Nine Pints by Rose George

This year hasn’t gone well for me in terms of keeping up with my writing routine. I’ve been spending lots of time reading data-related topics and practicing coding challenges to improve my technical skills as a data engineer. This along with my job moving to work from home 6 months ago due to COVID has made it challenging to keep up with my habits.

As I type and reflect, this made me further understand the importance of setting achievable goals and adjusting your mindset when your day to day routine is affected. Due to me moving out and gyms being closed due to COIVD, my goals of practicing piano and working out became hard to achieve. As I started to not keep up with these habits, it also negatively impacted my discipline to accomplish the rest of my weekly goals.

I’ve reflected on my goals and redefined it so it’s achievable and relevant. I’ll start with a low baseline and turn on the intensity after I’m accustomed to the frequency of the habits I’ve set for myself. Besides this, I’m going to dive back into meditation as I felt like I was not as good at dealing with distractions compared to when I was meditating. Hopefully, if you are in a similar scenario, you can also reflect and redefine your goals to see if this can help you get back to your routine.

BLOOD-PINTS

The first book I’ve read while working from home is Nine Pints by Rose George. It’s a book about blood which drew my interest as it’s such a vital part of me which I know so little about. Rose covered topics which includes the usage of leeches, blood transfusions, HIV, and menstruation.

Rose George is an English journalist and writer best known for her non-fiction, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. Rose’s ability to dive deep into a topic and her persistence to understands really shines through as she traveled to India, Nepal, South Africa, and the Canadian prairies to conduct her research.

Rose started out with a visit to a leech farm in Wales. The connection between leeches and blood seems apparent, however, I was still amazed to learn that leeches were widely used as a medical instrument and at times treated like a cure-all prescription in the 1800s. And even though it’s not popular now, leeches are still being used medically due to its natural abilities to increase blood circulation and to break up blood clots.

Moving to Canada, Rose investigated the business side of blood as well as the ethical and safety aspect of selling blood and plasma. When corporations are allowed to profit off of blood, they can take advantage of people in need and target people in poor neighborhoods. By paying the donors, it will also entice people to lie about their medical status which will put unsafe blood in the pipeline to be transfused.

Rose then went into great depth to talk about menstruation. It’s very insightful to learn about all the troubles that come with menstruation. For developing countries, this can be a huge issue. When Rose was in Nepal, she discovered that there’s a tradition of women having to sleep in slacks during their period due to the belief of women bringing bad luck when menstruating. A lot of the women interviewed were firm believers of the tradition as it’s usually passed down from their family and so engrained in their culture. Rose further talked about how unaffordable sanitary pads are to women in some regions which force women to use whatever they can find instead which can often lead to infections and diseases due to poor hygiene. This further highlights the importance of further education on menstruation especially in developing countries.

Nine Pints is a very informative and insightful book on blood. It shines light on many aspects of blood that my review doesn’t cover. I’ll definitely recommend this book if you want to learn more about blood or want to read a different topic.

I started my blog as a way to document my learnings and improve my writing after I’ve read Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk, but I must say I really do enjoy writing again. 🙂

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

It’s been around 3 months since I published my previous blog post. I went back home to Taiwan for three weeks to attend my friend’s wedding and also spent a couple of days in Korea to visit my family there. After I returned to Toronto, I’ve started to get back to my usual routine this past month and I’m happy to be back.

How to Win Friends & Influence People is a book I read around 2 months ago. It’s harder to recall the details of the book but it also gives me a better idea of what I took away. After reviewing my notes, I remember that I find the book a bit dragged out with examples that often illustrate the principles in the best-case scenarios. To clarify I do believe the examples did indeed happen, it’s just that the outcome of some of the examples can easily be undesired under different circumstances.

All in all, I do find the book filled with many principles everyone can use and learn from. If you practice the principles it teaches, it can definitely be a very impactful book.

Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers

If you involve someone in the decision-making process, you will get better buy-in from that person. And if you let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers, the person will champion it.

This does not mean you should try to trick someone into coming up with an idea they don’t believe in. Instead, ask questions to help them see different perspectives that they might not have considered. They might end up with a different idea than you do and that’s ok. When a team is brainstorming ideas, the goal is to come up with the best decision possible.

