I wrote this piece for the children of the people in my father’s “Successful Parenting” class at a local chinese school. My father, Anping Shen, graduated from Boston University with a Doctorate in Education (EDD). He has altered his views on parenting over the many years and promotes a CARE strategy. Communication, Appreciation, Respect and Education are his foundations for a good parent.

This was written to help those Chinese kids succeed in life, but really it is applicable to most young people. It’s a little cheesy, but here it .

Hello friend.

I wrote this for you. Even though I don’t know you, I know that we share some things in common.

We both come from an Asian background but have lived most of our lives in the U.S. We are both pretty young and we are trying to figure out what to do with our lives. And most importantly, we both have a very special chance to live a great life.

When I was 13, I read a book that changed my life forever. It was called 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The content of the book is stellar, and I highly recommend it. But besides what it said, it made me realize that there might be a better way to do things than the way I’m was doing it then.

I’ve spent nearly 10 years reading, discussing and thinking about what it means to do things better, to live a better life. I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on these subjects. And I’ve tried to live what I’ve learned.

Now, I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you. I can’t promise to know it all or to get it all right (honestly, who can say that?) but if you read something that you think make sense, then use it. That’s all I can ask.

When you’re ready, come join me as we learn how to seize this one chance we have.


  • You have one shot at this thing called life. The average life span is roughly 72 years. Let’s say you’ve got a good 40 or 50 more years before you check out, barring some horrible accident. How do you want to spend that time? Why not make the most of it by seeking to live a great life?
  • You define what a great life means. It’s ok if you don’t really know right now. There is no right or wrong. Realize that this is something you’ll be thinking about the rest of your life.
  • You are in charge. It’s your job to pursue your vision of a great life your life great. No one else can do it for you – not your parents, not your friends, not anyone else.
  • Take responsibility for your actions. This means you apologize when you screw up, you don’t blame others for things that happen to you. Complaining is a waste of time. Starting figuring out what to do about it.


Your family.

  • Understand your family’s culture. They grew up in a different time, a different place where children always respected and obeyed their parents, grades and standardized tests were the only way to a decent future and value was placed on “suffer now, enjoy later”. You’d be just like them if you went through what they did.
  • You are between worlds. You came from Asia, but you now live in America where some things are different. You will never be like some of your American friends, but why would you want to? However, you have to adapt yourself to thrive in American culture.
  • Families love each other. Understand that your family loves you and that deep down inside, you love them. But sometimes you might disagree. This is ok. Your family can still give you great advice about a lot of things, but perhaps not everything.


Planning for the future.

  • Don’t plan everything. Don’t let anyone make you plan out your whole life or commit to something before you’re ready. Life RARELY ever goes according to plan – everyone figures things out as they go along or they are just being blind.
  • Embrace change. In the 21st century, people go through an average of half a dozen careers. Things become obsolete fast. New knowledge accumulates quickly. Everything is moving faster. You have got to be able to change: your attitude, your skills, your knowledge.
  • Experiment to find passions. Try different things to find a few things (not just one) that you’re passionate about. Give a strong honest effort. There’s no point in half-assing it. When you are passionate about something you care about it, you learn about it, you talk about it, and you will be willing to invest the effort to get good at it.
  • Assess the market value. Consider whether your passions lead to something that people get paid to do if they are good enough. If you have to be very good, or it doesn’t pay very well, or the definition of “very good” is highly subjective, you might want to think about having some backups as well.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. As long as you aren’t doing something illegal or highly dangerous, no failure is final. You can always, always bounce back – if you believe in yourself. This is completely a case of positive thinking saving the day.
  • Don’t fear success either. Everyone has the right to live the best life they can.

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Another poem! They just come out of me sometimes and I really don’t know what else to say. I usually don’t enjoy reading poems that much, but I have this creative itch inside me – to churn out prose interspersed with line breaks. If you didn’t know I just went through my second knee surgery – so far turning out much like the first one (but less reading and TV and more sleeping). And yes, I am feeling a little isolated from my sport…


PommelsStepping onto the padded carpet
chalk thick in the air
This place is my home
but it feels strange, unfamiliar

The apparatus I used to spend
hours upon hours sweating over
Now seem hollow and distant
nothing like they used to be.

My hands, once thick and callous
now are soft, tender and pathetic.
My body, once limber and powerful
now moves with an ungainly trepidation.

My strength will return, be it weeks or months.
My weakness will banish. The rings and bars
will once again be my weapon of choice.
I’ll stand tall once more.


This is a poem acheiving and experiencing glory in one’s life. I think it is something that many people (especially men) aspire to achieve in their lives and many do – to varying degrees. It came to after listening to the theme from ConAir – a decent action movie where Nicolas Cage actually looks pretty bad-ass. It also comes from my excitement about the quickly-approaching NCAA mens gymnastics championships – and my inability to compete at them. And finally, yes I watched the Spartans fight the Persians in 300 – the greatest man-movie of all time in my opinion.

Andrew Jackson Statue


a tall walk of long strides
his gaze dead ahead
triumph coursing through veins
this day is his, forever

knowing that from nothing
with just his iron will, he forged
something great
something worth remembering

he walks a lonely path
worth the while
to stand alone in the sun
one moment of light

most can’t choke the bitter gruel
of blood and sweat
they don’t deserve to taste
sweet, sweet glory