Enough by John C. Bogle

Is there no limit to what enough is in modern society? Capitalism is at play. Management earn obscene amounts of compensation. Greed can cause a system’s downfall. How long can materialism and greed last? I have been given enough, in more aspects than just financially. My great grandfather was incredibly thrifty. My family was fraught with financial difficulty. I had to work when I was young in order to feed the family. I learnt to accept responsibility when I was young. I did well in school and mum put in so much effort into investing in my education. My attitude in life has been influenced by my family. The first ‘diamond’ of my life was my admittance to the Blair Academy. My family was incredibly close-knitted and that helped a lot. Later, I got admitted to Princeton University on a full scholarship. Even then, I had to take up temporary jobs for me to get paid. However, my parent’s marriage fell apart after that. I discovered that the mutual fund was new at that time and wrote about it. Mr Morgan was the boss of Wellington Fund. When I was 35, he said I could take over the firm. After a disagreement with the other shareholders, I got fired. My business model was to manage our affairs internally and not require any external party to manage it. Vanguard would have to do everything in-house if it wanted to succeed. Before 1875, I founded the world’s first index mutual fund. The fund didn’t need to be managed as the returns would track a basket of stocks that were representative of an index. ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Thankfully, we got approval from the SEC too. A donated heart was one of my ‘diamonds’ too. This heart enabled me to live healthily. Be blessed by the number of diamonds you have. Humans are all too interested in short-term gains. Companies should recount their past values which enabled them to thrive. Virtue doesn’t come from money. It comes from doing good.

Some men wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called work. Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called trade. Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called finance. – Old Epigram from 19th Century Britain

There is a food chain and the investor is at the bottom of it. The financial system cannot be too costly. We are often trading paper and paying bankers too much. In addition, the financial system is fraught with complexity. Young graduates like to enter banking. We should strive to do good in our jobs. Never let money alter your conscience. Do not invest in products which require you to pay high management fees etc. Serving your client is the highest priority. The sub-prime crisis was an example of extreme greed. The finance sector takes up too much of the earnings of the S&P 500. Sometimes, the markets crash but those people in IB keep making money. The ex-CEOs of Citigroup and Merrill Lynch were paid very well just before the sub-prime crisis. They were not penalised heavily after that. However, bankers earned nothing as compared to the hedge fund managers. The hedge fund industry demands high management fees and investors can’t survive. The number of CFAs are increasing all the time. There is an inherent disconnect between cost and value in our financial system. Humans have abandoned the traditional standards of investing. The author looks up to people like Benjamin Graham and uses value-investing. Speculation is rife nowadays. The cumulative costs keep growing. Does the financial system create more value than cost? My fear is that the finance sector is getting too big and out of control. There needs to be a financial system reform. As public investors, we should demand more from our financial system.

The motivation of too many of those rushing into finance is more aligned with what they can get from society than what they can give back to it. – John C Bogle

Too Much Speculation, Not Enough Investment. Investing is about long-term ownership of the business. Speculation is just the opposite and is about short term gains. One of Keynes’ famous works is the ‘General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’. In the long run, the stock price must be aligned with the business fundamentals. Speculators cannot capture the inherent value in a stock. Markets are volatile because of speculators. In the expectations market, prices are set based on the expectations of investors. These are not based on ‘real value’ per se. We live in an era of speculation. However, it is true that investors win and speculators lose in the long run. Stock markets have crashed, just like on Black Monday in 1987. Short term outcomes can’t be predicted accurately nowadays. There have been little cases of black swans in the long term market. The financial system is prone to innovation. Learn to emulate tortoises. Market timing is not sound. Market timing doesn’t work. It is difficult to make the right decision consistently on market timing. We need to improve the balance between entrepreneurial innovation and more traditional values. We cannot allow the whirlwind of speculation to continue unabated.

In investing, tortoises tend to win far more often than hares over the turns of the market cycle…Placing large bets on an unknown future is worse than gambling because at least in gambling you know the odds. Most of the decisions in life motivated by greed have unhappy outcomes. – Peter L. Bernstein

Too Much Complexity, Not Enough Simplicity. Simplicity has been the key to successful investing. Technology has complicated our lives. There are many middlemen in a CDO offering. Some banks are also not concerned with the creditworthiness of such offerings. The market has been flooded with interest rate swaps, credit default swaps etc. The value of the derivatives market is huge. ‘As long as the music is playing, you have to keep dancing.’ The Federal Government has also backed such offerings. It is better to buy an index fund as it has better returns. Innovations have hurt investors. The winners are usually the fund managers or distributors. Innovations like stock index fund, bond index fund have done investors well. ETFs are great. However, they are being traded too frequently, leading to speculation. Some ETFs also do not contain stocks that track the stock market index. There are many different types of funds nowadays, like market neutral, hedging, commodities, private equity etc. However, please examine the track record before buying. Commodities are purely speculative in nature. Fund expenses must be cut if investors are to gain. Fund failure rate is very high amongst idiosyncratic funds. Some funds are not concerned with shareholder performance. It is time to get down to basics. The author believes that the simple way is the best way. The mutual fund industry often fails to provide market-beating returns. The fund manager should serve investor’s interests.

Too Much Counting, Not Enough Trust. We often place too much emphasis on numbers and trust them. Then, we have optimistic views on the future because of them. Even numbers produced by the government can be questionable at times. We need to understand the sources of stock returns. Do not project future returns based on past historical rates. This causes the expected rate of return of investments to rise. The bubble of investor optimism will have to burst someday. It is smarter to set your expectations for future earnings on basis of current sources of returns. There is a bias towards optimism in the future. CEOs often paint too optimistic pictures for earnings and analysts tend to agree with them. The standard for analysts has changed from GAAP earnings to operating earnings. Pro-forma earnings also exclude all the one-time losses etc. Creative accounting is a big issue nowadays. Pension holders might lose money on their investments and this will have other repercussions as well. Businesses like to use M&A to create ‘value’. For each M&A deal, the bankers and lawyers earn huge sums of money. ‘Paper’ companies have acquired ‘rock’ companies that make. In Vanguard, we believe in organic growth, not forced growth. Nowadays, we do not know how to ask without any numbers and this is a scary fact. Trust is important.

The first step is to measure what can be easily measured. This is okay as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which cannot be measured, or give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what cannot be measured really is not very important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what cannot be measured does not really exist. This is suicide. – Daniel Yankelovich

Modern capitalism has two parts: there’s business, and there’s finance. Business is renting you a car at the airport. Finance is something else. – Michael Kinsley

Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct. Professional associations are now run like business enterprises. However, professionals should be responsible and selfless in their service towards their clients. Times have changed nowadays. Professional conduct is less well regarded as in the past. Too many banks are seeking competitive advantages at the expense of their customers. The battle for professional independence is never won. Trust and be trusted. Capitalism has eroded as well and this is a big issue. Owners’ capitalism has been transformed to managers’ capitalism. Institutional investors are a big thing nowadays. Managers are not acting as they should for their principal. Beware of negligence and profusion have prevailed among corporate management. How much should the CEO be compensated? It is hard to determine how much value a CEO has added. Sometimes, their salary growth outstrips the corporate profit rate. There are accountability issues. Institutional money managers hold a lot of power. CEO stock based compensation should be based on intrinsic value and not actual stock price. The compensation consultant has also become more popular. Many CEOs are also paid according to how they fair in their peer group. A basic set of ethical principles is needed to guide the profession. Financial engineering is getting more and more popular. Capitalism must be fair, regulated and ethical.

Money management extracts value from the returns earned by our business enterprises, and in the process of maximizing its own commercial benefits, the industry seems to have lost its professional bearings. – John C Bogle

Too Much Salesmanship, Not Enough Stewardship. The industry is characterized by salesmanship too. Mutual fund size has grown by a tremendous rate recently. Fund investors start trading funds instead of simply holding them. The holding period for stocks has been cut from 6 years to 1 year. Fund costs have soared as well. The fund industry is more like a marketing industry now. Investment focus has been truncated. Some funds are only created because of the latest market fad. There is a need for reform. We need to cut down costs for investors. Serve the investor for a lifetime. There are too many choices of funds out there and this makes people confused. There is a need to have long term investment horizons. Serve the long term investors. We must all return to the index fund. Put fund investors in the driver’s seat. Shareholder education takes time. The industry should aim to be objective and unbiased. We need to have an industry that is of the shareholder, by the shareholder, and for the shareholder. We need a mutual fund industry with vision and values. We must build companies that stand for something. Stewardship will pay off. It is important to keep the faith every day.