In a performance-driven society where demonstrating your value can be the key to a promotion or a raise, you might think twice before giving other people credit for your idea. I’ll say try to help others grow, share the credit, contribute to a better work environment, and most likely, things will work out for you. 🙂

Throw down a challenge

For my 2019 resolutions, I’ve set weekly goals for me to accomplish. For example, I had practicing piano for 30 minutes 3 times a week as a weekly goal. It has helped me to keep my focus and to make incremental progress consistently.

Seeing the effects it had on myself, I’ve started to throw down challenges for my friends and colleagues. Usually, the conversation will start with a desire to achieve something. I’ll follow up with “when are you going to start doing this then?” This is very helpful to get people to start thinking about how their goal can be accomplished or for them to start listing out the reasons which prevent them from accomplishing it. Often times, the reasons listed are solvable. For example, the reason for not starting kickboxing can be having a foot injury. I’ll then follow up with questions such as “when will you fully recover?” and “when will you start rehabbing on a daily basis?” When you are trying to motivate people to accomplish their goals, the key is to get people to commit to an actionable step with a specific timeline.

Commitment secured! But don’t stop there! You want to help others achieve their goals. Remember to follow up and encourage. If a commitment is set for Thursday, ask the person to set up a phone reminder or even check up yourself. And when the person is able to deliver on their commitments, be happy for them and let them know about it.

Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to

Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. This might sound counterintuitive as we often heard quotes such as respect is earned. However, if someone is given a reputation as a hard worker, the person will be incentivized to work harder to not let down the team and his own reputation. By giving others a fine reputation, you are also more likely to get him to listen to any constructive feedback you might have.

“the average person,” said Samuel Vauclain, then president of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, “can be led readily if you have his or her respect and if you show that you respect that person for some kind of ability.”

So rather than only giving people credit after they’ve earned it, try giving them a fine reputation to live up to until they have shown that it’s not warranted.

Summary

This is not a book I would recommend as I’m not a fan of the writing style. However, it is filled with principles that are beneficial when you practice them so I can see why this book is so popular. The principles it teaches definitely bring a lot of value so please don’t let me discourage you from reading it. 🙂

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

It depends on the genre and the occasion, but when people ask me for my book recommendations, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, and Educated by Tara Westover were often the first books that came to my mind. Now I’m adding Bad Blood to that list, if not at the top of the list.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley by John Carreyrou details the rise and fall of Theranos, a multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes was a Stanford dropout with a vision to make lab testing quicker and more accessible by requiring blood samples as small as a single drop. With the ease of the sampling procedure and the proclaimed 4 hours on average test result completion time, Theranos’s revolutionary device would allow lab testing to be done more frequently and for doctors to adjust drug prescriptions sooner if needed. This can lead to the early detection of diseases and save lives. Holmes’s charisma, determination, and relentless drive along with Theranos’s proprietary lab testing device attracted multiple credible investors and vaulted Theranos to a $10 billion peak valuation. There was only one problem. The technology never worked.

Despite Theranos’s high turnover rate and the apparent technology issues known internally, Theranos’s problems never made it to the public. With a culture of secrecy and intimidation, employees are often isolated from other departments. The computer network is closely monitored and confidentiality agreements are often presented when employees leave. In 2014, Holmes started gaining more popularity and appeared on the covers of reputable media companies including Fortune, Forbes, and the New York Times. However, Holmes and Theranos’s fate started to change when John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal received a tip from Adam Clapper, a pathologist who ran an industry blog.

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John Carreyrou is a two times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist best known for his reporting on corporate scandals. Carreyrou started investigating Theranos in late 2015 after he finished “Medicare Unmasked”, a project that forced the American government to release important Medicare data kept secret for decades.

