IIA Magazine Feb 2016 Issue

This is the 75th year of the anniversary of the IIA.

Capturing the Moment. Experts from around the globe provide a snapshot of the profession, discussing key issues impacting IA. In the past, IA was more focused on hindsight, it is now more about foresight too. Often, some IA staff may want to move to other departments. It is critical to find a clear path ahead for IA. Some of them might just want to stay in the profession forever. There has a clear shift from compliance to risk based audits. It is also good to volunteer for the profession. Combined assurance is also becoming more widely used. Students should try to contact the industries and ask for challenging assignments on IA. IA should set aside a portion of their paycheck every month to attend training etc. Work objectives should be clear and there must be clear communication. IA can also provide assurance on the management of strategy risks. IA can also add value to process effectiveness.

A Career on Point. There are many more women in this profession. IA has matured and many have viewed this function more positively now. To some, IA seems interesting and challenging. It is good as it helps you prepare for a leadership role.

Expanding the Foundation. Required audit competencies have changed considerably over the years, placing more and more emphasis on technology, business acumen and soft skills. IA is now a very respected profession. Effectiveness and efficiency are the hallmarks now. Information has increased over time and data analytics is being used more frequently nowadays. Soft skills and business acumen are very important too. Nowadays, it is good for IA to possess leadership capabilities and strategic thinking capabilities. There is a need for long-term adaptability, continuous learning etc.

Changing with the Profession. The IPPF has a history of adapting to meet stakeholder and member needs. They often listen to the needs of the profession. Now, the framework is more broad and flexible in its approach. The Standards are separated into attribute, performance and implementation types.

Twenty-first Century Milestones. Over the last 15 years, several watershed events helped define the practice of IA. IA is never dull. The first is flagrant financial reporting fraud, with cases like Enron etc. IA cannot ignore controls over financial reporting. The next is financial markets meltdown. The dotcom crash and the subprime crisis wreaked chaos throughout. ERM grew in stature as a result of all these meltdowns. The 3 lines of defence is all the more important in recent times. The next 2 big issues were cybersecurity and bribery and corruption.

The Perception of Value. A comparison of 2 IIA studies suggest internal audit may still have a long way to go in delivering stakeholder insight. Most IA are not meeting stakeholders’ expectations. Sometimes, there might be a lack of general management or operating insights within IA. Sometimes, IA also does not consult departments when developing audit plans.

Where We Are. Today’s IA enjoy greater stature within the organization and are working to meet ever-increasing expectations.

A Steady Progression. Audit professionals are in demand. IA needs to shape management’s expectations of them. IA should market themselves more. Cross-training and gaining exposure from other departments is the key. Auditors must be well-rounded and learn to take personal responsibility.

Conformance to the Standards. The top 10 non-conformance issues are: 1) Internal assessments; 2) reporting on the QAIP; 3) recognition of the definition of IA, code of ethics, standards in the IA charter; 4) external assessments; 5) QAIP; 6) requirements of the QAIP; 7) Engagement work program; 8) purpose, authority and responsibility; 9) co-ordination; 10) communication and approval

The ‘Anti-Fraud Moment’. Fighting fraud demands more than just awareness. There needs to be meaningful training when it comes to learning of skills. There is little training on red flag indicators. Create simple articles to share with employees. Record 5 minute training videos. Take advantage of live formal and informal skills training opportunities.

How Much Do Risks Really Change? The risk landscape shifts radically from 1 year to the next. It can changed a lot in 75 years. Global events can rock the market and commodity prices etc. Tech breakthroughs happen fast and world events disrupt things. Regulations change as well.

Internal Audit Fundamentals. The most basic skills remain largely unchanged. Critical thinking and communication are the key. Co-sourcing is an option when IA lacks certain technical skill sets.

Around the Globe. IA around the world are providing value to their organizations in a wide variety of ways and at different levels of complexity and sophistication. The role of IA may not be well-understood. Value demonstration is the key. Different auditors will be at different levels of proficiency and maturity.

Industry Roundup. The challenges IA face today are many and vary by sector. Public sector audit has moved beyond compliance or financial audits into performance auditing. There is also emphasis on effectiveness. There are sophisticated products in banking and safeguarding information is one of the key objectives. Money laundering is also a key area to watch. As for health care, there are issues like quality of service, compliance, data security are all big challenges.

A Different Perspective. IA’s business partners offer their views of the profession. Audit can identify opportunities for improvement throughout the organization. It is important to have a sharing environment. Technical skills matter a lot nowadays. IA should look at areas that management struggle with. IA should not hide or mask problems from management. Being able to understand IT etc would make IA more valuable.

Educating Auditors. Determining what IA students need to know now is a constant challenge. Being skilled in IA is a unique skill that is useful. It is possible to simulate real-world IA case studies for students. IA needs to be intellectually curious to learn more. One cannot speed up experience as time is required.

IA Future. IA allows one to understand the business. Do not miss the change to meet senior leaders.

‘I realized the role of IA aligned with many of my interests. I wanted to add value and bring a positive impact to a business while understanding how it operates, and IA presents opportunities not found in other roles within the company.’

IT Audit Trends and Foresight. Technology will continue to bring new risks for organizations. IA need to address the IOTs. We need to understand the inventory of devices and the type of data that is collected. One needs to understand the value of digital strategy.

The Changing Business World. Auditors can anticipate future developments by looking beyond their organization’s current business situation. Africa is going to grow fast in future. Businesses need to create space to think. IA needs to be able to anticipate new risks. IA can follow current affairs. Talk to customers to see how their needs are changing. IA is really looking to delight people.

Five Trends. Top global IA thinkers take a broad look at key issues that will shape the profession. The world is changing fast and risk are interdisciplinary. New risks must be understood and evaluated. IA can learn new ways of analysing and also develop strategic foresight. The compliance scope is continually expanding and making things more difficult. IA needs to link compliance activities to upstream processes and control improvements. It will be a challenge for lower the cost of compliance. Stakeholders are more demanding nowadays. IA must have knowledge of the various industries and any new business lines. Technology risk is getting more complicated. Data is becoming more prevalent and data analytics is getting more useful than ever before.

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The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth and Success by Rolf Dobelli (Part 1)

Foreword. Since centuries ago, people have been asking themselves on what it means to live a good life? Is it better to seek happiness or to avoid unhappiness? The world is complicated and there is no simple solution. We need mental tools and models to rely on. This book is based on research as well as knowledge from ancient times. The tips from the book should help you navigate the challenges in life.

Mental Accounting (How to Turn a Loss into a Win). A speed camera on the expressway captured my car speed and I was going too fast. I used to be angry with such instances. However, now I smile when I receive summons. I pay the fines using money which I have set aside for good causes every year. This is known as mental accounting. You are tricking yourself into giving yourself a peace of mind. The fact has happened, but you can choose how to interpret the event. Living a good life has a lot to do with interpreting facts in a constructive way. To take the sting out of payment, you can pay first and consume later. When something has become a little more expensive/cheaper, I don’t think about it. I rather save my energy than money. You will help to retain your inner poise. Mental accounting will teach you to value your time.

The Fine Art of Correction (Why We Overestimate Set-Up). During a flight, the pilot constantly makes readjustments to the flight path. When things don’t go according to plan, we have to navigate. We can’t take our hands off the steering wheel. Our live is exposed to turbulence. Correction is more important than the set-up. The human body works in this way to fight viruses and bacteria too. In every relationship, fine-tuning is crucial too. We don’t like to correct because we feel we were right at the start. The US Constitution has been amended dozens of times already. There is no such thing as ideal training.

As an amateur pilot I’ve learned that it’s not so much the beginning that matters but the art of correction following take-off. – Rolf Dobelli

The Pledge (Inflexibility as a Stratagem). Clayton Christensen, an author, lives his life according to pledges. A pledge means an absolute commitment. This indicates inflexible behavior. However, when it comes to important issues, flexibility is not an advantage but a trap. This is because new decisions require willpower and lead to decision fatigue. Pledging saves your mental energy. Pledging means you are consistent on many topics. Pledges must be very firm and you must not waver.

Chain yourself to your pledges. Uncompromisingly. It’s easier to stick to your pledges 100% of the time rather than 99%. – Rolf Dobelli

Black Box Thinking (Reality Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings; or, Why Every False Step Improves Your Life). The black box in the plane was an indestructible box that can retrieve conversations in the cockpit so that it is easier to determine the cause of a crash. Black box thinking means radical acceptance of the truth and analyzing your actions. Your illness will still be there whether you want to focus on it or not. Self-deception is not compatible with a good life. The fact is that you are poor at something could be indeed true. Radical acceptance of defeats is part of life. Build your own black box. When making a big decision, think of what is going through your mind. Black box thinking can also work on a personal level. Tackle the problem at the source.

