“If you were to be an animal, what would you be and why?” The Unilever new hire trainer invited us to introduce ourselves via this ice-breaker question. “Do I want to be a bird? Worldwide travel and no passport required,” I thought to myself. “Or, how about a leopard, I can rush anywhere in no time, not wasting time”.
Soon it was my turn. I stood up and introduced myself: “Hi everyone. I am Tess…If I would be an animal, I want to be a tiger, king of the forest. Because no one can eat or threaten a tiger”.
After I finished, the trainer, with her eyes wide open and a smile, said: “Wow, who could imagine such a pretty, cute girl that looks like a snow bunny want to be a tiger. Well, let us all say hi to Tess! Welcome!”
Just like that, I was quickly remembered by everyone in the room. They became my first group of friends in the company. In meetings or elevators, I would run into people who said: “Hi Tess! I remember you from that orientation. Your introduction is very impressive!”
Actually, that orientation made an impression on me as well. I realized the contrast between what people see in my appearance and what I really am.
Since a little girl, I have been worrying about being too delicate. I am eager to become stronger, a deep worry that might come from my father.
When I was 7, during dinner I often listened to a story radio channel. One day, the channel started playing horrifying music. The story that day was Liao Zhai, a Chinese classic about ghosts and spirits. Who the hell would think of playing ghost stories during dinner time?!
My father said: “What is there to be afraid of? You are too delicate and timid, you need some practice.”
Yet still, I was afraid and paralyzed by the music. I started crying in despair. Finally, my mother intervened and started arguing with my father. With the sound of parents arguing and ghost music, I burst into tears and cried out loud. I can’t recall what happened after that black comedy dinner.
Another time, I climbed onto a giant jungle gym. Scared of the height, I froze and could not get myself down.
My father, standing at least five meters away, said: “What is there to be afraid of? You are too delicate and timid, you really need some practice. I am not coming over”.
I started crying and wished any adults or kids nearby could hear me and help. However, it’s near dinner time, no one else was in the park. I cried harder and started trembling from fear. Still, my hands grasped the bars for life.
Even as a child, I can tell that if I fell, there is no chance my father could catch me from where he was. I must keep myself safe. My memory blurred again at this point.
My father must be filled with worries over his delicate, timid little daughter. How would she stand up to the world as a strong, modern woman? How would she counteract enemies? How would she achieve a great cause?
My father, using his methods that could drive any child psychologist nuts, tried to train me to be stronger, bolder, and tougher.
Despite all these (or, because of all these), after I grew up I still hate horror movies and still stay away from heights. I started to also worry about being too delicate.
- I always stay far from the cliff when hiking. I beg my friends to do the same otherwise I just can’t look their way.
- I easily get horrified. I went to a movie with two business school classmates. When I realized it’s a horror movie, I clenched my teeth and walked into the cinema. Within ten minutes, I ran off the theater and left those two guys enjoying the horror movie. My classmate returned my money and apologized for two days.
- I don’t enjoy roller coasters, let along waving arms in the air. Right before business school, we went to Universal in Orlando. In front of a drop tower ride, I hesitated. However, I told myself: “Come on, you are now a woman in business!” I jumped in.
After the ride, I showed off to my husband: “Look, I did not scream like those people this time, but you did!”
“Because you almost bit my hand off during the ride” he replied.
“Oh really, no wonder it does not hurt!”
Furthermore, I do not have tons of energy:
- I need lots of sleep or I will get headaches. In my first job as a financial news reporter for live news, I slept at 12 am every day. Within 6 months, my body protested with all kinds of unhealthy syndromes. Midnight was already beyond my limit even at age 22.
- I can’t stay up late. In parties after midnight, I would suddenly look quiet and mysterious, as if I am lost in meditation. Because I simply have no energy left to talk.
- I don’t last long in the heat. I often have to courteously turn down hiking invites during the hot Seattle summer. When I absolutely have to go out under the sun in summer, you can see me hold on to my coffee for life.
- Neither do I do well in cold. I dress in a season ahead of Seattle people, not for fashion but for cold. When they wear short sleeves, I am in sweaters. When they put on long sleeves, I am already in a down jacket. I simply live in my down jacket for half a year in Seattle.
- I could never wake up at 4 am, work out, check emails, have breakfast and conquer the day before normal humans wake up. Those great CEO schedules will ruin my next two days in recovery.
- I can’t resist hunger either. Once I feel hungry I can hardly focus unless I eat. I am always the one among my friends who gets hungry first, eats the most, finishes eating last, and immediately Yelps for restaurants again.
- I’m also an annoying princess sleeping on the pea. I need a quiet, dark room with the right temperature. Otherwise, I wake up in the midnight or sneeze my nose off. I find it hard to take a quick nap whenever to recharge. I hate people who already fall sleep before my flight takes off!
As one of my besties summarized: “You are a plant, to be exact, an indoor plant. You need humidity, be kept in cool places, avoid direct sun exposure. You need fresh air and be constantly watered.”
Actually, she has not covered it all
- I have a soft voice. At a presentation feedback session in business school, a classmate actually called it his feedback that he liked my pleasant soft voice. Since then, I swore to become a bitch that specializes in punching tables at board meetings. However, even today, my girlfriends ‘confess’ that their first impression of me is a soft, delicate person.
