#1 The Journey of a FIRST Graduate: Questions

Since leaving FIRST, I’ve taken a path of life that wasn’t entirely unexpected, but nevertheless is quite wonderful. For the most part I am reading plenty of books, watching plenty of TV, listening plenty of news talk radio, and driving plenty to here and there. But out of old habit I still have an itch for writing, so I thought, where else better to do it than posting on Chief Delphi? So, every now and then I will be posting random messages, most of which will come from entries and journals I’ve written in my little pocket book. You may find these writing completely unrelated to FIRST, but there might be more similarities than you might think. Perhaps these thoughts lead to a bigger picture we all share… I think so. Otherwise there is no hope understanding people at all.

-Ken Leung

The Journey of a FIRST Graduate: Questions

Every journey begins with the first step. My journey begins with questions, lots of them. A fitting first step, I think, since all knowledge begins with questions, which signify the search for truth and understanding. Most would start with questions with answers, such as “Why is the sky blue?”, “What is love?”, or “Is there a God?”, but I started with a question with no answers, or rather, a question with an answer no one told me about, or maybe they’ve been telling me all about it but I never really listened… I don’t know. It goes something like this:

How do I understand everything?

It was a question I didn’t even know existed in my mind, so you can imagine how daunting it is to face this question, never mind trying to solve the $@#$@#$@#$@# thing. You might wonder how did this question come about if I didn’t know existed? Well, it came from 3 distinct questions, questions you might be familiar with having been or still am a student yourself:

Why do I learn?
How do I learn?
What do I learn?

You can see these are 3 very important questions, but I never let them bothered me as I focused my energy in movies, comic books, and video games. They might puzzle me every once in a while when I wondered about things, but I never let that tiny obstacle obstruct my march toward the inevitable adulthood. I continued to learn what I am supposed to learn, and live a life I am supposed to live, and all was fine and dandy until one day I realized the world as I was taught to see suddenly isn’t what it was anymore, a catastrophe until this day I hold many experiences, many books, and many people responsible for. I suddenly have all kinds of questions, which go like this:

How does my mind works?
How does the world works?
How does knowledge works?

I found myself frantically flipping through all kinds of books, seeking desperately for answers, until I encounter a subject completely foreign to me, a subject which must’ve taken the combined effort of FBI and CIA to conceal from my awareness, a subject as strange as a Pan-Galactic Gargle-Blaster to the life form on an utterly insignificant little blue green planet far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy know as Earth: Philosophy.

Needless to say, there were many wonderful discoveries and surprises as I pick my way through Western Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy, many of which in and of itself are so amazing and interesting that each is worth volumes to talk about, but nevertheless will not be covered today because I’ve just barely scratched the surface of those volumes I am going to write and become a millionaire with. But regardless of those discoveries, Philosophy managed to inspire me to ask more questions than I’ve ever wanted to, such as:

How come no one ever told me:

That we are not supposed to just learn to memorize but learn to think as well?
That we are supposed to learn to wield all knowledge as the most useful tools we will ever encounter instead of trapped by them like our vision through a pair of binocular, which give us a very far yet very narrow point of view?
That what we think isn’t always what is right?
That just because people are different doesn’t mean they are wrong?
That opening to new ideas and different opinions is the only way to expand your mind?
That it is very overwhelming when you suddenly open your eyes to the massive and diverse branches of knowledge out there?
That there are very complex ideas in the world and simple right and wrong isn’t enough to understand the depth of the issues?
That we are capable of understanding the bigger picture even though it is hard?

And, How come no one ever taught me:

How to learn the right way?
How to ask the right questions?
How to look for the bigger picture?
How to maintain my innocence and fascination as I grow up?
How to learn to think?

I can go on and on, which I will, in due course, but for now, let’s just say that all these questions eventually point toward the same destination: “How do I understand everything?”, which, as you remember, is the first step of my journey: a question with no answers, or rather, a question with an answer no one told me about, or maybe they’ve been telling me all about it but I never really listened… I don’t know. I have no answer to this question, or any of the questions contained in this one, but one thing I know for sure is that, I know I am no where near the position of trying to answer these questions, which is fine, considering this is only the beginning of a life long journey, one that hopefully will lead to more answers than I will ever want.

Time will tell…

P.S. By the way, I am very eager to find out what kind of questions you are asking yourself, so feel free to share them with the rest of us!

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These are all questions I’ve pondered, read about, discussed with others, and researched. I’d say it’s part of a human’s natural evolution although you seem to be “ahead of the game” as usual.

