Updates from June, 2012

  • One Book Per Week: Tumblring My Findings

    8:13 pm on June 17, 2012 | 5 comments Permalink | Reply
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    Since com­ing to New York, I’ve devel­oped a healthy habit of read­ing on the sub­way going to and fro from meet­ings. My Kin­dle has made it a lot eas­ier to read in a packed sub­way car and my expanded net­works have pro­vided me a wealth of books to add to my read­ing list. After a con­ver­sa­tion with a good friend who inspired a goal set­ting quest, I decided to embark on a One Book Per Week Project — where I would read a book a week as a per­sonal self-development goal. It has been two months in, and I am pleased to share that read­ing is firmly back in life and can offi­cially say that I have read all the books on my shelf. I’ve added some of the books that I read and loved to my Book List but more than that, I would love for my read­ings and dis­cov­er­ies to be shared in a more pub­lic way. Hence, going for­ward, I will be doing this in two ways:

    1) Tum­blr

    I started a tum­blr where I would post quotes and high­lights from books that I am cur­rently read­ing. Major­ity of my read­ings are now done on my Kin­dle and thanks to this awe­some tool called: Findings.com, all the high­lights from my Kin­dle read­ings will be shared to my tum­blr. Quotes Galore aka. my per­sonal quote bank and track­ing of books that I am cur­rently read­ing. Below is a snap­shot of Findings.com. I def­i­nitely rec­om­mend that you check it out!

    2) Mole­skin Book Visualization 

    One of the skills that I have been work­ing on is the Art of Visual Think­ing. I am nat­u­rally a visual leaner, but the art of trans­lat­ing thought and com­plex ideas into pic­tures is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent thing. Hence, to help me along with this learn­ing process, I decided to com­bine it with my One Book Per Week Project. I bought some brand new mole­skins and will be sum­ma­riz­ing up the books I am read­ing into one page in my mole­skin. This not only enables pushes my abil­ity to retain infor­ma­tion, but also allows me to piece together the book in my own way.

     
  • On The Art of Learning & Searching for Creativity

    8:24 am on April 24, 2012 | 1 comments Permalink | Reply
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    I have been on a learn­ing ram­page for the last few months and had read this book a while back. Admit­tedly, although I thought it was a good book, it didn’t res­onate as much with me as it did for those who con­tin­u­ously rec­om­mended the book to me. This past week­end, I picked it up again (yes, I’m one of those peo­ple that re-reads books over and over) and lo and behold, I felt like every page in the book was scream­ing out one fas­ci­nat­ing learn­ing tech­nique to another. Per­haps it has some­thing to do with the way I am learn­ing right now com­pared to back then.

    The book, writ­ten by Josh Wait­zkin, is part auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal, part chess mem­oirs and part mar­tial arts tech­niques. He has an incred­i­bly impres­sive back­ground that includes an 8th time National Chess Cham­pion in his youth, devel­oped Chess­mas­ter — the largest com­puter chess pro­gram in the world and then, moved on to per­fect mar­tial arts, where he cur­rently holds a com­bined 21 National Cham­pi­onship and sev­eral World Cham­pi­onship titles. Given his impres­sive list of accom­plish­ments, the premise of the book is that learn­ing is a trans­fer­able art and our cur­rent ways of learn­ing often don’t deep enough into under­stand­ing how we learn. I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a typ­i­cal list of learn­ing tech­niques but instead, a blend of great sto­ry­telling and per­sonal insight.

     “A key com­po­nent of high-level learn­ing is cul­ti­vat­ing a resilient aware­ness that is the older, con­scious embod­i­ment of a child’s play­ful obliv­i­ous­ness. — Josh Waitzkin”

    The book touches upon a lot of tech­niques that range from build­ing trig­gers to emo­tional con­trol, but one par­tic­u­lar insight really stood out for me. It was on the source of cre­ativ­ity. Wait­zkin writes that when he thinks about cre­ativ­ity, he thinks of it in rela­tion to a foun­da­tion. Knowl­edge needs to be so deeply inter­nal­ized that we can access it with­out even think­ing about it. Then, we use our knowl­edge base to make a leap to get a cou­ple steps ahead — a cre­ative dis­cov­ery. Now, most peo­ple stop here and hope that they man­age to find another “burst of cre­ativ­ity”, how­ever, Wait­zkin shares that this is a “missed oppor­tu­nity” if you just stop there.

    The cre­ative process is more than just break­through moments. It doesn’t just appear out of thin air and you just wait for it to hap­pen. Wait­zkin asserts that when you have those moments of cre­ativ­ity, what you should be focus­ing on — is the con­nec­tion between your new dis­cov­ery and what you know. Once you have fig­ured that out, cre­ate tech­niques to re-create the process to “cre­ate a body of the­ory around a fleet­ing moment of inspi­ra­tion.” Once this is done, our knowl­edge pyra­mid is that much higher and it’s foun­da­tion that much more solidified.

