..what if we take a moment to appreciate that our elders made true sacrifices and took life threatening risks? It definitely puts things in a completely different light. THAT is influence.

A Gift From Tokyo

Recently, I was in Tokyo for a business trip, and had a few spare hours per day to enjoy the city, culture, and people. It is considered one of the most densely populated cities, and yet there is such organized chaos.

I was reading up on Japanese culture as well as “do’s & don’ts” which were so interesting. Simply, there are things that I observed in Tokyo that I have not seen in the U.S. And quite frankly, there’s an envy and appreciation of their lifestyle that resonates with me.

Although the duration of my stay was short, I noticed a few admirable qualities that I want to incorporate more into my life.

Attention to Detail: I was impressed with everything that I interacted with from the moment of my arrival.  At the airport, the jetway & the floors were immaculate.  The lighting had a positive energy, and even the immigration officers has a good disposition, even to the point that my passport stamp was in alignment square with the edges of my passport.  At the hotel, the cleanliness of the room made me feel like I was the first guest staying in the room – everyday.  The sushi chef served each piece of with minimal sauce that was the appropriate size and portion. 

Courtesy:  There are a bunch of “don’ts” that I read about, but what resonated was that they were not negative, but embodies the priority on courtesy.  Don’t stick your chopstick vertically into your rice as it resembles a funeral ritual.  Don’t wear your shoes inside the home. They should be removed once you are through the door as the “outdoor” shoes are considered unclean.  Don’t skip the line when waiting for a train or anywhere you have to wait as there is typically a single file line. 

Mindfulness: There seems to be a focus on the task at hand.  They do not eat on the run.  There are allocated tables and seats near food stands or kiosks.  I never saw anyone walking and eating a sandwich or burger or even drinking.  No one was eating or drinking on public transportation.  This is probably why the public stations, buses, and subways are so clean.  No one was on their phone while walking on the street or in the busy train stations.  They would step aside, stop to answer the phone, and politely tell the caller that they would call them when arrived at their destination.  It led to such a focused intention of arriving to their destination. What a complete contrast to the “L” & buses I’ve ridden on in Chicago!

I experienced such sense of pride in their actions and behaviors.  I am not joking when I say that everyone, yes, everyone exceeded my expectations. Regardless of their minimal English, their responsibility to me, or their role, I felt everyone did their best with the utmost politeness.

While these qualities are somewhat incorporated into my life, I definitely want to practice building on them to be a more robust person.  Upon my return, I have been steadily slowing down, allowing more time for tasks, being more deliberate in my work, and most importantly,  appreciating being more mindful.  

Thanks & Gratitude

Kiana speaking at church about gratitude in 2012.

As we move into the holiday season, it only seems appropriate to speak about being gracious and thankful.  I’ve been wanting to write about this for quite some time.  It came to a realization when I was with someone that I had given something small to for the umpteenth time, and she took it without saying thank you.

I was so frustrated that I had to tell someone who mutually knows us. And she replied simply, “She never says thank you.  But YOU always say thank you.  Always. And it’s always good to be around you because of it.”

In my own family, I am a stickler for this.  My daughter knows full well that “thank you” are two simple words that represent good manners and are imperative when interacting with others. When we pray at dinner, we acknowledge the gifts prior to receiving them.  When we’ve prayed with her at night since birth, we thank God for the day, friends & play and the people in our lives. And our family does have an unspoken rule that thank you notes are written and sent in a timely manner.  

I truly believe that the good fortune in my life has been contingent on the gratitude that I have.  And if we continue to be thankful for the gifts we have been given, small or large, it will guide us to new and better things that we haven’t even dreamed of.

I hope this resonates with you, and I thank you so much for being a part of my amazing world.

People Want To Work With People They Like & Trust

Let me tell you a quick story. I have a friend who I always enjoy being around. We both had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines a few years ago as United States delegates for the APEC summit. During our down time, we spoke about our current businesses and a few ideas for new businesses. And we both thought it would be a great idea to one day work together. Even though we live about 1500 miles away from each other, we probably talk a few times a month. And then one day……he calls me and says that he’s got a business opportunity that will be amazing.

