Jenn Lim Talks Human About How We Exist In a Balance Between Being The Same & Unique All At Once

But by going through those cycles of asking us ourselves those questions of number one: Am I being really who I am, authentically, weirdly enough, or our weird authentic self? Am I living out what I believe in through my values and my passions and sense of purpose? And then, by answering those questions, then that is really, in effect, not just answering but acting upon them. That, in effect, is really the point. And I think that we’re getting there.
— Jenn Lim

Jenn Lim sits down to talk human to me about where she grew up, how her father’s illness and passing away affected her life, her reasoning and decisions from who she is outside of Delivering Happiness, how everybody has a unique footprint they leave in their communities, and how she ultimately still connects on the same issues she grew up facing.

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Our Conversation with Jenn Lim

00:00 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay, we're gonna get started here. Jenn, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of Talk Human to Me.

00:10 Jenn Lim: Thanks for asking.

00:11 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah, I definitely have had you on the list for a while. We've actually have a few of the same friends and colleagues that have already been interviewed, so this is a cool deal.

00:21 Jenn Lim: Nice! 

00:23 Jeffrey Shiau: So yeah, let's go ahead and get started. As all the listeners know, we start with the exact same question every single episode, and that is: What about humans strikes you the most? 

00:43 Jenn Lim: I would just say how unique they are in their own ways of to the minutiae details, but at the same time, how we're all the same. So it's just the commonality that brings us together as seen, the species of human beings, but at the same time, how we express our individuality in such unique ways.

01:12 Jeffrey Shiau: When you're talking about uniqueness and individualities and sameness, are you talking about all sorts of things down to our features, our religion? Or no religion, or what we eat? What comes to mind? 

01:30 Jenn Lim: It could be anything, yeah, totally. I think it's like that's what marvels me about being alive, especially at this time because we have more freedom than we've ever had in early... Historically, to be able to express it. So whether it's religion or what we eat, what we do with our time, what we do with our lives. That's what excites me, the fact that... [chuckle] We joked about it, you and I talked about before how Hamilton lyrics just fills my mind. But one of the things that's always in my mind is this one song that they sang, how lucky are we to be alive right now. And I swear, that's always running in my head, that's just so crazy cool.

02:25 Jeffrey Shiau: So in terms of the uniqueness and the differences that you've personally experienced just growing up and in your life, what are some unique things about you and your friends and then family that you really cherish? 

02:48 Jenn Lim: I think part of realizing and growing and developing our lives is realizing who we are and what we know and don't know. Especially what we don't know as we get older. And so, in that way, I've always tried to surround myself with people that I can learn from, or respect for different reasons. As an example, and I didn't realize this until hindsight: So one of my greatest fears was losing someone in my life that I can't imagine life without. And I guess I always had that because if I look back in my friendships, my most deepest ones, there was a pattern that I gravitated towards people that have lost someone in their lives, all the way back from junior high to high school to college. And I guess it was this subconscious thing that I wanted to learn from them, 'cause when it happened to me, 'cause you know what is gonna happen, and it happened to me 14 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to handle it the way I did in a sense that... 'Cause I learned so much from what they had to go through.

04:08 Jenn Lim: My high school best friend lost both of her parents to cancer, then my college best friend lost her dad to cancer, and I lost my dad to cancer, and I think that really taught me the fundamentals of what's most important to me. And so therefore, I think the people that I surround myself with that I could consider the closest have those same values of what really is most important in life. And as crazy as this world can be, and reading on the... Or listening to media and all that stuff, it really is those basics that grounds us. So I guess I would say that's what makes my, I guess, tribe unique. But it's not everyone. Not that we're the only ones doing it, but that's what I see as the bond.

04:58 Jeffrey Shiau: Right. It's interesting that you're bringing up how a tragedy and finding compassion and empathy between two people can really bring things together. And sometimes, it's strange that always, what brings people the closest together and sheds all the bullshit around this, a lot of it tends to be tragic. You never see a very humorous or awesome moment that sheds all the things around us, and then, we really connect, right? 

05:39 Jenn Lim: Right.

05:39 Jeffrey Shiau: It's always during some tragedy where you'll see two people who've never interacted before suddenly become like family.

05:46 Jenn Lim: Totally.