The journey to uncover the truth behind Theranos’s deceptions was challenging to say the least. Barely any employees who’ve worked for Theranos in the past were willing to answer Carreyrou’s calls due to fear of reprimand from Holmes. And many of the few sources who were willing to speak on the condition of anonymity went silent after Holmes discovered their identities. Carreyrou himself was pressured multiple times to drop the story. When that didn’t work Holmes turned to Rupert Murdoch, the founder of The Wall Street Journal’s parent company who also happens to be the biggest investor in Theranos in 2015, to kill the story. Luckily Rupert rejected Holmes’s request citing that he trusted the paper’s editors to handle the matter fairly. The relentlessness that Holmes showed in shutting down this story further speaks to Carreyrou’s amazing investigative efforts.

Even though Bad Blood is a non-fiction but the clarity of facts and people’s accounts are so well encompassing that it feels like Carreyrou was looped in on every email and phone call. However, what I’m most impressed by is how matter of factly Carreyrou was able to tell this story. Carreyrou was able to cast his opinion aside and simply let the readers make their own conclusions with the series of facts presented.

I’ll say this is my most enjoyable read ever. The storyline is so compact and thrilling that it’s hard to put down the book. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do if you decide to learn how Holmes and Theranos were able to fake its way to a $10 billion valuation despite being in one of the most highly regulated industries.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I’m drawn to historical fiction and since A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is one of the few historical books on the discount bookshelf, I naturally picked it up hoping for a good read as I learn a few things about Russia. Granted, my Russian friend and coworker, Yuriy, quickly pointed out to me that I should not look to learn about Russia from a fictional book especially when it’s not written by someone with a Russian background. That, of course, did not stop me from asking him to clarify some of my newfound “knowledge” about Russia afterward.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a historical fiction that narrates the life of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. The story takes place after the Russia Revolution where the Count is sentenced to spend his life under house arrest at Moscow’s Metropol Hotel for writing a counter-revolutionary poem. The story then follows the Count to see how he’s able to navigate the different challenges one can have being confined to one location.

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Moscow’s Metropol Hotel is a real historic hotel known for being the largest extant Moscow hotel built before the Russian Revolution. The hotel was designed to be a cultural center with facilities such as a theatre and indoor stadiums. It was one of the most luxurious hotels at the beginning of the 20th century and often attracted wealthy and governmental figures.

Even though there might not be a better hotel one would want to get sentenced to house arrest at the time, a story centered on a protagonist’s life at a hotel for over 30 years can easily turn out to be dull. This story, however, works due to the character development of Count Rostov.

The Count is a know it all and the ultimate gentleman. He’s extremely well mannered and at the same time witty. He always knows what’s the best dish to order and the best wine to go with it. As he’s trying to master his newfound predicament, a little girl aged around 7, Nina, befriended him at his table during dinner one night. Nina would then explore the hotel with the Count and later bring him one of the most profound moments of his life.

Amor Towles is an American investment professional turned novelist best known for his novels, Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow. You can tell from his novel how descriptive and detail-oriented he is. He says the Count “reviewed the menu in reverse order as was his habit, having learned from experience that giving consideration to appetizers before entrees can only lead to regret.” This is just an example of how masterful Amor Towles is at using descriptions to help us understand and connect with the characters.

I find Amor Towles’s writing style as a contrast to Stephen King’s. Whereas Stephen King writes with a more concise style, Amor Towles is more descriptive with his words. Often times I find myself immersed in how Amor Towles is able to describe certain mundane details to enrich our connections with the characters but at times I also found certain details unnecessarily elaborated. All in all, this is a book that I enjoyed reading which I learned something out of.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.

On Writing by Stephen King

My reading list was comprised of books recommended by friends, coworkers, and well-known CEOs online. I began to find that the books I read oftentimes end up having similar themes, so this time I decided to try something new. I went on Twitter and provided my book recommendations while at the same time requested people to provide me with theirs as well.

Here’s a list of books suggested to me via Twitter (thanks to Crystal):

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks
On Writing by Stephen King

Not only did I never hear about any of these books before, but I also have never thought about reading some of these topics. This is exactly what I wanted. Even though I write blog posts occasionally but it never occurred to me to read books on writing. Having read On Writing by Stephen King I plan to put more focus on my writing.

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Stephen King, a well-known author most known for his work in horror fiction, has more than 350 million copies of his books sold. Many films, which include The Green Mile which I have frequently watched in the past, were based on his books.

