Independence and Interdependence

Interdependence is the source of both bliss and confusion. In fact, it is neither. It is simply a chain of all living creatures affecting each other in many ways. When that influence goes our way it is perceived as bliss, otherwise it is confusion.

Independence is overrated and simply a state of mind to cope with the chaos caused by Interdependence.

The source of this thought? Right now I am waiting for a waitress to call her accountant to create a red invoice I am supposed to get yesterday. My flight is in the afternoon. The accountant might tell me the invoice is not ready yet and my flight may change. Among all those factors is me standing on a street of Saigon typing these words. I depend on them and each of them depend on somebody else
The independent state I can create comes from the acknowledgement of that dependence. Afterwards, I can optimize factors I can control.

My perception of what I depend on others and what I can control is often wrong due to information deficit.

Arrrh, actually, forget about this rambling. I am in a shop right now so independence or inter stuff no longer matters =)))

On freedom

People talk a lot about freedom. Actually, there is no absolute freedom, forget about it.

We are limited physically and intellectually by what a human being is able which increases then decreases and vanish as we age. Then we have to follow certain life code of the culture and society we live in. In a closer level, we are bound by politics in a nation/ organization/ family. We depend so much on each other. Thinking there is an absolute freedom is an illusion and maybe, maybe freedom is not that good after all (regulations are there to maintain a healthy stability of an entity).

Sometimes we rebel, thinking we are getting closer to “freedom” just to realize that we are never out of that limit. Rebellion is never the key, and more often than not, will lead to despair and cognitive dissonance.

However as a human being, expanding the ability to think/ act within that limit is satisfying. One of the first step is realizing who we are trying to impress and how much we change to impress others. We may like or love somebody, but that’s it. How much should we trade off to impress them, and should we do so in the first place?

We can also expand our freedom by being more aware of the politics going on. Who is controlling our nation/ organization/ family? What are they doing? How is that affecting us? What is the dynamics? Can we do anything about it? Well, we can exploit it if we want to.

We should try to be more beautiful/ more intelligent/ more considerate because we want to, not because that will impress anyone. Ironically, in the process of doing that, we attract others as well. How easy & simple.

Circle of influence and circle of control

Right now I am sitting on the bunk bed of my hostel typing.  My younger sister just sent me a video of some bubbling Korean young dancers, insisted

Sister, you must watch this. And do not forget to design a new profile pic for me to post in Facebook

At the same time, Millions of people are devoted to the flood disaster in Central Vietnam- where I was born.

 

50 meters away the Wat nearby is woken up after nap with chanting sound of monks stretching longer than usual. Nearly 60,000 people in this town have their heart put in the big Light Festival this evening. Together with outsiders like me, we are gonna be soaked in an incredible  holy, zen atmostphere.

 

My close friend is happy in his trip to Quan Lan island. Beach is clean, nature is inviting. He is screaming in tranquil and happiness.

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All of those images come to my mind nearly at the same time. Different nuances of a big mosaic, broken pieces of an incomplete big picture. People are sad or happy depending on the extent of our concerns. I am sipping coffee, listening to music while hundreds of km away some relatives or friends of somebody I know are crying for having their house washed away in the disaster which gets worse every single year due to complex reasons.

This is just my little version of the world. There are some other people who feel much more. I will elaborate.

If right now I am having a cold, I will be lying deadly in bed, coughing, thinking about hot soup. Whatever happening in the world does not matter nor move me a little bit.

More than 1000km away, professor/ teacher Bui Van Nam Son was in a coffee talk with his student. Both are in a sad contemplative state, thinking about big questions, probably big questions related to Vietnam.

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He is a pioneer in translating important philosophy books into Vietnamese and wrote his own book that can be considered Sophie’s world of Vietnam.

At an international level, anthropologists like Bill Gates are focusing on battling AIDS in South Africa.

What does all of this mean? Does that mean I should not be happy and excited for what is happening tonight? Does that mean I have obligation to care about people in Central Vietnam? In Vietnam language, we have an idiom saying

“ăn cơm nhà, vác tù và hàng tổng”

Roughly translated as “Soaking your nose in others’ business“.  This is a very shallow way of interpreting things, yet most of the time our ability to deal or affect all chaotic happening all around us is very limited.

