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


The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell (Part 2)

Envy. Envy is very deep-seated and universal. Humans value distributive justice quite a bit. Adults also feel the same. Envy is the basis of democracy. Jealousy can happen among women too, especially when they get jealous over what each other wears. Women usually regard all other women as competitors. Men view other men in their profession as competitors. He wants to derive others of their advantages and feels good over it. Rather, one should admire rather than simply become jealous. What is the cure of envy? Envy is definitely an obstacle of happiness and largely stems from childhood. Parents who neglect their kids might be one cause of envy. Try to avoid comparing excessively. Envy is like a moral vice. If you compare your salary with someone else who is your equivalent but earning twice as much, that might make you jealous. To solve this, we should exercise mental discipline and not think profitless thoughts. There will always be someone who is smarter than you and earns more than you. If you are too modest, you might be more prone to envious feelings. It is good to be self-confident. Envy is closely connected with competition. Democracy has increased the range of envy. All bad things are interconnected. Fatigue is a frequent cause of envy. One way to diminish envy is to diminish fatigue. If you feel you have enough to bring up your kids the right way, you will be unlikely to feel jealous of others. Instinctive happiness is important. In modern society, the human heart is more prone to hatred as compared to friendship. To find the right road, Man must enlarge his heart as well as his mind.

Of all the characteristics of ordinary human nature envy is the most unfortunate; not only does the envious person wish to inflict misfortune and do so whenever he can with impunity, but he is also himself rendered unhappy by envy. – Betrand Russell

The habit of thinking in terms of comparisons is a fatal one. When anything pleasant occurs it should be enjoyed to the full, without stopping to think that it is not so pleasant as something else that may possibly be happening to someone else. – Betrand Russell

You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself. – Betrand Russell

When a man feels inadequate to the work he has to do, he feels a general discontent which is exceedingly liable to take the form of envy towards those whose work is less exacting. – Betrand Russell

But by far the most important thing is to secure a life which is satisfying to instinct. – Betrand Russell

The positive sum of pleasures in a modern man’s life is undoubtedly greater than was to be found in more primitive communities, but the consciousness of what might be has increased even more. – Betrand Russell

Man knows there is something better than himself almost within his grasp, yet he does not know where to seek it or how to find it. In despair he rages against his fellow man, who is equally lost and equally unhappy. – Betrand Russell

The Sense of Sin. Sin is one of the main causes in adulthood. Some do not believe that if you sin, your conscience will prick you. Conscience could also mean the fear of being found out. People avoiding sinning because of the risk that they would be discovered. Also, it would be difficult to explain to your friends why you committed a crime. Sin also has its roots in the unconscious. However, one should wallow in self-pity even though you have sinned. Saints would not simply do something because it gave them pleasure. Rationally, drinking would be okay if it gave you pleasure but no counter-balancing pain to oneself or to others. Hence, the logic that saints cannot drink or smoke might be a bit flawed. Sometimes, lying is justified too. The concern are that some adults teach something unwise and the kid develops an irrational sense of sin. Man must not be swayed by their moods. Moments of weakness give less insight than moments of strength. One should examine their reasons for actions and what caused the remorse. Your conscious beliefs should be firm enough to over-write your unconscious decisions. Do not let irrationality dominate you. Do not be partially swayed by reason and partially by infantile folly. A modern man can be tempted to commit harmful acts. Our nominal morality may have been shaped by priests etc and it was not derived from a study of an individual’s duty to the community. Learn to rebel against age-old traditions. A man should question superstitious morality. Sin makes man unhappy and jealous of others having a good time. Different parts of personality should be in sync so that you can be happy. A certain amount of self-reflection a day is useful. Some people think can rationally can kill all deeper emotions. I disagree. Being rational will not make your life dull as you can still pursue things like love, passion in work etc. The less inward conflicts you have, the more you can channel your energies towards the contemplation of the world. Reason is necessary in effecting a cure. The modern man is simply loving strong distractions and because they will prevent painful thought for that reason. Intoxication is his relief from pain. The greater your possession of faculties, the better.

An expansive and generous attitude towards other people not only gives happiness to others, but is an immense source of happiness to its possessor, since it causes him to be generally liked. – Betrand Russell

What I suggest is that a man should make up his mind with emphasis as to what he rationally believes, and should never allow contrary irrational beliefs to pass unchallenged or obtain a hold over him, however brief. – Betrand Russell

Nothing is so dull as to be encased in self, nothing so exhilarating as to have attention and energy directed outwards. – Betrand Russell

The greatest happiness comes with the most complete possession of one’s faculties. It is in the moments when the mind is most active and the fewest things are forgotten that the most intense joys are experienced. The happiness that requires intoxication of no matter what sort is a spurious and unsatisfying kind. – Betrand Russell

Persecution Mania. Persecution mania is a form of insanity. People feel like others will want to cause injury on them. Sometimes, they may commit acts of violence. If someone is victimized, it is likely the cause lies in himself. He might just be seeking attention. Such a patient must be able to understand. You are unlikely to feel happy if you feel you are mistreated by everybody. Almost everyone says malicious things about others. However, when others say malicious things of them, they are filled with indignant amazement. Gossip can lead to persecution mania. We should have to hide our feelings towards our friends. Never think that your misfortunes affords the key to the Universe. Do not be horrified if you do good to others but receive no gratitude. Remember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself. Don’t over-estimate your own merits. Don’t expect others to take as much interest in you as you do yourself. Don’t imagine that most people give enough thought to you to have any special desire to persecute you. The above are very valuable lessons that one should remember. Understand that not everyone else will have the same world-view as you. If nobody likes your work, perhaps it is the quality of work that is no good and one might have to accept this fact. If you want to produce quality work because of fame, it is unlikely that you will pursue the goal with much persistence. People see things from their point of view, which you may not agree. If you are a common man and think that everyone is against you, you are on the road to insanity. Never build your life based on self-deception.

