How to Get Away WITH
I know I am a bit late to the game, but I only recently started watching and then getting addicted to Shonda Rhimes' TV drama How to Get Away with Murder on Netflix that came out in 2014. I always was a late bloomer. Beyond the high drama and antics, what I absolutely love about the show is the gender role reversal: a guy going down on a lady, a male assistant to a female boss, a guy wanting to be more than a piece of meat, and the list goes on. I am hooked. Thanks, Shonda. You've done it again.
On my recent podcast with my Finnish collaborator Ilkka, we invited Sani Leino to join us. Ilkka is the Business Area Director of The University of Helsinki's Center for Continuing Education HY+. In the past, Ilkka and I have cross-culturally collaborated on some crazy things: Skyping each other into workshops, inspiring each other's students when he was a lecturer, and our latest and greatest collaboration is a HAPPY Hour podcast. Ilkka is always good for a "YEAH! Let's do it!" Sani is a good friend of Ilkka's and the Sales Director for Europe at Thinglink. He just so happens to be one of the most positive people in Finland besides Ilkka. In his own words, Sani claims he believes in AGGRESSIVE POSITIVITY. Sounds like a total oxymoron, but is it?
Before our podcast session, the three of us had a conference call to catch up and brainstorm for the session.
"You know, it's not like I wake up positive all the time. It's a choice. People have a choice to be positive," Sani said in an upbeat tone reflecting his own mantra.
"Yeah, I would say my whole thing is brutal optimism," Ilkka chimed in excitedly. I looked at these two through my laptop screen feeling so fortunate to just bask in the positive rays they were emanating halfway across the globe in Korea.
"One of my friends passed away recently and on my way to the store the other day I thought: why do people receive so many more flowers when they are gone than when they are alive?" Sani continued.
It made me think back to my days at boarding school when we would take the yellow school bus down to town and buy sunflowers for friends' birthdays or just because (they were bummed out about someone/something). I thought about the time I would visit John (a florist) in Harvard Square when I was at grad school, and buy myself a $10 bouquet of roses every week. I thought about how whenever my mom and I would argue, I would buy her a bouquet of roses, get them wrapped and tied with a ribbon that matched the roses. I thought about how my husband makes sure to buy me flowers on a regular basis (even though they are super expensive here in Korea) just because he can actually afford to now.
Why do we wait? To treat ourselves to things we love, hangout with people we love, do things we love?
The answer lies within our brains. Enter the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It lives in our medulla and basically lets trivial things go and alerts us of "life-threatening" dangers. Well, back in the day, when we were cave dwellers, this was a great system: Lion coming! RUNNNNNNN! Nowadays, Boss coming! RUNNNNNN?! Not really the same threat level. Ok, for most of us anyways.
Our tendency towards negativity and doom and gloom is ingrained. Perhaps that's why How to Get Away with Murder is so addictive?
In a recent conversation with a former student last night he said, "I really have to think hard to choose positivity over negativity now that I am out of college and working." I told him about Sani and his idea of AGGRESSIVE POSITIVITY. He seemed to really like the concept. "You know, I don't want to bring my dreams and hopes to my grave," he continued. I shared Sani's story about the flowers and told him to not wait on those either.
So how do we get away WITH
Aggressive positivity. For every negative thought the RAS puts into your brain, you fight it just as hard as Viola Davis fought to get her role in How to Get Away with Murder as badass lawyer Annalise Keating; and just as hard as she then fought to be the first African-American actress to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015. Shero status!
So I have a confession: I haven't actually met Sani in person. Last year when I went to Finland, Ilkka put together an incredible dinner for me on my last night there. He called it The Global Leadership Dinner and invited 20 or so people whom he believed were the thought leaders of Finland: it was a veritable mix of the most amazing + inspiring people I have ever met in my life in one room. I didn't know how to thank each and every one of them, so I decided to write them each a hand-crafted crayon card =). I left Sani's at the front desk of my hotel as he was unable to attend the dinner.
A week later, I received a Facebook video message from him: "Some people feel the rain; others just get wet. A quote from an American singer song writer named Roger Miller. I believe you are the type of person who feels the rain, Kyla." He was sitting in his car after he had picked up his crayon card. It was raining outside.
Now that's some aggressive positivity. Thanks Sani. May you continue to feel the rain too.
My dad and I used to have father-daughter dates every weekend at this Italian restaurant called Grappa's in Hong Kong. As a kid I relished spending time with my dad because he was the most knowledgable person I knew and know (he still is). I would ask him questions, and almost every question I had, he would have an answer. He is the most well-read person I know. His bookshelves are brimming with books, and not just regular-sized books, but thick books that you don't ever wish fell on your head, because if they did, it would hurt like hell. My dad is one of the most humble people I know. He never brags nor is he ostentatious. In fact, on our recent trip back home in May, Edgar and I rented a fancy rental car. My dad took one look at the car and remarked while closing the garage door, "I'm embarrassed to have that car in my garage."
