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Friday, September 24, 2010

Happiness

Sometimes it's easy to forget what happiness is. It's hard to define, it's hard to measure. Hope that these three quotes give you as much inspiration as it did for me to smile and enjoy each moment to the fullest. Be Happy Everyday!


 While you are at it, read this post, watch the inspirational video and feel the positive energy rising up within you. Now, I'm just happy. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ambition

What is ambition? I have a hunch that if I were to survey 100 people, at least 90 of them will believe that they are more ambitious than average. So, when one person says that he is ambitious, what does that really mean?

I took a look on Dictionary.com and it's clearly defined as:

am·bi·tious/amˈbiSHəs/Adjective

1. Having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.
2. (of a plan or piece of work) Intended to satisfy high aspirations and therefore difficult to achieve.

Given the first definition, then I suppose the possibility that any average Joe is considered ambitious is quite high since anyone can have the strong desire to succeed. The determination to succeed is harder and probably cannot be measured easily. One can say that one is determined to succeed but does nothing to further the goal while another might not have the confidence to publicly declare his determination, yet quietly move forward.

Another hard definition--- high aspirations. What exactly consists of high aspiration? How high is high? I guess people's frame of reference is different and it really depends on where that person is coming from and the people he is comparing himself with. Imagine a high school dropout, he might thinks that becoming a store manager is ambitious since for him that is a difficult task; compare that to an Ivy League law school grad who aspires to be the District Attorney. Both people, within their world, are considered ambitious, but is it alright to compare their "ambition" side by side and say that one person is more ambitious than the other?


I think there is no argument that an ambitious person reaches for the best and strives to be the one on top. For instance, an employee who gets promoted to the President of the company through many years of hard work is definitely more ambitious than those who were satisfied with a simple job. What I can't get my head around is-- how would you compare that with someone else--an entrepreneur whose start-up has revolutionized the world? Or someone who is paving his path to become the next President of America?

Ambitious Reality vs. Ambitious Dream

I think ambition is a tricky word because it has the possibility of taking someone beyond his dreams, turning something impossible to possible, but it can also keep someone floating in Clouds 9 without any foundation or progress. Here, someone living in an ambitious reality is one who is realistic about his expectations and has a clear head of what are his strengths and weaknesses. While someone living an ambitious dream is one who wants so much things but when it comes down to it, impossible to attain.

Perhaps, one reason could be that he's lazy or unwilling to put the work in, but I think a more crucial reason is that he lacks the crucial foundation or resources to make him competitive in the field that he's striving for. For example, in theory, anyone can run for public office, right? But in reality, few does...because it's expensive, because you need connection, because you lack the education or the skills to be an effective leader... The point of ambitious dreamers is that they lack the solid foundation to back up their dreams. However, if these people can build themselves up, then it's simple, those dreams can becomes reality.

I don't really have a good answer to the questions I've raised, especially I'm more and more convinced that it's impossible to do a direct comparison with people from different backgrounds. After all, it provides more information to compare achievements of those in the same boat, because that should be a fair comparison. Maybe this is why in college admissions-- admission criteria is different depending on geographic location-- for example, average SAT scores in the tri-state area are about 50-100 points higher than those from South Dakota or Georgia... (this is probably not always true; there are exceptions to every case) and that international students are always about agazillion times smarter than domestic students, yet they are never compared to each other in the admission process.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Do What You Love (DWYL)

 To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We've got it down to four words: "Do what you love." But it's not enough just to tell people that. Doing what you love is complicated....so complicated.

The very idea is foreign to what most of us learn as kids. When I was young, it seemed as if work and fun were opposites by definition. Life had two states: some of the time adults were making you do things, and that was called work; the rest of the time you could do what you wanted, and that was called playing. Occasionally the things adults made you do were fun, just as, occasionally, playing wasn't—for example, if you fell and hurt yourself. But except for these few anomalous cases, work was pretty much defined as not-fun.

And it did not seem to be an accident. School, it was implied, was tedious because it was preparation for grownup work. The world then was divided into two groups, grownups and kids. Grownups, like some kind of cursed race, had to work. Kids didn't, but they did have to go to school, which was a dilute version of work meant to prepare us for the real thing. Much as we disliked school, the grownups all agreed that grownup work was worse, and that we had it easy.

Teachers in particular all seemed to believe implicitly that work was not fun. Which is not surprising: work wasn't fun for most of them. Why did we have to memorize state capitals instead of playing tag? For the same reason they had to watch over a bunch of kids instead of lying on a beach. You couldn't just do what you wanted.

By high school, the prospect of an actual job was on the horizon. Adults would sometimes come to speak to us about their work, or we would go to see them at work. It was always understood that they enjoyed what they did. The main reason they all acted as if they enjoyed their work was presumably the upper-middle class convention that you're supposed to. It would not merely be bad for your career to say that you despised your job, but a social faux-pas.

Why is it conventional to pretend to like what you do? The first sentence of this essay explains that. If you have to like something to do it well, then the most successful people will all like what they do. That's where the upper-middle class tradition comes from.  

