May 31, 2007

This Evening In Mr Wang's Life

Came home after work, turned on my computer and checked my own blog. I found this comment:
"Mr. Wang, for each person who made it to compete, let alone win, in the Olympics, there must be hundreds of thousands if not millions who aspire to that. It is wise for the average person to bear that in mind. Most champions are born and identified early in life. Goals must be realistic and commensurate with one's ability. Otherwise, many will end up with miserable lives."
The anonymous commentator went on to give various examples to show that success in life is mostly attributable to random chance and dumb luck. Of course I disagreed and in response, supplied a link to an old post of mine, back in May 2005, where I had previously written:
"... I have tremendous respect for human potential. I am usually quite easily convinced that most people can achieve many quite great things in their lives. I have even made public speeches where I tell the audience, "Hey, YOU can achieve great things."

Nevertheless, I am a realist. Although I believe that most people can achieve great things, I also believe that most people won't. The greatest reason is that THEY don't believe that they themselves can achieve great things.

And really - nobody ever wins an Olympic medal, or becomes CEO, by accident. Nobody ever writes a bestselling novel, or becomes a multimillionaire entrepreneur, or gets a PhD, by accident. Whatever your definition of a "great thing" may be, it just won't happen if you don't do it."
After that, I turned off my computer, and went to check my mail (not my email, but my hardcopy mail). Okay, let's see, bills, ads, flyers, bank statements ...... and hey, a new book. Its author had sent me a complimentary copy. Flipping through the pages, I found this passage:
The Dark Side of Pragmatism - Social Myopia

Programmed to Fail


In the year 1990, I was still studying in the Swiss Cottage Secondary School, a government school which was located in Dunearn Road ... In those bad old days, I could hardly spell "myopia". I was, however, a big fan of Rick Astley.

A group of lecturers from the polytechnics came down to our school. These wise guys sought to represent the interests of the polytechnics in Singapore. And their agenda was to come over to a government school to encourage us to forget our dreams to get into a good junior college and subsequently a university.

.... one of the lecturers said that based on statistics, fewer than 50% of students who had double digit aggregates for their O-levels would be able to make it to the local universities. The good lecturers then went on to reason that this makes polytechnics a pragmatic choice because by choosing a diploma over a degree, a student may save two years in a junior college and even begin to contribute to the economy at a much younger age.

That very same year I scored 11 points for my O-levels. It was one of the biggest heartbreaks in my life in a country which measures a person's worth by the number of distinctions he gets. Still I have never regretted fighting tooth and nail to get into National Junior College. The difference it made to my life and confidence was tremendous. Till this day, I wonder what would have happened had I taken the polytechnic lecturer's advice. Would I have even graduated from university? Would I even have been a writer and working hard to fulfil my aspirations this very day?"

I turned to the first few pages of the book, to the "About the Author" section. I found out that not only did he make it to NUS, he also obtained 1st Class Honours in Electrical Engineering.

He then went on to get a Masters of Science in Applied Finance, as well as a bunch of qualifications in the two separate fields of IT and Finance: the MCSE, MSCD, CISSP, CISA, PMP, FRM, CAIA and CMFAS qualifications, and now he's on his way to becoming a
Chartered Financial Analyst.

In case you didn't know, the CFA is probably the most internationally recognised financial qualification in the world. Definitely much more widely recognised than my own humble little law degree from NUS.

Flipped back to page 33 of the book, where the author wrote:
Pragmatic Use of Statistics

The name of Pragmatism is often invoked along with statistics and figures. Pragmatism does what works, based on the statistical analysis - it never takes into consideration the power of the human spirit and our ability to often surprise ourselves. It never considers the possibility that someone would want to excel simply because he wants to show the world that someone from a government school can trounce a member of the super-elite gifted club in the universities.

In many ways, my batch of classmates from Swiss Cottage Secondary School that year were subtly programmed to fail by the policy makers. After all, the numbers say it all - if you ever succeed it is only because you are lucky.

In such a case, Pragmatism when wrongly applied can destroy your very dreams and aspirations."
The book I've been reading is Harvesting the Fruits of Prosperity. It is the second book written by Christopher Ng Wai Chung (who happens to be a regular reader and faithful fan of my blog). And I'll be telling you more about his book in the near future. But for now, I'll just leave you this thought. Look at the anonymous comment again:
"Goals must be realistic and commensurate with one's ability. Otherwise, many will end up with miserable lives."
... and compare it to Mr Wang's words:
"Although I believe that most people can achieve great things, I also believe that most people won't. The greatest reason is that THEY don't believe that they themselves can achieve great things."
Then further consider both statements in light of Christopher's personal story. And ask yourself - which is the likelier path to a miserable life? (1) To dare to try to succeed, like Chris .... or (2) to water down your goals, blame your luck and just accept mediocrity?

64 comments:

kitsura said...

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is also another book to inspire you.

Never underestimate the power of the human mind. In the olden days humans even built the tower of babel and had god not stopped them they would probably have reached heaven by now.

lost said...

at the same time, i think there is nothing wrong with accepting mediocrity, if you are sure that's what you want in life. when you try to succeed, you accept the chance of failure. if you don't want the goal enough to chance it, then perhaps the individual is better off with the safer alternative.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"when you try to succeed, you accept the chance of failure."

