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Living Two Separate Lives – 活在两个世界里

Do you ever feel like you live two separate lives?
每次跨越太平洋的时候,都会有同样的感受。但随后它却又悄悄地、缓慢地消失⋯⋯直至完全被大脑抛弃,删除。这可能更加证实了人类是非常健忘地动物,完全活在现在,过分地以视觉、听觉及其他感官所带来的刺激因素,而淡化,甚至忘却,另一个地方的另外一个自己。
从进化论的角度来看,或许这也是为了生存。人类把99%的注意力都集中在当下,因为当下的生存能力决定了未来。而任何的过去,都是留给在当下过分清闲的人用来解闷的图书馆、音乐厅、电影院。
而每次横跨太平洋,却是见证两个世界共同存在的最好时机。比如,从纽约JFK机场塔上国航的航班,就好像半只脚已经踏入了国门,人、语言、空气、乘务员的服装、颜色、地毯和椅子散发出来的气味,一一触碰着脑海里的记忆神经,而随着飞机起飞后的腾空,地理位置的移动也开始提醒自己:马上就要迎接新的环境,哦不,是旧的环境⋯⋯就像打开一个个新的程序一样,此刻脑海里的语言、应变能力、警惕心理又从记忆硬盘当中调了出来。
同样的,当在北京机场踏上美联航的航班时,空中服务人员对人平等的态度、机箱里更加宽敞的椅子、每个乘务员标准的英语、甚至是发给乘客的pretzels,都提醒着我:马上要迎接的是一个人人都有主见的自由社会,而在这种社会里唯一的生存方法,就是拥有自信、头脑、幽默感、以及比他人更加难以动摇的主见。
有时后,觉得自己象是一台装了Windows的Mac,虽然小时候一直是用Windows,但自十岁起开始转用Mac OS,也逐渐成为了忠实的苹果粉丝。此时再回到Windows,还是会用,每次都需要一段时间熟悉,慢慢也会习惯,只是偶尔还是会对Mac存有浅浅的怀念,因为用惯了更好的系统,当然回不去了。
作为纽约的普通人,每天可以乘着百年老的地铁,走着路,吃着地边摊,住着比爷爷还老的房子,过着很悠闲、很轻松、很快乐的日子。
但如果要做一个普通的北京人,做同样的事情呢?地铁?去哪儿都只能走路?吃路边摊?住比爷爷还老的房子?
随着越来越多的人都拥有属于自己的两个,甚至是更多,不同的世界,如何生活和如何去选择一种生活可能会是越来越让我们痛苦的决定。In this case, options aren’t simply always good.

China and Brazil – How the World Runs While We Sleep

Founding President of Harvard GCC chapter and a former Director of GCC Management, Eric Glyman, spoke at Harvard last week. His message was simple: it’s not about the here and now; it’s about the future, and China and Brazil together hold a promising future for anyone who cares to learn both Mandarin and Portugese. Video posted below:

Eric Glyman – China and Brazil: What You Need to Know from Lowell Student Speeches on Vimeo.

“Always remember to look up and look ahead.” Cliche? Sure. But it all comes down to those who are making moves to put cliche ideas into practice.

Ready for Valentine’s Day?

As Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought I might share this interesting infographic on Valentine’s Day spending trends. Men spend >2x as much as women do on Valentine’s Day, so maybe all the ads should target what men think women might want instead. Also, 53% of all women would end their relationships if they didn’t get something on Valentine’s Day – time to create that perpetual annual event reminder on your calendar ;)

Enjoy!

 

Valentine’s Day Spending 2012 [infographic]

A Random Walk Down (Occupy) Wall Street

The title of this post is inspired by the well-known investment book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel (1973). I’ve never read the book, but the idea that Malkiel tried to convey is pretty easy to summarize:

Since stock prices cannot be predicted in the short term, argues Malkiel, individual investors are better off buying and holding onto index funds than meddling with securities or actively managing mutual funds. Not only will a broad range of index funds outperform a professionally managed portfolio in the long run, but investors can avoid expense charges and trading costs, which decrease returns. [...] His witty, acerbic style and persuasive arguments will delight readers but, alas, leave Wall Street unmoved.

