9 things I learned about Mandarin and about myself

(Originally written for GoEast Mandarin.) I’m nearly finished with HSK3, starting from zero Mandarin skills just over a year ago. Here are 9 things I learned about language and myself. 1 — Learn to enjoy learning Don’t aim to learn faster and faster. Learn to enjoy learning, then everything else will follow. 2 — Keep […]

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You cannot buy customers (Why marketers should avoid discounting)

I can count on one hand the times I’ve cooked the last year, living in Shanghai. Thanks to coupons on food delivery APP’s, not only is it often cheaper to have food delivered than to eat it at a restaurant, it’s difficult to make dishes yourself in your own kitchen and compete on price with […]

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You own the right to your own feelings

Arne was the 17-year-old who we all looked up to, always seen in our street wearing white sport clothes, black shades, and headphones attached to his MP3 player. You know, the ones that go behind your head, instead of two loose cables. Arne was taller, faster, stronger — cooler than us. We were still mere […]

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Opposites

Virtue signaling is just as offensive as what it calls out, empathy is often narcissism in disguise, and nostalgia isn’t different than fear of future. Freedom means you can be hateful as well as happy, and positive thinking can be just as dangerous as negative thinking. Humility is no different than arrogance, for the man […]

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Challenges & solutions for having to abruptly teach online

Nearly two weeks ago, 1.4 million students in Shanghai started online classes, including the 30 that I teach branding at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts. We had three weeks in February to prepare, which was plenty, but my real learning (as a teacher) started when the classes did. Maybe this can help other teachers […]

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Five books I recommend because they’re profound

Don’t worry, no spoilers. H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald “Hunting makes you animal, but the death of an animal makes you human.” Helen Macdonald has written poetry before and it shows. She writes not just about things seen, but also things felt — intuitive thoughts and feelings we all have. Yet she is […]

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Once again, the Chinese people show their resourcefulness

“We must prepare for the possibility that we cannot give offline-classes for several months.” 24th January, Chinese New Year’s eve. We had worked out several scenarios at GoEast, ranging from asking students to wash their hands and checking their temperature, to actually closing the campuses — which seemed extreme at that time. But we prepared […]

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Learning Mandarin isn’t spiritual in itself

Learning Mandarin is often described as something deeply cultural or spiritual. Yes, it’s interesting that the character for home/family (家) originates from a pig underneath a roof, because livestock used to be in every home, or that 目 (eye) coupled the water radical becomes 泪 (tear). But it’s pure trivia, just as interesting as that […]

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Goblins & Howard Roark

As a teenager, I loved both The Hobbit and The Fountainhead. But while I never confused Tolkien’s Middle Earth with reality, I did so with Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Perhaps it’s because I’d never held Bilbo’s cowardliness and dislike of travel in such high esteem anyway, but more likely it’s because The Fountainhead — a […]

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Hate flows downwards

The simplified narrative often goes like “Younger generations have trouble buying houses because they spend money on coffee”, instead of “… because salaries haven’t kept up with housing prices”. Too often, ordinary people are being guilt-tripped by *facts* like that you need 7600 liters of water to make one pair of jeans — or that […]

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