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Quantity vs Quality, how will you write?

As I go through my 100-days journey of writing, I’ve been reading quite a fair bit of articles about writing.

There are two camps of writers. The one camp that goes for quantity of content; frequent but shorter in length. The other camp that goes for quality; well thought-out, curated, referenced, and much longer reads. Yes ok, a third camp who are proponents for both, with well guided outlines on how they co-exist.

Well, yes too, the fourth camp for people like me, who freeze up after wondering which path to move towards.

The two (three) camps have merit, and I’m reminding myself daily that I do not have to decide yet. I may put together a longer read to expound on those merits, but not today.

My current goal in this first 100 days is to get the habit of writing into my life. And my atomic habit is 200 words per day. And as I progress, I learn more about the way I spend my time, my mind and my energy. I’ve also learned of new processes and hence, new habits which I need to include.

What will I do when I have this new habit instilled? Don’t know yet. And I’m choosing not to decide until I review my first 100 days.

Right now? Just write.

Art is more than Creativity

I love it when thought leaders take a regular word and redefine or deepen the meaning of that word. The good ones open up a new world perspective of working with that word.

One of these thought leaders I admire is Seth Godin. And his definition of art is:
Art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.

He began this definition way back in his early books and as time progressed, he had deepened the definition and made this view even richer.

As a leader, or trainer, or consultant, you are delivering art when you help your clients see a new vision and help them achieve it.

In Seth’s book The Practice, he shares that the other side of art is Systems. Which is also necessary for a business to thrive. Systems are for the efficient and effective running of the day to day fulfilment of the business to their respective customers.

Businesses launch as art; causing a change or an influence in their market space. And when they have a viable audience with a workable process to support them, it’ll become a system.

Are you an artist? What kind are you?

Letting Go, Lego

Letting go is something easier said than done. But it still needs to be done.

Today I’ve finally let go of my children’s Lego bricks. All seven tubs of them. Probably a good 15 years after they stopped playing with them.

Ok, it wasn’t in my direct line-of-sight around the living or work areas in the home. They have been tucked in certain corners of the apartment. And being that many tubs, they do form a pillar which one could kinda ignore.

To my credit, I did attempt to give that away, and have finally succeeded on my 4th attempt. I do hope my friend’s children enjoys them as much as mine did.

What those Lego bricks represented were much more than play. They were hours and hours of time together, building imagination and strong hands. They were story times that fostered love, support, good vs bad, life normal and supernormal, crafting worlds and legends. Times of laughter, random hugs and kisses, and exploring what is and could be. Times of science – build the tallest tower, the strongest bridge, the ball that could roll without breaking. Times of family – building their dream rooms and homes. You can also imagine that we had given up trying to sort back which sets which pieces came from.

I’m glad to have been in this part of my children’s memories.

Now it’s time to let go, to make new memories.

Book of Jonah, Chapter 1

The book of Jonah opens like an adventure story of modern movies.

Our hero Jonah denies his holy task, jumps onto a ship to get far away from the presence of God. As the vessel sails, a storm arises and all his shipmates (who worship a myriad of other gods) together receive an indication that the unusual phenomena was stemming from Jonah. Jonah fesses up, agrees to be thrown overboard, and the storm lifts. Then Jonah gets swallowed by a big fish. End of scene 1.

I have so many questions, despite it being an exciting story.

Why was only Jonah called for this? Bearing in mind another bible reference that God can raise up 7000 others if one fell.
How many times can Jonah say No, before that calling shifts to someone else?
If Jonah obeyed on the first call, how would the book read? Would Nineveh still have responded in repentance?
If I lived back then, and was on that ship too, would I have joined in throwing him overboard? The value of life must have been much different back then.

What immense longsuffering patience our God has, to let this play out. Starting with men who worshipped other gods, to getting a defiant prophet to bring a message to a nation which is seen as an enemy of Israel. Was the end goal to be used as a reference by Jesus? That’s a crossing of a reference from the Old Testament to the New Testament, into our time now, to be read and reflected upon. Time was surely measured differently.

My last question here is how much time left do we have, to close the bigger loop of this story?

Book of Jonah, Chapter 2

I wonder how it’s like to stay 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a big fish.

I’m trying to imagine the size of this fish or whale, that can take in a full grown man, not actively digest him, and survive on what else it’s got to ingest for that period.

Its probably not going to be the size of a one-room studio apartment. Inside of the stomach would probably feel more like a goo bag, with lots of other fish and seaweed sloshing around. Wet. And dark. With other half digested stuff around.

