Monday, April 26, 2010

It's purely random.

Just finished reading Dance with Chance.  Readable but not nearly as good as Fooled by Randomness.  I am intrigued by a few recently published books like The Greatest Show on EarthThe Lucifer Effect and Outliers.  In these books, numerous examples are given for the power of fate: one's birth date or birth place is more important than his IQ or how hard he works; the performance of a trader depends entirely on his luck; Malcolm Galdwell became Malcolm Galdwell because of an accidental decision on the part of his grand-mum; a killer became a killer because anyone in his situation was doomed to be a killer, evolution is a purely random process...  These books share one common theme: "it is purely random; You cannot plan your own destiny."  Intriguing is it that this anti-heroic theme, which should somehow sound familiar to those who have some exposure to Buddhist and Chinese philosophy, seems to be getting ground in the Western world.  Surely a lot of people will disagree with the notion that talents are over-rated and most of the wealth is undeserved.  Some will argue, "Look at say Warren Buffett. He is one in a billion. You can't explain his success by reference to luck, can you?".  I tend to think the argument from the opposite side has more force: "Given a billion wealth seekers, there is bound to be a person who is going to be the richest amongst the rich, a Warren Buffett."

A few weeks ago I went to the Waterfall Bay again.  The little waterfall there does not even have a name and is now nothing but a trickle (thanks to the Pokfulam Reservoir upstream).  Tiny though, it is a rare example of a waterfall which falls directly into the sea.  The waterfall was of great value to British merchants two centuries ago.  Before Hong Kong became Hong Kong, British merchants en route to Canton used to visit the place to stock up on water.  Attracted to the place, the British decided to make Hong Kong their base in the Far East... And, you know the rest of the history.  If you agree that the rise of China is an important event in modern world history and if you know the importance of Hong Kong in the process, you will agree that this tiny waterfall has indeed changed the world.  But who would have thought that this tiny waterfall was going to change the world?

There is an old painting of the waterfall at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.  Take a look if you happen to be in Hong Kong.  BTW, on the other end of the Waterfall Park you will find hundred of tiny statutes of Chinese goddesses and gods.  They are shinning bright.  I am sure the old ladies are still going there regularly to clean them, to pray to them and ask them to bring peace and fortune to the world.  If you bump into them, slow down and watch them. Watching them you will see a lot of love.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The world is a better place because you are here!

At the end of every school year 2 students (one from primary division and one from secondary) at ISF will be given the "ISF Principal's Award".  The awards are not given according to a long list of assessment criteria.  It is as simple as this: “The ISF Academy is a better place because you are here!”  Love it - simple, elegant, and relevant to everyone.  I wish I could say to everyone that the world is a better place because I'm here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One Day Some Parents will Employ a Pro to Teach Their Kids to Ride a Bike ...

I jokingly said the above two or three years ago in a meeting of a group of ISF parents.  Seems that it is happening.

My daughter's school is one of those schools in Hong Kong which sadly have become home to some of the more well-off who, feeling insecure 25 (twenty-five) hours a day, are very keen to make available what they think are "the best" to their children.  Here you can find parents who, believing that the sky will collapse if their 8-year-old son does not speak like Sir David Attenborough and their 6-year-old daughter does not sing in the most angelic voice, will pay over US$10,000 to enrol their kids in some "exclusive" Summer programme in the UK and get Teresa Carpio to teach their kids to sing, one-on-one.  This group of parents always tend to moan and complain a lot more than others.  Meeting them for more than a quarter of an hour you will wake up in a cold sweat at night with visions of a house full of the most desperate househusbands and housewives (sometimes, the former may look more desperate than the latter).  At ISF there exist another group of parents - they don't complain about this and that and are more ready to accept things as they are; they don't feed their kids with all the "required" private lessons and don't assess their kids on a daily basis.  And, you know what?  Their kids are happy and turn out just fine.  My daughter is one of the kids who do fairly well at school.  A few months ago I attended the PTA drink gathering at the Red Bar.  A lady parent approached me and asked, "Your girl does not have any extra private tuition and have only two outside school activities? How come she does so well at school?" "People get themselves mixed up with cause and effect," I said, "She does well because she is not burdened with private lessons or too many activities."  My honest answer wouldn't be well received, I knew...

Some parents are determined, very determined to make their own lives, their spouses', their kid's and everybody's lives miserable.  I am determined to stay away from them and stick to the happy ones.  Life is too short to stay close to the negative energy generators.  It's not that they are bad or foolish people.  No, not at all.  In fact, a lot of them are very good people and high achievers in their own fields.  Yet, it seems that they are convinced that they can plan everything and everything should proceed as planned.  They also religiously believe that all the good things are must-haves (or must be offered) and that if they plan well, follow the right method, get the right school, etc., their kids will turn out fine.  Is that so?   Did any of these successful men and women have any of the wonderful must-haves that their kids have?

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