Daniel Everett was a missionary who was ready to devote his life to the Pirahãs, a small tribe of the Amazonian Indians in central Brazil. He moved all the way (including his wife and two young kids) to the Amazon jungle to learn their unique language and culture, aim to translate the Bible and convert them eventually. But as he joked - “I am a happy failure” - after decades of hard work, he was only able to “convert” one person - himself - from a Christian to atheist.
I read the most of the book this April in Karuizawa when I was carrying on my Writing Spree activity. Really enjoyed it, it was like I was in the Amazon jungle and experienced an extrordinary life myself.
The Pirahã people usually only posses one gym short pants, not even a permanent houses of their own, yet they’re the happiest people in the world according to an MIT study. Take a simple look and see how often they laugh and smile a day, it easily beat any other societies or countries in the world.
“You’ve gotta get ‘em lost before you can get ‘em saved,” says Dr. Curtis Mitchell, the author’s evangelism professor at Biola University. But the Pirahã people are not lost at all! This all made his mission impossible to accomplish - “how would you convince a happy, satisfied people that they are lost and need Jesus as their personal savior?”
He once asked the Pirahãs if they knew why he was there in his early days.
“You are here because this is a beautiful place. The water is pretty. There are good things to eat here. The Pirahãs are nice people.”
In the book it mentioned that there were other tribes in the same area were much fond of the Western goods and culture that they adapted to it and eventually lost their own languages. This is not the case for Pirahã.
There is a hidden beauty in their seemingly simple yet sophisticated lifestyle, like a diamond in the mud.
What drew my attention first was how the author performed his linguistic field research and was able to uncover the uniqueness of the Pirahã language and culture.
Here are some of the characteristics in the Pirahã language:
No counting system.
No color terms.
Don’t generalize or abstract.
No word for “worry.”
No left or right.
No police, courts, chiefs, or other kinds of authority figures. They are mostly by tradition egalitarian, free of the influence of any leaders. “Don’t tell us what to do, how to live,” is the norm.
No concept of a supreme spirit or god.
The word “son” literally means “to come” or “the one that came.”
And “friend” means “to be touching” - someone you touch affectionately, and “enemy” means “to cause to come together.”
They prefer hardship. They perceive overweight as “you take more than you need.” I feel ashamed as I touch my round belly now…
They do not talk about unexperienced events, such as long past or far future events, or fictional topics. So there are no oral history or myth about where they are from or who “created” them.
Pirahãs don’t store food, they don’t plan more than one day at a time, they don’t talk about the distant future or the distant past - they seem to focus on now, on their immediate experience.
There is no word for “great-grandparents” as they can’t live long enough to “witness” their grandparents. And since they don’t talk about long past events or figures, there is no word in the language to refer to that ancestor.
Check out this conversation:
The Pirahã men then asked, “Hey Dan, what does Jesus look like? Is he dark like us or light like you?”
I said, “Well, I have never actually seen him. He lived a long time ago. But I do have his words.”
“Well, Dan, how do you have his words if you have never heard him or seen him?”
The value seemed to be to limit most talk to what you had seen or heard from an eyewitness. To elaborate that, it means the Pirahãs believe only what they see. Sometimes they also believe in things that someone else has told them, so long as that person has personally witnessed what he or she is reporting.
The grammar is also accustomed to that culture. For example, when they say “John went finishing [suffix],” there could be 16 suffixes to the verb and 3 suffixes are the most important ones to indicate the source of the evidence.
a) John went finishing, and I saw it.
b) John went finishing, and I heard about it.
b) John went finishing, and I deduced from the local evidence.
This may sound absurd at first, but let’s think about it, this probably is why they don’t need a leader because everyone is responsible for himself/herself, including little children - “little” as in our views.
There is no baby talk. They believe all members of the society are equal and thus “children” should not be treated any differently from adults. Everyone has responsibility for the community and everyone is cared for by the community. That means a 4-year old would work their shares to contribute, and could also share alcohol with adults.
Until reading the book, I had no concrete idea of what would be the exact consequence of losing a minority language that is only spoken by a few hundreds of people in the entire world. Nothing sums it up by this paragraph, I’ll just quote them:
A language is a repository of specialized cultural experiences. When a language is lost, we lose the knowledge of that language’s words and grammar. Such knowledge can never be recovered if the language has not been studied or recorded. Not all of this knowledge is of immediate practical benefit, of course, but all of it is vital in teaching us different ways of thinking about life, of approaching our day-to-day existence on planet Earth.
