I just finished the book Five Minds for the Future, so I thought I'd give a little summary of what it was about.  Basically, it outlines five types of skills and ways of thought that Dr. Gardner feels are important to develop in this changing world.  As technology changes the way we live, it also changes the way we need to think about things.  Gone are the days when it was crucial for knowledge to be retained through rote memorization, for in the real world, we have search engines to help our memories.  However, the ability to process large amounts of information is increasingly important as we are bombarded with more and more entries to the world's database.

The Disciplined Mind
This one is talking about discipline in the sense of an area of study as well as in the sense of the attribute.  Not only is it important for people to master a general breadth of knowledge, they need to specialize in something later in life that they will delve into deeply.  Their subject matter should be examined carefully, from as many angles as possible, to get the best understanding of the ideas held therein.  Comprehension and ability to apply the knowledge learned to new situations is what truly mastering this discipline means.

In addition to that, there should be a pursuit of knowledge with persistence and care.  A diligent attitude towards studies in the chosen profession would lead a disciplined mind to continue learning and improving beyond typical educational standards.  It usually takes at least a decade of studies to truly master any given discipline.

The Synthesizing Mind
This type takes knowledge from different disciplines and is capable of compiling it in a way that is useful and understandable.  To truly do this well, there needs to be a goal in mind, with a starting point and strategy to go from there.  After drafting and feedback, revisions can be made all along the way until the goal is reached.  This requires the ability to pick out the important information from everything that is available and arrange them in a way that makes sense of all that knowledge.

In businesses, this is important to be able to do in identifying where the company is going.  It can be accomplished a number of ways: consulting experts, doing studies, or running focus groups.  New information that arises must be recognized if important and then incorporated into the previous database of knowledge.  Professionals need to constantly be adding to their repertoire in meaningful ways.  This taps into the organizational and categorizing skills.

The Creating Mind
This one comes from someone who has had a certain mastery of material and now takes that knowledge a step further by adding something novel to the equation, whether new questions or new solutions.  It is affected by the cultural surroundings and social field, i.e., what is recognized as a good creation and who judges that?  Creativity needs to be taken in context, as unappreciated creations will not do much to contribute to society.

True creators are far and few between and though there are plenty of people who have the depth of knowledge needed, very few actually innovate.  This type of creation requires a certain dissatisfied state of mind that drives innovation.  Creators are not afraid of failure, for they are motivated more by the need to affect change.  It requires space and flexibility that may be at odds with established regulations and often, rules need to be broken.  The curious mindset of a child should be preserved and encouraged, so things are considered from all angles.

The Respectful Mind
This is the one that requires people to be sympathetic to each others' differences.  There needs to be an effort to understand each other and not just tolerate, but accept and appreciate differences.  Acting that way is not enough, but actually feeling that way will lead to positive, supportive results.  This means that working with others, despite whatever their personal backgrounds and histories might be, can be effective and productive.

This should be seen in all aspects of life, in dealing with every single person.  There should not be a bias towards certain groups of people and tolerance or even avoidance of others.  It is a state of mind that transcends boundaries and looks beyond initial categories and groupings.  This is what allows us to fit into society and truly grow and learn from each other.

The Ethical Mind
This one is the most abstract and requires a lot of thinking and reflection about the role we play in our lives at work and as a citizen.  They should always be striving towards good actions and good deeds.  Good in the sense that is of high quality, good in the sense that it is responsible to the community, and good in the sense that it is meaningful and of value.  Of course, personal standards of what is "good" vary, so it is difficult to measure.  To truly exemplify this quality, a person would stay true to their personal ethics even if it is not beneficial for themselves.

An understanding of the values of the profession is also paramount and adhering to them is crucial, even if others are not.  This is, of course, much easier to do with good role models throughout life.  Support should be both horizontal and vertical, coming from friends and peers as well as parents and leaders.  Society works best if it is moral and the institutions within it uphold certain standards.  The biggest threat are trends that deviate from ethical work.

A few other notes:
~Sometimes it is not easy to identify someone who is truly disciplined or creative because there can be convincing fakes.
~Creativity is like chaos and synthesis is like order.

And there you have it, my interpretation of what this text was preaching.  It pretty much boils down to what you are going to need to arm yourself for the new world and thrive in it.  I generally agree with the concepts, though I am certainly open to there being even more minds that we will need to cultivate in the future.

