The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S Sharman

When I googled for ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ image, this was one of the images that came up. I used it here because it tells us a lot about the world we live in. And it’s funny. However, the message Robin wants to communicate from his book is actually quite the opposite to the one in the image above.

This is a self-help book. It’s been told from the point of view of a protagonist who met an ‘enlightened’ friend. This friend then imparted his knowledge on to him and thus how the story is revealed.

The premise of his story is life choices. Have you heard of a saying that goes something like: I can tell who you will become in 5 years from your actions today?

In the book, the friend imparted his knowledge to him by telling him a fable which revealed a few important items. One of my favourite item in the fable is the garden which is also a symbol of the mind.

If you think of your mind as your garden, as a good gardener, what would you do? You would tend it and nurture it every day right? You would get rid of weeds. So weeds represent the negative thoughts: Worries and anxieties. And the logic goes without saying, if you let worries drain your mind of its power, it will eventually injure your soul.

To live life to the fullest, you must stand guard the gate of your garden. Let only the best information enter!

We live in this world, doing the same thing every day, in auto-mode. We worry over a person or a situation which we cannot control. We don’t realize that we have no control over our external world. However, if there is one thing that we have absolute dominion over, it would be our minds.

We might not be able to control the weather or the traffic or the moods of all those around us. But we most certainly can control our attitude towards these events. We all have the power to determine what we will think about in any given moment. This ability is part of what makes us human.

Note: this concept was also described exactly by Victor Frankl. The difference is, he used the word freedom. Not power. He refers to our freedom as a human being, to be able to choose our attitude towards any given set of situation. (I have also written a summary of his book here).

He re-iterates that focus or concentration is at the root of mental mastery. I also personally believe full focus is the most valuable asset anyone can possess.

How do you train yourself to achieve full focus?

He suggested 3 techniques which I try to use everyday now:

  1. The Heart of the Rose – To focus on the rose’s heart so not to have any thoughts in your head.
  2. The Opposition Thinking – To replace a negative thought with a positive thought.
  3. The Secret of the Lake – The look into the lake and visualize who you want to become.

 

If you asked me what would be the most valuable idea I got out of this book , I would say KAIZEN (改善).

It’s a philosophy that focuses on getting better at getting better. While I was searching for more information on KAIZEN, I also bumped into Émile Coué who developed a psychological technique called Autosuggestion.

Emile Coue Every day in every way quote-8x6

No man is free who is not a master of himself – Epictetus

Remember that your past is history. You can’t control your external world. What really matters is what lies within you.

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Man’s Search for Meaning – An Introduction to Logotherapy

This is a famous book written by Victor Frankl which outlines his experience living in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. And this experience helped him developed his theories on logotherapy.

I am sure most of you have heard and understood what a psychoanalysis therapy is. To explain what logotherapy is, I find it easier to just compare the both below:

  1. Psychoanalysis Therapy – During psychoanalysis, a patient must lie down on a couch and tell you things which sometimes are very disagreeable to tell.
  2. Logotherapy – In logotherapy, the patient remains sitting erect, but they must hear things which are sometimes very disagreeable to hear.

Feudian’s Psychoanalysis is centred on the will to pleasure. Frankl’s logotherapy is centred on the will for purpose and meaning i.e. the focus is more on the future in finding meanings and purpose for patients.

The 1st half of this book outlines his ideas of meaning.

What is the meaning of life?

We all wish there was a magical answer like 42 in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. However, no one can tell what their purpose in life is. Each must find it for themselves. Some find meaning in their children who live far away. Some find meaning in a book that they are working on. Basically, one will find meaning in a cause greater than oneself.

He recounted when he was digging the soil one day and he became tired and nearly lost all hope of living, he started thinking about his wife who he loved dearly. He then started talking to her (even when she was not physically next to him). This is when he saw the truth.

Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire to. 

Like any poets or song-writers, who have been banging on about romantic love for centuries, he learnt that love goes far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being. The conversation with his wife, dead or alive, helped him find a refuge from the emptiness of his existence.

Other than establishing the importance of finding a meaning in one’s life, Frankl went onto discussing about our free will. Or, our freedom to become who we want to be.

“When one is stripped away their familiar goals in life, what always remains is the last of human freedom i.e. the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

However, not everyone chooses to be good. During his time in the concentration camp, he was watching how some of his friends behaved like swine while others behaved like saints.

When one is ignorant and still living in their past, they have no reason to be good as they think their action is of no consequence. Life becomes meaningless for them, doesn’t it?

The 2nd half of this book introduces his idea of logotherapy.

“One of the basic tenets of logotherapy is that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure and avoid pain at all cost. But rather to see a meaning in their life.”

Frankl gave one example when he practised logotherapy on one of his patients. She was a woman with 2 sons. One died from an accident, the other one is still alive but handicapped. When she tried to commit suicide with him, he stopped her. He wanted to live. So Frankl asked himself why her son has a will to live, but not her? How can he make her realize her meaning in life?

So he asked her to imagine when she’s 80 year old and lying on her deathbed, and then look back over her life. She then went on about how one of her sons died but her other son was still alive. And how she had tried her best and made him a better human being. At that moment she described it, she cried. She found her meaning in life.

Conclusion

Frankl’s experience at the camp led him to conclude that man’s nature or condition is not pre-determined. Instead, it changes depending on their choice.

“Man does not simply exist but always decides what their existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.”

We have been told again and again, we have the freedom to choose who we want to be at any given moment i.e. we are faced with a set of circumstances every day, in which we choose to either be a victim or a learner. But this freedom is meaningless if our choice is irresponsible to people around us, to our environment and to our society.

So Frankl famously suggested:

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

Great power comes with great responsibility!

