We had the good fortune of connecting with Mengting Hou and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mengting, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Time has value, and I don’t want to risk losing its value. As time goes by, there is a risk of drying out our energy and losing opportunities gradually. To me, that is the biggest risk I cannot afford, which drives me to chase my dreams no matter how unrealistic they look. I’ve done some so-called courageous things around 20 when I was in a Law School back in China, such as working as a waitress and setting up a stall at night to sell bags, starting my businesses while taking two majors and being a part-time teacher, building a commercial brand while exporting products to the US, etc.
Doing all those, I did not risk failing my studies. I would stay up the whole night reading books, and I got excellent results in exams. Among my friends, I was considered someone who likes taking risks. But to me, those were not risks. They were just keys to unlock doors to explore the mysterious world. They’ve made my life more complete and my understanding of human beings much deeper. It doesn’t matter if I got the outcome I expected. It matters that I did try out my ideas, and I had no regrets. Again, one of the most significant risks in life is to let time pass until we lose our passion for the things we want to do.
The worst thing I can imagine is that one day I wake up in the morning and realize that I could have done so many things years ago, but I didn’t. And I have things I’m not happy with in my current life, yet I have no chance or tool anymore to make a change. However, my idea towards risks has been improved after I’ve relocated to LA for five years. I am not the one who was always ready to seize the moment and to take risks to carry out an idea. I don’t want to be risk ignorant.
Now I take risks only after I have taken a moment to assess them. Life is full of risks. Whatever I do, I know that no matter how sure I am, there could be undesirable consequences coming in my way. So I’d better be aware and try my best to address them and to see if I can be prepared when trouble comes.
If I am not capable of taking the downside, or if it doesn’t worth my time to take that risk, I would say no. Because there is always an opportunity cost for everything, every time we say “yes” to one thing, we are saying “no” to millions of other things. Facing risks, we need both calling and rationality. So now I’m much more careful making a decision than ever before. Thankfully, I am.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My partner and I started Zonestone Music, aiming to minimize the gap between Chinese film&TV production and Hollywood standard film music production&management. Its background was that when the Chinese film market grew at an extremely high speed, yet the music part, including the quality of film score as well as licensing and copyright protection, was still lagging. With a legal background in China and the education of music business in LA, I could see a big potential in this field, even though there is a long way to go. It has been quite a challenging but exciting process.
What I’ve learned along the way is that, first, we should never underestimate cultural differences. Language is not only a tool to deliver messages but also an intermediary to convey knowledge, culture, trust, deeper implications, and a lot more. Word-to-word translation helps no more than technical interactions. I always see people still confused after understanding every single word. Besides, the ways we do things in different countries, especially in the east and west, are so different that it usually takes much longer time and much more effort to go through the same work. I’ve heard many “of course” from both sides. But there is no “of course” if you are not sharing the same cultural background. Cultural difference creates misunderstanding and uncertainties, which shouldn’t be underplayed in any business.
Second, professionalism is the most important. It doesn’t take too long to understand the team you are in or the other party you are dealing with is professional or not. Beyond any culture or historical time, I believe that professionalism wins you respect and trust. I’m sure everyone will have fun and feel good going through projects with professional people. When working with unprofessional teams, even if the reward is very appealing, you don’t feel happy at the end of the day. Professionalism is a universal business code, and the good thing is that it’s not hard to recognize. All I’ve been doing and learning is to be more professional myself and to get used to saying no to many people in the same industry who are unprofessional. To me, life is a process of constant learning and improving oneself. Getting different knowledge and experiences gives me more interesting perspectives looking at the same thing. I enjoy seeing things in a profound way, not from a single standpoint. No matter what I do and who I’m dealing with, it’s never a waste of time. Just like Confucius’ saying that when you see someone better than you, try to be the same; when you see someone not behaving well, check on yourself to see if you have the same traits. Good or bad experiences, there is always a chance to learn. As an old saying in China goes “do one’s best and leave the rest to the Universe”, when you do your best and enjoy the process, the result, being out of your control, doesn’t matter as much as you thought.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles is a special city that attracts people from all over the world to relocate and live their lives. There are Thaitown, Koreantown, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, etc., where so many solid authentic restaurants are run by people from those countries. Without traveling to different countries, you can easily find yourself eating the best sushi in front of a Japanese chef, or ordering Neapolitan pizza in an Italian restaurant, or cutting a piece of stake from Argentina. Cultural diversity in LA makes the city very welcoming to new comers and tourists. I would take my friend to all those neighborhoods with different unique cultures and try out their restaurants. Foods in LA is definitely one of the the most exciting things to check out.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I dedicate my shoutout to the person who gives me a perfect world, my mom. Many times I have tears in my eyes when thinking about how lucky I am to have a mom like her. She is a warrior, an angel, an artist, a pure love, and a magical spirit. She has built a dreamy nest for me with a strong foundation of love so that I could fly high in life. Born in 1957 in the north of China, my mom went through a tough time after she lost her own mother at the age of 11.
Fortunately, she is a strong lady. She not only was the best student in her class but also became the virtual mother for her younger brother and sister. In 1973, at the age of 16, she was sent to the nearby countryside to work with local farmers. There, she was the youngest girl but did the same work with guys and adult farmers. Even though she didn’t know how long she had to stay there, she believed that eventually, one day she would have a chance to go back to her city. After three years of farm work, she returned home.
Sometimes, life doesn’t get better easily, even if you do your best. Her hardship didn’t end after she got married and had me. For various reasons, we suffered from some hard financial realities for at least ten years. My mom, facing all the difficulties, held the whole family up and moved us forward. Life has put quite a lot of weight on her tiny shoulders, but she remains enduring and optimistic. I’ve seen some people who carried an uneasy childhood and tough experiences look a little difficult and miserable, and they also look at life differently. One of the best qualities I love about my mom is that she remained her innocence, pureness, curiosity, sensitivity, and fresh eyes looking at the world, the same way as a baby. She loves chocolate and sweets. She couldn’t take seeing blood or horror films. She cries for sad stories. She laughs easily and she wants to know everything. She sings beautifully like a bird. She cheers and relaxes at parties. Life tries so hard to change people, but couldn’t succeed in her case. Misfortune left no scars in her heart. Instead, she feels blessed, lucky and grateful all the time.
At the age of 63 now, she still embraces everyone and every new little thing coming to her. On top of all those, if I had a car accident now, and lost all my memories, the last memory stays deeply in my body that could never be removed is how she is unconditionally supportive and loving to me. My love for her is beyond words; her love for me is everywhere in the universe. Without her love, I would never learn how to live life, how to be strong and not to give up, how to appreciate kindness and generosity, how to be a giver not a taker, how to keep hard-working and disciplined, how to deserve what I want with my own hands…