Join author, educator, and learner, Annmarie Kelly as she laughs, cries, and kvetches with the writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers who inspire all of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave.
Annmarie first met Sanyin in college. They passed each other in the halls and said, “Hey.” But it wasn’t until years later that they actually connected and became friends. In this episode, we catch up with Sanyin, who is now an executive coach and thought leader. She teaches us that when we look for the awesomeness in others, we can also find greatness in ourselves.
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Annamarie Kelly: Wild Precious Life is brought to you in part by Greenlight Bookstore, through knowledgeable staff, curated book selection, community partnerships, and a robust e-commerce website. Greenlight combines the best traditions of the Neighborhood Bookstore with a forward-looking sensibility and welcomes readers of every kind to the heart of Brooklyn. Learn more and shop online @greenlightbookstore.com. And we're brought to you by Literary Youngstown, a literary community proud to support beginning and experienced writers who seek to hone their craft, foster understanding and share and publish their creative work. Read, write and tell your story @lityoungstown.org.
Annamarie Kelly: I am Annamarie Kelly. Welcome to Wild Precious Life, a podcast about dreaming big and making real connections. In each episode, I talk to prize winning writers, musicians and entrepreneurs who teach all of us how to make the most of the time we have. Have you ever remet someone? Maybe you were introduced once and maybe became acquaintances but only later became friends? I first met today's guest, Sanyin Siang nearly 30 years ago. We were college neighbors. We passed one another in the halls and said hey, what's up, again and again and again. But we never really moved past that.
Annamarie Kelly: It was not until decades later after careers and children, we both have two girls and a boy that we remet and I could not help to feel surprised by all the time we had missed. Sanyin is generous, energetic and brilliant. And she's been writing lately about superpowers, those attributes in each one of us that are awesome and amazing. But because of our blind spots, we often fail to see. Her solution, we have to name other people's strengths and tell them what we admire in them. When we see superpowers in others, then they can help us see our own.
Annamarie Kelly: So my guest today is Sanyin Siang. As an executive coach and advisor, Sanyin helps leaders re-imagine possibilities and build resilience for the future. She is the executive director for the Coach K Center on leadership and ethics at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and a professor at the Pratt School of Engineering. Sanyin was recognized by Thinkers50 as the world's number one executive coach and she has been advisor practically everywhere, from Google to the military. Her thought leadership writing has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal and CNN. She is a LinkedIn top 10 influencer and the author of The Launch Book: Motivational Stories to Launch Your Idea, Business or Next Career. She is also my friend. Sanyin Siang, welcome to Wild Precious Life.
Sanyin Siang: Oh my gosh, it's so great to be here and really the only thing that anyone needs to really know about me is one, I'm a mom, a mom to three kids, that's my number one, I'm a mom first. And then two, my mission in life is to enable greatness in others. But Annamarie, I wanted to do this because I'm a guest, so I can say anything I want. Listeners out there, Annamarie, I've known Annamarie since college. And I just remember the first few times I met her were dorm mates and I just thought, wow, she's so cool. Like she's so witty, she's so smart and she's so sure of herself, like this as one of the coolest people that I've ever met. And then I got to know Annamarie and you know what? She's even cooler than what I previously imagined. So I'm so happy to be on here with you because every conversation with you just leaves me with the biggest smile.
Annamarie Kelly: Oh my gosh! Sanyin, you're not a guest but you're now officially a sponsor of the show. So we're just going to record that back and we're going to play it at the top of every hour. I also might just keep it in my pocket and have the Sanyin in my pocket on those days when I'm low. Oh, you're so darling, it is true. We met, I feel like we've met a number of times, right?
Sanyin Siang: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Annamarie Kelly: We met when we were in college and then I feel like we've really met as adults and as moms and now as fellow podcasters out in the world and I love the idea that our journey wasn't finished in the four years that we knew each other as undergrads, that we had more work to do together. But that actually introduces something I want to ask you, which is just an opening question, is I know you, but a lot of our listeners don't. So can we start with my favorite opening question, which is what is your heart story?
