A Review of ‘Unapologetically Insane Tales by Zed Yeo’

Why you should read the book?

Zed Yeo studied in philosophy in the University and is currently working for the library. This is his first published work. This book is fictional in nature and contains many unbelievable and absurd, out-of-this-world stories. The title ‘Unapologetically Insane Tales’ is rather apt to describe the content of the book. You really have to take your hat off to him for his wild imagination in developing these stories.

Many of the stories revolve around certain philosophical principles. These will leave the reader pondering after reading, regardless whether one understands these principles. With his stories, you never know what’s going to happen next. A predictable start to a story often trails off into violence, the supernatural or simply the unbelievable. The unpredictability of these stories are what will draw your attention and leave you captivated, always wanting to know more.

Despite this, there are lessons that can be learnt from most of the stories. These will be covered later in the review.

Who is this book meant for?

This book is mainly meant for adults due to the deep underlying themes. Some of these include loneliness, existence, fear, death etc. A few scenes may be a little gory in nature as well. It may not be easy for younger readers to grasp the essence of the underlying themes.

What is the book like?

The books consists of numerous short stories. There are the occasional poems and limericks throw in. The longest story ‘Security Business’ consists of only slightly more than 10 pages. The language used is fairly descriptive in nature and includes the use of complex adjectives. Various metaphors are also being utilized in the book. The plot development is rapid and coherent. Readers should have no trouble following a story. At the end of a few stories, the story will switch back to another dimension. In ‘Hooked’, the character ‘John’ nearly drowns in the final scene after imagining the entire story. The tool of flashback is also being employed.

A handful of the characters have grotesque physical appearances or appear mythical-like. There are also passages where the characters also engage in ‘thinking-out-loud’. The reader can then understand coherently the thought pattern of the character. An example of this occurs in the short story ‘Diagnosis (09:00:00s – 09:53:44s)’, when Charlie reflects on how the doctor is treating him during the medical examination.

Zed infuses a little of Asian and Singaporean culture into his works. Such can be seen from the short stories ‘The Poet and the Lion’ and ‘The Bao’. Satire is used in the story ‘The Poet and the Lion’ to poke fun at the coining of the phrase ‘Nanni Nanni Boo Boo.’

What can I learn from the book?

I have listed the lessons I have learnt in chronological sequence of stories that are presented in the book. Only the prominent stories are featured below.

Origin Story 1: One can learn from everyone, even your disciplines or people more junior than you. A fresh perspective on things always helps.

Origin Story 2: Humans can experience conflicting thoughts and emotions. The Maker is not within grasp and humans are bounded by time and space.

Spoolballs and Warblemouth: Having a disability like blindness/deafness sharpens your other senses. This includes the power of imagination. Sometimes, the world you imagine may be superior to the one you experience in reality.

All I Want for Christmas: Don’t simply grant others’ wishes blindly. See how the wish can benefit the other party eventually. There are all kinds of people in this world.

Under the Bridge: If you live in the present moment and appreciate your environment, life can be a lot more fulfilling.

Diagnosis (09:00:00s – 09:53:44s): Don’t be so quick to dismiss others’ potential. Give them a chance. Let them prove you wrong. The quietest people sometimes have the deepest and most profound thoughts. Do not unto others what you would not have others do unto you.

Life of Voice: The mind never stops thinking. Your thinking self is active and you can’t voluntarily shut it off. However, you can learn to accept these thoughts and work to your desired goals which are consistent with your values.

Onion Man: You are all the layers on your skin. Trying too hard to get something might not pay off. Sometimes it helps just to sit back and the solution might just appear when you least expect it.

Security Business: Don’t be obsessed with the pursuit of fame and fortune. Don’t let mediocrity get in your way. Uphold high standards for yourself and do not lose track of your values. Constantly remind yourself of your goal in life. People generally don’t know what they want unless they stare death in the face.

Hooked: Try and imagine things from the other person’s point of the view. This will help you to build compassion and empathy. Sometimes, the more outstanding you are, the more you will be selected to partake in certain events. Learn to stay inconspicuous.

My Sister’s Story: Companionship and love is invaluable and it certainly beats staying alone.

It’s About Time: There is no need to rush all the time. People are facing much bigger problems out there and yours may simply pale in comparison with theirs.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 1): Don’t stop trying. Although things may not go your way, do not give up. However, you do not have to be an idiot over ridiculously ambitious or unrealistic goals. That would just be bordering on the delusional.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 2): Don’t stop trying. If you are lucky, things might go your way and work out. Make your own luck. People reciprocate and repay your kindness most of the time.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 3): Sometimes, you just have to make do and compromise with the existing situation. Learn to make the most of what you have.

Find out more about Zed here: http://bookcouncil.sg/blog/page/interview-with-zed-yeo-author-of-unapologetically-insane-tales

Book summary here: https://bookquotemonster.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/unapologetically-insane-tales-by-zed-yeo/

Unapologetically Insane Tales by Zed Yeo

This book is an absurd sort of fiction. It transcends normal everyday life.

Origin Story 1: A king wanted to alleviate the suffering of his folks who suffered from blisters after walking on rough terrain. He planned to slaughter all the cattle and use the leather to pave roads for his people. However, doing so might eliminate the kingdom’s food supply. One day, a jester persuaded him to reconsider his decision. He removed his hat, ripped it into half, and wore them as shoes. Now, the king was enlightened and ordered the slaughter of only a quarter of their cattle to provide shoes for his people.

Origin Story 2: This is about how humans came into existence. During the process of creation, there appeared to be other voices other than the true Maker. Humans experience conflicting emotions and thoughts at once. This is known as the multiplicity of the mind. I, the creator, am located high in the sky. You will never get to see me. An ant on a human torso wouldn’t get a sense of perspective and realize it is on a human body. It is impossible to perceive how I am like. Humans are bound by the dimensions of space and time. You can never reach me, even if you try using your most advanced technology. This is your origin story, little moral.

If you put a puny ant on your torso, it could never understand that the entire terrain that it is crawling on is actually a human being. You are too huge for the ant to notice, too big to be perceived. It will only see your torso as a landscape upon which it stands. – The Maker

Spoolballs and Warblemouth: The Hinniky family often contracted rare diseases. Freeky caused objects to levitate while Streaky experienced everything in threes. However, each disease is unique. Dhable Hinniky had two diseases. He had both Spoolball (tendrils emerging from each eye) and Warblemouth (mouth was shaped like a snout and he couldn’t speak anything except gibberish) syndrome. Many of his peers shunned him. Often, he ended up seeing imaginary creatures and objects. It was all he had to keep him company. Dhable usually studied for a cure for his illness. Years passed and he lived in the mountains. He had the ability to identify and eat glow mushrooms. Dhable had an invisible snail to keep him company. Once, a hairy man built a rock car to navigate in the narrow cave. They became friends. However, an unfortunate event befell the hairy man and he passed on. Now, Dhable started operating on himself. After a long and gruesome operation, Dhable realized he could see again. However, he could no longer see the glow mushrooms again. After visiting the city, he realized that many things had changed and it was no longer vibrant and lively. His mum gave him a warm hug. Suddenly, the snail was calling out to him and commented ‘How long do you plan to be deaf and blind?’ However, Dhable could no longer hear or see the snail.

All I Want for Christmas: A 97 year old woman complained about Santa’s lack of appearance for 85 years. She wished for 2000 teeth as a Christmas wish. However, Santa didn’t satisfy her wishes well. Santa delivered the teeth without the skulls to go along with it. She killed Santa and didn’t really feel bad about it. It is hoped that he would reborn after death. She still had 1712 human teeth to go to achieve the aim of 2000 teeth.

What is the Bao?: According to ancient literary scholars, there is no clear definition of what a bao should be. It should contain of a core wrapped within the Bao. Mantous are hence not regarded as baos. There are difficulties classifying the Kong Ba Bao. It should be labelled as a bun instead. All baos are buns, but not all bunds are baos.

The Poet and the Lion: Yeow Leochomp wrote a poem ‘Nanni nanni boo boo’. It adopted the ‘aabb’ pattern which was a brilliant use of repetition. It also rhymes well.

Nanni nanni boo boo is traditionally stated in jest to an adversary right before an impending confrontation, a classic taunt that began in the wilderness against ferocious beasts. Today, it is deployed in the same spirit by young human beings against tough playground bullies. – Prof J. Dominiczak

A Note: I picked up a pair of wings and attached them to my shoulders. I imagined a cliff. It was hazy and my vision was blurred. Suddenly, life flashed backwards and I was a young boy now. Now, there was a note on the table. It stated ‘the other end?’ Also there was a pair of shoes beside my study table.