- Amazon.com

In honor of the Zuccotti Park eviction, below are pictures of my random walk downtown about two weeks ago. Hope you enjoy.

New Look

Switched up to a more minimalist theme. I realized the previous theme was difficult to read with the gray font.

If you’re reading this stuff I would really appreciate any comment or other feedbacks so that I know there are actually people out there reading and I’m not just talking to myself.

Working on a few blogposts right now hope to publish soon!

Thanks =)

I’m in New York

After not seeing New York for a year, this trip has turned out to be slightly more overwhelming than I had mentally prepared myself for lol.

So my 13hr flight from Beijing to Newark was delayed (again… 点子太低了) because – get this – they apparently didn’t communicate that the US is now on daylight savings. Beijing air traffic authorities are either challenged or full of BS.

Anyhow, got to Columbia, everything’s closed. Lots to say about the comparison now between Beijing vs. New York. But I guess that’ll have to wait. For now, it’s dinner with GCC followed by night at Circle with good old 2011’ers.

 

Hello Columbia – it’s good to be back. Even for a week ;)

I am in London

Of all my whimsical decisions in life – and there haven’t been many, really, not even the great Gap Year – this one probably is sitting near the top of the list:

I am in London.
(Yes, I am that unexciting).

The 11-hour flight on British Airways from Beijing to London was delayed by an hour due to – surprise – 航空管制. Flight was great. Food sucked. Didn’t watch their movies because after all British Airways ain’t no Cathay Pacific. Met a fellow Chinese person who now works in Edinburgh. And we talked for quite a bit about… GCC. How sad. Well we talked more than just about GCC, but I’ve learned that it creates more of an impression than talking about Goldman Sachs. (Can someone in GCC pay me for saying this?) No actually we began by talking about the iPad and how to jailbreak it (Apple is more likely to pay me than GCC so… oh wait, I mentioned jailbreaking…).

Anyhow, sitting in the airport and taking a minute to collect myself: Pounds + SIM card + phone numbers = Functional human being.

Meeting up with a friend from GS over the summer later.

It’s amazing how this airport alone left me with such a great impression of London. I am that shallow. Wow.

Will be up in 12 hours for a GCC conference call at 5am London time. I really feel now like I work for a non-profit organization.

Life is good,

From Heathrow

Gap Year – Ya, I’m doin’ it. 我休学了,你呢?

“That’s so cool!” is usually the first reaction I receive when I entrust someone with my idea of taking a gap year.

“So what are you gonna do?” is usually the sentence immediately following that.

To be perfectly honest here for a second before returning to my full-on 忽悠 mode: I don’t know.

… Entrepreneurship? … Management consulting? … Finance??

Ten weeks in finance. I witness the S&P fall to its regional low of 1,022, its correction back to around 1,120 on the back of strong 2Q earnings, and then its dip back down when bank after bank began downgrading economic forecasts of both the emerging markets and OECD. Economics aside, I learned a lot about not so much investments, but rather investor mentalities. On our portfolio trading simulation team, no one knew which stock was going to make  us money. We made bets on Visa, on Amazon, on tech ETFs, but no one knew. Ten weeks may have allowed me to skim the surface of some fundamental and technical analyses, but really, I’m barely skimming the surface and I already see how deep the water must be. No one who has the money in the pool is going to stay calm and undisturbed when thousands and thousands of market news cross-pollinate to create a jungle of uncertainty. The incentive structure of the information distribution system in the investment world is skewed up and to the right. Good times everyone makes money, bad times no one talks and the floor contains as much noise as the inside of a morgue. Institutions make bank while prop traders follow, and private investors stand outside the fence wondering what’s up.

If there is something I learned and decided this summer, it’s that I don’t ever want to be an equity fund manager. If I knew the chances of me outperforming  the market is so slim, why do I even bother?