It does not occur to us that we cannot expect others to think better of us than we think of them, and the reason this does not occur to us is that our own merits are great and obvious, whereas those of others, if they exist at all, are only visible to a very charitable eye. – Betrand Russell

Whatever is to be done can only be done adequately by the help of a certain zest, and zest is difficult without some self-regarding motive. – Betrand Russell

The test is this: do you produce because you feel an urgent compulsion to express certain ideas or feelings, or are you actuated by the desire for applause? – Betrand Russell

Whatever your line in life may be, if you find that others do not rate your abilities as highly as you do yourself, do not be too sure that it is they who are mistaken. – Betrand Russell

Fear of Public Opinion. Catholics do not believe in divorce. Even if your set of values differ from another person, you may be an outcast. Sometimes, if society doesn’t accept your values, you might feel like you have not been treated well. Not many are strong enough to have a brave inner life and ignore public opinion. It can be difficult to go against the social construct. Sometimes, it might be necessary to conceal your real tastes and convictions from most people in order to gain social acceptance. Hence, you mustn’t be afraid of public criticism. Sometimes, it might be good to enter a career which would give you a chance of congenial companionship, even if it means a considerable loss of income. It is okay sometimes to be out of sync with your environment and not be in harmony with it. Never let public criticism embitter you and impair your energy. The old should not simply be allowed to regulate the lives of the young. Do not simply give up because your parents tell you to. However, if professional opinion is against you, you should pay attention to it. One should not voluntarily submit to public tyranny and opinion. A society where everyone is alike can be boring too. People should be allowed to follow their spontaneous tastes. In modern society, it should be much easier to find a congenial soul. Fear of public opinion stuns growth and is oppressive. One should be themselves and have freedom of expression.

Public opinion is always more tyrannical towards those who obviously fear it than towards those who feel indifferent to it. – Betrand Russell

As a matter of fact, any man who can obviously afford a car but genuinely prefers travel or a good library will in the end be much more respected than if he behaved exactly like everyone else. – Betrand Russell

It is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbours, or even our relations. – Betrand Russell

Part 2: Causes of Happiness

Causes of Happiness. Happy comes in two forms, one that is plain and fancy or animal and spiritual. I will now describe the 2 forms of happiness. One type is only available to those who can read and write. You can be happy simply from the sufficiency of work and overcoming challenges. An example is that of my gardener. He is interested in slaying rabbits in the course of his work. However, superior people will not unlikely to find joy in this. If you are educated, you would want different activities to achieve the pleasures in life. Don’t be too sure of your abilities in life. There is no need for complex emotions. In general, society respects scientists more than artists. Artists could very well be less happy than men of science. Young people tend to be unhappy that they have no adequate employment for their best talents. Political circumstances in the West are stable and they should affect a young man’s happiness. If you feel powerless, you will not tend to be happy. A powerless guy becomes a reformer/ revolutionary. In life, not only scientists are happy. In fact, it is possible for almost everyone to derive pleasure from their work. The study of shells brings contentment to those who engage in it. There might be less handicraft work in the modern age. The ultimate aim is for machines to perform uninteresting work and humans are reserved for the work involving variety and initiative. Companionship and co-operation also make man happy. Belief in a cause can lead to happiness too. It is useful to find a cause to believe in. One can be absorbed in a hobby, for example, like stamp-collecting. The joy in your hobby can provide consolation to you if you are not making progress at work. We should not think ourselves ‘too superior’ for simple pleasures in life. Hobbies are perhaps not the fundamental source of happiness. A friendly interest in persons and things are more important. Learn to observe people and find pleasure in individual traits. Never try to exert power of others or to make them envy you. One needs to be genuinely happy in himself and not from an idea of self-sacrifice. One can also like things, like how a geologist takes an interest in rocks. Although not as important as being friendly towards others, taking an interest towards things matters too. When you take interest in something, you might be able to acquire a poise and calm which will help you deal with your troubles.

Many of the most eminent of men of science are emotionally simple, and obtain from their work a satisfaction so profound that they can derive pleasure from eating and even marrying. – Betrand Russell

All the conditions of happiness are realized in the life of the man of science. He has an activity which utilizes his abilities to the full. – Betrand Russell

Very few men can be genuinely happy in a life involving continual self-assertion against the skepticism of the mass of mankind, unless they can shut themselves up in a coterie and forget the cold outer world. – Betrand Russell

The pleasure of work is open to anyone who can develop some specialized skill, provided that he can get satisfaction from the exercise of his skill without demanding universal applause. – Betrand Russell

It is easy to find some cause which is in no degree fantastic, and those whose interest in any such cause is genuine are provided with an occupation for their leisure hours and a complete antidote to the feeling that life is empty. – Betrand Russell

We have all experienced collecting small items in boyhood, but have thought them, for some reason, unworthy of a grown man. This a complete mistake; any pleasure that does no harm to other people is to be valued. – Betrand Russell

