Systems… They are Everywhere

Systems… They are Everywhere

Dear Boys,

Things don’t happen by default, there is a process, system, flow that we might not understand. There is no such thing as a ‘simple’ thing. Situations, issues and problems are all linked and doesn’t happen in isolation. even when it looks like the last straw that broke the camel’s back, it usually isn’t that one last straw, dig deeper.

For you to better survive and thrive, a keen understanding and appreciation of ‘The System’ is necessary so that you do not break yourself against something seemingly random and abstract. It will also help you work with The System, analyze the root cause and come to a better more holistic understanding of how things work around the world.

A Home

Even at home, your dad runs a system that is unique (and yet not quite) that keeps the house a home. As mentioned in my earlier post on Adulting, even mundane things takes time to build and I have to think of end to end. Even changing a simple light bulb, once it is blown, I have to know the size, cost, brand, and where to get it. How to change it and discarding the blown fluorescent tube. While my part of the deal ends when I thrown it into the bin, the ‘rubbish’ has its own systems that makes it way to where ever it might become. Even before I buy the new tube, there is also a manufacturing system at the backend that make sure the replacement tube reaches me, the consumer, the dad/ electrician at home.

Source: Karla Hernandez-Unsplash

Watch and learn

The challenge for me as a dad is to make you boys see beyond the simple day to day chores. How to ignite that investigative and curious seeking nature that is latent in all of us? Going in depth and asking the questions that matters.

Why? How? What? When? Which? and Who?

Is there a risk of overthinking even for something as simple as a household chore? Quite the contrary, in our world right how, we lack thinkers, no need to overthink the overthinking, it is over worrying that we need to worry about. When we bother to think critically, long and deep, we will find that ‘solutions’ are not really solutions, rather they are compromised outcome. There are still problems in solutions and there are also solutions hiding in the problems. So these solutions might cause minor inconveniences, but it keeps the greater larger systems wheel going.

When we go back to the tube replacement example. You boys flip the switch and the light is turned on, or not. If you do not understand that it is The Dad that changes the tube, you might go whining to the Mom, which is not the right contact point. Or you can understand how The Dad goes about replacing the tube, and do it yourself.

From there, you might trigger a thought:

“Why do we keep replacing the tubes?”

“Can I improve it?”

“Make a tube that don’t need replacement, ever.”

Then you’ll need to work The Systems to see how, if that is possible. Improvements which seems to come in leaps and bounds is often supported by unknown and unseen minor constructions which is done by countless of people who are keeping The System going.

Without getting a clarity for how The System works, it will be difficult for you to make a difference in this world, in fact, you will be blinded, and indifferent to the realities and inconveniences in this world. You will end up whining and complaining about how things are unfair to you and you will make an issue out of every single things that don’t go your way.

The System don’t Care

The world really don’t care about us, our plans and our whiny, puny thoughts. The System won’t respects us, until we respect The System. That said, The System isn’t a big huge machine that we are powerless against, work The System, and find out the pros and cons, and what you can do to make the pros work in your favour while you circumvent the cons. Not everything will go your way, so when things does, appreciate it, don’t gloat, and when things don’t it just means that there’s issues in The System you didn’t learn or understand.

Waking up to a different World

Everyday might seems like a Groundhog Day, the movie is a very good analogy for our cyclical life where, if we are not careful, will fall into a trap that grinds us, and we become de-personalized. The ever talented Bill Murray, trapped in an endless Groundhog Day, finally took his time to learn, appreciate and fully dive into that very one day, only when he can get to the grind of things, he is able to break free from the repetitive wheel and do something different.

But it is never so dramatic, work small and don’t let the larger, seemingly insurmountable big machine of The System makes a mockery out of the ingenuity, authenticity and originality you both are endowed with. If The Systems seems too big, always remember the Navy SEAL saying:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

The Perspective of a Breakwater

The Perspective of a Breakwater

Dear Boys,

Life is always a about perspective. In any point in time you think life is a meaningless ‘Groundhog Day‘, you need to read this.

I like to go to Marina South Pier during lunch time as it is a nice place to go to, you’re close to the sea, and it is usually not very crowded. Far from the maddening crowd, as I would like to put it.

There is this long strip of concrete that is extended out into the sea. I know it is a kind of breakwater. So I didn’t think much of it, well a breakwater is a breakwater right?

It looks something like this up close.

So it is an innocent strip of concrete that is extended out to sea, as a layperson, I was just thinking how nice it would have been for an angler to go all the way out and fish!

The big picture

It was not until I moved into my company’s new office that I see the entire picture, from the 24th floor. What an epiphany!

DSC_0724
The view of Marina Bay Cruise Centre

That long strip of breakwater was build in relation to the Marina Bay Cruise Centre. You see when the Cruise Ships dock to the left of the Cruise Centre, the breakwater protects the Cruise ships from the waves, so that the ship can dock in calmer waters.

 This is is even more evident when we see it from Google Maps.

Capture.PNG

What has all this got to do with life?

The point is, very often in life we are thrown into some mundane things to do, and we don’t know the reason for doing it, remember this picture. We often do not see the big picture like how we do not see the use of this long strip on concrete.

There is always a purpose and the purpose will reveal itself a little down the road. You may not see it now, you will be able to see it later. So don’t take the things you do as meaningless. There is a purpose and meaning in everything.

We are on this Earth to do 2 things:

1- Find out these meaning

2- Give meaning to these task, events and situations.

And even when we are tasked to do something, that has no apparent meaning, we still need to devote our effort and time to it, and do it the best we can. What we do now may not bear fruit immediately, it often does not, but you still need to do it nevertheless.

Aikido is the same thing.