05:48 Jeffrey Shiau: And for you, it does sound very personal, illness having been this commonality with a lot of your friends and yourself. Is that something that you feel is... How does that shape your worldview? Are you pessimistic? Do you feel you're more optimistic? Do you feel more sensitive to the way people interact and how they treat each other? 

06:30 Jenn Lim: I think I evolved over the years of... I think I was a lot darker and cynical when I was younger. I think I landed here at this place of optirealism. And the biggest irony is that what I do for a living, and everyone's like, "Oh, you must be happy all the time." And the reality, to me, is that this is exactly not the point because it's because of these lows in our lives that I feel like it feeds and informs us of what true, meaningful, sustainable happiness is. So yeah, I think that's just where I landed. Right now, I could be cynical again. There's a lot of stuff happening in the world, but for every cynic, there's gotta be someone that's gonna be optimistic or optirealistic or something, that just, in the end, just counterbalances it. And we are actually seeing, historically, that we live in a much more peaceful, less violent world, as opposed to everything we're reading. And there's a book out there, I think it's called "Better Angels of Nature", or something. That is a Harvard professor that painstakingly chronicles why we're actually at a better place. So yeah, I believe in that, and I believe that that's what makes the difference of how we live our lives, and how we receive it, and how we can make the most of it in the time that we have.

08:09 Jeffrey Shiau: What were you like in, you said, you were mentioning junior high, how you started, I guess, gathering friends, or finding commonality with friends, and finding out that a lot of these friends also were facing tragedy in their own families. And who is Jenn as a kid? [chuckle]

08:28 Jenn Lim: Oh man! I was pretty dorky, I guess. [laughter] I had bottle cap glasses, thick lens.

08:36 Jeffrey Shiau: Wait, what are bottle cap glasses? 

08:37 Jenn Lim: They're so thick. I think that's what they're called, when their lens are so thick, it looks like they're bottle caps.

08:44 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh! Yeah, yeah! 

[laughter]

08:46 Jenn Lim: Yeah, so at a young age, I had buck teeth, and I was a disaster. But so...

08:54 Jeffrey Shiau: You were awesome! 

[laughter]

08:56 Jenn Lim: In my mind, I was a disaster, but I was pretty... So I kept to myself. I read a lot. And I just had... So I'm the youngest of three, two older brothers, and they were the cool kids. My eldest brother, he was prom king and big in sports. I love sports too, but I was just feeling pretty awkward, so I kept to myself quite a bit.

09:25 Jeffrey Shiau: Do you feel awkward because you weren't interested in the same things other people were interested in? Or what was the...

09:33 Jenn Lim: Not necessarily 'cause I played high school basketball, and I loved that. I felt community there. But then, in general, it just felt like I didn't... Just common things, I didn't fit in, I'm not one of the cool kids, and all that. So yeah, I guess it's all natural in some ways. But yeah, it wasn't until I came here to Cal that really changed my worldview of myself. It just gave me a bit of confidence I was like, "Oh, wait, it is okay to be my weird self."

10:06 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, you went to Cal Berkeley for undergrad? 

10:08 Jenn Lim: Yeah, I did. Yeah, yeah, yeah, sorry.

10:08 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay.

10:11 Jenn Lim: So yeah, that's when it's the sort of opening up of who I really am inside came and started.

10:20 Jeffrey Shiau: Opening up in terms of wanting to socialize more? Or? 

10:23 Jenn Lim: That and just being more real, and just not feeling... Sometimes, you feel a little tense when you don't feel uncomfortable, so I carried that for a long time. And so, yeah, until I started opening up myself and feeling comfortable in college. And so, I guess that's why one of our values that was so important for us at DH is, "Be true to your weird self." And I think that's probably a product of that experience.

10:54 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, that was really from your own personal DNA? 

10:56 Jenn Lim: Yeah, it was a big... That's from my experience in... And that's one thing, but what I had started noticing also is that everyone else has that, their own experience in their own way. And oftentimes, especially for those that feel not in the cool crowd or on the periphery of society, then it's really interesting when I started doing my own social experimentation and surveys. Once, I laid myself out there, so risk my own sort of cool...

11:35 Jeffrey Shiau: So just the... Being honest? 

11:36 Jenn Lim: Yeah, yeah, basically, I'm just gonna be honest and just put myself out there on a whim. And then, I noticed that once I started doing that, then people would really start opening up to, and having those honest conversations really quickly.

