Journal

Often Zhan

4 minute read

This past year has been tough, but this was a year where God grew me. All the advice from everyone who invested in me began to sprout. I truly believe I am a better man because of all that I experienced and all that I had to overcome.

Here are some of the major paradigm shifts distilled into a few words that I learned this year that have changed how I live my day-to-day life:

Do not worry about what is out of my control.

Summary: There are many outside influences that directly impact my life, yet the ones that I should be concerned about are the ones that I can directly influence. I should not worry about the weather or slander against me. Rather, I should focus on my attitude and approach to any and every situation that comes in my life. How do I prepare for when rainy weather occurs? What should my response be if people are talking I’ll of me? Are they correct, even in part?

Mindset

Everyday, I begin by saying, “Today is the best day of my life.” I begin each day with enthusiasm and with the intent to grow, learn, and appreciate whatever God throws at me. Many of my most life-changing moments were my mistakes, but only if I learned from them. When something truly sad happens, I should mourn, truly mourn. If I become sick or in pain, then I should find a way to use that “thorn in the side” as an opportunity to glorify God whether in public or in private.

Moral Dilemmas should not be confused with lack of communication or misunderstandings.

A moral dilemma is defined as a conflict between two moral principles. To decide whether-or-not to casually steal an expensive camera from an electronics store is not a moral dilemma. A moral dilemma could be when someone is deciding whether to kill one man to save a hundred. In less extreme terms, should a concerned employee tell a boss a rumor about a secret relationship that could potentially harm the company?

Half of Maturity is the development of Habits and Disciplines.

Habits are important. They take up around half of one’s day. They are the unconscious thoughts and decisions that our brain puts on “auto” so our mind can focus on other tasks.

We should build and strengthen our good habits; and we should minimize and remove our bad habits. Shouldn’t we want our habits to be working for us, not against us?

Podcasts and Audiobooks are amazing.

I am able to do other menial tasks while listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Also when I listened to deeply engaging audio books and podcasts, all my dirty laundry and dishes somehow ended up getting clean.

Writer’s Block is a Workflow Issue, not Mental Constipation

When you think of a creative person that you know of, the reason why that person seems creative is because he’s actually able to make his ideas a reality. Even if someone does not have many ideas, good ideas take time to expand upon, plan out, and complete. Imagination is only a small part of creativity. The ability to create something to completion is the true mark of a creative person.

Fullness, not Balance

Our mindset should not be balancing our life because that assumes that our work life, ministry life, family life, and social life are separate and at odds. Rather, we should be a person of integrity. We need integrate these areas of our lives together. Our mindset should be on fullness in all areas of our life. The only way that can be accomplished is through some sort of overlap between these areas. Also, we need a clear direction and strategic boundaries to ensure that we are not being overused.


This year had a lot of ups and downs. But that’s OK cause it led to today. And today is the best day of my life.

- Often

Often Zhan

2 minute read

Ever since reading a book on branding and working as a team on the leadership training program, I’ve decided to try to become more social-media active. The plan is not comprehensive by any measure. So far, the only thing I’ve done so far is sharing link—cat video, song, article…—to five additional people. I stop and think, “Who are 5 other people that think would like this link as well?” Then I share it to them as well.

Actually, I never knew how amazing the share button actually was! I’ve always equated share and send as the same word, but boy was I wrong. The share link from the app or website is usually optimized for social media. Also, I can “share” resources to my personal Google Keep, Email, and Pocket. This makes it much easier to store and collect information.

My recent upsurge of social media use has stirred mix reactions from friends and relatives. Here is a mix of reactions from people since I’ve started doing this:

  • What are you trying to tell me?
  • Was your Facebook hacked?
  • I love that song!
  • Ooh! I’ll be sure to watch that video later.
  • What is this?

And, these conversation has spurred on a long needed conversation from close friends who time has made slowly distant.

My next goal is to start using Twitter. Whenever I make a blog post, I’ll share it on Twitter and Facebook. (I know that was not the intent of Twitter, but HEY! It’s a start!) Somehow, I’ll slowly integrate Instagram into my social media workflow.

- Often

Often Zhan

1 minute read

After reading the Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman, one thing I’m trying to think about who are the type of people and I want to reach out to talk with so that I can become a better person. Who are the people that I’m interested in getting to know and learning from?