Sanyin Siang: I think it's one that is transformed by failure and it's still one where I'm discovering myself and what value I can add to this world, but it's also one where I love discovering the awesomeness in people. And so I guess summing that up, it's about failure, not defining me and it's about constant discovering of self and what we can allow to this world and then discovering the awesomeness in others as part of their journey.
Annamarie Kelly: That's so wonderful. I've heard you say that you have a personal mission statement and you mentioned it just now, but would you say it again?
Sanyin Siang: Yeah. My personal mission in life is to enable greatness in others.
Annamarie Kelly: That's so awesome. And I don't think I've ever been called upon to think about my own personal mission statement. I've had to sit in on curriculum councils or advise schools on what our mission statement is, but I've never thought about that for myself. I know I try to look at people and help them feel seen. I know I believe everyone is worthy of dignity, love and respect. I know I love storytelling because I want people to know they're not alone. But I think after this, I'm going to work on putting that into a mission statement because I never have done that before and I'm inspired by the way you encapsulate your youness in that statement.
Sanyin Siang: I think the three beliefs you laid out actually are core to the expression of your mission statement. You help people be seen, it's about stories. But the other thing that I recently heard from, there was a session I was in with representative Congressman Andy Kim, and he was talking about the one problem that he's focused on. And I think about that as like, we're also driven by what's our defining problem that we're trying to solve. And his was how to prevent the preventable deaths. Where are the problems? We just always come back to, I see the best in the people. And so how do I chip away everything that isn't? That's enabling their greatness to shine.
Annamarie Kelly: Andy Kim's good people, I'm glad you mentioned him. I'm thinking about true contentment being outward bound, like we look outward from ourselves to find joy. But I also know the day in and day out realities of being tugged in a million different directions because you're so generous must also be exhausting. You and I probably exchanged a dozen messages just to be here at the same time today. Do you ever feel pulled in too many directions? And how do you cope with that?
Sanyin Siang: I do, I do. And one of the things I'm most afraid of is letting people I care about down or not keeping a promise, big or small. I had one of those days recently where I was just feeling completely overwhelmed. And then I thought, you know what, those things, let me just park it for a second and let me just go bake a Ciambella cake, because I wanted to bake something for my kids. And I know the Ciambella recipe, it's one of my favorite recipes, it's super easy. Like just look it up, a few ingredients, super easy. But the key is to have it really pretty pen, so it looks fabulous. So I went and I baked because that's when I feel like oh, I'm being a good mom and I'm feeding my family because sometimes, they may not be able to get [inaudible 00:08:55] in the craziness. Let's keep it real here.
Sanyin Siang: And so I did, I had a bag. I was feeling like food network TV star because these cakes look so good. And I had an ice sprinkled that dusted the powder sugar on top of them. And then my kids ate a piece and they came back and like, "Hey mommy," in my all food network TV stardom. "Hey mommy, I think you put flour instead of counter sugar." [inaudible 00:09:29] But they taste yummy anyways. And then those moments, you're like okay, whatever else, the to-do list like this matters and this is what gives me the energy and this laughter and this time of togetherness is what gives me the energy to go back and tackle that to-do list. And people and people have been so gracious. So we have to learn to forgive ourselves and just be as gracious to ourselves as others have been to us. Don't you feel that way?
Annamarie Kelly: I have these two different competing ideas. The one is more emails come in. So I need to stay up later or get up earlier, I'm 27 emails behind, I'm 35 emails behind. You just get buried under the work. And I think I have this instinct which is just like all right, you got to try harder, you've got to do more, you've got to... And what I hear you saying is actually, if you know you're not going to catch up anyway, if you know that you're just buried under a mess today and you're feeling overwhelmed by it, stop, step back, seek out joy, take a break, bake a cake, find what matters, in this case your kids and another guest called it like their warm buttery goodness. And just be with them because that pile of email, it wasn't going to get done today, try it tomorrow, you might be able to tackle it after a belly full of cake and be in a better place and it might seem more doable.
