Public Speaker. Engineer. Career Coach. Content Creator. Stephen Lu is all these things and many more. He is immensely passionate, empathetic, and driven. His unique, life experiences alongside the viewpoints he has developed have combined to create a Pandora’s Box of fascinating perspectives. He very kindly took some time off from his very busy schedule to sit down with PositiveVibes Magazine to share his insightful thoughts and advice.
PVM: You currently are a Project Manager at Lockheed Martin and have held a variety of technical and engineering-based roles over the years at the company, which is very different from your passion, being a career coach and motivational speaker. How do you manage and negotiate these very different fields efficiently?
Stephen: I think the key is to just being able to set boundaries between things and focusing on one thing at a time. From 2017 to 2019, I was working full time and taking classes at night for my master’s degree. So, I was at least having class two nights a week after work. On top of that, I was making videos every single week on LinkedIn. I had other extracurricular activities as well. There’s just so many things I was working on.
By setting clear boundaries between his different activities, Stephen is able to maximize his day and focus on the task at hand. If he’s relaxing, he focuses on personal stuff and forgets work. But if he’s working, that is the singular occupation employing his focus and effort.
PVM: On LinkedIn, you have many testimonies by people who you have helped. Who would you say is your biggest inspiration and why?
Stephen: Oh, that’s a good question. I can’t point to a specific person that motivates me or inspires me, but there are several people who continuously create content and people who are capable of handling tougher situations than I have. They did really poorly in school or they had a hard childhood. There are other people that got laid off and decided to go pursue their dream and create content. I look at these people and just watch them grow and watch them inspire others. That inspired me to continue doing what I’m doing. I could just quit and create videos every single week. I don’t. I can stop posting every single week. But there’s this expectation, I guess, from people connected with me to put up content. And despite being busy, I want to do my part and continue to be the person who inspires and motivates people.
PVM: You talk about how this variety of people inspired you to pick up the camera, but how did you actually begin creating content on LinkedIn? What was that first speck of inspiration? And how do you remain motivated to continue to do this?
Stephen: That’s a great question. I started creating content on LinkedIn in 2017 where I wrote monthly articles to share my goals for the year with my network. I decided that the best way for me to stick to my goals was to tell as many people as possible and have them hold me accountable.
People began commenting on his articles and encouraging him to continue. This coupled with his goalsetting mindset enabled him to work even harder and begin posting content weekly on LinkedIn. Around that time, one of Stephen’s friends posted a video on LinkedIn, which struck him as something brand new and inspired him to challenge himself. While pondering about what to actually post about, he realized that he had a lot of notes from presentations, seminars, and mentoring sessions. He began adapting his content from this material. Throughout 2018 he continued to work on his presentation style, delivery, confidence, and production quality. He ended up having a lot of fun in the process.
Stephen: For the second part of your question about what motivates and keeps me going, I think it all comes down to public support. I get a lot of people who appreciate what I’m sharing and say, “oh, that’s a really great tip.” I follow through, continue to listen, and then follow what people said. The result of all these positive messages and positive support that people give have really helped to keep me going.
PVM: You really emphasize the importance of building relationships and networking in your videos. Why do you think this is necessary and how should people approach this?
Stephen: You can’t just post and expect people to watch it, you want to continue building a following, you want to build relationships. A big part of that is you don’t just post and forget. You engage with people in the comments and those who message you directly and respond to them.
He says that it is essential to take out the time to create a culture of support where you comment on other people’s work and engage with as many people as you can. By building these relationships, you can start relying on people and it becomes easier to ask them for help in future because you have spent time cultivating those relationships instead of a just ‘you know, I’m looking for a job and uh, I’ve never talked to you before.’
PVM: In one of your videos, you talk about how you come up with ideas for your videos and posts. Could you share some insights about brainstorming new ideas?
Stephen: Yeah, that’s a funny video I posted, I went hiking at the what’s-it-called at the Grand Canyon. It was just a great place to give them a video, just very, very calm and relaxing. What I tell a lot of people about coming up with ideas is you can’t just sit down and say, oh, I’m going to come up with my ideas for the next two weeks right now or my next five videos or whatever. You just have to let ideas kind of come to you.
You don’t want to, you know, have things so hard that you just overthink things and nothing comes out. Sometimes my ideas come up when I’m in the shower and I’m relaxed. Stephen further says that the key is to write these ideas down quickly so they can’t get lost or diluted in the ether. He suggests a good way to do this – by using the Notes App on our phones.
PVM: The world is currently in a state of shock and disarray. What has your own experience of the pandemic been like and what advice do you have for people experiencing adverse mental health and negative thoughts in these uncertain times?
Stephen: It was definitely tough, I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area where we were one of the first places in the United States to lock down basically from the middle of March. And we slowly, slowly opened up and it was tough. It was the first time working from home for me for an extended period of time and for about two weeks, I really disliked it because I like communicating and building relationships. It’s hard to do that in a virtual and remote environment. But I got used to it, I started building up a routine to follow up with phone calls and trying to talk to people as much as I can. It’s definitely hard, not being able to see people, especially when you’re building relationships with others.
An excellent piece of advice Stephen offers is to just take a break. Take a break from the news. He says that it is all sensational and extreme with negative stories relating to the pandemic splattered all over it. He suggests to rather call up the family and spend time with them. To boost his positivity, Stephen created a personal social bubble with a few friends where they all stayed in contact only with each other and this helped their mental health and positivity.
PVM: What is one word you would use to describe your life today and why?
Stephen: I would say persistence. Just thinking back, starting with the goals I set in 2017, one of my goals that year was to go ahead and write monthly articles and another one was to run a half marathon. Another one was to learn a new language. Right. These things are hard. But the idea is to say, I’m just going to keep going and going. Despite challenges, despite whatever comes my way, I’m going to continue to train and run. I think having that mindset with this pandemic, that just by being persistent and knowing this will pass, by staying positive, by continuing to push, you will achieve what you want to. Earlier in the year, around the time we were in lockdown, I had all my projects taken away from me and I could have just quit my job right there. I could have just left. But, you know, I looked at it like, you know what? I want to have a long career. I want to be working for 30 years, then what is three months of not doing exactly what I want to do? That’s a small percentage of my overall career. So I continued to push through that. I continued to ask for more responsibility, continued to work with whatever I could and do things in the right way. And now, you know, I got projects assigned to me a few months ago and I’m much busier than before. So you know, I just continue to be persistent, despite the challenges, despite the negative things going on, just persistent.
If you have any more questions for Stephen, you can visit his LinkedIn Profile to learn more about him and contact him for advice.
Interviewed and Written by Aksshat Goel
Connect with Aksshat Goel on LinkedIn