11:54 Jeffrey Shiau: Were you seeking more conversation? Or what struck you to start these social experiments? 

[laughter]

12:01 Jenn Lim: I guess I was just naturally curious of just how we operate as human beings, and how we connect or not connect. And for me, I always wanna seek authenticity, I guess. That's one of the things that has been consistent in my friendships as well. If I look back, it's not just only the fact that they lost someone; it's also 'cause they're so real. And that's probably a reason why I have gravitated towards them because I'm like, "I wanna be real like that too. I wanna be totally myself and be confident with it." So I guess knowing that I had that experience, I was pretty sure others in their life had that experience as well. So that's why one of my big things is I always root for the underdog 'cause I feel like once you can unearth and shed all that whatever shell that one might have, that's when the amazingness of a human being can happen and can manifest. That's the first question that you asked, that's what we're here for.

13:10 Jeffrey Shiau: When your father left us, were you still in high school? So 15 years ago? Or? 

13:15 Jenn Lim: No, I'm a lot older than you think. [laughter]

13:18 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh! 

13:19 Jenn Lim: No, it was college. Just after.

13:19 Jeffrey Shiau: For everyone who's listening, Jenn Lim looks like a toddler that just strolled out of an ice cream shop.

[laughter]

13:29 Jenn Lim: Oh, my God! That's funny! My mom doesn't think so, but she's like, "Oh, all those wrinkles are coming." I'm like, "Yeah, thanks mom."

[laughter]

13:37 Jenn Lim: "Thanks for keeping it real."

13:38 Jeffrey Shiau: You look like a kid.

13:40 Jenn Lim: So yeah, that was after college. So I was actually working by that time.

13:45 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay, so yeah, I was gonna say 'cause I think definitely losing a parent, it creates a fundamental shift. So this fundamental shift definitely happened before. And then, I think it was almost you were, in a way, almost mentally in a better place to have some tragedy like that fall upon you, right? 

14:05 Jenn Lim: Yeah.

14:06 Jeffrey Shiau: So these things that you're uncertain about, were they insecurities? When you were a high schooler, what were you most insecure about yourself? 

14:19 Jenn Lim: I guess I would say just that I just didn't feel like... I felt like if I had actually expressed myself, that it would be even more like a, "Oh, that girl is weird." That, "She doesn't really fit in this picture."

14:41 Jeffrey Shiau: Right.

14:42 Jenn Lim: So that drove the insecurity. But then, that, so when I was... Say, when I came to Cal, really, like, "Wait, there's a lot of people here that actually are being pretty true to themselves," all that stuff. And there's just more room, I guess, to breathe and be myself. And that's what changed it.

15:03 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay.

15:04 Jenn Lim: But yeah, leading up to...

15:05 Jeffrey Shiau: So all the way from the tiny little things like hobbies to just identity? 

15:10 Jenn Lim: Mm-hmm.

15:10 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, okay, so...

15:12 Jenn Lim: Yeah, it could be anything, but...

15:13 Jeffrey Shiau: Well, I guess Cal is a good place to... [chuckle]

15:15 Jenn Lim: Cal is... Yeah, I can't compare it to any other school 'cause I didn't go to 'em, but it was probably the ideal place for me to come out of my shell. [chuckle]

15:25 Jeffrey Shiau: Right.

15:26 Jenn Lim: And really just explore who truly I am and wanted to be. And also, Asian family, you gotta be successful, all that stuff. Gotta be a doctor or lawyer. All these...

15:38 Jeffrey Shiau: Was that part of your family? 

15:39 Jenn Lim: Yeah, hugely. Yeah, you gotta get into a good school, doctor or lawyer, learn all these musical instruments, that kind of stuff. I think this is also part of it too: I felt a certain responsibility because...

15:58 Jeffrey Shiau: To your parents? 

16:00 Jenn Lim: To my parents, to my family, to everyone that helped me get into this world.

16:05 Jeffrey Shiau: How many uncles and aunts do you have? Do you have a huge fam...

16:08 Jenn Lim: Pretty big family.

16:09 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay.

16:10 Jenn Lim: And so, just thinking about what they had to go through... And this is why I ended up an Asian-American studies major versus going pre-med, but just really digesting how much they risked. They even left their homeland. And we can't even get a sense of that anymore 'cause the gravity of what they had to do and risk to just be able to get us to where we are today, I felt that on my shoulders. And Asian-American parents are telling you like, "You better not mess up."

