I wrote the first draft of this article – A story about freedom within the confine of Réunion Island – in our little hideaway cabin up the hills where my youngest daughter and I spent our week of quarantine (called septaine here as it only lasts 7 days). The year 2020-2021 would be remembered as the year of lock-down, confinement, curfew, quarantine. Never in our modern history has our freedom of movement been so restrained, albeit justified for public health reasons. This is not an article about the pros and cons of restrictions imposed for public health reasons, it is a story about freedom within the confine of Réunion Island; it is the story of some brave souls from Réunion Island who fought in the most admirable manner to free themselves from their shackles. This article is also the perfect excuse for me to introduce you to Réunion Island, where I was born and where my family lives.
A story about Reunion
Réunion island, or in French ‘Ile de la Réunion’, is a smallish island situated east of Madagascar and about 175km southwest of Mauritius. It’s a volcanic island, like Hawaii, with a mountainous interior and a population of about 1 million people. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s not unusual, it’s typically only known by sailors and stamp collectors. The island is famous for a number of things including the first Euro Transaction, occasional – but very heavy rain, and one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
A story about the First Euro transaction
Réunion Island is a French Department and because of its geographical position is the most easterly part of the eurozone. The Island was the first European territory to handle the Euro currency when it was introduced in 2002. The mayor of St Denis (the Capital city) purchased a kilo of lychees after a brief barter with a local stallholder.
A story about Rainfall
For the most part, Réunion Island has a mild tropical climate, but it is in the hurricane belt (here it’s called, cyclone belt) and when it rains, oh boy, it rains. Réunion has set a number of records for the highest rainfall measured including the official 24-hour rainfall record (1,825 mm or 71.85”) during a tropical storm in 1952 and the 48-hour rainfall record (2,467 mm, or 97.13”) at Cilaos, which has sadly – or happily- now been beaten. Have you ever wonder what is the difference between hurricanes and cyclones? It is just a question of geography. A tropical storm system is called a hurricane in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific and is called a cyclone in the Northern Indian Ocean.
A story about a very active volcano!
Piton de la Fournaise, or Furnace Peak in English, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, along with Kilauea in the Hawaiian Islands, Stromboli, and Etna in Italy, and Mount Erebus in Antarctica. The volcano is a major tourist attraction and offers some excellent hiking and scenery.
Since 2010, the Piton de la Fournaise has been a member of a very exclusive club as one of the natural assets listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their outstanding universal value. It is an honor that it shares with the island’s other volcano, the Piton des Neiges which culminates at 3070 meters and which is a dormant volcano. For the past 10 years, the Piton de la Fournaise has erupted on average every 9 months, fortunately without endangering the islanders. Not many volcanoes can boast such exuberant activity.
The latest eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise started on 9th April 2021 and is still going on as I speak. I went for a hike with some of my local friends to the volcano site to have a closer look. We saw the fumes coming out of some craters, we couldn’t see the flow of lava from our viewpoint but we were told that there was a tunnel of lava still running underneath. The whole volcano site is surreal, very out of this world kind of scenery.
A story about freedom
Coming back to the main topic of this article – a story about freedom within the confine of Réunion Island, slavery was used widely in the French colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. The French slave trade began in the 15th century, not for use within mainland France, although France’s northern ports were heavily used to trade and ship slaves, but in the French colonies, where sugar accounted for 80% of exports. Slaves from Africa were brought into the colonies to cultivate sugar cane. Regulatory measures constantly governed the supervision of slaves, the control of their labor, their movements, any possible activities by them outside the plantations, and events in their personal lives.
These regulations allowed extensive freedom to plantation owners regarding the range of punishment they could administer to their slaves. Slaves were subjected to physical and emotional abuse on a daily basis. The phenomenon of resistance on the part of the slaves, individually or collectively, has been the focus of relatively little research. Yet, slaves in the French colonies resisted their plight in the most varied and admirable ways.
They attempted to escape on a regular basis (a phenomenon known in French as “marronnage” escaping the plantations in coastal areas to find refuge in the mountains where they remained hidden in the hope that the plantation owner would eventually give up looking for them. The word “marron” originates from the Spanish word “cimarron” which means “to escape.”
On Réunion Island, historical accounts reveal stories of the Black- Marrons taking great risks to escape to the mountains, preferring to live as free men in precarious conditions rather than staying at the plantation under the bondage of a brutal plantation owner. Those who successfully escaped established semi-permanent camps in the mountains. Once a small group of trusted companions had settled and had organized themselves, they conducted regular raids on the plantations to steal weapons, tools, food, seeds, and farm animals (chickens); they also brought back with them their women and children.
Eventually, the Black-Marrons successfully managed to grow their own food, raise farm animals and create a new community of free men, women, and children up in the mountains. The plantation owners were terrified of these raids which were becoming more and more frequent. They started manhunts for the Black-Marrons and offered hunters 30 Livres per “catch” dead or alive. Hunters had to bring as proof of a “catch” (in order to claim their prize) the severed left-hand of the Black-Marron they had just killed. Hunters were free to capture or kill men, women, and children alike. Despite this brutal repression against the Black-Marrons not all of them were captured or killed and the most resilient managed to keep living as free men and women in the mountains until slavery was abolished.
The Black-Marrons became legends in their own right; nowadays, if you go hiking on Réunion Island, you will come across several mountain peaks that are named after them, amongst them, Dimitile, Cimendef, Mafate, and Anchaing. One of the most notorious of those Black-Marrons was a slave known by the name of Cimendef. After his escape to the mountains, Cimendef created a new identity for himself. Originally from Madagascar, he created a name from the words “tsi” meaning “non” in Malagasy and “mandevi” meaning “slave” – so, Cimendef means “non-slave.” Through his new name, he wanted to show everyone his will to live as a free man. Slavery was abolished in France and its former colonies in 1848.
There is a policy of organized forgetfulness of the past that suits the agenda of the rulers, the people in power. History is written from the perspective of the victors and not the oppressed, whose role in their own liberation is often forgotten or downplayed. Historical accounts have found a way of denying centuries of resistance by slaves and the role they played in resisting oppression and pursuing their freedom. Historical accounts tend to attribute the happy resolution of a very shameful episode in history to a particular government or piece of legislation; while forgetting the acts of resistance that were carried out by the slaves themselves and the oppressed, who fought bravely for their inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is worth pointing out here that despite what most people believe slavery should not be automatically associated with ethnicity. Slavery has existed since the beginning of time; the color of someone’s skin was not a key factor to determine whether that person could find himself in the unfortunate position of being a slave. Those who became slaves were chosen because of their vulnerability compared to another dominant group and not because of the color of their skin. Since the beginning of times, Europeans enslaved other Europeans, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans and Arabs enslaved other Arabs. A slave is a person who is the chattel or property of another. The etymology of the word “slave” finds its origin in the medieval Latin word “sclavus,” originally “Slav” because of the many Slavs sold into slavery by conquering people.
Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century. People of every race and color were enslaved and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the ottoman empire, decades after American blacks were freed. The region of WestAfrica was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent before, during, and after the white man arrived. It was the Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. In East Africa, Arabs were the leading slave raiders, ranging over an area larger than all of Europe; slavery is often and wrongly associated with ethnicity and skin color. This practice was an accepted fact of the society of the time on the basis that the strongest has the right of appropriation over the weakest.
This article is dedicated to all the people who have been oppressed and have suffered injustice and who have found the courage to resist oppression and somehow free themselves from their shackles.
For a more detailed analysis of this subject, I invite you to check Chapter 7 of my book “This Is Your Quest.”
As one chapter ends another one starts. Every day you write the story of your life. Your life is like a book, there is a beginning, a middle, an end and there are chapters that catapult you from one event to another. These past few weeks, or shall I say months have been very hectic for me and my family as we geared ourselves up to say farewell to South Korea which has been our home for many years.
The Land of the Morning Calm has been the greatest adventure we had as a family. Korea has been the land where my two daughters grew up with our dog and two cats in tow. The land where we met and made long-lasting friendships with wonderful people. The Land where we had many exciting adventures making the most of the amazing scenery, beauty, and delicious food.
The Land of the Morning Calm chapter has now ended, and new events have catapulted us across the globe. My husband has started a new job in Saudi Arabia building a brand-new futuristic city in the desert, 100% powered by renewable energy. My eldest daughter has settled well in Calgary, Canada where she is studying Bio-Med, and where she is having the time of her life. My youngest daughter and I just arrived in Réunion Island, where I was born and grew up and which is going to be our new base for now. As one chapter ends, another one begins, and so our story continues….
As one chapter ends, another starts
When one chapter ends, it’s just one chapter in the book of your life, don’t close the book the story is not finished, just turn the page and move on. Whether this chapter brought you grief or brought you joy, no other page is written like this. If you don’t like the way the previous chapter of your life happened, have a good cry, learn the lessons. Put your big girl’s or big boy’s pants on and move on.
“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
“Whenever an obstacle rises that seems to block the path forward, in reality, the obstacle has an essential function. And that is, it forces me, or it forces humanity to generate more – either more strength, more energy or more consciousness.”
If you really like the way the previous chapter of your life happened and wished that it never ended, rejoice in the memory of all the good times and the precious moments that made this chapter of your life so pleasant and beautiful. Human beings like comfort and order, and as I discussed in one of my previous articles, order is the place where the world’s behavior matches our expectations and our desires, the place where all things turn out the way we want them to.
We like to be in there. In order, we’re able to think about things in the long term. There, things work, and we are stable, calm, and competent. We seldom leave places we understand – geographical and conceptual – for that reason. But even the best things have to end. If you read a really good book and you come to the end of it, you don’t throw it away wishing you never read it, you put it on your shelves and rejoice in the knowledge that you were fortunate enough to have come across this book.
Changes are hard, but it’s OK. It is the beginning of a new chapter
There is no denying the fact that changes are hard, especially when you are facing life-changing events such as the end of a job, or the end of a relationship or moving across the world to relocate someplace new, with all the logistics that such a move requires. I have just been through this, it’s hard, definitely not a walk in the park, but more like an obstacle course where you need stamina, speed, dexterity, flexibility, and coordination.
The harsh reality of life is that everything moves on and for things to move on, first things have to end. People leave, they leave you and they leave places, and they leave things behind. Everyone finds their way, an end is just a new beginning. We are all made up of fragments of other people, places, and things, and each time this happens we write a new page in our book of life.
No matter where we are, some things are under our control and some things are not. The fundamental reality of chaos and order is true for everything alive, not only for us. Living things are always to be found in places they can master, surrounded by things and situations that make them vulnerable. Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging because there are vital and important new things to be learned.
Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while learning that you still need to know. Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also curious, alert, and engaged.
As one chapter ends, another one starts. Keep writing the story of your life. To be continued…
What is the problem with the World? There are endless problems in the world too many to list, but I was thinking that it would be an intellectually challenging exercise to try to put my finger on it. A foolish endeavor you may think. Maybe. Only a fool or a wise man could seriously pretend to know the answer to this question. I happen to know a wise and eccentric philosopher (Bertrand Russell ) who pondered over this question and who came up with an answer that is quite remarkable.
The problem with the world is that fools, and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are always so full of doubts.
Et voila, in just one sentence Bertrand Russell sums it up. So, now that we have the answer to the question, let’s look at this more closely to see what we find out when we dissect Bertrand Russell’s statement. Pretend you are sitting comfortably in a theater to see the latest production of this Shakespearean tragedy or comedy, depending on your sense of humor, titled: “What Is the Problem With the World”. There are three main characters on stage, the Fool, the Fanatic, and the Wise Man.
