Taipei Discussion Transcript: Knowing What's Nice

Participants Discussion Transcript: Mary, Fanny, Riley, Flora, Angela

I read a book and it helped me think about these questions very practically, its about a guy who only wants to work four hours a week. And he has very vivid description about our sense of security about work, but he thinks this is ridiculous. He says you work 56 hours a week to get promoted to work more hours a week. And the other ridiculous example about your career dreams is, you expect to go travel and do every thing you want to do after retirement. And now you waste a lot of time with colleagues. Actually you don’t do much, you just forward some email, and chat on unimportant topics with your colleagues, and so this is what makes your life meaningful. So he tried to do what he want, so he went to travel in Europe, and right away, in the next month. And it evokes a thought for me, we put what dreams you have, what you want, at some untouchable point, but we see the path we took the work we do right now as a cost to exchange for future happiness. But in fact it’s untouchable to us.

It’s really easy to talk about to appreciate what we are right now, but we are unconscious of that most of the time. It’s easy to say we’re satisfied. But take me as an example, we’re unconscious of real happiness, and we dare not do what makes us really happy at that moment. It’s like a circle, keep planning, keep planning, but actually you wasting time, enforce the plan is not really the right direction.

Like maybe we’re just always planning for the future.

But maybe the plan is wrong, we just enjoy the planning. For the sense of security. So you follow the conventional steps, and it’s questionable you could achieve your happiness by this kinds of way. So about this question, I’m thinking right now, I’m thinking there’s no answer actually. We keep pursuing the answer what makes us happy, but I don’t think there’s an answer.

But you don’t think there’s a difference between desire and expectation?


I just found it’s easier for most people to say they are unhappy, but it’s harder for people to say they are happy. Because most people do not know exactly what they really want, and who they really are, so they don’t know whether they are, if they are really happy or not. They just know, I’m not happy now. But they have no idea what will make them happy.

So do you think there’s a difference between desire and expectation?

I just think expectation is what others or myself want to achieve, and desire is I just want to get, I want to do, I just want to achieve, regardless of what others think. Like, I expect myself to be a professional person, but maybe that’s because I hope others see me like this.

So it’s more a social thing.


As her definition expectation is interpreted more socially, and—

And desire is more—personal.

You know, I had this conversation with a 1-1 student of mine. He’s pretty rich, and he said that he was so grateful that he was well off. He’s like, when he desires something, no matter what, he can just get it. He said, if he didn’t have money, his desires would turn into expectation, which is really like a state of loss. He’s like, if I want a Rolex Oyster automatically winding watch or whatever, if the desire enters his head, he can just act on it, and there’s joy in that. To fulfill your desire—that’s joy. If he didn’t have the money, he’d maybe have to save for it, then that desire would become the expectation of fulfillment at some point in the future, and then, basically, it would be all about NOT having the watch, and not fulfilling his desire, and so the joy would be lost. He would be in a state of loss.
So it’s because of this conversation, because of what he said, that I proposed this question for discussion today. I never though about this before, and I thought it would be interesting to see what y’all said. So what you just said about the planning, I think this is related somehow to what my student was saying, but I don’t see it yet.

Okay, so the watch, somehow in the process, not having the watch is a kind of energy, for keeping your life going, but when you get the watch, you lose the energy, you don’t have anything to push you to go further.

Wow, that goes with the planning then.

That’s why people plan and don’t get, because they’re afraid of what happens when they get.

So they start up another plan so they—

So it’s like, what’s the destination of your whole plan?

Like recently, we had some promotion, and lots of personnel events, some people were promoted, and some people failed in the competition. Some people, when they’re manager, they expect to be vice president, and so on. Their whole life. If you’re their president, you’ll have struggled for 15 or 20 years. Most people, if you take this company life for example, all the life is just planning for this stage. But what’s the meaning, the eternal meaning for you? You spent 2 years promoted to president, but what’s the value of that?

But from my point of view, planning from every stage of life, not totally a bad thing. It’s not a bad source of energy. What matters is the contents you plan for. For example, you can plan for a travel, for next year, and so you start to save money, and serve on the internet to get information, and then when you achieve the goal, you can start to plan for another plan, like maybe publish a book for the trip, something like, I mean the, I think planning is a kind of process to help us to find the meaning of our life. When we start to plan something, we start to think about our goal, our desires, and our expectation, whatever, and then to organize the every resources we can get. I think, planning also can be a good thing, but—

So it’s a big difference for that, because you said planning for travel or whatever is sort of a personal affair, but when planning put in the context of social, society, somehow you cannot plan by yourself. You need to plan under the instructions of the society, most of the people regard, they have consensus on the principle, and the range is restricted, so it’s not your plan, so it’s decided by society. And then your, I think somehow your autonomy will be dismissed in this planning. If you just plan for travel, for dinner, sure, it’s quite free, you can achieve your desire, your innovation. But in society, even I obey my motivation, I cannot… I saw one of my colleague, she was promoted very fast, she became a senior manager at a very early age. From a social point of view, her planning very successful. But she live single, because she doesn’t have time to date, she has to spend the working hour. And she doesn’t have hobby, because she doesn’t have time for some entertainment. She sacrificed this for her position. She doesn’t get any, she didn’t attend her desire for some basic happiness for her life.