Being happy in himself, he will be a pleasant companion, and this in turn will increase his happiness. – Betrand Russell

To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness. – Betrand Russell

The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile. – Betrand Russell

Zest. Zest is the common mark of happy men. There are those who thinking eating is a bore or uninteresting. They regard meals as common occurrences. There are those who eat from a sense of duty. There are those who eat too much as well. It is not vulgar to be able to enjoy your food. The mind needs materials from the external world, or it will remain powerless. Events only become experiences if we take interest in them. Learn to turn your attention outwards. Life is never boring to someone who can pay attention to casual objects. The more things you are interested in, the more you can adapt to the world. You can analyze passer-bys that you see. Some men who not keep an open mind and do not enjoy holidays as much. Some men choose to learn about the place, the culture etc and can better appreciate the place more. The man who has the zest for life has an advantage. Experiencing new things are good, provided they do not harm your health. Zest can be very specialized in nature. It is more important to have a general zest for life. We were not ready to praise the gormandizer. In life, there must be a balance between different activities. Do not do things in excess. Our tastes need to fit in the general framework of life. You must still be able to earn an income to buy necessaries etc. If you like chess, it is okay to look forward to playing after working hours but there is no need to give up your work to play. If you need to make sacrifices in life, ensure that you will succeed. Some men like to drink in order to forget things. Habits are regular whereas impulses are irregular. Most people do not have impulse towards the activity, but towards the rewards of the activity. Hence, people’s zest are somewhat restrained. Spontaneous impulse will not produce the necessary results too. Zest requires high energy levels and is very important. In the past, women learnt not to care about anything. This is rather unfortunate and zest is both important for men and women in life.

The man who enjoys watching football is to that extent superior to the man who does not. The man who enjoys reading is still more superior to the man who does not, since opportunities for reading are more frequent than opportunities for watching football. – Betrand Russell

The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another. – Betrand Russell

Life is too short to be interested in everything, but it is good to be interested in as many things as are necessary to fill our days. – Betrand Russell

It is quite impossible to guess in advance what will interest a man, but most men are capable of a keen interest in something or other, and when once such an interest has been aroused their life becomes free from tedium. – Betrand Russell

The man, let us say, who loves chess, if he happens to be a bachelor with independent means, need not restrict his passion in any degree, whereas if he has a wife and children and no independent means, he will have to restrict it very severely. – Betrand Russell

The man who has never been fundamentally thwarted will retain his natural interest in the external world, and so long as he retains it he will find life pleasant unless his liberty is unduly curtailed. – Betrand Russell


IIA Magazine Jun 2016 issue

A toxic culture is present when your work negatively affects your health – physically and emotionally. An example of such could be a change in management or management through fear and intimidation. The two options are to leave or to name the problem and discuss to make it better. Payroll should have continuous checks and balances. It is not good to report risks on an ad-hoc basis. Talent issues and development need to be addressed. There is a strong need to fight corruption. However, whistle-blowing hotlines might be underutilized, as employees fear retaliation after reporting. There are some companies which do not trust enterprise cloud deployments still.

The Fire Drill. Auditors can learn to deliver a focused message that results in management action. Effective planning of our work is the key. For instance, we can look at past audit findings. Next, one should compensate with competence, meaning backing up observation with data and experience. Sell with the passion of a champion. Findings should be sold to address a control weakness that is causing an unacceptable risk. One needs to communicate the big risks well. In the end, we need to deliver a focused message that can result in management action.

The Tech-Savvy Auditor. Effective use of audit technology can enable audit departments to provide valuable insights. Most IA staff are not familiar with IT or have weak IT backgrounds. This is not acceptable. Technology can lead to a more efficient audit and also might cut fraud losses. There is a need to improve the audit software. There should be a data analytics centre in-house. There is a need to review software usage.

Integrating Key Risks and Performance Indicators. IA can leverage its risk knowledge to improve operational performance and reduce risks exposures. IA can provide assurance on the achievement of objectives. IA can encourage the formalization of KPIs and KRIs. KRIs can serve as an early signal of increasing risk exposure. There needs to be a formal project charter. There needs to be a KPI framework with proper planning, reporting, monitoring etc. The key metrics need to be identified and a dashboard can help to present graphically the results. The KRI should be closely linked to the KPI.

Toxic Leaders, Toxic Culture. IA can identify unhealthy behaviors that may undermine the organization. Culture will affect an organization’s success. Therefore, identifying the toxic leader is important. Toxic leaders want power and control. These tend to be autocratic leaders. They could have a strong sense of entitlement and focus on themselves and not the organization. Exerting power through fear can undermine morale. They do not like to be challenged and seek to manipulate others. Closed-minded leaders think of ‘My way or the highway’. There is no need to confront the toxic leader. IA can refer the person to compliance or legal counsel. One can use behavioural psychology to analyse. For a more objective method, one can look at the reasons for turnover and examine turnover rates. One can also look at employee engagement survey results. One needs to use experience and facts as much as possible.

Analytics and the small audit department. No matter the size of an audit function, analytics can be implemented for big gains. How to go about using analytics? Some simple ones to consider are benchmarking, variance analysis, ROA, turnover etc. The analytics must have goals and performance measures. Selecting the right data source is the key and there is a need to verify the accuracy of the source. Brainstorming can help to identify key data. It is crucial to have a plan that will allow IA to continue to improve its analytics capability. It is important to attain small wins in analytics.

