Forgiveness, a gift you give yourself

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To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.

When we are hurt by others our natural instinct is to pull away, become angry, resentful, bitter and even vengeful.

We normally do not respond with mercy, grace, understanding and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a choice. It is a gift that you give to yourself.

Forgiveness has little to do with the person who has hurt you. It is an act of faith out of obedience to God and is not dependent on your feelings.

The biggest road block is that we often confuse forgiveness with condoning the action or saying the wrong they committed was OK.

Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and each other.

You do it for yourself, to set yourself free from the anger, resentment, bitterness and hurt that has held you captive.

Book Review: Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

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This is a good book. I loved it. I didn’t know much about Jack Ma except that he is one of the wealthiest if not the thee wealthiest entrepreneur in China.

This book is an engrossing, insider’s account of how a teacher built one of the world’s most valuable companies, rivaling Walmart & Amazon, and forever reshaped the global economy.

In just a decade and half Jack Ma, a man from modest beginnings who started out as an English teacher, founded and built Alibaba into one of the world’s largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend.

Alibaba’s $25 billion IPO in 2014 was the largest global IPO ever.

A Rockefeller of his age who is courted by CEOs and Presidents around the world, Jack is an icon for China’s booming private sector and the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of middle class consumers.

The books takes you though what it is like starting and running a business in China. I was quiet surprised that at some point in history being an entrepreneur in China was outlawed. You would be arrested for running a free enterprise.

Back in the day, some entrepreneurs would go to meetings, with teeth brushes in their jackets in case they were arrested by the police at the meetings for being entrepreneurs.

China is a huge market. This book paints a clear picture of how massive this market is. Chinese people are hard working, this may stem from their extreme poor background.

Jack Ma not only comes from a modest background, he was not one of the smartest students in class. He failed to gain entry into university four times because he could make the required marks, but despite all these disadvantages, he managed to managed one of the biggest online stores in the modern economy.

He is an interesting person, funny and very unassuming. His favourite movie and character is Forrest Gump. He keeps referring to some of the quotes from the movie as his life-lessons.

Rating:

8/10

An awesome book even though in some chapters is goes on an on about eBay and other online stores, you even forget that this is a book about Jack Ma and Alibaba.

Otherwise an awesome read for entrepreneurs, and those who are into technology, especially those who want to get into online stores.

I like Jack Ma, he comes across as a human being, not these cut-throught, ruthless entrepreneurs whom we are made to believe are what defines success in business.

Quotes that stood out for me:

  • “In its early years, he gave three explanations as to why the company survived: “We didn’t have any money, we didn’t have any technology, and we didn’t have a plan”
  • “The dark days at Alibaba”: “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. And when you are small, you have to be very focused and rely on your brain, not your strength.”

  • “It doesn’t matter how wealthy or powerful you are, if you can’t enjoy the sunshine, you can’t be truly happy.”
  • No matter how tough the chase is, you should always have the dream you saw on the first day. It’ll keep you motivated and rescue you (from any weak thoughts).
  • Never ever compete on prices, instead compete on services and innovation.

  • Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.
  • You should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die.

 

 

 

 

The Advantage of Disadvantages: Big fish in a small pond

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Which one would you rather be?

  • A BIG FISH in a small pond or a small fish in a BIG POND?
  • A star performer in a startup or a team-member in a big company?
  • A popular person in a small community or an ordinary person a big community

The likely answer is: to be a BIG FISH in a BIG POND or a star performer in a big company or a popular person in a big community.

Why?

Because humans being are obsessed with attention, with self-importance and elitism.

We believe being popular with the in-group makes us more important and self-worth.

Malcolm Gladwell argues against this. Gladwell is basically against anyone attending a famous university just for the name, or really doing anything for the sake of prestige.

To choose something elite is, more often than not, to choose being a little fish in a big pond, he says, since only a select few will shine among the best.

He believes people are generally better off choosing to be part of a lesser known organization where they have a greater chance of standing out.

The concept Gladwell draws on is called “relative deprivation.”

It was coined by Samuel Stouffer, a sociologist, during World War II to describe how we measure ourselves against the people immediately around us.

Our successes are always compared to their successes, as are our failures.

If you want to see an in-depth talk about Relative Deprivation or what he terms Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder [EICD], watch this talk Gladwell gives at Google Ziegheist.

What we deem as an advantage attending an elite institution might actually work against us and what we deem a disadvantage attending a less prestige institution might actually be what we really need.

Small teams have the ability to form strong team bonds than big teams.

There is a stronger chance to develop a sense of community and belonging when you are in a small community.

A big city is a jungle where no one really cares about another person. You are likely to be mugged and everyone will pass you as if nothing is happened.

This is unlikely to happen in a small town where people will stop to give you assistance when your car is broken down or you are lost and need directions.

You want a sense of humanity, of belonging, of community, of teamwork, of mattering, of caring? Think small institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

The Advantage of Disadvantages: Suffering

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Does dyslexia come with hidden advantages? Since dyslexia is a learning disability it’s counterintuitive.

But some of the world’s most accomplished people [Steven Spielberg, Mohammed Ali, Pablo Picasso, Richard Branson] despite being dyslexic.

Dyslexia, in the best of cases, forces you to develop skills that might otherwise have lain dormant.

In his fascinating book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell argues that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises when we are faced with impossible odds.

The same qualities that appear to give [giants] strength are often the sources of great weakness,” Gladwell writes. “And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate.”

This ignites in me the notion that people from disadvantaged backgrounds work harder because their circumstances forces them to develop that work ethic.

They wake up very early each morning because they have to catch an early bus or train so that they can get to work on time.

They work double shifts so that they can make an extra income to make ends meet.

Foreign nationals work twice as hard as locals because they have the desirable difficulty of being out of their comfort zones.

