RBYZ: Attention, Millennials (#011)

Listen before your next interview

Here comes the second part of my conversation with serial entrepreneur and eternal optimist Christopher Li.

He shares observation and insight dealing with teenagers and young adults.  As CEO, what talents does he value the most in building his startup? What are the pitfalls us millennials can avoid in job interviews?

What you’ll hear:

  • The importance of EQ if you are to take corporate route, but relatively less so if you want to be your own boss;
  • How to balance your strength and your weakness;
  • What did he learn most from working at the management consulting firm?
  • What makes or breaks a ‘Professional?’
  • What’s his take on grit? Is it nature or nurture?
  • What does he think of the Millennial generation?
  • What did he see first-hand interacting with teenagers from China?
  • How did he convince people to join his startup? What’s his vision?
  • what kind of talents that Chris think would fit into his current startup?
  • What’s the most important aspect in building the startup?

There is no substitute for work.

Sometimes it takes a long time to get things done right. 

I don’t put out things with the quality that I don’t believe in.

You either move up, or you move out.

If we build it right, people would come.

Links from the episode:

 

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A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

PPS. Click here for the first part of my convo with Christopher.

When we get to the mountain

I think I can break even, more or less. 

There’ll be a way through.
When the boat gets to the pier-head,
it will go straight with the current.

It’s a famous Chinese saying, which means let the nature take its course.

Being the rebel, I often fight against the current, or chisel my way through the mountain.

Mellow just isn’t in my DNA.

I’m always on guard, watching out for those who might take advantage of me, exhausting myself before I’m met with any real resistance.

 

Two potential buyers for my furniture bailed out on me at the last minute yesterday.

One didn’t say she had moved on until I asked her if she still wanted the vanity set. “Yes, you may release the hold.”

Hold my foot. Why don’t you just say you can’t afford it?

Another girl rescheduled twice and was an hour late when she arrived with her mum. She studied and felt the bookshelf.

“This seems a little wobbly.”

“It’s the floor.”

“There is nothing on the back?”

“Just like what’s shown in the photos.”

The mum and the daughter conversed in Farsi. The girl seemed embarrassed.

“Do you do discount?”

I pursed my lips and shook my head.

“What if we only buy the bookshelf. Maybe you can sell the filing bins to others?”

My eyebrows arched. My kitchen knife was but five feet away.

“Look, I’m moving, too. I have other stuff to take care of.”

I could have spent 20 more minutes in the gym.

 

Half an hour later, was the showdown with the landlord. He and I would decide on how much he would pay for the furniture.

“I will give you $1500 for your furniture. Is this all of it?”

“No, only the ones without yellow stickers. You can refer to the itemized receipt I sent earlier.”

“Okay. How much do you want?”

“Look, the receipt says $4025 inc. tax, but I know the nature of the pricing. So I can live with $2500.”

“$2000?”

“Let’s make it easy on both sides. I’m moving out by September 15. A month earlier than the 60-day notice. Plus all the stress with the move-out.”

“But you’re moving back to China, yes?”

“Believe me, I planned to stay longer originally. Just look at this place. Does it look like a temporary setting?”

He paused for a moment. “$2500?”

I nodded. I was adamant.

We shook hands.

 

Things did work out in the end.

How? I hear you ask.

Full disclosure: I paid around $2800 for those items last year. A friend, small-business owner, tailored the receipt for me. As for the more student-friendly pieces, which are not on the list, I’m selling at a discount.

So I think I can break even, more or less.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Force of nature

May the Force be with you.

Newton’s First law of Motion:

In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.

Here comes the million dollar question:

Where and how to find the force?

 

I went to a writer friend’s farewell party yesterday. No tears. Only laughters. Because by the end of 2018, everyone would be back in China. Me included.

They are visiting scholars at UCLA, from urban planning to neural science. A doctor wants to create video/audio content, explaining his line of work in plain mandarin that caters to the Chinese retirees who are Crazy Healthy Asians.

His Chinese Yankee humor, plus the subject matter, remind me of the TV series Dr. Ken by the one and only Ken Jeong.

“I think I know my core audience. I think I know what I want to talk about. I have so many anecdotes from my practice… But I don’t have professional background like you guys.”

He meant me, my writer friend, and her director husband.

I opened my laptop and showed the doc how I created my podcast from scratch.