Business Risk. Keynote speakers for this year’s IIA International Conference identify emerging risks facing organizations. Cyber risks is at the top of the priority list for many. Ransomware is a big threat to hospitals nowadays. Other threats include politics, the economy and terrorism. Social media risks sometimes aren’t within an organization’s control. Auditors should use corporate culture to work in their favour. An organization must monitor the external environment closely. There should be a common understanding of what the risk appetite and risk cultures are. Audit needs to adjust fast and invest continually in education. IA now also needs to learn to be innovative.

An Anti-corruption Check-up. Capability maturity models can help organizations assess the effectiveness of the anti-corruption programs. This model was developed at Carnegie Mellon University. One can use the model to identify strengths and weaknesses. There are basically 4 levels of maturity. There are 7 components that form the basis of anti-corruption maturity model. There is a need to tally the scorecard too.

Craft Our Role. IA should create the role for themselves that is best for both the organization and their own personal development. IA needs to be ingenious, use creativity and resourcefulness when developing their role. Do not limit the scope to be too small. It is important to be familiar with the business in order to value add properly. The control environment needs to be evaluated properly. One can develop business acumen. It is crucial to ask the right questions. IA should network more with the other departments to build rapport and also to get a feel about the management style in the department. Learn to practise combined assurance. One can work with another dept for a joint review. This is the way to maximize external resources.

Fraud and related-party transactions. IA can identify red flags and reduce the risk and impact of related-party fraud. IA need to be able to recognize related-party fraud risks. Providing loans at below market rates is a red flag. Failing to disclose the related-party nature of the loan is a red flag. IA should try to identify related party transactions. Try to identify whether employees have link to companies that transact with the organization itself. It is also possible to compare cost variations among vendors to see how they differ from the average cost. The organization should not pay costs significantly above market prices.

Communicating Results. Sharing audit observations is one of the most important tasks auditors perform. Communicating properly can help enhance rapport. Make sure the observations are correct and are not challenged by management. Plan the timing of issue dissemination, which is as soon as possible. Try not to surprise management at the end of the audit. Write clearly. Exercise diplomacy.

‘One of the quickest ways to lose management’s respect is to make it clear that IA does not understand what is has been auditing. The answer is to take the time to learn the business, processes, and risk associated with the audited area.’

Care and Feeding of The Company’s Culture. How can IA help to ensure a healthy organizational culture? Auditing culture is certainly work examining. Healthy organizations should have guidance on norms and expectations and a healthy tone at the top. Transparency is important. Management should think long term and have a sound strategy. Ask yourself whether the root cause is behavioural or cultural in nature. The problem with culture is that it is not clear cut and might be hard to evaluate. Those who are toxic in nature might be held accountable and be responsible.



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.




Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 2)

Taking Back Joy. When I listened to a happy song from childhood and started dancing, I felt happy. Survivor guilt can rob you of your joy. After his passing, I tried to have fun with my children. We took things that reminded us of Dave and made it part of our lives. Allow yourself to be happy and be kind to yourself. Joy has to come your within yourself and no one else. How you spend each day matters more than only the big moments of joy. Do the small things that make you happy. Write down the moments of joy each day. Happiness does require work. Humans are wired to focus on the negative as compared to the positive. The cool breeze could be a positive moment for gratitude too. Happiness can equate to peacefulness too. Try to engage in something challenging and engrossing that can give you that flow state. Exercise can help you to achieve that flow state quickly. Joy can give us strength too. You can find joy in the small moments that you seize and create for yourself.

Raising Resilient Kids. One way is to respond to embarrassment with humour. It is wise to just announce the sad news to your kids directly. We owe it to our children to make them as happy as possible. Early intervention is critical. The school needs to protect a safe environment for kids. Disadvantaged families should be provided with home visits and counseling. Resilience is a lifelong project. Children must develop these few beliefs: they have some control over their lives; they can bounce back from failure; they matter as human beings; they have real strength. It is important to help them understand that they are in control of their lives. Pre-school has a huge role to play in this. Allow your kids to share their dreams with others. It is important to get an education. Kids should adopt a growth instead of fixed mindset. Sometimes, complimenting too soon doesn’t work. Rather, one should comment ‘I’m glad you tried your hardest’. Adults need to tell the kids that they matter. In Denmark, children are encouraged to share their problems in class. Help your kid identify his strengths by making him pick up skills. For instance, you could encourage the kid to pick up a musical instrument. Respect your feelings and try not to suppress them. Sleep matters even during times of adversity. Learning how to forgive is also extremely important. Do not afraid to ask for help and encourage your kids to do so. Sometimes, I still talk about Dave as it helps to keep Dave’s memory alive. If your kids can have a strong understanding of your family members and their parents, they have been coping skills. Nostalgia is usually good as it reflects a pleasant state most of the time. Make the most out of Option B. Keep photos and videos of your loved ones as these help to create happiness.

