The Standards You Set For Yourself Will Naturally Become Your Habits.
About 4 years ago I received my offer from the University of Toronto here in my high school, SCCSC. I was extremely thrilled because getting the offer from University of Toronto was my ultimate goal in grade 12. While they were people congratulating me for a dream comes true, at the same time there were also people kindly suggested me to go to an university of my level, and reminded my mom that the language program alone will be challenging enough for me, let alone the real university courses (spoil alert I graduated with above average). It is true that my IELTS grade was relatively low compared to the others students who were admitted, but I did graduate with some top grades at school, their reason was I was a student from “parallel classes” 平行班. Even so, I made the decision further pursue my study at University of Toronto. Today, I am here to speak as a “successful case from the parallel classes”.
I am very honored to be here today, I treasure this opportunity and see it as a way of sharing a journey of mine on how I discovered the strength from trusting yourself and what work ethic and true dedication means to me. Some of you might know me from the last 2 days, when I went to your classes individually. After 3 days, I realized that the more I talk about the journey of me studying overseas, the more I realize the power from believing in yourself and the significance of discipline in order to achieve goals, and how these 2 principles have drastically changed me, my life and the people around me.
I would like to start out with a directing project that I’m currently working on; “Farewell My Concubine”(霸王别姬 by 陈凯歌). Adapting this classical Chinese well-known movie to a stage show at a theater is not an easy job. There are tremendous amount difficulties that I face with this project. For example, Peking Opera requires highly skilled and trained vocal and movement technique. I have to figure out a way in order to give a real taste of its essence of Peking Opera. Also, since this movie is in Chinese, if I want to do a show in English, I have to consider the faithful translation and adaptation of a Chinese movie to a mostly English play. Woohoo, that already sounds like quite an amount of work.
However, despite all the difficulties and the challenges with this project, I still feel a strong desire and the responsibility to introduce this story to more audience, as well as I believe that the standards for work ethic amongst the students should be greater. The work ethic that was demonstrated in this movie is what I would highlight what true dedication means.
Being a performer myself, I have so much respect for the Peking opera artists. Due to its training, it took literal tears and blood back in the day in China to be a stage opera artist. There is a moment when “Douzi” first saw the opera “Farewell My Concubine”, and he immediately burst into tears and said to himself: “How did they make it to the stage? How many times they must been beaten to death and then get up again?” Those artists lived in fear day and night, yet they didn’t complain, they knew what it took in order to create a masterpiece. There was no such thing as luck or talent for making art at the time; it was pure training and dedication to the practice; practice to keep exceeding your physical and mental endurance, practice of your technique day in and day out.
“How many time they must been beaten to death and then get up again?” This quote has been my motto ever since. I was never the most disciplined person. In winter, it’s extremely cold and snowy in Toronto, and all my acting classes are at 9 am. I had a hard time getting up in the morning and being on time for the class at first. One day, I was watching an interview of Meryl Streep, she was talking about how she was rejected from lots of audition in a row because she doesn’t fit the beauty standard for female roles at the time, but she still kept going to auditions, she got up early and read, she never stop training herself to be ready to the next opportunity. I was thinking: “Would Meryl Streep complain about 9am class? Would Meryl Streep complain about the snow?”, and then I decided to write this on my window, “Meryl Streep did not win Oscar by sleeping and being late, so wake the f up “, and that’s how I get up in every snowy morning. When my timetable became busier, I would still get up early go to the gym, practice my Shakespeare lines while working out.
In my first year, my English was really poor at the time, I always tell this joke about how I can’t just order a none bitter coffee at Tim Hortons. End of that year, I was accepted to both Cinema Studies major and Drama Studies major. I didn’t go back to China after the semester ended. After I was accepted to my majors, I started to volunteer at Toronto International Film Festival, Fringe Festival, Toronto Pride, and many more, I wanted to do as much as I can physically possible to do to get involved with the local community, to improve my speaking English, I also started my own YouTube channel, I learned how to video editing. I spent the summer building my skill sets because I know that the admission is just a start.
A real life example I want to speak about today is the real life Iron Man, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla. If there is anyone I look up to when it comes to working ethic and dedication, it would be him. The efficiency of his products show the power of knowledge, he reasons from the first principle rather than by analogy, he completely rejects dogma and understands the fact that all you need to solve world’s problems is KNOWLEDGE. I find it amazing that one man can tackle so many pressing issues without succumbing to frustration. Most of us see the obstacles facing our race and either try our best to ignore them or look to other to solve them; he confronts them all by one, completely and utterly convinced that the very least the world needs is people that are willing to try. His success not only jump starts humanity towards the future but also teaches us how to dream again.
I hope by now you have a good sense of the significance of discipline and what I mean by true dedication, now I want to talk about a skill that I have been training myself to master, which I believe that I benefited from it a lot, is an ability to separate your negative emotions from your ability to work. I was inspired by a speech by Sheryl Sandberg, she talks about “Personalization, Pervasiveness, Permanence”. Let’s talk about the second P today, pervasiveness— “the belief that an event will affect all areas of your life. You know that song “Everything is Awesome?” This is the flip: “Everything is awful There’s no place to run or hide from the all-consuming sadness.'”
I started to accept the fact that life is never going to be perfect. Today you could be sad about graduating with a University of Toronto diploma but you are unemployed, tomorrow you could be sad about I thought you were my soulmate. Awful things will keep happening, but what needs to be done has to be done, and you are going to train yourself to do that.
Being in a busy state is addicting to me, but I am loving my life. I earned my opportunity to study what lights up a fire in my soul (and don’t ever loose that little sparks of madness), I am excited about the future and looking forward to it every day. I don’t think it’s a cliché that you need to trust yourself before anyone else does. Don’t be the person who is getting quite good at pointing fingers, be the person who always makes concrete plans and take actions yourself.
The last thing I want to mention is, my grades weren’t particularly outstanding at first, but my hair color was pretty outstanding throughout high school. School leaders labeled me as one of those “rebellious kids” of Class 2013, and I wasn’t always determined and clear about what I want. I think the teachers didn’t want me to mention this part because they don’t want to give you a false scent that being a “rebellious kid” at school is cool, and you can still go to a good university eventually. The thing is YOU CAN decide to start to form a new habit anytime; stop making excuses, start to discipline yourself, start to make plans, start to be curious about your future, start to set goals and dream big.
The secret of the day is:
You can find millions of excuses for your laziness today, but you decide how excellent and how outstanding you want to be, and you decide how much effort you want to put it in a day in and day out to make it happen. The action is what separates the leaders and the rest of us.
I sincerely wish that after hearing my story today, one day in the future when you receive multiple offers from universities, you will choose the harder one to challenge yourself. As well as every day in the future, I challenge all of you, to never make it easy on yourself.