24 min read

Coolest Stuff I Learned

Coolest Stuff I Learned
Photo by Iñaki del Olmo / Unsplash

I write a weekly email newsletter called Breakfast Notes.
This is a collection of my favorite ideas I have collected over the past few years.

Share this if you would love for a friend to read about new ideas sent to their inbox every Friday!

Amazon’s Empty Chair

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is famously obsessed with customer experience. For Bezos, “Obsessing over customer experience is the only long-term defensible competitive advantage.”

Every staff meeting has an empty chair for the imaginary customer to sit in. This might sound cheesy, but it is a visually compelling method to ensure every business meeting will consider the consumer experience.

Implementing visual anchors is a robust way to ensure one never forgets the core of his endeavour.

Tesla’s R&D Spending

The Visual Capitalist

Tesla spends $0 on advertising every year and $2,984 per car sold on research and development (R&D) (often triple the amount of other traditional automakers)

It feels like Elon Musk is singlehandedly running Tesla's annual ad-campaigns.

Beauty

I am learning how to appreciate beauty.

To that, I turn to Roger Scruton, “a man of extraordinary intellect, learning and humour” who had a keen eye in appreciating all things beautiful. I would like to share some Scrutonian quotes on beauty.

  • Realism...is a kind of disappointed tribute to the ideal.
  • Like the pleasure of friendship, the pleasure in beauty is curious: it aims to understand its object and to value what it finds.
  • The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation.
  • Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.

The Three Sides of Risk

Photo by Michael Shannon / Unsplash

Morgan Housel, the author of The Psychology of Money and a partner at The Collaborative Fund, wrote about how the death of his two best friends in a skiing accident taught him the three sides of risk.

Housel’s three distinct sides of risk:

  • The odds you will suffer a loss.
  • The average consequences of suffering a loss.
  • The tail-end consequences of suffering a loss.

Consider surgical mistakes.

The odds Elaine suffers a loss is small because she, like many others, trust the doctors and believe they will be professional and safe.

The average consequence of a surgical mistake would be either an extended surgery or an inconvenient second surgery.

The tail-end consequence would be immediate death.

No one takes the tail end consequences seriously until they experience its effects. Then, an epiphany grabs them by the collar -the tail-end consequences – the low-probability, high-impact events – are all that matter.

Martin Bromiley, an airline pilot, lost his wife, Elaine, due to a medical error in a routine sinus operation, and her death was a tail-end consequence. Now, Bromiley has dedicated his life to reducing errors in the operation room and making healthcare safe

This Sentence Has Five Words

Gary Provost 

The American writer, instructor and wordsmith, Gary Provost, was known for his craftsmanship on the typewriter.

The following paragraph illuminates an emphasis of his writing - musicality.

Good writing, like good music, is immersive and pleasing.

The Greatness of Marcus Aurelius

Youtube Video Of Sugrue

In a lecture by Michael Sugrue, he spoke about why Marcus Aurelius was not just a great ruler but a great soul.

For an emperor with absolute power and wealth, he lived with virtue.

Power did not corrupt; absolute power did not corrupt absolutely; absolute power revealed absolutely.

His virtue in the face of overwhelming excesses allowed us a peek at what Marcus Aurelius’ soul is like.

Imagine a man for whom all the restraints of law and custom and political order are taken away—he could have whatever he wants. If a man, under those circumstances, behaves well, you know something about the soul underneath because no external constraint is making him do what he is doing. And Marcus Aurelius is the one example of an absolute ruler who behaves himself in such a way as not to disgrace himself. His conduct of virtuosity for nineteen years is a reproach on our self-indulgence.

We Have Way Too Much Time

"I don't have time to read!" - is the default complaint many of us have when it comes to our reading habits.

The reality is that we have too much time on our hands. The average daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide exploded from 90 minutes a day in 2012 to 145 minutes in 2020.

In other words, we spend 7 hours more per week on social media than we did in 2012. If we spent just spent half of that extra 7 hours per week on reading, we would be reading much more. The lesson here is simple: We don't need to be digital Luddites; we just need to be more like our 2012 selves.