Every language and culture pair shows us something unique about the way that one subset of our species has evolved to deal with the world around it. Each people solves linguistic, psychological, social, and cultural problems in different ways. When a language dies without documentation, we lose a piece of the puzzle of the origin of human language. But perhaps more important, humanity loses an example of how to live, of how to survive in the world around us.
Page 276 - 277
The way that Pirahãs are living, some of their views and cultures may seem very counter-intuitive, however, they provide us a version of how we, our species, could live differently. A running example. It becomes even more precious when a good amount of our world emphasize more and more on a narrowed view of chasing next big wave, outrunning your opponents, and ever-expanding but never satisfying.
Whose version is more primitive or sophisticated? Find out more in the book.
There is also a short video from the author, Daniel Everett, on this topic. If you’ve made it this far, go check it out :)
Chinese is my native language. Like most native speakers of their languages, I rarely ponder on the words of the literal meaning but take them granted; we already know the meaning and how to use them, right? That’s why I was so fascinated when, after speaking Chinese for about 30 years, I realized there are two words to say “the future” in Chinese: 将来 and 未来.
They’re identical in the dictionary, both can be translated to “the future”, but if we take apart the two-character-combination word, as every character has its meaning in Chinese, and examine the literal meaning of each character, we got a different explanation: 将来 - (the future that) will come and 未来 - (the future that) hasn’t come.
Isn’t it amazing?! Suddenly I had this urge to go back and analyze how I have been using them , do I make a clear distinction between what kind of future I refer to?
For all the information that I could collect from my knowledge, experiences, friends’ comments, and the online dictionaries, I made my draft conclusion. In practice, the will-come-future is mostly used to express “near future,” and the has-not-come-future as “far future” or “future in general.” In some cases, they are even interchangeable.
(Note that Japanese also use the same Chinese characters to represent the future, and they convey the very similar meaning and nuance, but I won’t go deeper in this post and will keep the discussions within the scope of Chinese.)
Let’s see some examples:
1) “No one can predict the future.”
2) “Does Ready Player One reveal the future of VR?”
3) “You would get it when you become a parent in the future.”
4) “When she grows up (in the future), I’ll give her the best education I can offer.”
An observation I’ve made about the usage of 将来, the will-come-future is that it’s especially used when we talk about the future of someone very close to this, like a family member, your best friend, etc. Indeed, the 3) example was actually what my mom told me a few years ago when we were talking about parenting, and 4) was from my best friend who was talking about his newborn baby girl.
I know such usage can be well explained by the simple rule of “near future” - how near or far that future is from us. But I can’t help making a hypothesis that, even it is perhaps subtle to the speaker and the listener, wouldn’t we use it to express the belief or longing or hope or fear of that specific future, the one we want to witness and be part of it? So maybe I can tweak the examples with the literal meaning of the word, and see how that feels like.
“You would get it when you become a parent in the future (and that day will come).”
“When she grows up, (and she will), I’ll give her the best education I can offer.”
It could be that I was just overthinking, in reality, the distinction of the two words could be vague. But I want to believe what I see from the words and will keep the notes from now on. Isn’t it beautiful to have this special word for our future?
If you’re a product person who is building a product to get more people to use it and use it more often, this is a book you’d want to keep a copy on your desk.
If you’re a smart phone user who checks certain apps quite regularly that you’d even refuse to admit you’re addictive to it, this a book to help you understand how it was engineered to keep you hooked.
Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup commented: ‘A must-read for everyone who cares about driving customer engagement.’ (I’m usually skeptical about this kind of lip service, but this time, he’s right.)
I read this book at the right timing and I wrote at length in my company’s internal blog: my reading memos and summaries of the four core parts of the idea: Trigger -> Action -> Variable Reward -> Investment, with case studies of the product I was building.
