I had a monitor visit yestoday. Before starting his work, he asked me about my trip home and what I did back in China. I told him my daughter went back with me this time, right before she went to college this fall. So we did some sightseeings for her sake, as she doesn’t go back as often as I do.
When the monitor asked about my daughter college, I told him where she would go. From there, the conversation turned to the cost of college. His children are still young, one being 10 years old, the other 12. Still, he was shocked at the cost. He said he would discourage his children from going to these expensive colleges. His wife is still paying on her college loans after 20 years of their marriage.
I shared with him my idea on investment in education. The money we put in stock market fluctuates everyday. Sometimes we lost over ten thousands in a matter of a few days. It is never the safest investment. But I trust investment in education is the most worthy and safest one. My daughter is 18 years old and understands the sacrifice that we have gone through in supporting her college. I am sure she will make most out of this experience.
The symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
A sped-up metabolism leads to an increase in body temperature.
A body perpetually in overdrive tires out more quickly.
Fatigue coupled with an overstimulated central nervous system can lead to a variety of emotional changes. Anxiety intermixed with depression, as well insomnia or irritability, are not uncommon.
Perspiration and thirst
As your body temperature rises, your sweat glands tend to overwork, and you feel the need to continually replenish fluids.
As your body uses up energy, it tends to cry out for more. Some people have an insatiable appetite.
Unexplained weight loss
Even though you may eat constantly, you could lose weight, usually between 5 and 10 pounds — even more in extreme cases.
You may notice your heart racing out of the blue. This can occur when you are exerting yourself or when you are relaxing. You may find your pulse is much faster than normal.
Enlarged thyroid gland
Sometimes, but not always, the thyroid gland becomes enlarged and may protrude from the neck to form a goiter. If the goiter is large enough, it may feel lumpy.
Overstimulated nerves can make your hands shake. The shaking may be subtle, or it could be to the point where you can’t steadily carry a drink without spilling it.
An overactive thyroid causes the digestive system to speed up, and this leads to frequent, loose bowel movements.
In some people with an overactive thyroid gland, eye problems can occur and be quite severe. The most common eye symptom is a retraction of the eyelids that makes the eyes appear to bulge or stare dramatically. Your eyes may also be puffy and watery, and you may experience double vision.
You might notice an itchy rash that can be relieved with antihistamines.
Menstrual changes and infertility
Women may notice lighter or missed periods, and may have trouble becoming pregnant.
I read this piece from Harvard Medical School newsletter. I am pretty sure I have posted something similar before, but the thought of a friend of mine developing thyroid problem makes me determined to post it again.
“Many people diagnosed with a thyroid condition are surprised that such a tiny gland can have such a profound impact on overall health and well-being. But the thyroid gland plays an enormous role in human health.
“Throughout life, this busy gland is constantly producing hormones that influence metabolism. When disease causes your thyroid gland to slack off and underproduce thyroid hormone, or overwork and produce too much of it, you’ll know something isn’t right.
“Millions of people have an overactive thyroid gland. Many don’t know it. This condition, known as hyperthyroidism, occurs more often in women than in men. Since the thyroid gland controls the body’s metabolism, an overactive thyroid puts the body into overdrive.”
My daughter went back with me this year when I made my annual visit home, 5/15-6/5. She said she would keep a journal. I only kept a brief one.
5/15, we left Kansas in the morning
5/16, we arrived in Beijing in the evening
5/17, we had a good rest for the day, tried to recover from jet lag
5/18, my daughter went to Nanjing in the evening by train by herself
5/19, she arrived in Nanjing in the morning, her ergu’s home, went to Zhong-shan-ling
5/20, in Nanjing, ?
