Your Life Story
My life has always been a journey of exploration and discovery. Exploring my personal fears and limits while discovering unknown talents and skills I could mold into my own. A sense of awe, respect and curiosity drove me to understand through firsthand experience some of the toughest, longest, fastest and riskiest challenges known to many.
How do you describe a 3-dimensional experience to a 2-dimensional audience?
There are many things that are left out of a resume. LinkedIn presents a multi-media profile, while an interview drills a bit deeper. But nothing peels away the layers better than stories…life stories which depict transformation against a backdrop of experiences to which other people can relate. Relationships drive culture.
Life stories walk through how you were able to conquer personal demons to find solutions past tough challenges, how you became confident making life & death choices, how you acquired life skills. I have never had the opportunity to tell these stories in an interview. Yet, they reveal the richest depiction of me as a human being, liberating the interviewer to experience my passion and start to develop empathy.
Colleagues who demonstrate emotional intelligence understand that relationships are built on trust which starts with sharing stories
Here is My Life Story — how I became the person I am today after discovering dedication, balance, flow and best practices all outside of work…from people I consider to be my heroes to whom this article is dedicated.
My story starts and ends with (motor)sports. I grew up Chinese American amid a predominately affluent, white neighborhood in Princeton, New Jersey. I learned how to shift gears on a motorcycle before understanding how gears worked on a bicycle! Sports provided an outlet to school but also taught me how to practice fair play within a competitive landscape.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a proverb. It means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring. The exact origins of the phrase remain unclear, though it was recorded as early as 1659.
Courage and Curiosity
I owe my courage to pursue my curiosities to my mom. I learned that passion, dedication & practice would lead to excellence simply by watching her.
My dad was abusive and left our family when I was in high school. My mom raised four children all by herself juggling two jobs. She once took out our neighbor’s mailbox as we were coming home while trying to turn and wave at the same time. The look on their face was priceless as the mail they were reading dropped from their hands to land at their feet next to the decapitated mailbox!
What did my mom do? She worked for the state of New Jersey and somehow enrolled in a course to drive a huge snowplow — the kind that is the first to clear a path for us mortals after a blizzard.
My mom introduced me to athletics at an early age by making exercise a family affair bringing us along when she went to the local YMCA. She would swim exactly 36 laps mixing up freestyle with backstroke and breaststroke. Her curiosity to learn is still going strong, even at age of 81! I recently taught her how to do butterfly in the little pool at her retirement home!
My curiosity to explore led me on a 7-year journey trekking through the Colorado Rocky Mountains chasing pronghorn antelope hoping to find out Why some females prefer certain males? If you are interested in mate choice but don’t have time to read my full dissertation, here are two shorter papers:
My curiosity of choice transformed into a quest to understand consumers through data and analytics
Chapter One: Freedom vs Conformity
Turning Liabilities into Assets
In addition to being a minority with a short last name, kids at school used to make fun of my first name as well. Did you say Sherlock? What’s the matter, Chadwick? they would joke.
My name doesn’t conform to convention. It’s unique to identify individuals…form follows function
I treasure that fact, and have my mom’s brilliance to thank, because I now realize what a unique combination of skills I’ve been able to collect on my journey to find my dream job.
I discovered that professional athletes and amateurs are not very different when it comes to the simple black & white decisions. But amateurs have trouble with the grey areas, such as should I try to attempt to make this pass?
Matthew McConaughey talks about red lights turning to green lights in his book and says that often, tragic failures are equally important in setting our life path, perhaps more than successes.
Facebook wants to fail faster to weed out dumb ideas
Our behavior when the light turns yellow really matters. They are the grey areas in life we must navigate. As I began to explore, my personal heroes would each reveal to me, in their own way, how impactful our decisions become when we are in these grey areas.
Chapter Two: Getting to the Big Island
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
A skill is something to be honed & refined over a lifetime through deliberate practice, not checked off a bucket list
Ever since I saw the Hawaii Ironman on the ABC Wide World of Sports in 1989, I’ve been intrigued by the Hawaii Ironman, in particular the people that did it. An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile marathon all in quick succession, the quicker the better. My collegiate swimming followed by a few marathons barely gave me enough confidence to try my first ironman…then I got hooked and did eighteen more including three trips to the big island to show that it wasn’t a fluke! Here is my ironman story.
