Finding My Passion
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.” This invaluable piece of advice—articulated by Steve Jobs in his commencement address at Stanford— resonates with me. Growing up as a Chinese-American and a classically obedient son, my parents controlled many aspects of my life. Reflecting on the past, I now know from first-hand experience the consequences that can result when consistently succumbing to your parents without cultivating independence.
Reminiscing the earliest memories when I was younger, I recall children around the neighborhood flocking to our house to have studying sessions with my mother. At the time, my mother provided complimentary tutoring simply because she enjoyed teaching and working with children. It was not long when our home became too cramped to fit so many children; one of the parents then suggested for us to start a formal tutoring center, triggering the transition from a pastime to a business. As small business owners, my parents would inevitably and reasonably begin to pave the path for me to become a businessman. Starting with relatively trivial tasks such as creating math exercise worksheets to necessary responsibilities like managing payroll, I was on track to take over their business. I never particularly enjoyed the work I did but was unable to express my discontent to my parents.
Studying economics previously in high school, I was reluctant to have to touch this dull subject again. I nevertheless regrettably followed their wishes and studied business economics for my undergraduate degree. However, my indifference for economics became evident as my grades quickly deteriorated. My academic outlook had hit rock bottom, for the first time in my life. When I began deliberately skipping classes and refusing to prepare for exams, I realized that I needed to take charge of my life or else.
Albeit long overdue, since my grades had already plummeted, I decided to talk with a counselor at the end of my second year. That is when I learned to take charge of my own destiny. My counselor recommended that I try statistics because of its shared prerequisites with economics. Fortunately, I was much more passionate and attentive about learning statistical theory and programming languages. My subpar grades served as a catalyst to start afresh and thus my academic performance skyrocketed in the latter two years of college. It was a life-changing period in my life where I fully grasped the utter importance of having passion and carrying the right mentality.
In retrospect, I associate my discovery of statistics as sheer serendipity. I did not intend to study statistics, nor did I know what it entailed. Yet, I soon became enamored with statistics and its practicality. Statistics has the power to unlock the mysteries of data, enabling us to make sound decisions with quantitative significance and to better understand the real-world phenomena around us. While analyzing data, I am most fascinated by the idea that there is no correct answer. Unlike the archetypical math problem of solving polynomials with an irrefutable solution, statistics favors a probable explanation with margin of error. For data analytics, there are typically many ways to interpret data and synthesize solutions to the same problem, constantly forcing me to think outside the box.
After completing my undergraduate degree, my knowledge of data science was still rudimentary, only touching the tip of the iceberg. I craved for something more so I decided to further study data science at graduate school; I became more adept at programming and widened my data science skill set. Now, I am enjoying my first full-time position in the field of data science. I cannot imagine how different and unsatisfying my life would have been if I allowed my parents to dictate my destiny.
Although I am extremely fortunate to find my career path, simultaneously, I regret not having done so sooner. I did not explore enough options at the time and made the mistake of simply following my parents’ wishes. I cannot stress the need to make your own decisions in life. I encourage everyone to identify their passions, even if it is haphazard and through trial and error like me. The concept of passion was critical to my personal development by revitalizing my thirst for knowledge -- I was constantly looking to learn more and was genuinely interested in the field of data science. I was able to overcome a low point in my life by abandoning economics and simply searching for my passion. Furthermore, I was content because I can easily find myself doing data science in my day-to-day job for the many years to come. Your parents do not necessarily know what is best for you. I have many friends who followed their parents’ requests and ended up having regrets many years down the road. You are the only one that knows what type of career you will enjoy doing for the majority of your life. The words from Steve Jobs encapsulates my life story: your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.