Catherine Leung

Can't believe how time flies.

I still remember sitting in front of the panel of judges at the World Trade Center conference room in Causeway Bay, trying to impress them with all the "achievements" that I thought would have led them feel I deserve to be one of the Top 10 Outstanding Students of 1987. I'm glad they did.

23 years later, am I still considered Outstanding?

Well, first of all, outstanding is probably not defined by what one has Acquired/Earned, but measured by how much one GIVES.

Also, it has nothing to do with the size of one's ambition or aggressiveness.

I genuinely believe that good parenting contributes A LOT MORE to saving the world from self destruction than the invention of any technology by a genius scientist.

(Just to clarify: Good parenting means focusing on building a child's CHARACTER rather than skills)

The truth is I couldn't care less about being labeled outstanding or not any more.

I just felt fortunate enough to be able to sort out most of the "mysteries of life" before the age of 40.

And I would like to share with every fellow OSA member what I have uncovered so far.

What makes a person Outstanding?


I have been working and living in Beijing since 2003. These 7 amazing years have taught me one important quality that every "outstanding" person should carry - Empathy.

Empathy means being aware and sensitive to others, understanding and respecting the fact that people and things do not necessarily behave/ happen according to our standard.

Empathy also urges me to find ways to bridging the gaps so that I could live with things and people of such disparities without being angry or upset all the time.

We don't have to agree or accept all the cultures and practices that we come into contact with. But at least we should be aware and understand why and how such culture came about.

People with different opinions, educational background, professional abilities, economic status and religion could all live happily with each other. That IS Social Harmony.

Looking back, I think my outgoing personality plus love of traveling since young age has helped me adapting to living in Mainland China more easily than others.

In fact, visiting foreign places can be very educational as it is a good way for people to open their eyes, ears and minds to traditions and ideas from a different culture.

I suppose that was the reason why OSA winners (back then) were given a 7-day exchange program outside Hong Kong.

But for some reason, Shopping seems to have over-taken everything else and become HK people's No. 1 priority when they plan their travel itinerary! Very sad :(

Be Grateful, even to challenges and setbacks

We often hear winners of the Oscars saying in their acceptance speech, that they would like to thank not only those who have helped them, but also to those who have rejected or ignored them. Adversities could make you sour and bitter only if you allow it. Instead, it should make you stronger and humbler.

I had an epiphany earlier this year when I realized that the person I kept considering as my biggest roadblock is in fact a blessing in disguise.

Without revealing the identity of the person or any specific details, let's just say that I have been working on an important business deal since I joined the company 18 months ago.

Closing this deal would be a big milestone for both the music industry on a local as well as global level.

I have done a lot of preparation for the deal, data analyzing, business model proposals, revenue forecasting, doing all kinds of lobbying both internally and externally.

But still, 12 months passed, the deal is not closed.

I felt like such an under-achiever in the quarterly directors' meeting in April.

I started to blame the guy who's on the other side of the negotiating table. (That annoying short guy in a suit with a harbor view office ……) I was upset that his unprofessionalism has been holding me back from my path to success.

Luckily, I did not let myself drown in that sea of negativity for very long.

Somehow, I knew that focusing on the things that I cannot control (the "suit") would bear no fruit. Rather, I should focus on the things that I could do and change.

And more importantly, I simply cannot bear the thought of being beaten by that "suit". I'm not giving up that easily!

That's when I began to review my perspective of the deal and the whole project.

I changed my tactics and reset my timetable and priorities. I created new options for myself - new routes to reach the same goal.

I presented to management a revamped product strategy and new product development is now underway.

I pointed out legacy issues about our product team and now restructure is happening.

All these changes are getting us few steps further to closing the deal we want.

Another 6 months passed, still no deal. But I don't feel like an under-achiever anymore because I am on top of the situation now.

In fact, the suit has been pulled out of the negotiation table because of his lack of progress. I thanked the suit for pushing me to the limits, which eventually drew out the best in me.

Count our blessings each day and don't take things or people for granted.

Things happen for a reason.

Every encounter is an opportunity.

Always be careful with your words and actions because you never know when and how they come back to get you.

Give. and give Wisely

I always believe the world's problem could be all solved by better resources allocation (I probably developed this idea since my first Economics class at F4).

Apparently, Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates are also strong believers of this theory, which is why they have been inviting the wealthiest around the world to commit to a philanthropic pledge.

