Archive for June, 2009

I probably spent a bit more time reading Penelope Trunk’s blog than I should, but I’ll forgive myself as it’s the first time I came across it. It’s easy to get carry away when reading advice/tips giving blogs like this, as they are generally easy and fun to read and contain many links to other advice/tips/interesting articles.  I find it useful to set a time limit for blog reading so I’d have time to do other things I value. Below are some interesting posts.

Never say you’re busy:

Let’s abolish the word busy. When you ask someone, “How have you been?” and they say, “Busy,” it doesn’t mean anything. I’m sick of it. We all have the same 24 hours to fill. Everyone’s are filled with something.

The difference is that the “busy” people feel frenetic during those hours. Those of you who walk around telling everyone how busy you are, get a grip. Make some tough choices and calm down. There’s a big difference between a busy day and a full day. The former is so frantic that you aren’t effective.

I agree with what she said, but I can think two reasons why someone might want to say he/she is busy: 1) it’s a way to decline requests/distractions/invitations without having to be rude (alternative to saying “I don’t think talking with you is worth my time”), 2) to appear busy can be a useful signal that you’re ambitious and productive, though I guess the best way to signal you’re busy is by not saying it directly.

On information overload:

So focus on meeting your goals rather than saving time. Information is not something you have time for or don’t have time for. Information is either helping you meet your goals or not.

On looks and career (read her argument for plastic surgery):

Her predictions:

So my prediction is that soon we will all capitulate to the undeniable evidence that we have more opportunity in life if we are better looking, and it’s relatively easy to buy good looks. So we will. It will be something everyone does as they graduate from college, and not just the most rich and privileged kids. Plastic surgery will be for the go-getters and career-minded. Just you wait and see.

On decision making:

Stop obsessing over your choices and just decide. Most people overestimate the regret they’ll experience after making an emotionally charged choice, according to research from the University College London. In fact, Karim Kassam, a psychologist working at Harvard, shows that we figure out how to justify most of our big decisions, no matter how good or bad they were. He calls it our “psychological immune system.”

The Harvard Business Review also reveals that we are not good at making decisions with a lot of data points involved. Which means that frequently, the longer you spend on a decision, the less productive you are. This research, maybe, gives you the temerity to take a leap, knowing that your decision won’t get smarter or easier to live with if you take longer.

Being an optimizer, I’m not a decisive person. But luckily I’ve outsourced most of the non-critical decisions to my trustworthy CFO.

Here are her posts on (not needing to) do what you love, what you don’t need a perfect job (I’m also a Dan Gilbert fan), job hunting, time management, and the new gender gap.

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NY book reviews: The Wilderness of Childhood

The trend’s probably more relevant in the US than in Asia. Would mental adventure (online, virtual experience) be enough to compensate for the decline in physical adventure. Some passages:

People read stories of adventure—and write them—because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children. The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there. A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past.

This is the kind of door-to-door, all-encompassing escort service that we adults have contrived to provide for our children. We schedule their encounters for them, driving them to and from one another’s houses so they never get a chance to discover the unexplored lands between.Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted—not taught—to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?

This bit on travel resonates with me well, as I often find myself traveling on foot and getting lost in nowhere:

The traveler soon learns that the only way to come to know a city, to form a mental map of it, however provisional, and begin to find his or her own way around it is to visit it alone, preferably on foot, and then become as lost as one possibly can.

Here‘s an article on baby understanding:

The evolutionary answer seems to be that there is a tradeoff between the ability to learn and imagine — which is our great evolutionary advantage as a species — and our ability to apply what we’ve learned and put it to use. So one of the ideas in the book is that children are like the R&D department of the human species. They’re the ones who are always learning about the world. But if you’re always learning,
imagining, and finding out, you need a kind of freedom that you don’t have if you’re actually making things happen in the world. And when you’re making things happen, it helps if those actions are based on all of the things you have learned and imagined. The way that evolution seems to have solved this problem is by giving us this period of childhood where we don’t have to do anything, where we are completely useless. We’re free to explore the physical world, as well as possible worlds through imaginative play. And when we’re adults, we can use that information to actually change the world.

I prefer to view and treat kids like adults. Or maybe it’s the other way round: view and treat adults like kids. It’s the same for me either way.

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What to do with my blog

The two entries posted earlier were motivated by a few positive comments received from friends I forwarded the links to. I posted them here for people who might be interested but are not on my forward mail list.

I still haven’t decided whether keeping a blog is compatible with my goals, and if yes, for whom do I want to write. Should I send targeted emails sprinkled with personalized comments to friends who I think might be interested in a certain topics , or should I post them here for anyone cares enough to read? Perhaps I should just blog whenever I feel like it (like DDY) and not trying to figure out what I want to keep a blog for (keeping in touch with friends, writing for a broader audience, for thoughts, reflections, or diary, etc.). After all, blog entries don’t have to be consistent. They don’t even need to be good as long as I don’t mind.

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Ben Casnocha’s latest post has links to two articles on romance and marriages:The first Atlantic article reflects a woman’s view on marriage in the US, with a bit on personality vs. relationship as quoted in Ben’s post.

I like the second article more.  It’s a review on Nehring book, which urges people to “Let go of security and embrace the radical alertness that comes with the fullness of feeling.”

Meghan’s review made a point similar to my thoughts: whether you’ll be happy in a passionate or stable relationship depends on what types of person you are. They aren’t necessarily incompatible and there are different forms of love.

Passages I like:

There are many flaws in Nehring’s argument. For one thing, not everyone wants to lead a “heroic” life. Plenty of people in steadfast marriages may yearn for flashes of passion but prefer, ultimately, the repetitive pleasure of routine and domesticity, or get from their children the passionate expansion of vision Nehring believes romantic love offers us. Security needn’t mean a diminishment in passion; the transience of mortality can lend a long marriage the same sense of being at the brink that Nehring finds in the flamboyant suicidal gamesmanship of Goethe’s Young Werther. Think of the aging husband who cares for his dying wife. At times, too, Nehring seems to willfully ignore the dangerous side of vulnerability. Pursuing a difficult, unreachable guy is a sign of your own self-confidence and strength, she argues in an attack on cautionary self-help manuals like He’s Just Not That Into You. Perhaps. But it can also be a sign of your cluelessness. Finally, the suffering she extols can take too large a toll for some. As Nehring herself (melodramatically) notes, “As I write these words, I bear the bodily scars of a loss or two in love. I have been derailed by love, hospitalized by love, flung around five continents, shaken, overjoyed, inspired, unsettled.” But Nehring’s paean to unconventional ecstasy is a bracing reminder of how narrow and orthodox our vision of love has become—and how that in turn bequeaths us a vast swathe of “unsuccessful” relationships……Since when are longevity and frictionlessness, Nehring prompts us to ask, themselves a sign of “success”? The equitable marriage is a worthy goal, but it is hardly uncomplicated. Rationalizing desire is a quixotic quest, as everyone knows. But so, too, is trying to protect ourselves from “failure.” Instead, we might do as poet Jack Gilbert urges in these lines from “Failing and Flying”:

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew. It’s the same when love comes to an end, or the marriage fails and people say they knew it was a mistake … But anything worth doing is worth doing badly. …I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.


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An interview from The Happiness Project on how to stay happy. At the end of the article, there’s a link to a site that allows you to send email to yourself in the future. My homework for this week’s to write an email to myself in the far future, say 5-10 years’ time.  Another idea is to start a regular conversation with myself every month: write an email to my next month’s self, when the month arrives reply to the past self and add new thoughts for the next month’s self.


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