Sanyin Siang: Annamarie, I think so much of the battle is psychological. So we got to find ways of recharging, we got to find ways of recentering and that's not by pushing. There are times where we do have to push through but there are also times when we just have to say, you know what, I'm not in the right head space and I need to re-energize. So let me go and find the right head space and be where it matters and make every moment matter.
Annamarie Kelly: Oh, that's so great. And to realize that we're not alone in the struggle, one of the things I've also heard you talk about on other occasions is mentorship, that it is not your job to journey with your backpack alone all the time, that there can be other people helping you share your burden, helping you blaze the trail. Your mission statement is really intimately related to the idea of mentorship and helping one another, especially women thrive on the journey. So can you tell us about one of your best mentors?
Sanyin Siang: Oh gosh, there are so many! But I wanted to say something on that. There was I and then others in what you just said in terms of, we want to help others, like being buried under those emails. Those emails are really about helping others and helping to make things happen, investing in other people's success. And yet, why do we journey through life thinking we have to carry the backpacks purely on our own? Why are we being so selfish and not allowing others to invest in our success? They're allowing us to invest in their success and be part of it where we've been selfish and saying oh, no, I can't ask them, we're robbing them of an opportunity to have the joy of being a part of our success the way that we have taken joy in being a part of other people's success. And so that's something I wanted to share.
Sanyin Siang: But one of my favorite mentors is a woman named Frances Hesselbein. Frances, you don't have to spend a lot of time with her for her to make an impact. I met her, oh gosh, maybe 15 years ago. She started her formal career at age 56 and that is as a CEO of the Girl Scouts. And she turned around this 70,000 strong volunteer organization and tripled the diversity in such a way that the U.S. military then can call in to say, Ms. Hesselbein, what can we learn from you? So she coauthored with General Shinseki the Army's Be Know Do Way, which is the leadership development model for the U.S. Army. And then President Reagan invited her to be one of his cabinet secretaries.
Sanyin Siang: And at that time, she turned him down, she was like, "Mr. President, thank you very much but the Girl Scouts still need me, therefore I have to turn you down. But can you host a lunch in on the White House lawn for the Girl Scouts?" Because that's how she is. First woman on the cover of business week and she said, "I will only do this if I can show some of the Girl Scouts around me." That she didn't want that moment alone, she took it and she invited others into those moments so that others can see. You talk about seeing others, Annamarie, and part of your belief, seeing others and making them be seen, she makes sure that others are seen. And she's 105 now and still gives talks on Zoom. The other thing she taught me is PE and opener of doors for others.
Annamarie Kelly: You're such an opener of doors. I didn't mean to interrupt, but that's just so you.
Sanyin Siang: It's you too.
Annamarie Kelly: I don't know. I think I might walk through the doors that other people opened.
Sanyin Siang: Oh, no, no. Just you doing this podcast, I know how much work goes into a podcast and you're doing this, you open doors for your guests for us to share our stories and our ideas. And then you share your generosity of spirit sharing these ideas and your stories with the listeners out there. These are acts of generosity, Annamarie. You are an opener of doors for others, for sure.
Annamarie Kelly: Thank you. Thank you, Sanyin. I'm working on accepting compliments, that was on my list, so thank you. I liked that you mentioned Frances Hesselbein because she at 56 took on this leadership role and we've talked about on this show before that it's never too late to be what you might've been. It's never too late to pursue. Sometimes we put time limits on our dreams and we don't need to do that. But when I mentioned the word mentorship, I think sometimes people tune that out because they're like well, I'm not a CEO, I'm not a business executive, do I need a mentor even if I'm just a regular person? So can you make a case that mentorship could be for anyone who wants to grow and improve?
Sanyin Siang: Yes. Yes, because our lives are so intertwined and we all have things that we have yet to learn and there's gaps in our experiences and we need perspective. And all the amount of reflecting in the world can't always get us there. We need to others, and it's more fun with others.
