Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category


Dear CCF Freshmen

In Christian,Inspiration on April 24, 2011 by David

–NOTE: I wrote this spring semester of senior year, almost exactly a year ago. I wanted to share it in case it might find meaning to other people today. —

Dear CCF Freshmen,

In a few short weeks, I will be graduating. It’s so hard to imagine that just a few years ago; I was in your shoes – relieved that I’ve survived my first year of college, anxious and waiting for summer to start. (I was super-nerd and took MCAT this summer. CRAZY right? But Aron, my summer roommate, has some pretty hilarious stories). As I sit here in my room today, I am also looking ahead at what is before me. Although I don’t feel much different than when I first entered Rice, I am certain that I have changed and have been greatly blessed by the people, the opportunities, and the fellowship here at Rice. To that end, I am extremely grateful to have met each and every one of you.

You have been an inspiration to me – you are passionate about God, hard-working in your academics, and kind to everyone. I know some of you better than others of you, and I wish I had more time to get to know each and every one of you, but I am confident that you are the ones to make CCF great in the future. In just a few short years, I am sure you will become great seniors too.

Before I leave, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite essays. Although they aren’t necessarily written with a Christian perspective, I think these authors hit upon some universal truths on how to live life and how to choose your life’s work. When I was a freshman, I wasn’t sure on major or career path, and although I am not sure whether any of you are wrestling with that question right now, I think these essays really bring life into perspective. When I need some motivation or encouragement, I turn to them (I’ve read essay one a ridiculous number of times.) Some of these aren’t exactly light reading, and it’d be crazy to try to read them all at once, but these are, in my opinion, the best articles that I have stumbled across on the internet. Ever.

When I was a freshman, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. In terms of career and interests, I was a blank slate. This was a little disconcerting, because I was falling under the trap described in essay 5 – that is working towards a goal simply because it’s a challenge, it’s prestigious, and it’s what everyone else was doing. Through a combination of factors – looking for a challenge and knowing I can do it if I set my heart to it, having a certain amount of pride in that I am trying something hard, and being stuck with high expectations for myself – I decided to become premed. In some the default choice for “smart” Asian-Americans, in retrospect, my choice was naïve and not thoroughly thought out.

I didn’t think too much of it then, and I hoped that if I just worked hard, God will deliver. But I believe having faith in God does not mean living life passively – and this was the worst kind of passiveness. Too often in the past, I had the mentality of “head down and plow through this” instead of stopping to smell the roses. In high school, I was “Aite, let’s get through SATs and all this junk. If I sacrifice now, I can chill out in college.” Then, in an abrupt about-face, in college, I was “OK. I’ll just dominate MCAT and hurdles, I’ll find more time to relax in med school.” How short-sighted am I? What’s next, hardcore through med school, so I can “chill” in residency? Life is a journey, and it’s quite a beautiful and exciting one at that.

But this is one of the most difficult choices one can, has to, make. It’s much harder to actively think and take time to decide what you want to do, than to go through the motions of take some tests, working hard, and doing extracurricular activities. I am absolutely convinced that each and every one of you will excel at what you do – you have been intelligent and hard-working to get to where you are today – and I think the more important question is deciding what you want to do and determining your reasons to do so. I hope these essays will drive you to think more about these last two questions.

So in summary, I wanted to encourage you to continue the good work you have been doing this past year and to let you know that y’all have been an encouragement to me. Walk with Christ. Pursue your passions. Grow strong relationships. And consider this letter as an open invitation to free boba if you want to chill out or talk. I might be busy next year (med school and all, right? ;)), but I want to encourage you to email me with questions or need some advice – I will always make time.

With love,

Some Essays
1. My favorite essay – Paul Graham’s very inspirational high school graduation speech on how to live your life and choosing a career –

2. Steve Job’s Commencement Speech (here’s a transcript and a youtube video).
A part that really stuck with me was: “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

3. The disadvantages of an Elite Education – I consider this article and the next article to be good reminders whenever I feel too prideful or too content with where I am.

