Are you living life in your own way?
Exclusive interview with Sung Chan Kang, the author of the book, ‘It is ok to wander’
Are you doing what you want to do, or just what you have to do? Most people usually tend to worry between those two.
Sung Chan Kang, the author who wrote the book, ‘It is ok to wander,’ had been hired by a company that everyone wishes to get into but later gave up that opportunity and chose to live a life of his own in his own way. He lives his life the way he wants by always asking questions and showing his devotion as an author. If you are having a difficult time finding your direction in life, then my interview with Sung Chan Kang can help you.
1. What led you to live life in your own way?
My life was changed by reading a lot of books. I started to question things that I always thought were logic and that became a turning point in my life.
When I was in the army, I read a lot of books and I realized the limit of actually experiencing something over indirect experiences learned by reading books. I never thought of questioning my personal view of life and society because I felt that they were formed from what I heard and learned by socializing with others. I used to think that this was everything I needed to know, but after I began to read I realized that there was still much for me to learn and that what I knew didn’t mean squat. After realizing this, I started asking myself “What are the things that I don’t know yet?” I then read more biography and influential books written by successful people and people who lived an unordinary life.
2. You said that through books you’ve reached a turning point in your life. Do you have any books that you would like to recommend?
There is a book called ‘I am made as I read,’ and this book teaches us that we should learn how to interpret the meanings of books in our own way. If we cannot accomplish this after reading a book, then there is no point in reading a book. People might think that reading a lot of books is good, but there’s no point in reading a lot of books if you don’t establish a way to interpret the books. If you read without having any thought then it’s basically just a waste of time and all you are doing is simply taking another person’s thought rather than having your own. In addition, don’t ever rent a book, buy one instead. In order for us to fully study a book requires a lot of time so don’t borrow a book, just buy one. Reading a book you are interested in is one way of enhancing your ability to think and book that asks questions to the reader is helpful as well. A book that introduces methodology is not recommended because it doesn’t give the readers a chance to think.
3. How did you join IBM?
During my second semester as a junior in college, I decided to join IBM. After I decided to join IBM I wasn’t fully confident in beating the other applicants and their attributes. So, I started to think of a way that I could be better than the other applicants and the idea that popped up in my head was to have my own story that shows my identity. To be honest I had no other choice. I quickly began to wonder how to make my own story. I believed that my strongest attribute to joining IBM is my passion. Before I joined IBM I visited IBM 4 times in a year because I had the passion and will to join the company. After experiencing the work environment I felt that I belonged amongst the workers in IBM and this gave me major confidence. I felt like nobody else had a stronger passion to join the company other than myself. I was never once nervous or intimidated when I took the interview because I was so confident with myself. I had confidence within myself and I think that is the reason why I was able to be confident in front of others as well. Even in the final moments during my interview, I told them that though I may not be the greatest employee skill wise, I’m the employee with the greatest amount of passion.
After I received my acceptance letter from the company my confidence grew even larger. It’s true that I might have been lucky, but I think my passion is what got me where I am today.
4. Why did you resign from IBM?
When I was writing the book, chapter for my resigning process was the most difficult because in Korea they perceive ‘different’ as being wrong. To make it simple, I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way in pursuing life, there are just the choices we make. I chose a different life than others would rather pursue and that’s just who I am. When I thought about the road ahead of my life I didn’t feel like it was what I was meant to do. I followed my heart because deep down the only person who knows what I truly want to accomplish is me. I didn’t leave the company called IBM but in fact I left the world of office workers. I believed that I was meant to go a different path than others.
5. Do you ever regret resigning from IBM?
I don't ever regret resigning. Regretting is only when you do something that you aren’t positive about or when you don’t give it your best effort. I don't regret resigning because resigning was my own decision and it was the best decision for me. Even if I were still with the company today I don’t think anything would have gotten better. The decision I made back then has been the best decision and don’t ever regret it.
6. What led you to travel?
I started traveling around the world to find my inner self. After resigning from IBM I spent months in different places. I would spend a month at a Buddhist temple reading books, and the next month I would go on a bicycle journey. In order for one to travel around the world, one needs time, physical strength, stamina and money. I felt that this was my chance to do it, so I took the opportunity and travelled around the world with the money I earned.
