Looking back on seventh grade

Posted July 9, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Education

Tags: ,

Another school year has passed by so quickly, and my son finished seventh grade. In this second year of middle school, he settled into the new schedule and new commute, more familiar with the campus, his classmates, and the teachers.

In many ways, seventh grade was harder on us as parents than on the students.

Here are some reflections about our seventh grade experience:

Learning a new language (and that no one is good at everything). Seventh grade students were required to take a foreign language, and my son signed up for Mandarin. We thought it would be practical. We knew it would be challenging. But we didn’t take into account how fast-paced the class would be or consider that he doesn’t have family or friends to practice with. He spent many late nights and early mornings trying to keep up.

Letting him rebound from failure. It was hard for me to a step back and not check his homework planner or review every assignment unless he asked for my help (and he didn’t ask often). As much as possible, I tried to let him succeed or fail on his own. He needs chances to learn that there’s nothing wrong with failure, as long as you learn from it.

Asserting his independence. More than ever, he is asserting his independence – deciding how he spends his time, honing his debate skills (or arguing stubbornly, depending on your point of view), and stating his opinions, often forcefully. Sometimes he is so focused on preparing his next argument that he doesn’t listen to other people’s points of view.

Technology helps and hinders. Most of his assignments were available online. This meant he could view the project rubrics at any time, edit assignments at school or home, and keep his work organized and backed up. There are also technology blips, like times when he submitted an assignment and his teacher did not receive it, or times when he’s lost work because he’s spoiled by auto-save.

Many teachers. As a parent, it’s very hard to have a personal relationship with his teachers because there are different teachers for each subject. If things go well, we might meet them once at the “open house” and get to know them through email updates, but there are no parent-teacher conferences. We couldn’t pop into his classroom after school to say “hi,” and I missed that.

In his own words. “I’ve developed as a student to be more aware of the real world. This includes global issues and keeping up to date in current events.” When asked what someone else would say about him, he responded, “He has grown as a student in terms of writing, presenting, etc. Yet, he still has issues with negative feelings and seeing the light in situations.”

What do you remember most about seventh grade? Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a middle school student today?


“Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss

Posted July 6, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

Tags: , , , ,

I never thought about negotiation as both a form of empathy and a martial art, but that’s exactly how former FBI hostage negotiator and founder of the consulting firm, The Black Swan Group, Chris Voss views negotiation.

In his book, “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” (2016), written with Tahl Raz, journalist and management coach, Voss reveals practical tips for negotiating in an emotional crisis. The key to successful negotiations, he believes, is that you should never settle. Always pursue your ultimate goal.

Voss describes how to use “tactical empathy,” or “listening as a martial art, balancing the subtle behaviors of emotional intelligence and the assertive skills of influence, to gain access to the mind of another person.” Tactical empathy is especially crucial in a “black swan” situation, “an event or piece of knowledge outside our regular expectations and that cannot be predicted.”

Practical, honest, and filled with personal experiences from real life-and-death situations, “Never Split the Difference” makes our personal negotiations seem less critical. The mindset for successful negotiations is deceptively simple: 1) treat people the way they need to be treated, not the way you want to be treated; 2) keep calm and rational; and 3) ask questions that give your counterpart the burden of finding a solution.

Here are Voss’ 8 strategies for a successful negotiation:

  1. Be a mirror. Identify what your counterparts actually need and get them feeling safe enough to talk about what they want. Mirror them by repeating the last few words that they say, showing that you are listening.
  2. Label emotions. Acknowledge your counterpart’s emotions and show you identify with how they feel. How to do this: Say things like “It looks like you want to/don’t want to…” or “It seems like…” or “It sounds like…”
  3. Do an accusation audit. Acknowledge your counterpart’s fears. Before the negotiation or meeting, brainstorm all of the things they might say, and write out your responses. For example, “It seems like you want/don’t want…”
  4. See “No” as the start of a negotiation. If you give your counterpart the chance to say “no,” they will feel more in control and less anxious. Start with “no-oriented setup questions, like “Do you want to cancel the project?” Then ask “What would you need to make it work?”
  5. Get to “That’s Right.” The turning point is when your counterpart agrees with you, without the feeling of having given in. If they say, “You’re right,” then you still have work to do.
  6. Don’t compromise. No deal is better than a bad deal. Set yourself up as an honest negotiator, and remember that “fairness” is an emotional concept. How to do this: “I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. Please stop me at any time if you feel I am being unfair, and we’ll address it.”
  7. Ask calibrated questions that invite solutions. Don’t ask “Why?” Instead, ask “How can we solve this problem?”
  8. Involve all decision-makers. Make sure that everyone supports the negotiation, not just the people at the negotiating table. Ask questions like “How does this affect everybody else?” or “How on-board is the rest of your team?”