4. How to be a genius – A description how raw intelligence is trivial compared to effort.

5. The Competence Trap – the danger of living life on autopilot, and unfortunately how many people live their lives.

6. There is no speed limit – Why I am trying to graduate early.

7. Randy Pausch’s last lecture – Really famous talk from a dying computer scientist, describing the importance of obstacles and brick walls in achieving our goals. (here’s a transcript and a youtube video). Unfortunately it’s really long – listen to it in the background while you do some work!

8. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell



Liver Transplant Donor Run

In Inspiration,Medical Musings on April 6, 2011 by David Tagged: , , ,

Sunday night, I had the rare opportunity to go on a donor run. We flew into Fresno and I got to scrub in to help in a liver and kidney procurement. It was an amazing experience – awe-inspiring to realize what was happening and overwhelming in knowing what a rare and unique opportunity this was. Out of the tragedy of one person’s loss, multiple individuals are helped – in this particular case, the heart, liver, and kidneys were collected. It is truly an amazing system, where the anonymous generosity of one individual can galvanize an entire support network and bring together physicians from all over the country to most efficiently help people in need.

On the scientific and medical level, transplant is just as amazing.The very idea of transplant, the practice of moving and implant another individual’s organ to help prolong another individual’s life, underscores a deep fundamental understanding of physiology, cell biology, and biochemistry. Physicians build upon a tremendous body of knowledge of physiology – an understanding of how each organ functions and what purpose each tissue serves. For a successful transplant, physicians need to identify the signs of what organ is failing, surgeons need to perfect the technique of resecting an organ while minimizing ischemia and preventing blood clots, and a large body of knowledge must be available to understand how to perfuse the organ and minimize the immune response of a foreign organ.

The play-by-play:
At around 8:30PM, I got a call from Alexandra. I did not have the pager and she had just gone to a procurement earlier that day, so she asked if I wanted to go. I had just gotten home from preceptorship and was making dinner. Having been in the ED the entire day, I was rather tired, but really excited for this opportunity – particularly when I heard that it would be in Fresno.9:45PM, I got into an unmarked van in front of Moffitt Circle. I met up with Alex, the transplant coordinator, Stephen, R3 from Fresno on transplant rotation here at UCSF, and Ingo, the transplant fellow. We drove to SFO and got on a private jet to Fresno. An anesthesiologist from the transplant network met us at the airport and we headed off.

11:45PM We got to Community Medical Center, changed into their scrubs, and began preparing for the surgery.  There was a little bit of downtime, where we got some coffee (bad idea, I was trembling a little when closing) and the fellow went through all the paperwork.

12:15AM. The surgery began. The nurses were super helpful – I don’t have too much experience scrubbing in, but they were really nice in helping me pick out gloves and put on the gown and gloves.

It was an amazing process, with the cardiac team working in parallel with the abdominal team. I won’t go into too many details, but it always astounds me the amount of finesse involved in surgery. Great delicacy is used to maintain the blood supply of the organs, and I could tell the

3:00AM The surgery began to wind down. The R3 and I got to close up the donor, while the fellow focused on the actual organs. I helped tear down the surgical field and package the organs.

4:00AM Back to the Fresno airport, which was then only a skip, hop, and a leap back to SF. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night, and stayed away the rest of the time until I got back home.

This was truly an amazing experience, and really highlighted the joys of surgery. Through finesse and technique, there is an unparalleled opportunity to make a great impact and impact someone’s life. The task before you is directly tangible and the responsibility is directly on your shoulders. It is truly a different experience, and I really felt the rush of adrenaline in helping out and knowing what I was doing would make a difference.


More cool links

In Inspiration on October 17, 2010 by David



In Inspiration on October 3, 2010 by David

The next Monday, when the fathers were all back at work, we kids were playing in a field. One kid says to me, “See that bird? What kind of bird is that?” I said, “I haven’t the slightest idea what kind of a bird it is.” He says, “It’s a brown-throated thrush. Your father doesn’t teach you anything!” But it was the opposite. He had already taught me: “See that bird?” he says. “It’s a Spencer’s warbler.” (I knew he didn’t know the real name.) “Well, in Italian, it’s a Chutto Lapittida. In Portuguese, it’s a Bom da Peida. In Chinese, it’s a Chung-long-tah, and in Japanese, it’s a Katano Tekeda. You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts.” (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.)