Annamarie Kelly: When we think about our own blind spots, we don't always see our weaknesses but we also don't always see our own strengths and gifts, we need other people to see those in us. Looking at you and... I would say it maybe a little bit differently, but I would say like Sanyin, I don't know if you realize this, but one of your superpowers is seeing the greatness in other people and you find it in everyone. Your belief in people and their capabilities is one of your super powers. And I can say I've been on the receiving end of your laser beam jujitsu superpowers, because I'll give you an example, from the before times, you and your team invited me to speak at a conference. It was a women's leadership conference and my various first thought when I got your invitation was well, I can't do that.
Annamarie Kelly: I'm not really a leader of anything, I do not really have any wisdom to share. And so my first thought was no, but it was your faith in me, you seeing me that lifted me up and made me believe that I did belong on that stage because your truth became my truth and the way you saw greatness in me that I couldn't see for myself. So like one of your superpowers isn't just enabling others to be great, but identifying it and believing that there is greatness in everyone.
Sanyin Siang: I define superpowers as those innate instinctive and innate but imitable, 3Is, strengths. And when we work on things, our superpowers, it gives us energy. There are the things that we can't stop thinking about just naturally. But we also tend to discount our superpowers because sometimes, society has taught us to only value the things that are hard and discount the things that come easily. And when things come easily, we discount them, we think everyone else has them too. So the way to discover our superpowers is to invite others to share those with us. Someone says you did a great job. Okay, can you help me understand? I'm not fishing for compliments, help me to understand what is it I did that made it great so I can replicate it? Can you give me insight into what you're seeing, are some of my superpowers.
Sanyin Siang: And you can ask close friends that, because we never take the time to ask people that. We ask people so easily, where are our deficiencies and areas for improvement? We don't ask them that, and then the converse happens. Our society is to focus on work on your deficiencies, not your proficiencies, with your superpowers, it's so obvious to everyone. Put your superpowers, the speaking and the wisdom, all that is among your many, many, many superpowers. But we don't rush to tell each other that because we think, ah, it's so obvious, it's so obvious. Annamarie of course already knows that, so it's so obvious, I don't need to tell her. But what's not obvious might be your areas for improvement.
Sanyin Siang: And so to empower you, that's why I need to tell you, but the other things are obvious. Well, that's not true. We also have to rush to tell each other, this is a reason why you're special, this is your youness, as you so beautifully put it, this is what makes you, this is how you show up in the world and how you contribute. So this is something that you can double down on.
Annamarie Kelly: We forget to tell people because I just assume that everybody talks to strangers in supermarkets and I just assume everybody doesn't mind standing in front of people to talk. And then I'll meet my husband who's like, "Why are you still in the grocery store? Who are you talking to?" I'm like, "Oh, we met in aisle nine and she's a stay-at-home mom." And he's like, "What are you doing?" And so I'm always, I see what people think as a superpower is a nuisance to my family because I'm just making friends wherever I go or talking to strangers and giving them my email. And they're just like, "Mom." But I wonder sometimes if the superpowers that you have can be hard on your family, because I'm sure that yours probably are right this way that you open doors for everyone, probably means there's a constant flood of folks on your front porch vying for your time. And your kids might look at that and say, "Mom." So how do you balance your superpowers with being a parent?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, gosh! As a parent, I hope to... this is my hope for my children. I'm looking at them because they're in the next room and there's three of them sitting together like three little monkeys. My hope for them is that they understand what is it about them that makes them special. And it's part of our job as parents to help them discover that. And they can use those gifts to make a positive contribution to the world and live happy, fulfilled lives, meaningful lives. And so part of that balance is modeling for them like the application of my superpowers as I'm discovering them in a way that's positive. Why I hope is positive to the world is that they will see that and they will learn that for themselves too, because gosh, no one holds you accountable like a eight year old. So we love the talk. And I think they see the joy it gives me and I think it's important for them to see that my work gives me joy.
