H: Seriously, you’ve been on so many late night talk shows, news segments, YouTube clips, reruns of Beauty and Geek 2, that I know lots of young folks out there recognize you and even follow your blog. You’re just being modest! Oh, I heard you also recently worked with Will Smith while he was filming The Pursuit of Happyness. What was that like?
T: Working with Will Smith was a tremendous experience. He’s a great guy, and a real pleasure to work with. He was enthusiastic and also very quick. You also feel very comfortable around Will Smith, like he’s your buddy. Even though you’re working with the biggest name in Hollywood, it doesn’t feel that way. He’s very personable, and it was very comforting to know that there are people in Hollywood who still respect you for what you do and as a person. I would easily invite him to my birthday party.
H: Hey! I want to be at your birthday party! Anyways, I’m curious… what is your passion in life? What is it that you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
T: My passion in life? I think I have several passions in life. My main hobby is probably music. Nearly every Taiwanese American kid has grown up playing the violin or piano, and I happen to play both. I also enjoy the Rubik’s Cube, as you probably guessed, but I’m also getting into chess. I’d like to be a master one day perhaps. I am also a runner, even though I don’t run too much now because of the cold weather. I had this goal last year while I was on the track team to break a 5-minute mile. I know the runners out there are probably thinking I’m pretty slow, but it’s really just a personal goal for me. I was 8 seconds away, so I have some work, but it’s within reach. I have some longer term personal goals as well. I realize I’m only 22, but time goes by pretty quickly.
H: Yes, you are still young, and you sound like you definitely know how to approach your life goals. I think you are such a great role model for Asian Americans and especially for those in the Taiwanese American community. I know you’ve participated in the local Bay area Taiwanese American Youth Leadership camp, most recently returning to teach some of the kids some of your Rubik’s skills. What was it like for you growing up as a Taiwanese American?
T: I think I was a pretty typical Taiwanese American kid. I did my homework, I played the violin. I did all these things for the sake of getting into college. Why is it that so many Taiwanese American youth play the violin?
H: Yes! Why is that? I could never figure it out myself.
T: I believe it’s because our parents want us to have something that gives us an edge when it comes time to apply for college. I wasn’t started on the violin because I would enjoy it. I wasn’t sent to a violin teacher so that I would grow emotionally as a person. I didn’t spend hours standing in front of black dots on a page, because someone wanted me to be happy. The beauty of the Barber Violin Concerto is only a side effect, a tangent, of a larger, academically driven focus. Fortunately, as I got older, I started realizing that I enjoyed certain things in life, and I was able to take more control of my passions and my efforts. I do hope that today’s Taiwanese American youth can do the same thing — amidst the whole hype about getting into a “good school,” which is largely decided solely by the name.
H: I agree completely. Well said.
T: Ultimately, we need to find happiness in life. We need to find our passions, and we need to pursue these things.
H: Couldn’t have said it better myself…
T: I am not special. I can’t stress this enough. The reason why I’m fast at the Rubik’s Cube, and can solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded isn’t because I’m smart or have good genes. I’m good, because I wanted to be. I cared. I found a passion, and I pursued it. Everyone is quite amazed when I solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. They think I’m amazing. What they didn’t see was the countless hours I spent, failing time after time, unable to retain the information of the cube in my head. It was hard work. I believe that anyone out there could do what I’ve done. If they care enough to put in the time, the heart, and the desire, anything is possible in this world.
H: I remember you saying something similar to all the beautiful women on Beauty and Geek 2, when you were first introduced to them. I think it was that statement that really won the hearts of all your fans from the beginning.
T: “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. If you have a dream, go get it.”
H: And that pretty much sums it up. So, what’s next for you? What do you see yourself doing for the upcoming year?
T: I’m looking into a couple of things like finance. I’d like to get into investing, learn about stocks, trading, and the market. In terms of personal goals, I’m pretty much going to play the violin and piano, solve Rubik’s Cubes blindfolded, and I’d like to run a marathon at some point. I’ve got some other personal goals as well. One has to do with solving the “one-body problem”.
H: The “one-body problem?”
T: In Newtonian Mechanics, the three-body problem involves the challenge of trying to model as a function of time the orbital path of three free floating gravitationally bound objects orbiting around each other. It’s a common problem in astrophysics, and there are interesting things that result from it. If you study Lagrange points, you’ll realize how these things are useful, especially for satellites. The two-body problem is slightly different. In the two-body problem, you have a couple, a husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, or any other pair, and both of them are in science. Unfortunately, one of them gets a post-doc position in Hawaii and the other one ends up at an European Observatory. The two-body problem deals with trying to reconcile this problem. The one-body problem is similar to the two-body problem… except you’re trying to find the second body. It’s a tough problem… so many technicalities and circumstances to work out. It’s probably just timing.
H: Haha! That’s so funny! You were starting to lose me at “Lagrange points,” but then I realized that I have a one-body problem, too! Tyson, It’s been great chatting with you. You are the ultimate “nice guy” that many people can relate to. I wish you the best of luck in all that you do, but I can tell you’ll go pretty far on your own! Oh, one last question for my Taiwanese peeps out there… What’s your favorite Taiwanese food?
T: Those steamed buns are always good?
H: Yeah… I’m hungry now. Time for a snack! Thanks for your time today Tyson!
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, join TaiwaneseAmerican.org and the 2nd generation community at our upcoming Lunar New Year Celebration where Tyson Mao and others will be speaking on a panel discussing the topic: “Celebrating Identity – My Perspectives as a Taiwanese American.”