Miracle Mindshift

How did I go from not feeling myself when telling people I was a real estate agent to feeling good, excited even, about being one?

It happened in a moment during an Enneagram class I was taking.

The Enneagram is a geometric figure with nine points that maps out nine personality types and their relationships with each other. Each personality type is distinguished by distinct motivations, gifts, blindspots and challenges and the “number” of each personality type looks at life through its own stance or “lens”. (See the link above for details.) What I appreciate most about the Enneagram is that it points each number to paths of health and wholeness.

As a “four” I seek to be genuine and unique I delve deep into my emotional life and tend to feel something is wrong with me. I am sensitive to my feelings. I am always on an unending quest for identity. (Thus the blog.) And I need to be creative.

I realized during class when someone was describing the creativity of “fours” that if I recreated myself as a business owner as opposed to just a realtor, I could change my perception of my work. I could shift from being misfit realtor who does not fit the stereotype of “smooth talking business lady making deals” to woman who grows her business serving others with her resources of knowledge and relationships. As a realtor, I can create my own business, my own role, my own schedule, and choose my path of professional development.

In a couple days, I am joining a new brokerage that’s a better fit for my personality and that has a vision I share. I’m resetting myself as business owner, not just a real estate agent. I will also be using my skills to help my parents with their properties. So what I’m learning will be practical and meaningful. I will be part of a larger team and can learn from the other realtors. There are weekly trainings and speakers. I like learning. I have a new logo. I have new plans. I feel great.


The shift in my my mindset was so much more than just a shift in how I saw myself as a realtor. After almost thirty years of searching and dissatisfaction with my career, I finally feel good about my work. I have started my own business and hope to use my skills to provide trusted support to my friends and family who need help with real estate. I also hold a lecturer position at Cal State Long Beach where I can use my Stanford degrees to mentor future educators. ( I had a similar A-ha moment several months ago when I realized that I could create my own role as an educator also. I used to feel so incompetent compared to my colleagues with 30+ years of experience until I realized my strength is counseling and encouragement.) I get to walk along teachers and support them as they transition into their teaching careers. It is so satisfying. It does not pay bills, but hopefully my real estate work will. I am still able to pick up my kids from school and drive them to their activities. I don’t know if my business will take off. I may find I don’t have enough time to juggle two very different jobs and my family. I may have few clients. I may completely flop. I may need to find something else. I am open to other possibilities. I am not afraid of failure. Failure will open new opportunities. I can recreate myself again. I am not holding onto anything too tightly, because I already have more than I need. My job title does not define me. I am simply doing the best with what I have. I am at finally at peace.


A reader and and dear friend of mine wrote the following text to me after reading this post. She said I could share it with you all:

I have definitely been in positions where my “title” of my job rubbed me the wrong way, or the job itself was a poor fit. Many times, I questioned the same things that you did. It’s funny, but maybe because we have been friends for so long…we have so many of the same exact character traits. I feel I am also artistic, creative, and love connections with people. Cultivating relationships definitely makes me super happy. I find that letting a job or a title define you is a dangerous trap. I was recently taking David Lynch’s MasterClass and he said that being an artist requires you to find long uninterrupted periods of time to create your art. Do your work. He delivered prescription meds for a pharmacy for years until he had enough money (along with his dad) to create his own studio.

Many times, people forget that your job doesn’t define you. You define You. And that’s where you take the power back. I felt so helpless in positions I hated. I was and “international scheduler”, seriously that was my official title at Fox Studios, and it didn’t begin to really fit what I did. I was more of a post-production supervisor or producer, but it was not the title I got. I was a “Catalog Planner” at Disney, again seriously un-sexy people created these monikers, and I didn’t like that description even though I love logistics and planning. I saw it as a means to an end though. I wanted to save enough money to launch my own independent film production business and literary management company.

I found that some roadblocks in personal development that needed addressing though. I wouldn’t get my to-do list done for months. I would self-sabotage projects by just running around town doing anything and everything except the task at hand. My company shuttered in a little over 2 years. So now, I am the CEO of my own digital health and wellness business, and I adore that. I am improving those habits and negative self-limiting beliefs and behaviors daily. I wouldn’t call it easy, but it’s absolutely worth it. I love helping others get healthy and wealthy.