A over-simplifed summary of each stage of the model:
Flipping through the pages again, I found lots of post-its I attached in the book saying “I disagree,” and listing all the obvious counter-arguments. Yet still, the overall reading experience was great👏! It set the scene properly for you to deep dive for an extended period of time, so it naturally stimulates you and inspires you to think about your product’s problems and solutions. In that sense, I enjoyed the knowledge it provided and all the thoughts it provoked. It felt like taking apart a product and putting its components on the table, so you’ll be able to visualize and identify the habit-forming product’s system, the blueprint, or even the traps.
The part that I remembered the most is the Action - “the behavior done in anticipation of a reward.”
Fogg (a famous guy in this field) describes that the required ingredients to initiate any actions can be written in the equation of
B = MAT (Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger), so-called the Behavior Model.
I’ve noticed a pattern of myself. If the book I’m reading is put on the dining table, I would pick it up after breakfast and continue reading. Instead, if my phone is there, I might just pick it up and check some feed. Let’s break down this behavior:
Even though the motivation and ability are right, when the trigger is absent, certain actions might not occur. So that’s why I’ve been intentionally putting my phone out of sight at home and putting books and pens on the dining table (for which my wife isn’t really happy hah 😅)
So, what are you going to do with this piece of knowledge? There is also a chapter dedicated to the ethical discussion. I felt the view of trusting people that they won’t do evil is naive though, and if you want to read more on this subject, I’d recommend another book Irresistible that is written from the opposite perspective.
Still, changing people’s behaviors is hard, reading this book won’t promise you the dreamland. But that doesn’t mean the knowledge is useless. The best way to take most out of it is to share your learnings with your team, adapt the vocabularies to better communicate, take your product on the map and analyze each aspect, do the case study of other popular products with high user engagements and try out your ideas and solutions. It is fun and rewarding.
There is a 13 minutes video to get the brief idea of the framework, but I’d say don’t cut the corners and read the whole book if you truly want to learn more. You’ll get the bone and fat, you may love the fat or trim it off eventually, either way, it would be a great learning process.
I’m about to quit the company that I’ve served for 6 and a half years. To make that decision was never easy, a constant battle between rationals and emotions - it had worn me down. And I know a few friends are also going through such struggles, wandering the forests of changing jobs or changing teams.
When I was reading the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, the sort of 5-questions checklist that served a different perspective of seeing things and clearing my head - something that’s outside of my circle, completely objective but absolutely relative, exactly what I needed.
So I thought it might be helpful to share that piece of advice for those who’re in that stage of life.
To leave or stay, that’s a question. And only you can answer it. After reading it, what’s in your mind? Listen to that voice carefully, no matter what you choose in the end, be honest with yourself.
Here we go.
1. Do you want to be in this job on your next work anniversary?
People are most likely to leave a job on their one-year work anniversary. The second most likely time? Their two-year anniversary. The third? Their three-year anniversary. You get the idea. If you dread the thought of being at your job on your next work anniversary, start > looking now. You’ll be better prepared when the time comes.
2. Is your current job both demanding and in your control?
The most fulfilling jobs share a common trait: They prod us to work at our highest level but in a way that we, not someone else, control. Jobs that are demanding but don’t offer autonomy burn us out. Jobs that offer autonomy but little challenge bores us. (And jobs that are neither demanding nor in our control are the worst of all.) If your job doesn’t provide both challenge and autonomy, and there’s nothing > you can do to make things better, consider a move.
3. Does your boss allow you to do your best work?
In his excellent book Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Robert Sutton explains the qualities that make someone worth working for. If your boss has your back, takes responsibility instead of blaming others, encourages your efforts but also gets out of your way, and displays a sense of humor rather than a raging temper, you’re > probably in a good place. If your boss is the opposite, watch out - and maybe get out.
4. Are you outside the three- to five-year salary bump window?
One of the best ways to boost your pay is to switch organizations. And the best time to do that is often three to five years after you’ve started. ADP, the massive Human Resources management company, found that this period represents the sweet spot for pay increases. Fewer than three years might be too little time to develop the most marketable skills. More than five years is when employees start becoming > tired to their company and moving up its leadership ranks, which makes it more difficult to start somewhere else.
5. Does your daily work align with your long-term goals?
Ample research from many countries shows that when your individual goals align with those of your organization, you’re happier and more productive. So take a moment and list your top two or three goals for the next five years and ten years. If your current employer can > help you reach them, great. If not, think about an ending.
