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When I read the autobiography of Emma Goldman, I was struck by how differently people lived here in the East Village, New York, at the turn of the 20th Century. I was particularly surprised by how everyone assumed they would eventually have their own businesses. On the other hand, most of us now expect that we work for corporations all our lives. Today, that became the mainstream, and running one’s own business became an “alternative” way to make a living. As a matter of fact, the corporate world tends to shun people who have defected to the alternative world. So, once you defect, it’s hard to get back into the mainstream. Born into this cultural environment, I had always assumed that this was the norm. It didn’t occur to me to think that people might have lived differently in the past. Read »

“This man was hurting, yet his problem wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he could solve it,” said Laura A. Munson in her essay entitled “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear.” It is her account of how she dealt with her marriage that almost fell apart. Her husband one day pronounced to her, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.” Instead of reacting to it in an expected manner, she decided to stay calm and said, “I don’t buy it.” Her essay struck a chord with many people who are/were in similar situations. Read »

I was in a casual meeting of parents where we discussed various parenting issues. It became immediately obvious to me that many parents were concerned about not being perfect parents. Through listening to their individual stories, I began to notice a certain pattern. Those who are feeling guilty for not being perfect seem to have had difficult childhood and have blamed their parents for their difficulties. This appears to be more than a coincidence. Read »

What does “Virtue is its own reward” mean? And, what does “virtue” mean? When I searched the web, I came across this video of Barry Schwartz speaking at a TED conference about virtue. In his case, he defines virtue as a moral and social concept. I believe this is the most common way that the word “virtue” is used. Despite my respect for his ideas on the paradox of choice, I disagree with his thesis on this topic. I think he got the order wrong. When you practice virtue as its own reward, what appears to be moral is actually not moral at all. It only appears so to other people who are observing your act. Read »

Praise efforts not abilities, is the message of the cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham, and I agree because praising their abilities would eventually convince our children that our achivements in life are predetermine by our innate abilities. It makes them feel helpless and powerless. Instead of saying, "You are so smart!" say "You must have worked really hard." It makes intuitive sense. The essence of Williangham's message is that we should not encourage our children to have a deterministic view of life. We should make them believe that if there is a will, there is a way. If this is true, what sort of message do we send to our children when we practice astrology? Read »

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of creativity. It’s an elusive concept, like the concept of God. A friend of mine told me about a recent article in New Yorker dealing with the same topic: “Should creative writing be taught?” My view is in line with the “official position” of The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop: Read »

My short answer is no. In order to teach "creativity" we have to define what "creativity" is. Otherwise we cannot claim that we are teaching it. In speaking of creativity, we often hear the expression, "Think outside the box." My wife is sick of hearing this phrase because it was used in every meeting at the advertising agency she used to work at. It is such a cliche that anyone who uses this phrase cannot possibly be creative. In this manner, every time you define anything, it becomes a formula. The very reason why we define anything is to make it possible to repeat. So, once you define what "creativity" is, it immediately becomes a formula, and anyone following, repeating, or conforming to it becomes less creative. Therefore, "creativity" must remain undefinable, which in turn means unteachable. Read »

It appears that all little girls love Disney princesses. There are very few exceptions. My daughter loves them too. It's somewhat embarrassing because it's so unoriginal and predictable. In fact, the little girl who lives downstairs from us sends her daddy off to work by saying, "See you later, Prince Charming!" So, whenever my daughter tries to call me Prince Charming, I tell her that Prince Charming lives in apartment 3B. Read »

I’ve known many people in my life who are smart and talented yet somehow cannot manage their own lives well. I’ve always been puzzled and fascinated by this phenomenon. I figured there must be some careers perfect for their intelligence and talent. The only problem, I thought, was that they weren’t aware of these careers. In fact, most career orientations offered at schools are based on the same premise. It’s an encouraging and exciting premise too, like finding a Mr. or Ms. Perfect. Needless to say, I’ve never succeeded in finding such a career for anyone. So, at one point, I began doubting my own premise. Maybe the problem does not lie in the careers they choose, but in everything else that they have to deal with no matter which careers they choose. In other words, it’s not about what they want to do; it’s about what they don’t want to do but have to. Read »

According to the recent article in New Yorker, the kids who can delay their gratification are more likely to succeed later in life. What troubles me about this type of research is that they all have a bias towards measurable qualities. Now, you might ask, "Duh, why would you conduct a research on something that's not measurable?" True, "research" by definition would have to be about things that are measurable. That in and of itself does not bother me. What troubles me is the fact that the conclusions of these studies often assume that the measurable qualities are superior to the immeasurable ones, and they end up recommending you to pay more attention to the former at the expense of the latter. Read »