Even though we do not live in a world of vacuum and everything is intedependent due to butterfly effect or ripple effects, our immediate acts can only influence a tiny part of it

Circle of influence and circle of control

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To put it visually in a simple way, we can imagine our world as 2 circles. The big one is what happening around us, of which some are more aware than others.

But look closer, only the small circle inside is what we can influence. Right now, when I am typing this, 3 backpackers from Netherlands are coming and when they ask me wifi password, that is my immediate circle of influence.

I believe we should focus on our circle of influence but try to expand our circle of concern.

In his classic book, 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey puts it this way

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Amazingly this time when I dig to read again, I realize there are so many things I missed. And this is just an easy to read book I have buried my face into many times. When things are relevant, it speaks so loudly.

 

Thông minh hay tử tế?

Tối qua Trương Anh Ngọc, phóng viên của Thông Tấn Xã Việt Nam tại ý có nói

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Đó là một câu nói ngắn gọn không kèm ngữ cảnh, không có giải thích của khổ chủ nên mỗi người có thể hiểu theo nhiều cách khác nhau mà để bàn luận sâu hơn cần hiểu

  • Thông minh là gì?
  • Tử tế là gì?
  • Thông minh và không tử tế thì sao?
  • Tử tế nhưng không thông minh thì sao?
  • Thông minh và tử tế cái nào quan trọng hơn?
  • Tử tế một cách có dụng ý (do thông minh) có khác gì với tử tế tự nhiên, và có cần phân biệt hai cái này hay không? Tử tế có dụng ý liệu có còn là tử tế nữa hay không?
  • Cái thông minh mà anh Ngọc đề cập là thông minh nói chung hay nói về những người biết cách làm lợi cho bản thân một cách tối đa dựa trên những gì mình biết (khôn ranh)?

Vì đây là một chủ đề đã được nhiều nguồn thông tin bàn luận nên mình sẽ dịch và tổng hợp lại

(Havard Business Review)_Câu chuyện của Jeff “Bà đã mất 9 năm tuổi thọ”

Bài viết của tác giả tên Jeff trên HBR có đan xen nhiều câu chuyện, trong đó có kể về một chuyến road trip của anh lúc mới chỉ là một cậu bé 10 tuổi khi đi cùng ông bà mình. Bà hút thuốc trên xe làm cho Jeff chịu hết nổi. Ngồi ở hàng ghế sau, cậu bắt đầu tính toán xem mỗi ngày bà hút bao nhiêu điếu, tác hại của từng điếu rồi hùng hồn tuyên bố đầy đắc thắng “Bà biết không bà đã mất 9 năm tuổi thọ rồi đấy”

Tính toán của cậu bé có thể chính xác nhưng phản ừng của bà cậu thì không lường trước được. Nghe vậy, bà bật khóc. Ông cậu yêu cầu cậu bước ra ngay lập tức và nói “Jeff, đến một ngày cháu sẽ hiểu rằng tử tế quan trọng hơn thông minh

Với Jeff, cậu đã thắng khi chứng minh được quan điểm của mình bằng những con số khó cãi, nhưng cậu đã không lường trước được câu nói đó có thể gây tổn thương như thế nào cho bà mình và rút cục thì cậu mất cả hai – khoảng thời gian vui vẻ trong chuyến Road Trip của cậu và cả ông bà mình, kèm một vết sẹo tinh thần do câu nói của cậu gây ra mà có thể không bao giờ tẩy xóa được.

Tuy nhiên câu chuyện trên lại có một lớp lang khác cần suy nghĩ – phải chăng câu nói thẳng thắn của cậu lại có thể khiến cho bà cậu giật mình mà bỏ đi thói quen hút thuốc có hại và khiến bà sống lâu hơn vài năm nữa?

Hành động của cậu trông có vẻ không tử tế hoặc tử tế, nhưng quan trọng mục đích của cậu là gì. Một mục đích tử tế có lúc lại được thực hiện bằng những hành động trông có vẻ vô cùng tàn nhẫn.