Annamarie Kelly: Okay. I feel like we've done this celebration of awesomeness and that is totally true, super powers, and I could also list 752 other accolades of yours because you're triumphant and amazing. However, I spoke to Rachel Simmons who's another executive coach and writer and she also spoke about the profound impact of sharing not just amazing stories about ourselves, but also sharing failures and roadblocks, that that can change how you lead, change how you parent, change how you live, when you share those vulnerabilities, that helps forge connections. So can we share a failure story, each of us?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, yeah.
Annamarie Kelly: Do you want to go first or do you need to think?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, no, I know the one I wanted to share because-
Annamarie Kelly: Okay, I'd love to hear one.
Sanyin Siang: ... it is a defining failure story. And I don't think it's one you know about, because I don't think I've shared it with you. Not many people, not many of our classmates know about it. So to set up the story, I was that kid who never really got anything less than 96 in high school and did well and came into Duke on a full academic scholarship. And I thought, wow, this is going to be easy, and it wasn't. And the girl got used to get As and then got Es and then instead of seeking out help, what I did was I retracted and junior year, I got a D and that costed me my scholarship. And it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I think it's still the worst thing that has ever happened to me because it was a shattering of my identity.
Sanyin Siang: My identity up to nine was tied around smart as connected to grades. And so there was this huge shame. And then of course that killed, I thought I was on track to go to apply to medical school, that took away that option. And the shame, just everything connected with it, but I'll tell you, it was also one of the best things that happened to me because when your identity has been pulverized like that, it makes you rethink every single assumption. And that's when I started thinking about who am I? Who am I?
Sanyin Siang: And it was really hard because we know some of the similar people. We were in the same group, same dorm, I'm on the round table at Duke. And it was really hard when I looked across everyone else and they seemed so sure they were going off to business school and medical school and law school or McKinzey or the investment bank or... And here I was and I had no clue what I was going to do my next year. But it's all right because that girl that used to plan out everything suddenly didn't have a plan, but that's okay because I think when you have such a plan and try to stick to it, it prevents us from really planning for luck.
Sanyin Siang: And so I went on a medical missions trip to Honduras that year after college when I was working a research lab, and that made me really curious about biomedical ethics and then ended up in Georgetown working with Tom Beacham on his next edition of his book, and then AAAS. At AAAS, looking at the intersection, science, ethics, policy and law, and discovering things about myself that I didn't think I could do, or that I was potentially good at. And then that just led from one thing to the other and it led down an unconventional path, but I'm doing exactly what I should be doing. Life can lead us in surprising ways.
Annamarie Kelly: There's so much I want to unpack about that story you just told. First off, you mentioned at the top of the show that your first impression of me was that I was cool. First off, totally wasn't but second off, I get that we get these ideas about people. My first impression of you was that you were too smart for me to be friends with.
Sanyin Siang: What!
Annamarie Kelly: Because you were this full scholarship ship kid at Duke and they only gave like two of those, and I was wait-listed, which is something I carried around with me for a long time, I was embarrassed. But it is so true that we equate an A in algebra one, then that leads to an A in algebra two, and that leads to an A in trigonometry, and then that leads to A in calcula... We have this idea that success is a straight line trajectory and that as long as you keep getting the As, then the next thing, that equals success. And then if you don't, that equals failure, and that there's nothing in between. We especially high achieving kiddos, you don't learn that.
Annamarie Kelly: And so this idea of sharing failure stories first off with one another, being vulnerable, second, sharing those with our kids.
Sanyin Siang: Yes.
Annamarie Kelly: And so sharing those failure stories I think knits you together and also helps you just like you said, you discovered your right path in amid the rubble of what you thought was crashing down on you. I have a similar one that I actually was thinking through the other day, one of my favorite storytelling shows is This American Life. I've been a listener for years, I was never courageous enough to pitch them, but not long ago, a writer friend of mine, Julia, was on the show. And she connected me with one of the producers who wanted to hear this story I had about, it's kind of a silly story, I don't need to tell the whole thing right now, but when my husband and I were sailing for our honeymoon in Greece, we ran out of gas and we had to be towed to shore. And when someone tows your boat to shore in international waters, they can claim salvage over you.