 
 

I had an appointment with a Chinese masseuse today it was at once a soothing and painful and tickling experience.  I have had a rather weak and very tight back for 15 months now, occasionally feeling like a 60-year-old woman with the type of soreness I would get there.  I threw it out back in late 2007, early 2008 and it never quite got better.  At first, I would just avoid doing anything that required me to bend or twist in ways that my back would not allow.

When I got back to school, I started going to the Ashe (Student Health) Center for physical therapy sessions.  It helped a bit and I started to gain more strength in that area, but I wasn't very good with keeping up the exercises that were given to me.  My insurance only covered so many sessions, so I then decided that I had plateaued and had enough.  I stopped going and gave acupuncture a try.  I don't know if it did anything since I only did it once, but yet again, I didn't want to continue so long as I had to pay.

This summer found me in Beijing, with massage services aplenty.  My dad got me a membership card thing at a local place and I started to go there every couple of days for the month that I was there.  My flexibility was improving a lot, but then I had to fly off again, to a place where such services are far too expensive.  For months, I have not been doing anything for my back and it has only given me scattered bouts of grief.  I've been meaning to take care of it and go try more variations of help for it, but between not having the time and not wanting to expend the money, I tend to not get it done.

Well, I finally got around to getting another massage and it was a lot different from the last series I got.  This one involved a lot of poking and pressure in the crevices of my spine and some pressure points.  I tried my best to stay still and breathe normally, but I found myself clenching and holding my breath more than a few times.  I came out of it all a bit tender (and hopefully not bruised), but feeling good.  Not excellent and through the roof, but less tense, for sure.  I'll wait to see how I feel tomorrow.

At one point, my loose shoulder was kind of sliding around in its socket (yes, I know, gross imagery, but it's not that bad and doesn't really hurt), so I'm sure the muscles around there will be very unhappy with me in the morning.  I can feel it already.  That area has never been very strong, so all this shaking around will have that joint all riled up.  I'd really like to soak in a sauna right now.  Nice and hot and wet.  My skin would thank me.  I just hope my right arm doesn't get too weak tomorrow, or else it's going to quite the task shouldering my heavy purse, writing, and typing.

One of these days, I want to go try out the chiropractor as well; I hear they work wonders.  Maybe when I get insurance.

 
 

I feel (and have often felt) like I should write more like I am storytelling, relaying the details of my life.  From the feelings to the specifics of names of places, these are all things that I tend to leave out.  I usually write what I did, plain and simple, in my daily journal.  I've been making an effort to include more of what I think and feel for a couple years now.  It's getting a lot better, but there's still a lot more to be done.  Then on the blogging side, I tend to only write about what I think, but not really related to a certain event.  Granted, an event may have triggered my idea, but it's usually something that I've been thinking about for awhile or have at least considered before.

Part of the problem is the trade-off between the time spent in using so much detail and the time I could be spending out, living a life to write about!  This is a very familiar tug-of-war for me, after thirteen years of keeping a personal journal.  I'm afraid that I am slowly drifting away from maintaining it, just because the quality that I want to have takes far too much time to fit into my life.  Yet, I still can't quite put it down.  After all, I've been faithful for a good twelve years and some with little faltering!

This struck me as I was replying to an e-mail from one of my pledge brothers, asking for advice from anyone who had traveled to Europe before.  I can still recall all the places I went and most of things I saw, but what was that website I used to book my hostels?  What airline were those cheap flights taken on?  These are all details that have started to escape me.  Thankfully, a quick search and refresher took me back to the information I wanted, but can things always work out so well?  I'd much rather have solid entries I can refer to from that time, with all those details in there for me.

I don't have a very good memory and those are one of the most precious things to me, so it's sad to realize what I have forgotten.  It's the very reason why I stubbornly continue to document my life, despite the time that it takes.  Between all the things that I have recorded, I think I have a good database of my life.  I want to be able to look back on my life and actually know what happened.  I don't just have trouble throwing away physical things - memories and knowledge are the same for me!  I hate that my French and Chinese language skills have deteriorated so much over the years and that I probably can't remember the way to get from my house to the local library back in Topeka.

So, I love to have all this information.  Plus, it will all be very useful for writing my autobiography!  :-P  I'm going to have to get the nearly 50 volumes of handwritten journals to be transcribed.  The benefit of electronic copies is the searchability and accessibility they offer.  Though most of my entries aren't very exciting, there are definitely some jewels hidden in there that could be really great material.  I'd also need my thousands of pictures and videos to be consolidated and put into some sort of a timeline corresponding to my written entries and life events and experiences.  How cool would that be?  Then I could virtually relive my life (to some extent)!

