Belinda Liu

Born in Taiwan and raised in a conservative Taiwanese household in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Belinda’s life has been about navigating dichotomies. As a child, it was learning to speak English in school and Chinese at home, and pleasing her parents with obedience and discipline while trying to impress her teachers with imagination and independent thinking. In her twenties, she disappointed her parents by deciding to be a second grade public school teacher and then regained their approval by going to Harvard for educational policy and leadership. In her thirties, Belinda is embracing all those dichotomies to invent new approaches to schooling, living and working for the XYZ generation. Her story is about abandoning the “should-dos” and pursuing the “must-dos” in pursuit of a life that’s truly worth living.

Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
In the west, we are living in one of the most technologically advanced and abundant periods in history. Yet, many of us struggle with stress, disconnection, and unhappiness. The latest stats are pretty alarming:

  • Only 3 out of 10 employees in the US are actively engaged at work. (Gallup)
  • About 1 in 4 people in the west say they do not have a friend that they can confide in. (Psychology Today)
  • Only 1 in 3 Americans consider themselves to be very happy. (Harris Poll)

Life is too short to just tolerate our jobs and power through the daily stress and anxiety of having too much to do. We need another way of living and working—a model that prioritizes collective success more than individual achievements; sustainability more than quick profits; and humanity more than productivity.

One way to start making this shift is to spend our energy on the things we feel most passionately about and to find or create communities around our shared passions.

How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
I want people to show up to work and feel like they are coming home to a loving, generous, and supportive community. My team and I are building Hivequest, an online community and culture-building platform that invites people to be their most authentic selves and connect in meaningful and human ways. We create customized group experiences focused on cultivating shared values and practices like gratitude, compassion, creativity, authenticity, reflection, vulnerability, boldness, and integrity.

Why do you do what you do?
I have struggled a lot with being an overachiever at work and it didn’t make me a very happy or good human being. I am still trying to find the right equilibrium between my work and all the other facets of my life and wanted to create supportive tools and spaces that would help people come to their own realizations about their life and work. It’s definitely a journey and not a destination!

What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I enjoy observing the art in nature and bringing it into my physical and virtual spaces. I love incorporating mother nature’s gifts into my home and office. The essence of Hivequest is also inspired by the bees and how they work and self-manage in harmony.  In my own startup, I also feel like the act of creating a new product is much like making a painting from a blank canvas or writing a poem from scratch.

I am a big fan of James Turrell’s skyspaces.  His Three Gems outdoor exhibit at the De Young Museum is a one of my favorite San Francisco hiding spots.

What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
We start every meeting by sharing a metaphor for how we are feeling that day. It really helps to ground our work in human connection first before we talk about anything else. I love hearing my team’s creative responses. My favorite metaphors so far are:  a cold bottle of chardonnay, a bear in hibernation, and an indoor house spider with thick glasses.

What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Building a piece of software from a loose vision is a lot like building a house with even more layers of abstraction. When I feel unclear about what we are building and why, I stop to think about how it would translate if I were building the equivalent of a beautiful, welcoming, high-functioning house.

What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Try to do a personal check-in at the beginning of every meeting, even if it’s just for a minute. It helps to know what’s on people’s minds and hearts before you start working together.

How do you stay productive throughout your day?
I stop to nap, walk, meditate or clean if I feel like I’m forcing a task to completion that isn’t flowing.

What time of the day do you do your best work?
I am best at doing creative, intuitive work late at night, analytical/rational work in the morning, and administrative tasks after lunch (it helps me stay awake!).

What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?

  • You will understand where I’m coming from when you read my last Huffington Post piece about being a recovering overachiever.
  • Google Albert Einstein quotes. You’ll know what I mean! Here’s one of my favorites: A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 

Where in the world are you?
Oakland, CA

How can people connect with you?

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