An Exclusive Interview with Lisa Lam, Founder & Creator of The Yanshi Planner
"I am so excited for The Yanshi Planner to be shared with the world! The Yanshi Planner comes from a very deep and meaningful place. Its purpose and mission is far beyond the company itself. It's about being a part of something bigger, part of a movement, starting with each Yanshi Planner holder, improving and changing their own life, lighting their own spark in this world, and spreading genuine happiness and kindness while they are navigating their own journey. I believe that this world can become a more beautiful place, and the change and future begins within each and every one of us. When our life is balanced and in harmony, and we are at our best selves, the possibilities are endless and the sky is the limit!”
Q: What's something you've learned from using a planner all these years?
A: I've owned a planner every single year of my life since I was eight years old. I used it the way I was taught to use it, the only way I knew how to use it. In school, I wrote down all the homework, due dates for assignments, exam dates, classes. It was the same throughout high school, college, and dental school.
So after dental school, coming out into the real world at the age of 28, having been given no prior warning or direction as to what to expect in 'real life' and what I was about to experience and learn, was devastating at first.
I knew I was going to have a job, that I was going to start a family, that I would have a home, but I didn't know how hard life was going to be, especially starting life with $500,000 worth of school debt right off the bat and given the reality check that all my dreams were shattered and unreachable.
I couldn't connect all the financial responsibilities, relationship struggles, health priorities, and all the things I wanted to achieve in life together.
I tried to use my planner to help organize my 'out of control life' the best way I could but failed year after year to achieve true happiness.
Everything felt off balance. When I worked a lot, my health suffered. When I was trying to work on my finances, my relationship suffered. When I was taking care of my family, my own goals and dreams suffered.
Everything was connected to each other, but I couldn't find a planner that could help me in balancing all these areas, all at one time, all in one place.
I became really frustrated and made a promise to myself that I was never going to purchase a planner again, unless it was my own.
I had spent 7 years seeking for help and answers, learning, and practicing personal growth and development, only for me to realize that I was not achieving at the best level because I wasn't at my best.
I realized that there was no balance and harmony in the pivotal areas of my life- health, wealth, time, relationships, and my goals and dreams, and so that's why I couldn't fully achieve happiness and success.
It took me 7 years to finally filter my life down and learn that those are the very basic important foundations in life to achieve happiness and success. All-in-all, what I learned is that there is so much more to this beautiful life, and the possibilities are infinite.
We mustn't forget all our hopes and dreams. It's so easy for them to be buried and forgotten when we're stuck in the rat race of life.
Life's not always peachy, and that is okay. You get back up, and when you balance out these areas, you realize everything is going to be okay. And from there, the sky's the limit!
Q: What inspired you to create this planner?
A: Initially, my family. Everything was for my family.
I needed to be healthy, so that I could be here for as long as I can to take care of my family. I needed to have my finances in order, and well-planned out for the future and the rest of my life, for my family.
I wanted to make sure that my husband and my son are well set up for the future and are prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.
I needed to strengthen and have a loving relationship with my husband, for my husband, and for our son to grow up in a happy family.
I needed to work towards getting my life back by spending my limited time on this earth doing things that I love and spending it with my family to build experiences and memories.
I can only do it if I am not constantly trading my time for money.
I wanted to plan ahead so that I could be there at my son's future basketball games and so that I could care for my parents when they get too old to care for themselves.
All the while, not forgetting all of my own hopes and dreams growing up as a little girl.
So I initially created this planner to help me stay focused and balanced, and help me achieve anything and everything that I wanted to achieve, for my family and for myself.
Q: What was going through your head that made you realize it's not "only for you?"
A: My first year out of dental school, a lot of my classmates would complain about their student debt and or express how they thought life would be 'different.'
Some were stressed all the time, like me. Others gave up and had accepted the fact that they would be paying it until they were 70, and some didn't care and were relying on the possibility of debt forgiveness programs 20 years down the line.
I looked around me, and it seemed like everyone was going through some kind of financial hardship, and in turn affecting their relationships or happiness, or preventing them from growing as a person.
In a conversation at work one day, I realized that student debt was a major problem in America. I learned how many Americans were living paycheck to paycheck with no emergency savings in their bank account. I knew that if an event were to happen, like the coronavirus, and if they were not prepared, the security of their home and family would be at risk.