We may not be the richest man/woman in the world, but we, can make a pledge for humanity.

In this modern world, money aside, perhaps the most valuable resource one could give to another person is Time and Love. How much time and love are we giving to our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors…?

To make our pledge even more direct and practical, perhaps by simply using our "talent" wisely, we contribute to society.

"Great Power comes with great Responsibilities." Something I learned from Uncle Ben in Spiderman.

Being named "Outstanding", should imply that we need to do more and care more for others (especially those who are less gifted), because we should know better.

A Dummy's Guide to becoming Outstanding (Adults)

As cliché as it sounds, it really is true: 修身、齊家、治國、平天下

Stage 1:修身

I particularly like the word "修" because it is not only about KNOWING what's good and right, but more importantly, PRACTICING what you know.

It's an on-going and organic process that varies in length for different people.

For me, I think it probably took me 30 years to master the fundamentals of being the best version of myself.

So hopefully if you continue to read what I'm going to say, you could do so before the age of 25 (if you have not yet passed 25).

Most of life's stage 1 is about "asset acquisition, accumulation and appreciation".

Life's asset comes in 2 forms:

> Materialistic Asset - Toys, Clothes, Consumer Electronics, Cars, Properties, Cash……
> Spiritual Asset - Relationships with our parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, coworkers, neighbors, the Earth, the Divine

I have not done any scientific research on this subject but I have witnessed enough living examples to confirm that the return on investment for spiritual asset is very often higher than materialistic ones. Obviously, my Catholic faith concurs.

Stage 2:齊家

We don't have a choice about who we want to be our parents or siblings, but we definitely can choose whom we'd like to start a family with.

I always tell my husband that he is my best friend. In fact, he's also my biggest fan and harshest critic.

To a lot of people, my husband and I are 2 people from completely different planet.

I always perform well academically and he could not finish high school.

I'm pretty health conscious and he's a lifetime smoker.

We can barely stay in one room without either one of us feeling the room's too hot or too cold……

Despite all these differences, our minds are actually quite similar, which I think is key for a happy marriage.

We share the same values to life, family, money, beauty and most blessedly, we share the same faith in Jesus (thanks to my dedicated, patient and persistent mom).

Husbands and Wives are each other's life partner. LIFE!!!

So make sure you do not feel pressured and compromise to what others think is good for you. Sorry, another cliché - Home is where the Heart is. So follow your heart. Trust your instincts.

Believe it or not, the first time I met my husband, a crazy thought did cross my mind - "waking up every morning seeing this face seems nice" :-)

Stage 3:治國、平天下

Since most of us are not Royalties or Public servant, I'll probably interpret stage 3 as building one's Career.

For those who are considered outstanding, "work" should mean more than just getting paid to do what you were asked to do.

Quoting from Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, outstanding individuals should be working for self-actualization.

Outstanding persons should be visionaries, who dare to dream big dreams and not afraid to find ways to pursue what we believe in.

And if your day job does not allow you to inject too much personal traits to it, start or join a project for a cause that you believe in.

We all have our own mission in life. If you haven't' figured out what yours is, keep looking.

One last note about work:
The world is already too full of injustice and violence.

If or when you're in charge, please try your best in your power to create an environment that treats people as human beings (rather than parts of a machine) and uphold a sense of integrity and fairness.

That's the least an outstanding person should do.

Outstanding or not, it is nobody's judgment but your own

One great bonus that comes with age is wisdom. (Though, I must warn you that it is not a guaranteed bonus to everyone. I'm witnessing an entire industry going down because the old dogs are not willing to learn new tricks.)

Wisdom is not the same as cleverness.

If being clever means having high IQ; then being wise means scoring high in both IQ and EQ.

Or put it in another way, if being clever means having the answers to What? Where? & How?; then being wise means also knowing the Why? When? & Who?

Knowing who I am, where I'm going and why I'm doing what I'm doing, gives me strength and peace.

I've never been so calm in my life before.

In fact, I'm actually a little surprised when I noticed that I don't feel embarrassed at all, when I tell people I enjoy listening to Justin Bieber's new album "My World 2.0" (he's only 16) or that I have crazily fallen for 瑛太 (young and goodlooking Japanese actor) after watching him in TV series "無法坦誠相對"。

I never knew that I would be so looking forward to being 40.

Guess I would be quite immune to any mid-life crisis.

That's outstanding, I think.