Steve Jobs’ excellent and iconic speech

I came across this speech from Steve Jobs and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s 20 minutes long and I urge you to have a listen. It’ll be worth your time and below are the reasons why I love it

  • When he returned to Apple, the company was weeks away from bankruptcy. Imagine one of the top 3 valuable companies right now, the Apple today, came so close to being bankrupt. That’s how dire the situation was. Steve talked about how he overhauled the entire product line, cutting it down from many to just four. It’s an example of Essentialism that I talked about. By focusing on the most important products, Apple not only avoided making consumers confused, but also directed resources to make sure those products were great, supply chain was great and marketing was great
  • Steve Jobs said that marketing is about values and who we are. I absolutely agree. People need to know who you are before they agree on any business transactions with you. At the end of the day, if they don’t know who you are, they unlikely will trust you. Without trust, can there be sustained relationships?

To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. This is a very noisy world. And we’re not gonna get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us. Now, Apple, fortunately, is one of the half a dozen best brands in the world, right up there with Nike, Disney, Coke, Sony. It is one of the greats of the greats. Not just in this country, but all around the globe. Even a great brand needs investments and caring if it’s gonna retain its relevance and vitality. Apple brand has clearly suffer from neglect in this area in the last few years and we need to bring it back.

Source: Steve Jobs’ speech
  • The way he talked to the audience was so easy to understand. There was no jargon. There were no big words. Even if you don’t have much business background, you’ll still be able to follow him and what he was saying. It shows that he both understands really well his message and knows how to convey it. Plus, his casual outfit made the atmosphere friendly, relaxing and light; which I think helps his delivery. On a personal note, I have tried really hard on this blog to keep it simple. First of all, I don’t think I have the vocabulary to be a sophisticated writer, as a non-native speaker. Second of all, I want to be a good communicator like Steve. I still have a long way to go, but I don’t plan to change the current approach
  • The latter part of this clip features three best points from his commencement speech in Stanford in 2005. The first point is about how we need to have faith in something and how we can only connect the dots in our life looking backwards. The second point is to continuously look for what we love to do. The last point is about the importance of death in making life decisions. It again goes back to Essentialism that I mentioned early. We need to figure out what’s essential in life and have the courage to take actions.

My third story is about death. When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 

yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Transcript from The Guardian

Beautiful and inspirational speech by John Bradley on being comfortable with yourself

John Bradley, who played Sam Tarly in Game of Thrones, had a beautiful inspirational speech on accepting himself and being comfortable with finding his own way through life. He used to feel shy and sorry about himself before Thrones, until the two Executive Directors chose him for a very important role in arguably the biggest TV show ever in history. They chose him because of his virtues or what he considered as his failures. I can relate to the shyness and the self-consciousness.

Like him, I often went to bed, thinking that when I woke up, some things about myself would be different. In the past, I got jealous of folks who were more famous and richer than me, especially my peers. The jealousy has been reduced over the past few years after digging into how to live a happier life and the harm of jealousy. Nonetheless, the trap of jealousy and self-consciousness is always there, lurking around and waiting to take over at any time. It’s a real constant struggle to keep it at bay. I am sure that I am not the only person with that struggle. It feels encouraging to hear from a real life case study, especially a famous celebrity bravely talk about it.

Lessons from Charlie Munger

I came across a few Charlie Munger-related resources. Even though he is 96, Charlie is still sharp. He is someone whose straightforward wisdom I admire a lot. There are a lot of people out there who strive to make simple points more complicated (think a narcissist like Taleb), but Charlie is somebody who can convey insightful lessons in a layman’s terms and a daily language. Another reason why I admire Charlie is that he doesn’t strive to show off his wealth. He doesn’t make headlines for being on a yacht or buying 20 Ferraris. If you are not familiar with Charlie yet, I highly recommend you read about him. He is someone admired globally, even by famous and rich folks.

“To get what you want, you have to deserve what you want. The world does not reward a bunch of undeserving people.”

