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Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson

Do you find that you get along better with certain people rather than others? It is easy to talk to some of your friends; you always found the right words and everything just flowed smoothly. There were never any conflicts, and you liked one another.

With other people, however, everything just went wrong. What you say fall on deaf ears, no matter how you conduct yourself. We call them idiots, but it’s really because we don’t understand them. This is because 

Everything you say to a person is filtered through his frames of preference, biases and preconceived ideas. What remains is ultimately the message that he understands. It is very rare that the entire message gets through exactly as you conceived it in your mind. 

Surrounded by Idiots

I recently read the book ‘Surrounded by Idiots’ by Thomas Erikson and I learned a lot about different personality types from this book. There are many ways to categorise personality and human behaviour. This book uses the widely-used method called DISA – an acronym that stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Analytic. Each of these behavior types is associated with a color – Red, Yellow, Green and Blue.

It’s important to understand the 4 different types of human behavior pattern so that we can communicate better. About 80 percent of all people have a combination of two colors that dominate their behavior. Approximately 5 percent have only one color that dominates behavior. The others are dominated by three colors.

Let’s go through each of these 4 personality types and their characteristics.

The 4 Personality Types

Red – Real Alpha  

  • Aggressive 
  • Goal-oriented 
  • Controlling 
  • Convincing 
  • Performance-oriented
  • Powerful
  • Results-oriented 
  • Intense
  • Opinionated
  • Straightforward 
  • Independent 
  • Decisive
  • Impatient 
  • Pushing 
  • Speed
  • Timekeeper
  • Ambitious 
  • Problem-solver 
  • Initiator
  • Strong-willed 
  • Pioneer
  • Innovator

A Red person is a dynamic and driven individual. He has goals in life that others may find difficult to even imagine. Reds strive forward, always pushing themselves harder, and they almost never give up. Reds are task-oriented extroverts and they enjoy challenges. They make quick decisions and are often comfortable taking the lead and taking risks. A common perception is that Reds are natural leaders. These are people who willingly take command and go to the fore. Their disposition is ideal in competitive situations such as a CEO or a president. 

Reds have no problem being blunt. When asked a specific question, they often say exactly what they think, without any frills. They have opinions on most things, and they trot their thoughts out quickly and efficiently.

Few things annoy Reds more than sluggishness. While other people may find it difficult to make a decision, Reds are prepared to make quick decisions in order to keep things moving. Once he’s decided, then it’s full steam ahead.

Reds love difficult tasks, so their level of ambition is usually boundless. The ability to manage difficult situations and challenges is the defining attribute of Red behavior.

Famous Reds: Steve Jobs, FDR, Venus Williams, Margaret Thatcher, Barack Obama and Mother Teresa.

Yellow – Heads in the Clouds

  • Talkative 
  • Charming 
  • Self-centered
  • Sensitive 
  • Needs attention
  • Communicative 
  • Spontaneous 
  • Social 
  • Inspiring 
  • Full of vitality 
  • Open 
  • Sociable 
  • Enthusiastic 
  • Adaptable 
  • Flexible
  • Optimistic 
  • Expressive
  • Creative 
  • Imaginative 
  • Easygoing 
  • Encouraging 
  • Persuasive 

Recognizing a Yellow is easy. He’s the one who’s talking all the time. He’s the one who gives answers rather than asking questions. He answers a question by telling a story that may or may not have anything to do with the issue. But it really doesn’t matter, because he will put you in a cheerful mood. Besides, his unshakably positive attitude also makes it impossible for you to feel upset for long. 

They are also very typically touchy-feely people. Like Reds, Yellows are very willing to make quick decisions, but they can rarely explain why using rational reasoning.

People with lots of Yellow in their behavior are focused on creating relationships. They inspire those around them, and the best way to achieve this is through building relationships. Yellows know everyone. They have more acquaintances than everyone else. They like everyone. A Yellow doesn’t need to know a person very well before calling him his friend. Anyone who doesn’t actively dislike them they consider to be a pal.

Just like Reds, Yellows have lots of energy. They find most things interesting, and Yellow individuals are the most curious people you’ll ever meet. Everything new is enjoyable, and a great deal of Yellow energy is spent finding new ways of doing things. Yellows want to know what’s going on. They want to be where it’s all happening, and they will make sure to be at every party. 

If there is anything that characterizes Yellow behavior, it’s unlimited optimism and enthusiasm. The Yellows’ entire being is concentrated on one thing—finding opportunities and solutions. Yellows have the unique ability to twist and turn things. To put it simply, they turn everything upside down and think outside the box. The Yellow’s intellect is very fast, which means that it can be difficult to keep up. Sometimes they can even find it difficult to explain their wild ideas.

With all their energy and optimism, Yellows are very persuasive. It’s easy for them to get carried away, seeing opportunities and solutions where others might only see a dead end. With the help of language, they really are masters at winning over people to their side. Most Yellows have a rich and varied way of gesticulating, so that they can convince you not just with their words, but with their entire bodies. But it’s not just energy and will. Yellows have a unique way of expressing themselves that sways their listeners. They often use vivid and colorful imagery when they speak, which appeals to all five senses and creates an impression that is felt by the whole body.

Famous Yellow: Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, Pippin from The Lord of the Rings and Han Solo from Star Wars.

