Christine Lai Talks Human About Belonging, Connectedness, and Community

"Share it with other people and hopefully in a very generative way."

- Christine Lai

Christine Lai sits down to talk human to me about belonging, connectedness, community, perspective, reframing, and being generative.

Want to be updated on new episodes? Subscribe on iTunes!

Our Conversation with Christine Lai

Jeffrey Shiau: [1:41] Alright let’s get started. C Lai or Christine Lai, where actually did you get C Lai?

Christine Lai: [1:51] I’ve had it back in the day, but just my first initial, last name.

Jeffrey Shiau: [1:57] And it was just a random nickname from high school?

Christine Lai: [1:58] High school, college it’s kind of stuck with me for a while.

Jeffrey Shiau: [2:01] Oh okay so now that we’ve got those random questions - it’s the first by the way, Talk Human To Me first, where I don’t ask the first question because I was just so confused with the name just now. Anyway, so as with all episodes, Christine Lai, what about humans strikes you the most?

Christine Lai: [2:21] Man, what about humans strikes me the most? What a profound question but also such a simple one. What strikes me the most about humans? I think the biggest thing for as of recent but also since I was little was the need for belonging, connectedness and community and how that’s important and vital to humans as a species and then also the need for us to thrive, I think we do better when we are having a sense of belonging and have a sense of connectiveness and have a sense of community, and that always sparks me and I think intrigues me about humans.

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:00] Do you have a big family, is that...

Christine Lai: [3:03] Well my immediate family is just my mom, my dad and my brother and myself.

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:07] Your mom and dad are still together?

Christine Lai: [3:09] Mm hmm my mom and dad are still together.

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:10] You and your brother, what is the age difference?

Christine Lai: [3:13] Seven years, it was...

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:14] Is he your big brother?

Christine Lai: [3:15] Younger brother.

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:16] Younger brother oh yeah.

Christine Lai: [3:17] It was when I was a little girl, all my friends had brothers and sisters and siblings and I was like, ‘I want a little brother or sister, I want a bunk bed’ and then I asked my mom for a little brother and then out came my brother and by the time he could sleep in a bunk bed I was like, ‘hmm I want my own room.’ [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:35] That’s cool, so what is your relationship with your brother right now? Is it still very much big sister little brother or are your guys kind of peers now or...

Christine Lai: [3:47] I mean i think just because of the way we grew up, it’s like older sister little brother but always peers. I mean there’s so much I’ve learned from my brother and hopefully he learns from me as well.

Jeffrey Shiau: [3:58] Now did you have a lot of cousins around?

Christine Lai: [4:01] We did, my mom and dad both had big families and almost all of them had one or two kids so a lot of good fun cousins.

Jeffrey Shiau: [4:09] Okay so do you think that the community minded-ness that you have in your head, that’s where it all started or...

Christine Lai: [4:18] I think that’s probably a good foundation. I also really remember in preschool, that being a really important thing to me too.

Jeffrey Shiau: [4:26] Preschool.

Christine Lai: [4:27] Yeah [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [4:28] Okay alright, little savant, let's go back to preschool here. What genius thoughts were you thinking at the ripe age of four?

Christine Lai: [4:37] Yeah, well it’s funny, this has been a topic of conversation a few times over the past few weeks. I very specifically remember the preschool I went to, they were already friends with our family and so I already had a sense of belonging and I remember when I first started going there I would see some of the other little kids sometimes by themselves cause it’s like the first time you’re not with your parents. I was like ‘oh’ and I would go up to them, if they were sitting by themselves and bring a book with me or a toy or go up to the playground with something and just say, ‘Hi my name’s Christine, what’s yours?’. I think ever since then I’ve always had a strong sense of wanting people to belong and to connect.

Jeffrey Shiau: [5:21] This might be too far back of a question and it’s kind of absurd to ask a four year old but when you  approach these kids when they are sitting alone were you actually actively...do you remember actively thinking at that time, ‘oh this person’s alone, I want to connect with them’ or was it more so just a default you just like bringing a book or connecting with someone on the playground that was alone?