Act I – Do you want to know what is the problem in the world ? Ask the Fool he believes he knows best
The fool is grandiose (borderline annoying), confident (borderline arrogant), flamboyant (borderline tacky) and walks through life feeling absolutely certain about everything. A fool is set in his opinions and feels that he has a duty to share his way of thinking about this and that and everything important. A fool does not care to take counsel from others nor listen to their opinions, because he knows best. He has no fluidity of mind and is set in his ways.
New opinions are rejected and opposed just because they don’t fit the accepted idea and concepts that the fool has adopted as hard truth. The fool’s arrogant certainty about everything is set in stone and even King Arthur would not be able to dislodge him from that position. The problem with the fool is that he doesn’t know enough to know that he doesn’t know about the things he thinks he knows.
In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king – Erasmus
Act II – Do you want to know what is the problem in the world? Ask the Fanatic he believes he has access to absolute truth
The fanatic is not a fool because he is a true believer in his cause and spends a substantial amount of his time learning about the cause he is fighting for. But just like the fool, he feels absolute and resolute certainty in his belief. The Fanatic refuses to hear and contemplate opposing views. You can find fanatics in all areas of life religion, politics, sports, media, etc. Fanatics can be leaders or followers, they are people who indulge in a toxic concoction of self-affirming, know-it-all confidence believing that they have unique access to absolute truth, truth so perfect that they have to impose them on everyone.
It is not what they believe that makes them fanatics it is how they believe it – no need to provide further evidence, no need to question or doubt. They operate in an irrational and emotional manner hiding their irrationality by rehearsed arguments that have been repeated and learned over time, not refreshed, updated, or put to the test. Fanatics are rigid in their thinking. The problem with this is that nothing is really certain what is true today may not be true tomorrow.
“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position, but certainty is an absurd one”
Our two main Shakespearean characters, the Fool and the Fanatic will not give a second thought to Voltaire’s adage because they remain certain and dogmatic in their beliefs.
Act III – The Wise Man believes that he knows nothing
According to the Ancient Greeks, the source of all wisdom and clarity is to know thyself. That Motto knows thyself was one of the maxims inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
“The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.”
According to the Wise Man of Ancient Greece, you may find the path to wisdom, if you start from a position of humility and if you accept the extent of your ignorance. A lot of us like to think of ourselves as pretty smart, rational individuals and funny too. But what if we’re wrong? Do we overestimate our own abilities? Are we completely blind to our own failings?
Socrates is known as the wisest man in Athens, but he doubted this very much until he put it to the test. Socrates’ favorite pastime was the pursuit of Truth. His reputation as a philosopher spread across Athens and beyond. When told that the Oracle of Delphi revealed to one of his friends that he was the wisest man in Athens, Socrates responded, not by boasting or celebrating, but by trying to prove the Oracle wrong.
Socrates decided to find out if anyone knew what was truly worthwhile in life, as anyone who knew that would surely be wiser than him. He questioned everyone he could find, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer. Instead, they all pretended to know something they clearly did not. Finally, he realized that the Oracle might be right after all; he was the wisest man in Athens because he alone was prepared to admit his own ignorance rather than pretend to know something he did not.
The Wise man is humble in his knowledge, he is open-minded and recognizes that he has limited knowledge; and because he knows that there are so many things that he doesn’t know, he has doubts. The Wise Man understands that someone else may have knowledge that he doesn’t have, and this could lead him to change his opinion on this and that. He has fluidity of mind, he is not rigid in his view and his pursuit of the truth will lead him to question everything.
Ladies and gentlemen we are coming to the end of this production, thank you for reading this Shakespearean piece. And with this said, I will give the floor to the man himself for the final word.
“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
PS: If you like this piece, feel free to applaud and comment. If you didn’t like this piece, feel free to criticize it not in a fanatical kind of way but after careful consideration just like a Wise Man would do; and I will try my best not to react to your comments in a foolish kind of way.
 Bertrand Russell (18 May 1872- 2 February 1970), British philosopher, mathematician, historian, political activist, and Nobel Laureate.
There are so many things to worry about these days, you worry about your health, your career, your relationship, your kids, your family, the food you eat, and the list goes on and on. Worrying doesn’t feel good, it sucks the life out of you, makes you anxious, and can turn you into a neurotic mess. Worrying stems from a desire to be in control. We often want to control our environment, or we want control over the outcome of every situation. But the more you try to control everything around you the more anxious you feel. Worrying about the things you can’t control will drain you of your mental strength and will leave you in a state where you can’t operate properly. Although worrying does not feel good, new research shows that worry can have surprising benefits, when done in just the right amount. So, don’t worry, it’s OK to worry if you do it in small doses.
“Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere”
Don’t worry, It’s OK to worry; if you do it in small doses
New research shows that worrying done right is actually a powerful tool that can help you in all areas of your life. The trick is to find the balance between healthy worrying and being a neurotic mess. A recent study published in Social & Personality Psychology Compass, argues that although extreme levels of worry are associated with depressed mood, poor physical health, and even mental illness, worry has an upside; a little anxiety is healthy, it can help people recover from trauma, be better planners, live a healthier lifestyle and even overcome depression. So, don’t worry, It’s OK to worry; if you do it in small doses.
Worrying can have positive effects on behavior and can motivate people to take action and make preparations to prevent an undesirable outcome from taking place. Parenting is an anxiety landmine that lasts at least 18 years. Parents often worry about their children, they will fret as to whether their kids are wearing the right type of clothes for the weather, whether they had eaten enough, slept enough, whether they are safe and happy; and when the children are a bit older, parents worry about their offspring getting involved with unhealthy habits such as drugs, alcohol, and hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Worrying about our loved one show them that we care about them. Worrying about our health can motivate us to change our diet, hit the gym, and do regular check-ups. Worrying about an exam or a work presentation may indicate to us that we should do more preparation, research the subject more thoroughly, practice our pitch one more time.
How much worry is too much?
Like most things, worrying is all about balance. Worry too little and you put yourself in danger; worry too much and you may never leave your house again. When you feel trapped in your mind, with nowhere to go, having to deal with your fertile imagination and your anxiety as dreaded companions, you know you have crossed the line. Below are a few tips to help you manage worry when things get out of control.
Change the things that you can change and for the rest change your perspective
Identify what is within your control and what isn’t. For example, you can control how eye-catching your marketing ads are, but you can’t control whether people will buy your product, and that’s the way it is. If it’s within your control, tackle the problem. If it’s out of your control, focus on changing your perspective. Remind yourself you can change your thoughts and perspectives on things, you can change the meaning you attach to specific events, your conclusions, and expectations. Much of our disappointment, hurt, sadness, anger, etc, that we experience is a result of unmet expectations. So, if we change our expectations, we will be able to dramatically decrease the negative feelings that result from experiencing unmet expectations. I know, it’s easier said than done, but have a go at it anyway and see if it helps.
Don’t worry, accept that life Is uncertain
Accepting a situation does not mean that you have to like it, rather it means that you stop fighting it. And that releases you from the suffering. Instead of focusing on how you would like something to be different, recognize and accept the problem or situation as it is. Remember, accepting is not the same as liking or condoning something. Learning to accept the problems that are out of your control will lead to less anxiety, anger, and sadness when dealing with them.
Regularly moving your body is not only good for your body, but it also helps you improve your mood and it actually gives you something to do and someplace to go. Taking a walk when feeling overwhelmed can help reset your mood, give you a sense of control, and get you back on the right track. Listen to your favorite tracks whilst walking and your worry will be silenced by the sound of music. So, don’t worry, it’s OK to worry; if you do it in small doses.
Meditate and practice gratitude
Being thankful for the things that are going well in your life can help you put things into perspective and will make you less anxious. Practicing gratitude regularly can help you feel more in control of your life and the things that you can’t control will begin feeling less overwhelming. Stay still for a minute or two, reflect, and meditate. So, don’t worry, it’s OK to worry if you do it in small doses.
Talk to the Sun, the Moon, the Rain, and the Breeze.
Ask the Sun to bring you new energy by day.
Ask the Moon to restore you by night.
Ask the Rain to wash away your worries.
Ask the Breeze to blow new strength into your being.
If you do this, you will be able to forget all your worries
I am feeling blessed to have been interviewed by World Class Performer who have been featuring since 2017 stories, tactics and practical advice from authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, investors sharing their short profiles to help their audience answer life’s most challenging questions, achieve extraordinary results and transform life.
Or you can read the transcript of my interview with World Class Performer below.
Joanne Reed is the author of This Is Your Quest – Your Mission: To Experience Happiness Along the Way. She has not made it yet to the New York Times Bestseller list and is wondering why she is being featured here, but as a storyteller, she has a lot to say. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves, and about others. She discovered the art of blogging a year ago and writes about anything that nourishes and educates the mind with a zest of philosophy, plenty of good vibes, and this little je ne sais quoi.
Can you tell the audience of World Class Performer where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I was born and raised on a French Island in the Indian Ocean called Réunion. It is like the French version of Hawaii. Life on the island was good and I was truly fortunate to have been born and raised in a loving family environment surrounded by my parents, my sister, lots of uncles and aunties, and tons of cousins with the beach on one side and the mountain on the other side. Those early years taught me two things: 1) family is everything and 2) immerse yourself in nature whenever you can.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Most people play the same game i.e., Follow the Follower. Instead of following everyone else and instead of competing with everyone else: Pause – Create – Innovate.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
You often hear that your work will speak for itself and the only thing you have to do is write a great book and the rest will follow. That is a myth. Writing a great book is not enough. If you don’t put yourself out there, your work will stay in semi-obscurity. It takes great energy and effort for new authors to get visibility. New authors should be relentless in their Quest to make their work visible and accessible to a larger audience. The most surprising thing I learned about writing is that your book is not finished until it has been read.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Dark periods for me equates to periods of time throughout various stages of my life where I felt out of place, lacking confidence in my ability, not having any clarity, living in a state of anxiety, and worrying about the future. Reading self-help books helped me get out of these periods and those books made me a little bit smarter and wiser.
There are two ways to learn valuable life lessons. The first method is through trial, errors, and personal experience and the second method is through books. The downside of the first method is that it will no doubt bring you a fair amount of pain and suffering, which is something that we all want to avoid as much as possible. Learning life lessons through someone else’s struggle and the ordeal is a much less painful way to go about it whilst still bringing the same benefits. Words have tremendous power and energy. Well-chosen words can breathe hope into you when your spirit is broken and can make you stronger than you know.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
It depends on how you define success. It is such a fluid concept. Success means different things to different people. If success means signing a publishing contract with a publisher, I tick that box and the biggest contributor to my success would be the fact that I wrote a book that is unique. The book is written from the perspective of the reader. I act as a tour guide and take my readers with me on an epic journey through time, traveling around the world, and learning valuable lessons from my favorite authors and philosophers along the way. The whole idea of the book is to guide my readers in their Quest to find their own definition of happiness and find their own path. I couldn’t find anywhere a book that dealt with all the subjects I was interested in (i.e., money, love, and health), a book that inspired me but challenged me all the same, a book that could act as a compass when I was feeling lost, a book that could educate, heal and illuminate the mind. So, I decided that I should write such a book myself.
If you define success by being on the New York Times Bestselling list, I don’t tick that box yet! I am Work-In-Progress. I see myself more like a marathon runner and not a sprinter. Let’s do this interview again in a couple of years, shall we?
What is your morning routine?
If I had to write a book to describe my morning routine, the title would be the ‘Art of wearing different hats’.
5:30 am: wake-up and make coffee, dress-up in sports gear and put my baseball hat on ready to take my dog Louis out for a quick toilet-stroll round the block; show-up at my desk for an early morning writing session wearing my favorite author’s hat, blissfully aware about how precious this alone time is.
8:00 am: Cook healthy/high protein English breakfast whilst doing the best I can to resist eating too much carb/bread.
