Hong Kong’s Battle for Democracy: Thoughts From the Middle Ground

My thoughts on the situation in Hong Kong comes late like many others. People that don’t particularly want to meddle around in the grey area or get into political debates. Like many others, I stand by democracy but cannot deem myself informed enough to form a solid stance on whether the current movement is right or wrong. The theme is important and raising awareness for the cause has be more than valuable. So let us take a step back from the political debates and understand the challenges of the bigger picture.

Change management does not come overnight. For large groups of people in teams, organizations and communities to transition to desired states is not something that can be confined to the downfalls of one particular leader or government. With all great accomplishments takes enormous efforts from all parties. There are many reasons that the people of Hong Kong are asking for change. The voting system, the education system, the housing policies and many more non-locals may not be aware of. Choosing what strategy to implement and methods of evaluation should never have to come down to anyone getting physically harmed in any way, shape or form.

Billions of peoples’ lives are on the line. I say this in light of China having ruled out amending their initial decision from August 31st stating that Hong Kong’s leader will be elected in 2017 after candidates have been selected by a nominating committee made up of a proposed 1,200 people. It is difficult to imagine what consequences a shift in the voting system could potentially have on the lives of over 1.3 billion people in China. What if they too would like to seek out more democratic governing? How will a nation that large be able to focus on its economic development in the likely event that its people take to the streets to protest for democracy?

There is little middle ground available for Hong Kong’s governing system, China’s 2017 decision and the current beliefs represented by the people of Hong Kong. No one can say one party is right but what we as a global community can do is seek ways to prevent the suffering of more people. The pressure is on to resolve this problem but as we are all quite aware, the challenges will be continuing long after the current movement is over. As people that truly care, it isn’t necessarily about wearing the yellow ribbon, it’s about the fight after the media no longer sees value in reporting the matter.

A lot of us can’t help but notice that Western styles of democracy is often referenced in the current Hong Kong debates. Yes, Hong Kong is seeking out similar forms in their voting systems but it isn’t always relevant to compare them side-by-side. It has long been established that the people of Hong Kong are looking for a “one person, one vote”system where everyone has direct influence on who their next leader will be. Here in North America for the most part, we are only able to elect representatives for our communities. We are in no way directly voting for a specific leader to represent us to one overarching national governing body with a completely different political beliefs. That is why, I am hesitant to say that what Hong Kong is thriving for right now is the system that I am personally living under.

Ultimately one of the most important things to understand is we shouldn’t lose sight of why this movement began in the first place. The student leaders originally put out very ambitious proposals to the government including demands for Hong Kong’s top three officials to resign for political reasons so they can re-elect a leader they believe in under a new voting system. However, as we move away from this, we will notice that the movement is no longer solely run by and represented by people that believe in democracy, but people that are suffering under current localized issues like the increase of housing prices, unemployment and heightening poverty. The problems have always been far greater than one single voting system.

Embrace the challenges of the future and stay safe.

Do I really have to ask you again? [Part 1]

I asked my sister to help me run an errand last week out of pure laziness. When I got back from work, I was pleasantly surprised with my package having been picked up and dinner ready.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as asking something of someone and having them exceed all expectations you had for them. Rarely does this happen, but when it does–it’s a glorious day.

More than anything it seems like we’re easily annoyed by all the little things. When your significant other is late for dinner, when your roommate eats your last pizza pocket, when someone doesn’t clean up after themselves around the house–when they aren’t really “listening” to the things you have to say. Being with others in general is not only a constant state of change but also filled with what feels like many unfulfilled expectations.

In moments of temporary resentment we resort to criticizing as an immediate response. Lucky for us, there are “new and improved” ways to respond to these situations with family and friends.

Acknowledge it. Move on.

Sometimes life happens and the trade off between being resentful and letting go–letting go is just freeing oneself of disappointment. Do whatever works for you. This isn’t a lesson of calming exercises as much as it is realizing real life experiences of upset and anger. It’s a human tendency to dwell on feelings of hurt and disappointment. Prolonged resentment is what makes our lives at home seem dissatisfying at times. This is one of the few cases where over-thinking benefits no one as it prolongs pain and damages relationships.

