Archive for the 'Equally good stuff' Category

The results-driven approach

November.9. 2019

There’re two main approaches to life—the results-driven approach and the process-driven approach.

The results-driven approach is exactly as it says—you’re focused on results. It’s based on the black/white cat principle. It doesn’t matter if the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice.

But what’s wrong with the process-driven approach?

Nothing wrong, it’s just that they have a tendency to distract you from the results and may even prevent you from getting them.

It’s true, process is important.

For example, cooking a dish.

Knowing the recipe and following it is important to get the flavor you want, especially if you’ve never cooked the dish before.

But sometimes focusing too much on process makes us forget the intended results.

For example, in religion, prayer, especially communal prayer, is very much a part of the process of gaining enlightenment and becoming a good human being.

But there’re some people who follow the process faithfully, pray a fixed number of times a day, and then after the prayer is done, they would go out and perform evil deeds.

Where is the part about being a good human being and enlightenment in this process?

Or guitar players and teachers who think that if they follow a certain process rigidly and do everything it says, that they would automatically become good players.

Yes, if they’re lucky enough to find the right process, the strategy might actually work.

But if they stumble onto the wrong process, no amount of practice and faithful adherence to the rigid confines of that particular process will get them the results the want.

So it all comes back to results.

If you follow a process and it’s not producing the desired results within a reasonable amount of time, perhaps the process is the problem and it’s time to move on.

Which of course leads us back to the results-driven approach.

The results-driven approach keeps you focused on results and if the process gets in the way of getting your results, just toss it.

Even if you’ve invested much time and treasure into it, better to cut your losses than to keep on flogging that dead horse.


The problem

May.16. 2019

The problem with many of our preconceptions is that they’re based on the wrong premises, which means most of the time, they’re wrong.

For example, we tend to think and assume that other people think and operate like us.

That’s the basis for that old golden rule—do unto others.

But others are not us; they may not appreciate what we appreciate.

So in your good intentions, you might try to help someone, and in the end, you only make yourself look patronizing and overbearing to that person.

Assuming that everyone would think and act like us was my mistake too, when I voted for the current occupant of the White House.

I thought that he would consider things like leaving a good legacy behind, and that being so wealthy, he would not be in the business of using the office to further enrich himself.

And boy, was I wrong on both counts!

The old Christian ideal of offering the other cheek too is based on the premise that the other person would be moved.

Again, wrong assumption, especially when it comes to people who come from a totally different cultural environment, and operate on completely different principles!

Instead of being moved, they would see it as a sign of extreme gullibility and exploit you even further.

So does that mean we throw out all our good intentions and preconceptions?

No, it just means that we take the blinders off our eyes and understand that things are usually a bit more complex than we think, and that we live in a jungle where harmless and beautiful creatures coexist with scorpions and vipers.

Which brings us to another problem.

How do you know which is which?

Rationalization 2

May.15. 2019

Rationalization is a great tool and enabler. It gives you permission to do whatever your heart desires.

Years ago, it was common practice for many mothers in China to drown their female babies when they were born.

Girls were not as desirable as boys because 1, they couldn’t work in the fields when they grew up, and 2, when they got married, they left the family and took on their husband’s names, so a total waste of time—raising them to lose them to another family.

But how do you justify killing an innocent baby?

Easy, find a rationale.

And they found the perfect rationale in the placenta and the umbilical cord.

They postulated that as long as the cord is still attached to the baby, the baby is not considered a human being so they could be disposed of.

Fast forward to our super enlightened times.

These days, the pretext for killing innocent babies is not based on the relative worth of babies based on their gender.

But rather, on the byproduct of entertainment, or rather sex as entertainment.

The problem with sex as entertainment is that you get innocent babies being conceived as byproducts.

So what to do with these inconvenient byproducts?

You find a rationale to dispose of them.

So science stepped in to offer the perfect rationale—as long as they’re in the mothers’ wombs, they’re not considered human beings and could be disposed of.

You got to love these rationales!

A good day

May.6. 2019

As they say, only in America.

Two co-conspirators in crime. Today, one sits in the highest office of the land, while the other one sits in jail.

Justice–American style.

Nightmare come true

October.20. 2018

It’s a classic case of killing off your competitors by buying them up and then closing them down.

That’s what happened to OSH, an old venerable hardware store chain, started in 1931, bought over by Lowes in 2013 and this year closed down for good.

Sure it took Lowes five years to complete their plan of elimination, but you can’t do these things in a hurry, or it would seem too obvious.

During the closing down sale at the local OSH store, I found a few Craftsman tools made in the USA. It was a surprise. I didn’t even know these things were still being made in the US.

