By Ling Zeng
Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2013
This semester, I took a seminar for freshman business majors here at USC called the Global Leadership Program where we had speakers come in weekly. One of them was a woman named Ramona Cappello, a fellow Trojan alum and CEO of Corazonas Foods. Having graduated top of her class with an impressive 4.0 GPA, Ramona moved through numerous top executive positions at various companies before starting her own. Having lost her father and grandfathers to heart disease, Corazonas Food was built on her passion for educating Americans about the importance of healthy eating by producing heart-healthy and delicious snack foods. Ramona was definitely a figure to look up to – she had a successful career complete with genuine passion and an enthusiastic love for life.
But what I took away from her visit was not the key to success. Rather, I discovered a key to happiness. Ramona divulged a little secret of hers to us – she kept a gratitude journal that she filled out every night before going to bed. What was the function of this gratitude journal? To keep track of everything that she was grateful for. No matter how bad the day may have gone, Ramona always found three things she was grateful for at the end of it and wrote them down in her journal. The lady who smiled at her in the coffee shop, even as she was running late for work. The rainbow that appeared outside her office window after the rainstorm. Or the comfort of a nice hot meal at home after a long day of stressful work.
I began to think… So many things go in life unnoticed and unappreciated. As members of a generation engrossed in results and progress, we often forget to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes. Particularly as students, we are constantly told to set ambitious goals and work towards them, to focus on our studies in school while remembering to juggle extracurricular activities as well. We are told that the key to success is through hard work and perseverance, so sometimes, we forget to give ourselves a break, fearing that if we do, we will fall behind on our pursuit towards some abstract and unidentified form of “success”.
I have fallen into this category of success-seeking individuals myself, dare I say, for the majority of my life. From a young age, I already began to understand the importance of getting into a good college, having heard it from my peers around me. Even starting in elementary school, college was the ultimate destination on my path towards success. When I got to high school, I worked hard towards this goal. I took a total of 14 AP courses, maintained an unweighted GPA of 4.0, and took summer classes to prepare for the SAT. I involved myself with extracurriculars and discovered passion through my involvement with DECA, a business club. But now that I’ve gotten into college – where do I go now? I can’t help but realize, when I look back at my life before, how many times I didn’t stop to smell the roses, to appreciate the big and little things in life. I’ve discovered that life isn’t a straight-line path towards an end destination of “success”, but rather an organic and constantly changing continuum of moments. We are often told not to live in the past, but what if we are living too much in the future now? Life is about the moments, big or little, and moments last only as long as we are able to fully enjoy them.
As I begin my life all over again here at college, I’ve truly began to discover how approaching life with an attitude of gratitude can change everything. It’s not just a matter of seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty on a one-time basis – it’s a lifestyle choice that requires commitment. Appreciation allows us to see the good rather than the bad, generating positive energy. This renewed positive energy has given my life more vitally and more color than ever before – the roses have never been brighter.
Ling Zeng is a college freshman at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Mathematical Finance. Originally from San Diego, California, Ling was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2013. Learn more about Ling here!