It’s been about 3 months of working together, planning, strategizing, and implementing. It’s been hard work, but it’s been FUN. And as I ponder on this journey with my friend, I am reminded of a mantra that I keep close to me. People want to work with people they like and trust.

It’s just that easy. And it’s worth repeating. People want to work with people they like and trust. The reality is that not everyone will like you or me so you cannot work with everyone. But, there are certain people that you connect with, and your core values, work ethic, and/or culture aligns. You realize each others strengths and capitalize on them. And you supplement each other with what you can so you both can succeed. You build on the law of reciprocity where it all balances out in the long game.

I’m grateful of my friendship that has led to an opportunity that works well for both of us. It affirms my belief that we have to be transparent regardless of a personal or professional relationship. There may not be an immediate opportunity, but eventually, it does happen.

It is my hope and wish that this story inspires others to build relationships with those they truly like and trust, and that we can help each other be better, stronger, and richer in our lives.

All Fore One! – Thoughts for Those Women Thinking About Playing Golf or Just Starting Out

Unlike my husband and daughter who started playing golf at an early age, I began learning in my 30s & once my career was established.  My father had suggested that I play golf socially.  He said it was great for business, and I can attest that he is 100% correct. I took a few lessons, but nothing much came of it.  It wasn’t until my 3 year old daughter started taking lessons that I thought I should take it more seriously.

At first, I was apprehensive about committing to the sport.  When I went to the driving range to practice, I didn’t hit the ball all too well.  Sometimes I whiffed, and I was more concerned about making contact with the ball versus where the ball went.  I didn’t like being on the driving range with others, and probably hit my ball off the tee over 90% of the time.  At the time, my favorite part was choosing my outfits.

I joined the 9 hole league, and was absolutely petrified of being on the golf course without my husband.  I wasn’t sure about the rules because my husband tried to be supportive and not too critical.  I was nervous about what the girls would think of me.  I wish I could say that I had the best experience, but I did not.  Unfortunately, I was placed in a foursome where the other three were mean girls….and they were adults.  A vivid memory is that one of them ran over my ball with the golf cart, and drove away laughing. I unsuccessfully tried to hack the ball out of the mud, and was discouraged.  

The brightside of that horrible experience is that I am overly sensitive and supportive of new women golfers.  I am convinced that my experience is isolated, and the rest of the women golfers are nice to play with.  I managed to perservere, and enjoy playing on a regular basis.  I take multiple annual girls’ golf trips with numerous girlfriends, and we play golf as a family when we are on vacation.  I’ve won a couple of local women’s tournaments, and occasionally win the “longest drive” and “closest to the pin” competitions at golf events.  I enjoy the summers in Chicago when there are many fun charity golf events.  

But my favorite part of playing golf is the fellowship with women.  It doesn’t matter if you are good or not, just as long as you show up.  When women play together socially, we encourage each other, we listen, and we laugh. And that’s laughing together not laughing at each other.  We learn to focus together while we are trying to do our best.  Typically, the women I play with are good at almost everything they touch whether it’s their profession, philanthropy, and/or honoring their family. Golf is not easy, and some days you do well, and others, not so much.  If you don’t take it too seriously, it can be fun and enjoyable.

So if you are considering taking up golf, I would highly recommend it. Who doesn’t need more girlfriends to spend quality time with and enjoy life? I welcome it wholeheartedly FORE sure!

MY International Women’s Day 2019

Kiana & I in Berkeley, CA during the Illinois College of Optometry Board of Trustee’s meeting. March 2019

I received this text this morning from my 15 year old daughter:  “Happy International women’s day mom! Thanks for inspiring me and (em)powering me to be my best self everyday! I love and appreciate you 💓”

If you could see the smile on my face and feel the warm energy that spread throughout my body, I guarantee you that you would be smiling too.  

Let me tell you why.  When I was single, I was motivated by ambition to make something of myself and not be dependent on anyone.  Yes, I did work hard and earned a respectable income.  When I got married, my motivation was to make a wonderful life with my husband that also included building my career.  And when my daughter was born, we still continued to work diligently, but there was a higher calling.  I was to serve as an example of being a strong woman, being impactful, being passionate, & being compassionate.  

