Goal Driven vs Discovery Driven Life

From time to time, I reflect what I am doing and can find a strong tendency of living a “discovery driven life” in myself.

Sometimes, after doing a lot of things very excitingly, I found out I didn’t have a goal at the very beginning. I tend to discover the dots first, and then find ways to connect these dots together afterward, instead of having a prediction, a projected line, and drive things along that line and reach the goal. In MBTI analysis, it is a typical difference of P type of people and J type of people. Me as an ENFP tends to do things like that.

The reason I love the MBTI theory is, it helps people to understand the motivation of themselves, and the style of doing things, and how to intentionally develop the other side of the personality to be a better person.

For me, as an example, to develop the goal setting, and to focus on that goal for a given time period is something I need to train myself.

Shanghai for Disabled

I am a part-time disabled person now. I use crutches whenever I go. Let me report my two weeks of experience as a disabled in Shanghai.

Wheel Chair? No. Thanks

I did get a 300 RMB nice wheel chair but I only used it outside my home for once. It turned out that Shanghai is not a good place to use wheel chair. There are slops at the pedestrian at cross road, but it seems no one ever tested it. The gap (about half cm) is just too big for a wheelchair to pass. Wendy pushes the wheelchair to get me up to the pedestrian, but got stuck there. If she pushes harder, I will fall out from the front since it is stuck anyway. The only solution is for me to leave the wheelchair, jump aside, helped me to pull the wheelchair up, and get to the pedestrian, and then sit down. After several places like this, I gave up wheelchair.


There are many places with lots of stairs, especially in restaurants. Once when I was shown of 20+ straight stairs to the second floor, my jaw dropped – just like the Panda in Kungfu Panda saw the stairs to the temple. I said: Thanks but no.

Crossing the Street

Crossing the street is so exciting! With cars horn and other people running as fast as rabbit, you quickly found out you are the only person left on the pedestrian, and the green light is almost over. The cars are like the race cars at the starting point – the engine is ready, and just wait for a green light! Well. I admit that I feel this type of tension only in Hollywood movie. Poor Jian Shuo!

Few Disabled on the Street!

I know the real reason why there are very few disabled in public space in Shanghai (and in China). The city is not designed for disabled (at least not for people losing a leg, no to mention people who cannot see). The only disabled people you see are very likely to be beggar – although some uses a crutch just to pretend to be disabled.

Yifan and Cars

Yifan is a big fan of cars. He loves all kinds of cars – the real car running on the streets, his toy cars (he has a lot) or cars on TV, magazines. He especially loves red car. He knows the cars by brand and can tell you the brand all the time. His favorite so far is Audi, followed by Mazda.

He loves everything related to car. He washes his car all the time, and leaving the table a mass with water.

He loves parking garage, and he especially loves the pole at the entrance of parking lots. He loves to treat our legs as parking lot, and repeat the following conversation 20 times a day:

Yifan: Parking pole!

Dad: You need to pay.

Yifan: seeking out to his pocket and put “air” into your hand Here you are.

Dad: How much is it?

Yifan: 100 Yuan.

Dad: Not enough.

Yifan: Price rise?

Dad: Yes.

Yifan: Too expensive.

Dad: No pay, no entrance.

Yifan: putting another piece of air into the hand This is 100 yuan.

Dad: OK. You can go.

Yifan: Hahaha. The car is coming in!

Then he drives his car around the table and get stopped by the Parking Pole again. “Parking Pole!” the whole story happens again.

Sometimes when I ask for more than 200 yuan, he would turn to his mom to lend some money.

Yifan now is just like a small boy now, and can have meaningful conversation for a long time. He is happier than before since he found we started to understand what he wants, because he can say that!

Cute boy.

IBM vs Dell Laptop

When we read about books about several years of transition of competition, we take it for granted that some brands can quickly take over the other brand, but in reality, since that happens slowly, we are also slow to recognize the shift. IBM laptop vs Dell laptop is an example.

Previous Perception of Quality and Service

I always consider Dell as the brand of “bad quality + good service”. The image was there since I started to use Dell desktop and laptop in 1998 in Microsoft. Dell’s computer parts break easily, but they offer second day on site service, and they are happy to exchange any part in their service period. I especially love their “service tag” design.

On the contrary, IBM’s ThinkPad series is of so good quality. I switched to IBM many years after I used Dell, and started to understand why so many people insist in buying IBM ThinkPad over Dell, even when it is much more expensive. It just gives people the feeling of safety – never breaks, and works as solid as stone. However, IBM’s service is so bad – I never saw an IBM service people, but I even know some Dell guy by name and face.