Too Much Management, Not Enough Leadership. Our large corporations are over-managed but underled. Managing and leading are completely different. The leader is more original. The leader should be able to inspire. They should care about the deeper values of the organization. There are 10 rules for building a great organization. 1) Make caring the soul of the organization. 2) Forget about employees (call them crew members instead). 3) Set High Standards and Values – and Stick to Them. 4) Talk the Talk. Repeat the Values Endlessly. 5) Walk the Walk. Action Speaks Louder than Words. 6) Don’t over-manage. 7) Recognize Individual Achievement. 8) Loyalty is a Two-Way Street. 9) Lead and Manage for the Long-Term. 10) Press On, Regardless. A superior company thinks about its dream. It also applies unconventional thinking. We were based on value profit chain concepts. I built a company that would endure. Businesses should have purposes besides making money.

The institution must be the object of intense human care and cultivation. Even when it errs and stumbles, it must be cared for, and the burden must be borne by all who work for it, all who own it, all who are served by it, all who govern it. Every responsible person must care, and care deeply, about the institutions that touch his life. – Howard W. Johnson

Too Much Focus on Things, Not Enough Focus on Commitment. Where are the things by which one measures one’s life? Don’t let things measure the man instead. Life is never smooth and we might lose our wealth one day. However, your character is the one that will endure. Boldness and commitment is all important. Commit the most to make a second life. It is crucial to be committed to your family. Commitment to neighbours and the community is also important. We thrive as human beings and have faith in ourselves. Give credit to those who have helped you along the way. You didn’t succeed on your own. Be bold and summon your magic.

Too many 21st century values, not enough 18th century values. Do not move away from the truth. Facts are everywhere. The Age of Reason occurred in the 18th century. Many of the great leaders spoke about the period of Enlightenment. Benjamin Franklin was a great leader in the 18th century. Joseph Schumpeter also described what an entrepreneur ought to be. Entrepreneurs and capitalists are not the same. Have the will to conquer, and the joy of a good battle. Franklin invented many tools for the public’s benefit. There are other motives for business other than profit. A man should have a mind to improve, a heart to cultivate and a character to form. Keep striving to improve. Return stewardship to capitalism. Lead with purpose. Virtue is all important. Franklin listed 13 virtues. He started his day by asking ‘What good shall I do this day?’ and ended it with ‘What good have I done today?’ His energy and persistence helped him in his public life.

Knowledge is not the personal property of its discoverer, but the common property of all. As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously. – Benjamin Franklin

The real test for an honest and productive society is not what a society has achieved, but what it aims to achieve. It can put honest people on a pedestal even if they do not maximize their personal benefits and preferences…and discard and shun as models of failure dishonest people who achieve their highest ambitions by fraud and abuse of trust. – Tamar Frankel

Too Much ‘Success’, Not Enough Character. We often chase success but success continually eludes us. Is success all about achieving wealth and fame? Financial wealth is not a good measure of success. Fame is a flawed measure too. Fame is used for other purposes now. One can contribute to society in a great way but yet not be famous at all. Power should not be used capriciously and arbitrarily. Power should be used for a worthy cause. Have we been chasing the fake rabbit of success? Success isn’t about meeting other people’s expectations too. You should just base success on your own expectations and make the most of your talents. We should admire those people in professions where they can contribute to society, but not achieve any fame or recognition. Modern life has forced people to be competitive. Life demands much more of us nowadays. What are you competing for? Without character and courage, nothing else lasts. To hone character, one must undergo tribulations etc. Be yourself and strive to be better. With age, you should better understand where the rabbits are. Challenge yourself and strive to be better. Chase the real rabbits of your life.

Success can be measured in our contributions to building a better world, in helping our fellow man, and in raising children who themselves become loving human beings and good citizens. Success, in short, can be measured not in what we attain for ourselves, but in what we contribute to our society. – John C Bogle

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. – Helen Keller

Highly educated young people are tutored, taught, and monitored in all aspects of their lives, except the most important, which is character-building. But without character and courage, nothing else lasts. – David Brooks

What’s Enough? What is the relationship between happiness and success? Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success. Humans are resilient. Money only provides a transitory form of happiness. Autonomy, social interaction and competence are all important. How much money do you need? I want to give something back to the less fortunate. For example, give back to your alma mater. I also offered scholarships to the Blair students. It has been a thrilling ride indeed. I was born to save rather than spend. Our shareholders also have received superior returns. I do not like extravagance. My retirement plan is the largest in the family balance sheet. Saving early and regularly is the key for wealth accumulation. Postpone your first payment for Social Security. Stick with low-fund fees. There are still many people living in poverty in the US. The income disparity is growing. You must remember that you are fortunate but not all fellow Americans are enjoying it. The domination of the US will not happen forever.

LIVE.Books_Enough

 

 

Schiit Happened by Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat (Part 3)

Finally, the $99 solution. Mike was the one who thought that $99 gear was possible. In the past, it certainly wasn’t possible. I had my doubts that we could do it. I was very thrilled that we managed to do it. Audio is a seasonal business, where demand is strong between October to March. Magni and Modi were products we didn’t announce beforehand. The good thing is that you won’t miss your deadline. However, without a deadline, you won’t work as hard. If there are delays, you may miss your first mover advantage. As a result, we could have chased our vendors harder. The metal delivery was late. We missed CanJam as a result. The boards were late too. Thankfully, we just needed to switch out the capacitors before we could fit them in the new chassis. On Dec 13, 2012, we announced Modi and Magni. They outstripped the sales of all our other products combined. Nobody expected that we could deliver it at that price point. I saw the headphone market growing. I wanted to release something of value, and Schiit managed to do that. First time users could have excellent sound with the Magni and the Modi. Magni was neutral and had a ton of power. Modi didn’t need drivers and works well. Of course, there are better amps and DACs out there, however, with the quality of music that most people are listening, this would suffice.

Making another pricey product – no matter how advanced and innovative – is cool and all, and makes for good ego fodder. But making a good, solid product that almost anyone can afford, that’s a whole another thing entirely. – Jason Stoddard

And that’s what I wanted to do – to set the value bar, and the barrier to entry, much, much higher. – Jason Stoddard

Twilight of the Gods – the Ragnarok Saga from 2009 Until Today. Ragnarok was a big saga since 2009 We shipped a powerful speaker amp. If you pre-announce something, you will be wise to stop talking about it. Do not confirm that it will be a cool product. Speakers are very large. They need much damping factor. Our second Ragnarok was much better. It was solid state and used DC servos. However, it would get hot and we needed to find a solution. There are 3 ways to get rid of DC on your outputs: coupling capacitors; DC servo; Trimpots. I wanted a microprocessor to run everything on the Ragnarok. I released info on the product even before it was released. Software has a lot of bugs too. We ran into a shit load of problems. However, one day, the Ragnarok just smoked. It was really bad. Ragnarok didn’t work well at an audio show. It was nowhere near ready. The thing kept burning up because of too much current. We kept trying to write code for the firmware to prevent this. However, even after the power right, it didn’t sound good. There are plenty of other sagas than those mentioned above. Making great products requires a hell lot of pain at times.

Blazing a new path isn’t to be taken lightly. You should take a long, hard look at your capabilities and resources, and plan for how it will impact everything you do. – Jason Stoddard

You’ll Never Do Any Upgrades Anyway. Some audiophiles didn’t think we would do upgrades for the Bitfrost. Audiophiles can be very difficult sometimes. Mike was at the cutting edge of audio when he was at Theta. There was no standalone DAC at his time. Digital audio is new too. Mike measured jitter too. Audio in the 2000s is changing, but at a slowing rate as compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Most DACs are delta-sigma D/A converters. USB is a lot more mature and it is improving. DSD is not that hot now. WiFi digital audio is there. Bluetooth digital audio is also up there too. We didn’t know when we could upgrade the Bifrost. Pick your upgrades carefully and keep them to a minimum. For DACs, the chip AK4399 is our favorite. When you have upgrades, everyone wants to have it NOW, without hesitation.