For now though, I will take to my friend Ninja's philosophy: live a life worth writing about!  (Or, in his case, worth making a movie about.)

 
 

It was 8:05 PM when I opened up my planner to pen an event into it.  Suddenly, a reminder of Earth Hour was staring up at me.

"25 minutes!" I gasped.

"What are you talking about?" asked Marylin as Zen peered at me quizzically.

"Earth Hour!  We've got to turn off our lights for Earth Hour!"  I looked over at Zen: "You signed us up!"

And so, we all changed our plans to meet this commitment we had made by pledging our support for Earth Hour.  Rather than continue to work in the office as we had thought we were going to do, we headed out to eat some dinner.  Ok, so we cheated a little and didn't confine ourselves to the dark.  But hey, we did turn off our lights!  We just went to take advantage of lights that were already on, that is all.

Being that recycling and conservation are the very things I want to build a company around someday, it was important for me that people are aware and care for causes like these.  Lately I've been going to a lot of informative sessions about various organizations in Singapore that are meant for the betterment of people.  There are the various divisions of the People's Association, like Family Life, which is meant to promote the quality and importance of family life.  There is the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with plans to add infrastructure throughout town and expand and improve nature areas.  There are the efforts of the Yellow Ribbon Project to bring awareness and acceptance to ex-offenders, offering them a second chance at their lives.

And then, there's Marylin's passion for people with disabilities, which I've heard a good bit of lately.  Let's not forget Zen's love for the people in his life, which is pervasive in all that he does.  All this makes me wonder: for all the love I feel I have for people, why am I more interested in volunteering with animals and the environment?  Perhaps it is because I see it as my time to connect with the world and, in a sense, meditate.  It's much easier to do that when your interactions don't require conversations.  I've also always felt a huge connection with nature, finding the most peace in getting away from people and society.  I want to preserve that aspect of this world.  The things that live by their own rules and not ours.

So, sometime down the line, I want to create an environmental consultancy.  I don't have the background to really go into air and water pollution stuff or how infrastructure can be built to be most efficient, but I can definitely become an expert in the types of materials and processes that are environmentally friendly for building with.  Mostly though, I want to advise organizations on how to create an effective recycling program, ways they can conserve on energy, alternative sources of power that can be employed, and also provide training for their members to promote awareness of these issues and show them why they should care.  I can also have seminars explaining how everyone can reduce their carbon footprints and offer easy solutions to greener lives.

As for the interest in animals, I absolutely adore cats (though I do like all creatures), so I think that will just be a personal pursuit for now.  I'm still trying to convince Panda to let me raise at least one cat.  Katana and I always used to joke that we'd grow old and be "crazy cat ladies" living next door to each other.  Though I don't want to be stepping over them at home, I wouldn't mind two or even three.  For now, I'll have to wait it out and then find a shelter nearby with cats to volunteer at.  I'd really like to start a cat shelter myself, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to give any of them away.  Ever.  Maybe I'll look into championing spaying and neutering and adopting from shelters.

 
 

I have struggled time and time again with a proper theme for this blog.  It started off as documenting my life after graduating, began to lean towards professional observations, lingered on personal life details, and now is floating around somewhere in between all things I wanted it to be.  I guess that's what happens when I write about whatever is on my mind!

All along it has included my perspective on the topics I chose to write about.  Though there is no good way to summarize all the things I have and will write about, I have finally come to terms with this (again).  I am not confused about who I am or what this blog is about.  In fact, it's quite clearly about my thoughts, opinions, observations, and experiences.  The only reason it may seem all over the place is because, well, quite frankly, my interests span a wide range of topics.  There are so many random thoughts that creep up on me in my daily life that I can't just throw them into a basket and call it a day.

I don't think this mental battle is over - in my desperate attempt to make sense of how to describe this to a stranger, I have realized that nothing in my life has ever been so easily summed up.  Yet, why should I force it?  It can be a conversation starter, after all.  So, though I know I will come back to this issue periodically, to revisit it and ensure that I am still on the right track (or recalibrate so I will be), for now I have found my peace with it again.  But true to my belief that things change, I always like to adapt to make sure my writing is in line with my thinking.  Just in case I go astray.