9:00 am: show up to my Muay Thai class wearing my protective fighter hat for some high-intensity hand-to-hand combat activity where I am practicing some kick-ass moves that make me feel like Wonder Woman.
10 am: Return home for a shower. Put author’s hat back on to do more writing till the time comes for me to swap my author’s hat with my domestic goddess hat, ready to prepare lunch, and do whatever domestic goddesses do nowadays. Wear my chauffeur’s hat a few times during the day to take my youngest daughter to places.
The rest of the day continues with me having to swap hats all the time and attend to whatever requires my undivided attention.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I am curious about the world, about people, I am awake and aware of what’s happening, I read, I listen, I connect the dots, I pause, stay still, reflect and meditate, and when all of this is done, I have the urge to put my thoughts on paper and I write. I like to describe myself as an artist because it is more fluid and more suited to my current state of mind. Charles Bukowski says it best “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way”.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Have lots of different hats to wear for different occasions.
Wake-up, dress up, show up and do the best I can till I know better and when I know better I do better.
Last and not least have a sense of adventure, be an explorer. Explorers are a special type of human beings. They have physical endurance, mental toughness, abundant determination, and willpower, a deep feeling of purpose, they have faith in their pursuit and live every day with the conviction of their Quest!
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because it summarizes very well everything important you need to know to survive in this world. Mainly that a person’s only real obligation is to realize one’s Personal Legend because if you do this with courage, authenticity, and integrity everything else will fall into place. Realizing your own Personal Legend is not a selfish, ego-centric purpose that only benefits you because as Christian D Larson says, “what’s the world needs is people who can do things that are thoroughly worthwhile; people who can think great thoughts and transform such thoughts into great deeds”.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often that you would like to share with the audience of World Class Performer?
I live by and think often of one particular quote by Maya Angelou: “Wake-up, dress-up, show-up every day, and do the best you can until you know better, and when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou was such a phenomenal woman; her life was a succession of epic adventures. I named my eldest daughter after her.
There are a lot of things you hear about money: The Love of Money is the root of all evil. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Money can’t buy happiness. Nowadays there is a huge divide between the 1% of the population who holds in their hands the vast majority of the world’s wealth, leaving the 99% trying to pick over the remainders. Money is what makes people worry the most and makes them the happiest and the unhappiest.
The true fact of all money matters remains a secret for the majority of people. In this article, I will unveil the hidden secrets of money. [Hint, the current debt-based-fiat-money system was born in secrecy following a meeting of some of the most influential people of the time gathered on Jekyll Island]. I will also explain what money is and where it is coming from. [Hint: ‘money’ is created out of thin air and is just a piece of paper with no intrinsic value.] And finally, I will take you on an epic journey through history, right from the start where I will tell you the story of the Scotsman who is responsible for all of your money worries. Fasten your seat belt, it is going to be a hell of a ride.
Hidden Secrets of Money
There is a difference between money and currency, most people would not know what is the key factor that distinguishes one from the other. The best person to explain the difference is Mike Maloney, who is the creator of the series Hidden Secrets of Money; he made it his mission in life to see through all the smoke and mirrors that surrounds money matters. As the title of his series suggests, the true facts of all money matters remain a secret for the majority of people.
“Our true wealth is our time and freedom. Money is just a tool for trading your time. It is a container to store your economic energy until you are ready to deploy it. The secrets of money are hidden in plain sights, they are out in the open like the way the monetary system works, but most people can’t really see or understand how it really works; the use of technical jargon makes it very opaque and inaccessible to the uninitiated. The secret remains a secret because of a lack of proficiency for the majority of people. Other secrets are meant to be just that, secrets! But the truth is finally coming out, such as the fact that the Federal Reserve is a private corporation and not part of the US Government.” Mike Maloney
G. Edward Griffin the author of The Creature of Jekyll Island explains in his book the origin of the Federal Reserve. He describes it as a creature.
“Most people think that the Federal Reserve is a Government Agency. It is not. It is a corporation. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 and operates like a banking cartel. It is a cartel of the biggest private banks in America. They are joined together for the purpose of what all cartels do and that is to control their own industry, prevent competition and make sure their profits margins are nice and secure.”
G. Edward Griffin
What is money?
But what is money? Money and currency are two different things. Currency is a medium of exchange, a unit of account that it (i) portable, (ii) durable, (iii) divisible and (iv) fungible mutually interchangeable – a dollar in your pocket buys the same amount as a dollar in my pocket. Money is all of the above plus (v) a store of value over a long period of time. The currency in your pocket is a medium of exchange. It is a unit of account because there are numbers on it. It is somewhat durable. It is portable. It is divisible and it is fungible, but it is not a real store of value because governments can print more and more of it, devaluing and diluting the currency supply, continually transferring wealth out of your pocket into the banking system.
Paper currencies have no intrinsic value and are used solely as a means of payment. When you board a plane to go on vacation overseas one of the things you are likely to bring with you is some foreign currency because as soon as you cross the border, the currency of your home country stops being useful. The same principle applies when you return home with left-over foreign currency; unless you change that currency, it will remain in your wallet with no value in the country you live in. Ultimately, currencies are just pieces of paper, with no intrinsic value.The dollar has lost 98% of its value since its creation by the Federal Reserve in 1913. All money created is debt and there are interest payments on it. There is always more debt in the system than there is currency in existence to pay the debt. The whole currency system is a debt-based system.
How money comes into existence?
‘Money’ is created out of thin air just by the fact that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve are swapping IOUs (“I Owe You”) with the bank as the middleman. This process is repeated over and over again enriching the banks (who systematically take a cut from each transaction) and increasing the national debt (the US National Debt stands at $23.3 trillion at the time of writing). The Treasury deposits the newly created currency into the various branches of government and gives it to politicians to fulfil their promises. The government then does some deficit spending on public works, social programs and war. Government employees, soldiers, contractors deposit their money in banks for safe keeping.
This is where the money creation process starts cranking up through a system known as Fractional Reserve Banking, which is a banking system in which only a fraction of bank deposits (i.e., 10%) are backed by actual cash on hand or money available for withdrawal. Banks are free to loan the greater part of their deposits (i.e., 90%) to customers seeking loans or debts. For example, if you deposit $100,000 in the bank and the bank has a reserve requirement of 10%, the bank must keep $10,000 of your money on reserve and can lend $90,000 to other customers. In essence, the bank has taken $100,000 and has turned it into $190,000 by giving you $100,000 credit on your deposits and by lending an additional $90,000 to someone else. This process continues to repeat itself over and over again with the next customer. This is where the vast majority of our currency supply comes from.
In essence, the commercial banks are creating money out of nothing then lending it to the people and charging interest on it. If individual persons decide to manufacture money in their own home, this is called counterfeiting. If an accountant creates money out of nothing in the company accounts, it is called accounting fraud or cooking the books, but if a bank does it, it is perfectly legal. It is absurd. But that it was it is.
The Founding Fathers of the Unites States knew the danger of central banking and a Debt Based Monetary System and this is why they wrote very clearly in the Constitution that only gold and silver can be money; but we have seen throughout history that what’s written on paper and what’s happening in real life is two different things. The American Revolutionary war itself started out as a tax revolt and to protect future generations from institutional theft and an out-of-control government the United States Constitution stated:
“No state shall make anything but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts”.
Only gold and silver can be money for the simple fact that you can’t print them into oblivion.
“The current system in the US is not only unconstitutional but it robs every American of the Liberty and Prosperity that the Founding Fathers fought and died for. By this means, Government may secretly and unobserved, confiscate the wealth of the people, and not one man in a million will detect the theft.”
John Maynard Keynes
This sentiment was reiterated by Sir Josiah Stamp, Former Director of the Bank of England when he said
“The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleigh of hand that was ever invented. Banking was conceived in iniquity and born in sin. Bankers own the earth. Take it away from them but leave then the power to create money and control credit, and with a flick of a pen, they will create enough money to buy it back again… but if you want to continue as slaves to the bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money and to control credit”.
Sir Josiah Stamp
To understand more about money, look back at history
In 1944, near the end of the Second World War, world leaders and economists met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire USA, to form a new world monetary system for the post war era, ‘The Bretton Woods System’. Within the Bretton Woods Agreement the US dollar became the reserve currency of the world, promising nations that they could redeem any dollars they had for gold. The dollar’s value at the time was fixed to a gold standard, other countries currency valuations were fixed to the dollar. This system favored the United States because the US could settle its foreign payments in paper dollars, allowing the US to simply print dollars to send overseas, whereas other nations had to settle their foreign payments in gold.
President Charles de Gaulle of France called this payment system America’s exorbitant privilege. The closing of the gold window by Nixon was triggered by the decision of De Gaulle to send a warship to New York harbor with instructions to bring back all of France’s gold from the New York Federal Reserve Bank. On 15 August 1971, President Nixon repriced the dollar/gold relationship to $35 per ounce and no longer allowed the Federal Reserve to redeem dollars with gold, making the gold standard meaningless. This date is a very significant date in the history of global finance as it marked the beginning of the era of fiat money.Fiat Money is currency that a government has declared to be legal tender, but it is not backed by a physical commodity. Fiat currency is created out of thin air and is based on faith and credit in the economy backed solely by public confidence.
If you want an Empire, first create paper money
The story as to how modern-day banking was created is fascinating in its Machiavellian brilliance. As Robert Darryl Schoon explains in his video series Dollar and Sense, banking started in England in 1694 and the key character in this Shakespearean tragedy was a Scotsman by the name of William Patterson. Patterson approached the King of England, King William III, with a proposition: “If you let me issue paper money from my new bank (The Bank of England) alongside the Gold and Silver coins that are used as money; I will pay off all your war debts and loan you as much money as you need so that you can go to war again”.
King William III as the reigning monarch of the time had absolute power over the land and over its subjects but was running short of money. Why? Because like most kings he was constantly waging war. So, when William Patterson approached the King with this deal at a time when the king was heavily indebted, he could not and did not refuse. Unknown to the king, his acceptance of that deal would change the world forever.The role that paper-money has played in the shaping of history cannot be underestimated.
At the end of the 19th century, Britain’s position as the world’s greatest imperialistic power was uncontested; the expression the sun never sets on the British Empire means literally that there was always some part of the Empire on which the sun was shining.Have you ever wondered how and why England, a relatively small island in the English Channel managed to propel herself to be one of the greatest Empires of all time? The key ingredient for this phenomenal success was paper money. England was the first country to develop a modern financial and banking system. Bankers loaned fiat-money to traders, ship owners, and government officials. The formation of the Bank of England was the determining factor that allowed the British to borrow ‘money’ to build a huge navy, overtaking countries such as Spain and Portugal who had exercised maritime dominance from the 15th century onwards.
The availability of finance allowed England’s navy capability and military resources to be built up enabling the English explorers and traders to explore, trade, and establish commercial trading posts all over the world. The British Navy owned the seas. These days fiat money is used to indebt and enslave the population. Bankers first made a deal with King William III, then they made a deal with the United States (which coincided with the creation of the Federal Reserve) and later with every government on the face of the earth (except for Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, the only countries in the world without a Central Bank.)
The whole world has become indebted because governments gave the power to the bankers to do just that. How are these debts paid off? Through income tax. The American Congress passed an act to legalize federal income tax imposing a flat rate to be imposed on each individual; this new law was enacted in 1913, the same year the Federal Reserve was created. Do you think this was a coincidence?
Quick stop-over in China
It is worth noting that the Chinese were the first to create paper money around the year 1000 AD. During that time money was in the form of gold and silver coins, but most cash coins were made from copper or bronze alloys. In the province of Sichuan, there was a shortage of copper, so, some inventive men came up with the idea of minting iron coins instead of copper. Iron was worth less than copper, but the idea was to mint more of it to make up the difference. The problem with this solution was that a large amount of iron coinage was required to purchase items that were both very heavy and hugely inconvenient to carry around.
