Chapel Talk: Aloha!

Brabeeba '14 shares some secrets to his success.

Aloha everyone,

I am Brabeeba. Yes, I am that weird person who brings his suitcase, with his signature coat, sandals and aloha all the time.  Today, I want to share a little bit about myself. If you ask me to use three words to describe my life, hmmm, I guess they are math, math and still math. I like math and honestly I am quite good at it. However, I was not good at math at the beginning.  Actually, my average math score in the first grade was below 60. So, today I am going to share the secrets behind my big improvement.

When I was in the first grade, I failed every subject, including math. Math team in our school was open to anyone, even to a person who failed his math. So I decided to join our school’s math team. Although what we did was only algebra 2 level stuff, I became strongly interested in math after that. You will probably argue right now, “I am so passionate and interested in twitter and tweet in every class #talkingtrash, but why does notorious Kenny Griffin has 400 followers and I don’t?” Yes, being passionate about something is not equal as being good at something. But, although passion alone is not a sufficient condition to bring one success, it is a necessary condition.

Because of my passion, I am never satisfied. I am curious at anything unknown to me. I remembered when I first learned division, I asked my Dad, “Daddy, Daddy, I know 4 divided by 2 is 2, but how about 2 divided by 4?” That’s when I learned about decimal numbers. By being constantly curious and passionate in math, my knowledge expanded, expanded and expanded. Within few years, in my sixth grade, I was lucky enough to be selected as representative of Taiwan and this was when I met Brian.

You think I am good right? But Brian is not only good, he is a genius -  a total genius. As a fourth grader, he finished two years of college courses, won gold medals in international competitions and published his own research already. But his teammates were intimidated and shied away from him because of his overwhelming intelligence. At that time, I thought, "His intelligence can scare other people, but it cannot scare Brabeeba!" As you can imagine, I came up to him and said “Aloha, Brian, I am going to beat you!” Having “courage” to change  does not necessary make things better; sometimes it makes things worse. But if one does not change, then nothing will be better. There is some time in our lives when we should be courageous to embrace challenges even if the challenge is too difficult for us. Brian is one of those challenges in my life I courageously accepted. He became my greatest rival.

With this kind of strong rival who was virtually impossible to beat, I began to seek ways to beat him. The first thing I tried was imitation. I copied everything he did. I transferred to his school the very next year. That school was one hour away from my home, so I spent 2 hours every day on transportation.  I also joined him in taking courses in Tsing Hua University. No matter what he took the last year, I will take the current year. I even followed him every day to discuss mathematics with him and try to steal his train of thought. I thought through copying him I would understand how a genius thinks and become “Fake Brian.” Now people sitting there might think, “OK, I know the ending. Basically by imitating Brian, Brabeeba beats Brian at the end like the heroes in cheesy fairy tales.” But the reality is I never beat Brian once in my six years of knowing him.

 What I failed to realize then is that becoming another person is impossible. I could never become “Fake Brian.” So, I decided I would become “Original Brabeeba.”  We are all different human beings, with different characteristics and different strengths. Of course someone is more talented in some areas than others, like my friend Brian whose math is legendary. But each of us has a unique “method” to learn, to think and to deal with everything in life - maybe through seeing, hearing, writing or some more mysterious way. Finding an appropriate method is the key to success. Method matters a lot. Let’s do a thought experiment. One day, Mr. Corica asked Brabeeba, Mien and Jiehan “what is 10 times 10?” Mien calculates 10+10+10….+10 and gets 100 in a minute. Brabeeba is smarter. He calculates 10 times 10 directly to get 100 in 10 seconds. But Jiehan gets the answer in a second. He uses a calculator. Different people have different methods. We all need to ask ourselves what our methods are and discover them.

In addition to my passion, courage, good rivalry and right method, I still need one thing, and unlike the stuff I just mentioned this thing is not controllable. It is luck. My tiny success in math is largely attributed to my luck. I am lucky, but with luck alone I cannot do anything. I need to be prepared so that when luck knocks on my door, I can open my door and give luck a big hug. In my middle school, I actively attended speech classes in and outside of school. This was when I met my teacher who would help to guide my future, Professor Hsu. I can say that without professor Hsu, I wouldn’t be who I am right now. I am really lucky to have a mentor as great as him.

However, we all need to remember that luck is constantly knocking on your door at Peddie. You just need to open the door and get it. You are lucky to be at Peddie. You are lucky to have so many great opportunities. You are lucky to be healthy. My friend Brian, although he is lucky with his math career, he is unlucky to be diagnosed with cancer two years ago. But even with his pain from chemotherapy, he still pursued his math dream and won the International Math Olympiad gold medal as the first middle school student in Taiwan. His passion and resilience are what I have kept in mind for a long time.
Using him as my role model, I worked extraordinarily hard and, like a magic, here I am, standing in the chapel chatting with you guys.

Last, I just want to say, If you haven’t found your passion, go find one. Everyone here has his unique elements, either academic, sport, art or league of legend. In addition to finding your element, be courageous enough to change. Newton tells us that everything loves to stay where it is. Yes, we love to follow inertia, but now it is time to kick inertia away and really be courageous enough to change. Maybe the goal in front of you is so big that you feel that since you have no chance to achieve it, you'd rather not attempt it. However, let’s step out a little step. You will at least be closer to your goal and maybe finally reach it. With determination and passion, try to find your own right method. There is a unique right method inside everyone. Also, seek a rival. Maybe not everybody is as lucky as I was to meet a person like Brian but at Peddie there are tons of people who have the same interest as you and are probably a little better than you. Learn from your rival and enrich each other. Finally, luck. For luck, prepare yourself and then pray to God every night. This was a short story about me. I hope you enjoyed it.  Ala Viva!