We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program

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Although this blog is about a specific dream, I feel free to put in whatever catches my attention at the moment although you could say it’s related in that it’s still about how dreams of excellence can be realized.  This morning, there was an old issue of Fortune Magazine lying around near the kitchen, a relic from the past of 2006 and there’s an article that I ended up underlining.

Quotes from What It Takes to be Great by Geoffrey Colvin (Fortune Magazine, October 30, 2006):

In virtually every field of endeavor, most people learn quickly at first, then more slowly and then stop developing completely. Yet a few do improve for years and even decades, and go on to greatness. . . . . . How are certain people able to go on improving?  The answers begin with consistent observations about great performers in many fields.

 

The first major conclusion is that nobody is great without work. It’s nice to believe that if you find the field where you’re naturally gifted, you’ll be great from day one, but it doesn’t happen. There’s no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.

Reinforcing that no-free-lunch finding is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule.

 

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call “deliberate practice.” It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

 

The evidence, scientific as well as anecdotal, seems overwhelmingly in favor of deliberate practice as the source of great performance. Just one problem: How do you practice business? Many elements of business, in fact, are directly practicable. Presenting, negotiating, delivering evaluations, deciphering financial statements – you can practice them all.

Still, they aren’t the essence of great managerial performance. That requires making judgments and decisions with imperfect information in an uncertain environment, interacting with people, seeking information – can you practice those things too? You can, though not in the way you would practice a Chopin etude.

Instead, it’s all about how you do what you’re already doing – you create the practice in your work, which requires a few critical changes. The first is going at any task with a new goal: Instead of merely trying to get it done, you aim to get better at it.

 

Research shows they process information more deeply and retain it longer. They want more information on what they’re doing and seek other perspectives. They adopt a longer-term point of view. In the activity itself, the mindset persists. You aren’t just doing the job, you’re explicitly trying to get better at it in the larger sense.

Again, research shows that this difference in mental approach is vital. For example, when amateur singers take a singing lesson, they experience it as fun, a release of tension. But for professional singers, it’s the opposite: They increase their concentration and focus on improving their performance during the lesson. Same activity, different mindset.

Feedback is crucial, and getting it should be no problem in business. Yet most people don’t seek it; they just wait for it, half hoping it won’t come.

 

“Some people are much more motivated than others, and that’s the existential question I cannot answer – why.” . . . . . . The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will.

Sorry for chopping up the article that way, rather like a dismembered Frankenstein monster.  If you want to read the whole piece, it’s available here online.

It intrigues me why people are more motivated than others.  What makes people highly driven and why are others not as driven?   On the other hand, you want to appreciate people in their entirety and uniqueness.  Drive is just one aspect and for some it’s not as important or as much as a priority for others.  Some people impose their standards on others and wish people to be just as driven as them, or to at least increase their “drive” level to a more socially acceptable degree.  However, the internal workings inside each person is so one-of-a-kind, we can’t expect everyone to march at the same pace or to even have the same definitions of success.   Do you notice I’m going around in circles?

Sometimes, I am the subject of such expectations and sometimes, I am the one holding similar apprehensions.  So that explains the circle but in the end, we are only responsible and accountable for our own self.

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On a similar note of searching, I found THIS VIDEO that my sister, Denise posted on Facebook.  If you read the quotes above, you’d probably want to watch the entire video, too. Or if you skipped through the quotes to arrive at this end, you can click on the video link. 

 

How My Lola Loves Me

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The blog can be used as a form of cloud storage especially for people who need to be as portable as possible.   I don’t have a cloud so uploading photos onto my blog gives additional security on top of the external hard drive.  So here’s a book that I made after my grandmother passed away in February 2011.