To resolve this problem people started to leave their coins on deposit at money shops; money shops kept coins safe in their store and issued the owner with a receipt, which was then used to purchase food or other items. That receipt, or piece of paper, represented the exact amount of iron that a person had on deposit at the money shop. This system worked well; until the people at the money shop realized that their receipt was as good as money. The money shops started printing more of these receipts than they had coins in deposit and fairly soon, prices started going up, things got out of control and economic chaos followed putting the local government in a state of crisis.
In 1022, the Sichuan Provincial Government had to be rescued, or bailed-out, by the Central Chinese Government.Central Government officials came to Sichuan Province to assess the situation and report back; the officials shut everything down but realized that this paper money system was a very clever idea. Two years after the incident in Sichuan the Chinese Government themselves adopted a paper money system but declared that only the Central Government could issue these bank notes. The Chinese Government propaganda machine worked to convince people that the paper money was intrinsically as good as the copper deposited, but the truth of the matter was that the Government issued a significantly higher value of paper money than there was copper stored.
What is freedom? Freedom is about having choices. The more choices you have the more freedom you have and vice versa. In our society money is a conduit that facilitates choices. The 1% control the 99% of the population by keeping a firm grip on money creation and money distribution.
For the 1%, money is power. For the 99% knowledge is power. Know how the system works and you will become powerful.
For a more detailed analysis of this fascinating subject please refer to Chapters 8 & 9 of my book “This Is Your Quest’.
The Reddit, Robinhood, and Citadel saga is front page news; the name of the game is short selling. All those players are currently engaged in a modern-day version of the David and Goliath battle where the small guy is beating up the big guy at their own game.
This whole Reddit, Robinhood, Citadel saga gave me a good excuse to have a movie night at home with my youngest daughter to watch the 2010 Robin Hood movie directed by Sir Ridley Scott with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles. We enjoyed it, great cinematography, great cast, and a really good storyline. The movie tells the background story of Robin Hood and how he came to be an outlaw. In this article, I am taking you on an epic adventure traveling back in time with Robin Hood as our traveling companion and hero. At the end of this journey, we will circle back to the modern-day Reddit, Robinhood, and Citadel saga, where the name of the game is short selling.
Robin Hood. Rise and Rise Again Until the Lambs Become Lions
The movie starts with an epic battle taking place in France between the army of Richard the Lionheart who is on a full siege and assault mode on the Challus castle; the idea was to break through the castle’s fortress and ransack the place to finance the final leg of the journey home to England. Robin Longstride serves as a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart, at this point in time he was quite disillusioned and war-weary. He got himself and his comrades into trouble after sharing his frank and unflattering appraisal of the King’s conduct when the king asked for his opinion. This led Robin and his comrades to be tied-up for insubordination, waiting to hear about their fate whilst the rest of the army mounts their final assault on the castle.
The King is killed during the attack; this gave Robin and his comrades the opportunity to escape, they became deserters and persona non-grata but they were alive and free. From that point in time, their quest was to make it safely back home to England. They came across an ambush of the English by Godfrey the traitor, an English Knight who was conspiring with King Philip of France to assassinate King Richard. After chasing Godfrey away, Robin decides to take advantage of the situation by having his men impersonate the dead English knights in order to return to England as wealthy noblemen instead of penniless deserters. Before they depart to sail across the Channel, Robin promised to fulfill one of the dying knights, Sir Robert Loxley’s last wish, of returning his sword to his father in Nottingham.
Robin was fascinated with the words engraved on the sword’s blade
“Rise and rise again, until the lambs become lions.”
The Legend of Robin Hood and the Charter of Rights also known as the Magna Carta
Upon his arrival in the Thames estuary, Robin continued to assume the identity of Sir Loxley as it fell upon him to inform the royal family of King Richard’s death. He witnessed the coronation of King John who was as ambitious as he was clueless, and who lost no time making himself extremely unpopular by raising taxes on the poor and by dismissing the loyal and experienced chancellor from his function to replace him with his friend Godfrey, who turned out to be a ruthless traitor who was plotting with the French King to invade England.
Robin and his companions traveled to Nottingham to hand over Loxley’s sword to his elderly and blind father. Sir Walter asked Robin to continue impersonating his son to prevent the Crown from seizing the Loxley family lands. Loxley’s widow, Lady Marian, is initially cold toward Robin but eventually warms up to his charisma, quiet assertive strength, courage, and devotion towards the people and the land.
The plot by Godfrey to help the French invade England is discovered and triggered the northern barons to assemble in the presence of King John to discuss a strategy to fight the invaders. Attending and speaking on behalf of Sir Walter, Robin declared that he would not fight under King John’s command unless the King agrees to the Charter of Rights granting more rights and protection to the barons such as the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown. In those days, kings believed they were divinely appointed, and this gave them a license to use and abuse anyone and anything that suited their wants or needs. Being under the threat of civil war on the domestic front and having to deal with an imminent foreign invasion on its shores King John reluctantly agreed and signed (on 12 June 1215) the Charter of Rights also known as the Magna Carta.
The battle between the now united English troops and the French took place on a beach below the cliffs of Dover. Robin led his troops to victory and distinguished himself during the battle saving in the process Lady Marian’s life from Godfrey’s evil intent and stopping Godfrey dead in its track when he was shamefully fleeing the battle scene. King Philip soon realized that his ‘surprise’ attack failed and sailed back to France feeling utterly defeated. The English troops rejoiced in their victory over the French and celebrated Robin Hood for his courage and leadership during the battle. King John was offended by the lack of recognition and validation he received from his troops and became resentful of the genuine and loving attention ‘his’ people gave to Robin Hood, something he never experienced first hand. He decided from that point on to compensate for his flagrant lack of authority and popularity by abusing his ‘flaky-God-given-power’.
Back in London, King John decides to renegade on his promise to implement the Charter of Rights deciding instead to reassert the fact that he was divinely appointed and would not on this basis agree to have his power curtailed. He declares Robin an outlaw to be hunted throughout the kingdom. Robin and his men flee to Sherwood Forest with the orphans of Nottingham.
And so, begins the legend of Robin Hood the one that steals from the rich to give to the poor
The Reddit, Robinhood, and Citadel Saga. The Name of the Game is Short Selling
Fast forward to today and the news about GameStop,Robinhood App, and the Citadel Hedge fund. It all started with a Reddit Chat Group called Wall Street Bets who has more than 2 million subscribers. This group noticed that a lot of the big hedge funds had very heavy short positions on GameStop, as a matter of fact, 140% of the stocks were short! [Feel free to be shocked]
Disclaimer. Before I continue with this article please note that I am not a financial advisor, banker, or any kind of financially qualified person; the rest of this article should not be taken as financial advice.
Question: Can you sell something that you don’t own? Answer: in the real world the answer is no, but in the world of finance the answer is yes you can. That is what short selling is; it is the ability to borrow a stock that you don’t own in order to sell it back at a profit later on hoping in the meantime that the stock price has tanked, allowing you to buy it back at a price that is lower than the price you paid to borrow the stock. Once you have pocketed your profit you return the stock to the owner. Sounds fishy?! Absolutely, except that in the financial world you are allowed to do that.
When you have a short position, you are betting on the company to fail. The big wall street players have been playing this game very successfully for years until a few weeks ago when they got a taste of their own medicine. That medicine was administered by a bunch of amateur investors who got together on the Reddit chat group where they agreed to buy en masse shares of GameStop forcing the price to go up. The increase in prices forced the big guys to buy back their short positions at a much higher price than they paid which cost them billions of dollars in losses. The price of GameStop skyrocketed to the moon, making millions of dollars of profit to the small guys! At its lowest GameStop’s share price was $2.50 and at its highest, it went over $350.
The big guys on wall street were stunt, they had no idea that a bunch of ordinary people could get together, get into the stock market arena, call them out on their short positions, and play quite successfully the same game that was reserved till now to the big guys!
When the going gets tough change the rules of the game!
The story should have ended there with winners on one side (the small guy for once) and losers (the big guys) on the other side licking their wounds. Except that when the going gets tough for the big guys they change the rules!
The plan worked extremely well for the little guy until the big guys started to freak out. One Hedge fund company called Melvin Capital lost 30% of its money and was on the verge of bankruptcy; this triggered two playersCitadeland Robinhood App to come into the arena to ‘rebalance’ the game.
Citadel is another hedge fund company, they came to the rescue and bailed out Melvin Capital from Bankruptcy. Robinhood is an App where you can trade stocks for free, [attention, attention, alarm bells ringing, there is no free lunch anywhere. Right?! So, how does Robinhood LLC make their money if all their customers can trade for free?! There must be a catch somewhere]. To everyone surprise and shock, Robinhood stopped trading stocks of GameStop to try to stem the bleeding and protect the big hedge funds from incurring further losses. Robinhood market themselves as being an App for the people, they push forward the message that through their App ordinary people can get on their phones, participate in the stock market and make money. Shutting down trading because they didn’t like what was happening to these Hedge funds with short positions seemed like the exact opposite of what those Apps were supposed to be doing, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. It is interesting to note that a ‘citadel’ is defined as a fortress where people could shelter for safety. It looks to me that Citadel is acting as a fortress to protect its own i.e., the big guy.
What is interesting about Robinhood is that they make their money through Citadel by selling them user data. Citadel pays Robinhood money for real-time information on what Robinhood’s users are buying and selling. Remember my point earlier about there is no free lunch, there must be a catch somewhere. [Feel free to feel shocked and outraged]
People should not underestimate the importance of this event, because it is without the shadow of a doubt a populist revolution aimed at the financial industry. The little guy is saying, “The system is rigged. We can play that game too. We want a piece of the pie.” This event has caused an onslaught of reaction, on one side you have those cheering and applauding the small guy and on the other side, you have the big guys going on TV and crying foul! The double standard is quite outrageous. It is classy to game the stock market if you are wealthy but if you are a regular Joe and you game the stock market you are trashy.
After enduring a beating across social media, Robinhood took to its own blog on 28 January, and CEO’s Twitter account to explain why it had halted trading of some of the stocks.
“Amid this week’s extraordinary circumstances in the market, we made a tough decision today to temporarily limit buying for certain securities. As a brokerage firm, we have many financial requirements, including SEC net capital obligations and clearinghouse deposits. Some of these requirements fluctuate based on volatility in the markets and can be substantial in the current environment. These requirements exist to protect investors and the markets and we take our responsibilities to comply with them seriously, including through the measures we have taken today.” Robinhood CEO
SEC net capital obligations and clearinghouse deposits are rules about how much money brokerage have to have on hand to ensure that they are essentially good for the transactions their consumers want to make. In order to be in compliance, a brokerage must have sufficient net capital at all times prior to, during, and after purchasing or selling property securities to protect its customers and fulfill its obligations; it must have cash flow.
Robinhood’s explanation for suspending trading and putting a limit buying of some of their stocks is that it was to comply with their regulatory obligations; in other words, it was a risk management issue. My question is: how often does a brokerage house have to suspend trading in order to comply with its basic regulatory obligations? Can we reasonably infer that it was the broker’s own conduct and operation that made their exposure so risky that they put their customers and their own operation at risk, so much so that they had to halt trading?
The Reddit, Robinhood, and Citadel Saga. Class Action v Robinhood, the battle is now happening in Courts
A class-action lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York by Brendon Nelson, Plaintiff Class Action against Robinhood Financial LLC, Robinhood Securities LLC, Robinhood Market Inc. Plaintiff demands trial by jury.[Feel free to clap and cheer, if you so wish].
