Picking up again

I can’t believe I let myself stop following through my new habit of writing daily for more than 2 months, a habit which I have only developed at the beginning of the year and thoroughly enjoyed since. Well ok, 2 months is not that long if you think about it but the amount of ideas, thoughts that I may have forgone by letting them just swim in my mind based on my readings, learnings, personal and professional experiences, conversations with various people, could be enormous, as these are the reasons that have kept me busy with over the past 2 months.

I have just finished watching Bill Gates’ latest docu-series on Netflix which have provided me with a dose of inspirations. In the show, there’s one thing he said that triggered me to write again today and that is – you have to pick a pretty finite number of things for your brain to work on. I remember the daily writings helped me to dissect, compartmentalise the thoughts that ran through my mind and expand further the things that I wanted to focus more on.

A couple of days ago, I came across Seth Godin’s blog entry on streaks in conjunction to his 11th year of writing daily and it reminded me of how over the course of 7 months (from Jan to July), I have turned that daily writings into a streak, something which I thought impossible before. I really should continue with this habit again, before the momentum is totally lost and it will take a lot of effort to pick up again.

After all, this is not just for myself, but also to show my son, Aariz, that perseverance is rare nowadays, but highly essential to survive, in life.

Life as a Mom

Woke up in the morning at 5am for sahur and then by 6am I was done with eating, showering and meditating. Was ready to catch up on my readings and blogging, but after a few minutes, my son cried. I thought he wanted milk, but it turned out that he just wanted me near him. He dozed after I pat him for a few minutes. and then I left to do my thing again. Few minutes later he cried again but immediately stopped crying as he saw me. So I pat him for a few minutes and he dozed off again. This cycle repeated over and over again for 1 hour or so, until it was time to get ready for his Little Gym class at 9am.

So basically I tried to do whatever I wanted to do intermittently but honestly it was difficult when my son just wanted me to be near him. I initially felt annoyed but I felt guilty and told myself that this doesn’t happen every morning.

I keep telling myself to slow down in all the things I aim to do – again setting real expectations as I mentioned here. I honestly want to do more. But when I look at my son, especially when he’s asleep (the only time I could adore him for long), I always ask these questions:

“Have I done enough for him?”

“Have I spent enough time with him?”

“Have I thought of the kind of activities that will be good for his development?” 

“Have I paid enough attention on him?”

At that point in time, I just feeling like throwing away my phone and laptop.

He’s fast asleep now and I’m back on my phone and laptop.

Such is the life as a mom.


Supermom Today

I decided to take a day off today to do a research on preschools for my son. I’m thinking of sending him soon as he is turning 18 months old tomorrow so that he has early exposure to other kids, creative and fun learning to stimulate his brain and curiosity.

I have to say that I’m really glad my husband and I chose Ara Damansara as the area to live. There are just so many schools for kids and they are all within 5km radius! Yesterday alone I went to 5 different schools and I realized I have 3 more schools that I haven’t checked out. Don’t think I am able to take another day off to do this mainly because my mind is fixated with this one school.

Anyway, will share my thoughts on this later as I am now fully knackered. Felt like a supermom today!


A Much Needed Break

Sometimes you fall sick because your body is telling you that it needs a break.

I don’t think I’ve slept so long for such a long time over a weekend.

I’m almost to full recovery but still not quite there yet. I look forward to a re-energised me.

Malaysia losing its attractiveness to investors, local and foreign

Malaysia has been crowned as the world’s worst major stock market ytd by investors. In fact they think that our market is really really boring, nothing exciting is expected to happen at least in the next 1-2 years depending on how pessimistic you are.

Last month, I mentioned that Malaysia poised to lose its home in MSCI EM index if we keep losing our competitive edge, as a result of inclusion of China A-shares which will just dwarf small countries like us. Read here.

Last week, the biggest sovereign wealth fund, Norway, announced that they are going to cut emerging market bonds from their fixed income portfolio and that includes Malaysia. Read here.

Earlier today, FTSE Russell announced that Malaysia is included in the watchlist of countries that may be dropped from FTSE World Government Bond Index, stemming from concerns on market liquidity, country’s fundamentals and market accessibility. This news is huge, this is a flagship index. Read here and here. Following the news, KLCI tanked to a 3-year low, a drop of 14% from a record achieved in May 2018. Last year, we emerged as the worst performing index in Asia. As written in this article, we keep missing out on global rally. Since start of the year, most major indices are in positive territory.