5/21, she went to Fu-zi-miao
5/22, she went to Suzhou to see her grandma’s house, went to Dong-shan, her grandpa’s tomb
5/23, she went to Hu-qiu
5/25, she went to zhuo-zheng-yuan
5/26, Wang-yue took her out
5/27, still in Suzhou ?, left for Beijing by train in the evening
5/28, back to Beijing in the morning at South Train station, rest for the day
5/29, we went to Beihai Park, Jingshan Park, Wangfujing
5/30, we went to Temple of Heaven and Jianmen
5/31, we went to Temple of the Earth
6/1, Saturday, we went to Babaoshan Cemetery to visit grandpa’s tomb, went to KFC in Wangfujjing. We had dinner with Yan Bin and the family in the evening
6/2, Sunday, we went to Summar Palace, 2008 Beijing Olympics site — Bird’s Nest with Sanyi and Sanyifu
6/3, we had lunch with Dong Jianfang at Huaqiao Fandian
6/4, we went to Beijing Zoo in the morning, Tianyi shopping center
6/5, left Beijing for USA at noon
I am not going to say, as I always comment, “How time flies!” Then sigh. How useless that sigh is! Still I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started this site.
Sometimes, I do wonder why I keep writing here? My children seldom visit it. They either don’t have the time or the interest in what I have to say here. Why not once a week instead of daily posting? Is it necessary to stick to one-a-day rule? I no longer wish to improve my writing as I think I have hit a plateau. In spite of it all, I proceed, more out of a habit.
Sometimes, I share my readings here. Sometimes, I post events or happening here in case friends pop in. Whatever the topic is, I always find a lot to say, more than enough to bore readers to the extreme.
For the coming year, I am going to work on getting something funny, or trying to relax and laugh a little bit. I need something to cheer me up constantly, as my daughter is heading for college in less than 3 months. So much for now.
Happy birthday, Momwrite!
Chapter 3: Determining inflammation’s role in chronic disease
Inflammation is a common denominator among chronic diseases. Causes of inflammation include: smoking, chronic infection, daily stress, nutrient deficiencies, environmental toxins, lack of exercise, plus genetic predispositions.
The connections appear to be like this: all or some of the above -> decreased physical activity -> skeletal muscle weakness -> chronic disease -> inflammation. The cycle is self-perpectuating.
–Connection heart disease, obesity, and diabetes to inflammation
–Stress and weight gain: How cortisol release due to stress promotes weight gain
When your body is under stress or your blood contains low levels of hormones called glucocorticoids, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes a hormone called acetylcholinesterase (ACTH) which signals the adrenal gland on the kidney to secrete cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that increase blood sugar; supresses the immune system; decreases bone formation; and affects fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. Cortisol levels are controlled by the part of the brain called hypothalamus.
Chapter 2: “Understanding how food can be your body’s enemy”
Some foods are toxic in that they are harmful to the body and can lead to inflammation and chronic disease. Three categories of toxic foods are:
(1) Foods that increase inflammation in everyone, eg. trans fats, refined sugars, and artificial foods.
(2) Foods that are toxic to some people, eg. wheat, corn, and diary
(3) Foods that contain chemicals and other harmful substances that causes inflammation and endocrine changes in the body; they may accumulate in the fat cells and liver and can be associated with cancer.
Top three toxic foods for anti-aging: refined sugar, trans fat, and bleached flour.
Some of the toxic foods found in everyday diets:
Cookies, doughnuts, pastries
Prepared salad dressings and condiments
Flavored oatmeal or cereal
Soda and fruit punch
Packaged baked goods
Potato and corn chips
Creamy salad dressings and condiments
Bleached or enriched flour–
Cookies, even homemade
I went back to work the next day fter I got back from China on June 5. That weekend I took my daughter to our local library to check out some books. Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies is one of them.
I flipped through a few pages and found there are plenty of things that are new to me. Here are some headings and sub-headings in chapter 1: “Inflammation, Food and You.”
–Understanding the difference between acute and chronic inflammation.
