Leap, Fly, and Learn

Leap, Fly, and Learn
By Ken K.H. Leung

I have been staying up all night thinking about what I want to do lately. I don’t mean what I want for lunch tomorrow. I mean the bigger, more important things. I don’t spend enough time thinking about that anymore. I began dating for about four months now, I have plenty of books to keep me busy (“Contact” and “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” come immediately to mind). I started paying more attention in eating healthily, and more time playing basketball and racquetball. Not to mention homework, midterms, finals; homework, midterms, finals; homework, midterms, finals; homework, midterms, finals; homework, midterms, finals; homework, midterms, and finals.

It made me really miss being a high school student again, though I cannot logically justify that thought. I still remember how exhausting it was to talk ceaselessly about GPA, college ranking, SATs, and related topics. You should know of course, I bet some of you are already looking up colleges, writing application essays, preparing for interviews, and attending test prep classes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think GPA and test scores are bad. The reality is they are how society evaluate your performance in school. But when that’s the only thing you grow up with, it becomes very difficult for you to see the truly important things.

What are they?

How about the 1,444,920 Americans who are predicted to have Cancer in the year 2007, 178,480 of which are female breast cancer, 107,430 of which will be Leukemia and Lymphoma, and 213,380 of which will be lung and bronchus cancer? Or, the 2.4-3.3 million lives from around the world who died from HIV/AIDS, of which more than 570,000 were children?

What about the 842 million people worldwide who are undernourished, or the 1 billion adults who are non-literate (about 18% of world population, two-thirds of which are women)?

In this year have you spent more than 5 minutes thinking about…

The 12,000 households who still don’t have their own home after Hurricane Katrina?
The fact that worker-to-social-security-beneficiary ratio has fallen from 16.5 to 1 in 1950 to 3.3 to 1 today, and 2 to 1 within 40 years?
The 3000+ American death and the 25,000 wounded during the war in Iraq, whether you support the war or not? (I do not wish to have a debate about the war, only to point out this is an important issue for this country)
The climate change in recent years, whether you believe human beings is a major contributor to this problem or not?
The controversy of String theory, and the debate between evolution and intelligent design?
The continual decline in the number of students training to be scientists and engineers, or the report that shows US students are getting better grades in Math, but are performing worse in international tests?

When you are faced with these problems, it won’t matter what your GPA is or SAT scores are, only what you learned, how well you can work with other people, and how passionate you are.

So, in the next few years, you will be fighting with everything you’ve ever been taught, trying to decide what’s more important. There are those struggling through school everyday never knowing why they are having such a hard time, and those who spend years thinking about this and decide to stay with the academic world anyway. That’s ok, at least they asked themselves the question, at least they made their own decision, at least they had the courage to try to change their mind.

Because to do anything otherwise is unimaginable to me. To never speak, act, or reach out because of rejection and disappointment… I wouldn’t know how to live like that.

There is no doubt it will be hard. You are going to be wrong, people will criticize, there will be good times as well as bad times. But after you fumble and mess up, you will stand back up, and you will recover. College is the place to make mistakes so you can learn from them.

Just let your curiosity lead you, let it lead you to the books, the magazines, the radios, the documentaries, to new places and new things, to new voices and new ideas, because there is no better time to Leap off your feet than Now.

Now is the time to make a fool of yourself. Now is the time to come up with preposterous ideas. Now is the time to stay up all night, eat a lot of pizza, drink a lot of soda. Now is the time to scramble, panic, and get yelled at.

Now is the time to pick up a word, a phrase, an idea, a theory, a design, an essay, a formula, a speech, a hypothesis, an issue, a question, a belief, an intuition, an objective, and Fly.

And now is the time to walk up to someone and tell them what you think, and why you think, because you have the responsibility to correct yourself when you are wrong, and the responsibility to change someone’s mind if you believe in something strongly.

Now is the time to think about what you want to do in the next 10 years, so you can spend the next 10 years thinking about what you want to do in the next 20, because when the time comes for us to be leaders, we will be ready.

Many of the 1300 FRC teams’ seniors will graduate this summer. Some will move on with nothing more than pocket changes, and some with the full blessing of family, friends, scholarships, and experiences.

Whether you are Caucasian, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle-eastern, or European;
Whether you are rich or poor, smart or slow, over-achieving or under-performing;
Whether you are majoring in engineering, science, literature, history, mathematics, or business,
Whether you came from the East coast, Mid-West, South, West Coast, Pacific Northwest, or Central America;
Whether you are interested in classics, sports, games, music, nature, or politics;
Or whether you are red or blue, religious or atheist, conservative or liberal;
The journey will be equally difficult.