Nature of the legal action:
1. Breach of contract. Robinhood an online brokerage firm purposefully, willfully, and knowingly removed the stock GameStop from its trading platform in the midst of an unprecedented stock price, thereby depriving retail investors of the ability to invest in the open market. Robinhood breached its customer agreement by among other things failing to disclose that its platform was going to randomly pull a profitable stock from its platform. Robinhood failed to provide adequate explanations to their customers and knowingly put them at a disadvantage compared to customers who used other trading platforms.
2. Breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Robinhood failed to exercise trades and actions requested by their customers and was therefore in breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Robinhood unfairly interfered with the rights of plaintiffs and members of the class to receive the benefits of the customer agreement.
3.Negligence. Robinhood was grossly negligent and wrongfully breached his fiduciary duty to the plaintiff and the members of the class causing losses and damages that would not have occurred but for Robinhood’s gross breach of duty of care.
And so, begins the legend of Reddit and the small investor.
This article is about online university for international student, what it’s like and how to do well. My eldest daughter Maya is in her first year of college studying Bio -Med at the University of Calgary, Canada; but because of Covid she had to start her university life from the comfort of her bedroom confined to the family home for some extra time. Maya volunteered to write an article to share her experience and give some tips to fellow students; she hopes those tips could be useful to those facing the same struggles that she faced when studying online. So I will let Maya take over from here.
Last year I started my first year of college at the University of Calgary in Canada. However, in the spirit of 2020 being a strange and totally insane year, all of my classes were online and, since I live in Korea, I was working on a 14 hour time difference.
In all honesty, things were pretty awful. Hopefully, the world doesn’t reach a state where students will have to go through this ever again, but while we’re here, I figured I would share my experience, what I learned, and my tips for anyone just starting; but god forbid that this kind of information will be necessary in the future.
Online University, the hardest parts/things to look out for
Any year of university is going to involve late nights and irregular sleeping patterns, but working on a time difference made this so much more pronounced. I went into it thinking it would be as simple as working through the night and sleeping through the day, but that definitely wasn’t the case. Some days I would sleep right after my classes finished in the morning, others I would get to work after my classes finished and ended up sleeping late in the afternoon, and many days I had to resort to 2-3 hour naps wherever I could squeeze them in. I tried to create a regular sleeping habit, but things just never worked out that way, and deciding when exactly I would be sleeping became one of the most challenging parts of the whole ordeal.
An unexpected side effect of my irregular sleep patterns was the amount of time I slept. I’m not someone who has struggled with sleeping in the past, but during the semester and even for a week or so afterward, my body physically would not sleep for more than 5 hours. This was my personal response to the ever-changing sleeping patterns and someone else is likely to have different responses based on their own time difference, but it’s important to keep in mind that figuring out when to sleep will probably not be as simple as you originally make it out to be.
With all the sleeping struggles I’ve just mentioned, you’d probably think that I felt awful most of the time. Strangely, I actually didn’t feel incredibly sleep-deprived or sluggish most of the time I was in classes or doing homework assignments. There were definitely days where I did, but I actually went around telling people that the sleeping arrangements and effects weren’t as bad as I was expecting. However, upon reflection and a few bad grades, I realized that sleep deprivation and irregularities did actually have an effect on my ability to focus and do my work. It’s very common knowledge that sleep deprivation will decrease performance in almost anything, and I certainly found myself making mistakes that I don’t think I would be making if I had a more regular sleeping pattern.
Something else you might need to be prepared for is how the weekends work. My sleep schedule also made weekends complicated; all throughout the week I would be sleeping sporadically through the day and working through the night and basically operating on Canadian time. However, if I wanted to do anything with family or friends on the weekend, I would have to switch my sleep schedule back to Korean time so I could do things during the day. My options were basically to be tired most of the weekend or opt to recover and not see anyone.
Online university struggles: distraction, concentration, and sitting too long
While my time difference circumstance is one that may only be applicable to a small population, the struggles of working and learning online are ones that an entire generation of students and even workers can relate to.
I found that distraction became one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome. Listening to a lecture over a zoom call from your bedroom just doesn’t compare to the environment of a classroom or workplace, and that definitely hindered my ability to focus. Regularly, and without even realizing, I would find myself picking up my phone, scrolling through other tabs, playing with my cat, fiddling with the things on my desk, or just zoning out.
Those bad habits may all sound like they’re just that: bad habits that I or you need to work to control, and although this is partly true, it’s unfair to put all the blame on oneself. Bedrooms are spaces of comfort that we strongly associate with relaxation, and suddenly having to shift that association to include learning new, complex material that we would usually hear in a classroom as well as working is bound to and does introduce difficulties.
Something else that is likely to affect your ability to concentrate is the amount of time you spend sitting in one place. Since all of my classes were online, I would end up sitting in my chair for hours and hours at a time, and after a couple of hours I would inevitably start to lose focus. A typical day in-person university would have you leaving your dorm to eat, move between classes, and more, and the difference between your typical day in online school is jarring.
Quite honestly, some of these struggles might not sound “legitimate” enough to complain about, and when they start to hinder your academic performance it’s easy to blame yourself and start to feel insecure about your academic ability or intelligence. However, as small or trivial as some of them might sound, they are valid struggles people have to deal with and it’s important to recognize them as such so they can be combated.
Online University, some of the good things
Despite all the challenges I’ve described, there are still some benefits to online school (even with a time difference) that students have to look forward to.
With my particular time difference (14 hours ahead), there was the illusion that I had an extra day to do things. For example, something due at midnight on a Monday in Calgary would be due at 4 pm on Tuesday for me. Of course, I actually had the same amount of time to complete work as everyone else did, but it felt like I had an extra day of work time and that made things just a bit more bearable. My weekends also felt longer since I would go through all my classes early Saturday morning, have time to do something that day after classes, and wouldn’t start classes again until Monday night, technically giving me a 3 day weekend every week.
Another benefit was the accommodations teachers made for the courses. Many of my assessments were made open-book, I was given a lot more time to complete tests, and a couple of my classes dropped grades they didn’t usually drop to help boost the class’ overall grades.
The most significant perk I saw was students being able to ask questions comfortably. I haven’t been to a large in-person university class, but I’m sure that people aren’t jumping up and down to ask their professor a question in front of everyone. However, over Zoom, students are much more eager and willing to ask questions, whether it was over the chat or speaking over the microphones. It’s simply much less anxiety-inducing to unmute yourself over a call where you can’t even see your classmates compared to speaking up in a quiet class of 200, and this was genuinely helpful. Students, myself included, were able to ask quick clarification questions that would probably not be asked in live lectures as well as feel more comfortable speaking up in the first place.
The benefits you might experience will be different depending on your time zone and professors, but there will surely be at least one aspect of online school that acts as a perk. I also know a good handful of people who found online school better than traditional schooling, citing the convenience of not having to commute to classes, the benefit of academic accommodations, and more.
Online University. How to be successful (time difference or not)
Sleeping habits are different for everyone and the best sleep schedule for online school will depend on someone’s normal sleep patterns, the exact time difference, and more. My most applicable piece of advice for sleeping would be to invest in black-out curtains or a sleeping mask, because trying to sleep in the brightness of the day is not always easy.
I do, however, have tips for improving the other aspects of doing online school with a time difference.
Create a study space: If possible, having a room separate from your bedroom designated for studying, working, and attending class would be ideal. For most, this will not be the case, but it’s still worth setting up your study space as a study place. I tried to keep my desk clear, facing away from my bed, and free from distractions. Doing this, or anything similar, will help combat the relaxed associations you are bound to have with your bedroom and hopefully help you maintain concentration.
Do not, under any circumstance, try to study in/on your bed: The bed is tempting, but anyone who has tried this knows that as soon as you make the decision to move you and your books to the bed, you’ve already lost the battle. This tip goes hand in hand with creating a study space. Don’t mix your comfort and your studying.
Keep your phone in a different room or where you cannot see it when you’re working/attending lectures: This was a difficult habit to enforce on myself, but I noticed a significant difference in my ability to concentrate when my phone was out of sight or not in the room. Phones and all our social media apps are designed to grab and hold our attention, and they do it extremely well. The only way to stop yourself from getting distracted from notifications or succumbing to the lure of doing literally anything other than listening to your professor is to remove the threat altogether.
Triple check all your due dates and timestamps: Even though I tried to be very conscious of this, there were a number of times where I forgot to think about time differences and missed or had to rush something. It’s likely that the school platform you use doesn’t change their due dates to match time zones, so it’s up to you to figure out when you have to complete them by. There was an international student in one of my classes last semester that miscalculated when her exam was and was not able to make it up. Always check.
Write down everything: Having a planner was probably one of the best decisions I made for last semester. One thing many other students and I hate about online school is the feeling that assignments pop up out of nowhere with no warning. After a few panicked submissions and a missed test, I started each day by checking all of my courses for assignments and due dates and writing them down in my notebook adjusted to my time. It’s a tedious step, but will definitely save you a lot of headaches.
Take walks: I mentioned earlier that sitting in the same spot at my desk for hours and hours at a time became draining and hindered my concentration. You’d be surprised at how much moving around for a little will wake you up. It doesn’t even have to be a walk outside, you could just go to your living room for a while to stretch your legs. Getting your blood flowing for just a couple of minutes will genuinely help reset your mental state.
Make time for yourself and to see other people: Throughout the semester I got a bit lonely. I would often not see my family for very long since I was awake while they slept and vice versa, and with school and my sleeping patterns, it was basically impossible to see any friends during the week. There is already so much that is difficult about online university, and loneliness is not a struggle you want to add. Go see your friends. Take breaks. Don’t forget about your mental health.
Go easy on yourself: I know for a fact that a lot of people have found online school during these times challenging and have seen those difficulties manifest through less-than-satisfactory grad performance or just the feeling of being burnt out and exhausted. It’s too easy to be hard on yourself and say that you should have done better because exams are open-book, or whatever other reason but don’t feel bad in admitting that what you’re doing is hard. It’s completely okay for you to not perform as well as you might have wanted or to give yourself some leeway about what you need to complete. I dropped my physics class this semester that’s usually completed in the first year and is a re-req for my major. After I dropped it, my school started approving students to mark specific classes as pass or failed and omitted from GPA calculations. I will have to retake the class and it will count towards my GPA, but I’m glad I decided to drop because I was burning out, the time I spent trying to figure out what was happening in that class was affecting my other class grades, and I realized that, with everything going on, I deserved to catch a break.
My semester was rough, but I actually finished with pretty decent grades, and I would genuinely attribute my late success to those exact tips I have just gone through. As soon as I dropped my physics class I had the time to put much more effort into doing well in my other classes. I made sure to see my friends every weekend, eat with my family, write down all my due dates, and even managed to keep my phone out of my way for the last few weeks of the semester.
If you’re a student, I hope this has prepared you for what you might encounter. If you’re a parent, I hope this has shed some light on what my generation is dealing with.
In conclusion, let’s just hope and pray none of this ever has to happen again.
How to react to different types of criticism; the good, the bad and the downright ugly
There are different types of criticism, but all criticism hurts. It can hit you when you are at work, at home, or just happily checking social media. Criticism can provide helpful feedback, but it can also ruin your day and seriously shake your self-esteem. We all know what it is like to be criticized and have all succumbed to the temptation of lashing out to offer our unrestrained opinion about something someone did or didn’t do. Anytime someone is criticizing you, they are comparing you against some specific standards, whether it is their own or those of an organization such as a work environment highlighting your failure to reach those standards. There are different types of criticism, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Frequent and poorly delivered criticism is a breeder of conflict in personal and work relationships, and can trigger anger, resentment, withdrawal, stress and anxiety. Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain. Artists build and create something out of nothing. Critics destroy something to make it into nothingness. It is easier to be a critic than an artist; before you criticize someone’s work, try to be an artist first.