Under the Bridge: It was pouring heavily. Desolation and loneliness filled me. Loneliness chose me. She took the form of a beautiful lady. Yet I could only pass her. We kissed. . Later, we parted and I continued on my path. She would never take that form ever again.

Diagnosis (09:00:00s – 09:53:44s): Mum brought her child, Charlie, to visit a doctor. The doctor asked for the child’s name. Mrs Robertson was devastated by the condition of Charlie. He couldn’t speak and write. A 45 minute session with the doctor yielded zero response from him. Charlie uttered: ‘My name is…Char-‘. The doctor dropped his torch in sheer disbelief. Charlie thought of the phrase ‘Do not unto others what you would not have others do unto you.’ Complex thoughts now filled his brain. Humans are susceptible to brain farts, like Dr Zhang. He is too complacent. When one thinks a task is too easy, brain farts happens. Charlie didn’t want to continue saying his name. The doctor concluded that he was mentally retarded.

A child learning to walk will inevitably fall multiple times before becoming good at it…Such errors are understandable. But another class of errors calls for closer scrutiny. Why do experienced drivers get into car accidents? We cannot say that these errors occur due to the lack of experience. So what should we attribute these stupid errors to? Brain farts. – Charlie

Life of Voice: He braids his thoughts and the voice inside his head. Strings of ideas form a rope. The rope gets stronger and stronger. After a while, he examined the huge clump of rope with him. While braiding, other thoughts come to his mind. He continues braiding.

Onion Man: There were new layers formed around the onion man. He wanted to discover the core of his existence. As a result, he started shedding every layer. There was nothing at the end. The layers were all he had.

Security Business: Alan and Silus were chatting about how extravagant the new heroes were. Silus was an ex-bounty hunters while Alan was the ex-superhero, Trickshot. Silus gave money to Alan and the magician in his castle. The old ones wouldn’t to hide their identity. Those who exposed their identity were at risk of getting killed. The number of villains were in decline. In the past, the old superheroes faced super tough villains and had to work as a team. Nowadays, things were so much easier. The new superheroes had open identities. Alan contemplated a comeback. It was the end of villainy and Alan was jealous at those who basked in glory. The Magician was silently watching Muscles at work. Magician summoned Alan and Silus to assist. Trickshot started fighting the Abomination. He could not figure out the identity of the creature. The magician was hurt but guessed that the mastermind summoned old creatures to form Abomination. Trickshot was hesitant in his movement and the mastermind wanted to prey on this weakness. It was a closely fought match, where Trickshot spat acid and Mastermind sprew balls of fire. Trickshot ran into a ball of fire and soon crashed to the ground, revealing his human self. Death loomed and Trickshot thought. He reflected on why he wanted to be a superhero and his mission of protecting the people. Trickshot remembered that he loved the attention of being in the front pages. It was then that he got killed by the fireball. The mastermind also thought before killing Trickshot. The newspaper reported that Trickshot was draped over the dead magician. It turned out that magician played dead and was still with them in the room. The 3 of them were alright. It was now that Trickshot realized how much he liked being a superhero.

What do people truly want? Ask them and they’ll be as clueless as ants without feelers. A few chaps might be able to tell you what they want, maybe even with heartfelt conviction. Nut actually they’re just as lost. Nobody knows what they really want, until the sole moment of clarity creeps up upon them. The moment death presents itself to you and says “you have to reflect before I claim you.” – Trickshot

Hooked: Money fell from the sky and John managed to grab it first. He was elated. Suddenly, he was hoisted into outer space and was traumatized. Later, he found himself in a glass jar. Another man who climbed out of the jar died from the lack of oxygen. Soon, a little girl and 3 other men joined John in the jar. The 3 men were all athletes. They wore singlets which were green, red and blue. The aliens were staring from them from outside of the jar. A pair of hairy tentacles entered the jar and everyone was frightened. The humans thought about scaling the jar. Red managed to escape and was grasping for air. The creatures started taking photos of it. The creatures spoke the same language as Man. They measured the size of Red. They planned to barbeque some of their catch. The taxidermist came in and Red was dropped into his pail. The red, blue, green men were all chosen to be grilled. A pair of tentacles entered and grabbed both John and the girl. Thankfully, both John and the girl were let off but the other men were not spared. John woke up, he was drenched and he nearly drowned. He remembered this story and released the pail of flapping fishes back into the sea.

My Sister’s Story: I was afraid of the spooky cupboard but my elder sister always reassured me that everything would be okay if I did the right things. She shared a story of a girl with a cupboard. The cupboard would produce weird noises at 2am. After listening to advice from her friends, the girl knocked on the cupboard. It kept silent for a while, but later a bony hand emerged from the cupboard and grabbed the little girl. The little girl was sucked into the cupboard. Later, the thing in the cupboard took the appearance of the girl and her parents didn’t suspect anything. I was glad I have a sister to sleep with.

It’s About Time: Ansel was going to be late for school and sprinted out of the house and rushed towards the bus stop. The discipline master was not a nice guy. He took a short cut and bashed through hedges and shrubs. However, despite his best efforts, he failed to enter the bus. He lamented the 10 seconds he took to wear the school badge. There was an elderly man with a goatee that stretched to the ground. He was at the bus stop. Ansel thought about getting an MC for the day. He stomped the ground in anger and the ground responded. Doomsday popped up from above the ground. His face looked like the discipline master. Naturally, Ansel was frightened. Doomsday wanted to destroy the world in year 2000. However, it was already year 2020. The old man at the bus stop was Doomsday’s grandfather and he started flying. Doomsday asked him for permission to destroy the world. It turned out that the clocks he kept were not working and that explained why he was 20 years late. Doomsday now had to face the devil’s wrath. He looked so weak and pathetic in that moment. Soon, he disappeared and the weather was sunny again. Suddenly, Ansel didn’t feel that bad about being late.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 1): A boy asked the grass how it felt to be green. The grass didn’t respond. The boy was disappointed but didn’t give up trying to talk to it. He kept on trying. This went on for his lifetime till he died. The grass still didn’t speak.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 2): A boy asked the grass how it felt to be green. The grass didn’t respond. The boy was disappointed but didn’t give up trying to talk to it. He kept on trying. Finally, when he was a grown man, the grass replied. It was glad that he never stopped trying. The grass admitted that he learnt English from the boy. They remained best friends for the rest of their lives.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 3): A boy asked the grass how it felt to be green. The grass didn’t respond. The boy was disappointed but didn’t give up trying to talk to it. He kept on trying. Finally, when he was a grown man, the grass replied. One day, the grass said ‘Moo!’ That was the only response it could give. Despite this, the boy continued talking to it and they formed an interesting relationship for life.


The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Rubin wanted happiness in her life. Learn to appreciate what you already have/own. ‘As soon as I have some free time, I should start a happiness project.’

She dedicated a year of life to trying to be happier. ‘People teach what they need to learn.’ She was both trying find spiritual growth and a life more dedicated to transcendent principles as well as an attempt to extend her driven, perfectionist ways towards life. It is possible to further one’s happiness beyond one’s set point. Genetics accounts for about 50%, 10 to 20% based on life’s circumstances and the remainder is based on how the individual acts and thinks. It is not necessary to define happiness as once you know when you’re feeling happy, that’s good enough.

The opposite of happiness is unhappiness and not depression. The next step is trying to figure out how to make you happier. It is more common to find people making progress on their goals if they are well documented. Go to therapy if you want to find out the root causes of your behavior. Her twelve elements were marriage, parenthood, friends, eternity, attitude, work, play, passion, energy, money, mindfulness, books and leisure. Tackle only 1 element each month.

From her secrets of adulthood: ‘People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think.’ ‘Do good, feel good’. ‘It’s important to be nice to everyone.’ ‘By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.’ ‘You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do.’ ‘What you do everyday matters more than what you do in a while.’ ‘You don’t have to be good at everything.’ ‘If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.’ ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’

It is only necessary to make minor adjustments to your life without changing it totally. Aristotle: ‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’

Chapter 1: January [Boost Energy – Vitality]

Go to sleep earlier. Exercise better. Toss, restore, organize. Tackle a nagging task. Act more energetic.

