The Forgotten

The Forgotten

“In reality, Charlie was the “architect” of the present Berkshire, and I acted as the “general contractor” to carry out the day-by-day construction of his vision.
In the physical world, great buildings are linked to their architect while those who had poured the concrete or installed the windows are soon forgotten. Berkshire has become a great company. Though I have long been in charge of the construction crew; Charlie should forever be credited with being the architect.
Charlie never sought to take credit for his role as creator but instead let me take the bows and receive the accolades.” (Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter May 2024 (pg2))

That was Warren Buffet remembering his long-term business partner Charlie Munger in the opening pages of the renowned Berkshire Hathaway’s annual letter to its investors. Those words stood out to me because for the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about building construction. I have had the opportunity to observe closely a large scale high rise building development and my own extensive building renovation (hence why I haven’t written much lately). I’ve been wondering why constructors receive little credit for or are forgotten creators of buildings?

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Meaningful Work

Meaningful Work

I’m fond of the month of March for several reasons. First, it is when the short dreary grey wet days of winter start to convert into longer and brilliant ones. It is always delightful to spot the first tiny leaves sprouting from buds on trees that have been dormant throughout winter. Secondly, my mother and some of my other favourite people were born in March. Another reason why I like it is because it is the month when I started my company Nurture. This March marks its 15th year anniversary. This is very much a gratifying surprise because I never thought I’d be at it for this long and still really enjoy what I do. This is by far the longest I’ve worked at any job, never thought it was possible. I wondered how I’ve managed it? I concluded that it is because I find my work meaningful. I then questioned if this means that I hadn’t found the various jobs I had had prior to this role meaningful? My initial reaction to this question was panic, that it meant that I had spent almost two decades of my life not doing meaningful work. To better answer this question, I reflected on all the jobs I’ve had since I first got my first one at age 14.

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On Talent

On Talent

Lately, I’ve been thinking about talent. Is it a prerequisite for success? If so, how much talent do you need? Why have I been thinking about this?

This New Year’s day a friend shared with me this website: https://davidgoggins.com/book/. I looked at it but it wasn’t clear to me what she wanted me to see. I asked her why she was sharing. She replied: “Well, I think it would do a lot to many people who are serious about reaching their own goals to listen/read to or read about him.” I thought that was a weighty endorsement. I took another look. I realized that I had heard about the author David Goggins’ first book before but didn’t take any real interest in it because of his military/naval background. And there is a picture of him wearing a naval uniform on the cover of the book. Yeah I know, never judge a book by its cover. I counseled myself to set my prejudice aside and not let it get in the way of learning something new. Besides, didn’t I believe I can learn from anyone, and at times especially from those whose worldview and values are opposed to mine? That day my only plan was to walk aimlessly around Tbilisi, Georgia where I was holidaying. I thought Goggins’ latest book “Never Finished” could be a good background noise while I explored the city (the cover picture with him in running gear was more to my taste). It helped carry me up the steep and infinite number of stairs to the imposing loveliness that was the statue of the Mother of Georgia.

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Body-mind

Body-mind

“The western medicine in which I’m trained separates the mind from the body and the individual from the environment. Scientifically speaking not to mention from the point of view of traditional wisdom, mind and body are not separable and the individual manifests something of the culture in which they live. What we consider normal in this society is often very toxic and unhealthy. To give you a quick physical example the more racism a black woman experiences the greater her risk of asthma. So the inflammation of her air tubes is not simply a biological pathology in an isolated organ in this individual, it manifests a social malaise…”

This was Dr. Gabor Maté talking to Glenn Greenwald about his latest book The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing In A Toxic Culture. I wondered how it is possible to separate the body from the mind. After all, it is the mind that runs the body. Also, how can you separate the body from the environment that feeds and grooms it? I also questioned if it is true that Western medicine does separate the mind from the body. I did a mental survey of the medical interventions I have had over the decade or so. I realized that the only doctors (apart from a psychiatrist who was only interested in my mind) that inquired about my emotional status and life had been those trained in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). And they have been the ones who produced the most effective treatments.

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Body Of Mountains

Body Of Mountains

I’m very conscious that I know little about the body that I have inhabited for almost five decades. I find it bewildering and frustrating that I can’t will my body to do what I want in spite of my best efforts. So I often seek out information that will help me get better acquainted with it. Honestly, the more I read about the body, the more I realized how much more I don’t know. The first–Seven and Half Lessons About the Brain–of the three recent books I read on the topic gave a somewhat comforting reason why this is the case.

It turns out that the brain, whose job I thought it was to think, isn’t actually designed for it. The brain’s “most important job is not thinking. It’s running a little worm body that has become very, very complicated.”(Feldman Barrett, Lisa. Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain (pp. 10)). First thought, reaction was how was I processing what I was reading if not with my brain?