My reply back to my daughter: “Thank you, my love.  Lots of what I do has YOU as my motivation.  So we have to be strong together. Happy International Women’s Day!”

So as we celebrate women’s achievements and create a more gender balanced world, I applaud the women who inspire me and empower me to be my best self everyday.  #BalanceForBetter

My 35 Year Love Affair

Daily Instant Ramen (Tom Yum flavor) with egg, chicken sausage & veggies

It has got to be one of the longest relationships I’ve had with only one major breakup.  It was an introduction by my mom and dad when I was young.  In fact, it was something that my mom made sure I could depend on – instant ramen.  There were always a bunch of 10 cent packages in the pantry, and if I was at home alone, it was my go to. My mom even showed me how to enhance the noodles with lunch meat, a hardboiled egg, and some lettuce.  There was never any stigma against it due to the high amounts of MSG or that it is highly processed. I was told that it was MSG that made it taste so good.

There were also plenty of packages of ramen in college to be cooked in the electric hot pot at any hour of the day.  In San Diego, with the guidance of my California resident suite mates,  I learned about the variety of brands of instant ramen at the numerous Asian markets.  My goal was to try as many different flavors and brands as possible to find my favorites versus the typical pork Maruchan brand.  Quite frankly, it was an inexpensive research project. 

When I moved to Boston for optometry school, I was on a student loan budget so ramen was a staple in my diet.  This is the time that I built my meal creativity.  I became good at stir fried noodles, crispy noodle dishes,  as well as different soups.  It was also a pivotal time when I concluded that when I became a doctor and started making money, I would cease eating ramen as a sign of success.  A few of my friends admitted that they also had this commitment to shed their associated poor man’s food once they were finished with grad school.  One included chicken wings and another was pasta with Ragu spaghetti sauce.

So I probably stopped buying and eating instant ramen noodle for about 10 years as a symbolic gesture.  It was a big break up.  And I didn’t miss it one bit. There would be the occasional mention – like when I bought a hot pot as a gift along with a case of ramen noodles for a college freshman, but nothing in my home.   It wasn’t until I decided to stock my office drawer with snacks and foods.  I bought nuts, chips, teas, and cookies.  This was a good variety of foods, but nothing that I could call lunch.  I finally broke down and bought a few packets of ramen noodles.  Once it became part of my office arsenal, it was something i actually looked forward to making and eating.  I once again added leftover meats, veggies, and my favorite, eggs.

To compound my eternal love of ramen, I started packing noodles for international trips.  They are easy to make on a flight as well as in a hotel room.  This is especially true  in the middle of the night when my stomach is growling, and breakfast at the hotel cafe is a couple hours away until opening.  There has been a huge surge in ramen joints everywhere so my craving for ramen is satisfied by REAL ramen.  Near my office, there are 4 places that serve amazing ramen with excellent broths and cha siu. I’ve also experienced the slurping in Tokyo and across the US.

Recently, I was in India in which I ate Indian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a solid week.  Although it was delicious, I had a craving for something else, so a package of ramen made it to breakfast with the addition of some chicken sausage, egg, and some cabbage from the buffet.  It actually made me happy (above photo is my ramen in India).

I certainly do not think I am alone with my love for ramen.  David Chang’s “Mind of a Chef” addresses noodles and included a scientific segment on MSG that had me watching that episode twice. It’s always good to give props to something/someone who makes my life easier AND better.  As silly as it sounds, I’m so glad you are in my life, ramen.

Listen To Understand, Not to Respond

I’ve always been a fan of podcasts and magazine articles that offer tidbits of insight of doing things better. Most have been great, but it’s not much mind blowing material. However, if I piece together bits and nuggets of advice given, there’s a common theme. It is to be present and mindful.

I recently subscribed to Jim Kwik’s “Kwik Brain” podcast.  His lesson on building your memory skills is great and is easy to incorporate into your daily life.  My big takeaway is: if you are trying to remember someone’s name that you have just met, you have to be engaged and present when you speak to them.

I’ve also been listening to Brendon Bouchard on “High Performance Habits”, and his points is to clearly defining where you are right now, and to be crystal clear about where you want to be.