I was planning to discuss that in another post. But very briefly, most of the time, the cost of failure is merely your time & energy -

and the two things that you must try to understand is that:

1. the time will pass anyway; and

2. your energy can't be hoarded.

Example: If you choose not to excel in X, so that you can apply your time and energy towards another constructive purpose Y, that's fine.

But quite often, the person who chooses not to excel in X has no real idea of what alternative he wants to experience or pursue anyway. So the time & energy that he could have put into X (or Y, or Z), he will instead fritter and expend in no particular direction; in meaningless activities that he does not particularly enjoy anyway, such as watching TV, or window shopping, or whatever.

These are the people who wake up in the morning and can't even really remember what they did the previous day or week. Unfortunately there are many people like that. Their amnesia is unsurprising ... because they actually did nothing worth remembering the previous day or week.

When their time on planet earth comes to an end, and their whole life flashes like a movie before their eyes ... they may find themselves yawning in exquisite boredom.

ah.heng said...

it should also be mentioned that luck and opportunity is a consequence of hardwork.

you can have all the luck in the world, and all the opportunities present themselves at you, but if you have neither the skill nor ability to make use of them, what good then is luck and opportunity?

Oikono said...

This reminded me of my secondary school days. I went to a neighborhood school where the teachers told us that getting into an overseas university is something that we can never achieve. I remembered when a teacher incredulously commented "What are you doing here?" when she learned that one of our classmate got a score that enabled him to get into a top private school. I remember our teachers telling us that if we were smart, why would we be at that school.

I remember resenting that. While I am still far away from achieving my personal vision from influencing international diplomacy and development work, I think I have come far from that humble background by making it into a good American university for my undergraduate studies (paid for by the university), getting published internationally, and speaking at international conferences. I think the tragedy of the Singaporean system is that it too readily trashes the dreams of the "non-elite".

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

Thank you, Mr. Wang !

This is a very strong endorsement.

Regards

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

ok, I've recovered from the euphoria of seeing Mr. Wang's endorsement this soon.

Actually one can only become a CFA charterholder with 4 years of investment related experience. All I did was pass the 3 exams - that's the easy part. The harder part would be to switch into the finance line and start all over again, something which I will do not do unless I am already financially independent.

I don't agree that the CFA charter is more prestigious than NUS law school. The NUS law school accepts only a small number of its applicants every year and Mr. Wang is living proof that a law degree ( and grit ) is enough to make it as an investment banker. Thousands take the CFA exams held at the Expo twice a year, the only prerequite is a degree.

Folks should study the CFA to figure out how to build their own portfolios. Because at the end of the day, only you can act in your best interests.

Anonymous said...

One has to try. Because statistics will say that there is always a 0.0000901 chance of success, like buying toto. And if one has tried and failed, he/she is still at square one but has gained experience points. If one doesn't try then one has certainly failed.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, which is more important - success without happiness or mediocre life with happiness ? Which is easier to ahieve - outstanding success or mediocre success ?
U have higlighted the e.g of Mike Tyson who has made hundreds of $million and is now as good as a bankrupt. The average Aussie is having a happier time surfing and enjoying nature.
Don't make the mistake of equating success to lasting happiness. Success brings short term happiness and craving for more success which will eventually lead to one's level of incompetence (Peter's Principle), failure and unhappiness.
I am just giving another perspective to living a good life. We are all different.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, let me just add that u advocate what is achievable by the elite few while I advocate what is achievable by any ordinary person.
Not everbody can make it to the top 10% like u.

Euterpe said...

I was in a top SAP secondary school but was a lousy maths and science student. My secondary school teachers told me and my parents that the best I can do is to go to a poly, and my form teacher, in my O Levels year, denied my request for half day leave to go for open house at my "dream" JC on the basis that it is a waste of time and there is no way I could have made it to the JC (her exact words were "You cannot make it one, I guarantee it!"). I ignored her, worked hard, got into my dream JC and had the time of my life, and then went to law school. If I had believed my teachers, I wonder what would have happened to me.

Jeffire said...

i believe that setting goals is like deciding how many steps to climb up.

you set a lofty goal, you climb many many steps. you set a simple one, correspondingly, the less number of steps you take. if you set to climb somewhere you can't see, you would only see that place when you have climbed a certain number of steps, isn't it?

some people think that they can only do "big things" while some rejoice in accomplishing many "small things" in seqeunce, so this is up to the individual.

but i sincerely feel that reaching a certain number of steps and not falling down is not JUST down to luck, statistics or whatsoever. if you fall, you must try to continue climbing to reach your goals! (or maybe get a lift or something).

~

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is also another book to inspire you."

I agree that this is a great book. I have to say that many people are not ready for it; and if they are not ready, they will just find it perplexing.

I assume you've read the book - so you know what I mean.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Mr Wang, let me just add that u advocate what is achievable by the elite few while I advocate what is achievable by any ordinary person.

You mean, "ordinary persons" like students from mediocre government schools? Like Christopher Ng & Oikono?

Mr Wang Says So said...

One has to try. Because statistics will say that there is always a 0.0000901 chance of success, like buying toto.

This isn't even a correct way to look at it.

