5 tips that helped me grow this year.

Taking a step back and reflecting

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and whole-heartedly reflect on life. So to start, I want to say that I’ve learned a lot these past few months — about myself and different perspectives. Here they are:

1. Treat everyone as if they were the smartest person you’ve ever met.

My friend mentioned that to me (probably when we were eating instant noodles at 4 am in the morning) and it really got me thinking. If we took away our macho egos and view everyone as our teachers, we will not only instil positive vibes into people but also open ourselves up to more opportunities to learn! You know that saying about “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Yeah, that one. It’s extremely touché but absolutely true. If we approach everyone like a book regardless of whether it has a flashy cover or not — the less we put the book down and the more we take the time to flip through it, it is indefinite we will learn. No one person is the “best” at everything. The guy that you may pass by without taking a second look could be very well the best yo-yo player in the world but we will never know. Respect comes a long way and by doing so, opportunities will follow and doors will open which brings me to lesson two.

2. Start a conversation with everyone.

Yeah, even strangers. Forget what your mom said (unless you are not an adult and/or in a reasonably safe location/situation). One of the best and funniest lessons I’ve learned these past few months is that there is no harm in striking up a conversation with a total stranger. Growing up in my family’s little corner store, I was always extremely talkative. I would often talk to customers for hours on end. It’ll start with them asking about which rice cooker to buy then somehow transition to them telling me that they are a WWII veteran who became a zookeeper for a liger (breed between a tiger and a lion — true story). Whether it is because I’m a bit more self-cautious now (starting random convos are a little weird) or that I’ve grown to be greedier with time, the desire to say hi to a stranger has gradually decreased. It can even be that as people get older, we become overwhelmed with how big this world actually is and how small we as humans are. Sorry for going a little off the road.

Let me share some funny examples with you! Group of my friends and I were doing an apartment tour at One Columbia (needed to find a place to stay for the 2016 academic term) and spent almost an hour negotiating the price with their management. In the end, the price didn’t budge so we decided to leave our name and number and walked out. Their offices were on the rooftop of the building (pretty nice views eh) so when we came out of the office, we had to take the elevator down. When we got into the elevator, a middle-aged man walked in as well. During the one minute ride down in the elevator, we continued to discuss the apartment arrangements and concluded the price was way out of our budget. I noticed the mankind of listening in on our conversation and he looked like he was somewhat of a staff member there so I asked for his input. He gave me a few suggestions on which style suite was for which and 30 mins later, he disclosed that he was the boss and gave us an incredible deal. If you’re reading this boss man, thanks, Mr Schembri.

So yeah that was pretty cool.

3. Friends with Benefits is a good thing.

I believe everyone should (need to) have friends with benefits. Hold up homie, what? Well not the FWB many people know but similar. I’ve learned that in order to be a better self, one must surround themselves with better selves. Essentially, your friends are an extension of you and vice versa. Your bros in college or your homies from back home are all products of FWB. Ever heard of the saying “you’re the average of your top 6 friends?” In a broad perspective, that is true. That doesn’t take away the fact that you are unique but you are just as unique as anyone else. But let’s get back to the “Friends with Benefits” theory.

So what is benefits? Benefits are simply the respect and admiration you have for your friends. Each individual by your side should always be someone whom you inspire to be — someone who will make you a better you. This is not to say that you must find the “perfect” friends but to find inspirational ones. Variety is definitely a must or it’ll be boring. Having a “NO” bro is one of the most valuable friends out there. Gives you a different perspective on things and opens doors to new possibilities. Homies (I like that word ) are like mentors. Having great friends is equivalent to having great mentors.

At this stage in life, I’m pretty happy to have met the people I’ve met. I’ve spent a good 2 years in university already and have gotten the chance to meet the brightest, funniest, and most determined minds. My friends have mentored me, challenged me, and inspired me to be the absolute best that I can be. I can only hope that one day I can do the same. I’m at a stage in life where there are many uncertainties and have found myself lost in the dark countless times but that’s why you have good quality friends. Friend’s who will pick you up when you’ve fallen on your back, shine a light when the power goes out, and build a door when you feel backed up to the fall. I believe your friends will always be there when you pop champagne but it is your homies who will be in the front lines when your bottle is empty.