According to Aristotle, you can easily avoid criticism by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing, but this is not actually a viable option. Instead of hiding behind a rock to try to escape being criticized let’s come out in the open and see if we can learn and practice the art of criticizing with kindness, and also learn the art of knowing how to deal with critical people.
Different types of criticism; constructive, destructive and self-criticism
Constructive criticism is good criticism; it is healthy and is designed to point out your mistakes, but also show you where and how improvements can be made. If we don’t know what our weaknesses are, how will we ever grow or change? Constructive criticism should be viewed as useful feedback that can help you improve yourself rather than put you down. When criticism is constructive it is usually easier to accept, even if it still hurts a little. We all make mistakes; it is human nature. As we go through life, we have plenty of opportunities to learn and improve ourselves. We should try to take criticism on board to help us be a better person. Naysayers have a job to do, see them as a disguised team mate whose job is to help you grow and help you build a thicker skin. Both personal and professional success depend on being able to take criticism in your stride. The ability to hear and truly listen to people’s opinion, even when they are negative, improves relationships, academic performance and negotiating skills.
Destructive criticism on the other hand is unhealthy. It could be thoughtlessness by another person who skipped their emotional intelligence class at school, but it can also be deliberately malicious and hurtful. It aims to show that the person or object has no worth or validity. It is meant to tear you down. If you are finding yourself at the receiving end of some destructive criticism, I suggest that you give them the cold shoulder treatment and look at them with utter disdain, remembering they are not worthy of your attention.
It is worth noting that not all constructive criticism is delivered gently and not all destructive criticism is delivered harshly. There are times when people will lash at you with a seemingly mean comment or observation, but once you got over the initial shock and start thinking about it rationally you realize that they may have a point. Other times, you have people who are seemingly sweet and gentle who will fire an ‘innocent’ comment about your appearance on that particular day whilst flashing a bright smile, but all aimed at destroying your self-image and self-confidence. We have all seen the movie Mean Girls, right?!
Self-Criticism is that little voice inside your head that keep repeating to you that you are not good enough, you never going to be able to do this and that, filling you with self-doubt and a toxic attitude. Self-critical individuals experience feelings of unworthiness, inferiority, failure, and guilt. However, self-criticism is different from self-reflection and self-evaluation.
The capacity for self-reflection is a key quality of being human. Self-reflection can be helpful when it involves an objective evaluation of ourselves, our thinking, feeling and behavior. It can beneficially support our wisdom in a variety of ways. Self-reflection helps us connect with ourselves and notice negative patterns in our life, it helps us process complex emotions, identify values and support decision-making. Constructive self-evaluation offers us information about what went wrong and what we might do differently the next time. By contrast, self-criticism involves a knee-jerk reflection that is demeaning, devaluing and destructive.
The antidote for self-criticism is self-compassion, self-soothing and learning ways to calm our bodies and our emotions. Self-compassion provides us with increased acceptance of who we are as whole, our strengths but also our weaknesses, flaws and mistakes.
How to criticize with kindness
In a working environment learning to criticize with kindness can save you the unpleasantness of an expensive lawsuit from employees. Ellen DeGeneres is currently experiencing this unpleasantness as it recently came to light that Warner Media is investigating the Ellen DeGeneres Show following a series of allegations of racism, workplace intimidation, and other mistreatment made by employees who complained about the toxic work culture.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear people complaining about their boss and confiding in friends and family how much they hate their boss. Why is this such a common occurrence? Probably because the boss has also skipped the emotional intelligence class when they were at school and picked up a ‘not-so-nice-attitude’ that continued all the way up the corporate ladder. Being at the head of an organization, being successful, rich and famous does not give you a free pass for being an asshole (please excuse my French), but I couldn’t find any better word to illustrate my point. I have no insight into the Ellen DeGeneres saga, I have no way of knowing that she is indeed a horrible boss, but a lot of people already came forward to express such feeling. Whatever the situation, maybe this internal investigation wouldn’t have seen the light of day if Ellen knew and practiced the art of criticizing with kindness and her staff knew and practiced the art of dealing with critical people. Now that the cat is out of the bag it is going to be difficult to bring it back home.
In a personal environment, criticism can be the one thing that can damage and break a marriage. Dr John Gottman, the renowned American psychologist and researcher who has done extensive work over the past four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability, argues that there are four main relationship killers: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. He calls them The four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first horseman is notably Criticism. When you harshly, unfairly, and unkindly criticize your partner, you run the risk of suggesting that your partner’s personality is defective and unworthy. Submitting your partner to a regular flow of criticism will definitely hurt your partner’s feelings and will generate a lot of anger, resentment and toxicity within the relationship. So, if you have some criticism you would like to share with your partner best to do it with humor and compassion and in a constructive and sensitive manner.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
– Frank A. Clark
I hope this article has helped you understand the different types of criticism and convinced you of the benefits of learning to criticize with kindness. Whether you are at work or within the comfort of your own home and are controlling your own urge to lash out at someone, you can’t control the fact that someone else may not have the same restraint towards you. You may find yourself at the receiving end of some hurtful comments. So, how do you react?
How to deal with critical people?
Stay calm! Repeat to yourself the wise words of Lao Tzu: If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. Staying calm and being patient in one moment of anger does not mean that you are rolling over and accepting to be the silent victim of some unwarranted criticism. It just gives you enough time and space to analyze the situation as rationally as you possibly can (bearing in mind that someone just hurt your feelings a minute ago) and gives you time to plan your next move.
Consider the source and the value of the criticism. Take the time (a few minutes can suffice) to ask yourself whether or not the opinion of the person criticizing you is worth worrying about. Once you have identified that criticism as being destructive rather than constructive, it becomes easier to dismiss the comment by ignoring it or by firing a measured but pointy remark and continue going about your business of being awesome.
If, from the different types of criticism, you’ve identified feedback as constructive, allow yourself to acknowledge that no matter how harshly or poorly worded, that person might just have a point. It is good to be confident in yourself and your abilities, but it is also important to accept that you might be wrong. If you stay on the defensive you rob yourself of valuable opportunities for growth.
If after analyzing the situation you are still of the view that the criticism is not warranted, then whisper to yourself that you can’t please everyone and that’s OK. Builders are gonna build. Critics are gonna criticize, and Haters are gonna hate.
Understanding the different types of criticism is a learned skill and needs practice. You may find some solace in Theodore Roosevelt’s famous Be in the Arena speech while you are learning.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Criticizing with kindness is an art that can save you a hundred days of sorrow. Understanding the different types of criticism and learning how to deal with critical people is an art that can save you lots of heartache.
And your Quest, my dear friend, is to learn and practice this art.
Joy Based Living is a community led by author and life-coach Debbie Happy Cohen who help entrepreneurial women access the options and opportunities they’ve always dreamed of; Michele Stone, artist and teacher, is her co-host. Joy Based Living run a regular podcast series and this week it was my turn to join their meaningful conversations.
“Love is our superpower. Meaningful conversations are our world.”
The conversation was unscripted and spontaneous, so please forgive the parts where I sound a little disjointed – I feel more comfortable playing with words on my laptop than on the radio. The interview took me outside my comfort zone and gave me the opportunity to give a glint of the person behind the author. If you wish to find out more about me, where I am from, why I wrote my book, how I learned to let go and why I like oak trees, then I would encourage you to visit the link and listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.
Thank you to Debbie, Michele and Joy Based Living for being such wonderful hosts.
Where I Got My Accent
I am French National I was born and raised on the French Island of Reunion located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. I left the Island when I was 20 to study law at Exeter University in England and what was supposed to be just one year trip abroad as part of a student exchange program, ended up being a life time experience, with me meeting my English born husband at Exeter University.
We got married in 1999 and have been together for more than 20 years. We have two daughters, Maya who is 17 and Alize who is 15. We live in South Korea. We came here for work, both working for a big construction company. Our two daughters go to an American school. When people look at us as a family unit, they are a bit puzzled because they see a French woman born on an island – married to an English man – who lives in Seoul, South Korea and who is the mother of two daughters who speak with an American accent.
Life in Seoul, South Korea
We have been living in Seoul for 10 years now. Coming to live in Korea in 2010 was a big adventure and a bit scary. Korea was not really on my radar and the only thing I knew about Korea at the time was the problems between the North and the South; but the work opportunity that was offered to us was so good that we took a leap of faith and came here.
Korea is also known as the Land of the Morning Clam but I describe it as the Land of Contradiction because to me, it is the safest place to live and also the most dangerous. The safest place because on a day to day basis it is a very safe place to live; I am so glad that my daughters grew up here, they have a lot more freedom being here in Seoul than they would have had if we stayed in England. At the same time, it is also the most dangerous, a few years ago we were still worried about the possibility of missiles from the North flying over our heads. All the apartment buildings here have several stories underground car parks built with reinforced concrete and they are all used as shelters. Emergency drills happened on a regular basis where everyone including school children are trained to head to the nearest shelter in case of emergencies. This is why, I describe Korea as the land of contradiction being the safest place to live and at the same time the most dangerous.
South Korea’s Efficient Response to the Corona Crisis
Korea is very good at crisis management; this came from the experience they had with the Korean war where life was extremely difficult for the population. It also came from years of tension with North Korea. Koreans are familiar with emergencies and crisis, it is part of their geography and history. They are also very good at learning lessons from the past, they pay attention, they take note, they put together guidelines to make sure they are ready and prepared if/when a crisis happens.
In 2015 Korea had to deal with an epidemic of MERS; and they learned a lot of lessons from this episode. So as soon as news came from China that there was some kind of virus that was created a lot of problems, their reaction was immediate and they responded very quickly by putting together all the necessary measures medical, financial, and technical to address this problem in the most efficient manner and it worked. The medical facilities here are amazing, hospitals look like 5 stars hotels and they have a lot of resources in terms of the equipment and qualified staff. Nobody panicked. No panic buying here. Everybody focused on what they have to do.
The gouvernment policy has been to be totally transparent from the start and this strategy of openness and transparency was effective; people here trust their government and everyone cooperate and do their part as an individual but also as a member of their community. Korea was one of the very few countries who managed to flatten the curve without imposing a lock down; and this in itself is amazing because they managed to protect the public health whilst maintaining freedom of movement and personal liberty. That is extremely difficult to do, but Korea managed to do that with amazing results.
Time on Her Hands
I spent 6 years here working as a contract lawyer for Samsung Engineering and my husband is working for the same company as an engineer; both our contracts are on an annual basis, so from year to year we are not sure whether our contract will be renewed or not. We have been here 10 years and we got comfortable in the knowledge that our contract was going to be renewed from year to year. My husband’s contract is continuing but mine was terminated in 2016, which was a bit of a surprise to me and suddenly I found myself with a lot of new-found-time and I didn’t know what to do with it because I have always been working, and have always been busy juggling life as a working-mum.
In 2016 I found myself with a lot of time not being sure what to do with it. In a way, it was a revelation, because very quickly I decided that I should take this opportunity to do a lot of the things that I never had the time to do. So, I put a list together and the first thing I did was to take my daughters to school everyday on our bicycles. It was springtime and the weather were really nice, so we enjoyed this daily ride to school very much. Another thing that I had on my list was to volunteer to work in an orphanage, so I did that. Funny enough writing a book was not something that I put on my list.
Meditation, Creativity and Divine Inspiration
Naturally and without any formal training to do so, I started doing a lot of meditation and I had a revelation during one of those meditation sessions. It came to me that I should write a book, which came as a total surprise because this was never something that I planned to do. So, I let this feeling and this idea passed for several weeks, because in my mind the idea that I could write a book was a bit ridiculous.