Low-grade inflammation often goes undetected, but here are common symptoms:
Body aches and pains
Diarrhea or irritable bowel symptoms
Shortness of breath
–Gut reactions: linking food, digestion, and the immune system
–Breaking down food and dealing with the pieces
–Recognizing the digestive tract as part of the immune system
–Treating your symptoms with nutrition
–Creating a diet that works for you
–Eating right for long-term benefits
–Supplementing your diet with an anti-inflammation lifestyle
I read this article from Psychology Today “Strategic Thinking How to Get Your Way? New research dispels three common myths that prevent us from moving others,” 3/7/2013 by Nick Tasler.
The author tries to expose “three common misconceptions” about sales. Whether you know it or not, you will sell something today. “We are all in sales,” insists Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human.
Myth#1: saying more sells more. The “fast-talkers and light-listeners were hardly better at sales than extremely introverted wallflowers. The top performers were actually ‘ambiverts’—those people who are smack dab in the middle of the introversion/extroversion bell curve. ‘Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening,” Grant explains, ambiverts come across as “more conversational and authentic.’ They express appropriate levels of excitement without being in-your-face pushy or in-your-space creepy.”
Myth#2 empathy is the secret weapon. “This is a dangerous half-truth. It sounds good, but empathy by itself is not strategic enough to be effective. You must show some heart, but you can’t lose your head.”
Myth#3: optimism beats realism
As Momwrite site approaches 5th anniversary, I am going to make this announcement. For the first time during these five years, Momwrite is not going to post daily.
Not because I don’t have anything to say. On the contrary, I have plenty of backlogs, notes from reading that I plan to organize and share with my readers here. One main reason for this change is: I simply don’t have the time.
I will concentrate more on professional writing, not fictional one, but more related to the job that I am doing. They are more boring than writing casually on Momwrite. Here’s one that I published on MONITOR journal June 2013, “Source Documents, Flow Sheets, Duplicates, and Discrepancies” The link takes you to an abstract.
I will devote more time on getting a second one published this year.
Here’s something funny with our company’s job application. We are never required to give out our date of birth, for fear of applicants’ filing age discrimination law suit.
Yet there is one field that you must complete, that is, year of high school graduation. You cannot submit the application without completing this field. As far as I can see, the year of high school graduation has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of job that I applied.
It might be a good thing to filter out not-young folks who are competing with the younger ones in this tight job market, especially in IT field. But it is really not fair to those thus excluded.
Yesterday I went to IT department of my workplace in an attempt to transfer there. I felt hopeful on my way there, but less so on my way out.
During my last interview, the hiring manager and another lead team member spent almost an hour with me, giving me the impression that I would join their team, for real. But that didn’t happen.
This time the hiring manager ran out of questions before long and started asking me if I had any questions for her. So much interest in me! I thought if I didn’t have any question, she would show me the door in less than 20 minutes.
I would be telling a lie if I say I don’t feel down after that. Still, putting things in perspective, it might not be a bad thing, either way. Things always have two sides.
On 6/9, Sunday evening, my son called home. We chatted about his life and work. I know he is trying a minimalist living now, so I asked if he was ok financially. He said he was still doing ok.
Next, he said “It’s better I have this kind of life now than after I turn 30.”
Nowadays children grow up like in a honey jar, never having the taste of the bitter side of life. It is a good thing on the one hand. On the other hand, they will better appreciate the sweetness of honey if they know what bitterness tastes like.
I am sure my son’s current lifestyle will prepare him for a better appreciation of what he will have in the future.
The Xi-Obama summit held in Sunnylands, California, 6/7-8/2013 has far-reaching significance than most people care to know. It is not only the meeting between the heads of a rising and a declining world power, but also hold potential key to the peace and stability in Asia.
For more on this topic, see this article by Stephen Harner, a former US State Department official, How We Should Measure Success from the Obama-Xi Summit.
This is what I read a month ago on Mother’s Day. I know it is already one month after that day. Still, I find it interesting to share this one here.
These are the numbers behind Mother’s Day:
–$20.7 billion: The amount Americans will spend this Mother’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s Mother’s Day spending survey
–85.4 million: number of Moms in the U.S., according to the latest stats from the United States Census Bureau
–$168.94: The average amount American consumers will spend on mom for Mother’s Day 2013
–$152.52: The average spending last year. This year’s figure is an 11 percent increase.