What about Now?

Today, the IBM ThinkPad quality goes down dramatically. I feel it is even worse than Dell. Meanwhile, Dell’s E-series gets better and better reputation. I heard about many good things about it (just as I heard about good things about Windows 7).

Now the competition becomes:

ThinkPad = Bad Quality + Bad Service

Dell = Good Quality + Good Service

Dell is also relatively cheaper than ThinkPad.

I won’t hesitate to bet on the result.

IBM vs Lenovo?

To correct what I wrote, ThinkPad is no longer IBM ThinkPad. It is Lenovo ThinkPad.

Always Not Good Enough

Or the topic can be “Always Stay Humble”.

The best time I feel focused, and archived is when I was in middle school. Let me share the story that I have never shared in the last 17 years with you today. That was triggered by another great book I read many times Good to Great.

The Middle School

The best school I entered in my life is my middle school – much better experience than the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The middle school has as long history as my university – the Luoyang No 1 Middle School.

That school is the best school in the city. Why? Because they way their students are chosen is very simple: at the middle school entrance exam, the top 352 students across the whole city (with 6 million population) are admitted into the school, and other schools choose the rest. It is a simple order by score from highest to lower.

I didn’t perform well in the middle school entrance exam (Seems an excuse. The result may have reflected where I were), and I was around the #352-360 range – one point lower than the entrance line. I should have not been able to enter that school, but they finally offered 10 more students in addition to their original plan. That is how I ended up appearing on that campus.

“Everyone else is Better than Me”

Imagine what it is like to clearly know that you are not as talented as everyone in this school! It is not you force yourself to believe so, it is that you firmly believed it from bottom of your heart! “Everyone is so talented, and much better than me!” This was my belief.

With that belief, life is actually much easier for me. Since you are at the rear of the line, the only possible thing to happen to you is to become better. I played hard and studied hard. Although sometimes my classmates asked me silly questions about homework, I just feel that everyone has some weak points, and I may have more.

The good (or bad) thing for a Chinese middle school is, they have mid-term exam, and the result of everyone’s score is public data – just like a NASDAQ system. The first mid-term exam came. It turned out I ranked 27th in the school (6 in my class? I forget. There are 8 classes in my grade).

Very exciting. It is the first night in my life I couldn’t fall asleep.

The Second Acceleration

I was stuck in the rank 15th – 30th range for grade one and two. When the Final Exam (College Entrance Exam) got nearer (one year away), I felt another round of acceleration. It was based on another belief that I didn’t really need to care how good the people around me were; I only needed to care what I can archive. In today’s view, it is called “a bigger goal than getting into top 15 of the school”. That, fortunately, worked very well for me.

In the last three simulation exam, I got better and better in position. Finally, I believed I took 4th place of the whole city. The guy before me was the #1 in the half million students in that exam in Henan Province that year. To make me look a little bit closer, I took the first place in one single course in the province. (Just FYI, Wendy did extremely well in the mathematics in the same exam, scoring 147 out of 150).

Lesson Learnt

There is no positive co-relation between middle school score in exams and further achievement. But what I learnt from that particular experienced helped me in the future, especially when I fell too good about myself.

To genuinely believe everyone around you is better than you, and to always feel that you are far from what you want to archive, made a huge positive difference in my middle school age.

Steve Jobs said “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” to Stanford students. He said it in a humble way. Humbleness ignites hard work, and unlimited power.

So always stay humble, and you are always not good enough.

Whole Society is the Biggest Network Effect

I chatted with Doug on this the other day about the difference between people in China and US. I have written on this topic in many articles:

Why People don’t Use Voice Mail in China

Do You Have a Calendar?

Why Classified is NOT Popular in China, Yet

The Slow Move

You will find that people in US seem to move slower than people in China in all of the cases, just because most of the things are new to Chinese, and people in China can directly by pass voice mail and get to mobile era, by pass calendar and directly do real time planning (via IM and mobile), and no possibility for newspaper based classified in China forever.

The problem then will be, why it is slower to move in a more established market like in US?

My answer is about network effect.

In eBay’s case, in the cases of many SNS site, and in the case of telephone company, we are using the term “network effect” to describe the fact that by adding another point in the network, the whole network get more useful than before the addition.

In the voice mail case, since most of the people are already using voice mail, it is so hard for people to change the behavior to switch to mobile over night, since the voice mail network is so big and so useful to abandon. Think about fax machine! What is the point to print out a document and fax it and throw the paper away? The reason is, so many people are still using it and making the fax technology – the fax protocol still attractive.