Worst. Customer. Ever. The customer is always right. Is the customer always God? You can’t do well in business if you don’t love your customers. Amazon’s rule of customer service is that if you have to contact them, they have failed. How can you architect customer service? The smaller your customer service team, the more consistent their replies and the better it is for you. Prohibit the ‘hard sell’. Ban discussion of other manufacturers’ products. Don’t do promo, points, or sales. Less discounts means less complexity. If you have sales, some people will think they would be screwed if they missed the sale. Audio is subjective. Always maintain a high standard of customer service. You can’t take a day to reply emails, that is too slow. Choose your contact options. Choosing your feedback channels are important. However, do not pick too many or you will be flooded. If customers call you, it is bad as it is time consuming to answer calls. If you hire an audio expert to answer calls, it is going to be expensive. A nasty customer we encountered was when his item was a little late. He went into absolute berserk mode. We refunded him in the end. Yet, he was still raging. Believe me, not every customer is worth having.

If you’re going to get into business selling product direct to customers, you need to know two things: 1) You’re gonna get some buttheads; 2) You’re not gonna make everyone happy. – Jason Stoddard

We bend over backwards for our customers. But we won’t be bent forwards. – Jason Stoddard

Put enough information up about the product so most people can make their own decisions, but when they contact us, make the answers fast and simple. – Jason Stoddard

Anyone who emails us before purchasing is 8 times more likely to return the order. 2+ emails takes it up to 30 times. But again, are these bad people? Not at all. Merely indecisive. – Jason Stoddard

But you should be aware that you are talking to humans that can – and do – bend over backwards. But if you come in hot, that willingness to bend over backwards diminishes. – Jason Stoddard

Death of a Product. This will definitely happen some day. Should you cannibalize? It is important to understand product life cycle. No product can stay relevant forever. If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will. It is easier to follow someone else’s rules rather than make your own. It is not smart to assume that sales slow down, it is time to upgrade. We killed the Asgard after the Magni was introduced. Asgard didn’t have gain switching and preamp outputs. The Asgard 2 was introduced and it was much better. It was dead silent on low gain. We had an absolute winner and knew it would be terrific. However, when we produced the Asgard 2, it had a hum. We swapped them.

R&D Sometimes Means, “Try it, See If It Works”. R&D can be very focused. However, at times, it shouldn’t be. Playtime is important. Let your engineers have fun as it will pay-off. We managed to get cheap tubes off eBay and we started tweaking to see how we could fit them into our products. This was the road to Vali. They were much better than the other tubes out there and required little power. The problem with tubes is that tube microphonics might happen and it appears as a form of noise.

But I strongly believe that R&D shouldn’t always be so focused. There’s value in making sure your engineering staff has time to play with crazy ideas. – Jason Stoddard

Name Me One Non-standard Format That’s Succeeded, Ever, Or, A Trickster Cometh. DSD was out in 2013. DSD requires a new type of filtering, which would create noise. We were initially not keen as our products would need a lot of upgrades. We were afraid of missing out on sales if we didn’t jump on the bandwagon. It’s a special software that will go nowhere. Many customers inquired on when our products will support DSD. Reluctantly, I managed to convince Mike to think about it. Our sales kept increasing though. We suddenly wanted to make the least expensive DSD DAC on the market. This would help to drive adoption. It would also have an option for PCM, where we could run a PCM DAC through it. It would be like an add-on. We didn’t have DSD capable USB receivers. We managed to develop a prototype that could play native DSD, using a crystal semiconductor DAC. It worked fine with the AKM DAC. We tried to bring it to market, if it did, we would work on 2X solution. Loki was introduced, where people could add DSD to any DAC for $149. However, it was received as well as we thought. Mike has mentioned no more DSD development until something big happens. However, the public didn’t seem interested in DSD all that longer. There are plenty of DACs out there that support DSD, but where is the software. DSD recordings are expensive for artistes and is it unlikely there will be happy. Also, the improvement in sound quality is marginal and may not be detected.

No Sample Left Unchanged: Digital Today. Let’s talk business philosophies. A typical AV preamp must have a lot of features. There are many standards, such as Dolby Atmos. It is hard to support all these formats. We have to pay licensing fee to put the logos on the box. Should we be at the whim of the standard-setters, like surround-sound standards? Would customers be okay with a processor that sounded good that didn’t support Dolby Digital or DTS? Digital audio has made steady progression over the years. The multibit technology has been improving. Jitter numbers have been decreasing steadily. 1-bit sigma-delta modulation is cheap and has good measurements. The phone DAC ain’t too shabby either. Today, it is a largely sigma-delta world. Lobby for better recordings in the studios, which will help us. DAC mostly upsample and use asynchronous sample rate conversion, affecting the original samples. Samples which have passed a digital filter are not the same. Yggdrasil aims to address that. We have the solution to retain the original samples, without oversampling. The more bits, the less the quantization error. The best DACs around can do only 20 bits. To achieve 24 bit linearity hasn’t happened yet. We have plenty of music in PCM format.

And “32 bit?” LOLOLROFLCOPTER. There will never be any 32 bit music. Because physics. – Jason Stoddard

Black Friday. It is important for a company to define why you do certain stuff. One day, the metal maker delivered us black chassis and we decided to sell them. We would make it a one-time special. In Nov 13, we announced a limited run of black Schiit products. However, there was no big wave of orders for them. The issue is because price and quality matter more than cosmetic colours ultimately. What has this got to do with Black Friday? Many companies participate in Black Friday sales. We choose not to participate. It is great not to stand against a trend sometimes. We don’t do fancy chassis to increase the cost. We do direct distribution too and don’t have a dealer network. A lot of audio experts and engineers have praised our products for our sound quality.

As a start-up, always remember clamor doesn’t always equal the demand. – Jason Stoddard

Niche features or functionality can evoke a lot of passion – and, while that passion may translate into many emails, it may not translate into sales. – Jason Stoddard

You Want to Pay How Much? Or, How We Moved Again. We were thinking of moving office. Someone else wanted to move into the building and we had to go. Good performers expect to be paid well. They also value flexible work hours. For instance, you can work from home etc. Our assembly team usually works at night. There could be a lot of problems. The owners could realize their profits are small or non-existent. When they exit, you have to buy back their shares and value the company. You will have to pay lawyers too to step in. There are also tax implications of giving away shares. Do not insult the intelligence of your motivated and engaged staff. Don’t minimize their worth. Don’t insult their intelligence. Tell the truth and keep your promises. If you can’t pay as well as some other companies, tell them that they might receive more benefits in the future as the company grows. Always keep to your promises. If not, things will get ugly. Provide personal motivation. The key is to get smart, motivated people to start with. We don’t have a sales department. We spend 0.2% of revenue on marketing. Always remember that your people matter and that your customers matter too. Motivated employees take the initiative to do things. We moved into a huge 5300 feet space. We started looking like a real company. Rina would sublease the space upstairs. We didn’t spend a lot of money on renovating or sprucing up the place. However, we bought a fridge, racks, desks and test equipment etc.

