Michael He

January 22, 2022

Don't Read Everything, Don't Do Everything

I was browsing Pocket's top 2021 articles. Then a thought occurred for the fifth year in a row. Man, there is so much I have to read... Wait for a second! Do I have to read? No. I don't have to read anything if I don't want to. In fact, many people don't read. Then why do I think I have to read? My habit is certainly a cause. There is ...
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January 6, 2022

Four Is Convenient Not Good

There are many misconceptions today. There are many dire scenarios today. But the intersection of these two is truly dangerous. And there is one such candidate. We are completely wrong on education, most notably how we define it in relation to time. We define education by years. Six years of elementary school. Two years of middle schoo...
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January 4, 2022


This is a compilation of things I wrote in 2021. Some of my favorite pieces are not included because they need substantial revision or contain personal matters. Rethink Progress & Reflection I tried to not feel sentimental during the new year countdown. This wasn’t always the case. I still lamented the passage of time last year, but re...
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December 21, 2021

The Truth About Gardens

Gardens are underrated. They are much more significant than we realize. The truth is humans have been obsessed with gardens since the beginning of time. The Garden of Eden is one clear example. Alexander the Great fell in love with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Louis XIV sponsored possibly the greatest development in Western landscap...
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December 12, 2021

Build Momentum

If someone asks me for advice, I will only say one thing confidently. Build momentum and don't lose it. Momentum means upward improvement. Don't lose it implies being continuous, sustainable, and long-term. Only continuous improvement brings solid wins in the long run. This applies to many things. In terms of book reading, consistency ...
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December 1, 2021

So Much Time, So Little Time

The sun goes down at 5 PM now. I usually leave that hour open to catch a breath. Now it's necessary to save this time for sunset. As I am enjoying the sunset today, I see people staring at their phones. Usually that doesn't bother me, but this time I somehow have doubts. Doubts about what a neurotic environment like a prestigious colle...
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November 13, 2021

Things I Wish I'd Known

I wrote a long list for my eighteen-year-old self in the summer. It is similar to this college guide but longer and more opinionated. I asked some friends about their favorite pointers, so you can see the (objectively) best ones. Special thanks to Theo, J.J, Alex, Andrew, and Samuel for their help and comments. Samuel contributed signi...
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November 6, 2021

Travel to The Future

Listening to Rick Steves reminds me of why I love traveling. Reading and talking to people are the best ways to learn. Traveling (when done right) is a special combination of both. Instead of reading books, you read and experience the environment, the architecture and scenery, the food, the culture, the atmosphere, and of course, the p...
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October 30, 2021

Tender Lightness

What makes life worth living? Fortunately, some moments are self-evident answers to that question. For example, right now. I'm sitting outside the biology department building, looking at the four-way street intersection. The sun is shining a bit extravagantly but the temperature feels just right. IU's 'Ah Puh' is playing in my ears. I'...
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October 10, 2021

The Trust Battery

Human relationship are difficult to understand, but we can use the trust battery to understand the bigger picture. What is the trust battery? Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke uses this idea to describe work relationships at his company. When two people interact for the first time their trust battery is at 50%, which is a neutral level. The perce...
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October 5, 2021

Do A Time Audit

Something was bugging me and I didn't know why, so I did a time audit. I took out a piece of scratch paper and wrote down how many hours I spent on things over the last week. Now I know why I feel stressed - I'm working too many hours on my temporary gig outside of school. That translates to more anxiety during the day and difficulty t...
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September 25, 2021

The Big Question for A College Senior

Note: the setting of this piece is at a competitive college, so it does not represent all college students. I was eating breakfast recently, when I noticed most students in the cafeteria had their computers open. Some were watching YouTube, but many of them were reading PDF files for class or writing emails. And some students were even...
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September 19, 2021

Proactive Serendipity

When someone asks me "how do you approach life?" and I want to sound like a fake guru, I would say "proactive serendipity". To be honest, I chose the phrase because it sounds cute. My thanks to friend Sabrina for mentioning "proactive" one day and Jimin for the song "serendipity". But in reality the two words carry multiple layers. It ...
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September 1, 2021

Basic College First Year Lessons

Many students are starting school this week. Here are some reminders for this exciting yet uncertain time: Wear masks, wash hands, get tested, and get vaccinated. Let's do this much to keep the colleges open and not on Zoom. Don't forget to lock your door at all times. I know people who lost laptops, driver's licenses, and wallets from...
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August 19, 2021

Out of This World - Translation

Below is a letter a 14 year-old girl in China left for her parents, before jumping off a building. Italics are my own edits. May she Rest In Peace. This is not the first tragedy nor the last tragedy parents and society commit against the youth. Hi, It's my pleasure to know you during this journey of life. If there is another life, it'd...
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July 28, 2021