More energy helps you achieve your goals/tasks better. In a virtuous circle, research shows, being happy energizes you, and at the same time, having more energy makes it easier for you to engage in activities. Outer order, like being neat, can bring inner peace. If you try to act energetic, you can become more energetic. Sleep is the new sex. Getting one extra hour of sleep each night would do more for a person’s daily happiness than getting a $60000 raise. Even a tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle. People who exercise are healthier, think clearly and sleep better. Providing an extrinsic motivation can backfire especially when intrinsic motivation is not developed fully yet. Exercise is a great way to snap out of a funk. Walking is great.

Some believe that their physical surroundings influence their spiritual happiness. Do what ought to be done. Too many choices can be discouraging and paralyze people. Stating a problem clearly often suggests its solution. Sometimes, though, the most difficult part of doing a task was just deciding to do it. ‘Act the way you want to feel’. Even an artificially induced smile brings about happier emotions. To change our feelings, we should change our actions.

Chapter 2: February [Remember Love – Marriage]

Quit nagging. Don’t expect praise or appreciation. Fight right. No dumping. Give proofs of love.

Marital satisfaction drops substantially after the first child arrives. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of relationships are stonewalling, defensiveness, and criticism and contempt. Learn to focus on the virtues of others and not just their flaws. ‘There is only love’.

G.K. Chesteron: ‘It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.’ ‘What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.’ Nothing kills the feeling of friendship and passion more than nagging. Nagging is excessive interference. Learn to be more appreciative of what others do. ‘Lake Wobegon fallacy’ describes the fact that we all fancy ourselves to be above average.

In an ideal world, neither party ‘assigns work’, yet the family can still function as a unit. ‘You have to do that kind of work for yourself. If you do it for other people, you end up wanting them to acknowledge it and to be grateful and to give you credit. If you do it for yourself, you don’t expect other people to react in a particular way’. Learn to lighten your attitude. How a couple fights matters more than how much they fight. People have a ‘negativity bias’, meaning their reactions to bad events are faster, stronger, and stickier than our reactions to good events. It takes at least five positive marital actions to offset one critical or destructive action. Happy people generally are more forgiving, helpful, and charitable, have better self-control, and are more tolerant of frustration than unhappy people. Hearing someone complain is tiresome whether you’re in a good mood or a bad one.

One of the great joys of falling in love is the feeling that the most extraordinary person in the entire world has chosen you. ‘To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right.’ Generate more positive emotions and less negative ones. William Butler Yeats: ‘Happiness is neither a virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.’ You can’t change anyone but yourself. When you give up expecting a spouse to change (within reason), it creates a more loving atmosphere in a marriage.

Chapter 3: March [Aim Higher – Work]

Launch a blog. Enjoy the fun of failure. Ask for help. Work smart. Enjoy now.

The happy outperform the less happy at work. When you help others, others tend to help you as well. Happier people also make more effective leaders. Being happy can make a big difference in your work life. Passion is a critical factor in professional success. People who love their work bring an intensity and enthusiasm that’s impossible to match through sheer diligence. DO what you truly want to do. Challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. The irony is that the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness. ‘People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think’. Anothony Trollope: ‘A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.’ One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition. When crisis comes, it’s the fun part. Sometimes, people do better with less time. Know the ‘arrival fallacy.’ It is a fallacy as you might anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes you as happy as you anticipate. Enjoy now. Don’t dread criticism. Have an effective strategy to deal with criticisms. If you’re feeling down, a good rest will make you feel better.

Chapter 4: April [Lighten Up – Parenthood]

Sing in the morning. Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings. Be a treasure house of happy memories. Take time for projects.

Children do bring happiness. ‘Fog happiness’ refers to general happiness and not focusing on a particular task alone, as it alone might not make you seem happy. Wake up with a good morning song. Lighten up. Cracking a joke really helps to lighten up the mood. The days are long, but the years are short. Write it down. Don’t feel as if I have to say anything. Don’t say ‘no’ or ‘stop’. Wave my magic wand. Admit that a task is difficult. Acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return. Recalling happy times helps boost happiness in the present. Squeeze out as much happiness from a happy event. Anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory. The anticipation of happiness is sometimes greater than the happiness itself. ‘You’re only as happy as your least happy child.’

Chapter 5: May [Be Serious About Play – Leisure]

Find more fun. Take time to be silly. Go off the path. Start a collection.

One way to feel good is to make time for play. ‘A holiday of work, but work which was play.’ Examples include making crafts, reading overseas blogs, books, language classes etc. Find more fun. People all have different ideas of fun. Some people prefer solitary, quiet things. Form an interest group to do the stuff you like. Studies show that each common interest between people boosts the chances of a lasting relationship and also brings about a 2% increase in life satisfaction. Pursue what is truly fun for you. What you enjoyed as a 10 year old is probably something you’d enjoy now. You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want. There is time for both pursuing and accepting. ‘We are doomed to choose and every choice may entail an irreparable loss.’ Taking the time to be silly means that we’re infecting one another with good cheer, and people who enjoy silliness are one third more likely to be happy. Goof around occasionally. Don’t have to try to make yourself like things, but do the things you already like.

There are 3 types of fun, challenging fun, accommodating fun (doing something with your friends which you might not like doing) and relaxing fun.      

Chapter 6: June [Make Time for Friends – Friendship]

Remember birthdays. Be generous. Show up. Don’t gossip. Make three new friends.

Strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness. Friendship is as well. ‘Of all the things that wisdom provides for living one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.’ Everything is more fun in company. Strengthen old friendships, deepening existing friendships and make new friends. Try to remember birthdays. Be generous. Happiness is often boosted more by providing support to other people than from receiving support yourself. Do good, feel good. Help people think big. Bring people together. Contribute in your own way. Cut people slack. Help people think big. One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. Bring people together. ‘Bring another friend’. Contribute in my way. Cut people slack. Forbearance is a form of generosity. Show up, eighty percent of success is showing up. You need to make consistent efforts for your friendships to work.

Familiarity breeds affection. Mere exposure can work to warm your feelings to a particular person. Don’t gossip. Gossip helps to reinforce community values but can only bring about short term happiness. Both men and women prefer to gossip to women, because women are more satisfying listeners. It is best to avoid gossiping altogether. Try to mention only the good things. Making a new friend is tremendously energizing. They provide an entrance to new interests, opportunities and activities. When you enter a new situation, aim to meet 3 new friends. By acting more friendly, you will make yourself friendlier. Even acting friendly will even make introverts happy. When introverts push themselves to act more outgoing, they usually enjoy it and find it cheering. First impressions count. One could smile more frequently, actively invite others to join a conversation, create a positive mood, open a conversation, try to look accessible and warm, show a vulnerable side and laugh at yourself, show a readiness to be pleased, follow others’ conversational leads and ask questions. Most people like to talk about themselves.

Chapter 7: July [Buy Some Happiness – Money]

Indulge in a modest splurge. Buy needful things. Spend out. Give something up.

There is relationship between money and happiness. It helps satisfy basic material needs. ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness’. However, people in richer countries feel happier than those in poorer countries. Most people rate themselves as mildly happy. Once basic needs are satisfied, one can only feel that happy. Can money help buy happiness? Yes it can. It depends on what kind of person you are, it depends on how you spend your money and you fair relative to others. Being healthy doesn’t guarantee happiness. Money is most important for those who are feeling bad. Use money to further your development/relationships. Money spent wisely can support happiness goals of strengthening relationships, promoting health, having fun etc. The quick fix of happiness turns into a longer lasting unhappiness. Spend money on the things you value. Material growth can be satisfying. It is better to be progressing to the summit rather than to be at the summit. ‘Best is good, better is best.’ Maximizers vs satisficers. Most people are a mix of both. Spend Out. Don’t expect praise or appreciation. Charity giving causes higher income. Those who are seen behaving charitably are likely to be elevated to leadership positions. Give something up. Make a decision and sticking to it helps provide happiness.

‘Happiness and misery consist in a progression towards better or worse; it does not matter how high up or low down you are, it depends not on this, but on the direction in which you are tending.’ Samuel Butler

Chapter 8: August [Contemplate the Heavens – Eternity]

Read memoirs of catastrophe. Keep a gratitude notebook. Imitate a spiritual master.