16:45 Jeffrey Shiau: "Don't fuck this up!"

16:45 Jenn Lim: Yeah.

[laughter]

16:48 Jenn Lim: And then, 'cause I was the nerd in high school, and all of a sudden, straight As also. So I felt even more pressured to like, "Oh, man! I gotta be someone. Otherwise, I'm letting down not just my parents, but my full lineage of ancestors that, again, sacrificed all that stuff for what we have today."

17:09 Jeffrey Shiau: When you started finding your identity, was that two years into Cal or was it almost immediately? 

17:17 Jenn Lim: Yeah, it probably took some time, I would say. It just kept on revealing itself and opening it.

17:27 Jeffrey Shiau: In yourself, do you recall what that felt like? Can you describe it? 

17:36 Jenn Lim: I'm really testing my memory here, Jeff. [chuckle]

17:39 Jeffrey Shiau: It can even just be... It doesn't have to be specific. Just what does that feel like? Do you feel overwhelmed where you're just smiling all the time? Did you have a moment where you had to just be in your own room and just start crying with happiness? Or? 

17:57 Jenn Lim: I can say there were some specific moments where I felt lighter and I would just...

18:08 Jeffrey Shiau: Like a burden was on you? 

18:09 Jenn Lim: Yeah, yeah. So I physically felt lighter, and there was these exact moments where I would be looking around, and I'd be taking it all in, and saying "Fuck! I can't believe I'm alive right now! This is ama... " To turn it from this like, "Oh, man! I gotta prove my worth!" But then, and all that stuff too, that feeling of, "This is amazing!"

18:31 Jeffrey Shiau: Prove your worth to your parents and...

18:33 Jenn Lim: To myself, to my parents, to mom, and... [chuckle] Sorry, my ancestors and all that. But yeah, it's such a weird... I guess I was pretty cerebral growing up. And then, those moments were probably the first time I was, like, it was so, physically sensational of this amazing time to be alive.

18:56 Jeffrey Shiau: That's really great. So by the time you graduated, did you feel you had a full identity of who Jenn was? 

19:11 Jenn Lim: Not full. The foundation is better built now. But I knew that there's going to be more evolutions to it. But at least, I had a better sense of the core. And that I think the core was more firmly developed after these ups and downs of my life. After the first dot-com boom, getting laid off, feels like, "Oh, weird!" So that took a hit to my self-worth. I was questioning, "Wait, I thought I was doing okay." And then...

19:46 Jeffrey Shiau: And 'cause all the while, up to now, your worth was identified by making sure that you were achieving things for parents and...

19:53 Jenn Lim: Right.

19:53 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay.

19:54 Jenn Lim: And self and others, yeah.

19:56 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah.

19:57 Jenn Lim: So every time one of these things happened, so it was like, I got laid off, and then, 9-11 happened, and that really flipped my, "What is reality anymore?" question. And then, my dad...

20:10 Jeffrey Shiau: Where were you during the 9-11? 

20:12 Jenn Lim: I was actually here in my house in Emeryville. Not this house, but Emeryville, just yonder. And I remember...

20:20 Jeffrey Shiau: What were you doing when...

20:21 Jenn Lim: So this was when I was laid off. And so, those days were basically... It's weird how time can go so quickly even though you're doing nothing 'cause I didn't have a job, and every day, I would wake up whenever, and all that. But I was sleeping, and then, all of a sudden, I had a call. And I would let it go to the answering machine when we still had answering machines.

[laughter]

20:46 Jeffrey Shiau: So for those who are listening under a certain age, an answering machine is this box that records a phone call from a phone that had a line connected to it, and that line was connected to the wall.

21:03 Jenn Lim: Crazy! Thank you.

21:04 Jeffrey Shiau: So I just... Just for... [laughter]

21:05 Jenn Lim: Thank you, Jeff, I appreciate that. [laughter] I'm telling you, man; I'm a dinosaur. So someone called once. I didn't hear the message. And then immediately right after, another call and another call. And then, so I was like, "Okay, fine, I'll wake up." And so, I heard the message, and it was my brother saying, "Turn on the TV." And so, that was just... Everyone had their 9-11 moment. The very first thing that I wanted to do was just be with the people I love, so I went over to San Francisco where my brother lives, and we were just all there.