My dreams and goals are still the same. I want to run my own Indie Film biz, and I am making it all happen with this business I run now. Your story will resonate with many people. So may people don’t love their jobs, don’t love the “lot they have in life”or their current job title, and I hope they read your article and remember that they hold the reins to their future. I loved reading your post, please keep it up! Take good care!

Me, a Real Estate Agent?

Two questions I often hear:

What do you do for work? I’m a teacher educator ( most people don’t know what this means) and I am real estate agent. Well, you know, I just do it part-time. I’ve done a handful of deals for friends, I am still pretty new at it.

You’re a realtor, right? Yes. Awkward silence.

When I would be asked these question, I would feel opaque and disconnected. Yes, I was a realtor meaning I passed the exam and joined the National Association of Realtors. I worked on deals. I listed and sold a few homes and helped some friends buy one. But I didn’t feel like a realtor and the title never fit. You’re a writer. Yes! You’re a mom. Yes! You’re a professor. Yes! But …You’re a real estate agent or realtor? Umm. Ye-es. I mean yes. (I guess.)

I am not pushy and I am not salesy. I am not motivated primarily by money. No, actually, this isn’t true. The reason I work in real estate is because it’s means to make money. I don’t like to promote myself or brag. I don’t pretend to know what I know little about. I am not all about numbers, financing, and analysis. These are sometimes qualities of agents I have worked with.

But this is what I am: I am creative, caring, and hard-working. I develop relationships and enjoy connecting people with each other. I hustle to get work done in ways nobody sees. I take time to do my research. I enjoying making over broken, worn-out homes so they look better. I am curious and modest. I am artistic. I am sensitive and a good listener. I am intuitive and empathetic. I want to impact my community. I want to help others succeed.

Are these the qualities you think of when you think of the term real estate agent of realtor?


I struggled for a long time with whether or not to quit real estate because it simply wasn’t “me”. My qualities seemed to fit those of a counselor or artist, but not a realtor. But recently I had a discovery: I realized that since I am a very creative person, I need work that allows me to constantly expand and develop my role into something unique and meaningful. This is why the term “real estate agent” didn’t sit well with me. Instead of simply seeing myself (or not seeing myself) as a real estate agent, what if I saw myself as a business owner? Having a business is personalized, and I could develop it creatively. I could grow relationships with clients and professionals in the field, and I could individualize the way I cared for my clients. I could create marketing and a mission statement, and I could specialize and grow my knowledge. I could expand or change the business. I could create my own role.

So….Am I a real estate agent? I have a real estate license and I own a real estate business. I support and help clients meet their goals when buying or selling homes. I listen to my clients’ needs and help them decide what’s best for them. I walk with them during the process of navigating whether or not to buy or sell property and use my knowledge and experience to serve the community.

This discovery about my need for creativity in my career is a real game changer. In the next blog I will describe how I came to this discovery and a tool that may the helpful for you.

Questions for Discussion: Have you ever felt like you were a poor fit for a job? How can you personalize your job so it fits you? How might you be able to transition into work that fits you better, while drawing on your knowledge and experience?

Identity Breakthrough

I was at the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler. My sister had invited Moses (about seven) and I to spend a ski weekend with her and my brother-in-law. They reserved for the two of us a spacious, well-appointed suite with a  phenomenal view. While my sister and Moses hit the slopes, I stayed back in the hotel recovering from a recent injury.

I was luxuriating in a fancy ski resort far above my social class and Moses was enjoying the spoils of being my sister’s only nephew. Inevitably, I  lapsed into feeling terrible:  Why does my sister always have to pay for me to stay at nice places? If I had a career I could pay my own way.  I wouldn’t be a burden. It wouldn’t have to be this way.

It was morning, so I decided to start my day with some strengthening exercises in front of the fireplace while listening to a podcast by Tim Keller about “counterfeit gods”. He said something along the lines of  counterfeit gods being good things in our lives that we turn into gods that drive us and eventually crush us.  You know something is a counterfeit god if you kill yourself trying to attain it and if you feel you cannot live if you don’t have it.  Such gods  are counterfeit because they cannot deliver on what they promise and insidiously suck the life out of us.

