This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Copyright © 2015. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.


Why knowing your hobbies is a key to your happiness

“What are your hobbies?”

Admit it. We have all asked or been asked this question. But how often have we really thought what it meant to us? Do we really love what we describe as our hobbies? Or are we just saying it to impress others or to move on with the conversation?

If you asked me that 3 years ago, I would have mumbled with hesitation.

Let’s be frank. Spending more time for your hobbies does not seem to be a smart move if you want to succeed in this highly competitive society. If you want to succeed you have to hustle and start early. Spend as much time as you can to learn how to be better at something. Spending time for your hobbies seem like the last thing you want to do. This sentiment only grew as an Asian American living in two worlds that were very sensitive to other people’s perception and definition of success. I grew up believing that hobbies are extras not essence. It was something people did if they had a pocket of FREE TIME which seemed to be oddly reducing each year, each month, and each week. I don’t know, someone robbed 24 hours to 22 somehow.

It wasn’t until I hit my low points that I started to rethink about the definition of hobby.

Hobbies are activities you do because you enjoy doing it. You enjoy doing it because you love it and you are yourself.  We are happy when we do things we love. When we are happy we become confident and more excited about life, so we like doing happy things. It’s healthy for us. It’s pretty simple. This is pretty clear yet it isn’t really the first thing we think of.

I too, did not see this clear relationship until I started thinking about what are the activities that excited me when I was at my low point. As I started to spend more days figuring out which books I really liked, or what kind of activities got me really excited, I realized that these activities were the sources of my happiness. The more items I identified that made me happy and the more time I spent doing these happy things the happier I became. The more time I spent finding ways to do the happy things, the prouder and excited I felt.

It was unquestionable.

Understanding one’s hobbies is a key source to one’s happiness. 

I couldn’t believe it took me this long to figure out!

Ever since this discovery my ability to shake off upset situations has improved tremendously. They bothered me a lot less. There are so many things in life that you can’t control – people, your day, and even the weather. You should’t define your happiness on things that are out of your hand. You shouldn’t rely on them to be happy. You have to rely on yourself. Learn about what makes me really happy, upset, and thrilled. Spend some quality time with yourself. You’ll also agree that hobbies are not extras but essential part of your life.

It’s time to be happy. Even that rain would look like a blissful spring shower.

And maybe if you are lucky, you’ll find your second career.

Copyright © 2015. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.

Art on your electronics

Hello world!

It’s been a while. Apologize for my silence. The past few months have been a busy time both personally and professionally. Rest assured, I have continued painting and the return of Spring in the city has been a positive contribution as well. In fact, I got so excited that I have found a way to sell my art piece on a phone cover. Here it is!

Spring Happiness Phone Cover
Spring Happiness Phone Cover

is a pretty cool tool. It lets artist use their illustration to create products such as phone case, greeting cards, pillow case, and even t-shirts. Unfortunately, due to the low royalty system, I only earn a small portion of this product. Still, I would love to see how this product and art can brighten up any one else.

You can order your phone cases HERE.

Update: For those who want to buy my art work print I have opened a store at Society6. Get your copy of these bright color work today! More will be updated. 


Copyright © 2015. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved. 

That Jazz night

Its been ages since I walked into a Jazz Bar. It was late in the evening. I was quite sleepy. But the jazz was charming. With the Christmas light shimmering behind me, I got festive pretty quickly. I took out my pen and notebook to do a quick sketch to remember this festive moment. It was a hasty one but also a fun one. The best part was that I did something out of the blue because I wanted to. Its empowering. It doesn’t matter how small it is. I was happy that I could treat myself with such a small act. We should spend more time finding positive ways to treat ourselves. Its healthy for us.

Hope you all had a jolly jolly Christmas and have a wonderful New Year start!


Christmas Jazz 2014
Christmas Jazz 2014
Christmas Jazz 2014
Christmas Jazz 2014

Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.

It’s December.

The weather forecast was surprisingly correct again. Here goes the careless raindrops falling all over the place. The cold winter wind hitting my face as if I didn’t understand its strength. I looked up at the gray white emptiness where no answer is provided. As if I didn’t know that. December is here.

For me, this is the time I spend reflecting. A. Lot. The good days, the bad days, the odd days, and the confusing days. Somehow when time passes, as if it’s released from a magic spell, a lot of things seemed to make a lot better sense then on the day of the incident. I become more understanding and patient about the moments that seemed unforgivable at that time. Including learning how to forgive myself. Forrest Gump was absolutely right: “life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’ll get.”

