MAKING A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

这是我的英文自传。我决定把整本书从收费的Amazon转换成免费分享。

我已经对原文的一些不严谨内容作了修正。

任何一本书不可能没有错误,如果您看到错误,请留言,一定修改。谢谢!

这本英文自传不是逐句翻译,而是被写成更符合美国人阅读喜好和习惯,或者更容易被理解接受的版本。中文版谈到更多美国(如:美国各州各公司的介绍),英文版谈到更多中国(如:条幅对联的解释,中国历史等)。英文内容还增加了一些内容:谷歌退出中国、我的日记节选等。其实希望做好中美沟通的桥梁纽带,让双方信息更对等。

这本书的译者Crystal Tai(卢静琪)是斯坦福大学毕业,中英文都能写作,相信大家也会喜欢她的文笔。因为她很优秀,我也信任她做出许多删除和补充。

Copyright 2011 By : Kai-Fu Lee, All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the US Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any  form or by any means, or stored in database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.

 

Table of Contents

FORWORD: WHY DON'T WE AGREE TO DISAGREE?

CHAPTER 1.  FOLLOWING MY HEART

CHAPTER 2.  ADVENTUROUS GENES

CHAPTER 3.  FLYING TO AMERICA

CHAPTER 4. LEARNING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

CHAPTER 5. GETTING RECOGNIZED FOR “SPEECH RECOGNITION”

CHAPTER 6. LEAVING ACADEMIA FOR APPLE

CHAPTER 7. THE RISE AND FALL OF SILICON GRAPHICS

CHAPTER 8. A MISSON IMPOSSIBLE

CHAPTER 9. VOICELESS IN SEATTLE

CHAPTER 10.A. MICROSOFT, GOOGLE, AND ME

CHAPTER 10.B. MICROSOFT, GOOGLE, AND ME

CHAPTER 11. TAKING GOOGLE TO CHINA

CHAPTER 12. TEACHER KAI-FU

CREDITS

 

A family portrait of August 2009 with wife Shen-Ling (second from left), daughters Jennifer (right) and Cynthia (left)

 

A celebration of Google's new site in 2006

发表于 3年前

热度:907

标签:李开复,

Facebook上最常被分享的40篇文章

Most Shared Articles on Facebook in 2011

1. Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami (New York Times)  

 

2. What teachers really want to tell parents (CNN) 

 

3. No, your zodiac sign hasn't changed (CNN) 

 

4. Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps (CNN) 

 

5. (video) - Father Daughter Dance Medley (Yahoo)

 

6. At funeral, dog mourns the death of Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan (Yahoo)

 

7. You'll freak when you see the new Facebook (CNN) 

 

8. Dog in Japan stays by the side of ailing friend in the rubble (Yahoo) 

 

9. Giant crocodile captured alive in Philippines (Yahoo)

 

10. New Zodiac Sign Dates: Ophiuchus The 13th Sign? (The Huffington Post) 

 

11. Parents keep child’s gender under wraps (Yahoo)

 

12. How to Talk to Little Girls (The Huffington Post) 

 

13. Stop Coddling the Super-Rich (New York Times) 

 

14. Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (Wall Street Journal) 

 

15. (video) - Twin Baby Boys Have A Conversation! (Yahoo) 

 

16. Man robs bank to get medical care in jail (Yahoo) 

 

17. Why You're Not Married (The Huffington Post) 

 

18. A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs (New York Times)

 

19. Ryan Dunn Dead: 'Jackass' Star Dies In Car Crash (The Huffington Post) 

 

20. Scientists warn California could be struck by winter ‘superstorm’ (Yahoo) 

 

21. Notes From a Dragon Mom (New York Times) 

 

22. A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not "Crazy" (The Huffington Post) 

 

23. Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph (Washington Post)

 

24. Penn State, my final loss of faith (Washington Post) 

 

25. Golden-Voiced Homeless Man Captivates Internet (Yahoo) 

 

26. The most typical face on the planet (Yahoo) 

 

27. Widespread destruction from Japan earthquake, tsunamis  (CNN) 

 

28. Permissive parents: Curb your brats (CNN) 

 

29. A father's day wish: Dads, wake the hell up!(CNN)

 

30. (video) - Laughing Baby Loves Ripping Paper! (Yahoo) 

 

31. Epic Cover Letter: How To Get Hired For Your Dream Job (PICTURE) (The Huffington Post) 

 

32. New Zodiac sign dates: Don't switch horoscopes yet (Washington Post) 

 

33. Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know (Yahoo)

 

34. The Psychology of Revenge: Why We Should Stop Celebrating Osama Bin Laden's Death (The Huffington Post) 

 

35. (photo gallery) - ‘Where Children Sleep’ (New York Times) 

 

36. Quake moved Japan coast 8 feet, shifted Earth's axis (CNN)

 

37. Steve Jobs, Apple founder, dies (CNN)

 

38. China's latest craze: dyeing pets to look like other wild animals (CNN)

 

39. Grant Hill’s Response to Jalen Rose (New York Times) 

 

40. Steve Jobs’s Patents (New York Times) 

发表于 3年前

热度:277

《世界因你不同》:第九章 最艰难的60天

“开复,我们被起诉了!”


 在等待Googleoffer时,我准备把在微软积攒的6个星期长假休完。


 在微软,每当工作满6年就会有一次休长假的机会,如果员工没有在第7年休假,假期会自动作废。2005年,正是我进入微软的第7年,此时我激情褪去,身心疲惫。我想,我正好可以有一个机会深呼吸。

 

530日左右,我到我的老板艾瑞克·鲁德(Eric Rudder)的办公室,提出了希望从69日开始休长假的要求,并得到了批准。

 

6月初的员工会上,艾瑞克·鲁德宣布:“开复从9号开始要休6个星期的长假!他的工作会有人暂时接管。”在工作会议行将结束时,老板半开玩笑地把头转向了我,“开复,你不会像好多人那样,休了假人就不见了吧?你是会回来的,对吗?”此时,所有的目光都集中在我的身上。

 

我知道艾瑞克·鲁德的意思。确实,在美国公司有一种现象,就是很多高级管理人员休了长假后就不再回原公司继续工作了。因此,休假很多时候被猜测为“离职”的前奏。

 

在此刻,我确实在考虑去留的抉择,但是绝无出走的“定论”,而且我想就算我有走出微软的意愿,我也会按照职场规则,在假期结束后,回来做好工作交接再走。于是,在当时众人瞩目的情况下,我本能的反应是轻轻地回答了一句:“yes.

 

没有想到,这么简单的一幕也会成为将来法庭上争论的焦点。一场灾难,已经开始向我走近。

 

接下来,我开始完全身心放松地享受6个星期的长假,我回到台湾看望家人。那是官司之前的一段心无旁鹜的放松时光。妈妈看到我回到台湾非常高兴,每天给我做我小时候爱吃的红油水饺。姐姐们也像小时候一样,从士林夜市给我带回路边小吃,一家人享受着其乐融融的天伦之乐。

 

6月初的某一天,我正在陪家人逛街,口袋里的电话开始震动,Google的电话到了,还是艾伦·尤斯塔斯。在电话那头,他的声音温和中透露着激动,“开复,我们知道你是很适合这个工作的,我帮你争取了一个我相信你无法说不的offer,我们会让你负责整个Google的中国业务,并给你最大的空间,放权让你负责一个可以长期发展而不是只注重眼前利益的公司。”

 

“开复,我们考虑了你的薪水问题,我想你会满意的,除了每年的固定薪水外,这四年都会有相应数量的股票。你如果任期做满,那么股票加现金,不算涨幅也将肯定超过你在微软的收入。来吧!”“你知道在讨论你加入的时候,我们的资深产品副总裁乔纳森·罗森伯格(Jonathan Rosenberg)是怎么说的吗?他说:‘我坚持我们必须像狼一样地尽快让他加入,他是一颗巨星!’”

 

没什么好说的,我决定加盟Google

 

提前结束了长假,72日我只身飞往西雅图,准备辞职并完成最后的工作交接。准备离职的前一天正好是74日,晚上我和好友张亚勤在家小叙,我第一时间告诉了他自己对未来的打算。那一天是美国国庆日,送亚勤出门时,焰火表演刚刚开始,灿烂的烟花不断升上天空,我在窗前伫立了很久。“明天就要和老板辞职了,我的生命即将开启新的篇章,它是不是也会和焰火一样璀璨?”我默默地思索着。当时我根本不可能想到,接下来的两个半月我将经历生命中最具有挑战的时光。

 

75日早上9点,我走进了艾瑞克·鲁德的办公室。我对他说,“艾瑞克,很抱歉,我已经考虑了一段时间是否离开微软。我在微软工作了7年时间,但是我现在依然还是想回到中国工作,而Google正好在中国开设了机构,因此我决定换个工作,回到中国。今天,我是来向你正式辞职的,我会留下完成工作交接。”

 

听到这几句话之后,我的上司沉默了几秒钟,空气似乎已经凝固。我能感觉到他有点惊讶,但随即他对我说,“开复,你要离开,我个人是没有意见的,但你至少要让盖茨和鲍尔默有一个机会挽留你。别急着谈离职的事,好吗?你一定要与比尔和鲍尔默见上一面,比尔和你的关系很不一般,比尔现在正在休假,如果他度假回来,我告诉他开复走了,他是不会接受的。”

 

“那好吧,”我对老板说,“那我从今天开始不看微软的邮件,也不再接触微软业务方面的事情。”“没有关系,我们相信你!”艾瑞克说。

 

200578日,我和鲍尔默见面了,他已经知道我想离开的意愿,而且去的是微软不喜欢的Google,当然首要想法就是让我留下。鲍尔默说,“开复,如果你的理想在中国,你可以自己在微软选一个设在中国的职位啊。”我对鲍尔默说,“斯蒂夫,我不认为微软在中国还有适合我的职位。”“那你想在总部做什么业务?你想做什么都行啊!”我面露难色:“斯蒂夫,我在微软工作的这7年真的感谢你,我学到了很多东西,不过现在,我认为在微软工作已经激情不多了。我想,失去了激情的工作很难表现出色。”

 

斯蒂夫·鲍尔默是一个很强势的人,他的强势在此时显现了,“开复,如果你真的去Google,我们只有采取法律行动,希望你不要认为是在针对你。你在微软的贡献很大,我们不是要制裁你,而是要制裁Google!”

 

我感到震惊,“可是,我在Google从事的是完全不同的工作啊!斯蒂夫!”鲍尔默说,“还是别走了,在微软,你可以任意挑选工作,想想吧,这几天,我就给你安排一个新的职位,好吗?”

 

此时,我沉默了下来,我忽然意识到,想离去并不是件容易的事情。这个时候离职,似乎已经碰触到了微软那个最敏感脆弱的部分。因为近来越来越多的微软人去了Google,很多人都已经开始认为,硅谷最牛最热的公司不再是微软,而是后起之秀Google,越来越多的天才已经对Google趋之若鹜,这已是不争的事实,而这是微软最无法忍受的。

 

我对鲍尔默说,“好吧,斯蒂夫,我很感谢你的挽留和对我的重视,那我再等几天吧!”

 

走出了鲍尔默的办公室,我闷闷不乐地走进了研究院资深副总裁里克·雷斯特的办公室,他是我的老师,也是我后来做微软中国研究院时代的老板。我把当天的对话描述给了这个曾经和我友谊甚笃的朋友,他听了之后很着急地对我说,“你别走了吧,你要是走,鲍尔默可能真的会把你推上法庭!”

 

对于鲍尔默提到的敏感字眼——“诉讼”,我开始并没有放在心上,但是现在经老师提醒,我吓出一身汗,不会是真的吧?离开雷斯特的办公室以后,我急匆匆地到了一位律师朋友那里。我认为职业的变迁应该是我自主的选择,是在不违背原则下“追随我心”的行动。难道这次离职真的有法律风险?

 

律师分析了所有的情况,然后对我说,“开复,你加入微软的时候签订了‘反竞争条约’,承诺一年之内不到别的公司从事同样的工作。但是如你所述,你将要在Google中国开始的工作,与你在微软从事的工作不重叠,因此没有问题。另外,从历史上看,在Google的微软员工已经有400多人了,级别从低到高都有,可是微软从来没有诉讼过任何人。所以,开复,你不必担心!”

 

听了专业律师的见解,我悬着的心轻轻地放下了。离开微软的决心已定,只不过,我希望能等到鲍尔默慢慢地想通。我知道,这对于他们来说,也许一时之间很难接受,但我想这只是时间问题。

 

2005713日,鲍尔默再次打电话给我,“开复,我们想了想,可以给你新设一个‘微软中国研发集团董事长’的职位,同时提高你的待遇,再给你一笔股票,别走了!”

 

我能感觉到这是很有诚意的挽留,不但满足了我回到中国的愿望,还提高了待遇,虽然我从来没有透露过Google给我的待遇,但是微软增加了这笔薪水后,已经赶上了Google给我的报酬。可是,选择一个工作,金钱的多少并不是衡量它的唯一标准。微软这个新职位的致命缺点是,没有足够发挥的空间,也没有我学习成长的空间。

 

我对鲍尔默说,“斯蒂夫,谢谢你的挽留,但这个职位依然不是我心中想做的,对不起!”

 

鲍尔默仍旧在想尽办法说服我。

 

2005715日,比尔·盖茨终于结束休假回来了。15日当天,我们就在办公室里见面了,比尔没有那么强势,但他也很鲜明地表达了自己的态度。他说,“开复,鲍尔默一定会提起诉讼的。你知道,以前几百个工程师离开,鲍尔默都没有告他们,只是因为他们的资历没有那么深,而人们又都同情弱者。但你是副总裁,斯蒂夫认为我们只有告你才可能遏制Google的大肆挖脚!”

 

我感觉到,我曾经服务多年的老东家正在软硬兼施地阻碍我跳槽。但原则告诉我,我不能妥协也不应该妥协。因为,我反复倾听了我内心的声音,我坚信自己没有做错!

 

和比尔谈完,我再次心情低落地飞到加州。落地以后,我开车直奔Google首席律师兼资深副总裁大卫·德拉蒙德(David Drummond)的办公室,在他的办公室已经聚集了一批律师。大卫说,“微软的人已经几次打电话给我们,要求我们不要雇用你,并希望双方能够和解,让你继续待在微软。我们正在谈,估计诉讼的概率是不低的!”“你知道,你在中国,尤其学生方面有着相当大的影响力,如果中国的人才都开始追随你到Google,结果将不堪设想,这才是微软最不愿意看到的!”

 

我陷入了沉默,然后说,“我实在不希望看到和老东家对簿公堂的场景!”对方说,“开复,你放心。首先,你的案子有胜算把握,我们是站得住脚的。何况,微软在华盛顿州,Google在加利福尼亚州,而加州根本不承认‘竞业禁止协议’。”

 

其实,我和德拉蒙德并不知道,当我连辞职信都还没有交的时候,微软在开出条件挽留我的同时,一系列的诉讼准备工作已经暗中启动。他们已经做好了最坏的打算,也准备开始用最犀利的手段对Google宣战。我当时以为鲍尔默和盖茨所说的诉讼只是表达强势的一种方式,它始终不会发生。但实际上,一轮又一轮准备诉讼的会议已经在暗中紧锣密鼓地进行,各种收集材料的工作已经在微软展开。

 

2005717日是我正式辞职的前一天,我在这一天去办公室用电脑写完了我的辞职信。而极富戏剧性的是,这封辞职信从来没有从我的发件箱里发出,一直到今天,我还依然保存着这封信。

 

在辞职信里,除了表示我要离开以外,我还写道,“我意识到你们对我的离去并不高兴,我希望我们能有一个友好的离别。从我个人的角度来说,我已经陈述过,我将遵守加入微软时签订的保密协议。另外,我的新书也将于今年9月在中国出版。在新书里我已经以微软为例,阐述微软在公司管理、领导力和公司价值观方面的优质观点。对于我来说,过去7年是非常珍贵的记忆!”

 

写好邮件,我开始清理个人用品。我把画框从墙上摘下,收起桌上女儿的相片,从抽屉里整理出所有的私人用品,放在我提前准备好的纸箱里。这种清理就像是一种告别仪式,我的心里五味杂陈。半个小时之后,我抱着纸箱到了车库,把箱子放进了后备箱里。

 

谁也无法想象的是,从我进入车库开始的那一时刻起,所有场景,居然都被一个摄像头拍摄了下来,并成为法庭上的一个证据。后来,我在华盛顿州的法庭上看到了这些画面。我看到自己的身影在慢慢地向车库挪动,那个一手抱着箱子,一手夹着画框的孤单身影让我的内心泛起阵阵酸楚,而泪水早已经在心里流淌。

 

2005718日,是我准备递交辞职信的日子。但是,当天我还有一项工作要完成,那就是和微软亚洲研究院送往总部的中国优秀学生——“微软学者”座谈。我们在会议室里轻松而顺畅地交谈着,我怀着善始善终的心情来完成在微软的“最后的任务”。正当座谈进行到一半的时候,我的电话再次开始震动了。我一看,来电显示是加州。

 

我走出会议室接通了电话,听到的第一句话是,“开复,我们被起诉了!”“Google公司刚刚接到了律师函,微软起诉我们违反了竞业禁止协议。”我呆了,“可是,我还没有辞职啊!我本来今天要去交我的辞职信的,可是我还没有交,他们怎么可能起诉?”

 

“事实是,他们已经先动手了,看来就是要让我们措手不及,不过开复,你不用着急,你按照计划去辞职吧,我们会帮助你渡过难关的。”“那好吧!”我挂掉电话,头脑一片空白。

 

我没有想到,这个我服务了7年的公司,这个我曾经全力以赴维护的公司,会以这样的方式和我告别。这对于一直奉行诚信为本价值观的我意味着什么?这对于我一直珍爱的名誉意味着什么?这对于我的家人、我的小孩会造成怎样的重创?这对于我的职业前景意味着什么?一时之间我无法理出任何头绪,也没有人会给我一个完整的答案。

 

这也许是我生命里最具戏剧性的时刻了,但这种戏剧性却充满着悲剧色彩。即使我此刻回忆起来,仿佛仍能感到当时来自心头的那种彻骨的寒冷和失望。

 

“如果我现在不辞职了呢?是不是会让微软闹出一个大笑话?”这样的念头一闪而过,一秒之后,我就又回到了现实当中,现在不是赌气的时候,怎么能拿自己的慎重决定开玩笑。

 

尽管当时心情之复杂难以形容,但我还是保持了最大程度的理性。我强行压抑着悲愤和委屈回到了座谈会的现场,继续和“微软学者”们交谈。交谈的主要内容,正是这个即将把我推向法庭的公司。

 

座谈完毕,学生们非常开心,他们要求合影留念。于是,就有了这张我当上被告那一天的照片,我被许多学生簇拥在中间,正努力地挤出微笑。他们并不知道,照片上的李老师,内心正在经历着怎样翻天覆地的痛苦。

 

 

被告的那天与中国“微软学者”合照

 

下午一点,热闹而欢快的座谈散场了。我回到办公室把辞职信和工作交接计划打印好,一步一步向老板的办公室走去,去按照原计划辞职。就在老板办公室门外,几个身着西装、表情严肃的人已经站在那里等候,我一眼望去就知道他们是谁。他们是律师,按照微软的计划,他们早就在那里“恭候”我了。

 

走进了办公室,我再次见到了昔日的老板艾瑞克·鲁德,他也正在等待,等待着我们都不容易遇到的一幕的发生。在这一刻,我似乎能感觉到,一纸诉状已让我们在无形中变成了两个阵营。

 

他看到我来了,只是轻轻地说了一声“请坐,开复。”

 

我脸上的表情沉重又茫然,他也有点尴尬地寻找着开场白,但最终还是什么话都没说。很显然,我们心照不宣。

 

“开复,我想你最终还是会加入Google的,只不过,这只会让你加入的速度慢一些。诉讼的事情早晚都会过去的!”

 

“艾瑞克,我知道这一切与你无关,但既然事情已经发生了,我会尽可能处理好的。今天除了辞职,我还想和你谈谈工作交接的事情,我愿意花时间做好工作交接,这也是我的责任。”我很认真地表达心中的想法。

 

“噢,不用了,现在有了这件事情,开复,你还是好好准备官司的资料吧,别再管交接了。”

 

“那好吧,艾瑞克,我已经写好了一份交接的计划,如果你不要我参与,那你拿去参考吧!”

 

走出了艾瑞克·鲁德的办公室,几个守候多时的律师站起身来,将一个大信封递给了我,“李开复先生,你加入Google公司,被微软诉讼违反了竞业禁止协议,现在请你签上名字,表示你收到了诉讼材料!”我面无表情地做完了一切。

 

拿到大信封,我看到右下角印着律师事务所的名称——“Preston Gates & Ellis”。第二个字Gates格外刺眼,原来,这家律师事务所的合伙人之一正是比尔·盖茨的爸爸。

 

每本商业杂志的封面都是我

 

这完全是一场我毫无准备的诉讼。Google和我同时成为了被告,我被诉违反竞业禁止协议,而Google被诉唆使我违反竞业禁止协议。

 

准备一份这样的诉讼材料,即使微软也至少需要几个星期的时间啊!看来他们早就开始了!微软在经历了几年的反垄断官司的折磨以后,俨然已变成了一个法律专家。我清楚地知道,微软法律部门的人甚至比微软中国研究院的人还多,微软法律副总裁的人数甚至比研究副总裁还多。

 

我,一个法律的门外汉,一个天天和计算机打交道的科学家,将如何面对这样一个强大的律师阵容啊!我从心底里感到绝望、寒冷、委屈、无助和悲愤!为什么偏偏是我?当个微软的副总裁就要付出这样沉重的代价吗?以我的人格、家庭和前途为代价吗?我感到天地上下空荡荡的,7月的西雅图没有一丝温暖。更让我不敢想的是如何面对家人,尤其是幼子和年事已高的母亲。他们安静平和的生活将从此被打破,作为本分的老百姓,大概他们一辈子都没有想过自己会和官司有瓜葛。那一刻,除了自己的委屈,我想得更多的是对于家人的内疚和不忍。我曾经一直是体贴的丈夫、慈爱的父亲、孝顺的儿子,是他们的骄傲和靠山。一瞬间,这一切都将可能失去,他们还要因为我背上黑锅,担惊受怕,受人指责。因为自古中国老百姓都认为被告一定是不光彩的。这让我如何向家人解释!

 

这将是怎样的一场“诉讼”啊!

 

后来,在微软的一个好朋友私下里对我说,“微软确实是在一边留你,一边准备告你。不过,他们知道咱们两个关系好,因此开完留你的会,他们就让我走了。后来我才知道,他们接着开的就是告你的会。因此,关于告你的细节,我根本无法知道!”

 

而微软后来在媒体上公布说李开复“闪电离职”,但其实真正的内幕是微软的“闪电诉讼”。按照我的计划,我至少还需要一两个月完成工作的交接。在接到诉状后,我还非常悲观地这样想过,是不是微软根本就是在用留我的借口拖延时间,这样才能让我和Google在毫无准备时候遭遇“闪电诉讼”呢?

 

“能不能与微软和解?”我在第一时间询问了Google的律师团队,如果能和微软达成庭外和解,那应该是最理想的结果。毕竟,和自己的老东家对簿公堂,挖出各种证据然后相互指责,将是一件万分残酷的事情。那也是我最不愿意看到的场景。

 

Google的首席律师兼资深副总裁大卫·德拉蒙德是一位非常有经验的黑人律师,他曾经帮助Google完成所有的上市准备工作。他身高190,眼睛炯炯有神,声音洪亮,就像马丁·路德·金一样有雄辩的口才和永远充沛的精力。

 

他听完我的看法之后说,“开复,庭外和解当然是最理想的状态,但是,微软诉讼的目的无疑是杀一儆百,把你当做叛逃的例子。我想,他们的目的显然不是单纯阻止你来Google工作,而是让微软无数有这样梦想的人断了这个念头。因此,我们会试图去和解,但我相信和解的希望微乎其微。我们还是准备好吧,准备去打一场硬仗。”

 

“那我们现在该做些什么?”

 

“发布新闻稿,宣布你加入Google。让你加入的消息开始传播吧!”大卫·德拉蒙德的眼睛像在冒火,他的坚毅给了我莫大的信心。

 

按照计划,2005719日,我加入Google中国的消息在美国和中国同时发布了。这个消息引起了极大反响,众多媒体争相报道。清华大学校长顾秉林也出现在新闻稿里,代表着一个学者和科学家对我的支持。

 

Google今天宣布聘请计算机科学领域的专家李开复先生,成为Google中国的总裁以及Google中国研发中心业务的负责人。”顾秉林校长说,“李开复博士在技术天分、出色的领导力和商业智慧方面有着卓越的结合。而他一直致力于关心和帮助中国的学生和教育,李开复博士是Google中国和Google公司理想的候选人。”

 

这条新闻刚刚发出10多分钟,微软便启动了它强大的公关机器。瞬间,一条新的惊天消息像病毒一样传遍了互联网,“微软表示李开复加入Google是违约行为!”“李开复已经被华盛顿州法庭起诉。”不仅如此,在所有的新闻稿里,都特意加入了一个有关“忠诚”的探讨。

 

这则消息无疑像炸弹一样,引爆了全球的互联网界。世界上最受瞩目的两家高科技公司打起来了,他们为了一个管理人员的去留竟然打上法庭,这一具备一切流行元素的新闻事件马上成为各个媒体争相报道的对象!

 

在短短不到一个小时的时间里,各种各样的说法铺天盖地席卷而来,充斥着公众的视野。按照媒体的说法,“两大巨头同时以百米冲刺的速度去争取舆论优势。”

 

我的离职,终于在此时此刻,演变成了一个公众事件。

 

人生第一次,我陷入了如此之大的漩涡中。作为当事人,我对那些咄咄逼人的新闻标题感到“触目惊心”,比如,“微软称李开复投奔Google蓄谋已久”,比如,“微软、Google为争夺中国市场大打出手”,还有“李开复空降Google的代价有多大?”

 

关于此事的各种言论在互联网上层出不穷。

 

微软律师汤姆·波特(Tom Burt)对媒体说:“(李开复的行为)简直是对他与微软所签协定最肆无忌惮的侵犯,他现在的职位与当初在微软所从事的工作构成了最直接的竞争关系。”“微软很少为竞业禁止协议打官司,但李开复投奔Google让微软实在忍无可忍了。”

 

720日,媒体上的争论进行得更加如火如荼,Google发出了反击的声音,“我们仔细研究了微软提交的诉讼书,发现微软的指控毫无依据。我们一直致力于为全球最优秀的人才打造最佳的工作场所,我们非常高兴能聘请到李开复博士主管我们的中国区业务。毫无疑问,我们将针对微软这些毫无依据的指控为自己辩护。”

 

更多的观点以评论和论坛帖子的方式进行着,一浪高过一浪的讨论再次将我置于爆炸性事件的中心。

 

有人在猜测我是否真正地接触了微软的核心机密,有人对我如此离开微软表示惋惜,也有人说李开复即使加入了Google也无法适应中国混乱的互联网生存规则,还有人在详细解释竞业禁止的种种规定。

 

更多的人在试图解决诉讼背后的引申意义。“微软的此次诉讼,与其说有法律上的意义,不如说只是一种姿态:微软打算以法律手段来解决自己的前途。而对于微软本身,其实这不是个好兆头。因为一个发展良好的公司,有时候根本不必借助于这些小动作。”

 

多数人看到了这场所谓争夺背后的意义,“李开复的倒戈再次表明管理人才、挽留人才、抢夺人才已经成为商战新的制高点。”

 

美国著名跨国IT咨询公司木星调查公司(Jupiter Research)的分析师乔·威尔考克斯(Joe Wilcox)表示,“‘李开复事件’已经超出了两家公司对一位技术人才的争夺本身,这场争夺已经意味着PC时代的巨人和互联网时代的巨人在为未来的霸主地位进行争夺。”

 

就在这一天,我在Google得到的薪水被微软曝光了。文中的观点认为,我是为了得到高薪而转投Google,另外,在这篇文章中提出,2004年我曾经获得超过100万美元的补偿,这些钱就是作为竞业禁止的补偿。更令人惊讶的是,我在微软的申请表格也被曝光,上面甚至还写着我的身份证号码。这让我的个人隐私顷刻之间暴露于光天化日之下。

 

“完全是无稽之谈啊!”我在Google的律师面前面色发白,“2004年获得的100万美元完全就是我的薪水和股票,这是我一年的总收入,与该协议没有任何关系!”“我从来没有在微软收到过任何的竞业补偿金!”此时此刻,我感觉到,这场旷世争论已经开始脱离了它本身的方向。

 

互联网上不明真相的攻击、捏造和蓄意抹黑,已经从这一刻开始了。网上接连出现了以诚信为主题的人身攻击!甚至有人专门以我对大学生的公开信做起了文章。题目叫做《给李开复的一封信——从诚信谈起》,阅读的网民不计其数,我生命中的无法承受之重在这一天达到了极致!

 

几乎所有文章都是在没有弄清事实的前提下,随意撰写出来的。这让我开始觉得万分委屈。

 

在成为被告的情况下,任何的公开言论都是不适宜的,而且当时纷繁复杂的情况也并非三言两语能够解释清楚。

 

那么什么是竞业禁止协议呢?在法律上,这类的协议都是限制员工离职后在竞争对手的企业中所能从事的工作的范围。微软的协议实质是设法阻止员工在离职一年之内,到竞争对手那里从事同样的工作。这类的协议并非在美国各州都合法,比如,在微软总部所在地的华盛顿州是合法的,但是在Google的总部加州并不合法。

 

但是,华盛顿州最高法院有一项判决曾清楚阐明,即使有竞业禁止协议在先,一个公司也不能随便阻止员工更换工作。这个案件的名称叫做Perry vs Moran。该判决明确指出,公司不可用竞业禁止协议来阻止其他公司使用某员工个人的独特品质来与其竞争。公司对前雇员工作上所能设置的限制是极为有限的。

 

那么回到我的案件当中,在微软美国,我从事的工作是在语音识别以及自然语言方面。而到Google工作,用不到以前从事的任何关于语音识别或自然言语处理方面的知识。

 

而议论纷纷的搜索引擎方面的竞争则更是没有任何直接的冲突。我在MSN时期,微软所做的搜索引擎完全是外包业务,完全没有核心技术可言。即使在今天,也没有一家公司可以在搜索技术上与Google相提并论。在从事几个月外包工作以后,我很快就被调离了那个MSN部门。

 

而最后我在微软的工作项目中,有一个名为help system(帮助系统)的项目,当用户需要帮助的时候会出现一个帮助框,当你打入一个需要帮助的要求时(例如:“放大字体”或“压缩照片”),Office就会把你的help要求与它能够help你的所有内容作一个比较。这是一个在软件之内的查询功能,与真正Google所做的互联网搜索绝对是两个不同的技术和概念,因此,也绝不构成真正的竞争。

 

然而,就是这样一个非技术人员很难弄懂的概念,成了微软频频向法官提交的混淆视听的概念,成了外界一时间无法搞清的真相。同时,也成为我和Google很难用三言两语解释清楚的原因。

 

但我和Google坚信,真理掌握在我们手中,获得工作的自由只是时间的问题。

 

我知道这是一场艰苦的战斗,也是通往自由的必经之路,我必须走下去。7月底,我的两个姐姐分别从台湾和美国东部飞到西雅图。我的家人开始全力以赴地帮助我渡过难关。姐姐们每天都在打包家里的东西,准备帮助我们搬到加州。而我一个人则往返于加州和西雅图之间,为我自己的官司奔走着。

 

在这个时期,我经常飞行。而一个可悲又可笑的现象是,当我随便走进机场的书店想挑选一两本杂志在飞机上阅读时,在杂志架上看到的几乎全部是我的头像。在每一本商业杂志上,我几乎都是封面人物!这时候我总是赶忙离开。在航班机舱里,随便翻开一本杂志,又是对我的报道。

 

在媒体轰轰烈烈的炒作下,2005727日,华盛顿州法院在技术资料过于繁杂、法官一时无法弄清大量事实的情况下,作出了暂时性判决:到913日之前,我不能到Google去上班。这个判决将被913日的判决所取代!

 

面对暂时不利的判决,面对轰轰烈烈的媒体争论,面对咄咄逼人的起诉者,我终于体会到一种“四面楚歌”的感受。那段日子,我的生命中没有阳光,只有看不到尽头的黑暗。那段时光,所有的快乐都被删除了,睁开眼睛,感觉到的只有悲伤和痛楚。

 

人生中最艰难的60

 

一个人如何面对挫折?一个人在最艰难的时候,应该采取什么样的人生态度?一个人的情商究竟如何在最艰难的时候拯救他?一个人如何在巨大的压力下进行情绪自控?

 

确实,诉讼是我经历的最痛苦的“当头棒喝”!而随后铺天盖地的虚假报道,也是我最无法承受的一种委屈——被冤枉。

 

在那段时间里,随着事情的不断演变,各种不实报道也越来越多。我们发现微软对我指控的“罪名”也越来越多,它强大的新闻机器一经启动,就从来不会自动停歇!

 

后来在官司结束一年多以后,一名微软公关部门离职的人给我描述了当时的真相:在那段时间里,公司有一间专门的小屋子,里面挤满了策划撰写与我相关新闻的员工。她就是具体执行者,主要是逼迫这个团队找来各路写手和记者,向他们灌输微软是受害者,李开复是不诚信的。当时在这个团队里,有许多人曾经跟随过我到大学里演讲,和我并肩工作过,也曾看到我为微软出面道歉,安抚客户,协调与政府的关系。现在执行这种指令,对他们来说非常痛苦。曾经有一个女孩觉得完成那样的工作违背了自己的价值观,在听到指令后哭着跑出了办公室。

 

当时,微软的声音主要有:我曾经负责过搜索业务部门,因此掌握微软的搜索机密,还常在搜索方面指导比尔·盖茨,甚至声称最近12个月就和他开过35次一对一的搜索技术探讨会议。另外,微软声称因为我曾经在微软中国工作过,并且蓄意将我的职责夸大为负责后来微软中国的全面业务、政府关系和研发集团,所以掌握了微软中国的机密。甚至提出由于我在微软中国进行过招聘,所以连在Google的招聘工作我也不能做。

 

另外,微软还在媒体上大肆渲染一件事,那就是他们在我休假之前问我是否打算回来,我说的是“Yes!”但我最终离职了。微软自称内部有规定,员工休长假的时候,一定要承诺自己会回来工作。可是为什么我在微软的七年中从未听说过这个规定?是为了栽赃我刚刚制定的吗?

 

显然,这些指控都是莫须有!

 

对于我有关搜索技术的指控,更是丝毫没有根据。

 

我离职以后,一位搜索部门的员工发出了这样的电子邮件,“李开复根本和我们的技术无关,但是我们要把他卷进来,这样诉讼才有戏。到时候他就知道,他被栽赃了。”而这封内部邮件后来被提交成为法律上的证据。

 

对于微软说我“和盖茨讨论搜索引擎并且多次开会”的指控,真的是子虚乌有。事实上,自从我寄出一封邮件表示我对微软搜索完全失望以后,我再也没有参与过任何有关搜索的讨论。盖茨的会议记录里也证实2004年以后,我和他从来没有开过一次会议谈搜索。

 

微软甚至指责我掌握微软的招聘机密。但是后来,当我的律师问起“李开复到底掌握什么招聘机密”时,微软的“专家”资深副总裁也只能说出:

 

Hire Peoplesome experiencedsome less experienced(雇用一些有经验的人,雇用一些没有经验的人),Hire tenshundredsor thousands of people(雇用数十个、数百个、数千个人),Hire them from universities(可以雇用大学毕业生),Hire themfrom within Microsoft(在微软内部进行招聘),Hire them based on referrals(在推荐的基础上进行招聘).

 

招聘了几百个人就成了机密了?太匪夷所思了吧!因此,当微软指控我知道招聘的机密时,我绞尽脑汁也想不出,我究竟知道哪些机密。

 

刚开始的几天,我每天起床后的第一件事情就是打开电脑,然后看着负面新闻充斥着屏幕。当满心的委屈倾诉无门时,我变得茶饭不思,寝食难安。就是在那段时间里,我的体重迅速下降,面容十分憔悴。

 

我不敢告诉母亲发生了什么,我不希望年事已高的她还为儿子操心。但就算家里人都瞒着她,也不可能瞒得住。台湾电视也在天天炒作这件抢眼的大新闻,母亲打开电视后,总是能看见儿子的照片和影子满天飞。

 

有一天,妈妈终于按捺不住了,从台湾打电话给我。对于官司,她一句都没有提,只是简单地对我说,“儿子,妈妈相信你,要按时吃饭,保重身体啊!”都说男儿有泪不轻弹,但是在电话这一边,我已经无法抑制地泪流满面。

 

在面对质疑和困难时,唯有家人的支持能成为我迎接挑战的精神支柱和动力之源。

 

我终于意识到,失去勇气就意味着丧失了面对挑战的机会,不但于事无补,还可能让我悔恨终生。我今生的座右铭就是:“人生在世,我们要用勇气改变可以改变的事情,用胸怀接受不能改变的事情,并用智慧分辨二者的不同。”内心的声音开始告诉我,“不能这样,我要振作起来!”

