Get the Powers to Act from Fresh Ideas

July 9, 2014

Power of Limited Systems : World Cup 2014 Germany 7 Brazil 1

World Cup 2014's semi-final  ended with Germany beating Brazil 7 : 1. Germany won in spite of and because of its limited systems. Limited systems are that powerful and devastating.

Main Reasons for Brazil's Loss

  1. Brazil coach's big picture does not seem to include "flanks" and "midfield." 
  2. Germany's limited systems are powerful and devastating.
  3. Brazil failed to come up with better or newer systems e.g. Germany already know how to cope "total football," "tiki taka," etc. Brazil should at least borrow from Stephen Chow and his Shaolin Soccer Have you noticed that Muay Thai's kicks are useful in getting the balls back in crowded situations? 

Limited Systems

 They are limited because
  1. they apply to only certain specific situations.
  2. they lack creativity, inspiration, flair, sparks.
  3. they can miss certain opportunities.
  4. they can break down totally in certain scenarios.
 Still they are extremely powerful because
  1. they are simple to carry and execute
  2. they are simple to change for certain opportunities and system breakdowns.
  3. Even when you have to discard them all, they are too simple to cost you a lot.  

July 2, 2014

One Proven Way to Build Confidence

True confidence comes from accepting your total and ever-present failure to be like anybody else, and from building your life from there.
  1. Specialize. But don't specialize out of fear of competition. The competition will find its way into your home turf anyway.
  2. Feel free to compare. It is both natural and good for learning.
  3. Accept that you have already failed and that you will never do things the way the stars in your chosen field have done or are doing.

You don't play football like Maradona?

No problem.

Do you make that 10-meter pass today better than you did yesterday?

Will you make it better tomorrow?

You may not be a second Maradona, but you may make bigger contributions to football than the first and only Maradona!

Good luck!

July 1, 2014

One More Way Not to Build Confidence

Another common advice to build confidence goes, 'Stop comparing with others. Just work hard.' This advice is both impossible to follow and also harmful to do so.


How can we stop comparing?
  1. We do not live alone, in total isolation, in the universe.
  2. We do not live in sensory deprivation chambers, with eyes seeing nothing, with ears hearing nothing, and so on.


Why should we stop comparing? In matters of learning, comparison comes even before imitation and copycatting!

Say, I am a young swimmer. How much arrogance or blindness would it take for me not to know and learn from Thorpe , Phelps and other greats.

Say, I am a young golfer. How much arrogance or blindness would it take for me not to know and learn from Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player and other greats.

Say, I am a young footballer. How much arrogance or blindness would it take for me not to know and learn from Ronaldo (Brazil), Romario, Maradona and other greats.

There must be a better way. Let's see.

One Way Not to Build Confidence

Looking for your core competence, sticking to your strengths, staying true to your essence are commendable life strategies. But they will never build you true confidence. They encourage you to live inside a cocoon, to avoid real threats and real opportunities.

 Orcas cannot climb trees. Monkeys cannot fly. Eagles cannot swim.

So orcas should keep themselves to seas, monkeys to trees, and eagles to the sky?

  1. So a budding poet should not study math because he will never be able to do math as well as his classmates? 
  2. So a budding mathematician should not touch literature and arts because he will never do them as well as his classmates? 
  3. So a promising engineer should never dabble in enterprise because he will never do business as well as her classmates?

All sound and sensible and sham and fake and lame!

If you avoid competition and comparison, the universe is never wide enough for you.

If you choose math out of your fear to compete in other fields, you shall find lots and lots of competition in your own field. What about famous mathematicians in history?

If you choose poetry out of your fear to compete in other fields, you shall find lots and lots of competition in your own field. What about famous poets in history?

If you choose business and enterprise out of your fear to compete in other fields, you shall find lots and lots of competition in your own field. What about famous entrepreneurs in history?

There is a better way. See the next post.

June 30, 2014

Forgiving for the sake of Willpower and Energy

There are many ways to create and maintain willpower and energy. Forgiving yourself is one powerful approach. In how many ways can you forgive yourself?

Kind Forgiving

You try this when you run into a setback. If you beat yourself up every time you make mistakes, you will stay down longer than necessary. A better idea is to forgive yourself, learn your lesson and move on. That will shorten your recovery time tremendously.

Casual Forgiving

Once I taught a civil engineer how to write feasibility reports. He was a bit embarrassed that his reports were corrected a bit too much. And he sounded defensive and a bit too eager to enter into arguments with his colleagues and superiors.

I told him that I am very comfortable with my English. But I will also have similar problems if I am to write such reports. Because each domain/field of study has its own unique / idiosyncratic / peculiar / WEIRD stylistic conventions and usages!

But then, I told him, I won't argue. I 'd just accept corrections, stop making similar mistakes and move on, have peace and prosper.

BECAUSE I have a CAVALIER attitude to English (or for that matter, any language ). I don't take them seriously and so I can forgive easily, recover easily and move on.

Ambitious Forgiving

Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium Brewing says this in Fortune.

Stay on the forefront. When we invest in new technology, we expect some of that to fail. If you expect things to always succeed, you’re probably not far enough out on the learning edge.

