My favourite book series as a teenager is the collection of teen novels by Melanie Stewart for Generation Girl, which was one of the brands for Barbie. It’s set at an international school in New York featuring Barbie and her classmates and friends.
Recently I finished reading this book about LTCM and I was very fascinated by how power and greed distracted these geniuses at LTCM and the folks from the banks from appropriate risk management. I guess there is FOMO. No one wants to miss out on making big bucks that everybody else is making.
Although the loss at Archegos is nowhere near as much as LTCM, the coordination and cooperation among the banks there were pitiful. To be fair, the bank cooperation for bailing out LTCM almost fell apart a few times, too. With the pandemic raging this past year, the international cooperation among countries was also terrible. Are we all just becoming more nationalistic, protectionist, self-centered and selfish? Is that the global trend?
The quality of your life is the quality of your habitual emotions.
Pain is a part of life but suffering is a choice. I'm going to choose to live in a beautiful state everyday no matter what.
The author of "Educated: A Memoir" Tara Westover said "You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them. You can miss a person every day and still be glad that they're no longer in your life."
Love is just love. We love people. We give them that for free and then you decide whether that's something you want in your life. The alternative is to say that I'm going to change them and then I'll have them in your life. That's not love. That's not what love is. It's not the power that it has. We accept the fact that we need them to change in order to have them in my life and whether or not they change is something we have no control over.
My favourite lines from my favourite film.
And so he told me his secret formula for happiness. Part one of the two part plan was that I should just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else.
But then came part two of Dad's plan. He told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing. Okay Dad, let's give it a go.
And in the end, I think I've learned the final lesson from my travels in time, and I've even gone one step further than my father did. The truth is I now don't travel back at all, not even for a day. I just try to live every day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.
Some say people can't change.
Past behaviour is somewhat indicative of future behaviour, but not really.
Seligman says the best way to find out what I will do next Sat is not to look at how I spent my last Sat.
The best way is to ask me directly what I plan to do next Sat.
That's why you can't judge people by what they are doing today.
It is the movie playing in their heads that determines what they will do.
What movie is playing in your head? Is it a story of success, love and respect?
Recently I've been watching episode after episode of "Botched". It's the most fascinating thing. It caters to my curiosity about medicine and the personalities on the show are so interesting. It seems there are many people who really want attention and don't know how to get attention other than to be different physically. There are some people who want really big breasts and enjoy the attention that big breasts bring. I suppose each to its own. We all want to feel accepted and be worthy of someone's attention and affection. Some of these individuals do not want to be just another ordinary person which I totally understand. It comes from the belief that you have to be outstanding, extraordinary to be deserving of love. If you can't be unique in this one way, then be unique in that other way but the bottom line is to be unique and not just the girl/boy next door. It's a human condition to feel less than unless you have this and that.
It's kinda funny though because there are also characters who are born with imperfections and all they want is to look normal so whatever flaw they have is de-emphasised. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. Maybe we're just never satisfied. We want to be normal in this way and extraordinary in another way, maybe it's all just code for we want to be loved more and we think whatever change we need will get us that extra love.
Recently I watched the documentary "Anelka". I have never heard of Nicholas Anelka previously but mainly because I'm not a football fan (although I have heard of Thierry Henry). What's very interesting about the documentary was learning about Anelka's personality. First, he's an introvert. There is usually this presumption that introverts are calm and at peace because they keep a distance. However, he's emotionally all over the place. When he's triggered, he blows up. At the same time, he's the loveliest father who tells his kids he loves them every day. It's a very interesting personality.
Although I don't know much about football, it didn't seem right to me that he kept moving clubs. Every one or two years, he's sent to another club. I really wonder if it was due to people around him who didn't have his best interest at heart. He's so freaking talented and it's a shame that he wasn't able to play to his maximum potential. I guess that happens. Not everyone maximises their potential. You need a good group of people as your support system to be the best version of yourself. I am however impressed that he's very independent and don't care too much about what other people think. He's now living in Dubai with his family and seems very happy to be with his kids.
There is only one mistake you are making:
you take the inner for the outer and outer for the inner.
What is in you, you take to be outside you
and what is outside, you take to be in you.
The mind and feelings are external,
but you take them to be intimate.
You believe the world to be objective,
while it is entirely a projection of your psyche.
That is the basic confusion . . .