What a recipe for alienation. By the time they reach an age to think about what they'd like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one's work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do.

Actually I feel that as kids, we have been told three lies: the stuff they've been taught to regard as work in school is not real work; grownup work is not (necessarily) worse than schoolwork; and many of the adults around them are lying when they say they like what they do.

The most dangerous liars can be the kids' own parents. If you take a boring job to give your family a high standard of living, as so many people do, you risk infecting your kids with the idea that work is boring.
Maybe it would be better for kids in this one case if parents were not so unselfish. A parent who set an example of loving their work might help their kids more than an expensive house.

How much are you supposed to like what you do? Unless you know that, you don't know when to stop searching. And if, like most people, you underestimate it, you'll tend to stop searching too early. You'll end up doing something chosen for you by your parents, or the desire to make money, or prestige—or sheer inertia.

Here's an upper bound: Do what you love doesn't mean, do what you would like to do most this second. Even Einstein probably had moments when he wanted to have a cup of coffee, but told himself he ought to finish what he was working on first.

It used to perplex me when I read about people who liked what they did so much that there was nothing they'd rather do. There didn't seem to be any sort of work I liked that much. If I had a choice of (a) spending the next hour working on something or (b) be teleported to Rome and spend the next hour wandering about, was there any sort of work I'd prefer? Honestly, no.

But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Carribbean, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn't mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.
 

Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After a while you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something.

As a lower bound, you have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. You have to like what you do enough that the concept of "spare time" seems mistaken. Which is not to say you have to spend all your time working. You can only work so much before you get tired and start to screw up. Then you want to do something else—even something mindless. But you don't regard this time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you endure to earn it.

I put the lower bound there for practical reasons. If your work is not your favorite thing to do, you'll have terrible problems with procrastination. You'll have to force yourself to work, and when you resort to that the results are distinctly inferior.

To be happy I think you have to be doing something you not only enjoy, but admire. You have to be able to say, at the end, wow, that's pretty cool. This doesn't mean you have to make something. If you learn how to hang glide, or to speak a foreign language fluently, that will be enough to make you say, for a while at least, wow, that's pretty cool. What there has to be is a test.

So one thing that falls just short of the standard, I think, is reading books. Except for some books in math and the hard sciences, there's no test of how well you've read a book, and that's why merely reading books doesn't quite feel like work. You have to do something with what you've read to feel productive.

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn't worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don't even know? 

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you'd like to like.

That's what leads people to try to write novels, for example. They like reading novels. They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you'll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That's the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn't suck, they wouldn't have had to make it prestigious.

Similarly, if you admire two kinds of work equally, but one is more prestigious, you should probably choose the other. Your opinions about what's admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if the two seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.

The other big force leading people astray is money. Money by itself is not that dangerous. When something pays well but is regarded with contempt, like telemarketing, or prostitution, or personal injury litigation, ambitious people aren't tempted by it. That kind of work ends up being done by people who are "just trying to make a living."

The test of whether people love what they do is whether they'd do it even if they weren't paid for it—even if they had to work at another job to make a living. How many corporate lawyers would do their current work if they had to do it for free, in their spare time, and take day jobs as waiters to support themselves?

With such powerful forces leading us astray, it's not surprising we find it so hard to discover what we like to work on. Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money. How many even discover something they love to work on? A few hundred thousand, perhaps, out of billions.

Is there some test you can use to keep yourself honest? One is to try to do a good job at whatever you're doing, even if you don't like it. Then at least you'll know you're not using dissatisfaction as an excuse for being lazy. Perhaps more importantly, you'll get into the habit of doing things well.

Another test you can use is: always produce. For example, if you have a day job you don't take seriously because you plan to be a novelist, are you producing? Are you writing pages of fiction, however bad? As long as you're producing, you'll know you're not merely using the hazy vision of the grand novel you plan to write one day as an opiate. The view of it will be obstructed by the all too palpably flawed one you're actually writing.

"Always produce" is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you're supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. "Always produce" will discover your life's work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.

Of course, figuring out what you like to work on doesn't mean you get to work on it. That's a separate question. And if you're ambitious you have to keep them separate: you have to make a conscious effort to keep your ideas about what you want from being contaminated by what seems possible.

It's painful to keep them apart, because it's painful to observe the gap between them. So most people pre-emptively lower their expectations. For example, if you asked random people on the street if they'd like to be able to draw like Leonardo, you'd find most would say something like "Oh, I can't draw." This is more a statement of intention than fact; it means, I'm not going to try. Because the fact is, if you took a random person off the street and somehow got them to work as hard as they possibly could at drawing for the next twenty years, they'd get surprisingly far. But it would require a great moral effort; it would mean staring failure in the eye every day for years. And so to protect themselves people say "I can't."

Another related line you often hear is that not everyone can do work they love—that someone has to do the unpleasant jobs. Really? How do you make them? In the US the only mechanism for forcing people to do unpleasant jobs is the draft, and that hasn't been invoked for over 30 years. All we can do is encourage people to do unpleasant work, with money and prestige.

