opinion

Are you impossibly talented?

November 23, 2019

Some people are. I don't belong to them. For sure. Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges? I came across an article by David Robson,  author of The Intelligence Trap, which examines the common thinking errors of smart people, and the ways we can avoid them.  "In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.) Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realized that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology. It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind. The research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity. Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism." In addition to starring on the silver screen, Hedy Lamarr, a famous polymath, also co-developed a transmission method that has carried into today’s technologies. Let's try to answer the question: What’s a polymath? Even the definition of “polymath” is the subject of debate. The term has its roots in Ancient Greek and was first used in the early 17th Century to mean a person with “many learnings”, but there is no easy way to decide how advanced those learnings must be and in how many disciplines. Most researchers argue that to be a true polymath you need some kind of formal acclaim in at least two apparently unrelated domains. One of the most detailed examinations of the subject comes from Waqas Ahmed in his book The Polymath, published earlier this year. The inspiration was partly personal: Ahmed has spanned multiple fields in his career to date. With an undergraduate degree in economics and post-graduate degrees in international relations and neuroscience, Ahmed has worked as a diplomatic journalist and personal trainer (which he learnt through the British Armed Forces). Today, he is pursuing his love of visual art as the artistic director of one of the world’s largest private art collections, while also working as a professional artist himself. Despite these achievements, Ahmed does not identify as a polymath. “It is too esteemed an accolade for me to refer to myself as one,” he says. When examining the lives of historical polymaths, he only considered those who had made significant contributions to at least three fields, such as Leonardo da Vinci (the artist, inventor and anatomist), as German language professor my idol Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (the great writer who also studied botany, physics and mineralogy) and Florence Nightingale (who, besides founding modern nursing, was also an accomplished statistician and theologian). Maybe, right now, you think you’re a polymath? Not so fast. Waqas Ahmed argues that polymaths can only be those who made major contributions to at least three different fields. From these biographies, and a review of the psychological literature, Ahmed was then able to identify the qualities that allow polymaths to achieve their greatness. As you might expect, higher-than-average intelligence certainly helps. “To a large degree that facilitates or catalyses learning,” says Ahmed. But open-mindedness and curiosity were also essential. “So you're interested in a phenomenon but you don't care where your investigation leads you,” Ahmed explains, even if that pushes you to delve into unfamiliar territory. The polymaths were also often self-reliant – happy to teach themselves – and individualist; they were driven by a great desire for personal fullfillment. Many children are fascinated by many different areas – but our schools, universities and then employment tend to push us towards ever greater specialization. Like any personality traits, these qualities will all have a certain genetic basis, but they will also be shaped by our environment. Ahmed points out that many children are fascinated by many different areas – but our schools, universities and then employment tend to push us towards ever greater specialization. So many more people may have the capacity to be polymaths, if only they are encouraged in the right way. Allow me to go back to my idol Goethe. While polymaths like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe indeed have higher-than-average intelligence, curiosity is essential for anybody looking to broaden their specialisations. Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician. It is telling, for instance, that Antheil had previously worked on scores involving synchronized self-playing pianolas, and together he and Lamarr drew on the mechanism of those instruments to come up with their anti-jamming device. Allow me and  David Robson to ask you if you feel tempted to live a more polymathic life. Ahmed suggests that you can use your time more efficiently to make space for multiple interests. There is now a growing recognition that, when concentrating on any complex endeavour, the brain often reaches a kind of saturation point, after which your attention may fade and any extra effort may fail to pay off. But if you turn to another, unrelated activity, you may find that you are better able to apply yourself. Shifting between different kinds of tasks can therefore boost your overall productivity. Switching between different tasks, such as Albert Einstein using music for scientific inspiration, can boost overall productivity and creativity. Wannabe polymaths can use this to their advantage by alternating between their interests – ensuring that they are using their brains at maximum efficiency in each domain, while avoiding wasted effort after they have reached that cognitive saturation point. Albert Einstein, who was an accomplished violinist and pianist as well as a physicist, apparently used this approach. According to his son and daughter, he would play music whenever he faced an intractable problem, and would often finish the performance by saying, “There now, I’ve got it”. It was a much better use of his time than continuing to fruitlessly agonize over the maths or physics. Yes, think it over, we have many advantages compared to the polymaths of the past. The internet, after all, is now full of free online courses in many different disciplines, and it is easier than ever to hook up with an expert teacher through apps like Skype even if they are based hundreds of miles away - as David Robson correctly said. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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The importance of ejaculatory prayers