The first step is to dispel the myth that we don't have time.


Curiosity is a Superpower

To have a desire to read, one must first have a desire to learn. This desire must emerge from the intrinsic motivation of curiosity.

Research has suggested that curiosity not only increases the efficacy of knowledge retention and through curiosity-activated releases of dopamine, the process of learning is also far more enjoyable.

Such studies show us that the best way to absorb the teachings of a book starts with the power of curiosity.


The Global Real Estate Bubble

The Visual Capitalist

Overheated real-estate markets have been here forever, but COVID-19 has changed the dynamic of real estate markets.

In the past twenty years, real-estate price appreciation in city centres has been a fact of life. Remote work options and office downsizing are pushing many to the suburbs. As a result, housing prices in the suburbs are increasing faster than in cities for the first time since the 1990s.

But, overall, real-estate prices are not going to climb down any time soon.

Voltaire On Work

In his iconoclastic novella, Candide, ou l'Optimisme, Voltaire brings the reader on an exhilarating adventure of riches to rags with its protagonist , Candide.

Today, Candide is widely affirmed as Voltaire's magnum opus and has become a staple in the Western canon and French literary tradition. While it is most noted for its scathing and satirical critique of Leibnizian optimism, I found Voltaire's treatment of work to be the aptest for the 21st century.

For Voltaire - meaning is neither generated through luxurious consumption nor clinging on to naive optimism. Rather, the key to coping with the existential dread of life is to immerse oneself in cultivating work.

"I have only twenty acres, my children and I cultivate them; our labour preserves us from three great evils—boredom, vice, and poverty."

Voltaire concludes his work through Candide's candid answer -"All that is very well but let us cultivate our garden."

Black Swan Theory

Photo by Roy Muz / Unsplash

The Black Swan Theory, introduced by Nassim Taleb, is a metaphor describing a surprise event that has an outsized effect on society. It has three characteristics.

  • Rare. This event’s probability is minute because no past data points can convince you of its possibility.
  • Extreme ‘Impact’. The impact is so large that it changes the fabric of reality.
  • Hindsight Rationalization. Hindsight is 20/20, so we always find a way to explain the black swan as if it could have been expected.

As such, COVID-19 is no black swan because, in the past 100 years, humanity has experienced multiple pandemics. However, China invading Indonesia (for example) would be a black swan because historically, China only fought with its immediate neighbours.

Nassim Taleb’s Aphorisms (That I Love)

I bought a book called Bed of Procrustes, a book of his NNT’s one-liners and zingers. Here are some of my favourites.

  • You may outlive your strength, never your wisdom.
  • Never say no twice if you mean it.
  • If you need others to know you are doing well, you are not doing well.
  • If wit signals intellect without nerdiness, platitudes signal nerdiness without intellect.
  • The more humans try to become Demigods, the more they become full monsters.
  • Old enemies and new friends can’t harm you; new enemies and old friends can.
  • Success is if you don’t derive a secret pleasure from the failure of others.

Revealed Comparative Advantage

Comparative advantage is an economy's ability to produce a good or service at a lower opportunity cost than its trading partners. In turn, the economy can specialize in doing what they do best - selling good stuff at a lower price while enjoying higher profits.

Comparative advantage is expressed in terms of relative prices evaluated in the absence of trade in theoretical models.

But, we cannot observe this in reality.

Economists study a country’s trade profile and compare it to the global average. The derived indices show us a country’s Revealed Comparative Advantage.

For example, if milk accounts for 50% of Australia's export value and milk accounts for 10% of the world's average export value, we know that Australia has a comparative advantage in milk.

Vaccine Development

Time Magazine
Time Magazine

This is Geraldine Rosales, a Denver fifth-grader, grimacing in pain whgetting a measles vaccine injection from Dr Stonington in 1970.

How long did it take for us to come up with a measles vaccine?

Close to a decade, and this was fast by historical standards.

The accelerated development of the COVID-19 vaccine in just over a year shows how fast science has been progressing.