Spiritual states such as elevation, awe, gratitude, mindfulness and contemplation of death. Buddha: ‘Of all mindfulness meditations, that on death is supreme’. Read memoirs by people facing death will help you appreciate life better. Cherish health and appreciate ordinary life. Gratitude is important to happiness. Gratitude fosters forbearance. When you admire someone, the traits that they have are actually are in a nascent and unrecognized stage in yourself. Knowing what you admire in others is a wonderful mirror into your deepest, as yet unborn, self. It is possible to achieve great virtue ‘without going beyond the common order of things.’ ‘It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.’ Being happy is challenging. Happiness takes energy and discipline. ‘I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.’

Chapter 9: September [Pursue a passion – Books]

Write a novel. Make time. Forget about results. Master a new technology.

Making time for your passion will bring a tremendous happiness boost. Starting a project and following it up to the end can give a substantial boost in happiness. ‘Enjoy the fun of failure.’ Create an atmosphere of growth. Life is not way too short to follow your passion. Working hard for something that you are passionate about is so satisfying and adds genuine happiness. Make time. The best reading is re-reading. Forget about results. Make your passion enjoyable and don’t worry about results. Master a new technology. ‘Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so’. You must make the effort to take steps towards happiness by acting with more love, finding work you enjoy and all the rest.

‘You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy. You’re happy if you think you’re happy.’ Gretchen Rubin

Chapter 10: October [Pay attention – Mindfulness]

Meditate on koans. Examine True Rules. Stimulate the mind in new ways. Keep a food diary.

Mindfulness is the cultivation of conscious, non-judgmental awareness. It calms the mind and elevates brain function etc. One way is through mediation. ‘Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?’ ‘What was your face before your parents were born?’ A koan is a question or a statement that can’t be understood logically. One of the true rules is that ‘If you’re willing to take the blame, people will give you responsibility.’ The things that go wrong often make the best memories. Stimulate the mind in new ways. Use a password that indicates the goal you wish to strive towards. Novelty and challenge bring big boosts in happiness. Listening to music is one of the quickest, simplest ways to boost mood and energy and to induce a particular mood. Listening and dancing to music can boost your feelings of mindfulness. Keep a food diary.

Chapter 11: November [Keep a Contented Heart –Attitude]

Laugh out loud. Use good manners. Give positive reviews. Find an area of refuge.

It’s time to focus on your attitude. Keep a heart to be contented. Laugh more. Be kinder. Improve your manners. Laugh out loud. Laughter can boost immunity and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. It feels great if you manage to make someone else laugh. Listen and laugh. X is the new Y. Sleep is the new sex. Laughing at yourself means you have to give up your pride, your defensiveness and self-centeredness. Use good manners. The five personality traits are extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience. Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness. Don’t just argue for the sake of arguing, especially when you are not familiar with the subject matter. What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you. ‘Always make water when you can.’ Enthusiasm is a form of social courage. It is possible to be critical in a positive manner. People have a ‘negativity bias’: we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. It takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act.

Chapter 12: December [Boot Camp Perfect – Happiness]

Boot Camp Perfect.

Stick to your goals and resolutions. You need to look in your life and think about feeling good, feeling bad and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. Novelty and challenge are key sources of happiness. Little things can make a person happy, it doesn’t matter how expensive the item is. Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy’. Keep a resolution chart to keep track of your progress. Following through on your resolutions are the hardest part. You hit a goal, whereas you keep a resolution. The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness. You can change your life without changing your life.

7 tips on getting a quick energy boost (Go outside into the sunlight; go for a brisk walk; act with energy; listen to your favourite upbeat song; tackle an item on your to-do list; clean up; drink some coffee)

7 tips on how money can buy you happiness (Strengthen social bonds; end marital conflict; upgrade your exercise; think about fun; serenity and security; pay more for healthy food; spend money on someone else)

7 tips for making someone like you (Smile; be easily impressed, entertained and interested; have a friendly, open, engaged demeanor; remember trait transfer; laugh at yourself; radiate energy and good humor; show your liking for another person)


The Big Win by Stephen L. Weiss

Learning from the Legends to Become a More Successful Investor

The great investors often talk about their mistakes and learn from them. This book features many different asset classes. Investment techniques can be applied to other classes of assets. 1) Renne Haugerud, 2) R Donahue Peebles, 3) Martin Whitman, 4) Chuck Royce, 5) Jim Rogers, 6) Jim Chanos, 7) Lee Ainslie and 8) Alfred Taubman

In addition, writing this book will allow the author to meet and discuss with great investors. Portfolio manager’s results are not publicly available. Most investment managers actually perform worse than the stock market indices. Alfred was good at mathematics and he invented the modern enclosed mall. He was extremely detailed and sharp. Jim Rogers initially partnered with George Soros on Quantum funds. After a while, he started out on his own. For Jim, investing is a way of life and one can explore need socioeconomic behaviour. Jim is also an extremely humble man. The next was Marty Whitman. The only woman included was Renee Haugerud. Lee Ainslie (he) was known for hedge funds management. Don Peebles was like an agent on behalf of the bank, dealing with property and real estate. Jim Chanos was essentially a very good short seller. Chuck Royce is an expert at small cap stocks which will grow. What makes a great investor? No emotion – Cool, calm and confident. No ego – Self confidence, yes. Ego, no. Long term investors. Discipline – Stick to one style or investment strategy. Thorough research process – Do your own research and don’t buy anything you don’t know. Passion and work ethic – Everyone must work hard. Drive – Wealth is not the sole driving factor. Drive. Passion. Process. Equanimity. Discipline. Humility.

Whale Watching means following well known investors like Warren Buffett. However, blind following is foolish as even the legends fall sometimes. The author started off at the equity trading desk of Oppenheimer and Co. He wanted to try research sales. Eventually he landed himself that role. Everything seemed good till he managed the account DG partners. Although he recommended the good stocks to them, DG partners chose the wrong time to enter and exit the market and were too short term. As a result, they lost money. However, when buying stocks, one needs to consider factors like weight of each position, holding period etc. Modern investors are not as patient as the pros and will panic when the companies’ earnings take a hit. Sometimes, professionals have a sum set aside for speculation. If an unfortunate individual follows, one could get burnt. Preservation of capital is very important.

Renne Haugerud has a 14 year old hedge fund, Galtere Ltd. She is one of the rare females in the fund management industry. She wants to demonstrate that women are good traders. Her dad was a farmer and an amateur pilot. Renee was impressed with corn futures and the fact that she could own them without owning physical corn. She understood what it meant as a young age. She had a short work stint at Cargill and made the most of it to learn. After that, she wanted to become a commodities trader. Cargill is a huge private company that deals with soft commodities. She wanted desperately to be one and impressed the HR so much that she got the job. Although sunnies were not traded at that time, she persisted and she eventually had her own sunnies desk at Cargill. Next, she needed people to transport it and used her negotiation skills to achieve that. She moved on and explored fixed income markets, equity markets and pushed for a proprietary desk. Management approved it. Finally, she started her own hedge fund. To her, almost everything nowadays is traded as a commodity. First step us to take the temperature of the market. . Define 3 to 5 themes. Having an open mind is critical in investing. Renee has a very sound risk management system. Once she predicted that gold was overvalued, she borrowed gold to short it at a rate of 1% and bought Canadian bonds that yield 9%. The third leg was the undervalued small cap mining equities. She compared the cost of production and interest rate levels to the market price of gold to see whether it was overvalued. Listen to as many views as possible. Over its 11 year performance, Galtere Ltd only had one bad year.

Risk vs reward is everything and Galtere Ltd will not put on a trade unless we can make about three times what we risk. – Renee Haugerud

If you don’t ask, it will never happen. – Renee Haugerud, on how she built success

China is going to be the next superpower. Increasing prosperity is never bad. Jim Rogers moved to Singapore so that his kids could learn Chinese and embrace China. Jim Chanos was a famous short seller, meaning he benefitted from falling prices. He runs Kynikos Associates. Chanos loved research. Shorting is when you borrow the stock and pay upfront, promising to return it sometime in the future. Crowded shorts is usually when more than 20% of the float is in the short position. There is potentially unlimited loss for the short-seller. Baldwin-United was a piano company which converted into a financial services company. He found it difficult to comprehend how the company was making money. This stock had a great following in the market. Chanos started shorting the stock. As he was junior, many were critical of his comments on the company. Soon, the stock plummeted and he was rewarded handsomely. This good trade tempted him to engage in more. This trade built his reputation. His firm shorted companies like Boston Chicken, Sunbeam, Conseco, Tyco International and Enron. Short sellers are often not the most popular people. They are basically cynics. To handle risk, he could either stop losses or employ position limits. He chose the latter as once you exit a position, it is hard to re-enter. Position limits are set at 5%. Chanos also shorted the Chinese market as he realized a lot of speculative demand for commodities came from them. People were building for the sake of stimulating the economy. This led to an overheating of the market. Supply was outstripping demand. China also had a heavy credit crunch and was over-leveraged. Long corruption, short property. There are definitely more optimistic people than pessimistic people around. Valuation shorts are difficult to pull off as the market might not correct itself in the near future. One can buy puts to protect yourself or wait for a stock to ‘break’.