The world isn’t remotely interested in what you think of it or how you feel. Banish all such obscurantist tactics from your brain. – Rolf Dobelli

Accepting reality is easy when you like what you see, but you’ve got to accept it even when you don’t – especially when you don’t. – Rolf Dobelli

To put it another way, if you can’t spot where you put a foot wrong, you’re going to fall flat on your face again. Persistence in your analysis will pay off. – Rolf Dobelli

Counterproductivity (Why Timesavers are Often Timewasters). A car improved efficiency by many fold over horse carriages. Although it seemingly saves time, you have to factor in the time needed for maintenance, patrol, time caught in traffic jams. After factoring all these, the car has an average speed of 3.7mph. Technologies that seem good at the start needs to analyzed using a full cost analysis. For instance, powerpoint is great, but isn’t it a waste of time when you can get the message across using something simpler. Therefore, it is important to be on your guard against counterproductivity. Keep only the bare essentials. Technology can actually be a burden. The author is against modern technology, like smart devices.

A basic rule of the good life is as follows: if it doesn’t genuinely contribute something, you can do without it. – Rolf Dobelli

The Negative Art of the Good Life (Do nothing Wrong and the Right Thing Will Happen). Pilots simply want to avoid crashes. In investment, there is upside and downside. As long as you do the checks on the plane, you should be safe and minimize the downside. Like in tennis, you are likely to win if you minimize on your errors and play conservatively. What makes people happy? The literature does not contain much information. However, we can pinpoint what makes people unhappy: alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic stress, noise, long commute etc. Thus, the trick in life is to eliminate the downside as much as possible.

The Ovarian Lottery (Why You Didn’t Earn your Successes). Happiness is something you have. How much of success can be attributable to your own actions? Sometimes, it is because you were simply born in a good place. Where we are born definitely influences our success in a big way. The same also matters for the family you were brought up in. Timing is important. We are also a blend of our parent’s genes. For quite a number of things, you owe it to your genes. You haven’t really earned your achievements. You definitely need on others to be successful. Grateful people are demonstrably happier people.

Six percent of all the people who have been born over the last 300,000 years – since Homo Sapiens populated the world – are alive in the present day. They could just as easily have been born into another era; indeed, the probability of that is 94%. – Rolf Dobelli

The Introspection Illusion (Take Feelings Seriously – Just Not Your Own). Describe the objects in front of you. Describe what you feel about them right now. Our feelings are more nebulous. However, we are unable to express them clearly. You can’t achieve the good life through introspection. You are unlikely to achieve a certain purpose just by analyzing. Examine what are the recurring themes of your past and not analyze your feelings. Learn to read the emotions of others. Learn to treat your emotions less seriously. We need to cultivate a new relationship with our inner voices. Feelings will change over time and one should never be ‘owned’ by them. Repressing your emotions will only lead to them coming harder back at you. The key message is not to trust your emotions.

Take other people’s feelings very seriously, but not your own. Let them flit through you – they’ll come and go anyway, just as they please. – Rolf Dobelli

The Authenticity Trap (Why You need a Secretary of State). We all like to talk to authentic people However, do we want people to be too honest and forthcoming? Authenticity online are all staged. We don’t really know what authentic behavior is. There is simply no need to blurt out for innermost feelings. You can play your second self and keep promises and not blurt out personal feelings too often.

The Five-Second No (Small Favors, Big Pitfalls). How often do you say yes to favors without thinking? Do you reject others? When you keep helping others, you have less time for yourself. Co-operation was common in the animal kingdom because of survival. In game theory, the tit for tat works well. In the animal kingdom, animals believe in reciprocal altruism. Only apes have the ability to do it because they have a good memory. It keeps the economy going. However reciprocity has its dangers. Nowadays I say no to a lot of things which aren’t important to me. This is one of the key points of a good life.

The Focusing Illusion (Why You Wouldn’t be Happier in the Caribbean). When you are experiencing winter, you feel that you will be happier in the tropics on a beach somewhere. The more you focus, the greater the influence of the event. Because we are focusing on the climate only, we think Miami is superior. However, it is important to think about other factors. You assign the weather as overly important. Therefore, it is important not to overemphasize any single factor. The problem with humans is that it is not easy to view things from an ultra-wide lens. The grass usually looks good on the other side. The focusing illusion is bad and you need to be aware when it happens.

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it. – Daniel Kahneman

The Things You Buy Leave no Real Trace (Why You Should Buy less and Experience More). How much pleasure do you get from your car? It seems that people do. We tend to overemphasize the impact an object can give us. When you think of the car, you seem happy. However, when you think about using and maintaining it, probably you won’t feel as happy. Expensive objects tend to have higher upkeep and you get used to them after a while. When you experience something, you are fully present. Try to experience more and it is also usually cheaper. We overestimate the impact of purchases on our wellbeing.

While you’re thinking about X, you tend to grossly over-estimate X’s impact on your life. – Rolf Dobelli

Fuck-You Money (Saving Up Freedom). There is a diminishing marginal utility to things you consume, like water even if you are very thirsty. This holds true for money. Think about how much money you need to earn before you feel that additional income will not have any impact on your wellbeing. A decent income is needed for survival, but beyond that, it doesn’t bring you a lot of additional happiness. Rich people have more things to worry about. Life satisfaction for Americans in the 1946 and 1970s were largely the same, according to Easterlin. Wealth is relative, not absolute. Hence, this is the problem that humans face. Fuck-you money are the savings that will allow you to quit your job without you ending up in financial trouble. Don’t think too much about money and worry about slight fluctuations in your portfolio. Don’t compare yourself with the rich or you will feel unhappy. Live modestly even if you are rich as wealth makes people jealous. Genuine success is not financial in nature.

This revelation has been termed the Easterlin paradox: once basic needs have been met, incremental financial gain contributes nothing to happiness. – Rolf Dobelli

9781473667495

Simplicity of Life by Ivy Tan

Be an Influential Magnet For Positive Change and Abundance in Life

Introduction. Singapore is resilient and was able to navigate the Asian economic crisis in 1997 and the sub-prime crisis in 2008 successfully. Many were worried over their livelihood. Ying was mistreated as a child as her parents favored boys. Ying was not treated well by her parents. Her parents divorced but no one wanted custody of Ying. It was her grandpa that took care of her. The court ruled that the mother would have custody of Ying but later, also had difficulty in raising her. Her mum treated her harshly. This lasted for a total of 8 years as Ying completed her primary school. Grandpa was the only one who cared for her. Ying’s mother was addicted to gambling. Ying did well in Primary 8 and could go on to secondary school. However, despite this, Ying’s mother was not proud of her achievements and hit her. Ying tried to cut herself unsuccessfully and finally decided to go home. She tried to kill herself again, but was yet unsuccessful. She was warded in hospital and Grandpa visited her. Once, she witnessed a guy who swallowed many panadols to kill himself. She reached out and requested for others to help him. Due to Ying’s help, the guy managed to live. Ying was amazed that she could save someone else’s life even though she was in trouble herself. She drew strength from her own journey to help others. This was the turning point in her life. Now, she is an inspirational speaker and an international professional facilitator.

Part 1: You

Discovering life. Everyone is a gift to this world. What’s holding you back from achieving your goals and self-actualization? We all have to go through the different phases of life, including ageing. We all have to be brave and face death head on. On your death bed, looking back at your life, would you have been satisfied with your achievements? What legacy have you left behind in your life? How would you spend your time? The bulk of time would have been used for your loved ones, sleep and work. This leaves you little time for self-actualization.

Part 2: You Can. This chapter is about the 3Ps, Passion, Purpose and Potential. These are integral parts of your life that mustn’t be neglected. Having a purpose will help sustain your drive along a difficult journey. This could be like wanting to find a stable job etc. However, purpose doesn’t suddenly appear from nowhere. It usually comes from your curiosity and desire for knowledge. Working with others who are passionate will also motivate you to work harder. Remember that it is important to have a purpose as it will shut the naysayers up. Having passion can help support or nourish your Purpose. Some leaders apply operant conditioning, which is similar to the ‘carrot and stick’ model. An example of classical conditioning is when one is forced to provide frequent updates. There are 5 levels to Maslows’ Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization. Passionate is not in-born and has to be cultivated. With purpose and passion, can you achieve your potential? Your attitude and behavior will have a great impact over your learning and development.

