Eric Lau encourages people to pursue their passions for a happy life
I read an article about an award-winning designer and art director born and raised in Hong Kong. Eric Lau Kwan-tai wasn't the smartest kid in class, and even wondered what the point of studying was.
"When I was five, I asked my parents why I had to study and they said, 'So you can get into university.' I asked them, 'Then what?', and they said, 'That would lead to a good career, so you can get married, and have children and then they can go to a good school and get a career.' I said, 'That sounds terrible.'"
He is so right.
Why do Chinese parents tell their kids that?
From a young age Lau knew he wanted to go into design and in secondary school designed his school yearbook, Wah Yan College. The cover looks like a record player with the tone arm made from Lego. The concept is that secondary school is like Lego: you can try all sorts of things, such as sports or music, and if you don't like the result, you can always start again and try something else.
He entered the cover design in the prestigious Graphis international design competition and won silver in the books category. It was the first time a secondary school student had won a Graphis award.
One of his most memorable ad campaigns so far was one for Lego and Star Wars in May 2013. His team built a life-size X-wing fighter from more than 5.3 million bricks, making it the largest Lego sculpture in history.
He says students in Hong Kong shouldn't feel pressured to study subjects they aren't interested in.
"A lot of my accounting friends tell me they don't like what they are doing. Once they started pursuing this line of work, they should have already known that they didn't like it. At every stage, you know what the result is going to be.
"My friends all talk about what Rolex to buy, or what car to drive. But if you ask them what their dreams are, they can't answer. I don't have concrete answers either, but I'm working on it."
From traveling a lot, Lau makes an interesting observation about his hometown.
"Hong Kong has a lot of material riches, but we don't have a lot of freedom. Not freedom in the sense of people in China not having access to Facebook, but society puts invisible pressure on all of us, which is scarier, in a way.
"It inundates us with messages, like if you can't make enough money, you're screwed; if you don't own property by a certain age, you're screwed.
"Everyone in Hong Kong is working on the means to live, but no one has stopped to figure out the meaning of their lives, and that's sad. It's a kind of spiritual poverty. If you had unlimited money and you could achieve your dreams right away, then it's not really a dream. If you won the lottery, does that mean you've done all you want to do in life?"
He's asking some big questions, but they are all true. Hong Kong people really need to stop and ask themselves what they want out of their lives. Even when he was five, Lau knew the rat race sounded "terrible".