Welcome to my website. My name is Kyle, live in downtown Toronto. I graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BA in sociology and computer science. Currently I am a freelance filmmaker. I’ve set three goals that I will, for the next few months, work towards
Achievement 1: Graduate university at age 19
I turned 19 very recently on July 11, 2015. Right now I am taking my last term at Simon Fraser University, and will be graduating in August with a BA double minor in Sociology and Computing Science. School takes up most of my time and graduation is the end goal. Graduating at the age of 19 is an audacious goal, years in the making. It started when I got accepted into the Summit mini-school program at Vancouver Technical Secondary School. In the 8th grade, I set the goal of graduating one year early, when my English teacher said that we would complete English 10 in grade 9. Being at VanTech gave me the opportunity to graduate one year early, and this was an opportunity I jumped on. I knew how to get what I wanted, and what I wanted was to graduate one year early. In grade 8, I persuaded my school counselor to place me in band class. In grade 9, I persuaded the home economics teacher to allow me to take Accounting 11. In grade 10, I convinced the physics teacher to take physics 11. My master plan came to a head in grade 11. By this time, I knew that I would have sufficient credits to graduate, but the plan to complete English 10 in grade 9 did not go through. So I enrolled in online education at the Vancouver Learning Network, and completed English 12 online. By that time, I was already taking AP Physics 12, AP Calculus 12, and Peer Tutoring 11, all of which I had to convince my counselor to let me take. In other words, even if I wanted to continue another year, there wasn’t much left for me to take, and the ball was already rolling. My counselor encouraged me to graduate a year early. I graduated one month after my 17th birthday.
Now it was time for university. I went to Langara into the Engineering program, hoping to transfer to UBC engineering after one year. I took five courses, and did well. But after one term, I decided to transfer to SFU, and apply for Engineering. Looking back, I don’t know why I applied. Perhaps it was because at this time I started reading Steve Pavlina’s blog, and I couldn’t stand spending the next 4 years trying to get a degree. I didn’t get accepted to SFU engineering. But this turned out to be a very important and fortunate event. I did get accepted into SFU Computing Science, and I accepted, and transferred to SFU, hoping to transfer into engineering later on. Like in my highschool times, I always looked ahead. I looked at the requirements, and thought long and hard about how I would fulfill them. While choosing classes at SFU, I discovered the cognitive science program at SFU. I was very excited. I immediately declared cognitive science as my intended major, and signed up for the cognitive science intro course. I took 6 courses in my first term at SFU, a variety of science and arts courses. The term went by well, and at the end of the term, I was convinced that I did not want to continue school. After all, I could learn all that I learnt at school, by myself, through books or the internet. School was literally a waste of time. I wasn’t doing poorly (my GPA has remained over 3.63 for the entirety of my university career), and I wasn’t having financial issues (thank you, mom and dad for your RESP’s). But school wasn’t right for me.
So I wrote my last exam for the term, a computer science exam, expecting it to be the last exam I would ever write. I had already decided I would become a filmmaker. I already knew I would become successful, and I knew that school was not necessary for my career. I had already booked plane tickets to China. As I had planned, I taught English in Beijing for 7 weeks, and then explored China for the next 6 weeks. Then I came back to Vancouver, and announced to my parents my plan to drop out of college. Of course, I wanted to become a filmmaker, but I told them that I would simply move to Toronto to get a job. This plan didn’t go over well with them. It was the middle of summer, I had just turned 18, and I wanted to drop out. I was adamant, and very passionate.
I thought long and hard those weeks, whether I should continue school. I journalled, wrote, visualized, read articles, researched, listened to wise people, and sat there thinking, for many hours. I wanted this fork to be my own decision, the moment that I would look back upon as the moment that I started actually becoming famous. The main reason for dropping out was the time that I would waste in completing a degree. After all, if I really wanted, I could complete a university degree through studying online, as some people have done. But I couldn’t decide, so I booked an email reading with Erin Pavlina, seeking advice from my guides. Really, dropping out of school would have worked perfectly fine. But the other path, staying in school, had little downside. I was young, and I was not ready to take on the world alone. I lacked the discipline to work, and interact appropriately. After all, I was just 18. And continuing school was not a bad option: I was already but 1/3 the way through my university degree, but I knew that I could finish it in three more semesters. The main attraction of school was the discipline that it offered. It forced me to get work done before deadlines, pushing me to my limit, and squeezing high quality work out of me. It was also a way for me to by some time to work on personal development without wasting time.