Finding Strength Together. Hope is the key to resilience. It is possible to bond over hope and create a shared identity. People can pray together. It is important to change tragedy into a miracle. Keep your faith at all times. There is unity in strength. Collective resilience is also dependent on shared experiences etc. Attending support groups can also help you deeply. It might be wise to join a community after a tragedy. Asking for help is actually not a sign of weakness. Shared narratives can play a big part. It is also useful to be lifted by positive ‘stereotypes’ right at the start. Support circles help to build collect resilience. It can certainly be difficult to forgive a gunman who killed so many people. As a community, we can gather together to tackle the tough problems in life. Empowering communities can be the key sometimes. As a community, we can learn to support vulnerable groups.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King Jr

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. – Martin Luther King Jr

Failing and Learning at Work. I took my kids to visit SpaceX. We need to learn from our failures. Often, we are too proud to admit that we made a mistake. The majority of things that people regretted was the actions they failed to take. Move fast and break things. At Facebook, we go for teambuilding and often fail at challenges. Failure must be seen as a learning opportunity. You could ask colleagues what their biggest screw-up is and everyone could compete to see who the biggest screw-up is. Resilience is needed in all organizations of all sizes. We need to all focus on learning from failure. Ask for feedback on how you can improve. Learn to gather and act on negative feedback. We all have our own blind spots but often ignore them. Feedback is hard to take. Sports teams often learn from their mistakes. Learn to take suggestions from a coach too. Try not to treat the feedback personally. People are afraid of criticizing others. Everyone should have at least 1 hard conversation in the past.

The more times a government or company had failed, the more likely they were to put a rocket into orbit successfully on the next try. Also, their chances of success increased after a rocket exploded compared to a smaller failure. – Sheryl Sandberg

When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. – Sheryl Sandberg

To Love and Laugh Again. Being alone can be an empowering decision indeed. Getting married increases one’s happiness just by a bit. I wanted to find love again after Dave passed on. If you date too soon, people may judge you. Men are more likely to date after their spouse has passed on. The responsibility of caring for children and aged parents seems to fall on the women more. Widows in some parts of the world are cruelly treated. Do not listen to others. When your heart feels like you should date, you should go ahead. However, dating does not erase the grief and that is perfectly fine. When we fall in love, we have a great sense of energy and euphoria. Dating helps brings back the humour. Eventually, one will even learn to joke about death. Joking about Dave now helps to break the tension. Humor makes situations less stressful. It is still very much possible to love someone even after they have died. It is crucial to pay attention to the everyday interaction with our partners. You must turn towards their bid. One way to re-ignite the spark in a relationship is to try new activities. Partners have to be able to overcome conflict. You can’t control whether you fall in love. There is always Option B and we can still find joy.

Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others. Finding a way to make love last through the highs and lows. – Sheryl Sandberg


Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 1)

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Introduction. I met Dave Goldberg in the summer of 1996. He was very comforting and lovely. It was love at first sight. He was assuring and very understanding. However, 11 years into our wedding, one day, he suffered from a heart attack while on a treadmill and passed on. I was in utter shock and disgust and didn’t believe that this was happening to me. My kids very truly upset too. I felt like I was in a void. At times, I felt like I could hear Dave calling out to me in my sleep. Ordinary events were painful to go through. I was worried my kids would never be the same again. The songs on the radio weren’t helping too. People encouraged to let grief run its course. Adam Grant gave me advice too. The fact is that many people who have lost parents turn out to be resilient. Time will heal the wounds, or so they said. I have no choice but to get over the shock. This book is about how to build resilience. Adversity is everywhere. I am fortunate for the support I have received throughout. It is possible to find greater meaning. Life is never perfect and sometimes we have live Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. – Sheryl Sandberg

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. – Sheryl Sandberg

Breathing Again. A friend I knew was too trusting and gave a co-worker a ride home. However, he raped her in the end. I offered this lady help. If you don’t believe in all 3, you will find it easier to cope. It is never all your fault and there are things which you might not be able to do better. Learn to stop saying ‘sorry’ after a while. Not everything was terrible after all. We had access to grief counsellors. Working also helps with the pervasiveness bit. However, if you return to work too soon, grief can interfere with the performance. Employers should provide flexible arrangements and financial assistance etc. Humans tend to overestimate how long negative events will impact us. I tried to banish the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from my vocabulary. The pain temporarily eased up after a while. Humans are also wired for grief. Deep breathing helps me to calm down. The second derivative thoughts were not pleasant at all. I learnt from Buddhism that suffering is inevitable. Over time, my kids and I learnt to respect our feelings. Sometimes, it is necessary to take cry breaks. Focusing on worst case scenarios also had me feel better. We also pray before every meal and thank God for the food. Counting the blessings in your life can make you happier and feel satisfied. We are also financially stable and that is very important to us all. Once, I went for a mammogram and I was alarmed. Thankfully, it was a false positive. Even heartache doesn’t last forever. When life kicks you under, learn to breathe again.

3 P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. – Sheryl Sandberg

Part of every misery, is misery’s shadow… the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. – Sheryl Sandberg

Dealing with grief was like building physical stamina: the more you exercise, the faster your heart rate recovers after it is elevated. And sometimes during especially vigorous physical activity, you discover strength you didn’t know you had. – Sheryl Sandberg

Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room. I went for a college reunion with some of Daves’ friends. Sometimes, asking someone about their illness can comfort them and show that you care. I felt miserable when friends didn’t ask how I was doing after Dave’s passing. People avoid asking because they want to avoid difficult questions. However, the fact is that people who have endured terrible things want to talk about them. Some parents who have lost children also want others to speak about them from time to time. ‘Mum effect’ is when people avoid sharing bad news. By remaining silent in your suffering, you isolate others. It would be good to have friends who ask you difficult questions but do not judge on your answers. People who have been through adversity can connect better with others who are suffering too. Cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions is common. The fact is that most people do not know what to say, especially when it comes to personal matters. I thought that I carrying an elephant around. A month after my husband’s passing, I shared my thoughts openly on Facebook. After that post, I received a lot of love and compassion. Not everyone will be comfortable about talking about personal tragedy. Opening up can improve mental and physical health. Instead of ‘How are you?’; ask ‘How are you today?’. I acknowledged the elephant’s presence and after opening up, many colleagues did reveal that they did not dare to speak up because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I had failed to ask him directly about his health not because I didn’t care, but because I was worried about upsetting him. – Sheryl Sandberg