Start. Empower. Inspire.

The times we want to nag roommates or family to do certain chores–criticize them for their lazy choices–realize it isn’t going to prompt anyone to take initiative next time around. It isn’t often that negative emotions, extreme or not, inspire others to make changes–let alone fulfill unmet expectations.

Have empathy.

Have empathy for the person you want to criticize. Chances are you’ve neglected promises to do house chores as well. Rationalize the situation without using accusations and demanding language to create a defensive atmosphere. In this way, we get the point across without harboring resentment. Of course this takes much more control on our part but the results are certainly worth it. I’m sure you’d feel much more inclined to help someone who got their point across without demanding that you HAVE to do something but by using more appreciative words.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Awaken Your Empathy

The first and only step to developing empathy is to connect with people.

And it doesn’t matter if I just gave away the whole purpose of this article in one sentence because knowing and not exercising the knowledge still leaves us in the same place with people that are not aware.

Too many times we confuse having empathy with sympathy. Allow me to clarify how they are quite the opposite.

We’re all capable of expressing empathy and it’s applicable to all aspects of our lives–whether this be personal relationships or work.

Awakening individual empathy requires us to take the perspective of another. Or as we say in the most cliche way possible, “be in someone else’s shoes”.

It also requires us to refrain from judgement. When has that ever been easy for any of us? Especially since so many of us enjoy it more than we’d like to admit.

But beyond the judgmental filters, being able to sense the emotions of another regardless of how we’re personally feeling isn’t enough. Being able to not only sense, but acknowledging it through communication is what’s important.

As much as we’re capable of spreading happiness, we are also capable of feeling pain with others.

We can think of the whole process beginning from when someone falls into a deep dark well of emotions. Someone that is overwhelmed with a certain negative emotion and can’t seem to make their way back up the well. And you know what we can do for them? We can let them know that we’ve been in the same dark well and that they’re really not alone.

That’s empathy. A choice. Quite a risky choice as well because connecting with someone in a dark well of emotions means digging back to a time we ourselves experienced the same thing.

Sympathy is when someone doesn’t make the connection. When we say, “Hey, I know your relationship really isn’t working out but AT LEAST you have someone to be with”. This is what we do all the time when someone shares something with us that’s hurting them. We throw out the ‘AT LEAST’ . We try to put a silver lining around something that is incredibly painful because we want to try and make things better when it evidently won’t.

Truth be told, we can’t always expect to be able to make things better for anyone that’s in a painful whirl of emotions. Rarely does responding to someone that shared something painful with us make things better. What makes things better in the dark well of emotions is connecting with other people and that’s why support groups work so effectively.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

 

“Those who lead inspire us.”

I’m not usually one to reference specific books directly but Start With Why by Sinek spoke to me. It speaks of leaders with power and those who lead by inspiring. It speaks to those that desire to inspire and those seeking inspiration from others. Perhaps the most fantastic part of it all is realizing how the most influential people leading communities and organizations all share the talent that tells us the “why” of their presence in our lives.

If we take a moment to consider inspiring leaders, not once do we envision a 30-minute powerpoint presentation packed with specific information nailed down to the nitty gritty details of their ideas. Instead, we recall the board–inspirational statements–they make that celebrate the very driving ideals that give us the reason to believe and recall it when we wake up the next morning.

Not once did you favourite author have to tell you “I write great books”. They let you know that their written work is valuable by challenging the norms of a supposedly saturated industry. No one will ever be motivated, nor care enough, to be part of a community that only preaches on how well you do one thing.

There is a reason people thrive on inspiration. Because it can model both our personal lives and organizations we run.

Sinek developed the Golden Circle as pictured above. Just as I spoke of inspiration, the Golden Circle encompasses both people and their business interactions.

In short: It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do–people won’t care unless they know “why”.

Is this really applicable to our lives you might ask?

Fair question. I thought the same.

Last week someone asked me to map out the “why” of my life for my own personal clarification. After what felt like hours of talk, I realized I still had no understanding of what “why” really meant.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with: Your WHY can be broad. Vague. With lack of details in fact. All it has to be is something that drives you to continue moving forward every morning.

