What I just won’t buy anymore

I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, "You could be like her! Why don't you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!" I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and "How I Work With You" page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a "toolkit" for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself. In her "About" page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about "having been there". Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life. Continue reading "What I just won’t buy anymore"

Announcing…Bad Asian Daughter!

Last week I started a brand new blog called Bad Asian Daughter: http://badasiandaughter.com. I came up with the idea and bought the url months ago, and even had a first attempt over at wordpress with http://badasiandaughter.wordpress.com. This time, I knew what the message was going to be, and tumblr.com provides the best format for creating short, frequent posts in a variety of media - video, quotes, text, and my favorite, chats (sharing conversations in a screenplay-like format). My intention is to create an inspiring, healing community for Asian American women who have tried their whole lives to be "good", done everything they were supposed to do, achieved success in the forms they were told to, and still find something missing in their lives. Together we will discover all of who we are, and unlock the keys to our own unconditional joy, peace, and freedom....B.A.D.ness and all. Continue reading "Announcing…Bad Asian Daughter!"

My Read On What Tiger Mother Amy Chua Learned From Her Tiger Cub — SPOILER ALERT!

Are you wondering what Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", is all about? Me too...so I actually read it. SPOILER ALERT: I actually talk about parts of the book that are NOT MENTIONED in any of the myriad "book reviews" published in major news outlets, such as the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and others. And this video is more than five minutes long. But since so few reviewers have actually demonstrated that they have read the whole book rather than a conveniently spliced excerpt, I felt compelled to record these impressions. This is MY read on the story.

Confessions of a Closet Musician

I still feel jealous whenever I see a musician performing onstage. I know, I call myself a “life coach” so I should be more evolved than that. But I’m not. I do know, however, that noticing my feeling of jealousy is a juicy nugget of treasure to show me the thoughts that are keeping me imprisoned. So I start to do the work. Even now, that I am actually living a life of sharing my music in the world, there is an old, fear-driven part of my brain, which hasn’t quite let go of its hold over my essential self, that is yelling in my ear, "You'll never make it in this world as a musician! It's just too hard to make a living! You'll never be respected! You'll have to work too hard! It'll never be worth it!" Ever notice that the people who say these things are the ones whose lives have actually proven these beliefs to be true? I haven’t found a successful performing artist who has said, “Forget it. It’s too hard. For all the effort I put in, it’s not worth it.” (On the other hand, for some reason, I've met plenty of doctors who've said this to me.) The reality – the truth - is there are many examples of people whose lives prove these beliefs NOT to be true. What's the difference between these two groups of people? Is it talent? Is it luck? Is it genetics? Is it a mystery? Continue reading "Confessions of a Closet Musician"

Advice Versus Coaching

Have you ever sought someone's advice, and then realized halfway into the conversation that you really didn't want them to tell you what to do? Or have you ever followed someone's advice, which never quite felt right to you, but they were in a position of authority or had done it themselves before, and you didn't know how to get out of it? Have you ever wished you had more trust in yourself, and didn't need to rely so much on advice from other people? It's been ten years now since I've set foot in a traditional academic institution. Yesterday I stood inside the walls of a venerable one right here in my own backyard. And it struck me that there is A LOT of "advising" going on at the formative stages of a lot of smart people's lives. A lot of people who are very curious, very bright, very capable, and very imaginative. But who just don't know. So they ask. They seek advice. And what do they get? Continue reading "Advice Versus Coaching"

How To Be Exactly Where You Are

I love blog posts that start with "How To...". They are always so promising, and hold the anticipation of a wrapped present under the Christmas tree, or a package arriving on your doorstep after your recent online purchase. "Oh I can't wait to open this! And finally SEE what's inside!" And, just like Christmas, just like opening that package that you ordered online, there's that moment of not knowing, the moment of unveiling, the moment where your expectation rises to greet the present moment unfolding. When it's unveiled, we deal with the match between our heart's desire - the image of what we hoped to see in that opening - and the reality right before our eyes. Is it everything you imagined? Is it "perfect" (meaning, does it match your idea of what you wanted)? Or is it a letdown? An unfulfilled promise? A shattered dream? Continue reading "How To Be Exactly Where You Are"