In college, during one of my Japanese classes, we went around the room and talked about how much we got to see our fathers growing up. Most of my Asian classmates had nothing to contribute other than the fact that their fathers worked a lot. When it came to my turn, I beamed proudly and said in Japanese, "My dad came home every night and helped me with my homework. On the weekends we would have father-daughter dates." My classmates glared at me.
After grad school, I moved back home at first, and then I eventually moved into my own apartment about 15 minutes away from my dad's house. We continued our father-daughter dates on a weekly basis. For one of my dad's birthdays, I remember I wanted to try to do something nice for my dad to repay his kindness, so I bought him a nice watch. He made me return it saying it was too expensive.
My dad was 3 when he was placed in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII. I didn't find this out until I was in high school. He told me that growing up, they had one fridge that lasted for forever. His parents, my paternal grandparents would buy one appliance, take really good care of it, and it would last for forever. I can see this carry over in my dad. His Honda Accord doesn't look a day over 5 years old, even though he bought it in 1992.
My dad rarely asked us to do anything for him. He is very self-reliant. Ok, there was this one time where he got locked out of the house clad in not much else but his underwear (since it was summer), and he called me to let him back in. I was having dinner with my college roommate about an hour away. I remember being irritated, but now I feel more sheepish admitting that than my dad probably did getting locked out in his underwear (!).
Earlier this year, when my mom wasn't able to live by herself in Singapore anymore, my sister and I basically told my dad that my mom was coming back to live with him. He didn't have a choice nor a say in the matter. I remember looking at my dad, wanting to say something, anything, but instead I just meekly thanked him and walked away to pack for my trip to go get my mom.
In a recent chat with my friend MK, she said, "You know, your dad must really love your mom." I had never really thought about any of this in those terms before. As I thought more and more about what she had said, I finally understood. My dad truly unconditionally loves not just my mom, but me and our entire family, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
I remember when I was at boarding school, I loved receiving letters from my dad. He had the neatest hand-writing, he would write at length about his life but also about how proud he was of me (and he still does-- just over email), and he would always fold the letter in thirds. My first year away, he wrote me almost every week, knowing the transition was tough for me. For me though, reading his letters was yet another way for me to "spend time" with my dad, another father-daughter date if you will. This Father's Day, I thought I would return the favor. How do you give a gift to the most incredible dad alive who won't accept the most incredible gift? Well, you write a blog post about him.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you, unconditionally, too. Oh, and I will always be there whenever you get locked out of the house (in your underwear!).
*This blog post is dedicated to Janet, Katherine, and Kim. Although your fathers are no longer with us, their love and spirit remain in your hearts.*
I grew up reading comic books. The visual learner in me shied away from real books and clung to the pictures and onomatopoeias found in my comic books like "BAM!" "POW!" "KABOOM!" You can imagine my delight when many of my childhood favs were turned into onscreen movies: Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, and finally Wonder Woman.
Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to bring The Happiness Workshop to Chadwick International School here in Korea. I got to work with 10th graders. I know what you're thinking: Teenagers! Run! And I was actually thinking the same, but then I thought that I should channel my own inner super hero and do what makes me a little bit afraid.
The weather was perfect for one of my communication activities where we have to run around in teams. As I jumped up and down in my own excitement, I saw students running around, cheering each other on, and attempting to communicate with each other.
"See, this is how it should be. This is what learning is all about," my collaborator at Chadwick told me later over lunch. As I chomped on my boiled pork ("Bossam" in Korean), I couldn't help but agree with her. We went on to talk about how in Korea there is so much pressure on students to perform that they are basically raised to only get grades. It doesn't matter if they get a C+ in character development, as long as they get As in the classroom, they'll get into a prestigious university, and eventually work for a prestigious company. The end.
"I could stand here and tell you about all of my successes. How I went to Harvard, how I was a professor at Yonsei, how I am a former TED speaker, but today I will talk about my depression instead." And that is how I began this Happiness Workshop for these 10th graders. The looks on their faces--priceless. Perhaps I had shocked them? Perhaps it was what they needed to hear? BAM! POW! KABOOM!
Then I showed them a card I had written and put in my time capsule when I was a senior in high school (just two years older than they are now). "Being True to Myself." It was a value card I had been asked to write in my Freshman Seminar class. And now, this is how I define my own Happiness. Ok, so I was a little shocked to find out that these kids weren't even born yet when I was a senior in high school. Whoa.
So here's the thing: when I was younger I thought super heroes were so awesome because they could leap over tall buildings, they could climb up tall buildings in seconds, they could capture bad guys and evil villains. However, as an adult, what I have learned (the hard way mostly), and what I will continue to teach in my workshops, is that perhaps the bravest thing of all is to be true to yourself. Imagine a world full of these new kinds of super heroes who were not trying to be something they weren't. Instead of conquering bad guys, they were conquering their own inner demons. Honestly, I think the world would be a kinder, more compassionate place. Don't you?
Oh, check out this #HappyChadwick video created by our own super heroes in training: https://vimeo.com/220265466
*This blog post is dedicated to all of the parents out there who are raising this new breed of super heroes on a day-to-day basis!*