Writing a book about what?! I had no idea what I should write about. Still the feeling that I should write a book was kind of precise; it wasn’t about writing an article, an essay or a short story, it was definitely writing a book. I let his feeling passed, but then several weeks later another feeling came to me, but this time it was even more precise, the whole idea of the book and the structure came to me very clearly. It was a very strange feeling to experience but too strong to ignore, so I got to my computer and started writing which is now the preface of my book.
Writing and Getting Published
As soon as I started writing a flow of ideas came to me and I wrote 15 pages in one go, which is now the Preface of my book. The whole thing started as just thoughts on a piece of paper; that’s all it was. But then the more I wrote, the more things just kept coming and soon I realized that from just being thoughts on a piece of paper, it turned into a full manuscript. At that point, I started thinking, what should I do with this? I started to do a bit of research as to how you can get published; and at the same time this was happening I bumped into an online Ad from an English-based publishing house; they were having a competition for new authors – the winning prize being a publishing contract. I entered the competition and wrote like crazy to finish the manuscript before the deadline and managed to submit a very rough manuscript on time. I didn’t win the competition but managed to grab the attention of some publishers. So, to cut a long story short I ended up receiving 3 offers from 3 different publishing house and I decided to join Booklocker which is an American based publishing house located in Florida.
I don’t watch TV – I switched off my TV years ago. I realized that when you are still, when you don’t have too much distraction and when you switch off all the noise around you, you find yourself switched on to a different frequency. If you listen the radio and you tuned into a hard-rock channel, you have to switch to a different frequency channel to get some rhythm & blues or classical music playing; and just by switching off all the noise around me I was able to switch on to this frequency where I was becoming very intuitive and very aware; and this is the reason why I picked up those signals that led me to realize that I was very creative, that I had a lot of things to say and that what I had to do at this particular point in time was to write a book.
This Is Your Quest: To Discover Happiness Along the Way
The Title of my book is “This Is Your Quest” and the sub-title “To Experience Happiness Along the Way”. I didn’t decide to be a writer I discovered I was one. I was also inspired by what Toni Morrison said: “If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you should be the one who write it.”
This quote really resonates with me because I hadn’t found a book yet where you could find in one place all the subjects, I was interested in. I wanted to find a book which was educative and also challenging. I wanted to write a self-help book; If I had to say anything of value, I wanted to share it and somehow if the words I had written could educate and could illuminate all curious souls out there. All the better.
In the preface of my book I say that I am not an academic, a historian, an economist or a psychologist. I am just curious. I read a lot and I found out through my reading that there are a lot of wisdom, a lot of hidden history, there are a lot of interesting tales that have been forgotten. I wanted to bring all those stories to the surface and share them with the people.
Self-help book are often written from the perspective of the writer who is an expert in their field and who write the book using their own perspective, their own professional experience; Usually what they do, they put together a set of rules together and then the reader will have to go through those rules, adopt them in order to achieve whichever objective that they have. I didn’t want to do that; my approach was totally different. I wanted to write a book from the perspective of the reader; and this is why the title is what it is: “This Is Your Quest”. I didn’t want to put together a set of new rules. I don’t want to tell people what they should do, because I don’t feel qualified to do that. I am just bringing them food for thoughts in order to help them in their own Quest.
I travelled a lot, I lived in several countries and I noticed that wherever you are in the world, people want the same thing. Everybody wants to be happy. It is basic but it is what it is: everybody wants to be happy. But the concept of happiness is very fluid, what will make you happy is not the same thing that will make me happy; so I do not think that there is one definition that fits it all. I don’t think that you can set some rules and tell people that if you do A, B and C then that’s going to bring you happiness. I don’t believe that it works like that, because everyone has to find their own definition of happiness. I wrote the book with the objective of getting people to have an open-mind, to challenge their way of thinking and also to give them food for thoughts so that they can go on their own Quest and they can find the right path for them.
Joy Based Living: You come across as very respectful and very humble.
Joanne: Humility is something that people should practice. The more I read and the more I research a subject the more I realize that I don’t know much.
Joy Based Living: My experience has shown me that a lot of people use humbleness not to show up fully and use it as an excuse; and the world misses out on their genius and on their love, it gets blocked. What I see in you is a combination of both you have humbleness but at the same time you have enough of confidence and self-esteem to promote your book, and I really like the juxtaposition of being humble and at the same time showing up and being present.
Extract from the Preface of “This Is Your Quest”
“I am a qualified lawyer by profession, working in the construction industry. I am also an entrepreneur and a property investor. I am a wife and a mother of two teenage daughters. I am currently living in Seoul, South Korea. I am not an academic. I am not a psychologist or an anthropologist. I am neither a scientist, nor an economist or historian. I am an observer. I am a thinker. I am curious about the world. I am curious about people.
Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Writing a book is a great privilege but it is also a gift. A gift to myself, because I have a lot of untold stories bursting to get out, and a gift to other people, as it is my desire to share those stories with the world.
I believe that people should live the story they want to tell. It is not my desire to write a piece of fiction. My objective is to write a book that will change people’s lives, not by giving them advice as to how they should live, but by exposing them to concepts, philosophies and ways of thinking, that have perhaps not been so obvious to them before. I want my book to be a story that can be understood by anyone, a book that will resonate with people from all walks of life; a book where all the little stories will come together to form the BIG picture; a book that can be a road map for people who find themselves disorientated and lost, and if they are, to read it and find their way again. Most people don’t dare to think big and follow their dreams because of the fear of failure, or of being ridiculed and rejected. The end result is that their dreams will always remain just that, a dream. The dream made them feel good while it lasted; but their ideas will remain known to them only. Their songs will only ever be sung in their heads, with no audience to listen and no one else to appreciate them. The books they could have authored remain only thoughts. Most people won’t even reach for their dreams because they are unwilling to feel uncomfortable, to have their limits tested, to live on the edge, to be outside their comfort zone, to be criticized, to be let down, and to be challenged.
See How Far You Can Go
Wayne Gretzy once said: “You miss 100% of all the shots you don’t take.” What could be the worst outcome if you did take that shot? Failure? A bruised ego? Loss of money? And what might you gain? Knowledge? New connections? Insights and experience? From my perspective, I believe that people should not focus so much on how often they fall, they should instead focus on learning, having new experiences, picking themselves up, and seeing how far they can go.
Don’t Block the World from Experiencing You
There is a certain vitality and energy that exist when you operate in a state of creative flow, and that creative expression is very unique to you and nobody else; so if you block that there is not going to be another medium to which that expression is going to express itself; and what you are doing by blocking it is that you are denying the world to experience that through your art that never was.
Let the World Decide
A lot of people are focusing too much on the outcome instead of focusing on the process. Everyone wants fame and fortune. Writing starts in solitude and you are alone with your words for months, but then once the work is done, you want to share it with the world; you want people to appreciate it. It can be quite tough out there for new authors, especially when they don’t see that appreciation for their work. People should try to let go and focus more on the process and less on the outcome. It is not your business to try to figure out if this is going to be valuable to someone or not; your business is to put yourself out there and let that creative flow goes through you and let the world decide.
Having an Audience and Being Appreciated
Having an audience to appreciate my work has been a lot more difficult that I expected. Authors tend to spend a huge amount of time and effort producing the work and then when the work is produced, they leave it out there and they expect people to find it, buy it, read it, consume it , appreciate it. That works if your name is JK Rowling or Stephen King but not if you are a new author.
New authors have to put themselves out there and do a huge amount of marketing, trying to get people’s attention, and trying to get them to read your work; and it doesn’t come easy. That is why I had to do a lot of social media. If I had the choice of promoting my book successfully without having my face splashed all around social media, I would do it in an instant but the reality is that if you want to be seen you have to be on social media. I have an audience now, but I had to build it from scratch. It takes a lot of effort and dedication. Authors should think of themselves not as sprinters but as marathon runners. I believe that the message that I have is worth sharing. I know this is the case from the comments that I receive from my readers. I like engaging directly with my readers on WordPress and via my blog. Blogging is a perfect training ground for me to try different styles, try lots of different things and to get immediate reaction as to what works and what doesn’t.
Pause and Pay Attention: Diving Deep Down
The feedback I receive from my readers is that the message and wisdom I share really resonates with them and touched them, and that my articles really open their mind to a different perspective. I ask simple and hard questions. Those questions seem to be very obvious but not a lot of people spend time thinking about those questions. Questions such as “Who are you?” “Why Are you Doing the Things That you Do?” “What is the meaning of life?” Those questions are philosophical in nature because those are the questions that the philosophers spent most of their time thinking about.
What I do through my blog is to pause and shine a light on some subjects that not a lot of people pay attention to. A lot of people stay at the surface, I am diving deep down, I am taking a really good look at what’s under the surface and when I bring those concepts up to the surface to share it with people, they find these of value to them. I make a point of not telling people what to do; but my writing seems to help people. It acts like a compass. This concept of a compass was very important to me and that is why I had it designed on the cover of my book. The idea is that if you are lost, I will be here to hold your hand and help you find your way again, not by telling you what to do, but by helping you find your own way, your own path.
A lot of people don’t have meaningful conversations. I love the fact that this is part of your tagline. I love having meaningful conversations and I like listening to your podcast, yourself Debbie as the author and Michele as the artist and you go online, you press the record button and it flows, it is very eloquent. You have interesting and meaningful things to share; and this really resonates with me.
Letting Go of Expectations
For me as a writer, learning how to let go was very difficult. It is all about the expectation. When you start on a project, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, there is a great expectation that the work that you are doing is going to be impactful. That is what everybody wishes for. Sometimes, when you are trying too hard to be impactful, it is just the opposite that happens, because you are too rigid, not fluid enough. For me the past 2 years have been very rigid and very stiff, I was feeling very tense about the whole process. I was focusing too much on trying to get more readers and more followers. I was thinking, I have something worthwhile to say and I really want people to listen. A lot of the articles that I write are for myself, so that I can give to myself the necessary advice and motivation to keep going and to learn how to let go.
Something that really helped me to let go is the image of an oak tree. Picture an oak tree sitting outside; an oak tree is not trying to create a significant impact on anyone, it is just sitting there, in a calm and assured state of being; being very strong and solid; and that is the only thing that the oak tree is doing, it is just sitting there. But then if someone just walk past that oak tree and imagine that it is a very hot summer day and they just want to rest and cool down a little. That person can just sit under that oak tree, take a rest, take refuge under it, and that person will appreciate the shade and the fact that the oak tree was just there on that particular day on that particular time. That oak tree by just being there had a tremendous impact on that person. When I am becoming a bit too rigid, too forceful or trying too hard, I just say to myself “be like an oak tree!”
Family Response to your Creative Work
When I was in the writing phase, the manuscript phase, when I was putting my thoughts on a piece of paper – not actually thinking it was going to turn into a book that will be published – I didn’t say anything to anyone not even to my husband, my parents or my children. There are two reasons why I did that. The first reason is that I didn’t think it was going to turn into a book, it was just thoughts on a piece of paper and that’s all it was, and I wasn’t ready to share that with anyone. And then it became more than thoughts on a piece of paper, when I realized that it was turning into something a bit more substantial, and when I decided to make something out of it , I decided that I should not say anything to anyone still because I wanted to be left alone with my own thoughts and I didn’t want to be influenced by anybody.
It was something that I had to do alone. The process for me had to be just me, myself and my thoughts. I didn’t want anyone to come in and mess -up with my thoughts, inserts ideas that I didn’t want there or just influence the way I wanted to do things. It was my project and it had to be 100% me; I didn’t let anyone in. I came out when I got the publishing contract and things were looking pretty good.