Put it this way - suppose we say that only the top 5% of Singaporeans in any given cohort can qualify for a top school like RJC.

This statistic seems to tell you that you have a 95% chance of failure, or only a 5% chance of success, if you try to go to RJC.

Actually, the truth is that the 70% of the cohort probably do not believe that they have any chance of getting into RJC. Their secondary school teachers tell them they're not going to make it anyway, and that they should just aim to pass, or go to poly, or go to an "average" type of JC. Therefore these students are not even going to try.

Another 15% of the cohort are only having some vague intentions or hopes of getting into RJC. To avoid disappointment, they are not committing themselves seriously to that goal. Therefore most of them are not seriously aiming for this.

So in the end only 15% of the batch are competing seriously to get into RJC.

If you're in this 15%, then by virtue of nothing but your having seriously set a goal to enter RJC, your chance of success has suddenly improved to 5/15, or more than 33%.

That's a sixfold improvement over the original 5% chance, is it not?

Mr Wang Says So said...

"some people think that they can only do "big things" while some rejoice in accomplishing many "small things" in seqeunce, so this is up to the individual."

The trap that people often fall into is that they believe that a "big" goal is very difficult.

Actually in the end, all you ever have to do, is what you can do, NOW.

Suppose it is the beginning of the year, and your goal is to run and complete a marathon at the end of the year.

It seems like a daunting goal. But break it down linearly. To be able to run 42 km in December, maybe you just need to aim to run 21 km by June. That may mean nothing more than being able to run 10.5 km by March; or 5.25 km by mid-February; or 2.5 km in January.

2.5 km is what little primary school kids run for their NAPFA test. Doesn't seem that daunting, does it?

The Human Battery said...

I am shocked to read vaious comments here that our teachers actually say such demoralising things to our students! They should be fired! Didn't NIE (even back 10-20 yrs ago) teach them that they should always encourage and not discourage? Why are these teachers feeding our students blue pills everyday?

Well, in a way, I have been fed blue pills too - wools have been pulled over my eyes. The fact that I can still be shocked by what goes on in our schools, is enough evidence! haha!

Anonymous said...

I think certain chinese idioms concerning philosophy in life should be drilled into the brains of young children the moment they are capable of memorising (3?):

世上无难事 只怕有心人
In this world, nothing is difficult to achieve, so long as you put your heart to it.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I do believe that natural talent do play a role in distinguishing role between pple who succeed and people who don't in their endeavours. Get over it, there will be pple who can nv truly visualise and understand the fundamentals of accounting and finance. There are pple who are simply hopeless in physics, and they cannot even understand 'simple' things like relative velocity (although they do have the ability to *mug* out a result, but that's another matter).

However, how would one knows he lacks natural talent in something until he actually tries it. I always tell my friends and myself this:

If u work for your goals, at least u are giving yourself a chance. If u give up and not even try, u don't even have the chance. 你这样做对得起自己吗?

Life is short, so why not give it a shot.

Anonymous said...

cont'd

And by being 'realistic' with one's goals, i think sometimes, pple do realise their inability in the areas the goals are set.

But that doesn't mean they aren't able to achieve great things. There are many things to do, and, i believe that, if one set his mind to explore new experiences, he will find his niche areas...and that, i believe, is more impt that just 'setting a goal'.

Regards.
From your loyal reader. ;)

Henry Leong said...

Mr Wang, few of my friends had read the book Think and grow rich and success. I feel it is among the best book.
henryleongblog.blogspot.com

scb said...

Great are those who live with successes and great are those that survive without successes!

Anonymous said...

How does one identify a passion or passions to pursue? For those who still do not have a clear idea, how do they search into themselves (or externally?) to find a worthy passion to pursue, around which goals might be set?

lost said...

2.5 km is what little primary school kids run for their NAPFA test. Doesn't seem that daunting, does it?

Just a little (useless) point to make - the little primary school kids only run 1.6km (at least in the 90s), it's secondary onwards that you run 2.4km... =P

Anonymous said...

"世上无难事 只怕有心人"

er.. you mean the world has NOTHING difficult, UNLESS someone puts his/her heart to it???
So when someone puts his/her heart to it, it becomes difficult??

Maybe you're thinking :
世上无难事 只盼有心人

"The world has nothing difficult; it's only waiting for a person with the heart (to do it)"

Anonymous said...

Start with an end in mind. What legacy do you want to leave behind when you are gone? What matters to you most? What are you most passionate about? Family (if you already have one or intend to start one)? Being happy? What makes you happy?

I would say most people don't know what they want out of life but start with something in mind first and aim towards that. And adjust your goals as you experience new things with new inputs. Be sure to WRITE IT DOWN and review it every few months.

Anonymous said...

Just a little question, though.
We all have finite time with finite resources.
How do we justify the investment of time and resources into things we think are not probable to succeed?
It's one thing to say "no guts, no glory" and "if you don't try, you won't know", but the 'guts' and the attempts have opportunity costs.
If you invest them in more mediocre endeavours you may get smaller payoffs, compared to getting zero (or even negative) payoff failing at things you're probably going to fail at.
There are methods and algorithms in risk-management and capability analysis, unless they all mean nothing in the face of bravado and mutual back-patting...
How does that work?

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

The previous anonymous poster raised an important question about time and how do we manage such finite resources.

