Make good friends and keep them

Many years ago, in the days before I headed off to college, my father sat me down to give me advice on how to make my way in the world.

“Chia-lin,” he said, “Mommy and I have provided you with a good home and education. Now you’re going off to college and you’ll meet new people from all walks of life. When you’re there, I want you to be sure to make good friends and keep them. I’ve been watching and studying how things work here in America, and that’s how this world works. With good friends.”

My 18-year-old self really had no clue what Dad was talking about. However, over the years his words have come back to me over and over again, guiding me, challenging me and becoming clearer and clearer in their meaning.

I have watched my parents create and nurture community over the years. From helping to create a credit union that helped fellow Taiwanese with their financial needs, to monthly dinners with friends, to offering advice or comfort to ones in need – my parents have been making good friends for many years. Good friends they’ve managed to keep in a multitude of ways. Now in the Golden Years of their life they have an amazing group of friends to champion them, laugh with them, cry or celebrate with them.

It’s easy in a world full of terms like “networking,” “social networks,” and “relationship management” to lose track of the true value of friendships and connections in this world. Apparently, all these networks have great value in an economic sense. And that’s just lovely, but that’s not what I want to drive the way I create relationships.

Let’s not forget this simple truth — the good friends are the ones who can be there on your journey with you. They’ll help you make it through that job transition, that life milestone or those personal moments of triumph or crisis. The good friends are the ones who can truly champion you, see you for who you are and still love you regardless.

So yes, go forth and make good friends. Create meaningful relationships and nurture them. Because, as my wise Father said so many years ago, and lives so now, that’s the way the world works.

Still learning from my Dad,
Carolyn

Carolyn Ou

On the long and winding road to success, and being scooped

I hate being scooped.

The first time it happened was in 1989. I was 21 and Amy Tan had published the book that I always wanted to write. You might know it – it was The Joy Luck Club – and her portrayals of the Asian mother- Asian-American daughter relationships truly resonated with me.

“Damn! I thought. That was supposed to be MY magnum opus!”

At that time, a little voice in me said, “See? You’re too late! Try something else!”  At some level, I think that’s what I did. I let go of any literary ambitions I had to pursue a more practical, safer, less failure-guaranteeing path.

Now, more than 20 years later, it’s happened again! Just last week, in planning my next piece, I drew this diagram on a napkin:

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My goal in creating this piece was to ease your pain and reassure you that it isn’t always necessary or beneficial to barrel towards an often ill-defined notion of success — that sometimes taking the blinders off can result in greater opportunities to create the right path for yourself.

And then I saw it, a very similar diagram in an article that carries some very similar messages to the one I was drafting:

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At first, I wanted to feel scooped again, just like the Amy Tan incident. A voice in me wanted to say, “See, look! What you’re doing is nothing new. Give it up! Climb back into your hole!”

But before that voice could even take over, a different one sounded out. This one said, “See? The ideas and insights you have are shared by many. Don’t stop sharing them. Don’t go silent.”

And I won’t go silent! I will persist in spreading the idea that you don’t need to buy into the old mindsets about what success looks like and how you are supposed to get there. I will persist in sharing my belief that there are simple, creative and alternative ways for you to design a life that works for you.

But being a wise and extremely efficient woman, I also know when it’s enough to share someone else’s wise words, which I share with you today in this valuable post from LinkedIN: Don’t Let a Good Plan Get In the Way.

Cool. That didn’t hurt one bit! And what a great feeling to know I’m not alone.

Smirking from the Sandbox,
Carolyn

 

Slow down, you move too fast!

Oh wow! 2013 has started off with quite a kick!

A quick look at headlines and emails received over the past month reveals an urgency, a need to do more more in a super-charged sort of way. There seems to be a collective need to overwrite the “sloth” of the holidays, punishing ourselves for even taking what was a well-deserved break.

Now it’s back to 100 mph, to make up for lost time, right?

Well, slow down!

It doesn’t help to be running in overdrive if there isn’t a clear destination.

I invite you to take your foot off that pedal and give yourself time to really ask yourself the following:

  • Where am I headed?
  • How am I going to there?
  • Who do I want to bring on this trip?
  • How much of this road map energizes me?
  • What can I take off the map?

You owe it to yourself to have a a year that works for you. And who knows? You might find that with a more intentional route in place, you won’t have to go so quickly after all!

With cheer from the Sandbox,
Carolyn