There are quite a few things I like to do outside research. The hobbies are those that I can do regularly, such as playing basketball, watching movies, attending Toastmasters meetings, volunteering for organizations, making friends, and reading books, etc. The interests are those that I can only do once in a while, such as travel and photographing.
I started to play basketball in high school, played through college and graduate school, and am still playing basketball every week. Basketball is a great sports because you can play in a team or alone, in half court or full court, as a teenager or an adult, and at different positions (guards, forwards, center). It is a little bit physical but not too much, so it’s a good way of relaxation without getting hurt easily. It involves various moves (dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, to name a few) thus providing an all-around exercise to your body.
Besides playing basketball, I also watch NBA games regularly through NBA League Pass. I’m a fan of Houston Rockets because of Yao Ming. Following Rockets on their fans’ forum has been a good experience of understanding the role of sports in American culture.
Interestingly, basketball made me realize what a passion is. When I played badly sometimes, I got frustrated with myself. However, on the next day, my desire to play basketball fully came back. That is a passion – a desire that does not diminish with setbacks!
Attending Toastmasters meetings has been both joyful and greatly helpful for me. Toastmasters provides an excellent platform to improve my public speaking skills though speaking, evaluations, and interactions in a very friendly and supportive environment. More importantly, it increases my confidence during communication. When you have the confidence, you will win audience when you speak on stage, and you will win friends when you engage small talks. A little over one year after I joined a Toastmasters club, I discovered that my communication with native Americans improved qualitatively. I just felt it! I had little fear going on stage; I initiated small talks with strangers; I knew when to make a turn and when to stop in a conversation; I could see who was interested in talking to me and who was not; I could sense what other people were thinking during communication. All of these are highly due to the confidence. With the confidence, your brain is not occupied by fears anymore. Thus, you can think when you communicate. I'm not saying that all of these changes were due to Toastmasters (there were many other factors and years of learning), but Toastmasters definitely accelerated my learning process. I highly recommend Toastmasters to everyone. For foreigners in United States, Toastmasters can also help you understand the American way of communication.
I started being a student
leader in junior middle school in China (like junior high in US). It totally
changed my life. From a very shy boy with few friends, I became a young man
with a lot more confidence, people skills, and friends. Through continuous leadership in high school,
college, and graduate school, I learned more about leadership and became even more
interested in it. Being a leader is all about being a person. I can’t recommend
more Dale Carnegie’s books on interpersonal relationship, such as “How to Win
Friends & Influence People”. I read a Chinese book “Carnegie’s Ology on Interpersonal
Relationship” in college, which significantly affected me. Another great book
is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, which is about leadership in great companies.
Unfortunately, the percentage of good leaders among all leaders isn’t high in
reality. The most common problems with some leaders as I have noticed are
arrogance, selfishness, and lack of thinking from other people’s perspectives. Hey, that's why we need all these books.
In United States, I have engaged in several leadership roles: Secretary and then President of Chinese Culture Club at New York University from 2001 to 2003, volunteer of SABPA (fund raising and event setup) from 2005 to 2008, Secretary of Toastmasters of the Cove from July to December of 2006. In research, I have mentored one Ph.D. researcher, two graduate students, and one undergraduate student (see my CV for details). I enjoyed all of these activities.
Making friends gets harder as
one gets older. We become busier and more realistic as we age. However, I still
try my best to make friends whenever I can. It just feels great to have
friends, especially those with the similar interests. The process isn’t easy
though, and you may find only one interesting person after meeting a dozen. However,
the process is fun too because you got to know many people with
different personalities and in different fields. Just avoid talking to the
people who do not show any interest in you. True friendship does not decay with time or distance, and I feel grateful to have such friends.
When I want to understand a topic in deep but can’t find enough internet resource for it, I would buy and read a book or two on that topic. I thus have read many books in recent years. Here are some of the books that I would recommend:
· “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie on interpersonal relationship,
· “The Truth About the Drug Companies” by Marcia Angell on “how they deceive us and what to do about it”.
Travel & Photographing
Travel is a great way of learning things that I don’t see at one place. It also brings me closer to the nature and makes me understand the world better. Photographing is a way of capturing the moments when I’m amazed, excited, or surprised by what I see during travel. Here are some photos I took (without editing). Enjoy!
Longwood Garden, Pennsylvania
Botanic Garden, New York
State Aquarium, New Jersey
Indiana Echo Caverns, Pennsylvania