And here’s Jonah wondering if this is it. The result of running away from the call of God on that specific task. The End. Wet. Dark. Smelly. And waiting to be digested. Plus all he hears are bubbles of air and fluids. He probably can’t tell which way is up. Maybe a slight consolation is that every hour or three, the fish would gulp in more air, seawater and smaller fish. And then within a few more hours, he realises that he needs to go. So he’s going to be sloshing in the goo bag with his own filth. And he really cant know how many hours have passed, or how long more he stays in there.

I can understand the anguish he feels, when he prays his prayer of desperation in Chapter 2. I hope I’d never reach the point where I’d need to pray such a prayer.

But God is good. Besides guiding the big fish back to the right shore for Jonah to begin his task, He was also preparing an allegory for Jesus to use (Matt 12:38-41). Was that ‘waiting area’ (from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday) similar in experience?

Book of Jonah, Chapter 3

The city of Nineveh in the Book of Jonah had a population of 120,000 and a cityscape which took 3 days to walk across.

Using Singapore as a reference, that’s about the number of people living in Toa Payoh, and a slightly smaller district size.

Now if you were to stand at the edge of Toa Payoh, and started walking and shouting “40 days and the city will be overthrown”, you’d not walk very far before you get picked up by the police and charged with some intent for terrorism. Adding to that, Jonah wasn’t a citizen of Nineveh – so a stranger in your city, shouting strange words, walking around for 3 days, unstopped.

Why didn’t he get stopped?

What’s more interesting, they believed him. And word got to the king. Why would you escalate news of a stranger to the king, the message of doom aside?

And the king believed Jonah, and called for everyone in the city to start fasting and repenting.

Was it from how Jonah looked after he got spewed out of the fish? Probably rather patchy looking, after 3 days of stomach acids and probably ripe from the smell too. Did the fishermen working the shores where Jonah was alighted’ follow along and share with everyone that a whale dropped him off?

Or was it the Glory of God upon Jonah? That the people of Nineveh could see, believe and take action. Something supernatural happened, which was left unsaid in the text. And as a nation, they repented, and the destruction was spared.

I’ll muse a little more on how One voice is able to influence and impact 120,000 people, when the Lord is behind you.

Book of Jonah, chapter 4

It amazes me that as human as we are, filled with insecurities, fears, anger and more, God can still use us. Jonah was an angry man – he lived angry, talked angry and when you read the book of Jonah, it’s easy to imagine that he also walked angry. And yet he had the anointing of a prophet, one of the coveted ministries of the day. And had the call to deliver a message to a city.

The backstory in that Bible times is that Nineveh was the enemy of Israel. I’m not sure what the degree of animosity was, but they will allowed travel through the gates into the city.

And what’s even more amazing to me, is that he can still talk angry to God, and not be fried to a crisp with a mere snap of His fingers. I wonder if it was because Jonah was honest with his anger.

If you missed the plot, the 4th chapter of Jonah reveals why Jonah got swallowed by the whale in the first place. Jonah had a message to warn the people of Nineveh about their destruction. He knew that God was good and merciful. He didn’t know if the people would repent, and hoped that they didn’t. He knew that if they did, God would forgive them, and he didn’t want them to be forgiven – he wanted holy vengeance.

“I know you are a Good God and you would forgive them!” I can’t say this angrily without waving my finger into the sky. And the bible adds that he made a place to sit outside the city of Nineveh, to WATCH the destruction happen.

What is it about God that allows us to be honestly human?

Mental Models for Life

As we live life, we encounter an immense amount of input, receive just as much stimuli, and have to make sense of them to make decisions or take actions. How do we actually process them? I had thought that we usually winged it or allowed some personal guidelines to function through them.

Recently I’ve learned that we instinctively develop some mental models so that we simply do not become overwhelmed. And that we can go beyond instincts to pick up and practice new models.

The book Mental Models by Pete Hollins outline 30 essential thinking tools that everyone should develop and internalise. He posits that each of us may deploy 100 or more mental models, depending on our life, our job, hobbies or interests. These 30 models form the 80-20 Pareto rule (which is also a mental model, itself) that gives us improved decision-making, logical analysis and problem solving.

I am rather stoked that I already live some of the mental models before reading the book. Like “Address ‘Important’, Ignore ‘Urgent'” as a way to prioritize time and focus. I had arrived to some mental models through other reflections or readings, and didn’t quite name it the same way. His outlines (and stories) help clarify the framework for each model.

Some models you may know:
– Ignore “Black Swans”
– Separate Correlation from Causation
– SCAMPER
– Murphy’s Law
– and yes, Pareto Principle

I plan to reflect on more models and place my own examples into them, so as to make the models mine.