Being a Good Human is an Art Form

(I submitted this essay to Wolf & Wilhelmine's in-house magazine, HOWL. This edition is themed ACTION: HOW TO BE A GOOD HUMAN. It explores the multitude of ways people, communities and societies do their part to fight the good fight. You can read the full issue on Medium. Enjoy!)


As a first generation Asian-American woman, I grew up with a very narrow ideology of how to live a good life. When I was a child, I learned from my immigrant parents that ‘good’ was the result of hard work, resilience and grit. Success followed a very specific plan where survival reigned first, passion second: Take this class, that internship. Stay at this job. Move. Get promoted. Keep climbing. Higher.  

I was a good kid who wanted to make my parents proud so I forged ahead. Every step of the way, I asked questions like, “Can I do this? Do I have the skills, the willpower and persistence to do this?” Yes, the answer was always yes, as long as I committed myself to it. Over the years, my goals may have shifted and morphed but I was always reaching for higher.

One day, I finally paused. What happens if I deviate from this plan? A bit of fear, some uncertainty but a whole lot of possibilities. This new mindset unlocked a few provocations that completely reframed how I wanted to live my life.


Lesson 1.

Having the ability to do something well does not mean you were meant to do those things. Rather than “Can I do this?” I should’ve been asking, ‘Does this work excite this? Do I come alive when I do it?”

"Don't confuse drive and passion. Drive pushes you forward. It's a duty, an obligation. Passion pulls you. It's the sense of connection you feel when the work you do expresses who you are. Only passion will get you through the tough times."
-- Randy Komisar in ‘The Monk and the Riddle’

As humans we should not choose something out of fear, ego or for stability. Do it because it makes you a better human.


Lesson 2.

Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa—individuals who made it their life mission to stand up and fight for something they knew was important down to their core. This is what the mind conjures when we hear the words good humans. Yet, we should all be holding ourselves to this standard of good.  

The truth is, the greatest contribution you can give to the world is to follow a calling where you show up 100% of the time as unmistakably you. Whether it’s building technologies, baking wedding cakes or designing experiences, seek what brings out your light and pursue it relentlessly. It’s a false distinction between those who do good for the world and those who pursue the passions that make them come alive.


Lesson 3.

As I venture into my late-20’s, I’m rediscovering a new passion: creating art and sharing it with the world. My mind is constantly swirling with ideas of how I could improve my craft and make it a bigger part of my identity. The simple act of sitting down for a practice calms and excites me at the exact same time. It’s a pursuit that has changed how I perceive the world and I’ve never felt more “me” than the present day.


So instead of asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Ask yourself, “How do I live up to the grandness of being alive?” Instead of, “Who am I? What is the one career path for me?” Ask, “What is a side of my identity that I want to explore next?”

Reframing simple questions into action-oriented propositions makes it difficult to stay stagnant, propelling us closer to the good human inside each of us.

The more time I spend improving my craft, the stronger the connection I see between a purposeful life and the beauty of art. Both are universal languages that transcend words and connect people in a magical way. When we take it upon ourselves to fulfill a personal calling, everyone else around us feels it and the world becomes better for it.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s make a masterpiece.