Three Year Anniversary Reflection

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A book titled “Teaching What You Don’t Know” saved my life in the year 2018, my starting year here. This might seem strange given that I was only teaching macroeconomics in Fall 2018, and that is a course I have had taught many times. It’s not the content that I did not know; it’s the students that I did not understand. My previous employer ranks top 10 in China as a research university, and my role was to train students to become economists like me. The student body at my current institution is much more diverse, and we don’t have…


And does it still worth going to college?

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I have been teaching in a university setting for more than seven years. The dynamics between students and instructors are fascinating in the sense of complexity. It’s a combination of leader-follower and seller-consumer relationships. I am wondering whether the perception of the relationship affects the interactions between students and instructors.

For example, if the students view themselves more as consumers, would they be more demanding with the product? I intentionally leave some space in my course schedule and encourage students to request topics they want to cover. It is rare that someone would go for this opportunity. …


Hopefully, you can avoid them now

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We bought our first house three years ago. Being first-time homeowners is not easy, and we still think about moving to apartments from time to time.

Looking back, here are some mistakes we may have made.

1. You think your first house is your forever house.

We moved around a lot before becoming homeowners, so we were extremely ready to settle down. Imagine a young couple shopping for a house that fits their desired retirement style. Looking back, it even seems ridiculous how much we cared about the school district when our child was less than one year old. …


The silver lining of economic recessions

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Does a recession have long-term impacts on us? The specific answer depends on individual experience, but the general answer is yes. For example, labor economist Lis B. Kahn found that college graduates who launched their career in a bad economy continue to suffer lower wages years later, which is also referred to as the “scarring effect.”

Before the current recession, I have experienced two financial crises: the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2007–2010 U.S. financial crisis. The former shaped many of my traits today, and the latter slightly nudged me to pursue a graduate degree (instead of entering the…


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As we are transitioning back to normalcy and having greater consumer confidence, I want to confess my past identity — a shopaholic. From a macroeconomic standpoint of view, spending is boosting the economy and contributing to our GDP. However, on the individual level, excessive spending is harmful in many ways and could be a camouflage for other issues.

Ph.D. in shopping?

I was a shopaholic in graduate school. I probably spent more time shopping than studying, which I regret deeply. The classmate I shared an office with reminded me that he thought I shopped too much online, and I ignored the advice.

I…


Looking for the necessary and sufficient conditions of desirable outcomes.

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I finally let go of the idea of getting up early in the morning this year.

In college, I met someone brilliant and prolific in many ways. She shared one of her secret ingredients was only sleeping 4 to 5 hours every day and waking up at 5 am. To her, a few hours of sleep were plenty, and she could still be energetic. I was so jealous and ashamed at the same time since I slept more than 8 hours a day. I thought that was it, sleep, my enemy, the barrier to greatness. …


And how to take a power nap at work

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Have you ever felt sleepy during the day and would have loved to take a nap?

You are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2020 survey, only 16% of the respondents said they didn’t feel sleepy at all in a typical week. More than half of the Americans felt sleepy more than three days a week (excluding bedtime and wake-up time.)

Feeling sleepy can affect many aspects of life. Respondents of the above-mentioned survey stated that sleepiness affects their mood, focus, work performance, and relationships.

There is a simple, low-cost solution to sleepiness. It’s all-natural, organic, and cruelty-free.


Neither. It’s fear.

Is asking for help difficult for you? Or you might even find it challenging to delegate? If so, this article is written for you.

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Fear driven self-reliance

I struggled with delegating at work and home.

For example, we have graduate assistants at the school, and I hesitated to ask them to help me with any project in the past. I told myself that it might take too much time to explain the tasks, or the students might not complete things up to my standard. It wasn’t students’ competency that was in the way; it was my leadership capacity.

Yes, student assistants may not…


How to stick to long-term goals without obvious or immediate benefits?

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I major in art history. Why do I need to study programming? This has nothing to do with my major.

I get questions like this one every single semester. In the past, my strategy was to find related cases for students. For example, we can discuss how historians can use artificial intelligence to identify patterns in historical documents. This method rarely works if the student has already made up their mind that this subject is not useful to them, at least not immediately.

Once you decided that a subject is useless to you, learning effectiveness has been lowered by at…


It’s not a competition

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A: I had a fight with my boss today.

B: I got fired today.

Who has a bigger problem, A or B?

Without more information, most people would say B.

But how do we rank problems?

Unlike each country or company that has to rank its priorities when allocating resources, family and friends should not handle issues with a similar approach.

If we see something sad happening on the news, other families suffer tremendous pain, and we feel that our problems seem insignificant. It even seems very ungrateful when we talk about our issues. But should we feel this way?

There is no such thing as…

Xu Xu, Ph.D.

Mom, wife, daughter, and university professor. Trained economist. Self-taught data science nerd. Transitioning into behavioral science with great enthusiasm.

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