When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friends who died of lemons. – Postcard

When someone is struck ill with cancer, you can ask ‘I know you don’t know yet what will happen – and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be there with you every step of the way.’ Or ‘I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. – Sheryl Sandberg

The Platinum Rule of Friendship. Adam encountered a kid, named Owen. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and later took his own life. When you are feeling stressed, you need an outlet. For instance, you can call a counsellor at any time of the day. Sometimes when we feel like reaching out to help, we might suddenly hold back because we fear saying the wrong thing or offending the person. This is like choosing escape over empathy. The trick is just to show up, showing up can make a huge difference in a friend’s life. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are not the one suffering. Instead of saying ‘I will do anything to help you’, you could say ‘let me get you a burger, let me know what you not take’. Specific acts are more useful for someone in need. Even holding someone’s hand can be a big help too. One can offer comfort to those closest to the tragedy and gain support for those further away from the tragedy. We all grieve differently. It is very rude to suggest that someone should be over their grieving period.

Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. Take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding – or better yet, action. – Sheryl Sandberg

Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence. Coming to grips with ourselves. Self-compassion is rarely talked about in our society. Everyone makes mistakes. These imperfections make us human. Self-compassion is the key to a faster recovery from trauma. Focus on the mistake and not the person’s character. Guilt and shame are completely 2 different feelings. Learn from your mistakes and own up to them. Writing down your thoughts in a journal might be useful and has much therapeutic effects. The more you acknowledge the negative emotions that you are feeling, the better you can tackle them. Talking into a voice recorder can have a similar effect to writing. Learn to understand that your worth is not tied to your actions. Self-confidence is the key. I am grateful to have a compassionate boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I start journaling and realized that it helped me tremendously. Even when you are really down, you can focus on 3 small wins and write them down daily. Just reminding that something had gone well that day can improve your day instantly. Learn to count your contributions too. Take one extra step even though you are afraid. Learn to treat those who are undergoing a tough time as regular team members and praise their work occasionally. The number of single mums are rising and a lot of them are having a tough time too. Over time, I journaled less. I want to move on and start living again. I am not alone.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give it to a friend. It allows us to respond to our own errors with concern and understanding rather than criticism and shame. – Sheryl Sandberg

This loss of confidence is another symptom of pervasiveness: we are struggling in one area and suddenly we stop believing in our capabilities in other areas. Primary loss triggers secondary losses. – Sheryl Sandberg

Bouncing Forward. The one I become will catch me. When you can’t change a situation, you will have to change yourself. Some people can experience post-traumatic growth. This means bouncing forward. It can take 5 forms: forming deep relationships; discovering meaning in life; gaining appreciation; finding personal strength and seeing possibilities. One can walk away with greater resolve. The little things do not bother you so much anymore. If you can find your why to live, you can find meaning to live. I appreciate my close ones more. If you visit poorer communities, you might start to appreciate life more. Gratitude is the key to happiness. Now, I celebrate birthdays every year. You do not need to wait for special occasions to show your gratitude. One could write thank you notes. Every day is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Going through difficult times together can cause one to forge stronger bonds together. It is also important to find meaning in suffering. One could do so via spirituality and religious beliefs. It is important to stay hopeful in your darkest hours too. Trauma can help to build resilience. Work can provide a source of meaning. You can energize yourself with meaningful work. A brush with death can lead to a new life. Some believe in co-destiny, where bereaved parents view their child’s life in a larger framework. Parents can do good, which becomes part of their child’s impact on the world.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. – Old Saying


Do Over (Make Today the First Day of Your New Career) by Jon Acuff (Part 2)

Win the Way You Won Before. We have definitely picked up skills in the past. Ask yourself what skills did you learn in the past? It need not be work skills only. What were the circumstances that conspired in your favour? You might have an audience to drive your development of the skill. Sometimes, you could have been pressured by a tight deadline. Find a new crowd you share your skill with. You could devise a reward system once you have attained a particular skill. Set a countdown on your phone to motivate yourself to do something, it could be 60 minutes or something. Don’t be afraid to devise new methods in your pursuit of new skills. Learn the strategies employed in the past to help you improve and give yourself a better chance at success. Never reinvent the wheel and always learn from your past.

Kick-Start Your New Skills with Something Fun. You can learn by necessity or curiosity. Necessity are related to work skills. Curiosity is more borne out of desire. Both types of skills are important for us. A smarter approach is to start with something fun. Developing a curiosity skill is more fun and easier than a necessity skill. Keep it simple. You only need time and knowledge at the start. Time and knowledge are more accessible than money, time, gear. You can research about it for free on the Internet. You need to make time for learning your skill too. You must decide exactly when do you want to learn it. Macro means printing out next month’s calendar. You will realize that you have more time than you think. Fear likes to tell you that you don’t have enough time. Learn to utilize your time well and in a fruitful manner. The micro is exactly which days and how many hours you will use to hone your skill. What’s consuming your calendar daily? Start your day with what matters most and that will help you the most. Work on your skill before other things get in the way. Who will help you learn this new skill? Skills are no exception. It is more fun to learn with a friend. Someone should track your progress. This person should ask you for updates on a regular basis. Check in twice a week.