I was familiar with the teaching, but this time it sank in. Had I had made having a stable career or finding a career direction into a counterfeit god? I thought that having a secure career or at least figuring out a career path for myself would save me. It was the one thing that I needed to be happy and content.  But because I was not successful in attainting a career, my not having a career was killing me. I could not live with myself.    I would not experience peace in my life until I attained one.

Keller continued  (I hope I am not misquoting this since I cannot remember which podcast it was and have not been able to relocate it) that as Christians,  if we insist that we need anything more than God,  then we are throwing the blood of Christ back onto Christ and telling Jesus that He is not enough for us.  The words shocked me.

No, I declared. I don’t want to do that. I am sorry.  Jesus, you are enough for me.

I saw a a wall of mosaic tiles in front of me.  It was the size and shape of a wide doorway.  The tiles were made of multi-textured gray squares; granite, concrete, or glass, or some such mixture of materials.  Immediately, the mosaic wall lost all support and fell row by row, clatter upon clatter, into a pile at my feet.

It was a breakthrough. I was getting free.


Reflections:   For most of my life,  I had based my identity on achievements, or not having them. I was a failure if I hadn’t attained a goal, and my self-worth was directly related to what I was able to achieve. If I were finally able to achieve YXZ , then finally, I’d be somebody. Tim Keller explains that identity, in modern American culture, is achieved. Identity is achieved when we discover who we are and what we want and achieve our dreams. According to a Christian gospel, however, identity is received, not achieved. It is a gift.  “And so you can only say, whether you are religious or traditional or even a modern agnostic or secular person, you basically, your identity works like this, because I perform, because I obey, because I followed the rules, because I’ve achieved, then I could feel good about myself. I obey, therefore I’m accepted, but the Christian gospel is the only system in the world of thought that gives you a radically and totally different identity than what the secular world would give you, what any other religion would give you, what traditional cultures would give you. Because Christianity says your identity received not achieved. Every other systems says, if you follow the rules, if you compete, if you perform, then you’re accepted. Christianity says no, I’m accepted in Jesus Christ, therefore I perform.” (From transcript of Identity That Can Handle Either Success or Failure.)

Religious doctrine aside, our worth as humans has nothing to do with achievements, status, or wealth.  All humans are inherently valuable and worthy of love, no matter their beliefs and behaviors. How many of us actually  believe this?

I am still searching for more satisfaction in my career,  but it is no longer something that has me in its grip.  I may never find a career that I love that allows me to make a stable, secure income. If I do, that would be fantastic, but if not, what I have now is more than enough.

Question for Discussion: What is your identity formation process? What do you base your identity on?




I was nearing 40, had a caring husband, a precocious little boy, and a healthy, rotund  baby girl. I  lived in a new house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood and had plenty of happy mommy things — a nurturing local preschool, playdates at parks, plenty of  friends. But the world around me  darkened as I pondered my career prospects.

My thought process went something along the lines of this:  If only I had a well-paying job  we would not have to host international students in our home and we could afford childcare or someone to help me with chores. If only I had made better decisions in the past I would not be dealing with this. If I only I hadn’t gone into teaching and then quit and then marketing and then quit, and then started the wrong business and then quit,  I’d be somewhere by now. If only I could figure out what I want to with my life, at least I could move in the right direction. Why can’t I figure it out? And why had I been so unsuccessful at doing so? What can I do anyway at this age? It’s too late to go back to school and who would hire me?  But it is great I can stay home with the kids. I should be cherishing the time but I am wasting it worrying. What should I do? How did I get here? How will I ever get out of this mess? Why am I this way? Nothing I do ever helps. Why can’t I just enjoy this season of my life?

I was physically exhausted from having young children and mentally drained from those thoughts in my mind.  Sweet, nurturing mommy on the outside, darkened self in the head. Friends listened, sermons gave insight, and books advised, but the inner dissonance became so unbearable that I sought professional solace. Unfortunately,  the therapist I  decided to spill my guts out to turned out to be brash and insensitive, so that was the end of that.

Looking back, those early years of motherhood were somewhat of a mixed bag:  a good amount of loving moments with little ones juxtaposed alongside a dull undercurrent of self-loathing, confusion, and discontent.  I wish I could have fully enjoyed my time at home with my children, been more present with them, but then again, no one chooses to be depressed.