Christine Lai: [5:49] I mean, I guess a little bit of both but it really was a ‘oh they’re really by themselves’ I want to go be a friend.

Jeffrey Shiau: [5:57] Okay, so now if we move forward, do you remember when you started to really understand and I guess contextualize almost make it something that’s more concrete, why you were so driven around community. So in combination with your preschool...so...it sounded like you had a really good education growing up and you had a lot of fun cousins around you, was there a point when you were like ‘you know what, community specifically means this too me’?

Christine Lai: [6:34] I hadn’t thought about this before but when you talked about kind of growing up, I remember in second grade there was this small group of us, we went to public school and probably like eight or nine of us got selected to be part of this gate program, it’s like this gifted and talented program...

Jeffrey Shiau: [6:54] I remember GATE.

Christine Lai: [6:55] [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [6:56] It was so cool cause you would be sitting in the middle of class and then a teacher would come in and say ‘okay this half of the class who are in GATE, you get to leave now and go to the computer lab...

Christine Lai: [7:08] [Laughs] Yes.

Jeffrey Shiau: [7:09] And play educational games, it was all bullshit I thought...

Christine Lai: [7:12] Oregon Trail! [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [7:14] Yeah [Laughs] because you were part of the GATE program, I remember that.

Christine Lai: [7:18] Yeah so it was interesting, there was about eight or nine of us that got transferred to a different school, to a fundamental school. I remember missing my first and second grade classes and then going to a new school that was K through eight, our old school was I think K through sixth or something. I remember being like ‘oh new environment, new people but we still had that small group of friends that we are our first community together going to a new environment. So I don’t know if that’s truly related but when you were talking about it that kind of came back into my memory.

Jeffrey Shiau: [7:52] Maybe, well, think about that, you were with this group of friends and did you actively just want to, I guess...Well how about this, I remember growing up for myself, my parents would go to each one of my elementary school teachers at the end of the year and ask them, ‘Okay what does Jeffrey like to do? What is he drawn towards?’ And all of them very consistently said I can’t pay attention in class, I’m terrible at homework but I really liked talking to people and collecting friendships. So were you a bad student, would you hover more towards being and collecting in groups or were you actually both an A plus student and a good...

Christine Lai: [8:42] Well the ironic thing, so elementary, high school, good got good grades, was super involved and then in college, I think I may have shared this story with you before and i think I’ve shared it with some others but when i talk to high school scholars now I joke that i was an AP in high school and AP in college, AP in high school meant advanced placement and AP in college meant academic probation.

Jeffrey Shiau: [9:07] What is academic probation?

Christine Lai: [9:08] I failed a class and so it’s like you know you kind of are on probation, academically, so I’ve always been a hard worker, a hard student but it’s not like I’m necessarily a good test taker or...I am present, I’ve had perfect attendance, from forever, I have a huge trophy at home.

Jeffrey Shiau: [9:30] Were you one of those students were even if you had the hardcore flu you still went to class?

Christine Lai: [9:34] I, knock on wood, didn’t get really sick ever.

Jeffrey Shiau: [9:37] Oh...

Christine Lai: [9:38] Yeah so I was super fortunate that it wasn’t that, and in high school we had a lot of student government things that kind of excused our absences.

Jeffrey Shiau: [9:47] Right, so I remember you were talking about how you had...when you try to think back now to your personality in high school you say you had really fuzzy memories?

Christine Lai: [10:00] Yeah, one year in particular my junior year.

Jeffrey Shiau: [10:02] So why is that?

Christine Lai: [10:04] I think it was a combination, I mean junior year is, I mean I guess every year of college or high school is so much growth but in junior year specifically you’re applying for colleges and universities and I applied to, I don’t know, twenty or thirty universities...

