Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sir Walla - In Support of All Wise Men

This life of mine would be such a blank, monotonous one if I lead it my way. But God knows better and with everything around conspiring, my mundane path has been crossed by many wise, elusive men – and that makes all the difference. I am blessed to be granted an opportunity to rub shoulders with them and for a moment or two, I was given a chance to take a peek into their brilliant, beautiful mind.

One of such gentlemen is Sir Walla (Am I not the Queen of my own heart to knight him?).

Not that we have not exchanged our words on matters that matter but what are words when they are left undone?

So, after reading his following comments on eTheorist’s blog, I guess God has better plans for him in my hands: -

Sir Walla’s response to eTheorist’s “Why I Work”

“I remember the first thing i was asked to do in my first job - to reject job applicants, some from my varsity mates.
Later i processed and made thousands of offers for youngsters to study particular courses. To think back that i might have had something to do with what they are doing today. Where can one hide?

And other jobs, likewise none using what i was trained for, only my common sense and analytical skills. Such as vetting technical papers, organizing big international industry events, writing speeches, even policy papers. Probably i still retain some insights into four local service industries - accountancy, engineering, IT and consulting.

I remember writing one big paper that later became the foundation of a national policy. It was done over a weekend. The computers then had few ram's so i had to break the paper down into parts. I started by staring at the screen for a few seconds and then just cranked out point after point with the structure from beginning to end somewhere in the back of my mind. As i recall it doesn't look different in format or content from some of the national policy papers you would find from those fora and action groups even these days.

Similarly with the speeches. I inserted policy matters into them to try and make them useful and intelligible. The ministers read them without any changes. The press reported them the next day. They became national policies the following week. And i wasn't even in the public sector.

I researched industries and companies, trends and markets, people and places, and became quite good at finding out things, even during those days when the internet wasn't so pervasive. Nowadays i challenge myself to find what i want without getting up from this chair.

Later i worked in an industry-best multinational as someone in a global intranet. A colleague from a scandinavian country posed a question about some topic that had stumped him. He later said that after he had posed the question over the network, he walked to his pantry to make a cup of coffee, came back, looked at his screen, and the answer was already there waiting for him - from Malaysia.

But i don't like to do things mechanically, although when it comes to housework, there's not much to improvise.

I am keen on contexts and perspectives. Speed and accuracy, just the basics. Extensions beyond them into the realm of the unknown to shine a torch and illuminate something, get to the core and heart of it, yes that interests what's left of this mind.

Now i sit here with the biggest store of the best stuff anyone can imagine and the cake has become too rich to digest. Even their seven-page summaries.

I am starting to believe that all the knowledge in the world on all the subjects out there can be decomposed into a set of generic principles, axioms perhaps. A unified knowledge field theory, so to speak.

Latest topic? thermoeconomics. Probably that's thermodynamic principles applied to macroeconomic theory. But that will have to compete with Gazzaniga's Social Brain (or networks of the mind) which again has to vie for space with Markides' Game-Changing Strategies, Vilenkin's Many Worlds In One, and Peppers/Rogers Rules To Break And Laws To Follow. And so on. Perhaps Redwood's Superpower Struggles, Mahbubani's Can Asians Think?, or Kuchiki/Tsuji's Flowchart Approach To Industrial Cluster Policy. Or is it to be Haig's Brand Failure, maybe Hewitt's Death Of Capital? Or Levy's Construction Process Planning? Or Cooper's Zen Impulse? Or Hakim/ Papalois' Surgical Complications? Or Lisnek's Hidden Jury?

I grief for our young. Because i guess if we are to climb up the value chain our hardwired innovative processes must be embedded in some soft template made of overlapping disciplines which may not appear to connect with one another. Just a thought.

Some lessons i picked up along the way.

Family, friends and ideals. Only these remain in the end. Things come and go. Just enough should be the norm. A greater tragedy than not having something is to have it.

Lately the velocity of change has been gaining tempo; man proposes, but it is disposed too often in the opposite direction to end in a leveling effect that brings one back to the original starting point, perhaps with a changed perspective. As if a message is asking to be read.

Simplify, and, now.

I think ninety percent of the things people do in the office are worthless, and can be simplified or stopped without much loss impact on enterprises. Being a quiet person by nature (unless in the presence of engaging company), that includes talking, for me anyway.

Life is short. How much do we remember of our past save the kindnesses of others? Every day we read our own life story in a fresh chapter. The punctuations and syntax are the same. Only the storyline waxes and wanes like eddies in a water pool, seeming to move and yet appearing stationery when seen from higher up. When the day ends, it looks like the chapter was what we had read last week. A mystery novel that is turning out to be some chant.

Sometimes when there is enough rest, the first fresh hour of the quiet morning brings new insights. A notebook is useful to capture them, for they have a tendency to vanish very quickly, like temporary serendipities from caring propinquities. Like random access memories planted by the eternals.

(i have lost over ninety nine percent of the words i knew before; at least that's my guess).

Sometimes we can assign circumstantial evidence to prophetic design.

My biggest grief in this life is not to be able to discharge my responsibilities to those who have supported me, and those who are supporting me. This wanting to be useful but not being able to do so is what is keeping more creative free-float from taking its natural course. But somehow it is guilt that one tends to forget quickly; tomorrow another day, they say.

These days i walk to the bookshop, sit down and just stare at the photos of those big books on places. My favorites lately are thai and balinesque architecture. I like light, water, trees, leaves, shade, wood, some combination which creates a cozy artistic atmosphere in the mind. Maybe to compensate for the ten hours at the screen waiting for the worldwide web to refresh itself. It's getting extremely jaded. There are no surprises anymore.

I once stood on a hill looking at something which is about three thousand years old, thinking to myself here i am only soon to go in an instant and the thing which i am looking at now will have other visitors three thousand years hence; to what extent does a human life change anything before her or him?

Perpetual innocence is a cure for the dross of not being surprised, thus unexcitable and immovable. But it is also a price for pain. But then again pain to what gain? Yet the ability to calculate things out is one of life's big bug-bearing burdens. Analysis to paralysis, probably followed by thrombosis.

The best gift is to be happy when working and to work on happy things. Until time is forgotten in the chase of solutions, in the achievement of ambitions, in the satisfaction of some inner desire to make changes. Work should be like a hobby. Unfortunately the real world is constructed for work to be full-time, not pastime.

Considering Asians started with so little, what they have achieved in past and present generations may be considered remarkable but for the sacrifice of many, the unlearned for the learned, the old for the young, the brave for the timid, the quiet for the voluble. In a way, we can only live on if we live more for others.

My father came from such a poor family he fainted from lack of food on the day he was to take one of his exam papers. Yet he set himself to save up to give us a good education and to buy us books to read. In turn we try to do the same for those after us who will hopefully do for those after them. Each an individual making economic sacrifices out of some hope for the betterment of those around in a chain that is all what life gives. In that sense, nobility is not defined by birth or title or wealth but by the deeds of simple folks making ends meet”.

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