The Linda Problem

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman came up with this trivia question to test the logical reasoning of their participants. Have a stab.

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with discrimination and social justice issues and participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable?

  1. Linda is a bank teller.
  2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

If you answered 2, you have committed the Conjunction Fallacy.

The probability of two events occurring together (in "conjunction") is always less than or equal to the probability of either one occurring alone.

Researchers and critics alike have tried reframing the question, but many participants still commit the conjunction fallacy.


How Ogilvy Creates Big Ideas

The legendary advertisement wizard David Ogilvy once declared that one would never win fame and fortune unless he invents big ideas.

Algorithms cannot spot nascent, world-changing ideas because originality takes time to seep into the mainstream.

After all, you couldn’t have googled ‘Google’ in 1985.

Ogilvy suggests that to create big ideas, stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational process.

Go for a long walk, soak in a hot tub, sip on a glass of red wine. Suddenly, if the muse knocks on your mind’s door, you can answer it.

China’s Ancient Influence

China was called 中国 because it believed itself to be The Central kingdom of the world.

Forbidden City

China’s influence was undoubtedly pervasive. Consider how Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese palaces look so much like China’s.

Korean Palace
Japanese Palace
Vietnamese Palace at Hue


Counterfactual History

A counterfactual history is a form of historiography that attempts to answer the question - What If?

One of my favourites is an essay by Diane Kunz of Yale University, “Camelot Continued: What if John F. Kennedy had lived?”

Through studying the first three years of the Kennedy administration, Kunz argues persuasively that JFK was mediocre.

Consider one example,

Unlike popular narratives that argue if JFK were alive, America would have pulled out from South Vietnam.

However, JFK was inclined to be a foreign policy president; compared with Johnson, his lack of success in a domestic agenda made global geopolitical success more important. In the backdrop of an intensifying Cold War in the early 60s, there was no way that JFK would be willing to withdraw from Vietnam.

Had he not been assassinated and obtained a second term, “ federal civil rights policy during the 1960s would have been substantially less productive and US actions in Vietnam no different from what occurred. His tragic assassination was not a tragedy for the course of American history."

Counterfactuals are an interesting attempt to explore the significance of a given historical event. By posing a Counterfactual scenario, historians can tell readers that the unfolded history is only one of the many possible ways events could have happened.

Thus, readers are forced to confront the importance of contingency in history.

Externalities

An externality is a cost or benefit received by a third party not involved in consuming or producing a good/service.

Examples include:

  • Second-Hand Smoke by cigarettes
  • Second-Hand Smoke by deforestation
  • Second-Hand smoke by your friend spouting bs in class

The primary business of a government is to manage externalities.

Chesterton’s Fence

Chesterton, in his 1929 book, The Thing,

The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see its use, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This is the main argument of conservatives who seek to conserve prevailing norms. It is not an excuse to not change things but a call to be aware of second-order consequences before intervention.

Veil of Ignorance

Imagine if we had to sit behind a veil, covering up all our knowledge of the world now. We are ignorant of our class, family, privileges, challenges and personality.

How would we design this world?

In creating this thought experiment, John Rawls aimed to help people consider more objectively what a fair and just society would look like.

Liberals use this as their main argument to highlight existing inequalities and barriers with the hopes of hastening reform and creating a better society.

Steel Manning

Given two opposing views, what is the best way forward?

To steel-man, the other person’s argument Is to address the best form of the opposing argument you can conceive, even if it’s not the one they presented.

If the goal is truth and progress, both sides benefit equally.

Caution: Ego might be bruised.


Veblen Goods

Shopping freak
Photo by freestocks / Unsplash

Thorstein Veblen was an economist and sociologist Who studied the relationship between the economy, society and culture.

He realised that quantity demanded increased for certain goods as price increased, seemingly violating the law of demand. In other words, the more expensive they are, the more people want them.

This is because the utility of consumption was embedded in its signalling effect on one’s status. In the 1800s, the aristocrats preferred to show their power and status not by production or leadership but by conspicuous consumption.

