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Yesterday I revisited Queenstown Library, the first library built in Singapore. Its not fancy like the newer libraries in a shopping mall, without robotics. But it does have a cafe, easy self borrowing machines.

As I step into the library, waves of memories hit me. Bringing my then 3 yr old nephew to borrow books, hunting for self help books at a time when I felt so lost.

Revisiting the familiar can sometimes be comforting, at other times surprising.

Like going back to Shanghai after a year and realised so much has changed. Same mall, upholstered.

People change. Sometimes for the better. Do we give the same person the opportunity to be someone different? Forgiveness helps us do that.

You never step in the same river twice.
Heraclitus

Bored with nowhere to go? Try the familiar, but with new eyes.

Creativity is seeing the same thing as everyone but seeing it differently.

What do you think of this saying?

Why Rereading Books and Rewatching Movies Is More Fun Than Expected – The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/04/rereading-books-rewatching-movies-decisions/587416/

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Close to my Chinese roots, my mother put in a lot of effort to find my Chinese name, it means the bell that rings at dawn because I was born pre-dawn. Embeded in my name is my mother’s hope for me. Wisdom, riches, beauty, fame, peace are the typical aspirations. Every Chinese knows this tradition, and in some families, we even choose characters that reveal your position in the family tree.

Yet when it comes to getting an English name, many Chinese/ Taiwanese / Hong Kong Chinese would choose names like Noodle, Rock etc and we puzzle at the quirkiness.

Not so, a young British girl. Beau Jessup. She is making more than $300,000 and funding her way through college by naming Chinese babies. As founder and CEO of Special Name, a website designed to provide Chinese parents with culturally appropriate English names for their babies.

How did she come up with the idea?

Jessup was inspired to start the business in 2015, when she was just 15. She has since named a total of 677,900.

Empathise- A chance encounter

Jessup was traveling with her father in China, when a business contact, a Mrs. Wang, asked for help in naming her three-year-old daughter.

Where are the pain-points?Constraints can be opportunities

“Due to language barriers and internet censorship in China, the ability to research English names can be limited, often resulting in unfortunate and sometimes comical selections”, Jessup noted.(Source: http://flip.it/BN0YJM)

Prototype: A minimally viable Idea

Back home, Jessup hired a freelance web developer to build a Chinese language website for the Chinese community. Meanwhile, in her spare time, she filled a database with more than 4,000 boys and girls names, attributing five characteristics that best represented that name, such as honesty and optimistism.

Ideate – create choices

The website uses algorithm to generate the names. It also allows collective decision making by encouraging users to share the three name suggestions with their friends and family via a direct link to Chinese messaging app WeChat on the site — to help them settle on their favorite and avoid any “cultural mistakes.”

Travel, Empathise, Talk to locals

Beau Jessup’s idea came about because she is a bridge to a diverse network. How many English speaking Chinese can do what she did? Many.

Sometimes, a simple idea is waiting to be discovered.

Go out and talk to people. Empathise with their constraints and see if you can help solve their problems in a win-win way.

Network for ideas

University of Chicago sociologist Ron Burt has referred to this sort of networking as bridging a gap between different social networks.

Burt studied 673 managers in a large U.S. electronics firm and found that those managers who had a broader network of contacts were consistently rated as generating more highly valued ideas.

Their access to diverse, often contradictory information and interpretations gives them an edge when it comes to spotting and developing good ideas.

Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words cannot hurt me.

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Photo credit: By himself of a shopkeeper enjoying small talk with a customer in Naha, Okinawa, 2017

If social connections are important, useful even, why are we afraid of socialising?

May be we fear the social rejection of others. No wonder that public speaking is #1 fear most cited.

As I write this blog, one of my all time favourite coaches for creatives, Mark Mc Guinness has a blogpost, “Are you willing to be laughed at?”

Pain of social rejection

Cyberball Experiment 1
Reviewing Michael Liebermann ‘s book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, Emily Esfahani Smith reported an experiment involving a internet video game, Cyberball. Researchers (Liebermann and Naomi Eisenberger) put people in a brain scanner where three people toss a ball around to each other. Only one person is a real subject, the other two are pre-programmed avatars.  (The subject does not know this.)

The aim of Cyberball game was to make the player (the research subject) feel rejected. Initially, all three players toss the ball to each other in turn. But at some point, the avatars only toss the ball just to each other and cut the human research participant out of the game.

Interestingly, although the research subject never met the other players in this silly game, the research subjects were really hurt. They started feeling distress. They felt rejected. When they came out of the scanner, they kept talking to the researchers about how upset they were.

Is pain from social rejection real? Is it as real as physical pain?

Yes. The most interesting part of the study was how their brains processed the social rejection. To the brain, social pain felt a lot like physical pain—a broken heart can feel like a broken leg, as Lieberman puts it in his book. The more rejected the participant said he or she felt, the more activity in the part of the brain that processed the distress of physical pain.

Experiment 2
In a follow-up study, participants were again called into the lab and played Cyberball with a brain scanner. This time, there was a twist. Before they came into the lab, half of them had taken Tylenol every day for three weeks while the other half had taken a placebo.

What the researchers found was remarkable: the placebo group felt just as rejected and pained as those in the initial study, but “the people in the Tylenol group were immune to the social pain of feeling left out“.

A broken leg and a broken heart did not seem like very different forms of pain”. Researchers hypothesise that pain is a sign that something is wrong. “Social pain signals that we are all alone—that we are vulnerable—and need to either form new connections or rekindle old ones to protect ourselves against the many threats that are out there”.

Social pain may be a survival instinct because being low on status means last to enjoy spoils of the hunt.