 

某一天早上醒来之后,我作出了决定,我不能浪费一秒钟在我不能改变的事情上。我要专注在我可以改变的事情上,为打赢官司而全力以赴。

 

于是,从那一天开始,我给自己立下了一个规矩。把订阅的报纸停掉,不再上网看有关诉讼的任何新闻。因为这些都是我“不能改变的事情”,需要用胸怀接受,在这些新闻上浪费时间,除了给我增加痛苦以外,什么正面作用也没有。

 

我静下心来,开始和Google的律师团队努力合作。在真正的判决来临之前,我要将全身心都投入这场艰苦的战斗,以便增加自己的胜算,并说服法官我没有错,这才是需要“用勇气改变的事情”。

 

在暂时的禁令颁布以后,Google作了一个重要决定,它放弃了以前的律师,聘重金请了全加州最有声望的律师来协助我打官司。这个律师团队是一支“梦之队”,他们的每一个成员都彰显出智慧与活力,都是天才。对我来说,这6个星期虽然如同人间的地狱一般难熬,但也是我人生中无比充实的6个星期。与这些律师朝夕相处,除了让我与他们结下深厚友谊外,我也被他们的职业精神及毅力所打动。

 

在这个时期,我的律师团队变成了7个人。我们每天都在一起合作搜集资料、收集证据,全心全力地准备着这场战役。他们中间有首席律师兼资深副总裁大卫·德拉蒙德,他坚毅而平静。

 

有娇小的、坚持原则的华人女律师黄安娜(Nicole Wong),她是Google的副首席律师。后来关于Google回应微软诉讼的博客,全部是由她来撰写的。

 

有工作狂一样的韩裔律师迈克尔·权(Michael Kwun),他负责所有诉讼的细节。

 

还有“梦之队”的带头人,性格豪爽如西部牛仔一样的约翰·柯克尔John Keker)。约翰被评为旧金山最好的律师,他过去处理过很多著名的案件,包括里根总统时代的“伊朗武器”案。

 

另外,约翰的团队还有两员大将,一位是印度裔的拉加什·唐格里(Ragesh Tangri),他是技术和法律的双重专家。所有的技术问题,他都能掌握得很清楚。我甚至觉得他可以在高科技公司做一个称职的技术经理。

 

另一位是经常帮我练习在法庭上如何回答问题的苏珊·哈里曼(Susan Harriman),她是一位刚柔相济的女律师。一方面,她可以温婉地和你交谈,悉心地倾听你的顾虑,让你觉得她仿佛是一个最好的心理治疗师。同时她也有刚强的一面,她的职责是模仿微软严厉的律师向我提问。当她扮成微软律师跟我过招时,那咄咄逼人的架势经常让我觉得她瞬间换了一个人。

 

最后一位,布莱德·凯勒(Brad Keller)是我的私人律师。他和其他的律师不同。如果说前6位是咄咄逼人、智商超高的典型,那么布莱德·凯勒就是一位绅士,他总是彬彬有礼,人人都喜欢他,因此Google的律师认为由布莱德代表我更合适。

 

正是这样一个“梦之队”,在整整6个星期的时间里与我风雨兼程。这7个人都是非常重视自由平等人权的美国人,和他们讲话,我都会感到一种勇气,一种正义感和非常强烈的自信心。

 

在收集证据资料期间,我们向微软提出,需要收集我在微软期间的一些工作邮件作为证据,我们希望通过这些邮件来证明我的清白。但就是这样简单的事情,也往往会变得很复杂。

 

邮件如何起到证实清白的作用呢?比如微软提出,我曾经多次和比尔·盖茨交流微软的搜索机密,那我就需要从既往的邮件和会议记录中查到,我们自从某个时间点后就再也没有谈论过搜索。比如微软提出,我雇用了很多资深的人做微软中国区的领导,如陈永正就是我主导雇用的。那我就需要在以往与微软人事经理的往来邮件中找出证据,证明我只是参与了对陈永正的面试,而不是最初的推荐者,也不是最后的敲定者。

 

顺便说一句,在美国的司法程序中,Email的复印材料是被允许作为证据被接受的。在微软多次的反垄断案件中,都因为员工写工作邮件时总是不谨慎地出现“捆绑”一词而导致对微软不利的影响。因此,微软最后甚至出台了“邮件手册”来教导员工们如何写邮件。而微软也会告诉员工,在必要的时候,要用电话而非电子邮件的方式来交流。

 

在美国的公司工作,大家都会知道,所有的工作邮件都是公司可以随时调用的,也随时可以在法庭上作为证据出现。就算以前的工作邮件被删除了,从技术上也可以从过去的备份中将已删除的邮件恢复。因此,当我们提出需要工作邮件作为证据时,微软有义务为我们提供。

 

本来一件很简单的事情,但是,律师接到微软提供的证据以后惊呆了!“开复,他们给我们提供了30万封邮件!”“啊,我们只要求几十封,不可能有那么多封邮件啊!”当我听到这个消息也大吃一惊。但是,等我看到了实物以后才知道,微软在每一项邮件请求方面,都罗列了大量相关的邮件。因此邮件的数量达到了30万封,而最惊人的是,这30万封邮件不是普通的电子文本文件,而是以图片格式的文件压缩在20DVD里,这也就意味着,我们不可能通过搜索的模式来找到需要的邮件。

 

“这是多大的工作量啊,我们是不是分头来一封一封地读?”律师们无奈地问我。

 

这无疑是对方在有意给我们加大工作量,这样就算十个人做一个月也做不完。我条件反射般地问,“平时你们律师是不是在电脑上都用OCR软件(字符识别,也就是从图片到文字的转换),我们是否可以把图片格式的文件全部扫描成电子文字版?”“确实,我们都在用这个软件,但是30万封邮件太庞大了,我们的软件数据库无法承载这么大的工作量!”

 

我思索了一会,淡淡地对律师们说:“我来处理吧。”

 

我绞尽脑汁地寻找解决方案。我对团队里的律师说,“我想,我们应该可以用更好版本的OCR软件,把图片格式的文档转换成文本形式,然后再用Google桌面搜索的方式,提取自己所需要的证据。”

 

“那就试试吧,我们现在只能背水一战!”

 

律师一通尝试以后,证明这个方法是可行的。整个团队都非常高兴,每个人都大松了一口气。不过后来,律师们发现高兴得有点太早了,OCR软件尽管可以识别图片,但还是会犯一定的识别错误,比如有时会把2004年识别成7004年,把2006年识别成2005年,把2005年识别成2006年,最可笑的是,把Ballmer(鲍尔默)识别成了Balder(更秃)。这样的错误比比皆是。

 

识别的错误率很高,这就给律师团队的搜索带来了无尽的麻烦,不是搜不到,就是搜不全。而我,此时扮演的更像是一个技术专家的角色。我告诉律师们,如果想搜索2005年的有关招聘的邮件,又担心识别成2006,那就要用高级搜索键入20052006 recruit(招聘)的字样,这样就不会漏掉需要的信息了。

 

事实证明,技术难题被解决以后,效率也在飞速提高。我们很轻松地找到了需要的有利证据。而这些邮件,都成为日后法庭上的关键证据。有了这次经历,律师们都和我开玩笑说,“开复,我看如果Google不要你,就来我们律师事务所工作吧,你一个能顶两个!”“啊,真的吗,我真能顶两个律师啊!”对方耸了耸肩说,“我是说,你可以顶两个IT技术支持人员!”

 

除了认真搜集证据以外,律师希望能够让法官在阅读当地报纸的时候,不光看到微软一边倒的言论,还要让法官能够更多地了解事实真相。如何能够让真相和正面的声音得以显现?如何能够至少让本地的法官早上打开报纸的时候,看到一篇接近真相,而不是凭空臆测的新闻报道?这又是一个挑战!

 

Google要求我最好不要和媒体接触,除非我有很信任的朋友。这时,我想起了昔日的朋友,一位年轻的美国记者克里斯蒂·海姆(Kristi Heim)。由于早年曾在中国学习过中文,因此她的中文说得非常流利。而且,她思维敏捷,睿智成熟。早在2003年,她曾跟随我到高校演讲,亲自听过我给中国大学生做的成长励志的讲座,也正是通过那次跟随采访,她对我与中国学生之间的缘分有了深入的了解。

 

她能够从客观的角度出发,作出公正的报道吗?当我联系到她时,她的回答让我备感温暖,且不乏职业精神。她诚恳地说:“开复,我了解你的为人。不过,作为新闻记者,我会以调查的方式写一篇报道,也会让两边的声音都能公正地发出。”

 

后来,8月的某一天,克里斯蒂·海姆通过大量的调查访问,写出了以《微软和Google的科学家之争》为题的文章,除了陈述的一些事实以外,还大量描写了我对中国学生所做过的工作。

 

在文章里,她还记录了中国大学生们的看法。学生们都自然地表达了他们的真实想法,“在大学校园的学生只是想跟随一个他们信赖的人去工作,比尔·盖茨和李开复都是商业领域的英雄,但李开复和中国学生的联系更加紧密,因为他是中国人。”她在文章里陈述了这样一个现象,“微软真正的挣扎其实和李开复技术专家的角色无关,让微软真正感到害怕的是李开复对年轻一代技术人才的影响,这种影响在中国尤为突出。”

 

可以说,这篇报道的发出,至少在众多的猜测文章里为我和Google赢回了一分。这也让我感到争取每一份理解的必要性。我知道,在早餐桌上习惯阅读当地报纸的法官,都可能会看到这篇报道。相对于如天书一样难以理解的技术,他也能够从另外一个角度解读这个事件。

 

那一段时间,Google也通过媒体发出了一些声音用以表达自己的观点,比如,李开复离开微软是正常的职业变迁,一方面,李开复希望回到中国实现有激情的职业理想;另一方面,李开复向往创新的机制与环境。

 

另外,Google反复地表达这样的观点:即李开复在两个公司的项目截然不同,所以不能受“竞业禁止协议”的管辖。另外,Google不需要任何微软的技术,雇用李开复也和技术无关。Google看重的只是他作为职业经理人的执行力,还有他对中国的知识和理解。另外,李开复之前从苹果公司换到SGI公司工作,又从SGI公司换到微软公司,但他从未泄露过公司的机密。因此,他是一个诚信的人。

 

最终Google律师还出于现实的考虑决定,由于第一年我需要进行大量的办公选址、政府关系和招聘人员工作,因此,第一年可以让我只专注于这些工作,而自动放弃做搜索业务。这样就可以让我尽快到Google开始工作,从而在最短的时间内结束诉讼,争取最大主动。

 

不再熟悉的朋友

 

在整整六个星期的时间里,各种突发事件都在不断上演。除了媒体的博弈、微软的质问,还有对方律师不断提出的新的取证要求,在每一个细微的角落里,双方都在寻找最大的进攻切入点。

 

那段日子过得非常缓慢,时间仿佛凝固了一般。然而,在缓慢的调子中,仿佛又会有一段箭在弦上、千钧一发的时段。现在回想起来,那段日子就像希区柯克的悬疑片一样,充满了谜团,充满了令人窒息的剧情和随时爆发的未知。

 

我的生活如同在冰刀上的舞蹈一样,每一步,都那么惊险。

 

2005810日,我的私人律师忽然打电话给我,问,“开复,你家里有几台电脑?”我一时间摸不着头脑,回答说,“有两台,我和我女儿各有一个台式电脑。怎么了?”“那你的电脑上还存有微软的文件吗?”“当然没有,我不可能存微软的任何东西,而且我离职以前就告诉微软不再看邮件了。”对方显然松了一口气,“那就好了,一会儿会有一个快递员来取你的电脑。微软已经委托了第三方机构要求查看你的个人电脑,他们可能会期望看到你的硬盘里存有微软的机密!”我大叫,“我的电脑里没有微软的机密,但没有电脑,我怎么工作!”

 

果然,两个小时以后,我的台式电脑就被第三方检测机构的快递员取走了。没有电脑,我的工作受到了很大的影响。尽管我后来买了新的笔记本电脑,但由于我丢失了原来电脑上的许多私人数据,例如我每年的税表、亲朋好友的电子邮件、我所有的音乐和照片等,这给我带来了无数的小麻烦。

 

过了将近一个月后,第三方的检测报告成为法庭上的证据,“李开复的个人电脑中,没有检测出任何微软的文件!”

 

然而,类似这样的事情只是众多繁琐小事中的一件。那个时候,诉讼双方都在分秒必争地准备证据,因为这一切的一切都和下面的一个环节有关。微软、Google和我,都在收集各种各样的信息,以便进入美国法律中一个叫做deposition(取证)的环节。

 

所谓“取证”,是美国民事法律程序中的一个环节。这是英美法系中一个独特的民事诉讼程序,在取证的过程中,双方的律师和当事人都会到场,而且当事人和相关的证人都要接受对方律师的提问。这是一个表达和确认自己一方的观点,并发现新证据的过程。而在这个过程中,会有法官派出的速记员全程记录,并作为法庭上的证据使用。尽管这一天并不是正式的审判,但取证的过程依然庄严肃穆。每个人在被律师提问之前,都会把手放在《圣经》上发誓,“我所说的一切都是事实!”

 

在这个阶段,当事人会面临轰炸机轰炸一般的提问,而且所有诉讼双方的证人都会到场。

 

20058月的最后一周是取证的一周,Google的人都和微软律师在加州做了取证工作。参加人员有GoogleCEO艾瑞克·施密特、创始人拉里·佩奇和谢尔盖·布林、我的老板艾伦·尤斯塔斯,以及大约十位Google的员工。当然,还有我自己。

 

2005826日,是我去西雅图参加取证的日子。那一天,所有的证人都按照法律提供的时间表陆续到达了微软总部附近的一幢临时房屋里,接受对方律师提问。

 

这一天,一切就如同想象中的一样,有《圣经》,有证人,有法官派来的速记员,还有摄像机的镜头记录着人们的每一个细微的表情。

 

这一天也是我被提起诉讼之后第一次见到以前在微软的同事们——那些决定把我推向法庭的人们。我见到了比尔·盖茨,见到了斯蒂夫·鲍尔默,见到了首席技术官克瑞格·蒙迪,还见到了我的前任老板艾瑞克·鲁德。这一天,大家神情各异,这些不同的表情后来经常出现在我的脑海里。

 

虽然他们的表情或冷漠,或同情,或鼓励,或自信,或毫无表情,但都是种种无声的语言。他们在用这些无声的语言表达着自己内心的情绪,顿时,一种剑拔弩张的气氛在空气中弥漫开来。

 

此时此地,昔日的“战友”在今日“对决”。不管对方是存心“伤害”,还是例行公事,我都悲从中来,百感交集。

 

那天比尔·盖茨径直走进了屋子里。那是我们在诉讼开始后的第一次相见,但他目光直视,没有和我有片刻的眼神交流。而我竟然真的有点难过,我甚至在那一刻回想起我们曾经一起工作的许多场景。一直到现在,我仍然保留着那一天我写下的日记:

  • 当比尔·盖茨走进屋子里的时候,他并没有直视我,这是因为,他已经把我视做一个敌人了吗?是不是他的律师团队教他这样做?因为在这个时候,他想让我对我的“背叛”感到难过,是不是这样就能给我强大的心理压力?

 

我想起我曾经是那么的信任他,并且对他说,“比尔,我绝对不会对你说谎!我将告诉你什么能做,什么是不能做的。”我也曾经在那次陪他“救火”的中国之行中“拯救”他,晚上我曾经跑到他的酒店房间里告诉他“比尔,我会尽量帮你解决一切的,好吗?”而他当时露出了多么无邪和信任的微笑。

 

 

那一天,我也见到了昔日的好朋友克瑞格·蒙迪。他是微软的首席技术官,我们曾经是非常亲密的朋友。他也曾经带着太太到中国访问,我的脑海里浮现出我们在中国对话的一幕,我当时问他,“嘿,克瑞格,让我太太带你太太逛逛北京吧!你太太喜欢逛什么样的地方?”克瑞格当时不以为然地笑着说,“她喜欢垃圾店,比如买那些大家都不要的东西,哪里卖破烂儿就带她去哪里吧!哈哈!”我笑着对他说,“有个亿万富翁丈夫,还要逛破地方,不可思议啊。”我们对视而笑。后来,我太太带她去了潘家园古董交易市场,她太太开心得合不拢嘴,好像找到了一个“天堂”!

 

我还想起,我曾经带他去会见一位中国的部长。刚坐定,他就开始长篇大论批评开源的做法,从法律的根据一直批评到开源程序的不合理。但当时中国政府特别重视软件开源。我心里大惊,差点当场就要制止他。还好那位部长不懂英文,由我做翻译,因此他说十句英语,我就精简成为两句比较可以接受的汉语。事后,他还惊讶地问我,“怎么中文翻译出来这么短呀?”

 

而今天,我们却是站在两个阵营当中的人。我无法预料,在微软律师的监督下他会说些什么。但我知道,肯定不会是我愿意听到的话。

 

在我当天的日记里,同样有那一天与他见面的描述:

  • 他刚刚从一次游船长途旅行中归来。当他看到我时,他露出了友好的微笑,并且非常急切地告诉我他在旅行中的趣事。我们当时谈论了很久,他告诉我他的游船去过的地方,还告诉我这次旅行让他很放松。此外,他还兴高采烈地告诉我,他的船上有四台电脑,而他又是如何用boat computer(船上电脑)控制游船前行的!

 

但是,当速记员打开了机器开始记录证词时,克瑞格·蒙迪已经不是我所熟悉的朋友了。

 

 

 

而鲍尔默的取证过程并不出人意料。他说,开复是中国的“教父”!话锋一转,噢,他是负责中国的executive sponsor(公司中负责某个国家市场的副总裁),接着他又说,开复在中国拥有“巨大而独裁”的权力。很显然,他想用这个头衔和说法来告诉法官我在中国的影响,甚至还歪曲事实说我有决策权。

 

但是,天啊,我不但不是负责中国市场的副总裁,更不可能拥有巨大而独裁的权力。这个绝对不实。

 

我在日记中看到自己绝望的呼喊:

  • 我想到奥兰多·阿亚拉的眼泪和他对公司的失望。我曾经满怀责任感地为微软作出建议,那一切仿佛一个巨大的怪兽,正咬噬我的心。

 

鲍尔默开始反复地谈论微软公司的机密不能泄露。然后又说,不但标着微软机密字样的文件不能透露,就算没有标着微软机密的文件,除非授权也不能对外。我的律师于是问他,谁有权力对这些文件进行授权?鲍尔默回答:“我和高级副总裁。”可是我以前从来没有听说过这个规定。难道,鲍尔默在现场制定了新的规矩吗?

 

“鲍尔默反复提到我的《如何在中国成功》这篇文章,他说这篇文章里有一些数据涉及微软的机密,比如里面提到英特尔的芯片卖了多少,惠普的销售额是多少,IBM的营业额有多少。我不明白为什么鲍尔默会对这些和微软无关的数据长篇大论?难道是他们的律师在其中发现了什么漏洞,然后准备用这些数据来引诱我跳进某个陷阱吗?”

 

 

 

在旁听完三个证人的证词以后,我的律师开始暗暗地担心。在中间休息的阶段,律师走到我的身边对我说,“开复,他们很显然受到了律师的培训,律师一定帮他们准备了严丝合缝的答案,让他们泄露不了任何对你有利的证词和线索。”

 

“他们夸张和错误的指证呢?难道我们不能用这些来质疑他们的诚信吗?”我问。

 

“我们当然会用到,但这次法官关注的是你的诚信,而不是他们的诚信。”

 

听到了这话,我真的开始有点绝望了。我想到在初中和高中每天上下课都要重复的对美国的歌颂:“With liberty and justice for all. (每一个人都应该得到自由和公正。)”那我的公正在哪里?难道这就是世界领先的美国式司法?难道这样就是公正?

 

不过后来,MSN 搜索副总裁的到来,让形势有了改观!他就是前面提到过的克里斯多弗·佩恩。

 

克里斯多弗·佩恩平时的风格就像是一个精明的推销员,微软的一位副总裁曾跟我说:“克里斯多弗更像是一个snake oil salesman(江湖郎中,能把蛇做成蛇油当做灵丹妙药)。”他曾经说微软搜索一年就能赶上Google,两年会超越Google。他喜欢告诉别人他的部门的搜索业绩有多好!正是由于他的这种风格,“暴露”了我过去三年半根本未参与搜索业务的事实。

 

我在日记里是这样写的:

  • “克里斯多弗·佩恩说的各种‘实话’,粉碎了微软对我‘负责搜索’的谎言。他说:‘微软在李开复负责MSN的时代根本没有做真正的搜索,微软搜索是我2002年参加后才提议做的。我们的所有会议和对盖茨的汇报从没有请李开复参加。我们连产品推出时的感谢信也没有写上李开复,没有任何值得感谢李开复的。我是微软搜索的负责人,李开复和搜索无关。’”这些证词其实证明了我完全不在微软搜索的圈子里。听到他这样自豪地坦陈事实,坐在他旁边的微软律师的脸都绿了!

 

我的律师简直不相信,居然会有这样的事情发生,这对我们是最有利的证据!

 

大约一周后,微软的律师同样也对我进行了长达七个小时的取证提问。经过之前整整两天旁观微软的取证,我深深知道这会是一个无比艰难和煎熬的过程。只要说错一句话、一个字,甚至有一点点的迟疑,都可能会带来莫大的灾难。何况,微软每个人只被询问两小时,而我要被问七小时!

 

当天,我一直都在努力提醒自己必须保持清醒的状态。我的律师警告我:“因为取证的内容对方律师可以筛选使用,所以你表现再好也只是零分。而表现不好就只能得到负分,而且还可能因此带来灾难。首先,不能对任何一件事情说谎。另外,不能答错任何一个问题,也不能答非所问。还有,只要针对性地回答问题即可。

 

因为我的律师“教练”苏珊·哈里曼告诉我,律师提问有很多“花招”。他们惯用的手段是在一个提问中潜伏另外一个问题,而当你回答这个问题时,就会相当于默认了律师假设的前提。因此,苏珊·哈里曼一直在提醒我,“千万别中圈套,不要承认莫须有的事情,不要说‘可能’、‘或者’、‘也许’这样的模糊字眼。”还有,主要谈事实,不要推测“别人怎么想”或者“别人为什么这么做”,因为推测没有法律意义,所以回答这些毫无意义的问题只可能带来麻烦。苏珊还对我说:“如果他们问了你不必回答的问题,或者法律程序不允许的问题,我们会object(抗议),然后你就可以不用回答。”

 

我不记得那一天我喝了多少杯咖啡,我只记得中午自己只吃了一份沙拉,我不能因为吃得太多而让自己昏昏欲睡。微软律师对我的提问竟是从我写的一篇文章开始的:

律师:李博士,请问你是否相信所有美德里诚信是最重要的?

 

我:是的。

 

律师:请你读一下你给中国学生写的第一封信的片段。(他们尝试用这段话来打乱我的思维,因为我有可能会猜测他们接下来使出什么绝招来否定我的诚信,但我知道我的所有作为都光明磊落,于是,我心无杂念、义正词严地念完了这段。)

 

我:我曾面试过一位求职者,他在技术、管理方面都相当的出色。但在谈论之余,他表示,如果我录取他,他甚至可以把在原来公司工作时的一项发明带过来。随后他似乎觉察到这样说有些不妥,特作声明:那些工作是他在下班之后做的,他的老板并不知道。这一番谈话之后,对于我而言,不论他的能力和工作水平怎样,我都肯定不会录用他。原因是他缺乏最基本的处世准则和最起码的职业道德——“诚实”和“讲信用”。如果雇用这样的人,谁能保证他将来不会像现在这样,把在这里的工作成果也当做所谓的“业余之作”,进而变成向其他公司讨好的“贡品”呢?这说明:一个人品不完善的人不可能真正有所作为。

 

律师:李博士,请问你读完有什么感想?

 

我:这是我为人处世的原则,绝不妥协。对我来说,诚信比生命更重要。这也是我每次换工作都恪守的价值观。

 

律师:李博士,请问你在Google求职的时候,有没有提供“贡品”呢?

 

我:当然没有。从我的电子邮件你可以明显看到:Google要求我绝不可以谈到微软的商业机密。我也对Google说:我只参与我在微软未做过的项目。你可以看到,我从苹果到SGI,从SGI到微软,这方面都从未出过问题,我非常谨慎。

接下来,他们尝试挖掘我是否在微软七年中和Google高层保持联系,甚至藕断丝连的行为:

律师:李博士,你是否认识Google CEO 艾瑞克·施密特?

 

我:是,我们已认识十多年,但我们后来没有来往。

 

律师:没有来往,那你怎么找到他的?

 

我:我发电子邮件。

 

律师:你跟他没有来往,怎么知道他的电子邮件?

 

我:用Google找到的。

然后,他们又想证明我“身在曹营心在汉”,还在微软时就已经开始帮Google挖微软的人:

律师:你曾写了一封邮件,推荐了一个名叫郭去疾的微软员工给Google

 

我:没有。

 

律师:郭去疾不是微软的员工吗?

 

我:我推荐他的时候,他已离开微软近两年了。当时他正在斯坦福,即将完成他的MBA 学位。

 

律师:那你还是在为竞争对手做事啊。

 

我:不,我是郭去疾过去5年的导师,所以他把我列为他的推荐人。他到任何公司去面试,我都有义务做他的推荐人。

 

律师:那你也为他做过进入微软的推荐人吗?

 

我:是的,2001年我推荐他进入微软,之后他在微软工作了两年。

 

律师:那他2005年读完斯坦福的MBA之后,你有否再次推荐他回微软呢?

 

我:有的,他想回中国工作,所以我把他推荐给微软中国。但他们没有谈拢。我有邮件为证,你要看吗?

2005826日,这样的提问和回答几乎整整进行了一天。律师就像轰炸机一样从各种角度对我进行问话。当我完成了“取证”,苏珊·哈里曼长长地舒了一口气,她用一个词表达了她的感受,“完美无缺!”她对我说,“开复,我从来没有见过你这样的答辩者,每一个回答都像程序一样严谨、真实、符合逻辑,我们都为你感到骄傲!”

 

而对于那一天的表现,我还要深深地感谢一个人,他就是新东方集团的徐小平先生。那一天,他是证明我人格的证人。他在那封保证函上声称,所有的证词真实准确,否则愿受责罚。

 

在取证之前,律师告诉我要找一个有社会地位的人帮我做人格担保。我本来认为这是非常简单的事情,因为在我的朋友圈子中选择这样一个人并不困难。但后来我才发现,朋友们的顾虑已经超过想象。很多时候,当我告诉朋友的时候,朋友都是满口答应,但和公司汇报之后,那些公司往往就会出于和微软的业务或者商业利益考虑,禁止雇员做这样对公司没有好处的事情!而也有很多公司听说微软是和Google在打官司,就更不愿意因为偏向某一方而被牵扯进来,平白无故“惹祸上身”。

 

很多朋友最后都对我说,“开复,我绝对相信你的为人,也愿意为你作人格担保,但公司的规定不允许,我实在是没有办法!”“开复,我们合作过那么多次,怎么可能不了解你,但公司不愿意受到牵连,禁止我做这件事情,真的很对不起!”“开复,我百分之百相信你的为人,但我们公司的律师说,我们和微软有业务关系,做这件事情可能会影响公司和微软的商业关系,所以,我很抱歉!”

 

每次听到这样的话,我都感到无限的悲凉!

 

而此时,徐小平先生向我伸出了援手。作为新东方集团董事,他和我只有一面之缘,但我们经常通过电子邮件交流对教育的看法。他这个人有激情、有理想,这一点与我对教育的感情很相似,所以我们一直有一种惺惺相惜的感觉。当我找不到证人时,小平大度地说,“我愿意为你作证,我没什么好怕的。”他的直爽让我至今难忘。

 

一直到今天,我的邮箱里还保存着他当初发给我的邮件。

 

我非常高兴我可以帮助你做些事情。如果对你有帮助,我将非常高兴作为证人飞到西雅图。你的案子现在已经广为人知,尤其在年轻人当中也引起了反响。你希望到中国“为中国做些事情”的理由温暖了这里很多人的心。我希望你回归中国不是为了Google,而是为了更多的青年人能够近距离和你交流。我祝愿你早日解决诉讼并希望早日在北京看到你!

 

后来,他不远万里飞到加拿大的律师事务所,帮我签署了这份证人声明。而呈现在法官面前的这份证词,有力地证明了我在中国学生中的影响力,并且也从一个侧面证明了微软阻挠我去Google中国工作的主要原因,是怕年轻的技术天才摒弃微软,加入Google,进而造成Google中国的快速发展。

 

徐小平在证词中说: 

我从自己在新东方学校与学生们的交流中了解到,李博士极大地影响了许多学生的人生道路。在面对时代剧变时,李博士的信和文章帮助他们转变了意识和观念。我每年都会向全国各地的学生发表数百场次的演讲,在与他们交谈时,我经常引用李博士的话。这些演讲的听众通常是1840岁之间、从高中生到博士的学生。李博士睿智的话语和建议在我的听众中总是受到热烈欢迎,新东方学校还提出请求并得到李博士允许,在我们学校的网站上转载他的多篇文章。我得知并确信我们的许多学生和有意申请出国深造的人都通过这一渠道看到了李博士的文字。我的学生们无数次告诉我,他们认同李博士,并相信在充满困惑和矛盾的中国当今时代,他是一位值得学习、尊敬和信赖的人。

 

我了解并确信李博士曾为学生们作过无数次演讲并撰写过多篇文章,这些文章往往都从东西方两种文化结合的角度探讨教育、技术和企业话题。他的话语和信件多年来在中国学生中间产生了深远影响。如上所述,我本人也对李博士的许多文章相当熟悉,包括《美国教育启示录》以及闻名遐迩的“给中国学生的四封信”。我还访问过李博士回答中国学生问题并提供建议和咨询的网站,从中我了解到,李博士作为一位学生导师、顾问和引路人,在中国广为人知,并深受尊敬。

 

我了解并确信,2004 月,李博士当选为《程序员》杂志评选的中国软件业最具影响力的20 位风云人物之一。2005 月,李博士当选为《人物周刊》评选的2004 年中国100 位最具影响力的人物之一。在评语中,《人物周刊》组委会称李博士为“传奇人物……具有强烈的历史责任感……正在创造着一个又一个奇迹”。文中的“奇迹”是指李博士推动中国大学教育改革的不懈努力以及教育学生们如何成为一名真正的中国人。《人物周刊》原文的复印件,以及经过鉴定的此文英文翻译版一起,作为附在本证词声明后。

 

我在此声明,在华盛顿州法律之下,我的上述证词真实准确,否则愿受责罚。

 

 

小平在加拿大签署了这份证词。后来,我的律师打电话给他,告诉他有可能需要他到西雅图出庭作证。小平当时马上说:“如果要出庭,那我可能需要买一套正装啊,我一件正式的衣服都没有带!”于是,徐小平第二天就在加拿大匆匆忙忙买了套西服,准备出庭的时候穿。不过,后来律师也没有让他去西雅图的法庭上作证。因为有了证词就ok了,那套西服,也就白买了。

 

徐小平是一个非常风趣可爱的人,他的直率和坦诚,他的无所畏惧和拔刀相助,让我看到了人性的光辉,感受到了人性的可爱。后来,我们成为了很好的朋友。

 

总之,20058月的最后一周对于我的人生而言至关重要。不仅仅因为那一周是取证的日子,而是这个阶段里我度过的每一天、经历的每件事、遇到的每个人都让我感慨万千,我既体会到人情的凉薄,同时也感受到了人性的温暖。我相信,无论时间如何流逝,这段时光对于当时的每一个人来说都会是一生的回忆,它会在我们的记忆里留下了或浅或深的痕迹。我知道,无论未来有多遥远,我们都终将面对灵魂的拷问。我深信,对于这种拷问,我将作出无愧我心的回答。而对于其他的“伤害”,我也会将其当做一种宝贵的历练。因为,每一种创痛,其实都会带来一种成熟。

 

出庭前的“魔鬼训练”

 

取证阶段度过之后,两方律师都会对彼此掌握的证据有一个初步的判断,而双方也会整理出一份诉状送达给对方的律师。这样的诉讼程序体现了美国法律的一种观念,“公平竞争”。这样,在真正的庭审阶段,双方就不会认定还有隐藏的证据没有发现,也不会让事实产生歪曲。

 

律师们都觉得我在取证阶段的表现沉着、冷静,没有在对方律师的狂轰滥炸之下乱了阵脚,他们都为我松了一口气。他们说,“这些表现为诉讼的成功打下了良好的基础!”

 

但是,“意外”还是发生了!

 

接到了微软的“诉状”以后,律师们进行了认真的分析。他们发现,微软希望在《如何在中国成功》一文上大做文章。他们指控这篇我离职前发给Google CEO艾瑞克·施密特的文章不当地使用了微软购买的数据。

 

我这时又回想起,鲍尔默在取证阶段不断重复着的几个奇怪的数字,比如英特尔在中国卖了多少芯片?惠普在中国卖了多少PC?我也想起我在日记里的疑惑,

  • “为什么鲍尔默会对这些和微软无关的数据长篇大论?难道是他们的律师在其中发现了什么,然后以此引诱我跳进他们设好的陷阱吗?”

 

《如何在中国成功》确实是我在微软任职期间撰写的一篇文章,内容主要论述跨国公司如何在中国取得成功,以及微软应该怎么去赢得中国市场。当时,微软在中国的政府关系以及公众印象都已经降至舆论冰点,为了让比尔·盖茨以及微软的其他高管更加理解中国,我在文章里讲述了很多中国国情,并且还提供了一些跨国公司在中国实现“适者生存”的方法!

 

但是,我发给艾瑞克·施密特的那个版本是个公开版本,早在我离职前一年就已经发表。里面不但删除了所有有关微软的字样和内容,甚至连感谢人中的微软员工的名字都删除了。当时我提供给艾瑞克·施密特这篇文章的目的,主要是让Google了解在中国运营的困难。如果Google希望在中国取得成功,那么它就必须了解在中国放权和具备长远眼光的重要性。另外,我也希望知道Google是否愿意充分放权并是否有着长期的打算。

 

在跨国公司中,大家都很自律,言行举止都很谨慎,生怕泄露出本公司的机密。比如,即使Google副总裁在面试我的阶段,也都在小心翼翼地保护着公司的技术,尤其在谈话中,不泄露哪怕半点口风。大家都有一个共识:“泄露公司机密不但违法,而且也是有违道德的。若有泄露,永远不会有公司敢再雇你。”

 

因此,在传递这篇文章的时候,我也严格按照职场规则,发送给艾瑞克·施密特一个曾多次在公开场合使用的删节版,里面保留的内容是适合于任何跨国公司的通则。而且,我在高校演讲时曾将这篇文章复印过多次,将其作为演讲的教材分发给商学院的学生们。于情于理,我也想不出这篇文章究竟存有何种商业机密!

 

“没有秘密!是公开的版本!”我坚定地对Google的律师说。

 

“那你是否有证人来证明,你这个版本是公开版本呢?”他们问。

 

这句话一下子让我陷入了沉思!虽然我确实复印过很多份,也分发给很多听演讲的学生,但那些学生我并不认识,更不知道如何在茫茫的人海中将他们找到。

 

一时间,我陷入了沉默!

 

我闭上眼睛,开始在记忆里搜索,有哪些我能够联系上的朋友可以帮我证实这件事。谁帮我打印过这份资料?有谁在演讲现场帮我散发过资料?渐渐的,我的眼前浮现出那张满是笑容的面孔——玛丽·何熏登(Mary Hoisington)。一个快乐的老人,花白的头发,慈祥的声音,还有她总在认真凝视的眼睛。她是我在微软期间的秘书,在给我当秘书之前,她是我微软研究院时代的老板里克·雷斯特的秘书。每一次我去大学演讲,不都是她细致地帮我打印数百份资料吗?

 

我相信,这位善良的老人一定会帮我,因为她总是乐于为别人着想。

 

想起她当初和雷斯特一起访问中国时,我带着他们一起去傣家村吃饭。为了吃到当地的特色,我特意点了各种稀奇古怪的菜肴,例如蚂蚁、蝎子、蛇血等,她每样都吃得很香。我觉得这个老人很有意思。但多年后她才告诉我说,她曾经读过的一篇文章中提到,如果中国人请客,那么客人一定要给面子,不但什么都要吃,而且还要吃得很香,所以在傣家村她才显得如此“享受”。其实,她很害怕吃哪些菜,以致后来的一个星期都没有食欲。

 

玛丽·何熏登和我的关系一直非常好。她会经常提醒我注意哪些部门的员工士气不高,哪些事情应该特别关注,而且她也介绍了很多的微软高管给我认识。她因为上了年纪所以反应不是很快,但我一直很体谅她,常常忽略她犯的一些小错误。

 

还记得她要退休的时候,我走到她的桌边问她,“玛丽,你要退休了,要怎么帮你庆祝?”她温和地笑着说:“那就先请我吃上一顿大餐,然后再痛饮一瓶酒,最后再潇洒地抽一根大雪茄吧!”后来,我们真的就是这么做的。

 

那一天,我拨通了玛丽的电话,开门见山地说:“我是开复,我现在需要你的帮助!”她听我讲述完来龙去脉以后,很爽快地对我说,“我非常乐意帮助你。”她还说,“开复,看到报上那些批评你的文章,我很伤心,但是我一直没有打电话给你,因为我知道你特别忙。我祝愿你早点渡过这一关。”

 

除了答应对打印资料作证,她还帮我找到了华盛顿大学邀请我讲课的教授,那位教授愿意证明我的文章确实早已公开。

 

我非常感动,她在微软公司已经服务了15年,而且因为加入微软的时间很早,拥有许多公司股票。其实,她完全可以用种种理由拒绝如此麻烦的事情,但她答应得却如此爽快。直到今天,我对玛丽仍心存感激。

 

有了证人的证实,我悬着的心轻轻放下了。但紧接着发生的事情又差点儿把我推向深渊!可以说,这是我整整6个星期以来,唯一一次有了放弃的想法。

 

8月下旬的某一天,我从西雅图飞往加利福尼亚州山景城。记不清这样的飞行有多少次了,只是这次飞行,心情最为沉重。因为微软律师刚送来他们的诉状,诉状附录了几百页支持诉状的证据。

 

在机场,我开始阅读整本诉状。我刚打开诉状时感觉还算轻松,因为我有了玛丽和华盛顿大学的教授的证词,我想当然地觉得里面的控诉是荒诞无稽的。

 

但是,当我看到作为附录PPT文件的其中一页时,我的心忽然一沉。我看到了那张写着英特尔和惠普数据的PPT,在它右下方不起眼的角落里写着“A咨询公司提供给微软”几个非常小的英文字!而这些就是微软指控我在《如何在中国成功》中引用的“不当数据”。怪不得鲍尔默总是重复这些数字,我终于发现了其中的玄机。

 

仔细一看,这些数据来自一个与微软合作的咨询公司。如果微软是从这家公司购买的商业数据,而这些数据又恰巧被我的文章使用,那就可以说这篇文章使用并公开了微软的内部数据,无论这些数据看起来是多么无足轻重,无论我是否早已把这篇文章公开!天啊!