By: Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I've been watching the TV series "New Girl" and I'm learning so much about relationships or life decisions in general. It seems people break up when they realise their partner is not who they want to spend their life with. It doesn't matter if they like them as a person, doesn't matter if they're good looking, nice, warm, friendly, smart or whatever, because this brilliant, lovely person is just not the one. You want to break up so that you can be single and find someone who's more right for you. Interesting perspective. It would require forming an opinion or having a general idea of what you want in life and then knowing that this person does not fit into that ideal. What if you don't know what you want in life?
When I was young, I often answered questions with "I don't know."
My mom and my sister got annoyed at me. They said I was just too lazy to think of a real answer so I just respond with "I don't know."
After that, I became more mindful of how I answer questions and somehow learned that smart people often have an opinion about things. Or French people, who are cool, often have opinions about all sorts of things. So I established a new rule in my head: have opinions even if you don't. And try to be unique and controversial, that will make me more interesting.
I remember once my housemate in London bought some new clothes and I felt compelled to say which ones I like and which ones I didn't like but I honestly had no opinions on the clothes. I just felt like I needed to give an opinion in order to look smart.
Now I have this really bad habit of making people wrong. It's a manifestation of my fear of looking stupid. But then I make people feel bad because I make other people look stupid. It's almost as if I'm hunting for loopholes and flaws in what people say. Whether that's correcting grammar or logical fallacies or whatnot. The purpose is for me to feel accepted by others so they don't think I'm stupid. Seriously, I have major inferiority complex in relation to intelligence - pretty obvious from my high achiever streak. In my attempt to look not stupid, I've successfully managed to sound super arrogant.
The coping strategies we come up with... the original intent is now so far away from the actual current result. Well now it's become a habit, as in I don't even have to actively consciously try to contradict someone, my brain will automatically do that for me. It's a useful skill for my day job but pretty awful for my friendships and relationships. So let's bring the unconscious actions into consciousness and be a little more mindful of when I'm making people wrong. No one wants to be told they are wrong. The customer is always right! Remember, the customer is always right, and you can always add your opinion after agreeing with them. That is if you have a real opinion, sometimes I don't think I have an opinion, it's just a habit, and I say stuff that I may not believe in that much or at all.
It only takes a reminder to breathe, a moment to be still, and just like that, something in me settles, softens, makes space for imperfection. The harsh voice of judgment drops to a whisper and I remember again that life isn’t a relay race; that we will all cross the finish line; that waking up to life is what we were born for. As many times as I forget, catch myself charging forward without even knowing where I’m going, that many times I can make the choice to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk slowly into the mystery.
I almost feel like I haven't grown up and I'm still figuring out who I want to be. I picked up this book at Swindon in Pacific Place. I wasn't planning on buying more books since I've bought so many recently but thankfully I'm reading quickly but I'm buying more book than I am finishing books...
I was captivated by the title of this book and thought it might be useful for my brother. I read the whole thing in one sitting, within 2 hours. It's a great book. Very easy to read. It's written by The School of Life. There's this passage in the book that was kinda interesting.
"Imagine you are getting dressed -- but you are only allowed to use one hand. It's an intriguing challenge at first and it is possible. But after awhile it's frustrating. It seems so silly not to use your other hand. This little thought experiment is telling us something important. We get frustrated when we can't make use of our abilities."
It also lists out 12 types of pleasures which may indicate what sort of jobs you would be interested in.
1. The Pleasure of Making Money
2. The Pleasure of Beauty
3. The Pleasure of Creativity
4. The Pleasure of Understanding
5. The Pleasure of Self Expression
6. The Pleasure of Technology
7. The Pleasure of Helping Others
8. The Pleasure of Leading
9. The Pleasure of Teaching
10. The Pleasure of Order
11. The Pleasure of Nature
12. The Pleasure of Independence
There are a few of these that resonate with me but maybe the pleasure of creativity attracts me the most. I like doing things in a new way. I like making things better. In fact, when I took that "why" test to figure out my purpose, the result was that I want to make things better. I guess that's why I love taking classes and reading self improvement books so much.
What's your favourite sense?
Smell. I like smelling fresh flowers, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables.
What's your experience of moving at your essence pace?
I feel most at ease with slow walking.
What most nourishes you?
Eating healthy food and doing yoga and meditation.
What color/textures support you?
I like soft pink. Silk comfy materials most support me.