Exactly 2 things motivate high-performing employees: money and freedom. – Jason Stoddard

How do you pay good salaries when you’re just starting up and money is tight? Great question. Tricky answers too. Because the first temptation usually is to give away a percentage of the business. Which is exactly the worst thing you can do. – Jason Stoddard

If you don’t literally want to create everything by hand, yourself, you need great employees. Repeat after me: Don’t minimize their worth. Don’t insult their intelligence. – Jason Stoddard

Start with a livable salary, and add bonuses that are based on visible personal or company metrics. Number of products shipped. Number of products built etc. – Jason Stoddard

Motivated employees do not think that having a lounge matters. They think it’s funny. They’re thrilled to help us grow. And growth doesn’t come from Hermann Miller chairs and Steelcase desks and faux-finish paint and $600 LED lamps. – Jason Stoddard

A Real Company? It is end of 2013 now. Finding a niche is important. Be memorable and understand that not everyone will love you. Niche is where we want to be. We do not want to be like Beats, Bose etc. You have to love audio to be in this business. We have a unique sound at a unique value. It is important to run from both conventional advertising and social media both. It is hard work, but it is fun. There will be problems but we crack our head and solve them. There is still much work for us ahead. Remember that it is always important to be unique. Simply throwing marketing money at problems won’t work. Stay where we are, and get better at it. Do listen to your customers for their input. Continue to challenge the established wisdom.

9781514355022-us

Review of the ATOP World Time Singapore SG50 Edition

I purchased this watch in July 2015. This was the first quartz watch which I purchased on my own. I was really thrilled with the idea of owning another SG50 watch after owning the Ball SG50 nighttrain piece. In addition, the ATOP World Timer was only produced in 100 pieces and seemed really exclusive. This was the third watch I purchased since pursuing the watch hobby in April 2015. I first learnt about this watch from SJX’s website: http://watchesbysjx.com/2015/08/five-special-edition-watches-for-sg50-singapores-50th-anniversary.html. The watch has an interesting feature of switching to different time zones. This feature has won the brand some accolades as well.

ATOP 2

ATOP also produces world timers in other colours and designs. You may check out the other designs here: http://redarmywatches.com/brands/atop.html.

The ATOP World Time Singapore SG50 Limited Edition watch (44.5mm case and is 12mm thick) has a day night indicator and a unique feature of switching to different time zones. It runs on a quartz movement. One could switch to a different time zone via rotation of the bezel. On the top of the watch, there is an engraving of the number of the watch. For mine, it is number 2 out of 100. For me, this limited edition is of significance as it marks Singapore’s 50 years of independence and is certainly a moment worthy of celebration.

ATOP 3

ATOP is a Taiwanese brand that was established in 1984. It was founded by engineer Mark Lin and his wife. Their precision movement is also patented and their brand is known for the automatic setting of world time as the watch contains 24 pre-set destination times. ATOP watches usually come in playful colours and tend to attract a younger crowd.

ATOP 4

The ATOP World Time Singapore SG50 Limited Edition is a fairly new model, and follows on from other world time models. It is heartening to see unique technology employed in a quartz watch. In the brief period that I used it, the watch keeps time well and is very light and enjoyable to wear on the wrist. This is certainly a watch that stands out from other brands that carry many quartz watches, like DW, Swatch, Fossil etc. In addition, this watch will suit frequent travellers as switching time zones is such a breeze. ATOP watches are made in China, however, this is no way compromises the quality aspect of their timepieces.

ATOP 5

The main reason why I found it so attractive was the technical features and also the playful feel that came with the watch. My reasons are listed below:

The ATOP World Timer comes in a high grade polycarbonate case and a durable rubber strap. The watch is relatively lightweight due to the use of a rubber strap and the use of polycarbonate. The polycarbonate feels harder and superior to normal plastic watches. The strap is comfortable and still in great condition. The case is all black and the red accents on the dial provide excellent contrast to the overall appearance of the watch. This contrast gives the watch a youthful and playful feel. The bezel is also made from polycarbonate and is relatively easy to turn.

ATOP 6

The watch screams playfulness, which I like. This is certainly one piece which you will not see on the wrist of others. It has a hardened mineral crystal which is fairly scratch resistant. Although not as hard as sapphire crystal, it is still acceptable due to the price positioning of this watch. Due to the materials used, the watch will not develop patina over time. There is a sub-seconds dial at 6 o’clock of the watch.

ATOP 7

The ATOP World Timer is a weekend watch with 30 meters water resistance. This is a watch where you can wear daily without having to worry about it. As the watch is donned with a rubber strap, one can certainly use it for sporting activities. After nearly 2 years of use, my watch is almost scratch-free and still in mint condition. I have also wore my more expensive watches more frequently.

The ATOP World Timer uses an in-house quartz movement. This a certainly a workhorse movement with a long battery life. The battery can be easily replaced via unscrewing the caseback via the tool provided. This type of CR battery will likely cost less than $10, if brought to a watch shop for replacement.

The black dial on the watch has different textures under sunlight/artificial lighting. This is certainly very attractive to look at. At the 12 o’clock position, the country stated would indicate that the current time zone the watch is in. For instance, from the pictures, Singapore is by default positioned at the 12 o’clock position and is in red font. The bezel can only be rotated in an anti-clockwise manner. There is a day-night indicator at 3 o’clock and it will slowly rotate as time passes.  There are tinges of white and red on the dial and this gives the watch a playful feel at times. Overall, there is minimal text on the dial, apart from the ATOP logo at the 9 o’clock position. The bezel is of the right size and does not overwhelm the dial. The hour and minute hands are filled with luminous materials and can glow at night. However, the lume is weak and practically non-existent.

ATOP 8

The ATOP World Timer has a closed caseback. As mentioned earlier, it can be opened up via the tool provided. Once the caseback is opened, one can replace the battery and also change the time. Therefore, there is no crown on the watch. This actually gives the watch a symmetrical feel.

Overall, I am still impressed by how the watch has not ‘aged’ and still looks in like-new condition. I have worn this watch on a rotational basis among my other watches. The ATOP SG50 watch is a weekend watch which will pair well with casual clothing. The two most outstanding features are its (1) World time feature and (2) Day night indicator. I purchased this watch for SGD 193 from Red Army Watches and by now, all 100 pieces would have been snapped up by now. If you want to lay your hands on one now, you will have to get a pre-owned one.

ATOP 9

Review of the Ball Engineer II Genesis

I pre-ordered this watch from the Ball Website in Dec 2015. However, the shipment only arrived in May 2016. This would be the 9th mechanical watch that I owned, after the Tudor Pelagos 25600TB. I first saw this piece on the Ball Watch Facebook page as a sponsored post and was intrigued by the technologies like the anti-magnetic shielding properties (up to 4800A/m) and the new 1mm thick tritium tubes that the Engineer II Genesis uses. These are technologies that are not contained in most of Ball’s other watches. This watch was unique as it was first released for online sales via the Ball Website, before being subsequently released to the public at a much higher price. At that time, I was not aware that Ball would subsequently release many limited editions via online sales. Anyway, the Ball Engineer II Genesis was released to commemorate Ball’s 125th year anniversary and was a limited production model.

Ball 1

The Engineer II Genesis watch (43mm case and is 13+mm thick) has a day-date feature and a brilliant blue sun-burst dial. The sun-burst dial was something that I found very attractive as it gives the watch a dressy look. The day-date feature was also useful and my Ball SG50 nighttrain and Ball Magneto S did not contain them. This watch uses Ball RR1102 movement, which is an ETA 2836. This limited production model was released to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Ball Watch Company, which was founded by Webb C. Ball in 1891. However, this is not particularly significant to me. Something to note: Ball Watch Company has been releasing quite a number of LEs in recent times.

IMG_7637

Ball Watch Company was founded by an American, Webb C. Ball, in 1891. An accident in 1891 prompted him to act. Refer to link for a brief history of the brand and the founder. Basically, he established stringent watch standards for train operators and inspectors in order to keep good time and prevent railroad accidents from occurring. He was instrumental in the development of chronometry and improving of watch accuracy. He emphasized on keeping precise time and created railroad grade timepieces. This was how the term ‘Official Standard’ came about. Ball watches are known for their visual simplicity, elegance and precision.

