Online Shopping Made Fun

Apparently, I am in a shopping mood lately. How can I not be? The holidays are in the air! In this Internet age, shopping can be at our fingertips. If you are like me who like online shopping, here are a few online stores that I would recommend:

Horchow.com is a site that carries classy and high quality furniture and home accessories. I find products there exquisite with unique style. Browsing through its “online showrooms” is like indulging in art galleries. It’s educational and fun.

I particularly like its accent pieces: the lattice console with hand-applied gold leaf make a bold statement of luxury, and the wraparound chaise lounge with tassels feels cozy and romantic.

Although Horchow.com is affiliated with Neiman Marcus, the prices are not necessarily “needless markup.” In fact, you can get better deals there than elsewhere for the same thing.

If you are more price conscious, Touch of Class is a site worth looking into. It carries nice home products with reasonable prices. The good thing about Touch of Class is that it has products in different styles, such as Victorian, Southwest, Safari, Tuscan, and Asian. So it has something for everyone.

I found its artwork and wall sculptures gorgeous. The tapestries are beautiful and yet affordable. The rugs are well-made with many selections. One of the rugs – the round imperial palace area rug caught my eyes. I bought one for our new home – it turned out to be a glamorous display!

I have been shopping from these two sites for quite a while. Beside the fact that Horchow’s products could take as long as three months to deliver, my experience with both sites is pretty positive.

In this holiday season, if you want to avoid squeezing into crowded shopping malls, why not make online shopping fun?

The Speed of Trust

I have long been a fan of Stephen R. Covey for his famous books The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle Centered Leadership. Both are timeless classics, and I have kept them in a prominent location on my bookshelf along with my other favorite books.

When I was asked to write a book review for the newly released book The Speed of Trust by his son Stephen M.R. Covey, whom I mistakenly thought he was the father, I accepted immediately, partly because of my strong interest in the topic of leadership, and partly because of my curiosity: what else could be said after the “father’s masterwork?”

It turned out, reading The Speed of Trust tested my ability to trust. I was amazed at the author’s commending ability to make “trust,” a seemingly soft skill, something measurable and deliverable. In his 4 Cores of Credibility and the 13 Behaviors of Trust, Jr. Covey effectively lays out the detailed framework and roadmaps to develop “trusted” leaders and organizations that improve the bottom lines. He has made strong cases with his innovative terms “trust dividends” and “trust taxes.” The “trust tips” provided in the book to increase trust are practical and useful.

From a cross-cultural point of view, The Speed of Trust is an eye-opener as well as a challenge to the business communities in China where business is typically marked with low trust. As many Chinese business people are still focusing on short term gains rather than long term wins, the book could inspire the new generation of Chinese managers to develop their companies into world class enterprises. The caution here is that the cultural context and implications could be dramatically different, even though the fundamental principles are universal.

If there is one thing that I do not completely agree, it is the author’s claim that trust is “the one thing that changes everything.” I have heard similar things such as “love is the one thing that changes everything.” I believe these age-old virtues are all inter-related. For example, without honesty, there will be no trust; without compassion, there will be no understanding, etc. I see The Speed of Trust as a book anchoring one important virtue – trust to nurture other merits in our personal and professional lives, be it trustworthiness, honesty, respect, courage, loyalty, excellence, accountability, etc.

Nevertheless, the book is full of anecdotes and business cases that are interesting, reflective, and enjoyable to read. I was laughing to tears reading the story of his father accidentally leaving his mother on the freeway in the middle of night without realizing it, and moved to tears at his repeated effort to “right wrongs” for his abrupt behavior of dumping water on his nephew’s head at a basketball game.

Most importantly, the book makes me reflect on my life, my decisions, and how I can become a more trusted person – for that I am grateful. In addition, I see that Stephen M.R. Covey has worked very hard to outgrow his father’s shadow, which itself is very inspiring! After reading the book, I have to say: Stephen, you have succeeded and congratulations! I have placed your book side by side with your father’s on my bookshelf.

The Bay Area – China Connection

The Bay Area – China Connection, a forum hosted by Commonwealth Club of California, brought together industry leaders to review the Bay Area’s historical and cultural ties to China, and discuss what we can do to deepen the connections. It is a conversation that is very timely and much needed.

The theme of the discussion focused on the United States and China as two anchors of the growth in the world economy, and how to leverage the assets from both sides. One interesting comment from the panelists is that the world map is out-of-date. The world today is no longer centered on the Atlantic, but the Pacific: “When you sit in Starbucks in Shanghai and hear young people talking about businesses and MBAs, you would wonder whether you are in the United States!”

Certainly, the Bay Area has distinctive advantages in technology, venture capital, and academics that no other place can match to help strengthen the ties between the United States and China. It’s very encouraging to see that so many people are doing it!