On Writing by Stephen King details how Stephen became the writer he is today followed by a few of his writing tips. Stephen has a way of writing that transitions story in an engaging yet concise manner. I would be reading about how Stephen is dealing with numerous publisher rejections to how Stephen found success with his first published novel, Carrie, in the span of my 30 minutes commute.

In regards to his writing tips, it is nothing new that you won’t find in a writing/grammar book. However, as someone who’s not a prolific writer, I do find some of it useful. There’s one advice in particular which I have already started applying in my previous blog post:

In expository pose, paragraphs can (and should) be neat and utilitarian. The ideal expository graf contains a topic sentence followed by others which explain or amplify the first.


Topic-sentence-followed-by-support-and-description insists that the writer organize his/her thoughts, and it also provides good insurance against wandering away from topic.

I’m still working on it but I find this simple advice very useful. Previously when I write, I break out to a new paragraph with no clear structure. Sometimes it can seem like I’m just spitting out words as it comes to my mind. But since reading On Writing, I spend more time thinking about how I should structure my paragraphs which helps me organize my thoughts.

Upon reading his advice, I immediately flipped back and started to see if Stephen practices what he preaches which he does. Each paragraph has a main point it’s trying to convey through its topic sentence supported by the remaining sentences. If a point only has two sentences then so be it. There’s no need to unnecessarily expand a paragraph longer than it’s needed to convey your message across.

Stephen King also provides a few more writing tips such as “the adverb is not your friend” and “one of the cardinal rules of good fiction is to never tell us a thing if you can show us” that you can learn more about in his book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and got some insights on the career path of a writer and some of the challenges that come with it. If you are someone interested in a writing career or someone who wants to learn more about writing, then I’ll recommend this book to you.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.

Upheaval by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond is best known for his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1998. He is a polymath and is well versed in subjects including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology.

In his latest book, Upheaval, Jared examines if we can have a better understanding of national crises by drawing from our learnings from individual crises. Crisis therapists have studied how people navigate through crises for decades and have identified a set of core success factors in determining a person’s capability in navigating through a crisis. However, when it comes to national crises, there are limited studies due to its complexity and scale. Jared then applies these individual success factors on a few selected national crises to see if we can draw any parallels and have a better understanding of past national crises to make better decisions in the future.

Jared analyzes national crises from Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, and Australia. These are the nations that he has either lived in or is more familiar with through the experience of his friends or family. By no means is this a representative sample of all nations, which Jared himself points out. The nations are not only examined based on the success factors but also contrasted against each other to further analyze how a given factor can impact a crisis’ resolution.

Jared ends the book by mentioning how nations can learn from past mistakes and from other nations as well. Nations have various degrees of success in their implementations of systems such as health care, education, and transportation. Rather than reinventing the wheel, nations like individuals can learn from each other and better improve the lives of its people.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Jared Diamond’s Upheaval. History is an area where I’ve been weak in, which is part of the reason why I love reading books with some historical context. And to be able to learn more about 6 nations through one book makes it a very worthwhile read. Jared is masterful at explaining complex matters in simple terms. To condense the analysis of 6 national crises in a book under 500 pages is beyond impressive.

Although I enjoyed the book very much and would absolutely recommend it, I did not see the point of drawing parallelism from individual crises to national crises. Some of the analysis on the success factors do help bring more clarity to the understanding of national crises, but at times the connection seems forced. The importance of the factors can be examined more and some factors seem better to be left out.

If you are into history books like I am, I’ll recommend this book to you. It by no means give a holistic view of the national crisis, however, it is a great starting point for you to get exposed to these nations’ history.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

We are constantly reminded of people’s opinions of us. It can be well-intentioned expectations from our family and friends or non-constructive criticisms from complete strangers. With the prevalence of social media, it not only opens up a floodgate to others’ opinions of our publicized thoughts but it also shows a glimpse of how others are doing in their lives. The effects of this can be harmless and at times even beneficial, however, it is when we give others’ opinions too much weight or use people’s life updates as a measurement to compare ourselves against where it can become extremely detrimental.

Focus on What’s Meaningful to You

To not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.

There are always things that can be better, which naturally means there are always problems that we can solve. With all the problems that we have, it can feel overwhelming at times with our limited time and energy. So narrow down on what is important and meaningful to you for you to focus on.