If there's something people still won't do, it seems as if society just has to make do without. That's what happened with domestic servants. For millennia that was the canonical example of a job "someone had to do." And yet in the mid twentieth century servants practically disappeared in rich countries, and the rich have just had to do without.

So while there may be some things someone has to do, there's a good chance anyone saying that about any particular job is mistaken. Most unpleasant jobs would either get automated or go undone if no one were willing to do them.

There's another sense of "not everyone can do work they love" that's all too true, however. One has to make a living, and it's hard to get paid for doing work you love. There are two routes to that destination:
The organic route: as you become more eminent, gradually to increase the parts of your job that you like at the expense of those you don't.

The two-job route: to work at things you don't like to get money to work on things you do.
The organic route is more common. It happens naturally to anyone who does good work. The two-job route is less common than the organic route, because it requires a deliberate choice. It's also more dangerous. Life tends to get more expensive as you get older, so it's easy to get sucked into working longer than you expected at the money job. Worse still, anything you work on changes you. If you work too long on tedious stuff, it will rot your brain. And the best paying jobs are most dangerous, because they require your full attention.

The advantage of the two-job route is that it lets you jump over obstacles. The landscape of possible jobs isn't flat; there are walls of varying heights between different kinds of work. The trick of maximizing the parts of your job that you like can get you from architecture to product design, but not, probably, to music. If you make money doing one thing and then work on another, you have more freedom of choice.

Which route should you take? That depends on how sure you are of what you want to do, how good you are at taking orders, how much risk you can stand, and the odds that anyone will pay (in your lifetime) for what you want to do. If you're sure of the general area you want to work in and it's something people are likely to pay you for, then you should probably take the organic route. But if you don't know what you want to work on, or don't like to take orders, you may want to take the two-job route, if you can stand the risk. 
    

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1+1= infinity

What makes creative relationships work? How do two people—who may be perfectly capable and talented on their own—explode into innovation, discovery, and brilliance when working together? These may seem to be obvious questions. Collaboration yields so much of what is novel, useful, and beautiful that it's natural to try to understand it. Yet looking at achievement through relationships is a new, and even radical, idea. For hundreds of years, science and culture have focused on the self. We talk of self-expression, self-realization. Popular culture celebrates the hero. Schools test intelligence and learning through solo exams.

This pervasive belief in individualism can be traced to the idea most forcefully articulated by René Descartes. "Each self inhabits its own subjective realm," he declared, "and its mental life has an integrity prior to and independent of its interaction with other people." Though Descartes had his challengers, his idea became a core assumption of the Enlightenment, as did Thomas Hobbes' assertion that the natural state of man was "solitary" (as well as "poor, nasty, brutish, and short.")

Creative Pairs: Lennon and McCartney

Paul McCartney and John Lennon
Beyond illness, the fundamentals of healthy life took root from the idea of the atomized person. Jean Piaget, who created modern development theory—the system of thought about how children's minds work and grow—emphasized relationships to objects, not people. Even the most basic relational tool—the way we speak—was shaped by individualism, following Noam Chomsky's notion of language as an expression of inborn, internal capacities.

This focus on the self meshed tightly with Western ideology—the Ayn Randian notion of the rugged man forging his destiny on the forbidding plains. (A 1991 Library of Congress survey found Rand's Atlas Shrugged second only to the Bible as the book that made the most difference in American readers' lives.) The triumphant Western position in the Cold War established individual liberty and individual choice as the root unit of society—in opposition to the Marxist emphasis on collective achievement.

The ultimate triumph of the idea of individualism is that it's not really seen as an idea at all. It has seeped into our mental groundwater. Basic descriptions of inter-relatedness—enabling, co-dependency—are headlines for dysfunction. The Oxford American Dictionary defines individualism as, first, "the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant" and, second, as "a social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control." This lopsided contrast of "freedom" vs. "state control" is telling. Even our primary reference on meaning, the dictionary, tilts in favor of the self.

But a new body of research has begun to show how growth and achievement emerge from relationships. The new science begins with infancy. For centuries, babies were seen as blank slates who just filled their stomachs, emptied their bowels and bladders, and cried and slept in between. As for any significant aspects of their environment, small children were seen as passive receivers. (And largely insensitive ones: For most of the 20th century, doctors routinely operated on babies without anesthesia, believing them exempt from pain.)

But a burgeoning field has shown that, from the very first days of life, relationships shape our experience, our character, even our biology. This research, which has flowered in the last ten years, took root in the 1970s. One reason, explains the psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik, was the advent of the simple video camera. It allowed researchers to easily capture and analyze the exchanges between babies and their caregivers. In video of 4-month-olds with their mothers, for example, the two mimic each other's facial expressions and amplify them. So, a baby's grin elicits a mother's smile, which leads the baby to a full-on expression of joy—round mouth, big eyes. This in turn affects the mother, and so on in a continuous exchange that entwines the pair.

