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Exploring the world. Product manager at tech company. Mapmaker at Wellingtons Travel Co.

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The Definition of Happy

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, and I wonder: How the fuck did I ever become this awesome?

I know this blog is about travel and tech and ideas. But here's another personal post. You know how sometimes things creep up on you? Something crept up on me.

One of my favourite people once called me "the definition of harmless", which I find funny and lends to the title of this post.

A Winter Walk

A couple days ago, I was taking a walk on a cool, crisp night in a wintery scene of freshly fallen pure white snow. Walking through my old university campus, I felt like I was in another world. I love the snow. I love the cold. On my way back home, I realised I was happy. Really. For the first time in a long time.


I am 26 years old at the moment. By all accounts this is my prime. If I were a woman, it would probably be 22 or 23 but for a guy, I believe I am probably at a pretty good point in my life.

How a Person's Desirability Changes With Time
How a Person's Desirability Changes With Time

The graph from OKCupid shows the desirability of guys and girls based on age. Desirabilty here is based on sex appeal but I believe sex appeal is based on a combination of factors from maturity, to identity, to material wealth, to status, to nunchuck skills, to personality, to availability. It can be a proxy for a person's overall well-being.

I would reference this piece of research from the Economist but it seems cursory to me. As noted: "A 70-year-old European may feel different to a 30-year-old not because he is older, but because he grew up during the second world war and was thus formed by different experiences." To me, all this graph explains is the mid-life crisis. You can read it in detail if you want.

Age and Happiness

My old AP Psychology teacher from Gunn High School, Mr. Herbert was amazing. I still remember him telling me the twenties are the most stressful time for people and it gets a lot better in your thirties. Today I looked it up and here's the facts from the Pew Research Center:

There are modest differences in happiness by age. Adults under 30 are less likely to be happy.

There are modest differences in happiness by age. Adults under 30 are less likely to be happy.

Young Men Least Happy. Young men are less likely to be very happy than other men. Among women, there are smaller differences in happiness ratings by age.

Young men are less likely to be very happy than other men (are). Among women, there are smaller differences in happiness ratings by age.

Sources: Young, Underemployed and Optimistic. Coming of Age, Slowly, in a Tough Economy (2012) and Are We Happy Yet? (2006) But the more I looked, the more statistics I found, the more I realise how little we can trust statistics and how unpractical it is.


Those born with two long alleles of the gene known as 5HTT are 17.3 percent happier than those with two short 5HTT alleles.


A study comparing similar groups of British, Chinese and Japanese people found that the British were, on average, both more extrovert and happier than the Chinese and Japanese

Happiness Based on Country

Oh hey Economist, you left out Canada! Thanks. And I'll ignore your comment on Asians -- at least Family Guy knows what's what. And you realise you're referencing a "working paper" that's pulling data from another study...

Pew Research Center:

Married people are 19 percent happier than unmarried people.
People with children in the house are less happy than those without.
More educated people are happier, but that effect disappears once income is controlled for. Education, in other words, seems to make people happy because it makes them richer.

Is my happiness because I'm Asian, under 30, highly educated, employed, unmarried, religious, in Canada, and have long 5HTT alleles? These findings are interesting but not very applicable because people find happiness in different things. Some people want to be married and some people not. Some people want to work and some not. Plus I'm not an average. So I said F* it and I made my own infographic of "Happiness Over Time based on Life Events" based on what I observed in my 26 years on this planet.

People have more freedom and money as they age. Awesomeness begins when you have more money and power than time.

People have more freedom and money as they age. Awesomeness begins when you have more money and power than time.

I believe money is a faciliator. When we're young, we're held back by money and other resources. As we age, we accumlate more resources that allows us to do what we want and if we have the time (freedom), then that's when you feel awesome.


But if you really want to generalise (which I enjoy doing and it has saved my life a few times!), you will get happier as you get older but watch out for mid-life crisis.

Let's focus on something more practical and granular.

4 Keys to Happiness

In Tony Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness, he talks about 4 things that contribute to happiness.

1. Perceived control - I did not have any control of my life in the past year. I didn't have control over where I'd be. How long things would take. Who I could see. What I would be doing. How much money I made. It was a difficult journey I chose for myself. Today, I realised I have a lot of control on what happens around me. I appreciate I can decide my future again.

2. Perceived progress - Not only did I have no control over critical life events in the recent past, I did not feel any progress for what seemed like a long period. How do you end up from living in an amazingly spacious and sunny apartment in Prenzlauer Berg to a room in your parent's home? Sure, I made some good friends including Daryl and David this summer but I felt like I was failing.

3. Connectedness - For a period, it felt like I only had 2-3 people in the world besides my mom that really cared about me and I depended on them a lot: Jason, Anna, and Anele. In addition, Kelvin, Kane, Shams, Bo, Jenna, Ross, Zifan, and Chenyang were also very helpful. But the only person from that list who was physically there for me was Jason. Everyone else was miles and miles away. It wasn't great. Now I have a lot more close friends who are actually close by. And the keystone is Charles, a close friend I met first year in college who is now a philanthropist. Hard to believe that's his "job" now.

4. Higher purpose - Meaning. I see purpose in my life. As defined and described below.

Defining Higher Purpose

I believe 4 things contribute to higher purpose and living a happy life with meaning.

1. Fighting & Conflict - I actually enjoy fighting what I consider to be evil or injust. I think it is an essence of life - if you have something to fight for, you're living with passion and purpose. If you're fighting for yourself, it can be very worthy but if you're fighting for something you believe in, it will be majestic. I think Steve Jobs lived life with a purpose and his Stanford Commencement speech is a great reminder to live with meaning. I've been instigated in a fight recently. Fighting means the possiblity of losing but what most people don't realise is... you can have an advantage just by wanting it more.