Financial theory talks about portfolio management which I believe can be similarly applied to the use of time.

We need to allocate time for basic survival, just enough to get along. But given that our stomachs are full, we can allocate some time to move up the stisfaction ladder, pursue hobbies and interests which are non-consumerist in nature. Mr. Wang is a published and nationally acclaimed poet.

We can also reduce our time on negative investments like watching TV and instead use the power of the internet to watch the stuff we want at our appointed time without advertisements. ( How many people watch Heroes on TV these days ? )

The class of activities which have a low probability of a high payoff can be modelled as options. Most of these activities are out of the money most of the time but it can be enriching over the long term is a series of events occur. Based on your view of how the payoff is structured, you can size your bets with mathematical models like the Kelly Criterion.

Yes, I know, I'm so obsessed with finance I actually live it in my life.

Regards

Mr Wang Says So said...

But big goals always break down naturally into small goals.

For example, suppose you've just entered junior college. Your big goal is to make it to a top university like Harvard or Cambridge in two years' time, to study Physics.

Having set that goal, you will create a plan of action (I'll get around to blogging about that). In that plan of action, you'll see that your big goal naturally breaks down into smaller and smaller goals anyway.

For example, if you use a time-based approach, you'll see that to get to Harvard/Yale, there will be certain things to be done, by the end of 24 months.

There will be certain other things to be done, by the end of 12 months.

Then there will be certain other things to be done, by the end of 6 months.

There will be certain other things to be done, by the end of this month.

There will be certain other things to be done, by the end of this week.

There will be certain other things to be done, by the end of today.

If you break it down far enough, you'll see that the goal for today may be nothing more than to make a good effort to do your Physics homework properly today.

But importantly, having the big goal will guide the setting of your small goals; help you maintain the motivation etc. Without the big goal squatting there in your conscious and unconscious mind, you're much more likely to be distracted by that drama serial on TV tonight; or your best friend who wants to chat about his love life etc.

Nothing inherently wrong with watching TV or chatting with your friends; but the point is that lots of people (who don't consciously set goals, big or small) basically go through life being distracted in all sorts of different directions, and end up accomplishing nothing in particular. In the end, that's how the greatest wastage of resources happens.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, perhaps u r not aware that not all elites are born. A small % of average persons do rise up to the ranks of the elites, thru hard work, good luck or late development of their abilities. My focus is not on this small % of people who are more than capable of helping themselves or has already got help from others. My focus is how do u help those who are stuck below the elites level.
No body can change the bell curve of human population but what we can do is to help to alleviate the sufferings within this huge masses.
U don't need to publise this.

Anonymous said...

I was from the early 80s doing 'O' level then. My form teacher used to tell us (me and my buddy) that we were failure and has no future. I got close to 20 points for 5 subjects and got no JC to go to. I tried Poly, but all the courses I wanted were taken by the bright students (still the same today). At the end of the day, it was either Army or 3 years in Pre-U.

Since my parents told me to carry on, I stay in the pre-U and got a pass in 'A' level. With only 'B' and 'C', I approach my principle then to seek his advice. He told me in the face that I should just give up and join the army.

I applied for NUS and was accepted into Comp Science. After 3 years, I graduated with a degree.

Looking back, the best person to give advice for your future is probably yourself. Only you are responsible for your life.

Anonymous said...

I was from the early 80s doing 'O' level then. My form teacher used to tell us (me and my buddy) that we were failure and has no future. I got close to 20 points for 5 subjects and got no JC to go to. I tried Poly, but all the courses I wanted were taken by the bright students (still the same today). At the end of the day, it was either Army or 3 years in Pre-U.

Since my parents told me to carry on, I stay in the pre-U and got a pass in 'A' level. With only 'B' and 'C', I approach my principle then to seek his advice. He told me in the face that I should just give up and join the army.

I applied for NUS and was accepted into Comp Science. After 3 years, I graduated with a degree.

Looking back, the best person to give advice for your future is probably yourself. Only you are responsible for your life.

ahmad said...

it should also be mentioned that luck and opportunity is a consequence of hardwork.

Another way of seeing this would be the famous words of Louis Pasteur, who said "Chance favours the prepared mind".

If you've done your best to improve yourself, chances are that opportunities will present themselves to you. If you just waste your time on unimportant things, chances will just slip you by.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"My focus is not on this small % of people who are more than capable of helping themselves or has already got help from others. My focus is how do u help those who are stuck below the elites level.
No body can change the bell curve of human population but what we can do is to help to alleviate the sufferings within this huge masses.


There is this certain chap. He had a very lousy start in life. He was a high school dropout. His first jobs in adult life were as a construction worker; a farm worker; a dishwasher; and a sailor. He was estranged from his parents and he basically lived apart from them, when he was a teenager. Basically he was a zero-success person.

At a certain time in life, he began to experiment with goal-setting. He went into various businesses and jobs such as real estate development; importing and exporting of cars; marketing; sales etc etc.

Eventually he became the Chief Operating Officer of a company with US$265 million in assets and which averaged USD 75 m in sales annually.

There are actually some surprising similarities between his life story and that of Ovidia Lum, the CEO of Hyflux who started life off selling goreng pisang (fried bananas).