So, when you are not making mistakes anymore, be worried, very very.
And, when you are making mistakes lots and lots, remember and congratulate yourself that you are probably "far ... out on the learning edge".

Forgive yourself,  forgive others, forgive all and move on. Better worlds, better futures await you!

June 29, 2014

How to Overcome Inertia and Initial Fears

Some kids and teenagers are too reluctant to try out stuffs that only look difficult but in fact are not. Here are some tips to help them tackle their inertia and initial fears.

The Genius of Instinct: Reclaim Mother Nature's Tools for Enhancing Your Health, Happiness, Family, and Work advises small steps.
  1. Small steps are safe.
  2. Small changes are pleasurable to human brains.
  3. Such steps allow us time to know something in depth.

Maybe another way is to make them fall in love. When they are too much in love, they may forget to fear.

June 27, 2014

How to Arouse Curiosity

Curiosity can do wonders in learning. But a few kids were not born curious. Then, how can we arouse curiosity in such students? A wonderful book called  'The Genius of Instinct: Reclaim Mother Nature's Tools for Enhancing Your Health, Happiness, Family, and Work' has some answers.

  1. Fun : Everyone becomes curious about what they regard as fun.
  2. Novelty : They may also become interested in new stuffs.
  3. Collative attributes : This is about collation i.e. collecting, sorting, ordering, arranging things.

According to the author, "collative" techniques are particularly good for invoking  curiosity. In practical terms, it means

  1. we show students that there are gaps  in their understanding and world view.
  2. we show students that there are discords, contradictions, dissonance  in their understanding and world view.
  3.  we dare them to imagine, visualize, mental-simulate some more possible worlds, rather than the one they are used to.

June 21, 2014

World Cup, Science Creativity and Singapore

Creativity and inspiration are as important in Science as in football. Commentators on the current World Cup matches have given us excellent revelations about  creativity and inspiration in football.

Individual Source of Inspiration Remark
Science Any pretender God
einfall (German, meaning "falling in", or "falling from above")

Henri Poincaré
Conscious works sandwiching unconscious work
There is another remark to be made about the conditions of this unconscious work: it is possible, and of a certainty it is only fruitful, if it is on the one hand preceded and on the other hand followed by a period of conscious work. These sudden inspirations (and the examples already cited sufficiently prove this) never happen except after some days of voluntary effort which has appeared absolutely fruitless and whence nothing good seems to have come, where the way taken seems totally astray. These efforts then have not been as sterile as one thinks; they have set agoing the unconscious machine and without them it would not have moved and would have produced nothing. (source)
Gerd Mueller

voices in his head
"A voice inside my head says Gerd go this way, Gerd go that..." (source)


Gary Lineker
hard work "It's all those little runs you make,again and again,hoping the ball will come."

Now, young would-be scientists, watch World Cup! And see what "running off the ball" or "movement off the ball" means, instead of waiting for inspirations.

June 19, 2014

Innovation, Arts and Singapore, Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis points out why and how art is important to innovation in MIT Technology Review, of May/June 2014 issue.

What the arts allow us to do is to develop the muscle required for discernment, and also strengthen our sense of agency to determine for ourselves how we're going to tackle a given problem.

In my paraphrase and in elaboration (with me adding a bit) :
  1. Arts develop discernment muscles.
  2. Arts strengthen initiative, independence and tolerance of ambiguity.  
  3. Arts help you learn to stay "hopeful" even when you feel "helpless".
These days, countries  talk a lot about "soft skills," "liberal arts,", "innovation," "high value add," "going higher up on value chain," etc. Many (including Singapore) even include Literature in their school curriculum.

May they be able to go

beyond Metaphor and Metonymy,
beyond Simile and Synecdoche,
beyond Prosody and Personification,

to developing discernment muscles,
to developing initiative,
to developing courage,
to developing creativity.

June 18, 2014

Entrepreneurship and Singapore, Richard Hartung

Richard Hartung  points out what to emphasize and what to de-emphasize in teaching Entrepreneurship to Singapore's youths in Today newspaper, of June 18, 2014.

What to Emphasize

Creating ideas

Help students become entrepreneurs
Developing an entrepreneurial  spirit

Coming up with new ideas that solve problems
Guiding students to come up with and design solutions that work
Analyze, uncover people's real problems, and brainstorm solutions
Creatively meeting real needs

Overcoming difficulties
Creative intelligence

What to De-emphasize

Help students become  shopkeepers
Business skills needed for managing a company
Workplace skills
Just running a business better

Well, it's hard to say this better.

May 10, 2014

Successful Kids, Successful Students

According to a recent New Scientist magazine issue, successful kids or students share the following four characteristics.

They have a growth mindset, believing they can always improve themselves, acquire new skills, learn new capabilities and so on.

They have strong self-control muscles.

They have strong grit muscles. e.g. James Watson (a co-discoverer of DNA) once said, "When I was young, I knew I didn't have a good IQ, and still I wanted to do important things." He himself admitted that it was a matter of grit.

They have dreams.

How can we raise or teach kids so that they learn all these things?