 

如果法律如此认定,那我这场官司将毫无胜算!那一刻,我眼前一阵发黑,脑海里急速闪过无数种可能!巨大的创痛和悲伤不禁扑面而来。难道这几个我无意中引用的数据就可以把我送上“断头台”吗?为什么我如此迟钝、一直没有发现?虽然这些数据对于Google其实没有用处,但显而易见,微软只是需要一个借口!

 

难道,这几个数字真的会把我的理想、我去中国的愿望打破?难道,这就是所谓的“千里之堤,毁于蚁穴”?太糟糕了!

 

如果说,我的一生中还未曾体验过心碎的感觉,那么,那一刻我已经真实地体会到了!那一刻,我听不到周围的声音,只听到自己的心在碎裂。一种就此放弃的想法,涌上了心头。

 

如果真的犯了错,那就只能自己承担尽管这只是我不经意间犯的错误,但如果真的要面对失败,那我情愿自已承担也不想拖累任何人!

 

我站起身来,拿起机场的电话,第一个拨给先铃。

 

“完了!”这是我当时说的第一句话。

 

“怎么回事?”她问。

 

“微软说我把微软买的数据给了Google!”

 

“那事实呢?”

 

“我给了Google一篇已公开的论文上有几组数据,微软说这些数据来自微软付费的咨询公司。”

 

“是什么数字?”

 

“没有什么重要的,就是一些跨国公司在中国成功的案例,包括惠普、英特尔一年赚了多少钱。”

 

“这些内容应该是早就公开的吧!”

 

“这些数据应该是早就公开的,不过,我现在好像都能看到微软律师脸上的笑容了。他说如果是微软购买的数据,那就不能够公开。我真没有想到,7年内的几十万封邮件都能证明我毫无问题,但我没有想到,问题会出在这里!”我的声音已经开始颤抖!

 

“放轻松点,会有办法的!”先铃在电话那头安慰我。

 

“我要放弃了!我要告诉Google,把板子都打在我身上吧,他们雇错人了!他们不应该被我牵连!”在此刻,泪水已经布满了我的脸颊。

 

“放松点,你没有做错,那个数据根本不是所谓的机密。Google一定不会放弃你,他们会尽全力保护并支持你的!”

 

“我一到家就立刻上网查询,如果在网络上也能找到这个咨询公司公布的数据,那才能证明数据是公开的。”

 

放下电话,我依然觉得一股寒意爬上脊背。难道,追随我心就这么艰难吗?难道,一次简单的工作选择,却让我惨遭厄运?我一时无法相信。

 

深深的绝望之后,希望往往就会不期而至!

 

回到加州的家中,我马上就给我的朋友黄勇拨通了电话,对他讲明了所有的情况,因为我知道他和A咨询公司的职员有一些联系。他听了我的倾诉之后,冷静地说,“开复,以我个人的理解,微软其实并没有和A咨询公司有过咨询合作。我会帮你好好查一查的!”

 

在等待消息的这一刻,我打开笔记本电脑,记录下了此刻的心情:

 

“如果我输了,就会熄灭微软那些和我一样的人们寻找梦想的希望。这一刻,我想说服自己坚强起来,继续为正义和希望斗争下去!”

 

几个小时之后,黄勇的电话打来了。希望再一次燃起。

 

他高兴地对我说,“开复,你不用担心了,这根本不是A咨询公司与微软之间有购买协议的数据,微软也根本没有付费。”

 

“是吗?如果微软没有购买这样的数据,那微软又是怎么拥有并使用这份数据的呢?”

 

A咨询公司的人告诉我,这家公司号称‘中国通’。他们为了吸引客户而制作了一份PPT,其中包含的数据都是从公开数据里面得到的。他们为了争取‘潜在客户’,每到一个公司都会展示这份看起来像是量身打造的招标报告,以证明自己了解中国市场。其实,这份报告不仅在很多公司里露过脸,还被该公司放在专门的网站上!”

 

“这么说,这些数据也是公开的了?那为什么PPT上会标注A咨询公司提供给微软?”

 

“他们每到一个公司作演讲都会打上这样的字眼,以便让对方认为这是A公司为该公司量身定做的PPT。”

 

“哦,是的。我慌得都乱了头绪,你说得有道理。但是,他们整天散发这些负面消息抨击我,又该怎么办呀?”

 

“这些数据都是公开的!开复,你不会因此受伤害的。我看到你为了这几个无关紧要的数据受到伤害,心里很难过!开复,你要把拳击手套摘下来,勇猛还击。从现在这一刻开始,你不应该再有一丝一毫退缩和示弱的想法!

 

24个小时之内,我经历了从地狱到天堂般的转换,经历了从失望、绝望再到重新燃起希望的历程。当危机结束时,对胜利的渴望又一次把我的信心点燃。是的,“把拳击手套摘下来!”我决不能示弱。很多时候,我给外界的形象都是温和有礼,从不愿与任何人发生争执,更不愿意揭任何人的伤疤。但现在,我要捍卫自己选择工作的权利!

 

我同样在日记中看到了自己当时的心情:

  • 我再次仔细地检查了这些数据的来源,没有错,所有的数据都是公开的。我现在已经开始停止担心,但我知道我真的必须提前想好各种情况的应对之策,而不是坐以待毙!

 

 

接下来的几天时间都是律师苏珊·哈里曼在对我进行模拟庭审,这是一个很重要的环节。她扮成微软的律师对我进行“审问”,苏珊一改往日温和、喜欢开玩笑的风格,俨然一个当仁不让、毫不心慈手软的女性。

 

那段时间,我每天早上5点钟准时醒来,然后从硅谷的家中出发,开车一个小时,8点在旧金山的律师事务所与律师会面。

 

这是一家规模不大却异常优秀的律师事务所,办公地点是位于唐人街的一座历史久远的建筑。整个建筑的屋顶很高,处处都有精致的雕刻。这家律师事务所号称旧金山第一,甚至有人说它是加州第一,律师们不用为了“生计”而毫无筛选地接手案子,而是喜欢接一些“高调”的案子,以此改变世界或者改变法律判决的先例。他们不需要接形象不好,或者“为作恶辩护”的生意。他们也会“免费”(pro bono)接手一些重大的案件,例如帮助种族歧视的受害者。相比之下,大部分律师都没有这样自由选择的“资本”。

 

就在承接我的案件的2005年,这家律师事务所被评选为全美“最佳精品律师事务所”。

 

在“集中训练营”中,让我印象深刻的是第一次“审讯”。我本来以为苏珊会按照她提供给我的问题顺序提问,但没有想到,她并不是一个很好对付的“考官”,因为她根本不按顺序提问。我当时提出了抗议,但苏珊却凝视着我的眼睛,颇为严厉地说,“在真正的法庭上,没有所谓的提问顺序,律师不仅不按照顺序提问,而且随时都会给你设下陷阱。我们都知道你没有犯错,难道你自己想掉到文字游戏的陷阱当中吗?”

 

在准备庭审的那段日子里,我和律师们可谓风雨兼程。律师们一次次地梳理所有的问题,并一直对诉讼保持乐观。他们总是对我说,“开复,这是一次非常符合程序、非常职业的离职!经历诉讼,肯定是人生的一次打击,但我们相信你,能安然渡过这次难关,最终实现自己的人生梦想!”

 

律师们的鼓励让我内心颇感安慰,同时也让我得到了精神上的放松。后来,很多人无数次问起我:“你后悔你当时的决定吗?”“如果知道会遭遇诉讼,你会考虑留在微软吗?”“如果知道微软抹黑你,你会放弃辞职吗?”

 

而我的回答,从来都是“不”。后来,在中央电视台的《新闻会客厅》节目中,主持人也追问了几个这样的问题,我说:“人生在世时间非常短,如果你总是不敢做想做的事情,那么一生过去了,你留下来的只有悔恨,只有懊恼。我常常说追随我心,当然追随我心必须是要在负责、守信、守法的前提之下。在这个前提之下,冒一些风险也是值得的。虽然经历风险的日子可能会比较艰难,但如果我不这样做,那蹉跎十年、二十年后,我可能会后悔终生。”

 

因为这次诉讼,我更加清楚我将选择什么样的生活;因为这次诉讼,我更加清楚将要为什么样的公司工作。苏格拉底曾经说过:世界上最快乐的事,莫过于为理想而奋斗。因此,在奋斗中,我深深地感觉到,坚信“邪不压正”会带来巨大的勇气,坚守正义会充满无穷的力量。这是一次让我终生难忘的人生历练。

 

庭审——“拳击手套该拿下来了!”

 

“拳击手套该拿下来了!”无论是律师、朋友,还是我自己,都在重复这句话。

 

在英文里,“脱下手套”(take gloves off)就是指,要用硬的拳头打,即使自己受伤也要把对方打伤。当律师告诉我要把拳击手套拿下来时,我知道,给予反击的时候到了。之前只防卫不出击的做法虽然挡住了致命一击,但却让我们筋疲力尽、遍体鳞伤。

 

“开复,到了今天,你必须学会如何面对‘凶悍’!你必须把你看到的伤害描述出来!”律师不断提醒我这一点。

 

作出这个决定并不容易。但当一个人已经受到了莫大的伤害,反击和保护自己就变成了一种求生的本能。

 

当我们预感到微软即将把此事大肆渲染之后,我们也准备了足以应付这场新闻大风浪的“猛料”。不得不说的是,这是令我悲伤的一个决定。甚至在这场大战之前,我还和大卫·德拉蒙德讨论过与微软和解的可能性。

 

因为我已经看到,在这场即将开始的大战中没有赢家。人身攻击对我的伤害不言而喻,但也有不少媒体开始感叹“微软老了,只能通过诉讼留住人才”。两败俱伤,已经成为了这场战役可以预期的结果。

 

但是微软却不愿意和解,因为它就是要高调地告诉员工:“离职就和李开复的下场一样!”

 

200592日,这是庭审前的一天!微软和Google各自公布了听证材料。按照规定,这样的材料不仅仅要呈给法官,也要公开给所有的媒体。果不其然,微软的诉状内容主要讲述了一个我把《如何在中国成功》泄露给了Google,从而泄露了商业机密的故事,而这样吸引眼球的“新闻”马上成了媒体争相报道的“热点”。我虽然对此有一定的心理准备,但看到那些争相炒作的媒体报道时,心中依然很难承受。

 

另外,微软提到了我在20056月曾对中国大学校长进行的题为《培养符合企业需要的人才》的演讲。微软在诉状里这样描述此事,“李开复凭借微软的平台结识了这些校长,但却将人脉关系用于Google。”

 

92日这天的日记里,我看到自己的心在流血。

  • 正如大家预期的那样,微软主要是围绕‘商业间谍’在做文章,他们说我将《如何在中国成功》秘密提供给Google。微软的诉状一经公布,某家著名的网站就开始谈论商业间谍了,我的心在不断地下沉。我开始感觉到,我可能和李文和(一位名誉受损的华裔美国科学家,被大众认为出售军事机密给中国,多年后才证明是无辜的)的命运一样,我被抹黑成一个在任何地方都不被信任的人。

 

他们甚至说,我用微软的头衔去建立在高校的人脉关系,真是既好笑又令人气愤。高校请我去演讲显然是看重我对教育的见解与热情,而最让我伤心的是,那次高校演讲请的是两个嘉宾,除我以外,还有中国驻美国大使周文重。我利用那次演讲的机会还和周大使在费尔蒙酒店(Fairmont Hotel)见了个面,我当时还提出拜托他帮忙请胡锦涛主席在将来方便的时候到盖茨家里作客。为了微软在中国的前途,我简直费尽了心思。这件事情现在看来多么具有讽刺意味,为微软的呕心沥血却成了今天微软告我的罪状。

 

 

可是无论如何,微软的诉状还是让我的心情跌落到了谷底。不过很快,新闻的焦点发生了转移,另一个故事取代了媒体对我的关注,那就是Google提供的诉状中著名的“鲍尔默摔椅子事件”。

 

实际上,鲍尔默已经不是第一次因员工离职去Google而发作了。2004年,当工程师马克·卢克斯凯(Mark Lucovsky)在11月转投Google门下,鲍尔默亲自找到了他,表示:“除了Google哪里都可以去。”当马克明确拒绝之后,接下来发生了令人错愕的一幕:鲍尔默气急败坏地抓起椅子,狠狠地扔了出去。那把椅子从办公室的一个角落被扔到另一个角落的桌子上,把玻璃桌子砸得粉碎。他愤怒地大吼,“艾瑞克是个×××的懦夫!我要×××活埋了他!我过去曾经活埋过他两次,我这次还要活埋他!我要×××干掉Google!”

 

鲍尔默马上否认了这件事。但在诉状里,不但有这个故事的来龙去脉,还有工程师本人的签名证词。实际上,这个故事在微软内部早已广为流传,虽然我没有看到诉状中陈述的这次摔椅子,但我过去曾亲眼看到过鲍尔默把一把椅子扔到一个副总裁的身上。

 

鲍尔默的暴力让Google创始人拉里·佩奇说:“开复在遭受恐吓!”

 

这样的事实表明,斯蒂夫·鲍尔默对于Google早已怀恨在心,并且对于微软数百个精英流失到Google感到出奇的害怕和痛恨!这样的事实也透露出这样的信息,即微软急迫地想要通过这场官司阻止更多的精英流失。

 

这样的素材无疑是新鲜的,能让喜欢猎奇的媒体感到亢奋。鲍尔默扔椅子的消息很快被发布在互联网上。媒体保持了陈述双方观点的惯例,推出了一个个新的专题。

 

但此时此刻,我的心情依然沉重!对手负面消息的曝光,并不能使我感到轻松。因为,我遭受的伤害与恶意中伤,并不会因为对手的负面消息而减轻。我一点儿也高兴不起来。

 

我的日记里描述了我的心情:

  • 么样,已经发生的事情并不能减轻我的痛苦,也无法解除我的困境。我打电话给先铃说,“混战已经开始了,但一切也已经结束了!”她说,“不要担心,人们总有一天会知道真相。等官司结束了,人们就可以知道真相。”我对她说,“我觉得希望渺茫,就算我做得再好,我也已经被这些谎言伤害,赢了官司也帮不了我自己!”她只是说,“你是一个好人,当法官和记者了解了这一点之后,他们就会相信你!你别担心了,回家吃晚饭吧,我们永远都会支持你。”

 

我相信,只要生活在世间的人都明白,在遭遇人生重大危机的时候,只有亲人会不离不弃,并且给予你坚定的支持。这些支持就如同氧气一样给你生存的养料,给你恢复元气的力量。

 

在接下来的3天里,我在为最后的时刻做着一切的准备。我深深地知道,这是一场只能够胜利的战役。我仍然每天抽几分钟记录下自己的心情。

 

93日,我仔细阅读并默诵了“directexamination(主问询)的部分。(主问询的目的主要是,通过对证人的询问使该证人将有利于己方的有关案件事实反映出来,并做出支持自己主张的证言,以取得事实审理者——陪审团或法官的理解。)

 

94日,我在加州的机场遇到了前去西雅图出庭的苏珊·哈里曼。在飞机上,苏珊和我聊了一路。我对苏珊说,如果律师强迫用一些形容词(例如:“不小心”)来形容我,或者问我是否承认时,我该如何回应?她对我说,“你没有做错任何事情,所以不要相信那些谎言,也无须害怕那些律师的小伎俩。”苏珊说,“开复,别紧张,你没有做错,你要让全世界知道事实。记住开庭的时候,要把你的头抬得高高的。”

 

95日,我和我的私人律师布莱德再一次演练了direct examination部分。不过,我和律师的节奏似乎不是很协调,因为我总是一口气把事情讲完。但布莱德告诉我,法官无法从长篇大论中获得要点。因此,布莱德要我合着他的节奏逐一回答那些要点,我们练习了很多遍。

 

96日,是真正的庭审的日子。经过6日和7日的法庭审判将决定我是否能够到Google上班,其重要性不言而喻。

 

96日,我在费尔蒙酒店醒来,我决心要让自己充满能量地走上法庭。

 

我喝了两杯咖啡,依然觉得自己的“能量”不够,于是,我决定让自己运动一下出一些汗。虽然我没有带跑步鞋和运动衫,但我光着脚在房间的走廊里小跑了起来。经过数百次来回快跑,我的额头渗出了汗珠。当我大汗淋漓之后,我感觉自己从内到外都已充好电,活力百倍,信心百倍。“不会有问题的,过了这两天,我就将迎来新生!”我对自己说。

 

随后,我和律师们一起来到了华盛顿州的州立法庭。这也是我人生中第一次走进美国的法庭。想象中的法庭应该像在好莱坞电影里一样宽大明亮,但我进入的这个法庭却是另一番景象。这个法庭没有窗户,而且又小又旧。房间的前方是法官落座处高高的桌椅,法官座位旁边是证人和当事人接受询问所坐的椅子,同样高高的桌子上面还摆着一本《圣经》。法官的座椅左边是原告方的律师和当事人的桌椅,右边则是被告人的桌椅,而在两方中间是速记员的位子。

 

我记得速记员是一位上了年纪的女士,她有时会不知道该如何拼写一些人名,而两方的大牌律师根本不可能劳神告诉她这些细节。因此,在每个庭审阶段结束后,我都会跟她核对每一个名字的拼写。她很感谢,后来还特意写信表达谢意。当然,这已经是后话了。

 

房间的后方一共只有四排长椅,这几十个座位专门用来供人旁听。而那天早上,这些椅子早已经被各个媒体派来的记者占满,据说,很多记者很早就来排队,就为了能够占到一个理想的座位。微软的法律副总裁、公关总监都坐在下面。另外,一位著名的自称是“比尔·盖茨的女朋友”的女士也坐在这些记者当中。据说她神经有问题,几乎每一场有关微软的诉讼,她都会出现。

 

庭审的流程分为几个阶段,原告的开场、被告的开场,随后是第一个证人的作证(是Google的艾伦·尤斯塔斯),这个作证包括direct examinationcross-examination(交叉问询),然后是我作为第二个证人出场,同样接受主问询和对方律师的交叉问询。接下来是双方律师回答法官的问题,进行辩论。最后由双方律师分别进行总结陈辞。

 

96日当天,我们得知微软作为原告没有派任何人出庭。因此,法庭只对我方进行问询。

 

当天的主问询和交叉问询长达数小时,完全是一场对意志力的考验。在主问询阶段,我很好地把握住了节奏。

 

律师:我知道你每天都会在中国的学生和教育方面花很多时间,这是否是由于你本人的背景?

 

我:我认为我是一个有着多文化背景的人,因此我认为自己有责任回馈社会。在我11岁的时候,我的父母就把我送到美国学习,这是我一生最重要的幸运和决定,因为我接触到了西方的教育方式和先进的技术。而且,我得到了自信,找到了终极的理想。

 

律师:是什么让你希望去帮助中国的学生?

 

我:我想,我所做的不仅仅是单纯地帮助中国学生,而是在搭建中美文化沟通的桥梁。其中有两个原因让我决心投入这项工作当中。

 

第一个原因是,当我1990年第一次到中国北京的信息学院讲学时,我发现学生们都很聪明、好奇和勤奋,但我也为他们身边资源的缺乏和教育体制的落后所震惊。他们的内心也充满着东西方文化价值观的强烈冲撞。

 

那个时候我忽然意识到了自己的使命,我发现了自己能够并应该给予这个世界的究竟是什么。作为一个多文化背景的人,我可以把西方的价值观用一种有建设性的方法传达给中国的学生。我希望能在中国的教育背景中加入西方文化里的一些有价值的部分,并且帮助学生们学到在学校里无法获得的一些东西。

 

律师:第二个原因是什么?

 

我:是我的父亲。当我的父亲55岁的时候,他有幸到斯坦福大学去做访问学者。在那里,他被美国的教育理念震撼,因此他把他的整个余生都奉献给了中美文化的交流和沟通,并致力于把这些教育理念和价值观传播到中国去。在他去世之前,他对我们这些围绕在病床前的孩子说,他希望他这些有幸在西方教育观念中成长起来的孩子回到中国工作,以便让更多的中国学生接触到西方先进的理念,成为融会中西的人才,这样做才能增进中美之间的相互理解。

 

这就是我从1990年直到今天,不断到中国高校进行演讲的原因,也是我不断给中国大学生写信的原因。

 

律师:你的文章后来为很多中国学生所追捧。你认为原因何在?

 

我:我想主要的原因是,他们知道我这样做并非为了自己和公司的利益,因此他们信任我。而他们越信任我,我就越觉得自己有责任更多地帮助他们。

 

律师:你是否有一个自己创办的教育网站?

 

我:是的,我在一年前创办了一个网站,目前有大约4万注册用户。另外,每月至少有40万网民访问这个网站,也就是说,每天至少有两万用户访问。通过网站上公布的电子邮件,我一年大致能够回答3 000个中国学生的提问。

 

除了直接帮助学生,也有一个志愿者团队在帮助我。这些志愿者中包括微软的员工、Google的员工,也有其他很多公司的员工。学生在网站上也可以互相帮助。我希望通过这些努力使所有的学生都能获得同等的帮助。

 

律师:你是否也在写一本书?

 

我:是的。《做最好的自己》是我写的第一本中文书,它的目的是帮助中国青年寻找自己内心的声音,寻找生活的意义,理解正确的价值观,并正确理解成功的定义。

 

律师:谁为这些活动付费呢?

 

我:我自己支付所有的活动费用。另外,出书所得的所有版税都将捐给中国的教育事业。

 

律师:你是如何开始撰写《如何在中国成功》这篇文章的?

 

我:刚开始的时候,我对微软在中国的政策感到失望。因此,我希望能够写一篇有教育意义的文章,里面包含了其他在华公司如何成功的一些案例和公开的信息。这些文章的材料,全部来自互联网。

 

律师:你提到你对微软中国的政策感到失望?为什么?

 

我:首先,我觉得微软中国的机构设置混乱。有一段时间,微软中国失去很多订单,但人们总是将这种错误归咎于中国政府。而我认为问题的核心在微软内部。所以,我觉得有必要让总部明白和警醒问题所在,因而提出了一些建议。我的这些建议部分地被斯蒂夫·鲍尔默先生采用了,因为他发现微软中国的收入在下降。

 

律师:为什么要在损失收入的时候才采用你的建议呢?

 

我:我认为,雷德蒙的管理团队并不真正理解中国国情。总部的一些管理人员本能地认为,在总部可以顺利运行的规则在中国也可以顺理成章地运行。但事实并非如此,有经验的人会很快意识到适应本地文化和预期非常重要。但对一个跨国公司来说,解释这些貌似简单的运营方式也竟然如此困难。

 

律师:可以举一个这方面的实例吗?

 

我:我最失望的时刻,是比尔·盖茨在某次生气对我大吼时使用了由四个字母组成的那个词,大意就是抱怨中国在“强奸”微软,不但使用软件不付钱,还偏袒中国公司,欺负外国公司。这是我在微软工作整个时期中的最低点。

我感到自己的心在流血。

 

在主问询阶段,主要是我方陈述自己的观点,并通过律师的询问证实一些我们的观点。因此,在下一个环节,也就是对方问询的阶段,才是真正的关键。我不能答非所问,不能有丝毫的迟疑,更不能回答错误。虽然难度很大,但我知道,这是我通往Google必经的旅程。

 

律师:你是否同意微软在运营微软中国期间学到了很多?

 

我:你是说微软作为一个公司,已经学到了如何在中国顺利运营?

 

律师:是的。

 

我:毫无疑问,微软在中国犯了许多错误。一般来说,吃一堑,长一智,应该能从错误中学到很多,但根据我们刚才看到的微软内部状况,很抱歉,我并不觉得微软做到了这一点。

 

律师:你写的这份《如何在中国成功》没有任何微软机密吗?

 

我:当然没有。

 

律师:你是否使用了微软内部的资料来写这篇文章?

 

我:没有。

 

律师:你是否使用了微软购买来的商业报告来写这篇文章?

 

我:没有。

 

律师:那你的信息源自何处?

 

我:大都是用Google找到的。

 

律师:你是否在这篇文章中谈到了微软的人?

 

我:只有那些已公开的,例如吴士宏、高群耀等。

 

律师:其他确定都没有吗?

 

我:我连感谢名单中微软的人的名字都拿掉了,以免被认为我把员工名单外泄。

下面的例子可以看出律师在尝试误导我回答一个复杂的问题(两个问题合成一个问题),来达到让我无意中承认涉及机器翻译的目的:

 

律师:你是否意识到微软研究院正在研究一个新的机器翻译技术或者机器翻译算法,而微软希望你领导下的自然语言小组来运作以达到商业化的运用?

 

我:我想你是问了两个问题。第一个问题的回答是:是的,我已经意识到微软研究院在开发机器翻译技术。第二,我也意识到他们正在寻找潜在的落脚点。据我所知,他们考虑过很多地方,他们也询问过由我管理的自然语言处理小组是否是个合适的地方。

 

律师:那么他们是否给了一页PPT,阐述了他们希望把这个产品落户在自然语言小组?

 

我:我不想推测他们为什么要作这个报告,但是他们确实给了我这个报告。

下面的例子是他们偷偷用产品的概念来误导我承认我的团队做了和搜索有关的“产品”。

 

律师:你是否知道自然语言处理小组正在研究一个未来的产品叫做X平台?

 

我:我不会把X平台叫做一个产品。这只是一个尚处于孵化中的研究。

 

律师:你最近已经看到了X平台技术可以与MSN的搜索引擎结合并提供搜索结果了吗?

 

我:不,有关这个技术能否与MSN的搜索引擎结合,我没有丝毫印象。

 

律师:那你是否记得那个技术演示里所举出的一个例子,比如能够显示某一天从纽约飞往波士顿的航班。

 

我:是的,我记得。

 

律师:那种技术会自动填入航班的信息。

 

我:没错,我记得。但是那根本不是互联网搜索技术啊,那只是为航班预订而设计的一个东西。

 

律师:是的。但是你看到的演示是在MSN搜索引擎的最上端运行的,对吗?

 

我:那是运行在旅游网站上面的,而这个旅游网站是个航空查询和预定系统。这个网站可能选择在搜索引擎里面显示搜索结果,但是,这不代表它与任何一个搜索引擎有直接的关系。

 

律师:李博士,你曾经对微软说你长假后会回到微软,是吗?

 

我:是的。

 

律师:你说这话的时候,确实打算回去吗?

 

我:我说的时候还没有决定是否参加Google。如果不参加,我当然会回到微软工作;如果决定参加,我也会在长假后回到微软做好一系列交接工作后再离开。所以,我认为我是打算回去的。

 

律师:你回答的时候并没有说这么多,那你认为你的回答是真实的吗?

 

我:我认为是真实的,但并不完整。

 

律师:为什么你不给一个完整的回答呢?

 

我:在我没有决定离开的时候,我说太多是不明智的。我相信,这是一个容易理解的人之常情。

 

律师:李博士,你是否为了钱跳槽Google

我的律师抗议:这个问题和竞业竞争无关!

我:我可以回答,不是的。

 

律师:李博士,难道你没有开价1 000万美金作为跳槽的转会费?

 

我:当然没有。Google问我在微软累计的股权和股票大约的价值,他们希望雇我,因此希望确保在这方面我没有损失。我想没有人会愿意降薪换工作的。

 

律师:李博士,如果你下面10个月不加入GoogleGoogle依然会补偿你的薪水和股票,对吗?

 

我:是的。

 

律师:那么,其实无论庭上如何判决,你也不会受到损失。对吧?

 

我:不对。如果判我违反协议,或不允许我去Google工作,我的损失会更大,因为人生在世,名誉比金钱重要得多。失去了金钱没有关系,但是名誉受到伤害,事业也就结束了。媒体对这个案件已经有太多负面报道,如果我败诉,并且一年内不能加入Google,那么我的未来也将彻底结束。

在经过一系列的激烈辩论以后,双方律师分别做了总结陈词。微软做出的陈词依然在我们的预期之内,内容包括:李开复加入微软时签了“反竞争协议”,明确承诺离开微软后一年内不到别的公司做同样的项目。

 

另外,我度长假前,微软曾经问我是否打算回来,我当时说“是”,但却没有回来。另外,微软明确规定员工休长假之前一定要承诺回来工作,因此,这个“背信”的人至少一年内不能加入Google

 

Google也按照之前的准备作出了我们的陈述,其中包括:

 

微软声称李开复拥有许多微软的机密,但李开复从苹果到SGI公司,又从SGI到微软,从没有泄露过任何商业机密。因为泄露商业秘密不仅有违法律,同时也有违职业道德。所以这些担心毫无意义。

 

微软声称,李开复将在Google从事他在微软竞业禁止协议下限制的那些项目,但我们认为这个竞业禁止协议的本身就是不合法的,因为微软没有对此提供任何补偿。而且,就算我们考虑这个合约,我们也清楚地知道李开复在微软美国的工作是操作系统里的语言语音技术,而他在Google将要启动的则是一家设在中国的公司和工程研究院。这两者没有任何关联。即便如此,为了照顾微软的感受,李开复愿意承诺在之后的四个月内不接触任何语音、语言,以及他从不曾做过的搜索技术。我们只要求他能够从事启动Google中国以及相关的招聘、选址等工作。

 

微软要求李开复不能从事启动Google中国以及相关招聘工作,只因为他们单方认定李开复所获得的一切都属于微软。这显然是荒谬的。

 

大家都已听到了李开复的个人陈述,他在中国获得的名声完全是因为他拥有在多个公司的成功经历,并具有无私奉献的精神,才取得了学生的信任。我们认为,他的名声可以帮助Google招到更好的人才。大家也了解到了李开复的能力所在,他理解中国,他知道公司业务如何在中国得到强有力地执行,而他在中国还拥有广泛的人脉。但是,他的能力、执行力和人脉不为任何一个公司所独占,这一切都属于他自己。

 

是的,因为李开复的名声、执行力和过人的能力,我们完全能够确定两年以后最好的中国IT人才会越过微软,更向往Google。但是,微软没有权利声称李开复的名声和能力属于微软。

 

为我做总结陈词的律师是约翰·柯克尔,他是一位资深律师,他的总结很有气势,如同行云流水般一气呵成!这给了我们巨大的信心。

 

在庭审阶段结束以后,我们的律师团队根据他们的经验作出了判断——结果将会是乐观的。

 

宣判——“我们赢了第一回合!”

 

听证阶段,也就是庭审阶段结束了。就如同一场大考结束,尽管还不知道分数,但是大体的情况,自己总是能够感受到七八分。我和律师们都认为我们已经竭尽全力,做了能做的一切,律师们再一次对我的表现加以肯定,他们说“从没见到过如此沉着冷静的当事人!”因此,他们都对结果表现出相当程度的乐观。

 

当天晚上,我们就到了西雅图最好的牛排馆Metropolitan Grill(大都市烤肉)举行“庆功宴”了。在晚餐中,每一个人都非常放松。在经历了数个星期不眠不休的疯狂工作后,这个团队终于能够坐下来轻松交谈微软、Google和李博士以外的内容。

 

大都市烤肉馆的环境非常好,每面墙壁都由深色的木头包起来,显得古色古香。在轻柔流畅的音乐中,我们坐在包间里,饮着美酒,轻松交谈。

 

我的“教练”苏珊·哈里曼第一个开始敬酒。她拿起酒杯,讲了一个笑话。“知道吗?我今天遇到西雅图市的市长了,他告诉我他想把这座城市的钥匙交给开复,留他在西雅图。原因呢?有三个。第一,我们要感谢开复在过去短短两个月里给西雅图法律界和新闻界带来的众多工作机会和可观收益。第二,如果开复留下来继续当西雅图市的居民,那对我们来说就是天大的好事,因为我们需要一个像他这样聪明的人,这样也就能将他聪明的基因留给这个城市。第三,开复去哪里都会有一堆精英追随,如果他离开西雅图,这个城市的精英都会被他带跑的。”

 

这席话把大家逗得哈哈大笑,宴会的气氛也更加热烈起来!

 

此时,我站起身来表达我的感谢。

 

“两个月之前,如果有人告诉我,你将开始人生中最糟糕的两个月,我绝对不会相信。如果有人告诉我,未来的两个月,你唯一的欢乐源泉是来自一群律师,我更是怎么都不会相信。”

 

这时,大家又哈哈大笑,因为“律师”在美国往往是近似“鲨鱼”的形象,人们还编了很多笑话取笑律师。

 

“但是,这样的事情确实发生了。在这两个月里,我度过了我人生中最为煎熬的日子,但是今天,回顾过去的两个月,我的内心却非常温暖,并心存感恩。那是因为,我的身边还有天才的你们。让我感动的不仅仅是你们出色努力的工作,更是你们正义和善良的心。

 

“我希望你们知道,你们如此辛苦地工作,不仅仅在为李开复一个人战斗,也在为保护我的隐私而战,为保护我家庭的快乐而战,更是为Google的未来而战。最重要的是,你们还在为华盛顿州所有居民能够自由更换工作的权利而战。他们的未来将取决于你们的工作,还有更多的华盛顿州的居民们都期盼着这个案例能够迎来一个自由更换工作的判决。为了你们的工作,为了华盛顿州居民的自由!干杯!!”

 

“干杯!”和我并肩作战的律师们都拿起了酒杯。

 

接着,各位律师都站起来说出他们心中的话,并举杯祝贺。

 

此时,另外一个感人的时刻出现了。坐在角落的律师助手斯科特·里沃茨(Scott Riewerts)站了起来,他说:“在我的职业生涯中,这个案例让我们不仅仅是为了赢得官司而渴望胜利,而且还是为了一个善良正派的人而战。开复除了善良、正派,他面对困难的能力,对每一个人的真诚,还有他对技术的掌握,都值得我们尊敬。我会永远珍惜和开复工作的这几个月。他是一个最值得我们尊敬的人,他当之无愧地拥有胜利!”

 

大家鼓起掌来,而我受到了感染,走过去激动地和他拥抱了一下。

 

如同一次“围炉夜话”,我们边享受美味大餐,边敞开心扉聊天。我特别感谢为我做出慷慨激扬的总结陈词的约翰,正是他逻辑清晰、感情充沛并且具有感染力的表述,让整个庭审阶段画上了一个完美的句号。也就是在那天晚上,我对他说,“如果将来和太太到北京来玩,一定要来找我!”他开心地说:“好啊!”

 

接着他开始滔滔不绝地讲述他在越战期间手臂如何被打断,而医生又如何帮他接上的故事。他又现场表演了他的手臂如何反转,这让在座的每一个人都有点害怕,都说“别闹了,约翰”。而我今天还记得他当时顽皮而得意的微笑!

 

后来,他真的带了家人到北京,并发生了一系列好玩的故事。

 

98日到11日,官司结束后难得几天可以放松休息的日子。我和家人终于可以短暂地团聚一下。在等待判决的日子里,我回到加州,和太太、女儿一起看了电影,逛了逛街,去了几家环境温馨的餐馆吃饭,好像回到了以前无忧无虑的日子。

 

其实,我对家人的愧疚非常深。在我日夜准备官司的6个星期里,先铃独自带着两个女儿生活。家里大大小小的事情全部由她一人承担,我几乎对所有的家事不闻不问,而她从来没有对我抱怨过一句。只是小女儿经常给我打电话,奶声奶气地说,“爸爸,你不在家睡觉,我们都好害怕!”听到她这么说,我心疼极了。

 

而在这几天,我终于又牵着女儿的小手一起逛街了,可以带她去吃最喜欢的冰淇淋——酷圣石(Coldstone)。看着她开心的样子,温暖的感觉一阵阵地涌上我的心头。

 

在那三天,我们还去了家具店,预定了一些可能在回国后使用的家具。我们告诉家具店的老板,我们会在913日正式打电话通知他们,到底要还是不要。

 

913日是法庭宣布我能否去Google上班的日子。对于结果,我们充满乐观的期待,但并没有盲目自信。

 

912日,我和律师们再次一起乘飞机从加州飞往西雅图。而这一次,我的心情难以形容,因为法官将要宣布判决结果了。那天早上,全家人都为我送行,在我离开家门之前,小女儿德亭跑过来给了我一个大大的拥抱,在我耳边悄悄说,“爸爸再见,祝你好运!”大女儿德宁也走过来,加入了我们的拥抱。

 

先铃那个时候正在门外等接我的汽车,我走过去拥抱了她一下,对她说,“谢谢你!这段时间你受苦了!”她只是微笑着摇摇头。我和她开玩笑说,“如果输了,我就退休,这样我们就能天天在一起了,你再也不用抱怨我不回家吃饭了!”她笑着说:“你不会输的,你会赢回一切,无论是你的自由,还是你的名声。你肯定会比过去还忙!”

 

在飞往西雅图的飞机上,约翰·柯克尔、拉加什·唐格里和我坐在一起。我们谈起即将揭晓的法官判决。我问拉加什:“你觉得结果会怎么样?”拉加什是个保守派,他说:“噢,我可不敢轻易对任何一个案子的任何判决结果作出推断,你知道,法庭上什么事情都可能发生!”但乐观的约翰说,“我觉得我们的表现很好,结果肯定很理想!”约翰还说:“结果取决于法官对所有资料的理解和判断。我认为法官冈萨雷斯是一个不偏不倚的人,他很公正。”拉加什接过话来说:“不过,法官冈萨雷斯的缺点是一直在从事公务员的工作,他没有在业界的从业经验,因此对于真正的跳槽,他恐怕得好好理解一下。我还是觉得他会作出一个相对平衡的判决。”

 

913日上午9点,律师和我走进法庭听取庭审结果。无数媒体都守在那里等待最终的判决!微软的法律副总裁来了,Google的公关总监来了,双方的律师来了,大家神情肃穆,而我也在安静地等待着宣判。摄影记者一直举着照相机,生怕漏过当事人每一个细微的表情。一片紧张而躁动不安的情绪弥漫在空气当中。

 

最终的判决终于宣布了:法庭支持了Google的所有要求!