Questions for Discussion: What do you think about therapy and counseling?Have you seen a counselor before? If so,  what was your experience?






Split-Brain Mommy

Moses was born on a sweltering day in June. Like all  new moms, I was overjoyed and could not believe the treasure I held in my arms. 

The first couple months was a torrent of blissful cuddles, timed nursings,  visits to lactation nurses, logging ounces drank, documenting diaper matter, lugging a car seat around, and counting hours of sleep. As a stay-at-home mom, taking care of baby was 24/7, and the most pressing decision each day  was what to do while my baby was napping. Should I eat, take a shower, close my eyes,  or go to the bathroom? Which one did I need to do most? 

As Moses grew bigger and his naps grew longer,  our schedule was less rushed we had new routines. A walk in the park in the stroller. Tummy time. Teething toys. Trying out solid food. Finally, more down time for me.  But then the split-brain thoughts started coming in:

While driving back from the grocery store with Moses happily kicking his feet in the back seat: “He looks so content.  What kind of job could I do that is part-time? ”

While waiting for Moses to wake up from his nap in the car: “This is great, I can spend so much time with my son. I can’t wait to read to him. But I should go back to work.”

While cooking dinner and watching him cruise around the living room:  “So glad I did not miss his first steps. I really should do the exercises in What Color is your Parachute * and set up some informational interviews.”

While giving Moses a bath and watching him teethe on his bath toys: “He has the cutest smile and just loves taking a bath. I need to find a job. But I don’t want to go back to teaching. How are we going to afford preschool? ”

While watching him put together a puzzle: “My staying home with Moses is best for the family.  What about working at a non-profit? ”

While patting Moses down to sleep at night:  “I need to go back to school and get a well-paying job for once. What should I do? ”

These relentless back and forth thoughts pushed me to action.  By the time Moses was nine-months old,  I  hired a babysitter  two days a week and enrolled in Legal Writing and Research at the local community college.  I was considering law school.



It look me about a year to realize that law school was not a panacea for my  needing to do something professional and respectable with my life in addition to being a mom. I completed a Civil Litigation class at another community college and started interviewing for legal assistant positions I found on Craigslist.  My plan was to find a part-time entry-level job in the legal field to get experience before applying to law school. Unfortunately, the consensus  was that (with two Stanford degrees) I was overeducated.  Finally, an attorney friend of mine gave me a job answering phones and filing papers for his boutique law firm. You don’t want to be a lawyer, he told me. After a few months listening to arguing through closed doors, I came to the same conclusion. I wanted a well-paying job, but I did not want to be a lawyer.


Teaching for a Baby

My decision to go back into elementary school teaching was a mathematical one. In 2005 it cost about $20,000 for one set of IVF treatments. It cost the same to adopt a baby from China. Either way, if we wanted a baby, we needed twenty grand. Problem was, we didn’t have $20,000. So I began looking for a job.  It was late spring. Steve and I were walking through a residential neighborhood in Mountain View one evening when I noticed a private elementary school on what looked like a nondescript former public school campus. The sign said Yew Chung International School. I had left teaching many years ago but the Chinese name immediately piqued my interest. As luck would have it, I looked online and discovered the school was hiring. I applied, interviewed, and was offered a job teaching second and third grade, all within a couple of weeks.

According to my fertility doctor, a number on my lab tests indicated that it would be unlikely for me to get pregnant. She urged me to start IVF immediately.  So Steve and I visited the best clinics in the Silicon Valley. Each center presented us with a sheet of paper with the percentage likelihood of getting pregnant broken down by age of parent and other indices. I was 33. We also visited several local adoption agencies. One agency told us that the chances of our being able to adopt from China were pretty high.  After months of researching, Steve and I decided that if I didn’t get pregnant by the end of the year, we would adopt. We concluded that if we were going to spend $20,000 we wanted a baby for sure, not the potential of getting pregnant through IVF.