Finance is tough and unpredictable. But economics is fun. It’s simple, it’s intuitive, it’s manipulable. This is why economists can get more attention by talking (think Paul Krugman, 郎咸平, etc.), because they don’t have to perform. They just have to talk. I mean really what’s the secret formula here for global fame? Get some very legit credentials (e.g. win the Nobel Prize in Economics), and then say some very controversial stuff (e.g. China is screwing over the US). Maybe hire 10 analysts to get you economic data to support your claims. Save the world while you’re at it.

So back to the topic here… gap year.

I turned down the attractive offer and decided to “explore,” and rather than just taking a semester off and graduate on time, I decided to graduate a year later. It was not an easy decision, for me or for my parents. I’ll explain this part in Chinese:

“休学”这两个字在中国家长的耳中似乎象征着某种不祥的物质。这因该是因为大部分在中国世界里休学的人都是在非自愿地情况下休学:分数低到不及格了,病倒需要动大手术了,心里因为某种原因受刺激了,等等。凡休学者,定没好事儿。

可是如果休学是为了在走出校门之前更清楚的知道自己的兴趣呢?了解什么样的工作最适合自己呢?尝试这辈子都不会再尝试的事情呢?

有没有家长为子女想过,在我们每天于校门内外奔波,与试卷课题武斗,为功名利禄所奴用,马不停蹄地为了在他人的眼中活的更高等,更高尚的时候,我们的自我呢?如果全天下有亿万件可做的事情,那在我们闭上眼睛的那一刻时我们都各自做了多少件呢?的确, 有时我们沿着主流社会走,可以走得很高,很远,可以改变世界。但现实是大部分人都不会走到那一天。大部分人在沿着现实走的时候会看到前面的路并不通往改变世界的大门,而是一个普普通通的骨灰盒。

休学。做自己想做的事情。

当你违背父母意愿走出第一步的时候,你的包袱就已经比前一步的时候要重得多。休得好了,父母可以认为你本就可以做好,不需要休学。休得不好了,父母可以将一切错误怪罪与休学这一重大的错误决定。

但是人不应该为了任何一个非主流的决策而后悔。因为主流的决策根本不是难事。当你做出了一个非主流的决策时,你是真正的做了决策了。你冒险了。你他妈男人了。

这几个星期,我去了青海,丽江,杭州,深圳,香港,武汉,最后会到北京。我看了(我眼中)最现代的,最原始的,最昂贵的,最便宜的,中国。我会到了五花八门的人,跟每一个人都想取经,了解他们在做什么,为什么做这个。

我知道在这一年之后,我会更清楚自己站在什么地方,该做什么事情。

到时,不会有任何遗憾,任何眷恋,任何责怪。因为我做了。

En route in Qinghai

The ever-changing landscape of Qinghai

A New Phase About to Come

A few minutes ago, I officially announced the change in leadership for the GCC Network and the move of dividing up the Network Management Division and Network Expansion Division.

As Aaron said, there is something intriguing about the fact that the NMD is the only division in GCC that has been handed off to a third Director since GCC was first founded. The first sign of “longevity” – even if only relative in comparison to the other divisions or student groups – is a sign of inner stability.

Building GCC was very much like building a company. The management structure has morphed from a strict division of responsibilities, to a more organic entity, back to a very well-defined system of individual divisions. Like an entrepreneurial firm, the structure needed to adapt constantly to the environment – timing, location, people. If this sounds familiar it’s because it is the familiar “天時,地利,人和” trinity, the circumstances that will determine the success or failure of any entity.

Just as instrumental music became popular in Europe when the technology of making musical instruments flourished, GCC grew and prospered drastically as China became the outlier of economic performance, exceeding expectations and creating exceptions. We have tapped into the biggest shift of paradigm in the 21st century in so many different ways it’s impossible to foresee what will be the exact outcome. But in an environment where too many factors are changing and too many uncertainties lay ahead, the best thing to do is to follow your instinct – and the worst thing to do is to stay stationary.

自古亂世出英雄 – if you only live once, which I assume we all do, why not make something special of your life?

