My Lack of Cycling: An Outlier?


Today was Bike to Work Day; needless to say, I did not partake in it because I still have a fear of being out on the road alone like that. I kept thinking today, “If I had a helmet, I’d consider it.” But alas, I do not have one yet.

In recent years, the cyclist culture has taken off: I remember while living in San Francisco, I observed Critical Mass, watching the swarms of cyclists go down Stockton Street by Union Square. Since moving to Denver, I’ve come to know the Denver Cruisers, B-cycle, etc. More and more people are commuting by bikes these days.

I want to ride a bike again; I did a lot of circling around the front yard when I was a kid. I remember the excitement I felt when I transitioned from tricycle to bicycle. I’d show off some moves to my mom and my little brother; once, I leaned over too far and fell over, skinned my knees. Oops.

Perhaps many of you know about my accident in 2010; major head injury and trauma. Since the accident, I have been super cautious about where I’m walking and making eye contact with the drivers when crossing ths street.

When I see cyclists zooming by cars on a red light, or cyclists drinking and messing around with public transit, I become very anxious (and angry). I fear I will see an accident happen before my eyes; I feel angry that the cyclists would be so bold to risk death for a good time, playing chicken with a heavy car or bus.

I know I should not be so fearful for others and for my own venture out with a bike again. But when you almost lose your life once, you want to preserve the second chance you got at life.

And that’s why I’d rather walk or take public transit. Cycling appears too dangerous for my psyche still.

I want to be noticed for my accomplishments, not my ethnicity.


This thought has been on my mind for most of this year and maybe part of last year: have I garnered attention to my accomplishments for the sake of my accomplishments and my own merit, or has some of it been based off of my standing in society as a minority AND as a woman?

I am probably not the first to have this thought; it is something that intrigues and bothers me. Earlier this year, I was thinking about applying for a small business award in the area. However, I have put those plans off until next year since TAOpivot is still pretty new (and only now gaining attention). Still, I was put off by the different categories listed for the awards: Best Small Business, Best Small Business Owned by Minority (Women included), and several other categories. I found myself questioning, “Why would I want to apply for the one that’s blatantly spelled out for me?”

Many times, I believe that groups, organizations, hell, even awards/recognitions can oftentimes wear the thin veil of segregation. Just look at some headlines that have popped up in recent media: “Best Female Leaders of 2013”, “First Hispanic CEO”, “Successful Black Women in Business”, and so forth. It is great and all to highlight these people, but to put that label on them? Can they not just be “best leaders”, “great CEO”, and “successful women in business”? Why do we have to point out what is “special” about their recognition?

In the end, it’s still segregation and borders racism. I know in my case, I want to noticed for my accomplishments and merits ALONE, and NOT because I am an Asian woman. Do not get me wrong: I am proud of my Asian heritage and proud of being a woman of the 21st century. But I do not want to have labels put upon me when I am recognized for my achievements. I just want to be recognized for being a living, breathing human being who has achieved great things.

It’s time we put those labels aside and be proud of who we are for what we do, and not for the color of our skin or our gender.

5 Questions to Help You Discover Your Personal Brand

My father, my hero.
My father, my hero.

In the past month, I have been asked by others about how I came about with my personal brand. Maybe you, too, are wondering how I did so; I wish I could give you a short answer, but honestly, I cannot. However, as I talked through my long answer with others over the course of the month, I realized there were a few things that helped me along in my journey. So here are those defining moments, presented to you in questions:

  1. What are you passionate about? – Think about what you can never give up in your life, even if you had to retire. For me, I cannot dream of giving up art, or the need to create with my hands–whether for work, play, etc., I always need art to keep me going along. There were times in the past decade where I suppressed my need to create with my hands, and those were times when I felt distressed and lost. Only in the past 2-3 years have I eased back into the world of art and creating with my hands — and that has helped me gain confidence and freedom in my thoughts.
  2. When you were a child, what did you you want to be when you grew up? – We were all asked this question when we were children. I remember I told adults that I wanted to grow up to be an artist…and then that changed into a writer…and then that changed into a musician (I was a trumpet player in high school). Still, at the root of all these aspirations is the fact that I knew I wanted to do art of some form. What did you want to grow up to be? Does it still resonate with you in the present? Even though my profession is not clearly based in creative arts, I say my career has roots in the arts and gives me leverage in a world of analytics with creative thinking.
  3. What are you afraid of? – If you have watched my Ignite Denver¬†talks, you may be surprised to have me tell you that I was once very, very afraid of public speaking and presentations. I remember in high school and undergrad, when I would stand in front of my classmates with index cards, shaky hands, and eyes down, hoping for the dreaded talk to be over with right away. Yes, I used to fear presentations. I was not confident with how I presented myself. What changed? I faced my fears in the past few years by volunteering for events like Ignite. I read loads of articles about how to present better and watched how my grad school classmates presented. And, with time and practice, I have improved. These days, I am even asking for people to book me for speaking engagements. All because I was once deathly afraid of public speaking…and then I faced that fear.
  4. When have you experienced a pivot in your life? What happened? – You may or may not have experienced something big, life-changing. How do you know when to change course? If you have been following my blog for some time, you may know about how I almost died on my 25th birthday. Morbid to say, but in hindsight, that incident needed to happen in my life. I know that, leading up to that ill-fated moment, I was very unhappy with how my life was in San Francisco. I wanted to do more with my life, but I did not know where to turn. Then, that car hit me. And, that forced me to change course in life — to decide I had to really fight for what I yearned for (my own business). Since that accident, there had been a couple other ‘pivots’ in my life to where change just erupted–and now, I see why those moments had to come into my life. Perhaps your pivot moments are not as huge and dramatic as mine were; but still, what moments in your life do you feel define who you are?
  5. Who is your all-time hero? – Who have you always looked up to? Some people say rock stars, athletes, public figures, etc. Somebody in those realms. My hero is my father and not just because he’s my father: he is an inspiration to many. He escaped mainland China during the 1970s because he wanted a better life for the next generation. He came to the U.S. with little to no English skills and worked many jobs before he founded his restaurant in Virginia. He and my mother worked often-24 hour days during the infancy of the restaurant, just to make sure we children had enough to live on and have a good life. My parents have taught me a lot of values in my life, and only after I got out of my angsty, know-it-all phase from the teen years, have I been able to fully appreciate how my father and mother have molded me into who I am today.