 

按照Google提出的自我限制条约,李开复在下次开庭前不能做搜索、语音、语言技术方面的工作,但可以立刻为Google开始工作,负责Google中国的建立,并启动招聘工作。另外,李开复负责Google公司的政府关系、公关关系、选址等要求也全部予以支持。判决书里写道,“李开复可以提供给Google任何技术或商业建议,只要不谈到微软的机密”。

 

这样的判决等于全面否定了微软对法庭提出的要求。因为微软的要求是:不允许李开复在Google开创中国公司,包括招聘、政府关系、公共关系、选址等工作,也不允许在中国工作。在诉状里明确表明,“微软与李博士的协定不允许李博士使用他个人的公众形象或个人的关系。”

 

另外,微软提出我不可以参与Google在中国的运营也被驳回。在诉状里,法官表示:“在微软期间,李博士在中国的工作不能够被列入竞业协议的约束条款。”另外,微软不可以将李开复在20008月之前在中国的工作纳入竞业协议内容,因为该协议早已在2000年过期。

 

至于双方争论的焦点:20008月之后的竞业协议是否合法?是否微软在签约前提供了补偿给我?是否应该约束我在搜索方面的工作?法院表示将在随后的一月份作出判决。

 

关于语音、自然语言处理、搜索等领域的细分,也将等到4个月后再作判决。当然,我出庭前已经答应不接触这几个领域,另外因为先期会忙于Google中国的设立,暂时也没有时间和需要接触这方面的事情。

 

“我们赢了第一回合!”约翰高兴地揽住我的肩膀,“我们所有的诉讼请求都得到支持!拉加什开始和我握手祝贺。记者们马上蜂拥到我的面前,拿起相机对着我一阵狂拍,还有无数的话筒伸向了我,希望了解我对判决结果的想法和感受。

 

面对媒体,我简单地表达了自己的心情:“很高兴终于能够回到中国工作了!”“非常感谢我的律师团队所作的努力,正是由于他们,我才能回到中国实现我的梦想。我想,此刻我没有任何遗憾!”

 

媒体把这些话全部收录了进去,而微软的法律副总裁在另外一边也开始接受采访。他说,“Google正在聘请一个有史以来最贵的人力资源经理。”这让我很惊讶,微软居然在所有的诉讼请求都未获支持的状况下说出这样的话。也许这句话会让一些媒体引用为标题大肆报道,如果媒体将这句话作为标题,那无论文章的内容如何偏向Google,都可能会误导读者。

 

想到这一点,我马上走到记者中间,伸出双手做出V的姿势。看到这一幕,摄影记者纷纷跑来抓拍这个镜头。不出所料,大多数美国报纸都把这张照片刊发出来,还把我的胜利当做标题。这个镜头浓缩了太多我无法表达的语言,浓缩了我“用勇气改变可以改变的事情”的最终成果!

 

宣判的当天,我径直从西雅图飞回加州。晚上,女儿们用欢声笑语迎接了最近“成功瘦身”15斤的爸爸。小女儿对我撒娇说,“爸爸,你说过,如果到中国去,我就可以养一条狗了。现在,我是不是终于可以养狗狗啦?”我亲亲她的脸蛋说,“宝贝,可以了,爸爸带你去中国!去北京!你想养几条小狗都行!”

 

判决出来的第一时间内,Google就发布了公关稿以及“Google和李开复博士的博客”。这些博客是Google的公关部门在我第一个员工郭去疾的指导之下提早准备好的,他们在博客中逐条反驳微软的控诉。而这个版本,也是为了迎接我的诉讼宣判而准备的。

 

第二天,媒体纷纷以大篇幅刊出报道:《微软和Google都宣称自己赢了》、《Google赢得了第一回合》、《李开复可以去Google上班》、《法官允许李开复立即为Google开始招聘》等等,几乎没有一篇是对Google的负面报道。而我伸出双手表示胜利的照片也传遍了互联网。

 

一场微软和Google的“大规模武装冲突”就这样暂时陷入了平静当中。个中滋味,冷暖自知!

 

913日晚上,我拨通了一个人的电话,我跟对方说:“和您确认一下,我要那些家具!”

 

与历史和解

 

917日,经过13个小时的飞行之后,我在那片我热爱的土地上降落——中国北京。正如Google的律师对媒体所说的那样,“李开复马上会忙碌起来的!”

 

在飞往北京的飞机上,我拿出电脑记录下了自己的心情:“又踏上北京的土地,看到雨后灿烂的天空,感觉真好。就像我最近的两个月中,经过了一阵狂风暴雨,让我更加珍惜雨后美好的天空。”

 

要建立一个新的机构,工作肯定是海量的。从一个光杆司令开始,招聘、政府关系、媒体关系、公司选址这一系列的事情都要从零开始,所有的事情都要亲历亲为。辛苦是不言而喻的,但这种辛苦被激情支撑着,我的心情格外轻松和兴奋。

 

在刚到北京几天之后我就得知,清华科技园为了欢迎世界上最大互联网公司的进驻,决定打破惯例,同意我们在租用的大厦里建一个厨房,这可是园区内唯一一家可以在写字楼里建立自己厨房的公司。

 

这个时候,中国媒体的报道已经基本侧重于“李开复如何在中国开展工作”这个方面。对于还没有完全结束的诉讼,媒体似乎一下子失去了兴趣,只有零零星星的记者还在关注。媒体似乎习惯了一种方式,只对正在进行中的事件才有兴趣报道,而且会以轰炸式的方式集中报道。而当一件事情告一段落之后,媒体的兴趣也会一落千丈。

 

我回到北京以后,Google中国召开了新闻发布会,宣布我启动Google中国的业务。我以为媒体还会针对我的诉讼大量提问,但没有想到的是,发布会上的所有媒体都只对招聘、选址及政府关系等问题有兴趣,他们甚至连诉讼都没提!那时我才恍然大悟,对于媒体来说,有关微软和Google的争夺大战,早已经成为旧闻,成为了新闻记者眼中的“易碎品”。

 

其实,官司还没有结束。

 

在整整两个月的时间内,我们没有看出微软有和解的意愿。但是由于我在中国工作繁忙,因此我的律师也没有就官司的进展情况过多地给我打电话。

 

一直到11月的某一天,我终于听到了新的消息,律师要我去西雅图再进行一次“取证”。

 

像上一次那样,我作好应对整整一天“取证”的准备。但没有想到的是,我只被律师问了两个技术问题以后就被告知——“取证结束了!”我当时简直不敢相信,这也叫做取证?因为律师问我的问题全部与技术有关,比如,“请问什么是feedback technology(反馈技术)?”,“请问,什么叫做statistical translation(基于统计的翻译)技术?”因此,这一次的取证更像是一次技术调查。

 

取证完毕,我在外面的屋子里站着,等着和我的律师拉加什·唐格里一起离开。谁知道,过了一会,拉加什就从屋子里走了出来。他平静地说,“开复,我们已经和解了!微软撤诉了,官司结束了!”

 

“啊,这就结束了,怎么这么突然?”我问。

 

拉加什说:“是的,官司进行到这个程度,和解就是一个趋势了,无非是时间问题!”

 

我疑惑地问:“既然如此,那刚才为什么还要对我取证,问那些技术问题?”

 

拉加什说:“噢,因为微软方面弄不太懂你所做的技术,但我们要在和解协议里提到这项技术,所以他们索性利用取证的时间让你解释一下,然后添加到和解协议里。”

 

拉加什充满自信地把一张纸递给我说:“看看吧,这就是和解协议!

 

我接过这张纸,看到里面是一个个的专有技术名词,还有我在Google可以展开各种技术的时间表!

 

我惊呼:“条件这么好!你们怎么谈的?”

 

拉加什平静地说:“其实大家早已疲惫了,他们只是为了面子才没有轻易撤诉。虽然耗了两个月,但我们并不着急。眼看着下个月就要开庭了,对方根本没有胜算的把握,所以现在轮到他们急了。”

 

“那太好了,我把这些条件告诉大家,不就等于他们打输了?”

 

拉加什说:“那不行,你看最后一条。”

 

我低头一看,在这张纸的最后写着“双方对此和解协议必须保密”。

 

我担心地问:“啊,如果不披露这个保密协议,那别人会不会误解我们付钱来进行‘竞业禁止’赔偿,或者我被严重地限制?”

 

拉加什说:“不会的,开复。下一季度的财报一出来,媒体就会知道我们没有赔钱,你工作范围的扩大也会马上被看到。所以大家都会明白是怎么回事。”

 

“好吧!”我拍了拍这张单薄的纸,说:“我看媒体自从9月份的判决后也已经不再关心这个案子了。”

 

就这样,一场轰轰烈烈的闪电诉讼,以波澜壮阔、气势汹汹的方式到来,又以虎头蛇尾、悄无声息的方式结束。这么一场让两个世界级IT巨头耗资上千万美金的决斗,就由这么一张纸、几条没什么意义的条款画上了句号。

 

今天的很多人,对于当时的诉讼“盛况”早就失忆了,时间一直在向前奔跑,世界在日新月异、分秒必争地向前迈进。但是对于作为当事人的我来说,这个事件已停留在生命里,成为了一个深刻的符号。这个事件,让我在漩涡中感受了世间的冷暖,有最刻骨的伤害,同时也有最温暖的关怀!

 

很多人都会有类似的感受,在经历一次人生危机的时候,一切都仿佛凸透镜一样,折射出人生百态。有的人坚定不移地支持你,有的人冒着自己受伤害的风险帮助你,而有的人在经历心理挣扎后退却,有的人也在这个时候作出了伤害你的决定。官司,就像一块试金石,不经意间,把人间万象顷刻检测了一遍。

 

在这场诉讼进行的过程当中,有许多让我感动的故事。

 

记得诉讼刚刚开始的时候,微软公司发出禁令,不允许微软的员工和我有接触。但微软的华人员工中有很多是我最好的朋友,有些是得到过我帮助的中国员工,有些还是我的学生。他们自发组织了一个“送别团”,在一位员工的家中给我开了goodbye party(告别聚会)。在这个告别会上,他们轮番向我表达他们的感谢和祝福。我们都非常职业地避免谈两个公司的任何事情。虽然我离开了微软,但我仍拥有一些员工的祝福,这让我非常欣慰。和他们度过的那个温暖而开心的下午也让我终身难忘。

 

更让我惊讶的是,他们在聚会即将结束时彼此约定,回到公司谁也不能再提这个聚会,也不能告诉任何人。我听到他们在彼此约定时,才知道微软曾经发出这个禁令。在跨国公司里,这样集体违背公司规定的事情非常罕见,尤其是参加这个聚会还有可能给自己带来不必要的麻烦。

 

后来,果然有一个朋友因为这件事情惹祸上身。他由于被我方律师抽调去作“取证”,因此受到微软律师的提前指导和培训。微软的律师在对他进行培训时问他:“李开复离职以后,你见过他吗?”他回答说,“见过。”虽然他可以隐瞒,但是却无法对律师撒谎。微软律师一听,惊讶不已,“见过!你见过他?你在哪里见过他?”“在告别聚会上!”而微软律师更加震怒,“什么?居然还有告别聚会?还有谁参加了?”我的朋友这个时候却守口如瓶,“对不起,我不能告诉你!”

 

这件事情给这位朋友带来很大的麻烦,过了一段时间,他就从微软公司退休了。

 

我的另外一位朋友在取证阶段也一直遵循自己内心的原则说话。我后来看到了他的全部证词记录。律师问他:“你认为李开复是一个什么样的人?”他说,“我认为他是一个非常正直、正派的人!”律师又问:“如果将来你有机会和李开复一起共事,你是否还愿意?”他回答:“我愿意!”律师问:“你信任他吗?”这位朋友坚定地回答:“是的,我信任他!”微软律师在听了几个这样的回答后,马上叫停,并带他出去“教育”了半天,但他回来以后依然如故,按照自己的方式问答问题。然而,这给他的职业生涯带来了相当长的一段“低迷期”。

 

在整个诉讼阶段,我们也能够感到,再冰冷的世界,再冰冷的对手,也可能表露出有人情味一面。在整个官司结束以后,我除了对自己的律师团队的杰出表现心存感激以外,还对对方的一位律师印象颇深。

 

这位微软聘请的律师名叫杰弗里·约翰逊(Jeffrey Johnson),是Preston Gates & Ellis律师事务所里冉冉升起的一颗新星,不到40岁就已经成为律师事务所的年轻合伙人。他身材高大魁梧,面部轮廓分明,很像好莱坞的电影明星。

 

在临时禁令出台之前,他扮演了一个极其强悍的形象!他试图从各个细微的角落强力出击,甚至有些强词夺理。但从取证阶段开始,我们的律师发现他似乎在慢慢地发生着改变。比如,当他听到我义正言辞地宣读给大学生写的信,以及听到我富有逻辑的回答时,他的脸上会露出些许惊讶。在取证进行的7个小时内,他的表情越来越轻松,问题的尖锐程度也在逐渐减弱。到了最后,他甚至和我开起玩笑。

 

后来,苏珊跑来对我说,“开复,你知道吗?我们觉得他喜欢你。你把他感染了,我从来没有看到律师和证人在取证阶段能够开起玩笑的。”

 

从听证的那一刻开始直到出庭的那一天,杰弗里·约翰逊就再也没有恢复到他最初扮演的犀利角色上来。他的蜕变明显被他所在的律师事务所注意到。我发现,他的角色后来被一位更资深的律师卡尔·奎肯布希(Karl Quackenbush)慢慢取代。卡尔胖胖的,平时脸上总堆满了笑容,就像一位土土的南方绅士。但一上法庭,他就变身为一个“凶猛的进攻者”。在法庭上,微软和Google的战火愈演愈烈,而两方律师之间也仿佛在进行激烈对决。在法庭上,除了想战胜Google,卡尔·奎肯布希也想战胜著名的约翰·柯克尔,这样,他就可以迅速扬名立万。卡尔的眼睛里经常闪烁着战胜约翰的强烈欲望,而杰弗里·约翰逊的眼睛里却只有快速结束战事的简单渴望。

 

在诉讼期间,我的学生郭去疾给予我很多无私的帮助。他通过研究过去的案例发现,竞业禁止协议里如果没有offer additional compensation(额外的赔偿)就不能成立。这个发现成为我案件后期的重点,还被写进了诉状当中。虽然后来没有用上(官司于第二次开庭一个月前和解了),但这也凝聚了他大量的心血,增加了我诉讼胜算的概率。另外,为了证实《如何在中国成功》这篇文章里的所有数据都是公开数据,他放弃了自己的休息时间,牺牲几个周末专门帮我查数据、写报告。最后,他汇编出了一整本报告来证实论文数据的出处。在诉讼之前,他又提出了在Google发表博客的建议,而这个博客迅速及时地传达了Google的信息。

 

当然,还有我的很多朋友都发邮件、打电话支持我。在苹果做语音时的战友自告奋勇找到《旧金山纪事报》为我说话;素昧平生的《大学生》杂志社钟岩社长和以前陪伴我到各地演讲的王肇辉编辑都希望帮我作证,以证实我在大学生中的正面影响力,以及这种影响力对Google招聘的重要性;让我最感激的是黄勇,他是我在微软研究院时认识的好朋友,他对我在微软研究院的很多计划(尤其和公关有关的)出了很多点子。在诉讼期间,我每次回国,他都亲自来机场接我,带我看房子,去每一个我需要去的地方,几乎放弃了自己的工作,快成了我的专职司机。我回到美国后,他一方面帮我处理所有搬家、修房的事情,另一方面又成为我的顾问。这份友情,我会永远记在心里。

 

我的诉讼刚刚结束,一位在微软的朋友马上给我发出了祝贺的邮件,里面有一首诗:“尘埃落地,玉宇澄清。轻装前进,大展宏图。开创未来,复归华夏。”类似的祝贺邮件非常多,让我感慨万千。

 

在经历人生的疾风暴雨时,家人成为了我最大的精神支柱。人们在平淡中往往难以感受到亲情迸发出的力量,但在遭遇人生重创时,只有家庭能成为最可依赖的臂膀。但这种感情却往往无法用言语来表达。

 

尤其是我的太太先铃,她无怨无悔地为我承担了一切。

 

从西雅图搬家到加州,我们600平方米的房间物品全部由她负责整理,工程之庞大难以想象。而我忙于诉讼,面对家里大大小小堆成山的箱子无暇顾及。最后,先铃看到实在无法在“截止日期”前完成任务,只好拜托我在美国的两个姐姐一起帮忙,最终顺利完成了打包的任务。而到了加州,也是她一个人,负责打开所有的箱子并把东西各归其位。而我唯一负责的事情,就是把车从西雅图开到了加州。

 

记得在西雅图,我们因为有大量的东西都无法搬走,于是就按照美国人的习惯举办了“garage sale”(车库销售)。当时的一对老夫妻看中了我们的一个观音像,很高兴地付钱买走了。但到了晚上,心事重重的先铃辗转反侧,她认为不应该卖掉观音像,这是不吉利的象征。我劝慰她放宽心,打赢官司还是要依靠掌握事实依据。但先铃还是不安心,第二天就开始四处寻找这对买主。她诚恳地向买主恳求赎回观音像。幸运的是,这对老夫妻非常善解人意,他们把观音相还给了她,让她终于了了一桩心事。

 

住到加州以后,先铃更是每天独自承担所有的家事,每天天不亮就起床煮饭,接着又开车送孩子们去上学。但那时最严重的问题却是房子——公司代租的房子位置刚好在坟场隔壁,先铃和孩子对此都有点害怕,所以常常无法入眠。当时考虑到公司的好意,而且已经签了半年合约,所以我就劝她们别想那么多。但是,无论在诉讼期间还是后来返回中国工作的这半年内,我都至少有一半的时间不在家。只要我不在,每到晚上她都会沉浸在恐惧和担忧当中,但她却只能把这种恐惧埋藏在心里。因为她是两个孩子的母亲,她不能表现出畏惧。当时,我也曾从孩子的只言片语里感受出她们的孤独,但是官司缠身,我无法分身,那些感受都一闪而过。因此,一直到官司结束她们搬到北京生活后,先铃才对我说起,那段时间她在无数个夜晚“独自流泪到天明”。这个时候,我才知道她们因为我承受了多少痛苦。

 

除了太太,我认为自己最对不起的还有女儿。诉讼的时候,小女儿9岁,还是个无忧无虑的乐天派,她倒没有什么值得担心的。但大女儿李德宁当时14岁,正处于情绪敏感的青春期,她和妹妹性格不同,有些内向。因此,我总是担心她在学校里听到同学的评论会不开心。有一天,我回到家里,累得瘫倒在沙发上。我随手翻开手边的报纸,上面却全都是连篇累牍的官司报道。我把小德宁叫过来,搂住她的肩膀却欲言又止,正想如何才能恰当地告诉她这一切时,她却懂事地告诉我:“爸爸,你什么都别说了,我都懂。你是一个我最尊重的人。你不必作任何解释。”当时,我已经心力交瘁,真的不愿意再给家人带来任何压力,可是,她们却给了我最温暖的爱。在诉讼期间,女儿也从西雅图转学到了加州。更换学校要经历一系列的适应过程,这些对她来说都是不小的挑战。但是,德宁都默默承受住了压力。今天想来,女儿的支持更让我感受到亲情的伟大。

 

坦白地说,在整个诉讼期间,我也经历过一些意想不到的“冲击”,比如一些朋友的有意疏远,甚至还有一些朋友的背信弃义,这些都曾让我感到痛苦和不可思议。

 

在整个诉讼的“取证”阶段,我和律师在收集证据的过程中,从微软提供的那30万封电子邮件里看到了不少让我触目惊心的文字。而其中,竟然有我在微软中国的同事发给总部一位副总裁的邮件这样说,“恭喜你,你的计划成功了,我们的公关计划成功地将开复抹黑。”还有一位我多年辅助的经理写信给总部说:“我们希望能得到更多的资源,以便让我们在中国的土地上打败微软亚洲研究院的创始者。”天啊,看到这些话让我感觉天旋地转。这两位朋友都是我扶持多年的下属和同事,我和他们亦师亦友。我并不曾期望他们在微软内部说我一句好话,但诉讼发生以后,他们却在帮助对方抹黑我、打击我,甚至通过我的离开争取自己的好处。我只能用“伤心”二字来形容当时的心情,这是我最不愿意看到的一幕,但这也许是人生的另一门“必修课”。

 

除了这些跌宕起伏的经历,这场官司对我的另一大作用就是大幅增强了我的承受能力。加入Google后的第一年我曾碰到过几次特别大的挑战和挫折,但是我都能够勇敢地面对,而且能在员工士气低落的时候帮他们打气、加油,甚至还用诙谐幽默的方式鼓舞他们。曾经有一次,Google员工在谈到“开复最独特的领导力”时,有人提到了“开复的无惧”。我直接想到,“这一切都要归功于这场‘世纪官司’。”

 

如果用音乐来形容这一章的生活,我会选择贝多芬的《命运交响曲》,这里面有跌宕起伏的人生,有如泣如诉的心情,有乘风破浪的勇气,也有对幸福生活的渴望和追求。

 

可以说,这样戏剧化的人生非我所愿,但经历了,走过了,接受了,也是人生莫大的一笔财富。梁启超曾经说过,“患难困苦,是磨炼人格之最高学校”;而创作《命运交响曲》的贝多芬也说过:“卓越的人有一大优点,那就是在不利与艰难的遭遇中百折不挠。”不断地追求卓越,正是我经年不息追求的目标之一。

 

曾经有一段时间,这段经历像未愈的伤口一样不能触碰。但是,随着岁月的流逝,当我再回望这段岁月,却发现很多东西早已成为过眼云烟,那些痛与恨也已经随着时间的流逝悄然散去。

 

而这段人生经历沉淀在我的身体里,随着年龄的增长,我的感悟仍然在不断地加深。尤其是当我看到《人以什么理由来记忆》一书中的观点时,分明会感受到一种别样的触碰。

 

书中援引了著名伦理哲学家马格利特的观点,“如果是单纯的遗忘,那就不是真正的宽恕,宽恕是一种有意识的决定,为的是改变自己的态度。”

 

“由于忘却只是一种忽略而非一种决定,遗忘却并不是宽恕。”

 

“宽恕要基于真相的还原,才能对抗冷漠与遗忘,才能使得双方共同面对历史。”

 

其实,这是讲一种对于心灵创伤最好的治疗方式,那不是人们普遍所说的遗忘,而是坐下来,理性地剖析心灵,用真正的对于过去的理解来换取未来的方式。

 

我想,我今天已经完全可以做到从容面对过去,我已经完全理解了书中所说的话,大意是“宽恕是一种拯救,它将每一个人都从往昔灾难的阴影里拯救出来,只有这样,才能与历史和解”。我想,我已经与历史和解。

 

今天,我已不会因为鲍尔默曾经把我告上法庭并把我当做敌人而痛不可抑。对微软,我依然怀有感情并深深怀念在那里度过的日子。经常在我眼前浮现的,依然是微软亚洲研究院的灯火通明,西雅图灿烂的夏天,微软每年一度的野餐,还有和盖茨畅谈技术和战略的每一分钟。

 

而诉讼的那些岁月,让锤炼出的友情和亲情熠熠生辉,无法磨灭,我想,这些就是人生中最值得珍惜的所有吧。

 

发表于 3年前

热度:157

Foreword Why Don’t We Agree to Disagree?

On January 12, 2010 at 7:10 a.m., my phone rang.  It was from David Barboza of the New York Times. I picked up the phone, and David asked, “Kai-Fu, I want to talk to you about Google pulling out of China.” 

 

I respected David a great deal – he had written several stories about my work at Google, always with exceptional insight and in lightening time.  But this was one interview I could not do. 

 

After politely declining his interview, my phone rang again – the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AP, the Chinese portals, Chinese Dailies….  By the time I returned home that night, my cell phone had run out of battery from ringing all day.

 

My energy was as drained as the battery in my phone.  It was exhausting to see my hard work in four years crumble in one day.  My four-year tenure as President of Google China was the most exhilarating experience – hiring 700 brilliant and dedicated people and rallying them to compete against the 7000-person Baidu, China’s largest search engine; developing a Silicon Valley culture yet localizing it to fit in China; bringing Google China market share from 10% to 35% while Yahoo, eBay, AOL and other Internet giants gave up their China ventures; reaching a 2010 revenue level reported to be $600 million; creating great products from the most accurate web search to the most popular map and mobile products that delighted Chinese users.  


I said to myself, “If Google pulls out, the products will become inaccessible to most users, and the world’s number-one brand Google may become unrecognizable in the world’s most populous country.”

 

I asked myself, “What would happen to all the hard work that my team and I put in over those four years?  Would things have been different had I not resigned from Google on September 4, 2009?”

 

That night and every night that week, it was difficult for me to go to sleep – I continued to think about what happened, what made it happen, and what might be next…

 

More than a year has passed since then. As of October 2011, Google's market share in China has dropped to single-digit. Its services are harder and harder for Chinese users to access.

 

Looking back, I realize the Google China drama was the perfect manifestation of the never-ending China-America chasm. These two great countries and their people are forever trying to understand each other but end up succumbing to stereotypes; hearing the other’s words but not comprehending the meaning; endorsing each other in words but undermining each other in deeds; demanding the other to accommodate and empathize but remaining intransigent itself. In my view, these phenomena all boil down to a lack of understanding.

 

I remember when I took a prominent lawyer to visit the Forbidden Palace in Beijing.  After several hours touring the exquisite grounds, she could no longer hold back her question, and had to ask me, “Kai-Fu, please tell me, where is the emperor?”  If a highly educated lawyer does not know that China’s monarchy ended in 1911 and the post-1979 China is a socialist state practicing market economy, what hope do we have that two countries will know each other?

 

I remember when I started Microsoft Research China, and visited the dean of Engineering at the famous Tsinghua University.  I asked him if he could send students to be our interns.  But the word “intern” made no sense to him, as there had never been any companies trying to hire interns from his esteemed school.  After much explanation, something clicked, and he said, “Oh, I get it.  Interns.  Like Monica Lewinski.”  If “intern” becomes a symbol of promiscuity, then how can the Chinese truly understand the way the American R&D system became the world’s best?

 

I remember while heading up Microsoft Research China, being swamped by angry Chinese reporters demanding an explanation why Bill Gates called Chinese people thieves.  I later learned that Gates had told Fortune,“As long as they [Chinese people] are going to steal [software], we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”  As the world’s richest person, Gates usually speaks his mind, and in this case he was angry about piracy.  But neither he nor his PR managers understood that what he said not only made Microsoft a scheming company with a conspiracy to dominate China and stifle local competition, but worse, he dishonored and insulted the entire people. Honor (also known as “face”) is more important to the Chinese than virtually anything.  

 

So this is why my job as the China executive for American companies was difficult.  It was like the job of a diplomat when neither country understood the other, or the job of a marriage counselor trying to help a hopelessly stubborn couple get back together, or the job of a translator between people from two planets.  

 

Over the years, I have learned that if each country could understand the other’s history, culture, and viewpoint, and accept that there are some issues that the two countries will “agree to disagree”, there would be tremendous progress.  I have come to really like the wise Chinese proverb “qiu tong cun yi,”(求同存异) which means seeking common ground while accepting differences. This is precisely the mindset that both countries need.  

 

I’ve done everything I could to help prominent American companies understand China. Now I’m also helping promising companies of China understand America, the world, and China’s responsibilities as it rises in this world. I believe China and America will respect each other more if both nations see what I have seen.

Through my personal stories, I hope the Chinese will realize that when Americans appear to be self-righteous, not to assume it is because Americans are aggressive bullies, but consider that it might be because American's desire to help and share their formula for success.  American behaviors are shaped by America’s rapid rise to prosperity, and a deep sense of righteousness.

 

Through my personal stories, I hope that Americans will recognize that when the Chinese appear to be autocratic, not to assume it is because Chinese are power-hungry thugs, but consider that it might be from their desire to lengthen stability and pave the ground for a better tomorrow.  Chinese behaviors are shaped by China’s older glorious history that makes them proud, and also by newer traumatic history that makes them cautious.

So this is why I have decided to write this book about my life and my stories.  It is not because my life is so spectacular, but because I hope my stories can shed some light on China and America.

 

I hope my stories will help the Chinese and Americans better understand each other.  

 

I hope my stories will help the next Google decide to enter China, and the next Chinese Google to enter America.

 

I hope my stories will help both great countries to seek common ground while accepting differences.  


Speaking as president of Google China at a company event 


发表于 3年前

热度:219

Chapter 1 .Following My Heart


Around 8 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2009, the United Airlines flight 888 began landing. It was soon going to arrive at San Francisco International Airport, where I had passed through countless times.

 

I looked out the window. In front of my eyes was the San Francisco Bay in grayish blue, across which Golden Gate Bridge’s red paint softly glistened in the misty morning sun. The scenery seemed the same as every time I had seen it before.

 

It was hard to believe almost 37 years had passed since my first visit to San Francisco as a boy, and it had been 19 years since my first trip to Silicon Valley for a job interview with Apple. Looking back at those bygone years, I realized my life had been full of changes because I had made unconventional choices.

 

In 1990, I made the first career change of my life. I gave up a tenure-track assistant professor’s position at Carnegie Mellon University to develop new products for Apple. From then on, I made significant breakthroughs in technology, but faced unpredictable market conditions at the same time. I went through ups and downs. However, even in the worst hardships, I never regretted putting myself through ruthless challenges of the corporate world.

 

My decision to enter the field of high tech business was based on the lifelong motto I had acquired from a philosophy professor in college. Whenever facing a choice, I would always recall his clear voice saying, “Imagine two worlds, one with you and one without you. What’s the difference between the two worlds? Maximize that difference. That’s the meaning of your life.”

 

Had I stayed in academia, my life would have been much easier, but I would have kept writing papers that no one would read. In contrast, what I have done in product development has influenced the world.

 

When iTune and QuickTime became hot commodities, I was no longer working for Apple. But I felt a sense of achievement about them as they came out of Apple’s Interactive Multimedia Department, which I had created. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn’t there to share Apple’s success in multimedia. 

 

Pioneers don’t have to reap in the field they have discovered. A natural born pioneer would rather leave for uncharted territories to make new discoveries.

 

By summer 2009, I had served as a pioneer for Apple, SGI, Microsoft and Google. I had founded Microsoft Research Asia and Google China. At this point, as Google China prospered, wouldn’t it be time for me to move on, to once again explore the unknown and build another venture from the ground up?

 

I had just completed my four-year term with Google China. In those four years, Google China provided the most accurate and timely Chinese language search, which helped increase Google’s market share in China from 16.1% to 31%. Google Maps, Google Mobile Maps, Google Mobile Search and Google Translate all became the most used software products in China. Most notably, Google Music created the world’s first advertising-funded legal music download.

 

It always made me smile when I walked into a coffee shop in China and saw young people downloading songs from Google Music, getting directions from Google Maps, or looking for information through Google’s universal search. I knew Google China’s business had truly taken off. Our hardest times were over. 

 

I appreciated the more than 700 employees of Google China for all they had done in the past four years. It was their brilliance and persistence that kept turning adversity into opportunity. To me, they were not just subordinates or colleagues. They were all my friends.

 

They were now waiting for me to continue leading them in the next four years. In the meantime, an email about my contract renewal awaited my reply. The amount of stock in the renewal offer exceeded my expectations. The largest Internet company in the world was expecting me to bring its latest products, namely Android, Chrome and Google Wave, into the China market.

 

I didn’t reply to the beckoning email because I was going to respond to the generous offer in person. As I stepped toward my rental car in the parking lot of San Francisco International Airport, I asked myself, “Are you ready to give Google the answer?”

 

A cool wind from the San Francisco Bay brushed by me, refreshing my head and my mind. I quietly but firmly told myself, “Yes, I’m ready.”

 

I opened the door on the driver’s side of my rental car, sat in, and entered “1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View” into the car’s GPS, which immediately indicated the trip would take 45 minutes.

 

I started the engine.

A Deliberate Decision

South of San Francisco International Airport, along Highway 101 were hills and fields bathed in splendid sunshine. The scenery was as serene as my heart.

 

I drove slowly, with an intent to reassure myself that I wasn’t rushing into the decision. I had given it the most thorough consideration. 

 

There was not much traffic on the road. The smooth ride took me through the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area. Then I passed by Palo Alto, the northernmost city of Silicon Valley and an affluent town surrounding Stanford University. Mountain View was next. I took the Amphitheatre Parkway exit, and arrived at the Google headquarters within a few minutes.

 

I looked at the giant dinosaur skeleton standing in the central courtyard surrounded by four purple highrise buildings. Why did Google put a dinosaur skeleton there? I never asked. Somehow it seemed self-explanatory to me. The dinosaur skeleton could symbolize a scientific puzzle waiting to be solved, a scientist’s never-ending pursuit of knowledge, a science fiction fan’s wild imagination, or a simply a childhood dream.

 

Most Googlers probably used to be inquisitive children who couldn’t stop staring at a dinosaur skeleton in a science museum. Many of them still display as much curiosity and energy as children. Working with them brought out the naughty boy in me. I joked with them and laughed with them. I had more fun at Google than at any other workplaces.

 

I will never forget my first day at Google. A Google chef pushed a cart carrying a five-tier cake into my welcome party, where hundreds of Googlers were enthusiastically celebrating my new start. I felt I belonged here.

 

After establishing Google China, I often flew back to the headquarters to give presentations on the work performance and new product ideas of the branch, which received a lot of recognition. It always felt positive when I communicated with then-CEO Eric Schmidt as well as the two founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I was always able to get the kind of understanding I needed from them.

 

During my four-year term, Google gave its China team more freedom in product development than other international corporations did to their China branches. I greatly appreciated the headquarters’ trust, which gave Google China enough space to grow creatively, especially knowing most companies wouldn’t do the same.

 

After taking one more glance at my fond memories of the past four years, I pulled my thoughts back to reality. I was about to have a totally different type of conversation with my immediate supervisor, Alan Eustace.

 

As senior vice president of Engineering and Research, Alan takes charge of Google’s most valuable asset, more than 10,000 engineers. He was the one who called me in June 2005 to say, “Kai-Fu, I’ve got you an offer I believe you cannot refuse.” 

 

Alan is a tall man five years my senior, with a little gray in his short brown hair. He always keeps a friendly smile on his face and a mellow look in his blue eyes.

 

“Hi, Kai-Fu!” Alan greeted me. “We haven’t seen each other for quite a while. How have you been?”

 

“Pretty good!” I said. “Everything’s going well. How about you, Alan?” 

 

We started a little small talk as usual. After a while, I seized a transition point of our conversation to say, “Alan, there’s something I need to tell you.”

 

“Oh?” Alan’s facial expression suddenly became more serious. “What is it?”

 

“Alan, this is something I’ve thought about for quite some time,” I said slowly, hoping my calm tone was reflecting the deliberate nature of my decision. “While I do enjoy working for Google, and I do appreciate the headquarters’ strong support of Google China, I feel I still have a dream that hasn’t been realized. I’m proud of having worked for Google, a company that has changed the world and continues to benefit mankind. But in the next stage of my life, I’d like to focus on realizing my own dream. I’m here to submit my resignation to you in person.”

 

“Really? Are you sure?” Alan seemed shocked. “You know we’d like to renew your contract. We held a meeting in April just to discuss the stock offer in your next contract. Four years ago, we gave you a record breaking amount of stock to make up for your loss of Microsoft stock. Now we are going to give you another large amount, to show our satisfaction with your excellent performance and appreciation of your hard work. We thought you were definitely going to stay with us. Kai-Fu, is there something in the contract or at work that makes you unhappy? What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing. Really, there’s absolutely nothing wrong,” I assured Alan. “Google is the most amazing company I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve learned a lot in the past four years. This is not about Google at all. It’s purely about me, about what I want to do next with my life. Actually I was going to tell you in June. But you know, there was an urgent problem with Google China in June. I had to take care of it. I reminded myself of my responsibility, and told myself that I couldn’t leave until after solving the problem. So, I waited until now to resign. Now everything is back to normal at Google China. I can leave without concerns!”

 

Alan stopped smiling. He slightly frowned, “Kai-Fu, would you please listen to me? I’d like to ask you, could there be anything, any reason or any kind of offer that would keep you? You just started to take charge of our Southeast Asia and Korea teams. We’d very much like to expand your work area. Would anything make you reconsider?”

 

“Thank you, Alan. But I’m really not here to ask for a higher position or salary. The existing offer is already very generous,” I explained. “I choose to leave now because everything is on track with Google China. I can leave with no regrets. There’s only one regret in my life now, and I’d like to make up for it. I’m planning to establish a new venture that helps young people in China start up their own businesses, to turn their innovative ideas into useful products.”

 

“So, you are going to start your own company?” Alan gave me a puzzled look. 

 

 

“Yes, I’ll create a platform for China’s new start-ups,” I said firmly. “Frankly speaking, Alan, I feel I must start right away. I’m already middle-aged. If I don’t take action right now, I’m afraid it’ll be too late.”

 

Alan stopped trying to change my mind. But in his silence he seemed to be murmuring to himself, “Is Kai-Fu crazy? Why would anybody make a crazy decision like that?”

 

Age and Courage

“Are you crazy?” some relatives and close friends of mine directly uttered what Alan might have felt like saying to me. 

 

“You must be kidding! What can be better than working for Google?” 

 

Those were typical responses I received after telling everyone about my resignation. Indeed, I had a position thousands of people would kill for, with the most desirable employer, in the most pleasant working environment, surrounded by the most creative engineers. What more could I want?

 

In fact I didn’t want to gain anything more. I just wanted to do more, actually to give more.

 

Looking back at my work history, I realized my experiences at Apple, SGI, Microsoft and Google had cultivated some special energy in me. The energy often propelled me to come up with all kinds of new product ideas. I frequently caught myself imagining the design of a dream product in the middle of my work day, and forced myself to return to my busy schedule at Google China. I longed for a lot of free time, which I could spend planting the seeds of my creative ideas and watching them grow. I also hoped to help other inventors incubate their creations. I could offer them guidance as an experienced mentor. Ideally the platform provided by me would generate as much power as Harry Potter’s magic book to change and improve something in the world. 

 

I decided to name the unprecedented new venture Innovation Works, for which I had to leave Google. I had to give up everything I held dear at Google China. While feeling attached, I told myself to let go, and convinced myself that only letting go of the present glory would enable me to go ahead, striving toward an even brighter future.

 

It was a tough choice, probably the toughest one in my whole life.

 

Choices in life tend to put more and more at stake as one grows older and takes on family responsibilities. It definitely requires more courage of a middle-aged person than of someone young to take a risk.

 

In most cases, people avoid taking chances after a certain age. The older they get, the more they have to lose. They are therefore more scared of losing. They would rather keep the status quo, whether being happy or not, just to play it safe.

 

I, on the contrary, hold an exactly opposite point of view. I believe in taking more courage while aging, because there is less time left.