My Lola was one of the greatest lovers I know.  She loved to love.  She lived to love.  She embodied one of the hardest things to master: unconditional love.  Sometimes it is so easy to say we love someone but what about somebody who is difficult to love, unlovable even, somebody whose redeemable qualities have all but disappeared?  What then?   Lola is a difficult class act to follow.  The challenge she gives us seems quite insurmountable at times.  But she gives us courage and she always taught me to lift everything up: “All for thee, my Lord.  All for thee my Lord,” she motions with her fingers puckered together in a kiss towards her heart, again and again, everyday, never tiring.

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Other things on my blog-cloud:

My Wedding Album

English Projects by My Students

Performances by My Students in Spoken English

My Portfolio of Articles, Chinese Diary and Other Stuff

Simply Stellar

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Project-based learning intrigues me.  A number of schools I aim to visit in America use this method.  I tried it out in the Chinese university where I teach and asked the students to work on their chosen project for three months and then exhibit their works at the end of the period.  In another country, this won’t be unusual, but in China, it’s quite novel because grades are always based on written tests.  The initial unfamiliarity with the concept proved challenging but the results were for the most part, stellar.  I hope it’s not just the biased teacher in me speaking, proud of my students but objectively viewed, they accomplished no small feat.

On my first two semesters as an English writing teacher, the final exam was a book project.  The students compiled all the articles that they wrote for class into a book that showcased their creativity and passion.  Lizzie captured the spirit of the project in her introduction:

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I have to thank my students for helping me find my own voice because in helping them find their voice, I was encouraged to rediscover mine.  I also did my own Book Project, compiled a collection of articles and handed them out to close friends as means of catharsis.

On my third semester, I wanted to push the bar and go all out on PBL.  There were times when I regretted taking on the gargantuan task with no administrative support but it paid off in the end when during the exhibit, you can see how many students came out of their shells and shone, bright stars that they are.   It was an explosion of creativity and people marveled and gawked.  Maybe there’s a bit of giddy exaggeration there but my two American friends who were guest judges can attest to the day’s powerful impact.
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Hundreds of people went to the exhibit and the students were surprised and moved by the attendance and the attention their projects got.  They answered questions thrown at them by oglers like professional subjects of media interviews.  They went around checking out the “competition” and felt everyone had their unique piece to say.

For their final exam, each student wrote a reflection paper on the feedback that they got during the exhibit, their opinion about other projects and lessons learned throughout the three-month long process.  I chose and photocopied some of the papers intending one day to sit down and write an article about the whole PBL experience in China.  That day may be today or not.  Perhaps I’ll prepare something more analytical and in-depth later but for now, I’ll let the students’ speak for themselves.

They are uploaded here on Slideshare:

 

Project Reports by the Students

Pictures of the Exhibit

Pictures of Book Covers by Students

 

To My Students:

I apologize that Slideshare is not available in China.  I’m sure you would be happy and excited to see your reports, pictures and book covers included in the collection.  If you have a VPN or know somebody who does, you can click on the links above.  Thank you again for sharing your amazing talents and creativity. You don’t know what a privilege it has been for me to see you stretch beyond what you are usually capable.  

 

缘份

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Seven and a half years in China.  Five years in TEDA.  A break of three years in Manila.  Two and a half years in Dagang.  At the end of this month, we’ll be starting our third phase of life in China by making the big move from north to south, from Tianjin to Yunnan.  Because we’re only bringing things that fit the back of our car, we can’t pack much but there’s a way to bring things through the virtual world.  Take pictures of pictures, documents and whatever, put them into a word file which is faster than pasting them on power point, then upload the files online and voila!  Instant cloud-like space!  Limitless, accessible, convenient.

Starting life in China ten years ago, I studied Chinese at the Foreign Studies University during the morning and taught English in the afternoon.  Since I loved writing, I decided a diary in pure Chinese characters would be the most sustainable way for me to learn one of the most difficult languages in the world.  After filling eight notebooks with my everyday life in the Middle Kingdom, my Chinese is still mamahuhu or so-so but it takes me everywhere including Tibet and gets things done.  Take for example today.  I had to pay the penalty for a parking ticket by myself.  No problem except for the long line.  Having a bluetooth keyboard connected to my cellphone to type my blog kept me sane and productive.