It's common sense that babies and mothers affect each other. But when you stop the tape and look at it frame by frame—as the researcher Beatrice Beebe and her team did in this experiment—you see how remarkably fast the exchange takes place, down to fractions of a second. It's not that a baby waits for stimulus from her mother and responds in kind. Actually, as the psychologist Susan Vaughan puts it, "both parties are processing an ongoing stream of stimuli and responding while the stimulation is still occurring." Another study of 2-day-old babies found similar results.

Emotions, Vaughan asserts, are "peopled" from the start. This dynamic turns out to play a critical role in the development of neural circuits that shape not only interaction, but autonomy too. In other words, the way we experience ourselves is inextricably linked to the way we experience others—so much so that, on close view, it's hard to draw a concrete distinction between the other and the self. (This in turn raises questions about what the "self" actually is.)

The sensation of "mirror neurons" helped further dissolve the distinction. About 10 years ago, a team of Italian researchers showed that certain neurons that fire during actions by macaque monkeys—when they pick up a peanut, for example—also fire when they watch someone else pick up the peanut. It's probably overblown to say—as many have—that this phenomenon can explain everything from empathy and altruism to the evolution of human culture. But the point is that our brains register individual and social experience in tandem.

The Myth of the Lone Genius

If relationships shape us so fundamentally, how—in the study of creativity—could they also be so obscure? Why are we preoccupied with the lone genius, with great men (and, more now than in the past, great women)? Evolutionary psychologists might point to how our ancestors focused on the alpha male of a pack or the headman of a tribe. But there are contemporary explanations.

For one thing, male-female acts have often kept one partner behind the curtain. The eminent psychoanalyst and social theorist Erik Erikson acknowledged that his wife of 66 years, Joan Erikson, worked with him so closely that it was hard to tell where her work left off and his began. But he drew the salary; his name went on the cover of Young Man Luther. He is among history's most famous social scientists; she doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry.  


The custom of hidden partners is often industry standard: Tenure committees insist on judging individual work, even though collaborations are core to academic culture. CEOs have become like synecdoches for their companies, though their effectiveness depends on partners and teams. (Could Steve Jobs have reinvented Apple without his design guru Jonathan Ive?)

To illustrate the consistently hidden partner with an obvious example: Book editors don't put their names on covers. Their reputation largely depends on authors—who can be notoriously ungrateful and committed to the idea of their solitary genius. Jack Kerouac's On the Road sat on slush piles all around Manhattan until Malcolm Cowley, then an editor at Viking, undertook the laborious effort (literary, political, emotional) of shaping it for publication. But afterward, Kerouac and the Beats portrayed Cowley as a villain who muddied the famous unbroken typescript, which they claimed was powered by Benzedrine and holy light.

The other reason the lone genius myth persists is that "collaboration" gets defined so narrowly, as though the only relationships that matter are between peers of roughly equal power. In fact, it is often the most independent virtuosos who need relationships the most. Take golf, for example. By PGA tour rules, professional golfers play the links without coaches or managers. So the role of psychologist, strategist, and counselor falls to the caddie. Tiger Woods, now infamous for his promiscuity, has stuck for nearly 11 years with caddy Steve Williams. Their bond is so tight that Williams not only supports his boss but taunts him—and even misleads him. At the 2000 PGA Championship, on the fairway of the 71st hole, Woods needed a birdie to catch the leader. Williams calculated 95 yards to the flag—but he told Woods 90. "Tiger's distance control was a problem," Williams explained to Golf magazine. "So I would adjust yardages and not tell him." Woods ended up hitting the ball inside two feet from the cup and went on to win. Williams has said that he gave Woods incorrect yardages for the better part of five years.
Steve Williams and Tiger Woods
If you don't know golf intimately, you'd never consider the caddie relationship. Same goes for many fields. With surgeons, who thinks of the indispensable nurse? Few outside the film industry pay attention to the director of photography, but insiders know that Wes Anderson's aesthetic is shaped in large part by Robert Yeoman. The architect Frank Gehry leans heavily on his deputy, Craig Webb.

But myths take hold for a reason. It's easy and satisfying to reduce a big, complex cast to a single character—giving Edison sole credit for the light bulb, or Freud for psychoanalysis.

The human mind depends on narrative, characters, and concrete action, while the idea of interdependence easily dissolves into abstraction. Say, for example, we trace the influences on Einstein, and draw concentric circles around him, first with his immediate peers (including Michele Besso, with whom Einstein worked out the theory of relativity in conversation), then to the scientific circle of his era, then to the influences of the previous generation. Where do we stop—with the ancient Greeks? Even if you acknowledge the depth and breadth of Einstein's connections, it's near irresistible to call him a genius and go on your way. Give an audience a big enough ensemble cast, their eyes will naturally seek a star.

1 + 1 = Infinity

To take on the myth of the lone genius, we need not only to draw on the best science and history, we also need to focus on the fundamental social unit: the pair. As Tony Kushner writes in his notes to Angels in America, "the smallest indivisible unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction." Buckminster Fuller got at the same idea when he wrote that "[u]nity is plural and, at minimum, is two."