I realized this was happening to many people, of all different backgrounds, ages, and education levels, and I felt that it's not any one's fault, it is only because we were not taught any of these things growing up or in school or how to prepare for life.
Unless there was an event that sparked a change in your life, or someone you met taught you these things, or you went on a personal development journey on your own like me, you would just be going about life as is, the same every day.
I had done everything I was supposed to do in school. I was good in math, I worked hard, my parents taught me manners, principles, to be kind, to save money, etc,. But, for some reason, I struggled a lot in the real world. I couldn't connect everything to the real world, and I was lost. It was only because I didn't know.
There is so much to learn and there is so much room to grow. But, at the very basic, I feel that it is so important to teach these foundational principles- health, wealth, time, relationships, life goals, dreams, at an early age (or at any age, it's never too late!) so that people can live out their best life. All they need is for someone to touch them, to teach them, to give them hope, or whatever!
I felt an absolute need to share this planner, because I know that it can help, touch, or give someone hope out there... even if it is just one person.
There was a sense of urgency for me to get this planner out to as many people as I can, because I knew that even if they didn't use the planner strictly every single day, every time they did use it, their life would already be a little bit better than it was the day before.
I knew I needed to give this planner to my sisters and to my little cousin heading off to college this year.
I wanted people to be prepared in these areas of life and achieve great health, wealth, time, relationships, their dreams, success, and happiness. And I didn't want them to have to wait until they were 35 to start or to realize it on their own like I did.
Q: Who is this planner now "for?"
A: This planner is for anyone and everyone- all age groups.
Although some of the content is very complex, especially the financial portion, it is never too early or too late to show someone how beautiful life can be when all these areas are in harmony and in balance.
I want people to realize that when one's life is balanced and successful and happy, how much more good they can do and give to the world and people around them.
I hope that in the future we can come up with more versions of the planner for the appropriate younger age groups. But in the meantime, an adult can learn the story and lesson and pass it on to their children, and these principles can be implemented daily... anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
Q: What was your biggest roadblock in life?
A: My biggest roadblock in life was the guilt and burden of feeling like I couldn't give more.
I wanted to give more to my parents, give more to my family, to society, to the homeless around my neighborhood, to this world.
Naturally, I want to give the world to everyone around me and I always felt like I was meant to be so much more than just a dentist.
Before I went off to dental school, my parents were hesitant to let me go to Boston to pursue my dream in becoming a dentist. They said it was too expensive. Of course, I at that time didn't have any real concept of what $500,000 tuition meant. I remember clearly, like it was yesterday, I said, "Dad, please invest in me. Like you would in a stock. I promise that when I get out, I will take care of you. I will buy you a house. And I will buy you a new car."
My Dad always drove the old beat up cars, and gave everyone else in the family the better cars. And just like that, my parents took out a loan for me, and off to dental school I went.
Dental school was rough, it was hard. I was so excited to move back home to California to be with my family and start my life.
That was when I got hit with a big reality check. I was a new dentist, with no experience, getting paid minimally, living at home, with $500,000 worth of debt, parents helping me out with bills and my school loan payments.
I remember feeling like all of my dreams had been shattered.
Even though I did everything I was supposed to do, I still couldn't even give back to my parents. Instead, they continued to support me for years after dental school.
I had no time. I was too busy trying to survive and take care of my own family. All my time was spent working. And I often forgot to call my friends. I felt selfish. Why couldn't I get myself to give my last $20 to this homeless person? I keep wanting to, but each time I drive away crying because I would rather use it to pay for my school loans. I became unhappy. And it took me many, many years, 7 years, to come to peace with myself.
My friend said, "Lisa, don't be too hard on yourself. You can't help others when you can't help yourself."
All this time, the feeling of not being able to give has blocked me from advancing in my life. It wasn't until I realized how all that I have been through and learned these past 7 years has led me to the creation of this planner, and knowing deep down inside how special this planner is and how it could potentially help many people in this world, was what helped me get out of my funk.
With people and the world in mind, it gave me the courage and strength to create this planner. Every time there was a roadblock, it was the knowing of how it could help a lot of people, that kept me going each and every time I wanted to give up.
Giving money to a homeless person is one thing. But being able to share, give, and gift these principles and values in life, in the form of the planner, that people can use, to me, is... I have no word that can fully describe it... it means the world to me.