Anyway, this man who I've been talking about - basically he attributes his success to learning how to set goals. In fact, when he had earned more than enough money, he quit his job as COO, and went into a new business of teaching people how to achieve their goals.

The chap's name is Brian Tracy. You might want to google, if interested.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Although we have been talking a lot about money, career and studies in this thread, I'd like to emphasise that the principles of effective goal-setting are general and could be used for just about anything.

You could for example set a goal to have a happy family; or travel around the world; or raise funds for charity; or learn to play the piano; or write a book; or climb Mount Everest, or whatever whatever whatever.

Anonymous said...

------
One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.

About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. "You aren't going to catch many fish that way," said the businessman to the fisherman. "You should be working rather than lying on the beach!"

The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?" "Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!" was the businessman's answer. "And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!" "And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman again. The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman's questions. "You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!" he said.

"And then what will my reward be?" repeated the fisherman. The businessman was getting angry. "Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!" Once again the fisherman asked, "And then what will my reward be?" The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!"

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing right now?"

Anonymous said...

I really believe in statistics. I believe that with enough numbers statistics is not only right, it is also accurate.

Statistics is also incredibly stable. It does not change its inclinations on a whim.

Your fate (successes) is also very closely linked to statistics. It is unlikely that you can overturn statistics by our will or actions.

Your chances of winning the lottery is small no matter what u do. Your odds of doing well in this or that goal will also not change.

You will very likely get shot if u are a soldier. In America, u will very likely divorce. In the Amazon u will probably die of malaria.

This is not to say that all the advice given here is pointless. Perhaps the most important thing here is to note that there is more than one way to look at this thing called success. A good oulook will enable u to be happy despite not being number 1.

You cannot beat the odds with technique. Don't even try. Just as there are no systems to beat the casino, there are also none for your life.

Mr Wang Says So said...

If you are very happy with your life, you may not feel any urge to set or achieve goals. And I think that this would be perfectly fine.

The problem is that there are many people out there who are clearly not very happy with their lives. They wish that they could be [richer], [happier], [more successful in their careers], [healthier], [do better in school], [find a job they love], [have more time for their personal lives], [have better relationships], [be a better son, daughter, parent], [***], [***], [___], etc etc.

But it remains as a "wish" for them. They complain and they mope and they feel unhappy, but instead of setting a goal, having a plan and taking action to cure, improve or remedy what they themselves feel is wrong / inadequate / unsatisfying in their lives, they will just go on complaining, moping and feeling unhappy.

But if you ARE very happy with your life as it is, well then, just carry on doing whatever you've been doing so far.

ARE you very happy with your life?

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Your fate (successes) is also very closely linked to statistics. It is unlikely that you can overturn statistics by our will or actions."

Let me put it this way then. Suppose we do a great number of studies of people and their lives. Would you surprised if the results were as follows?

"People who exercise regularly are healthier than those who do not."

"People who save and invest regularly are richer than those who do not."

"Students who study harder score better grades than those who do not."

"People who spend more quality time with their families report higher levels of happiness than those who do not."

"Fat people are more likely to die from heart disease than slim people."

Etc etc. Given the above statistics, and assuming that the subject matter is relevant/important to you, why don't you set a goal and create a plan to:

exercise regularly; save & invest regularly; study harder; spend more quality time with your family; lose weight, etc etc or whatever it may be.

Let's take Chris' story. Assume these statistics are true:

" fewer than 50% of students who had double digit aggregates for their O-levels would be able to make it to the local universities."

But assume that the further story to the statistics is as follows:

"... of the double-digit aggregate students, a study showed that those who did make it to the local universities, studied on average 3 hours more per week than those double-digit aggregate students who did not."

Then why don't you go to JC and study 3 extra hours per week?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Your chances of winning the lottery is small no matter what u do. Your odds of doing well in this or that goal will also not change.

Your chance of winning at mahjong, however, is greatly increased if you are skilful and your kaki are stupid.

Lottery is a random game. But most other things in life are not.

Take health, for instance. Suppose your goal is to be very healthy. In fact, the formula is well-known; there is no secret here.

Quit smoking; don't drink excessively; exercise regularly; get enough rest; drink enough water; eat a healthy diet; avoid your char kway teow; eat your fruits and veggies; do some cardiovascular; do some weight training; etc.

Are you saying that if you do all the above, your chances of becoming much healthier ... are poor??

That it is not possible or wise, to set a goal to be healthy?

Anonymous said...

you cannot beat the odds. but u can certainly do worse. there is really no excuse for stupidity.

so go ahead and maximise your odds. just don't expect to beat it.

i don't exercise, eat healthy, etc. because i want to live to a 100.

i play games and eat delicious food because they make me happy.

i still expect to die at 60-70. if i beat that, it'll be a pleasant surprise.

Anonymous said...

not sure if the other post went thru. so here we go again ...

you cannot beat the odds but u can certainly do much worse. there is really no excuse for stupidity.

so go ahead and maximise your odds. just don't expect to beat it.

i don't exercise, eat well etc so that i can live to a 100. i do these things because i like to.

i still expect to die at 60-70. if i beat the odds, it'll be a pleasant surprise.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Well again, that all depends on what you choose as your goal.