To the eyes of large investors (by large I mean those invested in large caps stocks such as those in KLCI), this is nothing new. There is no certainty ever since the news about our former PM’s scandal got surfaced, then there was little hope after the new government took over, but after almost one year, we are seen as still busy cleaning up the mess and people keep talking about it than doing real work (I’m talking about the percentage here, the majority).

Now the question is, what should we do? How should we be part of the solution?

Self-learning Mindset

Someone painted me the picture of the schools in rural area and asked what would I change to improve the state of education in our country. Honestly speaking, the list of problems is long and it is not something that can be solved overnight. I will start with just 3 critical requirements first.

Firstly, we have to make sure that the schools are clean as the environment to study has to be conducive for the students. When the schools are clean, psychologically you will have a fresh and absorbent mind. Your mood will be uplifted and you will have a good health too. This is very elementary to be honest. But it takes a collective effort – teachers, students and parents as this basic habit starts from home. You must have the mindset of wanting to be clean and keep things clean. Maybe people should start applying Marie Kondo concept in schools.

Secondly, we need to inculcate the self-learning mindset. The students need to be intellectually curious, always wanting to learn and know more, always asking the question why and how. To me this is critical because we can’t rely only on the teachers and tools. True we need more quality teachers and provide the right tools such as computers and library of books. But the students themselves must be interested to learn and take their own initiatives to ask, learn and apply. Nowadays, access to information is easy and fast provided you have the internet connection but it defeats the purpose if you don’t have the desire to learn. I guess it is our role also to show how important education is. As Andrew Ng, the founder of Coursera said in the recent Coursera Annual Partners Conference 2019:

Education is on of the best tools we have for moving the world forward

Coursera is one of the great online learning platforms that offers online courses in a variety of subjects for everyone to learn. There are tonnes out there to help students around to world to have easy access to education. Most of them are free so you need to have a strong determination and discipline to finish through the courses.

Hence thirdly, the students need motivators and mentors. They need someone to push them to learn, to tell them that they are on the right track, to inspire them to dream, to challenge them to think about solving problems. This is the role that teachers should play. Not just merely to teach.

Among all the 3 requirements I mentioned above, I think having a self-learning mindset is the most critical one.┬áBill Gates is one of the great examples of having self-learning mindset. Something that he takes pride of. In fact he thinks there’s someone else who has taken self-learning to the next level, beyond him. It’s Tara Westover, the author of best-selling book, Educated (this one is next on my list!). She couldn’t go to school until the age of 17. So she’s been on a self-taught trajectory since young and managed to get into Cambridge University to earn a doctorate in intellectual history. It’s really inspiring. You can read more about it here.

Let’s spread the self-learning behaviour until it becomes addictive especially among the youth, shall we?

AI for everyone

A follow up from yesterday’s post.

Late last year, Andrew Ng launched a new course on Coursera called “AI for everyone”. You can read about the announcement here.

The course is already available on Coursera and so far 70,000 over people have taken the course. The course looks suitable also for non-technical person, for executives who believe in AI and trying to evangelise the adoption in large organisations. Andrew believes that the world needs millions of domain experts and business strategist not just mathematicians, statisticians, software engineers, computer scientist to successfully adopt AI. Hence, AI for everyone.

It’s free or $49 only if you want to get certification upon completion.

Let’s do it!

False positive vs. false negative

In statistical world, false positive and false negative are called Type I and Type II errors respectively. If you are not a statistician, don’t fret and don’t brush away these terms. It is applicable to every one across all levels, because it is the consequence of the decisions we make and we all make decisions in our lives every day. More importantly, we don’t always make right decisions. So we need to understand how we make the wrong decisions, i.e. the difference between false positive and false negative results because making wrong decisions can be costly.

We have to make decisions because we don’t know the outcome at that point in time and we need to decide to move forward. We decide based on our assumptions, our intuition and/or analysis. So clearly, they are all estimations which may not necessarily be right. False positive is the result of you approving something that you think is right but turns out to be the wrong. False negative is the result of you rejecting something that you think is wrong but turns out to be right.

Have you ever made any false positive and/or false negative decisions in your personal or professional lives? I’m sure you have. It could be on choosing which idea to execute, which investment to make, which house to buy, which job to take etc.

For example, buying a house. You think that House A will appreciate more in value than House B based on your research and instincts. So you decide to buy House A. But 10 years down the road, you found out that House B appreciated by more than expected, more than House A, the house you ended up buying. This is called false positive.

