Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘freedom

Do you want freedom?

with 2 comments

20160221_113820.jpg

Over the past three weeks I have flown to Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Qingdao. It was for leisure and a little bit of business. Writing and traveling.

Tonight I was at my friend’s apartment playing a board game and during our game one of my friend’s flatmates repeatedly made mention of the fact that it was to be Monday the next day. The fear and the dread.

I did not share in her dread.

Monday, for me, means getting up at any time I want. Monday means setting my own goals and schedule for the coming week. Monday means not setting my day according to an arbitrary alarm telling me when I should get up, and, thank my lucky stars, no hellish commute.

The freedom I have gained is due to three circumstances. Three things that have allowed me to enjoy a bounteous sense of time and space:

  1. I am a writer & I work freelance.
  2. I live in Beijing so my money stretches further for basic things like food and socializing, and my money isn’t sucked up by sky-high renting fees.
  3. My skills as a writer, and the contacts I have built up, have been slowly accrued and the fact I can use these skills to their most freedom-giving advantage took me years to deploy properly.

The last point is by far the most important.

The fact I moved abroad allows me to leverage my expertise more quickly because my skills in China are more in demand than they would be back in the UK (everyone speaks and writes English in England; fewer do so in China).

That’s the basic principle of supply and demand.

This is also compounded by the fact some companies specifically will want someone who is based in that foreign country, and for me that’s China.

A little expertise in business, marketing, PR, technology, and especially any niche industry, will stand you a long way in China especially as many companies would like to gain or utilize a bit of that expertise in the world’s second largest economy.

Language skills are a definite plus. The number of native English speakers with fluent Mandarin are still very few in a country that’s a huge economy with over a billion people. You do the math about how someone who could:

1. Speak good Chinese.

2. Has a little expertise in any of the above mentioned industries.

3. And can leverage contacts and their expertise to fully utilize those abilities.

Just think how incredibly valuable that person would be.

That is how you become an in-demand person.

To be honest I have not done this very much. For someone who is trying to write a novel and become a good writer I’ve not really paid too much attention.

I think this is for a few reasons. I prioritize the fact I am living a good life where I make the choices I want to make, without outside influence, and I can fully enjoy the little things that mean the most to me.

Why would anything else be important if you’re not enjoying the life you’re living?

This blog post started as a post about freedom before it turned into a discussion about expertise, skills and leverage (standard modern day career talk) before resolving into an ending about how I might not fully care about those things.

But of course the balance of it is that you can do all of those things. But some people I know seem to be busy accruing all these credentials and symbols of their worth when the very busyness of their life means they don’t get to fully enjoy those things that they enjoy.

A recent interview I read was a calming influence on this modern day obsession with “worth”, “value”, and career chasing.

It was with Kevin Kelly, the founder of WIRED magazine (an influential tech publication), and someone who had a profound influence on the early Internet with one of the earliest online communities.

The interview with Kelly mentioned how he’d been a college dropout who spent his 20s and early 30s traveling before landing a job editing a magazine. He is now 63.

How lovely that would be. To not care so much about “building value” for yourself as a career professional but to just spend your time slowly navigating the world, deciding what’s important to you, before landing some place where you can exert truly meaningful influence.

Kevin Kelly, it has to be said, was a pioneering and self-motivated soul who pursued many projects while he traveled in his youth.

For sure the world has changed since 1984, which is the year when Kevin Kelly got that editing job. Many career advisers now for example say you should use your 20s building value and expertise as those who don’t might lose out.

But that doesn’t mean that his perspective about how you spend your 20s isn’t a perspective that like a little sprinkle of salt on the huge pasta dish that is the advice and anxiety of modern careerism, just adds a little more taste to life.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

June 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Living freely

leave a comment »

IMG_2385

“Living freely is one of the most difficult things you can do”

I freelance because I like the freedom that it affords. But I do it because that’s what I do – I’m not really capable of much else currently. And it’s only the visible aspect of a larger idea that motivates how I choose to move through life, the decisions I try to make, and the values I hold.

For me, freedom is the idea that’s become most important. And there was a clear moment when I realized that to live not according to that idea was simply, staggeringly ludicrous.

Life is about trying to enjoy it. Once you adopt this aspect, it all becomes pretty clear. Why do a miserable job? Why work in something that only makes you miserable? Enjoyment and misery has to be framed correctly however. You may not “enjoy” it all the time but satisfaction can arise from accomplishment. It means more about thinking critically about the choices you make, and why you make them. If it brings so few rewards and you do not, categorically do not enjoy it then why continue doing it?

To live freely is one of the most difficult things in the world.

You can live according to your own whims, your own ideas, your own momentum. You can choose how you live your life. We forget this. We forget this all the time. Every single day. Every single hour. Because we’ve set up our societies to do so. The clock forces you to compartmentalize your time into the most productive packets, segments of time that you can squeeze more into. Because capitalist systems require you to work more, make more money. To buy more stuff. To buy more stuff. It’s so blindingly obvious. But why do any of this? Why? Who is forcing you to? Why not live according to the things that you yourself deem important, rather than the things “society” has deemed important.

Why not enjoy things just as what they are, rather than by what they represent?

You have to slow down. You have to enjoy it more. You have to be in the moment more. Because if you aren’t, you’re just moving faster towards the end. Enjoying what you see right in front of you right this second, see it for what it really is. It is just that thing, nothing else, nothing more. If you don’t see it that clearly then time and mind will speed up into forever, and you will lose it, lose your claim over Now, that should be yours to seize. And it’s lost and time just speeds along, hurrying you towards oblivion.

Unless you stop and see, hear, feel the now that is your life. The incredible joy that is being.

You can choose how you live your life.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

March 11, 2015 at 4:53 am