My why in this case is to inspire through written communication. To enable people to find their own place in the world–whether this be a mental state of well-being or a physical home.

We are people of change and growth. Our actions will shift its course as we move forward but our “why” is what will remain consistent.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Unfollowed.

Is there ever a good way to address the problem of unfollowing? Before the time of social media, this form of rejection never existed.

At one point or another in our lives, we get unfollowed. I don’t just mean via our social media accounts but rejected in various aspects of life as well. A friend might delete you off Facebook and a business partner could want to stop working with you. Some of these things we can shake off easily and move on. Then we are left with those that can haunt us for years to come, until we make an effort to seek out new perspectives in our lives.

After every single rejection we fret over how we’ll be able to put ourselves out there again after being so hurt. We become jaded over the frustration and anger. The same negative emotions pester us to no end and build a negative energy over and over again.

I won’t deny that to a degree, we all need the validation of others. But what’s more is that freeing yourself from being unfollowed or blatantly rejected in life only truly begins when you find fulfillment in yourself.

Most recently I had the pleasure of working with someone incredibly bright in the field of academia with multiple upcoming publications. When she broke down, stating she was alone and that everyone hated her–it was all nonsense to me. Despite having been successful in her field of choice, landing the job of her dreams and having many adoring students she had read negative messages directed towards her while at the same time ignoring all the good.

Anyone in a similar situation would feel lost. Because of this, our motivation is temporarily heightened as we feel the need to obsess over results. This is what happens when we weigh our fulfillment on validation from others and their judgments. Staying grounded is key to having more self-love.

Before you decide on what to wear from your wardrobe each morning, you should wear the confidence. Why? Because it looks good on you.

There is no pleasing everyone. And if they unfollow? Good. You didn’t abandon yourself to keep them.

What we really need aren’t opinions from others on how we should feel. We need to do something. Anything. As long as we do it while treating ourselves with value.

It’s true what they say about us giving up power for others to hurt us by their rejection. Even when we look back to the people that unfollowed and countless more rejections that slapped us across the face in the past, we manage to see the good in it for being the pivot points of our lives. We survived another episode of rejection. And guess what? It wasn’t so bad after all.

So next time you get unfollowed or rejected in one way or another, know that it was just what you needed. Not that “they shouldn’t have!” or “you deserve better! nonsense.

Happiness that remains dependent on judgments formed by others will always be temporary. Beyond that, it’s difficult to recall the world we lived in before part of our validation became based on how many up-votes our thoughts received. Instead of fishing for compliments from others, we can try constantly complimenting ourselves instead. Why not tell yourself you’re awesome everyday?

Can we really learn from rejection you may wonder? Of course we can. Perhaps the rejection happened to show us that our approach was all wrong and yes, ultimately meaning we screwed up. Not only is it important to ask ourselves “Why?” but it’s just as important to ask “What can I takeaway from this rejection?”. We’re capable of reflections that make us better as human beings and prepare us for upcoming opportunities in our lives. Being rejected or unfollowed isn’t a “me game” where the whole situation revolves around you and you only. There isn’t a need to be battling more fears and insecurities of the imagination. Sometimes we’re more capable of nurturing ourselves after rejection than anyone else.

We’re the only ones responsible for healing our own wounds. Not time.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Disney Fairy-tales and Other Glorious Lies

“As long as you’re a genuinely kind person, you’ll be able sing with cute animals all day and eventually a fairy god mother of sorts will come and rescue you from your misery.” (What Disney plots are telling us)

Indeed, that is the magical world of Disney and folklore. The time when you were five years old and looked forward to talking to stuffed animals in a universe where wishes came true.

Perhaps our imaginations were boundless enough as we grew up to encompass more adventurous travels to places that do not exist.

But do you remember when you realized Disney fairy-tales do not in anyway reflect real life? That Santa was never real and if you were lucky enough your parents attempted to prolong your vision of this make-believe character. We felt in one way or another–cheated. Maybe confused as we all should be after having been fed years worth of lies. Taught to tell the truth but told fables to expand our horizons and grow our imagination.