If you really want to learn something, you have to decide when you are going to do it. Otherwise, you dramatically reduce your odds of actually doing it. – Jon Acuff

Days are like snowballs rolling down a hill. I don’t care how perfectly you’ve planned it, something unexpected is going to get picked up as your day rolls down the slope. – Jon Acuff

An accountability partner you only contract when you are winning isn’t an accountability partner, it’s a cheerleader. – Jon Acuff

Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be miserable, especially if you start with something fun and easy. – Jon Acuff

Skills Get Sharp Slowly and Dull Quickly. Skills will go dull if not used frequently. If you are writer, you should write daily. Once you get lazy, it will be hard to kick-start the habit again. At that time, you need motivation from friends to kick you to start again. The hardest competition you’ll ever face. The key for sportsmen is to be disciplined and do the same time every day of the week, even during off season. Learn to outsmart yourself. There is a problem with first times. First times should be the worst experience. Every time you start a new job, the skills you learn in your previous job are not useless. For every repetition you make, you should lay another brick in your foundation. You work best when skills become second nature to you. This will free up brain space for other things. If you discipline your life, it creates freedom in another. For instance, you could buy many sets of the same clothing. This will help you pare down your decision making. Your career is not shampoo. Nowadays, videos are big part of blogging. You must step into the tension of skills. Some skills cannot be simply put on autopilot, but should be on fighter pilot.

The more you can turn an important skill into a repeatable habit, the more you can trust the power of autopilot. – Jon Acuff

When you refuse to practice a skill today, it makes it harder to practice it tomorrow. Weeds of fear grow stronger the longer we wait to hustle. Get in the garden today. – Jon Acuff

Grab the Right Kind of Hammer for Your Career Ceiling. Do not build your cage. When you are stuck, you can choose to accept it or change it. Your skills will help you break ceilings. The ceiling is challenging you to break through it.

The father of every good work is discontent, and its mother is diligence. – Lajos Kassak

Should you ever stay at a bad job just because other people in your field don’t have a job? What are you really saying? That until everyone in your field is employed you can’t apply somewhere else? You can’t have another job until everyone else does? That doesn’t make any sense. – Jon Acuff

We build elaborate internal campaigns justifying where we are. We trick ourselves into thinking it’s someone else’s fault or that maybe it’s not so bad. It’s not a horrible job, it’s a good-enough job. If we stay there long enough, we eventually forget that we are even allowed to change. – Jon Acuff

I can’t tell you if in ten years I will have written five more books. But I can tell you that this year I will write one. I can’t tell you if in 10 years my blog will have 5 million readers, but I can write a new post today. – Jon Acuff

Investment 3: Character. Character is who you are. Character is the reason why people will give you another opportunity if you fail the first one. It is a pre-requisite for many things to come. Everything is personal in work. Character is impossible to ignore. Character will also determine your resilience to move things forward. Start planting your orchard and be generous and empathetic. People with bad character might win, but they may not last.

A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world’s torrent. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Plant an Orchard. Character is a slow process and takes time to build. Character is like an orchard. The trees are the character traits and the weeds threaten to destroy your orchard. Which is one character trait that you want to develop? Ask a friend if you are clueless. Trust could be something you want to work on. Take a look at your whole orchard. I was addicted to chaos and busyness. However, if you like chaos, your character falls on the wayside. Write down the jobs you’ve had. Give a brief description of your job performance. List the way you left each job. Describe the strength of the relationships you left behind. Pull the weeds as fast as you can. Narcissism is a problem. Dishonesty is a horrible weed too. Pessimism is an issue too. Pessimism can grow and it can become a problem. Apathy is a big issue as well. Apathy cripples your ability to launch a career jump.

The future is purchased by the present. – Dr. Samuel Johnson

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. – Old Saying

Most destructive of all is that apathy cripples your ability to launch a career jump. No one who is apathetic has the energy or heart to try a positive, voluntary career transition. That entire quadrant is off the table when weeds like this have grown in your orchard. – Jon Acuff

Generosity is a Game Changer. We need to be generous as it can help us greatly in our careers. It helps to breed loyalty. People will support you if you have helped them before. Do not hesitate or hold back. Greed will cost you more than you think. Generosity is always cheaper than greed. Your generosity will pay dividends. It is for long term benefits. If you find that people are exploiting you, make sure you don’t have an itchy trigger finger. Learn to draw some boundaries. You can let the person learn from a painful experience. The worst case is to avoid them. Make your definition of generosity bigger. You can be generous with your time and skills. Ideally, you should be able to do something you are good at.

Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us. – Rachel Naomi Remen

Before you make a Career Jump give generously of your time, talent and resources without keeping score. If you keep a record of who you’ve been generous to with the expectation that they’ll return the favor, you’ll build transactions not relationships. – Jon Acuff

Empathy, No Longer Just for People Who Like to Cry with Friends. You need to navigate with empathy. It means understanding someone else’s needs and acting on them. Most people are the same and they all have hopes, fears, dreams, frustrations. Having empathy allows to work with just about anyone. If you have empathy, you can do sales and sell stuff. Take time to know someone’s real story. You will understand that they might have undergone to get to where they are. Compassion is important. Fear is an amazing storyteller. Care about what the people you care about care about. Character is an orchard, it changes over time. You don’t have to quit your job to engage in a career jump, but you can do something positive and voluntary. Read less minds, ask more questions. Instead of guessing, learn to ask them directly. Simply showing up shows empathy. It doesn’t have to be big actions. Make people bigger. Ask questions to your colleagues like ‘What can I do to make you look like a rock star to your manager?’ Put someone’s needs ahead of your own. What to do when empathy is broken. Be honest and admit you were wrong sometimes.

