Friday, November 10, 2006

Karma: Who's Keeping Score?

Is there a great scorekeeper out there keeping track of all the good and bad that we do?

If we kick a dog today, will a dog one day bite us 20 years later?

How many karma points does it take to go to heaven? And is there special dispensation for those on the borderline?

Is there someone out there really "keeping a list, checking it twice, (and) gonna find out who's naughty and nice?"

The concept of karma may be summed up in the everyday phrase, "What goes around, comes around."

There are many similarities to karma in the Bible, Galatians 6:7 "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Ecclesiastes 11:1 "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Practisioners of karma I would say are invoking one of God's laws. The law of the harvest. They are mindful of not mocking God, even though they may not know who He is fully.

I should say even that we should be mindful not just of not doing evil, but of sowing goodness around us. I think humans (including this author) aren't sowing enough goodness in our words and deeds.

Step number 8 of the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous is "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all." (Which Zacchaeus in the Bible did by repaying back all those he cheated 4 times. Luke 19:8. Which leads me think: If we are truly transformed by an encounter with Jesus we will sow good deeds and make amends.)

However, karma breaks down in the face of grace and mercy. What happens when we have really committed a grievous sin, like murder? Being nice to everyone around you cannot bring back the dead. Blood is on the muderer's hands. How much time do you have left on death row to accumulate enough good karma to balance the bad karma you have accumulated?

This is where grace and mercy come in. The "good" thief besides Jesus' cross knew the many sins he had committed, and knew the earthly punishment he was receiving was his just desserts. The only thing he realized in his dying moments was that Jesus was the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. And he made only one request, that Jesus remember him.

And this is where the story gets juicy. With that one request he is "rewarded" with paradise. No good deeds needed. No penance to pay. Just one simple humble request to Jesus to remember him. Sins and bad karma all wiped out.

Karma is like Newtonian Laws versus Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In everyday life the law of harvest works. But when it comes to reaching the ends of the universe, it breaks down miserably. Noone can totally wipe out his list of bad things, though some people like Earl (from the TV show "My Name is Earl" tries to do so). And that's where the source of grace, love and peace comes in.

"through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Ever had those moments when time just seems to melt away and you are engrossed in your activity? Before you know it, it's 8pm at night. How often do we get those moments when we're in the groove?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state of optimal performance "flow".

How do we achieve flow?

  1. Skills are needed.

  2. There are achievable goals.

  3. Rules provide focus of energy and boundaries of control.

  4. Quick feedback is evident to the person.

  5. We are able to control actions.

Almost any activity can achieve flow, knitting, praying, gardening, walking, even sex!

Flow is the optimal state where the task is neither too simple that it becomes boring, nor too difficult that we become discouraged.

I believe that we must manage our tasks and activities in all areas to be optimal. And managers of other people should attempt to create flow conditions for subordinates. Often workers don't have adequate skills, get none or negative feedback, the goals are unrealistic or rules and guidelines are not clearly communicated or implemented or they are not given authority and power to do their job.

To achieve flow, attention is needed, we should not be distracted by other things in our mind and just concentrate on what is essential. Remember our mind has limited capacity.

Salsa Practice

Salsa Havana

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Salsa practice on Wednesdays at Salsa Havana, Federal Hotel.

Cuban style practised here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Art vs. Profiteering

Perhaps one of the antogonistic values in entrepreneurship is creating art versus making a profit.

The artist is more concerned about creating art but may starve because no one buys his/her work. While the profiteer tries to palm off as much as he can to unsuspecting customers.

The answer in solving this dillemma is to create value and to educate people on value.

Value is subjective. Much like the adage, if a tree falls down in the forest does it make a noise?

A piece of art may double or triple in value the next day just because the artist died of a pulmonary heart attack. The molecules in the piece of art didn't change, the world's climate didn't change. It is merely the perception of value.

Value only exists in the mind of the beholder. It is abstract, unreal in the sense of not being physical. And people pay for value. People pay for an abstraction.

Even a car would be valueless in a nation of blind and deaf men. It is only if the buyer believes that anything he pays for has value would he pay for it.

Therefore, in order to be entrepreneurial we create value. We find or create some product of service that in the mind of the buyer is of value, that is the seller moves towards the buyer. Secondly, we can market and advertise or sell the product, i.e. bring the buyer towards the seller by creating more value in his mind about our product.

In the first, we know of Google and Microsoft. In the second, we know of Pet Rocks, and Insurance.

The artist creates art for himself and his own satisfaction, and that is fine if all he wants is to do it for himself. But to sell it involves a second party which is the buyer, and it is in the buyer's mind whether he believes that that piece of art is of value.

As a buyer we must beware of profiteering. That is when there are so many alternatives of the same value available. Caveat emptor is the key word as a seller can label anything with a price, but we as the buyer are the ones who chooses to place value and who ultimately forks over our hard earned dollar. Does Nike profiteer versus an alternative unbranded shoe, or is it selling value? We pay more for better quality. But a bad buy is when the are cheaper alternatives of better quality and of lower price or in reality does not really satisfy our needs.

The profiteer is one who preys on weak and unsuspecting customers and hides information, uses pressure and psychological tactics to sell rather than to create value in the mind of the customer.

I believe it all comes down to serving the customer. Choosing exorbitant prices may work in the short term but it will hit the seller back in the long run unless he/she serves the customer. Walmart is an example of serving the customer by finding ways to source for the cheapest products for the customer.

The entrepreneur serves by creating value for the customer.

Toastmasters 7th November 2006


Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Grammarian for the evening and won the best table topic speaker for the 2nd time!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Speaking Persuasively

There are 3 components that Aristotle understood about influence:

  1. Ethos: which is your credibility. You words are more influential if your credibility and credentials are apparent to the audience.

  2. Pathos: which is the emotional appeal. Some examples are loyalty, patriotism, and heroism.

  3. Logos: which is logic and argument. It uses facts, statistics and other forms of evidence to convince the audience.

A good speaker uses all 3 in various combinations depending on the audience. Obviously speaking to a technical person would use facts, figures, "his language". But speaking to women or decision makers may involve appeals to prestige, ego, pride.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

USJ 10km Run Finish Line

Ran the Subang Jaya 10km run in about 63 minutes.

My best time ever for 10km.

I actually managed to sprint to the finish line. Perhaps partly due to the fact that I set the Mortal Kombat soundtrack to the last km, this increased my speed by a couple of km. Music does help!

An interesting observation is that I when I drank the Ribena and Milo offered at the finish line, it was horrendously sweet! It seems your tongue is telling you it needs water and not sugar.

Drinking the very same Ribena later that night and it didn't seem as sweet.