Another key to getting less bothered by problems is the ability to put things into perspective. Many problems we face are upgraded problems that other people are dealing with. Not having healthy food options can be seen as an upgraded problem of not having enough food to eat. Not having enough food to eat can be seen as an upgraded problem of struggling to find food to stay off of starvation. These are all very important problems that are worth solving, but the point is that the mindset you have can greatly affect your experience in working through that problem.

The more things that you care about, the more things that can affect you. So make sure to “give a fuck” to what is truly meaningful to you.

Our Struggles Determine Our Success

Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who run triathlons and have chiseled abs and can bench press a small house.

This is my favorite line of the book. To be great in any industry, the work is done in your preparation. For example, to be an NBA star player, it’s not only about enjoying playing basketball games. There are numerous people in the world that not only enjoy playing basketball but also have the talent to go along with it. However, the NBA players that stand out in the league are those who are willing to struggle through the process of dedicating thousands of hours in the gym to perfect their craft and their conditioning, analyzing game tapes to see what can be done better, studying and understanding plays, and the list goes on.

The work involved in the preparation is oftentimes redundant and even boring. You don’t have to enjoy every or even any part of it, but you need to be willing to sustain it. So if you want to be great at a given profession, it’s not only about considering the performance aspect of it but also thinking about whether you are willing to put in and sustain the work required. The work you put into night in and night out will determine who you become, so choose and develop the habits that will lead you to where you want to go.

Summary

Mark Mason teaches important lessons on how to focus on what’s meaningful to lead a happier life. I didn’t enjoy the book because I was already familiar with the key takeaways. However, Mark is engaging in the way he writes and the content can be very beneficial for those who feel overwhelmed by the problems they are facing. Here’s where you can get the book if you are interested.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading Upheaval by Jared Diamond.

 

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading Harari’s previous book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harari discussed the progression of humankind and posed thought-provoking questions such as how humans became the most dominant species of the planet and what are the associated consequences. A sneak peek of Harari’s following book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow was included in Sapiens. It briefly discussed how human’s behavior can subconsciously be impacted by the history of humankind. It then poses further questions on where humankind is heading towards based on past progression as well as the development of artificial intelligence. I’m not particularly interested in reading one person’s speculation of the future so I didn’t end up getting the book. But thanks to my friends, Annie and Patrick, for getting me this book for my birthday I ended up reading it and will share my takeaways below.

This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.

Homo Deus

Harari discussed the possibility of humans being upgraded to superhumans or human god (“Homo Deus”) with the help of technology. Humans have reduced mortality from starvation, disease, and violence and our next challenge can be to overcome old age and to prevent death itself. After all, the cause of human death can always be boiled down to some sort of malfunction or degradation of the human body such as the heart stops pumping blood and cancerous cells. It might seem farfetched, but death is essentially caused by numerous technical problems which can all be worked on and possibly resolved.

Besides using technology to cure wounds, eliminate diseases, and possibly cheat death, technology can also be used to upgrade humans. With implants and prosthetic limbs, technology has already restored and in some cases upgraded human’s ability to perform daily tasks. The growing understanding of the brain and human genome can possibly help us engineer superhuman with the preferential genes that can outperform “regular” humans.

Although this does paint an optimistic future for humankind, it does present new challenges. If we gain the ability to upgrade our cognitive abilities or to select the genetic makeup of our children, what will be the impact on the non-upgraded humans? As technologies have usually shown to be first available to the wealthiest in the past, will this cause a bigger divide in society and stall social mobility?

Human’s Role Going Forward

Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working. Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives, and to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Many if not most humans may be unable to do so.

Artificial intelligence has been the big topic for several years now and there are more and more resources invested in this field. An AI defeated a chess grandmaster for the first time in 1988 and a reigning human world chess champion in 1997. And in 2016, it defeated one of the world’s top player in go, which is widely regarded as one of the most complex board games.

With the development of artificial intelligence, more and more tasks can be performed by machines. There might come a point where the vast majority of tasks will be performed by machines. If we do get to that point, what will be the roles of humans going forward?