- I do not have much muscle power either. In a training class, I could hardly do a side plank. The trainer came over and asked quietly, “Did you work out a long time right before this class?” I could hear myself roaring inside: “I just arrived for the class for god’s sake!”
Here is how I approach my situation: if we think of people as batteries, the others are Energizers. What I got from my parents is a small battery with only 50% power level of an Energizer. I also need constant charging.
- Furthermore, neither do I have the strong will power like a natural optimist. I can’t easily reboot right after a negative event. I worry constantly, get anxious frequently. I am a perfectionist who thinks so much that I get a headache.
- I had never even rebelled. When I was 14, my mother had to ask me:” I know that you kids go through a rebellious phrase at this age, but why haven’t you rebelled? Well if you are ready to rebel, could you just give me a heads up?”
I said: “Mom, everything seems fine. I do not want to rebel.”
All I am trying to say is how many times I feel worried and disappointed with myself.
I heard this question a million times in my head: “What are you capable of besides feeling tired and weak? Are you sure you are capable to be an entrepreneur?
In the past 12 months, something interesting happened. I start to hear this phrase more and more frequently from people: “You are so brave!” Because I quit a six-figure job from a tech giant to pursue my passion. People don’t expect this from me.
In fact, I have many ‘audacious moments‘ that get shocked looks from people:
- When I showed up in my boss’ office with my sales number and forecast, asked for a raise and a promotion and got both
- When I decided to apply to Columbia business school to become my grandfather’s alumni without the traditional quantitative background
- When I took over an upset billionaire client, confidently walked to her, calmed her down, negotiated and convinced her to purchase a million-dollar diamond. I showed everyone my superpower to turn a difficult client into a doll;
- When I turned an MBA corporate job into a revenue-generating department with a laptop, phone and little guidance as a new hire.
- When I stepped into the spotlight as the media spokesperson and talked to a room full of media and cameras. When I stepped on stage to host client events, spoke to dealers and partners.
- When I took a three-month sabbatical leave from a high paid hot tech job to evaluate my career choice and next step
- When I decided to leave Shanghai, my hometown of privilege and comfort zone, to start from fresh in a new country
- When I decide to impact the world neither as a financial analyst nor engineer, but as a speaker and entrepreneur to speaker her heart out even it’s her second language
I am shocked by what I just told you as well. Judging from my normal situation, I shouldn’t have had enough energy to achieve any of those. Yet for some reason, those events happened one after another. Each of them has changed my path and impact others’ lives.
I was supposed to be still ruminating whether I can maintain a blog, it can take lots of time and energy while I manage my start-up. However, a sense of mission has pushed me to present this website to you, leading me to a path beyond my imagination.
Even if I only have a battery of 50% energy power compared to an Energizer, it seems my body has developed an amazing optimization strategy for me long ago:
- Be different and unique, to avoid sleep deprivation contest and being commoditized.
- Recharge and preserve energy. Stay delicate 80% of the time, so when the moment comes, I have more energy and courage than 80% of people to strike and make a difference in my life.
Finally, know this
Forget about your physique or air.
So what if you don’t look like the 800-pound gorilla, or can’t sleep only 4 hours a day and hit the gym at 5 am? None of these are key.
You can find a pace that serves you, not the other way. Turn things to YOUR advantage. I bet if those early birds are forced to follow a night owl schedule, neither would they last long.
Forget about your volume or look.
If pounding tables isn’t your style or you don’t have a loud voice that blasts the room before your entry, none of these matters. Let your opponent underestimate you and come unprepared.
It’s not loud volume nor exaggerated acts that touch people, it’s contents from the heart and bring value. Gentle and natural tone can also guide people out of fear and into action. This is why I become a follower of Chris Guillebeau and had the chance to speak along with him at Frequent Traveler University.
Forget about your energy power.
Even if you feel tired easily or are bad at pulling all-nighters, none of these are the points. You have more opportunities to learn and benefit from the expert on prioritizing, productivity and differentiation. This is what led me to Tim Ferris.
You guessed it: Delicate Revolt is a revolt against anyone:
who judges us based on our appearance,
who thinks delicate is the opposite of strong or equals fragile,
who give uninvited comments or worries about our delicate nature.
If you are a revolt by heart like me. Welcome!
You are always stronger than you think, regardless of what they see. If I can do these, you can too, even better than me.
In Delicate Revolts, here is our deal:
1. True life-changing moments lie in only 20% of the time or less. As long as you have the energy to take action and make important choices in those moments, you are fine. You are already ahead of 80% of the crowd, who never think about where they spend their energy and why.
2. A 20% energy is sufficient to support any wildest dreams and greatest passions. The purpose is the right metric to measure the power of energy.
3. Your body and mind are the perfect equipment to accomplish your dream. They are incredibly smart and designed to let you shine when the time calls!
Are you one of us?
If so, join me in the Delicate Revolt!
Hey, I’m Tess, an entrepreneur, and owner of Delicate Revolt, where I share 1. Lessons learned by an entrepreneur; 2. How to achieve energy, efficiency, and style on business travels. Welcome to the Revolt!