  • Leaders and entrepreneurs
  • Educators
  • Writers

While I want to become a better leader in Christian ministry, I think about I will not try to actively focus on pastors. Not because I do not admire them, but rather, my goal is not to become a clergyman.

I actually like Tim Ferris’ idea from Tribe of Mentors where he asks a wide array of people whom he highly respects very personal questions. I plan to implement this style of mentor-ship not only in ministry but also for myself

Often Zhan

2 minute read

It’s a strange time in my life right now: My house-mate is leaving; my brother did not make the Match program; I’ve been spend my waking hours focusing solely on work and ministry.

Maintaining Integrity

In the process of standing up for the truth, my decisions have led to the abrupt end of half of my friends whom I have invested in for the past 2 years. It even came to a point where someone texted me saying, “You are not my brother, period.” I feel sad that I lost friends. Lost comrades. However, I feel no guilt for maintaining my integrity and not succumbing to outside pressures especially in regards to the law.

Optimism

Even though I am sad, I’ve made it a point to not drag everyone else down with me.

I just messaged May. I just told her that I love her and that she is beautiful. Just knowing that my words might put a little pep in her step makes me feel a better.

Once Spring Break starts, I’ll relax and focus on self-improvement and reflection. The situations that I got situated in over the past three months stretched me and but I became a better person as a result of these trials.

However, others felt hurt because of my actions. So, I ask for your prayers. May we forgive each other for any past sins or wrongdoings and work together as we pursue God.

Often Z.

Often Zhan

2 minute read

This is a decision that I had made about two years ago. I’ve been silent about it since I mentioned it to my parents several months ago. Perhaps it’s a cultural reason, but when my family heard about it, they were repulsed and chastised my decision. Yet, the more I think about my decision, the more I find calm and peace about it.

This post is not a defense. I’ve already made my decision. These are just my reasons. And yes. I understand that I am giving up the joy of Parenthood. I am an elementary school teacher, so I know how fun and exciting being a part of a child’s life can be.

Summary

To make it easier, I’ve listed a summary of my reasons below:

  1. May does not want children.
  2. Opportunity Cost
  3. Living a riskier and dangerous life.
  4. Spending time building “spiritual children”
  5. Investing in the students who are put in my care.
  6. More time to read, write, and invest in other positive opportunities to help make the world a better place.

Contraceptives

One question I get asked is, “What about Contraceptives? Why not just leave it up to God and just do it raw?”

First of all, I find this conversation so odd. Hopefully, this blog can help quell any future discussion. It’s such a personal issue that is so openly discussed. Asking about “trying to have a baby” is asking “Hey! So, you enseminated your spouse last night? Do you think that it’s going to work?” Why not saying, “None of your business.” is beyond me.

Well, I will use contraceptives because I want to try not to have children. If God wants me to have children, then he should allow a “failure” to occur in the condom or whatever preventative measure is used. That or immaculate conception.

It’s the same concept of seatbelts, insurance, guard rails, and baby sitters. I’ll leave it to that.

Controversy?

Perhaps opponents of my childless decision strongly believe that having children should be a social expectation for those who are able to have children. Is that true? I’m not sure. All I know is that I don’t want children and should be free to choose otherwise without enduring excessive social stigma.

Often Zhan

2 minute read

I’ve been thinking about my friend MYT. The more I co-lead with him, the more I learn about a hodgepodge of British differing spelling & word choices (which is strange cause he isn’t even British), Chinese culture, and Anglican theology. I’ve only known him for about two and a half months, and in that time, he has indirectly taught me many important and unimportant topics/lifeskills.

Neato Tidbits of Information from MYT:

  • Discord: Good for Collaboration Projects
  • Trello: Good for setting overlapping deadlines for big projects. I still like Gantt Charts.
  • Enquire vs. Inquire: Apparently, they are different. Who would have thunk?
  • Clutch. Definition: great, essential, potent. Example: Did you see the dog catch the tennisball? That was so clutch!!!
  • Application of Myer Briggs: After discussing with him about me being an ENFP, I researched it on my own. I watched a video about ENFP, and it SPOKE to me. Their description of me was eerily accurate. I’m a little creeped out.
  • Flow of Chi can affect ones bowel movements.
  • Taking walks is good for you.
  • Pan-fried taro tastes good. Surprisingly meaty.