ーWhen: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, page 169 - page 170
“If your answer to two or more of these is no, it might be time to craft an end,” the author wrote. But I’d say, no rush, take your time, don’t get pushed.
It is you who are gonna live with that decision. Maybe your emotion is already built up, maybe you don’t care of losing the entire forest - as long as you can find the sweetest fruit of yourself or get away from that annoying big bird. Nevertheless, hope this material sheds some light on your situation.
If you’ve already decided to quit eventually but want more comprehensive strategies, I recommend the book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff. The subtitle is the sales pitch 🙂.
Judging from all the data I’ve given to Netflix, I’d blame them for not suggesting this show to me - Fargo.
I remember reading the phrase “black comedy” on Wikipedia, but I didn’t find myself laughing any moments of the show. It’s dark, patient, and tense. And of course, I love it!
Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman)… the protagonist (or antagonist, or turn-to-be antagonist). You started off by rooting this mistreated guy. His wife always compares him to his brother, hinted she might have married to the wrong one. The sudden encounter with his high school nightmare - the bully, and found out the bully actually had a one-time affair with his wife, and then indirectly broke his nose. The low self-esteem that needed those “inspiring and positive” quotes hung on the wall to constantly remind him: “what if you’re right, and they’re wrong?” You see the struggling and desperation of Lester.
Then he bumped into a mysterious stranger of the town, after sharing his misery story, the guy offered him a yes-and-no question: “Do you want that bully to die?” From that moment, Lester’s life changed completely.
I enjoyed this show very much. The gradually built-up tension and fear took my breath away. There were moments I sensed violence but nothing happened, and the next scene, boom, and blood.
You’ve got to see what could happen to a guy who is absolutely smart but lack of self-esteem, and once he overcomes that, in a dramatic way, how much of his ego could grow to explode.
And the mystery hitman by Billy Bob Thornton was super charming. In a way I respect his “style” - not just about killing, not even about elegance, I don’t know what word would best describe it yet - manipulative, efficient, aggressive, deceivable, and patient.
After watching all of the movies and tv shows, this killer would definitely earn a position in my memory hall that won’t be easily flushed away in a long time. So is the show.
This is gonna be the very first time that I share my fiction writings in my blog. I practiced that when I was learning this Creative Writing on Coursera last winter. I was completely new to this “make something up” style of writing, it took me quite a while to work on my mind as well as the writing skill, but in the end I enjoyed it. It’s like it stretched my imaginary creative muscles 💪that otherwise I’d never even noticed its existence.
I’ll just show you one of the homework I did last December, unmodified. The requirement was to practice the technique of revealing thoughts and feelings indirectly - through the environment, behavior, and other details. For example, instead of a plain “he’s sad,” you can say something like this to reveal the person’s internal state: “sitting in the dark, he gulped down the bottle and hoped it’ll do the trick and take the edge off. It usually works, but not tonight…”
The aim here is not to practice withholding ideas or feeling, but to practice revealing them through the surfaces of physical experience.
Writing in the third person, describe a house from the point of view of a mother or father whose daughter has just left home and married a man the mother or father despises. Don’t refer to the wedding itself, or to the mother or father’s hatred of the son-in-law. Focus on the house as she or he experiences it in the wake of the daughter’s departure.
Then describe the same house from the point of view of the same mother or father—except this time the daughter has left home to marry someone the mother or father genuinely loves and approves of. Again, don’t refer to the wedding itself, or to the mother or father’s affection for the son-in-law but on the house as she experiences it in the wake of the daughter’s departure.
The two pieces combined should total 600-750 words.
He had a hard time getting off the bed. It was not chilly outside, but this morning, he wanted to give in to the duvet, just a little more, at least that was one thing in his control.
When was the last time he did that? He lost the sense of time. Dreams and reality were woven together. Eventually, he left the bed behind, gently and carefully, tried not to wake up his wife.
He walked straight to the kitchen in his pajamas, leaving the lights and curtains shut. While boiling a bottle of water in the kettle, he unwrapped the indifferent ribbon and opened the gift box he got from his daughter Maggie and his new son-in-law David. Coffee beans, Ethiopia, his favorites. One-size-fits-all, he thought, you drink it when you are in a good mood of catching up or getting ready, and you drink it when you’re tired of the reality and want to get away from it. Which way shall he interpret it? He felt it irony.