(Dalai Latma)_Tử tế chính là ích kỉ một cách thông minh

Con người vốn là một loài động vật ích kỉ. Hầu hết hành động của con người xuất phát từ động cơ cá nhân. Nếu việc gì không có lợi, chúng ta sẽ không làm và một cách bản năng, chúng ta tử tế trước tiên với những người nằm trong mối quan hệ gần nhất với bản thân (gia đình/ bạn bè)

Tuy nhiên con người không tồn tại độc lập mà tộn tại trong mối quan hệ tương hỗ với những cá nhân khác. Vậy nếu xét theo quan điểm vị lợi từ một cái đầu lạnh tanh thì cái nào có lợi hơn – tử tế với người khác có đem lại lợi ích cho bản thân hay không? Sự vận động thú vị đó rất giống với ý kiến của một bạn gái mình quen trên mạng (và mình vẫn đang chờ bạn phân tích sâu hơn)

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Mình vẫn nhớ một năm trước mình có ở trọ với một chị gái sống với tư tưởng này một cách cực đoan. Câu cửa miệng của chị là “Bạn bè rút cục là để nhờ vả lẫn nhau hết”. Vì làm bạn trên cơ sở như vậy nên mặc dù an toàn vì có nhiều sự trao đổi lợi ích giá trị, sự tin tưởng thuần túy của chị lên người khác gần như bằng không.

Liệu nên xem xét tư tưởng này như thế nào? Hãy cùng nghe Dalai Latma phân tích nhé.

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Vốn người nổi tiếng thì hay bị tấn công, có không ít người đã lên tiếng chửi Dalai Latma là một kẻ ích kỉ khổng lồ. Tuy nhiên chính ông đã phân tích để bác bỏ luận điệu đó. Ông không khuyến khích chúng ta cần hi sinh bản thân vì người khác mà sống trên một nền tảng bền vững hơn khi nhận ra lợi ích cá nhân phụ thuộc rất nhiều vào mối quan hệ tương hỗ người người. Về mặt này thì cô bạn gái mình biết cũng có ý tương đồng khi bạn nói “Nếu thông minh mà không tử tế thì lợi ích đạt được chỉ là nhất thời mà thôi.

Mình cũng có thể liên hệ với môi trường mình từng làm việc ở vịnh Hạ Long. Tại đó có rất nhiều tàu ngủ mang lại lợi nhuận nhanh và nhiều cho những nhà kinh doanh. Ai cũng háo hức săn con mồi béo bở này, làm đầy vịnh bằng khói thải. Họ là những chiến lược gia thông minh nhưng ngược lại rất ngu xuẩn vì ai cũng cố để thu gom lợi nhuận nhiều nhất cho bản thân mà quên rằng khi vịnh bị phá hủy, họ sẽ không còn lại gì cả cho chính bản thân mình.

Nhưng thực tế có lẽ phức tạp hơn như vậy. Trong trường hợp lựa chọn giữa hai hành động – có lợi cho người khác nhưng mâu thuẫn lợi ích cá nhân chúng ta sẽ chọn cái gì? Ví dụ trong chương  trình tuyên truyền quét rác chúng ta có thể tham gia vì nhận thức được lợi ích của nó (bảo vệ môi trường mà bản thân đang sống) nhưng trong một chuyến trekking mệt mỏi chúng ta có sẵn sàng vứt đi vài chai nước để giảm đi gánh nặng trên lưng?

'According to this load analysis, we're overweight by one hundred and fifty pounds. Any suggestions?'
‘According to this load analysis, we’re overweight by one hundred and fifty pounds. Any suggestions?’

Câu chuyện cổ điển về một nhóm người sống sót trên một con thuyền có rất ít đồ ăn thức uống mà rút cục họ ăn thịt lẫn nhau thường được lấy ra làm ví dụ. “Cá lớn nuốt cá bé”, chúng ta hay bảo nhau như vậy.

Về cơ bản xã hội nói chung không nhất thiết là mô hình phóng to của con thuyền đó trong đó sự tồn tại của người này chính là sự đe dọa trực tiếp đến sự tồn tại của người kia. Trong xã hội bình thường, mỗi cá nhân đều có thể sản xuất ra một giá trị nào đó để đem lại lợi ích chung (khác với con thuyền lênh đênh mà lượng lương thực là cố định).

ích kỉ hay nha thân luôn là một câu hỏi thật khó trả lời mà có lẽ chỉ dựa vào câu nói của Dalai Latma là không đủ.