Part 3: You Can Do. Everyone experiences their feelings differently. For humans, our emotions affect our attitudes and behaviors. The words of others can trigger an emotion in you, leading you to take a course of action. One should not aim to change your emotions, because that wouldn’t be your authentic self. It is much easier to control your choices as compared to your thoughts/ emotions. Do not enter self-denial and let your choices affect the subsequent tone of voice/ choice of words. One should take a breather and think about their choices logically. We tend to only tell the truth towards those whom we can trust. It is hence important to stay logical and tell the truth. Always remember that you have the power to choose. The first C in Choice is Consider. Resist jumping into conclusions. Try to approach life with less expectations as that would lead to less disappointments. One event in a day is completely unrelated to another in a day and you should not link the two. The second letter is H, which is for Hold. This refers to choosing a proactive attitude instead of a reactive one. This also means exploring options and choices. The third letter is O, which is for Observe. Make Sense with SENSES (Seek, Examine, Note, Study, Evaluate, Steer). Learn to observe the pattern and practice a logical questioning technique to get to the root of the issue.

simplicity_of_life_by_choice_by_ivy_tan_1449417987_9b980cc0

Small Pleasures by The School of Life (Part 2)

Sunday Mornings. It is a quiet morning and you do not have much to accomplish or do. Sundays are the days for us to explore ourselves and to rediscover ourselves. In the past, Sundays were set aside for religion. However, your time on Sundays are special and should be protected. It can be frustrating if your day is filled up with distractions. One has the opportunity to re-engage with the wider horizons of one’s life. We can focus on the silent and the eternal. This is a place of tenderness and beauty. Sunday mornings are our distinct, unusual time which should be guarded at all cost.

You’re briefing liberated from the pressure of watching the clock; you don’t need to keep up. No one will be expecting anything of you until tomorrow morning. – The School of Life

A Beloved’s Wrist. The skin on the inside of the forearm is smooth and delicate. Looking at your beloved’s wrist can renew tender feelings. It can lead to remember why you first fell in love with them. You can trace to their hand actions and remember things from their past which triggered them to perform as such.

A Favorite Old Jumper. It’s one that you hardly wear. There is a hole in it now. However, you know that it has been through a lot with you. It was lovely to wear it. People will come to love us precisely for the small things.

With the jumper we rehearse something key. It is a transitional object that helps us along the path not from childhood to adulthood but towards old age. – The School of Life

Holding Hands with a Small Child. We try to be encouraging and sweet to the little ones we once were. You are fascinated by how charming the kid can be. You become fascinated with the world, just like the kid.

And for a brief pointed time one is astonished by the utter strangeness of the course of human experience which gradually takes everyone from childhood to death. – The School of Life

Old Stone Walls. You do not know the exact date the walls were built, but centuries of harsh weather has affected the stone. It has been around for ages. Time usually brings things to ruin. Thins can be get better as they age. The old wall looks better as it ages. The idea of a wall is something we welcome with a feeling of joy.

The old is a good image of ageing and endurance: it’s not getting worse; strangely, it’s nicer because it is older, counteracting our fears that to be old is to be worn out, unlovable, useless and ignored. – The School of Life

Realising You Both Dislike the Same Popular Person. Somehow, you have learned to be cautious and avoid certain types of people. Sometimes, you don’t like those who keep accommodating and prefer those who speaks their mind. Shared antipathy can bond people together. You feel bonded over the hatred for someone.

It’s lovely not having to explain or defend one’s feelings in a hostile environment. It’s a relief not having to politely nod in supposed agreement just to keep the peace. – The School of Life

Feeling at Home in the Sea. It might require some courage to dip yourself in the ocean, but you gradually realize that it isn’t too difficult. You will bob up and down. You use a mask and snorkel, which enables you to breathe. Now, you can be yourself underground. Shapes and things look bizarre underwater. You are now thrilled by the adventurous part of you.

And when you emerge, dripping and pleasantly tired, and make your way to the warm beach, you bring that part of yourself with you back from the sea, where it had been living in exile, waiting for you. – The School of Life

“Bad” Magazines. You would probably not want to buy such magazines. You wouldn’t want to be seen outside reading it too. It can be oddly pleasing. We are encountering different ways of being. By reading these magazines, we can get more in touch with our other selves. We also become less dismissive of others after reading about them. It is a small pleasure.

The lives we actually lead are tiny slivers of what is imaginatively possible. A slight shift in the past could have led to a very different kind of existence. There are lots of ways we could conceivably have turned out. – The School of Life

The Song You Want to Listen to Again and Again. The song has grown on you. You might have heard it before but have forgotten about it. But now, you want to listen to it all the time and can’t get enough of it. But we can’t explain why we love the song so much. Our brains take cues from sounds. ‘Ave Maria’ enfold us in tenderness. Music has the power to move us and influence us. Hey Jude lyrics – Don’t be Afraid is very powerful indeed. Some songs encourage us to recognize the vulnerability in others. Mozart’s music can be gracious and sad.

A Book That Understands You. A book gets you. The author never knew you but it seems like he did for a long time. Everything is on target. You might feel lonely even though you are surrounded by people and loved ones. Such a good book will tackle problems which you normally ignore. The book can actually validate your sufferings, telling you that it is okay to be who you are.

Our weirder sorrows – or enjoyments – are recast as valid parts of human experience, which can be met with sympathy and kindness. – The School of Life

Crying Cathartically Over the Death of a Fictional Character. Why do we mourn their deaths? Lovely things might seem weak. Things can be transient. We feel sorry when we disagree with them. We often do not express our love fully when the person is still around. We are angry at the idiotic randomness of death. No one deserves to die. When it comes to death, death reorganizes our priorities.

We may only realise the full extent of our love for people too late. We are being agonisingly alerted not just to a possible loss, but to a failure of our own. – The School of Life

Pleasant Exhaustion After a Productive Day. It is 9:45pm and you are happy with your work progress made. Your body is aching slightly but you feel good. You make a nice cup of tea. Your brain has done its work. You thought that it couldn’t be done initially, but you accomplished it nonetheless. You feel confident about solving your own problems in your outside life, come what may. We feel honourable tiredness. It is pleasant tiredness and feel like sleep is our reward.

The pleasure we feel after a good but hard day’s work is linked to a positive experience of willpower. It was tempting to break off; you could have put it off until tomorrow, but you didn’t. You stuck with the big thing. – The School of Life

It’s also to do with a sense of mastery: in anticipation we slightly feared the task. But we got on top of this tricky thing and we tamed it. – The School of Life

We’re capable of rousing ourselves, of focus and of sustained effort. We can stick with something difficult and keep going through the temptations to break off and seek distraction. We’ve been just a little bit heroic and we know it and it feels nice. – The School of Life

Old Photos of One’s Parents. You spot a young photo of your mum, when we was about 8. What was it like to be alive back then? You also spot a photo of your dad when he was much younger. By from these photos, we realize that we hardly know them when they were younger. We know that our parents are trying our best. Our parent’s life wasn’t mainly about us.

Whispering in Bed in the Dark. You are talking to your partner in the dark. Whispering feels sexy. Deep privacy can be very liberating. Whispering in the dark is important. We need the assistance of cues. You can be tender without much fear. You are joining forces with your childhood self.

And this what gives whispering in the dark its special place in our lives. We have all the liberating benefits of being alone – but we are also with another person. – The School of Life

Cypress Trees. You have a soft spot for them, just that you didn’t know. They feel both shy and aloof. They feel private. The tree is a sermon of endurance and can live for ages on end. It will be around long after you are gone. The trees can grow well in places that are not hospitable. It is an image of resilience.

A tree is stuck in the single place where it was planted or where the seed happened to fall into a little crevice. Naturally, we’re attracted to the idea of being able to alter our condition, but sometimes we just have to put up with difficulties. Our bigger commitments tie us to a situation. – The School of Life

News of a Scientific Discovery. It can be charming. All science is interesting. However, scientific discoveries are linked with progress. Nature is a dark mystery but we like to investigate it. We can work together towards these discoveries. It is not by pure luck. Thorough research went into the research. This is the collective power of humanity. A lot of areas have been researched on and understood. Hopefully, these discoveries will be translated into textbooks and synthesized for the young.

Feeling Someone Else is Wrong. Sometimes, we know deep down that someone else is wrong. We feel good because we are absolutely right and they are absolutely wrong. We get an appreciation of our own intelligence. For most of the time, we don’t know for certain whether we are right. It is satisfying to us. You can cope with your terrors and can hold your own in conversations etc. We feel a sense of cognitive progress.

The Teasing of Old Friends. You don’t mind being teased by friends and are okay with it. A lesson is delivered in an interesting form. We do not see it as a form of criticism. However, if knowledge is wrapped in a wrong way, we may reject learning it. You know your friends are not malicious but only want you to learn. We despair knowledge and love – being united. However, when it comes to friends, it is possible to find the sweet spot. You can also tease them back and you know that they won’t mind at all.

