Reflection

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

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

4 minute read

Serving in Christian Non-Profit

If you’ve met me before, you probably know that I serve in a multi-generational Christian non-profit. The bulk of my time outside of my job as a teacher is towards serving in this ministry to develop the next generation of Christian leaders. My hope is to train them to be a blessing and a witness in their workplace through integrity, boldness, humility, and strong leadership skills.

I’m very excited about this particular year because we are celebrating our 50th Anniversary. We are looking at how God has blessed this ministry these past 50 years, but we are also looking forward to see where God is leading this ministry for the next 50 years. As a result, the leadership has been discussing milestones, goals, and meticulously examining all of the legal documents, bank statements, and operational procedures so that this ministry can start preparing for the 100th anniversary on the ground running.

Concern over “Conference”

One specific topic in our discussions about the future of this ministry still bothers me. I’ll just get to the point, I don’t understand the insistence of keeping the word “conference” in our organization’s name. I’m afraid that if we continue to have that word in the title of our organization, we will stifle any movement forward and bind the success of this ministry to a single event rather than to the fulfillment of the overall vision that God has set for this ministry.

Our vision for the past few decades is the following:

“[Our] vision is to co-work with West Coast Chinese churches to bring about a grass roots spiritual revival.”

In addition, we also desire to train Christian leaders for the next generation by encouraging them to become self-motivated in fulfilling the Great Commission and equipping them with leadership skills and bible study skills to be a blessing in their local community. (I just made this up on the spot. I could have probably phrase it better, but I’ll leave it as is.)

Just an Event

To be blunt, this conference is just an event. Yes, our biggest event, but it is still just an event. By putting the word “conference” into the name of this ministry, we are hanging the success of this entire ministry on a handful of days with no alternative routes of success.

Take it or leave it, but I personally believe that a large bulk of confusion that has occurred in this organization over the past several years can be attributed to the ministry’s name.

The thought process goes like this: This ministry cannot exist without a conference, so we must ensure that the conference must exist. Regardless of the law. Regardless of who we use, chew out, burn out, and spit out. Regardless of what bridges we burn during the process.

And that is something I will not stand for.

The Conference is Important!

The word “conference” is important (extremely important!), but it should not be placed on a pedestal. There are other ways to serve and train others outside of the conference.

We should not remove “conference” from the ministry’s dictionary. We should put it as a major sub-point in the mission statement. Just don’t make “conference” the whole kit-and-caboodle.

Eggs in One Basket

A good organization should pursue multiple avenues towards of success to fulfill their purpose, not just a single trail. This is especially true if all the success of the organization hangs on a 5 day event. That is just bad practice. Don’t put your eggs in one basket.

And those so-called “outside ventures” are just as important or even more important than the actual conference. Leadership training. Bible Study training. Our ministry can and should impact people outside of “conference”.


Having “conference” is a severe detriment to the future of this ministry. So why the insistence on keeping “conference” in our ministry’s name? I just don’t get it.

And “That’s the name we’ve had in the past,” is not a good enough answer.

- Often

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

1 minute read

I bought a Green Tea Latte. You bought a hazzlenut late. We are sitting on a small round table with high-legged bar stools in Starbucks.

We are going to watch The Missing Link. You are excited because the film was produced by Laika.

We both brought different books. Yours was Meditations by Marcus Auralius. Mine was the Diary of Anne Frank. Two journals but completely different time period and content.

-–

Movie was good. I see symbols of tradition, modernism, and friendship.

-–

Had to skip a late lunch with my brother, his wife, and my parents to be with you.

It is getting difficult to maintain your desire keep a distance from my family and for me to maintain my filial responsibilities and duties.

Often Zhan

2 minute read

Delayed

So my plane was delayed again. First it was 9:15PM, then it was 9:45PM, and now it’s 11:00PM. So now, I’m going to be stuck in the airport for another hour. I’ll arrive in LA past midnight.

Resolve

Not that I am complaining. There are a lot of problems that are happening in the organization that I’m serving in. I’m flying to LA to a meeting that I’m not particularly enthusiastic to attend. I’m part of a group that is, essentially, sweeping the rug out of a long-standing—but illegal— leadership structure and force the organization to be compliant to the law. At first glance, my actions may be considered extreme, but the actions of myself and other co-leaders was a last resort after months (and depending on your perspective, years) of vocal concern, reasoning, and opportunities for repentance and change. I believe my actions are both legal and moral. I’m nervous. Tomorrow, I may lose friends.

A Narrow Path

Yet… despite my nervousness, I know that I am making the right decision. For the sake of authenticity and compliance as a leader for a ministry that espouses professionalism, I was forced to walk this narrow path. I’ve pushed myself well beyond what I thought was emotionally possible, and even through all this, I still find strength and resolve to spare.

Update: I lost some friends.

Often Zhan

1 minute read

TC’s House

I am in TC’s house in Southern California. I arrived late last night. Technically, I arrived this morning because by the time we reach his house, it was 1AM.

The first thing I noticed when visiting his house was an innumerable amount of mirrors. Mirrors in the dining room, in the living room, on the walls next to the stairs leading to the second story.

It was strange. Not the mirrors. They are a common feature in late 70s and early 80s architecture. I was just surprised to constantly see a reflection of myself wherever I went. Seeing my messy hair, my collared shirt, and my tired eyes from a long plane trip.

I was too tired to really look around, but this morning, I also noticed that his house was also filled with Christian books, Bibles, and devotionals. I skimmed through a few books and realized they serve a similar purpose as the mirrors.

Often Zhan

2 minute read

More Stress? More Books!

I don’t know why, but when life becomes very stressful, I start to read a lot of books. I’m almost done with the book Branding Pays by Karen Kang, and I’ve got to say that it is… Interesting. I’ll be done with this book by next week so I’ll talk about the book in more detail then. So far, I’ve enjoyed reading the book, and I think it’s relevant to myself and to the lives many younger leaders around me.

Indirectly, this book is teaching me about authenticity and ownership. My words have impact and so I should not say them carelessly.

LYT

This is especially true with my friend LYT, who is currently going through a lot right now. He should skim through this book because of its relevancy to his current situation. If LT’s situation has taught me anything, it is that words have power. They can build up and can destroy. They can linger like a seed and grow at the opportune time, but they can act like a ticking time bomb, exploding unexpectedly at inopportune times. At first, I viewed this event as an ominous foreshadow of my blog, but now, I see this as a cautionary tale of careless words.

I just realized that I haven’t talked about LYT in this blog. Well to put it short, LYT’s a very interesting person (perhaps even more interesting than his brother). He lives and breathes social media. He has a unique outlook of the world. When I was trying to kick-start my blog, I asked him for advice. I still can’t wrap my head around how proficient he is with social media.

Running in the Rain

After listening to a few of Jocko podcast and looking at his Instagram feed, I was inspired to wake up early to exercise. I set the alarm clock to 4:30am, but have been consistently getting out of bed at 5:30am. It was drizzling this morning, but I still decided to exercise. I ran to a local coffee shop near my house, bought a banana and a cup of coffee, and then ran back. It was really enjoyable.

During my stay at the coffee shop, someone mentioned that daylight savings was approaching so I would lose an hour of sleep. This might be a problem if I still want to wake up at 4:30am every morning. Anyways, I hope waking up early and running will become a habit that I will consistently do in the future.

Wish me luck!

Often Z.