–3: Mother’s Day’s ranking, after Christmas and Valentine’s Day, in terms of the amount of money spent by U.S. consumers
–14.1: Percent of buyers who plan to purchase electronics as Mother’s Day gifts — the highest percentage in history
–$2.3 billion: Amount expected to be spent on electronics for Mother’s Day, up from last year’s $1.6 billion
–$2.3 billion: Amount expected to be spent on flowers this Mother’s Day
–16,182: Florist establishments nationwide in 2010, according to New York Citizen One
–70,575: Employees at floral shops across the U.S
–28.5: Percent of Americans who will buy their gifts online this year
–25.6: Percent of Americans who bought Mother’s Day gifts online last year
–29.1: Percent of shoppers who will buy Mother’s Day gifts at discount stores
–36: Percent of moms who would prefer to receive something homemade
–24: Percent of daughters who plan to give something homemade
–17: Percent of sons who plan to give something homemade
By the way, my son called on the morning of 5/12, wishing me happy Mother’s Day. This is enough to make my day.
On 5/12, three days before I left for China, I bought a Belkin wireless router at Walmart. In the evening I tried to install it at home, but couldn’t connect it to the internet. A screen return says call xxxx for help. This I did.
The man on the other side talked with Indian accent, so strong that I found it hard to follow. Before doing anything, he asked for my name and phone number. After I gave it to him, he repeated it back to me making sure everything was correct. Next, he asked “Can I put you on hold for a second?” Sure, I said.
After a few minutes, he came back apologizing profusely. I thought it strange. He didn’t even know why I called and he didn’t even ask. What did he do with my name and phone number? This guy smells so fishy. Well, as long as he could help me get it work, I thought.
After I gave him my model number and explained to him my problem, he immediately told me that they no longer provide free support to this model, but he could help me out with a fee. “Are you asking for a fee for Belkin customer service?” I wanted to make sure I understood what he said. “Yes,” he answered.
So much for giving him my name and phone number! “Forget it. I can just return this Belkin router and get another brand. Plus, I will make sure people know my experience with Belkin customer service.” Before he could reply, I hanged up the phone on him.
The only reason to learn trigonometry is because it is a momentarily interesting question, one worth sorting out. But then we should move on, relentlessly seeking out new problems, one even more interesting thatn that one.
Leading is a skill, not a gift. You are not born with it, you learn how… leadership is now worth far more than compliance is.
The law of linchpin leverage:
The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value. In other words, most of the time, you are not being brilliant. Most of the time, you do stuff that ordinary people could do.
A brilliant one is brilliant only in tiny bursts.
The art is created in a moment, not in tiny increments.
The craft of the painting, the craft of writing that email, the craft of building that PowerPoint presentation–those are the easy parts. It is the art and the insight and the bravery of value creation that are rewarded.
The Tedium, Pain, and Insecurity of Being Mediocre
It’s impossible to do the work at the same time you are in pain. The moment-to-moment insecurity of so many jobs robs you of the confidence you need to actually do the great work.
On top of this, if you do great work you gain the reward of knowing you are doing great work. Your day snaps into alignments with your dreams, and you no longer have to pretend you are mediocre. You are free to contribute.
Hire cheap labor drones that you can scale, replace, and disrespect.
Depth of Knowledge Alone is not Enough
Today, if all you have to offer is that you know a lot of reference book information, you lose, because the Internet knows more than you do.
Depth of knowledgment combined with good judgment is worth a lot. Depth of knowledgment combined with diagnostic skills or nuanced insight is worth a lot, too.
Emotional labor and making maps
Emotinal labor is work you do with your feelings, not your body.
Your job is a Platform
You get paid to go to work and do something of value. But your job is also a platform for generosity, for expression, for art.
Every interaction you have with a cowork or customer is an opportunity to practice the art of interaction. Every product you make represents an opportunity to design something that has never been designed, to create an interaction unlike any other.
Does school work?
