Interview:Tiffany Sun

Describe your path up to until what you’re doing now.
I used to be that typical girl where I’d study hard in school (you know, because of Asian parents). But then when I got to college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for my career. At the time I was with my ex, and the only thing I thought was worth my life was him. So I chose psychology as my major, that way, I could take care of our future kids.

For the next 9 ½ years, I traveled back and forth to & from China with my ex. I didn’t really like living there, to be honest, because it had so much pollution, rude people, and unclean food. Not to mention, my Chinese was worst than a kindergarten’s (I couldn’t tell people what I wanted without pulling Google translate!). But I wanted to learn how to be a good “housewife.” How I could adapt to this Chinese culture I hated so much. So I taught myself how to cook, how to clean the house, and most importantly, how to take care of him. I figured if I support him this way, he’d fulfill his duty of being a good man and take care of me (financially).

Things didn’t turn out as I expected. And he slowly started to love me less, simply because I wasn’t building my life. I was living his.  So eventually he pushed me away, further and further, until I finally got the message: He no longer cared.

The only other option I had for myself was to build my career, which really sucked because I was 25 at the time. The age where everyone else has chosen a career, a loving partner, and has spoken of having kids.  I needed to catch up, so I immediately landed myself a job as a server at a Japanese restaurant (Gyu-Kaku). A year later, a recruiter for a staffing company (Balance Staffing).

Not satisfied with where I was at. What I was doing. And later I learned that the 9-5 job didn’t quite suit my lifestyle, so I jumped to my 1st startup – Rabbut. Rabbut has grown so much and has changed the way people blog on Medium & WordPress. But now, my team and I are tied in a knot. We’re trying to figure out what direction Rabbut should take, what we should focus on, what features we should add.

So in the meantime, I’m in Southeast Asia working remotely (again) and pushing myself to grow my own blog + build my online presence. I’m hoping in the next few months, I could earn some good $ online while traveling around the world. So far, affiliate linking is a good start.

How did your childhood influence your ideas and what you do now?
I don’t think my childhood has any influence on my ideas or the things I’m doing now. I was just a careless kid who didn’t know any better than to play tag with friends and play computer games.  But I do think my childhood has left me with a creative mind, as I always have great ideas to write about. And it has given me less fear on what I can’t predict.

Did you or do you have a mentor? Who was it and how did they inspire you?I’d say my biggest mentor is my team leader, Jon. The reason I even jumped into doing startups was because he’d taught me so much REAL life lessons (both personal & business).  For instance, he explained how you should never care about making mistakes (not that you should be careless). But because it’s part of the learning curve. If mistakes happen, just accept it, learn from it, but don’t do it again.

I have a question. Where were you born?
California, US.

Was there a point in your life when you decided to take a big risk to move forward?
Yes. It was the time when I hesitated on taking the new position my old staffing company offered me – Account Manager. I did like the stable income, where I’d get 50k+ a year. But at the same time, I didn’t like this 9-5 lifestyle as I always had to work until 6, or 7. Sometimes on the weekends too.  I was 27 then, so this was a pretty big deal to me as everyone else I knew was settling down. But then my startup (Rabbut) needed an extra person to do marketing, which I was fully capable of. I knew I’d learn much more valuable skill sets, as everyone on the team is required to “take on many hats.” They just couldn’t guarantee a stable income. It was a huge hesitation for me.

After thinking for a few weeks, I decided to quit my 9-5 job and just try working at a startup. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen if it fails? You could always go back to where you started, or hop onto a higher position. There’s no way you can go lower unless you lowered your expectations.

Do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something bigger than yourself and what do you hope to contribute?
Definitely. I actually feel really good about helping others, which is why I sometimes don’t have enough time for myself. But nevertheless, it’s all worth it, because I believe in karma.  I want to change people’s lives. To make it easier. To make them feel happy about who they are and what they’ve achieved – let it be writing better, finding the career they’ve always dreamed up, earning more money, saving more money, staying on task with their goals (this one’s hardest for most people).

Are you satisfied creatively? Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
To be honest, not really. I always feel like I’m lacking something higher creators/thinkers have – especially with writing. My vocab is pretty limited. My thoughts are always scattered. And it takes me 3-5 days to write something decent. But regardless, I’m pushing myself every day to write faster, with more impact. I just need to read more, write more, and figure out a better solution to lay down my thoughts as quickly as possible (before I start taking them back).

5-10 years is a huge jump and I can’t exactly predict where I’ll be. But what I’m hoping to see is me building a bigger presence on YouTube, on Medium, and maybe on Facebook. Where I’ll be focusing on good, interesting content about work, travel lifestyle and fitness. I am working towards a fit body as one of my personal goals.

If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
Prioritize my life first before others.  Before, I’d always taken the support role in almost every relationship I have (friends included). And while I like helping people I care about, it subtracts the time I have for myself. So yeah, if I could step back in time, I’d focus more on my career, growing a bigger skill set, pushing harder on my fitness routine, Googling more, and giving myself more time to do things I enjoy.