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Slow Learning

Slow Learning

I wrote about my failed attempts of learning to read Chinese characters beyond a smattering, and how it is still a goal of mine to get to a level where I wouldn’t have to ask others to read me menus and food labels at the supermarket. Last year, I had also mentioned how I had found at last an app called Du Chinese that seemed like it could help me attain my goal of being able to read Chinese. Even though traveling had interrupted my regular routines, thanks to this app, I had managed to keep up learning Chinese characters. I found myself seeking out Du Chinese while waiting to board a plane or when jet-lag had robbed me of sleep. According to the app’s dashboard based on my reading of 229 lessons, I now know 1065 characters. If you take into account I started using this app over a year ago, that’s roughly an average of 2-3 characters I’ve learnt per day. Talk about slow learning! But I consider it an achievement even if it might not sound like much because I have managed to stick to it.

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Reading Difficult Books

Reading Difficult Books

A part of the week that I really look forward to is the weekend afternoon I spend cleaning my place. It isn’t because I have a cleaning fetish (ok, maybe a little) but it is because this is the time I get my best reading done, especially what I would consider difficult books. By difficult books I mean the ones that are hard to get into and/or the topic is dull but educational.

I think it was a couple of years ago, a friend shared with me a long Youtube video on the Bronze Age. I wasn’t particularly interested in the topic but my friend thought I should see it. I thought I could just listen to the video as background noise while I did the important job of cleaning, and I would hear enough bits and pieces to be able to follow up with my friend. However, I was astonished to see that cleaning faded into the background while the history of Anatolia, the Hittites, etc. took centre stage. The two hours or so spent cleaning was the most focused I had been the whole week. I was so engaged that I was inspired to read more about the topic afterwards. When it was time for the next weekend clean, I thought I’d try again to see if what had happened the previous weekend was just a fluke. Again I picked a topic of little interest, another Youtube clip on the history of Russia, that the algorithm had recommended I see and that had been in my “watch later” list for ages. That particular day Russian history sounded way more engrossing than when I studied it at university. I was convinced I had made a new and exciting discovery! I could combine cleaning with learning! How delightful! And from then I’ve saved serious but useful subject matter that I ordinarily wouldn’t want to tackle for my weekend cleaning.

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Prized Innovation

Prized Innovation

One of my most prized possessions is my cordless vacuum cleaner. I use it daily because I love a clean floor (and I also like to procrastinate from work). I recently upgraded to the latest model, after 8 years of owning my previous one. I didn’t do it sooner because I told myself I had to use it until it was on its last leg, not to be wasteful. I was so excited for the arrival of the new one that I didn’t vacuum the floor for a couple of days because I wanted to see just how much better the new model was going to be. This was really hard to do as seeing bits of debris on the floor always makes me anxious. Once the package arrived, I tore through the layers of packaging to start what I hoped would be a major upgrade to my cleaning experience. Alas, the elevation I was looking for didn’t come! My new vacuum only delivered a marginal improvement. In one aspect, it delivered a worse experience, the handheld head is much heavier and longer. I guessed this was how they could extend the battery life, which has tripled in time (depending on the mode of use). As to the cleaning there is a noticeable improvement on carpets, no odd hairs left on the floor. On hard floors there is a new illuminated roller head that highlights particles you can’t easily see. This last feature I really don’t need because I have razor sharp eyes for detecting dirt on surfaces, hence my vacuum mania. I expected more! Not sure exactly what, but certainly not a heavier machine. It got me thinking, is this the best technical improvements they could come up with in 8 years? If so, why is this?

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Democracy Now

Democracy Now

I’m married to a passionate democrat. Prior to every election, be it presidential or midterm, she will dedicate a big chunk of time to research all proposed ballot initiatives, candidates and their policies to determine what and who deserves her vote. Me, I don’t vote. Whenever I’m encouraged to vote, that it is my civic duty, blah, blah, blah, most times I reply “vote for who?” and at times I say “I will start voting when I can afford to buy my own politician”. So you can imagine we have fervent debates in my household about democracy and whether it exists in our respective countries. I don’t think a country can be called democratic when millions of dollars (a big portion from corporate entities and moguls) are required to run for office as in the US. Nor is a country democratic when the last three Prime Ministers were not elected by public ballot as in the UK. Boris Johnson came into power because Theresa May resigned. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were elected by the Conservative party members. My beloved democrat tells me that I feel this way because I don’t get the results I want. She has a point. But the outcome I want has little to do with the electoral system, and more with civil liberties and justice for all that are the core tenets of democracy.

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Back To Reality

Back To Reality

For the end of the year holiday period I decided I was going to embrace my lazy side, let her be in charge. The first thing she did was get rid of all those routines that had kept her repressed most of the year. I went to sleep and woke up without the nagging of my alarm clock. I gave in to any urge I had first thing in the morning. Watch an episode or two of a TV show? Yes! Stay lying in bed for hours? Absolutely! Any thought I had to be productive was quickly overtaken by the compulsion to watch just one more episode of whatever show I was watching. It went on like this until the tingling, throbbing and numbing of my limbs ( I suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)) would force me to get up and move. I would then very reluctantly go and exercise, for there would be no further rest and comfort without it–rigorous and generous amounts of daily exercise is one of the ways to manage RLS. This is a mixed blessing because I could later on munch my way through an entire packet of twice-fried (nope, once isn’t good enough) plantain chips guilt free. It was AMAZING! I wanted it to go on forever. Alas the arrival of the 3rd of January put an end to all that and I had to go back to reality.

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