When to do the Shift?

When the network effect there, change in a few of the users won’t impact the network. 10% of people don’t use fax machine actually does not take big impact to the whole network.

BUT, one thing can change it. That is some big social movement that changes everyone’s behavior at the same time. Let me give two examples.

1. The earthquake in Taiwan in 2007 that cut the cable between US and China. The week of pause of any service from US actually changed the nature of many Internet business in China – just because people (100%) are switch at the SAME time.

2. Another example is SARS. Since everyone choose to stay at home during May holiday in 2003 at the SAME time, online shopping site Taobao got its best push since a big social event like SARS not only changed the behavior of part of the network, it almost changed everyone, so changed the whole network effect.

The Biggest Network

In that sense, the whole society can be treated as the biggest network effect business. A shift is very slow, and takes long time to happen. The only way to change it is big social events like cut-off of Internet for several days (like the earthquake), or SARS. The recent Sichuan Earthquake, and H1N1 Flu are very likely those pushy event, but we don’t know the impact yet.

Craziness of Real Estate Market

Well. It’s me again, to complain about the craziness of the real estate market in Shanghai. I have talked about it many times in my previous post about real estate.

Let’s talk abut the recent round of rise of real estate market.

There is a new residential area called Xing He Wan 星河湾 near where I live – in Pudong, at Jinxiu Road and Long Yang road – within walking distance. They just opened to the market at 50,000 RMB/sq. meter. The market responded like crazy, and all the apartments were sold out in the first 3 days. That means 10 million to 20 million RMB (or 1.5 million to 3 million USD) per apartment there.

The rise of price in high end real estate showed, in my opinion, the expectation for inflation of RMB. Not only in Pudong, high end houses in Pudong get 50% raise in many places. 80,000 RMB/sq meter is the new high end house record, like the Kerry Garden near Huashan Rd, and Jiangsu Rd.

The other reason for the strong growth in housing market these days is about the lose of control of bank mortgage. It has never been easier to get loan from bank in the recent months.

Meanwhile, the real estate market for business seems to enter winter. The interesting contrast of summer in high-end house, and winter of office buildings are telling a solid story for me: it is a bad sign for the economy.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not an expert in real estate. Don’t count on someone who never really looked into it to tell you any insights about this market. The only advantage I get is, I actually live in this city, and can hear some gossip, and news about the market.

Just FYI. I never opened a stock exchange market in the crazy Chinese stock market in the last few years. So you know how lazy/stupid/insensitive I am to the money market. Hope this additional disclaimer helps if you still think you should believe in what I tell you. — the other stronger way to say: I am not responsible for any investment made because of this article.

Talked with Friend about Money

Spent the morning, noon, and part of the afternoon with Wendy and my good friend. We talked a lot in a corner of Starbucks, and then moved to a quiet restaurant at Zhongshan Park area. Here are some of the points mentioned.

About Wealth. He is in the stage that wealth is not a problem. People don’t need to have too much money to sustain a good life. 1 million RMB per year maybe the top range for any moderate successful people to spend – excluding people who put an equal sign between money spent and their value to this world. I would tend to agree.

On practice in stock market and real estate market. He treated everything as a mathematic model. Money is just a side effect. On the market, everything he does is to practice self-discipline – it needs a lot of courage and discipline to say no to many attractive, but not disciplined opportunities. By saying no many times, the self-discipline gets better and better.

Many other good stuff. Nice time. As Bob mentioned in his twitter, it is not time together, it is “qualified time” together.

PS. It is a good principle to always consult someone with experience. Everyone’s life and experience are limited. Talking is a way to connect your brain with others’ and to get experience they had. To build a network of great people to consult is great wealth.

Reading Books – Built to Last

I don’t remember this is how many times that I read the book Built to Last. The first time I read it was still in the old Microsoft days. The last time I read it was among the time I was in deep passion for Fengshui, and these days, Xiaoliang falls in love with this book, thus I read this book again.

Interestingly. The book itself didn’t change, but the inspiration you got from it changed a lot. For a lot of things, if you are not in the position to think about it, you don’t understand it at all.

My learning is: for good book, read it again and again is better than reading many so-so book. (Well, keep reading is just to find out great books out of so-so books).

Full Content on Home Page of my Blog?

I am thinking about putting the full content of the last 20 articles onto the homepage of my blog, just as most of blogs. The goal is to help people to glance at what is the recent articles on this blog without clicking into each article. Is it a good idea? I know for many, it does not matter since they read through RSS. I have full content delivered via RSS anyway.