Escapism is the adult form of Disney fairy-tales. In our adult lives, time is a constraint to adventures we would like to have. At the end of the day, it comes down to some form of reality that may involve mortgages and childcare support. As children we lived for the day a dragon swiftly takes us to the faraway land with fairies and as adults we live for the two days at the end of the work week. Why do we lie to our selves? Why tell ourselves we’re doing it right when all of this feels wrong.

We allow our career choices to define our self worth, cannot live without electronics, have visions of IKEA themed showrooms in the house and dream of getting a fat slice of the year end bonus at work.

The lies we tell ourselves are so much bigger than Disney fairy-tales will ever be.

Visiting  different workplaces in various areas of the city in the last month has reminded me of how little I’ve traveled geographically. Not that I was physically chained to anything but psychologically speaking, work often times has us tied up in the same corporate mindset. We’re told what tasks to perform and specific ways to conduct them. We’re literally cardboard cutouts that require the approval of others to make progress in our work lives and beyond.

Just because it’s a luxurious cage doesn’t make it any less of a cage. A seemingly high-end job can still be a constraint.

It’s too cliche to say that we’ve lied to ourselves so much that life is no longer the great adventure it once was when we were children. We stopped playing with puppets but allowed ourselves to puppets of the corporate world. Why create a reality only to desperately seek out ways to escape it?

Again and again we discover that adult life isn’t filled with unlimited freedom and happiness as we hoped. It will always be nice to believe there is something enchanting beyond the lagging computer systems and isolated corner cubicles.

Let us continue to believe in mountain top castles and whimsical creatures.

Let us continue to pass on fables.

Let us stop thinking we’re old enough to know better.

Let us stop thinking happy endings are just for wishful thinking children.

Let us refrain from the illusions created by our lies and enlighten ourselves with thoughts of countless possibilities.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Dear Vancouver, It’s about time you stopped talking about the weather

I’ve always been quick to bring up the weather in conversations and despise myself for it. I never quite understood why so many of us do it. All those times we’ve found ourselves stuck on the train with someone we haven’t spoken to in months: “I hope there isn’t going to be this much rain on the weekend!” Blame it on living in Vancouver if you must.

As soon as I bring up the weather topic in a conversation, I feel slightly uncomfortable. As if commenting on the rain will be the death of the conversation. There must be better things to talk about.

Maybe we can think of it this way – we too often worry that anything else we bring up in conversation won’t interest the other person.

Sure it’s not common for us to know too much personal information about our co-workers and acquaintances – but does that make it a bad thing to ask? Since when did asking how their parents are doing become classified as digging too far into uncommon territory?

Not that I’m particularly preaching upon the fact that technology is making people extremely disconnected or whatnot. Certainly communicating through technological mediums did not suddenly make all of us decide that our only common denominator comes in the form of discussing the rain and how many umbrellas have been flipped.

If you’re thinking this is about whether we’re being pessimistic or optimistic judging from whether the conversation is based around the rain or sunshine, you’d be wrong. Just because you sounded excited when mentioning the sunny weather doesn’t dilute the fact that you refused to make some sort of social connection.

You might think that all the talk about the depressing rain is getting you down but maybe it’s just refraining from a social connection that’s hurting  your personal well-being more.

Mind you, it doesn’t always have to be an ongoing meaningful conversation or so to speak. What really matters is that talking about the weather or whatever your go-to topic of conversation is – stops becoming a repetitive fallback when you feel like there is nothing left in common. And hey, if you’re not a meteorologist or just someone that religiously refreshes the weather application on their phone every 5 minutes, I don’t see why the topic of weather should really extent beyond a minute at most.

Stop being lazy and make a bit more of an effort tomorrow morning. Sure most days we wake up and it’s raining. Sure the commute to work is long and treacherous. Sure you feel just a little bit irritated when someone tries to start a conversation with you while your socks are wet. But who is to say it won’t be worth it if you’ve never tried?

