Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

I was watching this TED talk by Simon Sinek on why leaders eat last. I like this definition of leadership - that you are given more, so that when it matters, you put yourself at risk for others. It made me reflect on myself, in my role at work, and also about the managers I have encountered through the years, and about those in positions of political power in my country.

The How many of those at the top fulfils the anthropological definition of leadership?

“The cost of leadership is self-interest. If you’re not willing to give up your perks when it matters, then you probably shouldn’t get promoted. You might be an authority, but you will not be a leader. Leadership comes at a cost. You don’t get to do less work when you get more senior, you have to do more work. And the more work you have to do is put yourself at risk to look after others. That is the anthropological definition of what a leader is. This the why we are so offended by these banker boys who pay themselves astronomical salaries. It has nothing to do with the number. It has to do with the fact that they have violated a deep-seated social contract.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

20 Odd Questions with Patti Smith

From Wall Street Journal

Patti Smith:
When I go on tour, I only pack a very small suitcase. The thing that takes me the longest to choose is the book I'm going to read. It is Dylan Thomas's 100th anniversary this year; I have Elizabeth Bishop's copy of "In Country Sleep," so I might bring that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Alone, Lonely and Sadly

A colleague told me the story about her father-in-law and his family a while back. He was dying, and they took him home, so that the family could look after him. The sad truth is, the old man had left a legacy of irresponsible parenting. As my colleague told me - "He only knew how to make babies and go fishing. He doesn't know how to look after his kids." 

The old man had eight children - yet at the end of his days, it was his daughter-in-laws who bathed, him, fed him, took care of him. His own children were not available. This is the truth of a family with no bond. My colleague told me how her mother-in-law was angry as the man was dying - after all the years, she was still angry at the husband who wasn't around, and whom she thought ruined her life. 

When the man finally passed away, he was alone. His wife eventually went to check on him, and found that he was not breathing. So a man with a wife and eight children died alone, lonely and sadly.




Tuesday, May 06, 2014

ESSAY | Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers

Good article on the importance of liberal arts in our education. [ Full article ]
My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees. Henry David Thoreau is as relevant as ever when he writes, “We seem to have forgotten that the expression ‘a liberal education’ originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.”

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Saturday Evening

It's been a while since I had time alone with a book. I am out at a Starbucks, people watching, drinking a hot cafe latte and reading. It's ironical that I am only able to find quiet solitude outside in public, surrounded by strangers and not at home with family. That's life, I guess.

I've just started on Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives, and it's a hoot. "L'hypocrisie de la bourgeoisie" seems to be the overarching theme of her collection of essays. I'm on the first two essays, where she talked about the fact that she had to raise two children (from different fathers) as a single mother, and the reactions from those around her. She described the parallels between The Age of Innocence and when she was going through her divorce, and later The Scarlet Letter against when she was raising a child without the child's father. Her situation brought out some annoying (to me) reactions that reminds me how it's often not about you, but rather, it's about them - and people are most intolerant of the situations that they are unable to bear in their own lives. It helps that she is interestingly unrepentant about it all.

I did find her observation of the perception of single mothers interesting:
Part of what seems threatening or unsettling about the single mother's household is precisely that sense that the mother may be glimpsed as more of a person, that these children are witnessing a struggle they should not be seeing, that their mother is very early on a regular, complicated person, rather than simply an adult who is part of the opaque, semi-separate adult culture of the house.
I'm reminded of Desperate Housewives, especially the character Bree (the red head) with her perfectly constructed family life that underpinned a psychotic intensity that absolutely made it absolutely believable that she was capable of murder. What is it with the need for perfection?

Life is more interesting when we stop trying to be perfect and allow the messiness.

So here's to a messy life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MURAKAMI | Run To Live Life to the Fullest

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”

― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

(Photo: Haruki Murakami, after finishing his first marathon from Athens to Marathon in the blistering summer heat - July 18th, 1983. [Source])

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Donna Tartt wins Pulitzer Prize

So Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer this year for The Goldfinch - which I brought to Amsterdam as travel reading (Bad idea to bring thick books on a trip. When will I ever learn?) Some parts of it interested me - but the narrative fell flat midway. I will probably finish it eventually. I still can't quite decide if this book is overrated. I had better hopes for it, but it's not engaging me the way I had hoped.

That said, I am very taken with this picture of Donna Tartt, taken by Anne Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

MUSIC | Nirvana, featuring Lorde covering "All Apologies"

Nirvana gets inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and they decided a all-female line-up is the way to go. So here's a fan's wet dream of Nirvana hits, with Lorde, Kim Gordon, Joan Jett and St Vincent all on stage. Lorde does the vocals on "All Apologies". I'm old enough to remember when Kurt Cobain sang it.

I heart this.