As I start chugging along the path down to the bus stop with my big black umbrella, I suddenly realize there were still so many questions I wanted to understand. Why is there so much pain, confusion, uncertainty, and scarcity in this society? Why is there so many left hungry for food, education, justice and love? Why are we always on a journey of uncertainty? Why can’t things be simpler? Is it because it might be too mundane? Even extroverted optimistic me like to spend some moments thinking about these questions on the back of the bus. Maybe it’s because we do not spend enough time reflecting these real questions in life. Why do we always rush through life? Is someone running after us? The last time I turned back out of curiosity I didn’t see any fire breathing dragon running after me.

The Christmas music was playing. I stared outside the blurry bus window to see the scene of the city before crossing the bridge. That cheered me up a bit. That’s a reality I often forget to appreciate. That all it takes is a few minutes of wonderful music, a hug, a nod, a smile, and a word that could bring one to smile, feel hopeful, and warmth. I look inside the bus. Almost everyone is starring in their tiny screens called smartphone. When was the last time we stopped and seriously thought about what today meant to us? What the value of ‘I’ as a being mean in this society? When was the last time we stopped starring at any screen and just loafed and daydreamed? We watch war and crisis movies where we learn how every moment counts, but we are helpless in executing them the moment we leave the movie theater.

But I’m not here to complain about how smartphone has made us stupider. I’m just here to make observations, learn from them, and write about them. We should spend more time thinking about a problem than trying to immediately solve it. We need more spontaneous, courageous, and loving moments in our daily routine. Life can be simpler if you treat it that way, like deciding to let this Winter Wonderland music to affect your evening mood with good spirit. We can be more energetic if we wanted to. Not every path has to be a purposeful walk. Nor does every essay need a purposeful direction. You walk and you write because sometimes that’s what you know is right for you. Just take time to reflect later and learn from it.

The good news, and there will always be good news next to bad news, is that I still have another 24 days to do a whole bunch of reflecting, being grateful, and planning for the new year.

This is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

Oh and as we speak, here is the end of the rain. Dear wind, I’ll accept your coldness cause it’s winter.

Happy December.


Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.

There is a wall

There is a wall in front of me. I can’t see it but I can feel it. Whenever I make the wrong turn in this maze, I keep bumping into it. Sometimes it hurts when I make a sharp turn or a jump. It almost feels like the world is telling me that this is not the right path. This is, what I learned later, the “way” that society has built. It’s guaranteed to have worked and people like what they have tested out to be true. (But considering how dark it is in here, I’m not sure how you can verify what is really true or not. You can’t see anything. But that’s a discussion for another day.) It’s comfortable and its well known. And the risk of adventuring out into the unknown against this wall is daunting. What if I fail? What if I get hurt? What if I get lost? What if I’m making a mistake? We know that the wall is the known unknown. And we know that there is a whole level of unknown unknown behind these walls. So why should we take the risk?

This is what our brain cells probably go through when we hesitate whether to do what society tells us to do or what we want to do.

If you happened to be in the category where your want and society’s interest match, you lucked out. But for many others who feel stuck and unhappy need to spend some serious time rethinking and reflecting what happened here. What walls are blocking you from doing what you want to do? How can you get behind the walls? Why do you want to go behind the walls? This is not going to be an easy process but it must not be mistaken as impossible. There can be no impossible mission if good intention and passion is rooted and applied properly. Young entrepreneurs around the world are also proving that age is just a number. Natural disasters, diseases like Ebola, war, and terrorism incidents like 9/11 only reconfirms that life is too short to be wasting our time feeling stuck and unhappy. So reflect and ask yourself what, how and why with clarity.

At the same time, the reality continues to reveal it’s nature that it will not permit all those curious ones to survive this unknown unknown world. Risky as it is, when you do get to step into this adventurous zone it is a wonder. Yet because reality knows that not everyone is fit for it or really interested in it, it makes sure that it fumbles over those who are unprepared. So dreamers, keep dreaming but also be strategic. Be sharp and smart about it. Don’t give up either because of this wall. All walls are not built the same and some walls permit you to enter in and out. Dream big and have a plan. Get your game plan before you play the game.

Before you know it, you will see that these walls are actually not hard brick walls but new guidance that will help you where you want to go.  Only then do we realize how much will power influences the shaping of these walls.

I decided to leave my wall aside today too.


Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.

Never Stop Learning

There is no one right way to learn something new. Some people learn best by reading, writing, and listening while others prefer being there, watching, or talking. The key is to not stop learning. There is always something new to learn. Some place to make an improvement.

I usually prefer classroom style studying. But ever since I left school, I had to seek new ways to satisfy my hunger for new knowledge. Here I share a list of some useful internet resources to continue learning!

Go check them out! Be inspired today!



If you like taking an online course

1. Edx – There area  number of online resources that offer free couress but I’ve found EdX to be most useful for my usage. They offer diverse course selection from Ivy League schools. It’s free and the topics are fascinating. It’s a great way to get introduced to a new topic or try out a subject that you’ve always had some interest but was not sure if you would like it or not. Coursera offers some good options too.