Our current education system have us spending years obtaining degrees and skills to be prepared for the job market. However, in the future, the time for us to obtain a skill might outlast the time it takes for machines to render that skill obsolete. In this case, our only way to maintain our value in the workforce might be to constantly reinvent ourselves.

And let’s say that machines are able to do most of the tasks humans are able to do more effectively but humans still maintain control. In that case, what will be the purpose of humans when our problems are left for the machines to solve. What challenges can we take on?

Summary

Homo Deus is another thought-provoking book by Harari. Harari provided speculations on the future based on what has happened in the past. He’s not concerned about being right but on creating discussions around the potential future challenges of humankind.

Having read Sapiens, I found there to be too many overlapping contents. Homo Deus is a good book, but I would enjoy it much more if I haven’t read Sapiens first. If it’s me I would recommend Sapiens over Homo Deus as Sapiens is more information-heavy whereas Homo Deus has more speculation.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading Upheaval by Jared Diamond.

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

When I first came across Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, it did not pique my interest. The book cover is dull and the title seems to suggest it’s one of those books that simply elaborates on widely known concepts. However, wanting to order one more book, I added it to my online cart since the book cover shows a recommendation from Bill Gates. And if Bill Gates recommends it, then it can’t be all that bad right?

After reading the book’s introduction, my initial perception was further reinforced. Growth mindset is about believing people can develop their abilities and fixed mindset is about believing people are born with fixed traits. A growth mindset can help you fulfill your potential whereas a fixed mindset will hinder it. An entire book on this fundamental concept seems too dragged out to me. “At least it’s a short book that I can practice speed reading with” so I thought.

After the initial pages, this book quickly drew me in. The concept is indeed simple to grasp. However, the application of it and its impact on our daily lives is not something that I was actively conscious of. It helps you understand how people behave the way they do at times and how you can possibly help yourself as well as others in fulfilling their potential.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.

When you adopt a growth mindset, it changes how you approach challenges and setbacks. Failure is no longer an indication of who you are because it doesn’t measure who you can become. It’s merely feedback for you to reflect on what you can improve on. Challenges are no longer something you fear but something you cherish, because the more challenging a task is, the more room there is for you to learn and improve.

Whereas when you have a fixed mindset, you believe people have fixed traits. Failures are therefore feared upon since if your abilities are fixed, failures are not a reflection of how you did but a measurement of what you can do. A fixed mindset also makes effort disagreeable. If you are smart and you try your best, are you really that smart if you still fail? It is common to hear at exam centers people saying how little they studied and how unprepared they are. Sometimes it almost seems like it’s a competition to see who is the most unprepared. I’m guilty of doing so in the past myself. Although some people are indeed more gifted than others at a given subject, your talent is not an indication of your performance. We all know people who did great not because of any special talent, but because of their relentless effort on improving themselves.

At this point, you might be categorizing yourself either as having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset and probably the former since people tend to view themselves in a positive light. However, people can and usually do have different mindsets in different areas. This is evident when it comes to artistic abilities. Students might have a growth mindset when they are studying for subjects like history, chemistry, or math. But when it comes to artistic abilities like drawing, the word talent is very often thrown around. Yet experiments have shown that you can greatly improve your drawing skills if you learn how to see. So when you are shying away from challenges next time, think to yourself whether you are falling into a fixed mindset.

Keep in mind that the growth mindset is not only on how you view yourself but on how you view others as well. By having a growth mindset towards other people, you will be more willing to put in the effort to help them. Your peers might be underperforming now, but you know they can develop their abilities if they put in the effort. And if you are in a leadership position, don’t be too controlling and abusive as it can put your team into a fixed mindset. Make sure you foster a safe environment where people can make mistakes and learn from it without being judged.

The Danger of Positive Labels

When stereotypes are evoked, they fill people’s minds with distracting thoughts – with secret worries about conforming to stereotype.

The impact of negative labels is clear. You might get discouraged, get down on yourself, or subconsciously conform to the negative labels put on you. It still happens all the time, but the negative impact is clear which makes it easily avoidable.