Jeffrey Shiau: [10:21] So the very standard...do you think it was driven by your parents or yourself?

Christine Lai: [10:24] It was, I mean my parents are super supportive and not one to hammer down on anything, it was really me.

Jeffrey Shiau: [10:31] Did you have a competitive high school?

Christine Lai: [10:34] Fairly not super crazy but fairly competitive and so this big fish small pond, small pond big fish and so all my high school teachers and counselors and friends would be like ‘oh Chrissy you can go anywhere you want’ and then rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter and I was like ‘dang, what the heck?’ I think I kind of blacked it out of my memory and was kind of like ‘that’s not going to serve me, whatever, don’t need to remember any of that’. So that year wasn’t the best year. [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [11:10] Do you carry some of that angst or some of that anxiety from that year? If you were to look into yourself right now, do you recognize that part of you anymore or is it so distance and almost buried where even if you tried to recognize it, you wouldn’t be able to see the signals or the queues?

Christine Lai: [11:34] Yeah, I think I probably have two different answers to that, I mean one: I’m sure there is a part that I can still access but I’ve kind of closed the door on and I also think I’m a big re-framer and I’ve used...

Jeffrey Shiau: [11:47] What does reframing mean?

Christine Lai: [11:48] Being able to see, in my perspective or in my instance being able to see any instance and get the good out of it, just like, it serves you and has a generative output. So for example taking my junior year and understanding how it wasn’t the best, or the most ideal or the most brightest year of my high school but being able to utilize that to have a baseline of I actually don’t want to be able to experience that again let’s insure that whatever we have moving forward that is something that’s more generative, that’s more positive that you can be able to learn and grow more from and so taking that year and be like okay that was a really shitty year and kind of like benchmark that, it’s kind of like how do you insure that you always see the best in opportunities and the best in people and make the most of whatever you have that’s put in front of you. I think I mean no regrets like looking back now, I feel so grateful that I ended up going to Santa Barbara , which was the fifteenth choice on my list and I wouldn’t have had the career trajectory that I would have if i would have been like ‘academic probation, peace out Santa Barbara lets go somewhere else or go home’ so it’s one of those things where you take, and I think a lot of people...well we actually had a dinner around failure where you, in hindsight you’re not, you know, you see it crystal clear but in the moment you’re like ‘man what is the lesson here? why is this happening to me’ and being able to have it be something that does shape who you are and does have a transformative impact on the way that you see life and that you show you up.

Jeffrey Shiau: [13:35] Right so...I want to go back to your first statement about what strikes you most about humans because as we are kind of describing your little journey through elementary school, junior high, high school and the way you described it was, it sounded very practical and very...and actually a lot about your academics. Was there a point in your life when it was super conscious like I know this is what I have to be involved in and it has to be community driven, it has to be something or is this something that it was just, it took a long time to discover for yourself?

Christine Lai: [14:22] Well I mean if I’m hearing that question correctly, in terms of when did the spark around community and connectedness really kind of take hold.

Jeffrey Shiau: [14:30] When did it take hold but when did it really start to actively matter to you?

Christine Lai: [14:35] Got it, cool yes. So I think we’ve talked about this before, ever since I was a little girls, ever since fourth grade, I’ve always had this really strong interest in being of in service and so that manifested at the time, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Jeffrey Shiau: [14:50] What do you mean by in service?

Christine Lai: [14:52] Where can I be helping other people, where can I be of service, where can I do the most good.

Jeffrey Shiau: [14:59] What in fourth grade made you want to do that?

Christine Lai: [15:02] I think it was a combination of I love my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Romero, she was probably...

Jeffrey Shiau: [15:08] Shout out Mrs. Romero.

Christine Lai: [15:09] Mrs. Romero! [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [15:10] She still alive and well?

Christine Lai: [15:11] Last time I checked she was but I haven’t talked to her in a few years.

Jeffrey Shiau: [15:13] Is she still teaching?

