Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, May 18, 2013

Why isn’t it working now? Part III

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:34 am

Continued from previous posting.
We don’t actually produce more values by working longer hours. In other word, the best way of being productive and getting more done is not to work longer and more continuously.

Here’s what the author explains, “the more hours we work and the longer we go without real renewal, the more we begin to default, reflexively, into behavior that reduce our own effectiveness–impatience, frustration, distraction, and disengagement–and take a pernicious toll…”

Because, as many studies suggest, “we’re most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest.” Without this intermittent break, we “live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities but rarely fully engaged in any of them–or fully disengaged from any of them.”

Very true!

1, May 17, 2013

Why isn’t it working now? Part II

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:17 am

Continued from previous posting.
Here’s the paradox of this confusing culture of demanding more and more and resulting in less and less. According to the author, “The ethic of more, bigger, faster generates value that is narrow, shallow, and short term. More and more, paradoxically, leads to less and less.” p. 4

As we try to meet the outside demand for more and more, we exert ourselves to the maximum, give away our time and life to the fullest, run fastest, thus leaving ourselves less and less time to breath, to reflect the meaning of our experience, to feel and think like human beings.

In our attempt to make ourselves richer externally and materially, we empty ourselves spiritually and become shallow living organisms.

Indeed, it is time to slow down, pause, think, reflect and live like a human.

1, May 16, 2013

Why isn’t it working now? Part I

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:04 am

On 4/27, the day my daughter came back from Minneapolis with her school, I started reading this book by Tony Schwartz: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, published in 2010.

The book touches many problems that we are so familiar with today, like workplace growing bigger and faster, like people putting in more and more time into their work but feeling like getting less and less done, like transaction speed increasing exponentially, like rappers bubbling faster and faster, like more emails to answer, like more customers to serve, like more places to go, more meetings to attend, more tasks crying for your attention, yet less time for any of them…

The consequences of this “furious activity” is it exacts a series of silent costs: less capacity for focused attention, less time for any given task, and less opportunity to think reflectively and long term.”

Sounds like we become more like machines and less human in the way we live.

1, May 4, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part VII

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:02 am

Which is better, positive or negative?

I have tried to find out how the authors determine positive and negative. Or what do they mean by positive and negative? Which one is better? No, the authors do not answer these question directly. They make no value judgment as to which is better.

But, from the way they are presented here, all positive instincts — Action, Fight, Acquisition, Association, Mating, Parental care are better than negative ones — Flight, Avoidance, Privacy, Refusal, Filial dependence, if you look at the pairs in terms of survival of the fittest.

Furthermore, all habits associated with positive instincts seem better than those associated with negative one.

My understanding is, those who possess predominantly positive instincts are in better position to compete and survive in the world.

1, May 3, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part VI

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:34 am

What about the ordinary people? If the heroes are innovative as it is shown in the table, its opposite is imitation.

That is, according to the authors, “As submissive natures unite with masterful individuals (heroes) to make the order and operation of a society, so the imitative majority (the ordinary folks) follows the innovating minority, and this follows the originative individual.”

I would say the minority people who can truly change the course of history are not necessarily innovating. Sometimes, it is simply because they are powerful or they have money power.

What is history in a large picture? It is “the conflict of minorities; the majority applauds the victor and supplies material of social experiment.”

Wow! It is so true when we look at the wars today. The minority like Bush and his gangs wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, whatever excuses they gathered. Who supplied human materials? The vast majority of ordinary people!

1, May 2, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part V

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:53 am

Don’t societies and civilizations make progress throughout history? What about social evolution? It is, according to the author, “an interplay of custom with origination” of extraordinary persons.

The authors call these persons “initiative individual –the ‘great man,’ the ‘hero,’ the ‘genius’ –regains his place as a formative force in history. He is not quite the god …; he grows out of his time and land, and is the product and symbol of events as well as agent and voice; without some situation requiring a new response his new idas would be untimely and impractical.”

Next, the authors give examples like Churchill, Napoleon, Marx, Lenin and Mao Tsedong.

