Six things I know: tech entrepreneur Ping Fu on why life is a mountain range
Born in China, exiled to the US and now a successful entrepreneur in a developing industry, Ping Fu's life is one of change and survival
Tech entrepreneur Ping Fu works in an industry that embraces those who embrace change and Fu learned these skills younger than most. She was born in China on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, grew up with abuse and violence and was finally exiled from her country. She ended up in the US where she studied computer science and worked in software companies before starting Geomagic, a 3D software development company. She is the author of "Bend, Not Break: from Mao's China to the White House".
Here are six things life has taught her:
I grew up during the Cultural Revolution, so I lived through that chaotic period during my formative years. It's a time of your life which is supposed to be carefree but it was complete chaos. I didn't get as good an education or the care that everybody else did, but I was also able to practice a lot of independence.
I developed a very strong self-learning skill, and being deprived from real study gave me a real urge to want to learn. It wasn't like "you get good grades so go to school every day", instead I couldn't go to school and that brought the desire to learn.
You need to say what you see, no matter the consequences
After the Cultural Revolution I went to college. I studied chinese literature and in my senior year I did some research on policy, I was going to do it as thesis, and when I was researching this I discovered widespread infanticide in the countryside. I wrote what I saw, gave it to my teacher and suddenly my thesis was submitted to the communist party. I was in trouble. I was put in jail and that was when I knew I had to leave [China]. I applied to many countries and the US was the first to accept me.
Adapt your skills
When I came to the US my English was too poor to study literature so I had to choose a different field. I wanted something marketable, computer science is also writing, it's just writing code. So rather than writing essays, I was writing code for the future. I discovered there's a lot of connection between the two. Literature teaches us clarity, connection, compartments, it's very similar to writing software. I became a software designer and then a software programmer.
It's not how much luck you have, it's what you do with it
A lot of time I say I'm lucky and friends "say you make your luck". Jim Collins, a researcher on luck, says successful people don't have more luck, they have more return on their luck.
For example, I said I was lucky to choose computer science but the return on my choice was entrepreneurship. So I chose a field where I could have a good job but then I started a company and that's what set me apart. I was lucky to come to the US, but then look what I've done since I've been here.
Be prepared to change your mind
When I started a business my daughter was three years old, at that time I was still conscious that I felt communist, I thought money was evil. I thought, "entrepreneurs love money and hate their job, I love my job and hate money therefore I would never start a business". Two years later I started a business.
Entrepreneurship changed my perspective. When you're young you look for yourself, when you get a little older you think about your family, when you become an entrepreneur you care about people who aren't related to you. It gave me a leadership perspective which changed my view on life in a way I could never have imagined.
Life isn't about the climb, it's about the journey
In the US they talking about climbing but I believe life is journey on a mountain rage. It goes up and down, and at each peak the view is different. So if you feel stuck and want to go to a different peak you have to go down before you can go up. A lot of people don't want to down but with that kind of mentality you could miss a lot of opportunities. Don't worry if you have a temporary setback, when you find yourself going down the mountain then you can you look for new opportunities.
Being emotional is fine, it's about how you deal with it
Part of my positive attitude is certainly down to my childhood. I overcame a lot of obstacles but things always worked out. If you go through difficulty and sail through then you're not so fearful, you know it will be ok.
My daughter didn't grow up in the way that I did so she sometimes feels that she doesn't have a right to complain. What's important is not what happens to you but your emotional response to the event. My daughter always has a right to feel but it's how she deals with it that brings maturity.