This is why Gucci, Hermes and LV never promote sales and spend millions of dollars constructing extravagant storefronts.

Veblen Beliefs. Rob Henderson, a PHD candidate at Cambridge, highlights the emergence of luxury beliefs, ideas that have very little cost to the rich but take a huge toll on the lower class. Such beliefs are new fashionable status symbols.

Kayfabe

It is the portrayal of staged events within the wrestling industry as authentic.

Kayfabe arises under the following conditions:

  • Occasional but Extreme Peril for the participants
  • General Monotony for both audience and participants.

Early wrestling was like this, where matches would go on for hours without much fanfare. Yet, it was dangerous for the wrestlers as anyone could break a bone in a split second.

To safeguard wrestler safety and keep the audience paying, promoters blended truth and lies, violence and choreography to serve a delicious drama cocktail for the audience’s entertainment.

Eric Weinstein argues that politics is undergoing a process of kayfabrication because the voters are now seen as the audience who need to be entertained in a monotonous but occasionally perilous world.


Overton Window

Understanding Discourse

Politicians will only espouse policies widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options and are hence, within the Window. If they champion too radical and unthinkable ideas, they risk losing popular support and their electoral chances.

The Overton Window features more prominently in countries where voting pressures are higher.

A good example of how the Overton Window features in contemporary politics would be that literally, no politician would dare propose the elimination of conscription in Singapore.

Note: the word ‘espouse’ and not ‘implement’.

Survivorship Bias

Goxx Capital

Survivorship bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that passed selection processes while overlooking those that did not, leading to false conclusions.

The story of Mr Goxx, a hamster who has beaten the returns of Bitcoin and Warren Buffett illuminates this concept.

Is Mr Goxx a genius hamster?

The answer is likely, no.

For every Mr Goxx, there are likely to be many dead trading neopets that wallow in obscurity.

After all, how many animals were outfitted with these prediction rigs in the first place? The media is incentivized to focus and report about animals who have succeeded. Consequently, we have no real clue about how many failed animal traders there are in the world.

As a result, many of us commit the logical error of concentrating on the people/things/hamsters that have made it past the selection process of crypto profitability and neglect those that did not.

This might lull us into exaggerated optimism, where we invest our life savings in Mr Goxx's fund and potentially make the mistake of losing everything.

Law of Large Numbers

Expectation Meets Reality!

The average of the results obtained from a large number of trials will be close to the expected value. The proximity of the average to the expected value will only increase as more trials are repeated.

Casinos and insurance firms, in particular, benefit from this law. The odds of striking the jackpot or being struck with cancer is so low. As such, given a huge number of paying clients, they earn more than they pay out.

Law of Diminishing Returns

This law states that adding a factor of production results in smaller increases in output. Once you reach an optimal level of capacity utilization, adding any more factors will inevitably yield decreased returns.

In plain English, more inputs don't always mean more output. In some cases, it might even decrease output.

Good examples include:

  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • Buffet Restaurants make the owners rich, not poor.
  • You won't enjoy 10 Liters of Coca Cola in one gulp.

At some point, an extra cook, an extra plate of food, or an extra sip makes the outcome worse, not better.

Don't do it. But, we often only learn about this later in our lives.

Here is his advice,

“If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”


Messiness of Ideas

Most depictions (novels, videos, books, articles and pictures) are curated.

Dostoyevsky's Notebook
Leonardo Da Vinci's Notebook
Charles Dicken's Notebook

How They Advertised Smoking

CBS
Adweek

In the early 1930s and 40s, smoking became a popular trend that even doctors and dentists supported the sexiness of smoking.

In the 1950s, smokers started contracting cancer at an alarming rate.

To fight off any controversy, tobacco conglomerates created and funded think tanks.

The Tobacco Research Industry Committee was invented, and they even published an outrageous statement :

Medical research of recent years indicates many possible causes of lung cancer, there is no agreement among the authorities regarding what the cause is and there is no proof that cigarette smoking is one of the causes.

Dr. Clarence Cook Little, the previous director of the American Cancer Society was even hired to be the public defender of smoking. Tobacco conglomerates leveraged the appeal to authority to sway the public.