 

As I told Alan, I was afraid it might be too late if I didn’t immediately start pursuing my next goal. 

 

I felt increasingly pressured by the limited length of life after the passing of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who became world famous for his filmed speech, “Last Lecture---Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” on YouTube. Randy had been my classmate at Carnegie Mellon. We both completed the Ph.D. program in Computer Science in 1988 and attended the same graduation ceremony. Today I still keep a photo of our class waiting in line to receive our diplomas. In the picture, there is only one person standing between me and Randy.


Randy Pausch (left) and me at the same graduation ceremony in 1988


No one on that graduation day knew Randy only had 20 more years to live. None of us can predict how much longer we are going to be around. How can we not seize the day?

 

“The key question to keep asking is: Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have,” said Randy in his “Last Lecture.”

 

Before Randy left the world, he also advised us not to fear obstacles. He said, "Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people"

When I watched “Last Lecture” on YouTube, I was amazed to realize how much Randy and I were thinking alike. I should have become closer friends with him at Carnegie Mellon. It was a regret that my busy research kept me from getting to know my Ph.D. classmates well.

 

Although I hadn’t been very close to Randy, his death from pancreatic cancer in July 2008 utterly saddened me. He was 47, only one year my senior. What a brilliant but brief life!

 

I was 47 when making the decision to leave Google for founding Innovation Works in summer 2009. I didn’t take it for granted that I outlived Randy. I was going to make every day of my life a step closer to my goals.

 

Leading Our Lives

I really liked the line “Lead you life” in Randy’s “Last Lecture.” It’s interesting that he said, “Lead your life” instead of “Live your life.” What’s the difference between “lead” and “live”?

 

In my view, to live a life is to simply go with the flow, but to lead a life is to actively shape one’s own destiny.

 

How much control do we have over our destinies? Some may say fate is pre-determined. But based on my experience, I can attest that a lot of it is in our own hands.

 

Only accidents, diseases and wars are beyond our control, despite certain measures we may take to prevent them. Most of the time, when we are safe and sound, we have a choice of directions. There are many paths in life, and the one you choose right now will take you where you are going to be later. I am where I am because of the choices I have made. I have realized most of my dreams. Now, I feel it’s time for me to help others achieve theirs.


I remember Randy on YouTube made me smile when he said, “As you get older, you may find that enabling-the-dreams-of-others thing is even more fun.” Perhaps it is because I’m getting a little older. I do find enabling the dreams of many young people even more fun than fulfilling my own wishes.

 

Innovation Works is a dream factory I have created for them. I have made it very clear in the mission statement of Innovation Works why such a dream factory is greatly needed in China:

 

The Chinese entrepreneurial environment is still in its formative stage, with significant barriers for the early-stage entrepreneur: the lack of management experience and coaching, the reluctance of venture capitalists to invest in companies in the formation stage, and the lack of networking and experience to pull a company together. These barriers all contribute to a dearth of high-tech start-ups in China. Innovation Works is matching entrepreneurs, engineers, ideas, and capital with a unique business model that improves success rates and speeds time-to-market.

Innovation Works will be the de-facto institution for launching the most promising technology ideas in China. Through the rigorous development and testing of prototypes, and identification of a 'founding executive' to lead the venture, Innovation Works will provide capital, manpower, legal, financial and IT support. Our commitment is to mentoring and supporting the next-generation of Chinese entrepreneurs so that they can focus on building great products without distraction.

 

Founded in September 2009, Innovation Works incubates new Chinese high-tech companies and mentors next-generation Chinese entrepreneurs. We specialize in Internet, e-commerce, Mobile Internet, and cloud computing. Every year we plan to prototype around 20 new ideas and spin off about five independent companies.

 

Figuratively speaking, Innovation Works is a match maker. We bring great ideas, great engineers, great entrepreneurs and great venture capitalists together.

 

As our unprecedented business model addresses a pressing need of China’s high tech market, we have attracted more talents than I have ever imagined. On the first day of Innovation Works, I saw more than 7,000 resumes in our email in-box.

 

Compared with the 3,000 resumes I received on my first day at Google China, and the 1,000 resumes in the beginning of Microsoft Research Asia, 7,000 is an astonishing number. It has given me a strong boost of confidence in the new venture’s future.

 

We still have a long way to go. But we believe we will eventually get where we want to be. We have patience and passion, the most crucial elements of achievement.

 

I have transformed from a senior executive of a large corporation into a start-up founder and career coach. I stand by young entrepreneurs to give them guidance and help them hone ideas, recruit people, and secure financing. It is exceptionally understanding of our investors not to expect quick returns, so we can take all the time we need to incubate our projects, to keep nurturing them until they are truly ready to spread their wings.

 

Before each spin-off, I will give the entrepreneurs my favorite quote from Steve Jobs:

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

 

Since Jobs lived by all the inspiring words of his own until the last minute of his life, his quotes are now even more powerful than ever. 

 

As a former Apple executive, I lament deeply upon Jobs' death from pancreatic cancer, the same disease that killed my former classmate Randy. When I first heard the sad news, I was also told that a rainbow appeared over Silicon Valley the day Jobs passed away. To me, that sounded like an encore performance by a magician.


Jobs was a magician. He went beyond an engineer's capacity to take the general public into a new world. While there are many distinguished high tech enterpreneurs in our era, he was the only one who made stunning breakthroughs in such diverse fields as computers, operating systems, telecommunications, music and animation. 

 

Without Jobs, today's world wouldn't be the same. Without Jobs, Apple II wouldn't have come out in 1977. Nor would Macintosh in 1984, iMac in 1998, iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007, and iPad in 2010 have made their grand entrance.

 

As technologies continue evolving to outdate current products, I think someday iPhone, iPad and Mac may bow out gracefully just as the magician himself did. But no matter what new electronic products future generations will be using, they will always find jobs' speech of the 2005 Stanford University Commencement appealing, and will continue to quote his “Stay hungry; stay foolish.”


For now, besides quoting Jobs, I always bring up my past failures and mistakes to help young Chinese entrepreneurs prevent the same types of problems. I will assure them it’s not the end of the world if they make mistakes. Failures are only learning experiences that will build up to their future success.


Since China has a face-oriented culture, many young Chinese people are surprised that I often talk in public about the mistakes I have made. They enjoy listening to the stories of my life not only for their eventfulness but also for their truthfulness. Whenever I mention something of my past, they always urge me to tell more. And I have been a little astounded to hear them ask me as much about my childhood as about my career history.

 

What intrigues them about my childhood? I guess they want to know how my upbringing has contributed to what I am today. That’s why many biographies start with childhood episodes.

 

In my case, however, I will go back further in time, to an era in which I didn’t exist but there were determining factors of my later existence. To me, that was my true beginning.



发表于 3年前

热度:54

Chapter 2. Adventurous Genes

My story began long before my birth. My adventurous spirit emerged in a 12-year-old girl three decades before I was conceived. It made the girl jump on a train, going far away from home to a new world. 

 

The year was 1931. Japan had occupied three northeastern provinces of China, renamed the area Manchuria, established a puppet government to rule it and called it a new country. The puppet government mandated every school to teach Japanese as the official language and put up a portrait of the Japanese emperor. All the students in Manchuria had to bow to the Japanese emperor’s portrait every morning before they started classes.

 

Many college and high school students in Manchuria resented becoming second-class citizens. They also yearned for learning more about Chinese history and reading more Chinese classics. To get the kind of education they desired, they fled to areas of China that were still under Chinese rule. Those who made it would receive financial aid from the Chinese Nationalist government to attend Chinese schools. As they wrote home about it, more and more students followed their steps. That became a trend. But most of those influenced by the trend were over age 15. The 12-year-old girl everyone called Ya-Ching was the youngest among them. 

 

Ya-Ching precociously understood the plight of the Japanese occupation, partially because she was the youngest child of the Wang family, with knowledge beyond her age acquired from older siblings. However, she wasn’t following an older sibling when she left home. She departed alone.

 

A Union of Love

Ya-Ching arrived in Beijing. She spent the next six years in junior and senior high school there. Then she passed an entrance exam to a junior college that specialized in physical education and was located in Shanghai. That meant she would move further south, going even farther away from her hometown.

 

Again, she hopped on a train alone. But by this time she had grown into an attractive young lady. Her presence on the train caught the attention of a few gangsters hanging out on the platform. As she sat by a window of the train, snacking on scoops of a half watermelon, they pointed at her and exchanged opinions about her from a distance. She felt a little annoyed but didn’t respond until the train began to move. Then she waved at them. When they rushed to her window, she turned the half watermelon in her hand upside down and dropped it on one of their heads. Before they were able to react, the train had taken her away!

 

Decades later, she told the story to my daughters, making them laugh out loud. At that moment I saw youthful sparks in her eyes, which enabled me to imagine her blossoming years more vividly than the black-and-white photos she had shown me. 



Ya-Ching in the 1930s


One of the black-and-white photos was taken in a professional studio, in which she had her hair all curled up. The picture was such eye candy that the photographer displayed an enlarged copy of it as his advertisement, which allured many male college students walking by. They found out who she was and went to the campus of her school just to take a look at her, like fans following a movie star. But they didn’t dare to approach her due to the conservative Chinese customs at the time. Despite a large number of secret admirers, she never had a boyfriend until she met the love of her life.

 

In the winter of 1938, Ya-Ching went to a seminar designed for future teachers and held at a government-run training center in Xian, a city in northwestern China. The seminar schedule included speeches on current events because it was war time. As China was fighting hard against the Japanese invasion, officials of the Chinese Nationalist government often gave speeches to inspire patriotism in young students.

 

One of those speeches utterly captivated the 19-year-old Ya-Ching. She found the speaker on stage incredibly charismatic. He was average-looking, and a little on the short side, definitely not the tall, handsome type that would attract most girls. But the passionate sparks in his eyes lit up her eyes. His firm, masculine voice with an accent of China’s Sichuan Province aroused a tender, feminine reaction from her heart, which she had never felt before. She was unable to turn her focus away from him even after his speech. She looked at him walking away, feeling a strange sense of loss for the stranger…

 

All she knew of him was his family name Lee, his given name Tien-Min and his head counselor’s job title at the training center. She thought she would never see him again after the seminar. However, it turned out that one of her friends in junior college was married to one of his friends. They met again through the couple and fell in love.

 

He was 10 years older and had a past. He told her about his beloved late wife and two small children. She didn’t mind. He also told her about his career path. He first joined the nationalist army when he was a 13-year-old boy slightly shorter than the length of a rifle. Later, he was admitted into Huangpu Military Academy, which was China’s equivalent to West Point, in its 6thclass. But before he graduated from Huangpu, he received financial assistance from a relative to study abroad. He spent the next five years in Japan and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics there. After returning to China, he first worked as a newspaper editor in Nanjing, the capital of the nationalist government, and became well known for his superb writing. Then he taught at a military school in Chengdu, a city of Sichuan Province, before taking the head counselor’s position in the Xian training center where he met her.


Ya-Ching admired him for being a self-made man and related to him for his being a brave soul like herself. The soul mates married in 1939. He brought her back to his hometown in Sichuan Province to live with his mother and children. 

 

The six-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy missed their deceased mother terribly, so it was hard for them to accept a young step mother. In the meantime, the 20-year-old Ya-Ching had to follow all the strict rules set by her traditional mother-in-law. But she didn’t complain a word because she loved her husband deeply. Love made her willing to share all of his baggage. 

 

With kindness and patience, she gradually won over her step children while becoming a mother. She gave birth to three girls in the 1940s, the most dramatic decade of China’s 20thcentury. As soon as the Japanese were defeated at the end of World War II in 1945, a civil war broke out between the Nationalist government and the Communists. The war went on until the Communists established a new government in Beijing and the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in 1949.

 

The 30-year-old Ya-Ching realized her husband had to leave for Taiwan, or the Communists would kill him for being a legislator of the Nationalist government. But it would slow him down to bring a big family along, so she let him go alone. She stayed behind in order to take care of the family. 

 

Many Chinese families were separated the same way that year. The father working for the Nationalist government went to Taiwan. The mother and children remained in mainland China. In most cases, the separation continued for more than three decades until the two Chinese governments began to allow unofficial communication in the 1980s. That could have been the case for the Lee family, and in that case I would have never been born. 

 

It didn’t happen that way, because the adventurous spirit that had once led the 12-year-old Ya-Ching out of Manchuria came out again. It made the 31-year-old Ya-Ching decide to leave for Taiwan, taking all the five children with her. 

 

She made the decision in time. The Communists tightened restrictions on travel later. But in 1950, it was still possible to leave mainland China for Hong Kong while there was absolutely no direct transportation between China and Taiwan. Hong Kong as a British colony then could work as a stop-over.

 

To go to Hong Kong, the young mother and five children first had to take the train to Guangzhou, the Chinese city closest to the then-British-colony. On their long train ride, the police often stopped them and searched through their belongings. The only boy of the five children had hidden a small nugget of gold in a flash light to prevent it from being confiscated. But one of the policemen almost opened the flash light to check what was inside. He didn’t only because the youngest of the five children called him “Uncle” and smiled. He was distracted and forgot about the flashlight. 

 

The gold paid for the expenses of the mother and children in Guangzhou and Hong Kong for months, until they finally reached the father by phone and reunited with him.

 

The Naughty Baby of the Family

Before I became the baby of the reunited Lee family, my parents had one more daughter in 1953. It was not easy to raise six children with my legislator father’s fixed salary and my PE teacher mother’s small income. My parents didn’t want more children. No one expected my mother to accidentally get pregnant in 1961.

 

My mother was already in her early 40s. Pregnancy could be tough on her middle-aged body. Doctors also said babies from older parents were at higher risks of birth defects.

 

“What if the baby has down syndrome?” “Isn’t it too much of a financial burden to have one more kid?” These were typical comments from relatives and friends on my mother’s new pregnancy. 

 

“Are you sure you want to keep this baby?” They asked.

 

“Yes, I will,” my mother replied in a low but firm voice. The adventurous spirit in her manifested itself again.

 

My mother couldn’t explain why she believed I was going to be a very healthy and very bright child. She just simply felt it, and the gut feeling kept her from worrying about all the possible risks of which everyone was warning her.

 

In December 1961, I was born, as perfectly healthy as my mother had foreseen. The entire family was thrilled. They regarded the new baby as a gift of surprise from Heaven.


Baby Kai-Fu on Mom's lap with Dad (front center), older brother (right in back 

row) and older sisters in 1962


Excited about my first birthday cake with my father standing behind


With my third sister's help to blow candles on my fourth birthday cake


Cutting my fourth birthday cake


I was literally the baby of the family, not only the youngest but also far younger than any of my siblings, even a year younger than my eldest sister’s son Wei-Chuan.

 

My family made Wei-Chuan call me “Uncle,” but this slightly older nephew actually behaved more like a brother. He was my closest playmate in early childhood.

 

Everyone said I was naughtier than Wei-Chuan and perhaps the naughtiest child they had ever seen. I always imitated people I found interesting, including TV characters. I particularly enjoyed putting on my father’s Sichuan accent to talk and took big, slow steps like his to walk. 

 

I told my mother I wanted to be a soldier, so she had a tailor make a military uniform for me. But I complained that the uniform didn’t have stars on it. Then my second sister asked a general her friend’s friend knew for a few stars and gave them to me. I loved wearing the uniform with the stars and holding a toy gun. Every night I made my second sister play a game called “The Soldier Catching the Gangster” with me. I was always the soldier that killed her, the gangster, in the end.

 

I liked running around so much that it was nearly impossible to make me sit for more than 10 minutes. Every time I needed a haircut, my mother would take my third sister along. Then both of them would perform a puppet show for me in the barber shop. That was the only way to keep me sitting still until the barber finished cutting my hair.

 

In addition to being extremely active, I was also a rebel. When I was told something, it only made me want to do the opposite. Since my mother often said swallowing a piece of gum would damage the stomach and intestines, I purposefully did it to prove I was as invincible as some cartoon characters I admired. When my mother told me to keep the gum away from my hair, I intentionally attached it to my head. But then I was unable to take it off no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t help but take a pair of scissors to cut off the part of hair stuck with the gum. That made me look funny in school for quite some time until the hair grew back.

 

Even so, I still wouldn’t just believe what I was told. I needed to experiment everything.

 

When a next-door neighbor bragged about having 100 fish in the pond of his yard, I thought I would have to count the fish before I could believe him. Then one day, the neighbor’s whole family was out but left the door unlocked. I seized the opportunity by gathering my fifth sister and nephews to take water out of the pond with buckets so we could count the fish in the almost dry pond. We were very happy about proving the neighbor wrong. But we didn’t realize we were killing the fish until the neighbor found out and took the case to my mother. 

 

Uh-oh! I got scared when the neighbor came. I thought my mother would punish me. But she didn’t do anything to me after apologizing to him. I even caught her trying to suppress a laugh. She seemed to find the incident funny. That was the first time I saw there was also a naughty child in my mother.

 

My fun-loving mother greatly enjoyed a Chinese board game named Ma-Jiang, which she was only able to play with her friends after I went to bed. But I always had too much energy to fall asleep early. After she put me in bed, I would ask myself, “Why do children have to go to bed so early? How come adults can play at night?”

 

One night I really didn’t want to go to bed, so I came up with an idea to turn back the time by one hour on all the clocks at home. I even did the same to my sisters’ watches, which they usually took off after coming home. The time change enabled me to stay up for one more hour. I was extremely excited about it. However, the time change also made all the family members get up an hour late the next day. My sisters were screaming. But my mother didn’t scold me. I even overheard her say to my father, “Our baby boy is quite smart!”

 

The First Breakthrough of My Life

I made the first major decision of my life when I was five. I told my mother that I was tired of all the songs and games in kindergarten. I asked her to let me go to first grade.

 

My mother was surprised, because she had never heard of other children doing that. She said, “In a year you’ll be in first grade. Why wouldn’t you wait a year?”

 

I continued to persuade her, “Mom, how about letting me take an entrance exam to a private school? If I pass, you’ll let me go to first grade. If I don’t, I’ll go back to kindergarten.”

 

My mother thought about it for a while, and then she agreed.

 

In Taiwan, public schools are open to all from first to 9thgrade, but private schools hold entrance exams. The situation is not exactly the same as but similar to the common practice of schools in the United States.

 

I was the youngest among the children taking the entrance exam to Ji-Ren Elementary School that year. When the exam results were posted at the school entrance, my mother took me there. She immediately saw my name as the first on the acceptance list. In Taiwan, the acceptance list always starts with the person obtaining the highest total score.

 

My mother screamed, “Ah! You passed! And you are number one!”

 

I will never forget how excited she was. That was the first time I saw how a child’s small success could make a mother proud big time. 

 

In the meantime, I learned to be bold about breaking through limitations. Now in retrospect, I deeply thank my mother for allowing me the first breakthrough of my life, especially knowing Chinese parents conventionally tend to be on the cautious side. My parents made an unconventional choice of letting me take charge of my future at such an early age. I was incredibly fortunate!

 

While I started school a year earlier than most children, I soon found out even the first-grade curriculum was too easy for me. The first-grade math only covered addition and subtraction, but I already knew the multiplication table by heart under my mother’s tutoring. I was also able to recite many classical Chinese poems my classmates didn’t know.

 

Being ahead of the class made me often get bored in class, so I talked to my classmates or passed messages to them. Sometimes I made faces for fun.

 

One day, my restless behavior offended the teacher. After giving me a few warnings, she sealed my mouth with scotch tape. 

 

My mother happened to be early that day for picking me up. I was terrified when she saw my sealed mouth. But she didn’t scold me.

 

My mother was a lot more liberal than most Chinese parents of her generation. While they taught their children to be obedient, she never stopped me from challenging authority.

 

Bolder than my classmates, I would correct the teacher’s pronunciation in English class based on the standard American English I had heard from my fifth sister’s tutor. That made my classmates laugh in class and look at me differently after class.

 

I did like to stand out. Once I bragged to my classmates that I had learned special kung-fu and could digest paper. To prove it, I tore off a piece of paper from my notebook and ate it in front of them. 

 

“Wow!” Their eyes all opened wide. 

 

“What else can you eat?” One of them asked.

 

“I can eat wood,” I said. “I’ll show you how I can bite my desk.”

 

I did bite into my desk every day during lunch time until I made a large dent on it.

 

To astonish my classmates, I even claimed I could swallow lead from a pencil, and demonstrated it. That brought me to an emergency room. The doctor gave me a serious warning and prescribed medicine.

 

I stopped telling people I could eat inedible things. But I still wanted to be different from everybody else. I dreamed of being a hero who would save lives and punish the evil.

 

I looked around for the evil to conquer, and something did appear on my radar. I noticed that a teacher always fined students who talked in class and claimed the fines would go into the budget for class activities, but the class budget didn’t seem to have increased as much as all the fines he had collected. I double checked with the student officer in charge of the class budget, and found out there was indeed a difference. Apparently the teacher had pocketed the money.

 

For the sake of justice, I wrote a letter to the principal with my left hand despite being right-handed in order for no one to recognize my handwriting. The principal questioned the teacher the next day. After that, the teacher shouted at the entire class, “Don’t think I don’t know who did it. Your behavior to turn against your teacher is no different from the Communists in the Cultural Revolution!”

 

I tried to hide my fear and appear calm. I told myself my work was meaningful, knowing no more money for the class budget would go into the teacher’s personal pocket. I felt I was becoming a hero like those in the kung-fu fantasy novels I had read.

 

I loved kung-fu fantasy novels so much that I decided to write one in fifth grade. I collaborated with Wei-Chuan, the nephew one year my senior. It turned out to be a graphic novel, titled The Mystery of the Animal Fighters , containing tens of thousands of words and numerous drawings. We marked page numbers to make it look like a real book. I even put a note about the copyright on the back cover, which read, “Published on Aug. 3, 1972/ Anyone who copies this book is punishable by death!”


Buddies with newphews around my age---from lef to right: Xiang-Sheng, Wei-Chuan, me and Yu-Sheng


The main characters of the book were based on my family members, with everyone’s imperfections exaggerated. 

 

My family members all laughed out loud about the book’s funny-looking characters and fun-poking descriptions. Even neighbors asked to borrow it after hearing about it. I felt very proud, and my mother regarded it as the biggest literary achievement of my childhood. She still keeps the book today.

 

Spoiled, but not Rotten

Everyone said I was my mother’s favorite child. My sisters didn’t really mind, because they were a lot older and didn’t need as much care as I did. However, my fifth sister sometimes would express a little jealousy half-jokingly.

 

She said, “I used to be the baby of the family. But Kai-Fu took that away from me and turned me into a Cinderella washing his diapers!”

 

My fifth sister was already eight years old and capable of simple household chores when I was born. My mother didn’t have to do much for her, and certainly not for the even older children, so I was naturally the focus of my mother’s attention. 

 

Since my mother had me late, her body didn’t produce as much milk for me as in the nursing times of her younger years. To make sure I would receive enough nutrition, my mother followed a Chinese recipe that was designed to stimulate lactation. She made a stew of pig feet and peanuts, which she forced herself to eat every day. The recipe indeed worked to provide me lots of milk. But it put extra pounds on my mother at the same time, and probably changed her metabolism, too. Her once-slender shape was ruined because of me. But it didn’t matter to her. She cared about me far more than about herself.

 

My mother treasured me so much that she did more than normal to protect me. She didn’t let me take the school bus. She hired a driver to bring me to school every morning when she had to teach PE at a Girls’ high school. In the afternoon she was done with her teaching job, so she always picked me up from school. 

 

“I can spot you right away from a distance because of your little white legs!” She often said fondly when approaching me. I had lighter skin than my classmates, perhaps due to less sun exposure.

 

Whenever my school held a field trip, my mother always wrote a note to the teacher to get me a sick leave, because she was afraid I might fall and get injured in an unfamiliar environment. I felt a sense of loss every time my classmates took a day trip and I stayed home. I also envied my classmates for their getting to eat all kinds of snacks bought from street vendors. My mother didn’t let me touch anything sold by street vendors because back then sanitary conditions in those vending stalls were questionable. Even when we went out to eat at a squeaky-clean-looking restaurant, my mother would have me use utensils brought from home. She was doing everything to prevent me from getting sick.

 

My fourth sister thought my mother worried too much, and she knew I craved street vendors’ fried pan cakes, which she considered harmless, so occasionally she would bring some for me behind my mother’s back. Whenever my fourth sister showed me wrapped-up fried pan cakes hidden in her bag, my mouth immediately watered. Today I can still almost smell the aroma of Taiwanese fried pan cakes when thinking of them. 

 

Although I rarely had a taste of street vendors’ food, I ate a lot. My mother was (and still is) a fabulous cook. My favorite was her mini dumplings with spicy Sichuan sauce. They were smaller than regular Chinese dumplings because my mother placed a tiny tea cup (like those used for the Japanese tea ceremony) upside down on each store-bought flour wrap and divided it into little wraps with the same diameter as the mini cup. Then she put top-quality ground pork, mixed with water to ensure tenderness, on all the little wraps and folded them up. Once they were boiled, they would almost melt in the mouth. The sauce for dipping the mini dumplings also came from my mother’s secret recipe, which contained home-made chili oil, chili pepper, peppercorn, and minced garlic. My mother said the timing of adding the garlic would have to be right to ensure the best taste.

 

Beef noodle soup was another great dish my mother often made for me. Years later, I introduced its recipe to the cafeteria of Google China, and it became one of the most popular dishes there. The beef noodle soup had the spiciness of my father’s home province Sichuan but was more flavorful than most Sichuan soups. The beef was particularly tender because it came from a cow’s front legs. Beef from a cow’s rear legs just wouldn’t taste the same!

 

My mother’s crispy pork was also more tender than usual. She would bread a well selected pork chop, fry it, slice it and steam the slices with special Chinese vegetables. When it was done, it looked and smelled just as appetizing as it tasted.

 

Every day after school, my mother would ask what I felt like for dinner, and then that would be what the whole family would eat. 

 

Her typical question was, “What should we eat tonight? Baby boy?”

 

My most frequent answer, “Mini dumplings with spicy Sichuan sauce!”

 

“OK,” she smiled and put on her apron, looking very happy to start making this time-consuming dish for me. “How many are you going to eat?”

 

“Forty!” I replied cheerfully, looking forward to eating more dumplings than everyone else in my family.

 

Overeating every night made me the heaviest kid in class. Especially in fifth grade, my weight skyrocketed. Today no one can believe I was once that much overweight. But I indeed was. 

 

My mother became concerned about my weight. She would say at dinner, “Well, you’ve already had a lot tonight, and you are kind of too fat. Stop eating now, OK?”

 

“Oh! Just let me take one more bite,” I couldn’t give up the delicious food in front of me and would beg her. “Last bite before leaving the table, please!”

 

After dinner, I always put my homework aside to watch TV. By the time TV programs ended, I was already too sleepy to do homework. Then my mother let me go to bed, and she would wake me up at 5 a.m. for my homework. 

 

My mother also gave a wake-up call at 3 a.m. to my fifth sister, who wanted to study for her college entrance exam in the quietest hours. Both of us counted on our mother more than an alarm clock, and she really never missed once!

 

I didn’t know how it felt to get up at 3 a.m. and then again at 5 a.m. until I had a baby daughter and began to change her diapers in the middle of the night. Then I truly realized how much my mother had sacrificed for us.

 

Today’s child psychologists may say my mother was overprotective, and I admit my mother overprotected me, but I wasn’t spoiled rotten. My mother had a strict side when it came to my education.

 

I kept receiving perfect scores in the first few weeks of first grade. One day a friend of my mother’s visited us. She casually asked me, “How’s school?”

 

“I get 100 on every test,” I bragged. “I’ve never seen a 99 and don’t even know what it looks like!”

 

But soon after that, I received a 90. My mother saw the score and spanked me (when I was little, it was acceptable and even expected in Chinese culture that parents exercised physical punishment to discipline children ). 

 

“Why hit me for a 90? That’s not a bad score!” I protested.

 

“This is not for the 90 but for your bragging,” my mother explained. “You shouldn’t have bragged about getting 100 every time even if you could keep it up, not to mention it’s not necessarily the case! Keep in mind modesty is a virtue we Chinese people emphasize. Don’t ever brag again!”

 

My mother held high standards for my learning, and enforced her requirements with carrot and stick. She made me memorize important passages from my textbooks and recite them to her. If I missed a word, she would throw the book across the room and tell me to pick it up. Sometimes she spanked me with a ruler when I made too many mistakes. Once she broke the ruler when hitting too hard. So, the stick part was practically literal. As for the carrot part, she bought me a present for every number one I obtained.

 

Once I asked for a Chinese version of Sherlock Holmesas a reward for my outstanding grades. My mother bought not only the series of books but also a watch for me. She said, “Books don’t count as a reward. We can buy books any time you want.”

 

With her encouragement, I read hundreds of extracurricular books a year. I read Chinese translation of Western masterpieces, such as A Tale of Two Cities and The Count of Mount Cristo,as well as Chinese classics like The Three Kingdomsand The Monkey King.My favorites were biographies, especially of Helen Keller and Thomas Edison. I admired Keller’s courage to overcome her physical disabilities and Edison’s inventions that changed the world. I began to desire becoming a scientist.

 

Like Edison in his childhood, I sometimes became absent-minded when thinking about a puzzling question. That kept my exam scores from being always near perfect. Once I got a 78, the lowest ever. I was terrified, picturing how my mother was going to hit me. Then a thought popped up when I saw how similar the 78 looked to 98. I used a red pen to change the number and showed it to my mother, with my heart pumping to my throat. She didn’t find out.

 

The next time I received a lower-than-expected score, I tried to do the same, but my hand trembled and messed up the number. I was horrified. There was no way I could bring this back to my mother, so I threw it into the garbage can. 

 

My mother didn’t ask me about the exam that day. She seemed to forget about it. But the secret kept bothering me. A few days later, I finally mustered all my courage to confess to her.

 

I thought my mother was going to hit me hard. But she simply said, “I’ll let it go as long as you know you were wrong. Just remember to be always honest from now on.”

 

That was one of the most important lessons my mother taught me. Thanks to her, I constantly hold honesty as one of my core values.

 

 

My Father’s Influence

I was not as close to my father as to my mother. Like most traditional Chinese fathers, my father always kept a serious image in front of the kids. He didn’t play with me. When he was home, he spent most of the time in his study, with the door of the study ajar. I often saw him sitting in front of his desk, concentrating on his writing. At those moments he somehow seemed a little mysterious to me.

 

My father had a heavy accent of his home province Sichuan. We usually spoke the Sichuan dialect with him while speaking Mandarin, the official Chinese language, with our mother. Today I still remember a lot of the Sichuan dialect. 

 

My father was not as expressive as my mother. To me and my siblings, our mother was as warm as sunshine and our father as calm as moonlight. The sunshine was so strong that it made the moonlight seem invisible in its presence.

 

I didn’t feel my father’s love throughout my childhood. Now, with more understanding of Chinese traditions, I’ve realized he had a more subtle way of expression like many traditional Chinese men. For instance, he would ask me to walk with him when he took a walk, so we would spend some time alone. It’s a regret that I didn’t understand then.

 

The closest I ever felt to my father was the moment I solved a math problem he had given me, with his Parker gold pen promised as the reward for the correct answer. The question was how to make four equally sized triangles with six matches. I was only five then, so my father was most surprised to see me come up with the right solution right away. He immediately gave me his Parker gold pen, which was a luxury item in Taiwan then, definitely something too expensive to give a kid. But my father insisted on keeping his promise.

 

My father influenced me through more actions than talks. He only scolded me once. 

 

That was when I was in fourth grade. I saw a street vendor selling cartoon pictures near school and many students buying them, so I wanted to start a similar business. I shared the idea with Wei-Chuan. He liked it, too. But we needed money to buy the cartoon pictures we were going to sell. For the funding, I took a few thousand Japanese yens from a drawer in my father’s study. I thought my father wouldn’t notice the loss because he wouldn’t think of those yens until planning to go to Japan again, which I knew definitely wouldn’t happen soon. 

 

Wei-Chuan and I took the yens to the bank, trying to convert them into the Taiwanese currency. But the bank teller refused to provide service for us because we were minors.

 

With the business idea failed, I wanted to put the yens back in my father’s drawer. But the drawer was locked, so I decided to bury the yens in the back yard and pretend nothing had happened.

 

However, my parents found out about what Wei-Chuan and I had done. My father told my mother that he would deal with me. I was petrified. I was always more scared of my father than of my mother because he looked colder and stricter. 

 

To my surprise, my father just took me into his study.  He calmly said to me, “I hope you won’t disappoint yourself again!” Then he walked away.

 

Somehow those simple words were more powerful than any harsh blame or elaborate lecturing. That understated one line brought up a sudden sense of loss in me and made me reflect upon myself. Then it stayed within me, coming out every time I was going to make a decision. I haven’t disappointed myself or my family ever since.

 

As time went by, my father’s influence gradually became part of my soul. I didn’t get to know him as well as I wish I could have because I left Taiwan for studying in the U.S. at age 11. But through reading his books and listening to people talk about him, I understood him more and more.

 

My father was first elected as a legislator in his home province Sichuan in 1948. After moving to Taiwan in 1949, he still worked as a legislator. He was a government official for most of his career, but he disliked politics. There were a lot of under-the-table activities, and some politicians got rich. My father was always completely clean.  When he decided to buy a house in his 70s, he actually did not have enough money, and his children, including me, chipped in to buy a house for him.  

 

Starting in the 1960s, my father enjoyed his side job as a part-time university professor and researcher more than his day job as a legislator. He spent most of his free time writing. His goal was to leave an accurate historic record of what had happened in the first half of the twentieth century. His books were banned in Taiwan and China, because they told the truth, instead of blindly following the official versions of history books. His books were only published in Hong Kong and Japan. Today, China and Taiwan are much more open to his writing. But unfortunately, most of his books are out of print already.

 

My fifth sister was my father’s favorite child. After he passed away, she wrote an emotional piece in memory of him. It describes how our father missed his hometown and his mother. According to the article, my father couldn’t help weeping every time he heard old songs that had been popular in mainland China in his younger years. The only TV program he watched was a show that introduced various scenic spots in mainland China.

 

My father wrote the same couplet for every Chinese New Year to express his wish for returning to mainland China. Like couplets in English poetry, a Chinese couplet consists of two lines in parallel structure. There is a Chinese New Year’s custom to write the two lines of a couplet on two separate strips of red paper and post them on each side of the door (given the way Chinese writing goes vertically from top to bottom) . The New Year’s couplet usually contains auspicious words as wishes for peace and prosperity in the coming year. But my father’s couplet for Chinese New Year’s was different:

 

Day by day I train with my riding horse

Year after year I long for a home-returning trip

 

It was my father’s  biggest regret in life that his mother remained in mainland China, so he wasn’t there when she passed away.

 

My father went back to visit his hometown at age 81. It was an incredibly emotional trip to him. The night he returned to Taiwan, he showed my mother and my sisters a large stamp carved by a famous artist in Sichuan. The first line of a classical Chinese poem was engraved on the stamp. It reads, “The young man who left home returns as an elderly.” Each time he told the story, he would sob uncontrollably…

 

One of my father’s former students wrote an essay in honor of my father. He said he and his classmates all looked up to my father for being a hard-working scholar. My father spent at least one day a week in the library of the Taiwanese university where he taught part-time. He went to the US every summer to do research at Harvard University and Princeton University.

 

My father hardly knew English before age 50. But for the research he wanted to do in American libraries, he worked very hard to learn English. He memorized new words every day, watched American movies, and practiced conversations with native speakers. He managed to become communicative in English within two years. Although my sisters and I often made fun of his heavy Sichuan accent when he spoke English, we admired his hard work.

 

My father’s values have become building blocks of my value system. Every time I went back home after he passed away, I would spend some time in his study to appreciate his legacy.  He was a quiet father, but only after he passed away did I realize that he taught us not by his words, but by his deeds.

 

There are two frames of Chinese calligraphy that form a couplet on the wall of his study. Many Chinese intellectuals like having frames of couplets on their walls all year around. Unlike the Chinese New Year’s couplets, the framed couplets usually function as mottos.

 

My father’s motto can be roughly translated as:

 

Only with magnanimity can you absorb the greatest virtue

Simply without desire will you build the highest character

 

I think these two lines most vividly describe my late father.


Sitting in front of my father's motto



发表于 3年前

热度:20

Chapter 3. Flying to America

In the 1960s, there was a trend for Taiwanese college graduates to pursue graduate studies in the United States. My elder brother Kai-Lin was one of those students. He obtained an admission to Tulane University with a scholarship, and went to Louisiana by ship, as he could not afford an airfare, but a friend offered to take him on a freight ship without charge. When he got off the boat in New Orleans, he only had 10 dollars in his pocket. 

 

Kai-Lin lived frugally on his scholarship. He was financially unable to come home during summer or winter breaks, so he sent photos to us instead. After earning his Ph.D., he became a research scientist for the Oak Ridge National Labs, which helped him get permanent residence and eventually citizenship of the United States. He met his match, Ten-Ching, also a research scientist. They married in Tennessee.

 

When he brought his wife back to Taiwan in November 1971, he had been away from home for nine years.


My sister-in-law and brother (front row from left) sitting beside my parents with my four sisters and me standing behind in 1971


Everyone in my family was excited about his return. We filled him in on all our major events in the past nine years. My second sister had married. She and her husband were fresh college graduates who didn’t make enough money to get their own place, so they were living with us. My third sister had graduated from a nursing school and left for further studies in America. There wasn’t much to report about my fourth sister, fifth sister or me. But in Kai-Lin’s eyes, I had changed most drastically. The baby he had said good-bye to nine years ago was now a big boy!

 

Kai-Lin asked me about school, and then he told my parents that Taiwanese education was too exam-oriented, too rigid for me. He said American education was more inspirational, more enlightening, and therefore more suitable for a smart, naughty kid like me. He suggested taking me to America.

 

The suggestion aroused mixed feelings in my mother. By then she had hardly let me out of her sight. It was almost impossible for her to imagine letting me go thousands of miles away. However, she wanted the best for me. She believed an American education would give me a bi-cultural advantage, which would benefit my future career and could even enable me to change the world!