Everybody has a story. When we don’t take the time to know someone’s story or worse, create our own version of it, we lose the chance to understand what they need, which is the first step to empathy. – Jon Acuff

Be Present. Showing up at your job is important. You have to deal with your phone, your computer, and your meetings. We use our phones way too often. If you are not present, your relationships might be threatened. When you use your phone, you are putting other people on pause. Be present with your computer. People might surf the Internet at work in their free time. We are all guilty of it. Do work while you’re at work. Be present in meetings. Learn to take notes. It is easier to hide behind a laptop by being old fashioned and taking down notes is easier. Ask at least one question during the meeting will help you to stay engaged. Turn your phone upside down. You could just not bring your phone to the meeting or something.

Never Jump without Character. You need character when you decide to chase a dream. Character helps you navigate through chaos of change. You can always rely on your character. You can’t completely eliminate chaos from your life. Over time, you get used to living with chaos. It’s time to hustle.

Investment: Hustle. We are more capable than we think. Hustle means hard work. It helps you to build on relationships, skills and your character. You don’t get anywhere without hard work. There is a thin line between hustle and hassle. Use grit, awareness and flexibility.

‘Music is in the piano only when it is played.’ Jack Gilbert

Grit is a Choice, Not a Feeling. You will feel a sense of apathy if you have given up on your dream. Grit is not fun or easy. You might have to stay up late to work hard etc. It can be ugly and messy. However, grit is a choice. You might ask, what if I don’t have what it takes? You don’t need some ultimate goal to work on Do Over. Fear will always discourage you from working hard and acting on your goal. Tell yourself that you have what it takes to try. We all get to try. What if I pick the wrong thing to hustle on and miss my opportunity? The thing about life is that you will have many opportunities that will come your way. Therefore, do not apply the once-in-a-lifetime label to things you face. Regret is much worse than fear. Which would you rather choose, fear or regret? Make grit decisions. Give your hustle some time to succeed. Counsel and lean on your relationships. Ask for awesome opportunities. Give yourself permission to be kind. Be honest to yourself. Build a grit list. It’s like running, I don’t like it but I put in on my Grid List due to the benefits I derive from it. Go with grit, don’t be most people. Don’t wait until you feel brave to hustle, choose to hustle until you feel brave.

I didn’t want to be selling insurance at 40, wondering what it would have been like to do stand-up. – Steven Wright, Comedian

If you’re going to make new relationships, you need to have grit. If you’re going to learn new skills, you need to have grit. If you’re going to have strong character, you need to have grit. If you’re going to hustle, you need to have grit. – Jon Acuff

There’s no such thing as a perfect job. There’s no job where you get to do only the things you love doing. Those don’t exist. – Jon Acuff

There will be tasks, projects and activities you have to do in your career that you hate. No matter which stage you’re in, you’ll have to do some things you don’t love. That’s why we all need a Grid List, a short list of the skills we grit our teeth and do regardless of how we feel. – Jon Acuff

Hustle Has Seasons: Use Awareness to Recognize Them. Do not try to hustle at wrong points of your life. For instance, do not hustle on a holiday as you will not feel rested or recharged. You need to ask ‘what season am I in?’ Learn to focus. Hustle is a scalpel. Doing more action might not be the solution all the time. Do not hustle too much that you neglect your family etc. Instead of blaming your boss or colleagues, ask yourself ‘Did I expect this job to be something it never would be?’ It does not mean you are a failure. It just meets that you just took a wrong path and need to find a new one. Keep your head down and hustle on your work.

Be proactive about doing that in your own life. Work on your sense of awareness. Don’t wait for someone you love to call you out. – Jon Acuff

You don’t have to know the exact path, because nobody does, but are you roughly headed in the right direction? If you want to be a musician and you’re a pharmaceutical rep working 70 hours a week, not playing any music, stop kidding yourself. That path doesn’t lead to music. – Jon Acuff

Career Yoga. You need to spend time planning your day. Things rarely go according to plan. Hustling with flexibility is the best, as it leads to less disappointment. Be flexible with your dream. The work you end up loving might not even exist yet. You have to flexible about what you study as well. Your dream will change over your lifetime. Be flexible with your definition of success. Let new be different, not old. Humans love to idealize your past when our present doesn’t meet our expectations. Have fun storming the castle. Having fun is important as it helps you to get going and to push on. Having fun helps you to prevent burnout.

Always Use This to Multiply the Moment. Hustle offers you unexpected opportunities. Overcome your fear and learn to speak to a crowd. Say yes to small opportunities and learn to build from there.

Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other. – Mary Caroline Richards

Hustle works those two ways. You hustle hard to stir up more opportunities. And then when you have one, you hustle hard to blow it up as large as it can possibly be. – Jon Acuff

Three Final Words You’ll Tell Me Someday Soon. Work can be more meaningful than we think. We have to change ourselves. We don’t get to pick a transition permanently. Your work is a lifestyle. Anyone can have a Career Do Over.

O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink, tell me, for whom are you still waiting? – Hermann Hesse