Only when the evidence became so mounting that the American public wake up to the harms of smoking.

The story of how smoking was advertised should warn us how (i) science can be corrupted and (ii) the risks of conglomerate-funded think tanks

Walking In Threes

三人行必有我师焉

In a journey of three people, one of whom will be my teacher.This Chinese idiom from the Analects proposes an attitude of epistemic humility that no matter where we are or who we are with, our ego should not get in the way of learning, we can always learn from the experience and wisdom of others.

Origin of ‘Jaywalking’

In mid-western slang, a jay was a countryside bum who would drone on endlessly.

Thus, a jaywalker was "someone from the countryside who goes to the city and is so dazzled by the lights and the show windows that they keep stopping and getting in the way of other pedestrians".

  • Who coined it? In a cold 1913 December, a department store in Syracuse hired a Santa Claus to stand on the street to chastise people who did not cross the roads properly. And, he called them ‘jaywalkers.’

So many words have the weirdest origins.

Why The Great Attrition is Happening

McKinsey Survey of n=5774 people across five countries.

Employers often think the reason why employees are leaving is that they are overworked and underpaid.

In reality, many leave because they perceive that the organisation and their leadership do not sufficiently value them.


Notebooks

I keep notebooks everywhere I go. I put one in my bag, one on my table and one under my pillow. Instead of scurrying for a notebook whenever an idea hits me, I would pick up the one nearest to me. The times I found the notebook the most useful.

  1. When I feel ‘out of it’
  2. When I chance upon an interesting sound bite In a podcast
  3. When I watch YouTube

Lee Kuan Yew's View On Theories

In 1975, Lee Kuan Yew was interviewed by David Cox of the London Weekend Television. When asked what he thought of the 'domino theory, if one state fell to communists, others would fall like dominoes.

His answer:

Well, I don’t play dominoes. A group of bright Americans built up this theory when the United States wanted to intervene in Vietnam. And a group of brighter Americans debunked the theory when they decided they didn’t want to be in Vietnam. And being a malleable mind, I believed the first one, and now I believe the second one.

While I cannot find this video, I can imagine him saying this ironically.

To LKY, theories are most effective when they are half-believed.

For Singapore to succeed, he had to be 'sufficiently practical and pragmatic enough not to be cluttered up and inhibited by theories.'

Hyperbolic Discounting

My lousy drawing

A fancy and mathematical way of saying that we humans are impatient creatures.

In other words, it is a tendency to give greater value to rewards now than in the future, even when immediate rewards are smaller.

This bias incentivises impulsiveness and immediate gratification, which is why :

  • Smokers find it hard to kick off smoking
  • Most of us cannot get six-pack abs.
  • The total household debt in the US is nearly $15 trillion, $5 trillion shy of its 2020 GDP.

Fujifilm Failure Fallacy

Fujifilm's Newspaper Ads

When you hear about Fujifilm, what is your first reaction?

You might be tempted to chuck them in the same category as Blockbuster, Sears, Blackberry, Compaq and Nokia.

With the rapid spread of digital technology, the beloved film camera brand, alongside its rival, Kodak, was destined for failure, right?

Well, Fujifilm pulled off one of the most successful pivots in 20th-century corporate history.

They executed these three strategies.

  • Squeeze as much cash as possible out of film while they still could.
  • Switch to Digital Cameras
  • Diversify their business lines

Of the three, it was the last that was their saving grace. After all, people could still shoot decent photos with their iPhones.

Today, Fujifilm remains profitable and has manufacturing businesses active in chemicals, pharmaceutical products, LCD components, ultrasound systems, cosmetics and X-ray products.

Fujifilm did not fail; it merely transformed itself from a B2C company to a B2B company. In doing so, its name may have lost some of its lustrs among average consumers but, it has continued its profitable ways.

How The iPhone Changed The World

iPhone 12 Pro connected to 5G.
Photo by James Yarema / Unsplash

When Steve Jobs came up with the iPhone, he thought he was reinventing the phone.