Ball 2

The Ball Engineer II Genesis is of a unique design, although I must say it resembles the Engineer II Pioneer and Engineer II Arabic. The Engineer II range is known for their classic designs and natural elegance. I simply love the sword-like hands and the RR (RailRoad) design on the second hand. In addition, the hour, minute and second hands are lumed for great night visibility. Ball is celebrating their 125th anniversary in 2015, and this is testament to the longevity and heritage of the brand. Ball is known for producing reliable watches with good quality. Ball can certainly hold its own against Tag Heuer/Oris in terms of quality and finish. In terms of price point, Ball watches are generally in the affordable range of SGD1.5k to 6k. Ball is also renowned for their use of tritium T25 tubes which can glow up to 25 years and requires no charging. This sets the brand apart from many other luxury brands which use Superluminova. Ball watches are Swiss made, value-for-money and are extremely durable.

IMG_7570

The main reason why I found it so attractive was the technical features and also the dressy feel that came with the watch. My reasons are listed below:

The Ball Engineer II Genesis comes in a stainless steel case and a metal bracelet. The watch is relatively heavy due to the 43mm size and the thick bracelet. The bracelet is well built and has polished centre-links, similar to the Rolex GMT Master II. It also reminds me of the Patek Phillippe Nautilus bracelet. The case is highly polished at the sides and at the bezel area. This watch really plays with the light due to the numerous polished surfaces. This contrast gives the watch a dressy and elegant feel.

Ball 3
The watch draws attraction from others, which I like. It has a flat sapphire crystal which is AR coated. Due to the materials used, the watch will not develop patina over time. There are the words ‘AUTOMATIC’ and 100m/ 300ft printed on the bottom half of the dial. This watch is not chronometer certified.

IMG_7573

The Ball Magneto S is an everyday dressy watch with 100 meters water resistance and shock resistance to 5000g. This is a watch where you can wear daily without having to worry about it. However, one should be careful not to overly bang the watch around as polished centre-links are scratch magnets. The watch also pairs well with casual clothing on weekends.  After nearly 1 year of use, my watch is almost scratch-free and still in mint condition.

Ball 4

Ball Magneto S uses the Ball automatic calibre RR1102, which is essentially a clone of the ETA -2836. This a certainly a workhorse movement that is widely used with many other watch brands whom they get ETA as their supplier. Of course, Ball modifies the movement via adding decorations and also to make it more shock resistant. The movement comes with a 38 to 42 hour power reserve and I have no qualms about the movement at this price point. For an in-house movement, one can be expected to pay at least double. Some of the more expensive Ball models are COSC chronometer certified (-4 to +6 seconds/day). I have tested my watch on a Timegrapher and it currently runs at a decent -7 seconds/day, which is well within my expectations.

IMG_7638

The sun-burst blue dial on the watch has different textures under sunlight/artificial lighting. This is certainly very attractive to look at. There are tinges of blue, white and green on the dial and this gives the watch a playful feel at times. Overall, there are only 2 lines of text on the dial and it does not appear cluttered. The issue I have with this watch is the large case and that the 3-6-9 hour markers are too large, giving the dial an unbalanced feel. My other qualm is that the date window is white and does not blend well with the blue dial.

Ball 5

The Ball Engineer II Genesis has a closed caseback. There is an engraving of a railroad train from the 1800s and also the engraving ‘125th anniversary’. The watch is shock-resistant to 5000g and anti-magnetic to 4800A/m. These are some of the features that allows Ball to stand out from the other brands.

IMG_7640

I have saved the best for last, just like hitting the ‘climax’ of a movie. The Ball Engineer II has incredible lume due to 28 1mm thick micro-sized tritium tubes. Although you cannot charge the lume, tritium tubes can glow up for to 25 years. I have compared the lume to my other 2 Ball Watches and this is by far the most impressive. At times, it even appears as bright as charged Super-luminova. Tritium emits electrons through beta decay, and, when they interact with a phosphor material, fluorescent light is created, a process called radio-luminescence. The radiation exposure is so weak that it doesn’t affect human health.

IMG_7586

IMG_7971

To be honest, I have not worn this watch as frequently as I have liked as I am not used to the weight of the watch and the 3-6-9 markers are too large. With slightly smaller markers, this watch would have been a keeper. The problem with purchasing online is that it is not possible to tell how heavy the watch is and how exactly it will sit on your wrist. In March 2017, I traded this piece for the Ball Trainmaster 60 seconds, which I will be reviewing shortly. The Ball Engineer II Genesis is a dressy watch which will also pair well with casual clothing. The three most outstanding features are its (1) Ball Bracelet; (2) 1mm thick tritium tubes and (3) sun-burst dial. The watch was purchased online for SGD 1,310. If purchased from retail stores, the RRP would be SGD 2,200. If you want a dressy quality Swiss made piece, this might be the watch you want.

Ball 7

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

A tree loved a little boy. The boy would come every day and gather the leaves from the tree. He would use them to form crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb her and swing her from side to side. Sometimes, he would eat the apples on the tree. When he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. He really loved the tree and the tree was happy. The boy grew up as time went on and the tree was alone most of the time. The tree encouraged the grown-up boy to play with her but the boy mentioned that he wanted to buy things and earn money. The tree suggested that the boy sell her apples in the market for money. The boy climbed the tree and plucked all the apples. The tree was happy. It was a long time before the boy (now an adult) came back and the tree was alone. Now, the boy didn’t want to play but wanted to build a house. The tree offered her branches to help build his house. The tree was happy when the boy cut away its branches. The tree was alone for long periods of time. Now, the boy (now an elderly man) wanted to build a boat so that he could sail away. The tree offered her trunk so that he could build his boat. The boy cut down her trunk and the tree was happy. Now that the tree was just a stump, she apologized for not being of any use to the boy anymore. She allowed the boy (now a sickly old man) to rest by sitting on her stump, and the tree was happy.

‘I am sorry. I wish that I could give you something…but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry…Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ The Giving Tree

the_giving_tree

How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Kind of the Story of My Life By Scott Adams (Part 3)

Humor. People who enjoy humor are more attractive than those who do not. A good sense of humor can compensate for a lot. Humor raises your energy. It transports your mind away from your daily troubles. Humor directly influences your energy levels. It affects every part of your life. Humor is free and easily accessible. You can choose funny books. Choose the happy movies. There are tricks and mechanics for writing humor. You can steer the conversation to fun topics to add humor. Your attitude and effort count for a lot. Avoid the following traps: 1) Over-complaining is never funny; 2) Don’t overdo the self-deprecation; 3) Don’t mock people; 4) Avoid puns and wordplay. Don’t do gripe-based humor. Humor is a violation of straight-line thinking. Tailor your humor. Tailor it to your audience. Adapt to what others want to hear. Jim’s Colonoscopy Story. Engineered humor is one that includes unlikely or surprising solution to a problem. Men and female appreciate different kind of humor.

Humor makes average-looking people look cute and uninteresting people seem entertaining. – Scott Adams

Humor raises your energy, and that can reverberate into everything you do at school, at work, or in your personal life. The boost of energy will even make you more willing to exercise, and that will raise your overall energy even more. – Scott Adams

Affirmations. Imagine the outcome you want. He doesn’t believe in magic. Affirmations are useful. ‘I, Scott Adams, will become a great cartoonist.’ There is no magic involved. How It Started. Scott bought two good stocks after the declared that he wanted to be rich. He next approached a girl far out of his league. Your selective memory could be behind your perceptions. He tried affirmations again. Set your sights higher. He used affirmations in its rarest, most desirable job I have ever imagined.

Affirmations are simply the practice of repeating to yourself what you want to achieve while imagining the outcome you want. – Scott Adams

Timing is Luck Too. Luck is timing. If your timing is off, your hard work or talent doesn’t matter. He tried a lot of different ventures. Dilbert was lucky because he was born in the era where newspapers existed and comics mattered. It was difficult convincing any newspaper to pick it up. The good timing was relentless. Dilbert was a hapless office worker. Soon, it moved to all the top magazines in the world. Newspapers snapped up his comics like candy. He drew the comics using some computer software. It is a story of luck. You need to stay in the game long enough.

I find it helpful to see the world as a slot machine that doesn’t ask you to put money in. All it asks is your time, focus, and energy to pull the handle over and over. – Scott Adams

A Few Times Affirmations Worked. He wrote an article called ‘The Dilbert Principle’. It received a great response from readers. ‘I, Scott Adams, will be a number one best-selling author’. Affirmation caused a few successes. Not using them doomed yourself to failure. However, affirmations do not work all the time. Affirmations will work if you have a 100% unambiguous desire for success.