Are your friends and family supportive of what you do?
Half-half.

What do you mean?
Well, my family and friends know I work at a startup. And they know I won’t be given a stable income because I told them this depends on how much profit my startup gets. Paying customers to be exact.  When I told them that, they started worrying more that I wouldn’t have enough income to live a good life. That I’m putting more risk into my future.  At the same time, they also don’t want to crush my hopes and discourage me from doing what I believe will make it big. I mean I’ve built Rabbut from the ground-up, and I see potential. I’ve seen results. And I already know this is a tool people actually like and use.

But it’s hard to tell my circle about this. About what I do. And how I’m feeling. Because most of them have never worked for a startup. Just a 9-5 job.

How does where you live impact your creativity?
I’m from Silicon Valley, so most people around me are techies who work and play in front of the computer all day. Most of them are pretty smart, but when it comes to social, I feel like they haven’t talked to a lot of people. You know those awkward silences or that cliché get-to-know-you questions  So, what do you do?

In a way, this sort of deteriorates my creativity. Because creativity mainly comes from talking with people, doing activities you love, and getting your blood moving. That’s part of the reason I like working overseas. Because I get the chance to engage with people whose culture is very different from mine. Plus, I use my brain more when I’m immersed in a new world. I’d have to force myself to figure out how to get around, how to communicate to the locals, how to stay on top of work.

If you could give one piece of advice to another creative starting out what would it be?
I’d tell them, why not?  Because most creators I know are afraid to show their work and to hear what others might think. But fear only holds you back from becoming better. If you want to become a better writer, a better poet, a better artist, don’t stall. Just do it. Because any day you don’t show up is a day of missed opportunities.

So with that said, go with your instincts, try things out, research before you try things out, and check your results.  If it’s good, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, drop it. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve always wanted to ask. How do you keep learning new things?
It was tough for me to learn new things at first because I never felt curious about the world.  But now, I’ve built a habit of asking myself. Why do things happen? How do things work? What could I do to improve my situation?

Because when I do. I start Googling. I start becoming more curious about everything. I start learning.  It’s only after I’ve achieved something, or if things turned out better than expected, that I feel more motivated to keep learning new stuff. For 10 years. I ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes every day, hoping to do a lean, fit body. But after seeing how un-proportionally flat my body looked, I decided to change my routine to lift weights. It took 6 long months before I started seeing results. Results where I saw real curves. And that’s when I really started to take the initiative to work out harder – by watching YouTube videos from different bodybuilding channels.

It’s only after I’ve achieved something, or if things turned out better than expected, that I feel more motivated to keep learning new stuff.

All right, what does a typical day look like for you?
My day starts around 9-10am. I’d work out 1st thing in the morning – weight lifting, plyometrics. After an hour, I’d grab something quick and cheap to eat, maybe a bento or a rice bowl. Afterward, I’d get down to work. This would usually be at my friend’s co-working place or in my room. Really depends on my mood and how loud the co-working place is.

I can’t work if people constantly talk.  I’d do writing 1st, as this takes up the most brain power. Then after 2-3 hours, I’d stroll outside to grab a drink (milk tea, ideally).  Depending on my mood, I’d either work a bit more or explore the city. If it’s exploring, I’m usually at the international supermarkets, gazing at all the exotic foods, or shopping at the day/night markets.  If my friends are around, we’d grab dinner together. And usually, this would be the most exciting part for me, because I really have no idea which places are worth eating at. Plus, I’m a huge foodie so I expect something mind-blowing.

Once I’m back home, that’s when I start to chill down – read GetPocket, read some Medium articles. Watch YouTube videos (now I’m watching this hilarious girl named Liza Koshy. Warning: Her videos are very addicting). Browse on Tripadvisor to see what food places I should try. And if I have extra time, I research some new workout routines I could try out. That way, I could hit my fitness goals. So far, I’ve already achieved one – doing 10 pull-ups. So I’m happy about that.

Favorite foods?
Grilled steak. Grilled fish salmon preferably. Som tam Thai papaya salad
Sushi. Cheese tarts my newest addiction. Cajun seafood boil. I was going to do 5 but had to include this on the list.

Do you have a favorite book?
Rework by Jason Fried.

Do you have any favorite movies?
How to Train Your Dragon, Avatar, Titanic.here might be more, but these are the 1st three that come up to my head. Okay, here is one more. Deadpool.

Current album on repeat?
“Can’t let go” by Faydee. Super catchy.

Last question. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
To make a real life-changing impact on the world. Maybe from my blog. Maybe from my future YouTube channel. Maybe from a business, I’ll be working on. Whatever it is, I’m hoping that my stories and contribution will give people the initiative to improve their own selves.

There’s nothing that’d make me happier than to see my work change people’s lives, through sincere comments, through Patreon, through a Tweet. I want to be more than just Tiffany Sun. I want to be the one everyone remembers as the girl who creates stories to transform lives.

By the way, I teach a 7-day free writing class, click this link to learn more.