For me, over time I’ve boiled all of that down to this question:
Is what I’m doing in life fulfilling and meaningful to others?

That’s all of it for me these days. My wife and I move forward in life asking and reasking that question (in many different forms) as we chart a course for our individual lives and our life together with family. I still think about the other questions you pose, but they don’t “occupy” me the way they used to. Knowledge is evolving and changes over time. In my opinion “truth” lies within the individual and is realized through that feeling of fulfillment. Kind of like the Nike commercial - Life is very brief. Just do it.

Whoa Nellie! This may have been your best post ever. Isn’t life crazy? I think you’re finding out that the more you learn, the more you realize how little you actually know. It’s a weird thing.

Anyway, have you ever thought about getting a PhD in education and doing educational research? There have been a number of theories on learning, memory, forgetting, thought processes, etc., but as a whole, learning processes is still a fairly young science.

I really think the world needs someone to answer some of your questions, such as “how to ask the right questions?” or “how to learn to think?”. I know people are trying to answer these questions and there are theories, but they are fairly underdeveloped and unproven. Can you imagine how much better our education system would be if we knew as much about the learning process as we do about piston IC engines? Don’t get me wrong - the education system does a good job, especially if the students are motivated (i.e. the “principle of readiness” for those who have seen the standard theories), but it seems like it could be more efficient if we knew how to pinpoint exactly what triggers each jump in the learning process (i.e. what makes us go from rote learning to understanding, and then to application, correlation, etc. – what IS the trigger?).

One other thing you brought up really struck a chord with me. That is: “just because people are different doesn’t mean they are wrong”. The lack of this insight by the majority of people has caused the world more damage than probably anything else in history. When you grow up in a particular culture, certain aspects of that culture are ingrained in you - you begin to believe that the way you do things is just the natural way of doing it and anything else is wrong. You come to find out that other people who do the same thing very differently feel that their way is the natural way, and that your way is wrong. People must open their eyes to this and realize that cultural biases can be so ingrained that you don’t realize that it’s culture, and not nature. Once you gain this insight, the world is much less mysterious and people become just people with their culture (rather than weird people that do things all wrong).

Keep thinking and keep questioning - that is what will make the world a better place. If only more people would do that…

Oddly- I too think about these things in a similar way…

Here’s an idea for you-

everything in nature is connected. Human society is likewise connected to nature and its actions are directed by it. Technology is the result of human society.

Therefore- everything around us is somehow connected. Find the connections and you understand a lot better how and why the world works the way it does. People of different cultures offer different perspectives on the same issues and have helped me fill in some gaps.

I look for these connections and have been doing so for much of my life. I too know that there is still a LOT to learn and no person can ever know everything. But the pursuit of the clues is fascinating and ultimately leads me to a lot of satisfaction. I try to show a few of these connections to my students and have them look for themselves. But very few people today bother to even look- much to my dismay. It would be nice if more folks even thought about some of the questions you post . I fear our society has become superficial and self centered and ultimately prone to its own demise because of it.

In closing- the most brilliant people are the people who can cross the gaps between the specialties (branches of math, science, culture) and synthesize new ideas from combinations of the old.

$@#$@#$@#$@#- it must be summer because I have had sleep time and get philosophical… sorry guys!

WC :cool:

an example to ponder- Diffusion- a natural phenomenon- (the movement of particles from areas of high concentration to areas of lesser concentration until equilibrium is reached)
many/most biological process involve diffusion, heat diffuses from a source, water osmoses across membranes making things wet, populations diffuse, suspended particles in the air diffuse, ideas in a population diffuse

suppose the opposite was true- how would the world be different?


I think the answers can be found in something called ‘Life’. As ‘Life’ progresses, you learn more interrelations, more connections are made between different subjects and ideas. The more connections you make, the more answers you will have.

Not that the answers will be a short answer, or even a finite answer. Depending on how much ‘Life’ you have had, the answers will continue to grow and change, so long as you continue to make more connections.