We decided to try one last thing before starting the adoption process—Chinese herbs. Steve’s aunt told us about a Chinese herbalist in Los Angeles that had helped many women conceive. So we drove down from the Bay Area to visit this doctor. He took my pulse and looked at my tongue, told me that I had endometriosis, and stated matter-of-factly :  “You will get pregnant if you eat my herbs.” He scribbled some notes in my file and directed me to the nurse for the herbs. Hopeful, I looked at Steve with a “is this for real” expression and he seemed to be in agreement. The nurse (must’ve been his wife) told me the cost for three months would be $1500 and that they only took cash.

We left the office and withdrew  $500 from three separate bank ATMs within walking distance of the office. I watched with amazement as each of our pockets grew fuller and heavier with bills.  We returned to the office and the nurse ushered us into the dim corridor where she carefully counted each $20 bill on the counter. She nodded her head at the right amount, stuffed little ziploc bags of pills (thank God they were pills!) into a brown paper lunch bag and sent us on our way.

After eating a couple days’ worth of pills, I discharged an ashy, black substance. Within a  month, just a few weeks into my my teaching job, I discovered I was pregnant. We were going to have a baby!

Author’s Reflections:  

Why did I go back into teaching, when I had decided to leave the career previously? At this point in my life, I didn’t really care if the job was the best fit for me. I just needed a job, and needed one fast.  Teaching at Yew Chung turned out to be a positive and memorable experience. In my previous position I had 30+ students and very little parental support. At Yew Chung I had just 12 students and plentiful support.  A dad who was an technology executive made copies for me each Monday. A mom with a PhD in science helped to teach math to small groups, and another mom helped with my computer rotations. Parents checked in with me regularly and made sure homework was turned in. My students had a Chinese teacher for about 1.5 hours a day so I also had extra time to plan and prepare.  Although the work was still exhausting, I did not struggle the way I had my first two years of teaching. Classroom management was no longer a main concern and I was able to focus on designing lessons, teaching, and building relationships. I could individualize instruction, build a warm and nurturing environment, and got to know my students well. My Chinese-American heritage  helped me connect culturally with the kids (many who were bi-cultural) and serve as a bridge between Chinese culture and American staff and parents. Looking back, this year of teaching at Yew Chung was quite special. I enjoyed my students’ “children-ness” and shared with them the joy of the expecting a baby. It was a wonderful, often magical context to be a teacher and soon-to-be mom.

As much as I enjoyed my students and working at Yew Chung, I knew that it would be my last year of classroom teaching. There was something else for me out there in terms of career, although I did not know what it was. Even amidst the joys of soon having a baby, the still unresolved unsettledness surrounding my  career saddened me. My last day of teaching before going on maternity leave was another gray Bay Area rainy day. It had rained every day the entire month of March that year and going into April the days were still drizzling. During my last afternoon recess duty that last day of teaching, the sun finally starting peeking through. The bell had just rung and my students had dashed off to wait in line for me in front of the classroom door.  In a brief rare moment of quiet aloneness, I looked up into sky and noticed a double rainbow. Two rainbows had formed a perfect circle above me. It was a promise of a new beginning.


Almost a Millionaire

The year was 1999.  I was back at Stanford earning a master’s degree in Education with a focus on Language, Literacy and Policy.  My life of research and writing about standards-based reform and electronic literacy was worlds apart from my life in the trenches of public school. I was deep in conceptual models but detached from helping kids. It was a strange dichotomy.

I was doing well academically, but I was restless. So I looked for an internship as a possible bridge to a new career. I  landed three internships which I worked concurrently. One was as a research assistant for WestEd, a nonprofit educational research agency. Another internship involved writing content for educational video games at The Learning Company.  The third was a part-time job (where I was paid like an intern) with a rapidly growing startup company writing directions for customer service inquiries using the language of the adopted software program.  My roommate Karen invited me in. The work was dry and I was concerned about finishing my thesis, so I quit. If only I kept that job and quit the other two. The company was PayPal.

It was an exciting time to be living in the Bay Area. I lived just a couple doors down from the first Apple Store. (What a strange concept, who would go there?) Little companies with odd names like Google and Facebook were hiring. New businesses and startups were popping up everyday, and everyone, it seemed, was energized by possibility.