One of the best tips I learned is how to talk to someone on the phone. Voss suggests asking, “Is now a bad time to talk?” so that the conversation can start with “no.” When you ask,“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” it’s much harder to get that first “yes.”

Do you consider yourself a good negotiator? What negotiations stand out for you? What are your best negotiating tips or stories?

Emerging technologies in fishing

Posted July 2, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business, Technology

Tags: , ,

My husband is an avid fisherman. I am not; I get seasick even on calm waters. One night, he told me about the 2019 Fishers Forum, part of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. I rushed home from work and we attended the Forum.

I thought that the evening would only be about fishing techniques, gear, and fishing stories, and I was completely wrong. The forum agenda was Fishing in the Future: Emerging Technologies in Fisheries.  All of the presenters shared something new and interesting about fishing, for fishermen and land-lovers.

Releasing bycatch safely. Caleb McMahan of Hawaiian Fresh Seafood shared his path to designing a device to cut wire line (not just filament), so that bycatch (the fish or other marine species that are unintentionally caught, such as sharks, sea turtles, and dolphins) can be released unharmed. His prototype is still in development, but it was interesting to take a peek at the design and engineering process. He stressed the requirements of safety (no damage to the user, the boat, or the marine life), affordability (one prototype cost $3,000), and effectiveness (cutting through the wire, with minimal trailing gear), as well as evidence that the bycatch survive the interaction via a satellite tag.

Using drones to harvest fish more efficiently. Local fishermen Carl and Matt Jellings talked about the how drone technology has impacted the way they fish. In the past, they would climb a mountain or charter an airplane to spot schools of akule. Today, a drone can provide accurate, real-time video of the size of the school, the position of the boat, and even the ground (sand, rock, or coral) beneath the school. Carl and Matt showed amazing drone video from a Mavic 2 of their boat driving in circles through a school of akule. “A lot of it is still the old way… a lot of skill involved, a lot of hard work,” they said. “We go out less but we produce the same.”

Connecting fishermen with an app. Jim Hori and Ed Watamura introduced the free Lokahi Fishing App. The app connects fishermen to fish by providing all the weather-related information they need in one place (wind, weather, tides, moon phases) and giving them a way to record catch reports. It also connects fishermen to other fishermen, by offering alerts about news, events, and fishing-related legislation; sharing tips and videos from expert fishermen; and offering safety/mayday options to connect other app users in case of an emergency. * Must be in cell-phone range *

Researching bottomfish with 360 cameras. Ruhul Amin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center highlighted three new technologies in bottomfish research: the Modular Optical Underwater Survey System (MOUSS), which can identify the count, species, and size of bottomfish; the Moana 360 Degree Camera System, which can provide 360 degree, 15 minute digital video at a depth of 300 meters; and early research into eDNA, a process to take water samples at bottomfish depth to determine which bottomfish have passed through the area.

Global Fishing Watch, United States Exclusive Economic Zone (Hawai‘i), one month ending June 26, 2019

Tracking fish and fisheries for ocean management. Tim White of Global Fishing Watch discussed how satellite tracking, combined with observer data on fishing vessels, can help us better manage our fisheries. Using electronic tagging, researches can track individual marine animals for up to one year. Using the Automated Identification System (AIS), researchers and governments can track commercial fishing patterns, monitor restricted fishing zones, and identify global trench shipment activity (when fishing vessels offload their catch to refrigeration vessels, and then continue to fish). This was the most controversial presentation of the evening, with attendees expressing concern about sharing proprietary information (fishing spots), questioning the availability of the data (maps are free and there is a three day delay), and challenging how this technology will be used responsibly. Tim stated, “We are very soon going to live in a world where we can see the whole planet every day.”

Technology is helping us fish more effectively, improving the way we manage marine resources, keeping us safer on the ocean, and giving us more time doing things that matter.

Do you enjoy shoreline or ocean fishing? Are there other technologies that you think will change commercial and recreational fishing?

