tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:/posts Taking It Further 2018-02-01T05:21:01Z Gary Sheng tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/1111779 2016-11-29T20:09:54Z 2018-01-12T16:23:19Z The Uncomfortable Truth About How Trump Won the Election

It’s time we took an honest look at the ugly, multi-faceted nature of the historic upset.

There was a lot of misinformation, and a lot of simplistic, angry reductionism during the election about Clinton, Trump, and their respective supporters.

Now that Trump won, there’s been the same kind of simplicity, reductiveness, and misinformation in our reaction. We’re pointing fingers and jumping to simple explanations: some have blamed the outcome on racism of the working class, others have joined the chorus in condemning coastal elites for abandoning middle America.

I was angry and confused at first too, so I took a break from social media and all the simplistic/emotional takes. I wanted better answers, so I decided to spend time poring over long-form, patient, serious-minded journalism.

My search for answers taught me that this upset wasn’t the result of a freak combination of a few random factors, but of many significant and interconnected forces. We need to recognize not just the hatred, but the surprising combination of widespread misinformation, real economic problems, and other contemporary and historical factors that led to this result. Only with a full, honest picture of the troubling state of America can we tackle the scary challenges ahead.

Here’s my analysis of how Trump pulled this off. I cite my sources extensively throughout this document, so I encourage you to use the links in this piece as a launching point for an even deeper pursuit of answers.

Read the rest of the post here.

Gary Sheng
tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/1082402 2016-08-19T04:47:16Z 2018-01-05T19:54:28Z This is my advice after one year in the real world
Be ready.
Before you worry about going above and beyond, first make sure to approach your work with a good attitude and baseline readiness. Show up on time. Be present in meetings. Express openness to feedback and willingness to grow. Be a person of your word. Meet deadlines. Proof-read your emails. These rules are basic, but they set you apart, even at the highest levels.

Relish in life's unpredictable nature.
Instead of cowering away from the uncertainty, embrace the ambiguity and complexity of the world. Most of your peers are at least as confused as you. Putting yourself out there, showing up, and trying new things prepare you to confidently face the world. Date out of your comfort zone. Demo different CRMs. Hear out an opposing viewpoint. Send an email to someone you admire. Your life takes on infinite possibilities when you take initiative.
Gary Sheng
tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/957448 2015-12-25T17:47:00Z 2017-11-30T10:21:19Z Six month checkpoint: 5 things I've learned in the real world
      Attitudes should be treated as skills that are cultivable through repetition.
      We tend to view repetition in the context of improving a first serve, memorizing principles of organic chemistry, and perfecting the dance move. It feels natural to practice task-oriented skills. But we don’t talk about how to be more passionate, more empathetic, more persistent and more of a thousand other attitudes. 

      We should.

      Cultivating an emotional state is no less rewarding than learning C++ or knitting a sweater, and the rewards have deep intrinsic value. One attitude I’ve focused on recently is being more present in my day-to-day. I’ve been working on notice the small things around me (e.g. the curious design of the Chelsea Market, the way the sun hits the New York skyline) and live more purposefully (e.g. I’m going to listen to this Mixergy podcast because I want to learn how entrepreneurs solve problems). Another attitude is being more grateful for what I have. Practicing a more appreciative mindset has helped me shed negative thinking and improve my overall well-being.
      Gary Sheng
      tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/854591 2015-05-11T21:05:12Z 2018-01-24T00:27:50Z This is why the Duke Class of 2015 is outraged that Paul Farmer spoke at our commencement ceremony

      TLDR: This is a long post that 1) articulates why those affiliated with Duke felt outraged by Paul Farmer's speech to the Class of 2015 during Duke University's commencement ceremony on Sunday, and 2) clarifies to those who saw the speech what Duke has meant to me and so many others.

