Thinking Out of the Box: Evolution

I would like to share with you the following story, though I am unable to recollect the reference from which I had taken it from:

There were once these kids that would topple the rubbish cans along the street, causing the rubbish to spew out. This had gone on everyday for a long time. One day, an old man came out, and offered the kids this proposition: He would pay them $2 to continue knocking all the cans down, everyday.

These kids couldn’t believe their luck, and for the next week, he paid them the $2 everyday for knocking down the rubbish cans. Then he told them that he would have to reduce it to $1. They were not very happy, but continued to do so anyway. For another week it went on.

On the third week, the old man told them that he could only afford to give them 50¢. They exclaimed, “What?! 50¢? You must be joking!”

The old man refused to budge from that offer, and they went away, and never knocked down another can again.

Analysis of the story

Imagine a square table, with four legs. The tabletop is an action, while the legs are the reasons the action is being done. In the story above, the action is that of kicking the cans down. The reasons the “kids” kicked down the cans was originally not that of money, but of perhaps a need for attention, or out of simple mischief.

When money was introduced, it was like adding an additional fourth leg under the table. This extra leg far out-weighed the other legs. So now imagine a huge table leg under the centre of the tabletop. Soon, due to a lack of a need of the other legs, the kids started taking them off.

When the other legs were taken off (when money was the only factor playing on the kids’ minds), the old slowly replaced the huge table leg with a smaller one (smaller amount of money). Soon, when the money became too small to support the tabletop, it collapsed (and the kids stopped their action of kicking bins down).

All actions have reasons behind them. Over time, these reasons evolve, while we may not even be aware of their evolution. Soon, we’re stuck with out-moded systems, systems that continue to exists because “that’s how it has always been done”.

Sometimes the only table leg left, is the one that says: “because that’s how it has always been done”.

Constant and Never-Ending Improvement

I don’t know if you know about this term, it’s from Anothony Robbins. CANI stands for Constant And Never-Ending Improvement.

What is success? Is there an end to success? Well, in most books and articles I have read so far, success can be anything and everything! And often times it is the achievement of one’s goal. But what if one reaches that goal? Then one sets another one, and another, and another. Success seems…well…like something unachievable! Then isn’t attaining success awfully hard?

Well, one way we can define success such that it is to constantly improve in everyway, everyday. It might be improving relationships, or improving economically, or even improving physically. It might also mean improving our spirituality, or our service to community.

Every single day, improve, even if just a bit, even if it means eating one less potato chip, or jogging an extra 200 metres, or giving (more) money or time to the less fortunate, or more talking to family members/friends…just about anything. Just improve in some way, every single day. As you improve, you will prove to be a man (or woman) of greater value, every single day.

Every day you will wake up, and wonder how you might improve. Wonder what the things that you might do even better than before. Constant and never-ending improvement — success is not a goal, but a life-long journey.

Remember, you are either going up (improving), or going down (worsening!). Improve everyday! even if just a little…Read Anthony Robbins for some great life lessons!

Are you awake?

I was at my friend’s house some time back. He was at his computer surfing the net. I noticed that his computer was making very little noise. It was silent in fact. I was curious by this, as I had a computer at home that made this loud buzzing noise that I just couldn’t stand.

I listened intently, but couldn’t hear a whisper out of his computer. I decided to go get myself a glass of water, as I was feeling thirsty, and pondered about the silence as I did this. When I went back to his room, his computer suddenly seemed louder than it had been. Now I could hear the fans whirring inside the computer, and it was pretty loud too. Why hadn’t I noticed this before?

I realised that I had been getting too used to it. I had grown so used to the sound that even when I tried to listen for it, I couldn’t. I needed to take a step out of the room before I could hear it. Do you realise that once you grow accustomed to something, you tend to forget about it? Sometimes we get to used to life, that we forget we’re actually living it.

We forget we’re alive, that it took a miracle to get us here, and that everything around us is actually there. We get jaded. Did you notice that you have a computer? Did you notice that you have a painting on the wall, or a window, or a bed to sleep on? Have you woken up to the things in life? If not, you should.

Why Habits are So Hard to Break

Habits are things we do continually, over and over again, simply because to not do them, would make us uncomfortable. It might be physical or mental. To rid these uncomfortable feelings we carry out our habit. Take for example the (relatively) safe and good habit or brushing one’s teeth.

If one has done so consistently everyday, without fail, one would get into the habit of teeth brushing. To not brush would often lead to guilty feelings; we might feel that our mouth is simply unclean, or any other reason we might come out with, so that we will be forced back to brush.

How about ‘bad’ habits? Smoking? Alcohol? perhaps even shoplifting or other socially-frowned upon activities? What about them?

The thing about these activities is that though we know that they are not good in the eyes of many people, they ease our tension, the uncomfortable feeling that builds up from not having the habit done; we do not really realise that it is the habit itself that is creating that feeling.

Another important thing is that we often have this feeling/mentality of “I can quit anytime I want”. Of course, this is often to the contrary. We often cannot quit anytime we want. It may seem easy, but when it comes down to quiting, it’s harder than we thought.

When we fail to quit, especially when we so expected to, we sort of give up even trying to break it, making the habit even more difficult to break; and it doesn’t help that almost all of us have a habit of accumulating bad habits!What can we do then? Well, we can harness the power of habits.

Much ado about habits

If habits are so difficult to break, why not create more good habits? If we have 5 bad habits, and 3 good habits, we have a “-2” on the habits score. If we accumulate more good habits, we can have an infinite amount of good habits, and 5 bad habits, depending on whether you take the effort to break the bad ones, of course (and I assume you didn’t). This would lead to a “infinity-5” habit score!

So accumulate good habits, and don’t bother so much about your bad ones. Just let them be, and they may go away, or they may not; but remember, out of sight, out of mind. Do not think about your bad habits and they will slowly creep out of your life and be taken over by the good ones you have decided to bring into your life.

So what good habit are you going to sow today?

History Revision

I would like to share this passage taken from a book: I Am Right – You Are Wrong, by Edward de. Bono.

Economists delight in building complex models with multiple linkages to simulate economic activity.

These econometric models are believed to be valuble in predicting, for example, what would happen if interest rates were to be raised by one percent. The weakness is that the models can take in only our present assumptions and perceptions.

In the past a rise in interest rates may have dissuaded people from borrowing money to buy houses. Today, with people’s increaasing financial sophistication and the wide availability of money advice columns, a rise in interest rates might signal a fear of inflation, and in such circumstances people may want, even more, to put their money into inflation-proof houses.

So the old model, which is a summary of history, becomes valueless.

All systems, especially those based largely on mathematics, may be sound when first created, as they are largely based on the starting assumptions, concepts and knowledge; but over time, circumstances change. As the world around the sytem evolves, these systems start to degrade in usefulness, eventually becoming valueless in solving the problems they were created to solve.

To make full use of these “formulas” or systems, we need to revise them to suit current day assumptions. Without this bringing to speed of things, the formulas would be as useful as a horse and carriage. No longer do we need to just solve a problem, we need new and up-to-date ways to solve them.

History has to be revised to be useful.