“She who walks with integrity walks securely.” — Proverbs 10:9
My Darling Liv,
This will be the first of many letters to you. Think of my letters as a trail of pearls to help you find your way home when you’re feeling lost, and please keep it close to your heart. My wish for you is that you’ll have a beautiful life ahead. I pray that you never lose the sparkle in your eyes and that your enthusiasm for life continues to radiate from within.
This letter has no theme or plot. It’s a bit random, just like life. One lesson I’ve learned from life is that it doesn’t always reward you for your hard work ethic. But good values and a strong foundation will endure through time.
We’re Asian American with values influenced by all four corners of the world. Our core values aren’t Eastern or Western, they’re human values. So, let the spirit of law guide you, not just the book of law, when you need that extra courage to stand for what’s right.
Life Is All About Relationships
“Friendship multiplies the good in life and divides the evil.”
You can’t go through life alone. Meet others who can show you new ways to look at the world. Find friends who are talented, kind, intelligent and fun, or those who compensate for the strengths you lack — you’ll accomplish much more by working together. It’s not that complicated, just surround yourself with good people who challenge you.
Every relationship starts with a conversation. If you dread small talk like me, you can always borrow one of my tricks: just remember to acknowledge people and treat everyone like they matter.
One day when you’re a young lady I encourage you to take a job in a vibrant city, especially when you’re starting out. You need to have life around you. It’s the best way to figure out who you are and what kind of life you want to live. In the same spirit, you will gain new friendships while building a network, and it’s these associations that can get you better jobs (by tossing you a ladder). But first, you must build a door to access those opportunities.
Get to know people from all walks of life — to learn how people think.
Take Care Of Yourself First
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
We live in a state of constant change. Most people are scared of it. I say embrace it, learn to adapt to uncertainty because progress is impossible without change. Get in the habit of continually asking yourself: How do I create the life I want? What are my values? Am I being true to myself?
No one can answer these questions but you.
Think about your future and what kind of legacy you want to leave. You’ll be recalibrating your vision for a lifetime. If you want to show up as the best version of yourself, make yourself a priority. Schedule time for self-care and recharge your batteries.
Boundaries are the foundation for regulating a high degree of compassion for other people.
Have The Courage To Suffer
“Strong people know how to organize their suffering to bear only the most necessary pain.”
Your mama has always been driven, as I can’t tolerate regret. What I didn’t prepare for, however, was the pain of disappointment. I was planning to work in fashion when I was younger. The transition from high school to fashion school seemed like the obvious choice since I was already working as a print model for a local talent agency.
I left for L.A. as soon as I graduated from high school even though my parents didn’t support my career goals. The experience taught me a valuable life lesson: the earlier you fail the better. Because you have TIME to learn from your mistakes, and time to start over. I didn’t necessarily fail so much as I evolved as a person. What looked like failure was simply a pivot in a new direction.
After doing a cost-benefit analysis of putting myself through fashion school (the fam refused to pay for it) I discovered what I was made of — pure grit and determination. I even earned their respect in the process. And not because I was stubborn as a mule, but I knew when to swallow my pride and admit that it wasn’t the best investment for the future I wanted.
Let me warn you now — there will be many disappointments in life. Have the courage to grieve your loss. Then, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Life is a dance. First, you take one step forward, and sometimes you take two steps back. You could marry the perfect man or get into the best school, yet neither will guarantee a happy life.
If you dare to dream, be prepared to fight for it. Just make sure to protect your dream from people who gave up on theirs…and never show all your cards.
Time is your most important asset. Don’t waste too much of it feeling sorry for yourself.
The best measure of character is how you come back from the challenges life throws at you.
Beauty: Your Other Superpower
“Make yourself memorable and carry yourself as if you have secret passions.”
This isn’t about looks, beauty is the essence of who you are both inside and out. The concept of beauty is forever changing, and it varies across cultures. What’s universal is the relationship between confidence and beauty. Those who are confident are perceived to be more charming, which in turn adds to their appearance.