The kettle whistled and clicked. He measured the beans and ground them, placed the filter in the dripper, pre-wet it, preheated the server… and finally poured himself a cup of coffee. All on autopilot, the morning ritual. He was aware that there shall be a get-to-know-each-other session for every new beans to establish the relationship. He got the solid knowledge and technique over the years. The taste was ok, the beans were of great quality, yet the flavor felt familiar and at the same time, distant, unsettling.
Holding the mug cup, he headed out and walked towards the garage where laid the growth chart of Maggie. He slid through it, paused at each mark and let the memory flow back. No matter how many times he reminded himself, it still shocked him how fast his little girl grew up. He had devoted his life-savings and life-lessons to her, yet out of numerous options, she picked up this David guy.
He gulped down the rest of the coffee. It was cooled and bitter.
Headache. Hangover. But why not, he thought, you only get to drink like that few times in a lifetime. He rolled over, adjusted the duvet for his wife and got off the bed without making a sound.
He opened the curtains in the living room, let in the sunshine. Looking at the reflection of himself in the window, finger tapped his white beard, he smiled, felt lightweight.
He recalled something and rushed to the kitchen. Unwrapping the beautiful butterfly ribbon, he opened the gift box he got from his daughter Maggie and his new son-in-law Dave. The aroma flew over. Coffee beans! He shouted silently. He held it to his nose and smelled it out, Ethiopia, his favorite. Well done, well done, he clapped to the new married couple.
Time for the morning ritual. He had a second thought when reaching the electric grinder and turned to look out the lower drawer. Got it! The hand grinder. Got to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. He had been rushing for his whole life, now when everything was finally settled, he liked to take the time he couldn’t spare before. He also liked to devote more labor if possible, as a way of respecting the gift—the representation of the kindness from Maggie.
Every turn-around of the hand grinder reminded him of the old days when they went out for the merry-go-round. Truly amazing how kid grew up this fast! And more than anything, he is very proud of her. All the things he had done for the family, she understood.
When he was wandering in the nostalgia world, his hands ran autopilot and poured the coffee. He held the mug cup and smelled, “well done, well done.”
That was it!
I still remember I rushed the ending of the second version, and after read it again, it does show that the it was too weak.
I’ll also paste the review questions below, so you can have a feeling of what’s it like of attending the course 😉. It’s similar to what we software engineers do everyday - peer review others’ code on Github. In this creative writing course, we also review others and answer the questions to help the writer improve his/her writing.
If you feel like it, please leave your review in the comments section 💁🏻♂️
Q: How successful is the writer at sticking to concrete language, describing the things of the world as opposed to explicit judgments or feelings? Please explain.
Q: Has the writer nonetheless managed to imply the character’s state of mind in her choice of descriptive language? Please explain.
Q: Which of the two pieces seems most promising to you as part of a longer story? Please explain your selection.
There’s one activity that I’ve been carrying on for almost 5 years now, that is to answer one question every day on my Q&A a Day, 5-year Journal. The questions vary from something as simple as “What did you have for lunch today?” to as philosophical as “What makes you happy?” I found it the easiest, if not laziest, way to keep a journal. I’m reaching 5th year now.
One night when my wife and I tried to answer it, I was fascinated by our completely opposite response of it — “What’s the new word you learned recently?” She couldn’t come up with one, I couldn’t come up with just one. She is native in both Japanese and English, I’m neither.
Every day I encounter words I don’t know. There’s hardly a day I could go by without marking anything on the book I’m reading. Even when watching TV shows on Netflix, I would have a notebook (or any paper like receipts of lunch in my pocket) at hands to note down the words or the timestamps so I can look them up later.
This linguistic journey isn’t always that smooth, there are rainy seasons. When I saw my wife flipped through a novel during a weekend while the same book took me about 2 weeks to finish, there was a taste of frustration, to be honest.
So why am I doing this - learning new words and writing in English while I could get by every day just fine? There would be no perceivable setbacks in my professional or personal life. When I started my Writing Spree April a few days ago, I stumbled on this question myself.
I remember how it was like in the early days. Though I had the English lessons during my school years, much like how everybody treated the second language at school, I passed the tests and then forgot about it - I had no desire or need of practicing it. It was until I joined my current company that I started to relearn English, roughly 7 years ago.