Annamarie Kelly: So it was like an active piracy, like someone rescued us and then owned the boat that we had rented. It was like just a huge... we ended up at a Greek police station watching Baywatch with subtitles, it was ridiculous. Anyway, the producer was interested in this story and I took the call, I was with my kids at the playground and I took the call and she didn't end up wanting the story, she went in a different direction. But what I took from that was that I was not a good enough writer be on This American Life. And I was thinking about this just the other day that as I look back at it, that's not the story. I took it as a failure. Annamarie, you're not good enough to be on This American Life when actually, Annamarie, you were good enough to talk to a producer who was interested in your story, that didn't end up being a good for, but what are you waiting for to pitch her another story.
Annamarie Kelly: Sometimes failure points you in the direction that you need to go but you have to get over the embarrassment or get over the stung knee or the hurt pride. The story I told myself was I was not a good enough writer or they weren't interested in my work, but looking back, I spoke with a producer and I was selling myself short, which again is a blind spot of mine that I'm just glimpsing right now, is that I internalize rejection as being about my identity that is internal to me, when actually we have folks I would love to interview in the podcast, but I only do a show every two weeks. So I only have room for so many, so when I tell people no or later, I'm not rejecting them but I could see how, if you internalize that, one setback and you might give up. And that's something I need to work on, it's a blind spot that has only... I've found it in that failure.
Sanyin Siang: There's a theme in what we were talking about here, which is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. And that impacts, that limits, that can either help us soar or it can limit us. So after that failure, the story I told myself for the next 20 years is, look, you are not really smart. And then you are found out, and therefore you are not smart. And that's the story I took into the room every time. We also have the agency to tell us a new story and we have to believe we are enough., we're more than enough. Because as you said earlier, Annamarie, what you see in everyone is everyone has something extraordinary.
Annamarie Kelly: I'm thinking of Carol Dweck on mindset research when you said that you told yourself you weren't smart, and that this idea that especially as girls raised in a time we were raised in, the idea was like, if you had an A, you were smart and if you didn't, you were not. These ideas that that was a fixed identity and one of the things we're learning is that oh, if you didn't get an A on that, it must be that you get to try a different to solve that problem or the idea of a growth mindset I think once I learned that about myself, that just because you didn't do it right the first time just means okay, great, looks like I'm going to try something else that that can do spirit. I do try really hard to instill that my kids, that there isn't a right answer, there's just the answer that we're pursuing, that we're trying this. And if that doesn't work, we might try that. What a gift it is to know those things now! I wish I had known those things then.
Sanyin Siang: I know. But that's why we're sharing this. Because I think to be able to share this, it's like how do you get to the number five? Well, it's four plus one, five divided by one, it's actually infinite ways. There's different ways, infinite ways of arriving at an outcome and we just have to discover the one where in a way because of our superpowers, the ones that might be the easiest way.
Annamarie Kelly: Oh, that's so great. I follow you on various social media and recently I saw you post about Ted Lasso. Can we fan girl for just a minute about the... I know this is not academic, but can we just have a moment of fan girling about that show, Ted Lasso? I don't play soccer, but don't you find that that show is just exactly what your heart needs right now?
Sanyin Siang: Yes, yes. Okay, all right. I remember I teared up after watching the first two episodes and they're short but impactful episodes because as I was watching, by the end of episode two, I was thinking, wow, in a time when the world may make us feel foolish for believing in people or that kindness is weakness or if people laugh at you and you don't fight back, then you're a loser. These are societal messages that are out there, there's a show that's celebrating all those values of kindness.