21:44 Jeffrey Shiau: Is he still here? 

21:45 Jenn Lim: Yeah, he is.

21:46 Jeffrey Shiau: How much older are your two brothers? 

21:48 Jenn Lim: We're all two-and-a-half years apart.

21:50 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, so you're really close.

21:52 Jenn Lim: Yeah, we're pretty tight in age and in relationship.

21:55 Jeffrey Shiau: Cool, okay.

21:56 Jenn Lim: Yeah, so that was...

21:58 Jeffrey Shiau: That was the first thing you did? 

22:00 Jenn Lim: Yeah, that was the first thing I did, and we're just sitting there huddled up around the TV, just soaking it all in. And so, those were the kind of moments where question like, "Well, what is this all for?" And so, that's why I say I had the core coming out of college, but then, every one of these momentous experiences further shaped what we're gonna do from there. So yeah, I'm still learning and growing, I hope. That's one of my main goals. But that's why I go back to that whole thing I was talking about. It really is about the basics of what is most important, and that's how I choose to live every day.

22:49 Jeffrey Shiau: Do you think Jenn, freshman in high school, if she were to look at Jenn now, would she be like, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense that I... That's who I became." Or would she be like, "Who the? Who is that?"

[laughter]

23:08 Jenn Lim: Freshman high school, yeah, I think it would be definitely the latter. Yeah, I had no idea.

23:17 Jeffrey Shiau: Right.

23:17 Jenn Lim: Some people... And this was also what struck me is I'm being different because so many people were like, "This is what I'm gonna do." They've got their goals and they're going after 'em; whereas, I was like, "I have no idea how my inner self is gonna come out into a future self." So I guess that's how I lived my life, to realize that we all can't be defined by what we do in terms of a job. But then, I can be defined by making decisions and acting upon what I believe in the most, my values, and let that guide my path.

24:08 Jeffrey Shiau: So all the relationships around you when you were talking about uniqueness and also sameness at the same time in terms of celebrating uniqueness, and also celebrating commonality. Would you say your closest friends and family, are all of you very different? But then, there's sameness in terms of experiences? Or are you guys all very much the same in terms of personalities? And then, there's a lot of differences and experiences? 

24:42 Jenn Lim: I think we're very different as individuals.

24:48 Jeffrey Shiau: In both personality and experiences? 

24:51 Jenn Lim: Yeah, I think so. But we converge, again, where those values lie and where our priorities lie within those values, but we are pretty different. They see me as the... I'm the youngest of three, the only girl, so I was always the spoiled one, and all that stuff, and daddy's little girl. So I think they see me as the crazy one. They still call me, now that I'm an aunt, they say, "crazy aunt Jenn." [chuckle] For some reason and however I've chosen to live my life, they see me as the risky one, and flying around the world, doing all these crazy things, which is, in some ways, I guess I get what they're saying, but I'm not that crazy, in the end, I don't think. [chuckle] I don't take that many crazy risks. I'm trying to be that optirealist though, as much as I can.

25:40 Jeffrey Shiau: Right, and a lot of those decisions, it sounds like... Well, we're doing the math, 2001, it came after 2001, right? 

25:47 Jenn Lim: Mm-hmm.

25:49 Jeffrey Shiau: These are some later decisions in life, "Do whatever the fuck you want at the time."

[laughter]

25:54 Jeffrey Shiau: Right? 

25:55 Jenn Lim: Yeah, totally.

25:58 Jeffrey Shiau: Do you still stay in touch with most of your friends all the way through from childhood? 

26:04 Jenn Lim: I would say from middle school, not every single one, but obviously, the ones that I still feel like if there's to. I just had a birthday, and it was really cool because it almost was like an episode of... I'm sure no one's gonna know this, remember this, but it's called... It's a game show called, "This is Your Life." Have you heard of it? 

26:29 Jeffrey Shiau: This is Your Life? 

26:30 Jenn Lim: It's probably... Do I need to...

26:33 Jeffrey Shiau: Was that a '90s show? 