Saying yes to more

Posted June 25, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business, Health

Tags: , ,

If you’ve been reading Better Hawaii, you may remember that last year, I accepted a new position at my organization. At the time, I was doing many of the tasks already, but I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to actually take responsibility for them. I’m a behind-the-scenes person, and this job meant I would be out in front.

I said “yes” because the company needed me, and also because I found myself thinking of the book “Do Hard Things” by then-teenagers Alex and Brett Harris. At odd times, their words spur me to step outside of my comfort zone.

For anyone who feels like they have to “fake it until you make it,” I want to share some of the changes I chose to make after that first “yes” – and what happens when you start saying “yes” to other things.

Yes to more learning. I’m a planner and a list-maker, so saying yes feels like running in the dark, over uneven ground littered with sharp rocks. To feel more comfortable about the new job, I read books from the library and took free online classes. Most online learning is self-directed, so you decide how much effort you put into them. The extra learning helped me gain confidence. It also kept me busy, so I didn’t have time for second thoughts.

Yes to more invitations. One morning, a woman called and invited me to speak to her group. As if I were listening to another person, I heard myself say “yes.” When I hung up, I was a little horrified. But I relearned a great tip: tell yourself that you’re excited, not nervous. The butterflies and racing heart are exactly the same, but your mindset is completely different. So I told myself (a lot) that I was excited. Another day, I was invited to a fundraising dinner that I would usually not attend, and I had an amazing time meeting people and being part of an inspiring evening.

Yes to more opportunities. My way to open myself to new opportunities, for my organization and myself, was to say a personal mantra a few times a week (or whenever I needed a boost). I chose words that remind me that I want to help my organization become more successful and I want to feel that I am giving back to our community. “I open myself to the world,” I would say with arms arching overhead. “I share myself with the world,” I say with arms circling forward. I can’t claim that my mantra makes good things happen, but I can say that I feel more appreciative when good things happen – when we receive an unexpected contribution, when the office chairs I needed where donated to us, when the right people ask to join us as staff or volunteers.

Yes to more time for myself. It’s easy to say “yes” to too many things, and sometimes I wasn’t as selective in the opportunities I accepted. I found myself overwhelmed and stressed. I realized that I had stopped doing a creative hobby that I really enjoy. So I made time to do it. After an evening at the studio, I felt more relaxed and more cheerful, connecting with friends who share a similar passion.

How do you respond to new opportunities and challenges? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

Trust, taking risks, and leadership

Posted June 18, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: , ,

When I first started working at a small nonprofit organization, my job came with a lot of trust. No one clocked my hours or looked over my shoulder at what I was doing. I hadn’t earned that trust; it was given to me, mine to keep – or lose.

The trust was necessary, because I was handling all the day-to-day operations.

With that trust cane an unspoken choice: I could do the day-to-day job, to ensure that the organization ran smoothly. Or I could take risks and do what needed to be done to ensure that the organization grew. Both choices are good choices.

I chose to take a few risks. But to take risks and make changes, I needed to build trust within our organization.

Take time to build trust.

The best way I could think of to build trust was with communication. I became committed to giving people the information they need to do their jobs and make good decisions. It started with creating readable monthly reports for board members, sending updates and educational events to staff, and sharing good news with everyone.

One day, someone replied, “Awww. I needed to hear that today!” It was like a mirror-effect — I felt happy that I could brighten her day. Another day, someone raved, “I love my profession.”

Do what you say you’ll do.

People started coming to me with their problems. I could choose to think of them as complaints, or I could choose to think of them as people who want to make improvements in the organization – and who trusted me to try to fix things.

If I could help them, I did. If I couldn’t help them, I explained why and suggested options or gave them a timeframe for when I could tackle the project. Sometimes I tried to teach them to do things themselves, not just to save my time, but to show that I trust and respect their abilities.

Lead by listening.

People need to feel that they are contributing in meaningful ways, and I needed to trust that people knew their own strengths. I started listening to what staff and board members said is important to them, so that I could find ways they could help the organization that fit their interests and skills.

Looking back, I was working toward a definition of leadership that involves identifying common goals, helping your team gain the confidence and resources to achieve them, and trusting your team to lead.

Do you trust your leaders at work, in the community, and in government? Do you feel that they trust you?

Just for teens: de-escalating arguments

Posted June 11, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Family

Tags: , ,

One morning, my husband and 12-year old son were arguing. When I entered the room, they were sitting at opposite sides of the table. I knew I couldn’t sit next to one of them, so I sat at the adjacent side. Then I waited for one of them to explain the quarrel, which involved a negative attitude, being unsocial, and school. As a result, my husband said that he was taking away a school opportunity.

