Column: New Year Reflections

New Year Reflections
Column by Elena Yang

Happy New Year! 2013 will be awesome … because I intend to make it so, for myself; besides, is there any other way?!

A few years ago, I encountered a young and energetic woman in a “Photoshop” workshop who said, “Every year I take on a new hobby or activity. 

So this year I decided to learn how to shoot [with camera] and make great pictures.” It resonated with me. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose undertaking, just something that isn’t in one’s usual repertoire. 

Through a fabulous new friendship made early last year, I have begun to read a few poems. While it is still an alien genre to me, I have enough in me to grasp some of the images and insightful passages. 

It’s a great exploration for both right brain and left brain. I don’t consciously plan my “new” activity, but I am always looking for something new to undertake.

One year, I learned to write with my left hand (it was a good employment while listening to NPR), and I can now produce a short note without betraying the slow motion. Maybe this year it’s going to be a new language.

I don’t consider myself a terribly creative person; perhaps that’s why I am always fascinated by studies of creativity and creative people. Toward the end of last year, I discovered a treasure trove in

Maria Popova (, the young author of the domain, writes about arts, sciences, creativity, culture, and a slew of other topics based on her readings of a very wide range of old and new books. 

Yes, she reads old-fashioned books!  Every time I visit her site, I can lose myself for a good hour or so and have to tear myself away.

There are endless links, and links within links, for one to wander amidst, such as John Cleese on creativity, or Richard Feymann on flowers, curiosity, music … and of course, physics, or Ptolemy and maps, and on and on. 

Such talent in someone so young gives me hope for the next generation.

Dicovering Popova’s site was in the spirit of trying on something new. She was featured in New York Times’ “Style” section which, coincidentally, I generally eschew as its content annoys me more often than informs me. 

After initially bypassing the story on Popova, I later “forced” myself to satisfy my curiosity, tickled by the title “She’s Got Some Big Ideas,” accompanied by a young bright smiling face. My intuition served me well once again.

Are any of these points related to “work and organizations?” I find “work-life balance” a concept based on deficit thinking; it implies that it’s a zero-sum between the two. 

We have work life, family life, social life, or even play life, and they are intertwined; they inform each other; they are about us; when engaged in any one aspect, we devote all of ourselves.

Once upon a time, bosses at work could be intrusive in one’s private life, but I think we’ve gone to the other extreme, fooling ourselves into thinking that we can keep rigid boundary around work and not-work domains. 

So, go visit “brainpickings” for some enlightenment. It may not offer immediate insights for work, but it certainly can offer something for you.

Try something new.  If you don’t like it, leave it, but try.

“Some wardens looking for a low-cost, low-risk way for inmates to reflect on their crimes, improve fitness and cope with the stress of prison life are turning to yoga,” New York Times reports ( After you are done chuckling, ask yourself, why was it funny? What would be the downside?

If you are in a position of some authority within your organization, why not experiment with one or two different ways of operation, or, propose a few small things for your people to do, just for fun. Try it.  What would these activities be? Share with us; it’d be awesome!

Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

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