As it turned out, they were the last of the old stock.

Because all Craftsman tools are now made in China.

So I bought them all, what I could find.

These days, increasingly, it looks like there’s only one country manufacturing everything.

I was in New Zealand recently and every screwdriver and pliers I found in the stores were made in that one country.

But not just screwdrivers and pliers, my favorite brand Swanndri, my old high school jersey, the raincoat I bought for the rain shower at Milford Sound—all were made in that one country.

I did manage to find a school scarf still made in New Zealand, and cookies, and yes the same full cream milk that I used to drink years ago.

But it seems like a nightmare come true.

Everywhere you go, it’s the same generic stuff staring at you.

You can’t escape them, the cheap knockoffs—the dollar store-supersave-flea market stuff, and they’re all made in one country!

I haven’t been to South America or Africa, or Europe recently but I bet the situation there is not that much different. (I’m hoping the latter will be the exception.)

What do I have against stuff made in that country?

Nothing, I’m particularly fond of my iphone which is a product of that country too.

But it is a worrying trend.

When one country manufactures everything, you end up with very little choice.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it’s quality stuff, but far from it, most of what you get are junky stuff that will work a few times and then you have to toss them.

I know because I just threw away an old adjustable wrench made in that country.

For all intents and purposes, it looks just like any good wrench, but to adjust the screw mechanism, you’ll have to use a pair of pliers because the darn thing has been stuck for years.

So why did I throw it away?

I had gotten for myself a couple of Craftsman wrenches made in the US from the OSH sale.

The difference?

The screw mechanism on these wrenches is so light it practically glides under your fingers.

The purpose/2

June.1. 2018

To live a fulfilling life, to live your life to its full potential, you have to know two things.

First, in the real world, you count for absolutely zero. This may dent your ego a bit but the truth is, no one really cares about you.

You may want to believe they do but they don’t.

The only person people care about is themselves (and people here include you, even if you don’t know it.)

You may say this is an overly dark assessment of human nature but take these scenarios to see how truly altruistic you are.

Suppose you have a neighbor who’s constantly throwing trash into your yard.

Would you continue to let them do it? If you truly care for them yes, you would. After all, they have to get rid of their trash somehow.

Or perhaps there’s this guy in school or at work who’s constantly picking on you.

Would you just put up with it? After all he’s got to let off steam somehow and if that means picking on you, your super altruistic nature would say yes to this one too.

Or perhaps you know someone who’s so full of themselves, all they do is talk about how great they are all day long.

How long will you continue to stand there and listen to them? If you’re truly altruistic, you wouldn’t mind doing it. After all, you got nothing better to do with your time.

Yes, these are simple examples, but they show one thing.

At the end of the day, we’re only concerned about ourselves and our self interests.

This has one big implication.

If you want a good fulfilling life, you must always consider the impact of your actions on the other guy.

Not because of your good nature but because you care about how they respond to you—because how they respond will affect your ability to live a fulfilling life.

And this leads to the second thing you need to know.

There’re only two kinds of impact—the positive kind and the negative kind.

The positive kind produces good outcomes for others and the negative kind, bad outcomes for them.

Again, this is simple to demonstrate with our earlier scenarios.

Understand that if you throw trash into your neighbor’s yard, they will not be happy and they will respond in equally negative ways.

If you pick on someone at school or at work, they will not be happy and you might even lose your job, which is not a fulfilling thought.

Or if you’re so full of yourself and all you do is talk about how great you are, people will start avoiding you and soon you will have no friends.

Here’s another example (a real life one actually).

I once had a grumpy colleague. He was not the most pleasant person to have around.

You would say good morning to him and he would simply shrug and walk by without even acknowledging you.

(Amazing, but these self centered individuals do exist.)

It so happened that the chair of the department wanted to resign, and this guy, whose contract was also ending, wanted the job, badly.

Well, you can guess the blow back.

No one wants a grumpy guy, especially not in a supervisory position.

He might be a legend in his own mind, and he might think that he didn’t have to be nice to anyone. Well, life has a funny way of returning your negative energy back to you.

So not a very fulfilling outcome for him.

These are the two simple truths you need to know to live a fulfilling life.

First, people do not care about you; they only care about themselves, which means you have to care about the impact of your actions on others.

Second, there’re only kinds of impact, positive and negative.

Knowing these two truths will enable you to master your destiny.

You get to control what happens to you tomorrow by carefully controlling what you do today.

Being in control means you have no one to blame for what happens to you but yourself.

This is the ultimate in self empowerment.