Getting Over a Row. You got angry because you wanted to make a point which they couldn’t see. You don’t want to apologise. As we cool down, we might experience small pleasures. At work, you do not dare to be angry because you fear to be so. It also feels good to have cleared the air. You can look at them in a more measured way. At least, you both tackled the troublesome issue. Forgiveness is also important. Sometimes, we can just make do with small problems.

A relationship has to include the madder, more unreasonable parts of ourselves. If I can be overtly angry with you, it’s because you have made me feel safe enough to be so. – The School of Life

Conflict is a pretty much unavoidable part of living closely with another person and being involved in big, complicated mutual undertakings. But we’re all right now and that’s nice – until the next time. – The School of Life

Planning the Ideal Routine. It is nice to write out a plan for your week ahead. Having a schedule means that we should be using our time wisely. We should assign the tasks to distinct slots. You can also include tasks like napping and thinking. Make time for thinking about your past etc. For chores, plan them at one go in a week, followed by a small reward after the chores. A routine can keep you on track and on the ball. You always wanted to be more organized, productive and a routine will help you get there.

You won’t have to decide to do them and summon a special burst of willpower: after the first dozen times they start to become semi-automatic. The day begins to flow. You’re not always prodding and badgering yourself to get on with what you should be doing. – The School of Life

Finally Gaining the Respect of a Previously Suspicious Colleague. Now, your colleague smiles at you. They are happy to see you around. They have sweet sides for you too. They wanted to see if you could prove yourself. Prove yourself you did. It is normal for people not to warm up to you from the start. But that’s okay.

This person’s goodwill is worth having because they don’t give it away automatically. They have warmed to you because you have proved yourself. Their approval is a measure of your own development. – The School of Life

‘Getting’ A Great Work of Art for Yourself. We are worried that we will seem ignorant. Why should one even care about art? Sometimes, you might find works that speak to you. Mood is a crucial ingredient in the experience. In the right mood, things look great. Understanding a piece is a very personal thing. The works exists for you.

That’s why getting one work of art opens a door to the enjoyment of many others. Because you’ve discovered in yourself the key to engagement. – The School of Life

Midnight Walks. You need to get away from something. You glow in the night. The street lamps seem fascinating. You try to touch the moon. Midnight walks help the brain to think. In reality, there could be many things bugging you. Select one to think about when you are walking. Avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly. You don’t really know what is going on in another person’s mind. Our complaints are endless but a stroll in the night will lead you to forget that. Our life’s problems are legitimate and normal. We are mapping some emotional terrain. Learn to define the need. Why am I really stuck with an annoying partner? Sometimes, you must understand that not everything is in your control. Life is short and yet humans want to feel important.

But at midnight, away from others, we can briefly get enough distance to recall the strangeness of being human. We are deeply peculiar organisms; we are mysteries to one another and to ourselves; we don’t really know why we ourselves do what we do half the time. – The School of Life

In the night it’s a little easier to keep in mind that the human condition is sombre; we are frail creatures inhabiting the outer crust of a minuscule lump of rock orbiting a very average star. – The School of Life

But at other points it is sweet to feel that maybe our actions don’t matter – they will be lost in the greater tides of human existence, and all our follies and errors will melt away very soon, as if they had never been. – The School of Life

Flirtation. You often have to speak to someone else from another company over the phone. He seems to be flirting with you. It’s a flirtatious moment. You might flirt with an old friend at a party. Flirting is a mating ritual. However, it might not be erotic in nature but more aligned with friendship. Not everything should be viewed as foreplay. We need reminders from others that we are lovely. Flirting can be also seen as a demonstration of kindness and interest. Flirtation is safe in a workplace environment. It is a safe version of seduction.

Essentially, when we flirt we are showing another person that we like them and find them attractive. – The School of Life

The First Day of Feeling Well Again. You were sick for the past few days. Being unwell sucks. Someone bought you a gift to make you feel better. When sick, you suffered from low energy levels and didn’t bother much about work. Your sexual appetites waned and you felt calm. Feeling energetic is important. Your appetite is now back in order and you feel much better. When sick, you start to imagine things, just like a child.

Daisies. They are simply too small and can live from year to year. It is one of the nature’s most charming colour arrangements. The petals close up when in the dark and re-open in the day. Like the daisy, biological factors dominate and control us too. We get affected by events and it affects our moods etc. Daisies are abundant.

We disdain the daisy for an unfortunate reason: it is abundant. It’s a victim of the unfortunate idea that to be special something has to be rare. – The School of Life

Figs. You might encounter it once in a while. You don’t think much of it. However, it seems charming and tastes pleasant. Rituals are important. It provides a sense of appreciation in order to get us into a valuable state of mind. The ritual comes as a timely reminder for us. Rituals are usually developed over a large period of time. Similarly, small pleasures need rituals. The pull of it is smaller and that is why we need reminding.

The pull of small pleasures is much weaker than that of sex or video games or drinking wine or wolfing down a bar of chocolate; these are pleasures we need no reminding of, and we often have to painfully struggle to limit their sway in our lives. With small pleasures it’s the opposite. We’re more likely to lose touch with them. They easily get crowded out. We actively need to build up their presence in our lives. – The School

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Small Pleasures by The School of Life (Part 1)

This book will guide us to the life’s small pleasures

Preface. This book examines the 52 of life’s small pleasures. These are not usually widely celebrated. This book covers each one in detail. Small pleasures are often not well understood.

Small pleasures turn out not to be small at all: they are points of access to the great themes of our lives. – The School of Life

It can at first sound slightly strange to say that we don’t automatically and naturally know how to enjoy ourselves. But the pursuit of pleasure is a skill which we need to learn. – The School of Life

The Fish Shop. You stare in awe of the beauty and strangeness of the sea creatures. Oysters have their own home. They might seem weird, but we co-habit the same planet. We share the same ancestors. Looking at a dead fish can re-enhance us. We become fascinated by nature. Learn to appreciate the smell of salt and water and ice. Learn to develop a sense of pleasure of something wholesome and full.

We’ve been too hasty; we’re overlooked almost everything. The world is full of fascination; there is so much to be explored. And we have been led to this renewed appetite by the head of a fish. – The School of Life

Small Islands. You examine the island from afar, from the comfort of a passenger airline. You will big and in control on a small island. You will feel large. The island is small enough for you to take a drive. The scenery is impressive and you can spot hills and various streets. Life’s problems are not easily solved. Our longing for control leads to frustration. The small island feels good because it is contained and you can get anywhere in a short drive. Things start to become familiar on a small island and you become intimate to them.

A small island is not just a place on the map; it’s a psychological destination, a model of simplifying your life and making do with what is immediately to hand. – The School of Life

Stars. There are so trillions of trillions of stars out there, but we don’t notice them. We feel humbled being so small. From Earth, we can appreciate the magnitude of the cosmos. The stars look packed but in essence, they are so far apart from one another. We have no control over the cosmos and it is wonderful indeed. You don’t need to be a science professional to learn to appreciate the night sky. It is a sense of grandeur.

The stars matter in our lives because they offer a consoling encounter with grandeur, because they invite a helpful perspective on the brevity and littleness of human existence. – The School of Life

The regular appreciation of these and related small pleasures makes a major contribution to the elusive but crucially important notion of the quality of existence. – The School of Life

Grandmothers. You have spent some time just with your grandma. She showed you some of the things that mattered most to her. She can be a transitional object. It provides some form of psychological lifeline back to maternal love and security. The child can feel safe and discuss problems with her. As she is old, she understands fragility well. In addition, she knows her time on Earth is limited and will learn to appreciate its existence. She is still concerned for you, no matter what. She is cozy and wise. It is lovely when she reads to you. Her love is unconditional and she will love you whether you will do well in school or not. She just wants your presence. There is an absence of desire, which is very unique in today’s world. We all like tenderness.

Because her love is unconditional, it has the potentially maddening tendency to look right past some of your actual merits, which are the present focus your own sense of who you are. – The School of Life

The Friend who Listens. We need to learn to focus on friendship. No one has listened to us in the past. Society focuses too much on speaking. People are curious and love to keep asking questions. People who listen reconnect your chat and talk about philosophical ambitions. Good listeners don’t moralize and do not interrupt. They reassure us. They are happy for us to be vulnerable. They separate disagreement from criticism. Good listeners help to make society better for everyone.

Take-off. It is an amazing feeling when the plane first ascends. We can see the immense horizon. We can cover so much ground in the air. It is a display of power. Our eyes try to decipher what we see from the air. From the plane, our world appears so small. The clouds seem like perfect seats for an angel. It seems cool to eat among the clouds and we feel homely. The clouds make it tranquil and life seem peaceful.

