C is for Chaos

24 05 2012

TEDxMongKok: chaos.

Chaos Strikes TEDxMongKok!

But not to worry – something good came out of it: ideas worth spreading.

C is for Chaos, but it’s also for choice, consumption, creativity, control, challenge, change, community, crowd-sourcing, and construction. In a world of confusion and mayhem (and might I add, a world that is supposed to end this year), TEDxMongKok today posed the very crucial question: how can we thrive if the new world order is chaos? Together, speakers, participants, organisers and volunteers all searched for the elusive answer.

Let’s start with the first C: choice.

What role will choices play in a world defined by chaos?
Dr Sheena Iyengar enlightened us all with a most fascinating talk about choices.  Here’s what stood out for me from her presentation:

  • Something to think about: How many decisions do we make a day – small decisions, large decisions, quick decisions, slow decisions?
  • Leadership and choices:Leaders today have to make decisions all the time, day in day out – but are they making the right choices? In today’s complex world, it’s no longer about economies of scale, but rather economies of networks. To manage complexity, we need good leaders who can make good choices.
  • Today’s three leadership problems: 1) What should be done? 2) What information is needed? 3) Who can help me, who can I help?
  • Information overload: the information overload we are experiencing is the equivalent of 174 newspapers a day. Yep. The question is,  how can we best use human social and institutional capital to make the best decisions?
  • Networks: How did Mark Zuckerberg go from a socially awkward guy to a multibillionaire? He understood networks. Leaders today are the DNA of their networks – so the importance of making good choices is all the greater.

As I make my choices from now on, I’ll consciously be asking myself – how have I arrived at making this choice? Have I used enough information to make my choice? Am I leveraging networks in making this choice?

China: what’s her place in a world of chaos?
Zhang Lijia 
then posed the question, what’s China’s place in the world today? The most memorable snippet from her deeply personal presentation was her reminder that much of the fear over China’s relentless rise is understandable, and yet much of it is also due to ignorance. To understand China, one must think out of the box. So let’s educate ourselves about China, approach it with an open mind, and acknowledge that China – whether we like it or not – is here to stay in today’s chaotic world. Whether she can make the world less chaotic or worsen the chaos remains to be seen…

A monk, a hippie and a baby. Chaotic combo? Not if you’re at TEDxMongKok!

Chaos of Consumption
Consumption. We all need it. We need to consume to survive. And yet this word has gathered so much negativity that it has evolved to carry connotations of gluttony, greed, selfish indulgence. Chandran Nair very perceptively presented us with a paradox: Asian countries have been urged to consume to boost the world economy, and yet are slammed for skyrocketing emissions. What does this say about the consumption-driven growth model?

  • The consumption model is outdated. It shaped the 19th and 20th centuries, but the 21st century is desperately calling for a new model.
  • 4 major trends of the 21st century: 1) the human population peaking 2) CO2 levels reaching unprecedented heights 3) technology everywhere 4) the old economic model crumbling….together these four trends mean that we can no longer rely on consumption.
  • Resource management as the center of all policy making. Asia needs a new model – not the consumption model, but one that is real, that manages limited resources, and that strengthens the state – because only governments can effectively do sustainability.

The 8th Mass Medium
We started with print, recordings, cinema, radio, TV, internet and mobile as the 7 mass mediums. What’s the eighth going to be? Tomi Ahonen  proposes that is is augmented reality. He raised a very interesting point about the advance of mobile technology: back in the 60s NASA used computer power to launch shuttles…today we use the iPhone to launch Angry Birds! Mobile has exploded (in a good way) – now it’s time for augmented reality to trot along. Some questions that I asked myself during the presentation:

  • How will augmented reality redefine the world?
  • Will augmented reality really redefine the world?
  • If so, will augmented interfere with our intellectual sovereignty?

It’s all a bit abstract for the moment, but I’ll make sure to keep an eye on the development of augmented reality.

Brr…don’t we love that wonderful word. Work. In fact, we spend an average of 81,000 hours at work in our lifetime. So we’d better work on something we love then, hadn’t we? Jared King gave us a shocking statistic: only 20% of us are actively engaged in work. There is an absolute epidemic of boredom at work – and this is a problem. Time and resources are being wasted. More importantly, talent is being wasted.

“The most wasted resource on earth is talent” – Jared King

What we need, therefore, is a way to revolutionise the concept of work, to re-engineer the world of work, to change the way we work in order to effect good, positive results. The secret to great work, says Jared, is to find that sweetspot between chaos and control.

Dancers flood the stage, disrupting Professor Kay Ottik’s (get it?) ‘presentation’. It’s all part of the chaos!


