Dance to the rhythm of cooking
Sing to the wonder of life

Dance to the rhythm of cooking Sing to the wonder of life

Dance to the rhythm of cooking
Sing to the wonder of life

12 Lessons I learned in my 20’s

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      1. Third Party from Chinese film

I just wanted to share 12 life lessons I learned in my 20’s, how about you, if you had a chance to go back in time, what life advices will you give your 20-year-old self? Well, here are mine… 🙂



If you’ve been following my instagram, you may know that I celebrated my birthday in Okinawa! During that week, I had a lot of time to think…and jot down some life lessons I learned in my 20’s which I think are quite universal and relatable. I wrote this as part of annual newsletter email I send out to my family and friends and I wanted to share them with friends of musichef blog. 3d-abstract_hdwallpaper_dream-big_52542 Most of these are my own observations and experiences but some are inspiring quotes I came across in my 20’s which I found to be true.

1. Expect less, and you will be happier. (especially true in love relationships and friendships). Also if you have certain expectation or need, let the other person know rather than keeping it to yourself and getting angry over small things, chances are they are clueless as what’s expected of them unless you tell them.

gem take a smile 2. Good karma (being nice to everyone including strangers) can lead to serendipity.
(eg- I once helped out an American tourist with a luggage get a taxi during rush hour in Beijing (nearly impossible), well she thanked me and took me out to a beer pub which I rarely do on a weekday night…well it led me to meeting a new group of friends and to my surprise, it also led me to meeting the first love of my life 🙂 (thank you God!)

gem dance like noone is looking 3. If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. You can’t wait for opportunity to find you, act on your dreams and make things happen for you.
(eg- it has always been my dream to work at Food Network but the door seemed so far away especially when I had just left JYP entertainment company was jobless in NYC. I decided to enroll at French Culinary school to first bring my cooking skill up then when I reached level 5, I started volunteering at as many food events as possible. Well maybe around my 28th event, a chef that I helped out turned out to be Ching-He Huang (British Food Network star chef), well at the time, I did not know who or how famous she was but I put in my best effort nontheless to help her. At the end of the night, a sous chef named Santos came up to me and asked if I was interested in maybe interning at Food Network, without taking even a single breath, I said YES YES YES!!!

food network dreams goal unicorn 4. Life is like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. But it’s your choice to scream or enjoy the ride. What seems like the darkest time now may be best turning point of your life. Just a little change in perspective and you will be a happier person.

roller coaster life different perspective life is like piano 5. “후회할꺼라면 그렇게 살지 말고, 그렇게 살거라면 후회하지 말라” (a Korean phrase I once heard that changed the way I live)
People often times complain about their lives – well if you don’t like living certain way, then change it! If you are going to keep living ‘that’ way then don’t complain and regret it . However, keep in mind, more often than not, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. Listen to the little drum beats of your heart and keep following your dream! Viva la vida! L’chaime!

gem regret of life 6. No one actually knows what the hell they are doing in their 20’s and even beyond. So try all the things you want to do while you are still young to find out your likes/dislikes and embrace failures. If you don’t fail often you are not trying hard enough (Jessica Herrin). Use this time to travel more, check things off your bucket list, go on speed dating (date more people! I wish I had!), move to a new country and start a small company with a friend, why not? when you are young, there isn’t much to lose, your greatest asset is ‘time.’ You may not know where you are going now but all these dots of experiences will connect in the future and will get you closer to your dream.

life and choices 7. We often complain, there isn’t enough time yet we act like we have unlimited amount of time. Whether you are Leonardo DaVinci or Walt Disney, we are all given the same amount of time per day. Realize that one thing you can’t recycle is wasted time. You’ll find that time passes by quicker and quicker as you age. Time is our greatest asset especially when we are young, use it well!

7-ways-your-wasting-time IMG_5178 (profound message I saw in hanging on a wall of restroom in a Korean restaurant in LA ->)

8. You can’t force a friendship. If there is someone in your life who brings negativity to your life, it’s sometimes okay to let him/her go. Instead surround yourself with small number of friends and family who truly care about you and make you happy. You will find your friendship circle get smaller as you age. You really only need a handful of great friends to walk with you for a life. Spend more quality time with these quality life-long friends and family rather than keeping your friendship thin and wide. Having 789+ friends on Facebook vs having a handful lifelong friends (I will always choose the latter), how many of these ‘friends’ do you still talk to regularly? how many of them will come attend your funeral? Something to think about.

cats crowded box 9. Love is like slowly cooked hearty homemade soup. It needs time, care and patience to cook. Unlike fast food or instant noodle that give you instant satisfaction and feeling of fullness (passion and lust), healthy loving relationship makes us feel nourished, comfortable and warm, in other words, it’s good for us. I used to spend so much time on finding the perfect person to love with unrealistic list of so many qualities I looked for and definite NO’s for what I didn’t look for in a relationship. With time, I found this list becoming shorter and shorter and realized a lot of qualities I cared so much about were very superficial and not so important afterall. I’m not a love guru but I learned that the happiest relationship is with someone who makes you laugh and smile day to day (sometimes without even talking), makes you feel safe and comfortable enough that you can totally be yourself while at the same time bring out the best in you.

DSC_1180 enjoy life little things 10. Recognize that most things in life are pass/fail, meaning it’s far more important to complete things rather than worrying about perfecting things and not completing them. Most things in life are not graded ABC’s! The sum of these little thigns matter much more than the big things in the long run. (process matters more than results)

okay not to be perfect 11. Stop worrying about what others think about you because the truth is unless you are Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, people are so busy with their own lives that they seldom do think about you. So live true to yourself and don’t live by people’s expectation of who you are. Do more things that make YOU happy (it’s not selfish, I call it self-loving and self-respect). That’s the secret to happiness. Esse Quam Videri (to “BE”, rather than to “SEEM” to be)

do more thigns happy 12. Difference between Successful people and unsuccessful people (from my general observation, common traits shared by people I find successful (among many things, happiness is the biggest factor in my definition of success ->).

IMG_7506 Successful People: have a sense of gratitude, optimistic, passionate, exude positive energy, compliment and give other people credit for their work, set goals and develop life plans, continuously learn and improve oneself, embrace change, read a lot, help others, frugal and invest wisely, share ideas, well-mannered, religious, good listener, think outside of box, generally on time and prompt with their replies, accept responsibility for their failures, love what they do (passion) and good at what they do,pleasant to be around, respect others, surrounded by few life-long friends and family who love them etc

Unsuccessful People: complain yet reluctant to change, lazy, pessimistic, take credit for others work, jealous to see others succeed, unhappy with their work and relationships,blame others, criticize, seldom thank people, not on time, have a sense of entitlement, gossip a lot, watch lot TV, worry often, lot of social network friends but very few real friends, spend lot of money on materialistic goods etc

IMG_7140 musichef TJ illustration These are some of life lessons I learned in my 20’s, how about you? What would you tell your 20-year-old self? 🙂







I’m on Instagram – @Musichef_TJ and facebook . come check out Musichef TJ’s daily happenings 🙂


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  • M

    Thanks for sharing these life lessons!!! I really appereciate this post and 11 Reasons Why Living Abroad is Awesome on http://gyopokeith.com/ :P