What movements delight you?
Slow sensual movements.
After a period of expansion, how do you like to integrate/rest?
I like to sleep on my big comfy bed that feels like sleeping on a cloud.
What's the ideal flow of a day?
Quiet reading preferably close to nature.
Where do you most like to be?
Close to nature. I would like my own garden or farm.
What qualities of people/places do you like being around?
Calm introspective people. I like quiet sunny places with birds chirping in the background.
What would you like to add to or clear from your environment (including people)?
I like to clear pollution from my environment. I like to add warmth. Wouldn't mind a fire place in the winter.
What are your favourite action verbs?
Wondering and wandering.
How do you most like to play?
Making myself and other people laugh.
I just finished reading this really great book by Jan Bergstrom who studied the developmental immaturity framework (formerly known as codependency) from Pia Mellody of The Meadows. It's a much easier and concise read than Pia Mellody's books so I really appreciate Bergstrom's examples and perspectives. There are five core areas to address developmental immaturity.
1. Loving the Self - Self Esteem
2. Protecting the Self - Boundaries
3. Knowing the Self - Being Real or Authentic
4. Taking Care of the Self - Needs and Wants in relationship with Others
5. Balancing the Self - Moderation
A few days ago I took the School of Life's How to Develop Self Knowledge. They suggested that we from time to time do a philosophical meditation to understand ourselves. In this philosophical meditation, we ask ourselves if there is anything that is making us feel anxious, upset and excited.
A couple days ago I took the School of Life's "How to Enjoy Life" virtual class where the instructor introduced the concept of "radical acceptance". It is the name of Tara Brach's book and the idea is that suffering is optional, pain is not.
Pain + non-acceptance = suffering
Radical acceptance means we don't fight with reality or things that cannot be changes, like the past. This idea reminds me of Byron Katie's "Loving What Is". I believe I read that book back in 2014 but I've virtually forgotten what I learned.
Byron Katie came up with 'The Work' which is an exercise of asking yourself four questions.
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?
I wished that I actually practiced that. Sometimes I convince myself of the worst possible situation and I behave and act as if the worst has happened when it has not and may never. In other words, I suffer for a non-reality, which is stupid and a waste of time.
I learned about the G.I. Fallacy from taking the coursera course "The Science of Wellbeing" from Yale. G.I. Fallacy refers to how wrong it is to think that knowing is half the battle. The moral of the story is that knowledge is not even half the battle. Whoever says knowledge is power wan't quite complete in that assertion.
Therefore, despite reading so many books over the years, I have only improved on my knowledge but not practice. The only way to really better myself is to practice the things I read. Consequently, I have reprioritised my strategy. It's not good enough to just read so I am shifting more of my time and energy into practising what I preach. I'm taking a lot of classes, especially live classes, to practice self compassion, mindfulness and nonviolent communication.
If we could just say, "Here are the needs of both sides. Here are the resources. What can be done to meet these needs?," conflicts would be easily resolved. But instead, our thinking is focused on dehumanizing one another with labels and judgments until even the simplest of conflicts becomes very difficult to solve. NVC helps us avoid that trap, thereby enhancing the chances of reaching a satisfying resolution.
I participated in the Happiness Program in November 2019. I heard about it while I was in California looking for wellness classes to take. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to take the Happiness Program there and fortunately this program is also offered in Hong Kong so I enrolled. The original program I enrolled in was cancelled in the last minute and so I was moved to another weekend. I didn't have the best experience the first time around, mainly because I was very preoccupied and could not relax. I also found the teacher to be too young to be credible so I did not follow the practices after the program.
Recently I've been enrolling in online formats of programs that I attended previously to refresh my understanding. It just so happens that the Happiness Program also went online and I decided to try again. My second time joining the Happiness Program was a much better experience. The teacher was more experienced and our group was smaller so I was a lot more engaged. This time around I am doing the breathing exercises everyday. I'm really happy that I gave Happiness Program another shot. I'm seeing really good results from the breathing exercises.
This experience reminds me of what I learned in day 1 of law school. We were given a book about how to study law. One of the advice given was that if you read anything in the textbooks that you don't understand, don't move on, reread the paragraph again until you understand what it says. Sometimes when I'm reading, my mind is elsewhere, so even if I finished "reading" a paragraph, I might not have paid attention -- during those times, I've now learned that you must go back to the beginning and reread the paragraph, reread as many times as necessary so you understand what it says. Similarly, even if I attended a program, I may not have paid attention the entire time to fully learn all the concepts taught, so it is beneficial for me to retake the program, especially in a virtual format and at a cheaper price.