Here’s what we are teaching kids to do:
User #2 pencils;
Take good notes;
Show up every day;
Cram for tests and don’t miss deadlines;
Have good handwriting;
Buy the things the other kids are buying;
Don’t ask questions;
Don’t challenge authority;
Do the minimum amount required so you will have time to work on another subject;
Get into college;
Have a good resume;
Don’t say anything that might embarrass you;
Be passably good at sports, or perhaps extremely good at being a quarterback;
Participate in a large number of extracurricular activities;
Be a generalist;
Try not to have the other kids talk about you;
Once you learn a topic, move on…
Now, the key questions:
(1) Which of these attributes are the keys to being indispensable?
(2) Are we building the sort of people our society needs?
The problem lies with the system that punishes artists and rewards bureaucrats instead.
“I am good at school” This is a fundamentally different statement from “I did well in school and therefore I will do a great job working for you.”
Being good at school is a fine skill if you intend to do school forever.
For the rest of us, being good at school is a little like being good at Frisbee. It’s n ice, but it’s not relevant unless your career involves homework assignment, looking through textbooks for answers that are already known to your supervisors,…
What they should teach in school
Only two things
(1) solve interesting problems
You Get What You Focus On
Keeping up with the Joneses is not a genetic predisposition. It is an invented need, and a recent one.
The school sign should say “We teach peole to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo, and to interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems.”
The typical indoctrinated response is that great work and great art and remarkable output are the domain of someone else. You think that your job is to do the work that needs doing, anonymously.
It appears to me that the only way they differ from a mediocre rule-follower is that they never bought into thir self-limiting line of thought. That’s it.
Regardless, the distinction between cogs and linchpins is largely one of attitude, not learning.
Creativity is not choosing to wear a pink shirt to an office where only blue and white are standard. That’s merely window dressing.
Studies show us that things learned in frightening circumstances are sticky. We remember what we learn on the battlefield, or when we burn a finger on a hot tea kettle.
Teaching people to produce innovative work, off-the-chart insights, and yes, art is time-consuming and unpredictable.
The new American dream should be,
Make judgment calls
Connect people and ideas
“Not My Job”
Three words can kill an entire organization. As the world moves faster and engagements become more fluid, the category of “not my job” keeps getting bigger and bigger.
If you can be human at work (not a machine), you will discover a passion for work you didn’t know you had. When work becomes personal, your customers and coworkers are more connected and happier. And that creates even more value.
When you are not a cog in a machine, an easily replaceable commodity, you will get paid what you are worth. Which is more.
We have been trained to believe that mediocre is a genetic factor for most of the population, but it’s interesting to note that this trait doesn’t show up until a few years if schooling.
I define a factory as an organization that has figured out, a place where people go to do what they are told and earn a paycheck. Factories have been the backbone of our economy for more than a century, … That doesn’t mean you want to work in one.
You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to be indispensable is to be different. That’s becaue if you ae the same, so are plenty of other people.
The only way to get what you are worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care about.
We need you to stand up and be remarkable. Be human. Contribute. Interact. Take the risk that you might make someone upset with your initiative, innovation, and insight…
Will You Still Be Loved?
Who care. Either those people will come around or they never loved you in the first place, did they?
You can’t or you don’t want to? Very often, it is not that you cannot do, but you just don’t want to. That defines who you are.
It is possible that making this commitment is too scary or too much work. It’s possible that it appears too risky to put yourself on the line and make a commitment to becoming
indispensable. A commitment like this raises the bar, and for some people, that might be too high.
Today, the means of production = a laptop computer with Internet connectivity ….
This change is a fundamental shift in power and control. When you can master the communication, conceptual, and connectivity elements of the new work, then you have more power than management does. And if management attracts, motivates, and retains great talent, then it has more leverage than the competition.
It starts wtih bloggers, musicians, writers and others who don’t need anyone’s support or permission to do their thing.
Mediocrity and the Web
Hugh MacLeod: “The web has made kicking ass easier to achieve, and mediocrity harder to sustain. Mediocrity now howls in protest.”