Everybody was surprise, my whole family, my friends, my whole entourage, everyone was shocked. They said to me “You can write! How come you never mentioned this to us? My answer was: “I didn’t know myself?! “When people start reading your work, they see something in you, that they didn’t see before. I am wearing lots of hats: the mother, the wife, the contract lawyer, the daughter, sister, auntie’s hat etc… and when you are interacting with people, they only see you through one of those hats. Now, people are seeing me as something extra. Wearing the author’s hat has been a really deep experience for me because it is the only hat that allows me to express the true essence of who I am. So now people around me are seeing a side of me they didn’t see before.
Réunion is a French Department located in the Indian Ocean. The US has Hawaii and France has Réunion. I have been living abroad longer than the time I have spent on the island; but the island is obviously a part of me and it is who I am. I do describe myself as an islander first. Réunion is a real melting pot, there are a lot of ethnicities living in harmony with each other. In Reunion people are not looking at you according to the color of your skin, because very often you will find all shades of colors within the same family.
The color of your skin does not matter whatsoever, people there don’t see the world as black or white; what they are seeing is the person first. I always have great difficulties filling up those forms where they ask you your ethnicity – There are a lot of different ethnicities in my family tree and each time I am thinking: “ I have no idea how to answer that question?!” I usually tick the box: “Other – Mixed” but having said that I like to describe myself as an islander. I really treasure the childhood memory of me playing with my cousins and the large family reunions. We were spending a lot of time out in nature. TV wasn’t a big thing back then and we were outside a lot either at the beach or up in the mountain.
I had a very good family upbringing. I love my parents and love the way I was raised and the values they gave me. I go back there regularly to visit my parents, or they come over to visit me overseas. When I travel to the Island I really enjoy all that the Island has to offer, which is quite a lot in terms of outdoor activities, food and connection; but at the same time, it feels very insular when I am there I am happy to be there and I am also happy to leave after a while and go back to my own space.
Being Comfortable with Duality
We were talking about duality in the pre-interview telephone conversation. We are living in constant duality. You want to be there and then you don’t. Being comfortable with duality is something that we should embrace instead of fighting it. It could be strange for me to say that I like to go on my island, but I also like leaving it; but it is true.
Looking at yourself as a person, I think it is all right to look at yourself with your own brilliance and also be aware that you are full of insecurities. It is normal to have those dualities. I am not ashamed of it. I think we should embrace it.
The Gift of Clarity
I am working on a new Ebook right now. It is in progress, I am working on it at a slow pace, because I am not happy with the way it is right now. The title is “The Gift of Clarity.” If Clarity was a commodity, I think that Clarity would be the most precious commodity that you could have; because it you have clarity, your thoughts, your emotions and your actions are congruent with each other. It’s a big subject and this is my next project. Till then … Wishing Joy Based Living and all of you the best in your own Quest!
Our Quest for happiness is perhaps instinctual, deriving from our earliest experiences for pleasure and gratification. Anyone who’s familiar with babies will be familiar with the sense of upset or anger when a pleasurable state is interrupted, yet even as adults we rarely come to terms with the fact that good and bad are opposite sides of the same coin. Understanding that things that make pleasure possible can also be a source of misery is just one element to the art of acceptance.
Misery is also not just an absence of pleasure, but is also caused by unmet expectations and aspirations, and by a continuous need for approval in our personal and professional lives. These disappointments, some big and some small, cause some people a lot of stress and anxiety and may result in depression or other mental illnesses. But despite the imperfection in one’s professional or personal situation, psychologists and therapists believe a lot of this struggle and stress is avoidable with a simple technique, acceptance, or to let things be.
What is Acceptance
A standard acceptance definition in psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change or protest it.
Acceptance does not equate to approval, which is more about having a good opinion of someone (or something) but is more a subtle feeling that connotes there is something in the situation less than appealing, but for various reasons we tolerate its imperfections.
A Lesson from the Beatles
Let it be, was the Beatles highest debuting single on the Billboard Hot 100, and their final single before Paul McCartney announced his departure from the band. The song, written by McCartney, was inspired by a dream he had of his mother who died of cancer when he was fourteen. During a tense period for The Beatle, recording the White Album in 1968 with members asserting individual artistic agendas, McCartney’s mother came to him in a dream whispering these wise words, “It will be all right, just let it be.”
McCartney, in a later interview, recalled waking up and remembering the dream, and thought, ‘Well, that’s a great idea.‘ Mary was McCartney’s mother’s name.
When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom Let it be And in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me Speaking words of wisdom Let it be
Let it be, let it be Let it be, let it be Whisper words of wisdom Let it be
McCartney’s decision to leave the Beatles came shortly after the release of the single; despite being his own decision, McCartney was devastated, and the ensuing lawsuits and contract releases were dubbed by Time magazine as Beatledämmerung, in reference to Wagner’s opera about a war among the gods. Later, when asked whether he regretted it, McCartney replied philosophically:
“Yeah, actually. You’d have to say the way The Beatles broke up was a bit untidy, a bit ugly. We were such a great little band, it would’ve been nice to just continue on, but the business side really crept in and got a bit sticky. I regret that. If I could have reversed that scenario, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea. But otherwise, no regrets, really. You do what you do, and try and make things work out, and have a bit of fun while you’re doin’ it. That’s the story for me, these days.”
Practicing Acceptance, or the Philosophy of Let it Be
Acceptance then, or the philosophy of Let it be, can help us accept a difficult situation, or the ups and downs we experience in everyday life. Let it be means let go, relax, don’t worry about your troubles. These words of comfort remind us not to think about sad things too much, to accept the bad things that have happened or bad decisions we have made, especially if there is no way we can change the situation.
Let it be is a beautiful reminder that you do not hold all the strings. You are not always in the driver’s seat and that you are not responsible for everything.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, is a form of counseling that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to allow people to open up to unpleasant feelings. ACT teaches to just notice, accept, and embrace private events, especially previously unwanted ones, rather than react to them.
ACT is not passive acceptance of painful emotions or psychological experiences, but an active approach through mindful behavior, attention to personal values, and commitment to action to help people change their attitudes. The change in attitude, acceptance – or learning to let things go, can be more effective than just trying to suppress negative emotions as bottling things up often just leads to more distress.
What to Accept?
When we recall happy memories, we are often nostalgic, and remind ourselves how things used to be. When we recall less happy events, there is a tendency to hold on to those unhappy memories too. My own father, for a full five years after he retired, would complain about his ex-boss on a daily basis. His constant rumination made him resentful and angry and caused a lot of suffering. If he learned to accept and let go, the suffering would likely go too.
“What you resist, persists.” – Carl Jung
Accepting the reality of our situation allows us to move forward and gives us more energy to focus on the present moment, to feel grateful for the people and things we have now.
Does Acceptance Mean Conformity and Mediocrity?
By the time I was at high school, I’d already resigned myself to the idea that I was not put on this earth to be a mathematician, astronaut or engineer and scraping through an algebra test with a bare-minimum passing grade used to make me really happy. Fast forward to today in Seoul where my two daughters go to school, it is a regular occurrence for high schoolers to score 100% not just on math tests, but across all the science subjects. Did my acceptance make me mediocre?
If it’s within your ability do better in a math tests, or a sports events, then you should do better. Acceptance shouldn’t be a drain on ingenuity and growth. If you are born poor and underprivileged, acceptance is not going to take you very far. Acceptance is not defeatist way of saying, that’s the way it is, there is nothing I can do about it, it’s not about being lazy, but it may be about picking the important fights and forgiving past mistakes.
The Art of Acceptance
Writing this article taught me that there are times in our life where circumstances force us to accept the way things are, to accept our own limitations, to accept our current situation. There are times when we should be philosophical and be grateful for what we have.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. – The Serenity Prayer
International Women’s Day is celebrated globally to highlight prominent women and their achievements. Every year Women’s International Day has a theme. This year’s campaign is #EachforEqual which endorses the concept of equality and that ‘An Equal World For An Enabled World’.
Equality may seem a big concept, but there are little things you can do every day that helps celebrate equality. Why not use International Women’s Day on March 8th to start celebrating equality.
1. Question Yourself
Sometimes you need to think about how you look at the world before you can start to make the change. We are all growing as humans, it’s okay to re-learn and retrain ourselves. It can be a battle to change the way you think as so many ideas are influenced by gender, ethnicity and upbringing.
The first way to celebrate equality is to stop making expectations of people based on their characteristics or their background. By consciously taking the steps to correct these judgements, you can acknowledge the toxic social norms and move on from them. This enables you to open up opportunities to new people and learn from them as well.
It’s important to look at the judgements you’ve made about yourself. Are you selling yourself short because of expectations you’ve been led to believe about yourself? Don’t be afraid to step outside society’s expectations and support equality for yourself and others.
2. Support Others
In the age of social media, one quick click can ensure that a social media post can become viral in a matter of seconds. Support the voices of others who are standing up for equality and diversity. It’s easy to become cynical about your voice being worthwhile, the internet can sometimes feel like a lot of people shouting to get their voice heard. A little encouragement from a lot of people is how movements happen.
In the workplace, encourage your colleagues to come forward and share their thoughts without passing judgement or interrupting them. The voices of minorities are often unheard in the workplace, you never know they might be sitting on the best idea your company has ever heard.
3. Speak Up
We’ve all been in the situation where someone says or acts in a way that we know is wrong. We may feel demoralized, offended and upset, yet somehow we let it slight. We don’t want to seem difficult and make a scene, we don’t want to create an atmosphere in the workplace or you simply think that it’s fine because you’re never going to see that stranger on the train again. But saying nothing excuses demoralizing behavior.
When people speak up when others are being treated unjustly, we not only show bravery, we also encourage others to speak out. Observers become motivated to overcome their silence when they see others calling out harassment and discrimination because there is a lesser fear of repercussions.
If you’re a woman, make a point of talking to men about equality, too often women exclusively talk with women about the issues they face every day. Try to talk to them in the same way you talk to your girlfriends or female co-workers, trying to avoid talking with blame and judgement.
4. Be Inclusive
Inclusivity can sometimes be absent from women’s fight for equality. Black American suffragettes were forced to march at the back of the parade and were prevented from voting decades after the 19th Amendment passed.
Mainstream gender equality often excludes transgender women from mainstream equality discussions. Transgender women need to sisterhood more than most, they face serious disadvantageous, physical threats and health issues. Disable women can also feel like they are being left behind by the women’s movement, make any celebrations you have accessible and help those who aren’t listened to voice be heard louder.
To celebrate equality inclusively uplift the voices of trans, disabled and women of color, who have systematically erased and ejected from discussions. Read their books, listen to their podcasts, watch their movies. Comment on a brand’s social media for the lack of inclusivity, leave a message on the lack of diversity in the media and share the post’s activists on social media and get their message to a wider audience.
This International Women’s Day, listen to the voices of others and remember equality is not just women’s rights, it’s entwined with many communities who are still fighting for their right to be equal.
5. Embrace Body Positivity
Celebrate equality and diversity by embracing the bodies we were born and grown with. There is no one perfect body that we should all strive towards. Appreciate all that your body can do. It runs, it dances, it breathes, it dreams, it can do millions of wonderful things and is so much more than a dress size. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you will carry yourself with a confidence that makes you more beautiful.
With a positive mindset, no outfit is off-limits. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and there is an outfit that will enhance every type of figures. There are no rules that say you can’t wear a short skirt, crop top or bikini if you’re anything other than a size zero!
Loving the way you are doesn’t mean you have to stay looking natural. If you want to change for healthy reasons, not because you are being pressured into it by other people and social media, then go for it! Love the person you grow into. Body positivity embraces all bodies, it celebrates natural curls and neon hair, it embraces plus size women and those who have chosen to have plastic surgery, it celebrates androgyny and disabilities.
Love the body you have, because you only have one.