The silver lining to the coronavirus situation is now I have virtual access to so many programs conducted in the US and UK. It's a great opportunity for me to soak up knowledge like a sponge.
2. Love of Learning
7. Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
Using your signature strengths at work can turn your job into a calling. The more the merrier but studies show that especially using 4 out of the top 7 of your signature character strengths give you the best happiness outcome. What is the best profession for me?
I was watching a lot of youtube videos about North Korea and came across the TED talk about Hyeonseo Lee who wrote the book "The Girl with Seven Names". It's a very easy read because it is written more like a fictional novel and each chapter ended with a cliffhanger. I finished reading in 24 hours because I was so captivated by her story.
There were a few bits of the book that really struck me. First, she was insanely lucky. She was never forced to work as a sex worker. She didn't have to sneak into China or Mongolia or South East Asia because she had family in China and she managed to buy herself a PRC ID card which allowed her to fly to Seoul to claim asylum. Her first serious boyfriend in China was a young and rich South Korean who lived in Gangnam. In fact, she has been very lucky in love. She always seem to run into really good guys who liked and respected her. Her second boyfriend is her current American husband who is patient and understanding. And of course there was that famous encounter with the Australian Dick Stolp who gave her hundreds of dollars in Laos in order to bribe the officials to release her brother and her mother.
I was also really into her stories about her childhood. The brainwashing in North Korea is real. First, it confirmed to me that children are vulnerable. If you tell kids that santa claus exists, then santa claus exists. Of course for North Korea, the fairy tale is that the Kims are such supernational beings who can change the weather with their minds. I was also kinda inspired by it. My thinking goes, if kids or adults can be tricked into believing in ridiculous lies then I can also re-program or trick my mind into more positive messages. Brain plasticity, you know? Never too late to reprogram better vocabs and better habits.
I met the author Damien Echols at the Sounds True Gathering in Sept 2019. I was so impressed by him and his story and bought this book and got his autograph too. When I returned to HK, I watched all the documentaries about him.
Meditation empowers you to notice where your attention is going to and steer it accordingly. Most people aren't aware of just how much they're missing from life. They're distracted by so much stimulation, trapped in loops of internal dialogue, reliving past events, and feeling anxious about what's going to happen tomorrow. And it's so easy to carry on like this until the grave, never actually experiencing the richness of life, of the present moment. Meditation changes all of this. It enables you to pay attention to the present moment and train your mind to do what you want it to do. Meditation enhances your natural ability to be alert and aware.
This book by Ryan Holiday was recommended to me by Amazon. It's a very motivating piece of work. I read the preface and was captivated. He asked, "Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them? ... Will you stand up and show us what you're made of?"
Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them. Great individuals like great companies find a way to transform weakness into strength. It's a rather amazing and even touching feat. They took what should have held them back--what in fact might be holding you back right this very second--and used it to move forward.
Not "be positive" but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunities. Not: This is not so bad. But: I can make this good.
We decide what we will make of each and every situation. We decide whether we'll break or whether we'll resist. We decide whether we'll assent or reject. No one can force us to give up or to believe something that is untrue (such as, that a situation is absolutely hopeless or impossible to improve). Our perceptions are the thing that we're in complete control of. They can throw us in jail, label us, deprive us of our possessions, but they'll never control our thoughts, our beliefs, our reactions. Which is to say, we are never completely powerless.
If we have our wits fully about us, we can step back and remember that situations, by themselves, cannot be good or bad. This is a judgment that we as human beings bring to them with our perceptions. There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. A mistake becomes training.
Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn't mean you have to agree. Just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn't mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves. Or whether we will tell one at all.
The observing eye sees events, clear of distractions, exaggerations, and misperceptions. The perceiving eye sees "insurmountable obstacles" or "major setbacks" or even just "issues". It brings its own issues to the fight. The former is helpful, the latter is not.
Not exactly my favourite quote but Mark Manson's words empower me to make decisions that are not necessarily popular or attractive for other people but vibes with me. In the end, I am responsible for curating the most ideal life experiences for me.
"It is the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It's why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they're inhabiting don't align with their ideal selves."