Boys, my journey in Aikido is the same. As Aikidokas, we can be doing the same technique again and again, with no apparent reason, or practical application. One thing in martial arts is the ability to bear faith and be disciplined. Thankfully I have a steadfast sensei who is able to guide me and provide that beacon, Harry sensei constantly points to the big picture, so that we can focus while we roll with the mundane task.

Right now, after so many years of training, I began to see how those little times I spent doing meaningless things comes to make sense.

It is very much like in the movie Karate Kid, the original as well the the later version, there is a ‘wax in, wax out’ moment in the movie that does not make sense, you are made to put down your jacket, and pick it up again, over and over again, with no apparent reason, until the reason appears very much later.

Take a look again

Look at the picture again, and you can see from a distance, the purpose and importance of the breakwater. And when you are there, all you see a long strip on concrete that extends out to sea. You will never get that perspective when we don’t see things from afar.

So be patient at time when you appear to be lost and don’t know what you’re doing. You will still have to do it first, and let the knowing comes to you, later, sometimes much later.

 

The Big Island Theme Park we call Home

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Dear Boys,

We have been to a few theme parks, The Universal Studios SingaporeLegoland Malaysia, Disneyland Hong Kong, just to name a few, so you know what a theme park is all about.

The theme of theme parks is to make money by attracting visitors, there are many attractions in it to make the visitors goes in awe and makes them want to come back again. Theme parks need to continuously upgrade their attractions to make sure visitors are not bored with the same old thing.

There are 2 distinct groups of people in these parks. The visitors, and the staffs working there. Occasionally, we will get visitors wanting to actually join the theme park as staff, and occasionally we do get staffs, who use the theme park like a visitor.

This is not too far from the reality of life we are living right now

staff signStaff only

In every Theme park, there is a ‘staff only’ door, where, obviously if you don’t work in the theme park, you don’t get to go in.

What’s behind the door?

Well, that is where the ‘hard truths’ of the reality comes in, every theme park comes to life because there are many workers, working to make the rides safe, clean the streets, wash the loos, there are also the marketing folks who design attractions, sell them so that tourists will flock to the rides.

Many, many things are happening behind the door and none of the tourists nor visitors gets to see, should see, nor want to see. This is where the employees stays and be themselves behind the scenes, This is where the staff can let down and talk about life. The employees of the theme park isn’t always going about chatty, and pretending to be magical and all that. They have real lives, and once they walk through that ‘Employees Only’ door, they can drop their image of a happy trooper, and head back to real life.

Singaporeans= Theme park Employees

I can’t be more blunt than that, I feel a sense of hollow in our society, the blank stares are everywhere. Singapore, as a land exists as a hub, a trading port for people, goods, to come and go, that’s all. We have the best Airports and Sea-Ports for a reason, it is a place where ships, brings goods, come and go. Nobody ever really stayed really. It is a way-point for transactions, and in the midst of that transaction, we make money.

Money which we use for other transactions. We use money to make more hubs, so that more visitors will come. As long as we, as a hub stays relevant, and current, people will come, we will make money, just like Disney land. As long as money is the centre of our social fabric, we will remain shallow, and our whole lives, go from deal to deal, without actually getting anything meaningful out of staying here. We live in the constant hype of the high, created by the rides and theme park attractions.

When we end our work, we leave the office, we step through our metaphorical ‘Staff-only’ door, disrobe our banker hat, doctor mask, sales person costume, and go back to real life, we go back to our screaming kids, ailing parents, rising taxes, claustrophobic train rides, and of course, our 5 inch world.

The next day, is simply another Groundhog Day. Live, Die, Repeat.

groundhog day

The Government=Theme Park Management

People gripe at the government all the time. The government is always in a damn-it-if-you-do/ damn-it-if-you-don’t duality. But honestly, the government are mostly interested in the theme park, and how to keep it running. There will always be complains from employees now and then, but as long as the employees gets paid, everyone would just bear with it.

I’m not anti-government, just so you know. Why should I? The government don’t care about me and my opinions, because the government is never personal, they are always big picture; they have to, they need to keep the entire theme park running, if the theme park closes, due to mismanagement, all the employees from top to bottom loses. The tourists? They will just go to the next theme park!

Can Singapore be less of a Theme Park?

Honestly I don’t think so. As long as Singapore remains a hub, we will always have people come and go, and those who are here, the citizens, will always face short-term socio-economic cycles. We will never have a longevity of an heritage, people will never feel that they have a part of Singapore they really have and hold, and called their own. As with all theme parks, change is the only constant, attractions will need revamp. Those specific rides we love will go away, and we will be left with only fickle memories, which will die when we die. Even those who are dead, will be dug up and their places, replaced with something new, and swanky.

Lines between employees and visitors become blurred when the employees are often caught up by the fun and hype of the theme park, and join in as visitors, and play on the rides, get all high and excited, have all the fun. While there is nothing wrong with that, it comes with a price (yes money again) When the employees play visitors, who is playing employees? This leaves the theme park short handed, and the management has to resort to other means to fill the manpower shortage. That created another set of problems that warrants a new post by itself.

Here’s the rub

Well, boys, if you think working in this theme park is bad, don’t. At least the employees here gets a decent education, healthcare is taken care of. Nobody steals from the staff canteen. Most of your colleagues, gets together well. The management are genuine and listen to the gripes of the people and have the heart of the theme park in everything they do. It’s not an easy job running the theme park, and keeping everyone’s morale up. They are not perfect, but they are trying.

The rub is this, at least when you walk through that door, you see a theme park. In many other place, you get slums, you get landfills, you get polluted drains. We have a theme park going, so let’s try to make the best of it.

We live in the constant hype of the high, created by the rides and theme park attractions.