For example, not everyone would choose a long life as a goal. Not everyone is interested in living a long life.

Someone like you might choose happiness through playing games and eating delicious food. In which case, to achieve your goal, you may for instance, look for a way to find more time / opportunities to play more games; or eat more delicious food.

Not being facetious here. Simple example is that many people have some interest or hobby that they like - eg playing games, or a particular sport, or hobby or whatever - but due to work or other commitments, they do not have time to pursue this interest/hobby as much as they would like.

So you can set a goal to adjust your lifestyle so that you can find more time for your hobby / interest. Eg you may decide that you must learn to be more productive at work, so that you can always leave work on time, and have more personal time for your hobby.

Actually, the idea of "goals" is inherent in most hobbies. Eg suppose your hobby is playing the piano. If you have a genuine interest in this, it's quite natural that you'd want, for instance, to play the piano better; try more complicated pieces; explore different genres, jazz, classical, pop, whatever; compose your own music; perform in church; do a public performance; teach someone else to play; whatever whatever. All of these are goals.

Of course, you probably know people who say things, "Oh, I used to play the piano. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I kinda gave it up because I got too busy with my work etc." These are the people who lost touch with the things they love in life, because they didn't make it a goal to stick to it.

It's what I mentioned earlier. Human beings are very easily distractable. Without goals to keep them focused, they just drift in all sorts of aimless directions.

InSpir3d said...

"Mr. Wang is living proof that a law degree ( and grit ) is enough to make it as an investment banker."

Well, this isn't necessarily a surprising turn of events. Given his legal background Mr. Wang is probably starting off his IB career in the structuring side focusing on the legal risk aspects of credit derivative contracts. Naturally, the IB team will want to have an experienced lawyer to navigate the legal risks that can be a tricky portion of credit derivative contracts.

Acquiring an understanding for evaluating the credit risk of reference entities and counterparties will probably take somewhat longer.

Meanwhile, the mathematical valuation and pricing aspects of credit derivatives will probably elude him for quite a while, given that one needs a strong foundation in applied mathematics in order to grasp the nuances of this field.

Anonymous said...

Anon of June 1, 2007 1:14,
don't deface an idioms based on your wrong way of doing a word-for-word translation!

世上无难事 只怕有心人 is correct. 盼 is wrong.

Nowadays, google is very clever. See what it returns mostly when I type in your wrong idiom: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%E4%B8%96%E4%B8%8A%E6%97%A0%E9%9A%BE%E4%BA%8B%2C+%E5%8F%AA%E7%9B%BC%E6%9C%89%E5%BF%83%E4%BA%BA&btnG=Google+Search

Or perhaps, this translation will convince you: "In this world, there is no difficult task [only difficult "no-heart" people]. [So, you need] only worry about finding a dedicated enough person"!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang said: "People who exercise regularly are healthier than those who do not."

Actually, the latest medical research shows that your life-span and health is determined almost entirely by your genes (which, to me, is a scientist's way of saying "fate/destiny"), and almost not at all by exercise. Quite the opposite, in fact - people who lead a sedentary life live longer than those who exercise! Exercise merely improves the so-called "quality" of life: you get to sleep better, get breathless less easily etc. So, why exercise if you find it a pain?

Point is: many things in life are "fated", or pre-determined by genes etc. If it is meant to be yours. it will be yours. If it is not, even after you get it, it will slip away from you (or you may not live to enjoy it). Sounds pessimistic, but I think that's the truth of life.

The aim of life is to achieve happiness. To achieve happiness by setting goals (esp high goals) and working super hard towards them, is way less effective (because you can't fight "fate") than to cultivate an attitude of contentment.

Oh, and that's talking only about fate. Yet another aspect would be the transient nature of the things we set our mind to. Setting a goal to crave for whatever is impermanent is not going to result in happiness since whatever you get won't last and when it is gone, you will cry over the loss plus the wasted effort you expended. Thus impermanance make setting goals, esp high goals, even more ineffective a means towards happiness. Just an example: you set yourself a goal: to marry a very beautiful girl. You go for beauty, or for slim waist or for big breast. A few years after giving birth to a few kids, phew, almost gone! Another few more years post menopause, nothing left. Or maybe in between, a divorce would have occurred. You might as well pick the first plain jane, who came along and be contented, instead of trying to fend off all your love rivals and buy 999 roses etc to woo that super-popular beauty. Your marriage may turn out to be just as happy (minus the initial hassle) and she more beautiful after giving birth and putting on less weights than the super-beauty.

Bottomline: If you want to be happy, stop setting high goals. Be contented instead. And if you are not contented, set that as a goal: Go learn some techniques to get contented. Chinese philosophies and religions are useful, though those that involve gods probably will help you be contented too.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, the modern world has made leading a happy and meaningful life that much more complicated. It need not be so. Leading a happy and meaningful life can be simple and it is all contain in one word - contentment.
Goal setting is good temporarily for high achievers. For mediocre and below it is better to teach them how to accept their fates and make the most out of it. Even high achievers will eventually have to accept their fates to remain happy and meaningful in life, when they reach their level of incompetence.
One of the Chairman of Bankers Trust, replied when asked what he is going to do after retirement -
" weeding, I find it relaxing and enjoyable."

Anonymous said...