Short sellers arguably are the ultimate capitalists. Without us pointing out failures, the capital markets won’t function as well. – James Chanos

Lee Ainslie was always interested in technology. He used the BASIC program to track his stocks. He worked with the Tiger Management Corporation and subsequently, Maverick Capital. Lee conducts a great amount of research, unlike other companies. Episcopal High School was known for their top students which had good ethical values and meticulous discipline. Julian Robertson founded Tiger Management. Instead of joining the big banks, Lee joined Tiger. Lee focused on tech stocks. Tiger focused on the best businesses with top management, with a long term view. In 1997, Lee had a controlling stake in the firm, Maverick. He started to invest in overseas markets. The firm was developed based on a teamwork model and encourages independence. The firm works based on a partnership model. Information sharing sessions are extremely common. ‘Our goal is to know more about every one of the companies in which we invest than any non-insider does.’ Lee Ainslie, on their competitive advantage. It takes many months for this information gathering process. Potential hires are tested rigorously. The Big Win for Lee was an Indian company which performs outsourcing work for tech processes for banks. The name of the company was Cognizant. Many companies in the US were looking to outsource processes to Cognizant. Cognizant had a lower operating margin as compared to its peers. To buy an overseas stock, one needs to be aware of the local regulations, operating environment, etc. Emerging markets are highly volatile and an investor has to ready for it. The author gave an example of NII Holdings, where it was incorporated in the US and its customers were all overseas. Due to the lack of analysts following the stock, it was not very highly valued. In emerging markets, the news could occur during your sleeping hours. This makes it harder to follow company related news.

‘We’re a team of peers. There is no king of the hill. There are many talented people who do not enjoy such a team-oriented environment.’ – Lee Ainslie

Chuck Royce knew what he wanted to do when he was just 6. Since young, he has stuck to that goal and has never wavered. Royce picks stocks, especially small caps. He started his own firm, Royce and Associates. He bought Syntex – a manufacturer of birth control pills. He also betted on horses. He joined Chase Manhattan Bank as a research analyst. Due to the boring nature of the job, he headed to Blair and Co, a smaller firm. There was a period when his fellow partner at the mutual fund they had set up, Pennsylvania Mutual Fund left. This was a stressful period of his life. He almost completely lost all his wealth during 1973 and 1974. You can use measures like the S&P 600 growth and value or the Russell 2000 to define what small stocks are. He knows value when it sees it. He treats his purchases as buying into businesses. Do not try and buy the glamour stocks. He looks out for debt levels and return on capital. For the Royce fund, they strive for absolute performance and do not want to lose money in any market condition. The big win features Ritchie Bros Auctioneers, which is a Canada-based industrial equipment auctioneer. They sold equipment from various industries. This business had a particularly large moat to compete. Royce’s company researched everything there is with RBA. RBA had a very strong compounding rate. Royce uses EBIT/EV, which is an approximation for cash flow. EV is the stock price*outstanding shares, plus debt and preferred stock, less cash and cash equivalents. Also, look into the EBIT growth rate.

If you lose 50%, you have to make 100% just to get even…Unless you’ve experienced it, you cannot fully grasp it… My vivid centerpiece of my investment style is not to lose money. – Chuck Royce

The small-cap world is so large that you can do virtually anything you want with it. You can avoid clichés, can subsector the class any way you like to weed out things that don’t fit and reduce volatility. The general perception is that small-caps are all growth all the time, with lots of volume. But the reality is much more varied, more nuanced. – Chuck Royce

But if it is work you have wanted to do since you were 15, then no matter your age, you are passionate about doing it. It is the kind of passion that keeps a person focused – acutely, intensely, relentlessly. – Chuck Royce

Alfred Taubman has made a fortune in retail real estate development. He saw things that others did not. He invented the modern shopping mall. He has a net worth of $2.5 billion. When there was a population shift of people from cities to the towns, he identified a business idea. Where would the people shop at? He revamped the original layout and allowed visitors to interact more with the shop-owners. He built shopfronts with curves so that shoppers could spot it from a distance. In 1950, he started the Taubman Company. His big win was the enclosed mall and the Irvine Ranch. He wanted to expand his business into California. Irvine Ranch was 5 times the size of Manhattan. Initially, Mobil wanted to own this plot of land. After realizing there was much hidden value with the plot development, he upped his bid to outbid Mobil. Alfred sees himself as a developer. His core competency is that of retail real estate development. Learn to cover your downside. When it is risky, spread the risk to others. His company engages in both high and the low end, but not the middle. He met little threshold resistance and dared to redesign shops and combine them to form a mall. He engages in many philanthropic activities as well. Also, he tackled the problem of adult literacy rates in Detroit. He believes in giving others a shot at life if possible. Alfred’s model is as follows ‘Due Diligence à Assess Risk and Reward à set objectives and monitor investment’. He has good knowledge on customer preferences. His firm believes in good cost management. He is an extremely loyal man

It is good karma to share wealth and opportunity, particularly with similarly mined and resourced individuals. – Alfred Taubman

James Beeland Rogers Jr was someone who was always on the move. He was like an explorer waiting to discover new worlds. He started a bottle cap collection business when young. He won a scholarship to Yale. Obsessed with grandeur, he took part in the Oxford-Cambridge rowing contest. After he started out with investing, he fell in love with investing. After his national service, he worked at Arnhold and S Bleichroeder, an investment firm. His co-founded Quantum Fund with George Soros. He retired by 37. He rode on his bike over the 6 major continents in the world. By travelling, James noticed the world for investment possibilities. Jim Rogers was now fixated on China To him, they were the nation of the 21st century. People in China were toiling, saving a lot of their money and studying English. They seemed very driven. He moved his entire family to Singapore. He invests heavily in the Chinese stock market. Jim rarely spends much time in Singapore. He also has a supremely happy life. Be proud of what you like, don’t be ashamed if it’s not the latest trend. Since there was a glut in the finance industry, he predicted that commodities will flourish instead. Jim now invests in commodities. China has an incredible growth rate and is getting very affluent.

If you come to a country and you see things that are going to be great in the country, my reaction was to go downtown and see if there was a stock exchange. And if there was, then I’d start making investments. – JBR

I will spend as much money as I need to make sure my little girls go to Chinese schools, because the best skill I can give to two people born in 2003 and 2008 is to know Asia and to speak Mandarin fluently. – Jim Rogers

Don Peebles was a millionaire by 27. He runs the Peebles Corporation, an African American real estate development company. This man has a lot of connections to make it big. He did not face any limitations to become what he could today. His parents divorced when he was 5. His parents held decent jobs, but they had to work very hard. This man wanted to seek out for the stars. He believed greatly in his own ability. ‘In America, there are no limitations on what you can do.’ He was born in the 1960s. He had an apprenticeship in real estate and then became a real estate agent. As real estate involved politics, he knew he had to be involved. He worked for a particular Mayor Barry and became chairman of the property tax appeal board shortly after. This helped him achieve many potential clients. He bought a plot of land to develop and convinced many to lend him money or to have a stake in it. To him, barriers are self-constructed. Currently, he has even provided advice for the Obama administration. He likes transformational projects, projects with symbolism. The Royal Palm Hotel project was his next win. He is a very calculated risk taker. He also entered luxury residential development. His next aim is New York. Don’t simply dismiss investment opportunities. Be brutally honest with yourself. Decide for yourself, even those it is alright to seek advice sometimes.

Martin J. Whitman started at the top schools in the US. He even has a school named after him. He was granted for education and what it had done to him. Martin liked Russian history when he was young. When he acquired Equity Strategies, he regretted his decision. Martin had a great knack for analysis, and started analyzing the balance sheet. Soon after, he learnt about control investing. In the 1970s, he realized that corporate finance was his thing. Shortly after, he became an expert in bankruptcy cases and litigation. He eventually entered distressed debt investing. He also performed bankruptcy organization services. He had four criteria when selecting businesses. They had to have decent disclosure, good financials, good price an excellent prospects. Investors can only guard against investment risk, not market risk. Know what you are investing in. Martin also gives back to his alma mater. He is a man of strong values. Bankruptcy cases is his field of expertise. Bondholders get a better chance of a payout during bankruptcy than stockholders. Distressed debt investors will buy these bonds before reorg is announced. Usually it pays off. Value investing is very hard work.