Richard Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think?



In Inspiration on July 17, 2010 by David Tagged: , , , , ,

Tonight, I went to ETC, SFBC’s young adult/career fellowship. [That still sounds weird to me. I don’t feel like a “young adult”, haha]. Going over James 4, we discussed the very relevant question of pride vs. humility. Prov3:34 “God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

During discussion, one realization we came to was that motive matters more than end result. Many things are not inherently wrong, but to covet them and to seek them for selfish reasons or personal gratification goes against the Christian mindset. Money is not inherently bad, but to seek money as a goal rather than a means is greed. Having talent and performing well is not inherently bad, but to have an overinflated sense of personal power or individual judgement is pride. Many things can be done with a clear heart and be pleasing the Lord, but taken to excess or to do it for selfish motives is not consistent with how a follower of Christ should live. Thus it is often warned to not focus the gifts and lose sight of the giver. We who are blessed with much in life should never forget to thank the Lord and give glory where it is due – the one, infallible God.

Our discussion lead me to an interesting question, one that I would like to post to the greater Internet community. I would very much like feedback, and would like your thoughts on the topic. I have come to a conclusion about the topic, but I am not sure if my conclusion is right or valid. In either case, I would love to have discussion or your thoughts.

The question goes back to the title of this post, competition. My question put succinctly is, “Is competition inherently rooted in pride, and detracts from our relationship with God?” Competition, by definition, is to strive to be better than someone or something else. You need someone to compete with to be in competition. But why do we strive to be better than others? The desire to be better than others is rooted in pride, and contradictory to the humility and compassion exemplified by Jesus Christ. James 4:1 – 2 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” Does not the very nature of competition conflict with the meekness, humility, and God-centered living that Jesus preached? At the root, it seems competition is contradictory to the sense of appreciative submission and acceptance of the world that Christianity brings to me.

Right or wrong, competition is natural to humans. We all seek the feeling of acceptance and praise that comes with doing something well or achieving something great. Using the metaphor of a foot race, why do we run? While we might enjoy the race, we all run to win. It is more enjoyable to be first than to be last, and no one starts a race to lose. Or at least, that is not the spirit of competition. Is a competitive heart a heart that is prone to pride and sin? Just because competition feels natural does not mean it is good. Rather, our hearts are deceitful. It is natural to strive for the most we can, to hoard what we can get, and to put ourselves at the top of the totem pole, but these actions by another name is simply worldly ambition, greed, and pride. It is natural to put ourselves first, when we should be putting God first, others second, and ourselves last.

Biblical accounts of competition also paint a grim picture. Infamous sibling rivalries, the story of Cain and Abel as well as the selling of Joseph into slavery, are all based on uncontrolled and untempered competition, which led to jealousy and all kinds of other sin. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any biblical examples where competition glorifies God. Rather the example that comes to my mind is virtue of submission and avoiding competition. In Ordering Your Private Life (which I just finished this week), Gordan MacDonald gives the example of John the Baptist paving the way for Jesus Christ. The excerpt puts it succinctly:

“Watch [John] when the observation is made that his popularity may be headed into serious decline. To put it another way, study John when he learns that he is losing his job. The moment I have in mind comes after John has introduced Christ to the multitudes and they have begun to transfer their affections to this “Lamb of God (John 1:36). It is brought to John’s attention that the crowds, even some of his own disciples, are turning to Jesus, listening to His teaching and being baptized by His disciples. One gets the felling that those who brought the news to John concerning the decline of his ratings may have anticipated that they would get the chance to see John react just a bit negatively. But if that was the case, they were to be disappointed.” John 3:27-30 “To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

This example shows the virtue of avoiding competition, and knowing when what our place is and how it fits into His plan for us. Can competitiveness simply be an outward sign of the lack of inner peace and the risk of falling into pride? God can more than take care of all of us – we do not need to compete for his attention. Rather, when we are competing, we are drawing the focus to ourselves and our own selfish aims.