 

I didn’t really know what it meant to study in America. But I was curious about it. The snow in some photos of my brother and sister-in-law intrigued me, as I had lived my whole life in a semi-tropical city where it never snowed. I also really liked a toy tiger my sister-in-law had sent me from America. I held it in my arms almost every day. That made me imagine America to be a fun place with lots of toys.

 

“You should go to America,” my mother said to me. “Many outstanding people were American-educated.”

 

With her consent, Kai-Lin filed paperwork to petition for my immigration.

 

After I received my green card, my mother and I got on a plane in early December in 1972. My mother was only going to spend six months there to help me adapt to the new environment.

 

Other family members saw us off at the Taipei airport. We took a family picture there before the flight. 

 

While flying across the Pacific, I didn’t really feel I was leaving home. My mother was with me. I didn’t think the new life in America would be much different from my days in Taiwan. I slept well with sweet dreams on the flight.

 

We landed in San Francisco, where we visited my father’s friend Mr. Cheng, a professor of San Francisco State University, and his wife, who was working for Stanford Hospital. We stayed at their house for a night before flying to Tennessee.

 

Oak Ridge is a small town in Tennessee. It used to be an oak forest. In 1914, a man named John Hendrix claimed he saw the future after taking a nap in the forest. He said, “A voice told me that this forest will be replaced with houses and factories, which will help America win a war. After the war, there will be a city here.”

 

During World War II, the U.S. government established a research center in Oak Ridge as part of the Manhattan Project. No one knew what the research center was doing until two atomic bombs exploded in Japan in 1945. Then Oak Ridge became well known for being where atomic bombs were developed.

 

Hendrix’s prediction indeed came true!

 

After World War II, the U.S. government named the research center the Oak Ridge National Labs. In 1949, the area around it was named Oak Ridge, which officially became a city with a council and mayor in 1959.

 

When I arrived in Oak Ridge, it was a scenic quiet town. Coming from Taipei, a densely populated city, I felt I was entering an entirely different world.

 

My New Life in Oak Ridge

Kai-Lin owned a two-story house in Oak Ridge. I moved into a room on its second floor, with a view of the large yard. 

 

Within the first month of my arrival, I saw snow for the first time of my life. I excitedly ran around the yard, trying to catch snow flakes. As snow accumulated on the ground, I made snow balls to throw at Kai-Lin. We also made a snow man together.

 

When spring came, colorful climbing roses covered the fence of the back yard. My sister-in-law would cut a few and put them in a vase in the living room.

 

In summer, I helped Kai-Lin mow the lawn and reap vegetables grown in the yard. The vegetables were the kinds frequently used for Chinese cuisine but not in American food, so they were not available in the local markets. Growing them in the yard enabled us to enjoy some of the same Chinese dishes we used to eat in Taiwan.

 

My sister-in-law usually cooked Chinese food for dinner, but for breakfast we would have American cereal for its being quicker.  My brother and sister-in-law worked very long hours as scientists, so I wanted to help them save a little time. I would get bowls of cereals and glasses of juice ready on the table for them. They were pleasantly surprised to see me serve them breakfast because they knew I had been waited on like a little emperor in Taiwan. I became more independent after coming to America, especially after my mother went back to Taiwan.

 

Life was very boring for my mother in Oak Ridge. I went to school during the day. My brother and sister-in-law came home even later than I did. My mother would cook for all of us, but aside from that, she spent most of the day watching TV while she knew too little English to really understand the programs. She didn’t complain, but her silence told us she was not very happy most of the time. Only weekends cheered her up.

 

We had more time to be with her on weekends, and sometimes we would have guests over. My brother and sister-in-law had some Chinese friends in town. When they visited on weekends, my mother played the Chinese board game Ma-Jiang with them. That brought her some good times before she returned to Taiwan.


My mother (right) and me in Tennessee in 1973


After my mother left, my second sister’s son Ray came. My second sister let our brother and sister-in-law adopt her second child because they didn’t have children. Ray was only six years old when he moved into my bedroom. He was a shy skinny child wearing thick glasses. 

 

I helped Ray with his homework and taught him many things I knew. But my naughty nature came out to take advantage of him sometimes, too. When we played Blackjack, I tended to get an idea of the cards when distributing them, so I always won. Then I would tell him, “You lost 100 dollars. Remember to pay me later.” 

 

Ray didn’t know I was tricking him. He wanted to win back what I said he owed, but he just kept losing. His debt eventually amounted to a hundred million! 

 

Right before I left my brother’s house for college, I told Ray, “I’d like to give you a present before going away.”

 

“Really?” Ray was surprised. “What is it?”

 

I cleared my throat and put on a serious tone to say slowly, “I am going to write off your one-hundred-million-dollar debt!”

 

Both of us burst laughing. 

 

Years later, Ray went to medical school in Washington and then became a successful doctor in Texas. When we get together, we still bring up those sweet six years we spent together.

 

Winning a State Essay Contest

The first two of my six years in Oak Ridge were a crucial stage of my life. It was during those two years that I became fluent in English, adapted to American culture and built a solid foundation for my American education. I spent those two years in St. Mary Junior High School, a Catholic school run by nuns.

 

I prayed three times a day with my teachers and classmates. Today I still remember every word of the prayer:

 

Our Father, which art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses

And Lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen!

 

The power of religion touched my heart. I felt a sense of peace and harmony every time I went to church. While attending religious rituals, I gradually familiarized myself with Western culture.

 

When I first entered St. Mary Junior High School, I knew little English. The basic English vocabulary I had learned from my previous school in Taiwan was definitely not enough for me to cope with the 7th-grade curriculum of America. I had to use a dictionary with Chinese translation to look up new words all the time when reading textbooks. 

 

Listening was more difficult because that wouldn’t allow the use of my dictionary. At first I didn’t understand any of the teachers’ lectures. I got bored and fell asleep in class. Sometimes I brought a Chinese novel to read in class. St. Mary’s teachers were so kind that they didn’t say anything when they spotted my novel. However, I felt terrible. I hated falling behind after always being ahead of my classmates in Taiwan. I knew the language barrier was the only thing that kept me from being a top student again, so I decided to drastically improve my English in the shortest time possible.

 

My first strategy was to memorize a thick book of vocabulary. But I soon realized it was not an efficient method. It was very easy to forget a word I had memorized if I didn’t use it often. 

 

After seeing the importance of context in vocabulary building, I began to participate in my classmates’ conversations. They were all very patient to explain the parts I didn’t understand initially. Feeling encouraged, I also became more pro-active in class. When I missed something in the lecture, I would raise my hand and ask the teacher, “Sorry, I didn’t follow. Would you please say again what you mean?”

 

My teachers all had a lot of patience for me and gave me special considerations. They let me take tests at home so I could look up new words, under the conditions that I wouldn’t look for the answers in the textbooks. I appreciated their trust and never betrayed it. This enabled me to do well on tests despite my limited vocabulary and boosted my interest in learning. I couldn’t thank them enough for the thoughtful arrangement.

 

I was (and still am) especially grateful to the principal, Sister Mary David, for her going out of her way to help me. She sacrificed her lunch break to tutor me English with a first-grade textbook. Today I still remember the first lesson of the book:

 

I have a dog named Spot

See Spot walk

See Spot run

 

We started with such simple sentences and moved on from there for a year. Within that year, I made tremendous progress in English. One day I suddenly noticed that I understood every English word entering my ears. I was ecstatic! 

 

Later I heard about other cases of such success in young immigrants. It seems that those who arrived in America by age 12 tend to pick up English faster and sound more like native speakers than those who came as teenagers or adults.

 

It was not too surprising that I learned to speak fluent English within a year. What truly amazed everyone was that I began to write better than many of my classmates, who were all native speakers.

 

Two years after my arrival, I entered a state essay contest that let each student pick a topic related to the biggest challenge America would face in its third century. While most of the students chose to write about the energy crisis or environmental pollution, I decided to discuss something more introspective


Sister Mary David



I submitted an essay titled, “Apathy---America’s Biggest Enemy in Its Third Century,” in which I discussed the trend of hippies in the 1970s, pointed out their apathy to society, and warned against their anti-progress mindset. I concluded the essay with the following sentence:

 

The biggest challenge American society faces today is nothing more than how to change people’s apathy towards one another.

 

When the outcome of the contest was announced, my entire school was astonished to see my name among the 10 finalists in the state. The state of Tennessee recognized a non-native speaker who had only been in America for two years as one of the 10 best student writers statewide!

 

The 10 of us were supposed to orally defend our essays, and our oral performance would determine the champion. During my oral section, a teacher wearing thick glasses asked me, “If you consider Americans apathetic, what do you think about Ralph Nader’s point of view?”

 

I couldn’t answer the question because I didn’t know who Ralph Nader was. That was surely the major reason why I didn’t win the championship. I learned from the experience that mastering a language was more than knowing how to express oneself in the language. I realized the importance of cultural knowledge. Then I began to read more and more English books, newspapers and magazines in order to increase my understanding of American culture.

 

In the meantime, I didn’t forget my first language. I wrote a letter in Chinese to my mother every week after her return to Taiwan, and she would correct the word usage in my letters. That helped me improve my Chinese writing. My Chinese vocabulary was expanding at the same time, thanks to all the Chinese kung-fu fantasy and romance novels in my brother’s house. I read every single one of those novels at least five times during my six years in that house. That kept me updated on Chinese language and culture.

 

I was growing up bilingually and bi-culturally. 

 

Differences between the East and the West

In the 1970s, there was not as much global communication as there is today. Small town residents especially knew little about foreign countries. Many people I met in Oak Ridge confused my birthplace Taiwan with Thailand. I often needed to explain the historic relationship between Taiwan and China to them.

 

My classmates knew I was Chinese. But all that meant to them was just I was someone different. Some of them wondered about the difference and looked for answers in stereotypes of which they had heard.

 

One day in a PE class, a boy pointed at me and said, “You are Chinese, so you are backward and stupid!”

 

I felt deeply insulted, but didn’t know how to react. At this moment another boy jumped out and talked back to the bully, “How can you call Kai-Fu that? How can you talk garbage like that?”

 

The two boys started fist fighting. I wanted to stop them and suddenly thought of Bruce Lee, whose movies were popular then, so I shouted at the bully, “Stop! I know Chinese kung-fu. If you don’t stop, I’ll pull my kung-fu on you!”

 

I had to correct a stereotype with another stereotype. That made me feel sad. I decided to work on presenting a positive image of the Chinese to mainstream Americans. To that end, I needed to start from myself to win their applause!

 

I began to display my strengths in school. The easiest way for me to do that was to answer questions faster than anyone else in math classes. 

 

One day, as soon as the math teacher put 1/7= ? on the board, I immediately spoke up, “0.142857!” Everyone was shocked. They didn’t know I had actually memorized the answer to the question in Taiwan’s elementary school.

 

Memorization is an essential part of Taiwanese/Chinese education. This actually helps children learn very fast because young brains have good memories. However, too much memorization may make children only know to follow what’s in the books. Such children don’t get to develop their creative potential or independent thinking.

 

I was lucky to get the best of the East and the West in terms of education. I first benefited from memorization through my childhood and then developed creativity as well as critical thinking skills as an adolescent. 

 

I was like a fish in water in American education, which let me swim freely and far. I graduated from St. Mary Junior High School with excellent grades and continued to excel at Oak Ridge High School.

 

My high school math teacher, Ms. Benita Albert, noticed my extraordinary performance in class. She decided to help me advance further by giving me free private lessons beyond grade level. 

 

Ms. Albert also taught part-time at the University of Tennessee. One day she asked me, “Would you like to sit in on my college classes? Those classes probably suit you better than high school math. I’m sure you’ll find them helpful.”

 

Wow! That would be really beyond wonderful, I thought. The only problem was transportation. The college was a little far, and I didn’t have a car. Ms. Albert saw through what was on my mind. She said, “I know you don’t have a car. That’s not a problem. I can pick you up on my way to teach there.”

 

I couldn’t believe how nice she was to me! She brought me to her college classes for a year, and I kept making breakthroughs in math that year. A year later, I won the championship of the state math contest.

 

While going beyond grade level in math, I also challenged myself in English. I took an English literature class that contained Shakespearean language. It was difficult at first. But I soon fell in love with English classics. In addition to Shakespeare, I also read famous English novels such as Jane Eyre,and masterpieces of American literature such as The Scarlet Letter and Walden. 

 

Literature gave wings to my imagination. Although it may not seem relevant to my later career choices of science and entrepreneurship, I believe those literary readings I did in my formative years stimulated my creativity, deepened my understanding of Western culture, and helped make me what I am today.

 

Best Friends

I was selected along with two other math geniuses of Oak Ridge High School to attend the advanced math program at University of Chicago in the summer of my sophomore year. The two other boys were Phillip Yoo, an athletic Korean American, and Ram, a handsome mixed child of Indian and Japanese origins.


My buddies and me (center) in the summer math camp at the University of Chicago in 1977

I was not close to Phillip or Ram until we went to the math camp together. Before that summer, I always felt I was an outsider in school. I was probably the only one not born in America, so I couldn’t relate to my classmates in certain ways and didn’t make friends with any of them.

 

The math camp brought me closer to Phillip and Ram while introducing me to two Caucasian boys from other schools. We formed a group of five, going everywhere together. At night, we stayed up to chat in our dorm room. We talked about our childhoods, our parents, girls we found attractive, and everything else that interested teenage boys. Sometimes we forgot time until the resident fellow knocked on our door and said, “Time to go to bed, kids! It’s almost dawn!”

 

We had so much energy that the lack of sleep didn’t bother us. We jumped out of bed early to get breakfast in the cafeteria, where the gray-haired lady cook often shouted at us, “How many eggs would you like? Make up your mind now! Don’t change your mind after the eggs are done!”

 

No one liked dealing with her, so I decided to be the bravest. I told all my classmates that I would get their eggs for them. I gathered all their vouchers and went to the cook, asking for 83 eggs.

 

“What? 83? Are you crazy?” She screamed.

 

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied calmly.

 

“You are intentionally giving me a hard time,” she said. “I’ll report to my supervisor.”

 

When the supervisor came, I explained I was buying eggs for all my classmates. Then he told the cook to accept my order.

 

I felt triumphant. Although I was already about an adult’s size, I still kept my childhood dream of being a hero. 

 

My classmates followed an idea I came up with to sell their remaining cafeteria vouchers after purchase to University of Chicago students at discounted prices. We made a little money, with which we went out to downtown Chicago, ate Chicago’s famous pan pizza, and played video games.

 

We also played bridge. We often hid ourselves in the closed library to play the game until the security guard found out and forced us to leave. During the summer at the University of Chicago, I truly mingled with mainstream Americans and adapted to American culture.

 

My First Two Start-up Ventures

After the math camp, I went back to school as a changed person. I became involved in extracurricular activities. I joined the math club and the bridge club. I was even elected vice president of the student committee.

 

Being active in school inspired me to create a school newsletter. I collaborated with my friends, and wrote anecdotes of funny mistakes our teachers had made as well as satires on certain school regulations we considered unreasonable. The official school paper was called “The Oak Leaf,” so we called our newspaper “The Loose Leaf.”

 

I bought an IBM Selectric typewriter and spent two weeks typing up the original version of the newsletter. Then we found a printing factory to work out a deal of publishing a cartoon book by our friend’s father, with printing 1,000 copies of our newsletter as a bonus. Since we got 1,000 copies of the newsletter at nearly no cost, we decided to distribute them for free. 

 

As soon as copies of the newsletter began to circulate on campus, everyone was talking about it. Everyone loved the jokes. Many students were quoting the newsletter in their conversations. Feeling encouraged, we planned on getting small businesses in town to advertise in our next issue to make a profit. However, we were called into the principal’s office before gathering stories for the next issue.

 

“You need the school’s permission to publish a newsletter,” said the principal in a mellow voice. “It was inappropriate that you did it without permission. Some teachers you wrote about are unhappy, so I’m having this talk with you. Discontinue the newsletter, OK?”

 

The three of us had to nod. But we walked out of the principal’s office feeling proud of  the sensation we had caused in school. We made fun of the even-tempered principal by imitating his “Discontinue the newsletter, OK?” behind his back. Nevertheless, we gave up on the newsletter.

 

We looked for business ideas elsewhere. In 1977, I signed up for the High School Program of the non-profit Junior Achievement, through which I worked with other high school students to create a start-up company under the guidance of adult volunteers who knew how to run a business. I was elected vice president of sales for the company selling napkin rings.

 

We made a profit, but I was not very happy about it because almost all of the customers were parents or relatives of the student entrepreneurs’. They didn’t really like or need our products. 

 

I told myself that I would learn from this experience and my next company would make something everyone would want to buy. In 1978, I joined another venture with Junior Achievement. I ran for president. In my campaign speech, I said, “We must be creative to launch enticing products. Instead of begging customers to buy our products, we will see excited looks in their eyes when they eagerly purchase the products!”

 

As my inspirational speech won lots of votes, I was elected president.

 

After the election of company leaders, we held a meeting to decide what products we were going to make and sell. Around that time, Oak Ridge High School had just shortened the lunch break and many students were protesting against the new policy. The situation gave me an idea to produce T-shirts with a slogan advocating a longer lunch break on each of them. 

 

We found a clothing factory to produce our T-shirts for us. Each of the T-shirts displayed the two words “Longer Lunch” and a picture of a dachshund to symbolize “long.” At first our T-shirts were 100% cotton. But we soon found out pure cotton would shrink or discolor easily. After a few discussions, we changed the material to 50% cotton and 50% polyester despite a slight increase of cost.

 

Junior Achievement required us to do some hands-on work in the production of our T-shirts. Since we were unfamiliar with the factory machines, some T-shirts turned out to have fuzzy prints. About 16% of the T-shirts didn’t look good enough for sale. We had to take them home to either wear them when doing yard work or use them as cleaning cloths.

 

As for selling the presentable T-shirts, we initially went door to door. But that worked very slowly. We only sold dozens of T-shirts in the first two weeks. 

 

To largely increase the sales, we looked for whole-sale businesses and retail stores. We sold 100 T-shirts to a whole-sale shop and 60 to a local retailer thanks to the efforts of two girls on our sales team. 

 

In 1979, I wrote the company’s financial report, including a statement of earning, a balance sheet and a liquidation report. In the writing process I realized each of the investors would receive a return of $64.90. That meant our company was the most profitable venture in the history of our school’s cooperation with Junior Achievement!

 

In the meantime, Junior Achievement announced that our corporation was “Company of the Year.” 

 

Before I graduated from Oak Ridge High School in June 1979, I also won the championship of the state math contest. With the awards, my title as vice president of the student committee, and my record of creating a school newsletter, I was chosen to be the “Most likely to Succeed” person in the year book.

 

My assimilation into American culture was now completed.


Winning “Company of the Year” from Junior Achievement in 1979


Unpredictable Destiny

When I started thinking about college, on average one or two of the graduates from my high school would be accepted to Harvard University every year. I thought it would definitely be me.

 

But when my SAT scores came out, I lost some confidence. Although I got a perfect score on math, my English score was only 550, below the average performance of Harvard admits. 

 

I knew the lower than expected English score probably resulted from my lack of motivation to memorize obscure words of the SAT vocabulary. I didn’t see the point of memorizing words not regularly used. 

 

Despite the setback, I still applied to Harvard, hoping my achievement in extracurricular activities would give me enough extra credit to help me get in. I wanted very much to enter Harvard, especially for the university’s law and math programs being rated number one. At that time, I thought I would either major in math or go to law school after college.

 

I explained in my admission essay that my SAT English score was excusable because I was not a native speaker. I asked the admission officers to look at my strengths in science and leadership as well as my bi-cultural background that could contribute to cross-culture discussions. I thought it was quite a compelling essay. However, I received a letter of rejection from Harvard in April 1979. That was the first major frustration of my life.

 

More frustrating responses came. Stanford, Yale and Princeton put me on their waiting lists.

 

However, all the other universities I had applied to responded positively. I sent out 12 applications in total. In that pre-computer era, my teachers had to type every recommendation letter on a typewriter. I greatly appreciated their typing more letters for me than for anyone else.

 

I took a little time to choose between Columbia and UC Berkeley. I was leaning toward Columbia for its longer history and higher ranking. But my parents were concerned about the crime rate of New York City and preferred Berkeley. To show respect for my parents’ opinion, I asked them to fly to America, to take a tour of Columbia University with me before making my decision. 

 

When we arrived in New York, we realized Columbia University was in a safer neighborhood of New York City, and had high walls as well as campus police. That removed my parents’ worries. At the same time, we were all enthralled by the beauty of the Columbia campus. The Roman-style architecture, the statues of Greek philosophers and the ivy-clad dorm buildings all presented a picture perfect ambiance of academia, with which I fell in love right away.

 

After accepting Columbia’s offer, I ran into my friend Phillip back at Oak Ridge High School. He had just received an admission letter from Harvard. When I told him I wasn’t accepted to Harvard, his eyes opened wide, “Really? Kai-Fu, I can’t believe it! You used to beat me every math contest!”

 

Since then I’ve learned that life is full of surprises. It may not always give you what you want, but sometimes what it gives you is actually better than what you want. In retrospect, I think Columbia with its liberal and innovative style was the best university for me. Thanks to its allowing students to change majors easily, I was able to go into computer science, which later became the passion of my life.

 

I am still in touch with Phillip. He is now vice president of marketing at a telecommunications company. We often chat on line while being thousands of miles apart. His fun-loving nature hasn’t changed through the years. One holiday season he signed his one-year-old daughter’s name on the Christmas card he sent me. The card read, “Uncle Kai-Fu, my father asked me to send you this card, to wish you a Merry Christmas!”

发表于 3年前

热度:16

Chapter 4. Learning to Make a Difference

In September 1979, I flew to New York City and entered Columbia University. Although I had visited the university once, it still amazed me that the campus was surrounded by bustling streets but looked utterly undisturbed with greenery everywhere. In the incredibly serene environment, I felt my thoughts were clearer than ever.

 

Columbia University emphasizes general education (GE). Students can wait until sophomore year to declare their majors. Under such liberal circumstances, most of the classes I took in my freshman year were in humanities. I studied art, history, music and philosophy, none of which were related to my later career, but all of which enriched my soul, sharpened my judgment, and helped me find my direction in life.

 

Now I truly understand why Columbia University lists music as a GE requirement while most other universities don’t. I cannot overstate how much the music education I received there has benefited me. Since the music professors helped us explore the depth of each composer and encouraged us to attend live concerts in New York City, I have found nothing more spiritually nourishing than classical music.

 

Today I love Tchaikovsky’s piano concertos and Beethoven’s symphonies even more than I did in college. The melancholy melodies that once appealed to my sentimental young heart now speak to me in a much deeper sense. Profoundly sad music somehow lifts my spirits by showing me the inevitable pain of life and making my worries all seem trivial. It also flows by me like a river that can wash away any repressed negative feelings I may have. Whenever work stresses me out, I turn on classical music and feel refreshed right away.


I am a scientist and an entrepreneur, but all the many science and business courses I took didn’t influence me as much as “Contemporary Civilization,” a philosophy class of my freshman year. It was from the professor of that class that I aquired my lifetime motto:

 

Imagine two worlds, one with you and one without you. 

What’s the difference between the two worlds? 

Maximize that difference. 

That’s the meaning of your life.

 

Comparing Eastern and Western Philosophy

One day in a philosophy class, I raised my hand and asked the professor, “Why are we only learning Western philosophy? Can we use the same methodology to study Eastern philosophy? Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the similarities and differences between the two?”

 

The professor nodded and said it’s a good idea. My classmates also expressed their interest in Eastern philosophy. Later Columbia University indeed opened new classes in Eastern philosophy and cross-culture studies. But the change took time. In my freshman year, I still only studied Western philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Nietzsche. 

 

However, I did learn about Eastern philosophy at Columbia University when taking “Literary Chinese” in my senior year. The professor specified native-like fluency in the Chinese language as a prerequisite to this class because it covered pieces of classical Chinese literature that even native speakers of Chinese might not completely comprehend. 

 

Some of the readings we did for the class were philosophy-related. They brought our in-class discussions into the realm of Chinese philosophy.

 

There are several schools of Chinese philosophy, among which Confucianism and Taoism (also known as Daoism) are the most influential. Confucianism in particular has dominated Chinese culture for millennia.

 

Confucianism began with the teachings of Confucius (551-479 BC), a thinker who recommended rigorous self discipline for the individual, a stable hierarchal structure for the family, and unchallengeable but benign authority for the government. Confucius traveled a great deal because China was divided as small countries in his lifetime and he attempted to persuade at least one of the rulers to adopt his ideas. However, none of the rulers took his advice to heart. Feeling disappointed, Confucius returned to his hometown to concentrate on teaching.

 

His students took notes of his lectures and compiled them into a book, titled The Analects ( also phonetically translated as Lunyu), which centuries later became a must-read to all Chinese students. 

 

It was a Han Dynasty emperor known as Han Wudi (156-87 BC) who turned The Analects into the Bible of the Chinese. Wudi considered the teachings of Confucianism helpful in stabilizing society and ensuring his ruling status. He mandated all teachers to disregard other schools of philosophy and teach Confucianism only.

 

Confucianism contains more than the teachings of Confucius. The teachings of another educator, Mengzi (372-289 BC), are also part of Confucianism because Mengzi regarded Confucius as a mentor he was born too late to meet. Like Mengzi, other scholars in later centuries expanded on the ideas of The Analects. All their works are considered components of Confucianism.

 

Simply put, Confucianism gives everyone a fixed role in society and requires all the roles to be played properly. Children must obey their parents, but parents must set good examples for their children. Likewise, a ruler must be kind enough to his subjects to deserve their loyalty.

 

Through the history of China’s monarchy, which ended in 1911, most government officials lived by Confucianism and devoted themselves whole-heartedly to the emperor they served. But the emperor tended to disappoint them by abusing his absolute power. The officials remained loyal, following the teachings of Confucianism they had been raised with, but they needed an emotional outlet, which they saw in Taoism.

 

Unlike the hierarchy-oriented Confucianism, Taoism provides an egalitarian point of view. The founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu (birth and death years unknown but probably between 6thand 4thcenturies BC), claims that all human beings are equal to one another and to other creatures in his book, Tao Te Ching (also phonetically translated more closely to the original title as Dao De Jing). He says, “Heaven and Earth are ruthless, with all creatures at their mercy like pigs and dogs at ours.” 

 

Lao Tzu analyzes the nature of everything, and teaches people to act like water, going around obstacles to avoid head-on conflicts. He advises against futile struggle.

 

Many traditional Chinese intellectuals found comfort in Taoism but considered it too passive for improving the world, so they still went by Confucianism in their careers, only applying Taoism to their personal lives. My father was one of them. He worked hard like a Confucian and minimized material desires in a Taoist way.  

 

Taoists look upon wealth and fame as nothing to be desired because everything is transient in this ever-changing world. Besides Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu (also phonetically translated as Zhuang Zi, 369-286 BC) also represents Taoism. He advocates a relaxed attitude towards life. 

 

In his view, there is no point of exhausting oneself to pursue anything, including knowledge. He says, “Our lifetime is finite while knowledge is infinite. If you attempt to capture the infinite into the finite, it is bound to fail.”

 

These two lines aroused a fierce debate in my Literary Chinese class at Columbia University. 

 

It was interesting to study Eastern philosophy with Western methodology. I found the biggest difference between Eastern and Western philosophy to be the emphasis of the former on going along with nature and the focus of the latter on conquering nature. 

 

The philosophy lessons I took at Columbia University deepened my understanding of both Eastern and Western cultures. Later, when I worked in China, I appreciated the understanding even more, because I saw how much Eastern philosophy (in particular Confucianism) pervaded the government system and the society.  Its different way to look at the world has caused much misunderstanding between China and Americans.


Me in New York when attending Columbia University

Living Happily in Poverty

Columbia University cost about $10,000 a year when I went there. I had an annual scholarship of $2,500, a student loan of $2,000 and $2,500 from my father. I needed to make up the difference of $3,000 by working part-time. I first did tutoring, and later worked in the computer center on campus.

 

My roommate Russ had a similar situation. Russ came from a Polish immigrant family. His father worked as a security guard in prison. His mother was a housewife. They couldn’t afford his college education, so he had to support himself. He worked as a kitchen assistant in one of the university’s cafeterias. Sometimes he brought leftover bread and hot dogs back to our dorm room at night. I got to share the midnight snacks with him.

 

I still remember the day I first met Russ in our dorm room. He was a brown-haired, blue-eyed young man about 5’10’’. He smiled at me and introduced himself. Soon we became best friends.

 

Russ had a great sense of humor. We made fun of each other all the time. 

 

“How come you’re still not done with the programming homework?” I often shook my head in front of him and said in an exaggerated tone. “You’re slower than a cow!”

 

I thought he might fight back with something like “not as slow as your swimming” because I had broken the slowest record in the swimming class. I didn’t get any of my PE teacher mother’s athletic genes.

 

Instead, Russ said, “Come on, buddy! You are slower with girls. You turn all red whenever talking to a girl. How are you ever going to get a girlfriend?”

 

That was indeed truthful. I was bold about almost everything but incredibly shy in front of girls my age. I couldn’t and still can’t explain my psychology in that stage of my life. I just didn’t know what to say when meeting girls.

 

However, it didn’t bother me too much because I was too busy with school and my part-time job to think about getting a girlfriend. Russ, on the other hand, often faced quite a different problem when he was unable to submit his homework assignments on time. Sometimes he asked me for help.

 

One day, I knew he needed me to help him with his homework, so I intentionally stayed out. Unable to find me, he went to the computer lab by himself. As soon as he logged in, he saw a warning message, “The computer will automatically shut down at 11 p.m. for maintenance.” That meant he would have to complete his work within three hours, which seemed too challenging to him. He began to sweat, trying very hard to speed up his programming. When he was almost done, a pop-up window suddenly appeared on the screen to display, “Disk damaged, file lost.” He was terrified, and immediately started to redo his work. But only in a few minutes, another pop-up window told him, “System damaged, all files lost. Please click on the following link.”

 

Russ followed the instructions and saw a message:

 

You are fooled, Dummy! All those warnings were made up by me. I’ve already done your homework for you. It’s in your drawer. Just come back!  

 

Kai-Fu

 

Then Russ knew I had stolen his computer lab password to pull this trick on him. He rushed back to our dorm room, pretending to be outraged. We ended up laughing so hard that tears came out.

 

When it was time to go to bed, Russ rarely used his bed. The mattress was too soft for him because he had a back problem. He had taken off a closet door and placed it on the floor to sleep on it.

 

Every time I saw him frown, I knew his back was aching and would stop all my crazy jokes. But that only happened once in a long while. Most of the time Russ was a happy fellow. We often stayed up chatting until after midnight.

 

Sometimes we got hungry at night and went out to eat the cheapest fried chicken. Or we took the subway to Chinatown for low-priced midnight snacks. Once we went to a Chinese restaurant at 2 a.m. and ordered seven large plates of food, including fried rice, chow-mien (fried noodles) and chow-fun (fried rice sticks). When we asked the waitress for the check, she was shocked to see all the plates empty. She asked, “Did you guys eat up all your orders?” 

 

We nodded. 

 

“My God!” she uttered her astonishment. “Don’t you need an ambulance?”

 

Like many other young men, Russ and I had huge appetites. It was often hard for us to get enough food with little money. But one winter we came up with a brilliant idea to solve the problem.

 

We were both staying on campus for Christmas because we couldn’t afford the travel expenses of going home. In order to minimize our food budget for the winter break, Russ took 55 pounds of cream cheese from the cafeteria where he worked. We planned to make 20 cheesecakes and replace our daily meals with them throughout the winter break.

 

The plan worked for a few days. But then we got so sick of the cheesecakes that we couldn’t even bear hearing their name. A week later, Russ suddenly announced, “Kai-Fu, I have great news! All the rest of the cheesecakes got molded. We can’t eat them anymore!”

 

I was excited to hear that. Then we took the subway to a Chinatown restaurant that offered the lowest prices for the largest servings. We ordered six dishes to celebrate the end of our cake eating days.

 

From then on, we often used the word “cake” as our exclusive metaphor. While the idiom “a piece of cake” normally means “easy,” we would describe the difficulty of a task by saying, “Oh! It took as much time as eating a piece of cake!” Other people would look confused upon overhearing something like that in our conversation. Then we would give each other five and laugh.

 

Russ kept cake making as a hobby after we graduated. Even after he moved to Germany, opened a gallery and married there, he would still send me a cake he made every holiday season. The cake sent from Germany in December would arrive in late January or February. No one in my family dared to eat it. I emailed Russ to thank him and ask him not to send any more cakes. But he replied, “For old time’s sake, I must do it.”

 

In 2000, I transferred from Microsoft Research China back to the Seattle headquarters. I was too busy moving that I forgot to notify Russ of my address change. That December he sent a cake to my old address in China. It took more than two months to get there and nearly three months to be returned. After Russ received the returned cake, he emailed me, “I always thought adding rum and chocolate was an outdated way of preserving a cake. But when I got the returned cake in May, I finally had a chance to test the old method. Now I’m happy to tell you I ate the cake, and the better news is, I’m still alive.”

 

I burst laughing in front of my computer. All of a sudden I realized how blissful our college years had been despite our tight budgets. After going through lots of complicated life experiences, we would probably never regain the kind of simple joy that had once filled our young hearts. 

 

In my reply to Russ, I wrote, “Glad to know you tested a five-month-old cake. Did you know that I actually mailed you a slice of the cheesecake we made in 1980? I sent it through your Polish post office. You may receive it in the next few months. Then please tell me how the 20-year-old cake tastes!”

 

 

Changing Directions

My sophomore year at Columbia University was a turning point of my life. Before then, I always thought I would pursue a career in law or math.

 

I kept excelling in math throughout high school, but I was more keen on fighting for justice, so I decided to do pre-law in college and declared Political Science as my major. However, I soon found out none of the political science classes interested me in the first semester of my sophomore year.

 

I thought about falling back on math, but I was afraid I wasn’t a real math genius. Given my record of math contest championships, I was placed in an advanced math class of only seven students. The class made me realize having been a math contest champion in Tennessee didn’t mean much in front of math contest champions from states with higher academic levels such as New York and California. I also noticed my six classmates all enjoyed math more than I did. They often said they loved the beauty of math, which I didn’t really see. Pure theories never appealed to me. I wanted to do something that could benefit real people in the real world.

 

One day it dawned on me that the part-time job I was doing in the university’s computer center had helped quite a number of people. I was always able to solve other students’ computer problems for them. I even wrote a program for a diamond factory’s president, who had asked the computer center for programming a device that could send the number of each diamond’s weight indicated on an electronic scale directly to a computer in order to eliminate the need of having workers enter numbers and prevent them from stealing. My quick completion of the seemingly difficult task became big news on campus.

 

I discovered I was far more gifted in computer programming than in math when taking computer classes. I was able to finish all the in-class assignments while my classmates were still drawing flowcharts. I turned in my tests by the time they were half-way through theirs. They all called me a computer genius. 

 

Their compliments reminded me of a saying I often heard, “You love what you are good at, and you are good at what you love.” I absolutely loved working with computers!

That was before IBM launched personal computers. Columbia students did programming on two gigantic machines. One of them was a mainframe called IBM S/360, which was worth millions of dollars but only had a speed of 16 MHz, much slower and much more expensive than today’s PCs with a speed of at least 2,000 MHz and within the price range of a few hundred dollars.

Working with IBM S/360 entailed creating, editing and storing programs on punch cards. The practice was nearly universal with IBM computers in the era. A punch card was a flexible write-once medium that encoded, most commonly, 80 characters of data. Decks of cards formed programs and collections of data. We created cards using a desk-sized keypunch with a typewriter-like keyboard. A typing error generally necessitated repunching an entire card. 

The other computer we used was DEC VAX 11/780, which was called a mini computer but actually huge by today’s standards. We all loved it because it didn’t require punch cards, also because its time sharing technology allowed dozens of us to use it at the same time through different terminals connected to it. 

I enjoyed working with the DEC VAX so much that I couldn’t wait to go to the computer lab in the evening. Sometimes I stayed there all night, and the lack of sleep made me skip classes, especially political science lectures, the next day. 

I didn’t want to take any more political science classes. That meant I was going to give up the option of law school. The Law School of Columbia University was rated number three at the time and would most likely promise a prominent career. By contrast, the Computer Science Department was new and its future uncertain. There were no such jobs as software engineers back then. I had no idea what I would be able to do with a computer science degree.

However, I recalled a famous quote of the distinguished journalist Whit Hobbs, “Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bouncing out of bed because there's something out there you love to do, that you believe in, that you're good at -- something that's bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again today.”

That described how I felt about computer science, so I somehow had a hunch that it might lead me to success. My adventurous spirit was urging me to explore the new field as a pioneer. In the meantime, I couldn’t stop pondering about computer-related questions such as “Will computers be able to think in the future? Will computers replace human brains someday?” I began to see finding answers to these questions as a difference I could make, which could be the meaning of my life!

I decided to follow my heart. I talked to my advisor about changing my major. After an in-depth conversation, he helped me with the required paperwork. The flexible system of Columbia University made the transition quite easy. I wish more universities could do the same for their students.

Nowadays I always advise college students to major in something they love, and I often use my own experience as an example. Had I stayed in political science, I wouldn’t have achieved as much as in computer science. I received Bs and sometimes Cs from political science classes because studying for them felt like a chore, from which I tended to get distracted. On the contrary, I absorbed knowledge from my computer science classes like a sponge. I got a perfect score on the mid-term exam of a computer science class deemed the most difficult by everyone. The professor Zvi Galil said to me, “No one has ever received a 100 from this class. You created a record.”

I impressed other computer science professors as well. For a class called “Natural Speech Processing,” I collaborated with a talented classmate who shared my bi-cultural background, Lincoln Hu, to create a software program that could answer questions about natural speech like an instructor. The professor of the class gave each of us an A+ for our creativity. For another class, we did a project on moving light display. We applied some theories from a distinguished scientist Rick Rashid’s Ph.D. dissertation to our project, which amazed Professor John Kender in the computer graphics class. 

Lincoln found his passion of life through this project. Later he became CTO of Industrial Lights & Magic, and won two Oscars for his contribution of technology to movies. 

According to Lincoln, the A+ Professor Kender gave each of us was a lot of encouragement to him. It inspired him to pursue further research in computer graphics and eventually a career in virtual reality.