2. Tech Change – Tech Change offers a number of interesting topics related to development and technology. While many of their courses require a payment, there are some free courses like these – Introduction to Mobile Money, Gender in Political Transition Environments, and The Art of Advocacy. I’ve tried one of their courses and loved it. You gain access to network with top experts and a wider global TechChange community of over 3,000 participants from over 100 countries representing over 700 organizations across sectors. They also focus on offering an interactive and dynamic learning experience by offering weekly scheduled video chats and video interviews.

3. Other places where you can take Massive Open Online Courses – check out here. MIT, Yale, and UC Berkeley offers some great courses that one should try out. Here is another article to look out for more options.


I don’t have time to take a course, what are other ways I could learn?

4. Visual learners should check out TedTalks video. There is a wide variety of funny, inspirational to educational.

5. Quick thoughts? Here is a collection of good startup quotes. I also have another blog where I collect good quotes.


Do you know other ways to continue learning? Please share!


Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.

“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” #Landfill Harmonic

Any music lovers?

If you are a musician, you know how expensive learning music can be. The cost of instruments, education, and the hours you spend practicing is not cheap. It takes time and patience to be a good musician too. But even if you adore music, if you can’t afford it you’ll probably drop the idea altogether.

That is, unless someone like Favio Chávez thinks outside the box!

If you have seen NPR’s report of the Landfill Harmonic: An Orchestra Built From Trash in 2012 before, this is old news to you. For those who haven’t heard of them before click HERE and check out this video. It’s amazing what they did!

Chávez started the recycling orchestra project at the landfill of Cateura in Paraguay 8 years ago in hope to give youth the opportunity to play music. If the reality was that a “violin is worth more than a house,” he decided to make use of the resources around him: garbage. Today, they have a music school, teachers, and about 200 kids learning music. That’s a great reminder that one hope is all it needed to start such a movement.

What do you think?


#Be Inspired

P.S. This is how I found this group! Enjoy!


Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.

“You have to be able to create your own happiness, period. And if you can’t, then you need to find a good shrink who can help you figure out what it’s going to take.”

Scripts from the video. Couldn’t resist sharing this video as my first “Be Inspired” Post. Thanks to Brainpickings.

I was doing a lecture for a group of students several months ago and I was talking about how long things can take… And a young woman raised her hand at the end of the lecture… and asked for some advice, because she had started a blog and she was hoping to get some pointers on how to get people to come to the blog, to read the blog, because she was feeling very discouraged — she’d been doing it for a while and people weren’t reading it. She wasn’t getting any traction. And so, of course, my first question was “How long have you been doing it?” And very sincerely, very earnestly, she said, “Six weeks.”


And this is, I think, a really unfortunate ramification from this 140-character culture — that people in their twenties, when they graduate from college, expect that they have to be successful. And if they’re not successful right out of the gate, then there’s something wrong with them. And then that builds into this real sense of hopelessness, because they haven’t achieved something quickly.


This is where we run into trouble in terms of being fulfilled… You have to make your own happiness, wherever you are. Your job isn’t going to make you happy, your spouse isn’t going to make you happy, the weather isn’t going to make you happy… You have to decide what you want, and you have to find that way of doing it, whether or not the outside circumstances are going to participate in your success… You have to be able to create your own happiness, period. And if you can’t, then you need to find a good shrink who can help you figure out what it’s going to take.


I’m a big proponent of “busy is a decision.” You decide what you want to do and the things that are important to you. And you don’t find the time to do things — you make the time to do things. And if you aren’t doing them because you’re “too busy,” it’s likely not as much of a priority as what you’re actually doing.

Understanding True Happiness

At the end of the day, you should be happy. Make decisions that you know will make you truly happy. Not just temporally but for a very long time; and don’t just satisfy yourself with mediocre happiness but seek out for really exciting happiness. This difference matters. Especially when you accumulate them.

The best secret to being truly happy for a long time is to find the root to your happiness and plant them within you. You can’t change the weather, the traffic, the work nature, and the people around you. But you can change your perspective and respond to them. By letting them be the source of all your happiness you are letting yourself becoming a passive happy person.

But once you learn how to “pump out” unlimited happiness internally, nothing can stop you from being happy and loving your life. Your happiness will be the driver in your life and will influence everything else around you. That’s also good because you’ll probably be so happy that you’ll have enough happiness to share with others. And genuine happiness is the kind of virus that we all would appreciate.

It may take sometime to find your roots and plant them, but this is a worthwhile investment. This is the kind of stuff that we actually need to spend more time and pay attention to instead of just drifting off and living a life that others tell us is right.

Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.