Below is what it was like when I tried to read Cooking Solves Everything by Mark Bittman and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
The 2 books were recommended in the company at that time. I bought them on Kindle. It was tough. I rarely went through a page without colorful marks. I’m glad now I recognize most of them, but still not all.
As the time of writing, I’m reading the book Don’t sleep, there are snakes by Daniel L. Everett. Over the years I’ve changed intentionally to physical books, but what remain unchanged is the “splash patterns.”
Judging by the numbers of marks, things don’t seem to be that different than 6 years ago. 😅 (and I’m too embarrassed to share aphoto of my wife correcting my writing - full of red marks on words, grammar, punctuations, etc. Her “writings” were more than mine, it was bloddy, you can imagine.)
Putting them together makes me even sadder as if no progress were made. I felt defeated. I couldn’t help but wonder:
Would there be a day that I don’t need to have a dictionary (app) around?
Why am I enforcing this hardship on myself?
Would there be an end?
Among all the reasons I could come up with — a way to see the world differently; explore different cultures; English is the worldwide common language; entertainment value (thanks to Holywood) — the very core of it probably is that I’ve found my voice in the language itself. A very different kind of “sound” than thinking in my mother tongue Chinese, as if I’ve found a hidden passport with new identity in the drawer that could fly me to a freeland.
Worth to mention that although I’m a Chinese Korean - I had been learning Korean from elementary school to high school and after that I once even had a partime job as a Korean-to-Chinese translator for 2 years - I never found my voice from it. Amazingly, it was familiar and foreign at the same time.
But I seem to enjoy the brand new encounter with English this time. I noticed there are times that it would be the dominant language in my mind. This kind of session usually comes after I embody myself in an English book or movie, also as of this writing. I love this narrative. It’s soothing, calm, and reflective.
It helps me classify my past traumatic stories - family conflicts, romantic relationships, identity issues. Because those events were recorded in Chinese as they occured, it was too violent, too emotional, or too embarrassed to look back and analyze them. The native language seemed to have a way too strong shock that would scare me away. But examing them with a different language, especially one that I have limited but handful enough vocabularies, helps me remapping those past dots into coordinations from a different perspective, from a relatively far distant where I feel safe and secure. This handicap works in my favor.
As of writing this post, it also forces me to think deeply and differently on this subject, probably I’m the one who gets most excited about this discovery than any of my readers (sorry!), and I have a good hunch that I’ll revisit it in the future when I get more insights of it.
Back to the question - would there be a day that I don’t need to have a dictionary? Nope. That day won’t come, and perhaps I don’t want it to come either - wouldn’t that be boring if I’ve mastered every single word? How can I answer the question in my 5-year diary then!? But seriously, much like the universe, knowing there will be unknowns means the adventure would never stop, so as the fun of it.
Bonus tip: as any language learners, we’ve got a unique advantage over others - while they might feel guilty or time-wasted after spending hours on Netflix, we could always claim it as our learning session, right? 😉
I haven’t been able to write anything here for a while. My recent trips, books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, stories I’ve been in. It’s not that I don’t have the time - I still managed to watch some episodes on Netflix, but I have troubles saving the attention for writing after waves of the day.
I’m ongoing a change of my career, and I’ve finally made some time for myself - a whole month to rest, relax, and reflect. So here comes the idea of a writing spree - write a post every day for 30 days, inspired by my friend J who had composed a song every week and carried it on for a year. Sounds fun, right?
Want to get the words out so I can hold myself accountable. This trick always works for me. I can control every minute now. No room for excuses. Let’s set the bar high.
As for the execution, I’m a big fan of having a system, a routine, a ritual for such project. The time, the place, and the pace all matter to keep me in the desired context without distractions, deep and long, like a diving in the deep sea.
For the time and place, I’m gonna live in the countryside myself to kick off the writing spree. Start a digital detox. Gonna bring lots of books.
For the pace, my daily writing rotation might be separated by languages - English, Japanese, Chinese and Ruby - my favorite programming language. That would cover a 4-day rotation, then maybe I’ll even continue the Creative Writing course in Coursera, or pick a theme and try to write a series of it.
That’s the commitment. We rarely get such opportunity, will do my best to make it count.
