Posts Tagged ‘wordoftheweek’

Preface: Every week I choose 1 word given to me and write about it. You can leave your word in the comments and one day you’ll see it here, I promise.

yuanfen

Yuan (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ) or Yuanfen (simplified Chinese: 缘份; traditional Chinese: 緣分; pinyin: yuánfèn; Vietnamese: duyên phận), “fateful coincidence,” is a concept in the Chinese folk religion describing good and bad chances and potential relationships. It can also be translated as “destiny, luck as conditioned by one’s past,” or “natural affinity among friends.”

The concept is deterministic, meaning it implies that the meeting and coming together of (usually) two people has been predetermined by an invisible universal force. It is important to recognise that this pre-destining does not come from a godly entity, but rather is attributed to the universe, which is often among the strongest cosmic forces in Eastern thinking. The pulling force is credited to the deeds done by the two people in question in their earlier incarnations. The current life being affected (or even determined) by the previous births is also another popular idea, resembling Buddhism’s karma. However, yuanfen is interactive rather than individual, it focuses on the bond shared by two people. The idea is that the couple have had to go through countless (or at least an enormous number of) lives on this earth to meet in this current life, out of 7 billion other people. So the meeting didn’t happen by chance. It was predestined.

Personally, I sorta believe in the concept of yuanfen. I mean, for two people to come across each other and come together as a couple, some degree of coincidence has to be involved. Not to mention, “we were fated to meet” has a nice romantic sound to it. Have you ever met someone with whom you just instantly “clicked”? You have no idea how you could have stumbled onto each other in the coffee shop one sleepy Monday morning, struck a brief conversation as common courtesy and it sort of just took off from there. All of the sudden, you found yourself inexplicably drawn to the other person, their smile, their smell and their quirky tics? Well, that “click” is the sound of the universe bringing you two into each other’s lives and pulling you closer to each other. We can say that yuanfen is in play. 

But my belief stops right there. Yuanfen might have been the reason we met, but it isn’t the reason we are still together. Because guess what, fate can’t do shit when it comes to commitment. While falling in love can be a fateful coincidence, there is nothing coincidental about staying in love. It’s a choice, made every day by the (usually) two parties involved. It is probably one of the toughest endeavour a human being can ever hope to accomplish: to nurture and flourish their relationship with a partner. Yuanfen plays no part in this. 

Actually you know what, I am not so sure any more.

You see, I am at a crossroads.

I wanted, sometimes so desperately, to believe that as long as two in a relationship choose to commit, they will stay in that relationship. That’s the hopeless romantic in me speaking, trying to believe. Love trumps all. 

But if the conversations I have had over the past couple of weeks were any indication, life isn’t a movie. Love doesn’t always conquer. Sometimes, it succumbs. 

I am at the age where a lot of people I know are in stable relationships and looking toward to marriage with The One, while also a lot of people I know are having problems maintaining their relationships. 

It pains me to know that a dear friend of mine is seriously considering ending her relationship, because she and her boyfriend can’t work out the future. They have tried many times, but no, life wouldn’t yield. And it’s no fault of theirs. Life was just being a bitch. 

 A case of “having fate without destiny”, so to speak. A couple who was fated to come together, but not destined to stay together. The two people met by chance, were drawn together by the will of the universe, and now seem to be broken off by nothing other than the will of the universe itself. 

So it seems like yuanfen does play a part.

Where does that leave us then?

Do we even start a relationship with someone we effortlessly click, even if we can’t know for sure that all the efforts we are ready to put into the relationship will mean something in the end?

Honestly, I don’t know. And I am terrified to find out. 

 

 

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persistence

The Oxford Dictionary defines persistence as

The fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition

We have come to accept persistence as a desirable trait, often present in highly successful individuals. The Internet is chock-full of inspirational stories about how great figures of history succeeded to defy all odds with unyielding resolution. Persistence and grit have come to be worshiped, especially in the field of entrepreneurship.

Therefore, in this piece, I will attempt to discuss the other side of the issue. Namely, how persistence may be a bad thing.

Let me introduce you to our main character of the story, the Persistent Entrepreneur, or PE in short.

PE founded a generic tech startup and it is on the rise. Funds are pouring in from investors. More people are coming on board. To get here, PE has put a lot of time and effort, despite the multitude of difficulties and opposition from almost everyone he knew. Gradually, his idea was accepted and his startup seemed to be doing very well. Series A is next month and PE expects to raise about 10 million USD to continue scaling it into a viable business.

However, after Series A, things started to go downhill. PE’s plan to expand overseas backfired as he couldn’t compete with local businesses. His startup is hemorrhaging heavily, causing the investors to have serious doubts. PE’s mentors advised him to temporarily retreat and consolidate his hold in the domestic market.

But PE decided to persist. He invests even more time and effort into the expansion. And so, the hole he’s in gets deeper and deeper. The more difficult the situation becomes, the more persistence he tries to muster. In his earnest, he really wanted to succeed. After all, he’s dedicated so much into this endeavour. He doesn’t want everything to be for nothing. The more people around him tell him to quit, the more determined he becomes. PE just flat out refuses to throw in the towel. Staying the course is the only thing that matters.

As a result, PE’s expansion plan sucked his business dry. His startup ran out of funds in the next couple of months as investors stopped pouring money in. He had to close down his dream.

Now, of course there are several reasons leading to PE’s ultimate failure and it is extremely difficult to assign primacy to any of them. But it is also difficult to claim that persistence didn’t play a part in PE’s downfall. From my perspective, there are 2 reasons behind this blind persistence.

