Seeing People Change

Lately, a single thought has been lingering in my mind:  “Are people changing that much that I haven’t noticed? I feel like I’ve stayed the same as I always have been.”

Last month, I took a trip to Taipei to visit my friend Wei Ni. I haven’t seen him for 3 years when he moved back to Taipei from San Jose, California due to his dad’s deteriorating health. So I figured since I have a bunch of free time, it would be nice to get together since I live in Hong Kong and the flight is only 1.5 hours away.

When I saw him, already I had the impression he was a different person, never mind the looks (I guess staying off American food reeaaaallllly slims you down) but his personality too.

I remembered back in the days when we would go out for drinks, oyster farms (even though i hate oysters), bars, Karaoke, camping etc… He was always there to encourage me to drink up or more. This time though… I was the only encouraging him. Yes life circumstances are different; his dad passed away and he took over his dad’s dental clinic. He seems settle down with a nice girlfriend and living a rather simple and quiet life.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, I’m glad he is happy and found someone to be happy with… its just not the Wei Ni that i remembered… this is Calm Wei Ni and the whole time, I was both happy and thought “Where is the Crazy Wei Ni?”

Change is inevitable as was quoted in the Matrix. I realized that and as I see everyone around me changing, getting married, moving on to other countries, starting a family or opening a new business… I look back at myself and think… “What has changed in me?”

C.S. Lewis once wrote “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

It seems to me that change is just another natural part of life… part of me doesn’t want to change yet and is comfortable living as I am. Yet I’ve come to realized… I too have changed. Certainly the experiences of living in Hong Kong couple with doing a startup here and affected me. I am more independent, can survive in a foreign place and learned so much about business that it all felt like a long college abroad trip.

It will be interesting to look back years from now, the type of person I was (probably make fun of myself In the process).


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Doing a startup is hard. Doing a startup in another country is even harder.

I wanted to take the time to write a reflection post today after spending more than a year here in Hong Kong. As many of you know, I came from the Bay Area of Sunny California. The warm weather, the nice drive with a convertible on highway 17 to the beach or the special brewery house and munching on my family’s trade bagels. Boy do I miss these little seemingly nothing moment.

When you’re exposed in the Bay Area to all the happenings, the tech stories, the people changing the world, you feel your life is boring; but a dot in a sea of sand. One wise man once said, “The greatest struggle is to be something different from what the average man is.” And I guess that was my feeling too at that time I decided to embark for Hong Kong. Although the original plan was to come for only three months, it grew to 7 and still until now.

There are times where I wonder if this is the place where I really belong. Life is challenging, cost are high, there is a somewhat language/culture barrier yet Hong Kong has this magical feeling about itself. Although most expat view Hong Kong as a hub where one comes and goes in life, to learn about himself and learn what is most important. There are friends here like my buddy Vladimir, who reminded me to keep going through the tough time, the impact on the community I’ve made, and the important of finding oneself in your own journey of life. “A man can tell another man’s worth just by looking him. Men do not have to speak to each other, it’s a feeling we just get, we just understand. JM, you’re a good man.”

There are days where I just feel the world is a wall too tall to climb. Not enough grip for me to hold on to and one wrong step and everything will come crashing down. These moments are quickly forgotten thanks to my group of supporting friends. These friends who encourage me during the tough times, I cannot never be thankful enough. I’m often reminded of a quote by Will Smith, “If you’re absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.” 

Being in Hong Kong, you never truly feel as if you belong. I did not come here seeking love or here to work at a bank. Hong Kong was never more then just a temporary stop. The fast lifestyle, the distant feeling you get from people and most of all the somewhat fake friendship that seems the common norm especially during networking session. Although these are prevalent throughout the world, you glimpse at it from an outside perspective and cannot help to surprise you. People here are focused and often called rude because they only see themselves and where they should be heading. No fault in that, its normal but I do miss the times when I could go to a bar in California and pick up a chat with the guy next to me with ease. Here people don’t want to be bothered…

Recently I was interviewed in a local newspaper about the lack of funding in Hong Kong, another disadvantage for startups (that and the housing difficulties i’ve had). I’ve pitched publicly so much that an executive assistant who trains executive to give public presentation says I speak like a pro (I’m sure he was exaggerating as its his job) but the hunt is still on with no sight yet of the treasure.

We are having tough times and plenty more to come. I know I will be alright in the end. I’ve always been positive and optimistic. I just need to ride through this wave. Time to go polish my surfboard…

bob marley quote

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Reflection on ‘The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship”

Recently published in Inc Magazine was a profound article: The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship by Jessica Bruder. What was interesting about this article is that the author touched up on things not understood by the majority of the people and the difficulties entrepreneurs face…sometimes life altering.

Jessica showcased to the world that Entrepreneurship can be psychologically damaging and that it takes a lot of mental strength to keep going on. The price paid for attempting the “dream” can be costly both personally and financially. There are been couple cases of suicide as well.

The part that struck me the most is this quote by Toby Thomas, “’It’s like a man riding a lion. People think, ‘This guy’s brave.’ And he’s thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’” It’s a part that resonates well with me because it may seem like I’m doing ok, living on my own and doing my own thing but the world outside doesn’t how much struggles we take on per day.


Heck never mind living in another country and the cultural differences, the lack of family and a “home.” I don’t even know how long I can stay in Hong Kong with the high cost of living, the lack of Angel investment and the minor entrepreneurship spirit (There are entrepreneurs here but they still behave in the old Chinese conservative spirit). People expect you to be a leader, to be on the path to success but success does not come easy. I’m barely surviving at It Is (which I admit sometimes distracts you from thinking about the big things).

One of the commenter wrote, “Only those who have gone through this, entrepreneurship experience can understand this. Reality, which nobody admits in public. When you are struggling, you cannot admit your failures. Only when you become successful–in the eyes of the public, you may talk about whatever pains you have gone through.” I mean as an entrepreneur, how could anyone else, besides an entrepreneur, understand you? The struggles, the stress, and the clear uncertainty you face.

I’ve been depressed, overwhelmed to the point of burning out, some days I feel like just quitting and going back home however internally, the flame that keeps me going has not burned out yet; partly with the help of close friends that who are able to counsel me, cheer me on, and keep me going.

Today I’m speaking on this topic because I feel that writing and letting others know can be a great way to take some of the mental stress away (that and good sleep). I do encourage fellow entrepreneurs to share with the rest of the world, if not for themselves, to let out what you go through and give hope to others going through similar circumstance.


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