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Happiness

The Peter Principle, Why things go wrong by Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull

With foreword by Robert Sutton

Let me have men about me that are fat
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous
– Julius Ceasar, Shakespeare

We hire people after our own image. The authors cite Napolean who felt that people with big noses make better leaders. The Retrospective Decision making model predicts that we make decisions intuitively and retrospectively give a reason (possibly logically) for our decision.

We make judgments about people’s competence. Sometimes from brief interactions. The more powerful you are, the more impact. Interviewers sometimes take as fast as 30 sec to form impressions.

The Peter Principle predicts that many people are promoted to their level of competence.

Several examples of signs of people who posses this malady.

Papyrohobia
Cannot tolerate papers or books on his desk. Probably such piece of paper is reminder that he hates his job. He makes a virtue of his phobia by keeping a clean desk, creating the impression of incredible fast decision making.

Structurophilia
Obsessive concern with buildings, planning, construction, maintenance and reconstruction. But unconcerned about the work going on, inside the buildings.

Such as those with a compulsion to build memorial statues.

When i read this tiny book of 161 pages or halved if you put in A4 size, it was amusingly refreshing. Most bizarre types actually exist in organisations especially because the skill sets required for different levels of organisation from technical in front-line supervisors to political skills needed at higher levels of management.

What then is the solution?
As someone interested in productivity, I am curious about how to improve our decision making on promotion and hiring.

Unfortunately, beyond naming the crime as incompetence, this book sheds little light on how to solve the problem.

Perhaps its beyond my competence to read between the lines. Or frankly, no one knows. Management is as much an art as a science.

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Musicians look at notes and hear the music in their heads. I look at happiness data and hear the comforting sounds of lives well lived. The joy, the feeling of connectedness and the sense of purpose.
– Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen

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I bought fairy lights to create cozy feel

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I like his second book much better “The Little Book of Lykke”– The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People. I was nearly turned off by a little quote that everything runs smoothly in Denmark. Four years ago, one train did arrive 5 min late. The passengers each got a letter of apology from the prime minister and a designer chair of their choice as compensation. I am not running down Danes when I question that everything runs smoothly. Coming from Singapore where things generally run smoothly, .. yet not everything. Certainly not our public transport which we made the mistake of privatising at the advice of consultants. Japan though, their public transport is indeed the most effecient in the world, has one of the highest suicide rates in OECD countries. Books on why the Japanese live long lives do not address this dark side of Japan.

There are many beautiful stories in the book looking at countries like Brazil which is overcrowded yet is relatively happy, #22. Most Brazilians consider themselves kind and happy people who know how to have fun. Its true that the Brazilians I know are more helpful and smiling than the Danes I know. (Not the most scientific approach). But perhaps if we are moving towards a more gracious society, we have more to learn from Brazil. On second thoughts, 12hrs to Copenhagen is better than 48hrs flight to Rio.

Pursuit of happiness
Why this fixation on Happiness you may ask? The author lost his mother when she was 49years old, to depression. I live in a country that witnessed the biggest progression in a lifetime yet people are very unhappy. I know people above 70yrs old who experienced starvation under British colonial days, yet are very unhappy today despite relatively high standards of living and peace and children who visit them weekly and support them financially.

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My own take of the reason why Denmark and most of the Nordic countries have happiness is

The law of Jante
Conspicuous consumption is criticised. They dont like boastful people who flaunt their success. Decouple wealth and well-being. Read Michelle McGagh’s “The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More“. Go for walks and free art exhibitions.

Value of Free Time
I like this book very much. I think that the reason why Denmark is the happiest nation among the OECD countries is because they value happiness as a way of life. They value free time and not embarrassed that they are taking time off work to exercise and be outdoors.

They take care of mental health seeking treatment when needed and not be embarrassed.

Be with people
But mind your own business. Do not worry about what others think of you or what others are doing to accumulate wealth. I doubt Danish mothers compare results of their children or other people’s children.