And to think that all along, hidden from our sight, our lives were this small: the world we live in but almost never see; the way we must appear to the hawk and to the gods. – The School of Life

A Night Alone in a Hotel. You stay in a hotel overnight near the airport and can hear the planes roaring away. You ordered room service and your food is served. It is difficult for you to fall asleep as you switch on the TV. In a foreign land, not being able to sleep might be a blessing. You get to relax here and return to yourself. That day, you do not think of the difficult questions like where is your career going etc. No one will disturb you and you think about life. For tonight, insomnia is a gift for you to understand yourself better.

Sunbathing. You are in Rhodes to get more sunshine. The sky is blue and you have been craving sunshine for the longest time. You hardly miss winter at all. You feel you long for the sun. Sunshine is indeed a welcome respite. You need the virtues of the South too. You have come in search for wisdom and balance.

Sunshine is an agent of moral qualities: of generosity, courage, the appreciation of the present moment, confidence…When the world seems bountiful, material accumulation looks less impressive. – The School of Life

The Desert. You are in the middle of nowhere and there is nothing to compare to. You will feel intimate with yourself in the desert. Meditate on your utter insignificance. The desert is indifferent to your life. It gives you a renewal of perspective. The Universe is mightier than you and you have to accept its power.

Everything we do and are is in truth meaningless – when considered from a sufficient distance, from the perspective of the timeless stones, the boundless vistas, the infinite heavens. – The School of Life

We are frail and temporary and have no alternative but to accept the limitations on our will; that we must bow to necessities greater than ourselves. – The School of Life

Finding Your Feet Abroad. You might experience language difficulties. Everything seems foreign to you. Shyness is not an option. When you travel, you learn to be more confident. Smiling is indeed really useful. There is nothing to fear.

There is vast quantity of goodwill circulating in the world just below the surface and which we usually delve into too rarely. But now perhaps we can more often. – The School of Life

Being Up Late at Night. Late at night is when your mind has time to wander. There are infinite possibilities. We can tolerate all our possibilities. It is just us and the Universe and there are no expectations of us late at night.

The Charm of Cows. Cows are great and are not selfish. They are also easy-going and easily satisfied. They also protect their dignity. They harbor no bitterness. It doesn’t judge you. They do not care what you think of them. Looking at them can make your day.

Up at Dawn. It’s 5:45am. The sky is starting to turn purple. It looks impressive but you realize you hardly see it because you are asleep. Dawn is when you forgot everything that happened yesterday. This place looks magical. The human world will drown them out. You are missing the delicate things in life. The air feels fresh. You start to pay attention to nature and the things around you more in the morning. There is beauty in the tower block and you realized there is life out and about. You say hi. You feel at ease in the world and you feel serene. Every day is a fresh start and that is the good thing about life.

You can’t make there be 25 hours in the day. Yet now it does feel like you are in possession of an extra slice of existence; it’s always been there, but you’ve only just found it. – The School of Life

Staring out of the Window. It can seem like a waste of time as it serves no purpose. This is associated with boredom. It is essentially about figuring out what is in your mind. There is a lot of unexplored potential in our mind. Looking outside the window will give us a different perspective of life. Our ideas are like birds fluttering. We need purpose-free calm. We should learn the prospect of daydreaming. We miss the simple pleasures of looking out a window.

Window daydreaming is a little strategic rebellion against the excessive demands of immediate pressures – in favour of the diffuse, but very serious, search for the wisdom of the unexplored deep self. – The School of Life

A Hot Bath. It is easy to get carried away imagining a happy life. Focus on the reliable pleasures and satisfaction. A hot bath is one such example. You start by adjusting the temperature. You understand the hard work that is required to bring hot water to you. The bath allows us to be cozy. It is especially good in cold weather. The pleasure of the bath is primarily intellectual. They produce productive thinking. In many religions, bathing is a ritual that is strictly followed. Taking hot baths is your own virtue. They still have a wonderful way of influencing the psyche.

Indulgent Pessimism. Pessimism can indeed be a source of pleasure. It might a good strategy to safeguard happiness. We get disappointed when things go according to expectations. Anticipating the worst is a good idea.

Therefore, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to recognize that our griefs are not incidental or passing, but a fundamental aspect of existence which will only get worse – until the worst of all happens. – The School of Life

The pleasure of pessimism isn’t linked to being mean or bitter. It’s grounded, in fact, on sympathy. This is an antidote to the oppressive modern demand to look only on the bright side. – The School of Life

Self-Pity. Self-pity can be painful. We lament our small problems which in the grand scheme of things don’t matter much. We feel it quite often. Life can be harsh sometimes. Therefore, we deserve pity and since no one there to give us any, we shall supply a fair dose of it to ourselves. We should not lose the act of self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself is a coping mechanism. This will tell us we are misunderstood and undemanding and in need for love.

Crushes. You cannot stop looking at her. You sense a crush but she disappears afterwards. It can happen to another. This might seem like a small moment but it could be developed into something bigger. This is the perfect form of philosophy. We imagine an image of beauty. In reality, such a person might be different from what we imagined. You can’t put a crush into practice so simply. The pleasure of imagining an ideal person is great and can bring some joy.

Keeping Your Clothes On. It is assumed that sex scenarios are associated with nudity.In fact, it stems between the contrast between prohibition and acceptance. Deliberately keeping clothes on can prove to be a turn-on as a way to heighten excitement. You might retain a sense of anticipation. It might seem thrilling. You are toying or the other party is toying with the privileges of permission when you are trying to keep your clothes on.

Kissing. Kissing is nice. It helps us to deepen our appreciation for someone. Why is kissing so significant and potentially so exciting? Sexual excitement is psychological. Something happens in our brains. Kissing has been built up as a social norm to mean that I accept you – accept you so much that I will take a big risk with you. It is psychologically pleasing. Kissing provides a brief break from loneliness. There is no need to analyze why kissing is pleasurable.

Children’s Drawings. Drawings can be very pleasing. Their artwork possesses a form of inner balance and well-being. Their art is an evidence of trust. Adults are more wary people. We are often hit by waves of anxiety. There is beauty in inaccuracy in children’s art too. They are not concerned with whether what they do is right or not. We live in a complex and modern society. Innocent trust and imagination tend to be lacking in adults. Children’s art provide an opportunity for us to know our own needs.

Crimes in the Newspaper. You had a rough day but you read some articles on crimes in the newspapers. Why should one find pleasure in this sort of things? These criminals actually look normal. The criminals are too strange and make our strangeness seem not that remarkable after all. In contrast to the atrocities that Hitler committed, you are nothing in comparison.

But the truth is we’re not actively egging on criminals, we’re not glad these things happened. On the contrary, it’s the very fact that they are clearly so wrong that generates our moments of satisfaction. – The School of Life

You’ve felt furious, suffered from envy and had periods of money worries – but you never did what they did. You absorbed your pain rather than committed crimes. Their villainy reveals your quiet moral heroism. – The School of Life

Driving on the Motorway at Night. You are driving at 10:15pm. The car feels powerful and you feel purposive. Our mind, at times, doesn’t like to think. While driving, it also helps with our thinking. Driving is not too stressful. Sometimes, our mind might drift but nothing actually happens to us.

You are experiencing an underappreciated but important satisfaction that deserves a special name: driving therapy. – The School of Life

It’s strangely attractive, at night in the middle of a long solo drive, to stop at a service station. Ordinarily that’s got close to zero appeal. But now it’s pleasing to change tempo, to sit silently amongst other human beings and have a coffee. – The School of Life

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Foreword. I only knew Paul after his death. After he was diagnosed with cancer, he had a desire to write a book. We become aware of our own mortality after reading his book as well. Paul had a flair of writing, however, had a calling of being a physician. He would eventually be a neurosurgeon. Paul writes occasionally and was an excellent writer. Paul has been very vulnerable and revealed a lot about himself.

Prologue. The cancer had spread and was widely disseminated. I was the patient this time. Lucy was my wife and she was by my side. When I had back pain, I went for an MRI scan. X-rays aren’t good for detection of cancer. Weight loss became more common as the days went by. I was an outstanding surgeon and had a bright career ahead of me. A few weeks later, I had strong bouts of chest pain. My work and the demanding schedule had put a toll on our marriage. My wife wanted to leave me. The pain was getting more severe and I was in trouble. I also started to tell friends about my cancer. My wife learnt about it and promised not to leave me.