Annamarie Kelly: For folks who've never seen it, it is absolutely worth your time. I'm not a leadership expert but I couldn't help but notice that there are some lessons in there. Ted and Coach Beard come from America to coach soccer in England, and the first thing that they do when they get there is nothing. They just observe and diagnose. They move their own desks together but otherwise, they're there to observe the team and to find the strengths that the team doesn't even know that they have, and to address those weaknesses as moments of opportunity. There's a kid named Nate, who it's his job to mix the sports drink and they look him in the eye, they believe he's worthy of dignity, that his opinion matters. They're going to call him by his name and listen to what the ideas he had, that idea that there's no one in your organization who couldn't be a contributing member. That show makes me joyful, you're right. It makes me happy and sad, but ultimately makes me think in the goodness and just about everyone.
Sanyin Siang: There's so many leadership lessons, just like that story you've shared about Nate, and then Nate comes up with a soccer play that works. Good ideas can come from everywhere. Best quote from the show, and it's a quote to live. I think this quote sums up the show, that Walter Whitman quote, be curious, not judgmental.
Annamarie Kelly: That's so great. Sanyin also, she's been on many, many podcasts, but you are hosting a terrific show right now about what it means to live a life of significance. Tell folks about that.
Sanyin Siang: Oh my gosh! We just launched in July, we're gleasing one episode every month because there's also, what we want to do with this is also foster a movement. So life of significance is this past year and a half especially, has made us rethink how we matter, what matters, and also hopefully have a more expansive view of who matters. By life of significance is about what are the tools we have at our disposal to be able to unlock? Because our legacy isn't in terms of our accomplishments, and it's like that Jackie Robinson quote, it's by our impact on the lives around us and we all have agency to be significant. The choice is ours. We want the audience to then turn around on social media and share. Who are the people who have been heroes in our own lives? Because they don't know it, they don't know about the impact they've made on our lives. It's so obvious to us, it's not obvious to them. So let's give them a shout out.
Annamarie Kelly: I think that's wonderful. I did catch your first episode and 1,000 black girl books, which I believe was up to over 10,000 black girl books and beyond was an inspiration. And the idea that when people inspire you, let them know and let that... not just paying it forward, but let inspiration travel and let the truth of what's wonderful about people be known and not just kept to yourself.
Sanyin Siang: I don't want to leave the show without letting you know, Annamarie, you inspire me and so many others. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being you.
Annamarie Kelly: Right back at you, my friend. All right, with that, this is going to seem funny because there's no good transition, but we have multiple choice questions for you. So you just pick one. Dogs or cats?
Sanyin Siang: Cats.
Annamarie Kelly: Coffee or tea?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, hard choice. I love tea but I'm really a coffee drinker.
Annamarie Kelly: True story, I understand that. And not too long ago, I thought I would order what's called a dirty chai. Are you familiar with this drink?
Sanyin Siang: Yes.
Annamarie Kelly: It's chai, tea, with a shot of espresso in it, because I thought who needs to choose? Why not have both? And with the humblest apologies to our dirty chai drinkers in the audience, that was one of the worst drinks I've ever had in my life. It was awful. You've got to choose one or the other, you can't have them both. Sorry, this is not my multiple choices to you. So, mountains or beach?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, mountains.
Annamarie Kelly: Zinnias or peonies?
Sanyin Siang: Oh my gosh, I have both in my garden, can't choose.
Annamarie Kelly: I know.
Sanyin Siang: Because they're in different seasons. Zinnias are in the summer, peonies are in the spring, so you don't have to choose.
Annamarie Kelly: Okay. Early bird or night owl?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, night owl. But my kids are making me an early bird and I'm not happy about that, but night owl, totally.
Annamarie Kelly: I know. With children, it's like all of the night owls have to be early birds too.
Sanyin Siang: Wait, are you a night owl, Annamarie?
Annamarie Kelly: Oh, I haunt the house. Are you a risk taker or are you the person who knows where the bandaids are?