November 22, 2019

We need to be more familiar with what are known as ejaculatory prayers, otherwise known also as aspirations. They are short prayers that spring rather quite spontaneously from the heart that is going through the different situations in life—happy, sad, tense, tired, excited, bored, etc. They reflect one’s relation with God and are inspired by faith, hope and charity.      To me, ejaculatory prayers are very helpful in quickly and easily putting ourselves in God’s presence, especially when we immerse ourselves deeply in the things of the world as we ought.      They help us relate ourselves and everything that happens to us to God, again as we ought. They help us in keeping a spiritual and supernatural outlook as we go through the different events of the day. In short, they help in keeping us spiritually alive, and not just alive in the body and to the world.      They help us see things better in the sense that we just would not see them with our senses and our human understanding alone, but also and more importantly with our faith, which is what is ideal and proper to us. They somehow put us in an intimate relation with our Father God. With them we will never feel alone nor distant from God.      My personal experience with ejaculatory prayers shows that they are very helpful even in making me calm and rested even in the middle of a tense situation for the mind or for the body. They help in making me breathe more deeply and thus give some relief.      Also, not to forget is that they are very helpful in protecting and defending us from temptations and sin. They make the spiritual combat and ascetical struggle, so unavoidable in life, more manageable.      They also help in preparing us for the more serious forms in our relationship with God as when we have to do our prayers, our sacrifices and our recourse to the sacraments.      We should all do our best to make it a habit to say ejaculatory prayers often during the day. Any short and earnest expression of our faith and piety will do. And also in this regard, the many vocal prayers that are already available can be very useful.      The “Our Father’s,” “Hail Mary’s” and “Glory be’s” are truly helpful.      We do not have to invent more prayers to be used as ejaculatory prayers. We may just even say, “Lord, I love you, I believe in you, I trust you,” or words to that effect. There are also many other prayers addressed to Our Lady, to St. Joseph, to St. Michael, and to other saints that can be used.      The important thing is that they are said with sincerity of heart and rectitude of intention. They definitely do not hamper us in our daily work and concerns. In fact, the contrary is true. They facilitate things a lot.      This business of saying ejaculatory prayers often during the day should be taught to children as early as possible. You cannot imagine what great benefits they will enjoy when they learn to do it as a habit when they grow up and get exposed to all sorts of things.      Let’s encourage everyone to do the same. There may be a little awkwardness in the beginning, but it’s not something that cannot be overcome. Especially when people experience the many benefits of the ejaculatory prayers, they will readily acquire the practice, since these prayers do not require a lot of effort to say them.

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Family unity is at the heart of Christmas

November 22, 2019

Working over the holidays is a fact of life for most entrepreneurs and their active family members. And with that reality comes the stress of business and family vying for your attention. What can you do to find a happy balance at holiday time? As a business leader how do you manage emotions as a result of so many factors.       Emotions cannot be avoided and can aggravate conflict in the family and business. I am also aware just how much of a burden entrepreneurship can take on the active family members. Understandably, December is a time when many family businesses begin closing the annual books - and family members who had all year to dream about hefty dividends often get disappointed when they realized to their dismay the numbers do not add up.  Dividend Sharing can be a Major Source of Conflict      Stress due to expectations of a bigger dividend share and discovering that the value is smaller can easily be a source of tension. Especially when you worked so hard and the sharing is equal among working family members.       In my coaching work all over Asia, I have learned over many years of advising family owned enterprises that there are several effective strategies you can use to take the pressure off and I’m happy to share them below to serve as a guide for every family member wishing that the holiday season can be a wonderful occasion to finally bring peace and unity within the family.  No. 1 Family Unity above Self      For starters, every family member must look at the big picture and be reminded that family unity must be the overarching value over ANYTHING! Those who feel aggrieved must never forget that whatever hurts they are going through must give way to a mindset that espouses stewardship and a vision of a happy, secure future for all family members.  No. 2 Create a Growth Vision to Inspire the Next Gen      The key is if you want your family to understand stewardship and unity, you have to have some open, honest discussions about the future. I am in Singapore now and a couple of families from other countries flew here to meet me precisely to reinforce the importance of family unity and vision. When there is family unity, harmony follows. When there is a powerful vision, growth naturally follows.      On top of a governance compass that we crafted two years ago, we also created a succession process on how to transition the successful business to the next generation set of leaders comprising five adult children. No. 3 There is No Success without Succession      Succession can be a complex event but when there is ample time to prepare, the transition and wealth transfer phase can be a wonderful and joyous event for the family.  To quote Montxu Aboitiz, a 4th generation member President and CEO of listed firm Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV):      “We have passed the baton down seven times since the company’s beginnings in 1889. Sustainability is key in the company and that AEV has always taken very seriously the capability to pass the company down generation to generation.”      The 130 year-old Aboitiz family runs one of the largest and oldest conglomerates in the Philippines. They have a constitution to ensure the sustainability of its wide range of businesses and have strictly followed family governance rules that is why they continue to reap the benefits of a successful business generation after generation.        To be continued...       esoriano@wongadvisory.com