And that is what I decided: I would complete university after three more semesters. The reading also opened my eyes to something I had overlooked: the study of Sociology. At that point, I was definitely looking to complete a CogSci degree. So from that point on, it was an all out assault on a university degree.That fall, I was able to enroll in 6 courses at SFU, which was the maximum that SFU would let me take. Importantly, I also enrolled in 3 courses at Langara without telling SFU. The coming term, I showed SFU that I had taken 9 courses the previous semester. They didn’t let me transfer my Langara credits, but they did let me take 9 courses at SFU the following term. That term went by well (I also secretly took 3 courses at Langara at the same time, because they were interesting). Now, two months later, I am sitting here, in my last term at university, taking 8 courses and enjoying the free time I am getting.
The goal of graduating at age 19 has over time, become less audacious. I can see the harbour, as my ship nears the coast. I will graduate: I just must keep doing what I have done for the past 7 years. I could very much say that this success is all of my own making. After all, it is the foundation that I laid in highschool—the work habits, the goal setting, and the persistence to get what I wanted—that enabled me to take 12 courses (37 credits) in a university semester. But I have been very lucky. I was lucky to get accepted into VanTech’s summit program. I was lucky to have open-minded counselors who allowed me to take extra courses. I am extremely lucky to have encountered Steve Pavlina’s blog, and I was fortunate enough to not get accepted into SFU’s engineering program. These are opportunities that the world give me. And I jumped on these opportunities.
Achievement 2: Improve small-group communication skills
Personal growth is when you put in a conscious effort to make tomorrow’s life more fulfilling than today’s. It’s where you wake up with an attitude that you will learn something, and growth each and every morning. And during the day, you try your best to accomplish what you set out to do. You read books, find your passion, and strive to do everything with maximum focus. Personal growth is very smart, and rewarding. These people can accomplish more in just a few years, what it takes some a lifetime to accomplish. And they enjoy it immensely: every day they are learning something new.
Being aloof and unable to follow mainstream trends makes me very well suited to engage in personal growth. I need not chain myself to the stagnant people around me. This also offers an opportunity to become very good at social relationships, because I am forced to put conscious effort in improving my skills. This makes people smart. Friends have been an issue for me. Ever since Kindergarten, I found it more interesting to talk to teachers than most other students. Throughout grade school, I developed good rapport with supervision aides and special-needs teachers. And that limited the time I spent socializing with other peers of my age. I am behind in social skills, and I need to catch up. I need to put in a conscious effort to analyse how people communicate, and put this to use. There are some people who have exceptional persuasive skills: Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and Bill Clinton. There are also those who can make friends and connect to others very easily, energizing whatever surroundings they are in.
My disadvantage puts me at an advantage: Unlike those who are naturally skilled at socialization, I must put in the time and effort, and see social strategies that others do not. I will put in much more time than other people in improving this skill, and through hard work I will become great at communication. I am not smarter than most others in the intellectual sense. But I a smarter, because I identify what I must work on, and then I work hard in accomplishing my goals.
Achievement 3: Gain 100 subscribers on YouTube [EDIT: I’M ALMOST THERE, SUBSCRIBE NOW!]
A kid growing up in an apartment building in the downtown of a Canadian city is anything but normal. Most kids grow up in a house, with their lawns and own rooms and block parties. But I grew up thinking that was crazy. Why would somebody want such a big house, living so secluded away from downtown? I have only ever lived in an apartment, and I love it. The city and everything you need is at your doorstep—a community centre, a large park, the ocean, an elementary school, restaurants, and a subway station—all less than three minutes away. City life is wonderful.
I naturally became interested in urban design and city planning. My neighbourhood, Yaletown, isn’t perfect. We barely know our neighbours, lack a sense of community, and don’t have enough bike lanes. There are things we can do to improve our cities to increase urban life. Jane Jacobs was widely misunderstood: she obviously opposed sprawl, but she also did not promote towers, for this would overwhelm people such that they would no longer know their neighbourhood. Encouraging development that becomes a catalyst for urban life is not easy, and there are many ways to do it.
Travelling in China, I fondly remember the creative energy that developed in an informal open road. It was a sunny summer morning, not yet hot, but very bright. People started coming out of their homes, and outside on the informal road, there were motorbikes, merchants selling products, kids playing on the road, and just people observing the street life. This was a totally informal gathering of people: the chaos, or as Jane Jacobs would call it, the organic visual diversity that was created in this space, was not overwhelming, but enough to produce action. This is the urban life that we lack in Vancouver: the healthy interactions between different groups of people on their own schedules.
Filmmaking offers a unique opportunity to capture the rich fabric of urban life, and the elements that produce it. It is an art that requires immense amounts of practice and dedication. As a result, few people are capable of putting in the time and sweat required to become a successful filmmaker. I will be the exception. I will have to work hard, but this is part of the adventure. Wish me luck.
Kyle Zheng -2015