At least that’s what my ‘Life’ total says right now.


i do agree a lot with Wetzel about this concept of “life”…

everything since we were born we have questioned…it’s a part of our eager minds to learn more and try to understand how the universe works. we want to know the fact and put the jigsaw puzzle of life together…we want to understand things like love… why do you fall in love with the people you do…

i find myself wondering so many things especially the three main questions you brought up…
though…are we actually focusing our energy on actually good things or are they bad? does our actions really affect others futures? what happens when we are all gone? why do we know the things we know? are we sure what we know is actual real or do we believe in it? why do we believe in the concept of time and money? is the really an answer why some people get sick and others don’t? are there really miracles in life?

i can go on and on b/c this is how my mind works… and all I’ve told myself is to keep on thinking and questioning…you may never get the answer but at least you took time and actually though about it… questioning is the first step in understanding…

right now this quote steps into my mind: “the world is but a canvas to the imagination” -Henry David Thoreau… we can make the world appear to be as we want it…but understanding everything that’s a different story…

i just hope we all live our lives to the fullest and enjoy everything…live, learn, love and laugh…


The more I learn about everything, such as science, philosophy, language, culture, music, art, laws, political science, and so on, the more connections I see there are. Even though the substances are quite distinct between each branch of knowledge, I found that there are major similarities between all of them, even though these similarities might not be apparent right away. It was really just a faint instinct in the beginning, but the more I thought about it, the more it point toward that direction.

I agree that the more we learn, the more we begin to grasp just how the vast the amount of knowledge there is out there. It is just so mind-boggling huge that very soon we see that it is impossible to learn everything, not within our life time anyway. (Makes me question how people can think they know everything.) But I think it is still possible to look at the bigger picture of things, understand how things are connected. I believe that with that bigger picture comes a greater understand that will help you dramatically when focusing into specific branches depending what your choices you make.

One of my biggest frustrations is that I have to realize all of these by myself. During my education up until high school, no one has really mentioned anything about anything remotely related to these ideas, though I am willing to accept the possibilities that I didn’t know what to look for during the younger years and missed out on them completely. Looking at the world around me, I think that there are many problems with education in this world, and the lack of education/awareness of these bigger-picture ideas is one of them. Although I will also admit that this perspective only came from my own experience, and that I need to look at a lot more places before I can form a more educated picture of this issue. But that will all happen in due course.

At the moment though, it seems to be rare that people can cross the gaps between branches of knowledge and really learn to use all the knowledge they have as a tool for everything. (I know there are a lot of people who do, but when compared to the rest of Earth’s population it becomes very small.)


Although I haven’t reached the point of having to make that decision, I did consider similar path of career. The truth is, I am no where near ready to decide where I want to focus my attention specifically. Before finishing school and finishing a few projects I will be trying to start, I won’t think about it because I am just plain lazy ;-).

Actually, you might be surprised how many education research that’s been done out there, though not exactly the form of science you are talking about. You might be surprised that within the teaching of Buddhism, there are a great deal of knowledge about philosophy AS WELL AS knowledge about how people come to understand those knowledge. Many Buddhism stories deals with how we understand the world, our lives, and ideas that cannot be expressed completely by our language but nevertheless is possible for people to grasp. It has to deal with understanding of the bigger picture of life and knowledge and everything, but even thousands of years of Buddhism teaching says that words alone cannot describe these ideas completely, so I am not going to try here ;-).


I have many many questions about these and that, but the more I learn, the more I found out I am not alone with these questions, which is a very comforting thing for me. That’s why I decided to share these thoughts to the FIRST community, I expected to see some of you guys saying you have similar thoughts.

There is a lot more I want to share, but as I said, this is only a beginning of a journey, so I will leave it at that at the moment. Stay turned for the next thread I am going to do after this weekend: The Journey of a FIRST Graduate: Discoveries. I am eager to share some of the random (though not so random) ideas I’ve learned in the past year and see what you think about them.

P.S. You can tell that I am more eager to hang around the forum this weekend because I am missing one of the greatest shows in FIRST: IRI and the talent show tonight, the biggest thing I missed since leaving FIRST.

One thing that I have learned is that I will never know everything. If I studied day and night for the rest of my life I would only scrape the surface of knowledge. So I asked myself “Why try to learn everything?”. It may seem like a weird question but as I watched some others that spent all of their time trying to learn and nothing else, I saw how much they were really missing. Oh, I still learn but I don’t spend all of my free time doing so.

I have found that I learn more about people by helping and being part of their lives. I have become more productive as I worked with others. My life has more meaning as I spend time with others. In the long run I believe that life grows and is enhanced by others.