Within a month of graduation my wish to transition out of teaching and into the “real world” came true.  I had two job offers. One was a technical writing position with Verifone (think credit card reader) which involved frequent travel to India.  The other was a marketing position with another large, multi-national corporation which leveraged my background in education. It had new buildings, an impressive lobby, a sit-down restaurant, free gym membership, and did not require travel.  So I chose the latter.





Could I Have My Job Back?

Yes, that really happened.

The day after I had quit my teaching job, I  thought about my lack of savings and the fact that I would have no money in a few months and—asked for my job back.  My principal was gracious to receive me, but told me that unfortunately, another teacher had taken my third grade position. But I could teach fourth grade. This meant, essentially, that I would have to start over again. New curriculum, new lesson plans, and a new grade with 30+ students, as opposed to 20 students in my third grade class.

I accepted her offer but was dejected.

It was another rough year. My classroom management had improved but the discipline problems were worse than the year before. I had one particularly challenging student who was aggressive, mean and “not afraid of the principal”. Her mom did not want to hear about any behavior problems because “that is your job”.  I had another student who refused to follow directions that she did not like. She  declared, “my parents told me I don’t have to listen to you because you’re a bad teacher.” Her parents did not want to speak with me either.  I had volunteered to take several of the “tough case” boys that others did not want because I knew they were good kids. I loved them, but they required much effort.  Each day was a struggle.

No longer able to maintain the long hours and intensity of  “saving the world”  (see my last entry), I started burning out. I had gotten so thin that the school nurse took me aside and asked in a low voice if I were anorexic. I was not, but my health was failing for lack of self-care.  In addition to this, I had to deal with  political backlash from another teacher (the one who took my third grade class) for choosing not to  join the strike for higher pay.

Internally, I was scrambling for my next steps.  I knew I  had to quit, but didn’t know what to do next.  I was so desperate that I flew to Colorado (on my meager teacher salary) and spent a couple of days with a career coach highly recommended by a friend. The coach concluded I had so many strengths that it would be difficult for me to choose a profession.  There was no clear path to take.  He then advised me to conduct informational interviews with people doing jobs that sounded interesting until I found what I wanted to do.  Somewhat hopeful, I began calling friends, friends of friends, alumni contacts, even random people I had come across who had interesting job titles, asking them questions about their jobs. I did this for a few weeks, but it was not helpful. I made no discoveries.

So I went back to what I knew. I was good at academics, so applied for graduate school.








How I Decided to Become a Teacher

My stay in Taiwan ended with a telephone call. My dad let me know the bad news that my grandfather was sick and that he may not have much more time to live. My Chinese program was over so I quickly packed my bags, said my goodbyes and headed back to the States.

When I returned home I discovered that my grandfather’s kidneys had stopped working and that he was on dialysis.  His life would be prolonged although he would slowly weaken. I spent much time fussing over his treatments.

On a personal level, I had classic reverse culture shock. Everything at home was the same and yet I had changed.  No one could relate to me. Everyone was happy to see me and I was happy to reconnect,  but each interaction increased my anxiety.  What was I going to do with my life now that I had returned from Taiwan?  What would I tell my family and friends when they asked what my plans were? My peers had gone on to jobs, grad school and  adulthood, and I was directionless and broke. I had a car to drive but didn’t have money for gas.

My parents wanted to have the “what are you going to do now” talk and I knew I needed an answer. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I made myself make a decision. I said I wanted to become an elementary school teacher and pretended it was what I wanted to do. I convinced myself it was a noble profession.  I reasoned to myself that if I were to go back to Taiwan or live overseas again, teaching experience would be beneficial.  Kids are cute and I could help disadvantaged children develop literacy.  I could get my credential in one year and escape my state of limbo. I’d have a focus for the next couple of years. I’d have a stable job. So that is how the decision was made.

Questions for Discussion: How did you decide on your career? Have you ever made a decision that you knew was a wrong one? If yes, why? What was the result?

Author’s Reflections: Looking back, I wish I had looked for a full-time job and spent more time considering options before rushing into making such an important decision. I could have worked as a substitute teacher first. Or asked for counsel from mentors or wise peers instead of making the decision entirely on my own. (Proverbs 15:22 in the Bible says “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”) I was still young and had many opportunities to choose from,  but I rushed into the decision. Scared, I became overly practical. I didn’t ask for help. I lost hope in myself.