Christine Lai: [15:15] I don’t believe so, she actually retired.

Jeffrey Shiau: [15:16] Oh congratulations.

Christine Lai: [15:17] [Laughs] But she was really inspirational and I think that the way that she taught the class something about it and then even my second and third grade teachers I remember but were really aspirational. [They] really did reinforce and give you this sense of you can be whatever you want to be, what is it that you want to do and so for me maybe because of something that I was born into this world with or something that was cultivated through my family and my parents but always being of service because how can you help others. It was really important.

Jeffrey Shiau: [15:53] It’s funny how you mentioned a fourth grade teacher essentially launching the trajectory of your mindset for the thing that leads your life now. For me that teacher was actually my high school teacher, she was actually my teacher for four years because of the student council, I guess they started this student council class so it was a leadership class and it was a requirement for everyone to attend if you were a part of student council. he became basically a big brother, mentor, teacher everything and it’s interesting yes he’s a teacher, he’s not a businessman, he’s not anything of those things that you would stereotypically think is ‘oh this is your startup mentor’ but as of today he is still the most influential person. i think that really laid the foundation for me in terms of how I perceive and approach things and I think that’s something that you and I have in common, it’s the desire to serve, the style and the reason we want to be around people is to serve them. Do think that that’s also ornately almost an eastern philosophy theory? I don’t know a lot of times people ask me how being a Chinese American has influenced me and if I were to be honest, I didn’t really give two shits about it all the way through college. I think I only started to realize and more actively be aware of my cultural identity when I started facing, what’s it called...passive-aggressive racism. How do you identify? Do identify with you cultural identity?

Christine Lai: [17:57] I mean, you always joke ABC “American Born Chinese” but I have always been American first. It’s like yes I’m Chinese that’s my ethnicity...

Jeffrey Shiau: [18:09] Are you first generation?

Christine Lai: [18:11] First generation, yep, but it hasn’t ever been something that’s been ‘oh my gosh’ like only until fairly recently have I seen more color and gender because it’s so prevalent and so top of mind for...whether it’s in politics, business, in anything. I mean I’m growing up and until just several years ago i was like ‘everyone is human’, we’re just humans beings that all have a gift to serve in this world and that’s who we are. So not to much until more recently.

Jeffrey Shiau: [18:46] Also being an Asian American woman as well, I think especially in this city i’ve definitely seen and have sat down with friends who’ve just really felt so stressed around a lot of, I would say, corporate office environments where they’re constantly, not necessarily marginalized but also given these passive aggressive or almost non-intentional micro-aggressions... Do you still... did you experience that through your career?

Christine Lai: [19:30] No I feel really fortunate actually, I went through a workshop sometime last year around Integral Diversity, we have this mutual friend that does this workshop and it was interesting one of the first things we did we sat in pairs and it would be person of color and a white person. The white person would ask, ‘what do you need from me?’ and it was interesting because I feel really fortunate even going back to when we were talking about elementary school and high school and everything, i feel really fortunate that ever since a little girl, I’ve always been treated as an adult or at least as a peer. Yeah you understand that there is different authority but I feel really fortunate my parents, all of my teachers, everyone, had always talked to me as a peer. They never talked down to me or looked down to me and so I think how that has also helped me show up professionally has really allowed me to be a confident individual because I haven’t either received it in a way if it was being kind of like pointed to me but I had never felt like I was on the receiving end of any passive aggressiveness or even blatant...even anything that was discriminatory or something like that.

Jeffrey Shiau: [20:49] This is really interesting because a lot of times when I’m talking to you I also... now there’s that framework that helps guide you where you're really having a growth mindset, really learning not being fixed with some obstacle that you’re encountering but looking at it objectively and then seeing how it can be solved or seeing the positive route of why it’s happening and growing from it.