      The speech can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQhagn_DuB0

      My emotions are running fiery hot from my last night with the Duke Class of 2015. It started off strong: I was pumped after Kim Cates handed me the famous “I <3 Shooters” tee on my way into the bar. And it ended up being a great final night. But I did not expect to later need to use that tee as a towel to dry my tears. Even though I told myself I wouldn’t cry as I prepared to leave Durham, I’m glad I did. Because those tears weren’t characterized by sadness, but of an overwhelming sense of disbelief that the past four years really did happen. If you told me at age 18 to write a fictional story of my ideal college career, it wouldn’t be half as amazing as what Duke ended up giving me.

      But as much as I would like to say it was a perfect weekend, I’m far from the only person to feel the salience of one astonishing low: Commencement was a disaster. And everyone felt that. I woke up today still sick to my stomach about how the ceremony went. I knew that something needed to be said. So, finally with time away from the business of graduation weekend, I forced myself to sit down and articulate why it bothered me so much.

      Never could I have predicted that I would have to apologize to my relatives for making them travel two thousand miles for a commencement ceremony that was not just underwhelming as a whole, but also featured Paul Farmer's now infamous speech — a thirty-eight minute-long rambling address that was devoid of taste, lacked sensitivity, and felt largely purposeless. This guy was supposed to inspire us. Yet somehow even as a revered anthropologist and physician, Farmer managed to produce the worst speech I may ever hear, riddled with tasteless jokes about PTSD and Ebola and characterized by a lack of self awareness and understanding of the human condition. As someone well aware of his prolific career and myriad accolades, I was shocked by his speech. He is a hero to so many. But how did someone who is "best known for his humanitarian work providing suitable health care to rural and under-resourced areas in developing countries”, feel so comfortable exhibiting himself in a douche-like manner in front of thousands of people?
      That day, Paul Farmer manifested himself as a living, breathing oxymoron. The incongruity between all that is implied (and proven) by his academic, humanitarian job titles and the coarseness of his behavior onstage was viscerally irksome. Physicians and anthropologists, of all people, must exhibit a heightened capacity for empathy, yet Farmer knew his audience like Floyd Mayweather knows feminism. A polite way to describe his speech would be to call it an uninspired, unfiltered stream of consciousness. But how can we better describe what we witnessed? A string of disconnected, unfunny, off-color comments and pointless shoutouts? A childish diatribe against our board of trustees? A means for him to vocalize in front of five thousand Duke students and their relatives that he proudly knows nothing about sports, that he “really fratted out” in college, and that he has no grasp of what is and isn’t an inside joke? Farmer did not know how to pronounce "Jahlil Okafor". How did this guy have the gall to jab at President Brodhead for not “inviting [him] ten years ago?” Did a ghostwriter compose the commencement speeches he gave to Harvard and Yale? Let's be clear: I'm not downplaying his incredible contributions to the world. That said, I could have written a better speech if someone had stuck a dart of cow tranquilizer in my neck before I sat down to write it. Why did he give so many weird, general shoutouts? "ANYONE A HOMO SAPIEN WHO FEELS LIKE THEIR TIME IS BEING WASTED?"

      But it’s not just that the speech was widely offensive. It’s not just that the speech was pretty much intolerable to sit through. It’s not that he made an already rainy day drearier. What bothers me the most is that he squandered the incredible opportunity to be Duke's commencement speaker — one of the greatest privileges Duke’s administration can bequeath to any person.

      But why exactly is it such a treasured opportunity to be invited to speak at graduation?

      The Honor and Responsibility of a Commencement Speaker

      Sure, a great speaker may inspire you. A great speaker may make you laugh, cry, smile. But as Duke undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students, we didn’t wait for years to sit through a speech whose delivery merely served to pleasantly pass the time. Someone who is privileged to speak at Duke’s commencement ceremony must bear a host of additional, weighty responsibilities.

      As commencement speaker, your role is twofold.