"don't deface an idioms based on your wrong way of doing a word-for-word translation!"

Wow...
An apology to Mr Wang for obvious rising aggressive in his blog. Yikes.

Trends aside, I find it find to interpret the meaning of the idiom to mean : "In this world, there is no difficult task [only difficult "no-heart" people]. [So, you need] only worry about finding a dedicated enough person"!

Was a hammer used to fit a square peg into a round hole?
Hmmm... perhaps I am wrong after all, irregardless of my opinion against the masses. :)

Mr Wang Says So said...

Keep reading my blog, dear friends.

For mediocre and below it is better to teach them how to accept their fates and make the most out of it.

Who told you that you're mediocre? Where did you get that idea? When did you start believing that? Why?

Seriously. Go ask yourself that.

Clarence said...

It is the saddest day on Earth the day when you believe you yourself is MEDIOCRE. This will be akin to standing before a standing broad jump mat and telling yourself "you cannot jump past the passing mark", without even trying.

I'm in an organization called Trybe (www.trybe.org), and it tries to spread the message to youths that they "CAN do it", and they do this in every school. And you know what? This message has received such positive feedback that these very youths we've cultivated in their schools have returned to join the organization as volunteers. Reason? They want to help OTHER youths!

If you do not want to believe in yourself, the next best thing you can do is to stop telling people they cannot do it too.

You're the best (you), and you can do it!

Anonymous said...

Anon of June 1, 2007 10:40 PM,
> Trends aside...

I don't know what trend you are talking about. This has always been the way the idiom is since first invented: 世上无难事 只怕有心人.

> I find it find to interpret the meaning of the idiom to mean...

You find it hard, is your problem. That indeed is the interpretation. Go find a dictionary. A good one.

> Was a hammer used to fit a square peg into a round hole?

Yup. By you. You took a hammer (the word "盼") to fit a square peg (your wrong translation) into a round hole (the idiom). Go take out the long list of idioms that you teacher asked you to memorise and check. Maybe then, a hammer is not needed.

> Hmmm... perhaps I am wrong after all, irregardless of my opinion against the masses. :)

No "perhaps". You were wrong. Full-stop. Just like your "irregardless". Wrong. no "Ir-" in front. No doubt if you type "irregardless" into google, you will find some people having used it that way. But even more people would have used "regardless" and you cannot say that you are simply bucking the "trend", that it's an "opinion against the masses". What opinion? "Iregardless" is simply wrong, just as "盼" is wrong. Wrong means wrong, REGARDLESS of anything.

Isn't it easier if you simply not start out acting smart to "correct" other people's "mistake" and then insist on your mistake when ticked off?

Anonymous said...

http://140.111.34.46/cgi-bin/dict/GetContent.cgi?Database=dict&DocNum=120877&GraphicWord=yes&QueryString=%C3%F8
(in Big5 encoding).

Do you need me to search out "regardless" vs "irregardless" for you too? Or to explain why it should be one but not the other? But If I do that, I may be trying to fit sqaure peg into round hole, in your opinion. Haha!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, I have gone thru all these self improvement technique like power of positive thinking, self hypnosis etc. My first self improvement book was by Dale Carnegie "How to win friends and influence people". They work for 10% of the population whose karma gave them the ability to. To 90% of the people, these technique will not work. I am speaking from personal experiences of a high achiever who tried to help others to improve by introducing these technique to them. I have now come to accept the Buddhist concept that we are all different and our abilities and station in life are dictated by our karma. U may succeed in getting 10% of ur students to succeed but how about the 90% ? I am going beyond helping the 10% as I have come to realise that whether I help them or not they will find their way to the top. It is the 90% who needs help. No amount of self improvement technique will work for these people.
Of course we are only talking about success in life which need not necessarily equates to happiness and leading a meaningful life.
The Buddhist concept of life is much more advance than all these self improvement technique.
I notice that u have touch on the power of hypnotism. There are dangers too and not everyone can be hypnotise due to their karma and the different power of their mind. I have known of someone who has the power to stop the bullet of a small hand-gun with his bare hand. He has thousands of diciples but only one can reach his level after 20 years of more than 4 hours of practice a day.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"My first self improvement book was by Dale Carnegie "How to win friends and influence people"."

I have a rather poor opinion of this particular book, by the way. So does Stephen Covey. Fancy trying to get people to like you by pretending to be interested in their hobbies. Definitely not my style.

They work for 10% of the population whose karma gave them the ability to. To 90% of the people, these technique will not work.

Just to humour you, let me ask you this - how does anyone know whether he belongs to the 10% you mentioned, or the 90% you mentioned?

I have now come to accept the Buddhist concept that we are all different and our abilities and station in life are dictated by our karma.

Surprise. I believe in karma too, very much so. However, my understanding of karma is quite different from yours. In fact, I would say that your understanding of karma is not in accordance with traditional Buddhist teachings. In a future post, I will elaborate.

The Buddhist concept of life is much more advance than all these self improvement technique.

It is. In fact, in my opinion, Buddhist monks are probably one of the most frighteningly ambitious people on this planet - far more ambitious than me, certainly.

Go think about it. The typical ambitious person is just after money, health, career success, a happy family, good sex.

And the very ambitious person just wants a billion dollars, a business empire, worldwide fame, and so on.