Another example, an investment in startup. Based on your analysis etc, you decided not to invest in a particular startup. But the startup ended up flourished and became a unicorn. This is called false negative.

The reason I brought up this matter is to increase your awareness so that you make less false positive and false negative decisions and you shouldn’t rely solely on intuitions to make decisions. As Adam Grant highlighted in his book Original,

  • Intuitions are only accurate in domains where we have a lot of experience
  • Intuitions are only trustworthy when people build up experience making judgments in a predictable environment
  • But lessons of experience can easily point us in the wrong direction in a rapidly changing world
  • So this makes intuition less reliable as a source of insight about new ideas and places a growing premium on analysis

This will also help you in assessing other people’s views/decisions.

Own company

If I have my own company, it would most likely be the following:

  • Education fund; or
  • VC – nurturing start-ups in education space, big data/AI, retail selling women/kids products (essentially products that I can understand); or
  • STEM School (too big of a dream huh?)

I realized over the recent years, my interests have not changed. And I have always wonder, if I have a lot money, would I start my own company? I know starting a business not necessarily requires a lot of money. But starting a business carries a lot of risks. I don’t have enough buffer yet to experience a J-curve in my life. I think the thought of having my own company is mainly to have the freedom to drive the people and business towards achieving my dream. This is something that is very impossible to do in a large institution, especially the ones linked to the government when the possibility of changing priorities is imminent.

Setting limits

Every Friday I will get newsletter from BabyCenter entitled “My toddler this week” which talks about the progress of babies/toddlers of Aariz’s age. I like to read it so that I am aware of Aariz’s development to see if he is on track or not and mostly to give me the comfort that whatever I am going through with Aariz is common.

Aariz is now at the age where he can throw tantrums (i.e. cries out loud) if he doesn’t get what he wants, if we give him something that he doesn’t like or if he doesn’t get to do things himself (he really really likes to feed himself but oh the mess he makes!!). He is also very very curious albeit cheeky, as the article rightly pointed out “the things that you most want him not to do are exactly the things he wants to do most”.

So I’ve been doing some research to see how best to react and I’m not fond of yelling or scolding people when they do something wrong, so naturally that’s my philosophy in bringing up Aariz, although I have to say sometimes he does get on my nerves, no matter how much I love him.

So far, research shows (including BabyCenter) that the best way to stem unnecessary behaviour is to set limits. If you restrict them too much, then they will lose the freedom and fun to explore. So if you don’t want him to climb the table because you are afraid he might fall, then place pillows surrounding the foot of table or best yet, just pull that table away if it is too dangerous for him. The point is, you set the limits or boundaries to avoid any injuries or keep an eye on him closely so that he still gets to climb and explore. And if he falls, quickly catch him before he touches the floor so that he learns that it is dangerous to climb.

Same goes to investing. If you put too much restrictions, the asset managers may become too risk averse. Might as well just put the money in fixed deposits. Hence, you need to have a set of limits. And get an independent party, such as the risk unit to monitor them so that they don’t go near the limits. By doing so, the asset managers will at least take calculated risks without worrying too much if they may fall.

Being average

Ok I have 5 minutes only to blog today. Let’s jump straight to the point.

I really wanted to share an article by CNBC on Vanguard’s founder, Jack Bogle, who just passed away last Wednesday. I was shocked because just a few weeks ago I was reading another article about him warning us to “invest in 2019 with a little extra caution” which then led me to buy his book “stay the course”. The book got me hooked to have a deeper understanding on index funds and how he revolutionized the whole industry.

Here’s the article I wanted to share: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/20/jack-bogles-counter-intuitive-lesson-on-american-excellence.html

It’s a good read.

Some key points that struck my mind:

  1. Mediocrity can be its own form of excellence
  2. There are situations in which being average is actually the best bet
  3. Belief in, and acceptance of, being average can be its own form of success. If that is humbling for a culture long sold on its excellence (like America), it doesn’t change the fact that for many, it is their best chance.

It’s amazing how his creation early on was not taken well by the industry players, in fact it led to the huge debate of how it is so ‘un-American’.

I can totally relate to the ‘un-American’ vs. ‘American’ debate because I’ve been to the US, explored over 30 states with my husband. The Americans are very proud of their own capabilities. So for Jack to say that being average is better than being a superstar (in which case he’s referring to the active fund managers who theoretically should outperform the benchmark because of their superior capability in stock selections), created some anger in the Americans.

But really, is being average sufficient?