Louise Hay & Wayne Dwyer speak about gratitude, and how they wake up in the morning and they are thankful for their body, their mind, their lives, even their bed and pillows.  You have to be uber mindful to engage in this activity.

So it’s no surprise that this includes being present to listen.  Many times we are engaged in a conversation where people are talking above each other or even interrupting each other.  It’s almost like we need to have “the” answer or banter immediately.  As this was brought to my attention, I decided to stop talking so much, stop daydreaming during the conversation, and really focus and listen to what someone is saying.  I will tell you that the retention rate of my conversations as well as the ability to accurately repeat what someone has told me has been significantly higher/better.

AND I will tell you that the folks I am talking with seem to emulate this behavior once they catch on, and it yields a much more robust conversation.  Sometimes, I even stop speaking when someone picks up their phone to check it.  What could be more important than someone sitting right in front of you that you scheduled time to talk with and be with?

In this time of immediate responses, likes, instant notifications, etc., etc., wouldn’t it be awesome to listen to understand?  And even better, wouldn’t it be truly special if someone was really listening to you & understood?

A Few Things I Learned From My Dad

As we just finished celebrating Father’s Day, I was thinking of some of the life lessons that my father has given to me.  I do feel that I am a product of my upbringing, my friendships, and my experiences, and my dad did a lot to mold my life.  Here are a few things that I know I learned from him.

Buy for quality.  We didn’t have a lot of extra money growing up, and my mom shopped very frugally.  My father, however, would research and purchase large ticket items with great justification.  He felt strongly about spending more upfront instead of having flimsy cheap items just to have them.  He also said that he wants things to last for a long time so he doesn’t have to replace them as often and it would probably cost less.  He stated that when you have nice things, you tend to take better care of the items.  I believe this is true considering I am still driving a 12 year old vehicle that is in great shape, am carrying the same purse, and am wearing the same earrings for the past 15 years.

Your appearance does make a difference.  When I was an awkward teen, my father was adamant about making sure that I had the opportunity to look good.  He took me to the dermatologist to get rid of a mole on my face.  He fully supported all orthodontics.  I was in contact lenses at an early age.  And finally, he told my mom to stop home perming my hair.  He said that he wanted to eliminate any physical obstacles that would make me self conscious or uncomfortable about my appearance.  When you feel good about yourself (inside and outside), you tend to exude the confidence needed to carry you through a client meeting, a job interview, or any situation that you have to show your skills and experience.  Once your outside appearance is taken care of, you can focus on maximizing those skills and talents.

Don’t exclude yourself.  When I spoke to my father about taking over his business, he taught me a few things that might help me in business.  He said that it might be more difficult for me to establish relationships in a predominantly male industry.  So he gave me lessons in a few things so i wouldn’t be excluded in social situations.  The first skill/hobby he wanted me to learn is how to play golf.  He bought me my first set of golf clubs and a 10 pack of lessons.  This skill has given me the opportunity to meet and work with several clients and generate millions of dollars of revenue for our company.  He also showed me how to smoke a cigar (which i don’t do as much anymore), and he taught me how to drink hard liquor like ports and whiskeys.  To this day, I am not afraid of being left out nor being excluded from a group of “those in the know”.

There are many other life lessons my father bestowed upon me whether through verbally telling me or sharing through example.  I am appreciative of the time and focus that my father has given and continues to give me.  And I still think there’s more to learn so I’m going to keep on listening and watching.  Thank you, Dad.

Keeping Your Word

I was taught at an early age that if you commit to doing something with others, this remains your commitment. Even if a better offer came along after, we were not allowed to cancel our first offer. I took this “rule” as law, and maintained this throughout my life. My husband’s upbringing was similar in this regard, and we see that it is infused into my daughter’s mindset.

As I was growing up, I realized that this “rule” was not always taught to my friends. I would invite them to play, get an affirmation, and sometimes they would cancel if another friend invited them over after we had made plans. My disappointment was evident, and my mom would simply state “Life is not fair”.

The lesson that I learned pretty quickly was that since I didn’t like how it felt to be the recipient of a broken commitment, I would try my best to not break my commitments.