Be wary of value traps along the way. It does not mean that when a share price falls, it makes it cheaper to acquire. One needs to analyse the fundamentals. Observe the PE as well. – Martin J. Whitman

Every one of the above investors is an entrepreneur in his/her own way. Even a retail investor is an entrepreneur as their objectives is to maximize returns while limiting risk. The five principles that investors should adhere to are a well-defined strategy, introspection, discipline, a strict risk discipline and a detachment from emotion.

The big Win


Economics Quotes 1 to 25

1. ‘Equality of opportunity is meaningless for those who do not have the capabilities to take advantage of it.’ Ha-Joon Chang

2. ‘The higher education system in these countries (US, Korea etc) has become like a theatre in which some people decided to stand to get a better view, promoting the others behind them to stand. Once enough people stand, everyone has to stand, which means no one is getting a better view, while everyone has become more uncomfortable.’ Ha-Joon Chang on grades and degree inflation

3. ‘In manufacturing, where mechanization and the use of chemical processes are much easier, it is easier to raise productivity than in services. In contrast, by their very nature, many service activities are inherently impervious to productivity increase without diluting the quality of the product.’ Ha-Joon Chang

4. ‘As personality traits are genetically transmitted, each succeeding wave of emigrants to a new continent would give rise over time to a population of more engaged individuals than reside in the emigrant’s continent of origin.’ Kenneth Olson

5. ‘How much there is I want to do! I always feel that I haven’t time to accomplish what I wish. I want to read much. I wanted to write a great deal. I want to make money.’ Irving Fisher (one of the great economists)

6. ‘The wealthy mortgage their future for dreams- and the poor take their revenge.’ Robert & Edward Skidelsky, on capitalism

7. ‘The best state for human nature is that in which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear from thrust back, by the efforts of others to push themselves forward.’ John Stuart Mill

8. ‘It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.’ Adam Smith

9. ’95 percent of economics is common sense made complicated, and even for the remaining 5 percent, the essential reasoning, if not all the technical details, can be explained in plain terms.’ Ha-Joon Chang

10. ‘Dangerous acts can be done safely in a community which thinks and feels rightly, which would be the way to hell if they were executed by those who think and feel wrongly.’ John Maynard Keynes

11. “The hardship in western economies, no matter how bad, is nothing compared to life for the poor in a place such as India.” Unknown

12. ‘In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed – they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy, and peace, and what did they produce? The Cuckoo Clock.’ Graham Greene

13. ‘Economic diseases are highly communicable. It follows therefore that the economic health of every country is a proper matter of concern to all its neighbors, near or distant.’ Franklin D. Roosevelt

14. ‘The stars may be large, but they cannot think or love; My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are all as small as three-penny bits.’ Frank Ramsey

15. ‘The attractions were manifold. It is distinctly advantageous to us to go amongst the poor…We can get from them about experience of life which is novel and interesting; the study of their lives and surrounding gives us the facts whether with we can attempt to solve the social problems.’ Beatrice Ellen Potter (Founder of the welfare state in Britain)

16. ‘Human beings are no longer born to their place in life…but are free to employ their faculties and such favorable chances as offer, to achieve the lot which may appear to them as desirable.’ John Stuart Mill

17. ‘A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.’ Mark Twain

18. ‘In the history of modern capitalism, crises are the norm, not the exception.’ Nouriel Roubini & Stephen Mihm

19. ‘The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.’ Thomas Sowell

20. ‘The treasury could fill old bottles with banknotes and bury them..and leave it to private enterprises on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again.’ John Maynard Keynes

21. ‘Inflation is taxation without legislation.’ Milton Friedman

22. ‘The difficulty lies not in the new ideas but in escaping from the old ones.’ John Maynard Keynes on the fact that many did not believe in the need for government stimulus to rescue the economy in a crisis.

23. ‘Economics brings into view that conflict of choice is one of the permanent characteristics of human existence.’ Lionel Robbins

24. ‘The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold and persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.’ Franklin Roosevelt

25. “For life satisfaction, it is pretty clear that unemployment drives the relationship,” explained Smith. “Not having a job when you’re willing and able to work affects life satisfaction more than anything else.”




Don’t Go Back to School by Kio Stark

A Handbook for Learning Anything. This book was funded by 1588 individuals, couples, and organizations using Kickstarter.

Students’ debt are reaching tremendous proportions. Having a good degree might not necessarily translate into a good job. This book is about learning outside of school. This book is for those who don’t thrive in school or can’t afford it. School provides the infrastructure for learning such as those the provision of teachers etc. However, there are those who self-learn and manage to build their own infrastructure. I dropped out of Yale and did self-learning. To me, learning opportunities were very limited in schools. In my third year, I learnt to analyse books on my own and to create a learning roadmap etc. You don’t need school to learn things and be smarter. I wanted to study how others learn in a non-school environment.

This book is about 23 people I interviewed who were passionate about learning outside of school. One can devise their own learning strategies. It is important to have a learning model and have other friends who are embarking on a similar model. Learning isn’t done alone. The most effective learning happens outside school. Learn and reflect to achieve the most out of it. Connections are super important. Online communities like stack overflow are examples of useful groups. There are mega online classes like Coursera etc. However, in many ways, these are similar to lecture based teachings. Tests are simply arbitrary motivators. The people are one of the most important concepts in a learning environment. Traditional credentials are less important nowadays. Use portfolio to demonstrate competence. Learn to start small and build from there. Be helpful towards others. Use connections to find jobs. Helpfulness is a two way street. There is an increase in professionalization of generalist fields. It may not be true that graduates will continue to earn more over a lifetime as compared to non-graduates. People need to learn to respect competence outside school. Work experience matters more nowadays. There are careers which don’t need licenses or higher education. Learn your own way. Find the methods that work best for you. Discover how you learn. Flexibility over your methods are important.

In school, individual learning cannot be catered to everyone because of resource constraints. Some people prefer the chaotic and exploratory process more. Linear learning works with textbooks and online courses like Coursera. Jumping in to the topic directly is another way of learning. This method may be better because you might link unrelated topics together. Do it for love and wonder. Have genuine curiosity. The structure of school can simply discourage learning. School learning is very external focused rather than internal focused. Internal motivation relies on autonomy, learning in the real world. Follow your own path and control your own learning conditions. Set your own goals on competence. It is very important to learn in the right context. Use the community to make you accountable for your goals. Intrinsic motivation leads to better engagement, retention and active learning. The author thinks that non-traditional learning will take center stage in the future.

I think part of why people teach themselves things – why I do – is really for fascination or love or something that drives them to need what they’re learning. I’ve never known what it’s like to be uncurious. – Karen Barbarossa

The beautiful thing about learning on your own is you have to be motivated about the subject to do it. Anyone can go through the motions at school, but self-learning may be the easiest way to find out what you’re good at. – Charles Kinnane, a film-maker

‘Fake it till you make it’. Learn to listen to your client and then find the resources to meet their demands. Forgive yourself when you fail. Share your knowledge with others to make the learning stick. Teaching is one of the best effective ways to learn. Join mailing lists. Sometimes it is useful to get jobs where you aren’t qualified yet. Learn to think critically and evaluate information. What you learn matters more than the grade you get. Learn basic research skills from books. Always share your own knowledge too. Good company is something you can always offer. When seeking a job, I didn’t talk about my education. Understand the broad system first. Map things out. Listening is the best way to learn. Interview people from different perspectives. The problem with formal education is that it is too rigid in nature. Learn by doing and not so much by formal training. Journalism is a good way to get writing experience. Learn from mentors and from skilful people. The skills you learn from one field often can be applied to another field. Empower people to do things. Editing skills are very useful in life. Learn to hit people up.