26:34 Jenn Lim: No, it was earlier than that. But basically, it's someone would come on to the show and they would slowly reveal their history in front of their eyes without the person knowing what to expect. Anyway, so it was interesting because you would watch that person, "Oh, my God! That was part of me?" So anyway, this birthday I just had, it felt like that because every chapter of my life, someone was there, or some group of people were there. And it was such an amazing feeling. This is like, "Wow! This is my life!" [chuckle] And so, they're seeing, again, the consistency of who these people are, but they're so different from all. I love the fact that I feel like I have a motley crew 'cause it makes it more fun, everyone. [chuckle] But it makes me feel that I'm learning from all different perspectives in life, backgrounds, et cetera.

27:28 Jeffrey Shiau: So it's not like you got rid of freshman high school Jenn; she's still very much within you.

27:34 Jenn Lim: Yeah, yeah, she is. I think we can't deny that; that's always be a part of us. But then, how do we build and evolve from that and adapt, really? 

27:47 Jeffrey Shiau: Right. How do you feel about just... This seems like in this world right now, there's this inability to hold commonality and differences together with the same person. I feel like there always has to be either/or. Like, "Oh, these things can't mix, they're not supposed to mix." And it always causes these, what seems like just completely unreasonable conflicts, whether it's political, or social, or something. Why do you think people have such a hard time... It seems like you have, through the trajectory and experiences in your life, you hold uniqueness and commonality so well because that's your personal experience. Why do you think it's so difficult for people to hold that? 

28:51 Jenn Lim: I think it could go back to biological reasons of survival, maybe. I haven't done tons of studies in this, but just like our inclination to want to survive as human beings then, and therefore, we look at... We're easier to point out the differences because we wanna be able to protect ourselves. It's the similar reason why I think we gravitate to negative news, then to positive news because we wanna survive. So therefore, "I need to understand and hear all the negative stuff so that I can survive and protect myself." So I think there might be some biological reason for that.

29:34 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, that like someone that's different may be a risk to my survival? 

29:38 Jenn Lim: A threat.

29:39 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay.

29:40 Jenn Lim: And then, that from a basic survival mechanism, it floats all the way up to our social interactions. Yeah, I think that could be the reason.

29:57 Jeffrey Shiau: What do you think will be... 'Cause that makes perfect sense because in the end, every human being has the same first-tier of Maslow's, right? 

[chuckle]

30:09 Jenn Lim: Yeah.

30:09 Jeffrey Shiau: They need food. They need shelter. They need their health. What does it take for humans to move away the medium, move away all the hublub and bullshit that just surrounds us currently, and just remember that everyone needs to eat, everyone needs to take care of their family? 

30:33 Jenn Lim: Yeah. Yeah, that's a tough question. [chuckle] Maybe that's why that kind of question is maybe that's why I'm so hell-bent in doing what I do in life and for my living. It is because that we can see, if we choose to see the commonalities in us that brings us together first, and embrace the fact that we're gonna all be different. But I think we're moving in that direction though. I honestly feel that way because decades ago, it was more about, "How am I gonna put food on the table?" Most of us... What we have wasn't here yet. And so now that we keep on evolving and evolving and evolving, it's like more of the world is at a better place with Maslow's.

31:36 Jenn Lim: Granted, I know there's still a lot of people, poor, sick, in war-torn territories, all that stuff, but if we look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, we're at a better place. So I think that because that's the case, then we as individuals are given more space to ask these questions and actually answer them. Whereas before, it was just like, "Dude, I just need to make money," or whatever it is for Maslow. So now that we have that extra space, and we see more and more people becoming that self-aware person of what I'm made of and therefore, what other people are made of, but also, what my differences are. And so, the more... I guess, we have these interactions and communication, and don't give in. We have the neuro network of the web, an internet of everything, and it's amazing that we can have this. At the same time, it can drive more social interaction, or it can drive more loneliness, but the fact is that I think we're going back... Being able to go back to ourselves first and open that up. And so, that's why I think we're moving in a positive direction of being less divisive and being more connected.

[pause]

33:10 Jenn Lim: Did that make sense? 

33:11 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah, that does make sense. And then, I guess I'm also just trying to reconcile 'cause I guess something that always comes up, and I always hear is, "Oh, the next generation, there's so much hope from them. There's so much hope." They don't see differences. They're see they're born into this world where they're surrounded by kids of mixed races, they're surrounded by things that are... Well, I guess now, topics or actions that are labeled as "progressive" or they give 'em some political label. It's like, "Oh, that's going to be the norm, and that's no longer a political issue." But at the same time, a lot of this is being communicated through specific media outlets too. So a lot of times, they'll see another... Or sometimes, I actually just love reading very, very skewed outlets both on the right and left just to see what's their reality, right? 