Fast forward to today. I am proud to say that I still remain true to my commitments. It’s been refreshing that I have earned the trust of my business relationships (suppliers, clients, and employees), my family, and my friends. It has also taught me to manage my time better as to not overcommit. I feel people would rather have a timely decline than to wait it out or not RSVP.

I bring it up as this is a critical time for my 14 year old. She has much more freedom and decision making empowerment than I did at her age. But the “rule” still stands with keeping your commitment. I watch her struggle with determining her fun time schedule especially during the weekends. She has done a great job of keeping her commitments, and balancing her invitations by offering alternative plans. I have concluded that at this young age, she understands the basis of the rule, continues to follow it, and this is one aspect that she is queued up for success in this crazy world.

A Life By Design

At an event held in Chicago attended by 300 people, the panel was asked to introduce their fellow panelists. It was such a fun experience & different from the typical reading of someone’s bio. Tommy, a very dynamic entrepreneur that I had only met a week prior, was asked to introduce me. My favorite statement was when he declared that I live my life by design. I found it so interesting that he would mention this. At the networking event after the panel, the only question that numerous attendees asked me was “How do you live your life by design?”.

Delving into this further, the questions that I pondered are:
  1. Am I deliberate in how my day unfolds?
  2. Am I reacting to outside influences and living a life by default?
  3. Am I happy with my day, my life, my future?

My answer is simple. At this point in my life, I continuously set my priorities. When reviewing my activities and calendar, I ensure that it in aligned with these priorities. I do not accept all of the invitations I am offered. Life has been a whirlwind, but my time is filled with creating memories with people I value, building my businesses, and learning so I can better myself.

My priorities have changed throughout the years, but I make certain that they are clear to me so I can proactively live a happy and fulfilling life. I’m having lunch with Tommy next week, and despite the fact I thanked him via text for his compliment, I am going to thank him in person. Not only did he make my day, he observed a key ingredient to what motivates me. To me, that’s a big deal.

I am hopeful that this resonates to the people around me. I feel that it’s an amazing way to live, and it’s great to surround yourself around those who also live their life by design.

Creating Family Traditions

As we watch Kiana grow older, we like to talk about the experiences that we have as a family. Over the Veteran’s Day weekend four years ago, our weekend plans to Texas were rescheduled, but our family had allotted the time away. So I planned a surprise trip to London. I cashed in all my miles & my points for the next great adventure.
Our trip to London was one of the best experiences. Although Scott & I had been to London 13 years before, it was like a first experience to watch my daughter see and learn about London for the first time. In addition, despite the desire to go away to a warm place, London in November was such a fruitful experience. We, as a family, have a new appreciation for Veteran’s Day as it is a BIG deal in the UK. We wear our poppy pins proudly.

Our second year was an even better experience with our trip to Paris. Again, although Scott & I had been there before, we enjoyed watching Kiana excited to see the Eiffel Tower, for her to try a macaron at every store that sold them, and to view how small the Mona Lisa is in real life. Scott & I enjoyed the vacation as well because we were able to reminesce about how we had saved our money for our first trip. Although we had a wonderful first time, our second time had us falling in love with the city again.

Year three was a pivotal since no one had been to Spain before. It was an experience the three of us would be tackling together. We loved eating jamon iberico until we couldn’t anymore (Day 4). We also empowered Kiana to choose and arrange the itinerary. This was the best decision, and stopped the “I am bored” comments. She planned for us to take segways through Barcelona’s Olympic Park, scooters down the boulevard alongside the beach, and electric bikes up and down the narrow streets.

Now we are in year four, and our tradition continues. This year we headed to Italy which included Rome & Florence. This is the second country that no one in our family had visited before. As we continue our adventures, all three of us actively researched what would be fun to do as a family. We were amazed at Rome and Florence’s history, their loyalty to the Catholic heritage, and the preservation of art not only for its beauty, but for the history & pride it brings to the country. This does not even include the amazing food we discovered and devoured.

With all of this being said, my wish is that Kiana has memories of great childhood experiences that teaches her about different cultures that is not so centric on our American life. In times of instant gratification of accessible data from her iPhone, she has learned patience by assisting in planning and executing itineraries, map reading, and hands on minor foreign language dialogue. We hope that our good fortune allows us many more trips abroad as a family to continue the tradition.