No more clunky keyboards, hello touch screen, software updates and music on your phone.

What Steve Jobs did not know was that the little feature update Apple added in 2008 would drastically reinvent the entire modern economy.

The feature update? The App Store.

In one decade, the App Store opened the Apple Ecosystem to applications like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Slack, WhatsApp, Uber, Google Maps and over 2.2 million apps.

As Apple began the smartphone revolution, Google joined in, creating the Android Playstore.

A smartphone was no longer just a phone that could play music; it became a consumer’s virtual concierge.

Be it booking a cab, sending an email, buying groceries, or calling your mother, consumers could do everything on the phone.

As such, the internet cemented itself as the default platform of consumption.

Newton’s First Law

Newton’s first law states that if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless a force acts upon it.

Its application goes way beyond physics.

This concept can be applied in countering slippery slope arguments by highlighting an important counteracting force.

For example, “If we increase our taxes now, we will just encourage the government to keep increasing taxes! Before we know it, we will be back in a communist regime.”

The best response is not to dismiss the argument but to highlight that, “Once the government can alleviate the problem of wealth inequality and slow the growing income gap, they are unlikely to increase the tax rates further.”

Moore’s Law

Petapixel

Moore's law observes that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) doubles about every two years.

As manufacturers gain experience in production and experimentation, they can improve the efficiency of their circuits.

This is what a 5MB hard drive looked like in 1956. My iPhone 11 Pro has 256 GB — meaning a phone in my pocket has 51,200 memory than the hard drive above.

Xu Bei Hong’s Paintings

Xu Bei Hong is one of my favourite modern Chinese painters, and he brings to life the stories and symbols of ancient folklore.

Tian Heng and His Five Hundred Followers
Galloping Horses, Xu's Signature
The Foolish Old Man Moves A Mountain

Town and Gown

Town and gown refer to two distinct communities of a university town. The ‘town’ refers to the non-academic population, and the ‘gown’ refers to the university community.

This phenomenon is most pronounced in traditional institutions of higher learning like Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham.

In the early medieval years, conflict was inevitable. Given the same restricted space, the town and gown were separately governed with different priorities, loyalties, attitudes, cultures and values.

  • Cambridge University was born out of a fight between the townspeople of Oxford and scholars from the University of Oxford, which then forced many Oxford scholars to relocate to Cambridge.

As universities gained ascendancy through innovation in science and research, they also became economic centres. In the modern era, universities generate demand for businesses and bring about positive externalities to towns. Similarly, the town provides essential goods and services such as healthcare and groceries to sustain the university.

Eisenhower on Leadership

[Dwight D. Eisenhower, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left]. Photograph by photographer Fabian Bachrach , 1952. From the Presidential File Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. 

https://www.loc.gov/item/96523445/
Photo by Library of Congress / Unsplash

Dwight Eisenhower was not only the Supreme Allied Commander, President of Columbia University, a man who was hotly sought after by both the Democrats and Republicans and the President who authorised the iconic American Interstate Highway System in 1958.

Here is what he had to say about leadership,

Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.

Eisenhower Matrix

My Ugly Drawing

I hardly use the Eisenhower Matrix for my decision making. However, I have concluded that I am not doing enough of the non-urgent and important things.

Beauty and The Soul

Liking What You See: A Documentary is a 2002 science fiction short story written by Ted Chiang about calliagnosia, a procedure that would eliminate one's ability of aesthetic appreciation.

One can identify facial features accurately but will have zero emotional reaction to it. In this fictional world, fat, skinny, tall, short have become nothing more than adjectives.

Consider Alex Bibescu, (the fictional) professor of religious studies who highlighted the debate around calliagnosia was an animated reflection of the age old Western ambivalence about the body.

The foundations of our culture were laid in classical Greece, where physical beauty and the body were celebrated. But our culture is also thoroughly permeated by the monotheistic tradition, which devalues the body in favor of the soul. These old conflicting impulses are rearing their heads again, this time in the calliagnosia debate.