      Your first role is to crystallize these students' million feelings and impressions about their Duke career into a few outstanding observations and gems of advice. Before making your way onstage, you must spend days, weeks, months mulling over how to capitalize on the reality that over 5,100 unique Duke experiences are in your hands on the day of that speech. You must channel every ounce of empathy in your body to connect with these people and empower them to realize that their time at Duke was worth it. Because it was. You should leave them with pieces of advice that draw from the fabric that is their collective Duke experience. Advice that will resonate a decade, two decades down the line.

      The second burden you must bear is that of sharing, with the relatives of these capped-and-gowned Dukies, the essence of what makes Duke Duke. You have the responsibility, the opportunity to broaden these loved ones’ perspectives to the Duke world to which they are probably unfamiliar. As an esteemed, appointed representative of Duke, you must strive to convey a message that not only reflects the values of the institution, but also delineates important bits of what Duke students are taught to stand for. You must explain to the parents, grandparents, cousins, daughters, sisters, brothers why Duke has meant so much to so many people. You must share truths about the Duke experience that are relevant for these relatives to piece together an adequate understanding of what it means to graduate from Duke.

      It’s safe to say Paul Farmer did not fulfill this twofold responsibility when he walked on stage in front of the Duke Class of 2015 this past Sunday, May 10th. He did not even come close, seemingly eagerly working to accomplish the opposite. Farmer managed to trivialize our years of meaningful Duke experiences with annoying middle school-level one-liners, stories entirely devoid of significance, and ignorant disregard for the convictions and passions of all these Duke students in front of him. With no good reason, he even made it a habit to bash the leaders of our university. Few pieces of his advice resonated with me. Few stories he shared were grounded by a motivation to be of any relevance to these Dukies and their families. It felt sick laying witness to Farmer's tiresome rant through which he made bashing the university's reputation a motif of the day. I could almost sense the credibility of my diploma evaporating before my eyes. I couldn’t stand seeing our Duke graduation becoming undermined by this man who paid little to no attention to his responsibilities as our commencement speaker. Farmer treated our graduation like a joke — one of his dated, offensive, pointless jokes.

      His speech left me with a flurry of emotions. Disappointment, anger, confusion, disbelief. I spent the rest of the day trying to brush it off. I tried to justify to myself: “At least how bad it is makes it almost comical, right?!” But even though Yik Yak got a lot of us through the disaster that was Paul Farmer's speech, the reality of the situation was not the slightest bit humorous to me. My time at Duke has been everything to me. And Farmer just urinated on that experience for thirty-eight minutes.

      So let me set things straight.

      Why Going to Duke Is Worth It

      My Duke experience, from Freshman year to Senior year, seems like a dream. Since that first amazing night of meeting many of my first friends at the Nasher Museum, I’ve been able to consistently share the stage with some of the most incredible dancers in the world, broaden my worldview through a semester abroad with some of my favorite fellow students, experience many of the most exhilarating moments of my life getting a little Crazie in Cameron, travel across the world and grow close with people from all parts of the world, discover my love for design and find countless opportunities to act on that love, and finally earn a degree from Duke's Computer Science department that has equipped me with so so much. It doesn't help my disbelief in all that has happened that Duke just witnessed its fifth NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

      All these experiences matured me significantly. Duke made me a real person. It taught me so much about myself, my peers, the world around me, and how I fit into that world on the grand scale. These years will always mean so much to me and to the friends that are my Duke family, which makes it impossible for me to let Paul Farmer get away with his inexcusable performance.

      Duke has allowed me to experience so much, but I’m cognizant to not place an exaggerated emphasis on these individual memories that are tied to my undergraduate years. We have our whole lives ahead of us, and what matters most down the line are the relationships that we forged and the treasured lessons that our Duke experience taught us. The specifics of what we’ve learned differ from Dukie to Dukie, but I thought I’d share with you the lessons I thought were most valuable from my four years at Duke.