If you are genuinely interested in people, it’s not that hard to get them to teach you. You do have to do some homework first so that you’re asking interesting questions, not totally elementary ones. – Quinn Norton

The best way to get someone to tell you what they know is to share your own knowledge too. – Quinn Norton

I thought I had to start my career at the center of things, but that turned out not to be true at all. You build skills up and you use them as stepping stones to get to the next thing. – Rita J. King

When you’re learning something, it’s really important to not only to understand the system and context in which that thing functions, but also to look ahead and imagine what the world would be like with or without this thing. – Rita J. King

I’ve found that, by and large, people who are passionate about the things that they do are very happy to engage with other people that are passionate about what they do. – Dan Sinker

Have public conversations about what you like to hear. Create a life of ongoing independent learning. The desire of sharing also spurred me into reading more. Radio allows me to capture what I’ve read and am thinking about. Interview people. Find connections with what you already know. Learning structure will emerge over time. Do not focus on such a narrow objective. Learn to make your goals public in nature. Look for people to get you feedback. Make yourself accountable to others. Find ways to measure your progress. Observe and learn. Self-publishing was more sustainable than traditional publishing. I shared everything with everyone through my book.

We decided that in order to stick with our crazy plan we had to start telling people about it so they’d hold us to it. – Molly Danielsson

If you got into filmmaking because you really want to make your own films, because you want to make films you care deeply about, you also have to make a living. Then you’re hiring yourself out and you risk draining your enthusiasm for the art form by working on other people’s projects – things you don’t believe in. – Astra Taylor

If you can’t unite making your living with the things you love, which is obviously ideal, then sometimes it’s best to keep them totally separate. – Astra Taylor

If you learn to do something when there are real stakes, you remember what you’ve learned more. – Jim Munroe

When I need help myself, I would prefer to be pointed to information, not have someone walk me through it, because there’s that sense of discovery and learning on my own and not being handheld through the whole process. – Jim Munroe

For me, I just start by doing it and then learn things retroactively. I gain a deeper understanding of the mechanics of why things are done the way they are. You have these happy accidents where you do something the wrong way, but your work ends up having a different style or flavor by happenstance because you haven’t gone through the normal route of learning how to do it. There’s something qualitatively different about the work, in the end, which I really like. – Jim Munroe

Art school fails to teach you how to make money from art. The trick was to practice a lot. Keep on drawing and drawing. It is alright to copy some masterpieces. Learn from your co-workers. It is important to know people and earn their respect. Learn and make mistakes. Apprenticeship is a good way to learn acting. Be curious about everyone’s job. LA is one of the best places for film-making. School was boring due to uninspiring teachers. Projects end up taking much longer than expected. Iterate for a long and you may end up in an unexpected place. School failed to teach me the basic construction methods and too much emphasis was placed on art theory. Learn from books and trial and error and talking to others. We started a group to exchange knowledge with one another. We meet about once a week. Have fun in the process. Find a community to tap into.

Getting stuck for me has been one of the best teachers. It has taught me the huge difference between just knowing the answer, and knowing how to find the answer. – Christopher Bathgate

 I realized that mainly, I wanted to run a business. If I didn’t have the proper credentials, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. – Catherina Rindi

In asking for their knowledge, people are even more willing and even more generous if you have done something to show that you’re interested and you’ve made a commitment on your end as well. – Jeremy Cohen

I was always curious how things worked and I was not just going to accept it. Learn to interact with people better. Learn to experiment and invent new stuff. Take a project and an idea and barrel through it to see if it will work. Take things apart and then manipulate them. When I hire, I don’t care whether you have a degree or not. Learn from trying things out. I only want to hire people who are confident to learn. Find recent information about the subject. Look on Google Scholar and read through all the articles there. Another way is to buy textbooks. Be responsible for what you do.

I try to surround myself with incredibly smart people who are often, if not always, smarter than me. Because other people are so important to learning. – Harper Reed

I realized that what’s important is hiring people who are confident in their ability to go find information and to learn. I don’t care if they actually know things or not when I hire them. – David Mason

Try to learn as many things as possible and not be afraid to fail quickly and keep trying, or switch tracks. You’ll get experience and valuable lessons in a variety of fields, and you’ll occasionally stumble across things that you thought you were going to be bad at, and it turns out you’re pretty good at. – Luke Muehlhauser

I’m really naturally interested in learning things, but there’s one way to guarantee that I lose interest, and that’s to tell me to be interested in it, even if I am. – Zack Booth Simpson

There are two important things about reading a textbook. One is don’t sweat it; if you don’t understand something, so what, keep reading. Two is that no one retains everything, even someone who gets a PhD in the subject.- Zack Booth Simpson

I think part of why people teach themselves things is based on fascination or passion or some other internal force that drives them to it. – Karen Barbarossa

Try different things and see which sticks. It is easier to learn a new language if you are in an environment that uses it. Listen to anything and to all source. Ask your friends how to say it in a foreign language properly. Know the grammatical structure first. Every new language seems exciting to me. Learn to participate in a creative writing course or workshop. Write stories and send them to magazines. Learn to do your work and sell your work. Write even though you don’t feel like it. Develop the discipline to write a bit each day. Have 3 or 4 signposts in your narrative. Develop the tension by making the character try to help but end up making things worse. Change the tips in a self-help book and you will have a normal character. Receive feedback from those who are around the same level as you. In a writing group, if you don’t write, you don’t have right to critique. Do not critique the writer, just the work. The same goes for praise.

The more you can be objective about your work, the better. You learn to do that by learning to critique other people’s work first. – Cory Doctorow

If you write every day just a little bit, it just becomes a thing you do. It becomes much easier to do it even on days when you don’t feel like doing it, and especially on days when you’re not feeling it. – Cory Doctorow

You have to figure out how to stop critiquing yourself while you’re writing, and come back to critiquing when you’re done. You can’t revise and compose at the same time. – Cory Doctorow

How to be an independent learner? One can learn to gain mastery or learn skills so that you can complete a project. Explore those strategies that are most effective for you. Think about your past too. There are two types of learning: linear (classroom type) or associative. Linear is if you wish to master the full subject area. Associative means learning from the middle and skim through difficult areas, before going back etc. For example, one can read about particle physics without knowing the Newtonian physics. Learning for the sake of completing a project is also very meaningful. Be prepared for some form of experimentation. Compare syllabus. Find the textbook that are respected by teachers. Read textbook reviews. Get the older version. Look for libraries etc too. Evaluate sources of information. Read multiple sources for the same information. Probe on the background references. Look out the authors and search their backgrounds. Find a review article for academic information. You can find them in scholarly journals. Invite your friends to join in to your learning projects. Declare your intentions to others. Keep track of what you learn. You can use Evernote, notebooks etc. Write summaries and reflections too. Do your ’homework’ and then approach the experts. Read their work before you write to them. Give positive feedback. To get a job without a degree, you need to get employers to take a risk on you. Have a portfolio and explain your motivation behind creating a portfolio. Show how it relates to the job you want. Start small and write for the local paper first. Have the attitude of an apprentice. Be willing to ask questions and try new things.

Resource list: Piazza.com; Lore.com; Einztein.com; Coursera.org; Udemy.com; Udacity.com; Edx.org; Academicearth.org; Open.ac.uk; Codeacademy.com; Diymfa.com; Skillshare.com; Lesswrong.com; Ask.metafilter.com; Doaj.org; Doabooks.org; Knowledgeunlatched.org; Scholar.google.com; Fetchnotes.com; Khanacademy.com; Stackoverflow.com

don't go back to school pic

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Augustus Gloop was a greedy boy. Veruca Salt was a girl who was spoiled by her parents. Violet Beauregarde chewed gum. Mike Teavee does nothing but watch television. Charlie Bucket was the hero.

Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine, and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. Mr and Mrs Bucket have a son named Charlie. The 6 grownups and Charlie stay in a wooden house. It was a very small house. They were very poor and had to sleep on mattresses. Mr Bucket worked at a toothpaste factory. Their family often ate bread and margarine, boiled potatoes and cabbage etc. Charlie needed more food. He yearned for chocolate. He could only eat one bar during his birthday each year. He could make the precious bar last more than a month. In his town, there was an enormous chocolate factory. It was called Wonka’s factory and was owned by Mr Willy Wonka. He loved the smell of chocolate whenever he walked past. He longed to enter the factory.

His grandparents’ loved the sight of him. They often told him stories at night. It was the biggest chocolate factory in the world. Mr Willy Wonka was an amazing man. He invented over 200 different kind of candy bars amongst other things.

Prince Pondicherry wanted Mr Wonka to head to India to build a palace out of chocolate. Mr Wonka did go over to build it. Everything was made of chocolate. During a sunny day, it melted and sank to the ground. No one has been seen entering or leaving the chocolate factory.