Green – Change is Difficult 

  • Relaxed 
  • Self-controlled 
  • Composed 
  • Modest 
  • Lengthy 
  • Prudent 
  • Discreet 
  • Reluctant
  • Conceals feelings 
  • Thoughtful 
  • Considerate 
  • Kind
  • Helpful 
  • Supportive 
  • Persistent 
  • Stable 
  • Reliable
  • Loyal 
  • Producer
  • Good listener 
  • Understanding 
  • Patient

Greens are more passive than others, they are easy to deal with. They let you be yourself. They don’t demand much, and they never kick up a fuss unnecessarily.

Greens will not offend people if they can avoid it. They’d rather not offend anyone at all. They usually strive to fit in, which makes them more balanced people. They’re ideal for calming down confused Yellows and they’re excellent at warming up Blues, who, on occasion, can be a tad too cold.

You can expect a helping hand from a Green whenever you need it. They are pronounced relational people who will do everything within their power to save your relationship. And they will invest lifelong.

They are also pronounced team players. The team, the group, the family, always comes before the individual, and I would even say that societies consisting of Greens will always take care of the sick and the weak. They will not leave a friend in need; you can call them at any time. They always offer a shoulder to cry on.

Change isn’t their greatest strength, even though change isn’t completely foreign to them. If you can simply justify the change and give him enough time, even a Green will be prepared to try new things.

If a Green says that he will do something, you can be confident that he’ll do it. If it’s in his power to deliver, he will. It won’t be done in the shortest amount of time possible, but it will show up in your inbox roughly within the expected time frame. For the Green, it’s natural to look after everyone else around them.

If your organization needs reliable employees, then hire Greens. They constitute the stable core who will do the job well. They don’t have problems taking orders—as long as the orders are formulated in an appealing fashion. Greens enjoy stability and a certain predictability in the workplace, in the home, with the family, just about everywhere.

Greens are introverts, they don’t talk just for the sake of talking. When you are quieter than those around you, it’s natural that you listen. And Greens will listen. They are interested in you and your ideas. They have a genuine ear for human problems. They might not offer any suggestions or solutions, but they understand what you’ve told them. You often find Greens in the public sector, where they help others, with no concern for personal gain.

Famous Greens: Mr. Rogers, Gandhi, Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter and Jesus.

Blue – In Pursuit of Perfection

  • Seeks facts
  • Correct
  • Quality-oriented
  • Perfectionist
  • Scrutinizes
  • Meticulous 
  • Systematic 
  • Questioning 
  • Conscientious 
  • Conventional 
  • Logical 
  • Analytical 
  • Objective 
  • Structured 
  • Methodical 
  • Follows rules 
  • Reflecting 
  • Needs time 
  • Quiet
  • Reserved 
  • Distant 

Blues check their facts before they open their mouth. If the question doesn’t come up, it’s unlikely that your Blue buddy will say anything on the subject. He has no need to tell everyone about what he knows. But you can usually bank on the fact that what he says is correct.

Blues are impressively modest to avoid making a fuss, even if you know everything. It’s usually sufficient that you, the Blue, are clear about who knows best. A Blue may know a thing or two, but because Blues often miss the big picture, they don’t always act immediately. He knew that he knew the answer, and that was good enough. There’s also no need to cheer, applaud, or call a Blue up to the podium when he’s done something tremendous in an amazing way.

A Blue can rarely get too many facts or have too many pages of fine print. No detail is too small to be noticed. Cutting corners is simply not an option for a Blue. He would rather burn the midnight oil checking all the facts of the case than miss the slightest detail. A common misconception is that Blues are unable to make decisions, but that’s not the case. He simply had no need to decide. For him, the process leading up to the decision was significantly more interesting.

Another important characteristic Blue behavior is they’re generally very cautious. They often think safety first. Where a Red or Yellow would take a wild chance, a Blue will hold off and consider everything one more time. You need to get to the bottom of things before you act. Sometimes a Blue can even completely refrain from starting something because he can’t assess the risks. A Blue generally solves everything by creating advanced systems that manage the possible risks that may arise. The benefits of this are evident. Blues won’t be taken aback by unexpected events in the same way others would be. And in the long run, they save a lot of time.

Things can’t be allowed to go wrong. Quality is all that matters. When a Blue individual thinks his work runs the risk of being shoddy or low quality, things come to a standstill. Everything must be checked out. A Blue is prepared to dive deep to get everything exactly 100 percent correct. Blues argue that if they’re going to do something, they must do it correctly. As a very honorable and honest person, Blues usually find it difficult to lie, they will always point out the defects they uncover—even defects that may reflect poorly on them.

Logical and rational thinking is critical to a Blue. Out with all the feelings (as much as possible) and in with logic. They value logical thinking highly, but they can very easily become depressed when things don’t go their way. Few people can repeat the same task an infinite number of times in exactly the same way like Blues can. They have a unique ability to precisely follow instructions to the letter without questioning, provided they understood and approved of it in the beginning. 

It’s impossible to find arguments that a true Blue will accept. He will never be fooled; he will always get what he paid for. It gives him an inner peace because he knows he has checked everything out very accurately. Under normal circumstances, they’re very calm and balanced. Probably because they keep tabs on everything.

Many Blues I’ve met don’t say a single word unnecessarily. They are just very, very introverted. Quiet on the outside, but under the surface anything could be happening. Listen attentively when Blues do actually talk, because they’ve usually thought through what they say. It’s because they don’t feel the need to be heard. They are observers, spectators, more than central characters. They can find themselves at the edge of a group where they observe and record everything that is said. According to a Blue’s values, being silent is something positive. If you have nothing to say—keep quiet.