Narcos Season 3, I was skeptical about the show as Pablo Escobar, the main character of the previous 2 seasons, faded out and the Cali cartel bubble up to the surface. I was happy to be proved my concern was unnecessary; this season tastes surely different, it tastes great.
Among the new colorful characters, I think zooming in on Jorge Salcedo—later the chief head security of the Cali cartel—is a genius move. The show takes us to his life, his family, his desire, and struggles. We get to see how his morality was shaken, shifted, and shattered under extreme circumstances. How yet another good guy could do bad things. How a man with his words fell into his wife’s arm, like a vulnerable baby. It was an emotional journey, the backbone of the season.
Also, there are more of the Cali cartel “godfathers”—the conflict between the Rodriguez brothers; how power drives you to feed your ambition; how the once seemingly unbreakable empire got tore apart with the cumulative efforts of each individual who stepped forwards and risk their own lives on the field.
I especially love the limited scenes to Pacho—his past and pain, loyalty to the brothers and cruelty to his enemies. When things went south and a new gate opened for him, his true color emerged.
Lastly, salute to Javier Peña, the fighter who won’t bend to the shitty crappy “politics.” The world needs such people.
What this book is trying to tell is extremely simple: treat yourself as a programmable moist robot, build the system to control the inputs, so you can determine the outputs. Your time, focus, and energy are the fuels to keep you in the game, equip yourself with strategies with good odds, all you need to do is stay in the game long enough, success will find you, sooner or later.
What distinguishes it from other self-help books are:
1) The author is the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, that means you will get tremendous entertainment value from the book, guaranteed. It’s enlightening and humorous, the only non-fiction book so far that keeps making me laugh while also sharing something inspiring.
2) Thanks to his various experience in public speaking, business writing, and other backgrounds, I found the book extremely easy to read and persuasive (in a good way.)
I’m glad he stopped pursuing the career as a salesman, otherwise, I might have bought whatever product he’s selling. I’m so hooked as a reader for his humor and storytelling technique.
“Passion is bullshit”, “Goals are for losers.” Given that I’m right in the season of dumping the goal-and-passion-driven engine to my mental garage, this line hits me at the perfect timing. I’m definitely biased, maybe I’m seeking validation, but what it presents is worthy food for thoughts.
The culprit of goals, almost by definition, is that it sets you “in a state of nearly continuous failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.” It pushes you to fight the feeling of discouragement at each turn.
A system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.”
For a cartoonist, that might be drawing one cartoon per day; for a writer, writing five hundred words per day. In contrast to goals, systems bring a steadier stream of low-grade highs. They’re guides to a fulfilling life, day by day, rather than enticing pictures of some grand end goal without instructions for how to get there.
It focuses on designing each action that naturally drives you to the next step without the need to use up your limited willpower supply. In another word, it’s kind of in the same family tree of routine, ritual, habit, and compass, but system gives you the vision of each component connected to the final outcomes, and it does sound much cooler right?
The concrete example of the author’s system: “Eat right, exercise, think positively, learn as much as possible, and stay out of jail, and good things can happen.” I know it sounds stupidly simple, maybe not that different than what your grandma told you when you were a kid, yet whether you can keep doing all of these throughout your life is the key. Design each step carefully so it drives you to the next action, and collectively it’ll increase the odds for luck to find you.
I have to admit that I do feel that he’ll success one way or another, if not Dilbert it may be other projects (just like Dilbert was one of them.) He’s seeing the world in a macro view, each time he applies his system, he gets a better chance of winning the game.
It reminds me of the Starcraft league (or any other sports leagues), you may get lucky to win one game, but to be the winner of the best-of-7 series, to beat the equally talented opponents, to advance through the seasons of, years of tournaments, you’ll not only need a good strategy, but also apply it, practice it, tweak it, maintain it, and reduce the required willpower to the minimum so it can be sustainable. All of these in a whole is the system.
The book covers a lot of topics: passion, goals, systems, attitude, talents, observations, humor, happiness, diet, exercise, and luck. I’ve never thought about that I would want to acquire skills like public speaking, persuasive writing, humor, and golf(!), but now I’m deeply hooked.
Thanks to the another book Irresistible that pointed me to this one.
Lastly, this could be a spoiler but, my favorite line of the book is this one: “Say something, you bastard!”, page 166.