    Book Recommendations

  • Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is cool for both personal devotions and group service.

  • Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

  • Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

Often Zhan

2 minute read

I’ve been contemplating about what specific areas of personal growth that I want to focus my attention on. Other than health and mandated professional development in my workplace, here are some leadership qualities I want to work on in the next 6 months:

Area of Growth

Developing habits that promote productive creativity

I want to build habits that help push me to become creative. These include my morning habits and my bed-time habits.

Cleanliness

I’ve always had a problem with cleanliness. I know that this is a problem and I will probably always struggle with it. Yet, I’ve improved. It’s been an uphill battle, but I’ve seen measurable changes in my own behavior and my own cleanliness. Yet, I am far from where I actually want to be.

Consistency

I want to be a person who people can rely upon. The only way that can happen is if I am consistent with my words and actions. If I am dependable. If I regularly say, do, and write what I believe is important.


These are three key areas that I need to improve upon. It’s hard to open up and talk about my flaws publicly. Yet, I think that the problem in fixing these deficit areas is similar to cleaning a musty room. Sometimes, the first step is just to open up the windows and let some fresh air in.

Often Zhan

1 minute read

I’ve updated my Person Core Values. Take a gander:

  • Speak truthfully and honestly with the intention of orienting others and myself towards God’s redeeming love.
  • Live righteously for God’s purposes, not my purposes.
  • Seek fullness in all aspects of my life.
  • Fully participate with humble boldness to the tasks that God has appointed me to do.
  • Steward other’s into becoming active disciples of Jesus Christ.

- Often

Often Zhan

1 minute read

I was talking with a friend, and I told them, “I am concerned about my students.” He replied, “What are you concerned about?” At the time, I could not give him an answer.

After mulling it through, this is the best answer I can come up with:

I am not concerned about whether or not they will learn the curriculum. I am confident in my skills as a teacher to teach them the required curriculum. My students have amazing and supporting parents. Even if I don’t teach them, their parents will. Also, I have a great team of upper teachers who will help fill in the gaps that I may miss when teaching my students when they progress to the next grade level. What I am concerned about? Whether or not my students will learn to love what I am teaching. What I’m concerned about is whether or not my students will learn to love learning. Learn to love math. Learn to love reading. Learn to love writing. Learn to love the process of seeing themselves grow and gain mastery over whatever they set their mind to. That is what I am concerned about.

- Often

Often Zhan

2 minute read

Earlier this year, I made a new years resolution to listen to NPR morning edition during my commute to work. I did it consistently for about 3 months. Then I started getting depressed especially because of the 24 hour news cycle. I willfully and gladly gave up this particular resolution.

Slowly but surely, I’ve begun to tailor my news to my current interests. Especially podcasts.

I like all sort of podcasts. My interests often shift and transition depending on the day or mood. I typically listen to podcasts in the morning so I like the type of podcasts that are short, optimistic, and are rich with practical advice.

Longer podcasts that are 1.5 to 2.0 hour dialogues seem like such a time suck especially with what little information (per 5 minutes) is gleaned from it. That is why I am not a big fan of the Jocko Podcast or the Joe Rogan Podcast.

Also, I’ve found myself recently shifting away from Radiolab and 99% Invisible. Partially because I’ve been undergoing this huge interest in self-improvement and growth. Secondly, these type of “ear-candy” podcasts require much more attention due to its considerate and deliberate sound effects. To be fair, when a new episode of More Perfect airs, I’ll listen to it in a heartbeat. In the morning, I don’t want to be contemplative but invigorated and task-oriented.

My criteria for finding new podcasts are the following:

  • 10-45 minute long segments
  • Has supplementary resources, transcripts and/or comprehensive show notes
  • Self-Improvement, leadership, or entrepreneur podcasts

Here are the current podcasts that I regularly listen to:

  1. Entre-leadership
  2. The Indicator
  3. Mindset Mentor (I may take this off the list soon…)
  4. Philosophize this
  5. More Perfect

*- Often*