Energy & Balance
I got my first lesson in energy & balance from Mark Allen.
Work / Life Balance
I met Mark Allen when I attended a Santa Cruz workshop he put on called ‘Sport and Spirit’. I was intrigued by this because no one else had ever talked about spirituality in the context of sports. This intrigued me.
Mark never seemed to cave under pressure. He was known as The Grip. Mark wrote a book called “Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You”
which can be found on Amazon.
After being selected onto the Mark Allen Elite Team, my wife & I started getting accustomed to training across three sports balancing all the demands within a 40-hour work week. We learned how to balance aerobic with anaerobic training, rest with recovery and how to taper and prepare for big international races.
In addition, Mark taught us how to quiet mental chatter and tap into nature for energy (which lay the groundwork for my meditation practice). This became crucial during our trips to the Hawaii Ironman World Championships held on the big island of Kona each year in October. Whether it is the rawness of racing on an active volcano or the fear that wind gusts might blow you into the lava fields (that’s how 86-year-old Sister Madonna Buder broke her hip!) or the death march through the Natural Energy Labs where the elevation sinks closer to the belly of the beast and the pavement gets hotter and hotter. This historic race is revered and feared!
Having work / life balance set me free to explore cultural transformation on an exabyte scale
Chapter Three: Motorcycle Crashes Wake You Up
If you know absolutely nothing about motorcycle road racing, one thing for sure stands out to everyone witnessing a professional event…
Racers must have a passion in order to remain in the sport. Why risk life & limb chasing a dream?
I got my first motorcycle by writing a letter to my mom wordsmithing its virtues and it worked! I tried Japanese (Kawasaki KDX125, Yamaha YZ100, Honda CR125) dirt bikes before getting lured away by the wonderful deep throaty notes of an Italian twin as it came thundering past us while we were bicycling up the hills of northern California. I first bought one Ducati 748, then another Ducati 999s and finally a Ducati 1098r before jumping ship for the “other” Italian brand.
Aprilia was known for its rich Grand Prix racing heritage building bikes as beautiful to look at as they are a joy to ride. Italians are passionate about their racing and Italian machines are expensive to crash and fix (Ducati, Ferrari, Aprilia, Lamborghini). I needed lessons. So, I sought help from the best.
Rich taught me flow.
I got a lesson in momentum — how to feel, build and maintain momentum from another legend of (motor)sport known as Rich Oliver (also from California). Rich is a multi-time national champion with 5 national road racing championships, over 71 race victories and too many records to list. Rich runs a motorcycle riding school with his wife Karin called The Mystery School (ROMS) which teaches students how to develop feel or the ability to apply intuition to pavement (or dirt).
Feel invites us to understand, imbues us with predictability by encouraging us to relax gracing us with flow
Finding My Mojo
Rich learned from another GP legend King Kenny Roberts who showed him that the dirt was more forgiving with more bang for the buck than pavement.
Rich passes on his knowledge to a range of students from kids earning credit for school to the California State Highway Patrol. Male or female, old or young, newbie or professional, everyone can learn something about riding, wrenching or simply keeping fit from Rich & Karin. They are a team to watch in action. You can learn how to slide dirt track style and ride trails, trials, even motocross…on a variety of Yamaha machinery. If you graduate to Pro Camp, you will learn how to incorporate nutrition, mental strategy, race bike setup, even eye exercises & pre-race stretches into your program — he will teach you everything he learned riding for Team Roberts.
Rich knows how to balance family with racing, throttle application with grip, front tire with rear tire and how to execute an exit strategy roosting everyone who can’t keep up. Rich also taught us about zones.
The green zone is the comfort zone whereas the red zone is full-on. The yellow zone controls your flow through gentle brake modulation, smooth throttle application and focused peg weighting. The yellow zones are where champions are made (not born).
Rich taught us how to be confident sliding & drifting — steel shoe to the left and feet up to the right!
After three failed attempts at qualifying for my first AMA Pro Racing / MotoAmerica race with the last one ending in a 108 mph crash, I decided to seek more help at the age of 50. I was running out of time because the AMA Pro Racing license has an age limit of 55. I stole a personal trainer from Nike (Bill Erno) and then sought the help of a coach I used to know in the AFM, a club I raced in northern California.