The first of these two is the social stigma attached to quitting. I don’t think it’s any secret that we tend to look down on those who give up. Quitting has got a bad rap, especially in the field of entrepreneurship. I believe the need to prove ourselves right and other people wrong is primitive – it’s hardwired into our psyche. This line of thinking is boosted with all the “There is no greater pleasure than doing what other people say you can’t” proverbs flying around. Well, if people who are knowledgeable in that field tell you to stop, perhaps it is a good idea to stop for a second and consider the reason why. More often than not, they say that out of goodwill and experience, not jealousy. Of course you need a strong conviction, but don’t fall prey to it.

Second, the sunk cost trap also takes effect in cultivating blind persistence (Sunk costs are the resources that you’ve put into an endeavor that you can’t get back out). The individual does not want to give up because he fears that all the effort he has put into the enterprise will become meaningless if he abandons it. He wants to at least extract some value or make some gains to show for it, to see that his project is not, after all, worthless. Why should I let all of these go to waste, he thinks. He is afraid to walk away, even if nothing is working as he intended. He doesn’t know when to bail.

With these factors, one’s persistence now does more harm than good, because he decides to persist past the point when he should have quit. The mission wad no longer about achieving set objectives, it was about minimising the damage – cutting the losses, as one may colloquially say. The Persistent Entrepreneur in our story missed that, and his grit worked against him instead. Blind persistence has cost him dearly. Learning to admit defeat and cut our losses is, in my opinion, quite an underrated skill to have. Pressing on despite the certainty of failure is plain harmful.

The PE example is hypothetical, but I am sure we can find the examples quite easily if we observe around us. Several instances of serious failure can be traced to the individual’s stubbornness, either due to the fear of being stigmatised by society or falling into the sunk cost trap, or a combination of both.

To sum things up, I don’t deny that persistence is very much required in our lives. Several successes have the trace of persistence, but it is also behind quite a few of failed projects. The key, I think, is to constantly evaluate the situation and apply the appropriate strategy. And listening to experts also helps.

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Next week’s word is booze. Stay tuned!

1-post-truth

The Oxford Dictionary defines “post-truth” as

relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief1

The Dictionary also provides a brief history of the word as follows

Post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world’. There is evidence of the phrase ‘post-truth’ being used before Tesich’s article, but apparently with the transparent meaning ‘after the truth was known’, and not with the new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant.

Focus on the last line. “The new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant.”

That’s fucking terrifying. How can truth ever become irrelevant in this world? What do we use to orientate ourselves in this mad world then?

The whole thing is even more grave when you consider the field “post-truth” is most commonly associated with. Politics. Over the course of 2016, the phrase “post-truth politics” has gained unprecedented popularity and certainly will stay in the mainstream vocabulary of political discourse for the foreseeable future.

The relationship politicians have with the truth has always been rocky at best. Politicians twist, spin and tell part of it – that’s the supposed norm. I know, that’s the sad state. But the new state is much sadder and more dangerous.

What has become much, much more disturbing is that many politicians no longer argue on a factual basis. The truth no longer matters. It is discarded. Then what the hell are these campaigners’ speeches and arguments based on, you might ask. The troubling answer is emotion. These politicians appeal to the public’s emotion, often by making claims that are the total opposite to what’s factually true, and to great effect. It doesn’t matter if what you say is just flat out false, if you can rile people up, you’ve already succeeded. If the people love what you say, it doesn’t matter if what you are saying has been scientifically disproved. Emotion overrides logic in public discourse and proper fact-checking is disregarded and discarded. Two very illustrative examples of post-truth politics in 2016 must be Brexit and Donald Trump. I will now briefly take a look at each of them.

Regarding Brexit, one of the Leave camp’s most articulated claims was that the UK sends the EU £350 million a week, a hefty amount of money which could be used to fund something that benefits the people of UK, like the National Health Service (NHS) instead. The Leave camp really pushed this idea to get people to vote Leave. This was a common sight during the campaign period:

sub-buzz-12317-1466504036-9

 

However, UK Statistics Authority calls £350m EU membership fee claim “potentially misleading.” Since the UK receives rebates, the amount of fund it sent to the UK in 2014 was about £250 million a week. Moreover, the EU spends some money back on the UK, such as farming subsidies, research funding to universities, or infrastructure projects. So the net figure is about  £175 million a week – half of what the Leave campaign claimed. But they didn’t care for the truth. The Leave campaigners kept expounding on it, despite intense criticism.

Brexit campaign was ‘criminally irresponsible’, says legal academic

You can read more about the “claims” here.

And of course, after the result was in, this happened.

If that’s not post-truth politics in full play, I don’t know what is.

As for Donald Trump, this probably says it all.

blog_who_lies_more

How Donald’s lies played out is, well, history.

Politicians have chosen to blatantly disregard the truth when communicating with the mass populace, simply because it works. But that’s the dangerous path that we are unfortunately going down.

People respond much more aggressively to emotions because they don’t need time to process the information and check whether it’s accurate. Going with one’s feelings is intuitive and thus much easier than rationalising an argument. You know, “if your heart tells you to do something, just follow it.” If the truth does not help in the endeavour of stirring people up (and it often doesn’t), campaigners won’t use it. If an untruth can provoke intense public emotion,  it will be used, exploited and splashed all over the media channels.

The public no longer makes uninformed decisions. They make misinformed decisions. Which can be just as bad or even worse.

 

For the impact of post-truth campaigning, I suggest you spend a few minutes reading this article. EU referendum: The claims that won it for Brexit, fact checked.

So yeah, that’s post-truth for ya. Truth no longer matters. What matters is appealing to public emotion, often by the use of untruths.

Again, that’s fucking terrifying.

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Next week’s Word of the Week will be persistence. Stay tuned!