But she made her own decision. For when she decide to contribute her whole time to achieve her goal, I think she, I propose that she thought very clear, and she should take responsibility of her life. So if she choose by herself—

But seriously how much is it really her choice? Think about it, a man in her position wouldn’t have had to give up being married. I doubt she didn’t get married because she didn’t have time to date. I bet she didn’t because she knew she didn’t have time to take on the responsibilities of the expectations placed on women in a marriage, knew that she couldn’t do that and also further her career. You know, mostly for men, when they get married, it frees them up to concentrate on their career, because they don’t have to take care of cleaning laundry etc, because why? Because the woman is doing it. Women, including working women, are expected to do a disproportionate amount of home work. Besides the social pressure to have a baby for a family, all of that. It’s not the same as a man being married.

Maybe there are some results, unexpected, after her choice. Maybe she tried to assume, she thinks, okay, when I’m a manager, I’ll have more time money and power to fulfill her personal life. But when she gets to that position, the things don’t match her imagination. She could not expect, it’s like a game, when you go to certain situation, she cannot predict what the situation will be.

[slight pause]

So Riley, you’ve been really quiet.

I am on the same page with them, so—

In that case, if you were the woman she mentioned, what would you choose?

Um, if I’m rich, then I would go for my basic, what I really want, which is not work, in that woman’s situation. But if I’m not rich, then I would pursue my career, because you need to have enough money to maintain your present life. After that, you can start to do whatever you want. So if you want to do something, you really have to focus on work, which is making money, what I’m doing now.

Well for me, I made a vow in 2001 to only do work that also spiritually satisfies me. I’m not saying it’s got to be 100% or nothing, it’s just that the job has to allow me to grow personally, on some level, not just feed me. It’s got to support me and at least somewhat feed my soul. Of course I currently have the privilege of having a decent range of choice of jobs, but so, what I’m saying is, to the extent that I have a choice, I’m definitely going to choose something that lets me grow, not just take whatever makes me the most money quickest.

Flora just said that in the reality, maybe your friend cannot expect or control the feedback from society to her choice. I just want think maybe, that’s the major reason why we feel unhappy. Because after we make decision, the feedback of the situation not fit our expectation or desire, so then we feel unhappy.

Huh, you might have solved something for me. A friend of mine just bounces from job to job, is always changing jobs. Even when he’s negotiated himself into a good position, three months later he’ll say to his girlfriend, “Hey, there’s this job available in Hong Kong.” And it makes her want to scream, because she’s already moved around for him, and sacrificed a fairly well paying job so he could be in Taipei. So we were discussing this, but couldn’t come to any conclusion. But now that you said that, I realized: He doesn’t know how to develop where he’s at. He thinks you have to walk into a perfect situation, and when it isn’t, he just wants to give up on it. Whereas other people like look at where they are and try to develop the situation they’re in, and try to improve where they are currently, to make it what they want it to be.

And you know, the other, the case I mentioned, the colleague, right now she’s a senior manager. She sacrificed opportunity to organize a family, when but she want to get a better promotion, she was blocked by her sacrifice. She didn’t have a family. They don’t think a person, because it’s a bureaucracy, they think a person with a family is more stable. So for instance, if she gets angry, they think, “See?” And she lacks contacts, because people think about what kinds of contacts you have through your family. But if you’re a single person, you don’t have these family contacts. Like, if your father in law is in a certain business, or your husband is a diplomat. So it’s the rule of social games, but it’s hard to realize the rules unless you encounter that.

But I think it’s just an excuse to just not promote your colleague.

Yes, I think so too.

Because there’s another case, there’s a woman, she had a family, but she was not promoted because she had family. I think that’s the sex discrimination. Our gvt, the whole society, just don’t want to promote women, so they will find excuse as possible as they can to choose a man. I think so.

I think of another example, because previous, President Ma want to pick some ministers—the combination of ministers in his cabinet, he need to announce he is fair about gender, so he have to collect enough female ministers, no matter if they are capable or not. On that point, that list is really surprising.

Hey, about them ‘being capable or not’, it’s hard to get experience if you aren’t given the opportunity, don’t you think?

Hey, what about Tsai Ingwen? She’s single, right? And she was being considered to be the chairman of the DPP, and some bigwig in the party was like, a single woman is inappropriate? My girlfriend was so pissed off about that. She was finally still appointed, right?

Yes, and that guy was forced to apologise to her.

Aw, yeah!

Yes, first of all because women’s groups protested about that. Second, her father is pretty powerful. But Lu Shioulien, [the previous Vice President of Taiwan] she didn’t get that kind of apology.

But she doesn’t have a powerful relative.

Yeah, but so she’s even more amazing, because she managed to be the Vice President of the country. And she’s not married, either right? She still could be so powerful, have the kind of backing to be the second-most powerful position in the gvt.



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