Ken made things simple through best practices.
Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent
Ken taught me how to understand what to do by simply studying the habits of the best in the world. Ken can break down what they are doing into first principles. First principles allow one to let go of control because you understand and can feel what is happening.
Focus On What’s Holding You Back
Corners only slow you down. Once you understand how the front half of a motorcycle builds force as you apply the brakes, load the suspension, compress the forks, flatten the tire profile, expand the contact patch to increase grip…you begin to grasp the irony of going faster to be safer!
Practice is a process of building courage by progressively braking deeper into each corner, reaching for the brakes later (with pavement rapidly disappearing!) carrying a higher entry speed, producing more force which flexes the tire carcass more generating more heat and allowing the tire to stick. Unlike learning to program or code at work, this kind of practice takes supreme bravery & skill because mistakes can be lethal!
You will then carry that extra speed through the rest of the corner. More force also changes the chassis geometry rake/trail in your favor making the bike easier to steer.
Connect the dots — initial brake point => turn-in point => brake release point => throttle application => exit apex, rinse and repeat
Each type of corner has different requirements…Ken can explain.
This then allowed me to reverse-engineer a solution for the track starting from each corner exit and moving backwards to the entry.
Experimentation and testing each change with data under tight deadlines made work deadlines seem easy — sometimes MotoAmerica only gives racers one 20-minute practice session before qualifying in order to squeeze all the classes into a show for TV! 20 minutes is not a lot of time to experiment. Learning how to be confident with decisions based on data instead of intuition or arrogance can be the difference between winning or crashing!
One might think that racers have tough skin in order to bounce back from 100mph+ crashes. Quite the contrary:
Racers Need to Develop Their Sensitivity
- Mom engrained in me dedication to pursue my dream
- Mark encouraged me to listen and gain awareness
- Rich trained me to respond by letting it flow
- Ken showed me best practices to be precise with my inputs so that I could get consistent results
- Jami enveloped me in trust which allowed me to focus
The result … 3 trips to the AMA Nationals racing with the pros!
Best practices allow us to cultivate a culture to solve problems collaboratively
Chapter Four: Teamwork
I met my wife at an open water swim organized by a local triathlon club in Santa Clara. We discovered our mutual passion for pushing the limits and competing against the world’s best. We also loved exploring exotic places and mingling with local culture at their waterfronts, running trails and mountain roads. We began racing individually in triathlons, then together as a team in motorsports as Team JaS.
The name of our team is based on our unique contributions with Jami leading the way
My wife taught me how to trust others.
Teamwork is based on a shared vision & mission based on trust, not just a collection of skillsets
Jami is not afraid to try anything, at least once. Before we met, she had only done sprint triathlons. Today, she has 16 ironmans to her name. She didn’t ride motorcycles. After going to ROMS, the next thing I knew, Rich & Karin are inviting her down to coach an all-women’s camp!
Jami had also never ridden a motorcycle on public roads, let alone an Italian twin weighing 500 pounds with headlights and a license plate. Gas stations use slippery concrete at the pumps instead of grippy asphalt. I’ll never forget my internal wince & grimace when she tipped over the Ducati 748!
The 748 was heavy and didn’t want to turn but Jami had the courage to take it to the racetrack — fast and flowing Thunderhill, bumpy Buttonwillow, even Laguna Seca with the infamous corkscrew!
During race weekends, instead of putting up her feet up and reading a magazine like other wives, Jami insisted on playing a more active role (she is known for getting S*** done). She not only took care of booking hotels (dog friendly AirBnBs), but setting up our pits, taking care of our dogs, recording lap times & suspension settings, even changing tires and setting pressures! Jami was Team JaS “pit bitch” for the 15 years…at the same time racing as an elite age grouper / world championship contender!
Jami set me free
I learned to let go…thoughts of anger, fear, indecision and eventually thought itself which then allowed me to let go of the brakes and #GoFree
We retired in 2019. Jami’s dad Al was our biggest supporter — sadly, he passed in January of 2021. His booming voice always brought us back from the dead for final kick! We miss him deeply :(
Who Are Your Heroes?
I challenge you to tell your life story during your next interview!