I suspect that most calli supporters consider themselves to be modern, secular liberals, and wouldn't admit to being influenced by monotheism in any way. But take a look at who else advocates calliagnosia: conservative religious groups. There are communities of all three major monotheistic faiths— Jewish, Christian, and Muslim— who've begun using calli to make their young members more resistant to the charms of outsiders. This commonality is no coincidence. The liberal calli supporters may not use language like "resisting the temptations of the flesh," but in their own way, they're following the same tradition of deprecating the physical.

Really, the only calli supporters who can credibly claim they're not influenced by monotheism are the NeoMind Buddhists. They're a sect who see calliagnosia as a step toward enlightened thought, because it eliminates one's perception of illusory distinctions. But the NeoMind sect is open to broad use of neurostat as an aid to meditation, which is a radical stance of an entirely different sort. I doubt you'll find many modern liberals or conservative monotheists sympathetic to that!


The Power (and Limits) of Diversification

Diagram from Zheng HuanHuan, my former Econ Prof

Two things to note in this diagram.

  • The annual standard deviation drops from 50% to 23.9% when you increase investment from 1 stock to 10 stocks.
  • After that, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and no matter how many stocks you invest in, you will experience around the same levels of volatility.

In other words, to get healthy returns, diversify. However, you should still expect some bumps along the road.

The Patrick Star of Presentation

My Ugly Drawing

Patrick Winston, a famed computer scientist and master of public presentations, came up with the following cheat code that will help you inform, persuade, entertain and impress your audience.

Case in Point: Nike Football - Winner Stays

Nike Ad

You can find this framework everywhere - commercials, lectures and even music videos.

Symbol: The iconic tick.

Slogan: Winner Stays On.

Surprise: Football stars turn up at a pick-up game, and this friendly neighbourhood game becomes a stadium event. Hulk actually appears.

Salient: Nike makes good football shoes.

Story: Getting Nike soccer boots can turn you into an elite football player.

Freytag's Pyramid

Writers.com Illustration

Othello As Case Study

Here is a summary of a Shakespearean tragedy, Othello by Thug Notes. This is how you, as the audience, should feel as the play develops,

Exposition. You know Iago is the bad guy, and Othello is the good guy. But you are waiting for the story to play out.

Rising Action. You see Iago commit his villainy (inciting incident) and you feel the dread building up, and you are on the edge of your seats. You secretly hope Othello wakes up his idea and doesn't listen to Iago.

Climax: You see everything go to sh*t. You see Othello kill his wife, Iago kill Emilia. There is no hope left. You punch the air.

Falling Action. Othello wakes up his idea, but it's too late. He realizes he has killed the woman he loves. Iago gets caught for his transgression. You feel like Othello has redeemed himself and Iago got his comeuppance but, you are still hit in the feels. "Oh! The Tragedy that could have been avoided!"

Resolution. Lodovico sorts out the post-death admin, basically tying up loose ends. You dust the popcorn off your pants and get ready to exit.


How To Cultivate A Palette

Andrew Zimmerman, the American chef and producer extraordinaire, says we’re not genetically predisposed to dislike certain foods. The challenge comes with the messages our culture gives us about certain foods.

We live in a profoundly fast-moving and convenience-based culture. As such, many of us ingest but don’t taste, and we gobble but don’t chew.

Zimmerman suggests the following cures to this modern malady.

  • Try new foods multiple times. A 2010 study found that children who tried a vegetable they didn’t like eight or nine times began to like it more.
  • Try new preparation methods inspired by different cultures. There are more than one ways to skin a cat. If you like pork, you can try cooking a pork chop, pork broth ramen or bak kut teh.  If not, just sample them outside. (P.S: Don’t skin the cat)
  • When in doubt, use a touch of fat, sugar and salt. Don’t dump them in; your arteries will thank you for it. Remember just to give a light touch, ok?
  • It’s O.K. not to like certain foods. I don’t eat raw ginger, and I find it gross. However, I have tried it. Trying new foods is like going out on a date. It never hurts to try.

Thank you for spending your precious time here with me.
Life is flavorful !