Change your environment 改變你的環境

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Change your environment 改變你的環境

在作研究時突然冒出一個想法。到底是什麼支撐著我這幾十年來一直唸書並持續打拼下去?畢竟40歲還在半工半讀念博士是非常辛苦的。

A thought popped up while I was doing research. What has sustained me for the past couple of decades? What am I still doing at school in my 40s? Is this what you would call success?

持續努力而成功的因素頗多。很多人會說個人才能(natural talent)或社經地位(socioeconomic status)。網路上也很常看到「要當人生勝利組重新投胎比較快,科科」。在某種程度上,我認同。如果有人說這些與生俱來而不可改的因素無關緊要,無疑是荒謬的。 但我認為一個不常被討論的「成功」因素,是大家可以創造的「成長環境」(an environment for growth)。

There are quite a few factors contributing to what I consider to be “success." Generally speaking, many would say success depends mostly on one’s natural talent, socioeconomic status, or just dumb luck. A common saying among Taiwanese netizens is “it’s easier to reincarnate than achieve success through one’s own efforts.” To a certain extent, I somewhat agree. However, I think one factor not often discussed is an “environment for growth” that we can all create for ourselves.

有些同學可能知道,我在一個遠低於貧窮線(well below the poverty line)的單親家庭中長大(沒錢吃海鮮)。但由於我當時住在美國,很多人便認為我很富裕。然而,對於不得不仰賴政府援助以獲得食物與學校教育的家庭來說,生活是如此地不同。我是學校裡唯二的東亞人 (East Asian),而且一句英語也不會說。第一天,學校讓一位越南裔的孩子作為我的學伴,因為他們以為我們說的是同一種語言。

As some of my students know, I come from a single-parent family well below the poverty line. Because I had lived in the US, many in Taiwan would assume that my family was well off. Nevertheless, my childhood was quite different from imagined, considering that we qualified for federally assisted meal programs and aid. I was also one of the only two East Asian kids in my school and did not speak a word of English when I first arrived in the late 80s. The school brought a Vietnamese kid to mentor me on my first day because they thought we spoke the same language (cringe).

我們家在收入不錯的月份能賺400美元,每月餘下約100美元用於一家四口的吃喝。僥倖的是,房租不成問題,因為我們家替房東管理了幾間房子。即便是在80年代末,用這點薪資養活全家也相當艱難。幸運的是,學業對我來說則是家常便飯,而我也一直是校排前幾名的學生。 撇開語言不說,美國公立學校的體制對臺灣學生來說似乎相當容易。

On a good month, my family survived on a household income of $400, leaving about a hundred to feed our family of four. This was rough even in the 80s. Fortunately, our rent was covered as we helped the owner manage a few of her apartments. School also came naturally to me, and I’ve always been at the top of my class. Barring the language barrier, American public schools probably seem relatively easy to the average Taiwanese student.

我在小時候就開始工作,並以此來供自己上大學而取得了小小的成就。當然,我並不是在討拍搏取流量。我自己已經很幸福,大學有全額獎學金加上我打工的錢。之後,我回到臺灣,在國立與私立的教育機構工作多年,也過的很愜意。但現在回想起來,在這段安逸的時間裡,我的成長反而是最少的。

I started working at a young age and found my own success by working and putting myself through college. After graduation, I returned to Taiwan and worked for many years in the public and private sectors of education. I share my experiences here not to fish for compliments with a sob story, but to show you that we can all achieve our own brand of success.

I am already quite fortunate, considering I had a full scholarship, no student debt, and could easily find work in Taiwan due to my bilingualism. However, when reflecting back, it was in this period of complacency that I experienced the least amount of growth.

當時的自滿與安逸的生活環境反而是我進步的最大阻礙。我在臺灣一家出版公司擔任主編,月薪大約在六到八萬元,我就這樣做了八年。因為就算是今日,單身的人也能靠這份薪水在臺北過上舒服的生活。但就在這樣生活了好幾年後,我才決定攻讀我的碩士學位,並開始在大學裡講課。

Complacency, I think, was the biggest impediment to growth at the time. I made about NT$80,000 as the senior chief editor of a publishing company. I held onto this job for eight years because, even today, a bachelor could live comfortably on that salary in Taipei. It was only after years of being on autopilot did I decide to pursue my first graduate degree and started to lecture in university.

我覺得自己在一成不變的環境、同事、公司乃至朋友之間浸淫太久。我確實享受生活,但卻沒有如想像中的那樣成長。但離開如此舒適的生活並改變它,也不是件容易的事。 直到我結了婚,我才被迫擺脫這種自滿,並改變我的「環境」。

I had been way too comfortable, way too long, in the same environment, with the same company, with the same colleagues, and same friends even. I did enjoy this period in my life, but I just did not grow in a way that I’d imagined. It was only after I got married did I leave this lifestyle behind and made an attempt to change my environment.

我換了新的工作,並結識了能夠向他們學習的同事和新朋友。我開始在大學裡講課,在海外學習中心任教和擔任主任,並以我在課程編寫與教學方面的經驗成為教育科技機構(EdTech)的顧問。在此一過程中,我一步一步取得了些許成就,也變得更加自信,並承擔了更多工作。我為自己設計了線上課程,建立了個人的社群媒體,一路上也結識了許多出色的內容創作者(content creators)與教師。

I changed my job, took on new ones, and met new people I could learn from. I started to lecture in universities, taught in and managed a private overseas study center, and consulted ed-tech organizations with my experience in curriculum writing and teaching. By achieving small micro-steps of success each day, I became more confident and took on more tasks. I created several e-courses and started a social media ecosystem, meeting amazing content creators and educators along the way.