In the sphere of romantic love, most of us already accept the primacy of pairs. And much of the new relationship science is focused on romantic and personal intimacy. But love, at its essence, is private and inscrutable. Long-bickering couples often outlast their placid neighbors, and this oddity layers on top of another problem: What's our unit of measure for "good" relationships? Is it fiery passion? Is it duration? Is it the number of kids who go to the Ivy Leagues?

With creativity, by contrast, we start with a public text that can be subjected to reasonable (if not perfect) tests. Whether or not you like the Beatles' music, it's perfectly straightforward that most people accept their work as novel, useful, and beautiful.

Does 1+1= infinity?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chemistry=Physical Attraction NOT= Love?

What is it? It can be defined as that… well, thing. That “I need to see this person again” impulse. Or that “We click” feeling. But what causes it? Does it need to happen naturally, or can you create it? Does it die over time, or are there tricks to keep the sparks flying? There are so many questions that I have regarding this abstract concept called chemistry and over the years, I have started to understand what it is (maybe incorrectly, so feel free to "educate" me!).  Under my basic understanding, it's this thing that supposedly makes one person attract another person. Put simply, I think chemistry is an animal attraction between two people that is purely physical. The connection appeals to the five senses: The way someone looks, smells, tastes, the feel of his or her body, the sound of that person's voice. One's chemical match, therefore, is often overwhelming and uncontrollable, since everything operates on the subconscious level of the brain.

So, how can you tell if there is chemistry between two people or not? From my experience, when there is chemistry between two people, blood pressure might goes up a little, heart is pounding, the skin may flush, the face and ears turn red and maybe there's a weakness in the knees. Some believe it's some combination of basic psychological arousal and physical attraction, but I personally think that chemistry is purely physical and not at all anything remotely "magical".

Chemistry = Physical Attraction

In the mid-1960's, psychologist Dorothy Tennov surveyed 400 people about what it's like to be in love. Many of her respondents talked about fear, shaking, flushing, weakness, and stammering. Indeed, when human beings are attracted to one another, it sets off quite a chain reaction in the body and brain. But there's a perfectly logical explanation to those intense feelings.

Physical attraction (or lust) generally begins during our first contact with someone. It can DEVELOP into something more over time, yet some pull is there from the beginning. The most well-known love-related chemical is phenylethylamine -- or "PEA" -- a naturally occurring trace ammine in the brain. PEA is a natural amphetamine, like the drug, and can cause similar stimulation.  One of the substances released by PEA is the neurochemical dopamine. A study done at Emory University shows that female voles (small rodents) choose their mates in response to dopamine being released in their brains. When injected with dopamine in a male vole's presence, the female will pick him out of a crowd later. Our love food, chocolate, also elevates levels of dopamine in the brain. For simplicity, just remember that this chemical increases a desire to be physically close and intimately connected.


Physical Attraction NOT= Love

But the question is--- is physical chemistry love? It is believed by virtually everyone that true love cannot exist without chemistry. Therefore, the conclusion most would-be lovers come to is that if they experience these intense feelings towards someone, they have the basis for an ideal and lasting relationship. Right? Maybe not. For this definition of chemistry is limited to one's physical response to another person. And I cannot, under this logic, understand how can chemistry or physical attraction can be the natural conclusion to love.

Perhaps my own cynical view on love was formed in college when I went through my boy obsession crazes, where for one short period of time, I'd have an intense "love affair" with one particular actor or singer. From computer wallpaper to crazy purchasing habits of CDs and DVDs, I become his number one fan, so to speak. Unfortunately, after some time, this feeling of "love" wears off and I move on to another actor or hottie. OK, perhaps, this isn't pure chemistry, since no "physical" interaction is involved, but my point is that those feelings can be defined as almost having a chemical reaction--sweaty palms, racy heart and extreme devotion.

My personal recipe for generating chemistry is quite simple. All you need are two simple ingredients: 1. friendly atmosphere, 2. Handsome / Beautiful person. From personal experience, I think I've felt that "click" often enough to now know how to identify it and limit it only as much as what it is. Let me give you a real life scenario:

Imagine that you are at a party and you see a handsome guy in the center of the room. You make your way to him and both of you start up a nice conversation. As you stare into his eyes and he stares back, the combination of "gosh! he's hot!" and "yes, what an interesting conversation!" causes you to "feel" that connection. Wow, you think to yourself, what great chemistry!" Now, replace that handsome guy in the center of the room with an ugly guy or someone you don't feel physically attracted to. The conversation is the same, but as you stare into his ugly eyes, you do not feel that attraction so the conversation ends and you guys part ways, of course, as friends, but probably nothing more.