Friends with benefits are people who are motivated, inspirational, and loyal individuals and will push you to work harder, dream bigger, and live life happier. When you find them, you’ll know it’s them — homies4life.

4. Don’t be afraid of failing.

I think the real “F” word that society has really learned to despise and try every attempt to avoid is the verb “Failing.” Modern society has embedded the idea that hard work simply leads to success — just like 1+1=2 but that’s simply not the case. Life is full of surprises and setbacks; with risks becoming bigger and repercussions growing more serious as we get older. When one shows defeat or encounters failure, it’s the notion that something is wrong with you — that you are somehow in some way at fault. Actually, scratch that. It’s not failure we fear but the perception of society; friends, family, the public that we are afraid of disappointing and experience judgement. Can we escape it? No. But we can definitely change how we perceive it. Rather than taking it as an ultimate guideline or standard, we can see it as a goal to surpass. Make sense? I hope so.

So how about me? I’m not really sure. The judgement of others is and will forever be present but it’s our choice to acknowledge it. I’m still trying to figure that out. I feel like many times, we find ourselves mistaken our own goals for other people’s and run races that we were not met to compete in and it wears you out. In whatever I am doing, I hope one day I can look back and be proud of. Not proud of something because I’ve chased someone else’s dream but because I’ve taken my own route and finished my own race. Either way, I find this is the toughest lesson to learn and definitely haven’t mastered.

5. Thank your fans.

We are at an age where our number one priority is chasing our dreams. We tend to run too fast forward and forget about our friends and family cheering on the sidelines. So my tip to you is — don’t forget. Don’t forget to look back to the bleachers and wave a simple hi — acknowledge your supporters and let them know you are alright.

Being in university — especially a post-secondary is known for intelligent and prosperous people, it isn’t tough to find smart and multi-talented people but being matched with that special best friend(s) is something we take too much for granted. To be able to meet them, get along, and remain with you even after they find out your gross habits and your weird 3 AM diets (and even join you) is really tough. I don’t think I’ll be at where I am if it wasn’t for some of my homies — yes I said homies again. It’s your homies who will cry with you when you lose hope and it’s them who will give you the extra push to surpass what you could have only dreamt of. It’s your homies who will not judge you when you fail and will even take a few steps back to pick you back up. I never thought I would meet a ride-or-die homie but I can definitely say, I’ve found my best friend(s) and together, we will change the world (in a good way!).

So how about family? Your family is your foundation. They’ve been pretty essential to bring you to where you are today. Don’t miss their calls or shove them off. I grew up basically in my family store. We sold everything from candy bars to flat-screen TVs. My dad was the typical Asian hustler — from owning coffee shops to running his own community club, he did it all aha. He basically would get his hands on everything and try to do everything — and I learned from him. My mom had a job as a factory worker at a suit company and came back to help at the family business right after her shift. My sister and I would open the store up with our dad in the morning then come back at night to help so he could rest. It was definitely tough back then because we were pretty young but we hustled. That was life since I was born. Fast forward a few years, the shop is now closed. I graduated high school top of my class. My dad couldn’t see it because he passed away during my senior year. It was hard but we pushed. A few months after, I headed out to one of the best engineering universities in the world. All happened extremely fast. My mom and sister are the strongest women/people I know. They have sacrificed so much and worked so hard to be able to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We can’t forget that. Your parents are superheroes but not superhumans. They will eventually face sickness. It is inevitable that they will grow old and time will take its toll. Don’t let those moments slide. Your family will drive miles to see you and push mountains to make your path to success as straight as it can possibly be so a call to say “hi” is really not asking too much. We all find ourselves too focused on finishing the race that we forget who supported us to do it the first place. It happens but it’s never too late to change it.

Hope this top 5 list is somewhat helpful. Now go do something with it.