The purpose

May.31. 2018

At the basic level, the purpose of life is simply to live it. There is no other purpose to life, no higher calling.

It’s the same philosophy that applies to everything we own.

If you have a guitar, play it. If you have a car, drive it. No need to hoard it or save it. Save it for what? At the end of the day, you’ll leave without it.

So if you have a life, use it, or more precisely, live it.

Living it means experiencing it fully. With all its ups and downs, good and bad.

In fact, the very reason there is an up is because there is a down. If you were to strive to be up all the time, you’ll end up being down.

Simple common sense, so no need to wish it’s otherwise.

That’s the basic premise of life—if you have it, live it.

But at what level do we live it?

That’s the next point.

We can live it at the basic existential level, which is simply to scrape by.

That may be fine for some.

Or we can live a life of dependency, to be forever dependent on the scraps that others throw at us. That seems to be fine for some too.

Or we can live it with all its promise and potential.

Something we might call a ‘fulfilling life.’

Fulfillment is of course in the eye of the beholder. So how do we see it?

The simple rule is anything goes as long as it doesn’t impact others in a negative way.


Because negativity always produces negative results which means that whatever you find fulfilling will be negated at some point.

Which means you will end up not so fulfilled

Next, implementation.

A philosophical discourse

December.26. 2016

I had a discussion with someone a while back about reality.

The person said, “Reality doesn’t exist. It’s different for everyone. How do you know what my reality is?”

He’s got a point.

Everyone’s reality is different.

But at the end of the day, if you go into a bank and hand the teller a $10 note and tell the teller that it’s a $100 note because that’s your reality, he might have a hard time believing you.

The simple truth is, reality does exist.

There is an absolute reality out there.

It’s just that we interpret it differently, according to our personal experiences and biases. But just because we have different takes on it doesn’t make it less real.

A $10 note is a $10 note is a $10 note.

Nothing anyone can say will ever change that fact.

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

July.13. 2016

The Chilcot report came out last week, and it was interesting to see Tony Blair’s response.

In a statement, he takes full responsibility and ‘apologizes sincerely’ for taking the nation to war.

It reminds me of an incident a few years back in another country.

It was a case involving a few men who attacked another man. They bludgeoned him with every weapon they could find and beat his body into a pulp.

There was a huge outcry and the men were caught.

In front of the judge, the men were very contrite. One of them said to the judge, “Sorry Sir, we won’t do it again.”

Yes, sure.

That’s what Mr. Blair forgot to add, he won’t do it again.

Got come got go

July.7. 2016

Every human relationship is a transaction. An old Chinese saying sums it up perfectly, “Got come, got go.”

This means if something comes in, something has to go out too.

If you give me something, I must return in kind.

This may sound like a calculative and cynical approach to life. Is this the only reason for relationships, so that we can take advantage of one another?

But let me give a few hypothetical situations.

Suppose you have a good friend (or so you think), and every birthday (his) you send him a gift but when it comes time for your birthday, he conveniently forgets it.

How long do you think will you keep on sending him those gifts?

Or you have another friend, (again so you think) and one day, you need his help with a certain problem but at that critical moment (for you) he is nowhere to be found.

Will you still call him a friend after that?

In my business, people are extremely touchy about supporting each other.

The operative phrase is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

So if they give a concert, be sure to show your face because if you don’t, don’t expect them to show up at yours either.

(In the event that you still expect them to come to your concert even if you don’t show up at theirs, you’re either an egomaniac or a fool. What makes you so special that people should come and support you if you don’t support them?)

Blogging thrives on this ‘got come got go’ mentality.

If someone comes to your blog and post comments, be sure to return the favor, otherwise don’t expect them to be back.

I had a few people who used to come to this blog and post comments. At first I made valiant efforts to visit their blogs and return the favors too. But there is only so much of their cute kids that I could take and need to know so I stopped going after a short while and sure enough they stopped coming to my blogs too.

Which is perfectly fine with me.

This leads to a corollary to the law.

To be sustainable, the ‘come’ has to match the ‘go.’

If the ‘go’ comes at great cost to you, the ‘come’ may not be worth the effort.

In other words, if the required investment in time and effort is too great, then sometimes, it’s better to dispense with the return altogether.

So why is this good to know?

It puts you in the driver’s seat. You get to decide how much ‘come’ you want in your life.

First, despite what you may think, you’re not that special. Ultimately, the only person people care about is themselves, otherwise known as ‘Number 1.”

If you want people to care about you, start caring for them first.

And weigh the effort versus the return.

If it costs too much to perform the ‘go’, then forget about it. But don’t feel bad if you don’t receive the ‘come’ one day.