Wrapping up YLF Xi’an Trip

I am wrapping up this year’s YLF trip on the flight from Xi’an to Shanghai. I said farewell to my dearest friends today, after singing the song of all kinds on friendship last night. From time to time, I assert the necessity of the trip most of the time when I wrap it up. Obviously, these three days are very worth the time.

Cross Industry Knowledges

Photo by Ron Xu

I am a strong believer of vision and inspiration. To be able to be visionary, you have to consistently look beyond what is already in your landscape by listening to people who are out of your knowledge. This cross-country, and cross-industry in-depth event helps me to understand more about something I completely have no idea.

My friends are so kind of guide me to their world, and help me to understand. The key of this mentorship is, they are not just someone who is from that field, they are actually one of the best in their field.

I just cannot miss the chance

  • to learn how to conduct an orchestra from the director of Lincoln Center in New York, or

  • to learn how space shuttle works from an astronaut who are back from the space, or
  • to learn architect from the famous architect of many landmark buildings in New York, or
  • how military works from someone who is controlling the air force of US army in Iraq (How Matt twists the plane to escape from missiles was so funny), or

  • what the north korea things are all about from the person who lead the negotiation from White HouseĀ… or
  • Ballet – yes, Ballet, from the top ballet dancer Jeremy!

The list goes on and on and on. More interestingly, most of the talks happened not in the conference room. They were the side conversation when we were bored on a bus, or walked in the dark night under the splendid stars, or at the mountains in the middle of nowhere. That experience was so unique, and precious.

Share and Learn the Personal Experience

Photo by Ron Xu

Beside the cross industry learning, the more meaningful thing is sharing of personal experiences. People were selected into the program from 10 years ago when they were under 40. Now, they have been mature enough to experience the key moments in life – ups and downs, and how they handle the criss also gave me great power. (Obviously I will keep strictly confidential about that part, which is so private to each of us). Things like religions, Buddha stories, how to mediate, and to things of how to schedule trips, or just some piece in the history, are talked. Big or small, they were so helpful. I believe there must be a reason for this group of people to archive what they have archived. To learn from that is also a meaningful experience.


Photo by Ron Xu

Last but not least (actually it is the most), it is the personal connection – the friendship. I am committed to do whatever I can do to help my YLF friends I know because of the many things I received. Just like Paul repeatedly gave behind-the-scene tours to YLFers to White House, Mark helped the Chenggang to bring the wedding ring to the space and back (of cause), Kebo were kind enough to sponsor group activities including flight tickets, people have the natural tie, just like a family. This friendship fostered deep engagement after the conference ends. We have people marry each other (Mark and Gaby), investment in each other, work for each other. Just like Steven Jobs mentioned in the Stanford commencement, a forum of 24 people started 10 years ago is just one dot, and the dots got connected in the future. Looking forward, you cannot understand how the dots were connected. It is obvious only when looking backward.

At the end, I felt I made a wonderful choice to come here. There is no short term return on events like this, but it has so long time impact to my life. We really need to set apart time to work on some long term things, and we should be generous enough to invest in ourselves to be a more capable, more connected people.

End of my Travel Season

There are time in a year that we travels a lot. I visited Europe, and then US, and Xi’an. It is too much of travel, and I have a lot of things to do. So, after the YLF trip of today, I officially claim the end of my travel season this year. I will avoid future travel by the end of this years, unless it is absolutely necessary. You will be able to find me in Shanghai.

Songs are One of the Culture Gaps

This year’s YLF ended tonight, with a mad karaok until mid-night of both the Chinese and American participants. It was so fun to sing a Chinese song and an American song alternatively. This is the second time YLF went to sing together in my memory.

Music is Universal, Dance is, but Popular Songs are Not

This is my observation of this interesting event. The music is universal. When the music started, no matter it was Chinese or English song, people just started to get excited and swung, and danced with it. That is the mutual bounding between the people. We never feel we share the same humanity as much as when we are dancing with the same music.