And so, whoever is willing to allow this planner to be a small part of their life journey, I want them to know that they are in turn fulfilling one of my dreams in life. They are filling the void that I felt, and they are healing me.
Q: What about your biggest roadblock in the creation of the planner?
A: Oh! Sooo many, many roadblocks!
First off, it is extremely difficult to extract and filter out everything I have learned over the past seven years. Then trying to translate the information onto paper in a way and format where when people use it, it is supposed to spark something within them, whether it be awareness, a want to improve or change, be inspired, anything, whatever it is that they need.
It's very difficult to create the content from scratch and design it in a way where it can help make a difference in someone's life, and that is fun and exciting to flip through and use on a daily basis.
Secondly, because the content is heavy, and there are many different areas to balance, the planner is big, because life is big. And, at the end of the day, I have to convince people that, yes the planner is big, because it's your life, and I want others to value those areas enough to want to use the planner to design their life. I want people to realize how much meaning is behind the planner.
Lastly, trying to figure out how to share this with the world is not easy. The vision and purpose is so large. All I can do is to take little steps each day and not give up. With each roadblock, I have to figure out how to knock it out one by one.
There is no, "I can't do this." It has been "How can I do this?" with every struggle I have encountered so far with this planner.
It is really the belief that it can help so many people that got me through each roadblock and kept me motivated to keep going.
Q: What do you want people to achieve overall from utilizing the planner?
A: I want people to achieve a peaceful and happy life, full of meaning, purpose, and gratitude... to achieve their fullest potential, to live their best life, intentionally, that they have dreamed and designed on their own.
I want them to know that this is their journey and when they are at their best and happiest, they can share and spread more of their kindness and happiness and positivity to others around them.
My hope is that they can achieve better health, wealth, time, relationships, success, and happiness in their journey, and be able to leave behind something beautiful in this world- it could be their legacy, their wealth to their children, their kindness, their smile, their helping hand to a stranger, anything beyond themselves.
Q: What is your vision for your future and the planner/company’s future?
A: Life has really just begun for me, and there are so many more dreams to chase.
Dental school, check.
It took me 7 years to check off my latest dream. That was rough. But now I can almost say, "Planner, check!"
Who knows what's next? What I do know for sure is that I want to make each moment count and not waste any more time on things that do not matter or enrich my life. My ROCKS are what I will be focusing on moving forward, and it will be the harmony of all these areas in my life that will help guide me to my next adventure.
I am still that little girl in the middle of the blanket full of hopes and dreams, except this time around I am balanced, and I can see endless possibilities and adventures ahead of me.
With the planner/company's future, I hope to continue to make improvements and grow over the years. I'd like to design more friendly versions of the planner for a younger age group. I also want to translate the planner to many languages and be able to share it with more people in the future.
As the company grows, I hope to be able to contribute to this world in even greater ways.
Q: What have you learned from the whole process of creating this planner?A: PERSEVERANCE! Being clear of your goals, purpose, and "whys" will keep you going!
Be strong. Don't give up. Nothing is easy. The things that are special and meaningful usually require a lot of hard work, dedication, sweat and tears.
When something is important enough to you, and you want it badly enough, and you work hard daily for it, you WILL get there!
Q: What do you wish to say to those who use it?
A: Hey, life is complex and crazy. It's not perfect. It's a rollercoaster ride for sure, and that is okay.
We have our health, we have our family, and we have so much to be grateful for.
It is not our fault that we were not prepared for all the struggles in life, but it is those struggles that strengthen us and make us who we are.
Every day, we are given the opportunity to live our best life. The beautiful thing about us is that we have our bodies and minds to bring us to wherever we want to go. So why wait another day?
Whatever your journey may be, take it all in, and cherish every moment of it, and know that you are in control. You are in the driver's seat of your own life. All you have to do is dream big, keep dreaming, write it down, plan it well, take actions, and work hard, and don't give up.
While you are doing that, don't forget about all the ROCKS in your life- your health, wealth, time, relationships, all the things that are important to you.
I want others to know how lucky I feel to be able to touch their lives, even if it is in the smallest way. I want to say thank you for allowing me to be a small part of their journey through this planner.
Cheers to better health, greater wealth, stronger relationships, life, to achieving goals and dreams, for a better future for you and your family, and for this world!