One argument for the merits of competition I heard, is that in the right context, such competition can motivate us on our spiritual walk and, in a Christian context, can spur one another onward to better serve the Lord. When we see how much others have grown, we are encouraged to strive harder to be closer to the Lord. However, I believe this is not correct. I have already described above how I feel such a competitive perspective succeeds to draw the focus away from God and towards ourselves. Secondly, I believe such an approach is not the foundation to a deeper relationship with God – rather it lays a soft foundation based on exterior impressions and outwardly appearances of others. I feel the only true way to encourage others is to show them to love of Christ, so that they find it in their hearts to walk closer to God.

Paul also uses the metaphor of a foot race, but he focuses on the the desire for achieving personal goals and the love of Christ rather than the idea of competition. Philippians 3:13 – 14 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not talk about wanting to be closer to Christ than other people, but rather describes how he is driven by an overwhelming love of the Lord to strive to be a better Christian. While I believe good stewardship of our abilities and making the most of our opportunities is a part of living a life for Christ (this is my interpretation of Mathew 25:14-30), I do not believe God cares about the actual results we have delivered. Going back to initial conclusion, motive matters more than end result. We are all where we are by Grace and by Grace alone, not by anything we have done or will do.

In summary, I believe that competition is inherently rooted in pride, and detracts from our relationship with God. Naturally competitive and ambitious, I write this with a heavy heart. Having striven to be the best in the things I do, I have come to see that my competitiveness is the result of selfish pride and worldly ambition. Although acceptable by secular standards, that is not what I choose to be. I want to be defined by my relationship with Jesus Christ and live a life that is worthy of him. Pray for me.


Some more awesome articles

In Inspiration on December 4, 2009 by David Tagged: , , , ,

Really inspiring to me. I think I first read this my freshman year in high school, but it is no less relevant now than it was two year ago.


In fact I suspect if you had the sixteen year old Shakespeare or Einstein in school with you, they’d seem impressive, but not totally unlike your other friends.

Which is an uncomfortable thought. If they were just like us, then they had to work very hard to do what they did.”

Another article that really changed and reinforced the way I think about the world and how I want to act. I like to read this article and the previous article every so often, remind me what my perspective should be.

Excerpt: The reality check came in my twenties, when nearly a decade of middling effort failed to cast the glow of my writing genius much beyond my study walls. By my early thirties I saw the obvious: my smarts and “talent” – above average or not – would count for little unless I outworked most of the other writers. Only when I started putting in some extra hours did I get anywhere.

Some more interesting articles:



In Inspiration on December 30, 2008 by David Tagged: , ,

Inventor’s 2020 vision: to help 1bn of the world’s poorest see better

t was a chance conversation on March 23 1985 (“in the afternoon, as I recall”) that first started Josh Silver on his quest to make the world’s poor see. A professor of physics at Oxford University, Silver was idly discussing optical lenses with a colleague, wondering whether they might be adjusted without the need for expensive specialist equipment, when the lightbulb of inspiration first flickered above his head.

What if it were possible, he thought, to make a pair of glasses which, instead of requiring an optician, could be “tuned” by the wearer to correct his or her own vision? Might it be possible to bring affordable spectacles to millions who would never otherwise have them?

25 of the Greatest Self-Made Men in American History

The idea of the self-made man is inextricably tied up with that of the American dream. It is his image that has lured thousands of immigrants to our shores, all hoping for the chance to turn a handful of beans into a vast fortune.  The self-made man is he who comes from unpromising circumstances, who is not born into privilege and wealth, and yet by his own efforts, by pulling himself up by the bootstraps, manages to become a great success in life. Frederick Douglass, a self-made man himself, said the discussion of self-made men was the discussion of “manhood itself, and this in its broadest and most comprehensive sense.”Douglass sensed that the story of the self-made man is the story of manliness personified. The self-made man harnesses and utilizes the most important masculine qualities: hard work, perseverance, and most of all, personal responsibility. The story of the self-made man embodies the goal of every man: to become the captain of his own destiny.