In humans, researchers suggested, social pain can be relieved through forming attachments. In studies of rats and their pups, when mothers do not respond to the distress call, the pups often die within two days of birth.

Connecting with others

Maslow is wrong in the sense that there is no hierarchy in needs. Social connections are as important as the need for food, safety, and shelter. But as society prospers, our social connections weaken. Oftentimes, our social skills are left wanting, and we cause pain- both social and physical to our lives and others unwittingly.

Evolutionary, humans have learnt both to connect and to exclude others. We simply do not have the capacity to include everyone.

Social rejection can take the form of sniggering at another, to discrimination to outright bullying.

Could this be why depression and stress has increased?

Holidays are social events and also account for the highest suicide rates, because of another phenomenon, social rejection.

Can this fear of social rejection be unlearned?

1. Be proactive. Build Circles of Influence not circles of concer. (Stephen Covey’s Habit #1). A kind word a day, keeps the doctor away.

2. Living a meaningful life, does not have to be big as scaling a mountain. All muscles need to be exercised and built.

3. Pick up social skills. Invest in your tribe.

4. Hurting people hurt others. Forgive

5. Next time, someone hurts you socially or emotionally, don’t withdraw.

Connect.

Dig your well before you are thirsty.

Build status.

I enjoyed the article by  EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH and can’t wait to read her book on The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters.

Nature vs Nurture: Inside an introvert’s brains in a cocktail party

Perhaps its the impact of three social holidays in a row, Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year. Especially Chinese New Year when we spend 14 days visiting each other and texting greetings to one another.

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In Singapore, we even have a dish that requires us to engage socially, the lo-hei, a raw dish salad dish that we toss and wish each other blessings. Networking is the oil which culture is passed. This dish, is now commonly practiced across the Chinese diaspora from the Chinese immigrants that passed through Singapore-Malaysia.

I am digging up a book by Michael Lieberman, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect

Social anthropologists such as Dunbar have long hypothesized that a species’ brain size or its neocortex is a function of its social group. Most animals have brains in proportion to their body size – species with larger bodies often have larger brains. But humans have bigger brains, six times larger than that expected for our body size.

This has puzzled researchers, as the brain is draining resource – burning 20% of the body’s energy while accounting for only 4% of its mass.

As evolution tends to eliminate waste, how did humans evolve large, energy-consuming brains?

A dominant hypothesis suggests that challenging social interactions were the driving force. Ecological problems only lead to human-sized brains when individuals can keep learning hard skills as they grow. When individuals learn from allies their culturally accumulated knowledge, such as making fire. Mauricio González-Forero and those of others suggest that a hard ecology and the accumulation/ transmission of cultural knowledge socially could act in concert to produce a human sized brain.

Why do we need to network?

Whether you believe in evolution or are a creationist, research seems to point that human survival is wired for it.

There is a price tag on relationships. Studies on the brain’s reward center, which turns on when people feel pleasure, was more active when people gave $10 to charity than when they received $10.  Emily Esfahani Smith

If social connections are important, useful even, why are we reluctant to socialise?

When we talk about socialising or networking, the negative usually comes out, “Its who you know that counts”. “She got that position because of social climbing”.

Yet why don’t we do more of it, if we know that networking is helpful to our career?

Or that connecting with diverse group will improve quality of ideas and creativity?

Have a friend at work? And why it matters.

9 relationships we need in our network

Myths of Networking

If you still still think discovering your purpose or your ‘WHY’ is too touchy feely, listen to the podcast interview by Jacob Morgan of “The Future Organisation” with Tim Munden is the Chief Learning Officer at Unilever.

Company background
Unilever owns several brands including Dove, Ben and Jerry’s, Knorrs, Walls ice-cream. Unilever is found in over 100 countries with more than 160,000 employees.

Tim talks about putting 14,000 of Unilever employees of all levels through a workshop involving the discussion of their personal motivation WHY and linking that to their learning and development needs, bringing the whole self to work.

From the “Future Organisation” website,
Tim’s career started to have focus when someone asked him two questions:
1. What do you really love?
2. What do you want to learn about?

Tim’s advice for managers is to know how to answer– what is the purpose of our business? Keep asking why, why, why. Go on the journey with the senior leadership team.

Also, ask yourself what is the business case of the potential of all of your people. All the passion and energy. What is the price of not doing this? The well-being of employees, not just physical but mental.

Tim’s advice for employees is to make sure you challenge your own humanity, don’t check it at the door. Don’t be shy to bring yourself to work.

His main challenge at Unilever? Getting people to collaborate and share knowledge in a way that creates new learning. These sessions are part of the process to get there as well as reverse mentoring. Partnering older people with younger ones and have young ones teach the older ones.

What You Will Learn In the Episode:

● What Unilever is doing to help their people find their purpose
● Why do companies need to focus on purpose?
● What learning looks like at Unilever and how it has evolved over the last 25 years
● How to create a culture of curiosity and hunger to learn at work
Link from the episode

(Recently the following has been making its way through Whatsapp. I am sharing it here not knowing who the author is. This was sent by a former colleague TSL.)

Lexophile describes those with a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish,” or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless”

An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile.

Some of these phrases need an understanding of science and cultural metaphors. An interesting way to teach students from a non Anglo-Saxon culture the idioms.

What careers do you think suits a Lexophile?

The last one is a reason to be humble and not smarty pants.

🍉🍉🍉🍉🍉🍉🍊🍊🍊🍊🍋🍋🍋🍋

No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

If you don’t pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

When chemists die, they barium.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore.

I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.

Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

For more jokes to lighten your day:
Creating communities through laughter.