(Còn tiếp, hi vọng thế)

“Life is short” and the tragedy of existential nihilists

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I look at young beautiful girls and I think, if I were them, knowing that I would get older in just a few years, I would be unable to bear it. I’d rather die

There are just a few pages of the book, I don’t wanna finish it.

Why?

Knowing that that talented person will die, that life is meaningless

Those are just a few expressions from a young and talented person I interact recently, and since that person is highly smart whose knowledge surpassing many people I know, I am highly attracted to him. Having a wise  soul to talk with is a a bliss (well, still).

Yet, deep down inside, I ask myself “What is wrong? What is REALLY going on?”

Whatever you choose to believe in, you are right

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One of the question I asked him is

Do you read to expand your mind or do you read to solidify your worldview?”

And to me, this is highly important. When we have a certain set of believes and values, we have the habit, momentum and tendency to solidify those. Encountering other sets of values will create cognitive dissonance. The social circle we surround ourselves with are often people who share the same beliefs. Obvious right? Birds of the same feather flock together.

We are also living in information era in which whatever we want to believe in, there is evidence to support it, then after gathering evidence, we choose groups that are like us to belong. Security and comfort are there.

What if we live forever and the dilemma of morality

Some people facing quarter-life crisis often take those images as examples

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Kurt Cobain, somehow, happens to be taken as inspiration by a lot of people I know. He possesses that sad and unique look which makes him different from others. When we face identity crisis, we seek solution by “being different”, and the talented people with tragedy or sad endings are perfect examples to console us

See, even people like him have to die anyway

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Kurt Cobain also thinks so

Or the ones with motto “life is meaningless” may take the picture of Steve Jobs when he was dealing with illness to immerse in

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They look at the picture and think “Well, a lifetime, no he is going to dust anyway. A significant like that will end up dying. What is there for me?”

But don’t forget that the question of morality and death stick with those people even more than us. The one who are enjoying the achievement right now feel the fear of death more acutely than us since they have so much to lose.

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“Life is short so we should maximize it”, not “Life is pointless so why live?”. Using the same premise of morality but do you see the difference? Take your stance because your thoughts and actions will revolve around the belief you choose.

A lifetime of human being is not long but not short either. If we are suddenly given the magic to live forever, maybe more people will commit suicide for experience saturation. 365 days multiplies an average of 60 years contain in it millions of moment of drinking coffee, talking with people we love, bliss of creativity, bliss of exploration. That lifetime also contains millions of moments of sadness and contemplation such as what I am feeling right now so I can sit down and reflect on it, hence afterwards I can enjoy my life in a much clearer and deeper way.

I am 25, and yes, I will just get older over time, to the point I can barely walk. But I don’t want to live every moment immersed in that thought to a degree that nothing around me matters. Mortality should be a motivation to live better, not the other way around.

We are not special?


Another premise that existential nihilists often use is that “No one is special”, and “even people who are, die and will be forgotten”. But we forget we are living based on foundation and legacy of generations preceding us. The laptop we are typing on, coffee, electrecity, the bread we use, kitchen utensils. There are hardly nothing around us that are not results of labour of millions of people like that, the special and non-special, the ones that already died whose legacy still affects us.

You are special because you inspired me to reflect on this topic which may change my worldview forever, and to my turn, I will affect people around me with that worldview. Do not deny the ripple effects we have on each other as human beings.

Scary huh? Deal with it.

P/S: Some reactions I get from expressing this

After expressing this in social networks, an American friend of mine sent me this article

https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2014/05/hunter-s-thompson-to-hume-logan/

Who is Hunter Thompson and what does he have to say about this? Is he himself a nihilist? Let’s find out together.

Is Immanuel Kant boring?

Attracted to him for being the first Vietnamese majored in philosophy I found, I was determined to explore. “What’s behind this small group of young Vietnamese whose interest of gathering every 2 weeks to discuss on ideas of dead people? How are they different from others?”.

But he seems not to talk much, which makes me even more curious

3339e8eea588d0953d67065e88e7927d_480– Who is in your profile pic?

– Chrollo Lucilfer. A bookaholic leader.

– Is he a lone wolf?

-According to Google?

-No, according to my imagination.

