Never Give Up

That phrase, Never Give Up, is so simple and commonly used that it is beginning to lose its meaning after several times hearing it. A few weeks ago, I saw a glimpse of Randy Pausch’s last lecture on PBS. The title of slide was “Never Give Up”. I have heard about his last lecture at CMU before, but never actually watched it. For strange reason, it piqued my interest this time and I decided to search it on YouTube and watch it fully. It was a bit long, but didn’t feel like it. I strongly recommend it.

What a great speech! On the face of death, he stared at it squarely and decided not to let it control his life. He was making the best out of the hand he was dealt with, and having fun at the same time. He actually lived longer than doctors predicted. I think it was because of his positive attitude even in the face of death. There are many memorable moments in the lecture, but I just wanted to mention a few things.

Brick Wall

He said he’d faced many brick walls in his life. Interestingly he said that a brick wall is not there to stop us, but to test us how badly we want it. It’s a natural elimination process. Those who don’t want it badly will give up easily and go away. Those who want it badly will find a way to get over the obstacle. That is so true. It goes with what he said about never giving up. He mentioned a few times when he faced a brick wall, but did not give up. Eventually things worked out, and it taught him tremendous lessons.


He also said that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. An opportunity can come from anywhere at any time, and those who prepared will reap the benefits. He attributed a lot of his success to luck, but he also worked very hard, often till wee hours of the day. It is the very same thing many founders of successful startups mentioned in Founders at Work. They all worked hard, but there were many external forces they couldn’t control and thus things could have gone any direction. The reason why they were successful and many others who were equally smart and worked hard didn’t was because of some lucky chances and opportunities.

My personal story

I definitely feel lucky to have found a job in this economy. I thought I was one of a few unlucky ones to be unemployed at the worst possible time, but it looks like there are many that have been affected. While I did my best everyday searching for a job, my new employment definitely has a lot to do with luck, having a good friend and being at the right place at the right time. However, until I signed an employment agreement, it was complete emotional roller coaster ride.

The previous company I was working for closed its doors in August 2008. I took a few weeks off, playing with kids and decompressing from the hectic start-up life, and started to look again since early September. Things went down south really fast in October when stock market started to tank in the wake of bank failures. Recruiting activities suddenly came to a halt, and response rate dropped significantly. All existing conversations stopped because many companies froze hiring. I had a director position I was interviewing for, and while the VP of marketing at the company kept dragging me along and telling me I was the “leading” candidate, they finally dropped the position in November. The first interview was in early September, and quickly I went through the second and third round of interviews successfully. In the beginning, the VP promised he’d make a decision by the end of September. When September passed, he said he had a problem scheduling interviews for a few folks. Mid-October, we even negotiated salary level, and he said he should have been able to make an offer soon. Then he wanted to check with the board of directors since economic condition had deteriorated. He came back saying the board was negative about hiring more, but when I asked about possibility of contractor position instead, the VP said it would be possible since he had marketing budgets to use. Then finally, VP never got back to me, and that was the end of it. Throughout the whole process, I was quite anxious to land something and I tried really hard to control my urgency to call or email every five minutes. It was tough, and when it didn’t finally come through after all that time, it was quite devastating. While I was going back and forth with this company, I had gone through final interviews at a couple of different places, but they didn’t work out either. I also had a few opportunities to lead very early stage start-up companies (a few people, in need of funding) where I’d have to work without salary for sometime while raising funds in this tough time. But, just as in my last start-up I founded, supporting family took precedence, and I had to turn them down. After watching Randy’s video though, I wonder if I had given up on the first start-up too early. I hit a brick wall (actually several of them), but I gave up at the end. 

Anyhow, everyday was quite hard. Whenever a recruiter called, a bit of hope sprung up, but it quickly died away when I didn’t hear back from them further. I sometimes got several calls from different recruiters for the same job. Since companies stopped hiring or slowed down dramatically, recruiters were hurting, too. I frequented local libraries, looking at different job boards and applying to various positions. I tried to utilize this time to get back to programming, but I couldn’t focus with this dark cloud hanging over me. I reached out to everyone I could think of. Many tried to encourage me by saying kind words such as: “Hang in there, it will work out”, “You will find something soon”, “Unemployment does not represent who I am”, “It’s good time to spend time with family and kids”, etc. But, deep down, it still hurt and I could not help but feel I was losing my mojo. It was just bad timing, but blaming everything on external force would only make me complacent. I couldn’t allow that. I had to be on my feet, always proactive.