The exposure to the outside world through GCC has profoundly altered my interpretation of risk versus uncertainty. We are all risk-averse. But we cannot avoid uncertainty no matter what we do. Risk and uncertainty both exist as pure consequences of time, but risk can be calculated, modeled, and predicted; uncertainty however, is inevitable and must be embraced. The realization of the inevitability of uncertainty is the single most fundamental factor that changed much of my decision making process, and consequently, yielded the following decision:

I am going to take a semester off and spend it in China.

The decision is almost risk-free. But the decision is ridden with uncertainty. I have come to realize that while I am extremely risk-averse, I am not averse to uncertainty.

亚布力到纽约 – Chinese Entrepreneurs Forum

A few of us attended the “亚布力到纽约” portion of the Chinese Entrepreneur Forum – the platform involving some of the largest business titans of China today and of the world tomorrow.

Upon entering the Morgan Library, the lobby was filled with familiar faces – the New York network of China-fans is probably smaller than we had anticipated.

The Chinese Economy

毛振华, 冯伦, 曹德旺, 任志强, 陈东升 etc., spoke on various topics relating to one of GCC’s core focuses – China’s economy.

冯伦, President of 万通地产, and a well-known author of some very interesting books on business in China, spoke about the “five views” that are in dialogue regarding China’s political future, ranging from liberalism to absolute Maoism. The predominant view, he says, is the middle-of-the-road “new” thought – slow but reasonable reforms in the government, maintaining peace and prosperity of the country as a whole. Undoubtedly, the view is supported by both large businesses as well as the Chinese government, and probably also preferred by us students who wish to pursue future career opportunities in China .

It is more true in China than anywhere else in the world that business success is highly tied to government policies. Feng observed that the most successful firms in China are ironically along the lines of government policy: the ones that are heavily regulated, and the ones that are not regulated at all. For me, this seems to refer to monopolies such as utilities and telecommunications, as well as the unknown districts of gambling, coal mining, and real estate (until last year).

Feng also touched on the fact that Chinese firms are now beginning to care about corporate image, environmental impacts, and social responsibilities. Chines firms are starting to put together additional pages in their annual reports focusing on sustainable dev and corporate responsibility. This should be good news enough for those of us taking classes with Jeffrey Sachs.

Other panelists emphasized that NGOs has yet to witness their Golden Age in China. With more people who are understanding the impacts of global trade, production, and consumption, there will be both more interest and more room for people to join NGOs to create impact in China. Interested in joining an NGO to work in China in the future? Now is probably the time.

Finance in China

陈东升, President and CEO of 泰康人寿, also left me deep impressions about the future of business in China. 泰康人寿 was founded in 1996, but is now the 4th largest insurance companies in China. Recently, the firm took 550 employees to the Great Pyramids of Giza for both entertainment as well as their annual firm-wide summit – yes, I can relate because I was just there about a month ago. Confirming with what the GCC delegation learned during the Winter Delegation, 混业经营 (Mixed Operation: the practice of merging banking, securities, insurance, and other forms of financial services together for synergetic outcomes) is still a big focus of the Chinese financial services world. On the insurance side, though the traditional models of insurance agents that were introduced to China via 友邦 of Taiwan (which originated from Japan), new practices such as selling insurance plans via commercial banks, selling by phone, online, etc., are all on the rise. 泰康 claims to be selling 100 life insurance plans per day.

A Pleasant Surprise

In the sea of passionate China-lovers who were eagerly networking between panels, I bumped into someone who is perhaps more famous than all of the prominent Chinese entrepreneurs in the room combined – 哈佛女孩儿-刘亦婷.

哈佛女孩儿-刘亦婷

Fantastic isn’t it? If you are Chinese and you are currently in a top American college, you know who she is.

Sitting next to her during the speeches, I easily forgot that this “Harvard girl” whose fame swept across China as someone who has successfully made it into Harvard from Chengdu, China, is almost ten years my elder. Time flew by and her image as a 18-year-old Harvard girl remained in our memory, but the now-experienced finance professional moved onto better things. After a summer internship at Morgan Stanely followed by several years at BCG, Yiting LIu is now on her path to be an entrepreneur and create something on her own.

It’s in our blood – entrepreneurship. The phrase that “every Chinese wants to be an entrepreneur” was never an overstatement.

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