When I started realizing that it is not all about me and it is really all about others, life took on a drastic change. Things began to make sense. People began to matter and I became more knowledgeable than ever before. The answer to my “Whys?” became “Others”. Purpose was not self driven or self motivated. I guess that it all boils down to, you can have all of the book knowledge in the world and not make a difference but having little book knowledge and the desire to help others can make huge impacts on the world


It is wonderful that you’ve found your place in the world that makes you happy. Many never get to that point and live everyday wondering what they could’ve done to live a happy life. The people around you are very fortunate to have you around.

For me, I feel that I am at a point where it is worthwhile for me to put some “investment” in before I start focusing in the bigger things in life and what I want to do. While I am relatively young (22 years old), I feel that spending a few more years concentrating in learning and thinking is going to do me more good in the long run.

It feels like the right place for me, though I understand your position 100% and am very envy of your way of life. Some day though, when I am finished with this period of studying and thinking, I will come back and do all the things I want to do. (ie. Have my own FIRST team, go around visiting all the regionals around the country, run my own competition, etc.) Until then, I am willing to doing some hardwork before those rewards in the future.

-Ken L

You must have a base on which to stand. Knowledge is the base that wisdom stands on. The more that you have to start with the greater the rewards at the end. I will never have the knowledge of the great minds here on CD. I will never be able to provide the inspiration of Dave Lavery, Joe Johnson, Andy Baker, or any of the other icons on CD. I will however make it possible for others to learn, grow, find new and exciting challenges so that they will become the future of FIRST.

This is the reason that I post, monitor, question and challenge here on CD and at all events that I attend. There are many ways to inspire and encourage. I have found mine and if I help one person then I have succeeded. I started to realize my potential a little late and I see what I have missed out on. If I had to do it all over, I would have stayed in school and not quit when I did. Learn what you can now but remember that all work and no play (FIRST)… :wink:


Well, first and foremost, the most important thing is that you’re happy. Your first sentence is what lets you know that everything you have pondered and throught about through the years kept you on the right track in your life.

All the questions you asked are questions I know I have asked many times in my life. And, I find that I learned my lessons in life by making mistakes and trying to correct them. You said, “That we are not supposed to just learn to memorize but learn to think as well?” I went through a lot of college thinking that all I was doing was memorizing equations and numbers and formulas. I went through wondering if I was actually learning anything. And then, I graduated. And on my first day of work, my manager told me, “College was there for you to learn how to learn.” And it clicked. It was true. The most valuable lesson I got from college was how to learn and look at a problem and see what I need to take from it.

Now that I’m in the “real world” I thought that perhaps my questions would stop. I thought that I would know what direction my life would be going and where I was going but I find that the questions keep on coming. Am I doing the right thing? Am I in the right place at the right time? Is this what I really want to do with my life? I constantly pray for the strength and guidance I need to get through life and its struggles.

I am not a very philosophical person but I can appreciate a philosophical discussion when I hear one. I’m the same age as you (maybe a little older) so I can’t give you a “when I was your age answer…” But, instead, I’ll give you an “I am the same age answer.” While I wouldn’t be able to answer any of the questions you have asked, I know I have been in situations where I’ve asked every single one of those questions. And while I never got a straight cut answer, each situation showed me a lesson. If I knew the answers to all of those questions ahead of time, I would never have learned many valuable lessons in my life…lessons that I don’t think can be learned without experiencing. I think those questions are needed in our growth as people. I don’t think I could have ever summed up life’s lessons as eloquently as you, though.

I know that you will go far in life. I know that you’re on the right track, just because you’re happy with it so far. I love it when you make posts like these, because it makes me reflect on my life and what’s going on. As long as you keep on questioning…it keeps me from having to come up with the questions myself (or at least being able to put them into words). :slight_smile:

Oh, and the main question I’ve been asking myself these days?
What am I trying to achieve?
I’ve always had a clear cut goal in front of me. In college, graduation is what drove me to do everything I did. Now that I’m graduated, I need to figure out what I’m trying to achieve with my actions, work, and life.

Good luck, Ken. Though, I’m pretty sure you don’t need it.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that I don’t want to know everything. I like watching magicians perform, and while I know they are just doing tricks, I have no desire to learn how they do them because then I would probably be jaded and say things like “There’s a trap door under the hat…” and lose the enjoyment of the show.

There have been people in your life who have been teaching you how to learn, and ask questions, look at the bigger picture, and how to think, but most people can only teach you the way they do it, which may not be the “right” way for you. What is right, anyhow?

