“You’ll be shocked by how far this will take you”

She took box cutters on airplanes after 9/11 to see how tight security really was, and worked a minimum wage job just to see what it would be like to live with the tight budget that many single parents in Canada deal with every month. Above all, she battles to have the truth known, even when it could impact her career and credibility.

Jan Wong is the author of four books, with a fifth on the way, and worked for the Globe and Mail, serving as Beijing correspondent from 1988 to 1994, covering the Tienanmen Square massacre. She addressed the Canadian University Press (CUP) National Conference's attendants with ten rules to live by, but they could be mantras for anyone at all.

Rule #1: Get out of your comfort zone
Everyone has a boldness bone. You just have to flex it… Do something that scares you every day. What’s the worst that can happen?” Wong asked. The obvious answer: Failure.
Take us university students; sometimes the hardest thing we can do is put ourselves into what could potentially become an uncomfortable or even difficult situation. Try something new, especially if it scares you.

Rule #2: Try not to break the law, but question authority
It wasn’t a joke that Wong took box cutters onto an airplane after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She didn’t do it for an adrenaline rush, but rather to experiment with how potentially harmful items could pass through security onto a plane.

They were confiscating people's poppies,” Wong told us, when prompted to explain why she brought “twenty sharp things” onto a plane. “I got on the flight from Toronto to Vancouver … I got through with 18 out of the twenty items I originally brought with me. My editor told me not to bring out the box cutters, but I did.”

It goes to show that there are times in our lives when rules are just begging to be broken. “Question authority.” There are times in life when pushing the envelope may be one of the most important things one can do.

Rule #3: Push people to talk to you
Everything is negotiable.” Wong says.
What Wong meant by this was to use every available opportunity you are given, and not back down just because someone may say no to you the first time you apply for a job or interview. She is also speaking about working your hardest to network and get out there.
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and say hello to every person you meet on the street and then punch every person who doesn’t immediately respond. This is about persevering when it seems like no one will listen to you.

Rule #4: Always ask something that seems stupid or trivial
What’s the last book you read?” It's a question that Wong asked one of the men she was doing an investigative profile on. When he gave her an answer that seemed a little unorthodox, she dug deeper and found out he was a fraud.
Now, don’t go out and ask your new boss whether he wears tighty-whities or boxers. But use this whenever you are trying to figure out if someone is hiding something from you. When done correctly, it can defuse a situation.

Rule #5: “Always ask a question for which there is no good answer”
Want to know how to learn some interesting facts about the subject you are taking? (And by interesting, I mean things you could totally use on your final exam, long answer portion.) Follow this rule: Ask a question that doesn’t seem like it would have an easy answer. Wong explained, “you aren’t always looking to find the answer; you’re trying to reveal something.” It may seem easier to just get the point blank answer and move forward, but the wider context is often more revealing.

Rule #6: Everything is a story
No matter where you are. Things are going to unfold.” When Wong was talking to the student journalists about this, she talked about the time that she ran into Jean Chretien outside of her psychiatrist’s office. While talking to him, she got a great quote for her upcoming book. Pay attention to the opportunities around you and “Always be on.”

Rule #7: Break down barriers any way you can
Dress the way [potential employers] dress; don’t stick out,” but know when to “reveal yourself to them, so they will reveal things about themselves to you.”
Barriers occur in every single relationship we have with people. Dressing in a particular way seems to be a pretty standard rule for trying to get a job, whereas revealing yourself is about getting to know other people. Here is an equation to help you remember it:
Being genuine+gaining trust from others = Anything you want.

Rule #8: Don’t turn off your tape recorder
It’s not over until it’s over.” Wong says, and while this may be a cliché, in life there are situations where things are going to be lost in translation, miscommunicated or even twisted, so be smart about what you say and who you say it to. A solid comment caught on record is like having a solid alibi when the cops are after you for a crime you never committed. Dramatic? Yes. But it’s true; imagine your brain to be a tape recorder, keep yourself plugged in, and just remember rule six: Everything is a story.

Rule #9: Fight for time and resources
Be nice, and be helpful. But if you have to be tough, be tough. The more time you have, and the more resources you have, the better.”
This applies for school, work, and even relationships. You can, in fact, petition your professor about the deadline they have given you for that million word essay due on a Sunday night. You can also negotiate for some one-on-one time with them to help you get that essay done.

Rule #10: Consciously write for the front page
Approach every story like it could make or break your career.” This translates, in non-journalism speak, to “do your best all the time.” Every time that you submit something with your name on it, every day that you walk into a classroom or onto a stage, you have the opportunity to be a better, stronger, brighter person than you were the day before. In the wise words of Wong: “Push yourself, because no one else will.”

// Nicole Mucci

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