Keyu Jin, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a member of the Richemont Group Advisory Board.
My Definition Of Success | For me, and this is highly individualistic, success means having an influence on society. Its definition has changed over the years, as initially we are often attracted to the attributes associated with success, whether that is fame, power, or wealth. Over the years, I realized that success without deep respect from others is no longer that appealing to me. There are many successful people in the world that did not attain it necessarily by merit, or hard work, or intelligence. And you see some of the most insecure people in the circle of success. So success has to be earned…and earned with the utmost moral responsibility—for it to be meaningful to me.
I Am Driven By | Passion and curiosity drive me. Some of it is innate and shaped by the environment. I grew up in China, where the survival of the fittest mentality was not a stretch of the imagination. Having observed the country in practical poverty, having had parents go through extreme hardship and being constantly reminded of how difficult life was in China before our generation, it is difficult to live a life of a bon vivant and not have a drive to build your own life. But what sustains that drive when one already has achieved much…an enviable degree, professional accomplishments, etc…is ultimately the passion. For me, my drive –and often dilemma, is how to balance that drive to singularly focus on attaining one goal, and the drive to be fulfilled and happy—which may not be congruent with the former drive.
My Highlights | Character building is one of the most important experiences in life. When I left home alone at the age of 14 to go to America, the cultural and environmental adaptation was particularly difficult for me. I had to understand how to be alone, and how to enjoy being alone—how to adapt to an environment that was wholly unfamiliar to me quickly, and how to handle prejudices calmly.
On the professional front, I didn’t go with the herd mentality. At that time, there was a joke that a third of incoming undergraduates at Harvard wanted to be doctors, a third wanted to be lawyers, and they all ended up being bankers. It was important to understand at an early age what is one’s true passion, because that is the only way that the drive can be sustained. And it is important to realize that success can be realized across the board, and all the perks associated with success can be obtained in any field, any profession, as long as one excels. I was particularly proud that I took up a challenge, that I went for depth, and that I worked hard and made sacrifices. The vertical leap one achieves from making a commitment to doing one thing well and deeply is the most valuable experience I have had at that age.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I think it is dedication, commitment, focus, and almost an obsessive attitude towards understanding something or executing something. I find that people who are good but can’t make that final stretch, is often that obsessive nature of perfecting something. Many people are afraid of tedious details. But it is often in the details that insights and creativity spring. I find that many people stop at the ‘big picture’ level, and won’t make the effort to dig further and deeper. If we observe the very successful people in the world, the products or works with which they are associated, often have the highest of standards, reaching a level of perfection, and that is what most ‘good’ people lack—in my view. Many of them are also very patient. With patience comes something of lasting power. There are no short cuts to true success.
A Key Talent | I believe that it is openness of mind, and my introspection. Openness of mind meant that I was not tied to conventional models and paths, and openness of mind accelerated learning…we are not aware that we can be learning all the time if we are closed off to new ideas, new perspectives, and new things. Openness led me to embrace multiculturalism, which is exceedingly important in today’s world. It has also aided me in many ways—directly and indirectly. Introspection and the ability to question have always kept me aware of the decisions that I make, the evolution of my values, and the ability to always think through thoroughly at each juncture. It is important, in my view, to question and ‘reoptimize’ every so often, and this is something that most people—who are subject to inertia—don’t do. I always thought ahead, and was more forward-looking than my peers when I was younger. Indeed, I had left home when I was 14 and my New York classmates were not thinking too much about their future except what they were going to do on a Friday night at that point. Some rationality is important…combined with some intuition…it will get us to make choices within the right ballpark.
Principles I Live By | I believe that moral responsibility cannot be forsaken. That pretending to be someone you are not is not sustainable. To have a conscience and consciously think about others and the broader community.
Performing At My Peak | It is okay to not always be performing at one’s peak. In any profession, as in mine, there are periods in which inspiration is put on hold, where one questions the purpose of one’s endeavours and efforts. But for me, vertical leaps have been more important and more effective than gradual improvements. This means that one can allow for a period of time of stagnation, and periods of intense progress. This is now how evolution is regarded to have occurred. To ensure the vertical leaps, one must grab every chance of intense inspiration and motivation to do as much as possible, and to make as much progress as possible.
The Meaning Of Life | Simply to live a fulfilling life.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Just do.
I Am Inspired By | I want to say that it is okay to not have one role model or necessarily people who continue to inspire you. Sometimes, one needs to create one’s own role, one’s own model to emulate, and design one’s own niche. Many extraordinary people have a combination of qualities and values that are unique to themselves, and so seeking a role model early on and emulating their path may lead to disappointments or a feeling of dissonance. I’ve also liked certain aspects of certain inspiring people, and other aspects of other inspiring people, so the ultimate role model may be a combination.