Keep your eyes focused, ears sharp, mind opened, and hearts firmed, for there is no better guide to help you Learn than Curiosity.

If you are losing sleep and stressing out and equally excited about going to college, welcome to the club, we have some jackets made.


This is beautiful, and so true. Thanks, Ken, for sharing this with the FIRST community.

May I suggest a white paper?


If it’s okay with you, I’d like to print this out and post it in my classroom. I would also like to share it with fellow teachers, of course with proper author notation.

Wow… awesome! I’ve got to forward this onto my girlfriend who stresses about her grades to the breaking point. It’s not good. I know many people that have done that and have failed in the end.

Thank you, Ken. I always enjoy your posts.

Ken, once again you have made another inspiring and amazing post. You are dead-on about the more important things in life, I see people sick, dying and dead every day and it is a constant reminder to me of what is important.

To all of the high schoolers reading this, Ken is absolutely right when he says this is the time to learn, have fun and think of crazy ideas. Enjoy it now while you can and take as much from those experiences as you can because once you walk across that stage and get that piece of paper later this month or next you will always look back on these days and remember the good times and fun when the world was a much smaller place and your worries were limited to college choice, GPA and who to date.

There are many many things to worry about in this big and crazy world of ours and once your all growed up you get the fun task of choosing what ones to worry about be ready like Ken said it can and will get hard sometimes, good luck to all of you.

ken this a very heartfelt piece, and thanks for posting it!

i am pretty much finished with my 2nd year of college…(wow, never thought id say that) and im currently on a co-op (where i work for 6 months at a company, as if it was a real job). the guys here have all been through their college years, and now they work at this place called ‘tool.’ ( www.toolinc.com ). ill go grab lunch some days and get a couple of slices and a coke. ill come back to the office and eat it, only to be ridiculed by these guys (in a joking sense) that i eat so unhealthy, and blah blah, not that eating healthy is a bad thing.

the point is…i always tell them, well i figured if im going to eat junk, while not do it while im still young and my metabolism is high. this is just one of the few things ive noticed about gradually getting moved into the ‘real world’.

the thing i always try to do no matter what is have fun. if we get into some argument at robotics, or if i get in a fight with one of my roommates or soemthing ill step back, take a breath, and try to make light of the situation. you gotta have have fun with what your doing, or you wont be doing it for long.

if your having fun while “leaping, flying and learning” than you will no doubt be succesful in whatever you do.

Increadible post Ken. You have such a good perspective on what really matters in life, especially to those still in high school. You are wise well beyond your years, and I am priviledged to have known you and worked with you at Cal Games.

Mike C.

PS. Can I get a jacket? :stuck_out_tongue:

This is so amazing. I’m saving the link to this to remind me of why I’m really here. I think there have been many times when I could have used a reminder like this. I have thought about some of those things before, but there is no way I could have put it into words as fluently as you have.

I have thought about impacting society on a worldwide level, but I haven’t really thought about how. There are so many ways, and this really made me remember that it isn’t good to be so focused on the mundane things in everyday life, that you forget all of the other issues affecting those around the globe. I hope this inspires more to sit back and reevaluate everything on a larger scale. It’s kind of astonishing, what you may discover that you haven’t really considered. I know it is for me. I just wish that more people, especially Americans would read this, or similar things, and open their eyes, and see that we take so much for granted, when we could be using all that we have to improve the world as a whole.

I really liked this post.:wink:
And don’t worry: I plan on taking your advice and leave my imagination and creativity with absolutely no boundaries whatsoever (unless it’s utterly ridiculous, and obviously impossible, but that’s beside the point). That’s the only way to make things seem more possible and it usually works. It really improves the overall outlook on everything. These are the kinds of things that motivate me and hopefully the rest of my generation to change and shape the world for the better.:smiley:

To tell the truth, my curiosity has gotten me into quite a lot of trouble.

After high school, I was curious what it would be like to go back to my high school team to help with the robot. So I did.

At the 2003 season, I was curious what it’s like to be the scorekeeper. So I volunteered for it. I was also very curious about what the Sacramento, Arizona, Southern California regionals, and Houston Championship Event were like, so I went. I was also curious what IRI was like. So I went to that too. Finally that year I was curious what it’s like to help run an off-season event. So I told people I will help run Cal Games.

