Trade-offs and Triumphs 32

Issue 32: Elderly Parents, COVID Vaccines, and Hunger Games; In Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune; Mentoring Resource; Resources for the Week; Closing Thoughts

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Welcome to issue 32 of Trade-offs and Triumphs - a newsletter of resources and thoughts about how to balance trade-offs in life to find and celebrate the small triumph; every decision point requires thinking through trade-offs and not just immediately aiming for the “solution.”

How was your week? What were your trade-offs and triumphs?

This week we will hit on:

👉 Elderly Parents, COVID Vaccines, and Hunger Games

👉 In Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune  (白求恩) by Xinjin Zhao

👉 Mentoring: “The Value of Intentional Cross-Identity Mentorship: Examining the Benefits of Shared and Differing Identity Mentors”

👉 Resources for the Week

👉 Closing Thoughts: Independent Thinking and Choices

For a quick oral summary of Issue 32, hit ▶️ below:


🏥👨‍⚕️👩‍⚕️🧑‍⚕️💉🩺 Elderly Parents, COVID Vaccines, and Hunger Games

The landmark is almost near… my father received both COVID vaccine shots, and my mother just received her first one yesterday. Her second shot is scheduled for April 4, 2021, and once she receives that one, I will be exhaling.

I did not expect that trying to schedule COVID vaccine appointments for my elderly parents would end up being a labyrinth and an obstacle course. Or akin to a second job where I dealt with terrible websites, incomplete information, the state and local governments trying to out-power one another (e.g., see the the Fairfax County disclaimer that it does not participate in the Virginia state pre-registration system), and long hold times when I called the central COVID vaccine hotlines.

But I recently learned that I was not alone.

WSJ tech columnist, Joanna Stern, has termed the COVID vaccine appointment process a “Byzantine, Hunger-Game-like systems.” Granted, COVID vaccine quantities are limited, but still, did we not learn our lessons from past logistical debacles that involved website rollouts?

While everyone tries to figure out why the COVID vaccine rollout has been so riddled with failures, Joanna Stern offers the following tips:

  1. Find local social media groups and accounts. For example, head to Facebook and search for your state and “COVID vaccine.”

  2. Learn the appointment websites. For my mother, I went to the CVS COVID vaccine appointment website, and then just perpetually refreshed until the appointment website permitted me in to schedule her appointment.

  3. Set up autofill on your browser so that you reduce “copying and pasting” time.

  4. Install browser extensions that constantly refresh the appointment websites.

  5. And be prepared to book quickly.

As to when I will receive the COVID vaccine, it is anyone’s guess - as to how vaccine doses are allocated to specific regions, algorithms are not the primary driver in this case.

But at least my elderly parents are on the road to more protection.

Inside Pfizer’s Vaccine Distribution


👨‍⚕️ In Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune  (白求恩)

One important weekly ritual is reading Xinjin Zhao’s weekly LinkedIn Newsletter, “Leadership and Decision Making.” Each week, he shares stories that breaks down the myths, especially about important figures in Western-Chinese relations. This week, he focused on Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian-born physician who has been a household name in China for decades. In the late 1930s, he arrived in China and demonstrated the importance of prompt medical assistance to the wounded and reorganized the medical profession accordingly.

It is worth reading Xinjin’s essay about Dr. Bethune below - selfless, willing to accept the customs of others, and focused on saving lives. Because although there may be many physicians who exhibit his traits, unfortunately, we may have forgotten how to recognize and honor them.

Maybe we need an algorithm for this too?

Whatever the reason, take a moment to read this and recall that all of us can be this too. It is a choice - with trade-offs.

March 3 was the birthday of Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian born medical doctor, who is virtually unknown in the western world but has been a household name in China for eight decades. With the current frosty government relationship between Canada and China, it is important to stress that people-to-people relations are critically important. In that context, I thought it would be appropriate to share the story about Dr. Bethune whose life directly or indirectly played a significant role in the relationship between Canada and China.

Born on March 3, 1890 in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Bethune took up the profession of his surgeon grandfather. In 1914 when World War I was declared in Europe, he suspended his medical studies and joined the Canadian Army to serve as a stretcher-bearer in France. He was repatriated back to Canada in 1915 after suffering a shrapnel wound and completed his medical degree in 1916. After having contracted pulmonary tuberculosis in 1926, he devoted himself to other tuberculosis victims and to thoracic surgery. Between 1929 and 1936 he invented or redesigned 12 medical and surgical instruments and wrote 14 articles describing his innovations in thoracic technique.