However, there IS some major difference about the song itself. When the songs like 铁血丹心 of 射雕英雄传 was played, it suddenly became an express time traveling train to take me back to the 1980s when we were in middle school and all the memories of the middle school came out, with some details like the faces of my schoolmates. I believe the American must feel the same when the 1970′s or 1980′s American song were played.

Songs are not just songs for us. They are memories, and they are the real time capsule that preserve the feelings of our early time. Playing a song of 20 years ago is just to open the time capsule and release the old memories. People of similar age will share that feeling.

Unfortunately, that feeling is not easily shared by Chinese and American. I have no idea about many songs American picked. Well. There are some common songs, like Michael Jackson’s, however, I don’t know even the same song brings the same cultural feeling for people cross the ocean.

Photo Taken by Ron Xu. Note: Please let me know if anyone feel I should remove this photo

Songs at Childhood Makes the Gap between First Generation Immigrant Parents and their Children

I discussed with Sam Wang several years ago about the challenges first generation immigrants face about their children. The key gap between the parents and the native born kids are, the kids grew up with completely different set of songs from the parents. That difference will break the culture binding between the parents and the kids. Typical examples are Chinese first generation immigrants to US, and their kids. There are other examples, as far as I know, are the Indian expats in Shanghai, with their kids. The kids sing all the songs their Chinese classmates are singing, and ops…. a gap between the two generations.

Mixing World

We don’t need to have a solution for this. It is not a problem. It is exactly the diversity of world. We should keep it. By having more events like people from different culture to dance and sing together, we are providing a very good exchange among the cultures.

P.S. Todd shared about his experience of meditation, and Paul shared the tool of staring at one thing quietly on the bus. That was very helpful.

P.S. 2. If you are in Shanghai, you can turn to CBN (Chinese Business Network) 第一财经 on Sunday night at 9:00 PM to watch this episode of BossTown. At the theme of “Solute to Steve Jobs”, I am one of the observers to talk about the topic with Kaifu.

Reflection of My 5 Years of YLF

This is the summary of what I talked during this year’s YLF about my personal experience of the program

The theme of this year’s YLF is YLF Time Capsule – what I am going to put into the time capsule to be opened in the future to help understand the present. I actually will put something that I took out of the time capsule I started about 5 years ago. It is a list of articles I wrote about YLF. You know, I am a blogger. I write daily, in the last 10 years. I have about 70 entries mentioning YLF out of the 3000 entries, which means YLF is at least 5% of my life. The actual impact is even higher than that. I am lucky to be able to read the articles and understand how it got started, and how the magic happened.

The Start

I know exactly that it was 11:30 am on June 29, 2006, that I met Jan the first time with the introduction of Haisong. It was the Public Intellectual Program of the NCUSCR. I love the program and enjoyed talking with people from the National Committee. I had already heard about great things about YLF and asked Jan if I can be a YLF. She asked “How old are you?”. She may thought I was too young for the Young Leader’s Forum. Then on August 30, 2007, I got the invitation to join the YLF.

A Bridge

That year, I wrote a blog about the need of a bridge. Since I was writing a blog in English, I got great amount of questions from my friends in the States about China. I was encouraged by how they are willing to know about China, but also surprised to know how little they know about the country. I realized that we need a bridge, seriously. The logo of the YLF program happens to be a bridge that connect US and China, cross an ocean. What we are doing here in the last 10 years is to build the bridge. We use the unique ways to build the bridge.

Personal Connections

The first way to build the bridge is personal connections. I am a strong believer of personal connections. It cannot be replaced, even by social media. We hear so many news, people, places, and events everyday. I don’t feel strongly for most of them since we don’t care. “Why I should care when a space shuttle launches in Florida?” I started to care so much when the friend I made here, Chris, is on that shuttle. That makes a huge difference so I wake up in late night to watch it. I had no personal connection with architect, until I have great friend Gregg, and I started to pay attention to any architect. That personal connection is so strong, and powerful, and it can help to make the relationship between US and China better.

