How do you define your life?


How do you define your life?

This question popped into my mind last week, When I was walking along the hundreds of office works at 830am in the morning out of the Victoria Station. There was a young homeless guy who played a traffic cone like a saxophone every Thursday. But he was not there this Thursday.

So here I am, a loner away from family and friends, working in this city that I love & dislike at the same time. I never thought I would get a scholarship and study overseas, and I never thought I could work and stay behind. Life just turns at an unexpected corner sometimes.

When I read the lives of people I met on Facebook, I realise how different ways of life we are living. Some are married with young children, some work in banking/finance and earn a huge salary, some work in restaurants, some teach in high schools, some have a career in the academia, some want to save the world, some support democracy, some don’t, etc..

But from the hometown I grew up in, Hong Kong, it’s almost inevitable that people live a very similar lifestyle there. I am not entirely sure it is a consequence of cultural values, that Asians tend to conform in a society. Or is that the city is too small that there are not many ways of living you can choose.

It was one conversation in a friends’ whatsapp group that triggered me to think. Someone was looking for a new car, a Benz, and then another person referred a car and they went for a test drive. And then the conversation turned to how this 27 year old young man can afford a Benz and already has purchased his flat at such young age. Another friend who is 30, married and cannot afford his own flat joined, and sighed how he is failed compared to this “Benz” guy.

Undoubtedly the “Benz” guy was smart and brave enough to get a US$80,000 loan for the down payment of his first property back in the economic recession 2009. Investment has risk and one some people are better risk-taker.

For me, there is no point in letting a property, the brand of your car, the brand of your handbag or your salary level defines your life. All material forms deteriorate and vanish eventually and it is an endless chase of material living and consumption. I refused to let a bunch of numbers defined me. I refused to be consumed. 

So how do I define my life? When I was younger, I thought happiness is important. I tried to live every day happily so I have a very positive and healthy mindset. To me, happiness is an option and is a perspective that you can take. recite-6476--166063860-teaofzOf course, there would be hard and tough times in life, like when my father passed away years ago. I tried to enlarge the scope and not to focus on a single unfortunate incident in life. True, what’s the big deal of being blamed by your boss by something you didn’t do wrong, when you look back 20 years from now? I tried not to be controlled by negative emotions. I told my friends, happiness is free. It could be summed up by a quote in this tribute to Robin Williams.


“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”


And then I realise, happiness is simple but is only at the tip of the iceberg. There is much more one should achieve in life. Lately I changed my motto to:

“Try to do one single “positive” thing to people around you, or to this world every day”


I want to make a positive difference to this world. But I am just an ordinary person with no extraordinary talent or leadership. I may perform well in my job, but that’s it. I am scared to volunteer to help people at the frontline of conflicts, but I do feel for people who suffer.

I try to contribute by:

Sharing my ideas at work, building & promoting a useful app (my job), cook a nice dinner and share with my flatmates, share meaningful news on Facebook/Twitter, donate some money to charities, recycle, give money to a desperate guy who needed change for a ticket at the station, greet the bus driver, smile to strangers, help an old lady with her heavy bag, write on digital topics like privacy or startup that I know about, etc..

My efforts are so tiny and little that I am almost embarrased to share them. But I hope these series of tiny little events can bring some positive energy to our society and world. Maybe I make another person day better? Who knows?

So when Albert Einstein was asked the question “Why are we alive?”. He replied,

“The question “Why” in the human sphere is easy to answer: to create satisfaction for ourselves and for other people.”