“I think that realistic is probably a better word. The truth of the matter is that our abilities are not so high. And part of the reason for the successes we have had is I think we understand our limitations better than others. But I don’t that humility…”

“I have this friend who is really not very smart at all. He makes everybody explain things until he understands it…But he does have incredible patience. He doesn’t do anything unless he understands it. And he’s perfectly willing to have 5 years go by between deals. Meanwhile, you’d be surprised how rich how dumb man has become.”

So you can be pretty modest if you understand your own limitations. It’s better by far to be with a guy whose IQ is 130 who thinks it’s 128 than with a guy whose IQ is 190 who thinks it’s 250. The second guy is going to get into terrible trouble.

Operating within what’s prudent with your given hand and your given ability is just a financial knack. But I don’t call it humility. I call that enlightened greed.

Source: Twitter
Image
Source: Twitter

Move only when you have an advantage. It’s very basic. You have to understand the odds and have the discipline to bet only when the odds are in your favor. We just keep our heads down and handle the headwinds and tailwinds as best we can and take the result after a period of years

Source: Twitter

Tren compiled a ridiculous list of Charlie’s quotes over the years here

Blogging

The past 1.5 years of blogging has brought me immense joy and several lessons. It’s great to have an outlet for your own creativity and something to work on outside of the daily office hours. Like I confided to a good friend of mine: it made me feel alive at times. Small as it is, this little project of mine has made my life better and taught me the lessons, including the following:

It takes planning and effort to do the leg work

A research-oriented piece obviously demands a lot of reading, note-taking, planning, quoting, data-retrieving, data-processing, data visualization and writing such as this piece on Delta’s partnership or this on Delta’s effort to deliver stellar customer experience. Content that deals with a company’s financials requires a painstaking retrieval of data from the company’s financial statements. Some firms do a better job than others in releasing numbers in a user-friendly manner. Nonetheless, it is an ordeal to retrieve data and store it properly. Below is my Google drive that stores financial data of a few companies.

It’s tricky to overcome the “this is nothing special. Many talked about it already” mindset

“Why should I write about this? What would make what I have to say unique?”. Those are the questions I sometimes asked myself. The doubt delayed and at times killed the writing completely. I was trying to look for something unique or at least not talked about enough. The task is not easy. The Internet brings down barriers to information and allows everyone to voice his or her opinion. Unexplored topics come in short supply. Fortunately, I came to a realization that there are hundreds of books about just a certain subject, whether it is Civil War, World War II or Winston Churchill. I can build on top of the ones that came before me and add my own voice and perspective. It made the whole process easier. Plus, if you don’t have to write for a living, remember the whole thing is for yourself first.

It helps to identify sources of interesting and reliable information

It helps tremendously to get inspiration online. In addition to my friends and news outlets such as Hacker News, Wall Street Journal and companies’ SEC filings, Twitter has been a great source of ideas and materials. As long as you identify a few great Twitter users as inspiration, the platform is a gold mine for folks that cherish personal development. Some of my fav folks to follow include Horace Deliu, Modest Proposal, Neil Cybart and Ben Evans.

It is hard work to deliver great content consistently

Writing is already hard. Writing well is harder. Writing well consistently is much harder. There are days when the creativity juice abandons me. There are days when I don’t have any idea to write about. Plus, other commitments in life can stand in your way. To be able to write well consistently requires constant reading, constant exploration, insights, if possible, and a lot of hard work ranging from preparation, processing, visualization and the writing itself. Since I started to blog more often, I have had a whole new level of respect to folks that make a living out of writing. Not only do they have to do the hard work, but they also must overcome sporadic writer blocks and lethargy to honor the commitment to subscribers.

I still have a lot to learn about writing and delivering great content. I am willing to do the work and looking forward to continuing to do so in the future.

My failures in the last year

Holidays are the time for reflection and thinking forward. I have had some ups and downs over the past year. While it is tempting to write about what I achieve, which is by no means numerous, I prefer writing about what I failed at and what I can improve on in the near future.

