Do not give up just because something is not going your way - Carl Ann

Best wishes to your anticancer pharmaceutical research project!


Life is full of obstacles and challenges but they shouldn’t stop you from moving forward, meaning, do not give up just because something is not going your way. In fact, they should be the driving forces of your progress. I don’t know everything about Kendo, only what my sensei(s) and my mother have told me. There are some steps which I can’t do but I still train because that is how a person makes progress. You cannot improve if you don’t do anything. Being the person I was and still am (a total weirdo), I never really understood what giving up meant before. I had never so-called given up on anything I started because I didn’t know what it was. It sounded like a silly human sentiment to me. How can you stop doing something that you have not mastered? Doesn’t it feel incomplete? Shouldn’t it motivate you to try harder because it feels good to master something or it enriches your life ie. makes your life more meaningful? 

However, in recent years, after meeting a fair number of people in situations like this, I’m starting to get an idea of what giving up is. I think people give up because they don’t draw strength from the predicament they are in. It is kind of like the Kendo waza, kaeshi-do or Kata #4 (Yonhon-me) where you channel your opponent's cut which is the obstacle, into your own cut to fight back. People do not know how to process their feelings or emotions because the situation is too sad or too stressful. People choose to cut off all ties they have with the problem because it is easier and more comfortable. There is less heartbreak involved if they choose to give up. Unfortunately, I think, they miss out on an opportunity to mature as a person and to learn or develop knowledge or skills. This goes hand in hand with the saying ‘What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'. Whenever I encounter an obstacle, in a way, I use that obstacle to help me overcome it. In Kendo, I use the fact that I don’t know to help me improve because I WANT to know. I channel my cluelessness to help me learn. So I imagine that me, not knowing something as a very big hole and my cluelessness as a shovel to fill up that hole with soil, that is my training. 

Another example would be how I came to be an anticancer pharmaceutical scientist/researcher.

Cancer is a long-time annoying family friend that comes to visit us at random times. My dad has it, my uncle had it, my grandmother had it and the list goes on. I was 6 y.o when my father had his first encounter with thyroidal cancer. Our family wasn’t well off so life was hard. My mother had to work very hard to take care of all of us and I didn’t do her any favours because I was a naughty, precocious child, as people called me. I didn’t know fully what was happening to my father so I took it on myself to study what cancer was. When I couldn’t get satisfactory answers from my school teachers, I cut classes to study in the library. With this, my mum had to deal with complaints from the school. If you think I was a good kid, you are so wrong. My mum had to sit me down and give me a serious talking to. I told her I hated what was happening to our family and I didn't want anyone else to go through this and in order to achieve this, I had to stop wasting my time with mediocre people and activities. I wanted to create a cure for cancer. My mum’s response shocked me to this day because she didn't like the idea of me being in a male-dominated field which was the case in those years. She said I could do whatever as long as I promised to fulfill my responsibilities as a student ie. go to classes, respect my teachers etc. This meant I couldn't spend much time at the library and borrowing books was my better option which I hated because I had to interact with librarians who made fun of me because I was reading ‘big people’ books. My peers thought I was delusional and probably insane. My teachers said my attitude made me unfit to be a scientist because I was always challenging their teachings and proposing my own theories. Year after year, I worked on whatever knowledge I could get from books and what I observed from my dad's condition because the feelings I had for cancer were real. I really wanted to do something to get rid of it!

Finally, it was time for university. My family didn't have the financial means to support my interest so I had to accept whatever I could get. I received a scholarship for pharmacy, not at all close to what I was aiming for but it was still a position that I could use to help people so I went for it and it brought me all the way to New Zealand. It was a scary and hard time because I was alone for the very first time in a foreign land. However, like I did before, I channeled those feelings to help me move forward. My mum taught me this and recently Ishida-sensei mentioned it in his life stories. They called it 感情の力 or 思いの力 which can be translated loosely to ‘the power of feelings or thoughts'. Instead of crying in a corner, I encouraged myself to look forward to the results. Being in a new place meant having new opportunities and new encounters and with a widened horizon, maybe I would be able to fix the errors of my invention. I continued working on my research throughout my pharmacy days which a lot of people thought was crazy until I got a chance at furthering my studies to be a scientist. I worked a total of 11 years on my medicine and I had zero results in 6 out of those 11 years but it didn’t stop me. Within those 6 years though, I did start to doubt myself. What if everyone was right about me being crazy? At that time I recalled what my mum told me about ‘the power of feelings’ and that made me commit even more time to my research. It reminded me why I decided to participate in anticancer research field in the first place, right from the time when I was a child. Giving up at that point wasn’t an option for me.

All my life, I had the chance to just walk away from my problems. I mean, why did I cut class to study and not go out and have fun? Why did I spend years on something that wasn't giving me results? Why do I still train when nothing is happening? Why did I always choose the ‘hard’ way and get laughed at?

The answer is simple. None of them were THE hard ways. They were merely facts of life. Nothing can be developed overnight. Even if something comes naturally to you, you have to continuously use it or practise it in order for it to remain relevant and up to date so to speak. No matter how intelligent a person is, if it is not put in practice, it is wasted and he or she will not go far. Obstacles and challenges will always come your way regardless of what activities or projects or anything you do at all. If you quit everything, you are going to run out of things to do.

2019 Ishida Sensei NZ Seminar

As Ishida-sensei said, take care of and support your loved ones and yourselves and do what is right for the community. I think the meaning behind those words are you will do your best when you have something/someone to fight for or protect ie. channeling the feelings you have for others positively into your way of life or actions. It is okay to feel lost after failing so many times but you have to get up and move forward. Don’t waste your time feeling down, do something to change the negative into a positive.

If you are born with the skill, cherish it and take it to the next level. If you're not, spend time developing it and I assure you, the result will be rewarding. Just don't give up!