 
 

In this line of work, it really feels like creativity is a way of life, not just a skill you have or a thought process you must endure.  Being creative consultants for a wide array of clients requires flexible thinking, curiosity, critical analysis, and understanding the market.  These skills are all a part of the lifestyle of becoming a creative person who takes everything around them and can draw connections that others may not, be able to adapt quickly based on new developments, and be able to dream in ways that others may not dare.

It's really cool to be in such an environment that nurtures you to think in so many different ways.  I always knew the learning curve would be steep, but only now do I really get to appreciate what it is like.  I remember when I was still back in LA, trying to ask questions about how things work over here.  Perhaps I never got any fully satisfactory answers because it boils down to the story of my life: it's complicated.  In fact, on a day to day basis different challenges arise, from clients who are requesting more thoughts from us to coworkers who are getting sick (and infecting the lot of us).  I find that even in my way of dealing with something like avoiding the flu or cold, there is leeway to be creative in my own right (aka the types of new things I try out to prevent from getting sick).

I really enjoy living and breathing creativity like this.  It could be just in how I choose to organize my ideas one day or it could be in how I decide to manage my time.  Everything I do allows me the freedom to think critically about what would work best in that circumstance, with my type of personality and preferences.  So much thinking also requires a lot of time away from the issues, to let them incubate before I come back to developing them.  I really wish I had some sort of mindless work to do in between major thinking sessions, like updating the website or sketching/molding random images that could be a new mascot.  I think I wouldn't even mind handling some number problems, now that my life is consumed with words!

Recently I've been reading Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner (my interest in his thoughts began back in middle school) and I'm at the chapter where he talks about creativity.  He mentions some companies that have taken unconventional approaches and also mentioned skunkworks a few times, which really captured my attention.  Throughout the rest of the day, I found my mind wandering to how I can run a company that fosters creativity.

Things I have considered are no designated work hours, time off each week for a personal development activity of your choice (whether it's crocheting or taking a class), no dress code, customized work spaces (You want toys?  Ok!  You want a beanbag for a chair?  Sure.  You want a clear desk?  Alright!), and pretty much just more flexibility all around.  I would totally get a kick out of themed job titles, so rather than say you are a manager or blah blah blah officer, you'd be something completely arbitrary - Bamboo or Venus Flytrap.  Or, alternatively, titles could really just be evolved nicknames, so someone in the office who may love to tidy can be Feather Duster while someone else who sleeps a lot can be Sloth or Zombie or something.

I don't know if I can ever implement measures like that and still find quality people who won't use that as an excuse to slack off - "oh, I'm just being creative right now" - you know?  But hey, it's something to look into and consider.

 
 

Namecards, or business cards, are one of those things that are really helpful in the business world.  Though you can come up with various creative designs to try to stand out, what ultimately matters is a clean look with key (mostly contact) information.  It's pretty much a standard to hand someone a business card when you make a contact or find someone interested in learning more about what you or your company can do for them.  While you want to get your name out there and encourage follow-ups, you also don't want to throw cards at anyone you come across, especially if you haven't even spent a few minutes to talk to them.

Currently, Marylin and I are anxiously awaiting our business cards that will be printed with the updated address and phone numbers for our new office.  It's a lot more difficult to network when you need to create makeshift "cards" to hand out to people.  If they can't read our handwriting or mistake the slip of paper for junk later, we could very easily lose a valuable contact.  Plus, having that sturdy little piece of cardstock makes us look legit and oh so official.  I mean, not that we don't look like seasoned pros already, what with our lovely attire and attitudes.  ;)

We've been to two networking events this week and I have noticed that card-trading etiquette is quite different here!  All cards are presented and accepted with two hands and are usually accompanied by a bow or otherwise lowering of the head.  When I received my first two and took them with one hand, I noticed that it wasn't quite right.  I wonder if other people noticed it and felt offended.  I certainly hope not!  However, it is a ritual that I have duly noted and will be careful to observe from now on.  These are the little cultural nuances that I am going to need to continue to pick up as I learn my way around here and this business world.

So you see, something as basic as trading business cards can be rather different depending on the people you are dealing with.  Nothing's ever quite so simple, is it?