      Duke taught me a lot about privilege. In particular, Duke taught me the value of constantly and honestly reflecting on privilege in a meaningful way. It’s annoying to be told to check your privilege, because checking it does nothing without followup. There are two ways to meaningfully take action with your knowledge about your privilege. With a Duke degree under your belt, you on one hand have the influence and responsibility to work to fix the systems that put others down in giving you those privileges. At the same time, you should leverage knowledge of this privilege to your advantage and do great things with those privileges. The Duke brand is incredibly powerful. Use it wisely. 

      Duke taught me a lot about passion. It’s important to know why you do the things you do. Don't do things just because they fit along the norms of society. Be weird. Be quirky. Be exceptional. Because you are. Go to the ends of the earth to defend these interests and convictions. I’ve been inspired by the Dukies that start and lead
      student organizations because of their unquenchable thirst to share their passions with the world. Like countless of my Duke peers, it turned out that I had no idea what a passion was until Duke showed me the things I truly love, and how exhilarating a privilege it is to be able to do those things regularly.

      Duke taught me a lot about learning and perspective. These four years taught me how much I didn’t know. How much I still don’t know. How I will always need to regularly step back to reevaluate my worldview. That the most meaningful learning experiences happen outside of the classroom. That a teacher's passion for their subject should be so latent and purposeful that this passion spreads contagiously among their students. That you can learn life’s most important lessons by simply forcing yourself to thoughtfully observe the world around you. These four years have taught me that I can learn so much from everyone. I learned to not be afraid to admit I'm wrong. I learned to make as few assumptions about others as possible. I learned to let myself be vulnerable and share my world with others. Duke taught me to make it a habit of really listening to the people you care about. I smile when I think of the positive impact organizations like Common Ground have had at Duke over the years. 

      Duke taught me a lot about friendship. I’m grateful that Duke showed me the countless reasons that surrounding yourself with great people matters. As often as this is said, you are the average of your closest friends. That means something. They define many of the things you do, they shape your values and passions, and they influence the choices you make – big and small. Treat your friends with empathy and respect, and don't waste their time. The best friends pick you up in the worst of times, and can lift you higher than you could have ever imagined. The best friends make you feel like you don’t need anything else in the world. To my Duke family, thank you for being wonderful. 

      Duke taught me a lot about optimism. That if you explain to people your great expectations of them, they will step up to the challenge. That if you develop a perspective of hope and don't blame individuals for their ignorance, you give yourself an opportunity to focus on the root cause of huge issues and address them through means of education. Duke taught me that developing knowledge of unjust systems around the world is not a depressing process. This knowledge puts Duke graduates in a position to help dismantle this oppression. We’re going to shape the future.

      Duke taught me a lot about leadership and success. My experiences here remind me to measure my worth by my impact, and not by superficial attachments and possessions. Your title as President of X organization doesn’t mean anything by itself. Calling yourself a CEO doesn’t demonstrate value in its own merits. Your actions as a leader speak louder than the titles on your résumé. Your leadership should inspire confidence in others. And when do you know you have succeeded? The sign of success is being able to do things that fill you with joy, and sharing that joy with others. Success is being the change society needs, finding the things that make you happy, and improving the lives of others. 

      Class of 2015, considering all that Duke has taught us and all the doors it has opened for us, I’m confident in saying that our shared disappointment in Paul Farmer’s speech does not in any way reflect the significance of our graduation. I’m proud to call you my classmates, and I’m so excited to see what we will come to accomplish.


      If this post resonated with you and you don't want Duke to make this same mistake, please feel free to share.
      Gary Sheng
      tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/827999 2015-03-21T16:36:00Z 2018-01-25T19:45:37Z Why Kendrick's latest masterpiece is the most important album of 2015

      For one reason or another, I woke up at 7 AM and was incapable of falling back asleep. 

      I decided to check out a song or two on the new Kendrick Lamar album. I really didn’t expect to listen to the entire thing. Then once more. And then one more time after that because there’s just SO. MUCH. THERE.

