Knowledge Exchange

Make Learning your Passion

Kevin Yao (Class of 2020)

Growing up as a Taiwanese American, I’ve always been keen on learning more about my identity as a third culture kid. In particular, I’ve always had a passion for connecting Eastern and Western Philosophies. Today, I will share with you what I learned from Confucius’ Analects and how it enhanced every minute of my MBA journey.

“One who learns to understand will not absorb as well as ones with interest, and ones with interest, will not master the subject as well as ones who enjoys learning  with passion”  – Confucius

The quote in Chinese is 「知之者不如好之者,好之者不如樂之者。」The quote can be broken into three parts:  1.   Learn to Understand, 2.  Learn through Interest, 3. Learn with Passion.

Learn to Understand:

Learning to understand is focused on logic. For example, we all “know” daily exercise is beneficial to your health, but not many of us insist on waking up early to spend 30 minutes on physical training. There are two interesting facts here: 1) Most of my local classmates have shared that they learned the Confucious quote at secondary school, yet 2) we still have to learn the rider and the elephant in a business communication course in our MBA. We learned that emotions override logic, so an effective communicator, whether to convince self or others, has to ride the emotional elephant to take knowledge into application. For the most part, we all “know” that we have to do the right thing, but how many of us do it?

Learn through Interest:

Interest is already connected to emotions.  Obviously, the subject of interest has piqued your curiosity for you to take additional steps to learn, but how do you maximise your time learning through interest?

For example, we all know we need to read, we see it on Linkedin everyday:”Bill Gates read 10 books a week.”  That’s why we buy books, flip through a couple of pages, flip through another book from last month, and once you are tired, you set it aside for tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. Learning through interest is already more immersive than learning to understand. I look at it as the next step in my own learning pyramid (also, I have 10 books that I bought this year which I am yet to finish).

So how do you manage your own mindset to shift from learning to learn to learning through interest? Take my Business Data Class for example, this is a mandatory course and I am weak with data. In fact, I asked for an exemption from the  professor, who just laughed at me.  So I skipped year 1 and retook it in year 2. However, I realised that data is the future and if I spend two months of my weeknights sitting in a class that makes me have cold sweats, I might as well pretend to be interested in it and eventually maybe I will like it. It is one of those ‘fake it to make it’ moments.

Long story short: I now lead an additional BU which focuses on data science and machine learning after being inspired by the Consumer Data Analytics Class. Had I taken the class and just complained throughout the way, I would’ve wasted time and money, compounded by DCF.

Learn with Passion: 

What I mean by learning with passion, is that you are immersed with joy while learning. In Chinese, it is described as 「樂在其中」.

A great example of ‘Learn with Passion’ is Michael Jordan and basketball. He did not become the GOAT because he was born with the talent., He practiced and practiced, but he didn’t mind, because he loved basketball.

When you learn with passion, you don’t feel that you are learning anymore because you are having fun. I have to say, I am very passionate about Leadership Development, so naturally I enjoyed the Organisational Leadership class and the additional IMBA course on Learning Organisations by Dr. Kin Chan. To be honest, the workload is heavy and you will hear complaints from your teammates on workload due to their own competing priorities. But in the end you overcome these obstacles and learn to inspire your own group mates to deliver excellent work because you are enjoying every part of your journey, good or bad.



The Learn to Understand, Learn Through Interest, and Learn with Passion paradigm, is what I employed to challenge myself to be passionate on every subject I spent my time on during my MBA journey.

In fact, I did the math. Every hour I spent on my MBA class was about 1,200 HKD, (450k / 17 modules / average 21 hours per course) not including my own time. So if I wasted my time not participating, copying homework, and not networking (meeting people constitutes learning, too), then I would have no one else to blame but myself for being an average student.

However, that does not mean I have not made silly attempts to get out of core classes which I thought would not add value to my skill set. For example, “I am an ethical person, I help old ladies cross the street, can I be exempted from Business Ethics?”

But I was wrong. Business Ethics ended up being one of the most impactful courses I took in my MBA journey.  Path up the mountain? Principle of 1% Improvement? That is great stuff for now and for the future!

As I wrap up my sharing for my own learning paradigm, I do want to share a quote by Jeff Bezos.

“Work hard, have fun, make history.”

How will you make a dent in the universe and have fun doing it?


Industry: Sporting Goods
Company: Nike
Job Title: Director – Marketplace Management