The situation demands someone to jump out and lead. The higher the crisis, the higher is the hero’s place. The hero might remain normal and unknown if not for the special occasion or events.

“Events take place through him as well as around him; his ideas and decisions enter vitally into the course of history.”

So wonderfully said!

1, Apr 30, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part IV

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:55 am

On instincts, habits, feelings and human nature: different habits and feelings grow out of different instinct. “Their totality is the nature of man.”

According to the authors, “known history shows little alteration in the conduct of mankind.” That is, we behave pretty much the same as our ancestors four thousand years ago. Even though the means and instruments have changed, the motives and ends remain the same throughout human history.

There are always these six pair of instincts: to act or rest; to acquire or give; to fight or flight; to associate or privacy; to mate or reject; to offer or resent parental care. You find these instincts among human beings, regardless of culture and social class. As long as you are human beings, you exhibit these instincts.

Evolution in man has been social rather than biological. “It has proceeded not by heritable variations in the species, but mostly by economic, political, intellectual, and moral innovation transmitted to individuals and generations by imitation, custom, or education.”

1, Apr 29, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part III

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:09 am

In case you want to keep a copy of the Table of Character Elements, so nicely arranged by the author, I have the screenshot of that below. You can see clearly the six pairs of instincts with their associated habits and feelings.

Table of Charactr elememts

More later.

1, Apr 28, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part II

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:11 am

Table of Character Elements
For each of the positive instincts, there is a negative one. Associated with the positive and negative instincts are positive and negative habits and feelings.

Positive Instincts:
1. Action
2. Fight
3. Acquisition
4. Association
5, Mating
6. Parental care

Negative instincts:
1. Sleep
2. Flight
3. Avoidance
4. Privacy
5. Refusal
6. Filial dependence

Habits associated with positive instincts:
On Action: Play, Work, Curiosity, Manipulation, Thought, Innovation, Art
On Fight: Approach, Competition, Pugnacity, Mastery,
On Acquisition: Eating, Hoarding, Property
On Association: Communication, Seeking approval, Generosity
On Mating: Sexual activity, Courtship
On Parental Care: Homemaking

Habits associated with negative instincts:
On Sleep: Rest, Sloth, Indifference, Hesitation, Dreaming, Imitation, Disorder
On Flight: Retreat, Cooperation, Timidity, Submission
On Avoidance: Rejection, Spending, Poverty,
On Privacy: Solitude, Fearing disapproval, Selfishness
On Refusal: Sexual perversion, blushing
On Filial dependence: Filial rebellion

Feelings associated with positive instincts
On Action: Buoyancy, Energy, Eagerness, Wonder, Absorption, Resolution, Aesthetic feeling
On Fight: Courage, Rivalry, Anger, Pride
On Acquisition: Hunger, Greed, Possessiveness
On Association: sociability, vanity, kindliness
On Mating: Sexual imagination, sexual love
On Parental Care: parental love

Feelings associated with negative instincts
On Sleep: fatigue, inertia, boredom, doubt, vacuity, acceptance, confusion
On Flight: anxiety, friendliness, fear, humility
On Avoidance: disgust, prodigality, insecurity
On Privacy: secretiveness, shyness, hostility
On Refusal: Sexual neurosis, modesty
On Filial dependence: filial resentment

More tomorrow…

1, Apr 27, 2013

Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part I

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:08 am

One of my favorite books is The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. I have read it more than once. Not because I have a bad memory, like I’ll forget it all once I close the book, but because good books always worth re-reading. I will post my notes from the book here.

On Chapter V, Character and History, the authors start “Society is founded not on the ideals but on the nature of man, and the constitution of man rewrites the constitutions of states.” Talk about biological basis of society! Very interesting!

The authors define human nature as “the fundamental tendencies and feelings of mankind.” They call instincts “most basic tendencies.” They believe “human beings are normally equipped by ‘nature’ (here meaning heredity) with six positive and six negative instincts, whose function it is to preserve the individual, the family, the group, or the species” In other words, people are born with these instincts.

The interesting part is the author’s description of human nature through their “Table of Character Elements” with 6 positive and 6 negative instincts.
To be continued tomorrow…

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