 
 

My decision to come to Singapore was largely based on feeling.  It seems that I am allowing my intuition to guide me far more than I ever allowed before.  I don't know if this is my quarter-life crisis, the result of maturing, or just a random epiphany, but it is becoming more pervasive in everything I do.  Perhaps in growing up and learning to open your mind to things, you also learn how to trust your instincts.  Maybe there really is something to your gut instincts.  Whatever the case, I have been paying more attention to what my heart tells me over what my head may want to say.  And you know what?  It feels good.

I've always been one to sit and think.  Absorb, analyze, reanalyze, compile, calculate, and then react.  It's a slow, sometimes excruciating process and I've been telling people lately that that is the type of person I am.  Well, it's true - I will not give you an instant answer and go full steam ahead.  I may have an initial reaction, but that is by no means my actual response in the end (though it will probably be an exaggerated version of it).  Sometimes it can be frustrating for those who are impatient or tend to take the smallest of signals and take that to be the indicator of consent or dissent.

Though I still need time to really think about what to say about things, I am embracing more of the "go do it" attitude, from taking the risk of starting work in a foreign country to buying things because it feels right.  I can't quite let go of my old tried and true habit of taking the time to consider all the angles of an issue, but I tend to have a gut feeling from the get-go that tells me what I will end up deciding anyway.  Nevertheless, to justify it to myself, I still need to spend the time to think it over and really make sure that what I want is what I should do.

I like to be cautious in the sense that I can defend my decisions.  I don't like to be rash or irresponsible.  But, I also do like to take certain risks that can be both exciting and door-opening.  You never know if you don't try, right?  So I might as well give it a go and see where it takes me (with some back-up plans ready, of course).

 
 

A lot of people seem to think that being messy means being disorganized.  What they don't realize is that there is a method to the madness, if you will.  Sometimes it's just a matter of how I like to arrange things.  The sad thing is, I'm the only one who knows how to navigate this personal system.  But nevertheless, just because I don't put things away in compartments, files, folders, and boxes doesn't mean I don't have a system.  In fact, I have a very complicated system that involves multiple possible places for things.

You see, that's the thing about trying to categorize things.  There will always be those things that fit into multiple categories or don't quite fit into any and just need their own place.  So for people who must segment all things in their lives, that must be a nightmare.  But for someone like me, everything is transitory.  Some things may fall under certain groups when I am feeling a particular way and under other groups when I am feeling another way.  It may not make sense to anyone else at first glance, but I think if someone ever took the time to start to learn the logic I use (however faulty that may be), they can start to understand my system.  It may even seem sensible.

I can be quite picky about how things are organized at times, especially when it comes to stationery and other such office supplies.  I even used to have a sticker drawer that was filled to the brim with sheets of stickers that I have acquired over the years and never bore to use.  I can be quite quirky in how I choose to organize my life, whether it's sticker drawers or changing methods.  Perhaps the downside of having fluid systems to put things away is the difficulty of tracking down which system I was on when I put certain things away.

There is also something about clutter and mess that makes people think dirty as well.  Maybe there's a little more surface area on which dust can collect, but really, unless there are flies or ants crawling around, it's probably not any more noticeable than an area with neat stacks and piles.  Why do we automatically have this negative association with mess?  It's not necessarily bad!  Well hey, I don't care; it works for me.  I like my mess.

 
 

Today at dinner I was struck my the most fantastical notion of customized menus.  See, when the waitress asked me if it was ok that there is pork in my shrimp wontons, I started to imagine a place where the waitress would ask for any food allergies you may have before you order.  That idea then developed into having electronic menus that would update according to what items you could or could not eat and keep track of your favorite dishes as well as what you ordered recently.  Every first-time customer could then just input their own data and from then on they could be given a membership card to be scanned upon each visit, pulling up their personal data.  Cool, no?  A low-cost version of this could just be printing menus for people with certain nut allergies, seafood allergies, or vegetarian all the way to vegan preferences.

Then, as we were walking along, I thought I heard Marylin say something to me, but she hadn't uttered a word, which made me think that it would be useful if we glowed or lit up when we talked so it'd be easier to tell if we're just hallucinating.  She seems to hear me say things a lot when I'm just hanging, though for her this would be less useful, since she tends to be in front of me and not looking at me at the time.  However, for me, this would be a great ability for people to have!  Lol.  Of course, when I told her this, she just looked at me like I was indeed glowing and tried to pretend she didn't know me as I laughed myself to pieces.  Gosh, I really crack myself up sometimes.  These are the random things I think about when I am happily fed Crystal Jade noodles and xiao long bao.  Yummy.  :-P