I am of course in no way “finished” with my branding. I don’t feel like anyone ever will be; your personal brand can change over the course of your life. Just be prepared to polish your brand here and there.

And, understandably, these questions are deep. You can’t just answer them in five minutes and then, voila!, figure out your personal brand. It takes time, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post; it has taken me close to ten years to really carve away at myself, to really know who I am, what I am capable of, and what I can share with the world. Maybe for you, with these questions, you will be able to discover your true, personal brand sooner than later.

“Where are you {REALLY} from?”

I come from the sky, the mountains, the earth...
I come from the sky, the mountains, the earth…

Every time I hear this question, I immediately go on the defensive. This person thinks I’m from Asia! Gosh! Yet, I’m not entirely wrong on assuming what the other party thinks; most people will profile me on the way I look to determine how they should speak with me.

I actually dreamt last night that I was waiting in line at a library, waiting to ask a question, and I was  ignored by the librarians; they instead wanted to help out the non-Asian patrons behind me. In the dream, I ran off yelling about how rude, disrespectful, etc. the librarians were.

Growing up, I experienced a lot of discrimination like this; even today, my family and I are discriminated against. Whenever I go to the store with my mom back home, the cashier is always cheery to the customer in front (and behind!) us; when we get to the front of the line, the cashier immediately looks down, doesn’t raise his/her eyes to us, and doesn’t try to conjure up conversation.

We speak English, you know.

When I first started getting the question of “Where are you from?” in my adult life, I’d wrestle with my answer for a good few minutes. Do I tell them I’m from China? But wait, I wasn’t even born there and have only visited once. Do they want me to say I’m from China or somewhere in Asia? et .al.

I’ve received this question many times since moving to Denver, and nowadays I’ve perfected my answer to this: “I’m from Virginia. How about you?” And it seems that this is the best way to reply back to the question. Oftentimes I feel that the other party does want me to say I’m from somewhere in Asia, but by answering with my home state, I nip that thought in the bud. Sometimes I get the follow-up question of “Where are your parents from?”

Sometimes I get the jerkish question, “No, where are you REALLY from?” And at that point I just want to drive it home with a Southern accent: “I’m from southwestern VirGINeeya, thank ya very much. Where are y’all from? Wesconsin?”

Thoughts About my Upcoming Birthday

Funny how I haven’t blogged since October. Oh well…


Since the beginning of the year (last week), I’ve been making plans for my birthday.

Not just small plans….BIG PLANS.


I’m sure many of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, wonder why I’m making a big deal out of my birthday. Yes, it IS my birthday, but why all the extra bells and whistles?


I’ve been feeling down most of this week with the response I’ve received for a fancy dinner…to the point that just 30 minutes ago I pivoted 180 degrees to have the party at a much lower price point in order to accommodate my guests accordingly.


So you wonder….why should I bend to the will of my guests? Shouldn’t they bend to MY will?

Not so, when most of the people I know are broke/have tight budgets.


I don’t blame them for this, no way. I too am on a tight budget. But what hurts me more from the declined invitations is the visceral feeling I get: that, to some people, it’s just another birthday party. Just another person’s birthday.


I don’t feel this way about my own birthday. In the past three years, I haven’t felt this way about my birthday. Instead, my birthday has become some sort of monument to myself: a super special day, in which I must celebrate to the fullest because of what happened to me in 2010.


It’s still an unbelievable story to me, especially since I was not conscious at all during the whole incident. When you nearly lose your life ON your birthday, there’s much to be thankful about and much to celebrate.

This memory is one that I’d like to forget, but it’ll only take time to have the memory go further and further away.

So this is how I’ve felt about my birthday since 2010. A lot of celebration, a lot of appreciation.


I don’t want others to think it’s “just another birthday”. I want those who are close to me to know–this is a commemoration of my survival. This is me, defying death, still kicking and fighting on this side of the world.