Mediocre is merely a failed attempt to be really good.
The Hierarchy of Value
Lift ->Hunt ->Grow ->Produce ->Sell ->Connect ->Create/invent
Lots of people can lift. That’s not paying off anything.
There are always more people at the bottom of the stairs, doing hard work that is easy to learn. As you travel up the hierarchy, the work gets easier, the pay gets better, and the
number of people available to do the work gets smaller… Almost no one puts in the work to
create or invent.
The End of ABC and the Search for the Difference Maker
Thorton May correctly points out that we have reached the end of what he calls attendance-based compensation (ABC). There are fewer and fewer good jobs where you can get paid merely for showing up. Instead, successful organizations are paying for people who make a difference and are shedding everyone else.
Some jobs are likely to remain poorly paid, low in respect, and high in turnover. These are jobs where attendance (showing up) is all that really matters. Other jobs, the really good jobs, are going to be filled with indispensable people, people who make a difference by doing work that is really hard to find from anyone else.
Owning the Means of Production
When labor is dependent on management for the factory and the machines and the systems they use to do their work, the relationship is fraught with issues over power and control.
The factor needs labor, sure, but labor really needs the factory. It is always easier for management to replace labor than it was for labor to find a new factory.
[NOTE: this is so true. It seems labor needs factory much more than vice versa.]
The system we grew up with is based on a simple formula: Do your job. Show up. Work hard. Listen to the boss. Stick it out. Be part of the system. You will be rewarded.
That’s the scam. Strong words, but true. You have been scammed. You traded years of your life to be part of a giant con in which you are most definitely not the winner.
Having a factory job is not a natural state. It wasn’t at the heart of being a human until recently. We have been culturally brainwashed to believe that accepting the hierarchy and lack of responsibility that come with a factory job is the one way, and the best way.
Art and Initiative and Who’s an Artist Now?
Now, success means being an artist.
In fact, history is now being written by the artists while the factory workers struggle.
It’s factory work because it’s planned, controlled, and measured.
(You Are What You Do)
For our entire lives, the push has been to produce, to confirm, and to consume.
If the factories are our minds–if the thing the market values is insight or creativity or
engagement–then capital isn’t nearly the factor it used to be. There is a third layer to the
economy now–call them the linchpins.
(Karl Marx and Adam Smith Agreed)
The PERL (Percentage of Easily Replaced Laborers)
The Rule of Ordinary People
A popular book by Michael Gerber The E-Myth Revisited says the perfect business model:
“The Model Will Be Operated by People with the Lowest Possible Levels of Skill. Yes, I said lowest possible level of skill. Because if your model depends on highly skilled people, it is going to be impossible to replicate. Such people are at a premium in the marketplace. They are also expensive, thus raising the price you will have to charge for your product.
The business model should be such that the employees needed possess the lowest possible level of skill necessary to fulfill the functions for which each is intended.”
His point was that you want a cookie-cutter business that you can scale fast, without regard for finding, nurturing, and retaining linchpin talent.
We continue to operate as if that system is still here, but every day we do that is a day wasted, dollars lost, an opportunity squandered.
What factory owners want is complaint, low-paid, replaceable cogs to run their efficient machine.
We need original thinkers, provocateurs, and people who care.
Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, a new way of getting things done.
Outsourcing and automation and the new marketing punish anyone who is merely good, merely obedient, and merely reliable.
The cause of the suffering is the desire of organizations to turn employees into replaceable cogs in a vast machine. The easier people are to replace, the less they need to be paid.
“Thank you for protecting us from our fear”
But I don’t believe that this was enough to explain the massive embrace of a different way of life. The key piece of leverage was this promise: follow these instructions and you don’t have to think. Do your job and you don’t have to be responsible for decisions.
In every corporation in every country in the world, people are waiting to be told what to do.
Like scared civilians eager to do whatever a despot tells them, we give up our freedom and responsibilities in exchange for the certainty that comes from being told what to do.