Famous Blues: Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Sandra Day O’Connor, Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Spock from Star Trek.

Adapting to Red Behavior 

If you want to adapt to a Red’s tempo—hurry up! Speed up! Speak and act more quickly. Look at the clock often, because that’s what a Red does. If you can conclude a meeting in half the time—do it!

If you want to have a Red’s full attention, cut the small talk. It’s vital that you’re clear and straightforward. Determine the most essential point of your message and start there.

Don’t use a single word unnecessarily. But make sure you’ve done your homework when it comes to the background. Questions may come up. If a Red senses that you’re uncertain, you’ll be grilled on the facts. Written materials should be concise and, above all, well laid out. No endless dissertations written by someone who loves the sound of his own voice. A single line jotted down on the back of the napkin will do the job.

Stick to the topic! The easiest way is to prepare your case very precisely before going into a meeting with a Red. If, in the middle of an interesting discussion, another thought pops into your head, write it down and ask at the end of the meeting if it’s okay to raise the issue. Otherwise, schedule a new meeting.

Paradoxically, Reds are the easiest to sell to. If you want to do good business, the only thing you need to do is step into a Red’s office, present your suggestions, and then ask about a deal. When a Red trusts you and has decided that you’re a decent person who can be advantageous to him, well, then he may very well start discussing cars, boats, or the latest politics. Play ball with him. But then and only then.

Deliver your opinion without blinking. In the end, you might have to concede, but never sell yourself short. The best thing you can do is place yourself in the center of the storm, telling him that he’s wrong. When a Red discovers that you won’t give in, he will turn in an instant.

Show that you work hard. You should report back regularly about what you have done and present—briefly—the result of your efforts. Be willing to take initiative. Offer suggestions that the Red didn’t ask for. 

If you really want to help Reds do better work, try to demonstrate the benefits of keeping an eye on the details. Explain that the results will be better and profits larger if they just consider a couple of small but crucial elements of the project. If you’re good at arguing, your advice will be followed.

Give examples of instances where time was lost by being too hasty. Point out the risks involved in hurrying too much. Explain that others can’t keep up, and point out that it would be great if everyone knew what the project was about. Don’t give in. Assert that not even he can manage everything himself. Force a Red to wait for others.

Reds calculate risks by constantly looking at the facts. Facts are something they understand. Give examples of situations that historically were shown to be dangerous. Prove things with facts and demand that the person thinks twice before deciding to take on a new project without first having checked the conditions.

Reds need to understand that the road to full transparency is to adapt to others. By realizing that no one can manage everything alone, they can be prevailed upon to pause and actually care about other people.

You should confront his behavior immediately. Don’t allow any exceptions; just say loudly and clearly that you won’t tolerate coarse remarks, nastiness, and uncalled-for tantrums. Demand adult behavior, and if he loses his temper just leave the room. It’s important that you never let him get his way just by barking his head off.

Adapting to Yellow Behavior

A Yellow functions best when he is happy and content. His creativity is at its zenith and all his positive energy flows. You should strive to create a warm and friendly atmosphere around him. Smile a lot, have fun, and laugh. Listen to his crazy jokes, laugh along at all his childish remarks, and kindle the easygoing and happy-go-lucky atmosphere.

Always start with the big questions. If you want to keep a Yellow’s attention, strip away as much of the minutia as you possibly can.

Yellow feels his way. He has a high tolerance for uncertainty and isn’t overly afraid of risks. Adapt to it.

Allow a Yellow to devote himself to the latest thing. He’ll love it. If you want to sell something to a Yellow, use expressions like “state-of-the-art,” “newly developed,” and “never before used.”He’ll like you because you’re so exciting and so interesting and, above all, innovative. Equip yourself with lots of energy, because it can be challenging to keep up-to-date, but Yellows will adore you. However, be prepared to be replaced rather quickly if they find someone else who is even more knowledgeable about newer things.

Become approachable. Demonstrate that you’re available; smile a lot; be sure to have open body language.

You have to know what your message is and exactly what response you need from them. You must persuade the Yellow, happy person to answer your questions very concretely.

Coordinate all appointments properly with Yellows. Synchronize your watches.

If you really want to help a Yellow get organized, make sure he gets at least some structure in his life. Help out by creating a simple list. Create a structure for him. Yellows are the ones who are most in need of structure in the form of diagrams and checklists.

Yellows like getting attention; they throw themselves into the center of things faster than anyone else. They need to understand that there are other people in the room and they have to let others enter the conversation. You may very well become enemies in the process. You’re definitely taking a risk here.

Yellows talk more than they work. They have a penchant for talking about everything they need to do rather than actually doing anything. To help your Yellow friend you need to make sure that he puts his shovel in the ground and starts digging. Push him, but push gently. Treat him a little bit like you would treat a child. Be kind but clear.

If you wish to get through to a Yellow with negative feedback, you need to be persistent. Create a friendly atmosphere in the room and find the right tone so that your criticism lands where it should. Clarity is key. Make sure to be extremely well prepared, with all possible facts to substantiate your claims. Get real answers to your questions, and be sure that he understands the message. Insist that he writes down what you have said. Ask him to repeat your feedback.

Adapting to Green Behavior

Show that you’re prepared to listen to what he is anxious about. Help your Green friend to face his fear of the unknown. Encourage him to brave things that feel scary and still move ahead.

Allow the Green his periods of peace, quiet, and inactivity. He needs to function like that.