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Polytechnic University update

November 22, 2019

Dear Students, Colleagues and Alumni The PolyU campus has been occupied by activists and has been severely and extensively vandalised over the past few days. The unlawful activities and acts of violence inside the campus and in its vicinity have been escalating, including damage to a number of laboratories on campus with the dangerous chemicals inside being taken away.      All classes have been forced to be suspended and all operations on the campus have been halted. The University is gravely concerned that the spiralling radical illicit activities will cause not only a tremendous safety threat on campus, but also class suspension over an indefinite period of time.      Once again, we plead with all people on campus, including students and staff members, to leave immediately.      We understand that our students are very concerned about the current social issues. However, in striving for one’s goal, one must always act with calmness and rationality.      Using violence or other radical means will not resolve problems, and instead it will cause a breach of the peace in our society, as well as traffic disruption. PolyU is the second home for our students, teachers and alumni, who have put painstaking efforts into building it up with the generous support from the community over the past eight decades.      We are all heart-broken and in deep distress to witness the severe devastation of this home. We believe that most of the alumni, staff and students of the PolyU, as well as their relatives and friends, are deeply saddened to see the campus and the nearby areas completely wrecked, the traffic disrupted, and the University indefinitely closed.      They are concerned about the safety on the campus, and they do not want to see the campus being destroyed further. We sincerely urge our students to stand together with us in cherishing and guarding themselves as well as this campus that we call home.      We appeal again for all to stay calm and rational and say “No” to violence. Do not engage in any violent or unlawful activities. In this moment of utmost risk, stay away from any danger and always be vigilant in protecting yourselves to relieve our, as well as your friends’ and relatives’ worries about you.      We have called on Deans, Department Heads and teachers to persuade our students to leave the campus as soon as possible. We also appeal to the parents and friends of the students to make efforts in doing likewise.      Universities are venues for advancing knowledge and nurturing talents. Universities are not battlegrounds for political disputes and should not be drawn into violent confrontations. PolyU strongly condemns the occupation of the campus by the people who commit acts of violence and demands that they leave immediately.      In this difficult time, we again call on all parties in society to maintain calm and restraint. We also plead with the members of PolyU to stand together. With our concerted efforts, we hope the campus can return to peace and tranquillity soon, and the impasse and turbulence in the society will come to an end.      Best regards,      Dr LAM Tai-Fai, Council Chairman      Professor Jin-Guang TENG, President      Professor Philip C. H. CHAN, Deputy President and Provost      Dr Miranda LOU, Executive Vice President      Mr Andy TONG, Vice President (Campus Development and Facilities)      Ir Professor Alex WAI, Vice President (Research Development)      Ir Professor Ben YOUNG, Vice President (Student Affairs)      Professor S. L. HO, Associate Vice President (Academic Support)      Professor Chetwyn CHAN, Associate Vice President (Learning and Teaching)      Professor Guohua CHEN, Associate Vice President (Research Support)      Professor K. Y. WONG, Associate Vice President (Research Support)      Professor Daniel T. L. SHEK, Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme)      Professor WONG Wing-tak, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles      Ir Professor T. C. Edwin CHENG, Dean of the Faculty of Business      Ir Professor Y. L. XU, Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Environment      Ir Professor H. C. MAN, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering      Prof. David SHUM, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences      Professor LI Ping, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities      Professor K. P. LEE, Dean of the School of Design      Professor Kaye CHON, Dean of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management      Professor Esmond MOK, Dean of Students

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I AM FEELING SO BORED!