The project influenced me just as much, if not more. It made Professor Kender decide to introduce me to Dr. Rashid.

“You did a marvelous job, Kai-Fu,” said Professor Kender. “You should directly communicate with Professor Rick Rashid of Carnegie Mellon.”

“Are you sure? John,” I couldn’t believe my ears. “Professor Rashid is teaching Ph.D. students. I’m only a junior.”

“Why would that matter?” Professor Kender assured me. “Talking to Dr. Rashid will do your research a lot of good.”

I was unaware that Professor Kender was actually helping me pave my way to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University. I did call Dr. Rashid, and he kindly provided me guidance. Since then, Dr. Rashid has been my mentor through my career.

With Dr. Rashid’s recommendation, I was accepted to the Ph.D. Program in Computer Science of Carnegie Mellon University in the last semester of my senior year at Columbia, where I was number one in the Computer Science class. My graduation GPA was 3.9, after the 4.1 from the Computer Science Department pulled up the 2.9 from the Political Science Department. 


Working Hard & Playing Hard

I often look back fondly at my four years at Columbia University, those years when my heart was filled with youthful passion. Besides computers, I was also passionate about bridge.

After getting tired of video games in my freshman year, I spent almost all my leisure time playing bridge, which I had learned to play pretty well in high school. I knew the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) would recognize those who had earned 300 points from bridge games as Life Masters, so I made attaining that status my goal. 

Based on the ACBL rules, winning a game in a bridge club would only result in 0.3 point. That meant I had to win 1,000 games in the shortest time possible.

To that end, I played about six bridge games a week. In order to win, I went to some bridge clubs located in senior centers to play with grandpas and grandmas who didn’t know the game as well as I did. But later I realized that kind of winning didn’t really mean much. I began to seek challenges in competitions.

Sometimes my bridge partners and I took the train to Harvard or Yale for inter-college bridge competitions. We won the Ivy League championship.

I accumulated enough points to become a Life Master at the end of my junior year.

One of my bridge partners, Alex Ornstein, later became a professional player.  He won the second place in the Bermuda Bowl, the “World Cup” of bridge. He was able to make good money and played bridge every day. It looked somewhat enviable to me that he was making a career out of his hobby. When I mentioned it to another friend, he said with a smile, “Kai-Fu, hadn’t you chosen the computers, you could be a professional bridge player, too!”

Although I’ve never had a bridge-related job, what I’ve learned from bridge is helpful to my career. Thanks to bridge, I know how to read people’s faces and predict their next moves. These skills are essential in business negotiations.

Drawing from my own experience, I often tell college students that extracurricular activities can do them a lot of good, and that studying is not everything. I also encourage them to get jobs or internships in the summer.

I worked two of the three summers in my college years. The first summer I obtained a great opportunity to work for the Law School of Columbia University. The dean of the Law School wanted to move a software system from an IBM mainframe to a lower-priced DEC VAX, but all the price quotes from contractors looked too high to him, so he gave the job to me based on my reputation in the university’s computer center, of which he had heard. 

He offered me $7 per hour, which was a high wage to me. I was excited. When he asked me how soon I could deliver initial results, I said confidently, “I can make the program run in early August so we’ll have time to adjust it before school starts.”

“That sounds great!” The dean looked very happy.

He believed in my promise, which I thought I could easily keep, too. But just because I considered it a piece of cake, I didn’t start it from the beginning of the summer break. I obsessively played three weeks of bridge in July. Then I recalled my promise to the dean and picked up the task, which unfortunately turned out to be a lot more time-consuming than I had thought. August soon arrived. I had no choice but to try explaining to the dean, “This job is more complicated than I thought, so the program won’t run until late August. But it’ll still be done before school starts.”

I expected the dean to accept my excuse and let me continue with the project. But he didn’t. He appeared angry and said in a serious tone, “Since you can’t finish it on time, I’ll get someone else to do it.”

Obviously I had lost his trust. I felt terrible about it. I couldn’t fall asleep that night and reflected upon myself all night long. The next day I went to the dean and apologized, “I’m sorry that I disappointed you. I broke my promise, so I’m here to return the money you’ve paid me.”

“It’s OK. You can keep the money,” the dean kindly responded. “It’s excusable to make a mistake when you don’t have much experience. I’m sure you’ve learned a lesson.”

I did. Since then I have always kept my promises.

This work ethic began to win applause for me during my second summer break, in the beginning of which I went to an interview for a Goldman Sachs internship. To protect its assets, the bank needed to ensure the intern’s integrity, so it used a lie detector to conduct interviews.

“Do you drink?” The interviewer began with a question very easy for me to answer.

“No,” I replied, feeling certain that the lie detector wouldn’t indicate anything suspicious.

“Do you do drugs?”

“No.”

“Have you embezzled any amount of money?”

“No.”

“Do you gamble?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?” The interviewer asked again. “How come your heart is beating faster?”

The lie detector! It did pick up my quicker heartbeat while I was wondering whether bridge should count as gambling. Occasionally, we’d play for money, but it was never more than $20 in one evening.

“Why is your heart beating so fast?” The interviewer started interrogating me. “Do you lose money over gambling? How much do you lose every week? A thousand? Five hundred?”

He sounded more and more serious. I was afraid he already mistook me for a gambler. Would I lose this wonderful internship just because of playing bridge? I felt frustrated, but I didn’t give up. I made an effort to explain my love for bridge to him, and fortunately, the misunderstanding was soon cleared.

The interviewer smiled and said, “Don’t worry. You did fine. You scored a lot higher than most of the interns we’ve accepted.”

I will never forget the two summer jobs I did in college. Before I entered the real job market, they showed me what qualities of me would be in demand, how the world would view me and how I could adjust myself to fit in better.

Nowadays, whenever a college student asks me how to make the best use of a summer break, I always say, “Get a job! Find an internship! Do something that will prepare you for the real world!”

Meeting the Love of My Life

I didn’t work in the last summer break of my college years. I went home instead. When I landed in Taipei in June 1982, I had no idea that my family was arranging blind dates for me.

My mother was concerned about my shyness in front of girls. She asked my sisters to look for girls near my age and create opportunities for me to meet them. Before I arrived home, they had already made a list of names based on the girls they had found. 

I felt a little uncomfortable about meeting these girls but obliged, knowing my sisters had put in a lot of effort. 

The first girl I met looked somewhat absent-minded. That made it even harder for me, shy to begin with, to start a conversation with her. While I was thinking very hard to figure out what to say, she spoke up first, “To tell you the truth, I already have a boyfriend. My parents don’t like him. That’s why they made me accept your sister’s arrangement. But my heart really doesn’t have room for anybody else. I’m sorry!”

That was the end of my first blind date. After the awkward experience, I felt reluctant about the next one. But the saving grace about the second one was, I wouldn’t have to face the girl alone. It would be a lunch with many people, because my father and her father were colleagues.

The two fathers, coincidentally both from Sichuan Province, never thought about getting their children together until one of their common friends, whom I called Uncle Feng, suggested it to my father. Uncle Feng said, “Why don’t you get Kai-Fu to meet Hsieh’s daughter? She’s a very nice girl, and pretty, too!”

My father was persuaded. He asked Uncle Feng to organize a lunch with acquaintances from Sichuan.  In the restaurant, the fathers talked about politics in their Sichuan dialect. No one mentioned a word about the purpose of the gathering. They all wanted to create a casual atmosphere that would put me and the girl from the Hsieh family at ease.

However, I was still nervous. I looked at the girl named Shen-Ling, who was sitting right across the table from me. She had wavy long hair, a cute baby face and ladylike demeanor. What a doll! I thought. But I quickly lowered my eyes to avoid staring at her, and I didn’t know what to say to her. I was afraid of saying something wrong and giving her a negative impression. She didn’t say a word, either.

That night back at home, my father asked me, “What do you think about Shen-Ling?”

I hesitated. If I said I found her attractive, what if she didn’t feel the same way about me? After pausing for a minute, I simply said, “I’m not sure. She was very quiet.”

My father described my brief expression to Uncle Feng, who expanded on it when talking to Shen-Ling’s father a few days later.

“Lee’s son really enjoyed meeting your daughter,” said Uncle Feng. “He could tell she’s a traditional girl from her being quiet. He said she’s definitely his type!”

Uncle Feng also told my father that Shen-Ling was impressed with my Ivy-League education after she actually complained to her father about my silence at the table and assumed I was probably too proud of being an Ivy-League student to talk to her.

Thanks to the diplomatic messenger, Shen-Ling and I agreed to meet again. 


Dating Shen-Ling (left) in 1982

This time we went out by ourselves, and we talked. She was very soft spoken. All her facial expressions and gestures looked gentle. Being with her was like breathing the air of spring!

After my first date with her, I was unable to fall asleep that night. I stayed awake to recall every minute I had spent with her. The next morning I announced to my sisters, “Please don’t arrange any more blind dates for me. I’ve found the one!”

I asked Shen-Ling out every day for the rest of the summer. I brought her a dozen roses every time I picked her up from home. The beautiful roses often caught the attention of her neighbors. They would make comments to her in front of me, saying “Your boyfriend is so romantic!” or “You guys look great together!” Then she would blush, smile and lower her eyes. I’ll never forget how lovely she looked at those moments.

Shen-Ling lived in the suburbs and was unfamiliar with downtown Taipei, so I decided to take her to all of Taipei’s good restaurants. My sisters liked the idea. They even chipped in to establish a “dating fund” for me so I could afford buying Shen-Ling a meal at any restaurant. 

I also took Shen-Ling to the movies, the famous Shih-Lin Night Market and various snack shops. We frequently went to an ice cream store that claimed to serve more than 60 flavors. By the end of the summer, we had tasted almost all those flavors!

It was difficult to say good-bye when I had to go back to school. While flying to New York, I left my heart in Taipei. 

By this time I had learned a lot about Shen-Ling. I knew she got up very early every day to do housework so her elderly grandmother and frail mother could relax. When her father was hospitalized, she stayed in the hospital for a month to take care of him. I had never met anyone my age who was taking so many family responsibilities. I admired her for being so giving to her family while most of our college-age peers only knew to take from their parents.

As soon as I arrived in New York, I wrote to Shen-Ling. There was no emailing then. I sent her a letter by air mail almost every day. She wrote back as frequently as she received my letters. But her letters were less passionate than mine. Her way of expression was very subtle. 

I knew it was typical of the traditional Chinese, especially well-brought-up ladies. However, I wanted to feel more passion from her, so I came up with an idea.

I photocopied her letters, cut words out of the copies, and pasted them on a sheet of paper to compose a new letter:

Kai-Fu, after you went back to America, I didn’t sleep for three nights. I kept looking at the moon and thinking about you. I cannot get used to the days without you. I am sad, depressed and suffering from heartaches. I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I even feel suicidal. I’ve cried so much that I’m out of tears. I can’t live without you! You are so smart, adorable, gentle, considerate, and perfect!

I sent the “letter” to her and asked her to imitate the style. It fell on deaf ears.

In 1983, I was about to start a Ph.D. program. As I moved on to the next stage of my life, I wanted a special someone to accompany me, to be by my side and on my side all the time as I faced choices and challenges of life. I didn’t know whether I was going to succeed, but I was sure I could make her happy.

I expressed my desire for marriage in my letters to her. She was stunned. It just seemed too quick to her. She replied that she felt unsure about leaving Taiwan at this point because she might need to stay longer to take care of her grandmother. She asked me to give her time to think it over.


Shen-Ling (right), me (left) and my parents (center) at our wedding banquet


Today’s young people may find it unbelievable that I’ve only fallen in love once and married my first love. They find it even more unbelievable that an “arranged marriage” could work. It’s also surprising to them that I married when I was only 21. But the choice I made at that immature age turned out to be absolutely wise. My stable marriage has anchored my heart and enabled me to concentrate on scientific research. 

For more than a quarter century, my wife has given me the strongest support. She did all the housework when I was too busy to share the load. She never complained about being neglected when I worked overtime. She comforted me when I met obstacles in my career path. I can’t thank her enough for her selfless devotion to me and our children. She gets up at six o’clock every morning in order to squeeze fresh fruit juice for our breakfast. She sews for us and irons all our clothes. While we may not hear a verbal expression of her love, we feel it in every little thing she does.

After being together for so long, I still ardently look forward to spending all my years to come with her.


Youthful Shen-Ling and me at Yosemite National Park


A recent image of Shen-Ling (left) and me in Beijing

发表于 3年前

热度:16

Chapter 5. Getting Recognized for “Speech Recognition”

When I started thinking about computer science graduate school in my senior year of college, there were three schools tied for number one: MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon. In the end I chose Carnegie Mellon after a free trip to Pittsburgh and a tour of the university campus.

 

In April 1983, Carnegie Mellon flew me there to show me the university’s Ph.D. Program in Computer Science. Thanks to my communication with Professor Rick Rashid, I was considered an ideal candidate worth recruiting. 

 

I felt flattered, knowing the Computer Science Program of Carnegie Mellon was top-rated, even though the rest of the university was not ranked so high. It was the first computer science department in the United States when founded in 1965. Since then it has always been rated number one, though currently it shares the status with MIT and Stanford.

 

The legend was created by the three founders of the program: Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner; Alan Perlis, a Turing Award winner; Alan Newell, also a Turing Award winner.

 

When computer science became a new field in the 1950s, the three professors conducted research in it while teaching in the university’s Business School, Math Department and Psychology Department, respectively. After founding the Computer Science Department, they looked for talents everywhere. The distinguished scientists they recruited included:  Nico Habermann, an algorithm master who later became the first department chair; Raj Reddy, a Turing Award winner who specializes in speech and robotics; Manuel Blum, a Turing Award winner who masters the studies of secret codes; Ivan Sutherland, a Turing Award winner who invented computer graphics; Dana Scott, a Turing Award winner with expertise in computer theories.

 

Such a marvelous program, and I was invited to become part of it --- I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!

 

On my tour of the Carnegie Mellon campus, a Ph.D. student Joshua Bloch showed me around. Joshua later joined Sun and wrote a Java book that became recognized as the Bible of Java. Currently he is working for Google.

 

When I followed Joshua to visit the Computer Science building, he pointed at a vending machine and said, “This is connected with the internal network of our school so that you can check from any computer on campus to see if your favorite drink is available. Those guys (Ph.D. students in Computer Science) are lazy. They want to know what drinks and snacks are available in the machine when they are in their dorm rooms. That’s why they spent two weeks figuring out how to install a chip in the machine. This way they won’t come here for nothing.”

 

What a cute thing they did! I thought, loving their idea of applying computer technology to creating conveniences in daily life. 

 

What attracted me more was the program’s unique system of matching Ph.D. students with professors. It was called a “marriage process.” New Ph.D. students would enjoy lectures by all of the professors for a month, as though the professors were “courting” the students. In the end, the students would submit three of their favorites to the department. Joshua told me that most of the students would get their most favorite, and if not, at least one of the other two favorites. He said this was meant to put students in the area they were the most interested in so they would be motivated to do their best.

 

After listening to Joshua’s description of the program, I knew it would provide me the most desirable research environment. There was no need of taking more time to think it over. I decided to accept the offer.

 

Entering Carnegie Mellon

In August 1983, I flew back to New York alone after getting married in Taipei, and then moved from New York to Pittsburgh. My newly wedded wife was going to join me in Pittsburgh after I settled in. 

 

I rented an apartment for $450 a month. My scholarship was a monthly payment of $700. That meant I would have to support myself and my wife with $250 per month. Seeing how tight our budget was going to be, I wondered if we could afford any furniture.

 

Just when I didn’t know what to do with the empty apartment, I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door and saw my fourth sister and brother-in-law. He said, “We’re coming to your rescue with a truck load of furniture.”

 

The furniture came from my third, fourth, fifth sisters, and their husbands, who were all living in the United States at the time. They knew I couldn’t afford the cost of furniture but wouldn’t take their money, so they gave me their extra pieces of furniture instead.

 

Thanks to the furniture, the apartment looked like a home when my wife arrived. Of course she made it more comfortable.

 

We lived a very simple life in Pittsburgh, but just simply happy. I thrived in my Ph.D. studies and often brought my excitement home.

 

I chose to follow Professor Raj Reddy in his research on speech recognition after going on “blind dates” with numerous professors for a month.

 

Professor Reddy was a small-framed, bald man of Indian descent, in his 50s then. When he talked about speech recognition, he eyes always sparkled. He often referred to science fiction examples. He would skip his lunch break to discuss speech recognition with students, with a slice of pizza in his hand, taking a bite when listening to one of the students.

 

I was impressed by how passionate he was about speech recognition, which looked intriguing to me. As I was going through all kinds of research topics, I found some of them very profound but without a foreseeable application prospect, and others immediately applicable to consumer products but not deep enough to interest me. Speech recognition seemed to have the strengths of both kinds. It fascinated me to picture myself changing the way of communication between people and computers, so I listed Professor Reddy as my first choice. He happened to consider me a student he wanted to work with, too. We clicked like a perfect match.

 

After deciding on the direction of my research, I studied very hard. So did all my classmates. Our program held extremely high standards. The 30 students selected from more than 1,000 applicants had to take four qualifying exams in the first two years. The exams in systems, software, theory and artificial intelligence were so hard that only about 60% of the students passed at the first try. Those who failed were allowed to retake the exams later, but that would take time away from research, which was supposed to be the focus after the end of the second year. Eventually, those who repeatedly failed any of the four exams would not graduate.

 

Our program also had a so-called “Black Friday,” which was the last Friday of every month. All the professors held a meeting on the Black Friday to discuss which students would be asked to leave. Since Carnegie Mellon annually spent a lot of money on each Ph.D. student, the university considered it a waste to invest in someone who was unable to earn the degree.

 

Speech Recognition

“What’s the purpose of doing a Ph.D.?” asked Dr. Nico Habermann, then chair of the Ph.D. Program in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. 

 

“To achieve important results in a certain field,” I immediately replied without giving it much thought.

 

“No,” he shook his head, looking very serious. “To do a Ph.D. is to choose a narrow and important field to conduct research, submit a world-class dissertation upon graduation, and become a top specialist in the field. Then anyone who talks about this field will mention your name.”

 

“Yes,” I felt deeply inspired and responded with excitement. “I will take away an outstanding dissertation that will change the world.”

 

“You will take away much more than the dissertation,” he said in a firm voice. “You will be equipped with the ability to independently pursue, analyze, and research any new problem or new field! You will be able to pursue scientific research, or for that matter, any pursuit of any knowledge. You will become a true scientist.” 

 

I deeply appreciated his thought-provoking remarks, which I have always kept in mind since then. Indeed, learning knowledge is shallow; learning the ability to analyze and solve any problem is something to be treasured for a lifetime.


Challenges in the field of speech recognition definitely sharpened my learning abilities. Professor Reddy asked me to create a speech recognition system for any speaker, which would understand everyone’s speech. We called it “speaker-independent” speech recognition. At the time all the other speech recognition systems being developed were speaker-dependent. That meant each of them could only recognize one person’s voice. A speaker-independent speech recognition system was a puzzle that seemed impossible to solve.

 

Professor Reddy said, “I think the expert system may be the best way to solve the speaker-independent speech recognition problem, and it’s the hottest new technology. I hope you give it a try. Go ahead, young man! You can go all out. I have sufficient funding, so you don’t have to worry about money.”

 

I spent months developing an expert system, and achieved 91% success rate in speech recognition for speaker-dependent speech recognition. I published a paper on it and received applause. Professor Reddy was thrilled.

While Professor Reddy became more confident about the expert system, I began to have doubts because the machines run by the system were only able to understand 20 specific speakers after a very long training. I then tried to present the system with speakers it had never heard before. Given the immense variety of people’s voices, replacing the 20 speakers with 100 different people would incredibly lower the success rate of the system to only 30%. Another concern was our use of limited vocabulary, only 26 words. I was afraid increasing vocabulary might collapse the system.

Summer 1984 was around the corner, but I was still at a crossroad in my research, not sure how to proceed. Then a more experienced Ph.D. student Peter Brown made a suggestion to me, “Kai-Fu, I know you are doing speech recognition and find the expert system inadequate. Why don’t you try statistics? I believe drawing data from statistics can increase the success rate of speech recognition. What do you think?”

Would I be able to use a large database to conduct statistics on voices? I was very curious. I felt like giving it a try.

Mr. Lee’s Hypnosis

Summer came before I had a chance to try changing my approach on recognition. I took a summer job teaching computer programming to 60 gifted high school students from Pennsylvania. This was an annual program called Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences. The six-week course paid $3,000, which definitely sounded fantastic to me with a merely $700-per-month scholarship. I also considered it wonderful to gain some teaching experience and get involved in something other than speech recognition.

 

I enjoyed my summer class. Every morning I showed up at 8 a.m. sharp and began lecturing. I often wrote so much on the board that I used up all the chalk. I prepared lots of notes for each session, and designed all kinds of assignments for my students. I was eager to help them complete the entire junior-year-of-college course within the six weeks.

 

I divided the 60 students into eight groups, each to develop an algorithm to play a board game called Othello. Then they played the Othello game in pairs until one team won the championship. At the end of the course, every student had learned how to write computer programs. Their learning results were presented to governor of Pennsylvania and won his compliments. I naturally took credit for it, with a sense of achievement.

 

I went to the program chair to pick up my $3,000 paycheck. Then I saw a thick pile of reports on his desk. I casually asked, “What’s in that thick pile, boss?”

 

“Oh,” he replied in a low voice. “It’s just your student evaluations.”

 

“May I take a look at them?” I asked with curiosity. I definitely wanted to know what those students said about me.

 

The program chair suddenly looked embarrassed. He said, “It’s better if you don’t.”

 

“Why? I want to improve so I can do a better job next year,” I noticed something unusual in his eyes, which made me want to read those reports even more.

 

“You really want to teach again next year?”  His response hinted a nasty surprise ahead.

 

I asked him again for the student evaluations. Because of my persistence, he handed me the reports, which shocked me.

 

On a scale of 1 to 5, I only received 1.5! 

 

One student wrote in his comments, “Mr. Kai-Fu Lee’s class was boring. Perhaps the content wasn’t bad, but his interpretation was hard for us to swallow.”

 

Another complained, “He never looked at us. He was performing a monologue all the time, so we called his class Kai-Fu Theater.”

 

What embarrassed me most was the following description, “Mr. Lee had a monotonous tone,  which was strongly hypnotic. No matter how much I had slept the night before, I couldn’t resist his hypnosis.”


I turned red while reading through such comments. I didn’t know my communication skills were so bad! I shouldn’t have taken credit for their learning how to write programs. They were geniuses to begin with, so their achievement was not because of my good teaching, but in spite of my poor teaching. 

 

I thought those who slept in my class were tired. How did I actually hypnotize them?

 

Like most other Ph.D. students, I saw becoming a professor as one of my career options. But obviously I was bad at teaching. Should I give up this option?

As I was wondering whether I would be able to improve my teaching, I thought of a Pericles quote, “Those who can think, but cannot express what they think, place themselves at the level of those who cannot think.”

I couldn’t allow myself to be placed at the level of those who cannot think, so I was determined to make myself a better speaker. I asked my professors for help, and they did give me pointers, including:

  • Don’t make a speech that doesn’t even interest yourself. 
  • Practice three times before giving a speech. Video tape your practice.
  • Make eye contact with each audience member for three to five seconds. 
  • If you are afraid, look at the heads of audience members in the last row. They are sitting so far that they are not sure if you are looking into their eyes or not.

I took their advice to heart and began to grab every opportunity to practice public speaking, hoping practice would make a difference, if not perfect.

Nowadays I give at least 25 speeches a year to more than 100,000 students. The shy, introverted young man who hypnotized 60 students no longer exists. Looking back, I feel grateful about that embarrassing experience, from which I learned to challenge myself.

Beating a World Champion

After “Kai-Fu Theater” ended in August 1984, I began to take an interest in making computers play board games.

 

Othello is a simplified version of the board game Go. The board is a square with eight rows and eight columns. The game begins with four discs in the center, two black and two white. Each person takes turns making moves. Each move flips the opponent’s discs “captured” by the move. 

 

To write an Othello program, it entails teaching the computer to play out possible moves and evaluate the resulting positions, in order to determine which move is best. It was once considered excellent to predict five or six steps.

 

The number one student of the class I had taught, Sanjoy Mahajan, designed many different algorithms for Othello, enabling the computer to predict up to seven future moves. I decided to work with him on developing an even better Othello program.

 

That year Sanjoy was only 16. I was 23. We devoted all our youthful passion to Othello. I took him home for dinner every night, and after dinner we went back to school to continue our research. We applied statistics to our Othello program. It was more difficult than we had imagined, but more successful than we had expected, too. In the end, our Othello program was able to predict 14 future moves.

 

The way we evaluated each position was using statistics based on creating a probabilistic classifier that classified each position into one of two categories: “win” and “lose.” We taught the computer to generate 2,400,000 such positions, from which the evaluation function learned the chance of winning or losing.

 

I told Professor Reddy about the Othello program, feeling apologetic about being distracted from my research in speech recognition. But he didn’t blame me at all. Instead he encouraged me and Sanjoy to enter the global competition of Othello programs.

 

To sign up for the competition, we needed to name our program. I suggested, “The name Othello comes from Shakespeare. Why don’t we call it Shakespeare?”

 

“That sounds too stiff,” said Sanjoy. “How about his first name William?”

 

“If you want to make it fun,” I said. “Let’s call it Bill.”

 

For Bill, Professor Reddy financially supported me and Sanjoy to publish a research paper, lent us the best computer of the department, and flew us to California, where the world competition of Othello programs was held. He had high hopes for us, and we didn’t disappoint him. Bill won all of the eight games and became the world champion of Othello programs. We were ecstatic!

After the computer competition, we wanted Bill to challenge a human world champion. A top Othello player, Brian Rose, was on the worldchampion team that year (he would later become an individual world champion).He was interested in finding out about Bill, too. We decided to play threegames and make the one winning two the winner.

 

We played the game by phone. Brian told us what moves hewas going to make, and we recorded them. It was a close game in the first 15moves. But after Brian made a fatal mistake in his 16thmove, Bill’schance of winning increased to 95%. At this point, Brian was still unaware ofhis inevitable loss. It wasn’t until a few moves later that we heard him sigh.Finally, he collapsed and declined to play further. Our Bill beat the humanworld champion team member, 56 to 8!


That was the first time a machine beat a human (team) champion. It was a historic milestone. People became more confident in artificial intelligence than ever. Sanjoy and I published articles in Artificial Intelligence. He was the first high school student who published a paper in the highly esteemed publication. Later he earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge University and became a distinguished professor.


When Bill gained overnight fame, Professor Hans Berliner in my Ph.D. program told me that he was developing hardware for Chess in the hope of beating the human world (team) champion. Given my success in applying statistics to Othello, he wanted me to do the same for Chess. He asked me to consider transferring to his team. But I couldn’t leave Professor Reddy after he had done so much for me. Also, I didn’t want my dissertation to be all about board games. I was hoping to make something more useful.

 

The Most Important Scientific Innovation of 1988

Professor Reddy received a $3,000,000 fund from the Department of Defense to conduct research in speaker-independent, large vocabulary, continuous speech recognition. That meant the objective was to make computers understand everyone’s pronunciation, thousands of words and the continuous flows of words. Professor Reddy recruited more than 30 professors, researchers, phoneticians, linguists, programmers and students to work on the unprecedented program. He also wanted me to cooperate with the team, to make breakthroughs in the expert system.

 

However, I was losing interest in the expert system. Based on my Othello experience, I believed establishing a large database would be the way to reach our three goals in speech recognition. But how was I going to bring this up to Professor Reddy? He had already received government funding for a research project on the expert system, so there was no way to drop the project. 

 

How would he respond if I told him I would take another route to improve speech recognition? Would he be upset? Would he try to persuade me to continue working on the expert system? 

 

I felt uncomfortable about bringing up my different view to him, but I still did it because I recalled what our program chair, Dr. Habermann, said about the purpose of doing a Ph.D. I couldn’t fail Dr. Habermann’s expectations. Nor could I waste my Ph.D. years on a project in which I saw no future.

 

Mustering all my courage, I said to Professor Reddy, “I’d like to take another approach, to use statistics to achieve speaker-independent, large-vocabulary continuous speech recognition.”

 

To my surprise, he wasn’t offended at all. He asked in a mellow voice, “How are you going to solve the three problems with statistics?”

 

I was prepared to answer this question, so I explained my ideas non-stop for the next 10 or 15 minutes. After listening to me, Professor Reddy calmly said in his always gentle tone, “I disagree with your point of view on the expert system and statistics. But I can support you to do it with statistics, because I believe in science, there is no absolute right or wrong, and we are all equals. I also believe someone with passion can find the best solutions.”

 

I couldn’t express how touched I felt at that moment, so I was speechless. When a student decided to go against his professor’s instructions, the professor was still willing to provide strong support. This would be unimaginable in many places!

 

In order to build a large database for the statistics I intended to do, I needed funding. Professor Reddy came to my aid as promised. He said, “We are not a professor and a student in the field of science. We are conquerors of problems. So, if you need a database, I’ll convince the Department of Defense to help you build a large one.”

 

My statistics also required quick computers. Professor Reddy bought the latest Sun microcomputer for me. Every time our department received a new machine, he always said, “Ask Kai-Fu if he needs it.” 

 

My project cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

His big-heartedness made me feel a great power, a power of freedom and trust. He reminded me of a Voltaire quote, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to death your right to say it.”

 

Professor Reddy demonstrated a scientist’s spirit by saying, “I disagree with you, but I support you.” His belief in everyone being equal in front of science deeply influenced me. I vowed to follow his leadership style.


Twenty-four years later, my former employee Alan Guo expressed his gratitude to me in the same way I felt about Professor Reddy. He said, “Kai-Fu has taught me that you can sincerely disagree and full-heartedly support at the same time. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. When I first learned about how Kai-Fu’s Ph.D. advisor supported his different research project, I thought it was just generosity. But after Kai-Fu doubted but supported my decisions again and again, I’ve realized it’s a rare kind of leadership.”

 

I owe this leadership to my mentor, Professor Reddy.

 

Thanks to his support, I devoted myself to my research project like a workaholic. After doing school assignments in the morning, I went home for lunch and then worked from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the project. I worked 18 hours a day, six days a week. I took a break on Sundays as promised to my wife. But even on Sundays I would take a few chances to check how my experiments were doing. From the end of 1984 to the beginning of 1987, I worked with another Ph.D. student to apply statistics to speech recognition. More than 30 other people were using the expert system to tackle the same problems. We were competing with them in terms of methodology. But we shared everything under the leadership of Professor Reddy. We used the same samples and tests. 

 

By the end of 1986, the statistics system and the expert system reached about the same level, 40% of recognition. 

 

In May 1987, we largely increased our training database. I came up with a new method, triphones, which could help the computer not only learn every sound but also recognize the transition between every two sounds. Since we didn’t have enough samples of certain sounds, I created another method, generalized triphones, to combine other sounds into them. Then our recognition rate rose to 80%!

 

The success filled my heart with joy. Professor Reddy was also very happy. He decided to bring my research results to an international conference, to show the world that statistics 



Standing in front of the busted Toyota Corola in 1987

worked to improve speech recognition. Seeing this wonderful opportunity, I asked, “May I go with you to present my research results?” 

 

“Sure!” He immediately agreed. “That’d be great! I’ll book a plane ticket for you right away.”

 

On the day of our departure, I drove my 15-year-old Toyota Corolla to pick Professor Reddy up. Unexpectedly, we saw smoke coming out of my car when we were about halfway to the airport. The engine busted. We had to stop, get the car towed and take a taxi.

Despite the delay, we got on our flight and made it to the international conference. My presentation caught a lot of attention. Several IBM fellows and Stanford professors asked me to explain further details of my project to them.

 

After the conference, I worked even harder, in the hope of making the system’s recognition rate even higher. I stayed up until I could no longer open my eyes.

 

One morning, when I opened the file containing the experimental results from overnight, feeling somewhat sleepy, I suddenly noticed the recognition rate was 96%! Was I dreaming? I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Yes! It was 96%! I was so excited that I almost fainted. Oh yes! It must have been the revision of certain details I had done the night before that made the breakthrough.

 

That day, I stopped working, and took my wife to a nice restaurant to celebrate, because I knew that moment, I would graduate meeting Professor Habermann’s expectations.

 

In April 1988, I was invited to attend the annual Speech Recognition Conference. About a month before the conference, Professor Reddy taught me one more important lesson.

 

He said, “For your 30 minutes, you should only talk 25 minutes, and then let the audience try out the system in the last five minutes.”

 

I said, “But it’ll be noisy over there. It’ll affect the recognition rate, making it lower than 96%. There will also be many Japanese scholars whose accent my system has never been exposed to.”

 

Professor Reddy explained, “It actually doesn’t matter whether the recognition rate is 96% or 90% when you demonstrate it over there. You are there to make an impression. Then all those scholars will remember their first contact with a speaker-independent speech recognition system was in New York, at Kai-Fu Lee’s presentation.”

 

“I understand,” I nodded, feeling grateful about the marketing strategy he had just shown me. “But I’m afraid the recognition speed is too slow. It may not look good to keep people waiting.”

 

“That’s no problem,” Professor Reddy said. “I’ll get Fil Alleva, our best engineer, to help you revise the program, to make it run faster.”

 

“By the way,” he added. “You should name your system so they know how to call it. Your Othello system has a name.”

 

I named the system Sphinx, for its lion body to represent a large database, its human head to symbolize knowledge, and its bird wings to signify the speed of the system. 

 

As predicted by Professor Reddy, the demonstration of my speech recognition system amazed all the conference attendees. It was deemed the most distinguished achievement in the field of computer science. Those speech recognition researchers working on the expert system all began to turn to statistics.

 

The New York Times heard of the demonstration and sent a reporter, John Markoff, to interview me in Pittsburgh. The article came out on July 6, 1988. It took half of the first page in the newspaper’s science and technology section. I was impressed by how much Markoff understood my research. Later I learned that he is a talented reporter, three-time Pulitzer nominee, and part-time instructor at Stanford University.

 

More media coverage came my way. BusinessWeek magazine selected my speech recognition system as the most important scientific invention of 1988.

 

An Exceptional Job Offer



With my father (right) at my Ph.D. Graduation in 1988


I received my Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in April 1988, four and a half years after I entered the Ph.D. program. Normally it takes six years to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon. I was among the fastest.

 

My whole family was excited about it. They all flew to Pittsburgh for my graduation.

The ceremony began with Scottish windpipe music. The band members were all in Scottish kilts. 

 

One graduate after another went onto the stage to receive the diploma from the university president. At the end of the ceremony, we all threw our caps into the air. One of my family members caught my cap and put it on his head. Another grabbed it from him and did the same. We took lots of photos.

 

We continued to party after returning to my place. My wife made more than a dozen delicious Chinese dishes. When everyone sat down to eat, I noticed a sense of pride in my father’s eyes. That was the first time he looked at me that way. There had always been a little concern in his eyes on me before that day.

 

I had received quite a few job offers with decent compensation packages from high tech companies such as IBM, Apple and Bell Labs before graduation. But Professor Reddy came to me before I chose one of them. He said, “Kai-Fu, I know you have many choices in front of you. But I hope you can stay at Carnegie Mellon. Generally we don’t suggest Ph.D. graduates stay here to teach, because we prefer new blood. But your achievement in speech recognition can bring funding from the Department of Defense to the university. Because of that, we can let you skip the post-doc stage and make you a Research Computer Scientist.  If you want, you can switch over to Assistant Professor later, with all your time spent counted towards tenure.”


“However,” he added. “We pay less than those high tech companies.”

 

I didn’t immediately respond as I was thinking about this offer as well as all the other options. Professor Reddy thought the lower pay sounded discouraging to me, so he began to do some math for me.

 

“Kai-Fu, if you go to Microsoft, Apple or IBM, your annual salary will be about $80,000. If you stay here, the annual salary is $51,000. But,” he raised his voice. “You only work four days a week here. You can use the fifth weekday to work as a consultant for those high tech companies. That’ll be about 1,000 a day. You can do it 50 days a year. That’s an extra income of $50,000.”

 

“5.1 + 5 = 10.1 > 8,” Professor Reddy showed me this simple math formula. “What do you think, Kai-Fu? Does it sound worth it to you?”

 

I smiled, feeling touched by his thoughtful consideration for my future earnings.

 

“Come, young man!” He patted my shoulder. “Join us!”

 

After accepting Professor Reddy’s offer, I became one of the youngest faculty members at Carnegie Mellon. I bought my first house for myself and my wife to settle down in Pittsburgh.

 

I continued to do research in speech recognition. Professor Reddy put a portion of his funding from the Department of Defense in my project. I also annually received $60,000 from the National Science Foundation and $40,000 from Texas Equipment, on which I served as Principal Investigator. With about $200,000 as my annual budget, I recruited a post doc, Xuedong Huang, who had earned his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. I also selected two Ph.D. students at Carnegie Mellon to do team work on speech recognition. The five of us kept our project number one in the Department of Defense’s annual evaluations.

 

As predicted by Professor Reddy, I received invitations from many companies to work for them as a consultant. That enabled me to travel all over the United States. For each assignment, I would fly to the destination on the weekend before and take a tour before going to the company on Monday. 

 

I most frequently flew to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Whenever I went to LA, I would go to Todai Buffet for the all-you-can-eat sashimi and sushi. A few years later, the restaurant grew into a national chain. But I discovered it before it became famous.


In addition to domestic trips, I also flew to Tokyo and Taipei sometimes to give presentations. I found the Japanese even more conservative and reserved than the Chinese. When I entered a conference room in Tokyo, all the researchers sitting in the room would stand up and clap their hands to welcome me. They were all wearing white uniform coats like medical doctors. During my speech, all of them were looking at me attentively. At the end of the speech, I told them it was time for them to ask questions. But everyone remained quiet. No one raised a question.

 

Going Back to My Roots

While I continuously sought new ways to improve speech recognition in computers, my father devoted himself to studying the 20th-century Chinese history. He said he had witnessed a lot of that history and therefore felt responsible for leaving an accurate record of it to future generations.

 

In order to find uncensored materials related to the Chinese Nationalists and Communists, my father came to the United States. He stayed at my house in Pittsburgh for six months. Every morning I drove him to the East Asian Library at the University of Pittsburgh on my way to work, and picked him up after work. He spent the whole day in the library and would just buy a sandwich from the library cafeteria for lunch. 