They are cozy and value mental resilience, connecting with others and not complaining.

Do not complain
Complaining is not the national sport. Give others a break. They dont need to live up to your expectations.

Complaining doesnt make you look smart or look self sacrificial. Suffering doesnt make you a martyr.

Be authentic and Mind your own business
Meik Wiking admits that Danes do not go around wearing masks. You cant tell that they are happy judging from their stony stares. They do not pretend or have a need to keep up with the Joneses.

A friend once told me how Japanese mothers get calls from teachers if they send their kids to school with plain and non-creative lunchboxes. Even lunchboxes are sources of comparison and not just means of healthy eating.

Relieve yourself from others’ expectations.
As the song goes, “haters gonna hate”. Complainers are going to complain. Especially when you live in a society where people have no qualms giving advice to others which they don’t heed themselves. People who dont mind their own business.

The English have a saying for this ” People who live in glass houses shouldnt throw stones”.

This second book Lykke is certainly a keeper. I cant wait to try out more suggestions from the book and watch the French film Amelie. I have started lighting candles especially at 6am when I wake up looking forward to my warm cup of Arabica coffee brewed in my 12yr old Philips machine.

A friend sent me a link about Norwegian, a budget airlines opening a new route from London Gatwick to Singapore for £150 on a Boring 787 12hrs non-stop.

It set me thinking about Norway listed as happiest country 2017 by the UN. Many on the list took me by surprise. Israel, Iceland and Ireland.

I have not been to Norway. The only thing I recall about Norway is a friend whose husband was in the shipping line told me about their reluctance to move to Oslo because everything is so much more expensive than Singapore!

But I have been to Copenhagen, Denmark to learn about their workplace practices. Denmark is top 5 in happiness 4 years in a row.

Japan, on the other hand, is #51. How can that be? I enjoy visiting Japan. I follow a blogger who brought her two toddler sons to Hokkaido twice a year. 10 times.

But Israel takes the cake. When we read about Arab-Israeli conflicts, how can Israel rank themselves #11 for several years running. The Times of Israel seem to have the same surprise revealing that a survey by Musa Israeli in collaboration with the Education Ministry “found that 27 percent of Israeli Jews would leave the country if given the opportunity.

Among secular Israelis it was 36%. The religious Jews least likely to depart the country at just 7%.”

Singapore is #26. Not surprising. Complaining is our national sport. But we are highest in happiness in Asia. So who is complaining? Despite being the most expensive country in the world.

“Despite the banking collapse in the two countries Iceland and Ireland, the happiness of these nations was less affected than expected. 99 percent report having someone to count on in times of trouble is the highest in Iceland. http://icelandreview.com/news/2017/03/20/icelanders-are-worlds-third-happiest

Of course the usual suspects, what is in the basket of survey, how were the questions phrased?

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On Friday I was invited to the Singapore Management Festival “Small is the New Big”. There were several speakers whom I had great respect. Others, because I had classes in between, I was not able to attend.

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I walked out of the conference feeling happy but not sure why. Several people I spoke to also were impressed with Red Hongyi. I think she is a very creative person. She showed us plates of food she created for 31 days which were picked up by Instagram CEO.

Hardest part was to show up. When she first decided to set up her own creative company, she had no clients.

So she started creating plates of food. The photos show the difference between Day 1 and Day 31. Hard part is showing up. Power is needed.

Jamil Qureshi, echoed this view, when he talked about coaching athletes. Performance is achieved on a daily basis. Cynical people do not achieve new territories.

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My favourite was the one with a squid. You can find her inspirations on her website.

Another lucky stroke – asked by Jacky Chan to do his 60th birthday portrait which she constructed out of chopsticks.

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Whats amazing is that she filmed herself during the entire installation process and created a inspiring talk along the way and recreated herself as a motivational speaker on the creative process.

She reminded me of renowned choreograoher Twylar Tharp who filmed her dancers practicing to fine tune her performances.

Looking at someone create something, not just talk about it makes me happy. I may not become a great artist, but I can participate in the process of creation.

Relieve yourself from being perfect. As Jamil Quereshi, the sports psychologist said. Either you become discouraged and give up or you do attain perfectionism and become so afraid of losing that status.

I see the speaker try so many mediums, using socks, chopsticks, coffee stains, teabags.

Life is not about discovering who you are. It is about the joy of creating yourself. What do you think of the creative process?

Life is like jazz.
Much of it is improvised
We cannot control all the variables
We must live it with panache and flair,
Regardless of what it throws at us.

Check out International Jazz Day which is on April 30th. Just over. But well, plan for next year’s.
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/jazz-day

We can love our family and pray for their happiness.
We can give advice and help when needed
But we can neither make decisions for them
Nor make them act the way we want them to.
There are many things we cannot control in life.
That includes those closest to us.

Haemin Sunim, “The Things You Can See Only when You Slow Down”
Translated by Chi-Young Kim

I’m at a little cafe “Tiann’s” in Tiong Bahru doing my weekly marketing in the wet market.

I ordered two lattes, each costing $6.50 pricier than the delicious wanton noodles we had for breakfast. I’m going to nurse this latte.

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I want to know. How do you trick your brain into exercising?

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Look at this young overachiever at the recent car-free Sunday in the Central Business District.

Ready for Young’s suggestions?

1. Meditative Pace allows development of ideas

Charles Darwin’s strolls in Kent were important in development of ideas. The world’s greatest naturalist was a collector of stones. Not just a love of nature or departing from the maddening crowd. It’s “exercise in reflection – a kind of moving meditation”.

According to Young, exercise encourages innovation and problem-solving. He doesn’t refer you to these studies for you to digest and chew but presents ideas for consumption.

Walking (and jogging), rather than other forms of sports, is at a “more contemplative pace” and allows your senses to interplay with a tactile , vibrant world (as long as you’re not in a gym. But then you can read on your ipad or watch the news as I’m prone to do.)

This allows for a mood for creativity. If you’re walking on the streets of city life, try doing so without headphones, cautioned Young to prevent pedestrian deaths.

Loosen your mind and give it interesting things to contemplate in this state.

2. Vigorous sports promotes a sense of self

In recounting Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, Young presents that in addition to toning muscles and increasing the heart’s efficency, exercise and competitions offers a firmer idea of “self” associated with bodily effort. Giving us someone to beat and offering us a comparison “self against others”.

Even if you’re an onlooker, we feel the pleasure in our success. (I guess for the team you’re rooting for. Is that the reason why so many people watch football? Not just for betting.)

Unlike Greek gods, we humans have a short life span. “The gods may feel no sorrow, but as should be accounted happy and worthy of song if boldness and power have gained him the greatest prize for the might of hand and foot.”

Pride in exercise. Not just fitness but a keen sense of our responsibility. We cannot wait for God to give us our souls – the self is something we must continually and consciously create.

(Forget for a moment that the existentialist author Albert Camus comited suicide). Recounted by Young, Camus once argued that Sisyphus rolling up the boulder to the hill for eternity, was happy because it was his rock. His duty and his task. Only we are the rock. Maybe so. I’ll leave youto nurse your latte over that one.

3. Transforming agony into art. Think “ballet”. Young cites martial arts and ballet that these art forms change the meaning of pain. As the meaning changes, so does the pain itself. For Descartes, the body is basically a machine. It’s not fused with the mind but made of a separate substance.

Pain is purely a mechanical process of stimulation and transmission. The brain’s job as a thinking substance is simply to receive it.

There are 9 other ideas captured in the book. My latte is finished. I encourage you to finish the book and tell me the rest.

I checked out Damon Young’s blog post. He is a philosopher and has written a book on gardening and philosophy. Can’t wait to check it out.
http://damon-young.blogspot.sg/p/philosophy-in-garden-why-did-marcel.html?m=1