Mr Wonka ordered all the workers in the past to leave because of spies. There were people trying to steal his recipes. The factory was shut down for a while after that incident. Suddenly, like magic, the factory began operating on its own. Shadows could be spotted inside the building. Those people were tiny. Charlie wanted to find out who they were. There was a headline in the newspapers ‘Wonka Factory to be opened at last to lucky few’.

Mr Wonka only allowed 5 children to visit the factory. They would know all the secrets plus be given a lifetime supply of chocolate. The tickets were the wrappers of 5 ordinary candy bars. Everyone wanted those golden tickets. Charlie had slim chances because he only had 1 bar per year.

Augustus Gloop had the first ticket and he was extremely fat and lazy. He ate a huge amount of chocolate. Everyone was frantically buying chocolate bars. People even went to stealing money to buy bars. The second winner was a girl named Veruca Salt. Her parents were very rich. His dad bought thousands of them. He got his factory of workers to stop working and to remove wrappers from the chocolate bars. Veruca started throwing tantrums. Luckily, she managed to find a ticket.

He spoils her. And no good can ever come from spoiling a child like that, Charlie, you mark my words. – Grandpa Joe

Charlie held the chocolate bar in his hands. They were preparing him for disappointment. ‘That however small the chance might be of striking lucky, the chance was there.’ Everyone was tense and excited. He opened it and there was no sign of the golden ticket. It was time for Charlie to go to school and he wanted to share the bar with the adults too.

The winner of the third ticket was Miss Violet. She loved to chew on gum. She couldn’t do without gum. The adults condemned her as being despicable. The recipient of the fourth ticket was Mike Teavee. He loved TV and was constantly glued to it. Mike was also into guns. All 4 tickets had gone to brats so far.

Grandpa Joe was awake and he opened his purse. He wanted Charlie to use the money to buy one more bar. His grandpa opened the wrapper together with him. It was just an ordinary chocolate bar.

The weather turned for the worst and the family started to starve. The snow blocked roads and covered the path to their house. It was bitterly cold. Everyone concentrated on keeping warm and trying to survive. Charlie only had cabbage to eat every day. He started becoming thinner. The toothpaste factory had to close down as it went bust. Now, his dad wasn’t even working. The cruel weather persisted. Charlie began saving strength. He did not play in the snow, like the other kids. When walking home, he found a dollar bill in the snow. He wondered whether it was right for him to take it. Instantly, the dollar meant food to him.

He went to a shop and bought himself a chocolate bar. Every mouthful was a delight to Charlie. Charlie decided to buy one more bar. Inside contained the golden ticket. Soon, a crowd started to form. Charlie started feeling dizzy and he felt like his feet were not touching the ground. People started to offer money to buy it from him. Someone offered $500 for it.

He yelled to his mum about the ticket. His grandpa thought that he was joking. The ticket was made out of gold. He was to report on the first day of February at 10am sharp. It was tomorrow. It was going to be the biggest day of his life. Swarms of photographers were now outside their house.

Grandpa Joe accompanied Charlie into the factory. Charlie didn’t have a coat despite the chilly weather.

Mr Willy Wonka was a little man. He wore a black hat with a tail coat which was velvet in color. He welcomed them with open arms. In total, there were 9 grownups and 5 children. The place was gigantic. They were heading underground. The factory had to be located underground because it was far too large. They came to a door with the words ‘The Chocolate Room’.

This was an important room and it was also known as the nerve center. It was a lovely valley and also contained a waterfall. There was a river where every drop was melted chocolate. The children were flabbergasted and awestruck. The chocolate was mixed in the waterfall. They spotted little men in the factory. They were no larger than medium sized dolls. They were known as Oompa-Loompas. These were the workers in the factory.

They were imported from Loompaland. They were all starving in Loompaland when Mr Willy Wonka found them. Chocolate originates from Cacao Beans. These people loved cacao beans. Veruca wanted an Oompa Loompa. Augustus headed down to the river and scooped melted chocolate into his mouth.

He fell into the river. He was being sucked into one of the great pipes. Due to immense pressure, Augustus was propelled in the air. Mr Gloop didn’t want to save his son. Mr Wonka assured his parents that Augustus was safe. He ordered a Oompa Loompa to help look for Augustus.

The rest were led to the next room. They took a pink boat which was pulled by Oompa-Loompas. Everyone was on the boat as it glided across the river. Mr Wonka gave Charlie and his grandma a drink. Now, they entered an area which was pitch black. They realized they were inside a gigantic pipe. They passed a door which stored different kinds of cream. Storeroom number 77 contained all jelly beans. They came upon a Red Door now.

All the new inventions were cooking inside the room. It was like a witch’s kitchen. This was Mr Wonka’s favorite room. Everlasting Gobstoppers were produced. They were hard and change colour every week. They never disappeared as well. He showed them what hair toffee was like. Now, Mr Wonka brought them to the Great Gum Machine. This machine produced fabulous and amazing gum.

He created a chewing gum meal. It was a meal replacement tool. Mr Wonka warned that the recipe wasn’t perfected yet. However, Violet took it and started chewing on it. Now, Violet was experiencing roast beef and baked potatoes. Now, it was blueberry pie and cream. Now, her nose and face was turning blue. Now, she turned into blue and purple, like blueberry juice. Now, she was swelling up. She was blowing up into the size of a balloon. Now, she was turning into a gigantic blueberry. The Oompa-Loompas took her to the juicing room in order to fix her.

There were only 3 kids left. Hot ice cubes make drinks warmer. Veruca Salt didn’t want to keep rushing along with the tour. The candies looked round according to Mr Wonka. Oompas-Loompas loved butterscotch and soda. Mrs Salt started panting from the furious speed in which they were travelling.

Squirrels were shelling walnuts in the nut room. Veruca Salt decided she wanted a squirrel. She demanded one. Mr Salt took out his money and wanted to buy one. Mr Wonka was firm that they were not for sale. However, Veruca entered the nut room. All the squirrels pinned her down once she entered the room. Veruca tried to escape but the squirrels were too strong. She was a bad nut and had to be disposed in the garbage chute. Now, Mr and Mrs Salt were very concerned about their kid. All 3 of them fell in the chute, never to be seen again.

Now, only Mike and Charlie were left. They all entered the glass elevator. There were buttons everywhere. Mike pressed a button where they would be brought to a television room. Charlie loved the exhilarating ride. Mrs Teavee experienced motion sickness and wanted to get off the elevator. Finally, the elevator reached its destination.

The room was extremely bright and everyone had to put on dark glasses. Everything was painted white in colour. Everyone was quiet in the room. This is the Testing Room. Mr Wonka wanted to break up a piece of chocolate and put them through a screen. Mike Teavee was too close to the dangerous rays and was warned to back off. It appeared in the screen and they could all sample a piece of it.

Mike Teavee ran off. He disappeared after he used the machine and wanted to appear on TV. They all watched a TV set. He turned into a midget. He shrank into a midget but he was fine. Mike kept demanding to watch television. Mr Wonka had a plan to fatten him up. The Oompa-Loopas began to sing. TV rots the senses, kills imagination.

TV rots the sense in the head! It kills imagination dead! It clogs and clutters up the mind! It makes a child so dull and blind he can no longer understand a fantasy, a fairyland! – Oompa-Loopas

Charlie was the only one left. It meant he had won. He congratulated Charlie. They pressed up and out on the elevator. The elevator was surging fast. It shot right through the roof of the factory. Now, it started to hover in midair. Charlie was intrigued that he could see the entire town from above.

Augustus was now as thin as a straw. Violet also didn’t like gum anymore. Veruca and Mr and Mrs Salt were covered with garbage. Mike was 10 feet tall but extremely skinny. Charlie continued his ride on the elevator.

Charlie proclaimed that he loved the factory. When he was old enough, Mr Wonka wanted to hand over the factory to Charlie. Mr Willy Wonka wanted to hand it over to someone as he was getting old. The winner of the golden ticket would get the factory. Charlie’s family could now live in the factory. The elevator crashed through Charlie’s house and it wanted to pick up his grandparents.

I don’t want a grown-up person to be my successor at the factory at all. A grownup won’t listen to me; he won’t learn. He will try to do things his own way and not mine. So I have to have a child. I want a good sensible loving child, one to whom I can tell all my most precious candy-making secrets – while I am still alive. – Mr Willy Wonka