Thus, Chemistry=Physical Attraction NOT= Love

If chemistry = physical attraction and most people will agree with me in that physical attraction is important but still a small determinant of successful relationships, then (if I may boldly state here my personal opinion) chemistry is NOT a necessary component of successful relationship or love. In other words, for all those out there who claims that they must feel that "thing" in order to be in love, I say that it's bull--, because if anything at all, chemistry is only a small part of that big equation that holds what love is. If I can be even more bold and quantify "true" love simply, two Venn diagrams:

The circle on the left is successful relationship or "true" love or the real thing, whatever you call it. Many people have tried to define it over the years, here, I just define it simply as some component of chemistry + compatibility. In the circle on the right, we have this mysterious property called chemistry, which can be defined by its physical attraction component (still, there are some aspect of chemistry that is yet to be defined, perhaps). When the two circles meet, in the middle, I'd say these are the people who are lucky, that is, they are physically attracted to each other, there is chemistry and they are compatible (soul mates, maybe?). But, still, there might be others out there who are together as a couple and yet, there isn't so much (immediate) physical attraction to their relationship, maybe they have great conversation together or that they simply "get" each other or they share similar values and moral beliefs. In any case, they can still be in love.

Maybe I'm being too unromantic or unnecessarily too logical (right, Tetsu? :D )... It is my personal belief that love exists on many dimensions and cannot be understood entirely by people. Whether or not chemistry is the necessary component of love--how the heck am I suppose to know?? The reason I wrote this post is not to show that I'm a cynic in love but to demonstrate my point that chemistry isn't a necessary component to true love or in a successful relationship. Obviously, it is important and great if one is so lucky to meet someone who gives them that "magical feeling", that physical attraction and the emotional balance of compatibility. And if not found immediately, I think chemistry is something that can be build up over time with someone I really like. Either way, my shuai-detector will be working at its top capacity to find that lucky him.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Want To be A Workaholic

Most people hate the idea of workaholics, but I actually want to be one, especially after reading this post by Scott Berkun. The idea that one can work so hard under such short period of time is intriguing. More importantly, it's the quality of the work produced that is even more worthy of emulation.

From the post, here's an excerpt:
Show me a genius and I’ll show you a workaholic. Van Gogh produced 2000 works of art between 1880 and 1890 (1100 paintings and 900 sketches). That’s 4 works of art a week for a decade, and he didn’t start making art until his mid twenties. DaVinci’s famous journals represent decades of note taking, doodling and observations, and it’s a good guess that work was the center of his life: no spouses or children are mentioned in any of our records of him (though he likely had lovers in his studio). Picasso made over 12,000 works of art (“Give me a museum and I’ll fill it he said, and he was right) in his lifetime, including sculptures, paintings and other mediums. Shakespeare wrote more than 40 plays, not to mention dozens of sonnets, poems and of course, grocery lists. These are people who practiced their crafts daily and sacrificed many other ordinary pleasures in life to make their work possible. Every math or music prodigy practiced to produce the work they are famous for (See the ten year rule).
 In addition to having a high demanding job and stress, I've noticed that most workaholics follow a stringent schedule, one that is defined by early rising and a night owl. Imagine being so devoted to one thing that you can do this for 10-12 hours a day without a break! That is the kind of passion I hope to see in my work. I admire these people because they are so focused and in love with what they are reading and doing that they are not tempted by external stimuli and do not wish to take breaks to satisfy their desire to entertain and be entertained. In other words, work is their main focus.

From this article by Life Optimizer, I learn about the 5 levels of Focus: Lifetime, Yearly, Weekly, Daily, Currently.

1. Lifetime. What is your life purpose? Have you followed it?
2. Yearly.  Your goal should be both specific and measurable. To ensure that you are focused at the yearly level, you should have only one goal for the year (or two if you must).
3. Weekly. What do you want to achieve in the following week to help you achieve your yearly goal?
4. Daily. You can start by setting your Most Important Task (MIT) for the day. Your MIT should be the thing that will make the most difference if you accomplish it today.
5. After setting your goals for the day, the next level is the present. To get optimum result, you should be focused in whatever you are doing. It means that:
  1. You should not multitask
  2. You should prevent distraction
  3. You should use ultradian sprint to accomplish as much as possible within the working session
I am definitely well versed in the ways of goal making, but it's been awhile that I've been reminded of the importance of focusing and being obsessive with work, so to speak. By minimizing multitasking and preventing distraction--two simple steps, I can ensure that my time is used most effectively.