Christine Lai: [21:19] Totally

Jeffrey Shiau: [21:20] Right, so...and I get that. What I want to say also, there’s a lot of people... the biggest lessons learned is when shit hits the fan and when some meets C Lai for the first time, it almost feels like, ‘Man I can’t really pin down what were some of the things in her life where shit hit the fan?’ because I almost feel like you.. do you purposely not share it, is it something that you block out, are you not sharing it because you actually want to help people maintain a positive mind set or do you think you just actually didn’t experience that many crazy moments, so it was very lucky?

Christine Lai: [22:08] Mm hmm, yeah, I think it’s the latter. The CEO we used to work with, we’d do this thing called “Happiest Heart Beats”, and mine would be really close to like, ‘blip blip blip’ not anything like really like a roller coaster or anything. I think it’s a combination of kind of like a key to opening things, when things come to you, if they serve you or you know that there is going to be good in a lot of things, you let them come in and then when things come to you and you’re not quite receptive of it or your energy is not really receiving it, you kind of just move out it’s way. So I think it’s a lot of the reframing, positive mindset, kind of growth mindset kind of stuff where i mean of course there’s so many instances where I’m sure I have failed and I think my mind and the way that I work  it almost automatically reframes it into some kind of growth or opportunity or just like even saying challenges. Instead of saying challenges or bad things it’s like an opportunity for growth.

Jeffrey Shiau: [23:14] Even as a kid?

Christine Lai: [23:15] Even as a little girl, yeah.

Jeffrey Shiau: [23:18] Okay so this wasn’t something where you had to go, like you said, to an integral class it was innately in you.

Christine Lai: [23:24] Totally, yeah.

Jeffrey Shiau: [23:27] Then going back as well, do you think that a part of that also really contributes to... I think a lot of people poke fun of me, ‘You are the most organized person’ and I don’t want to say operational genie, I want to say it's a... you’re almost like a terminator and seeing a goal or something that you want to achieve and having this almost terminator like quality of knowing this is linguistically what needs to happen and these are the conversations I need to have. Was that something that you also needed to develop or always had innately?

Christine Lai: [24:13] I mean like the robot heart thing? Like the...

Jeffrey Shiau: [24:16] Yeah.

Christine Lai: [24:18] [inaudible]

Jeffrey Shiau: [24:20] Well that’s one of your nicknames, robot heart?

Christine Lai: [24:21] Yeah, some people used to call me that. I’m thinking about all my previous companies, it’s been fairly similar, you can probably ask any of my old colleagues, where I’m very operationally focused and very much looking for the outcome that’s going to help and be aligned and generative for the team and the individual and when something... yeah it’s interesting, when something like emotional, when something comes in I acknowledge it but also kind of, not a key to it but kind of want to understand how it’s going to affect the situation at hand. In terms of being young and kind of manifesting a lot of things, I feel like I have, maybe honed the skill or that skill has been passed down to me from my previous lives, yeah.

Jeffrey Shiau: [25:22] When you’re describing kind of that robot heart as well, how you are never in any of the positive extremes or negative extremes, do you remember any of those extremes or is it like you described with your junior year, how during some of those negative extremes you almost blocked it out of your head you just don’t remember it that much?

Christine Lai: [25:42] Well I mean I definitely...it’s like I almost have an acknowledgment of them and then figure out of to move forward. I mean I can remember some of the highs and then I think some of the lows, I just maybe don’t give them as much gravity, for being such a low, maybe? That’s maybe what it is.

Jeffrey Shiau: [26:06] That’s really interesting that...when did you notice that that just happens to be who you are, you don’t really fluctuate into the extremes of X or Y. I would say, an example is there’s this comedian recently he was kind of trying to describe what it’s like to have a... he can’t experience joy, that was something that he said, ‘I’ve never experienced joy, I understand what joy is, I understand what extreme joy is and I can have a moment where I’m supposed to be in extreme joy but I just don’t fluctuate that high and I also don’t fluctuate below a certain threshold’. When did you start recognizing, ‘hmm that’s something, that’s just innately ingrained in my DNA’? Have people ever pointed this out before?