34:12 Jenn Lim: Yeah.

34:13 Jeffrey Shiau: And at the same time...

34:13 Jenn Lim: Fake news? [chuckle]

34:14 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. So then, there's a lot of right-side outlets that are actually illustrating a complete different type of youth, or a generation that's actually been coming up. That a lot of it is still very much driven and growing up with a particular thought. I just, in my mind, feel like, "Is there really that much change happening? Or is that just being communicated in a way?" I don't know of this, of any data... I would say some data or resources that I see that signal what's actually happening is what products are actually being put out because that's usually like, "We are putting more of this out because we know there's money flowing into this because that's the viewpoint or view that's coming out." So one more type of media is being put out, one more type of products for high school kids and under is being put out. So maybe I'm being pessimistic in this way. Do you ever feel caught in a moment of pessimism like, "Well, this is never gonna fucking change?"

[chuckle]

35:38 Jenn Lim: This as in everything? This state of the world? 

35:42 Jeffrey Shiau: I guess the state of... Yeah, just state of... I don't wanna say "differences." I wanna say state of what is seen as regression or oppression, or some...

36:00 Jenn Lim: Yeah.

36:01 Jeffrey Shiau: For example, for the ability for you to express yourself. There had to be some force of oppression from the world at large that made you feel uncomfortable, maybe, within yourself.

36:13 Jenn Lim: Which is self-imposed, basically.

36:14 Jeffrey Shiau: Right.

36:15 Jenn Lim: Yeah. To answer your question, I don't ever feel like this is never gonna change. I do feel that we're seeing so... The pace of change is happening so fast right now, quicker than we've ever seen. But there's also a big ounce of truth to, "The more things change, the more things stay the same." Because of those fundamentals that will never change of human behavior and Maslow, all that. Case in point of what happened with the election, it's like... And I don't wanna get super political here 'cause this is not what it's about, but basically, it was the expectation of what was supposed to happen that didn't. And it blew everyone's minds especially for those that thought it was a shoe-in, whatever. But the reality is that we should've expected that could've happened.

37:11 Jenn Lim: And no matter what anyone's saying, or the media and the polls, the reality is there's still "anything can happen" attitude in life. And I think that's a part of what I call expectation management of you hope for the best, but realize that the full gamut of anything can happen, good and bad. So I think that it's while I don't think that things are never gonna change. I feel like they are changing but it just takes our awareness and our actions to put that in place. And so, I believe that from a larger evolutionary look at things, these are our natural cycles of what we go through as human beings. And so, I've been talking a lot about this. I called it adaptive age because I feel like...

38:08 Jeffrey Shiau: Adaptive age? 

38:09 Jenn Lim: Age, yeah. We're in the age of adaptation because with all these changes around us, and like I was saying earlier, Internet of everything, we're all super connected. But then, at the same time, there was just a Fortune article about how the millennials are the loneliest they've ever been. Think from 1980s to now, there's three times as many people that feel they don't have a close network or friends. Something crazy like that.

38:37 Jeffrey Shiau: Relationship, or? 

38:38 Jenn Lim: Relationship-wise, which is huge in terms of our existence as human beings and happiness of it. So that's why I think though why the change is happening in the right direction because what I was saying earlier, is we're able to be more self-aware. And we're able to digest all this information and make our own decisions based on it. So therefore, it's not hopeless. That's the worst when you're in a certain situation and there's no hope. But we are, I think, getting smarter and more true to defining our real self, to fight the exterior things. Because I feel with this adaptive age, we're seeing this shift to people like, "Well, I do need to kinda figure out who I am. I do need to kinda figure out my values, my purpose, and live by them. And I do need to understand my place in society in relation to people around me, and in relation to the global society at large." So that's why I'm really big on saying, "Okay, well, let's... " I'll talk to myself, "I will therefore change and control what I can, but be more open to adapt and embrace what I can't." And so therefore, it goes back to expectation management. That's what's saving me from being a cynic, again. [chuckle] And just having this really optirealistic sort of outlook.

40:19 Jeffrey Shiau: If you were to replace your eyes and your mind with your mother, how would... [chuckle] I feel like you and your mom are really close homies. [chuckle]

40:33 Jenn Lim: Oh my goodness! That's a whole another... [chuckle]

40:36 Jeffrey Shiau: So if you were to look at Jenn today, how would she describe you? 