“Stop thinking. Start recording. You can’t find your style without ever trying.”

 

5:30 became 11:30. Six hours later, we were all connected on WeChat.

“It’s so inspiring to see folks like you who made an idea a reality.”

“Just try it out. You never know.”

“I think I will.”

“Drop ‘think.'”

 

The dude remained at rest until he met the Force.

You’re welcome, doc.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

May the Force be with you.

 

Be everything

One episode at a time. And no more.

In times like this, you can’t just be a writer.
You can’t just be a producer.
You can’t just be a cinematographer.
You can’t just be a director.
You have to be everything.
You need to be a writer-director-producer-promoter ninja to get any projects made.

In a word, you have to be a genius, Superman, Wonder Woman.

 

Here is how it works: you start with a short and hope that short would lead you somewhere.

And after you have self-delivered your baby, you wish you have an audience to cheer you on. Of course, you go to your friends and beg them to rate your babies, ugly or not, on Amazon etc. with five-star ratings.

I told myself that I couldn’t be bothered because I made my babies out of passion, out of love. Just how many people would chime in, I don’t care. It’s pathetic. I wouldn’t allow it.

But still, I asked friends to please rate my podcast on iTunes when I launched it. Last time I checked, there are six ratings, two reviews out of some dozens messages I sent out.

Fuck, I’m a hypocrite.

Because I should just focus on my next Tuesday’s shipping deadline like I’ve promised myself:

One episode at a time. And no more.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Packed

These possibilities are scary, but also exhilarating.  The bottom line is: Can I learn? Can I grow? Can I change?

Not my stuff back to China, I wish.

But today’s schedule.

  • I have a podcast interview with a new friend from the Podcast Fellowship at 10:45;
  • A lunch meeting at 12:30 about a potential short film collaboration;
  • Then a dinner meeting at 7.

So that’s what it can look like when people are “between assignments,” they can schedule their day on their own terms.

But why doesn’t everyone do it?

  • Money? That’s fear.
  • Ego? That’s fear.
  • Rejection? That’s fear.
  • Failure? That’s fear.
  • Risk? That’s fear.
  • Busyness? That’s still fear.
  • Boredom? That’s fear through and through.

 

I will come up with a list of people whom I know back in China and elsewhere that are established entrepreneurs and see how they’ve done it.

As for a potential job in China’s film and entertainment industry, I haven’t ruled that one out yet. If I just want to be an entrepreneur for the sake of it, that would be the wrong reason to start.

These possibilities are scary, but also exhilarating.

The bottom line is: Can I learn? Can I grow? Can I evolve? Can I change things?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Phoenix

Maybe the only way to prove I’m a Phoenix is to be one. And Phoenix the bird, or the city, would both agree with me on this one: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Not the city in Arizona. But the long-lived bird that obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.

But how do we know we can rebirth? What if nothing comes after the ashes? What if we’re just the mere mortals as reflected in the mirror?

To succeed as an artist, I thought getting the work visa is the one and only way. I was blindsided by my otherwise strength, my laser beam focus.  I cast myself off to the island of desolation when I was convinced that it was where I could find freedom, a free pass for life.

Since yesterday, I started to disassociate myself from the place that I’ve been staying for the last three years of my 20s.  I gazed at the books,  the clothes, the craps I’ve hoarded, and pictured them neatly lied in the dark beige moving boxes, ready to be shipped to China.

What had been so hard to accept is now something I’m aching for. I’m thrilled to see my parents on a daily basis, to be stuffed by dad’s Michelin-standard cooking, to have my mum’s nagging as my soundtrack, and what’s more charming than to be awakened by kitty Michael’s morning meow?

I would see my best friends in Shanghai again, and more regularly.
I wouldn’t need to worry about the ticking bomb, the date to have to exit the country.
I would be able to [Drum rolls, please.] work again, legally!

My root is calling. I have a business idea. I want to test out my entrepreneurship. I want to be my own boss and call my own shots.

Friend asked, “Does that mean you’re a sell-out now?”

Here is the thing, before I’m a writer, I was a hustler. It’s still in me. It’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

Maybe the only way to prove I’m a Phoenix is to be one. And Phoenix the bird, or the city, would both agree with me on this one: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

To quote the mantra from author Reema Zaman which she revealed in the Dear Sugars podcast:

I’m the author of my life.

 

Yours truly,
YZ