When it comes to positive labels such as “You are brilliant for acing the exam!” and “Look at that beautiful portrait you did! You are so talented!”, people give out these praises without second thoughts since it usually makes people who receive them happy. What people fail to realize is when you praise someone on their talent over their effort, you are also putting pressure on the person to not fail. Since if their superior results is due to their talent, then they should keep on delivering superior results as the talent won’t just suddenly disappear. And if their performance is due to their talent, then why do they need to put in the effort?

Rather than praising someone on their talent, praise their effort instead. “Look at that beautiful portrait you did! Your hard work really paid off!”. Doing so will reinforce the value of putting in the hard work. And when they fail, it’s no longer because of who they are but about the additional effort they can put in to improve the result.

Praising people’s effort is great, but you only do it when they do put in the effort. Say your kid aces a challenge without putting in any effort. Instead of praising their effort, you can say “this question seems too easy for you, sorry let me find a harder question that will really allow you to learn”. This will teach the kid the importance of learning.

Relationships

Remember how hard it is for people with the fixed mindset to forgive? Part of it is that they feel branded by a rejection or breakup. But another part is that if they forgive the partner, if they see him or her as a decent person, then they have to shoulder more of the blame themselves. If my partner’s a good guy, then I must be a bad guy. I must be the person who was at fault.

When you are in a long term relationship, you will eventually get into disagreements with your partner. If you have a fixed mindset on either your partner or the relationship, then you will probably not believe that the relationship can be improved. And if a relationship cannot be improved, then no effort will be put towards trying to fix the problem. People with a fixed mindset will start assigning blame. They might blame themselves but often they blame their partner instead. And as time goes on, they see the problems as their partner’s character flaws.

The belief that partners have the potential for change should not be confused with the belief that the partner will change. The partner has to want to change, commit to change, and take concrete actions toward change.

When you have a growth mindset, you believe that you and your partner can improve and fix the relationship. It enables you to focus on the problem and to work with your partner towards a solution.

Summary

Carol S. Dweck is a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist. The mindset concept is simple but it is the various applications on our daily lives that makes it very insightful. I highly recommend people to give this book a read. It can have a profound impact on you as well as those around you.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

 

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Plot Summary

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk that was first published in 2015.

At the age of 17, Elon moved from South Africa, where he was born and raised, to Canada. He then studied at Queen’s University for 2 years before he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania to study business and physics. Shortly after he finished school, he started an online city guide company Zip2, which was later acquired by Compaq for US$307 million. Using his newfound wealth, Elon turned his direction to the banking industry and co-founded X.com, an online payment company, which was later renamed as Paypal after X.com’s merger with Confinity. Despite internal struggles within Paypal in which Elon was ousted from his role as the CEO, Paypal turned out to be a great success. This caught the attention of eBay which later acquired Paypal for US$1.5 billion in stock. The success of Paypal and to a lesser extent Zip2 gave Elon the confidence, the financial resources, as well as the reputation to pursue even his most ambitious dreams.

With goals which include reducing global warming through making sustainable energy more accessible and lowering the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars, Elon Musk is not your typical entrepreneur. The Elon we know today is known for innovation as well as executing on the most outlandish ideas. He certainly has his flaws which include his tendency to overpromise on project delivery dates as well as numerous counts of him being unreasonably demanding of his employees. However, one thing that no one can dispute is his relentless drive and unmatched work ethic.

elon_musk

Book Review

Despite initial push back, Elon eventually cooperated with the writing of his biography. Thanks to Ashlee Vance’s determination to complete the biography with or without Elon’s involvement, we are able to get an inside look into who Elon is and the impact he has on those around him.

By interviewing a wide range of people that were at once point close to Elon, Ashlee was able to show Elon’s role not only as an entrepreneur but as a leader, a business partner, a competitor, and a husband as well. This shed insight into how Elon is able to sustain his drive as well as how he approaches challenges.

It’s one of the very few biographies that I’ve ever read. I find it a very enjoyable read from start to finish. Elon’s story is extraordinary but the level of details which Ashlee presented is what makes it engaging and refreshing.

I’ll recommend this book If you are interested to learn how Elon got to where he is today. You will also learn a bit about the aerospace and electric car industry along the way.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts!

I’m currently reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.