      And while I’m definitely not going to be happy later today about running on four hours of sleep, listening through To Pimp A Butterfly again and again this morning has been one of the most emotionally and intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. So exhilarating that for hours this morning, I sat at my computer jotting down notes on the messages and themes he explores, and tried to unpack it here.

      I actually haven’t read a single review of this album before listening to it and don’t plan to. In a world at a million crossroads that has taught us to grow jaded to the evil that plagues it, I’m confident that this will be the most important, relevant album of 2015, and I hope you'll listen through this masterpiece in its entirety at least once.

      Here's a link to the album on Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/album/7ycBtnsMtyVbbwTfJwRjSP

      Gary Sheng
      tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/824384 2015-03-15T17:01:59Z 2017-06-09T07:12:22Z 10 things I learned from my wise sage and badass of a brother Tony

      A few days ago, my brother Tony texted me asking what I wanted for my birthday. Given that HIS birthday (WHICH IS TODAY) is a day before mine, three things crossed my mind: 

      1. Is it weird to ask your brother to buy you car insurance for your birthday?
      2. Oh, no. I forgot to get him something for his birthday — I’m the worst.
      3. What would be a good present for someone who seems to have everything he needs?! 
      After futile attempts to think of something material to get him, I decided to instead write a little piece about my incredible brother and share a small subset of the things I’ve learned from his direct advice or just being around the dude over the years.

      … before we get to business, here’s a picture of Tony clearly stoked for his violin lesson and wearing a Scottie Pippen jersey.

      Gary Sheng
      tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/818885 2015-03-06T21:38:49Z 2018-02-01T05:21:01Z Step up your Spring Break music game with this sunny 50-track playlist (and a bonus playlist)

      I've been obsessing over this blanket genre I consider "Sunshine House" for the last few months, and I'll go so far as saying my life has improved significantly after incorporating it into my daily music listening routine. Sunshine house is a pseudo-genre that hasn't picked up huge momentum yet in the States, but has been the center of the young people's attention in Western Europe for at least a couple of years.

      Gary Sheng
      tag:blog.garysheng.com,2013:Post/792088 2015-01-21T02:02:00Z 2018-01-14T16:11:24Z Check out the 15 best up-and-coming producers you need to follow right now

      Thanks to the steep decline in the music industry's barrier to entry and the rise of digital audio workstations, more original music has been recorded in the past month than the entire 20th century. The line between indie and mainstream has never been blurrier as the most creatively groundbreaking producers and artists are also some of the most popular among young audiences. High-quality music production nowadays is nearly costless relative to the hulking capital investment required during the pre-Ableton era. Artists are now capable of spending just a few hundred dollars on mass-market production software and equipment and producing sounds that were simply impossible to fabricate before. MacBook-wielding teens are now capable of somehow conjuring some of the lushest and most colorful tracks you've ever heard, all from the comfort of their bedroom. It's an unbelievable time for music. 

      Along with this revolution in digital audio production comes the mish-mashing of songs and sounds, old and new. These days, it's not hard to find the voice of Notorious B.I.G. resurrected in a young producer's remix. Or the legendary croon of Marvin Gaye weaved into a futuristic house mix. Or the spirit of a played-out chart topper finding new life through a talented DJ's mashup.

      These producers aren't just churning out remixes and mashups, though. They're inventing entirely new genres. Tropical House. Dubstep. Trap. Industrial Tech. Moombahton. Glitch. The list goes on and on. It can be daunting to sift through this eclectic diversity of genres and wealth of young hopefuls, but I hope the following playlist will make your life a little easier.

      I've compiled fifteen of the best up-and-coming (and fewer than 100k followers) producers you can find today on SoundCloud (roughly sorted by genre) and hand picked two songs from each artist. I predict a huge 2015 from each of them.

      Happy listening.

      Gary Sheng