Christine Lai: [27:06] I mean I... this is probably the best question to ask my parents in terms of how I was as a little girl but I think the junior year in high school that we talked about earlier, I think that’s like a... that’s like the baseline of where... you kind of don’t... that’s like the new, I’m using my hands like everyone can see me, it’s like everything above that is going to be the things that you focus on and the things that you try to manifest and create both for yourself and for others. I think that was probably a really tangible or very concrete moment that i can remember. That ever since that moment, my senior year was amazing, freshman year of college was a little bit of a dip but then everything after that amazing. So it’s kind of like a new threshold was created, my junior year and ever since then both my personal, professional alignment, the way I show up, the way I think about things, the way I work, all that has kind of just been this thing that I’ve manifested knowing that that is a baseline that I choose not to, hopefully, dip below. If that makes sense.

Jeffrey Shiau: [28:15] So has there ever been a moment in your life where this ‘C Lai framework’ of being able to hover, just always near that even keel-ness where your entire graph exploded and you just completely not in control, where you were just, it was basically, if ‘holy shit’ [Laughter] were to manifest into an actual, physical thing, that was a moment.

Christine Lai: [28:46] There was one time I remember, I think it was at my last start up, where it was like, shit hit the fan and I was just working twenty plus hour days, fairly consistently and was like ‘ugh’ and was with my parents was totally ‘pfff’ done for a minute.

Jeffrey Shiau: [29:07] You were in SoCal at the time?

Christine Lai: [29:08] I was in SoCal, yeah. That was probably the one instance I can remember where it was like ‘whoa’ and then my parents being...

Jeffrey Shiau: [29:17] What happened? What was the feeling?

Christine Lai: [29:21] It was just like things were moving so fast, you keep saying I’m a yes person and so...or a happening-est person, I’ve been an active reprogramming to be more thoughtful. Saying yes to everything, being so like okay pack, pack, pack, pack, pack, pack, always have to make commitments, making all these things and then just be human and being like I can’t, I don’t have that much space anymore, I can’t hold this much space anymore and just like ‘pff’, literally almost like a reset like let it all go.

Jeffrey Shiau: [29:56] Let it all go meaning you just kind of broke all the connections? I mean did it feel like you were in quicksand and you were just like, ‘fuck this I’m out’ and you just kind of told everyone ‘hey I'm stopping’?

Christine Lai: [30:07] So I didn’t quit or leave anything, it was the moment when a combination of I need to have another release for things and then I also need to turn to the team I worked with, to like ask for more support. Because if I can do it myself, I’ll do it, and I mean that has been a lesson I’ve learned over and over and that’s why I think also to go back to connectedness and community you know things are so much more fun together in a team. We always say teamwork makes the dream work, it’s like it truly is true because when you’re doing it with people that you really respect and admire and enjoy, the work is so much fun, you’re creating memories at the same time even though it can be crazy and at the end of the day you’re not alone, you’re not doing it by yourself. I think I was trying to carry so much weight on my shoulders at that time and so I think it was just like ‘ugh’ and then realizing it doesn’t have to be...

Jeffrey Shiau: [31:03] What did that manifest, what did that look like? If I were to go back in time and known you in that moment, were you just pulling your hair out? Was emotion very visible?

Christine Lai: [31:18] I probably had more frenetic energy...

Jeffrey Shiau: [31:20] What’s frenetic?

Christine Lai: [31:21] It’s just more like...you know when you’re around people and you feel stressed [Laughs] a little bit more like that. Which I feel very grateful for, I had very supportive friends but I probably gave off very frenetic energy, whereas I think now I’ve learned and I feel very supported by community, friends and family that I hopefully don’t have that frenetic energy anymore and have kind of unlearned, yeah it serves you in some capacity when you need it for adrenaline, when you need it for certain boosts when you’re doing events and things and then others times it’s like life isn’t that serious and work isn’t that serious and tomorrow is going to come. I remember I used to tell our team after that moment, ‘we work hard every single day and we’re setting ourselves up for success, that tomorrow is going to come and if you’ve everything you could every single day with that consistency, don’t worry about it’.