The Never-Ending Writing Quest

Writing is a way to channel the creative energy but improving one's style and taste is a Sisyphean process. You will constantly be aware of the gap between what you know is good and your actual output. It is a lifelong uphill battle. As Steven Pressfield notes in The War of Art, "Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and ...
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July 27, 2021

Michael's SGV Eating Guide

The San Gabriel Valley (aka 626) in Los Angeles is one hodgepodge of great restaurants. It is one of the best places in America to enjoy all types of Asian food. Below are my recommendations. The restaurants are listed in no particular order, but grouped by cuisines or themes. Many thanks to the late Jonathan Gold, whose articles intro...
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July 26, 2021

Reflecting The Reflection Process

I love to read people’s reflections. Michel de Montaigne and Marcus Aurelius are giants of the introspection genre. Warren Buffet’s annual shareholders letters and Howard Marks’s investment memos are must-reads for investors and reflection-aficionados alike. In the Chinese world, technology writer Dan Wang writes eloquent annual review...
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July 9, 2021

The Journey of A Stationery Nerd

I was a stationery nerd. The perfect bullet journal notebook. The best gel pen. The cleanest eraser. If you can name it, I know it. Tokyu Hands is one of my favorite places in Tokyo for its crazy selection. Here is an entire aisle of permanent markers. But there was one problem. I ended up hoarding more things than I could use. You mig...
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July 5, 2021

Stop Being Jealous of WeChat

In the West, WeChat is known as a super-app. We don't want this one particularly, but we wish we had something like it. At least Facebook desperately wants to be the super-app. We shouldn't be jealous, because we already have our super-app. It's called the web browser. The web browser does everything WeChat claims to do, but better: • ...
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June 23, 2021

You And Your Research

Richard Hamming's You And Your Research is excellent. Here are my favorite lines from the lecture. Start Big, Live A Meaningful Life As far as I know each of you has but one life to lead, and it seems to me it is better to do significant things than to just get along through life to its end. Certainly near the end it is nice to look ba...
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June 18, 2021

We Regret Not Doing

I used to think about “what-ifs” all the time. Reading Ted Chiang’s Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom only led to more paranoid thinking about parallel universes and the weight of human action. What if I studied in Tokyo for a year? What if I paid more attention to this person? What if I didn’t say that? These questions would haunt m...
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June 17, 2021

A Random Poem for Someone

Random things happen So you meet random people But you don't want some to be random Sometimes it happens right there Other times it takes some time Nothing is different until a random moment When you can't stop thinking about that random someone Now, someone is no longer random to you Yet you may still be random to them What a random p...
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June 15, 2021

New Year Old Me

"New Year New Me" is an illusion. When the clock strikes twelve on January 1st, it's natural to think about new year resolutions. I will get fitter. I will save more money. I will finally learn Python... And the list keeps growing. But you are the same old you in the same old new year. By April you feel bad about how little you have do...
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June 3, 2021

Thursday Morning, 4 A.M.

I woke up at 4 AM today. There was no particular reason. My job would start at 7 AM. There were no dogs or roosters. The room temperature was in the high seventies. I didn't feel thirsty or wanting to use the bathroom. I didn't set an early alarm. My body was tired from a gym workout yesterday. I tried going back to sleep but figured i...
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June 2, 2021

Find The Biggest Problems

Richard Hamming's speech "You and Your Research" is fantastic. One of the key message is to find out the biggest problems in any field and work on them. “I began by asking what the important problems were in chemistry, then later what important problems they were working on, and finally one day said, “If what you are working on is not ...
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June 1, 2021

Unreasonably Tired Syndrome

I often feel tired out of nowhere. I call it the unreasonably tired syndrome (UTS). It's not the physical exhaustion after a ten-hour hike nor mental exhaustion after going through a DMV appointment. Those exhaustions are justified. It's wanting to bury your head like an ostrich. It's checking your calendar and then thinking you don't ...
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May 24, 2021

Better Than Ten Years of School

A classic Chinese saying goes, "A conversation with a gentleman is worth more than ten years of school." It's not an exaggeration. You should try to have these conversations early and often. I know I have. I had a privileged year living with one of my role models. A true rags-to-riches millionaire. A humble man that speaks worldly wisd...
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May 23, 2021

Advices From Costco Founder Jim Sinegal

Jim Sinegal is the founder and former CEO of Costco, one of my favorite business leaders. He gives two common advices, when speaking at colleges. Find a mentor If you have a chance to find a mentor, do it. All of us in our lives have found people who we admire and we really think always have the right style and class to be able to hand...
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May 21, 2021

More Ideas Than Executions

I have a happy problem. I have more ideas than the necessary energy, focus, and mood to materialize them. There are thirty or so half-finished posts in my draft box, waiting for that final touch-up or that "eureka" moment. Sure it's frustrating, but I don't let it bother me. There is not much I can do anyways. Acceptance is easier than...
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