But the Buddhist monk is after the biggest prize of all. Enlightenment. What could be bigger?

I have known of someone who has the power to stop the bullet of a small hand-gun with his bare hand. He has thousands of diciples but only one can reach his level after 20 years of more than 4 hours of practice a day.

Yes, I am quite interested in knowing all about these strange phenomena too. In fact, on my personal list of "Things to Do Before I Die", is a trip to India to see Sai Baba with my own eyes.

On the other hand, on a more mundane level, I think that most people would be better off focusing on more practical goals. Seriously - the power to catch bullets with your bare hands is of very limited practical applicaiton unless you happen to live in a warzone.

Anonymous said...

Not Sai Baba. This man is based in Indonesia. I used this e.g. to illustrate my point that whatever technique, only a small % will succeed in accomplishing the objective. I have watched a documentary showing the hand tricks of Sai Baba. Enough doubts have been raised in my mind.
Yes, some Buddhist monks in seeking enlightenment are the most ambitious. However it is ambition within their control in the sense that the variable is only he and his mind and once achieve it last. So why bother to go for other prices which are transcient and subjected to external factors ?
Who is happier - the Sultan of Brunei or a moron ?
If ur technique is effective, it does not matter who they are as even the 10% will eventually need it when they reach their level of incompetent.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Sai Baba can't be easily dismissed. Have you heard of Kirlian photography? Under Kirlian photography, Sai Baba reportedly glows like no other human being. In other words, Sai Baba appears just like a normal human being when you look at him, but when you use Kirlian photography, the photo will show him glowing in a huge aura of light, as if he was radioactive. Just type "Sai Baba" and "Kirlian" into Google and you'll probably see what I mean.

Most people are not ready to pursue spiritual development directly. They have to go through the Maslow route and seek to satisfy their lower needs.

If you like, you can even consider Prince Siddharta as an illustration of this. Before he can seek enlightenment, he must experience life as a prince. He must have every possible material luxury, because he realises that he must have more.

Also you seem to belabor under the mistaken impression that setting big goals and pursuing them can only lead to disappointment and unhappiness, especially if in the end there is failure. Again I disagree. for most people, the pursuit of these goals is the only thing that will lead to happiness. Not the attainment, but the pursuit. Here I would refer you to Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi.

Anonymous said...

Read "Fooled by Randomness"

Meng Chong said...

A teacher once said this to guy's father, "It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything." Who was he? Albert Einstein.

A school master thought that this boy was incredibly stupid and intractable boy. His Mum thought otherwise. Who was he? Thomas Alva Edison.

There was this gentlemen that was struck by an (currently) incurable diease at age 20, that would leave him paralyse from the neck down. Who was he? Stephen Hawkings.

And last but not least. There was a man that was down in luck as a salesman. His wife left him and his son; at once stage he had to sleep in a public toilet in the train station. Who was he? Chris Gardner.

Check out the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" In particular, the scene where Chris Gardner told his son Christopher that he won't be successful as a professional basketballer because Christ himself couldn't be one.

Bottomline is life deals each of us an individual set of cards(situation), it is up to you to make it a winning hand or not. The choice is yours.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I already read "Fooled By Randomness". I find Nassim to be a very good writer, by the way.

I wonder which part of his book you are referring to now, because the book is so extensive in the range of issues it covers.

There is a section that talks about attribution bias. Where for example many people often attribute their success to their own efforts, rather than random factors.

But there is also a section that talks about how many people will not do what's good for them, even though it is obvious what is good for them (here Nassim refers to the advice and suggestions found in self-help books etc), simply due to deeper psychological factors like laziness.

Anonymous said...

There are thousands and thousands of holy men in India who has vibrant auras. Some has gone onto the world stage to make $billion and disgraced their sects by decadent indulgence. Even the best of the lots, Maharashi who proved the benefits of transcendental meditation(TM) to health and popularised it to the West years ago, and who counted the Beatles and Bill Gates amongst his disciples(yes BG can "fly")eventually succumbed to the temptations of the material world when he tried to use his power to prevent the collapse of the corrupt and rotten Marcos. Marcos gave him huge sums of $ and land for his TM university. He ended up taking a low profile and using his $billions to speculate on the world financials, futures, commodities and derivatives markets. Sometimes back I saw a documentary claiming some frauds in his group. Anyone with a good heart and mind and do meditation will have a vibrant aura. Some Tibetan Lamas are proficient in seeing auras with their bare eyes. Some lay peoples also have these abilities, due to their past lives practices. So a vibrant aura is quiet common.

Anonymous said...

Hey, all these are excellent examples that if u r fated to be great, u will be great no matter what. Different perspective ?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Some Tibetan Lamas are proficient in seeing auras with their bare eyes. Some lay peoples also have these abilities, due to their past lives practices. So a vibrant aura is quiet common.

True, seeing auras isn't particularly uncommon. I see my chakra colours too, when meditating. Which isn't uncommon, really.

Anonymous said...

What r u waiting for Mr. Wang ? Go upgrade urself into a powerful swami and make $billions on the world stage.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Seeing colours in meditation is not uncommon at all. If you go to any meditation class for intermediate students, probably half of them would see these. Not quite the same as seeing auras though.