40:43 Jenn Lim: Oh, man! I don't even wanna know.

40:47 Jeffrey Shiau: With the context like she's the person that raised you, has known you ever since you were little.

40:52 Jenn Lim: Yeah. What's ironic is she always thought that growing up, I was the rebel and I never listened to what she said or my dad said, which is not the case. 'Cause really, maybe I didn't show it, but internally, going back to what we were talking about, it really was on my shoulders of, "Oh, man! I need to live up!" So I'm sure she still feels that's the way, that's the case. I live this crazy life or whatever, but it was funny 'cause I... She never thought I had a job when I was a consultant at KPMG. [chuckle] She didn't understand what that meant. She didn't think I had a job when I was an independent consultant. So she, for so many years, never could say anything positive about how I chose to live my life. But it was funny, just two weeks ago, I did a talk here in San Francisco, and I invited my old Cal professor. And I hadn't seem him in years. And so, he came to the talk, it was one of the most... I respect him, one of the most respectful professors I've ever had.

42:00 Jeffrey Shiau: What's his name? 

42:01 Jenn Lim: Dr. Ling-Chi Wang.

42:02 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay.

42:04 Jenn Lim: He started the Ethnic Studies Program and was a big part of the Asian-American Studies, and a rebel himself, I guess. But so, he came to the talk. And then, he wrote me this long email just saying how I'm a different person from how he knew me in college, and how proud he was of my "success." And I sent that to my mom, and she read it. And she responded with, "I can finally say I'm proud of you for what you've done."

[laughter]

42:38 Jeffrey Shiau: It needed to be connected with academia.

42:39 Jenn Lim: Yeah, thank you, an Asian one at that... I don't know. I was like, "Oh my God! It just took a few decades!"

42:45 Jeffrey Shiau: Another doctor, another doctorate. And so...

42:47 Jenn Lim: Yeah. Yeah, totally. So anyway, that's my mom.

42:52 Jeffrey Shiau: That's awesome. I feel like...

42:55 Jenn Lim: I don't know if it's awesome but... [chuckle]

42:58 Jeffrey Shiau: That was awesome, and I am totally connecting with you in that. So yeah, that's a very common Asian-American parent experience where they... Just a lot of our friends, the saying, "I'm proud of you," or, "Good job." This is something you don't get. [laughter]

43:20 Jenn Lim: Yeah, yeah, 'cause then, you'll quit. And then, you'll stop.

[laughter]

43:22 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. So when you do get it once in a while, even if it's really a side comment, you're just like, "Holy shit! Did that just happen?" So yeah, that's really cool. So okay, well, thank you so much for taking out the time to chat with me today. And as all the listeners know, we end every single conversation also with the same question.

43:52 Jenn Lim: Okay.

43:53 Jeffrey Shiau: And that is: Ultimately, what's the point of all this? 

44:02 Jenn Lim: That's the last question? That's another episode. First off, thank you for asking me to do this with you. I had a lot of fun. This is all part of why I love being alive, is connecting with people. So thank you.

44:17 Jeffrey Shiau: And thank you. Always, after a lot of episodes, I just... What's so fulfilling for me is that half of the stuff, I hear from a friend. No matter how close, I'm like, "I do not know that about them." So yeah, this is really great.

[chuckle]

44:34 Jenn Lim: Cool! Yeah. What's the point? Well, I guess that's why, again, I'm so, so freaking hell-bent passionate about addressing that question. And not just for myself, but hopefully, through what I've learned, and going back to the sense of what real sustainable happiness is. It goes back to our sense of purpose, doing something bigger, that is greater than ourselves. All those things that we talked about from a happiness standpoint. But by going through those cycles of asking us ourselves those questions of number one: Am I being really who I am, authentically, weirdly enough, or our weird authentic self? Am I living out what I believe in through my values and my passions and sense of purpose? And then, by answering those questions, then that is really, in effect, not just answering but acting upon them. That, in effect, is really the point. And I think that we're getting there. More and more people are getting there, which is awesome. And it's not to say it's just like a destination. It's just like every single day. It's living it that way. And if that's something you still doubt, then you need to watch Hamilton. [laughter]


 

Why Did I Start This Podcast?


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