As for maintaining innocence and fascination, I don’t think it’s something that can be actively taught. And I also don’t think anyone can maintain the pure innocence of a young child. But fascination never has to be lost. I remember once, exclaiming over a shooting star, and a friend pointing out that a shooting star is really a meteoroid–a fragment of an asteroid or a comet, made up of iron, silicates or a mixture of both and that when the asteroid or comet is shattered by an explosion in space, meteoroids are propelled through the earth’s atmosphere, creating friction, which heats up the “shooting star” and gives it the glow we see. He gave me science where once was magic, and in a sense took some of my innocence away, but I didn’t lose my fascination (and I still make wishes on “shooting stars”).

I don’t think I maintain my fascination of life by looking at the bigger picture, I think I maintain it by looking at the smaller details and how they come to make the bigger picture. On the way to IRI and back, I enjoyed watching the world zoom by, often catching glimpses of wonderful, fascinating things… had I been a child, I would have been pointing them out and “oohing and ahhing” over all I saw… But I have to admit, I was too embarrassed to do so as an adult. I didn’t want the rest of the people in the van to laugh at me and think me silly, so I stayed quiet (except for one time when I saw this giant hawk, wow!). I think the more you care about what other people think of you, the less freedom you have to actually be yourself.

The biggest question I’ve been asking myself lately is “What in the Hades are you doing?” since I’m quitting my job to go back to school. But I know the answer to that one, I’m following a dream I thought I lost the first time around.



After spending many hours with these questions, I would like to share my views on them. They are different from yours, but I don’t think that means either of us are wrong. I shall present them to you and leave it up to you and the rest of the readers to decide whether there are merits to them.

I think that time and time again, human beings have shown that they strived for the greater understanding of this world despite the limitations set upon them by their culture, their environment, and their habits.

Take natural phenomenon such as fire, lightning and rain for example. At the beginning human beings were extremely fascinated by them, like you and I would with some spectacular magic tricks. But through out the course of history humans continue to wonder about reasons behind these magical occurrences, and tried really hard to come up with theories to explain them. (Whether with ideas of gods/goddess as early civilization did, or with theories formed by scientists through the scientific method of experiment and hypothesis is beside the point.)

I think humans are born with a natural curiosity toward everything, a curiosity that pushes them to observe, think, and experiment until they understand something. I also think that fulfilling this curiosity doesn’t mean you are going to lose the enjoyment of the show. If anything, it might even increase your fascination of how amazing this world really is. One thing I know is that by and large human beings have not lost their sense of wonder of this world after learning all the knowledge about it. And I believe this is because there is a greater enjoyment that comes from a sense of understanding, one that cannot be fulfilled with even the most elaborate, impossible magic trick.

How to learn the right way?

I happen to agree that there is no absolute right way of learning, other than what’s “right for you”. You are right that most people can only teach you how they’ve done it, but without knowing that there are different ways of learning, and that you should find one most suitable to you, you are more likely not going to seek out different ways of learning and actually find the right one for yourself. Perhaps the biggest complaint I have about this is that through out most of my public school education no one has ever shown me different ways of learning. It was always homework, testing, reading, and grades, a method that I now realize wasn’t really suitable for me at all.

How to maintain innocence and fascination when growing up?

I also agree that fascination cannot be taught. It is impossible to maintain the innocence of a child when you grow up, but at the same time, it is very easy to lose all of it before you know you’ve lost them. Every time you see something that convince you to be just a little more cynical, you lose a little of your innocence, and most people aren’t even aware of the importance of keeping your inner child, much less thinking about maintaining it. But as I said, just because you know more doesn’t mean you have to lose your fascination and innocence. So, it is a constant struggle between maturity and innocence, and I think it is important to find a balanced point between the two. It is also a struggle between cynicism and innocence, and with the culture we have these days, I would settle for a fair fight between the two.

By now, I’ve come to believe that a lot of these things can only be shown, not taught. However, I am frustrated by the lack of emphasis on these questions, which, I believe, are some of the most important question everyone need to ask themselves when they are growing up. But, again, I understand that people are different, and maybe these questions aren’t suitable to everyone. However, just think how many people could’ve benefited from these questions if they knew to ask them! This is why I think it is better to expose all method of learning to a person and let him/her choose which one is most suitable, instead of generalizing one method and expect everyone to be successful from it.

As to how is that person going to choose the learning method right for them, that’s another discussion.

-Ken L

P.S. Congratulation on finding your lost dream again. I’ve recently found a lot of things I’ve lost since childhood, and I realize how fortunate it is to find something you’ve lost. Good luck!