Upon spending a year in 1936 in Spain during the Spanish Civil War to fight fascism where he organized a mobile blood transfusion service, the first of its kind, to operate on the front battle line, he decided to turn his attention to the war being waged in China against the Japanese. "Spain and China," he wrote, "are part of the same battle."

In 1938 he arrived in China with medical supplies and worked with the Eighth Route Army led by Mao Zedong. He set up a mobile hospital and operated on soldiers close to the battlefield. He showed the value of prompt medical assistance to wounded soldiers by bringing the surgeon to the wounded on the battlefield. He reorganized what was then primitive medicine, trained doctors and nurses, and established what his Chinese colleagues called “Model Hospitals”. His Herculean efforts under the most frightful circumstances helped save the lives of thousands and impacted China's struggle against the invading Japanese army. He also won the admiration of the Chinese people by accepting their customs, sleeping in their homes and donating his own blood without hesitation. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 49 of blood poisoning in Tangxian's Huangshikou Village in late 1939, not far from where I grew up, after pricking his finger with a needle during surgery. At his funeral, a long procession of comrades and soldiers carried his body for four days along icy mountain paths to a place of relative safety in my home province Shanxi in northern China where he was buried in a United States flag because no Union Jack flag could be found during the war time. 

In December 1939, Mao Zedong wrote an article "In Memory of Norman Bethune," as a tribute to the doctor, and calling on the Chinese people to learn and emulate his spirit of internationalism, his sense of responsibility and his devotion to others. One of three prescribed articles during the Cultural Revolution, the essay made Bethune's name almost synonymous with Canada in China. It was one of the first essays I memorized word by word when I was about five years old and the essay is still included in the official Chinese elementary school textbooks today. In commemoration of the centennial of Norman Bethune’s birth, Canada and China collaborated in the production of a pair of postage stamps, issued on March 2, 1990.

In Memory of Dr. Bethune


Mentoring: “The Value of Intentional Cross-Identity Mentorship: Examining the Benefits of Shared and Differing Identity Mentors”

Philip Wilkerson and his mentor, Samara Reynolds, co-wrote an article in the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) about the value of mentorship, including how to create and sustain mentoring relationships across identities. This article provides tips on how to find and sustain mentor/mentee relationships - an excerpt is below.

Philip and Samara also provide personal sidebars about how their relationship has evolved, despite differences.

Finding a professional mentor is widely suggested as a success strategy, whether one is early in their career, taking next steps and preparing for new challenges, or looking for external coaching on the types of high-impact issues leaders and managers may face.

Mentorship can be formalized through a professional association, workplace structure, or other program that makes matches and provides structure. It can also be informal, generated through one’s own networking and relationship building, with either regular or infrequent outreach and discussions. Mentors may serve as life-long advisers and confidants, but they can also be individuals who function as sponsors and champions of one’s success during a specific season—both types have value and can be meaningful to all parties involved.

For some, the idea of finding a mentor and/or being a mentor can be intimidating; this can keep individuals from establishing or participating in these types of relationships or programs. However, with an intentional focus on communication, accountability, strategy, and mutual benefit, mentorship can fuel career progress and satisfaction for both mentees and their mentors.

Read the whole article on mentoring


✊​⚒️️​🧰​ Resources for the Week

COVID-Related Resources

Secrets of a Covid-19 Vaccine-Appointment Master: Advice for Any State: The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern asks Kris Slevens, an IT guy, about the best tricks to compete in what she calls “the vaccine-booking Hunger Games.”

✅ When Facebook Groups can help you navigate the COVID vaccine online appointment systems: Vaccine Hunter aims to “to help connect and crowdsource information about vaccine distribution sites that have expiring doses with the goal of getting ANYONE that's mobile and ready their first dose.” It also has very helpful links to Facebook groups that are focused on helping residents find their first COVID vaccine shot.

Find a Shot Find A Shot is a community service project that checks for COVID-19 vaccine appointment availabilty at pharmacies nationwide.

Practical Resources

Optimization Toolkit - Multiply Your Growth by Jacob Espinoza - information overload means that you may have difficulty defining your priorities. Break down what makes you and your business unique and start executing. Find your superpower by going through these exercises, and yes, it will be messy.

How to put together an email that makes the busy person want to say yes to you - h/t Khe Hy


Closing Thoughts: Independent Thinking and Choices


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Be conscious of your trade-offs. Before settling on any one “solution,” run your fingers through all the trade-offs and decide intentionally and specifically.

And then celebrate your triumphs, no matter how small.

See you next week!