As someone who struggled with shyness early in life, I can confidently say that I was secure about it. Sure I was borderline awkward at times (it was part of my charm). What I didn’t shy away from was work that I believe in. This was something I discovered later in life as a young woman — at the core of my ambition is moral courage, and it helped me overcome any challenge.
So, my love, be bold for what you want in life. Ask for what you deserve.
Women are judged by their appearances more often than men. But if you prioritize your looks, some might assume that you’re not as intelligent. I disagree; I believe you can be smart and beautiful. When you take care of yourself, you’re telling the world that you matter.
I believe that beauty can be a woman’s superpower. Know the qualities that make you unique, and do your best to maximize it. Cultivate a personal style that feels authentic regardless of fashion trends.
Most importantly, surround yourself with people who celebrate you. There’s no better make-up hack than happiness. Let it be your X-factor.
“Beauty is being the best possible version of yourself, inside and out.”
Intrinsic Values — Your Compass For Life
“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
My Papa immigrated to the states by himself after his parents, a Chinese Catholic and the other, a member of the Na Champassak Royal Family, were both persecuted in the ‘secret war’ in Laos during the Vietnam War. Shortly after he arrived in Dallas, Texas his brother and sister joined him. Although they attended Chinese Catholic school most of their lives and lived rather comfortably, they brought only their dreams with them, and what they could carry.
My Papa always told me that when you have nothing your word is everything. It’s not easy starting over, yet they went on to own several small businesses so that the next generation could thrive.
I was proud of their ability to endure sacrifices with grace. They would say to do every job well no matter what job it was. It showed tremendous courage even in the most trying times. I hope you are as proud of them as I am, because we come from a good family.
When you have integrity, your foundation is solid. No one can give or take that away from you, and it’s enough to rebuild your life again.
Just a reminder: Walk with purpose and poise even when you’re lost. People will assume you know where you’re going.
Understand How Money Works
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
I want you to understand the value of a dollar. Money is simply a tool (not a goal) that reflects the value you provide to others, whether it’s with your time or product. I don’t believe that money is the root of evil; it’s the lack of money that’s the root of evil, as it causes poverty, hunger, theft, and other crimes. Earning wealth to protect you and your family is not a sin.
Instead of practicing law after college, my grandpa went into business. It influenced our family when they immigrated here, and inspired them to start businesses of their own. Having grown up around it, I began to notice how every industry is a business.
You need to be able to market yourself if you want a lucrative career, no matter your occupation, and in exchange for serving others by sharing what you know — you’ll be compensated for providing value.
Prioritize your personal development. I encourage you to continually improve yourself; the more you grow as a person, the more resilient you’ll be. The discipline will also help you with managing your finances.
Imagine yourself as a piggy bank, a container of sorts for abundance. So, practice good habits now so you can hold on to everything you’ve earned by serving others.
It takes discipline to make money, and character to keep it.
Live Your Life & Have Fun
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
I believe life is meant to be enjoyed, but the good life has a different meaning for everyone. It’s your responsibility to figure out what kind of life you want for yourself. I’m still figuring things out. But if I had to describe what a fulfilling life is, I’d prioritize good health, positive relationships, moral courage, prosperity, respect, or likeability among your peers, and — serving your community.
Strive to be the person God intended for you to be by living your truth. Create a goal for the life you want. Then develop an action plan worth executing. And, be grateful for your blessings.
Sure I value formal education, but it’s the grit from mental toughness and street smarts that will give you the resilience to fight for your dreams.
I can’t promise that you’ll find happiness by seeking the aforementioned, I just know that when you give 110% to stuff that matters, you won’t have any regrets.
Take your work seriously, just don’t take yourself too seriously.
You Made Me A Mother
For that, I am forever grateful. I pray that your world is filled with joy and laughter, and I pray that you’re surrounded by good people to share it with.
You’ve given my life so much meaning. I promise to weave beautiful memories for you — memories to keep in your heart for a lifetime.
Love you always & forever,