In fact, Lucifer is a fictional character, bookworm, calm and charismatic. He is also the leader of a gang and known for staying calm in stressful situation.

“- So you wanna be like him?

-Uhm I like him and perhaps so, apart.

– What type of people are you attracted to?
-You don’t mean sexually?

-I mean in general, just curious. Sorry.”

-Immanuel Kant. Sorry for boring answer.

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So this afternoon he decided to resume the conversation with me and in the meantime, I became too intruding that he decided to remain silent, for a while. “Perfect”, I thought. “This is a person with high standards, I just annoyed him.” I like people who hate me or find me annoying (part of it is intentional illusion). And why not? This is a great way to increase pro activity and relevancy in exploring philosophy.

“I will read about Immanuel Kant and get back to you.

I think you will give up.

You are partly right. I am an impulsive person. But I have a way to get myself engaged, through writing. I will get back to you with a blog post

To be fair, people are motivated  by meaning and relevance. When we invest time in studying thoughts and biography of people living hundreds of years ago, the first question I have in mind is “How is this person relevant to today’s world?“, which will boils down to its relevance in our thoughts, actions, and interpretation of the outside world.

Imannuel Kant 

 

How is Kant relevant to today’s world?

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(To be continued…)

 

 

 

Is happiness your goal?

When Mark, the man behind Saigon’s philosophy school  walked up the stage with his suit and introduced about philosophy terminology with all of us as a way to start the discussion, Yuzo whispered:

Oh, so, this is how it is conducted

I asked:

– What do you mean?

Uhm, we had similiar workshops in US

Guessing his impression from the semi-formal atmosphere of the room, I smiled. “It is too early to tell. Let’s wait until the end of the workshop“, Yuzo nodded and we decide to refrain from drawing any too early conclusion. Will this be a stiff lecturing session?

As a newbie in philosophy exploration, I can relate to how Yuzo feels. With burning desire to explore basic human questions but fear the stiff vibe of academic world, I am afraid that I would not be able to relate. I want to discuss about things in daily life using philosophy as tool, and if that requires going back 1000 years to dig what a German mind or a Chinese mind thought, I would go for it, but definitely not the other way around.

How democratic is democratic?

The session we had that day was about happiness, facilitated by Emmanuel from Scotland who was into philosophy before coming to Vietnam. Out of many philosophers, Emmanuel chose the two classic, Aristotle and Plato to share their views about happiness, then asking us to give our ideas about happiness to see if we agree or disagree with their opinions

In my dream, affected by a series I watched a few years ago, the fantasy of philosophy discussion is like this

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In my fantasy, philosophy discussion will be led by a charming professor with an articulate manner, perfect posture and soft but convincing voice, listened by hundreds of stubborn and incredibly smart students filling up a beautiful hall.

In reality, our group is like this 😉
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There are around 15 to 20 people attending each session (40% locals, 60% expats), divided into groups to exchange ideas so my fantasy remained a fantasy, but I loved it.

Small groups allowed us to express our opinions more clearly, but more importantly, we are not Harvard students. With various backgrounds, profession , level of philosophy knowledge, our only common referring point is current living place and the curiosity on basic questions. There is more tolerance, more empathy shared by skeptical but considerate minds.

“Are you happy” – A “NO” answer and the intimacy of strangers

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Are you happy, humans?

The second question we were asked in the session was

“Do you consider yourself to be happy ? How do you rate your happiness in a 10 point scale? Why?”

Now imagine this scenario: You are in a park, suddenly a stranger with a serious face approaching you, asking if you are happy. You would laugh your head off and tell him to go away, Crazy head. (Because, even you have never asked that question yourself, let alone telling it to an intruding stranger). Maybe only Brandon of Human of New York has that ability (We are in Vietnam for Buddha’s sake)

 

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Okay, great, but most people are not Brandon of HONY, sorry =))

But in the session, we were in an atmosphere to be intimate, even intrusive with strangers, asking and answering very personal and sometimes very uncomfortable questions. I remember a Vietnamese member told the rest that he is not happy, and he claimed that people who think too much tend to be unhappy. Our definitions of happiness vary, some think happiness is a positive state of mind, another thinks happiness is about sharing and receiving and one member claims agency, to him, is happiness. These perceptions must have stayed with us for quite a while and we pretty much don’t change our opinions about this topic after the workshop.