So Vancouver, here’s my challenge to you: The next time you feel a sudden urge to throw out a line about the weather, mention something more fun. Like seriously.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Safe to say, most of us have been asked the big looming question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” before the age of 7. Sure we can easily criticize the poser of the question for asking this too soon in one’s life but is that really an issue? Living in a day and age where technology is revolutionizing itself before our eyes — there is perhaps no point in asking children the big looming question. Not only is it too soon for a child to have pre-established ideas of what they need to be passionate about but jobs exist today that didn’t exist just a decade ago.

Gone are the days where one person was only meant to do one thing. [Click to Tweet!]

As the fickle creatures we truly are, there is no surprise that we have the tendency to proclaim our love for one career — only to wind up hating it and moving on to another one. And to be fair, that’s why we’re given more than one chance to get it right. Because how are we supposed to know whether or not we’re actually passionate about something before trying it? No expectations formed from a single job description will ever match exactly with what the job is really like. Things just aren’t as you first imagine them to be.

There is fear that the technology revolution will make jobs disappear. Since we are stuck to old assumptions about pursuing one career we forget that these jobs are being replaced by new ones. Ones that we too can have if we were willing to re-educate ourselves. Of course education doesn’t always have to be tied to the bureaucratic system that made up nearly 2 decades of our early lives. If anything, learning from reading every book, talking to people in the industry and attending very event takes a heck of a lot more energy than going back for another degree.

If selling ourselves to employers has become increasingly important to answering the modern day version of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the need for us to: define what we want, test out the waters and steer onto a whole new course free of obstacles is essential. With the overwhelming number of passionate people setting out to fix problems through start-ups, workplace models are rapidly changing. What are the chances of your start-up finding success like Google or Instagram you say? I’ll say we’ll all have a better chance if only we treated ourselves more like start-ups. Selling ourselves is one thing, but it’s another to be able to identify and make changes before diving into disasters head on.

Here are the days we can give the most interesting answers to the question: “What do you do for a living?” [Click to Tweet!]

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Make Your Own Life

You’ve been over this before. Frankly, your brain is sick of hearing it. There is something you want to do that you just haven’t yet. You want to go back to school, you want to start your own business, you want to learn to cook…

The non-existent book you have yet to write.

Perhaps HALF of a book draft that you just haven’t been able to bring yourself back to touching since work got in the way.

And I could go on with this list, but what’s the point? You’re such a smart cookie you’ve already got where I’m going with all this talk.

We’ve got to take the “you only live once” and direct it in the most positive way possible. It shouldn’t be an excuse for acts of recklessness. What it should help us realize, is that we ought to stop preventing ourselves from doing the things we want to.

Funny thing is, we like to assume we’re being realistic and logical for not pursuing the things we are deeply passionate about. Common logic: No money, no time, not young enough to fail again, don’t want to start over, don’t want to do something you’re not the best at etc. They say we’re afraid of failure, but it seems we also have a fear of great success. To know so much is to have more potential fear.

At some point someone might have told you you’re not capable of the thing you wanted. You didn’t want to believe it. You thought you were capable of not listening and not caring about what they said. Why is it that you went ahead and followed through on someone else’s words instead of your own?

Your single belief should be the only thing that matters.

Some of us are just naturally the ‘glass half empty’-types. We pride ourselves on being able to avoid all disappointment because of the lack of risk in our lives. And as our ancestors might have advised us from the dinosaur era, stay in a place where there is the lowest possibility of your predators ever hurting you.

There is no short-cut out of the pessimistic mindset. For every 10 lovely compliments you receive, you may only find yourself pondering the one time someone doubted you. Not only doubted your dream but also doubted you as a person. It’s important we make an effort to facilitate encouraging interaction between those that we care about and care about us in return.

We will forever notice more reasons to not do something we want than to go for it. At the end of the day, we don’t ACTUALLY need a perfect track record clear of failures in the long-run –so stop being so OCD about it. Take the first step. And if it doesn’t work? Well, now you know what the better step is to take the next time around. To give yourself a chance at succeeding is to gift yourself with a new habit; the habit of accepting better solutions to old problems.

You’re doing it for yourself. To remind yourself that you’re amazing and deserve to follow through with your own words and not others’.

Make your own life.

— itsfruitcakeweather.