Voice Update. There was no cure to spasmodic dysphonia. He couldn’t speak on the phone or order food in restaurants etc. Blogging kept him alive. The inability to speak was debilitating. He created a spreadsheet to identify the pattern. No pattern emerged. He googled it and searched for any one with similar conditions. He hoped that someone would find the cure for the condition. The odds were not good. ‘I, Scott Adams, will speak perfectly.’

Experts. He had a lump on his neck and went to see the specialists. It could have been cancer. The X rays were not clean. He was scheduled for a biopsy. The needle was full of clear fluid and he did not have cancer. However, he did not trust the experts this time.

Association Programming. He had a friend who wanted to live with the rich until he could be associated with them. You become like the people around you. Alcoholics Anonymous works terribly well because the bad influences are kept away from you. Who you associate with makes a big difference. Hanging around with overweight people can make you fat as well. Anyone can write a published article and make money from it. Humans are social creatures. It is easier to exercise when others are exercising. It is easier to work when others are working too. Spend them with good people and their good habits will rub off on you eventually.

To change yourself, part of the solution might involve spending more time with the people who represent the change you seek.  -Scott Adams

Happiness. It is not selfish to think that way. Learn to treat others well. Happiness is a Science. Start by defining what happiness is. It is when there are pleasant sensations in your mind. Happiness isn’t all dependent on your circumstances as well. Circumstances only play one factor. Happiness is largely the control of your lifestyle and the forming of positive thoughts. Alcohol has its risks. The timing is very important. If you nap just before bedtime, it does little good. Work towards having control of your schedule. Flexibility is very important. Learn to maximize your freedom in the long term. We feel good when things are moving in the right direction. It is good to find a hobby where you can keep improving and not stagnant. Slow and steady improvement will be good. For a career, also choose a lifetime of ever-improved performance. If your skills are improving, you will feel many. The next aspect of happiness is your imagination. If you are optimistic, it produces a sense of energy and happiness. Imagination is very important. Don’t let reality control your imagination. Happiness is the natural state when people are healthy, have flexible schedules, and expect the future to be good. If you are always in a bad mood: It is due to one of the following: flexible schedule, imagination, sleep, diet and exercise. Exercise occupies your mind and your muscles. It also helps you sleep better. Take care of yourself and leverage on that for other aspects of your life. Once your purpose or objective has been met, find a new one. Read ‘The Paradox of Choice’ by Barry Schwartz. Routine àPeople become unhappy if they have too many options in life. Set a routine and you will prevent yourself choosing from other alternatives. Reduce daily decisions to routines.

The only reasonable goal in life is maximizing your total lifetime experience of something called happiness. – Scott Adams

If you want to boost your happiness, it helps to understand what happiness is and how it works. – Scott Adams

For starters, the single biggest trick for manipulating your happiness chemistry is being able to do what you want, when you want. – Scott Adams

You need to control the order and timing of things to be happy. It’s important to look at happiness in terms of timing because timing is easier to control than resources. – Scott Adams

By any definition, what I’m doing is work, but because I can control the timing of it on this particular day, it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve transformed work into pleasure simply by having control over when I do it. – Scott Adams

Happiness has more to do with where you’re heading than where you are. – Scott Adams

If you are lucky enough to have career options, and only one of them affords a path of continual improvement, choose that one, all else being equal. – Scott Adams

I find it useful to daydream that the future will be better than today, by far. I like to imagine a future that is spectacular and breathtaking. Simply imagining a better future hacks your brain chemistry and provides you with the sensation of happiness today. – Scott Adams

Diet. This book should not be seen as advice. The author eats whatever he wants. Eat the right kids of food for enjoyment. Then you won’t crave for anything else. Bad food tastes good when you are hungry. Well prepared food can taste good. Learn to change your food preferences so that you will only want healthy food. Change your cravings. They can be manipulated. Most healthy food is bland. Look at things differently. Overeating makes you bloated. Our mood changes depending on what food we consume. Look for the pattern. If you eat right, you will start feeling more optimistic. Food helps to contribute to your mood. Ask yourself how you feel after a meal. If you have too much carbs, you will feel sleepy at 2pm. Carbohydrates make you feel sleepy during the day. Eat those foods which make you more energetic. Figure out what works for you. Peanuts can help as well. Humans have a limited supply of willpower. The diet system shouldn’t rely on willpower. The Food-Exercise Connection. Food is the fuel that makes exercise possible. Get your diet right before you will feel motivated to exercise. Learn to eat stuff other than simple carbs. Break your addiction with simple carbs. Simple carbs include white and potatoes. He has also consumed too much diet coke. He replaced diet coke with coffee. Nutrition is largely bullshit. Eat the following: Bananas, Protein Bars, Peanuts, Mixed Nuts, Cheese, Whole wheat pasta, Edamame, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, fish, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, pears, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, quinoa, brown rice and berries. Keep willpower out of the equation. Know what you’re eating. If you keep feeling hungry, perhaps you did not sleep enough. Try eating peanuts and mixed nuts. Go for food with the lowest calories. Use some seasoning to make healthy food taste good. Salt is not good for the body. You need to exercise regularly. Avoid having overweight friends as well. Coffee makes you alert, happier and more productive. Coffee can make you more likely to exercise. It can make you happier and enjoy work. Don’t become addicted to it though. For celebrities, fitness has a huge upside.

You’ll be surprised at how often a bad night of sleep leads to nonstop eating. – Scott Adams

Once you start on a vegetarian diet, the inconvenience is more than paid for by the way your body feels after a meal and the holier-than-thou sensation that comes with doing something that looks hard to others. – Scott Adams

But if success is your dream and operating at peak mental performance is something you want, coffee is a good bet. – Scott Adams

The happier you are in one area of your life, the less effort you’ll put into searching for happiness elsewhere. – Scott Adams

Fitness. Sports was his life in the past. Scott didn’t like jogging and he preferred chasing something. Tennis was his outlet. Be Active Every Day. Being active is a good thing. Simplification is the key. If something is complicated, you will require the use of willpower and that is not ideal. Exercise may not be your priorities later on in life. Be active every day and thus you won’t need to use any willpower for exercise. If you require willpower to exercise, it is going to be unsustainable. It mustn’t feel like work. You need to feel good after exercising. Make fitness a daily habit. No one needs willpower to do the things they enjoy. Just be active everyday. Always exercise at the same time everyday. Join an organized team. Choose a team sport with a set schedule. Have an exercise system in place. Have a predictable exercise system. You should never exercise so much that you don’t feel like exercising tomorrow. Light exercise gives an energy boost and reduces stress. This is the reward. It is easier to be active everyday than only to be active on certain days. Reward yourself with a good snack after exercise etc. To exercise on lazy, set a cue. If you feel super tired, just wear your exercise gear and immediately you are in the mood to exercise. Wearing the exercise gear is your cue to exercise. Interviewers prefer healthy candidates as well.

Exercise is hard work in every imaginable sense. When you add marriage and kids to the mix, exercise can become completely impractical for many people. – Scott Adams

When you are active every day and your body feels good about it, it will become easier to increase your exercise level than it would be to stop it. – Scott Adams

In the long run, any system that depends on your willpower will fail. Or worse, some other part of your life will suffer as you focus your limited stockpile of willpower on fitness. – Scott Adams

To put that another way, the right amount of exercise today is whatever amount makes me look forward to being active tomorrow. – Scott Adams

Voice Update 2. He still could not speak properly after so long. The future looked bleak. There was a surgeon in Japan who had a ‘cure’. Scott wanted to follow all leads, no matter how unlikely they seemed. Surgery had an 85% success rate. Many of the patients went through it successfully. Scott decided to proceed with the surgery.

Luck. Success is a lot a matter of luck. ‘Books change us automatically, just as any experience does’. If you can improve yourself after reading this book, it would have meant that the book has helped you.