I would say, John Holden’s initial vision about the program is archived to certain extend. The idea about the program is to build personal connection, so in the future, if things like the bombing of Chinese embassy, or plane collapse happens again, someone in US or China can pick up the phone and dial the counterpart to seek for a solution before the situation get escalated.

Different Perspectives

The second way we build the bridge is by sharing different perspectives from both side. The best story to describe the current US-China relationships I know is the story of the blind men and the elephant. The six blind men approached the elephant and everyone just grasped part of the elephant, and cannot agree with each other. The best way to help them is to get everyone sitting together around a table, and share what he saw in an open and honest way.

In the forum, there are different opinions, and some times, conflict options. In fact, those conflicts are often the highlights of this program. By acknowledging that we are only blind men who are able to see only small part of this world, and just a small slice of time in history, we share and we understand better.

First Hand Experiences

I cannot express how much I appreciate the organizer to arrange the conference in both China and US alternatively, and the great places we visit. No to mention forums held in US, even for the forums held in China, I got completely new perspectives even for China. When I was desperate about how ugly and fast-pace the current China is, the trip to Suzhou during the Nanjing forum, and the trip to Folk Museum, and Shuiluan during this trip let me find the confidence that how beautiful and graceful ancient Chinese were. The trip to Suzhou Museum and this time, to the Jade Valley enforced the hope that there are people building grace and beauty today. With the accompany of my American friends, I actually see China better with their thought-provoking questions.

Time Capsule

I want to put the list of articles I wrote about YLF in the last 5 years into a time capsule and open it in 25 years. I hope at that time, the seed we are planting today via Personal Connections, Sharing Different Perspectives, and First Hand Experiences will have great fruit to help build a better US-China relationship.

Photo by Ron Xu

Jade Valley Winery in Lantian

YLF has unique connections. The second day conference were held in unique places. June connected us with Shui Lu An where she helped to preserve, and Haisong and Phil connected us with Jade Valley Winery, where we held the nice discussion in the afternoon and dinner.

Photo by Ron Xu

Image taken by Ron Xu

Jade Valley Winery

Jade Valley Winery is one of the most unexpected encounters during the last few years for me. In the middle of the mountains of Qin Range, and beside the villages that cannot be more common in the area stood a Stone House, a residence that is built with the modern architect. We also visited the Jade Valley Resort – a well designed and constructed site at the top of a hill, facing the G40 Shanghai – Xi’an Expressway, and a large grape land.

In fact, it was amazing aspiration to start to plant grape in Xi’an – a place traditionally not connected with wine, and some decent architects in the mountains, well, in the middle of no where before its existence. Mr. Sun’s talk about the dream they were pursuing were very moving. He and Professor Ma are not the only people we met with a big dream and do it in a persistent way, even to an extend of behavior art. I understand the idea behind everything they did was to turn a new face for the rural area of China, and allow the humble Chinese farmers to live in a more dignified life.

I’d like to do what I can to support the dream. The Jade Valley wine is good (well, at least to me), and it can be ordered in M on the Bund, the new Peninsula hotel on the Bund and other places. The name is Jade Valley.

I wrote Not be afraid of Grace and Beauty in my first YLF conference:

A Chinese, which is not afraid afraid of grace and beauty

I believe when people in China end the centuries of hunger, and war, we get back to the original track to pursue happiness, grace, beauty, and all kinds of great things, just as our ancestor did in the last few thousands years.

Mr. Ma, Mr. Sun, Ms. Wang and all the team are the hope.

P.S. I am very looking forward to the tomorrow’s session (I missed part of the sessions this morning due to a conference call, and I felt terribly bad about it), and I am looking forward to the next decade of the YLF.

P.S. 2: Topic of my presentation about YLF Time Capsule tomorrow? I am going to talk how YLF build a bridge between US and China via personal connection, sharing different perspectives, and first hand experiences.