Insufficient focus

Like many others, I succumbed to the constant distractions in our daily life. News, friends, entertainment, TV shows, sports, music, you name it. I wasn’t as focused as I should be. The amount of deep work time wasn’t as much as I would like it to be. It definitely sits at the top of my personal to-do list this year and moving forward.

Gained weight

When do you think you would spend more time in the gym: while working 20 hours at school, 20 hours as an intern at work and taking a Dual Master’s degree or after you graduate and have only your full-time position? For me, it’s the former! I know, shame on me. I did manage to spend less time in the gym for the past year than when I was still in school. The consequence? 12 more pounds was gained. Clothes became tighter. Confidence was sapped.

Lost control of expenses

The second half of 2019 witnessed arguably my wort self in terms of personal finance. Some expenses were inevitable such as learning to drive, buying a car and paying for accompanying costs such as insurance, car washes and maintenance. What worried me was my reckless spending on booze, unnecessary dining and excessively expensive coffee while I could have free coffee from work and my own building. Since my H1B status limits what I can earn in addition to my full time job, the failure to save money effectively was pretty embarrassing on my part.

Missed calls on the stock market

Apple stock stood at $142 on 3rd January 2019 after Tim Cook’s letter to announce a revised guidance. I didn’t load up on the stock. 12 months later, the stock is around $290 today. It’s just one of the few examples of how my indecision hurt me financially. I did have some stocks in my portfolio that didn’ perform as expected. However, the disappointment with such stocks didn’t eat me up as much as the regret over indecision. Lesson learned.

Lack of sales skills

I am not good at sales. Emphatically not good enough. I ought to be better at selling my ideas, my opinions, my work and myself. At the end of the day, we humans interact with one another and having decent sales skills can be helpful in my career and personal life.

Dearth of volunteering work

I need to start involving in the local community more. It’s not a high bar when the total number of volunteering hours l accrued this year is a grand zero.

I may sit here at this time next year and write about the same failures again. I do plan to work on some, if not all, of them in the next 366 days. Regardless, I do want to keep myself honest and accountable.

Jiro Ono Documentary

I came across Jiro Ono when I was reading the latest book by Bob Iger, which I wrote about here. I decided to restart my Netflix membership to watch this and it’s worth it.

Jiro Ono lived on his own at the age of 9 without his parents. For almost 75 years, he has been making sushi and doesn’t show any signs of abating. He is still working day and night; and he shows energy of a guy much younger than his age. His dedication to make the perfect sushi and improve every day is so inspiring. Watching him find the perfect suppliers for fish, wasabi and rice as well as prioritize simplicity in his sushi making is exciting.

He is the oldest 3-star Michelin chef in the world and Michelin said that 3 star is the only rating adequate to Jiro’s restaurant. If you are looking for something great to watch on Netflix, I highly recommend it

Only 3% of this decade left

We are a few hours away from saying goodbye to August and welcoming September. If we split a year into three parts and look at the second decade of this century as a whole, around 97% of it is already gone.

It was like yesterday that I hit the beginning of my 20s. Now I am almost heading towards the magical 30. The last decade has seen me study abroad in Finland, Canada and now the US, and go back & work in Vietnam. I used to be a hot-headed rash dude with a severe lack of patience and a poisonous ego. Though I believe I got better, I am still a work in process and there is indeed a lot to be done.

I used to place a lot of value on titles and income. Now, being healthy and free to choose matters a whole lot more.

I used to love going to parties and getting drunk with friends. Now, a quiet uneventful night to work and think means a lot more.

I’d like to believe that I became wiser than when I was 20. Wiser, not still wise yet. Wisdom comes from experience which comes from decisions and usually painful regrets. The older I am, the more I believe that you come to appreciate certain lessons only at a certain phase in your life. If you had told me to focus more on inner peace and happiness instead of flashy materialistic things when I was fresh out of college, I wouldn’t have listened as much as I do now. Nor would I have appreciated the value of patience as much. It’s like you come to understand a book better only when you are older.

Ideally, I would prefer the same amount of gained wisdom with fewer painful regrets. Sometimes, it’s hard to get over some moments when I ponder “what ifs”. Still, if I have to measure the progress I made as a human-being over the last decade, a positive number is still better than a negative one or a zero. At least, there is that.