    I believe that one of the most crit­i­cal fac­tors in the tran­si­tion to becom­ing a con­scious high per­former is the degree to which your rela­tion­ship to your pur­suit stays in har­mony with your unique dis­po­si­tion. There will inevitably be times when we need to try new ideas, release our cur­rent knowl­edge to take in new infor­ma­tion — but it is crit­i­cal to inte­grate this new infor­ma­tion in a man­ner that does not vio­late who we are. — Josh Waitzkin”

    Now, to throw a curve­ball into my own post, here’s a bril­liant talk by Eliz­a­beth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love on nur­tur­ing cre­ativ­ity. Gilbert’s take on cre­ativ­ity is much for mys­te­ri­ous — a frag­ile con­nec­tion to the eter­nal and the past, per­haps on loan to us for a brief period of time. It’s quite con­trary to Waitzkin’s struc­tured approach but yet the cryp­tic­ness of her find­ings really intrigued me.

    I like to think that the cre­ative process is a com­bi­na­tion of both, that the ini­tial spark/leap for­ward — is dri­ven by some­thing we are yet to com­pre­hend. Once we able to iden­tify this, we cre­ate tech­niques to re-create this burst of cre­ativ­ity by drilling deep into under­stand­ing the trig­gers. I believe that some peo­ple are more ‘prone’ to cre­ativ­ity because some­how they have (un)knowingly sur­rounded them­selves with a process/environment that can help kick­start a break­through. All cre­ativ­ity is sourced — one way or another from a cur­rent body of knowl­edge. How you con­nect, piece together per­spec­tives, uncover a dif­fer­ent angle — that’s where the magic happens.

     
  • These Borrowed Words

    2:14 pm on March 27, 2011 | 2 comments Permalink | Reply
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    There is one ele­ment that has always been a con­sis­tent theme in my life, wher­ever, when­ever: and that is books. I’ve had a read­ing obses­sion ever since the age of seven, which till to this day, I remem­ber the book that started it all — The Magic Paint­brush. I remem­ber hid­ing books in the drawer of my school desk back in Malaysia, and when­ever I thought the teacher was look­ing the other way, I would pull the book out and sneak a cou­ple pages of read­ing. It was easy, see, with 50 other kids packed in a class, elbow to elbow, to get away with it. I believe(d) that books would teach me things about life that a class­room never could. One that I still main­tain to this day. I devoured books from Enid Blyton’s entire col­lec­tion to the rem­i­nis­cent Sweet Val­ley days of teenage-hood. And then, my world of books changed when I dis­cov­ered the world of lit­er­a­ture and non-fiction. I’ve never looked back since.

    I recently stum­bled across this incred­i­ble list of books, that I am now deter­mined to get through in a year (I’ll let you know how it goes!). It’s a list by one of my fav orga­ni­za­tions: Acu­men Fund and it’s actu­ally the rec­om­mended read­ing list for their Fel­lows. I’ll try to share my thoughts on each book as I move through the list. But mean­while, here it is, below:

    *I’ve bolded the ones I’ve read.. it’s a start!

    GOOD SOCIETY READINGS
    Rights and Responsibilities

    “Cul­ture Is Des­tiny: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Lee Kuan Yew” by Fareed Zakaria (For­eign Affairs, March/April 1994)
    “Empow­er­ment for a Cul­ture of Peace and Devel­op­ment” by Aung San Suu Kyi (address to World Com­mis­sion on Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment, Novem­ber 21, 1994)
    “Let­ter from Birm­ing­ham Jail” by Mar­tin Luther King Jr. (April 16, 1963)
    The Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights (Gen­eral Assem­bly of the United Nations, Decem­ber 10, 1948)