I refused to get caught in the middle, supporting one side. Instead, I agreed that a change could be good, and I suggested that my son do his homework in another room.

My husband was the “complainant” in this argument, so I asked him what would change his mind. He said that he wanted my son to say “I’m sorry” and he wanted to see improvements in my son’s behavior.

Armed with this knowledge, I approached my son. Instead of telling him that he had to say “I’m sorry,” I asked if he really wanted regain the opportunity he lost. Once he said “Yes,” I knew that I could help him.

My son is competitive. When he thinks he is right, he has a hard time letting it go. So I framed these arguments with his father in terms that he could relate to. I told him that when you’re facing a stronger “opponent” and you can’t win, your best strategy is to de-escalate the situation. It doesn’t make sense to win the “battle” (the argument at the time) but lose the war (the opportunity or privilege). The key is to admit that someone else is right, not that you are wrong.

Here are the three strategies I suggested that my teenage son could use to de-escalate arguments:

Distraction. Agree with the facts, and then distract with a related idea. For example, “You’re right. I didn’t really talk to them. They are going on a trip, and I should ask them about it next time.”

Retreat. Agree with the facts, and then make a strategic retreat. You can’t argue with someone if you aren’t there. For example, “You’re right. I should finish that assignment right now. I’ll go my room to get started.”

Redirection. Agree with the facts, and then redirect the conversation to things you could have done or even should have done. By admitting that you are vulnerable, it could make someone feel a little sympathy for you. For example, “You’re right. I did that. I felt uncomfortable that it made me say things I didn’t mean.” Or “You’re right. I didn’t do that. I felt nervous/upset and I should have done that.”

There’s a fourth strategy teens could use, but I didn’t suggest it because it could easily backfire: Humor. Agree with the facts, and then make a small joke about it. It can be really effective or it can make someone even more offended if it’s perceived as sarcasm. For example, “You’re right. I must get it from mom” with a sheepish smile is very different from “You’re right. I must get it from mom” with an eye-roll.

Do you enjoy arguments or are you a peacemaker? How do you respond to conflict?

Three summer reading programs in 2019

Posted June 4, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Books

Tags: , , ,

“Did you know the summer reading program started?” I asked my 12-year old son. “We could win a trip somewhere.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere,” he said disinterestedly.

I tried a “big challenge” approach. “They want to reach 13 million minutes this summer.”

There was a small spark in his eyes, but he wasn’t ready to commit yet. “What other prizes are there?”

“Does it matter?” I asked. “Just tell me your title, author, and number of minutes.”

“Okay,” he said.

Whether you’re interested in winning prizes, winning books, or just challenging yourself to read, there are three free summer reading programs to choose from.

A Universe of Stories: Hawaii Public Libraries

Children, teens, and adults can explore a Universe of Stories. That’s the theme of the 2019 free Summer Reading Program at the Hawaii Public Libraries, which runs June 1 through July 13, 2019. There will be six weeks of free space-themed movies, entertainment, and activities for all ages. Register today at librarieshawaii.beanstack.org to track your minutes for you and your family. The more minutes you read, the more you’ll help us reach our goal of reading 13 million minutes in Hawaii – and the more chances you’ll earn to earn entries into a grand prize drawing: a trip for four anywhere Alaska Airlines flies, courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

Summer Reading Adventure: Barnes & Noble

For grades 1-6, Barnes & Noble’s free Summer Reading Program gives young readers the opportunity to earn a free book! Just read eight books this summer, record them in the Summer Reading Journal, and write down which part of the book is your favorite and why. Then turn in your completed journal to Barnes and Noble at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. You could pick a book about the Mount Rushmore Calamity, My FANGtastically Evil Vampire Pet, or the Race to Space: Countdown to Liftoff.

Summer Reading Challenge: Scholastic Read-a-Palooza

If you think 13 million minutes isn’t challenging enough, kids can participate in the free Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge. Between May 6 and September 6, 2019 kids can enter log their reading minutes, unlock digital rewards, and access exclusive videos and book excerpts. Plus, when participating kids collectively read 25 million, 50 million, and 100 million minutes, Scholastic will donate books to kids in need in the United States. On May 29, kids already reached the first milestone of 25 million minutes and unlocked the first book donation!


What books are you looking forward to reading this summer? How many minutes will you read?

Have a wonderful summer filled with books!