Sanyin Siang: Oh, that's hard. Risk taker. But I'm a mom, so I have to know where the bandaids are.
Annamarie Kelly: Okay now a few short answer questions. Who was one of your best teachers?
Sanyin Siang: Dr. Richard Elmore, history teacher, and he was also in high school and he's also the faculty advisor for our academic team. Dr. Elmore, just the stories he would share, he just had this zest for learning and he opened up our worlds to, he made stories of the past come alive and interesting. And we have to understand ourselves, we have to understand our past. And so Dr. Elmore, amazing.
Annamarie Kelly: You've got to love a high school history teacher. My dad was a history teacher, so I absolutely... What's one of your go-to songs?
Sanyin Siang: Go-to songs. Oh, there are so many. I was listening to Cole Porter and anything Cole Porter is just amazing. Oh, Lamaze, anything Lamaze is a great go-to song. Huh, there we go, Lamaze.
Annamarie Kelly: I love Lamaze. And aside, Lamaze is one of my favorites and I saw my old high school choir and musical director. And so when I saw him a few years ago, one of his students had just sung a Lamaze song and I was saying, oh, I would've loved it if we had done Lamaze in high school, would I have been more of a Cosette or an Eponine? And he took one look at me, he's like no, no, no, you would've been the master of the house.
Sanyin Siang: Oh, my goodness!
Annamarie Kelly: Or his wife.
Sanyin Siang: Which is a cool role, which is a totally cool role.
Annamarie Kelly: And at the time, I was so mad because I'm like, everybody wants to be Cosette or Eponine but the idea that you're the comic relief in the show or you are the big, funny number or... So I was like all right, I'll take it. But yes, Lamaze is great. What's a book or a movie you love?
Sanyin Siang: All The Light We Cannot See. I love that book.
Annamarie Kelly: Nice, Anthony Doerr.
Sanyin Siang: I remember, after being a mom and having your third kid, you just don't have a lot of time to read anymore. So honestly, I skim books now, but that book, I just couldn't put it down.
Annamarie Kelly: I love that when a book can grab you by the heartstrings and just make you stay with it and almost catches your breath in your throat because you think you might know where the story is going, but you don't want to get there with it, but you're just... I remember the experience of reading that book. I also think that title All The Light We Cannot See, I think there's also a nod to again, your superpower of seeing the light in everyone, that other people cannot see it but that you do. So that makes sense for me that you would love that. What's your favorite ice cream?
Sanyin Siang: Oh my gosh! Again, so many different flavors. I will just at an ice cream shop right before this, LocoPops in Durham. And there were all these ice creams, so the one I just had was Pearly, so whatever ice cream I'm eating at the moment, that's my favorite ice cream.
Annamarie Kelly: Okay, last one. If we were to take a picture of you really happy and doing something you love, what would we see you doing?
Sanyin Siang: Me surrounded by my three kids and my wonderful husband and just laughing my head off about something they said, that's it.
Annamarie Kelly: I love that. The five of you laughing together.
Sanyin Siang: Yes.
Annamarie Kelly: And I've been lucky enough to actually see that snapshot, so I actually have that in my imagination right now. Sanyin Siang, thank you so much for spending this time with us here today. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your generosity of heart and spirit. Thank you for inspiring me to look for the greatness in everyone I meet, especially as women, we can be too quick to tear one another down but we can also lock arms and build one another up.
Sanyin Siang: Yes.
Annamarie Kelly: I'm going to be on the lookout for that this week, this month, this year. And for the ways that I can be an agent of positive change and not just see the superpowers in people, but name them and help other people see them. Sanyin my friend and all of our listeners, I'm wishing you love and light wherever this day takes you. And until next time, folks, be good to yourself, be good to one another and we'll see you again soon on this wild and precious journey.
Annamarie Kelly: Wild Precious Life is a production of Evergreen podcasts. Special thanks to executive producers, Gerardo Orlando and Michael DeAloia, producer Sarah Willgrube and audio engineer, Eric Koltnow. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.