YLF in Xi’an

I cannot believe it that it is the tenth anniversary of YLF (Young Leader’s Forum). It is the biggest personal commitment I made during the last five years to take three days out of the 365 days I have (about 1%), and it is also the best rewarding time I got. It is so amazing to spend time with the really talented people from both China and US, and from many sectors (business, architect, lawyer, dancer, education, journalism, military, space program, government officials, artist, publishers – you name it). Although I do hope I can be with the company in my daily work so much (exciting things going on there), I always told me that this is the best long term investment in myself, and even in the family, and the company around me. It is basically about making personal connections and make myself a better person.

YLF this Year

Many old friend came – many of them are 2002 fellow. We started with nice discussion, from which I noted two interesting expression:

Uncomfortable Dependance. It is to describe the relationship between the current US and China. It is one of the hardest, and the most important relationships in current world, and we are here to contribute a little bit to this world.

Strategic Ambiguity – a phrase to describe the current US policy on Taiwan issues.

When everyone is looking back and see how big the impact of this highly influential group impacted their lives, I am also thinking about the topic, and about what is the topic of the presentation i am going to talk about this Saturday.


I missed the most of the part when Mrs. Zhang described the Xi’an Wall protection, but we finally end up riding the whole circle of 13 km atop of the city wall. It was completely recovered. Isn’t interesting to see the circle of building the wall, tearing it down and re-build it again. Maybe after few decades, people have no idea about how stupid we were at the mid of the last century. The wall is just beautiful.

It is the city I took a train alone when I was 13 years old alone, and transit via bus to Tongchuan. That was a wonderful journey. I directly walk from the train station to the bus station. Now, the section of the city wall was rebuilt, and there is no more walking – that is the reason I have a vivid picture of the city without a wall was like.

Arrived at Xi’an

Wow. What a busy day. With two meetings in two places, and many meetings in the office. I even left my laptop in the Peace Hotel (and finally found it), and still have no idea where I left my jacket. When I am at the flight to Xi’an, I was completely tired. I met Haisong, who introduced me to Jan and later to YLF on the plane. We talked a lot, and when we get to the Kempinski in Xi’an, it is already the mid-night. I happily escaped from starving to death by eating a bowl of noodle. When I finally sit down and think about the day – hmmm… It is the first time I travel without watching taking off and landing from the plane window, and the first time I basically didn’t see any scene or observe the architect of the hotel, and the first time not interested in looking out of the window of the hotel. It is the time to sleep.

Blog is Better than Microblog of me

Disclaimer: I am only talking on behalf me, and stating a fact that just works for me. Not anybody else.

More Honest to One’s Self

There is some benefits about not being that public. Weibo or twitter is really good at spreading the message to as many people as possible, but it is too public that you can hardly have time to be quiet and be honest to yourself. Writing a blog, if you are too concerned about the public response, chances are, you are not writing anything that worth recording. We often fell into the trap to believe we are somebody. We try to act everyday to be a “proper” person, but it turned out that no one really cares about you as much as ourselves. Well. One experiment I did for almost years is, to publish my mobile phone number to this popular blog – check the home page and look at right. So far, basically nothing happened. We are way too concerned about privacy, about this and about that. But if we are not honest with ourselves, blog is not a blog. It will be a personal propaganda to the world.

In short, blog is an environment that selected people will take the time to follow your writing, not everyone, and that helps us to write more honestly. Hmmm. Do you think twitter or weibo is better for showing off?

Time for Reflection

The time devoted to blog are deep nights for me most of the time. That is the better time to do a little bit reflection on the day, sometimes on the last few days. The time alone is critical for people’s improvement. Ann has the habit of running 7 kms everyday to have that lonely time to face her heart. For me, the time is more like blogging. Twitter? The time are more likely to be in cars, or waiting for coffees. That just does not work for me.

Blog Works Better

When I am back to the pace of writing blog in my way, I am more confident in keep writing. At the end of the day, I am the most important reader of this blog, not anyone else.