Hehe, I can't wait to try out this ultradian sprint!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Inspirational Read

After I read this post, I felt moved. So moved, that I twittered about it. The fact is that what Jaeson experienced, I feel exactly the same way. I went back, reread the post and I felt comfort. Here is the post below, may you feel peace in your heart!
Life isn’t always fair. Seldom does life turn out the way we hope it does. When we are young we have ideals and dreams. We believe anything is possible and the world is our frontier to conquer. As we get older, many of our hopes get dashed, our dreams become forgotten and our expectations are shattered. We can’t predict exactly how life will turn out, not for ourselves or anyone else.
Many people I know are frustrated, discouraged, depressed, hurt or bitter at life. When things in life don’t turn out the way we want them to, it’s easy to get upset and lose trust in ourselves and other people. I’ll be honest, through the years although I’ve had many ups, equally I’ve had just as many downs. I’ve had major disappointments in my relationships, my family, my pursuits and dreams, but what do you make of it all?
This past weekend I decided to take a day out and just “drive”. I have the luxury of being able to live around the most beautiful beaches in the world here in Los Angeles California. I decided I would go and take a Saturday to just drive towards Malibu where there is a 27 mile stretch of gorgeous beaches and coastlands. I wanted to just get a way, get alone with God, pray and spend some time thinking about things I normally don’t get to think about.
Normally, I’m so busy doing projects, meeting with other people, or helping other people that I hardly get any time to think about things that are important to me. We tend to push things that are important to us, or things that are too hurtful to think about, or issues we don’t want to confront deep down into our subconscious. We sort of just keep going and going in life when these issues are just too hard to understand or to deal with.
Well, this weekend I was able to get away and “confront the issues” that have been on my heart. I was going to wrestle with them myself and with God. I ended up finding a random beach café on the coastal highway. I was hoping that somehow God would lead me to a quite destination, some secluded beach where I could walk and talk with God. When I felt this strong leading to make this turn into this small entrance to this beach café, it turned out to be the most beautiful and perfect spot! It was a beach cove, with a secluded and quite beach and I could walk for miles on my own with time to myself.
I ended up spending the day walking the beaches, and pouring out my heart to God. I kept telling him all the different things that I wanted, I desired, things that made me disappointed, personal struggles, people who hurt me, and dreams that were dashed. I also shared with Him my hopes, my plans and my deepest wants that not anyone knows of… it was great to just get it out. We need to do that sometimes, just let go and let God take our burdens, we may not find the answers but just knowing that He hears and that He cares is enough.
When I started my walk on the beach my heart was heavy, burdened and weighed down. I didn’t even really know why, but past issues, pains, and hurts just began to surface. I wept, I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I sang, I was still before God and in the end I knew He heard me.

I came to my own peace with God and myself. If I never saw the desires of my heart fulfilled, if I never got those things in life that I really wanted, if things never did turn out the way I would like to have planned, if my hopes and dreams were never realized, I would be okay. Not because I want to be defeated, but because indeed just knowing God, and having a relationship with Him was more than enough. I only asked God for one thing, “Wash me clean of my sins and keep me faithful to the end!” When I die, I only ask that I die with one thing in my heart and that is… integrity.

God bless,
Jaeson Ma

Happy Labor Day!

I am a fan of national holidays. Not only is it an excuse for a long weekend, but it also provides a reason for people to get together and to celebrate.

For my readers not in the U.S., let me tell you a little bit about this holiday:

Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (each year). Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties. Forms of celebration include picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, water sports, and public art events. Families with school-age children take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer recess. Similarly, some teenagers and young adults view it as the last weekend for parties before returning to school, although school starting times now vary.

For me, this year's labor day is even more special, because I believe it marks the end of my school years and the start of my grown up years.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Financial Accruals - Made Simple

Since I felt "ambitious", I decided to do some fun reading in an accounting textbook on accruals since this was something that I had seemed to miss in a lecture when I was in college. Finally, I understand the differences among the four types! Since I am so excited about it, I will share my new found knowledge here. (Prepare to be bored!)

There are two types of accruals-- cash movement prior to accounting recognition and cash movement after accounting recognition. Here, recognition just means recognizing the transaction on the financial statement, which in this case, really it's just the income statement. And since we are talking about the income statement, cash movement affects revenue and expense (since these are the top lines before one reaches net income-- remember that Net Income = Revenue - Expense). So, you see, there are four possible options here, just write out a 2 (cash movement: prior, after) x 2 (income statement: revenue, expense) matrix so you can organize your thoughts.

Box #1: Prior x Revenue
Unearned (Deferred) Revenue--
Originating entry-- record cash receipt and establish a liability (such as unearned revenue).
Adjusting entry-- reduce the liability while recording revenue

Box #2: Prior x Expense
Pre-paid Expense--
Originating entry-- record cash payment and establish an asset (such as prepaid expense)
Adjusting entry-- reduce the asset while recording expense

Box #3: After x Revenue
Unbilled (Accrued Revenue)--
Originating entry-- record revenue and establish an asset (such as unbilled revenue)
Adjusting entry-- when billing occurs, reduce unbilled revenue and increase accounts receivable. When cash is collected, eliminate the receivable.

Box #4: After x Expense
Accrued Expenses--
Originating entry-- establish a liability (such as accrued expenses) and record an expense
Adjusting entry-- reduce the liability as cash is paid

I guess I used to get confused by this topic because I always forget whether the originating entry is an asset or a liability. And now this chart makes it simple, because basically if the cash movement happened before accounting recognition, then it's recorded as an opposite to what the name suggests. For example, unearned revenue is a liability and a prepaid expense is an asset. On the other hand, if the cash movement happened after accounting recognition, then it follows what the name suggests. For example, unbilled revenue is an asset and accrued expense is an expense.