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I wish I can scan each of the diary pages and someday type them up part by part and publish a book in Chinese, but only a few pages are on the Slideshare link below.  Aside from that, I’ve uploaded most of the articles I wrote for two expats’ magazine.  During my five years in TEDA working in a company, I held a side job as writer, first for Jin Magazine and then switched to Business Tianjin when my original editor invited me to crossover.  I was ready to tackle more serious business topics rather than culture and leisure so I jumped ship with Winner.  Right before that, yuan fen happened.  That’s Chinese for destiny.

For one of my last articles for Jin, Blair the editor assigned me to interview the owner of an outdoor sports shop.  It was one of those given tasks I dragged my foot saying silently, “Aww, do I have to?”   Usually when that happens, it pays to heed the higher authority and overcome laziness and hesitation.

I ended up interviewing my future husband about the outdoor activities he organized and joined one of his trips to the beach with the beautiful sand dunes.  Desert meets the sea.  Joei meets Jason and life is changed forever.

Here is the link to my portfolio of magazine articles, Chinese diary and other odds and ends: My Portfolio of Articles, Chinese Diary and Some Other Stuff

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I looked for pictures of Jason and me before we were married and I ended up finding these on my friend’s Facebook page.  My roommates and I organized a mean, rocking Halloween party which Jason attended with his nephew, Kevin.  The picture at the top of this page is from our marriage certificate which comes in, as things do in China, a little red book, shades of Mao.

My Wedding Album

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Instead of using iCloud or the free Baidu cloud, I decided to utilize my wordpress blog and slideshare as storage space for photos and other souvenirs that could be digitized.  The things we can bring on our drive to Yunnan and beyond is very limited.  Most items must be left behind.  There is no U-haul and we can’t hire a van to deliver to an unknown address.  Because our destination may constantly be moving, we have to pack as light as we can. We have to fit everything in the back of our off-road car.   I’m afraid there’s no space for the wedding album, portfolio, majority of books and memorabilia.

So forgive me for sentimentally foisting what I can on this blog and on slideshare.  It’s also a form of insurance so that they’re always available online.  Some years ago, my external hard drive crashed, with many years’ worth of pictures lost forever.  I couldn’t retrieve anything including all the original photos taken during my wedding day.  All I have as proof is this album I’ve been carrying whenever we transferred homes from TEDA to Manila to Dagang.  Uploading photos of this album and others, is a full-proof way of keeping memories safe without having to deal with the weight and mass of the physical objects.  Besides, it’s easily retrievable anywhere in the world.

The happiness felt during the wedding day is exactly how people describe it like it’s the happiest day ever.  There was a time when I didn’t subscribe to this point of view because I went through a phase of cynicism and discontent.  But I grew out of that and my own wedding day was filled purely with joy.  We had two weddings – one in the Philippines and the other in China.
My grandmother insisted on leaving the hospital to attend the wedding.  If it weren’t for her, I would have preferred to have only one ceremony in China where there is much less preparation and details to fuss over.  Both weddings were equally beautiful and memorable.  I have to thank my Mom for making it possible for us to have this gorgeous, fairy tale dream of a garden wedding.
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Jason and I sang “Yueliang Daibiao Wode Xin,” a romantic Chinese song which means “The Moon Represents My Heart.”  My sister, the pianist and her husband, the violinist played “Mahiwaga” as our wedding march.  It’s my dad’s favorite song and it means “Miracle.”  I think it’s a miracle that Jason and I found each other and my grandmother’s constant novena prayers may have something to do with that.

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This was our wedding souvenir — a CD of love songs.  You can see how much we were already into the outdoors.

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The wedding album and invitation is on Slideshare: Joei & Jason’s Wedding Album