7. What have you realized throughout your travels?
First, I left the shell of my former self all behind me. Before, I used to think that a person who was faithful to their role in society was the actual me, but after travelling beyond Korea, I realized that person wasn’t the real Sung Chan Kang. I think I threw away my bad habits little by little during my journey around the world. I’m not sure if I obtained this by traveling around the world or just by living life, but I learned that in life, nothing is ever for certain. So therefore, I admitted to myself that life is full of surprises and it is sometimes consisted with luck. After admitting to these certain things I noticed that everything is always different from one another. While traveling I noticed that I began to see others by their differences. I noticed that people were happy with themselves and as long as they were happy nothing mattered. Through my travels I’ve come to realize that the world is full of surprises and all we have to do is go out and find them.
8. After you came back from your travelling, were you worried about your future?
I always worry about my life. I feel anxiety because life is always up for grabs and it requires a lot of effort. There is always a substance of fear but insecurity has no substance. Whenever I feel nervous, I always think about why I am nervous and if it’s worth being nervous or not.
9. What do you think is important in your life?
I value trust, modesty and respect. Trust is a value that my parents have always taught me ever since I was a toddler. I believe modesty means saying 100 when you can do 100. If you say 150, you are conceited; 50, it’s deception. When it comes to respect, I think that as long as we respect others, we will get respect from others as well.
10. Please tell us about your one man business.
People sometimes misunderstand my job as a self-improvement program, but in fact it’s a business program that is beyond that. My business is about seeing what the naked eye cannot see. For example, I design the ability to think. In this, it includes psychology, but I don’t give people the correct answer. I encourage people to find their own answers by working together. I am trying to establish my own wisdom and story, through my personal business. One of the main reasons I wrote my book is to tell my story to others. To me, no one else can live the life I lived and no one else can write the life I lived. Another important thing for a one man business is brand power. By publishing my own book, I feel that I have created my own brand and to me that is something that matters to me. I believe that it takes time and preparation in order for us to obtain wisdom and knowledge.
11. Why did you start a one man business?
I never really like doing things that everyone else does and working in groups can sometimes be very demanding, whereas working alone isn’t.
In Korea, there are only two options in life: 1. Success and 2: Failure. Everybody wants to succeed and in Korea, if you succeed you are in 1st place. However, for those who aren’t in 1st place, they are failures. In Korea, there’s not diversity in success, and this is something that must change. I think that a person’s behavior can change the general perception of the people, and I would like to be that somebody.
A company man doesn’t have independence or ownership of any brand because they work for a company, but a one man business has independence and their brand and this is why I want to work alone. In my own company I can do things that no one else but I can do and to me that is the method of staying competitive.
12. What is your dream?
I think that living a life without regret is the best life a person can live, and to me that is a goal I want to accomplish. Before I resigned I had a lot of thoughts swimming through my head, but the last thought I had was to live a life with no regrets. At that moment I felt that if I didn’t resign from the company I would forever regret it, so that’s when I decided to resign. We make our own choices in our lives and we must make the ones that we would never regret. We must always be responsible for our actions. I want to accomplish things in life that other people haven’t yet accomplished because if I do something that someone else had already done, then where’s the fun in life.
My main objective is to become the best there, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
13. Do you have anything to say to the upcoming youth?
First, I want to tell you that the pain and suffering is not our fault. I think that half the responsibility comes from society. The so called ‘failure’ in our society today is a word full of contradiction. Let’s be tolerant to pain and failure and take it as a motivation to succeed. It is society that emphasizes the effort. It takes a long time to change social recognition. Social recognition will change if it is combined with the effort from others.
Second, when you are student, try a lot of things. During your years as a student it is ok to fail, as a matter of fact you have to fail at certain things because that’s where we learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves. Life isn’t about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
Third, don’t follow in my footsteps, because what I accomplished is what I did in my own way. You need luck and disposition. Don’t try travelling in the midst of things like how I did and quit your job. I wasn’t special, I was just exceptional. You should never judge a book by its cover, but instead read the book and dig in deep. The important thing is finding your own way to success. Always be curious of everything that comes in your way.
Fourth, freedom comes with responsibility. If you are ready for anything then you will have the courage to do anything. Korean students don’t know the fact that there is no certain answer to life. Life is unpredictable and full of surprises. This is what makes life so fascinating and intriguing.
And last but not least, knowing yourself is what is most important. Only you can make the choices in life and create your own fate. Just believe in yourself and make sure you never regret anything that you do.
I hope that university students who pressure themselves on college grades and employment take some time off to think about themselves. Think about what your dream is, and what kind of life you want to live. Spend your time in the name of youth and experience everything and anything.
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