Ease Greens’ minds by explaining every step of the plan.

If you have a comment to make about a Green’s behavior, make sure you’re careful about how you present it. If it involves criticism, you should deliver it in private. Make sure that the person you are talking to understands that you still like him, but that you believe that he and the group (work team, sports team, family, association) will function better if he changes certain things. Don’t ask him what he can do about the behavior; just ask him to do certain specific things.

If you want Greens to accept change, you’ll have to equip yourself with a good dollop of patience. Break down the process into small pieces and set aside a few weeks to persuade, win over, and spell out the particulars. You must describe the process in detail, and since no one is going to take any notes, you’ll have to go through it again, and again, and again until the message gets home.

If you want to make headway with a large group of Greens, you have to take command, get a firm hold on the steering wheel, and, in some cases, simply get into the driver’s seat yourself. They won’t get started unless you put them on the track.

Adapting to Blue Behavior

Make sure you can show that you’ve done your homework and are well prepared. And—most important—if you don’t have the answer, just say so. Acknowledge that you don’t know. Don’t offer any excuse just to get out of the situation.

Stick to the task. Work with checklists where factual matters are noted—things you can tick off together with the Blue. Don’t ask how things are going for him on a personal level.

Think through what you want to say and what you want to convince a Blue to believe. Put daydreams and visions aside. It may even be worth rethinking the kind of language you will use to talk about your plan. Skip all those inspirational speeches. Stick to the facts, and be clear.

Prepare yourself well. When you think you’re prepared and that you know all there is to know about an issue, go through it all one more time. Make sure you have answers to absolutely everything. Accept that this person might want to have more data to feel secure. Give him the details he needs in order to move on.

Be particularly meticulous in your work when trying to impress a Blue; otherwise, he will view you as sloppy and careless. Avoid criticizing Blues for taking too much time or fussing over details that may be unnecessary. Instead, praise them for their attention to detail and the superior work they do. Let the Blue understand that you are doing quality work and that you understand its value.

Remind Blues that other people have feelings. Give examples of times when he bruised other people’s feelings. Explain that he doesn’t need to express himself critically all the time. Show him that people can take great offense when others criticize their home, car, spouse, or children. Be clear and tell him that being honest isn’t an excuse for being callous. Point out that constant criticism rarely accomplishes anything.

Calmly and methodically tell the Blue that he needs to speed up. This time is precious and must be used correctly. Point to the big picture. Give him valid reasons he should go against his instincts to be slow.

Tell your Blue friend that if he has to make a decision without all the facts, he can follow his gut. This can apply to work or ordering at a new restaurant. Speak clearly and loudly to the Blue, and explain that if he doesn’t make a decision he’ll end up going hungry. Prove that it’s better to do something rather than remaining paralyzed, waiting for more information. Point out that that it’s logical to use intuition in this situation because you don’t have all of the facts.

In order to get something to happen, provide the decision maker with the necessary data required for him to make a decision about one of the candidates. Push him to make a choice. Remind him that the deadline is approaching. Point out the repercussions of delaying the decision.

You can read in depth about the four personality types in the book ‘Surrounded by Idiots’ by Thomas Erikson.

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Books

Mud or Stars (New Prisoner Welcome Booklet) by Peter Sage

New Prisoner Welcome Booklet

Mud or Stars by Peter Sage is not exactly a book, it is a fictional story that Peter Sage wrote when he was in jail. It is part of the New Prisoner Welcome Booklet that he designed for new inmates but I think the principles of this story is applicable to all areas of life. 

These are the 6 principles of this story from New Prisoner Welcome Booklet (I have made moderations so that they are applicable in daily life): 

  1. Everyone has grievances and unhappiness but nobody really cares about them so don’t go around talking about your unhappiness. 
  2. I always get to choose what I focus on. Mud or Stars. 
  3. Don’t cry over spilled milk, crying over it won’t make it any different. Accept that the milk is spilled and figure out how to deal with it. 
  4. Life is like a mirror. If I am angry at the world, the world gets angry with me. 
  5. Circumstances can restrict my liberty but not my freedom. No one can ever do anything to me emotionally without my permission. 
  6. Set myself up to win. Learn the ropes, get busy, set a goal. 
Categories
Books

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Purple Cow

I have read quite a few articles talking about the book Purple Cow. I was intrigued but not motivated to get the book until I read about it in the TradeBriefs newsletter that sends articles many times a day to my email. Maybe it was because I was looking for something new to read, but I bought the book Purple Cow.

Purple Cow revolves around the concept that you or your company needs to be remarkable to stand out from the competition and thrive.

The author believes that TV-industrial age is long over (I agree) and consumers are advertising-adverse (I agree too).

Seth Godin argues that the only way for anyone and any company to survive in the current era is to be a Purple Cow. Your company or business needs to stand out from the crowd so that sneezers (people who like new things and who likes to share) can help you spread the word about your product or company. 

3/4 of the book are case studies of companies that either adopted the Purple Cow mindset and thrived or did not and fizzled out. It is inspiring to read all the case studies and see how those companies did it. 

The last chapter is a new addition where readers wrote in to tell stories of Purple Cow companies they have encountered. 

Every company and everybody should read the book Purple Cow. Get Purple Cow by Seth Godin here

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Books

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I have always felt that I was in the wrong profession. After the initial passion wore off after a few months into the job, I was more convinced that I was not cut out for this job. 