Summer is crawling to a close. A pity since I enjoy the energy, warmth and light. I am ready for what awaits in the remaining months of this decade and for the next. I hope it will be good. I am not sure I can say I am ready for Midwestern winter.

Almond Milk or Soy Milk

Looking for a tasty and nutritious drink besides cow’s milk and store-bought juice. 90% of which is made from concentrate, I decided to do some research on almond milk and soy milk to see which one is the better choice.

One of the benefits of these two choices is that they are great for those who want to lose weight. Both almond and soy milk contain little saturated fat, sugar or calories.

Source: Healthline

Unfortunately, neither of them naturally contain much calcium, though store-bought milk can be calcium-fortified.

Compared to almond milk, soy milk is richer in nutrition, especially protein (the stereotype that almond milk is a good source of protein is false) and more environmentally friendly as soy requires less water than almond.

Soy milk is allegedly related to weakened fertility in men. A Harvard study in 2009 reported that soy milk consumption might have detrimental effects on male fertility.

The soy study was part of a long-term investigation of environmental factors and fertility. The subjects were 99 male partners of sub-fertile couples. Each man had a medical evaluation and complete semen analysis, and each provided a detailed three-month dietary history that evaluated 15 soy-based foods, ranging from tofu and tempeh to soy milk, veggie burgers, and “energy bars” containing soy protein.

The study found that the men who consumed the most soy had the lowest sperm counts. And it didn’t take much soy to do the trick — as little as one portion every other day was linked to a reduction in sperm count. All in all, the men who ate the most soy had counts that averaged 41 million fewer sperm per cubic milliliter than men who ate the least. The impact was greatest in overweight men, and the results remained valid after age, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, body mass index, and the time between specimen collection and the preceding ejaculation were taken into account.

Harvard Medical School

However, the view was challenged by a study by Harvard School of Public Health in 2015 and another study in 2010. A definite conclusion on the matter remains to be determined. Given all the factors above, soy milk looks to be the winner in this contest.

Reading

If you just happen to read this blog of mine for a bit, you’ll know I like to read. Reading is fun and powerful. I learned English and still do from reading, including vocabulary, grammar, nuances, connotation and just how words can be put together. I am still miserable at it, so that’s why I keep reading.

Also, reading expands my horizon and reminds me of how lucky I am. Non-fiction books such as self-help or just pure business reads are incredibly helpful in becoming a better business person or just a better person. Accounts on life in North Korea, Africa or the gender discrimination in Middle East boost my compassion and appreciation for what I have.

I believe strongly that we all should embrace reading. And to give you some motivation, here is a tweet I thankfully came across this morning

Source: Jelani Cobb

I shared it with a friend and his first response was ‘Damn. No excuse’. Indeed, there isn’t.

Reputation

As I am looking to buy a car, the last few days have been an arduous and time-consuming quest for finding the one that ticks all the boxes on paper. Online reviews were checked. Car reports were seen. Prices were compared. And of course, opinions from friends were sought after as well.

One thing that stands out to me is the reputation of Japanese cars. Deep down inside, I already have more trust in Japanese brands such as Toyota or Honda. As safety and durability are my highest priorities, Japanese brands stand a notch higher than others in my mind. My friends’ opinions align in that as well. The people I talked to all suggest that I look out for Toyota or Honda first, if possible.

What a great advantage to have! In a saturated market, trust and good will from customers are so valuable. Even if Japanese cars may cost me a bit more, I will be willing to spend a few more bucks because of that trust and good will. It may seem obvious now, but it is the fruit of years of work to build and maintain this image. Toyota and Honda don’t come out of nowhere and do nothing to enjoy this advantage.

It applies to humans too. We take up the words of some people faster and more assuredly than of others.

I have one professor in Finland before who used to work in Treasury. He told us in a class that if he recommended us, we could take his words to the bank. If I am to have that reputation and brand, I’ll need to put in the work, constantly, now and in the years and years to come.