Try to be a Good CEO

Whenever I felt frustrated, and felt there were so many balls falling and so little time, my friend just smiled and told me: “Welcome to the world of a CEO”.

Yes. That is the experience to be a CEO. As an entrepreneur, you are facing the challenge that only the people who were in that position can understand – the loneliness, and the excitement – oh, boy, nothing in this world is comparable to that. I show my full respect to every CEO in this world – even my competitors, even former Apple CEO, former Yahoo! CEO, and former whatever company CEO who ended their career in a way of public failure – they have all the due respects, not to mention the greatest CEOs of this century – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch. We are just the same kind.

Few weeks ago, I had breakfast with Sun Cheng-Yaw, and Jack Gao (one was the former HP Greater China GM, and the other was former Microsoft China GM). They shared their experience of running a company as the real CEO and a big country subsidiary. Basically the difference is, you know you can screw up a company single-handedly while screwing up China does not kill HP or Microsoft. Pressure really comes from responsibility.

I am just trying to be a better CEO – a journey that needs a lot of work, and needs a lot help. The most important thing is to surround yourself with the right group of people, and share the same dream. That is so important, and I will name it as the third learning in my startup, besides the two I already shared with Stanford students few weeks ago (focus and cost).

A Note of the Sunday


The Mount She (It is pronounced as Sheer, not as the female pronoun), is the closest mountain to Shanghai (it is at the Qingpu District of the city). It is maybe the only climbable nature thing in this city. Wendy and I decided to go there and climb the mountain. It is not far from our home in Pudong – 51 km. We climbed the mountain – it is lower than most of the buildings in this city – less than 90m. Within 20 minutes, we went to the top and get to the ground, pretty confused, and disappointed by how low the hill actually is.

But anyway, it is a very nice place to spend some time. The national park is free of charge. You just need to get to the gate before 4:30 pm.

Steve Jobs’ Video

On YouTube, I spent some time to watch a lot of videos of Steve Jobs. The videos are just charming. Among them are some interesting clips I want to share with you the funniest one:

Steve Jobs Funniest Joke. Even Bill Gates Laughs!

He said Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom, leaking water and my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction”. (Ship-pointed-to-the-right-direction is quote from the former CEO of Apple, Gil Amelio, who badly screwed the company).

Storm at Real Estate Market?

At Sheshan, I saw about 20 real estate agents running everywhere to stop cars passing by, trying to sell low price villa to the passengers.

Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

The red price line was surprising – it said 50% off! I have no idea about whether it is the actual cut, but it just give me the dramatic feeling of a burst of bubble in the real estate market – very dramatic feeling. Let’s just wait and see what is going on.

A New Week

A new week is ahead, and I am really excited to start the week tomorrow. There is a big blueprint out there, and I just want to get it started, and finish it ASAP.

York had a blog presentation about his 2005. I realized in those days, people have enough time to write blogs. I reviewed many of the articles on my blog I wrote many years ago. I had to admit that the quality of the entries are much better than today. We are slower in those days, and have much more time to spend to record the life, than we do today. Slow down a little bit, pick the most important things and have inner peace…. inner peace…

Happy Birthday to Me

Tomorrow is my birthday. I am happy to turn 34 (or some people say, to be 35).

I just felt that I have passed the age to make birthday resolution now. It has been great year for me – experienced many ups and downs, and grew a lot. I just feel I am surrounded with great friends and mentors each year.

Happy birthday to me.

P.S. I realized that I posted a “Happy Birthday to Me” every year since I started in this blog – from 2002, to 2010. It is almost a behavior art to write the same thing every year – for 9 years in a row.

  1. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2010
  2. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2009
  3. Happy Birthday to Me October 17, 2008
  4. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2007
  5. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2006
  6. Happy Birthday To Me October 18, 2005
  7. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2004
  8. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2003
  9. Happy Birthday to Me October 18, 2002