Tiger on Boat from Life of Pi

Someone once said:

If you want it badly enough, you can be the last person on the bus.

2. Career - I haven't really counted but I've had quite a few jobs in my life. I've been blessed to do what I want quite often. When I was at Apple I thought to myself, wouldn't it be good to be in Product Management? It looks like those guys are having all the fun building things. Once I mastered that I thought, wouldn't it be cool to learn Product Marketing? Guess what? I'm doing Product Marketing at a startup.

I don't know if people outside the Valley know how awesome it is to work for a startup. But it's so awesome to work in small teams, on dreams, learn and grow exponentially personally and as a company (or die trying), and have the best perks in the world. Even the top company in the world, Google works very hard to stop their employees from going to startups. Sure, we might run out of money in the next 6 month but so do "safe" companies like Lehmans and Blockbuster. Instead it's up to us to make it succeed.

I'd rather be challenged in my job than waste my time at a large company (at this stage of my life). I'd rather fight and feel significant than feel like I'm trading my time for money. So you could say, I'm happy with what I'm doing in my career. Working at a startup that's trying to change the world with smart people such as Cameron. Who could ask for more? I wouldn't want to work for any other company in Toronto.

3. Hobby - My favourite things to do in the world are comedy, sailing, swimming, and surfing. Some people blog or garden as a hobby. I like making ideas into reality. One of the things I'm most proud of is ufashion (the fashion group at University of Toronto) that I started in my final year of university. Founded in 2006 and 6 presidents later, it is still "the" fashion group at Canada's largest university. I've gotten involved with the co-presidents this year, Frances and Tiffany. I'll be mostly hands off but am excited to get involved again.

University of Toronto Fashion Group on Facebook

University of Toronto Fashion Group on FB

A consumer brand. How many people are lucky enough to be the owner of a consumer brand? Wellingtons Travel Co. is a hobby business of mine that I hope to build into a house-hold name for vintage, travel, and cartography with my partner and friend Anna Butler. She is an amazing person who took an idea of mine from 2009 and spent 3 years to make it into something real. Of course, I'd quit my job and move to a different country to start it. Of course, I'd go knock on every door on high street. Of course, I'd learn how to drive a manual car for 3 hours in a Polish parking lot. Of course, I'll go to China to mass produce a product we dreamed up. How many people can see their products being sold in stores? It felt surreal for me.

We are not focused on retail anymore but we're doing better than ever online. Thank you to everyone that bought a map from us. We really appreciate it. We promise to delight you with more products in the future.

4. Family - I'd like to have a family and kids. Don't miss out on having kids. Quora and Slate:

[You] spend half your life chasing away boredom. There comes a time in life when you ask yourself: What the hell am I doing this for? What is the point of it all? Surely it has nothing to do with how many horses I have under the hood, gigs in the PC, or zeroes in the bank. Surely it has nothing to do with how good I look, how good she looks, or how witty I am at parties. Surely it has nothing to do with anything I've ever thought, read, said, or written.

And then it dawns on you, your purpose in life: It's love. A life without love is a life without purpose and completely meaningless. And I'm not talking about the kind of love you feel for your soul mate. That love is not invincible. I'm talking about unconditional love. The kind of love only children have to give and would die inside without it.

I'm 26 and I'm single. I don't think there's a better age for me to be in terms of having a social life. But I don't want to be the old guy still hitting on girls or trying to find the right one.

I believe in having kids and giving back to the world. The truth is we can never repay our parents for the hundreds of thousands of dollars or pounds, years of their lives, and unconditional love they gave us. I think the least we can do in this world is to pass it on and give that kind of love to our children and be the best parents we can be. That's my reality.

Still it depends on the person. For example in Germany, you'd have a lot of old people in their 30s or even 40s who don't want kids. I guess the party never stops for some people. There are literally over 30 and over 40 parties in Germany. Germans are funny like that.

They also sojourn indoor beaches. I missed out on that... I did really enjoy the Christmas Markets and Oktoberfest though.

Happiness Boosters

Friends - I don't think you'll ever make as many friends and as deep friends as you do in college or high school. I think it has to do with all the time you spend together and life stage. But I think I'm doing pretty well and have a few new friends here such as Wei and Monika who are pretty caring. And I'm super grateful for having some college friends around.

Dog - one of my goals this year is to get a dog. I've never had a dog because I've travelled so much and valued my freedom so much. It's just one of the things I've always wanted to do but never could.

Check out this Harvard Medical School study on the Telegraph:

Forget hedonism: a good marriage and a puppy are secret to a happy life A 72-year-long research programme, which observed 268 men from youth to old age, found a successful marriage and close relationships are the key to a happy life.

Help - I like asking for help from my friends. I also love it when I can help my friends. I think that is the basis of friendship and community. However, there seems to be some taboo or shame about asking for help for some people, which I'm against. To remedy this - dreamed up an application to facilitate this by making it easy to leverage help your friends and for you to reconnect and deepen relationships with your friends by helping them. It's called Let me know if you want to get involved. Contact me on Twitter @taigeair. It's similar to Zaarly and FavorTree. (FavorTree had the same idea but did it wrong.)


People that know me know this: I think the secret to life is to be in love. In love with an idea, a place, a person.

Go Be Awesome!

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope you found it valuable. Now go be awesome!



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