Being in a foreign country, away from friends and family forces you to focus on one thing, work, the reason you are in a foreign country in the first place.

For some small number of people, a parental loss appears to be, ultimately, a desirable difficulty, again, not a large number.

There seems to be a class of obstacles that for some people, for whatever reason, has an advantageous outcome.

For some people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds forces to develop high work ethic, resilience, perseverance and other survival skills that they wouldn’t have developed have they came from advantaged, privileged positions.

The Advantage of Disadvantages: Hunger to go on.

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In his last TED Talk, Elon Musk says:

“You look at great civilizations like Ancient Egypt, and they were able to make the pyramids, and they forgot how to do that. And then the Romans, they built these incredible aqueducts. They forgot how to do it.”

Why is it that certain nations, or people achieve such amazing things [pyramids, aqueducts] but then nothing equivalent to that happens thereafter?

Is it because we have gotten comfortable with our accomplishments that we forgot to dream more.

Sometimes the advantage of achieving great success may lead to hubris and lack of desire to dream more.

It is important to always reassess your hunger levels after each progress you make in life.

Always push the bar higher and higher as you reach certain levels of progress. Never settle.

Failure to do that may lead to settling down and not having the hunger to pursue more progress, why should you dream more, in your books you have achieved mos.

Maybe it explains why the Egyptians after such amazing achievement of building pyramids, they according to Elon Musk, “have forgotten how to do that.”

Progress does not happen automatically happen. It happens when people continue to dream and do more.

Advantages that accrue as a result of the progress we make should be celebrated as stepping stones, not as destinations.

 

The Advantage of Disadvantages: Comfort zones

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We often look at having less [scarcity] as a disadvantage and having more [abundance] as an advantage.

Therefore we all want to have more. More money, more opportunities, more stuff, more popularity, more followers, more clothes, more.

But the problem with having more, for instance, having more money, often stifles our thinking.

When a person has more money, they tend to get into a comfort zone. They are no longer hungry.

Why should I work hard to milk a cow, if I can simply go shopping to buy milk? I have money.

Our resourcefulness dies because we want to pay for everything, or we want someone else to pay for us.

We see this with children who grow up from abundance, they tend to be entitled, they are used to having a house assistant doing everything for them and therefore they can’t even do the basic house chores.

Countries that provide their people with everything, often breeds a culture of dependency and entitlement.

When people grow up getting things for free or things done for them, they become adults who are unable to do things for themselves when no one gives support or things.

Because the mind has not been trained to think during scarcity, when the source of abundance dries up, the person becomes handicapped to think.

This handicaps their ability to be resourcesful.

People who grew up under adverse and difficult conditions, often work harder. They are resilient to pain, they are able to persevere under difficult conditions until they get a breakthrough.

The Chinese are known to be a hardworking nation because they came from very poor backgrounds.

It is no miracle that China has managed to pull its people out of extreme poverty. A disadvantage that led to an advantage.

What looks like an advantage, often turns out to be a disadvantage.

What looks like a disadvantage, often turns out to be an advantage in the long run.

I’m by no means trying to glorify scarcity, but it is important to guard against what we think are advantages because they may lead to disadvantages.

It is important to work hard to overcome adversity, but it is equally important to continue to work hard even when in a privileged position.

The Advantage of Disadvantages: small is the new BIG

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When I finished my trainee accountant articles at a big firm, I was happy that I will have a big firm on my resume.

The advantage of having a big prestigious firm on your resume is deemed as priceless.

It is something that most young aspiring accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers and other professionals wants on their resumes.

We all want to work for big prestigious organisations.

However the advantage of having a big prestigious firm on your resume may actually be a disadvantage.

What we deem as an advantage may upon closer inspection be a disadvantage.

Why?

When I met a high school classmate who did his articles at a small company, I actually realised that upon completing his articles, he was more experienced and exposed to various facets of our traineeship than I was.

You see working for a small audit firm, because you are a small team, you are expected to wear many hats, one week you are doing taxes for a client, the next week, you are doing audit, the week after, you are responsible for due diligence, the one after, you are helping a client compile financial statements.

Because it is a small firm, with a flat team structure, you are expected to wear many hats which is good for your exposure.

This is something that rarely happens when you work for a big prestigious firm.

Because it is a big prestigious firm, with a big team, and multiple levels of hierarchy, [junior that, senior that, assistant manager, manager, senior manager, associate partner, partner, senior partner etc] you are only assigned one or two tasks for the rest of your duration there.

Are you in the audit section? You do audit for 80% of your duration, very rarely you will get to do taxes or accounting because the tax division or the accounting division has a big team that’s fighting promotions.

The disadvantage of a small firm is that you may not be paid handsomely, and you may not have bragging rights of name dropping the firm you worked for.

But the disadvantage of working for a small firm is actually an advantage because you are going to be exposed to a lot of things and you will be more experienced which is beneficial in the long term.

What is important is being to do the work, not brag about the big firm you worked for.

This principle is the same for:

  • A startup vs a big corporate. You are likely to get more exposure working at a startup with a small team than a big corporate with a big team.
  • Putting a small division together is more rewarding that joining a big established department.
  • A small law firm vs. a big one

You are more likely to get exposure working for a startup or a small company than working for a big prestigious company.

What we often think as disadvantages often turns out to be advantages.

You are likely to form strong ties and work as a team in a small firm. You are also likely to form those ties with your clients as well.

There is something subtlely beautiful about small beginnings, about starting at the bottom, starting small, working for a small organization, for a startup, or a small team etc.

Starting small or working for a small outfit may not be something that many aspire for, because humans are obsessed with prestige, but upon closer inspection, and in the long run, it is always better to look beyond prestige and glamour.

Are you kicking starting your career?

Think small.

small is the new BIG.