    Lib­erty and Social Order
    “The Con­trari­ness of the Mad Farmer” by Wen­dell Berry in Farm­ing: A Hand Book (Har­court, Brace, Jovanovich)
    “Democ­racy” by Langston Hughes
    Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
    “Mes­sage to the Con­gress of Angos­tura, 1819” by Simón Bolí­var
    The Prince by Nic­colò Machi­avelli
    “Two Con­cepts of Lib­erty” by Isa­iah Berlin (address before Uni­ver­sity of Oxford, Octo­ber 31, 1958)
    Equal­ity and the Quest for Social Jus­tice
    The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
    Democ­racy in Amer­ica by Alexis de Toc­queville
    Long Walk to Free­dom: The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Nel­son Man­dela by Nel­son Man­dela (Lit­tle, Brown and Com­pany)
    “O Yes” by Tillie Olsen in Tell Me a Rid­dle (Ran­dom House)
    The Social Con­tract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Com­mu­nity and the Search for Human­ity
    The Book of Gen­e­sis
    The Four Noble Truths of Bud­dhism
    “How to Write about Africa” by Binya­vanga Wainaina (Granta 92, Win­ter 2005)
    On Iden­tity by Amin Maalouf (Harvill Pan­ther)
    Silent Spring by Rachel Car­son (Houghton Mif­flin)
    “Speech upon Receiv­ing the Philadel­phia Lib­erty Medal” by Václav Havel (July 4, 1994)
    Prop­erty and Pro­duc­tiv­ity
    Devel­op­ment as Free­dom by Amartya Sen (Anchor)
    Equal­ity and Effi­ciency: The Big Trade­off by Arthur M. Okun (The Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion)
    The Muqad­dimah by Ibn Khaldūn (Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Press)
    The Repub­lic by Plato

    LEADERSHIP READINGS
    “Because We Can, We Must” by Bono (com­mence­ment address at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, May 17, 2004)
    A Con­fes­sion by Leo Tol­stoy
    Death and the King’s Horse­man by Wole Soyinka (W.W. Nor­ton)
    “A Far Cry from Africa” by Derek Wal­cott in The Nor­ton Anthol­ogy of Poetry (W.W. Nor­ton)
    Good to Great: Why Some Com­pa­nies Make the Leap…and Oth­ers Don’t by Jim Collins (Harper­Collins)
    “Great Expec­ta­tions” by Bill Gates (com­mence­ment address at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, June 7, 2007)
    Lead­er­ship on the Line: Stay­ing Alive Through the Dan­gers of Lead­ing by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Lin­sky (Har­vard Busi­ness School Press)
    Lead­ing from Within: Poetry that Sus­tains the Courage to Lead by Sam M. Intra­tor and Megan Scrib­ner (Jossey-Bass)
    Let­ter to Daniel: Dis­patches from the Heart by Fer­gal Keane (Pen­guin Books)
    The Oppos­able Mind: How Suc­cess­ful Lead­ers Win Through Inte­gra­tive Think­ing by Roger L. Mar­tin (Har­vard Busi­ness School Press)
    “Rebel­lion” by Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky in The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov
    Self-Renewal: The Indi­vid­ual and the Inno­v­a­tive Soci­ety by John W. Gard­ner (Harper­Collins)
    Ser­vant Lead­er­ship: A Jour­ney into the Nature of Legit­i­mate Power and Great­ness by Robert K. Green­leaf (Paulist Press)

    FICTION
    Black Boy by Richard Wright (Harper­Peren­nial)
    A Fine Bal­ance by Rohin­ton Mis­try (Vin­tage Inter­na­tional)
    A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Heine­mann)
    Inde­pen­dent Peo­ple by Halldór Lax­ness (Vin­tage Inter­na­tional)
    Midnight’s Chil­dren by Salman Rushdie (Pen­guin Books)
    The Ones Who Walk Away From Ome­las by Ursula K. Le Guin (Cre­ative Edu­ca­tion)
    Pur­ple Hibis­cus by Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor)
    Sea­son of Migra­tion to the North by Tayeb Salih (NYRB Clas­sics)
    Shadow Lines by Ami­tav Ghosh (Mariner Books)
    Shoot­ing an Ele­phant by George Orwell (Pen­guin Books)
    The Tem­pest by William Shake­speare
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Heine­mann)

    Train to Pak­istan by Khush­want Singh (Grove Press)

    BOOKS ON INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION
    “A Behavioral-Economics View of Poverty” by Mar­i­anne Bertrand, Send­hil Mul­lainathan, and Eldar Shafir (Amer­i­can Eco­nomic Review 94, no. 2)
    The Bot­tom Bil­lion: Why the Poor­est Coun­tries are Fail­ing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Col­lier (Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press)
    Cap­i­tal­ism as if the World Mat­ters by Jonathon Por­ritt and Amory B. Lovins (Earth­scan Pub­li­ca­tions)
    Devel­op­ment as Free­dom by Amartya Sen (Anchor)
    The End of Poverty: Eco­nomic Pos­si­bil­i­ties for Our Time by Jef­frey D. Sachs (Pen­guin Press)
    The For­tune at the Bot­tom of the Pyra­mid: Erad­i­cat­ing Poverty Through Prof­its by C.K. Pra­ha­lad (Whar­ton School Pub­lish­ing)
    Mak­ing Glob­al­iza­tion Work by Joseph E. Stiglitz (W.W. Nor­ton)
    Max­i­mum City: Bom­bay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (Knopf)
    The Mys­tery of Cap­i­tal: Why Cap­i­tal­ism Tri­umphs in the West and Fails Every­where Else by Her­nando de Soto (Basic Books)
    Patholo­gies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer (Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press)
    Phil­an­thro­cap­i­tal­ism: How the Rich Can Save the World by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green (Blooms­bury Press)
    Plan B 2.0: Res­cu­ing a Planet Under Stress and a Civ­i­liza­tion in Trou­ble by Lester R. Brown (W.W. Nor­ton)
    Port­fo­lios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Mor­duch, Stu­art Ruther­ford, and Orlanda Ruthven (Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Press)
    The White Man’s Bur­den: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Lit­tle Good by Williams Rus­sell East­erly (Pen­guin Books)
    Wiki­nomics: How Mass Col­lab­o­ra­tion Changes Every­thing by Don Tap­scott and Anthony D. Williams (Port­fo­lio Hard­cover)

