One day I was listening to a song sung by Baz Luhrmann, “Everybody is Free to Wear Sunscreen” to the Class of ’99. Within this song is a graduation speech and he says, “Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia; dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than its worth.” We all grow in life and become the people we become through the advice of many. Whether it’s from fellow students, teachers, parents, siblings, colleagues, or dear friends, we all take some advice that influences the decisions we make. Through life we all have ups and downs, but I recommend to you all to look at the big picture.
Coming to Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue Schools with my family back in 1991 set the foundation of who I was learning to become. I was a C average student back in my public elementary school and didn’t really care too much about studying or learning. I’ve met good fellow students and friends who inspired me to study and get good grades. When I saw the diligence, the effort going into studying for a test, the completed homework assignments turned in by my friends, it motivated me to do the same. I would say that if I didn’t have you, my friends, I would have not cared too much for school and university. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
I also want to thank all my teachers for imparting their experience and knowledge to me when I was younger, but unfortunately I did not show my true appreciation. Getting involved with sports like soccer and basketball, I learned discipline and perseverance from my coaches. After all the training our team had victories and defeats. I learned sportsmanship and humility through our defeats, finding an avenue to better improve our game. This also taught me how to treat people with respect and work well with others.
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2001, I worked for four different companies in the field of architecture. Everywhere I went, I always learned not just the applications of doing my job well, but working with people, understanding what customers wanted, and developing good communication skills. What I learned to develop was accountability. Being responsible for tasks and pulling through for completion by the deadlines. Solving the inherent problems, making the program and design work originated from my education in Architecture School. There are no right answers but there are better solutions than others. It was also in architecture school that I met my best friends from whom I have learned to appreciate the life I have and to find activities that give me a purpose and a sense of accomplishment; I’m still figuring this last one out, and I’ll let you know when I find a few answers.
From the beginning of our birth, our parents always wish and hope that we can become better people. Growing up, I resisted the rules, my tasks and my chores. But it was from every little task and chore that I built the foundation of my character. I understand now that my parents have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they share because they don’t want me to make any big mistakes in life. Some mistakes we can recover from quickly and others will take a lifetime to recover from. My parents taught me well in assessing every situation and thinking thoroughly before making a decision. Reflecting back, I am grateful for my parents’ care and attention towards myself and my other siblings.
I also wanted to thank my siblings for helping me through a turning point in my life. At the age of 19, I was becoming rather distant with my siblings due to my bad temper, my dissatisfaction with myself, others, and life in general. When I realized that my younger brother was avoiding me and not talking to me much because of my new outlook in life, it really made me think about the predicament I had created. I took responsibility for this gap because it was in fact my fault. I knew that I had an anger problem and I was clueless as where to start or how to change.
While studying in Berkeley I would join the Thursday night Round Table discussions held at the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and eventually I consulted with Master Heng Sure about my problem. He suggested that I shouldn’t suppress my anger because the suppression only controls my anger temporarily. To get rid of the anger, he made me first understand that anger is just a thought that is attached to an emotion. He quoted one of the first Zen Masters in America, “Leave the front and back door of your mind open. Let your guests come but do not serve them tea.” Essentially, he said, learn not to dwell on the thoughts that cause you to become angry and “turn them.” I didn’t understand what he meant by turning the thought. Master Heng Sure said to turn the weight of that thought to something small and light like “what are you having for lunch?” He said change starts with observation and non-denial. I started with an area that anger was prominent and that was road rage. I had road rage and anger issues on the road when I drove. In most cases I put my passengers and myself in danger. I started to observe closely and after two years of trying to turn over my thoughts of anger, I had results. I then ventured to anything that would provoke anger and repeated the same formula. Over the course of these past five years, my relationship with my younger brother became better. My relationship with my parents has also improved as a result of my anger management. For the rest of my life’s journey, I will be working on my anger. I understand now that I had to be patient in order for this gradual change to take place.
We never know when a piece of advice is worth more than money, be it from friends, colleagues, or family. We need to be careful with the advice we accept and thank those who offer their knowledge, experience and wisdom. Advice is priceless information that cannot be found in a book, but only in someone’s journey through life. Take what you can from those who offer advice; hopefully the knowledge and wisdom will somehow improve your life.