由於我的雙語能力以及在教育與全球地緣政治的經驗,我還想在這教育政治與政策領域精進自己。我決定重返校園攻讀博士學位,並開始與學者以及頂尖的政治顧問合作。在與這些頂尖人才的互動中,我被迫提升自己的層次。起初,我很難跟上他們的步伐。他們在自己的領域裡都博學非常,他們說的每個字都充滿了深意。如果你不了解某一語境或稍不留意,你就會迷失方向。這些精英的思考總是快人三步,在你說出第一個字時他們就知道你在想些什麼。 在這樣的環境/世界裡,我覺得自己像個冒牌貨(imposter)。

Due to my experience and interest in education and (geo)politics, I aim to pursue a career in educational governance and policies. I returned to school for my doctorate, and started working with academics and top political advisors. Through my interaction with these highly accomplished experts, I was forced to move to another level. It was immensely challenging keeping up with them. These people are at the top of their respective fields–every word they say is nuanced yet implicitly packed with meaning. If you are not fully prepared or nod off for just a second, you might as well just pack up and go home. Being borderline clairvoyant, they think three steps ahead and know exactly what’s going on in your head the moment a word is uttered. In a world like this, I felt like an imposter.

我不像多數同儕那樣畢業於常春藤名校,也不是來自資源豐富的富裕家庭或官二代。 惟幾年後,跟這些專業人士互動變得更加容易,因為我也繼續學習並從他們的知識與經驗中獲益。回到家後,我會花時間梳理我的會議與討論記錄 (comb over my notes),檢索我不理解的資訊,並與我理解的內容相連繫。然後我會試著使用它,直到我將新知識內化並成為反射動作。這包含了內容知識(content knowledge)以及和可以自動性應用該知識所需的特定語言 (domain specific language)。

I did not graduate from an Ivy League like many of my peers, nor did I come from a family of means or a long line of bureaucrats. Yet, after a couple of years, interactions have become manageable as I continue to gain from these experts. I would go home after each meeting and comb over my notes, looking up information I did not understand and connecting it to what I did know. I would then use newly acquired information until it was fully internalized. This includes both content knowledge and the domain-specific language needed to communicate that knowledge.

我目前正在發表更多的學術論文(正在寫另一篇),與頂尖的政治顧問相呼應,並致力於我的新創以及社會正義計畫。最重要的是,我對自己過的生活很滿意。老實說,我覺得我每天都在學習、成長並變得「更聰明」。我不必去想「我本來可以變得更好」,這種感覺在我安逸自滿時反而一直困擾著我。

I am now publishing more academic papers (working on another one now), corresponding with top political advisors, and working on a start-up and social justice projects. I am, I think, improving day by day. But, most importantly, I am content. Long gone is the “I could have done more” feeling plaguing me during periods of complacency.

然而,如果我沒有改變我的環境,沒有想出新的方法來解決人生帶來的新問題,沒有換工作,沒有回到學校,沒有結交新的朋友,這一切都不可能發生。改變一個人的環境、改變一切從來都不是件容易的事。離開自己的家——父母搭建的舒適圈 (comfort zone)——或已從事多年的工作,很是艱難。回到學校,或者在你三四十歲、四五十歲時結交新朋友,也是如此。

None of this would have been possible, however, if I had not changed my environment, if I had not challenged myself, if I had not found a new job, if I had not gone back to school, or if I had not met new people. It is never easy to change one’s environment, to change anything or everything. Leaving one’s home, the comfort zone our parents provided, or the job we’ve held for years is tough. And so is going back to school or even making new friends in our 30s, 40s, or 50s.

留學、找新工作容或涉及巨大的財務風險。若一不小心,你最終可能會處於一個更糟糕的境地。但若你想改變,就只能放手一博。 如果你留在舒適圈,那麼,你將一如既往地生活,這或許也很不錯。並不是人人都適合改變環境。

There are also financial risks involved, and we could end up in a far worse position. In the end, it’s a gamble we must take if we desire change. If we remain in our comfort zone, well, change will be nearly impossible, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly not for everyone.

我也意識到自己擁有的特權和自己是如此的幸運,有那麼多的機會。即便如此,對我來說,改變我的環境,將小目標變成更大的目標,結識那些能滋養我才能的人,這一切都讓我能追求屬於自己的小小成功。 我們無法改變自己的出身,但我們都有能力實現屬於自己的小成就。起身並尋求改變。無須害怕。

不要一直在那邊無補於事地說「要當人生勝利組重新投胎比較快,科科」。其實我們每一天都有機會「重生」,就看你願不願意嘗試。

I am also aware of how very privileged and fortunate I am, seeing how change has brought more opportunities than challenges. Change may not be for everyone, but for me, changing my environment, achieving small objectives, and connecting with new people have made all the difference.

Rather than bemoaning the platitude, “it’s easier to reincarnate than achieve success through one’s own efforts,” give change a chance. It might just change your life for the better.

★★★★★★★★★★★★

Motivation to Learn 學習的動力: http://bit.ly/2RjscPb

How to Set & Achieve Goals 如何制定短期目標: http://bit.ly/2Rdi0aU

10 Must-Knows for a Growth Mindset 成長心態的十大必知: https://bit.ly/3uBVrkE

Should learning always be fun 學習應該充滿樂趣嗎?https://bit.ly/3Bm4t7W

You may share my blog content for educational purposes, but permission must first be obtained: yangec@alumni.usc.edu. Thank you.

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