Jeffrey Shiau: [32:18] This is so interesting, I just realized as well, the way that you have such a methodical approach with a lot of the passions in your life. I just realized you... that it’s so ingrained in you since you were a kid, that you actually that a approach with compartmentalizing your emotions as well. Have you noticed that?

Christine Lai: [32:44] Can you elaborate, reflect... [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [32:45] The way I'm seeing it is that you experience an emotion and then you decided to take a step back, observe that emotion and almost treat it like a project. Where you’re like, ‘okay I’m going to do this, this and this, to move away from this and not feel like I have to experience this again by doing these things’ and it was like this is step one, two, three and it’s almost automatic for you...

Christine Lai: [33:16] Yeah it totally automatic now. I think that it’s a combination of consistency and  it’s kind of like a muscle; the more you practice, the more that you do it, it’s kind of like second nature. It’s interesting to hear you say about kind of like the feelings part because it’s like the robot heart like when I’m in it I feel like that even though within me it does feel like..not binary but like, again I’m using my hands, but you work through it as a yes, no, left, right, working this...

Jeffrey Shiau: [33:50] It literally looks like this flowchart in your head.

Christine Lai: [33:53] Right, from my head to my heart. [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [33:55] Your arteries are a flowchart.

Christine Lai: [33:58] [Laughs] Yeah that’s funny.

Jeffrey Shiau: [34:02] Do you ever wonder or see.. because I’m sure a lot of your other friends around you, you have maybe...like I have some friends who they have extremes of emotions. Do you ever...does that ever strike a curiosity like, ‘I wonder what’s physically manifesting in them or what is their head or what’s in their past that has them driving in a certain way?’ and do you actually ever wish you could feel that way?

Christine Lai: [34:32] I mean I definitely acknowledge it, I think it’s a beautiful kind of like creative spirit, through all the friends I think give themselves...that are open about that. I think for me, I mean I worked with...I was part of a fellowship program that you get a coach and I remember I know that there’s more to access but I can’t get myself which is why I like the need for community and the need for others is so important. So I think...

Jeffrey Shiau: [35:02] Access too?

Christine Lai: [35:03] Kind of like access to like deeper emotions, more high-low kind of things...

Jeffrey Shiau: [35:10] So you’re saying the reason you’ve been drawn towards community is because of that recognition of, ‘hmm I’m noticing my emotions don’t fluctuate in extremes, but when I’m with community I love observing and being around others that display that.’

Christine Lai: [35:28] Yeah it’s like having a...oh what’s the right word for it, there’s like an actual term but it’s kind of like...it’s kind of like in the collective you kind of take on this bigger thing, even though each individual has a part in it, there is still like a heart beat of a community and so being able to have that in community with others I think is always intriguing. Which is why I love concerts and I love live experiences and things like that because of this...I call them anchor moments because it’s this moment in time where it’s like the people that are there are feeling a certain individual way but there’s also a human conscious, a human collective feeling that’s happening that I think is really amazing and is a higher high and a potentially lower low.

Jeffrey Shiau: [36:20] Okay, so I’m going to have two questions that are related: What is pure agony to C Lai?...Absolute pure agony.

Christine Lai: [36:39] I mean it’s like the things that come into my mind are like...are you talking about experience or are you talking about a feeling?

Jeffrey Shiau: [36:45] I want you to let that go for a second...

Christine Lai: [36:46] [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [36:50] That’s so funny, that you’re like, ‘okay let’s make this into a project, so how am I going to address this?’ [Laughs]

Christine Lai: [36:55] [Laughs] Because the first things that came into my mind are loneliness and hurt.

Jeffrey Shiau: [36:58] Why?

