Moshe Kai Cavalin is preparing to graduate from UCLA and has just published his first book.
In this May 2, 2008 file photo, Moshe Kai Cavalin, 10, strikes a martial arts position as he poses for photos at his home studio in Downey, Calif. At age 11, Cavalin became the youngest person ever to earn an Associate in Arts degree from East Los Angeles College and now, at 14, is poised to graduate with honors from UCLA later this year.
Moshe Kai Cavalin, 14, dislikes being called a genius.
All he did, after all, was enroll in college at 8 and earn his first of two Associate of Arts degrees from East Los Angeles Community College at 9, graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
Now, at 14, he's poised to graduate from UCLA this year. He also has just published an English edition of his first book, "We Can Do."
The 100-page guideline explains how other young people can accomplish what Cavalin did through such simple acts as keeping themselves focused and approaching everything with total commitment. He's hoping it will show people there's no genius involved, just hard work.
"That's always the question that bothers me," said Cavalin, who turned 14 on Valentine's Day, when the word "genius" was raised. "People need to know you don't really need to be a genius. You just have to work hard, and you can accomplish anything."
And maybe cut out some of the TV.
Although he's a big fan of Jackie Chan movies, Cavalin says he limits his TV time to four hours a week.
Not that he lacks for recreational activities or feels that his parents pressured him into studying constantly. He writes in "We Can Do" of learning to scuba dive, and he loves soccer and martial arts. He used to participate in the latter sport when he was younger, winning trophies for his age group, until his UCLA studies and his writing made things too hectic.
One of the key messages of his book is to stay focused and not to take on any endeavor half-heartedly.
"I was able to reach the stars, but others can reach the Milky Way," he tells readers.
It was a professor at his first institution of higher learning, East Los Angeles City College, who inspired him, Cavalin says. He didn't like the subject but managed to get an A in it anyway, by applying himself and seeing how enthusiastic his teacher, Richard Avila, was about the subject.
Avila, he says, inspired him to write a book explaining his methods for success so he could motivate others.
It took four years to finish, in part because Cavalin, whose mother is Chinese, decided to publish it in Chinese, and doing the translation himself was laborious.
Han Shian Culture Publishing of Taiwan put the book in print, and it sold well in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in several bookstores in Southern California's Asian communities. He then brought it out in English for the U.S. market.
Because of his heavy study load, Cavalin has had little opportunity to promote the book, other than a signing at UCLA, where he also lives in student housing with his parents and attends the school on a scholarship.
After earning his bachelor's degree, the math major plans to enroll in graduate school with hopes of eventually earning a doctorate.
After that, he's not so sure. He points out that he's still just barely a teenager.
"Who knows?" he said, chuckling at the thought of what lies ahead in adulthood. "That's a very distant future, and I'm pretty much planning for just the next few years. That's too far into the future for me to see."