The Lights in The Tunnel

The writer, Martin Ford, tries to explain the paradox of market demand and automation using the example of lights in the tunnel. I won’t try to do the same here. However, I will put it simply, if jobs are automated and less people are employed as a results. And without income from employment, there will be no market demand.

Why would business then invest in increased production?

The optimistic view of economist states that increase economic activity creates job. What they don’t know is that in an increasingly automated economy, the job creation does not occur!

I was quite relief when towards the end of the book, the writer suggests a solution which could address this issue i.e. recapture the lost wages using 2 types of taxes:

  1. Higher business tax
  2. Higher GST or VAT

I believe our government is currently capturing both tax types above. However, he suggests both types of taxes should be re-prioritized.

So how?

Currently, tax rate for businesses are reduced to encourage productivity. So he suggests a higher tax rate instead. In theory, if a business is making more profits from cheaper labour (automation), more of this profit should be re-captured. Even if the tax rate is higher, business is still enjoying higher profits than before.

Having said that, you don’t want to tax business too much as you want to give business incentive to innovate.

What to do?

He suggests keeping business tax rate constant but increase GST. He makes a point that with higher GST, the burden may fall on low income earners instead. Not to worry, this can be counteracted by applying a lower GST on necessities items but a higher GST on luxury.

I find his view of the future quite bleak. If jobs requiring ‘people skills’ such as bank tellers can be replaced by ATMs, what hope do we have with our current job.

He reminds us again and again that: Everything to be produced by the economy is ultimately consumed by individual human beings. Human being without job means the economy has no demand to produce.

It will take a long time before true AI is possible. However, Roger Penrose stated the following:

True AI is impossible using conventional computers because consciousness has its roots in quantum mechanics i.e. the area of physics that governs probabilistic and bizarre interactions that occur between particles of subatomic size.

Does that mean true AI will be possible using Quantum Computer?

 

A Whole New Mind

I recently finished reading a book: A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink. The book tries to answer the question below:

Why right brainers will rule the future?

He took us back to a day and age when industrial revolution started a transition from hand production methods to machines. And then later on, we had the digital revolution, which marked the onset of information age.

So what’s next after the information age?

He coined the term Conceptual Age. You may ask yourself what is the big fuss with conceptual economy. Well, it’s not. It’s the inevitable transition of our digital economy to an economy that demands a new set of skills.

What kind of skills? Right-brained skills such as creative thinking, innovation, intuition, empathy and design will play a major part in the conceptual economy.

In other words, the new economy will rely less and less on left-brained skills such as logic and mathematics (which were relied heavily in the information economy).

Image 1 demonstrates the progress of our economy from agriculture to conceptual.

illustration-conceptual-graph-yellow

The writer predicts the transition out of the information economy from the 3 A’s:

  1. Abundance
  2. Asia
  3. Automation

In the world of Abundance, it is no longer enough to create a product that is cheap and functional. It needs to be beautiful and conjures emotion in you and I. A good example, if lightbulbs are cheap, why would anyone need candles anymore? Candles are still an over billion-a-year business for reason that transcends the need for luminosity. People simply desire beauty and meaning.

Jobs have been outsourced to Asia. With the advancement in software technology and cheap telephone calls, the same call centre job can be carried out by anyone in Asia such as The Philippines where wages are much lower than in a developed country.

As patients are able to self-diagnose and tap on the benefit of Automation, these technology advancements are changing the emphasis of many medical practices—away from routine, analytical, and information-based work and toward empathy, narrative medicine, and holistic care.

What is Product Design?

I came across this article trying to explain why every company next hire should be a Product Designer.

What is Product Designer? Is it just a new or latest trend? Or is it a role that will stick around?

I can’t answer you that. But after reading this article, I notice that Product Designer is just a new role name with attributes currently required from existing roles such as Product Manager, Business Analyst, User Experience Designer and User Interface Designer.

 

Make Good UX by using Fewer Words

A few years ago, I got my company to sponsor me in a technical writing course. I don’t remember a lot of the course content now. However, there was 1 lesson I will always remember, the teacher used a lot of writing examples from Ernest Hemingway. She described his writing as:

Clear, concise and Ernest has the ability to describe (or tell a story) in the least no. of words possible without losing the message.

It’s stuck with me. Even til Today.

And then I came across an article about making better user experience by using fewer words. It gave 3 examples of how he reduced the no. of words without losing it’s message. One such good example is Fewer words 101: In the classroom. He reduced the original sentence from 16 words to 2 words. And it was all the reader needed to know!

In the context of this article, he described the objective of using fewer words as:

It’s how UX writers reduce the text to create experiences that let people to do more of what they want to do — not waste their time reading explanations of how to do it.

Not that different from the lesson I learn many years go?

Scuba Diving

Just like to share this with you.

This is another example I found from the same article I read from a professor at MIT.

Problem
A Scuba Diving shop has been dropping flyers in the neighbourhood and targeting people who subscribe to Diving magazine, it struggled to succeed.

Research
After spending time at the lesson, they found most of their students are couples.

Job
They started asking the students questions and found out that they are mostly honeymooners who wants to learn scuba diving together.

Constraints
No Constraints.

Epiphany
So when they asked why they want to learn scuba diving, they said they are going on honeymoon and wanted to do something together in a tropical climate.

Solution
It became very clear that they shouldn’t drop flyers in random neighbourhood. And they should just buy the mailing lists from Bride magazine rather than Dive magazine.

It is really easy to assume that if the shop is located in a neighbourhood, people living there will want to learn scuba diving. It says a lot that we can’t target a product base on customers geographic location. It needs to go deeper and understand why they wanted to do it: Couples who wanted to learn something together on honeymoon!

The same principle should apply to us when we design a new product I reckon.