November 8, 2019

Many of us shy away from boredom, but it’s actually very good for creativity. Many of us lead incredibly busy lives, constantly hopping from one task to the next, and when we’re blessed with a little bit of downtime, we pick up our phones, and scroll the boredom away. But is that the best way use of our time? Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK says boredom is an essential part of the creative process and should be applied to our day-to-day lives. While being a columnist of "Tinig ng Bayan" (published in Abra) during the 1980s, I remember our Taiwanese coordinator Cristina Lising-Geronga, who expressed herself in innumerable write ups about the topic loneliness. Sure, "Tinig ng Bayan" has been a publication or Filipinos abroad. Loneliness, borne by Filipinos living abroad while missing their families in the Philippines became a very "normal" expression. During that time, my Philippine mentor, the late Monsignor Professor Dr. Dr. Hermogenes E. Bacareza, Chaplain of the Philippine Community in Berlin, started together with me publishing "Ang Mabuhay". Believe me, "loneliness" became a main topic in many write-ups. Nowadays, loneliness and boredom seem to be the splitting image of each other - so to speak being as like as two peas in a pod. While browsing in social networks like Facebook, one can find more and more comments as in "When Boredom Strikes" or so. Boredom, ending up in loneliness - or vice versus? How comes that loneliness and/or boredom are still a general topics in our today's society? Loneliness has been called one of the main diseases even during the last century. It really doesn't strike not only the Filipinos abroad and their love ones back home. Too often loneliness is being followed by alcoholism, drug abuse and even suicide. Yes, loneliness becomes a modern day plague.  I observed several people trying to surround themselves with so-called "friends" only to find that such relationships are often shallow and unsatisfying. Loneliness can be painful but being lonely or alone at that is not always a bad thing. Ask yourself, how do  you use your time, if you are really alone? Do you simply let the time pass without doing anything  at all? Why not use such time productively? There are many worthwhile activities to engage in, even if you are alone, such as reading, writing, listen to good (light) music, play an (forgotten?) instrument, gardening... . Reading the bible can be also very particularly beneficial.  The Word of God is "alive and exerts power" and can take our minds off ourselves. To break the cycle of loneliness, one must be a giver. Let's keep an eye, not only and always on our personal interests but also on the interests others. Look around and watch out who needs help, or who needs a real friend or good listener. Once you have spotted such a person, act! Thus, in order to have friends, you must act like a friend. Luke 6:38 says, "Give to others, and God will give to you!" Besides, "There is more happiness (and less loneliness) in giving then receiving", says Acts 20:35. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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Marrying Money: The In-Law Dilemma

November 4, 2019

I was once asked in a TV interview anchored by Michelle Ong of ANC (ABSCBN) what my thoughts were in recommending in-laws to work in the family business and my quick response was straightforward, “If family owning businesses can afford professionals, there is absolutely no need to hire in-laws!”      In my years of doing consulting work for my firm, Wong + Bernstein Family Advisory, one significant variable in family enterprises is the effect that in-laws have on family owning businesses. They can either be a positive contributor or can be a huge burden to the family and the business. And I have encountered dozens of family businesses threatened and impaired by the actions of in-laws.      Business owners must realize that they will never know who their children will choose as partners.  Not even the most controlling family business owner can determine his children’s final choices. So no matter how you look at in-laws, they will always play a huge role in the way your children will manage the business and the family especially when you are no longer around.      But while you are still at the helm, owners must recognize that unity, governance, wealth transition and legacy building efforts should always be in place before proceeding with your plan in bringing in-laws to the business.      In Asia, hiring in-laws is correlated to culture and necessity. For start-up businesses where resources are limited, in-laws are usually relied upon to help in the business and fill the void. Their engagement is significant as they not only play a pivotal role in the growth of the business but they end up becoming a natural extension of the founder’s trust. In a latter’s circle of trusted people in the organization, in-laws are classified as part of the “cheap labor” pool of relatives and friends.      However, problems generally surface when the business transitions from a mom and pop venture to a bigger and complex organization. Despite the transition, the owners often disregard the importance of establishing rules and policies related to in-law entry.      For Dr. Steven Berglas, management consultant, faculty of Harvard Medical School and author of “The Success Syndrome”, he asserted that “hiring in-laws into the family business can be a “kiss of death”. The reason?  They become too familiar to the point that they believe the business is their own.   They then proceed to prove their value to the company by changing the way it’s run.”      To help the family weigh in on the pros and cons of hiring in laws, I am enumerating issues and concerns that every owner must consider as he or she navigates the perilous journey of balancing family and business with in-laws:      1.    Should the in law be subjected to the same treatment as family members or should they be treated differently?      2.    How do you compensate In-laws working in the family business?      3.    Will they have the same benefits as any ordinary non family professional? Or have perks similar to that of the children?      4.    Will they be made to sign an employment contract and be subjected to the same performance metrics?      5.    What are the consequences for an underperforming in-law? Can he or she be suspended or terminated?      I have warned dozens of owners about the potential risk that exists when they carelessly and hastily employ in-laws minus entry rules and policies. It is not only unfair to the in law but a selfish act committed by the business owner which if left unmanaged can cause serious implications.      esoriano@wongadvisory.com

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