Look what happened since then.

However, my curiosity also took me to Atlas Shrugged, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance, Bucky, The West Wing, Frazier, Team of Rivals, Founding Brothers, and it took me to Washington DC, A structure of Scientific Revolution, Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman, and to KGO 810am, The Economist, Sports Night, Contact, George Bernard Shaw, my after school lego programs, and back to school again for Mechanical Engineering.

It has brought me back to the FIRST community, namely, the Bay Area FIRST community, and it’s brought me to my dream.

The point is, if you never reach out and experiment with different things, you will never have the courage to reach out again. It’s only through experiments and experiences where we get to understand ourselves better. Never underestimate the importance of school, or grades. Along the same line, never overlook the importance of inspiring yourself, because the culture around us isn’t doing a very good job of it.

Thank you all for your compliments, they made me smile, a lot. Sometimes I am afraid I am making a fool of myself when I do these writings, but no matter, now is the time to make a fool of myself, right?

When you take a leap of faith as you learn to fly, you take us with you on the journey. It’s fun to travel with you through your thoughts.

Why doesn’t FIRST have Ken speak at championships. To read that was deffinately more exciting encouraging then half of the things I have heard spoken at competitions.


yes John is right ken should write dean’s speechs

ken thank you
it sad the thing you said about the gpa but it’s so true we obsess about a number when most of the world can’t even spell
in the this world we are distracted by grades , class , proms
i often feel like the i’am the only one who see threw this fog of are selfs but this thread has change my view

You know what, that is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.

Keep it up, Ken. You are inspiring us all.


I am humbled in the shadow of giant :o.

Personally, inspiration is the tremendous amount of time and effort you and many other mentors put into FIRST. I constantly overwhelmed by how much energy mentors are willing to spend on the teams and the students. So, I try to do what I can to add a little spark to the great burning flame call FIRST. It just turns out writing (along with working on Cal Games) is both a contributing as well as educational experience for me.

By the way, Dean’s speech inspired me a great deal when I was a student, so don’t try to make fun of someone I look up to, I will beat you up :mad: :D!

Of the many things I am still lacking, three things stick out in my mind: my grammar, having the discipline of learning to write well, and actual experiences. I can’t do much about the third, only time will help me build my experiences. The other two… Well… Let’s just say I get lazy sometimes.

I am no where near good enough to write something for the Championship, let alone actually giving it (I will shrink to the size of a peanut if you put me on stage). Don’t worry, I am not trying to belittle myself. I am not saying I will never be ready, just that I am no where near ready right now. When the time comes, you will hear plenty of things from me!

In the mean time, all I can do is continue to write, continue to explore things I am interested in, continue to test myself and train myself in preparation. There are no short cuts. I intent to keep trying, and keep climbing back up when I fall. Hopefully, some of you will continue to indulge me and give me the support I need to move forward.

If I can make one wish, it would be having Dean and Woodie read one of these writings of mine, so I can tell them “I get it! Give me time and give me inspiration, and one day I will be ready to take over the torch.”

C’mon, Baker’s not that tall…

Keep it up, Ken. :slight_smile:

Now may be the time to make a fool of yourself, but your future shouldn’t find you lacking the willingness to make the same leaps you made today. It cannot end with graduation of high school or college, or this post, else these become mere inspirational ramblings.

The leap of simply saying these inspirational words in front of everyone at the Championship event should be something you’re not afraid of – it is the first step for taking these words and inspirations putting them to execution.

Your words and thoughts flow very nicely, so don’t worry about your diction or grammar just yet. That’s what editors and interns are for :smiley:


Like the rest that have posted, i’d like to say WOW!

This post really encourages me because most of those things I have begun to have to deal with as a freshman in high school and in FIRST. You give inspiration to me and I think a lot of others throughout the FIRST community. Thanks for reminding me of what this is all about!

Your point is well taken. I better start writing for THAT speech now. Hopefully, I will be done in 2 years :o.

Tell you what. I promise I won’t be afraid of speaking in front of my students, and when the time comes, I won’t be afraid of speaking in front of the Bay Area teams when it’s Cal Games again. I won’t be afraid of testing my ideas and practicing my pen, and when the time comes when I have something worthy to say to every single FIRST student, parents, mentors, and volunteers at the Championship Event, I won’t be afraid to step forward.

Baby steps. That’s the key to it. Baby steps.

Isn’t this how we all learn to fly?

Peace Ken, and keep on inspiring us with your writings.