Finding yourself

Yue-Sai Kan taught me to dream big

To hear Joy read this post in English, subscribe to the GlobalRencai podcast on iTunes, or hear or download the MP3 here.

The world contains one woman, a Chinese woman, who has changed society on a global level for over three decades. Born in Guilin the daughter of a painter, she became a musician herself before starting her first TV show in the 1970s. Ever since, she’s enchanted the world, as a bestselling author, journalist, and business and cultural leader.

You know her as the beauty icon Yue-Sai Kan, an idol to millions, but I first met her in a very personal way. By then, Yue-Sai already was China’s most famous woman as the host of CCTV’s One World. I was a nobody, just another college student in need of a summer internship. Yue-Sai not only gave me an internship, but even welcomed me to stay in her own home in New York City.

The upcoming start of Dragon Year is the perfect time to think about what we want to meaningfully achieve this year. Dream big. Yue-Sai taught me to dream big.

Yue-Sai: changing the world with integrity, character and vision

I’d imagine that few of you have actually met Yue-Sai in person, so I’ll fill you in on the fact that she possesses a wicked sense of humor, as known by her many friends among the world’s entertainment and political elite. If you ever get an invitation to meet Yue-Sai, jump on it, as she’s simply sparkling fun.

Yue-Sai is famous as one of the world’s most stunningly beautiful women. But what’s most stunning about Yue-Sai is her deep inner humanity. Yue-Sai has changed the world with integrity, character and vision, focusing her life on lifting the hearts of modern Chinese women and teaching us how to be modern.

She’s as generous with the individuals in her life as she is with the world. Two decades later when we reconnected, she barely even remembered me, over the years having mentored so many young women.

By now, Yue-Sai has achieved so much that no one would fault her for now relaxing and enjoying the fruits of her hard work. But she’s not done. She continues to work tirelessly, leveraging all of her fame and power, to infuse the world with more of what the world needs right now: beauty, honor, grace, style, and love. The world is a better place thanks to her.

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Power and fame don’t bring you worth. They don’t bring you meaning and joy. Joy comes only from having meaning in your life. Meaning in your life comes from giving to others. When you do give, you will get back even more.

The French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote, “The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to live with purpose.”We all can have meaning in our lives by using our limited time here to do something that matters. Truly successful people work toward something bigger than themselves. In the words of the late Steve Jobs, they “make a ding in the universe.”

They say that Americans are always about changing the world, and Chinese are only focused on themselves. But I look around and see staggering evidence to the contrary. I am constantly touched by the beautiful voices of the writers and artists and others out there in the blogosphere who envision a better China. I see the disaster-relief, child-location, and other volunteer efforts popping up everywhere around China. I see how so many people in China are straining to find ways to leave their communities a little better than before.

Right now, you have within yourself everything you need to make a difference in the world. And yet, since the day you were born, society has been in a massive conspiracy to squash your spirit and make you lower your sights and become average and ordinary. But you are neither average nor ordinary. The way to demonstrate that to the world is to do something that matters.

The poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” That’s the challenge that we all can draw from Yue-Sai’s blazing-red example. It’s the challenge that I pose to myself as well as to you at the start of Dragon Year: what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Comments welcome, in Chinese, on the Chinese version of this post, here.
To hear Joy read this post in English, subscribe to the GlobalRencai podcast on iTunes, or hear or download the MP3 here.