 

My wife and I were touched to see how hard-working he was at age 80. One day I noticed he had written a motto for himself and placed it on his desk. It read, “Knowing the sun will set soon, the old horse runs faster without being whipped.”

 

My father could never forget his homeland. He often asked me, “Do you think maybe you could go back to China and teach?”

 

I didn’t really understand how he felt. I had a very vague idea about China, though my family came from there. All my parents could tell me about China was what happened before they left. As for up-to-date information, I only gained a little during my Ph.D. years from a fellow Ph.D. student, Weimin Shen. 

 

Weimin surprised everyone when he wrote programs on paper. We asked him, “How come you don’t write programs on the computer?” 

 

He said, “This is the way we do it in China. We don’t have so many computers to let each student use one. That’s why we write programs on paper to submit to the professor.”  

 

This seemed unbelievably difficult to me. I learned from Weimin that China had a backward research environment in computer science. But I didn’t think of doing anything to improve it until I saw it with my own eyes.

 

In 1989, the Beijing Institute of Information Technology received a research fund from the United Nations and invited me to open a four-week course there. My plane landed in Dalian, an industrial city northeast of Beijing, due to weather conditions. When I walked out of the Dalian airport, I saw crummy buildings, dingily dressed people, narrow streets and bicycles everywhere.


I took the train to Beijing. The capital city looked better than Dalian but not by far.

 

The cafeteria of the Beijing Institute of Information Technology was decrepit. During lunch, every student took a big container there, put some food in it and then started eating on their way back to the dorm building. The cafeteria would prepare a few extra dishes with higher quality for me. One day I was watching the cook making my lunch, and I asked him, “Why are the students eating and walking at the same time?” 

 

The cook shrugged, “They’ve always been like that. You don’t do it in America?”

 

Although the students never sat down to have lunch with me, they took me out to have dinner at a different restaurant almost every evening. They also recommended some famous restaurants for me to try on my own. 

 

One night I went to a restaurant named Dong-Lai-Shun based on their recommendations. The restaurant was renowned for its hot pot, also known as the Chinese fondue, which has the set-up of a fondue but no chocolate or cheese in it. Instead there is savory or spicy boiling broth in the pot for people to quickly boil thin slices of meat, seafood as well as vegetables and then dip them in a sauce before eating. 

 

When I ordered a small hot pot at Dong-Lai-Shun, the waiter said, “We are not serving hot pot right now because we’ll close soon. But we can make a plate of stir-fried chicken for you.”

 

I was shocked. It was not even 8:30 yet. The restaurant was already closing? I shook my head, “I came here for your hot pot.” 

 

To my surprise, the waiter just wouldn’t accommodate, “It’s too late for hot pot. And if you don’t order now, it’ll be too late for stir-fried chicken, too!”

 

I had never seen a waiter being so tough. I almost walked out. But it would take time to walk to another restaurant, and I was hungry, so I agreed to order stir-fried chicken.

 

Just after I took the second bite of the stir-fried chicken, the waiter rushed to my table and said, “Please pay now, comrade. I’m getting off work.”

 

“What?” I raised my head while being taken by surprise, and my eyeglasses almost fell off. “I’m not done eating yet. I have to pay now?”

 

“Yes,” he continued to push me. “It’s time for me to go home. I’ll leave as soon as you pay.”

 

He did hurry out of the restaurant right after I paid, leaving dirty dishes on some tables. I could hardly believe my eyes!

 

Later I realized that was a die-hard old habit from China’s planned economy while the country was moving toward a market economy. The waiter had little incentive to provide impressive service, when his job was both secure and low-paying, no matter how good or how bad a job he did.

 

That was before China took off economically. I gave lectures on the most advanced technology in a backward environment. My classes were always fuller than capacity. Students from other schools came. Many of them couldn’t get seats and had to stand. But the standing ones managed to take notes, too. All of them looked attentive every minute through every lecture.

 

I felt their thirst for knowledge. Looking at them, I thought of my identical ethnic background. Hadn’t my parents left China, had I been born in the country, I could have been one of those students struggling against a difficult environment. 

 

I saw great potential in the diligent students. It was only the lack of resources that was holding them back. With this realization, I thrived at bringing them some resources they desperately needed, and I felt like doing more.

 

That planted the seed of my later effort to advise Chinese college students.

 


发表于 3年前

热度:11

Chapter 6. Leaving Academia for Apple

Later I converted to become an assistant professor.  Being an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University was like living in paradise, secure and carefree. I didn’t have to worry about the market or the economy like those working in the business world. My position was tenure-track, and I was valued by the department as the primary expert in speech recognition. That meant I would be able to obtain tenure in a few years and be set for life.

 

Surprisingly, I felt a sense of loss while having such job security. I wondered if I really wanted to stay in academia for the rest of my life. While loving research, I disliked some non-academic duties required of a professor, such as socializing with Washington funding agencies in order to get federal funding and going to all kinds of university staff meetings that had nothing to do with my expertise. Even my research sometimes frustrated me. My papers just sat there. No one was making use of them. What differed them from wastepaper? I felt being stuck in an ivory tower, totally disconnected from the real world where I desired to make a difference.

 

One day I received a phone call from a stranger. He said, “Dr. Lee, two vice presidents of Apple are interested in you. They think someone like you should come out to make some real products. Would you be willing to have a talk with them?”

 

This was two years after I received my first job offer from Apple. I felt absolutely flattered because Apple in 1990 was the leading computer company in America, and it was considered just as cool as it is today. People believed in Apple almost like a religion. They were more than willing to pay a much higher price to buy an Apple computer, which was artistically made and looked seamless. Every Apple Worldwide Developers Conference attracted countless fans. I was also a fan. I bought a new Mac on the first day it hit the market. As a speech scientist, I was fascinated that the Mac had a pre-installed MacinTalk, which talked to me in robotic English.

 

“How cool would it be if I could work for Apple!” I heard such a voice from my heart.

 

The Groundbreaking Apple

It is widely known that Apple opened up the era of personal computers. In 1983, Apple earned 980 million dollars, and the 28-year-old Steve Jobs took 284 million, becoming the youngest among America’s 40 richest people.

 

Jobs was so proud of his achievement that he underestimated his competitors. In 1984, when Mac first came out, a news reporter asked Bill Gates, “How soon will you port Mac Excel to Microsoft PC?” Gates replied, “It’ll probably take some time---” But Jobs interrupted, “It won’t happen even after we die.”

 

Jobs passed his overconfidence to his employees. Every time Microsoft launched a new Windows system, Apple held a staff meeting to expose its flaws and talk about how much it was behind Apple products. However, every new version of Windows came closer to Mac. Some Apple employees began to wonder how many people would still pay double to buy Apple products when the difference was only 5%.

 

Apple fans didn’t look at it this way. They said, “Windows and Mac may have 95% of similarities. But that’s just like a transsexual woman and a real woman. They may be 95% the same. But the 5% difference is what we care about most.”

 

Even so, Apple began to lose market share when Wintel (Windows + Intel) PCs left Apple behind the dust.

 

Jobs knew he needed someone to revive Apple’s sales and marketing, so he went to John Sculley, who had been president of Pepsy and helped Pepsy beat Coca Cola for the first time in history. Jobs persuaded Sculley to lead Apple with a question that later became a famous quote, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

 

Unexpectedly, Sculley and Jobs didn’t get along when working together as CEO and vice president. Jobs blamed Sculley for the continuing drop in the Macintosh sales (merely 2,500 units in March 1985). When Sculley learned that Jobs intended to remove him and take his place, he decided to take the matter to a board meeting in May 1985. He knew all the board members thought of Jobs as a inspirational motivator but not enough of a day-to-day manager to be CEO. As Sculley expected, the board members all supported him and backed up his decision to dismiss Jobs from his positions as vice president and the leader of the Macintosh Division. Jobs was so upset about it that he took long vacations after that and submitted a resignation letter in December 1985. He was basically forced out of the company he had co-founded!

 

Without Jobs around, Sculley became the unequivocal head of Apple. In the next few years Apple’s laser printers and desktop publishing software enabled Mac to monopolize the publishing industry in America. In 1989, the Macintosh sales increased from 300,000 to 3,000,000. Apple became the hottest company on Wall Street and Sculley the highest paid manager in Silicon Valley.

 

Sculley kept looking for new product ideas. He recruited a psychologist, Dave Nagel, to be vice president of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group. The group was interested in speech recognition. So was the Mac III Product Team, led by Hugh Martin. That was how Dave and Hugh decided to contact me in 1990.

 

I flew to Cupertino, California to meet them. As I arrived, it was very pleasant to see the evergreen scenery and ever-bright sunshine. Perhaps because people would naturally eat less and move more in warm weather, everyone I saw in Silicon Valley looked slimmer than those in Pittsburgh.

 

Apple employees welcomed me with friendly smiles. They all looked optimistic and confident. Most of them seemed very young.

 

The two vice presidents were older. Hugh was a middle-aged man. His eyes sparkled when talking about the prospect of Mac. Dave was older than Hugh. He had a white beard and a smile that reminded me of Santa Claus. He invited me to dinner.

 

“You know, Kai-Fu,” said Dave. “The first GUI (graphical user interface) was developed at the Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), but it didn’t result in a successful product. It was Apple that made GUI useful to many people. So you see how Apple inventions influence people.”

 

“We are doing Mac III and would like to incorporate speech recognition in it,” he added. “Kai-Fu, don’t blame me for copying Steve Jobs by asking you this question: do you want to spend the rest of your life writing useless research papers, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

 

His clever revision of the Jobs quote directly spoke to my heart. To me, there was nothing more enticing than making a difference in the world. At that moment, my heart decided for me: I was going to join Apple!

 

My only concern was how to submit my resignation to Professor Reddy. I was afraid of disappointing him. Would he try to make me stay? How would I respond if he did?

 

I took a deep breath before going into his office.

“I’m sorry to surprise you with a decision I just made,” I said slowly, using my most cautious tone. “I’ve thought about it for quite a while. Apple asked me to work for them to put speech recognition into their products. I consider Apple a very cool company, and I like what I’ve seen of their technology. So,” I paused a few seconds and finally said, “I’d like to go.”

 

“Oh?” Professor Reddy seemed to be taken by surprise. He was speechless for a minute. Then he seriously looked at me. “Have you really thought it through?” he asked.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“That’s good,” he said in an understanding tone. “Not everyone should always stay in the field of research. If you think working for Apple can further develop your talent, then you should go. Do a great job!”

 

Every time I made a choice, Professor Reddy respected it and supported it like a loving father. Every time I felt his best wishes for me to realize my dreams. When I turned around to leave his office, I felt like crying. At this moment, I heard his voice.

 

“Kai-Fu, are they giving you good enough resources?”

 

I turned back to reply, “Yes. They’ll let me join a strong team. They’ll let me hire some young people. They’ll let me work on the research I want to do.”

 

My mentor nodded, with an encouraging smile.

 

A Pirate Culture

I began working for Apple on a sunny day. When I looked at the directions to my workplace, I was surprised. There was a sign that read, “Cupertino National Bank.”  How could my office be in a bank? Why wasn’t it in the Apple headquarters?

 

I arrived at the bank and asked the security guard, “Is there an Apple office here?”

 

He pointed at the back door.

 

I went to the back door and found a stairway behind it. I walked upstairs. When I arrived on the second floor, I saw several young people working in front of computers. 

 

Apple had this secret office because the company wanted to keep product development absolutely confidential. Then the products would astound everyone when they came out. 

 

“Perhaps this is a reflection of Apple’s pirate spirit,” I told myself, knowing there was a pirate spirit in Apple. Steve Jobs once raised a pirate flag on top of his building. He also placed a Besendorfer piano and a $10,000-worth pair of speakers in the lobby. Beside the piano was a BMW motorcycle, which guests would see right away when they entered the building. Jobs would play the piano for the employees working late at night. I imagined how passionate music must have filled the lobby at those moments and somehow wished I could have been there.

 

Apple managers often told employees, “Work on your inventions, don’t care about what people say, and believe that one day we can change the world.”

 

The Apple employees I worked with were all very young. I was 28 then. They were around my age or even younger. They loved Apple’s pirate culture. Some of them brought their pets to work. Once a colleague’s rabbit jumped on my hand while I was typing. The atmosphere was very casual.

 

Among my colleagues were Philip Miller, who once co-authored the famous software program Lotus 1-2-3, Phil Goldman, who created Web TV, which was sold to Microsoft in 1997 for $425 million, and Andy Rubin, who years later took charge of Google’s Android.

 

These remarkably talented colleagues helped me transition from pure research to product development. We worked harmoniously together in the hope of making computers ultimately become people’s intelligent assistants. We wanted computers to understand human language and follow verbal instructions. We were dreaming of three-dimensional user interface, which could be applied to games, social media, and video conferencing.

 

From July 1990 to February 1991, I had a fabulous time at Apple. No one managed this team. We had maximum freedom to maximize our potential. We were so into our work that sometimes we forgot it was time to go home. Our tireless effort made the speech recognition in Mac 40 times faster.

 

We also made a few breakthroughs in Mac III, including video conferencing, speech recognition, speech synthesis, video camera, three-dimensional user interface, telephony, and high-definition sound effect. The product would use the Motorola 88110 processor and a Mach operating system developed by the Computer Science Department of Carnegie Mellon University.

 

A Financial Crisis

In the Oscar-winning movie “Forest Gump,” the main character inadvertently makes a lot of money from Apple’s stock. That segment of the 1994 movie reflects how people viewed Apple in the early 1990s. 

 

However, Apple was in fact struggling financially in those years. The not-so-big company had more than 1,000 projects going on at the same time, but few of them turned into real products. Apple was losing market share to Microsoft.

 

This was partially because Apple stayed away from the industry standards set by IBM and Microsoft. Starting in 1986, IBM and Microsoft made their specifications of personal computers industry standards, so their products were compatible with one another. This resulted in “horizontal integration,” where in microprocessors, motherboards, and software the standards led to higher volume and lower cost. As consumers welcomed the convenience of such compatibility plus lower prices, the IBM-Microsoft standards gradually became mainstream. 

 

Sculley was aware of the trend and wanted Apple to take part in it. He suggested developing a Mac operating system on the PC platform. The board agreed. But the Macintosh Division vehemently opposed the idea. A software business would cannibalize their hardware sales. Also, as Apple engineers viewed their products as artworks, there was no way for them to share their unique creations with other companies for mass production. That just sounded like something beneath them.

 

Since Apple was unwilling to make Mac graphic user interface transplantable to PCs, Microsoft worked on creating the same technology and then produced a clone version of the Mac graphic operating system, Windows.

 

When Windows came out, Sculley accused Microsoft of copying Apple and asked Bill Gates for a serious talk.

 

“We didn’t copy Apple,” said Gates. “Both Apple and Microsoft learned the technology from Xerox PARC.”

 

“But Apple was authorized by Xerox PARC to use the technology. You didn’t get the authorization. We also have patents, ” Sculley said.

 

“If you are holding this against us,” Gates stopped defending Microsoft and started threatening Apple. “We’ll stop all the Mac-compatible software development, including Office.”

 

This was a real threat. Apple could not afford to lose Mac’s compatibility with MS Office. 

 

“If you promise your next-generation software will be Mac compatible, we can give you a one-time authorization to use our patents,” Sculley conceded.

 

During the patent negotiations, Microsoft changed “one-time” to “current and future” about the authorization, and somehow Apple acquiesced. This was recorded in the documents signed by the two companies. Apple therefore lost 179 patents. 

 

Later Apple sued Microsoft. But based on the signed documents, the judge only asked Microsoft to modify a few features (such as renaming the “trash can” as “recycle bin”). Apple was unable to gain anything back.

 

In short, Apple’s market share kept shrinking because it insisted on maintaining a high-end image and wouldn’t open any of its specifications. Sculley once tried to increase market share by lowering prices, and it did help the sales. But the company was not set up to sell volume products at lower prices. Margins shrank, and the company faced multiple quarterly losses.

 

In the end, Apple had to save costs through layoffs. After the first layoff I experienced, some let-go employees came back marching in a group. But they were not protesting. Instead they were cheering for the company. They said, “Our blood is in six colors (like Apple’s then-six-colored logo)!” 

 

Following the lay-offs, Apple reorganized several groups. One day, my boss Dave Nagel came to my office and said to me, “I have good news and bad news. Which one would you like to hear first?”

 

I was taken by surprise. But I soon calmed myself down and said, “I’ll hear the bad news first.”

 

Dave said, “Your Mac III team was eliminated.”

 

I was shocked and saddened. 

 

“But the good news is,” Dave continued. “Speech recognition will be kept and moved to the ATG (Advanced Technology Group). You’ll be promoted as the manager of the speech recognition team in the ATG.”

 

“What?” I was astounded. “But I don’t have any management experience!”

 

“I believe you have potential in management because all your colleagues say they like working with you. And your new boss, Shane Robinson, is an outstanding leader. He’ll teach you what you don’t know.”

 

Dave was right. Shane did give me a lot of helpful guidance later. Today Shane’s leadership shines in his position as CTO of HP.

 

 

Casper Teasing Joan Lunden

After I became the manager of the Speech Recognition, Speech Synthesis, and Natural Language Processing Team, our research delivered impressive results. John Sculley heard of our achievement and told us to run a demonstration for him.

 

The demonstration was scheduled for Dec. 16, 1991, which happened to be the day my eldest daughter Jennifer was born. She came into the world at 1 p.m. I left the hospital at 3 p.m. for the presentation. No one knew the product as well as I did, and no one was as good as I was in talking to the computer. I had to be the one explaining it to Sculley.

 

At the end of the demonstration, Sculley’s eyes sparkled. He walked onto the stage and announced, “Your product is absolutely significant! It’s astonishing! I’ll take it to TED (the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference). But the most exciting thing today is not this, but that Kai-Fu got a daughter. Let’s congratulate him!”

 

My colleagues gave me a huge round of applause. 

 

In February 1992, Sculley appointed me to speak at the TED conference, where there were almost as many celebrities as at an Academy Awards ceremony. There were high tech company CEOs and science professors as well as movie stars and directors. There were also many reporters. I was a little nervous when I walked onto the stage. But fortunately the focus of everyone’s attention wasn’t me, but the computer that was following my instructions, the computer with a cute cartoon character’s name, Casper.

 

At the end of my presentation, all the audience members stood up to applaud. Many went to Sculley to shake his hand. More people came to me to ask further details of the technology. At that moment, I felt like I was in heaven…

 

My presentation became headline news in the Wall Street Journal the next day. Then I realized many of the people asking me technical questions at the conference were reporters.

 

Apple’s new technology aroused a lot of curiosity in the media. In March 1992, Sculley received an invitation from Good Morning America. That meant we were going to take  Casper from our high tech circle to a general audience. Sculley had me accompany him to the live show.

 

Before we flew to New York, I cautioned Sculley that our system was new and hadn’t been perfected. It would look really bad if Casper suddenly died on the air. Then Sculley asked me, “How likely would that happen?” 

 

I said, “About 10%.”

 

Sculley asked, “Would it be possible to lower the failure rate to 1%?”

 

I thought about it for a couple of minutes, and then replied, “OK, John, I’ll give it a try.”

 

On March 12, 1992, Sculley and I took our Casper to Good Morning America at 7 a.m. We knew there would be more than 20 million people watching us while eating their breakfast.  

 

The program host Joan Lunden introduced us. She said, “Reality is a step closer to science fiction with Apple’s newly developed program that allows computers to understand and respond to spoken command. For us to take a first look at that, joining us are John Sculley, Chief Executive Officer of Apple, Kai-Fu Lee, the inventor of Apple’s speech recognition technology and the computer called Casper. Nice to have the three of you here!”

 

Joan greeted Sculley and me. She also said, “Casper, good morning!”

 

“Good morning America! And good morning Joan!” Casper responded exactly the way I had trained it to do. A good start! Both Sculley and I felt relieved.

 

I began demonstrating how Casper worked by telling it to do some editing work in a document displayed on the computer screen and on camera. Sculley asked it to pay bills. Joan had it program her VCR to record Good Morning America and other TV shows. Casper fulfilled all the tasks by showing clicks on the computer screen. 

 

Then Sculley gave it a more complicated assignment, “Please schedule a meeting for me with Bob Strong.”

 

“What day would you like to meet?” Casper asked.

 

“Wednesday,” Sculley replied.

 

“At what time would you like to schedule the meeting?” Casper asked.

 

“From 2 to 3 p.m.,” Sculley said.

 

“Your meeting with Bob Strong is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday,” Casper said. 

 

“Wow!” Joan seemed amazed. She praised Casper’s communication skills. Then she smiled and asked, “Is it going to be some software you can adapt to other computers to do such tasks as scheduling meetings? ”

 

Sculley was about to reply, but Casper spoke up first, “What day would you like to meet?”

 

Joan burst laughing. Casper had been trained to react to the word “meeting.” But in this context it sounded like asking Joan for a date. 

 

After the memorable funny scene was broadcast, Apple’s stock immediately rose from $60 to $63 per share. 

 

Later, Sculley asked me, “How did you lower the failure rate to 1%?” 

 

I replied, “I brought two computers and connected them. Had the first one gone down, the second one would have taken its place. Because a computer’s failure rate is 10%. The failure rate of both is 10% X 10% =1%. So our success rate was 99%!”

 

Casper made Americans believe Apple was still an innovative company despite its continuous loss of market share. I felt a strong sense of achievement. Although many other companies attempted to recruit me, I was not tempted. Like most of my colleagues, I loved Apple.

 

On April 1, 1993, many Apple employees saw a speaker inside the elevator and a sign that read, “Tell me what floor you want to go, and I’ll take you there.” The speech recognition system had been applied to the elevator. Someone tried it out by saying to the speaker, “Second floor.” The “2” button really lit up! Unfortunately, just like on “Good Morning, America”, the system would trigger on false alarms.  If someone said, “Wait a second,” in a conversation, the “2” button would light up too!

 

Later I learned that some engineers on my team had secretly connected our system with the elevator. It was a joke for April Fools’ Day.  Also I found my demo machine had disappeared.  On April 2nd, it was returned to me, full of dust, as it had sat on top of the elevator for a whole day.

 

Learning the Art of Management

Apple products were regarded as artworks, and Apple engineers were somewhat like artists. As a manager, I believed the best way to manage these free spirits was to give them license to do what they wanted to do as long as they wouldn’t cross the line when it concerned the welling being of the company.

 

I was learning the art of management through experience at Apple. When I first became a manager there, I was only 31. Some of my subordinates were older than I was and had higher seniority than I did.

 

An older scientist in his late 50s didn’t feel good about me being his boss. A very well known expert in his field, he often argued with me at meetings and purposefully went against my decisions. I didn’t want any conflicts with subordinates, so I kept holding in my frustration. However, we were unable to meet certain deadlines without his cooperation. It affected the performance of the entire team. I had to find a better way to deal with him.

 

Fortunately, Apple had a mentor assigned to every manager. I could ask my mentor, Fred Foryth, senior vice president for manufacturing, for help, so I went to him. 

 

Fred said, “Kai-Fu, as a manager, you are too weak. Being a manager takes not only wisdom but also determination. I’m telling you now to fire this person within a month.”

 

After talking to Fred, I became a tougher manager. When the older engineer objected to my point at a meeting, I told him 90% of the team agreed with me and there was no need of further discussion. When he was absent-minded at work, I gave him serious warnings. He soon realized I was no longer a pushover. A little over a month later, he resigned before I gathered enough evidence to put him on a performance plan.

 

When I reported the outcome to my mentor, he said, “I knew it would be hard to fire someone in a month, but I pushed you with an ‘impossible’ goal to awaken you to your leadership weakness. I saw you as a compassionate leader well liked by most people, but sometimes it takes more than being nice to win people’s respect. As a leader, you must effectively execute what’s good for the company, and be a good judge on when to put aside your compassion and become a tough manager.”

 

I greatly appreciated his guidance, and was glad about passing his test. At that moment I didn’t know I would soon face another test, an even tougher one.

 

We needed to lay off one person from the team, and I had two names to choose. One of them was a young man who had just come on board and hadn’t had a chance to show his talent. The other really didn’t work hard enough for our team. He had a house in Nevada, and often took off to take “long weekends.” When he claimed to be working from home, he had nothing to show for it. But he was a Carnegie Mellon alumnus who had also been Professor Reddy’s student. Professor Reddy had implicitly asked me to take good care of him within my abilities as a manager.

 

The Carnegie Mellon alumnus heard of the upcoming layoff and figured out he was in danger. He came to my office to beg for my help. He said it might be hard for him to get another job because he was already 40, and that he had two children to support. I felt terrible. However, I knew I couldn’t sacrifice the innocent young engineer for his sake. I had to be fair as a responsible manager. 

 

After I laid off the Carnegie Mellon alumnus, he was very angry. He even had a line “laid off by Kai Fu Lee” printed in red on his business card, which he distributed at some conferences later. While I felt uncomfortable, I knew that doing the right and fair thing was more important.

 

My mentor at Apple understood what I was going through, and he said, “Dealing with layoffs is an important step for a manager to take. You’ve taken the step. That means you are maturing as a manager.”

 

Layoffs continued to happen at Apple as the company kept losing market share, and those who stayed were unable to receive raises. The morale was therefore low. It was definitely difficult for the managers.

 

One day, an employee cursed me because his wife and friends had been laid off. He used dirtier words than those in the inner city of New York. I almost exploded. But then I thought of the tough time he was going through, the repressed hurt feelings in other employees and my responsibility to represent the interest of the company. I had to do my job right.

 

I calmly told the employee, “This is a very hard time for you, for me and for our company. I understand how you feel. If you have suggestions, please tell me after you calm down. We can have a conversation.”

 

A few days later, the employee apologized to me for his rude behavior and thanked me for letting it go. A few years later, he moved his whole family to Europe. He and his wife both found decent jobs. He sends me a Christmas card every holiday season.

 

Finding Hope in Multimedia

From 1992 to 1996, Apple went through several rounds of layoffs. As financial statements looked worse and worse every quarter, the company had no choice but to trim its work force to save costs.

 

I was sad to see those laid-off employees silently packing, some of them weeping. It happened again and again.

 

Even CEO Sculley had to leave. In 1993, Sculley told the board that IBM had asked him to interview for the company’s CEO position. All the board members were upset with him because Apple was considering selling itself and IBM was one of the potential buyers. They asked Sculley to back out from the interview for the conflict of interest. Sculley agreed. But the board ousted him after Apple’s deal with IBM failed.

 

Sculley made a comment upon leaving, “Apple is a lot like Italy. It’s a highly creative company, but with that comes chaos.”

 

Sculley was replaced by Michael Spindler, formerly president of Apple Europe. Spindler was a tall and large-framed middle-aged man of German descent, speaking with an accent like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. He looked like a tough man. Everyone thought he was the right person for the CEO position because he had management experience with Apple Europe and around-the-clock work habits that gave him his nickname, “the diesel.” 

 

To everyone’s surprise, Spindler lost his confidence once becoming CEO. He would sweat every time he gave a speech on stage. Everyone jokingly told one another not to sit in the front rows in order to avoid his sweat and spit. 

 

Spindler had a heart condition and wore his pacemaker to work. He seemed to have a very low threshold for stress. In public, he upheld his “diesel” image, but privately, when he returned to his office, he would cover his head with both hands and hide under his desk when he faced trouble. 

 

It was during the Spindler era that we applied our speech recognition system to a consumer product called Quadra AV. But the product was too high-end. It cost $10,000, which kept it from being popularized. This made me see the ultimate problem with doing software at a hardware company.

 

The software division of Apple had launched the popular Macintosh OS, which had been superior to Microsoft Windows. But Microsoft as a company entirely devoted to software eventually caught up with Apple’s software division. Microsoft’s cooperation with the hardware company Intel also made it harder for Apple to compete.

 

In 1993, Apple launched a palm computer called Newton. Unfortunately, the product received harsh criticism. People laughed at its handwriting recognition. They made a joke about it:

 

Question: Do you know how many engineers made Newton?

Answer: Fine hungry (“Five hundred” misspelled).

 

Apple invested more than 500 million dollars in Newton but gained little back. That led to more lay-offs. Just when everything looked discouraging, I found Apple’s multimedia technology excellent. I envisioned the possibility of connecting multimedia with the Internet. If we could make some breakthroughs in user interface, I believed multimedia would have a bright future. 

 

With a passion for saving Apple, I wrote a report titled, “How to Revive Apple through Interactive Multimedia” and submitted it to Apple’s top management.

 

Several vice presidents read the report and met to discuss it. Then they decided to accept my suggestion to set up a multimedia department, with me as the director.

 

Years later, I ran into one of those vice presidents. He said, “We were amazed to read your report. We had only seen you as a speech recognition expert, and didn’t expect you to know so much about business strategies. If not for that report, Apple could’ve missed many later opportunities in multimedia.”

 

After I became director of Multimedia at Apple, my team developed numerous new projects. The first one was to improve Newton. We drastically raised Newton’s handwriting recognition rate. But we were disappointed to realize that it was still difficult to sell Newton because of all the bad press associated with the brand name. 

 

Despite our disappointment with Newton, we were happy about succeeding in everything else we did. Our most distinguished achievement came from the graphics team thanks to a creative scientist, Eric Chen. Eric invented QuickTime VR, which could give people a virtual tour of a place. I saw its applicability to museum exhibitions and real estate commercials, so I strongly supported it.

 

Later QuickTime VR was combined with the movie “Star Trek” to be a CD-ROM video game, which sold a million copies within a month. Today this technology is still widely used in software products such as Google Earth and Google Street View, and often found in the 360-degree views at real estate websites.

 

The Road Not Taken

In 1995, vice president of Apple’s ATG resigned. Before the company named the new vice president, Dave Nagel, the one who had recruited me, asked me for my opinion on the future development of the ATG.

 

“ATG is a large team with no specific evaluation guidelines, so it may get a little too relaxed,” I said. “If we transform it from a research division into a product department, it can inspire talented team members to brainstorm to make new products. Then ATG’s technology may help Apple pull through the current financial crisis.”

 

Dave remained silent. He didn’t respond to my suggestion.

 

A few days later, Donald Norman, a famous psychologist, was promoted to be ATG’s vice president. Norman rejected my suggestion. He said it was Apple’s tradition to keep research departments and product departments apart. He wouldn’t break the tradition.

 

As our big boss, Dave decided to go for the middle ground between Norman’s idea and my suggestion. The ATG would continue to be a research division but would let me take my team to another division, to develop products under another vice president.

 

However, Norman refused to let me take away my entire team. He said, “Kai-Fu, you should give employees space to make their own choice. Those who want to do products can follow you, but those who want to do research should stay here with me.”

 

He sounded reasonable, but in fact he was making it difficult for me because doing research at Apple was certainly an easier life than doing products. Who would choose to follow me, to face cruel challenges of the market?

 

I heard Norman had talked to many of my team members and warned them about the risks of developing new products. This worried me even more. What if no one chose to follow me? How embarrassing that would be!

 

Norman put me in an uphill battle, but I was still determined to win. On a sunny afternoon, I took my entire team to an offsite and gave them a presentation on my planning of product development. I described how combining multimedia and the Internet would create new applications and form a huge space for development. I divided the team members into small groups to discuss how feasible my ideas were and how they could develop their potential better under these circumstances.

 

I also had the team members play a game. I asked them, “If you were an animal, how would you save Apple?” The team members put on a variety of fun performances. Everyone laughed. It was rare for Apple employees to laugh and hear hearty laughter from one another during that depressing time, so it felt particularly nice.

 

At the end of the lunch meeting, I said, “I’m not making you choose today. You should follow your heart to make this choice. After all, people have different aptitudes. Some are cut out for research and others for product development. But today Apple is in a crisis.  If you can contribute to our cause, I urge you to come together on this journey.”

 

To conclude my speech, I read one of my favorite poems, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, to the team members: 

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that , the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back,

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

After the lunch meeting, 90% of the team members chose “the one less traveled by,” leaving the research group for the new Interactive Multimedia Department. 

 

Managing the new department was one of my best leadership experiences. Our team created numerous famous multimedia products such as QuickTime and QuickTime VR. Today’s Apple multimedia, speech recognition, and even iTune have some roots in what we did. A year later, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the team instantly became one of his favorites.

 

As for the ATG, Jobs simply said, “Our company cannot afford a research institute.” Then the entire ATG was closed and all its members laid off.

 

Young Vice President

After working in the product division of Apple for six months, I was promoted to be vice president of Interactive Multimedia in fall 1995. I became one of Apple’s youngest vice president at age 33.

 

I knew quite a number of people had interviewed for the vice president’s position, but Apple’s financial problems had scared all of them away. In the meantime, Apple employees’ resignations reached an all-time high. The COO, CFO, and CMO all left. Out of the 47 vice presidents, 29 resigned. That gave young employees chances of promotion.

 

As vice president, I led my team to launch the technology of QuickTime on the multiple platforms of the Internet. We produced Apple Media Authoring Tool, developed QuickDraw 3D, and cooperated with the Japanese company Bandai to work on a multimedia product called Pippin, which was similar to the Sony Playstation, but too early for its time.

 

I also set a series of strategies to make QuickTime adaptable to the Netscape browser, Sun’s Java, and SGI’s 3D in order for other software developers to cut their use of Microsoft Windows and increase their interest in Apple products. These strategies helped us reach certain goals but didn’t meet all of our objectives, given the adverse market conditions.

 

In the holiday season of 1995, Apple massively produced a lower-end Mac in an attempt to increase sales by lowering prices. However, the plan backfired. Apple ended up with unsold machines at a total cost of two billion dollars. In January 1996, Apple laid off 1,500 people.

 

In the same year, CEO Spindler lost all of his hopes in Apple. He submitted a resignation letter, in which he said, “In fading away from the place which I loved and feared, I will become whole again, and hopefully renew the father, husband and self I am.”

 

Leaving Apple

The board of Apple couldn’t wait to fill the CEO position. Board members quickly decided to make one of them, Gil Amelio, the new CEO, and agreed to pay him an outrageously high salary for his record of saving National Semiconductor. Amelio took office with an attitude of an expert who specialized in saving companies from collapsing.

 

On his first day as Apple CEO, Amelio asked me to give him the last 15 minutes of my all-hands meeting, because my division was working on the hottest technology of the company.

 

Amelio prepared a speech for the hundreds of employees in my division. He said, “Don’t worry! This company is doing much better than those I’ve saved from deep trouble. Give me 100 days. I’ll tell you where the company’s future is.”  Then the team had a lot of questions for him, including some pretty tough ones. He handled them quite well.

 

When I accompanied him walking out of the conference room, I asked him how he felt about my team. He said, “Apple really doesn’t have any discipline, no discipline at all.” 

 

I didn’t expect to hear something like that. Disappointment and anger filled my heart. I found him arrogant. Soon others also saw his arrogance. He asked everyone to call him Dr. Amelio, going against the first-name-basis culture of Apple and other high tech companies in Silicon Valley.

 

Amelio only worked with his core team on strategies and didn’t ask most employees for any input. The strategies he launched 100 days later therefore didn’t receive much support. Apple’s sales continued to dwindle.

 

While Apple needed to save costs, Amelio had a luxurious CEO suite built for himself. Many employees were upset with his wasting company budget.

 

Six months later, Amelio held a company meeting. In a discussion of Apple’s failures, he pointed at the audience and said, “Damn it! Don’t put me on the spot again!”

 

He was also disappointing in front of the media. Once he told a reporter, “Apple is like a ship with a hole, and all the sailors are rowing towards different directions. My job is to make these sailors row in the same direction.” The reporter asked, “What about the hole?” He was unable to answer.

 

Under the reign of Amelio, my days at Apple became suffocating. In the meantime many job opportunities arose elsewhere. I learned about them through numerous high tech conferences, where I met many distinguished scientists and entrepreneurs, including then-Sun-CTO (currently Google CEO) Eric Schmidt, Netscape founder Marc Andressssen, and leaders from Silicon Graphics (SGI), CEO Ed McCraken and president Tom Jermoluk.

 

One day, I received a phone call from the SGI Human Resources. The caller said, “We are reorganizing and expanding our company. Our projects include interactive TV, 3D animation and Internet servers. Why don’t you come here to take a look? You can tell us what you want to do, and we’ll create a division for you.”

 

I felt flattered. Usually companies recruit people to fill existing positions, but SGI was planning to create a position for me based on my expertise and interest! 

 

After a few talks with SGI, I expressed my interest in the Internet. Then SGI promised to reorganize its Internet business and build a new Web Products Division, making me the division’s vice president and general manager. 

 

In June 1996, I submitted my resignation letter to Amelio. He said, “You are one of the two best leaders in products, so I’d like you to stay. Just tell me what you want.”

 

However, I had lost all my confidence in Apple by then. I thanked Amelio and insisted on leaving. 

 

In retrospect, I think the six years I spent at Apple gave me lots of opportunities to learn and grow. I will never regret leaving the paradise of academia for Apple, though it put me through merciless challenges of the corporate world like what Adam faces in Paradise Lost.

 

Apple was where I first realized the importance of keeping the user’s best interest in mind for product development. Apple has always been a perfectionist in terms of products. For instance, the company was willing to spend $5 more per computer to make a software-driven eject disk function for the convenience of the user. It’s Apple’s pursuit of perfection that has won so many fans, though it was also that desire for perfection that caused products to become expensive, which once put the company in a severe crisis.

 

I witnessed how Apple fans remained loyal to Apple products during the company’s worst years, and that inspired me to always take consumer interest into consideration in my later career.  

 

Apple also taught me the significance of leadership. A good company cannot thrive without a great leader. After Steve Jobs left, Apple lost its ultimate visionary, cheerleader, and demanding boss. Divisions and departments went on their own, no longer collaborating with one another. Product deadlines were thus often postponed. It was a chaotic situation only Jobs could change.

 

In December 1996, Jobs returned to Apple. People screamed, “The soul of Apple is back!”  Jobs launched drastic reforms, which led to brilliant new products such as iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and so on. Apple once again became a marvelous company beyond the world’s imagination.

 

I missed the miracle by leaving a few months before it all started to happen. But I was happy for Apple, which to me had once been as inspiring as Isaac Newton’s apple tree. Apple will always have a place in my heart.

发表于 3年前

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