Essential Self Extravaganza

As 2010 came to a close, I realized that over the past year, I have had the opportunity to become part of three brand new communities (without even changing my physical address). As I embarked on life coach training, certification in music and sound healing, and improvisation as a violinist in the local “open mic” scene, I was welcomed into three totally new worlds for me. As I crisscrossed the Bay Area and the internet interacting with these distinct groups, it occurred to me that no single place brought together people with such wide-ranging interests. What fun it would be if someone could create a space and purpose for gathering that would allow the expression and sharing of all these creative souls! I realized that I could be that person! I was inspired to create the Essential Self Extravaganza. The name refers to a central concept of Martha Beck's life coaching approach, which guides us to find and follow the voice of our essential self, versus the social self we so readily construct as an identity to show the world and "fit in" with the rules of our families, religions, cultures, professional group, or demographic. I had had enough of the typical "holiday party", where the focus is on the display of our social selves. The typical conversations starting with the question, "So, what do you do?" or "Where are you from?" were familiar to me, yet no longer of interest. Instead of complaining or lamenting about these kinds of parties, I decided (in the empowerment I am growing into) to host my own gathering - the kind of party I would want to attend myself. Continue reading "Essential Self Extravaganza"

Wake-Up Call From Jay-Z And A Chinese Mother: You Have The Choice To Be Victim Or Master Of Your Life

I happened to be awake and watching television last night when the hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z appeared on the new Oprah Winfrey Network show, "Master Class." He was speaking about everything he had learned so far in his life. His childhood roots of living in urban housing projects, and having a father who abandoned the family when Jay-Z was 11 years old, were completely foreign to me, as a child of married, Chinese immigrant, PhD-educated parents in the upper middle-class suburbs of the Midwest. He told the story of a typical day, being on the playground with friends, and having to run and take cover whenever gang members would drive by, shooting automatic weapons at random. After fifteen minutes or so, he and his friends would re-emerge and start playing again. As I held my breath and imagined a story of how "horrible" it must have been to grow up under such dangerous and uncertain conditions, I heard Jay-Z say this: "It was truly a remarkable upbringing." Continue reading "Wake-Up Call From Jay-Z And A Chinese Mother: You Have The Choice To Be Victim Or Master Of Your Life"

How does it FEEL to celebrate?

I've never really been good at celebrating my birthday. There are a few birthdays in my life that I remember - one was my 6th birthday when I had a party at my house with my favorite girls from second grade, complete with musical chairs, Bozo buckets, a violin serenade by my brother, and hand-selected party favors for each guest. Another was my sophomore year in college, when my roommate totally surprised me by inviting over half a dozen or so of my best friends, who arrived with cake, balloons, and songs to sing. Yet another was in my twenties, when my brother procured tickets to see Itzhak Perlman and the Minnesota Orchestra, and my parents came into town to join us. But when it has come to my really knowing how to celebrate myself, and knowing what I really have wanted to do on my birthday, I've mostly come up blank. Now I know that it's because I have been more focused on what it LOOKS like to celebrate than how it FEELS to celebrate.

What Celebrating Looks Like

In our image-obsessed culture, we can easily be led to believe that what we SHOW about our lives - how we make things appear - is actually more important than how we FEEL about our selves as we live our lives. Even the lyrics to popular songs teach young girls what it means to "party in the USA" - "Welcome to the land of fame, excess, whoa am I gonna fit in?". Because feelings are often difficult to express in words, or not accurately captured by images, or perhaps don't match up with the social pressure to perform and please, I have (perhaps like you) defaulted to suppressing the feelings, not bothering to connect with them, and making choices based on what will make me LOOK like I'm doing fine. I did this without being conscious of it. It happened slowly, in small steps, over time, like any changes do. Continue reading "How does it FEEL to celebrate?"

Diagnosis: Human

One of the best pieces of feedback I received from a student in my recent online course was that she felt safe and open to learn from me because I am also a work-in-progress, like her. So much of our unhappiness, self-doubt, and fear come from the concept that we "need to know". I am beginning to see that my violin school was built upon the false concept that I needed to know how to fix everyone's problems. I can also see how the path of medical training and the system of health care delivery reinforces ideas that doctors "should know" what to do in every situation. I spent my whole life as the "A student", the "winner", the "leader", the one who was supposed to "know more". We're conditioned to "look up" to people like this, to aspire to be in their position someday. But the truth is that we all share one diagnosis - being human. Continue reading "Diagnosis: Human"