I read many books on how to find the job you love and each one of them tells me that I need to discover my passion. After many years of trial and error, I still have not figured out what my passion is. 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You gives a refreshing new perspective on finding work you love. 

According to this book, there are people who make a great career following the passion hypothesis (what your work offers youbut it is very rare. 

Most people aren’t born with pre-existing passions to be discovered.

That makes me feel a little better about not figuring out what my passion is.

If the passion hypothesis is not the way to go about finding work that I love, am I doomed to get stuck in a job that I do not love?

When I did a careful analysis of my work, I realized that I do not like this job because it lacks these traits:

  • control: I can’t choose to shorten my hours
  • recognition: I am not valued for my skills 
  • impact: I don’t feel that my work have any directly positive impact on people’s lives

All of these actually coincides with So Good They Can’t Ignore You is saying, that career passion is rare. 

I realized what started many people on their successful careers is: making extra spending cash. That is why Steve Jobs first dabbled in electronics and why Ryan Voiland became a farmer. 

The book goes on to describe in detail how to go about finding work you love. The steps are: 

  1. Have a craftsman mindset: in other words, be So Good They Can’t Ignore You
  2. Career capital: work on and improve on buildup of rare and valuable skills with constant immediate honest feedback using deliberate practice (activists that stretch your abilities) 
  3. Leverage career capital to gain control of your work but 
    • control requires career capital to support it 
    • employers will fight your efforts to gain more autonomy 
  4. Do what people are willing to pay for:  money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money, you’re aiming to be valuable 
  5. Have a clear and compelling mission: have a unifying focus on your career and maximizes your impact on the world
  6. Think small act big: get to the cutting edge of your field, find a career mission and go for it 
  7. Take incremental steps: deploy small, concrete experiments that return concrete feedback 
  8. Be remarkable: for a mission to produce a sustainable career, it has to produce purple cows, the type of remarkable projects that compel people to spread the word about the project in a venue that supports these remarks

At the last part of the book, the author Cal Newport details how he put what he learnt into practice. 

Get So Good They Can’t Ignore You. 

Categories
Books

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah totally blew my mind. It is such a revolutionary book that altered what I knew about the evolution of mankind. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind Part One – Cognitive Revolution

Part one of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind talks about the Cognitive Revolution and how it allowed the Homo sapiens to evolve from animals into what we are now. 

I thought that the Homo sapiens species was the only one of its kind but this book says that “there used to be many other species of this genus besides Homo sapiens”. A few of our siblings were  Homo rudolfensis (East Africa), Homo erectus (East Asia) and Homo neanderthalensis (Europe and Western Asia).

The book gave various theories why Homo sapiens survived while the other species of the genus homo didn’t.

The “Interbreeding Theory” tells a tale of attraction, sex and mingling. According to this theory, as Homo rudolfensis spread around the world, they bred with other human populations, and people today are the outcome of this interbreeding.

The “Replacement Theory” tells a story of incompatibility, revulsion, and perhaps even genocide. According to this theory, Sapiens and other humans had different anatomies and they would have had little sexual interest in one another. Even if they did, they could not produce fertile children, because the genetic gulf separating the two populations was already unbridgeable.

According to the “Replacement Theory”, Homo sapiens could have driven the other species to extinction. Sapiens were more proficient hunters and gatherers – thanks to better technology and superior social skills – so they multiplied and spread. The less resourceful species found it increasingly difficult to feed themselves. Their population dwindled and they slowly died out. 

Another possibility is that competition for resources flared up into violence and genocide. 

An accidental genetic mutation changed the inner wirings of the brains of Sapiens, enabling them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate using an altogether new type of language. This Tree of Knowledge mutation allow Sapiens to connect sounds and signs to produce an infinite number of sentences, each with a distinct meaning. We can thereby ingest, store and communicate a prodigious amount of information about the surrounding world.

Mind-blowing right? There’s more to come.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind Part Two – Agricultural Revolution

Part two of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind talks about Agricultural Revolution and the domestication of farm animals.

Agriculture sprung up from different parts of the world between 9500 and 3500 BC. 

People in Central America domesticated maize and beans while Middle East domesticated wheat and peas. South Americans domesticated potatoes and llamas while China domesticated rice, millet and pigs. North Americans cultivated pumpkins while New Guineans tamed sugar cane and bananas. West Africans domesticated African millet, African rice, sorghum and wheat. 

The book Sapiens argues that the Agricultural Revolution was not the “great leap forward for mankind” as scholars proclaimed. Instead, humans became slaves to the domesticated plants and animals.

From a narrow evolutionary perspective, which measures success by the number of DNA copies, the Agricultural Revolution was a wonderful boon for chickens, cattle, pigs and sheep. Unfortunately, the evolutionary perspective is an incomplete measure of success. These domesticated animals may well be an evolutionary success story, but they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived. The domestication of animals was founded on a series of brutal practices that only became crueler with the passing of the centuries. 

The Agricultural Revolution turned foragers into farmers. The food surpluses allowed the Homo sapiens population to increase radically. Farming created stress for the farmers because they had to produce more than they consumed to build up reserves. 

Without grain in the silo, jars of olive oil in the cellar, cheese in the pantry and sausages hanging from the rafters, they would starve in bad years. 

These fortified food surpluses fueled politics, war, art and philosophy. They built palaces, forts, monuments and temples. 

Homo sapiens used their advanced cognitive abilities to invent stories about great gods, motherlands and joint stock companies to create the needed social links to cooperate effectively.