Do you get it?????

Ambitious Sunday

Sunday is my second favorite day of the week. After a fun filled Saturday, I'm usually feeling energetic and well rested by Sunday. Before the panic mode kicks in, I'm usually feeling quite good and positive. After all, Sunday morning is the time when I feel the most ambitious. That's why I'm glad that church services are usually scheduled on Sunday morning. By going to church or spending some time on devotional, it makes me feel like I'm starting my week off on the right foot!

From today's devotion:

The Lord said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."
-Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)
It's comforting to know that God has a purpose for me and that I don't need to worry so much about the future but to focus on living in the present.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

9 Guilty Pleasures of Saturday

Saturday is by far my favorite day of the week. Lazy mornings and the feeling that I can bum around for the entire day since there is always a Sunday to make up for the procrastinations.

Guilty Pleasure #1:OMGPOP.com & Neopets.com
These two websites are ones that I avoid at all cost during the weekdays, that is, because they are just too damn addicting. I can go on Omgpop for hours in order to gain more coins. And Neopets, well, that can go on forever as well, after all, who wouldn't want a virtual pet that you can feed and play games with?

Guilty Pleasure #2: Hulu.com
I don't get to watch too much TV during the weekdays but sometimes I feel like I had earned the right to watch them on Saturdays. Shows like White Collar, Master Chef, Lie to Me are some of current favorites. If and when Desperate Housewives come back on, I will for sure add that back on my list. If I can make a broad general statement about TV, I think mostly it's a waste of time, since when I watch TV nothing flows through my brain, but I think as an "individual" entertainment, it's quite worth the time and money, but I'd never consider TV as entertainment for two.

Guilty Pleasure #3: IHOP
For those of you reading this blog who don't know what IHOP is, it stands for International House of Pancakes, which is a restaurant chain serving predominantly breakfast food. In the U.S. it's common to eat brunch over the weekend--since the first meal of the day is often consumed so late in the day that it's no longer breakfast but not quite so lunch. I really miss those grad school days when I'd go there with my good friends.

Guilty Pleasure #4: Ice Cream & chocolate
I have a sweet tooth that I haven't been able to get rid of. Recently, I've been able to tone it down because the desire to be skinny and fashionable trumps the sweet tooth. But the point is who needs to diet on Saturday when you have Sunday and the rest of the week to do so?

Guilty Pleasure #5: Organizing & planning stuff
I like organizing things especially when it comes to school supplies. I enjoy planning ahead, writing in my planner and highlighting the appropriate places. Doing that just makes me feel like I'm so on track. Why is this a guilty pleasure? Well, I think I really enjoy the process of organizing and planning, but how much of the plans do I follow through? Not much. (I guess I would if I'd be less ambitious on a Saturday!)

Guilty Pleasure #6: Going Out
My definition of entertainment is that it needs to engage me intellectually, involves fine dining and entertaining in a way that I can blog about later. So, stuff like Broadway shows, ballet, new museum exhibitions, etc. are all things I'd consider to do on a Saturday. Of course, dining elegantly cannot be avoided. Since Saturday is a day to indulge, I usually treat myself to a wonderful dinner at some fancy restaurant.And if I'm too lazy to go out? Microwaved dinner sounds delicious. As long as I don't cook, I feel indulged.

Guilty Pleasure #7: Shopping
Saturday has always been the day that I don't feel so bad to splurge a little bit in the stores. Whether it's a beautiful but pricier dress or some shiny earrings, I guess I always tell myself, look you've worked hard for a week, you deserve a gift!

Guilty Pleasure #8: Pamper, but mostly bum around
Saturday is also the day that I feel like I can be a bum-- that is, it's OK to wear sweat pants and t-shirts around and make-up optional.

Guilty Pleasure #9: Taking a long walk. I really like walks, I think it's basically spending quality time with self, away from the computer, cell phone, Internet, people. It's great to just breathe in the fresh air, look at the blue sky and the road ahead and know that the world isn't going to end with one bad day.

I think it's good that there can be one day of the week when I can do anything that I want to do without feeling guilty or self-conscious. That's why I love Saturday so much!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beauty Standards

I've realized that my lack of inspiration yesterday stemmed from my recently lack of interaction with interesting people, that is those whom I think have smart things to say and who can offer different perspectives on meaningful things. Luckily, today, while talking with a friend (from Japan!!) and sending pictures to each other, I discovered a very interesting topic to explore in my posting-- beauty standards of the east and west.

In Asia (China, Korea & Japan), the beauty standard is fair skinned, big eyes, small mouths and straight noses. For example:


However, in western culture, the beauty standards for Asian people is that of high cheekbones, often small slanted eyes, tanned skin. For instance, Asian celebrities in the U.S. includes Lucy Liu & Sandra Oh.


 

Why does Western standard of Eastern Asian beauty differ from Eastern standard of Eastern beauty? When I think of a fantastic answer, I will post it here. In the meantime, what are your thoughts?