Part 1: In Perfect Health I Begin

I never thought that I would be a doctor. I didn’t know much about medicine when I was young. We had two dogs. Once, we went to the desert and found the insects there to be fascinating. My younger brother was Jeevan. My dad was the one who brought our family to the desert town of Kingman, in Arizona. The issue with Kingman was that the education system was bad and there were many dropouts. My mum instilled in us, a love of reading. I eventually got into Stanford University. I liked a girl named Abigail in school. In school, I was driven to understand what makes human life meaningful? One of my favorite authors, was T.S. Eliot. Literature was a form of moral reflection for me. Was the unlived life worth examining? I did an internship at Sierra Camp, which was very eye opening indeed. I studied both neuroscience and literature in school. Many of the caregivers will not even show up to pay the patients of severe brain problems. Some parents even abandon their kids. Brains indeed play a crucial role in our ability to form relationships. Language of life was a passion, hunger and a love. I studied the work of Walt Whitman. I wanted to find out how biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersected. I was contemplating medical school now. After I enrolled myself into the HPS program at Cambridge, I started to realize that only by practicing medicine, I could pursue a serious biological philosophy. I cut my first dead body and it felt alright. These were cadavers or donor corpses. I hardly ever felt like vomiting. The book by Shep Nuland on ‘How we die’ was very popular. It addressed the fact of existence. Although I read about the particularities of death, being a surgeon allowed me to understand them better. I was asked to deliver a child. I was educated on how to read the fetal heart rates etc. The twins were in distress and their only hope was a C-section. However, they didn’t survive as they were premature. On my next case, the baby was successfully delivered and I was very relieved indeed. Next on my rotation was surgical oncology. Many of the medical students chose to specialize in things like radiology or dermatology, which were deemed easier. Eventually, I chose neurosurgery as my specialty. Part of a doctor’s job is about to be emotionally attached to the patient and to calm them down. Brain surgery has a huge impact on the patient’s life. Would you trade your ability to talk for a few extra months of mute life? What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? Neurosurgeons have a huge responsibility. During the first year of residency, the workload was tremendous. The papers I file are narratives of risks and triumph. I finally lost my first patient. I saw a few people die in the course of my work. Sometimes, death has a suffocating weight on me too. In the second year of training, I was the first to arrive in an emergency. I was doing a lot of overtime work, which was very tiring indeed. It was so stressful that some left the profession. Some cases were beyond hope, where even surgery would not do much good. I did not think I was a doctor who missed the larger human significance. My dad was an inspiration to me and he even when to buy meals for his patients when they requested for them. I once persuaded a girl’s family that surgery was the best option for her. Announcing the bad news to a patient is very difficult indeed. Brain surgery for cases for cancer that metastases from other parts of body, can help to prolong life. In medical statistics, there is the Kaplan-Meier curve. This measures the number of patients surviving over time for any particular disease. It is a metric where doctors understand the ferocity of a disease. Instead of saying ‘You have a 95% chance of being dead in two years’, doctors can say ‘Most patients live many months to a couple of years.’. It is useful to hold a patient’s hand when announcing bad news. Sometimes, there can be an emotional cost as well. However, it can have its rewards too. For a neurosurgeon, it is also important to keep up to date on the latest technologies available in the market too. I loved talking to other scientists. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate. A patient can only be under anesthesia for that long. It is like finding the middle ground between the hare and the tortoise. Time flies in the OR. Technical excellence, was a moral requirement for me. For brain surgery, it is extremely important to be precise, up to the exact millimeter. The worst part of the brain damage is the cortex, the Wenicke and Broca area. These control one’s language abilities. I was excellent at my job and rewards and awards were coming naturally. My scientist friend committed suicide one day after he had a difficult complication. This made me contemplate the meaning of life even more.

The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving. – Paul Kalanithi

Books become my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world. – Paul Kalanithi

Indeed, this is how 99% of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job – not a calling. – Paul Kalanithi

Rushing a patient to the OR to save only enough brain that his heart beats but he can never speak, he eats through a tube, and he is condemned to an existence he would never want…I came to see this as a more egregious failure than the patient dying. – Paul Kalanithi

Amid the tragedies and failures, I feared I was losing sight of the singular importance of human relationships, not between patients and their families but between doctor and patient. Technical excellence was not enough. As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives – everyone dies eventually – but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness. – Paul Kalanithi

The call to protect life – and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another’s soul – was obvious in its sacredness. – Paul Kalanithi

A resident’s surgical skill is judged by his technique and his speed. You can’t be sloppy, and you can’t be slow. – Paul Kalanithi

Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. The decision to operate at all involves an appraisal of one’s own abilities, as well as a deep sense of who the patient is and what she holds dear. – Paul Kalanithi

Cease Not till Death

The CT images were not good. My identity no longer mattered. It was life shattering and it hurt me. My potential would never be fulfilled. I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Emma Hayward was my oncologist. Emma was one of the best lung cancer specialist out there. She was also compassionate in nature. I felt weaker as the cancer spread. I couldn’t know my spot on the Kaplan-Meier curve. One option for me was chemotherapy and the other was therapy targeting at molecular defects. I had a PI3K mutation. Emma suggest carboplatin as chemotherapy for me. She refused to discuss the Kaplan-Meier curves. Lucy and I went to the sperm bank to preserve gametes. There is no point in depending or reading too much into statistics. I felt a drop of hope. After a drug, my appetite returned and I was happier. I had to figure out what is the most important for me. Cancer had helped to save my marriage with Lucy. I was also in physical therapy now. I was lifting my legs, but it was so exhausting and humiliating. I kept pushing myself. Finally, my condition improved. I could ride a bike for 6 miles and that was a massive achievement. Emma was a friend to me as well. I wanted a child, but the decision would ultimately lie with Lucy, because she would take care of the child. Life wasn’t about avoiding suffering. Life was about striving. We all need to carry on living. Only the best embryos would have a chance of survival. The tumor was reduced after a CT scan. It was good news. Life was looking up now. I started reading more about mortality. I pushed myself to return to the OR. Some patients could live for at least 10 years on the drug. I felt it was a moral responsibility to continue being a surgeon. Suddenly, halfway through the surgery, I felt faint and couldn’t continue. My junior resident took over. It was disappointing. Over time, my skills started to improve and I was getting better. However, it felt joyless as sometimes I would still be in pain. I wanted to be a doctor-scientist, but there were no vacancies. I overcame my pain and continued to see patients. I wanted to run a cancer lab as it would less demanding. I had to figure out what was the most important to me. God and meaning were linked, but it was also possible to believe in one and not the other. The problem is that science cannot reach some permanent truth. Hence, it might be incompatible with human life, which is more unpredictable. Science is cold, unlike the warmth of humans. I returned to Christianity as I found it to be compelling. Humans do not like blind determinism. A new tumour emerged in my latest CT scan. I was neither angry nor scared. I felt really tired after a grueling surgery. My last surgery was a big success and I could end on a high. Chemotherapy was the only way as localized treatment was out of the question. It would start on Monday. I felt very tired and the food was tasteless. I wanted to go for graduation but I started puking and it was horrible. I had to be placed on IV drip. My condition worsened. My kidneys were starting to fail now. I was placed in ICU now. Many specialists were now attending to me. Lucy was now 38 weeks pregnant. The problem was that the specialists could not come to a common consensus. No 1 party was willing to take responsibility. Some of them suggested ill-advised tests. I struggled to listen to them. Emma was now the captain of the ship. I was discharged from the hospital finally. I was very tired again, after the chemotherapy doses. Emma finally revealed that I could live for 5 more years. Lucy was in labour. My baby was finally born and it was a complete joy. Time began to feel static. The days of the week no longer to mean anything to me as I wasn’t working.