However, more than anything, it was a learning opportunity. It was an opportunity to appreciate many things I took for granted, learn how to live frugally, and be thankful everyday.  You realize how many things you don’t really need. We had to cut down our expenses drastically and live in a very lean way,  but it was definitely manageable. I also found out who my real friend was and who was not.

I can’t sugar coat current condition and say things will get better soon. I don’t believe, as many experts agree, things will get better soon. Definitely not for a while. I can’t offer advice on what would work and what would not, since I was a complete nerve wreck myself and couldn’t keep positive attitude during the whole time. But, if I could offer a bit of advice to those in the job market, it would be the followings.

  1. Never Give Up, because things will always work out at the end if you keep trying.
  2. Keep positive attitude, which goes a long way when talking to a recruiter or during interviews. If Randy Pausch was able to keep positive attitude and had fun in the face of death, I think we all can.
  3. Look in not so well-known job boards in addition to Dice, Monster or LinkedIn: Craigslist, KITList, KITList-Tech, and Jim’s Jobs.
  4. Cut down all unnecessary expenses
  5. Utilize local library, where you can get free Wi-Fi, free electricity, free DVD rental, and quiet environment
  6. Find bargains at Garage Sales
  7. Find free or low-cost entertainment: Free museum admissions sponsored by Bank of America or Target

Never Give Up! I can’t say it enough. 

3 thoughts on “Never Give Up

  1. Dear Yang,

    It’s YJ. I noticed your current status change a few weeks ago through LinkedIn. I finally found time to read your posting and I am glad I did…

    I cannot imagine what you may have been through other than rethinking of the year before when I was looking for a job myself after graduting from Carnegie Mellon. It probaly isn’t the same since back then, I was not responsible to maintain a ‘family’ or was still partially relying on the parents.

    I have watched Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture a few months ago. As remarkable as he and his optimism and positive mind set may well be, I am truly happy and relieved that you found a job eventually.

    We never got to know each other very well and I apologize if I was not so aggressive in helping you find a job. I can finally understand Paul and why Paul and Bay Area K Group is important to many of us not for the specific job referrals, but for the true purpose/vision to help Korean community grow together as a tightly-bonded team…

    My company has recently let go of a close friend of mine. He was not laid off because he is incapable or lacks certain skill sets. Instead, it had to do with the 2009 budgeting and it happened so suddenly.

    He also has a wife and a child (3 years old, daughter, cute as a poodle @_@) and they were sent back to Korea till he finds a stable job here… watching him makes me realize how important it is to have people around me that really cares about my well-being and success.

    Anyways, to make a long story short, I really enjoyed reaching your posting and I can feel the pain and difficulty you had to go through.

    Hopefully it will stay that way and I would liket to take this opportunity to tell you how thankful I am with my current status and your advice well-received.

    I am sorry I couldn’t attend last night’s meeting with Dr.Ahn, but we will see again in the near future.

    Till then, all the very best for you and your family and if there is antyhing i can do, please do not hestiate to contanct me.

    Thanks and congratulations.

    YJ (Yeon Jin) Chu

  2. Hi Yang,

    I couldn’t agree more with Points 2. I feel that everything we ever do revolves around our attitude towards it. If you think positive and always expect the positive outcome, it will happen. If you think negative, you are preparing yourself for the worst outcome and that is exactly what you will get. Things have been tough for me for a few years now, but lately, the whole positive attitude thing has turned my word around. Some great audio book i have been listening to are “The Psychology of Winning” and “Think and Grow Rich” i recommend these to everyone.

    Just my thoughts. All the best.

  3. I totally agree with this article. I have been in a situation in my life where I was on a downward spiral. When you’re in a position like that, every time you think you can’t, you confirm to yourself that you are no good, which just reinforces your negative attitude towards everything. I was very fortunate to have a successful friend give me a few motivational tapes listen to. Within weeks of listening to these tapes everything turned around for me. Looking back now, nothing really change in the world except my attitude. It’s amazing what happened when I started actually looking at the brighter side of things, things started to go right and fall into place and just like the downward spiral it turned around into an upward spiral. I listened to the grand old master himself Jim Rohn. I also listened to the same same tapes as Morgan above listened to “the psychology of winning’ by Dennis Waitley. Those two guys literally changed my life. And I will thank my dear friend forever for giving me the CD sets. Great post.

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