Christine Lai: [37:00] Because those things are very real and it hurts my heart, like thinking about that and...

Jeffrey Shiau: [37:08] Seeing other people or yourself?

Christine Lai: [37:12] Both but often times other people.

Jeffrey Shiau: [37:17] I mean...was there a recent moment where it felt like you were completely alone? Or...?

Christine Lai: [37:25] Not myself but I can like...like right now I think society has really incentives us to be more individual which I think is great and independent and I think it’s almost like we’re too isolated...

Jeffrey Shiau: [37:40] Well I think that’s Western society.

Christine Lai: [37:42] Yeah no agreed, we talked about this last time. A lot of it is very domestic, very focused on the U.S. and then it’s isolating which could be synonymous to loneliness.

Jeffrey Shiau: [37:56] So then the second part is, describe absolute pure joy?

Christine Lai: [38:04] It’s like light, it’s like open freedom, it’s like, I don’t know...I love gathering people and convening people and being together with people and celebrating life, enjoying life, enjoying each others company. There was a question posed to me last week, ‘If you had one day left to live like tomorrow was your last day to live what would you do?’ and my response was convening everybody in lifetime and having live music, having my favorite musicians, having really good food, having opportunities in different areas to do activities like having do conversations or flying in helicopters or getting massages or just fun stuff that would really allow people to connect. So that was like the thing and the follow up question was, ‘what’s stopping you from doing that?’ or ‘why aren’t you doing that now?’. I feel fortunate that I do do a lot of dinners and gatherings where it allows me to meet new people connect deeper with people that I know and so I’m hopefully doing that on a daily basis, I’m not really, but on a regular basis. So that for me is joy just because it’s, I don’t know, just really fun to bring people together and just be, just really enjoy each other's company.

Jeffrey Shiau: [39:28] What was the...do you have like a specific moment actually where you were not among community, where you were actually by yourself and you had the biggest grin on your face?... I remember you saying about when you’re exercising those moment, in those moments of exercise and adrenaline you have a specific type of joy as well. Are there other types of moments where you would sit there and have this almost silly grin...

Christine Lai: [40:02] [Laughs] I mean it’s kind of like, this may sound silly, but we’re are in San Francisco, I walk almost everywhere if I can and i just love people watching and just seeing, just love seeing little kids or families or couples or people and just like seeing little things that happen and it makes me...I just literally laugh to myself sometimes and those are really awesome moments.

Jeffrey Shiau: [40:35] Okay so, I’m going to end our little conversation here...I’m actually really excited about this entire conversation because in these past forty-five minutes I now know Christine a lot more...

Christine Lai: [40:54] [Laughs]

Jeffrey Shiau: [40:56]...and I’m hoping a lot of folks that have considered you for a while, maybe they will learn something new about you as well.

Christine Lai: [41:03] Yeah, totally.

Jeffrey Shiau: [41:06] So now from this perspective of community almost the approach you have with emotion, the approach you have with decisions, how you see agony, how you see joy. Considering all these things, whatever we just talked about, ultimately what’s the point to all of this?

Christine Lai: [41:34] Yeah, of life? [laughs] How you choose to interpret that and I think about this question more frequently and more deeply now than I have in the past and, I mean I don’t want to say the cheesy stuff. I mean the point of all this...one: to appreciate and enjoy it and I think two: to share it with other people, I mean as simply as that. Appreciate and enjoy that we have a life to live and hopefully, and again very Western, we’re are very privileged, life is totally a gift and it’s a responsibility to share it with other people and hopefully in a very generative way.

 

Equipment & Software:

Yeti Microphone & Ice Microphone by Blue Microphones

Audacity for Mac

WD My Passport Ultra 1 TB

Macbook Pro Retina 15inch Late 2013

 

Music:

Smile by Daniel Alan Gautreau

Tiny Bits by Felipe Adorno Vassao

Time & Reflection by Bjorn Lynne

Retro Video Game Hotseat by Bjorn Lynne