CalendarTree Start-up. This website is good for event organizing etc. Generate a lot of opportunities so that luck can find you. Learn to take risks and be great. Add new skills and new contacts and see your market value increase substantially.

Voice Update 3. He had the surgery and the recovery period was awful. 3 and a half months later, Scott finally managed to speak. It was a breath of fresh air. The vocal cords and his brain were connected now. Over time, his voice gradually improved. Fluency returned and Scott was elated.

A Final Note about Affirmations. Affirmations appear to have more power than positive thinking. Selective memory comes into play. False memory is another reason. Optimists tend to notice opportunities that pessimists miss. Train yourself to act like an optimist. Writing affirmations is a good form of training. Optimists make themselves an easy target for luck to find them. Affirmations might work for perfectly logical reasons. Affirmations are more a system than a goal actually. To him, they are like small miracles.

Summary. Learn multiple skills. Learn to control your ego and pick skills where others fear embarrassment. Stay in the game long enough and luck will find you. Look for an opportunity to give you a flexible schedule in the future. Some skills are more important than others. Goals are for losers and systems are for winners. Failure is your friend.

Focus on your diet first and get that right so you have enough energy to want to exercise. Exercise will further improve your energy, and that in turn will make you more productive, more creative, more positive, more socially desirable, and more able to handle life’s little bumps. – Scott Adams

And always remember that failure is your friend. It is the raw material of success. Invite it in. Learn from it. And don’t let it leave until you pick its pocket. That’s a system. – Scott Adams

how-to-fail-at-almost-everything-and-still-win-big

Great Thinkers by The School of Life (Part 1)

This book draws ideas from various cultures and professions. This book brings to you the most important ideas of our times.

Introduction. This is a ‘canon’ of thought from modern thinkers. The list is ‘biased’ of course, but it is ‘good’ bias as it favours valuable and important ideas. The team has tried to select as well as possible. The book will help you remember key thoughts by renowned thinkers. The ideas can also be applied in everyday life. Most of the ideas are not too technical for the layman to comprehend. What can great thinkers do for you?

Philosophy

Plato. It is 2400 years ago, in Athens. Plato is probably one of the first and greatest philosopher. He wanted people to reach Eudaimonia – happiness/fulfilment. He has 4 big ideas. The first is to ‘think harder’. We needed to have greater clarity in our minds. Most people often jumped into decisions without analyzing much, this was disastrous. The key was to know yourself. He encouraged people to love more wisely. To him, people love because they see in the other party some good quality that they haven’t got. Love is about helping each other grow. Learn to commit to help them and navigate through stormy passages in life. To him, ‘beautiful’ things are good. Beauty objects can educate us. Art was therapeutic to Plato. Art was to be for the good of society. Plato had many ideas to change our society and wrote ‘The Republic’. Our society needed more new heroes. Secondly, censorship was important. Next, he emphasized on the important of education and learn about how to be calm, how to exercise self-control etc. People need to lead better childhoods too.

Aristotle. He was born in 384BC. He also tutored Alexander the Great. Aristotle was always fascinated with how things work and tried to answer life’s big questions. The first was what made people happy. In ‘Nicomachean Ethics’, he suggested that good people have certain virtues. To him, the ability to have a good conversation was the key to a good life. One should have an excessive sense of humor. The guy in the middle is the best, he is simply witty. Moral goodness can be formed through habit. To him, art was a form of catharsis, which is a form of cleaning and allowing you to get rid of the bad stuff. Art also reminds us that tragedy can strike anyone. Art is to make profound truths stick in our minds. He identified the true friend concept, which we care for one another. Aristotle offered suggestions on how to soothe people’s fears in order for to convince them with your ideas.

The Stoics. This was a brand of philosophy in ancient Greece and Rome. It is useful in troubled times. Seneca used it, and so did Marcus Aurelius. It can address our anxiety issues. One should imagine the worst case scenario and be used to it. This is facing your fears head on. Life will go on whether you are rich or poor. One should learn to practice worst-case scenarios so that you will not be surprised. To Stoics, anger is stupidity. It is because we expect too much from the other person. One should expect less from life. In an ideal state, nothing should be able to disturb your peace. They believe that most of life is fate and sometimes, fate can deal you a cruel hand. The fact is that whatever we do matters. Looking up at the sky also provides a calming effect. Although their teachings are dark, the Stoics are important.

The task of the wise person is therefore never to believe in the gifts of fortune: fame, money, power, love, health – these are never our own. – The Stoics Philosophy

Epicurus. He was born in 341 BC. His central topic of study was happiness. He led a remarkably simple life for a happy person. One of the misconceptions is that we need romantic relationships. To him, love and happiness never go together. We often neglect our friends. Secondly, people think they need a lot of money. He believed in the need for meaningful work. Humans put too much faith in luxury. He believed what made people was calm. Epicurus lived with his friends. People took pay cuts in exchange for fulfilling work. His friends found calm via rational analysis and insight. This style of living caught on with others. To sum up, the 3 false lures of happiness were: romantic love, professional status and luxury.

What made work really satisfying, Epicurus believed, is when we’re able to work either alone or in very small groups, and when it feels meaningful, when we sense that we’re helping others in some way or making things that improve the world. – Epicurus

Augustine. He was a Christian philosopher. He criticized the Romans. The Romans believed in earthly happiness and just social order. Augustine believed that humans were all lustful, mad, erratic, deluded deviants with no earthly chance of happiness. This was the idea of original sin. Humans had the idea to dominate others. Everything we do is pretty much imperfect. This is simply the human condition. To him, all hierarchies were unfair as there is no social justice. We should not expect fair distribution on earth. He warns us about those who try to make life perfect or say that poverty is an indicator of vice.

Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas tried to reconcile religion with science and faith. He was a philosopher and a holy saint. He found that non-Christians could also have wisdom. He wanted to know how people could discern right from wrong. Were religion and rational thought compatible? The world operated via ‘natural law’ and ‘eternal law’. For eternal laws, no form of reasoning was possible. Everything that is important has to come from God was a wrong idea. Aquinas believed that natural laws and observation of everyday things in life was important. Arts, philosophy are examples of natural law. Natural law can be discovered via independent reasoning. Aquinas believed that wisdom can come from multiple sources. We are often too dismissive of ideas which come from seemingly ‘wrong’ sources.

Michel de Montaigne. He was born in 1533 and often criticized the arrogance of intellectuals. He was a funny guy too. Reason allows us to control our passions and our bodies. To him, reasoning was possible, but our brains were full of madness. He was obsessed with the fragilities of the human body. We do not have full control over our bodies. Michel didn’t believe in modelling your life after someone who you aspire to be. He attacked academia for being out of touch. He wanted to read simple things which were fun. To him, most people studied books, but not their own minds. Philosophy or grand ideas can also be applied to ordinary lives. To him, a virtuous and ordinary life which strives for wisdom is an achievement already. He continues to be an inspiration for us all.

La Rochefoucauld. He wrote a masterpiece of a book that is only 60 pages long. It was all about observations of the human condition. He had a miserable life and was exiled. After much struggle, he decided to enter the contemplative life. He and his friends often talked about the great themes of existence. He was known for the maxim, or an insight into the human soul. He honed 504 aphorisms. The most famous one of all is ‘We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others.’ His aphorisms give deep psychological reflection and precision and cynicism. He was also suspicious of romantic love. His book was short and could influence people who were not into philosophy too

A few men have sighed because their women were abducted; most because no one wanted to abduct them. – La Rochefoucauld

There are some people who would never have fallen in love, if they had not heard there was such a thing. – La Rochefoucauld

He that refuses praise the first time it is offered does it because he would like to hear it a second. – La Rochefoucauld

The reason lovers never tire of one another’s company is because they never talk of anything but themselves. – La Rochefoucauld

If one were to judge of love according to the greatest part of the effects it produces, it might very justly pass for hatred rather than kindness. – La Rochefoucauld

Baruch Spinoza. He tried to reinvent religion into something more consoling. He was born in Amsterdam in 1632. One of his famous books was ‘Ethics’. He challenged the tenets of Judaism. To him, God was a projection of our imagination. God was the universe and reason and truth. He is the eternal cause. It is important how and why things seem the way they are. Only narcissism to cause one to believe that God will take an interest to improve his or her life. One should continuously try to understand the world and bow down peacefully when necessary. To him, one needed to understand how life and the universe works, natural sciences etc so as to understand God better. We need to align our will with the Universe. Ultimately, he warns us of the failures of philosophy. It is not only reason which leads people to religion, but also emotion, belief etc. Religion is helped along by rituals, art etc. There are other perks to religion.

Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a German philosopher and his famous works was ‘The World as Will and Representation’. He was also interested in Buddhism. To him, God was not almighty as there was so much suffering in the world. The Will-to-life is a force which makes us focus on sex and fall in love. Love was connected to the idea of having children. Someone of intellect might not want a child as it so difficult to raise one and also lead to your loss of freedom. The Will-to-life is to be blamed. Lovers overlook everything and misjudge everything. He felt sorry for humans as we were behaving like animals. We do all we can to perpetuate ourselves. In general, Schopenhauer was gloomy over human nature. For sages, they can rise above the will-to-life and override them. These are the monks. The next solution is to spend as long as we can with art and philosophy. We can step back from day to day life and take part in activities. He had a pessimistic view of life. He believed strongly in Buddhism.

Life has no intrinsic worth, but is kept in motion merely by want and illusion. – Arthur Schopenhauer

There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy… so long as we persist in this inborn error … the world seems to us full of contradictions. For at every step, in great things and small, we are bound to experience that the world and life are certainly not arranged for the purpose of being content. That’s why the faces of almost all elderly people are etched with such disappointment. – Arthur Schopenhauer

Georg Hegel. He wrote horribly and had poor communication skills. He took history seriously and mentioned that important parts of ourselves can be found in history. To him, studying history was a form of wisdom. There are things to be learnt from every era. Progress is never linear. To him, every era contained important insights mired in a set of errors. One should learn from ideas that one dislikes. To him, progress is messy. The world makes you progress by lurching you from one extreme to another. People tend to overcompensate. It took many mistakes before the balanced constitution was formed. Progress, in history, has been slow and troubled. We will learn but with massive overcorrections. One cannot avoid stepping and making mistakes. To him, art had a great purpose. Art provides insights into our lives. We should be more forgiving to our partners. He believed that we needed new institutions. Even with right ideas, you need the right infrastructure and structures to support it.

World history is the record of the mind’s efforts to understand itself. – Georg Hagel

Friedrich Nietzsche. He often lived alone and didn’t get along with girls and his family. He wanted people to discover and be loyal to their highest potential. Envy is a part of life. Everyone compared themselves with others. To him, there was nothing wrong with envy. He wanted people to study about their envy in order to create a better self. Be conscious of your potential and fight to get there. He didn’t believe in Christianity. It was a curse to him. The problem was that Christianity protected people from their envy. They used religion to criticize what they wanted but couldn’t get and praise what they did not want but happened to have. Thus, the religion drains life of its potential. Nietzsche never drank alcohol. It was because it numbed pain, and tries to reassure us that things are fine. He also proclaimed that God was dead. He wanted culture to replace religion.

If we are finding things difficult, it is not necessarily a sign of failure, it may just be evidence of the nobility and arduousness of the tasks we’ve undertaken. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Martin Heidegger. He wrote using many complex German words. There is meaning to our lives. ‘Being and Time’ was his most famous work. He sought to help humans live more wisely. To him, modern humanity was suffering from some diseases. We have forgotten to notice we’re alive. Most of us live day-to-day. We should appreciate the ‘Mystery of Being’ and be marveled at how things are. We keep the difficult questions at bay. To him, humans need to analyze ‘The Nothing’. All Being is connected. We need to take a generous view of existence. Everything that exists are united by the basic tenets of Being. People tend to forget to be free and to live for ourselves. It is important to start living for yourself. One way to do so is to start focusing on your impending death. One should stop worrying about what others think. One shouldn’t spend so much time trying to impress others. Humans tend to treat others as objects. He believed in the use of great art and exposure.

Jean-Paul Sartre. He was born in 1905. He was known for the philosophical movement known as existentialism. His famous book is ‘Being and Nothingness’. Things are weirder than we think. Things seem absurd and frightening. One should view the world and strip it off any prejudices and assumptions. Humans are free. You can certainly take many liberating decisions and daydream etc. You can free your life of commitments and obligations. We do not have any God-given sense of purpose. We are not being shackled and the idea of ‘work’ and ‘job’ can be removed. Anguish is a mark of maturity. Humans shouldn’t live in bad faith. Things do not have to be a certain way only. One should open up their lives to other options and possibilities. We are free to dismantle capitalism. Too many people worry about money and as a result, do not make certain decisions in life. Capitalism leads to a denial in freedom.

Dinner really means that when your part of the planet has spun away from the energy of a distant hydrogen and helium explosion, you slide your knees under strips of a chopped-up tree and put sections of dead animals and plants in your mouth and chew. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Albert Camus. He was a French-Algerian philosopher. He was killed in a car crash. His famous work was ‘The Outsider’. The main character recognizes the indifference of the universe towards humankind. We all have moments when we feel that no one understands us. Life has no inherent meaning. Like other philosophers, he realized that life has no preordained meaning. He was an existentialist. However, he resisted hopelessness or nihilism. We are like Sisyphus in a way. Humans need to cope with daily life. Life is enduring. Camus was a good looking fellow who had many women. Camus understood the pleasures of ordinary life. He was a champion of the ordinary. He also stuck firmly to his principles.

Camus argues that we have to live with the knowledge that our efforts will be largely futile, our lives soon forgotten and our species irredeemably corrupt and violent – and yet should endure nevertheless. – The School of Life

Political Theory

Niccolo Machiavelli. We want to see the ideal side of politics, but we know it can be dirty. He feels that the good politician must know how to defend and be sly, when necessary. His father was a wealthy man. He wanted to both be a good person and a good politician. That seemed to be at odds with one another. His most famous book is ‘The Prince’. He should err on the side of terror. He rejected Christianity as a guide for leaders. The Christian ethics and governance were at odds. One can do wrong if it is for the security of the state. Sometimes, we can’t be good at everything. Once in a while, we need to sacrifice our ideal visions of kindness for practical effectiveness.

Thomas Hobbes. To what extent should we obey leaders who are not good? Should we start a revolution/ depose governments? He hated violence. His book ‘Leviathan’ argues that we should support government and obey them in order to avoid chaos and bloodshed. Hobbes felt that the social contract theory of government meant that people could depose rulers once they felt unhappy. Life without government would lead to massive infighting. This led to people forming governments. People had a right to protest only if the leader tried to kill them. However, if government policies were bad, there was no need for people to take to the streets to protest. He generally wanted men to obey.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Life is founded on the idea of progress. There was a guy who questioned the idea of progress into larger economies. His life was marked by isolation. He went to Paris to see the opulent life. To him, he felt like civilization destroyed morals of humans. In modern society, men are plagued by vice. In the past, people understood life to be more simple and could understand their minds. Modern society leaves us envious and suffering. Men now swelled with pride, jealousy and vanity. We end up trapped in capitalism and materialism. To him, simple people were more contented in life. Although technology was present, Indians weren’t happier. One should look to others for self-worth. We have to look at ourselves to revive human goodness.

Adam Smith. How can you make a capitalist economy more meaningful? He felt philosophers should care more about the economy. He created specialization. People started to specialize in only certain areas. Society got richer because of specialization. However, there was a lack of meaning to work. We feel like a cog in the machine. People feel that their work does not fit in well with society. Hence, employers need to remind people of their purpose, role and responsibility. This is the era of consumer capitalism. Smith felt that luxury goods were good because they stimulated the economy and created trade and jobs. Humans also have needs for education etc. To him, the rich didn’t care about money. They cared about honour and respect because they need external validation. Consumers opt for a certain type of products. We need to pay a better price for products. Adam Smith wanted to create ideas about how humans lived and how this view should be reconciled with the needs for businesses.

51a6hbewh5l