If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he would should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live. – Michel de Montaigne (That to study philosophy is to learn to die)

The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live. – Paul Kalanithi

Only 0.0012% of 36 year olds get lung cancer. Yes, all cancer patients are unlucky, but there’s cancer and then there’s CANCER, and you have to be really unlucky to have the latter. – Paul Kalanithi

It’s easier when the patient is 94, in the last stages of dementia, with a severe brain bleed. But for someone like me – a 36 year old given a diagnosis of terminal cancer – there aren’t really words. – Paul Kalanithi

Many people, once diagnosed with cancer, quit work entirely. Others focus on it heavily. Either way is okay. – Emma Hayward, an oncologist

If the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least get more familiar? – Paul Kalanithi

If human relationality formed the bedrock of meaning, it seemed to us that rearing children added another dimension to that meaning. – Paul Kalanithi

I would push myself to return to the Operating Room. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living. – Paul Kalanithi

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. – Paul Kalanithi

The way forward would seem obvious, if only I knew how many months or years I had left. Tell me 3 months, I’d spend time with family. Tell me 1 year, I’d write a book. Give me 10 years, I’d get back to treating diseases. – Paul Kalanithi

Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world. – Paul Kalanithi

But at my back in a cold blast I hear the rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear. – T.S. Eilot

Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time; it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day. It is a tired hare who now races. – Paul Kalanithi

Epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi

Paul died on March 9, 2015. Chemotherapy stopped working a few months before his death. We still had our family dinners etc. Paul was focused on completing his book. At his late stages, he lost his appetite completely. At times, he would suffer from a really serious fever. Paul chose the do not resuscitate status at the very end. We chose comfort care at home as he didn’t want to die in hospital. His carbon dioxide levels were too high, indicating lung failure. Paul wanted to hold Cady, his daughter. Paul was really to remove the breathing support and die. His wish was for us to publish his manuscript. I hope that he would be resting in peace now. Our family continued to sing to him and look at his facial expressions. Soon, his breaths became more faltering and irregular. During his last years, Paul wrote furiously and wanted to complete the book. He was very determined to write. He was brave throughout his most difficult days. He did not avert his eyes from death and was strong. Our love stood strong and firm throughout his difficult days. Paul suggested that I remarry after my marriage. I was definitely very blessed to have known a man like him. He was an unwavering source of support to our daughter. Throughout his illness, he faced it with grace and authenticity and acceptance. He was fully alive and his life was full of meaning even in his darkest days. This book is his culmination of his life and love for literature. Paul had made great contributions in the area of neuroscience. Paul managed to face death with integrity, and I was as his wife, his witness.

Conversely, we knew that one trick to managing a terminal illness is to be deeply in love – to be vulnerable, kind, generous, grateful. – Lucy Kalanithi

Bereavement (of a partner) is not the truncation of married love, but one of its regular phases – like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. – C.S. Lewis

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How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Kind of the Story of My Life By Scott Adams (Part 2)

Managing your Attitude. You do better work and enjoy life when your attitude is good. If you do not let your environment affect you, it will be a superpower. Do not let environment factors affect you. Tired people tend to be grumpy. Learn to raise your energy and elevate your attitude. Increase your ratio of happy to disturbing thoughts. Learn to daydream of wonderful things. Imagination will keep you going. Avoid sad movies, books, people etc. Consume feel-good entertainment. Exercise, nutrition and sleep are good to cure bad moods. Work on projects that might change the world. It is very liberating as well. Your imagined success will keep you happy. You will fail sometime, but you will learn. Smiling will make you feel better even if it is fake. Fake it until you make it. Acting confident will also make you more confident. It is a chicken and egg problem. If you are feeling down, try to smile at strangers as this will perk you up after a while. Smiling makes you more attractive to others. If you are not comfortable with smiling, hang around those who are funny. Walk away from the soul suckers. Scott has been good at scrabble, pool, tennis and ping pong. Simply through insane hours of practice, he became good at them. These are minor successes in your life. If you know how many hours it will take to be good at something, you won’t bail out so easily. Winning feels great and it energizes him. Pick the delusion that works. Our brains cannot fully comprehend reality. Very often, reality depends on the observer and can be flawed. We do not fully understand the environment around us. It is important to pick your way of the world and stick to it. This is why people believe in superstition. If the illusion is motivating, it is good enough as it increases your energy in life. If you imagine your book will be read by millions, it serves as a form of motivation.

Your attitude affects everything you do in your quest for success and happiness. A positive attitude is an important tool. It’s important to get it right. – Scott Adams

Don’t worry if your idea is a long shot. That’s not what matters right now. Today you want to daydream of your idea being a huge success so you can enjoy the feeling. Let your ideas for the future fuel your energy today. No matter what you want to do in life, higher energy will help you get there. – Scott Adams

I’ve come to believe that success at anything has a spillover effect on other things. You can take advantage of that effect by becoming good at things that require nothing but practice. – Scott Adams

Once you become good at a few unimportant things, such as hobbies or sports, the habit of success stays with you on more important quests. When you have tasted success, you want more. – Scott Adams

I’m better than 99% of the world in each of those games because I put in more practice time than 99% of the world. – Scott Adams

A great strategy for success in life is to become good at something, anything, and let that feeling propel you to new and better victories. Success can be habit-forming –  Scott Adams

Free yourself from the shackles of an oppressive reality. What’s real to you is what you imagine and what you feel. If you manage your illusions wisely, you might get what you want, but you won’t necessarily understand why it worked. – Scott Adams

It’s Already Working. You want to hang out with people who want to succeed. If you turn professional, it can help unlock your talent. Fake it until it becomes real. When you are placed in a manager position, you start acting like one.

Your decision to read this book is confirmation that you are a person of action who has a desire to be more effective. I’m reinforcing that thought to help lock it in. – Scott Adams

My Pinkie Goes Nuts. His pinkie started having spasms after drawing too much. The doctor suggested that he quit his day job and comics. He had to overcome ‘focal dystonia’. However, he had hope that the situation will improve. He was determined to be the first one to beat the illness. He tried all kind of treatments to cure the illness. Nothing seemed to work and it was getting worse. By conditioning his brain through repetitive exercise, he gradually solved the problem. In 2004, the problem re-surfaced. Scott found a tablet and started drawing. He started drawing on a program called Wacom. Wacom is much easier to use than paper and pen.

My Speaking Career. Scott was invited to give a speech at an organization. He charged the organization $5000. He kept increasing the price, but there was still increasing demand. Learn to overprice your services and see what happened.

It’s a cliché that who you know is helpful for success. What is less obvious is that you don’t need to know CEOs and billionaires. Sometimes you just need a friend who knows different things than you do. And you can always find one of those. – Scott Adams

My Voice Problem Gets a Name. He lost his voice in 2005. 2 separate ideas on the Internet gave an idea on what his condition was. Was the pinkie problem related to the voice problem. He also had spasmodic dysphonia. However, there was no cure for it. You must always believe you can overcome your problems.

The Voice Solution That Didn’t Work. Scott took Botox injections for a few months but soon after it didn’t work.

Recognizing your talents and knowing when to quit. How do you combine your skills to form something great? Observe what you liked to do before you turned 10. Scott loved to doodle in class. Some people are wired for certain preferences in life. To be an expert, one needs to spend 10,000 hours of disciplined practice. Another clue to talent involves tolerance for risk. For instance, the author shared humorous comics to his teachers in school. It was worth the risk. Your risk profile might predict my future. Childhood obsessions and tolerance for risk. Bail out quickly if something doesn’t work. This might conflict with what you have learnt, which is to never give up and overcome obstacles. The author left his email address on his comics so that others could provide feedback on how improve the comics. If you have the X factor early on, it will be more likely to catch on. The X factor may be that the public views it negatively at first. It has to inspire excitement. Watch what customers do about your idea or product and not what they say about it. If your product excites no one, then it’s not worth.

There’s a strong connection between what interests you and what you’re good at. – Scott Adams

People are naturally drawn to the things they feel comfortable doing, and comfort is a marker for talent. – Scott Adams

But my unscientific observation is that people are born wired for certain preferences. Those preferences drive behavior, and that’s what can make a person willing to practice a skill. – Scott Adams

Where there is a tolerance for risk, there is often talent. – Scott Adams

The smartest system for discerning your best path to success involves trying lots of different things – sampling, if you will. – Scott Adams

Should you pursue a career that uses your knowledge of photography and software, or something that uses your public-speaking skills and your gift for writing? There‘s no way to be completely sure which path will be more fruitful. – Scott Adams

Overcoming obstacles is normally an unavoidable part of the process. But you also need to know when to quit. Persistence is useful, but there’s no point in being an idiot about it. – Scott Adams

The pattern I noticed was this: Things that will someday work out well start out well. Things that will never work start out bad and stay that way. – Scott Adams

Don’t be fooled by the opinions of friends and family. They’re all liars. – Scott Adams

Is Practice your thing? Scott was able to coach a kid at 3 on how to hit a tennis ball through repetition. There are kids who like to be alone and practice themselves. There are people who don’t get bored of practicing. Do not practice something that has no economic value (like spinning a book). Craft a life plan based on your natural inclinations. The thing should have economic value as well. You won’t be a concert pianist or an NBA player. You don’t do well in other more creative professions. For those, every class is different.

My observation is that some people are born with a natural impulse to practice things and some people find mindless repetition without immediate reward to be a form of torture. Whichever camp you’re in, it probably won’t change. – Scott Adams

If you don’t like to practice, don’t waste time on a strategy that requires it. You simply need to pick a life strategy that rewards novelty seeking more than mindless repetition. – Scott Adams

Practicing is not living. But when you build your skills through an ever-changing sequence of experiences, you’re alive. – Scott Adams

There’s no denying the importance of practice. The hard part is figuring out what to practice. – Scott Adams

Managing Your Odds for Success. Pick a good system until luck finds you. It helps if you read books about success. There is no formula for success. Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. You don’t need to reach world-class standards. For example, if you are good public speaker + you know powerpoint = good chance of managing your own firm. Good + Good > Excellent. The more skills you have, the better your chances at success. Simplicity trumps accuracy. Trick your brain into thinking that having more skills will be beneficial. Scott made use of the Internet very early. Read the topics that interests you only. Do not spend too much time reading bad news as it will affect your mood. Read to broaden your exposure. Read as a source of energy. Not everyone is rationale. Steve Jobs was not rational in his pricing but people still paid for it. A working knowledge of psychology always helps.