We didn’t come to agree with each other. We come to express our views, to know each other’s views and come back with more diverse perspective. We remained the same, and at the same time, we have changed a lot.

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Live in a meaningless world

The more I think the more nonsense things and people are. I will never attain enough data to see the transparent big picture, if there is such a thing.

Maybe I just need to stop. Just breath, immerse, follow my instinct and see how things turn out. Stop trying to make sense of the external surrounding or even my inner world. I cannot control it, just able to feel and decode a tiny friction of its complexity, or its mess. Embrace various shades of feelings without trying to twist them into a fancy term called “positivity”.

Maybe both external and inner world are meaningless, as they are. No such thing called purpose, just dense layers of change and awareness that deny and confuse each other.

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Living as walking in a dark jungle

“Only when you get lost can you find yourself”

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That article in Medium feed left a strange taste on me and make me can’t help on some contemplating.

I think living is like walking in a dark jungle. Each of us is given a headlight. Some have brighter headlights than the others hence they see more. But our vision is all limited.

Some choose to follow the path taken. Some explore other tracks. But we are still in the jungle, always lost.

The people in a same path gather into one group, pointing to other groups & say “They are crazy”.

The moment we think we find clarity, there comes much more alien things on the way.

Sometimes we stop and just stare at stars. We dream & hope, trying to make sense of the journey.

Yet, at a certain point, we will attain a certain calmness to explore. But some of us will just keep going without any curiosity. Not anymore.

About this topic of lost, I found an echo from Quora about a week later.

“7.  Adult life is about learning to live with ambiguity.  Remember when you thought you’d have it all sorted out by 30?  No.  Whether it be your career, your relationships or your beliefs, you will always question whether you are making the right choices and will have to deal with regret.”

 

 

 

 

 

Echoes

A friend of mine posted this a few days ago

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That feeling hit me tonight when I was reading an inmail sent from “Becomingminimalist.com”, an article named “Unlock freesom by simply using these 4 key areas”. 

Written by a fitness guy, the post shows how to make your personal life more agile and abundant in 4 key areas: health, productivity, possessions and personal growth. (yes, ironic but true: becoming abundant by minimalizing your life)

After all, this must be an article full of insights, gained from years of lifestyle transformation. A journey so powerful and personal to the author, but I can already see some influences from some books I read recently

“7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey

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In the classic book written in 1991 by Stephen Covey about personal growth, he spends a big section talking about 4 levels of time management. He divides time into 4 parts (quadrants) and comes to the conclusion that we should spend more time on quadrant II: important but non-urgent tasks. Basically books about setting priorities more or less just clarify this idea.

In this post, Steve is also pointing out the same thing.

The unimportant but seemingly urgent tasks will continue to get in the way unless you give yourself permission to cut them from your most productive time at work to focus on the important.

“How to get 40 hours done in 16,7” by Chris Winfield

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Chris Winfield, after reading and trying all methods available to improve productivity, “found out” that the best way to save time is to stop multitasking. To make it clearer, he refers to Pomodoro system and divide time into neat slots of “25 minutes” with 5 or 10 minutes break.

Again, Steve is pointing out the same thing.

Set a timer for 25 minutes and work, followed by 5 minutes of break. Repeat until done.

And I am sure there are many other points which relate or basically the same as other books. Of course this is not a copy, but it is a funny feeling to realize a common thread running through ideas of different authors.

Every year there are hundreds of books, podcasts, blogs which teach us how to improve our lives. With different tones and way of expression, each seems to be the “new solution” leading to a better life. In fact, are there that many?

I believe that there are only some core principles to apply, and it is such a relief to figure out.

I believe that if some information is truly important, we don’t have to make an effort to look for them. It will hit us eventually. Whatever we call them, “thread”, echoes, or like the Steve Jobs cliches “connecting the dots”.

Not updating news is not missing out. Stop buying new books is not starving your brain. Instead, it’s a core filter to let us know what is truly necessary.

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By the way, don’t know who Chris Windfield is, but somehow he gets his writings published in some well-known magazines and even cut out a piece related to a tweet with Richard Brandson and thus, makes he “seem worth listening” by utilizing Halo effect 😉