    The World’s Banker: A Story of Failed States, Finan­cial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations by Sebas­t­ian Mal­laby (Pen­guin Press)

     
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

    8:44 pm on October 11, 2010 | 2 comments Permalink | Reply
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    Women hold up half the sky — Chi­nese Proverb

    Real­ity is hard. It is a star­tling rev­e­la­tion at times often because we choose to sur­round our­selves with our view and expe­ri­ence of the world. This Thanks­giv­ing, I am reminded of real­ity when I sat down to read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. In Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn throw an inter­est­ing twist into the con­ven­tional view of plights of women around the world: by telling their sto­ries. From Cam­bo­dia to South Africa. From sex slaves to mater­nal health. By putting a name, emo­tion and pas­sion into the sto­ries. This ten­ta­tive foray into the realm of story-telling melds sur­pris­ing well with what is, essen­tially, a pas­sion­ate call to action against our generation’s most per­va­sive human rights vio­la­tion: the oppres­sion of women and girls worldwide.

    The open­ing of the book fol­lows the story of Srey Rath, a young Cam­bo­dian teenager, who was sold as a sex salve across the bor­ders, end­ing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where she endured rou­tine bru­tal­ity and con­stant humil­i­a­tion. It was a huge shock to my sys­tem, as Malaysia is some­place I call my home town…  to read in such vivid detail the human rights vio­la­tion done to Srey Rath was stun­ning in every sense.

    These sto­ries of human per­se­ver­ance, injus­tice and ulti­mately hope, just like Srey Rath, are woven into three main issues: sex traf­fick­ing and forced pros­ti­tu­tion; gender-based vio­lence e.g. honor killings and mass rape and mater­nal mor­tail­ity. Sub issues include edu­ca­tion, micro­cre­dit and reli­gion. The sto­ries in the book are shock­ing, but ulti­mately this is the cen­tral truth of the book: Women aren’t the prob­lem but the solu­tion. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.

    It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, pre­cisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all bat­tles of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. More girls are killed in this rou­tine “gen­der­cide” in any one decade than peo­ple were slaugh­tered in all the geno­cides of the twen­ti­eth century.

    In the nine­teenth cen­tury, the cen­tral moral chal­lenge was slav­ery. In the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, it was the bat­tle against total­i­tar­i­an­ism. We believe that in this cen­tury, the para­mount moral chal­lenge will be the strug­gle for gen­der equal­ity around the world. ”

    Through sto­ries, Kristof and WuDunn demon­strate how the key to eco­nomic progress lies in the fact that as a soci­ety, we need to stop ignor­ing women who hold up half the sky. Unleash­ing this incred­i­ble human poten­tial is not only the right thing to do in terms of our own shared human­ity, but also the best way to tackle poverty. They show how in vastly dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, the endurance of the human spirit and how a lit­tle help can go a long way e.g. the sim­ple act of iodiz­ing salt to improve a baby’s IQ.

    I won’t go into the details of the book because my sum­mary will not do these incred­i­ble sto­ries jus­tice. How­ever, on a per­sonal level, this book’s mes­sage has imprinted itself deeply within my beliefs in inter­na­tional devel­op­ment. After all, how many books make such a  state­ment about a mat­ter than con­cerns every­one because of our shared human­ity? The sto­ries of these women show me the resilience and amount of hope they have within them­selves who have every rea­son to give up but con­tinue on. It’s so mov­ing and inspi­ra­tional that I just want to shout it out loud and tell every­one about the issues Kristof and WuDunn have writ­ten about. If there is one thing that this book is about, it is the story of transformation.

    Rat­ing: 10/10

    If you think edu­ca­tion is expen­sive, try igno­rance.” — Derek Bok


     
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