Your market value can be increased by being good (not extraordinary) at more than one skill. – Scott Adams

Successwise, you’re better off being good at two complementary skills than being excellent at one. – Scott Adams

The Success Formula: Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success. – Scott Adams

If I told you that taking a class in Web site design during your evenings might double your odds of career success, the thought would increase the odds that you would act. – Scott Adams

When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality. – Scott Adams

When I combined my meager business skills with my bad art skills and my fairly ordinary writing talent, the mixture was powerful. – Scott Adams

None of my skills are world-class, but when my mediocre skills are combined, they become a powerful market force. – Scott Adams

Another huge advantage of learning as much as you can in different fields is that the more concepts you understand, the easier it is to learn new ones. – Scott Adams

The Knowledge Formula: The More you Know, the More you Can Know. – Scott Adams

A smarter approach is to think of learning as a system in which you continually expose yourself to new topics, primarily the ones you find interesting. – Scott Adams

But I do think a working knowledge of psychology is essential to your success – both personally and professionally. – Scott Adams

The Math of Success. You need to figure out the odds. Are you clear about the odds in your life? Scott kept losing to his friend in tennis. He kept losing to a friend despite his standard of tennis was improving. Scott couldn’t manage the killer shots. Learn to find the blind spots in your life. He learnt to avoid the low-percentage tennis shots. See the world as math and not magic. When you fail, there is usually some pattern that caused it. Learn to figure out what is that pattern. It is important to keep brushing up on your skillset. There is a list of skills which everyone should be good at. They are 1) Public speaking; 2) Psychology; 3) Business writing; 4) Accounting; 5) Design; 6) Conversation; 7) Overcoming shyness; 8) Second language; 9) Golf; 10) Proper grammar; 11) Persuasion; 12) Technology; 13) Proper voice technique. Public speaking à He went for the Dale Carnegie course. During the course, there would be no criticism or corrections. Only positive reinforcement was allowed. Scott volunteered to go first. Everytime you spoke, you received compliments. Learn to be positive. People don’t have an accurate view of our potential. Psychology à most businesses require some knowledge of psychology. It is embedded in everything we do. Salespeople like to manipulate others by using psychology. It pays off if you use psychology in your decision making. A compliment from someone can help you in a long way. The author wanted to turn Dilbert into a feature film. Scott’s second restaurant failed as well. People like to compare your new work with your old work. If it doesn’t match up, you will receive criticism. One shouldn’t compare Dilbert with the Simpsons. They are so different in every aspect. Without Simpsons, Dilbert might have reached a new level. Learn about psychology and cognitive traps. Learn to know what you are vulnerable against. Make psychology your lifelong study. There are over 30 biases that the human mind is susceptible to. Scott did learn about hypnotists. Reasons are one of the factors in which people use to make their decisions. Sometimes, no reasons are necessary and people are irrational. Business writing à Learn to write with clarity and persuasiveness. There was some technique to this. Business writing is all about getting to the chase and getting to the point. Use direct instead of the passive voice. Passive writing adds up and causes reader fatigue. Use clean writing to be persuasive. Accounting à it is the language of business. Learn to create a cash flow projection. Design à We are all expected to know some form of designing. Design is rule based. Everything should conform to a few basic templates. Use the L-shaped layout. Leave one quadrant less busy than the right. Learn a few design tricks if you can. Conversation à Most people are skilled at this. Conversations can occur for many reasons What’s your name? Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do for a living? Do you have any hobbies/sports? Do you have any travel plans? Humor is not a good way to meet someone new. Ask people personal questions. Learn to fake social confidence. Look for something in common. Ask questions and don’t complain too much. Let others talk and change topic when you get stuck. Make the other party feel good. Smile and keep your body language open. If you are attractive, you shouldn’t talk too much. Be a master of short stories. It is good to have a backlog of stories in your bag. Learn to tell a funny story. Prepare before sharing a good story. Keep it brief. Fill in the story with characters. Pick stories that readers can relate to. Have a twist in the tale. Avoid topics like food, TV show plots, dreams and medical stories. Overcoming shyness à Some people are more naturally shy than others. Imagine that you are acting instead of interacting. Act like someone else. Fake your way past your shyness. Find out who are the thing people and the people people. You can learn it too. Always think that you can overcome your shyness. Learn to exercise your ego. Suppressing shyness takes practice. The more you put yourself in embarrassing situations, the easier it will become. Second language à It can open up your job opportunities. It is a huge competitive advantage. Golf à It is a good way for men to bond. It is a fairly universal activity. Golf is like a vacation for the mind. It is extraordinary. Golf is a great competitive advantage too. Golf is a great topic as well. Proper Grammar à If your grammar sucks, people will notice. Persuasion à you will use this very often. Keep reading books on persuasion. Some words are more persuasive than others. Use the word ‘because’. ‘Would you mind?’ tends to be well received. ‘I’m not interested.’ Is very good to shut the other party up. There is no need to offer a reason. ‘I don’t do that.’ is a very good conversation ender. ‘I have a Rule’. ‘I just wanted to clarify’. ‘Is there anything you can do for me?’. This is just between you and me. Not everyone is completely decisive. People respond to your energy levels. It is contagious. The craziest person is usually in control. Crazy + Confident people work. Is Persuasion the same as manipulation? No, not really. Technology (Hobby Level) à One needs to understand how the Internet works. Master it at a hobby level. It helps to have different vocal strategies. Learn to speak with proper breath control, tone, and mouth strategies. A commanding voice is highly correlated with success. Your body language etc will show your management potential. Women loved his professional voice. Learn to use a low voice. Breathe from the bottom of your lungs. Your belly button should be the one that is expanding and contracting as you breathe. Pick a tone. Penetrate noisy areas by using a high pitched voice. Posture is important as well. Use silence to substitute the ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’.

You can’t directly control luck, but you can move from a game with low odds of success to a game with better odds. – Scott Adams

The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism. – Scott Adams

If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise. – Scott Adams

Don’t assume you know how much potential you have. Sometimes the only way to know what you can do is to test yourself. – Scott Adams

You’ve heard the old saying that knowledge is power. But knowledge of psychology is the purest form of that power. – Scott Adams

Accounting is part of the vocabulary of business, and if you don’t understand it on a concept level, the world will be a confusing place. – Scott Adams

You can pay others to do your accounting and cash-flow projections, but that only works if you can check their work in a meaningful way. – Scott Adams

The technique (talking to strangers) is laughably simple and 100% effective. All you do is introduce yourself and ask questions until you find a point of mutual interest. – Scott Adams

I would go so far as to say that 99% of the general public love talking about themselves. – Scott Adams

If you’re unattractive – and this is my area of expertise – your conversation skills (with a stranger) will be especially important. – Scott Adams

But as with swimming, we can learn to overcome shyness with a little practice. – Scott Adams

If you’re a woman looking to increase your buying power in the dating pool, golf is a great competitive advantage. And you might enjoy it too! – Scott Adams

Being a good persuader is like having a magic power. – Scott Adams

Life is messy and you’re going to be right only sometimes. You’ll do everyone in your life a favor by acting decisively, though, even if you have doubts on the inside. – Scott Adams

Pattern Recognition. Continually look for patterns in life. Measure your chances of success. Successful people. Learn to imitate the successful people. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are rather good. 1. Be Proactive; 2. Begin with the end in mind, 3. Put first things first, 4. Think win-win, 5. Seek first to understand then be understood, 6. Synergize, 7. Sharpen the saw by learning. The author came up with a list as well, here goes. 1. Lack of fear of embarrassment, 2. Education (the right kind), 3. Exercise. A lack of fear of embarrassment is what allows one to be proactive. Learn how to handle failure. You improve your psychological bravery. People with the right kind of education have almost no risk of unemployment. Good health is a baseline requirement for success. Sick people can’t get much done. Work brings extra energy and vitality. Learn to exercise 5 to 7 days a week. Success is a learnable skill.

I believe exercise makes people smarter, psychologically braver, more creative, more energetic, and more influential. – Scott Adams

Physical fitness and daily exercise are correlated with success in business and in life. – Scott Adams

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