I couldn’t stay for the entire conference, but here’s the conclusion I’ve drawn from today’s stimulating presentations:





To Become a Champion, Fight One More Round

3 08 2011

To Become a Champion, Fight One More Round.    James Corbett

When I read this quotation a few years ago, I knew that this was my philosophy.

Champions aren’t born. I believe that talent is important, but pure hard work is what nails it more often than not.

I take ‘fight’ to mean exert – to give it your all. You can fight one more round physically, but also mentally.

She’s a running champ because she trains more, but also because she trains with a better mindset: more concentration, more determination, more motivation.

He’s top of the class because he studies more, but also because he learns with the optimal mentality: more curiosity, more initiative , more skepticism.

This is the philosophy that I keep in whatever I do. If I’m going to do something, I want to do it well – and so I fight one more round. I’ll get up early and run. I’ll jump into the pool and do 1000m before the actual training session starts. I’ll read more, write more. I’ll do more, but most importantly, I’ll do it with the best mindset I can possibly have.

It pays off to fight one more round, and it definitely feels very rewarding when you see results. This summer, I was determined to improve my swimming. I signed myself up for 3 sessions of training a week, and on top of that, I swam before training, after training, as well as the remaining days of the week. And guess what? It paid of, because my times have improved!

That sure felt good.

At the end of the day though, the reality is that I won’t ever be a top competitive swimmer –  it isn’t my strength, and I realise that. But that doesn’t matter to me, because as important as it is for me to be a champion, I also believe that it’s being your own champion that matters.

So, fight one more round. Give it you all. Be a champion – your own champion.

Stand Up, Sit Down.

19 06 2011

Problem:  As my work load has steadily increased over the past two years, I’ve found myself sitting more. As my sitting time increased, I felt increasingly restless and craving movement.

Solution: Ditching the chair (mostly) and standing up while working.

I started this practice of standing even before the large number of studies came out about the dangers of sitting (see infographic here), so it wasn’t for reasons of health/weight loss that led me to this habit. It was more a frustration and annoyance with being on my butt the whole time, and feeling very fidgety because I couldn’t move.

Some of my standing up methods include putting my laptop on a stack of thick hardcover books, and writing on a little bookcase that comes up to my chest.

I’ve been working while standing for over a year now and here are some observed results:

  • I’m more productive. Because sitting made me feel restless, I started to fidget with my fingers, spin my pen, drum on the table and so forth – all of which made me lose my concentration. Standing up, though, put an end to my restlessness. Now I’m fully concentrated 99% of the time and can do more with less time.
  • I think better. For some reason, I can never think quite as well sitting down as standing up.
  • I’m happier because I’m not stuck to the chair on my butt.

This isn’t to say that the method is perfect.

  • Standing does get a little tiring. To take the pressure off my feet I’ll shift my weight between my right and left legs by swaying my hips a little. Of course, I’ll also sit down and work like that for a while before switching back to standing when I feel restless again!
  • Stiff neck and lower back. This is especially true with writing while standing, but I think it is more to do with the surface being too low. It’s not a big problem though – doing a handstand or the wheel pose instantly relieves all my stiffness, not to mention giving me a boost in energy.
  • When I get tired of both sitting and standing, I walk. Granted, this only works with reading but it’s wonderful anyway. All I have to do is take my book, slowly waltz up and down the room/corridor, and feel totally refreshed.

Bottom line: mix it up. Sit, stand, walk…after all nothing is good in excess.


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R.I.P. Procrastination

13 06 2011

If achievement is movement, then procrastination is definitely a lack of movement.

So you might have guessed that I hate procrastination with a passion – this is how I like to move through my day and get things done.

  1. Write down a feasible to-do list for the day. For me, no more than five tasks.
  2. Not all tasks are created equal. I prioritise my tasks, with the top two being the most important. If nothing else, these are the two things I’ll finish by the end of the day.
  3. Work in bite size chunks. On a typical school day I will have two 2 hour working slots. When I start to work, I tell myself that this is all the time that I have – so I’d better concentrate and get moving!
  4. Every 30 minutes I take a short power break. (Kind of like the 30-10 hack from zenhabits) Walk around. Breath. Do a handstand. Jump. Then it’s back to work.
  5. At the end of the two hour slot I take an extended break. I go for a run, or dinner followed by a nice walk, or whatever else I feel like.
  6. After I finish up my second two hour time slot, I stop working. We could all carry on forever, but what’s the point? Go and do something else, and come back to it fresh tomorrow.
  7. Before I go to sleep I review my to-do list. I cross out what I’ve done, and carry over to the next day’s list what I haven’t done.

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