According to this book, all religions, government systems, economic systems are imagined order created from the imagination of the Homo sapien’s mind. The way to make people believe in imagined order is to never admit that the order is imagined and educate people thoroughly. 

From the moment they are born, you constantly remind them of the principles of the imagined order, which are incorporated into anything and everything.

The desire to take a holiday, for example, was born from romantic consumerism. 

Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people.

The book also describes the process of how language came about. Ancient Sumerians who lived in southern Mesopotamia invented a partial script by combining two types of signs. One type of signs represented numbers and the other type represented people, animals, merchandise, territories, dates and so forth. More and more signs were added to the Sumerian system, gradually transforming it into a full script that we today call cuneiform. 

At roughly the same time, Egyptians developed another full script known as hieroglyphics. Other full scripts were developed in China around 1200 BC and in Central America around 1000–500 BC.

The next few chapters talks about imagined hierarchies, the birth of racism and the hierarchy of mankind.

Different societies adopt different kinds of imagined hierarchies. Race is very important to modern Americans but was relatively insignificant to medieval Muslims. Caste was a matter of life and death in medieval India, whereas in modern Europe it is practically non-existent. One hierarchy, however, has been been of supreme importance of in all known human societies: the hierarchy of gender. 

There are various theory for the patriarchal nature of our society such as Muscle Power, Aggression, Evolution but none of them can really explain the patriachal views. 

During the last century, there has been revolutionary changes in gender roles. Women are not only given equal legal status and political rights, they now also have equal economic opportunities. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind Part Three – Unification of Mankind

Part three of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind talks about the unification for mankind in terms of geopolitical, economic, legal and scientific systems and how they laid the foundation for the united world of today. 

Over the millennia, small, simple cultures gradually coalesce into bigger and more complex civilisations, so that the world contains fewer and fewer mega-cultures, each of which is bigger and more complex.

The first millennium BC witnessed the appearance of three potentially universal orders: economic system, political systems and religious systems. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind Part Four – Scientific Revolution

Part four of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind talks about the Scientific Revolution. 

The Scientific Revolution started when mankind was willing to admit its ignorance. Modern science aims to obtain new knowledge by gathering observations and then use mathematical tools to connect these observations into comprehensive  theories. These theories are in turn uses to acquire new powers and develop new technologies. 

The leading project of the Scientific Revolution is to give humankind eternal life. The average life expectancy jumped from well below twenty-five to forty years, to around sixty-seven in the entire world, and to around eighty years in the developed world. 

Science, like all other parts of our culture, is shaped by economic, political and religious interests.

Most scientific studies are funded because somebody believe they can help attain some political, economic or religious goal. Scientific research can flourish only in alliance with some religion or ideology. The ideology justifies the cost of the research. In exchange, the ideology influences the scientific agenda and determines what to do with the discoveries.

The Industrial Revolution created more efficient ways of exploiting existing resources and completely new types of energy and materials. Steam engines, petroleum, electricity are a few examples. 

At heart, the industrial Revolution has been a revolution in energy conversion. 

The modern capitalist economy started promoting consumerism so that people bought whatever new stuff industry produces. 

Consumerism sees the consumption of ever more products and services as a positive thing. It encourages people to treat themselves, spoil themselves, and even kill themselves slowly by overconsumption.

The Industrial Revolution also bright about adjusting to industrial time, urbanization, disappearance of peasantry, rise of the industrial proletariat, empowerment of common person, democratisation, youth culture and disintegration of patriarchy. But the most monumental social revolution was the collapse of family and local community and their replacement by the state and the market. 

Imagined communities such as the nation and consumer tribe fills in the emotional vacuum left by collapse of intimate community. 

We are living in a peaceful era due to decline of violence due to rise of the state. 

As kingdoms and empires became stronger, they reined in communities and the level of violence decreased. In recent decades, when states and markets have become all-powerful and communities have vanished, violence rates have dropped even further. 

The British, French and Soviet empires fell without much bloodshed. With very few exceptions, since 1945 states no longer invade other states in order to conquer and swallow them up.

There is at last real peace, and not just absence of war. For most polities, there is no plausible scenario leading to full-scale conflict within one year.

A few factors contributes to this happy development:

  • price of war has increased dramatically 
  • profits of war declined
  • peace became more lucrative 
  • domination by peace-loving elites 
  • tightening web of international connections erodes the independence of most countries

The second-last chapter of this book concludes that material wealth is only one part of what makes us happy. Social, ethical and spiritual factors have a great impact on our happiness too. Money bring happiness, but only up to a point.

Family and community seem to have more impact on our happiness than money and health.

People with strong families who live in tight-knit and supportive communities are significantly happier than people whose families are dysfunctional and who have never found (or never sought) a community to be part of. Marriage is particularly important. Repeated studies have found that there is a very close correlation between good marriages and high subjective well-being, and between bad marriages and misery. This holds true irrespective of economic or even physical conditions.

Happiness depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations. Mass media and the advertising industry May unwittingly be depleting the globe’s reservoir of contentment. 

So maybe Third World discontent is fomented not merely by poverty, disease, corruption and political oppression but also by mere exposure to First World standards.

Biologists believe that our subjective well-being is determined by a complex system of nerves, neurons, synapses and various biochemical substances such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.

Some scholars believe that some people are born with a cheerful biochemical system while others have a gloomy biochemistry. External stimuli does not change our biochemistry, they can startle it for a fleeting moment, but it is soon back to its set point. 