The artist Jenny Holzer said in her work: “The abuse of power comes as no surprise.” I share the same view. In this essay, I want to persuade you to use search engines other than Google because it could come as no surprise that Google’s dominance in the search engine market leads to abuse. Don’t get me wrong: I love many of Google’s products, and I use them every day. I’m not bashing Google as a company. My argument has to do with their dominance in the search engine market, and why it is in our own interest to help others be competitive with Google. Google essentially has a monopoly in this market and a monopoly can happen even if a company has no intention of monopolizing or have no predatory business practices. English as a language, for instance, has a monopolistic power, because our desire to have a universal language is strong. Nevertheless, a monopoly is a powerful and dangerous force because the abuse of that power can happen almost unconsciously to the holders of the power. Read »

I think we often underestimate the value of small talk. I should know, because small talk is something I’m really bad at. When I go to a party, I often start talking about serious issues, business, and/or highly technical things, and within minutes, I’m standing alone in the middle of a crowd. If you intellectually think about the idea of small talk, everyone tends to dismiss it as being superficial and pointless, but it must have a very important social function, otherwise people would not do it so often (and otherwise I should be the life of the party). Read »

I have a 4-year old girl. As a father, the experience of raising a girl has been enlightening to say the least. It has given me an insight into what girls and women experience as they grow up. Firstly, I am now thoroughly convinced that many of the feminist arguments about the environment causing girls to want to be beautiful, be nurturing, love the color pink, etc., are wrong. Those arguments must be coming from feminists who have never had children of their own. If you do have your own, you would have to be blind to think that. Not just my own girl, but her friends too, required no effort, encouragement, nor even introduction for them to love all things pink and glittery. Read »

I have never seriously wished to be a rock star, but like everyone else, have occasionally fantasized about being one. In my college days and 20s, rock music was practically a religion. (Here, I’m using the term broadly to mean any styles of music popular among the youth, not the specific genre or style of music called “rock”.) Virtually all my friends have, at one point or another, tried to form a band or be somehow associated with one. Rock music is a perfect remedy for the feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and angst that come with being young. To top it all, most parents do not want you to pursue a career in rock music. That makes you want to do it more, so that you can feel you are your own person, not a product designed and programmed by your parents to be a certain way. The unfortunate thing I see now in my 40s is that your parents’ warnings have some truth to them, which is being ignored or misunderstood. Most of the parents don’t explain it well either. They sound like they are making excuses for their failure to pursue their own dreams. So, in an attempt to avoid becoming a wimp like your parents, you try even harder to be a rock star. It’s a vicious cycle. Read »

I’ve always believed that male and female brains were biologically different from the day we were born. Now that I have a child of my own and see many of her friends grow up, it is hard to imagine how anyone could deny the difference. I have been so vocal about the gender differences that many of my friends think I am a sexist. I became so used to it that it doesn’t bother me anymore. Given this reputation of mine, one would assume that I would agree with everything stated in the book “The Essential Difference” by Simon Baron-Cohen, which explores the difference between male and female brains. To my surprise, I found myself disagreeing with him in a fundamental way. Read »

The word “seduction” is not generally perceived positively. There is something dark and negative about the idea of seducing, yet, it is a key factor in achieving happiness. (It is difficult to feel content if nobody likes you.) We humans are social creatures; I believe we’ve evolved to crave social recognition and to fear isolation. In this sense, seduction has been a critical component of evolution and is an important survival skill. We therefore need to look at it pragmatically. Read »

“Emotional Intelligence” is much talked about these days. Even though I can see its significance in certain areas of our lives (especially in business), I am skeptical of those who are rushing to apply the theory to child development and psychology. The term “Emotional Intelligence” was popularized by Daniel Goleman who was interested in identifying the quality that made people successful in the corporate world. The data of his research are kept private, so we do not know for sure, but I would imagine that his research does not cover successful people in the arts or anyone outside of the corporate world (the likes of, for instance, Woody Allen, Kurt Cobain, Andy Warhol, Noam Chomsky, Bobby Fischer, etc..). Read »

In watching the TV commercials where countless starving children from around the world are staring at me in desperation, I cannot help but ask this question: “Why did their parents decide to have children in the first place?” Their dire predicaments are undeniable to anyone. The severe suffering of their children are virtually guaranteed even before their birth. So, why? For many, this is an immoral question to ask. It is an obvious question to everyone, but the desire to have children is so fundamental and deep-rooted that most people can relate to the predicaments of those who have children in abject reality. Read »

“Life has no meaning.” Most people would project a depressed feeling to this statement. Suppose John paints a big circle on his wall, and Jane asks, “What does the circle mean?” John replies, “No meaning. I just felt like it.” The lack of meaning, in this case, does not tempt us to project one. Why then, are we inclined to project a negative emotion to the pronouncement that life has no meaning? Read »

Since the subtitle of my book is about reconsideration, I believe we should reconsider—and broaden—the list of people who might be called upon to write a review. The list should include the author, who understands the book better than most of its other readers. Consequently, here is my autoreview, my review of my own book. Read »

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