A famous study by Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, demonstrates that happiness consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile.

As far as we can tell, from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan. Hence any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion.

The last chapter of this books talks about how mankind is now beginning to break the laws of natural selection, replacing them with the laws of intelligent design. 

Sapiens started this during the Agricultural Revolution. By mating the fattest hen with the slowest cock, they produced the fat, slow birds that we now know as chickens. 

Today, in laboratories throughout the world, scientists are engineering living beings. The replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen in any of the three ways: 

  • biological engineering – modification through manipulation of genes 
  • cyborg engineering- combining organic and inorganic parts 
  • engineering of inorganic life e.g. computer programs that can undergo independent evolution

The only thing we can try to do is to influence the direction scientists are taking. But since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, the real question facing us is not ‘What do we want to become?’, but ‘What do we want to want?’

Get Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah

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Books

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

I found this book when I was browsing Amazon’s Kindle books one day. I was intrigued by the title so I brought the ebook. 

This book offers different theories to look at different aspects of our lives. There are no “one-size-fit-all” answers or miracle cures, but this book offers the formula for you to figure out the answer yourself.

The first part talks about how to find jobs that we love. Since we spend at least 40 hours a week on work, it’s important that we do work which we love. I keep feeling that my job doesn’t really have a meaningful contribution to society. According to this book, both hygiene factors (status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, supervisory practices) and motivation factors (challenging work, recognition, responsibility and personal growth) have to be fulfilled for us to love what we do. 

The next section concentrates on finding happiness in your relationships. I learned that face-to-face talking using sophisticated adult language to 0-36 months infants gives them incalculable cognitive advantage. I also learned how to view relationships using the “what job are you being hired for” lens. 

This book also teaches me how to raise children, indirectly.
Besides learning new skills, children need to be challenged, they need to solve hard problems, they need to develop values. Children will lean when they are ready to, not when you are ready to teach them. So in order to raise great children, I need to display the priorities and values that I want my children to learn through my actions. 

Decide what you stand for, and then stand for it all the time.
In the epilogue of the book, the author answers the question posed in the book – how will you measure your life with this:

The only metrics that truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people.

Get How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

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Books

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

I bought this ebook many years ago. In fact, it is one of the first ebooks I bought after my father got me my first Kindle Paperwhite. 

This is about the 3rd time I am re-reading the book. I think the reason why I keep going back to this book is because I have always wanted to become an entrepreneur.

I know that being a nurse is a noble job and all. It pays the bills and it is an “iron rice bowl”. I am sure that in the grand scheme of things, I am indirectly contributing to the health of patients and the world, but I don’t feel satisfied. I don’t feel like I am making a difference to the world by drawing blood and getting consent from patients for procedures. 

I think that’s why I like blogging so much. When someone likes my blog post or forwards it to someone else, I feel like I am making a contribution to the world. Although I am nowhere near able to support myself from my blogs, but that is the main goal. 

Being an entrepreneur is less about earning money than about providing solutions to everyday problems. The amount of money you earn is proportional to the enormity of the problem you have solved.

Everytime I read this book, it gives me hope that I will able to help the world become a better place, one small product at a time.

Get The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

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Books

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult is talking about rape and the aftermath of it. It is also talking about the bond between parents and how children change. 

I wanted to do a better job than my parents, I don’t want to make the same mistakes they did. I wanted to give my children the best childhood, to give them all the love they need and protect them. 

If you are wondering, the “tenth circle” is talking about the tenth level in hell, for those who lie to themselves. If there were really a level like this in hell, I think 99.9% of all humans will end up there. We have all lied to ourselves one way or another.

Get The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

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Books

犹太人的赚钱智慧(Jewish Phenomen)- 让我们跟犹太人学习吧

Jewish Phenomenon Chinese

这本书我是几年前在一个卖二手书的展销会上看到的。我一直对犹太人和怎么赚钱有兴趣,便买了这本书。

犹太人特别会赚钱,这是周所皆知的事。虽然犹太人只占全世界60亿人口百分之 0.2%,但

  • 《福布斯》杂志的美国四百大富豪排行榜中,最富有的40大富豪是犹太人。
  • 美国三分之一的百万富翁是犹太人。
  • 美国大学中,20%的教授是犹太人。
  • 华府主要的律师事务所中,40%的合伙人是犹太人。
  • 在收入超过5万美元的美国家庭中,犹太人的比率是非犹太人的两倍。
  • 美国犹太人家庭收入低于2万美元的比率,是非犹太人的一半。
  • 犹太人在经济地位上的强势延续到今天,一直都高于白人新教徒和天主教徒,甚至在相同年龄、结构和地区的家庭中,也是如此。
  • 获得诺贝尔科学奖(物理、化学、医学或生物学奖)的美国人中,有31%是犹太人。
  • 所有获得诺贝尔奖的美国人中,有25%是犹太人。

原来,犹太人之所以会这么成功,是因为他们遵守这7大秘诀:

1。拥有真正的财富-知识 

在犹太人家庭里,问题不在于上不上大学,而是上哪所大学、在大学里专攻哪一门专业。

犹太人重视教育

  1. 帮助孩子建立自尊心
    • 如果孩子重视自己,认定自己是独一无二的人才,他就比较可能会去追求好的东西。要让你的孩子真正觉得自己是“上帝的选民”,不管他们的出身和经济状况如何。
    • 教导孩子知道家族的历史,了解家族的祖国。
    • 培养孩子的国际观,用地球仪或地图让他们了解全世界,以及自己处在世界中的那个地方。
  2. 培养延后享受新理念:
    • 父母必须在孩子很小的时候,开始为孩子的优良行为,进行长期的奖励。孩子做了简单的家务事,就可以给他们报酬,等孩子长大一些之后,可以给他们更有价值的报酬,以奖励良好的学业成绩。
    • 培养延后享受的另一个方法,是把钱投资在银行账户或股市中,不要让孩子把钱花在立刻能获得享受的花费上,让他们自己管理自己的投资,让他们看着自己的投资逐渐增加。
  3. 尽可能选择最好的教育:父母亲可能犯的严重错误之一,是把孩子送去就读课程和能力比自己孩子差的大学,因为从同龄人身上获得知识和能力是教育的一部分,因此寻找能力高超的同学很重要。
  4. 发展和发现博学多闻与求知习惯
    • 父母亲展现求知的习惯,可以为小孩立下模仿的榜样,让孩子知道阅读和知识广博的价值。
    • 为了使你的孩子“高人一等,你可以从小就读书给小孩听,当书中出现生字时,则要不厌其烦地反复向他们解释。
  5. 用储蓄为孩子创造教育上的目的期望:如果事先多年计划,可以帮助我们在孩子选择学校时,避免根据自己家庭经济状况做决定。在孩子很小的时候就开始实施储蓄计划,会使大学教育的费用负担大大减轻。
  6. 使自己的技术“与时俱进”:要让孩子看到你在成年之后仍继续学习,这样会在他们心目中强化教育很重要的观念,也会让他们与你一起分享教育的经验。

2。成为专家和企业家

犹太人在决定职业时,一般将自己的职业限制在以下三种职业:律师、医师与企业家。

3。拥有追求成功的动力

如何激发自己成功的欲望:

  1. 制定长期目标:首先写下三件你认为最重要的事情,然后写出你未来半年、一年、五年和十年的目标。采取下一步行动-写出要实现这些目标,你必须实施的三个明确行动。
  2. 更努力做需要智力的工作:学会把工作分配给别人(学会授权),教导他们如何做事,自己当策划人员、战略专家和领导者,节省自己的精力和时间,做更有价值的事情。
  3. 采取适当的冒险行为
  4. 选择你热爱的事情,为赚钱而赚赚钱是行不通的,但报酬可以促使你在事业中更上一层楼。
  5. 要接受个人贡献能够明显表现出来的工作
  6. 经常阅读 “The Wall Street Journal”、“Inc.”和“Fast Company”杂志,研读其中的成功故事。
  7. 相信自己的自决能力

4。赞美个性,发展创造力

犹太人母亲遵守的七大原则:

  1. 用非体罚的方式控制孩子
  2. 在家里允许彻底的讲话自由
  3. 尽可能给孩子提供最好的学习和生活条件
  4. 培养孩子强烈的自我意识和自尊心
  5. 维持亲密的家庭关系,延迟让孩子离家独立,减少同龄人压力的影响
  6. 为子女的教育与专业发展制订高标准
  7. 作为教养孩子的一个整体,反复强调这些高标准

犹太父母为孩子提供广泛的经历、实践机会,允许他们成功或失败,也允许他们一再尝试。

犹太人在小孩的成长期间,容许小孩自由发掘自己的才能,发个人的风格,建立自信心。

如何发展创造力:

  • 宽容且呵护周到的教养方式法:亲密的家庭关系和松散的教养方法
  • 允许失败,奖励行动
  • 建立自己的“创意引擎”:
    • 不理会否定的字句和没有意义的规则
    • 挑战普遍被人接受的想法
    • 善于模仿
    • 了解时事和趋势安排利于创造新构想的家庭

5。发展言语信心

如何发展言语信心

  1. 鼓励孩子提问
  2. 主动向孩子解释新概念
  3. 全家人共进“主动”的晚餐
  4. 鼓励孩子参与艺术表演与运动
  5. 成人可以参加国际演讲协会

6。助人而后人助

  1. 支持尼所属族裔的慈善机构
  2. 创立基金会,以追求长期自立为宗旨
  3. 尽量减少其他族裔的支持
  4. 持续不断地组织、投票和参与政治
  5. 支持你所属族裔开设的企业
  6. 支持你所属族裔利益的一般议题

7。奢侈有选择,节俭精打细算

  1. 购买便宜一些的汽车,开长一点时间
  2. 不抽烟
  3. 放弃垃圾食品和咖啡
  4. 利用互联网,购买定期人寿保险公司
  5. 一周带一次便当
  6. 常在家吃饭
  7. 尽量维持婚姻、因为离婚很昂贵
  8. 注意身体健康
  9. 买房子,不要租房子
  10. 避免到会员制大卖场大买特买
  11. 避免信用卡债务,利用它作为收入来源
  12. 将商业银行的货币市场储蓄户移走
  13. 降低长途电话费用
Categories
Books

Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke

My girlfriend knows how much I love to travel so she got me this travel guide as a birthday present a couple of years ago. I liked the book but I did not have the time and patience to read it from cover to cover, till now. 

This travel guide is different from other travel guides. It does not focus on one country but a mash-up of different countries under 5 themes. I have renamed the different sections as “Near-Death Experiences”, “Weird Art”, “Cheap Fashion”, “Street Food Galore”, “Music and Weed” and “Getting Laid”. 

This is a one-of-kind travel guide that will give you a new way to look at travel. 

Get Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke.